Elizabeth May compares Andrew Scheer to Donald Trump in the first debate of the 2019 federal election campaign. (Maclean's/Citytv)
Elizabeth May compares Andrew Scheer to Donald Trump in the first debate of the 2019 federal election campaign. (Maclean's/Citytv)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the possibility of involving other countries in efforts to maintain a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire on Nov. 10 that halted six weeks of clashes in the mountain enclave, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the enclave under the ceasefire deal, which locked in Azeri advances.
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Beyoncé is bringing her Black parade to the Grammys: The pop star’s anthem about Black pride scored multiple nominations Tuesday, making her the leading contender with nine nominations.Beyoncé picked up song and record of the year bids with “Black Parade,” which she released on Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free. The song, which reached the Top 40 on the pop charts, is also nominated for best R&B song and best R&B performance.Beyoncé’s “Black Is King” film that highlighted Black art, music, history and fashion is up for best music film while “Brown Skin Girl,” a song dedicated to dark- and brown-skinned women, is nominated for best music video. The singer also earned three nominations for her slick guest appearance on Megan Thee Stallion’s No. 1 hit “Savage.”A winner of 24 Grammys, Beyoncé becomes the second-most nominated act in the history of the awards show with 79 nominations.Beyoncé is only behind her husband Jay-Z and Quincy Jones, who have both earned 80 nominations each. Jay-Z picked up three nominations this year for his contributions to Beyoncé’s songs: He co-wrote “Black Parade" and “Savage," thus earning nominations for song of the year, best R&B song and best rap song. Jay-Z has won 22 Grammys throughout this career.Beyoncé’s domination this year came as a surprise since the singer did not release a new album. Other surprises, well snubs, include pop star the Weeknd being completely shut out and earning zero nominations despite having a No. 1 album, multiple hit singles and winning the coveted Super Bowl halftime performance slot. Luke Combs, who dominated the country charts and set records on streaming services this year, was also surprisingly shut out of nominations.Instead, multiple nominations went to Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and Roddy Ricch, who each earned six nominations and followed Beyoncé as the second-most nominated acts.Lipa, who won two Grammys last year, earned bids for album of the year with “Future Nostalgia” as well as song and record of the year for her hit “Don’t Start Now.” Swift, whose last two albums didn’t garner nominations for album of the year, is competing for the top prize with her surprise album “folklore.” If she wins, she would become the first artist to win album of the year three times.Other album of the year nominees include: Post Malone’s multi-hit “Hollywood’s Bleeding”; Coldplay’s “Everyday Life”; HAIM’s sophomore release “Women In Music Pt. III”; Jhené Aiko’s atmospheric R&B project “Chilombo”; English musician Jacob Collier’s multi-genre release “Djesse Vol. 3”; and the deluxe edition of Black Pumas’ self-titled debut album.Tracks competing with Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” and “Savage” for record of the year include DaBaby and Ricch’s “Rockstar,” Malone’s “Circles,” Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted,” Black Pumas’ “Colours” and Doja Cat’s “Say So.”“Black Parade,” “Don’t Start Now,” “Everything I Wanted” and “Circles” are also nominated for song of the year — a songwriter’s award — along with Swift’s “cardigan,” Ricch’s “The Box,” JP Saxe and Julia Michaels’ “If the World Was Ending” and H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” her protest anthem addressing police brutality.Several songs that emerged following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor were nominated for Grammys, including Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” (best rap song, best rap performance), Anderson .Paak’s “Lockdown” (best melodic rap performance, best music video), Mickey Guyton’s “Black Like Me” (best country solo performance) as well as Beyoncé’s “Black Parade.”