Chinese officials have signalled that Beijing plans sweeping electoral changes for Hong Kong, possibly as soon as next week, when China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), opens in Beijing. WHAT IS BEIJING PLANNING? Xia Baolong, director of China's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, has said the electoral system in the global financial hub needs to be changed to allow only "patriots" to govern.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, an unexplained blast renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port. The incident recalled the summer of 2019, when the same site saw a series of suspected attacks that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran, which Tehran denied. Meanwhile, as President Joe Biden tries to revive nuclear negotiations with Iran, he ordered overnight airstrikes on facilities in Syria belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group. Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship. Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker. Israel’s Channel 13, in an unsourced report, said the assessment in Israel is that Iran was behind the blast. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Iranian government did not comment on the blast Friday. The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago. Iran also has blamed Israel for a recent series of attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago. Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Persian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said. The vessel came loaded with cargo from Europe. It discharged vehicles at several ports in the region, Raja added, including in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with its last port of call at Dammam. While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defence officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents. A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday. Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction. According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. The U.S. Maritime Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued a warning to commercial shippers early Saturday acknowledging the explosion and urging ships to “exercise caution when transiting” the Gulf of Oman. While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military." As Iran seeks to pressure the United States to lift sanctions, the country may seek “to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means,” Dryad reported. In the tense summer of 2019, the U.S. military blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategic shipping lanes. The U.S. also had attributed a series of other suspected attacks to Iran, including the use of limpet mines — designed to be attached magnetically to a ship’s hull — to cripple four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. Since the killing of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist, last November, Israeli officials have raised alarms about potential Iranian retaliation, including through its regional proxies like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels. Over the years, Iran has been linked to attacks on Israeli and Jewish civilian targets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Israel has not commented on its alleged role in the scientist's killing. Friday's incident also follows normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. The agreements, met with scathing criticism from Iran, solidified an emerging regional alliance against the Islamic Republic. __ Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report. Jon Gambrell And Isabel Debre, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A conference dedicated to the future of the conservative movement turned into an ode to Donald Trump as speakers declared their fealty to the former president and attendees posed for selfies with a golden statue of his likeness. As the Republican Party grapples with deep divisions over the extent to which it should embrace Trump after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress, those gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday made clear they are not ready to move on from the former president — or from his baseless charges that the November election was rigged against him. “Donald J. Trump ain’t going anywhere,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of several potential 2024 presidential contenders who spoke at the event, being held this year in Orlando to bypass COVID-19 restrictions. Trump on Sunday will be making his first post-presidential appearance at the conference, and aides say he will use the speech to reassert his power. The program underscored the split raging within the GOP, as many establishment voices argue the party must move on from Trump to win back the suburban voters who abandoned them in November, putting President Joe Biden in the White House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and others worry Trump will undermine the party’s political future if he and his conspiracy theories continue to dominate Republican politics. But at the conference, speakers continued to fan disinformation and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, with panels dedicated to amplifying false claims of mass voter fraud that have been dismissed by the courts, state election officials and Trump’s own administration. Indeed, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., another potential 2024 hopeful, drew among the loudest applause and a standing ovation when he bragged about challenging the election certification on Jan. 6 despite the storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters trying to halt the process. “I thought it was an important stand to take," he said. Others argued the party would lose if it turned its back on Trump and alienated the working-class voters drawn to his populist message. “We cannot — we will not — go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who outlined a new Trumpian GOP agenda focused on restrictive immigration policies, opposition to China and limiting military engagement. “We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be,” echoed Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the fundraising committee tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate. “If we do, we will lose the working base that President Trump so animated. We’re going to lose elections across the country, and ultimately we’re going to lose our nation." Scott is dismissing pressure on him to “mediate between warring factions on the right” or “mediate the war of words between the party leaders." He has refused to take sides in the bitter ongoing fight between Trump and McConnell, who blamed Trump for inciting the deadly Capitol riot but ultimately voted to acquit him at his impeachment trial earlier this month. “I’m not going to mediate anything," he said, criticizing those who “prefer to fan the flames of a civil war on our side” as “foolish” and “ridiculous." But in speeches throughout the day, the GOP turmoil was front and centre. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., lit into Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who has faced tremendous backlash for her vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. And as the program was wrapping up, Trump issued a statement endorsing Max Miller, a former staffer who has now launched a campaign challenging Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, another Republican who voted in favour of impeachment. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News Channel host and Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, offered a pointed message to those who stand in opposition to the former president, who will not arrive at the conference until Sunday but was present in spirit in the form of a large golden statue erected in a merchandise show booth, where attendees could pose for pictures with it. “We bid a farewell to the weak-kneed, the spineless and the cowards that are posing in D.C. pretending that they’re working for the people,” she said. “Let’s send them a pink slip straight from CPAC.” Trump Jr., who labeled the conference “TPAC” in honour of his father, hyped the return of his father and the “Make America Great Again” platform to the spotlight. “I imagine it will not be what we call a ‘low-energy’ speech," he said. “And I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party.” Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is lauding a new collective agreement between a rural school division and its teachers as a “turning point” in public-sector bargaining in the province. The union, which represents upwards of 16,000 public school teachers in Manitoba, announced Friday members of the Beautiful Plains Teachers’ Association have unanimously voted to ratify a new agreement. The new contract in Beautiful Plains, which encompasses Carberry- and Neepawa-area schools, includes a 1.6 per cent salary increase for 2018-19 and a 1.4 per cent increase for 2019-20. All teachers will then receive a $500 bonus going into the third year. Substitute instructors will also receive a three per cent bump in pay. MTS president James Bedford said Friday the agreement is the first one to be reached in the public sector after Bill 28 was introduced and, more recently, overturned in a court challenge. “It’s a statement that employees and employers can sit down (and) reach a negotiation that’s good for both parties, and that results in what really is inflationary protection,” said Bedford. Introduced in 2017, Bill 28, the Public Services Sustainability Act, seeks to regulate salary increases for public-sector employees over a four-year-period. It proposes a wage freeze for the first two years, followed by an increase of 0.75 per cent and in the final year, a one per cent hike. Last summer, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench overturned the legislation, calling it a “draconian measure” that reduced unions’ bargaining power. The Pallister government is appealing the decision. Meantime, the Beautiful Plains agreement marks the third time in the last year teachers have been awarded increases that counter the legislation. The Beautiful Plains situation suggests divisions don’t need guidance from the province to reach agreements with staff, Bedford added. Earlier this month, the education department informed Manitoba superintendents divisions must now obtain “a bargaining mandate” from cabinet’s public-sector compensation committee prior to engaging in negotiations with both unionized and non-unionized staff. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
NEW YORK — Major League Soccer says Ron Burkle has backed out of plans for an expansion team in Sacramento, California, that was scheduled to start play in 2023. The league said in a statement Friday night that Burkle's decision was “based on issues with the project related to COVID-19.” MLS announced the Sacramento Republic as its 29th team on Oct. 21, 2019, and said then the team would start play in 2022. MLS said July 17 that Sacramento would not start play until the 2023 season because of the pandemic. At the time, the league delayed Charlotte, North Carolina, until 2022 and St. Louis until 2023. MLS expanded to 26 teams last year with the addition of Miami and Nashville, Tennessee. Austin, Texas joins this season, which is scheduled to start April 17. Sacramento's announced ownership group included Burkle, founder of The Yucaipa Cos. and an owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, as lead investor. He was joined by entertainment executive Matt Alvarez and Kevin Nagle, an investor in the NBA’s Sacramento Kings who had spearheaded the bid for MLS expansion since 2014. Burkle's group had planned a $300 million soccer-specific stadium on a 14-acre site downtown and signed a deal with UC Davis Health to be its MLS jersey sponsor. But the group had run into cost issues with the proposed stadium site and had yet to break ground on the proposed 21,000-seat stadium. There also was growing concern the team would not be able to start until 2024. The current Sacramento Republic, founded in December 2012, plays in the second-tier United Soccer League Championship. “After working for many years to bring an MLS team to Sacramento, the league continues to believe it can be a great MLS market,” MLS said in a statement. “In the coming days, the league will work with Mayor Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for MLS in Sacramento.” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he remains optimistic about finalizing plans for the league's 30th team. MLS's 2020 season started Feb. 29 but was interrupted after March 8 by the pandemic. The season resumed July 8 and each team played 23 regular-season games, down from 34 originally scheduled. As a fallout from pandemic restrictions, attendance dropped from nearly 9 million to about 750,000. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Class sizes, support staff levels and school instructional budgets in the Pembina Trails School Division could all be affected next year, as the board looks for $7 million in savings in its upcoming budget. The board of trustees unveiled the details of its 2021-22 draft budget at a virtual board meeting Thursday. The trustees discussed financial constraints related to a decrease in provincial funding, growing enrolment, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a recent arbitration award. “There is no way we can avoid reductions in services to our students,” said Kathleen McMillan, chairwoman of the board, in a prepared release published Friday, with details of the draft budget. “With no taxation authority and insufficient funding from the province, we are left in an unfortunate position.” The province has earmarked $62.5 million in 2021-22 operating funding for Pembina Trails, which is the equivalent of a 0.3 per cent decrease. Residents in the division will not see an increase in their property education tax bill. The province has asked all 37 public divisions to freeze the tax and instead will provide grants to divisions to cover the sum equivalent to a two per cent increase. The draft document proposes a balanced budget of $183,156,077. In order to achieve that figure, McMillan said the board is proposing to use its modest surplus and deferring infrastructure needs across the division to minimize the negative impact on student learning. The draft budget suggests an increase in high school class sizes, the elimination of high school teacher librarians and the reduction of such positions in middle years, a decrease in educational assistants and K-8 English Additional Language specialists, and a drop in school instructional budgets. A suspension of the Kindergarten Here We Come program is also on the table for 2021-22. The recommended cuts reflect the fact the division is projecting 335 new students next year, unforeseen COVID-19 costs such as hiring more staff and purchasing 860 webcams for classrooms to support remote teaching, and the recent Pembina Trails Teachers’ Association award, according to the Friday release. The decision challenges the province’s public-sector wage freeze directive, which was overturned in a court challenge last summer. Retroactive and future payments in Pembina Trails are estimated at $12.5 million. Residents can provide feedback on the draft budget via email or sign up to appear as a virtual delegation at a special board meeting scheduled March 4. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
(Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel - image credit) A group of Edmonton medical staff are calling on the province to delay plans to move forward with further relaxation of COVID-19 measures. The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMA) released a letter Friday saying that instead of moving to Step 2 of its reopening plan, the Alberta government should close bars and restaurants to indoor service or, at least, institute capacity limits. Dr. James Talbot, co-chair of EZMA's pandemic committee, worries that the province is getting ahead of itself. "You're virtually guaranteeing that you are going to miss the signal," Talbot said. "They should be waiting longer if they are going to use hospitalizations [as a lagging indicator] and in fact they should be using active cases." Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer, said the province would not make a decision to further restrictions until Monday at the earliest. After a steady decline since December, Alberta's daily new cases and test positivity rate have plateaued and showed signs of trending upward since the province entered Step 1 on Feb. 8, which included reopening bars and restaurants for in-person service. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Friday that the last week's worth of data still needs to be reviewed, but he wasn't anticipating a need to delay Step 2. He said the data will be reviewed by government and public health officials on Monday before an official decision is made. Talbot worries that opening banquet halls and conference centres — both a target for eased restrictions under the province's next step — could lead to so-called super-spreader events. Further easing of indoor fitness guidelines is a concern for Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury, a critical care doctor at the University of Albeta Hospital. "It scares me when places where you get a lot of people together, where it's hard to control everybody's behaviour [start to reopen]," Chowdhury said. "That's always a risk." Co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, Dr. James Talbot, would like the province to hold off on Step 2 of the reopening plan. He advises that mask wearing and physical distancing measures should be strictly adhered to at gyms and any indoor space. Otherwise, Dr. Chowdhury is cautiously optimistic to move forward with Step 2. "We're not out of the woods by any means, I hope nobody thinks that … as long as [the province] is paying attention to the numbers, I think we're going to be OK." Chowdhury said he was feeling burned out around the holidays but the pressures have eased slightly on frontline staff. He said they have been able to return to normal staffing levels on most units. "I think it will be a huge hit to morale if we see cases come up again," he said. "I don't think anyone really wants to go through, or is prepared to go through, what we may have gone through at Christmas time. We're hoping now we can just tread water until this thing at least dissipates." As of Friday's update from Alberta Health, there were 269 people in hospital, including 55 in ICU. The province said it would consider each step of eased restrictions based on hospitalization benchmarks, with the mark for Step 2 set at less than 450 hospitalizations.
The “Trump-made-me-do-it” defence is already looking like a longshot. Facing damning evidence in the deadly Capitol siege last month — including social media posts flaunting their actions — rioters are arguing in court they were following then-President Donald Trump's instructions on Jan. 6. But the legal strategy has already been shot down by at least one judge and experts believe the argument is not likely to get anyone off the hook for the insurrection where five people died, including a police officer. “This purported defence, if recognized, would undermine the rule of law because then, just like a king or a dictator, the president could dictate what’s illegal and what isn’t in this country," U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said recently in ordering pretrial detention of William Chrestman, a suspected member of the Kansas City-area chapter of the Proud Boys. “And that is not how we operate here.” Chrestman’s attorneys argued in court papers that Trump gave the mob “explicit permission and encouragement” to do what they did, providing those who obeyed him with “a viable defence against criminal liability.” “It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement. Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did,” Chrestman’s lawyers wrote. Trump was acquitted of inciting the insurrection during his second impeachment trial, where Democrats made some of the same arguments defence attorneys are making in criminal court. Some Republican lawmakers have said the better place for the accusations against Trump is in court, too. Meanwhile, prosecutors have brought charges against more than 250 people so far in the attack, including conspiracy, assault, civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding. Authorities have suggested that rare sedition charges could be coming against some. Hundreds of Trump supporters were photographed and videotaped storming the Capitol and scores posted selfies inside the building on social media, so they can’t exactly argue in court they weren’t there. Blaming Trump may be the best defence they have. “What’s the better argument when you’re on videotape prancing around the Capitol with a coat rack in your hand?” said Sam Shamansky, who’s representing Dustin Thompson, an Ohio man accused of stealing a coat rack during the riot. Shamansky said his client would never have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 if Trump hadn’t “summoned him there.” Trump, he added, engaged in a “devious yet effective plot to brainwash” supporters into believing the election was stolen, putting them in the position where they “felt the the need to defend their country at the request of the commander in chief.” “I think it fits perfectly,” he said of the defence. “The more nuanced question is: Who is going to buy it? What kind of jury panel do you need to understand that?” While experts say blaming Trump may not get their clients off the hook, it may help at sentencing when they ask the judge for leniency. “It could likely be considered a mitigating factor that this person genuinely believed they were simply following the instructions of the leader of the United States,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan who's now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. It could also bolster any potential cases against the former president, experts say. “That defence is dead on arrival,” said Bradley Simon, a New York City white-collar criminal defence attorney and former federal prosecutor. “But I do think that these statements by defendants saying that they were led on by Trump causes a problem for him if the Justice Department or the attorney general in D.C. were to start looking at charges against him for incitement of the insurrection.” While the legal bar is high for prosecuting Trump in the Capitol siege, the former president is already facing a lawsuit from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson that accuses him of conspiring with extremist groups to prevent Congress from certifying the election results. And more lawsuits could come. Trump spread baseless claims about the election for weeks and addressed thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House before the Capitol riot, telling them that they had gathered in Washington "to save our democracy." Later, Trump said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” A lawyer for Jacob Chansley, the shirtless man who wore face paint and a hat with horns inside the Capitol, attached a highlighted transcript of the Trump's speech before the riot to a court filing seeking Chansley's release from custody. The defence lawyer, Albert Watkins, said the federal government is sending a “disturbingly chilling message” that Americans will be prosecuted “if they do that which the President asks them to do.” Defence lawyers have employed other strategies without better success. In one case, the judge called a defence attorney’s portrayal of the riots as mere trespassing or civil disobedience both “unpersuasive and detached from reality.” In another, a judge rejected a man’s claim that he was “duped” into joining the anti-government Oath Keepers group and participating in the attack on the Capitol. Other defendants linked to militant groups also have tried to shift blame to Trump in seeking their pretrial release from jail. An attorney for Jessica Watkins said the Oath Keepers member believed local militias would be called into action if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to stay in office. Watkins disavowed the Oath Keepers during a court hearing on Friday, saying she has been “appalled” by fellow members of the far-right militia. “However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government, but to support what she believed to be the lawful government,” her lawyer wrote. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Dominic Pezzola, another suspected Proud Boy, said he “acted out of the delusional belief that he was a ‘patriot’ protecting his country." Defence attorney Jonathan Zucker described Pezzola as “one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President's deception.” “Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence," he wrote. “Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege." Michael Kunzelman And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 67,201 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,774,599 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,682.409 per 100,000. There were 398,071 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,441,670 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.68 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,827 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 20,285 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.739 per 1,000. There were 7,020 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 33,820 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,485 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 12,176 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.758 per 1,000. There were 1,670 new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.75 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,987 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 32,019 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.81 per 1,000. There were 14,700 new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.66 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were 11,760 new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 13,464 new vaccinations administered for a total of 400,540 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 46.81 per 1,000. There were 28,500 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 537,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.47 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 21,805 new vaccinations administered for a total of 643,765 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.826 per 1,000. There were 220,030 new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.27 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 71,469 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 51.902 per 1,000. There were 6,100 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 108,460 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 4,015 new vaccinations administered for a total of 69,451 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.899 per 1,000. There were 15,210 new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 93.09 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 11,728 new vaccinations administered for a total of 207,300 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.092 per 1,000. There were 69,090 new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.39 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,490 new vaccinations administered for a total of 252,373 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.18 per 1,000. There were 15,491 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 323,340 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 15,174 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 363.615 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 80.