“I think it’s meaningful. I think it’s reflective of what’s gone on in our world," Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording’s interim president and CEO, said of multiple protest songs earning nominations this year. “Musicians and artists and writers and producers, they write about what’s going on in their lives. We tend to be fairly emotional people. When there’s things happening, it’s going to come out in our music and our art."Megan Thee Stallion, who released her highly anticipated debut album last week after finding success with hit singles and mixtapes since 2018, scored four nominations including best new artist. She will compete with rapper-singer Doja Cat, pop singer Noah Cyrus, country singer Ingrid Andress, multi-genre DJ-producer Kaytranada, rappers Chika and D Smoke, and indie rocker Phoebe Bridgers, who earned four nominations and helped female acts dominate in the rock categories.Nominees for best rock performance and best rock song include Bridgers, Fiona Apple, HAIM, Grace Potter, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Big Thief, led by Adrianne Lenker. Female performers also dominated in best country album, including Andress, Miranda Lambert, Brandy Clark and Ashley McBryde. The foursome Little Big Town, which features two female vocalists, round out the five nominees.K-pop kings BTS earned their first-ever Grammy nomination after years of having success on the pop charts. They will compete for best pop duo/group performance with their No. 1 hit, “Dynamite.”Other first-time nominees include the Strokes, Megan Thee Stallion, Michael Kiwanuka, Jay Electronica and Harry Styles, who became the first One Direction member to earn a Grammy nomination.Several acts earned posthumous nominations, including John Prine (best American Roots performance, best American Roots song), Nipsey Hussle (best rap performance), Leonard Cohen (best folk album) Pop Smoke (best rap performance) and songwriter LaShawn Daniels (best gospel performance/song).And A-list entertainers hoping to reach EGOT status are getting a chance to earn their Grammy Award, including Renée Zellweger, who is nominated for best traditional pop vocal album for “Judy” — a performance that won her a second Academy Award — while Meryl Streep is nominated for best spoken word album for “Charlotte’s Web.”Kanye West, who has won 21 Grammys, only scored a single nomination this year — for contemporary Christian music album for “Jesus Is King.” Others who were snubbed include country performers the Chicks and Morgan Wallen, R&B singers Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor, Chris Brown and Brandy, and late rapper Juice WRLD.Songs and albums released between Sept. 1, 2019 and Aug. 31, 2020 were eligible for nominations this year. Winners will be announced at the live show on Jan. 31.Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
As part of IndigiNews’ ongoing look into Indigenous reproductive healthcare access, we are speaking to people about their birth experiences. As the snow started to fall, marking the beginning of the winter solstice, Estella Carmona was on her way to the hospital to give birth to her first daughter, Katiyana. The all-encompassing birthing process would turn into a life-changing spiritual experience that showed Carmona her “true connection to spirit,” she says. Carmona sees her daughter Katiyana, who’s turning seven on Dec. 21, as her greatest teacher. “I knew that I was bringing in sacred life,” says Carmona who is of Sechelt, Stó:lō and Mexican descent, reflecting on the day her daughter was born. Carmona is a member of shíshálh First Nation, which is located along the Sunshine Coast in Sechelt, B.C., and comes from a strong line of matriarchs. She says it’s the strong cultural teachings from the smokehouse that pulled her through two complicated birth experiences. “It showed the strength of spirit,” she says. “I was raised by my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mom, and [strong moral teachings are] something that we live, we breathe.” She credits her great-grandmother who was a fluent speaker in her language for instilling these teachings in the family. Carmona was living in Stó:lō Territory in 2013 when she was pregnant with her first daughter. Before Katiyana was born owls and hawks started visiting her, she explains. For many Indigenous people, the connection between birds as a kind of messenger is a part of cultural teachings passed down. “An owl started visiting me throughout my pregnancy. They’ve never come into my life beforehand,” says Carmona. “I had four owls visit me and two owls came the night before she was born.” During the delivery, Carmona explains how her cultural teachings helped assist in the birth. “I did tap into sacred energy, our breath, and prayer,” she says. Carmona used a birthing tub at the hospital during her labour. “Having been surrounded by water, she came into this world in a very peaceful way,” she says. However, after her daughter was delivered Carmona says she lost a lot of blood but was not given a blood transfusion. She left the experience wishing she had known her rights. “If I knew my rights, I would have demanded a blood transfusion,” she says. “They took my blood count after she was delivered. They took my blood count the next morning. And they’re like, well, it’s already increasing. So we don’t think you need one.” After suffering from extreme fatigue for six months, navigating being a new mother, working, and being in school, she didn’t realize the severity of the situation until years later. After requesting to see her