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 19 new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,276 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 187.884 per 1,000. There were 8,500 new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. — With short, sure strokes of a flathead axe, firefighter Cole Gomoll methodically chopped along the edge of the SUV’s broken windshield as golf icon Tiger Woods — tangled up in his seatbelt and covered in a sheet to avoid shards of glass — waited in shock inside the mangled wreck. When Gomoll had cut a long, continuous line to the end of the glass, he and another Los Angeles County firefighter peeled back the windshield. The 6-lb (2.7-kilogram), 36-inch-long (91-centimetre-long) axe went down, and the backboard was swapped in. Within minutes, the ambulance had raced away, bound for the trauma centre with its famous patient in the back. It would be hours before the news broke around the world but for Gomoll and the other nine members of Fire Station 106 in Rolling Hills Estates, California, Tuesday’s call — initially reported as a traffic collision with a person trapped — lasted just 12 minutes. “He’s just another patient," Gomoll told The Associated Press on Friday at Fire Station 106. The 106’s firefighters, from Gomoll up to Battalion Chief Dean Douty, stressed that anyone in Woods’ dire situation would have received the same care from them. “I didn’t know who was inside the car,” Capt. Joe Peña said, until a sheriff’s deputy told him. And anyone else would get the same privacy, too — the firefighters declined to recount the athlete’s conversations and condition at the scene to preserve patient confidentiality. “His identity really didn’t matter in what we do,” Capt. Jeane Barrett said. Even so, those minutes marked a milestone in Gomoll’s career: It was the first time the 23-year-old Marine Corps veteran had performed an extrication like that in the field. Gomoll joined the fire station, located about a mile (1.6 kilometres) away from the crash site, in August as a probationary firefighter. Just three weeks ago, he’d practiced similar moves with one of his superiors, Barrett. “We’ve trained for stuff like this,” Gomoll said. Woods was transferred from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on Thursday to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for “continuing orthopedic care and recovery,” hospital officials said. A Friday night post on Woods' Twitter account said he "received follow-up procedures on his injuries this morning. The procedures were successful, and he is now recovering and in good spirits.” Woods had shattered the tibia and fibula bones of his lower right leg in multiple locations. Those injuries were stabilized with a rod in the tibia during a long surgery. Additional injuries to the bones in the foot and ankle required screws and pins. Woods had been driving a 2021 Genesis SUV on a downhill stretch of road known for wrecks when he struck a raised median in a coastal Los Angeles suburb, crossed into oncoming lanes and flipped several times. The crash was the latest setback for Woods, who has won 15 major championships and a record-tying 82 victories on the PGA Tour. He is among the world’s most recognizable sports figures, and at 45, even with a reduced schedule from nine previous surgeries, remains golf’s biggest draw. He was in Los Angeles last weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Monday and Tuesday had been set aside for him to give golf tips to celebrities on Discovery-owned GOLFTV. The Los Angeles County sheriff has called the crash “purely an accident” and says drugs and alcohol did not appear to be a factor. Everyone says Woods is lucky to be alive — and “if nothing else, it’s a good PSA for wearing a seatbelt,” Barrett added. The first responders did, however, correct previous reports that said they’d used the Jaws of Life and a pry bar called a halligan tool to free the celebrity. Barrett, a 25-year fire service veteran, and her fellow firefighters know the dangers of the eponymous rolling hills in the area and have cut many drivers out of their twisted cars. They initially had three plans for Woods’ SUV: First, try the axe on the windshield. If that didn’t work, see if going through the sunroof was a possibility. A third option would be to cut the entire roof off. The firefighters and paramedics spoke to Woods — who introduced himself as “Tiger" — throughout, reassuring him through a hole in the windshield that he’d soon be free. “You can tell he was in pain,” firefighter Sally Ortega said, but he was still responding to their questions and clearly anxious to get out. “Luckily, our first plan was the one that worked,” Barrett said. As the ambulance pulled away, Barrett surveyed the SUV to see what lessons her crew might be able to apply to save a future driver. “No car is ever crumpled in the same way,” she said. The firefighters later debriefed together around their station’s kitchen table, then ate salads for lunch in a nearby park — savoring the last of the quiet as the news finally made its way around the world. Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The Ontario government's switch to a centralized procurement system stalled the replenishment of the province's stockpile of personal protective equipment in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, an independent commission heard this week. Health Minister Christine Elliott told the commission examining the crisis's impact on long-term care that the government expected its supply of PPE to be restocked, and that she was not aware at the time that the process had been held up by the change. The commission has heard that much of Ontario's supply of PPE was destroyed by December 2019 because it had expired. The panel's co-counsel, John Callaghan, said previous testimony indicated only 10 per cent remained by then, most of which was meant to deal with Ebola rather than a disease like the novel coronavirus. "You never went to cabinet, you never went to anyone to suggest that the safety of Ontarians would require us to have a stockpile in the face of a pandemic? You never went and made that suggestion?" Callaghan asked the minister. Elliott replied it wasn't necessary to do so because "there was an expectation that it would be replenished." "And that is what we were doing, (we are) in the process of doing. But I was not aware that it had been slowed up by the central procurement. I anticipated that it was happening, but I did not know that it had been held up by that." COVID-19 has devastated Ontario's long-term care system, causing the deaths of 3,743 residents and 11 staff members so far. The commission is set to present a report on April 