medical records she says, “I realized this is how women die in childbirth.” Carmona believes a higher power is what pulled her through this experience. “When I say spirit saved my life, I believe that Katiyana chose me as her mother. She chose her father. And those owls visited me throughout,” she says, “it was spirit all the way.” As they left the hospital, she remembers seeing a hawk on the side of the road. “Her spirit is the owl spirit,” Carmona says smiling. “There’s no question about it, she sees truth.” In 2015, Carmona was pregnant with her second child, a daughter named Ivy. Still living in Stó:lō Territory, she returned to give birth at a local hospital. This time, she says, the delivery was excruciating and there were complications with baby Ivy being delivered. According to her medical records, baby Ivy was born face up, blue and limp with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. While Carmona says her mother and mother-in-law knew what was happening, she was unaware of the severity of the situation. “I did not know the severity of the situation being like you just delivered a baby,” she says. The medical records show that baby Ivy was not breathing when she was born, and Carmona says they called a “code pink” signalling an emergency. “She’s a miracle that she survived,” says Carmona. “My belief in the Creator, my belief in the teaching saved us a hundred percent. We had people watching over us.” Reflecting on the experience, Carmona once again wishes she was given more information in the moment. “There was no, how long was she out of breath for, what’s her cognitive ability kind of thing. Like, your daughter could have died,” she says. “It was, she can sit up in her car seat. You’re fine, go home.” For other expecting parents Carmona says that due to the lack of cultural safety, systemic racism and stereotyping of Indigenous women, it’s important to “trust your intuition.” “Whether it’s the doctor, a white midwife, the stereotyping that you receive, whether it’s in the doctor’s appointments, leading up or in the delivering room, having multiple Indigenous family members there, there’s a lot of racism that happens in these experiences,” she says. Many Indigenous Peoples who access the healthcare system in Canada feel the impacts of systemic racism. On June 19, 2020, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was appointed by Health Minister Adrian Dix to lead an investigation into Indigenous-specific racism in the B.C. health care system. “If I could say anything to a woman who would be giving birth or in this process, trust your intuition, pray for protection and guidance,” says Carmona. With two healthy young girls, now one of the most important things for Carmona is that her kids are raised traditionally so that they too are equipped to navigate the world. “I can say that practicing our cultural teachings benefits new mothers and their babies, that little plant, that little seed,” says Carmona, “Every thought, every feeling that we think our baby experiences and my daughters are very cultural beings.” Our series on reproductive health access is made possible in part with funding from First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Thunderbird Partnership Foundation. Their support does not imply endorsement of or influence over the content produced. Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
EDMONTON — The Alberta government announced Tuesday new restrictions to battle record-high rates of COVID-19 infections in the province. In addition to declaring a public health emergency, the government ordered the following for the next three weeks:— No indoor social gatherings. Funerals and weddings are limited to 10 people, as are outdoor gatherings. Churches are restricted to one-third normal attendance.— Restaurants and bars can remain open. But a maximum of six people from the same household can sit at a table and there must be no movement between tables. People who live alone can meet with two people.\-- Retail stores can remain open at 25 per cent capacity. — At-home learning for students in Grades 7 through 12 starting Monday. Other students are to do their schooling from home starting Dec. 18 before winter break. All students are to resume at-home learning after the break and can return to school Jan . 11.\-- Casinos can remain open at 25 per cent capacity with slot machines only.— The closure of banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, concert venues, community centres, and indoor play places.— A halt on all levels of sport, although exemptions may be considered.— Mandatory masks for indoor workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and surroundings areas.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.The Canadian Press
After 17 years on the job, former Timmins mayor Jamie Lim is looking forward to the spending more time with family life while keeping an optimistic eye on the future of the province’s forestry sector. On Monday it was announced that she will be retiring from her position as president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) at the end of the calendar year. “In 2019, we had a little bit of a family health crisis, and it just sort of made me reassess everything, and I thought 2020 would be a nice time to retire,” she told The Daily Press. “I made the decision before COVID. I can tell you now when I made the decision in 2019, I thought 2020 was going to be a nice walk in the park, and regular work, and closing some files and stuff with the association. I had no idea that 2020 would have a global pandemic and a global economic crisis waiting for us.” Her final year at the helm has seemingly gone in a flash. “Since March, it’s just been a blur, because we’ve been so busy making sure that we can continue working during this global pandemic.” Lim said it is important to know when to pass the torch. “Seventeen years at a trade association is a really long tenure. I’m very, very proud that I’ve had 17 wonderful years to work with the forest sector. Some of my members have been running their mills in their family for six generations. Representing this sector, honestly, has been one of the greatest pleasures in my life. It really has.” Ian Dunn will step in as interim president and CEO effective Jan. 1. Dunn is currently the executive director of policy and operations, and has been with the organization for five years. “It’s really an honour and a privilege to lead an association like this,” he said. “I got into this because of a passion for Ontario’s forests, and that’s a real source of inspiration for me and OFIA staff, and I'm looking forward to Jan. 1.” Dunn believes the experience from his current role has prepared him to step into his new position smoothly, as it was policy focused. “Certainly, how it impacted the woodlands operations of our members of forest management type issues. It’s grown over time to include manufacturing-type issues such as carbon pricing, emissions standards, things like that, as well as market-related issues such as the softwood lumber trade dispute. “So in my current role, I’ve had a really good opportunity to get exposed to all facets of the business and I’m really looking forward to stepping into more of a leadership position.” Lim said that by both growing up in Timmins and living in the city as an adult, she knows how important the mining and forestry sectors are to the local and regional economies, and emphasized their roles as the economic engines of the area. She pointed to some big numbers from the OFIA. “We employ 147,000 people directly and indirectly, and we generate about $18 billion in revenue for the province every year.” Over the last two years, she said it has “been a pleasure” to work with a provincial government that recognizes the importance of the forestry sector to Ontario “and acknowledges the importance of having economic engines in Northern and rural Ontario that can create employment for our people.” She credited Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, as well as Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks Jeff Yurek for their commitment to improving the forestry sector in Ontario. “All three ministers with the Premier have been instrumental in supporting the sector before the pandemic and during the pandemic,” said Lim. Ford and Yakabuski announced the provincial forest sector strategy in August. Lim stated that in her 17 years with the OFIA, she has never seen the province willing to put forward a formal strategy. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. The United Nations in 2018 had a study commissioned and it showed that global demand for wood products is expected to increase by 30 per cent by 2030.” Lim believes that everything points to continued strength for the forest products sector, and that with the right public policy, and right aspirations from government decision makers, forestry can become an even bigger economic powerhouse. “Respond to that global demand for wood products. I want to see them come from Ontario, and I want to see the jobs, and the economic growth in Northern and rural Ontario.” Dunn agrees. “I think we’re on a real solid foundation. The province’s forest sector strategy is an amazing opportunity to grow the sector. So I’m very optimistic about the future of forestry in Ontario,” he said. In a year like no other in history, the forestry sector being declared an essential service was absolutely critical for both the people who are employed in the sector, as well as the general public. Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to make that declaration. “People realize in times of crisis like this how important forest products are, and if we can source them from a local jurisdiction like Ontario, that’s even better,” said Dunn. The forestry sector is essential to not only the province’s economic recovery, but also its response to the crisis. “I think this is a sector that can really contribute to the response to the current pandemic in a number of ways. The production of PPE (personal protective equipment) or lumber for infrastructure projects or even palettes for the movement of goods and medicines,” he said. Lim added, “We’ve kept people working, and to me, right now during this economic and health crisis, nothing could be more important. “I never thought I would see something like this in my entire life.” As she prepares to leave her position, Lim talked about the overall current state of forestry in Ontario. “In March, I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect, and it’s incredible that forestry doesn’t seem to have been impacted like other sectors.” The demand and sales numbers for wood products have been “exceptional,” according to Lim. “Who knew that people, because they were staying home, would start doing all these do-it-yourself projects, new decks and renovations — the amount of building that went on really allowed our sector to maintain its strength in the global marketplace.” Having been with the OFIA since 2004 and working through the 2008 recession, Lim sees the forestry sector as being in a better position this time around. “I think there are more opportunities than challenges.” She said that health and safety for everyone must be the top priority, but it does also present its own challenges. There are questions about how tree planting will be handled next spring, for example. However, the forestry sector is in big demand right now with PPEs, consumer lumber, and of course, toilet paper sales way up. “We’re the sector that is making sure that the supplies that people need right now are available,” said Lim. She said the OFIA has a very engaged and passionate team in place, and has full confidence in Dunn. “I am confident that the strong, effective advocacy that OFIA has been known for is going to continue without even a hiccup. We’re going to continue to make sure that forestry is top of mind with the provincial and federal governments, and that the measures we need to keep people working will be in place.” Dunn will be keeping a close eye on the numbers in the final weeks of 2020 before he moves into his new role. “I think Ontario is in a good position,” he said. “I think prices that we’re seeing for some commodity products, certainly dimensional lumber, which have increased pretty substantially over the last couple of months, it will be interesting to see how sustainable those prices are, or if they're more of a blip on the radar.” So what’s next for Lim? Well, for starters, she said she would like “a well-deserved rest” but also, more family time. “I want to exhale. My three children work in the medical sector and they’re all in hospitals, so I really haven't been able to spend any time with them over the last nine months. So my priority is going to be my family. “We’re a really close family and we’re used to being together all the time.” She is looking forward to the next chapter of her life. “People that work with me and know me well, know that I am so passionate about two things: That’s my family and Northern Ontario.” Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
EDMONTON — Finance Minister Travis Toews says COVID-19 will affect Alberta’s economy for the next couple of years and perhaps beyond, but projections are encouraging.“COVID-19 has created an environment of uncertainty, not just here in Alberta but around the world,” Toews said Tuesday as he announced updated numbers for his current budget.“I can’t say whether the worst days are behind us in this pandemic. (But) I’m hopeful when I see signs of economic recovery out there. We’re doing all we can to position Alberta for recovery.”Toews said the revised budget deficit this year will be $21.3 billion. That’s $2.8 billion less than projected at the first update in August, but still exponentially larger than the $6.8-billion deficit announced when Toews first presented the budget in February.Since then, Toews said Alberta’s economy has been hit by the “triple black swan”: the COVID-19 pandemic, the drop in oil prices due to an international price war, and a global economic contraction.But he said the updated revenue forecast for the current budget is $41.4 billion, almost $3 billion higher than last quarter due to improved forecasts for resource and gaming revenues, investment income and federal transfers.Expenses are pegged at $62.7 billion, up $5.4 billion due to compensation and health-care initiatives responding to the COVID-19 crisis.Taxpayer-supported debt is pegged to hit $97.4 billion by the spring and $125 billion by 2023.Total spending to fight COVID-19 and for pandemic recovery efforts is forecast to be $4.8 billion this year and an estimated $1.8 billion for the two years after that.Revenue from non-renewable resources is forecast at $1.7 billion, down $3.4 billion.Toews said there are encouraging signs, but it will be a long path to full recovery. Real GDP, a measure of a