30 that will include recommendations aimed at preventing similar outcomes in the future. Callaghan pressed the minister on whether the provincial government should bear responsibility if the commission finds Ontario's lack of PPE early in the pandemic led to deaths in the long-term care system. He noted the commission has heard many long-term care homes did not have the required stockpile of PPE when the health crisis began. "The loss of life here is tragic. And is something that I think everyone in government feels some level of responsibility for," Elliott replied. "But certainly I knew that there were inspections that were going on in long-term care homes. I would have expected that checking to make sure that they had a supply of PPE would have been something that the inspectors would have checked upon." Asked whether maintaining an appropriate stockpile of PPE should be legislatively mandated for the province and long-term care homes, Elliott said she didn't believe it necessary, noting homes are already required to do so. Deputy health minister Helen Angus, who testified alongside Elliott, said it would be helpful to outline the requirements for homes "in more detail going forward," before looking at the mechanism to "compel and enforce it." Elliott also defended the government's decision last summer to give COVID-19 tests to anyone who wanted one, which the commission has heard went against the recommendations of several scientists advising the government, particularly in light of the strained lab capacity and the need to monitor cases in long-term care. "Looking back, it would have been because of the increase in community transmission and the need to locate where that was coming from and to understand better what was happening in communities," she told the commission. Callaghan noted scientists have testified they advised the province that would not be an effective strategy. "In fact, you are going to delay the responses from the tests because you are going to have so many of them that are unnecessary," he said. He also asked why Ontario had not run any pandemic simulations before COVID-19 that likely would have flagged its lack of lab capacity in the face of a surge in testing. Angus acknowledged the delays in processing tests "at times obviously were unacceptable" but stressed the issue stemmed from the absence of an integrated lab system and that the province quickly moved to fix the problem and ramp up its daily testing capacity. The commission's hearings aren't open to the public but transcripts are posted online, typically days later. The minister and deputy minister testified Wednesday and the transcript was released Friday evening. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — Saskatchewan's Opposition NDP is calling on the provincial government to help maintain a homeless shelter in North Battleford that is to close April 1 due to lack of funding. Don Windels, executive director of Lighthouse Supported Living, says 22 full and part-time staff at The Lighthouse emergency facility have received layoff notices. He says the shelter has space for 37 people and will try to find new housing for them. Windels says the shelter depended on around $500,000 in core funding from the Provincial Metis Housing Corporation and says it costs about $800,000 per year to operate. He says the corporation wants to focus on housing in the north and believes shelters should be the province's responsibility. In a news release, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called on Premier Scott Moe to ensure funding is in place to keep The Lighthouse shelter open in North Battleford. "Saskatchewan is in the midst of two public health crises. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the overdose crisis that is taking a brutal toll in lives across our province," Meili said Friday. "It is unacceptable that the Sask. Party government would allow the crucial work the North Battleford Lighthouse does in service of the most vulnerable to be shut down due to lack of funding." The Ministry of Social Services said it increased provincial funding to the shelter last April and in November to help offset extra COVID-19 related services. The ministry said it has met with Lighthouse staff to discuss the shelter's loss of federal funding and had meetings with Indigenous Services Canada to determine what other money might be available. "We continue to work with the North Battleford Lighthouse emergency shelter and other partners in the community to support income assistance clients," the ministry said in an email. "We are also continuing to provide income assistance benefits for per diems to emergency shelter for individuals in need.” (CTV, The Canadian Press) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
An Alberta court ordered an updated Gladue Report for an Onion Lake Cree Nation woman facing drug trafficking charges in that province. Tamarah Lee Dillon, 27, had court appearances in Alberta and Saskatchewan on charges stemming from separate incidents. She had an appearance on Feb. 24 in Lloydminster Provincial Court for breaching condition of her release. The matter was adjourned to Aug. 4. She had an appearance in St. Paul Provincial Court Feb. 18 on drug trafficking charges. The St. Paul court adjourned her matter until April 8 to allow time for an updated Gladue Report. A Gladue Report is a pre-sentence report typically prepared by Gladue caseworkers at the request of the judge, defense or Crown Prosecutor. By law, judges must consider Gladue factors when sentencing First Nations people. Section 718.2(e) of Canada’s Criminal Code stipulates that judges must clearly address an Aboriginal offender’s circumstances, as well as the systemic and background factors that contributed to those circumstances. Gladue was a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision handed down in1999. In 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Gladue Principle also applies to breaches of long-term supervision orders. The ruling says that failing to take Aboriginal circumstances into account violates the fundamental principle of sentencing. The Gladue Principles also state that restorative justice may be more appropriate for Aboriginal offenders. Restorative justice focuses on healing those affected by the criminal act, including the offender, which is more in line with traditional Aboriginal justice. This restorative justice approach is also meant to act as a solution to reducing the over-representation of Aboriginals in Canadian jails. Dillon was wanted on a Canada-wide arrest warrant in December 2018 for being unlawfully at large. She remains in custody. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
The British Columbia government announced today its controversial Site C dam project will move forward, despite the new price tag of $16 billion — nearly double what was initially projected. The West Moberly First Nations says it will file a lawsuit to stop the project.