jurisdictions’ total economic output, is expected to fall to 8.1 per cent rather than the expected 8.8 per cent this year and won’t recover to 2014 levels until 2023.Real GDP is expected to grow 4.4 per cent in 2021.Elsewhere, the province reported that the agriculture sector is reaping the rewards of strong crop conditions overall and the forestry sector is seeing higher prices for lumber.Refined petroleum exports are rising. The food manufacturing sector has seen sales rise 5.5 per cent through September. In the labour sector, employment has gained back 72 per cent of the 360,900 jobs lost earlier this year during the first COVID wave. However, employment is still expected to shrink by seven per cent in 2020 and won’t get back to 2019 levels until 2022.Toews said recalibrating Alberta’s finances in the long term will be tied to three “anchors”: keeping spending under control and comparable to other provinces, keeping the net-debt-to-GDP ratio to no more than 30 per cent, and devising a post-pandemic timeline to get the budget out of the red.“Economic recovery and efficient delivery of government services are both critically important for fiscal recovery,” said Toews. “As we continue to face the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to do everything we can to protect Albertans while also managing our finances responsibly.”Opposition NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips dismissed Toews’ update as an overly optimistic forecast given the province is still dealing with a renewed wave of COVID-19.“Simply put, the UCP can’t be trusted to manage the province’s finances or the economy,” said Phillips.“The first wave of COVID-19 was on our doorstep, but the UCP acted like everything was fine."Now in the midst of a second wave, we see the outcome of this government’s poor planning. We have an out-of-control pandemic, an absent premier and one of the slowest economic recoveries in Canada.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Adamson Barbecue based in Etobicoke, just west of Toronto, was allowed to have guests dine-in on Tuesday afternoon despite being in violation of provincial and municipal bylaws.
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reassure Canadians on Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccines will start to arrive in the coming months even as he acknowledged that other nations are likely to start inoculating their citizens first."One of the things to remember is Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines," Trudeau said during his regular COVID-19 news conference outside his home in Ottawa."We used to have it decades ago, but we no longer have it. Countries like the United States, Germany and the U.K. do have domestic pharmaceutical facilities, which is why they're obviously going to prioritize helping their citizens first."At the same time, Trudeau underscored the importance of getting inoculations to Canadians.“We know we're not going to get through this pandemic without a vaccine," he said.The federal government has signed orders for millions of doses from a variety of foreign pharmaceutical companies in recent months, he said, and Canada has been pushing the international community to ensure equal access for all.“The very first vaccines that roll off an assembly line in a given country are likely to be given to citizens of that particular country,” he said.“But shortly afterwards, they will start honouring and delivering on the contracts that they signed with other countries, including with Canada. We've secured millions of doses of the vaccines of the various vaccine candidates around the world.”The expectation is that doses will start to arrive in Canada in the first few months of 2021, he added.At the same time, Trudeau said, "we've begun to invest once again in ensuring that Canada will have domestic vaccine production capacity because we never want to be caught short again, without the ability to support Canadians directly.”The federal government announced in August that it was contributing $120 million over two years to build a biomanufacturing facility in Montreal that includes the National Research Council.Ottawa previously committed $23 million to Saskatoon’s VIDO-InterVac operations in March and pledged $175 million to Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics in May to boost its research and production capabilities.Trudeau said it will take time for Canada’s own vaccine-production capability to get up to speed. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner blasted the Liberals later Tuesday for not moving faster on that front. She also called on the government to provide a timeline for when Canadians can start to see vaccines in the country."Because until we have that information, there's no certainty for Canadians and I think that's leading to a lot of mental health issues, it's leading to business closures," she said.During a separate news conference, Public Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada has signed contracts for more doses per capita than any country in the world and that efforts are now underway to prepare for their arrival in the next few months.That involves buying 126 freezers, including 26 ultracold ones, to hold millions of doses of vaccines. Ottawa is also seeking private bidders to run the logistics and considering what role the military could play.Health Canada has started work on approving three vaccines, Anand added, and deliveries won’t start until a vaccine candidate gets that green light.The number of new COVID-19 cases across the country continued to grow, with more than 1,000 each in Ontario and Quebec along with nearly 60 new deaths.Alberta brought in new restriction Tuesday as it also announced more than 1,000 new cases of its own and 16 deaths.Under the new rules, indoor private social events are illegal. Students in Grades 7 through 12 will transition next week to at-home learning and the school holiday break will be extended from Dec. 18 to Jan. 11.But Premier Jason Kenney opted to keep business, including retail and clothing stores open, with 25 per cent capacity. Casinos will be allowed to run their slot machines at 25 per cent capacity and churches will still be allowed to hold services with one-third their normal audience. Restaurants can still offer in-person dining. To justify avoiding a stricter lockdown, Kenney used the example of a Venezuelan refugee who he said had sunk all her money into her small food stand and broke down in tears as she told him she would be ruined if forced to close."I would ask people who have the certainty of a paycheque -- particularly a government paycheque -- to think for a moment about those individuals whose entire life savings are tied up in businesses such as that," Kenney said."For some, perhaps, it is a little bit too easy to say just flick a switch. Shut them down."In neighbouring Saskatchewan, another 175 new cases were reported and 471 in Manitoba, where chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin warned the provincial health-care system is being pushed close to capacity.The Manitoba government also reported it had issued one ticket — with more expected — in connection with a Sunday church service in a rural area near Steinbach, southeast of Winnipeg, that allegedly violated a ban on public gatherings. There were 37 new cases were reported in Nova Scotia, with new restrictions set to come into effect in Halifax. Five new cases were reported in New Brunswick and two in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yukon was also adopting mandatory mask orders despite no new cases being reported. “There are more regions of the country with high infection rates,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday.“And it is clear that COVID-19 knows no bounds. Communities, jurisdictions and whole regions that were little, if at all, impacted in the past (are) now seeing community spread. Some areas are experiencing very high rates of infection for the first time.”Meanwhile, the Ontario government said it would start distributing rapid tests for COVID-19, adding that the new tools are already being used in some hospitals and long-term care homes.Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province would continue to deploy the 98,000 ID Now tests and 1.2 million Panbio tests it has received from the federal government in the coming weeks.The Quebec government clarified its plan for the Christmas holidays Tuesday, saying citizens can attend only two events in a four-day window.Premier Francois Legault's government initially announced it would permit gatherings of a maximum of 10 people for four days between Dec. 24 and 27, and asked Quebecers to voluntarily quarantine themselves for a week before and after in exchange.On Tuesday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister decided to weigh in on Quebec's plan, which he called "dangerous.""I don’t want to get into quarterbacking other provinces. There are premiers there doing their absolute best, except to say this: I think it’s dangerous what the Quebec premier has decided to announce on Christmas," Pallister said. In response, Legault said the number of new cases per million residents is currently lower in Quebec than Manitoba.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.—With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg, John Chidley-Hill and Paola Loriggio in Toronto, and Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
MARCHE. Karl Grondin marche, marche beaucoup même. Attaché politique de jour pour le député Donald Martel, le résident de Gentilly s’aère les idées et tient la forme un pas à la fois le soir et la fin de semaine. «J’ai fait 2500 km de marché depuis janvier. J’en ai plus à pied que ma mère en auto», dit en riant celui qui revient d’une randonnée de 79 km en deux jours. «J’ai fait les six secteurs qui composent la Ville de Bécancour. C’était pour le plaisir, mais en même temps c’était pour la Grande marche de Pierre Lavoie. Ça faisait longtemps que ça me trottait dans la tête de faire une bonne distance dans une journée. Je voulais dépasser le 42 km. J’ai profité de l’occasion», explique Karl Grondin pour qui la marche est devenue une passion suite à un achat bien particulier. «Depuis que j’ai une iWatch, ça me motive. J’ai des objectifs et je les réalise. Habituellement, je marche au minimum 42 km par semaine», souligne Karl Grondin qui s’est payé un grand trip de randonneur cet été en Gaspésie. «J’ai commencé le Sentier international des Appalaches. Au total, c’est un parcours de 650 km. Là, j’ai fait les 150 premiers. C’est la première fois que je faisais une expédition comme ça. Je suis parti seul et je couchais dans des relais. Je me fixe comme objectif de le faire d’ici 4 ans», indique-t-il. D’ici là, Karl Grondin marche… et marche encore!Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Cyber security experts are warning consumers to pay close attention to exactly where they're doing their online shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Anne Drewa reports.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s former treasury and foreign relations secretary, Luis Videgaray, angrily denied accusations Tuesday by a lawyer for another former Cabinet secretary who claimed he used embezzled government money to help finance election campaigns.The accusations by a lawyer for ex-social development secretary Rosario Robles mark the second time that former top officials have lodged such accusations against Videgaray. A former head of the state-owned oil company, Emilio Lozoya, made similar accusations earlier this year.All three — Robles, Videgaray and Lozoya — worked in the 2012-2018 administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.Videgaray, currently a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, is considered the political figure closest to Peña Nieto.He called the accusations “completely false.”“The mechanism of ‘I will save myself by blaming Videgaray’ has a limit, and that limit is truth and justice,” Videgaray wrote in a statement.Both Lozoya and Robles have reportedly offered to turn state's evidence and implicate Videgaray in return for favourable treatment for themselves.Robles wrote in her Twitter account Tuesday that “statements have been made that have not been agreed on with me. I have instructed my lawyers to limit themselves to the legal proceedings,” but she did confirm she had decided to be a co-operating witness.Videgaray wrote that strategy “is immoral and wrong, and does nothing to contribute to the fight against corruption led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.”López Obrador made the crusade against corruption the centerpiece of his administration upon taking office in December 2018. He has, however, said he is not personally eager to go after former presidents and has proposed submitting the question to voters in a referendum.In 2019, a judge ordered Robles to be held in jail pending trial on corruption charges. She is accused of “wrongful exercise of public service” related to the alleged diversion of up to $260 million in public funds.Robles held multiple posts in Peña Nieto’s administration. The accusations against Videgaray date to June 2014 when Robles was social development secretary. Prosecutors say she was aware of the diversion of funds but never denounced it.Robles has denied wrongdoing.Lozoya was extradited from Spain earlier this year to face money laundering charges and immediately began co-operating with authorities. Videgaray previously denied accusations by Lozoya that he engaged in bribery or illegal campaign financing.Lozoya accused Peña Nieto and Videgaray of using bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to help win the presidency and then to pass the energy sector overhaul that could greatly benefit that company and others. To that end, some opposition lawmakers were bribed for their votes, he alleges.In a statement in August, Videgaray called the accusations false, adding that "moreover, they are absurd, inconsistent and reckless.”The accusations Tuesday involved elections in 2012, 2015 and 2018. Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party denied there had been any illicit financing in those races and said mandatory electoral audits had confirmed that.The Associated Press
An accountant for a hotel in downtown Nelson, B.C., had a heart attack and collapsed shortly after being spat upon by an angry customer refusing to wear a mask, according to the hotel manager.The Nelson Police Department confirms it is investigating last Friday's incident, in which the customer allegedly yelled at a barista who offered him a face covering at the Empire Coffee shop in the Adventure Hotel.According to hotel manager Rob Little, the suspect "was screaming profanities at the top of their lungs to the point that they [the staff of Empire Coffee] had to say, 'Just get out!' "