TAMPA, Fla. — After three decades of coaching that includes a pair of Olympic medals and a World Cup gold with Spain, Sergio Scariolo has his first NBA victory. It likely didn't happen how he'd envisioned it. With Nick Nurse, five members of his coaching staff, and star forward Pascal Siakam sidelined on Friday due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the 59-year-old Scariolo stepped in to guide the Toronto Raptors to a 122-111 victory over struggling Rockets. Norman Powell poured in 30 points, while Kyle Lowry had a triple double -- 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists -- for the Raptors (17-17). Fred VanVleet added 25 points, while DeAndre Bembry had 13 and OG Anunoby finished with 11. Lowry grabbed the game ball and presented it to Scariolo following the win. Victor Oladipo had 27 points to top the slumping Rockets (11-20), who've lost 10 in a row for the first time since November-December, 2011. The Raptors announced that Nurse and most of his staff were out a few hours before tipoff, whlie Siakam was listed on the league's injury report shortly before tipoff. Toronto GM Bobby Webster said it wasn't clear at this stage if Siakam's situation was linked to the coaches. "The NBA is being extremely careful here," GM Bobby Webster said. "It’s early in what’s going on here, so I think we’re all being conscientious and not taking any risks. ... We’ll see what tomorrow brings us.” The fact the Raptors could go to the legendary Scariolo speaks to the depth of Toronto's staff. He guided Spain to gold at the 2019 World Cup, plus Olympic medals in 2012 and '16. He'd just come out of required isolation himself after coaching Spain in FIBA games in Europe. “I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of games he’s been a head coach,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said about Scariolo. “But it’s unique, and he acknowledged that much, especially under the circumstances.” Coming off back-to-back losses to Philadelphia and Miami that snapped a four-game win streak, the Raptors started to pull away from the Rockets in the second quarter and, by the time Powell knocked down a three-pointer midway through the third, Toronto was up by 23. The Raptors led 95-80 to start the fourth. Houston pulled to within nine points with a 13-0 run that straddled the third and fourth quarter, and then sliced the difference to just six on a three-pointer by Eric Gordon with 4:28 to play. That was as close as Houston would come. VanVleet's three-pointer put Toronto back up by nine with 2:27 to play and the Rockets wouldn't threaten again. The Rockets haven't won since Feb. 4 at Memphis. In a season rocked by COVID-19, the NBA has had to postpone 29 games so far for virus-related issues, but the Raptors had been lucky to have avoided any trouble until now. They're one of just four teams in the league that haven't had a game postponed. It's unknown how long the coaches will be sidelined but, on the plus side, the Raptors only have three more games before the all-star break. Assistant coach Jim Sann was on the Toronto bench Friday along with Mark Tyndale, assistant video coordinator/player development, and Jamaal Magloire, basketball development consultant. Webster said contact between Nurse and the bench during the game was not allowed under NBA rules. The Toronto coaching staff was already shorthanded given Chris Finch left the team earlier this week to become head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie make up the remainder of Nurse's coaching staff. The Rockets jumped out to an eight-point lead on 52.9 per cent shooting in the first, but Toronto had closed the by the end of the quarter and trailed 31-30 to start the second. Lowry was a perfect 3-for-3 from long distance in a 10-point performance in the second quarter. Powell's driving layup capped a 20-10 run that had the Raptors up by 11. They stretched their lead to 15 before heading into halftime with a 67-59 advantage. The Raptors are back in action Sunday against visiting Chicago. Toronto then hosts Detroit on Tuesday before wrapping up their first-half schedule Thursday in Boston. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) A pub trivia night held earlier this month in Port Moody has now been connected to more than 300 cases of COVID-19, according to health officials. A total of 24 people who attended the Feb. 2 event at the St. James's Well pub have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 as a result, according to the health ministry, and those cases have led to hundreds more in the community. On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the spread has included transmission in a daycare, school, multiple workplaces and within families. "These are the things, the chains of transmission, that we need to stop as soon as we can," she said. According to the province, current public health orders bar pubs and restaurants from holding any events that draw people together, including trivia contests. The pub apologized Thursday in a statement on Facebook. "We are heartbroken by the impact this has had on our workers, customers and the community at large. We are deeply sorry that we failed to honour your trust on this occasion," the statement read. Jeff Guignard, executive director of the B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said it's up to both patrons and business owners to follow the rules. For patrons, that means visiting restaurants and pubs with your immediate household only, and sticking to your own table — absolutely no table-hopping is permitted right now. "Our bargain is to keep the rules in place and yours is that you're going to follow the rules," Guignard told CBC News. "We'll warn you once if you don't follow the rules and then generally we will give you your check and ask you to leave."
LOS ANGELES — The organization hosting the Golden Globes says it is developing a plan to recruit Black members after falling under sharp criticism for lacking diverse members. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association said in statement Friday that an “action plan” is under development to admit Black members. The group currently has 87 members who are journalists, but none are Black. Former HFPA president Meher Tatna told Variety in an interview that the organization hasn’t had a Black member in nearly two decades. The Mumbai-born board chair said she couldn’t recall when there had been a Black member, but she says the organization will keep trying. Some including Time's Up and presenter Sterling K. Brown are among those who have criticized the HFPA's lack of inclusion and diversity. The criticism comes just days before the Globes air live on Sunday. An HFPA spokesperson said it welcomes the opportunity to meet with groups such as Time’s Up and prospective Black members who are interested in joining the organization. “We are fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV and the artists inspiring and educating them,” the HFPA statement read. “We understand that we need to bring in Black members, as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible.” Time’s Up took aim at the HFPA in a tweet saying “a cosmetic fix isn’t enough.” The activist organization also included the hashtag #TimesUpGlobes. Brown, an award presenter, posted the Time’s Up photo on social media with his own criticism. “For any governing body of a current Hollywood award show to have such a lack of voting representation illustrates a level of irresponsibility that should not be ignored,” he said. Brown said the HFPA must do better. He said the organization has a responsibility to show its “constituency is fully reflective of the world in which we live.” “And having a multitude of Black presenters does not absolve you of your lack of diversity,” he continued. “This is your moment to do the right thing. It is my hope that you will.” The HFPA said it welcomes journalists from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds based in Southern California that cover entertainment for foreign media. The organization says membership is majority female and more than 35% per cent of its members are from non-European countries across the world. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is telling California's Santa Clara County that it can't enforce a ban on indoor religious worship services put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. The high court issued an order Friday evening in a case brought by a handful of churches. The justices, in early February, told the state of California that it can't bar indoor church services because of the pandemic. The justices said at the time that the state could cap indoor services at 25% of a building’s capacity and continue to bar singing and chanting. But Santa Clara had argued that its temporary ban on indoor gatherings of any kind including worship services should be allowed to stand. The county, which includes San Jose, said that it was treating houses of worship no differently from other indoor spaces where it prohibits gatherings and caps attendance. The county said people could go into houses of worship to pray or go to confession, among other things, but couldn't gather with groups of others. The county said the same was true of retail establishments, where shoppers can go but not gather for an event such as a book reading. The justices' unsigned order Friday said that their action was “clearly dictated” by their order from earlier this month. The court's three liberal justices dissented. Santa Clara had told the court in a letter Thursday that coronavirus cases in the county have recently continued to decline and that it was already close to lifting its ban on indoor gatherings. If the data continued the positive trend, the letter said, the county expected to allow all indoor gatherings, subject to restrictions, as soon as next Wednesday. The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Lady Gaga's two French bulldogs, which were stolen by thieves who shot and wounded the dog walker, were recovered unharmed Friday, Los Angeles police said. A woman brought the dogs to the LAPD's Olympic Community Police Station, just northwest of downtown, around 6 p.m, said Capt. Jonathan Tippet, commanding officer of the department's elite Robbery-Homicide Division. Lady Gaga’s representative and detectives went to the station and confirmed that they were the dogs, Tippet said. The singer is currently in Rome to film a movie. The woman who dropped off the dogs appears to be “”uninvolved and unassociated" with Wednesday night's attack, Tippet said. It wasn't immediately clear how she obtained the dogs. The dog walker, Ryan Fischer, was shot once as he walked three of the singer's dogs in Hollywood. Video showed a white sedan pulling up and two men jumping out. They struggled with the dog walker before one pulled a gun and fired a single shot before fleeing with two of the dogs. The third escaped and has since been reunited with Lady Gaga's representatives. The dog walker can be heard on the video saying he had been shot in the chest. He is expected to survive his injuries, Tippet said. Lady Gaga on Friday repeated her offer of a $500,000 reward for the return of her dogs — whose names are Koji and Gustav — with no questions asked. Tippet said since police were not involved in the reward, he did not know if the woman would receive it. “I continue to love you Ryan Fischer, you risked your life to fight for our family. You’re forever a hero," Lady Gaga said in an Instagram post. Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press
The search for the next leader of the BC Liberal party has officially begun. A leadership conference to pick the party’s next leader will be held Feb. 3 to 5, 2022, with the leader chosen on Feb. 5, the BC Liberal Party announced today. “Today is really an opportunity for us to begin that focus on the search for a new leader that will revitalize our party and connect with British Columbians,” said Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond on Feb. 26. The previous party leader, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, stepped down in November after the BC Liberals lost about a third of their seats and the New Democrats picked up a majority government. The BC Greens won two ridings. Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond replaced Wilkinson when she was elected interim Liberal leader by her caucus colleagues on Nov. 23. “We are excited to begin the race for the (permanent) leadership of our party, a process that will help to shape the future of BC politics” said Interim Liberal Party President Don Silversides in a press release. Given the pandemic context, the party decided an 11-month long timeframe would allow the broadest range of candidates as much opportunity as possible to interact with voters, Silversides said. “It gives the party a chance to talk about the things that matter to British Columbia,” said Bond. “We're going to have the opportunity to hear from what I hope will be a broad, diverse range of candidates as we look to renew the party.” Political hopefuls will have until Nov. 31 to register as candidates. All BC Liberal Party members will be eligible to vote in the leadership election, and anyone who isn’t a member who wants to participate has until Dec. 29 to join the party. Bond will stay on as interim leader until a new leader is selected next February. Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat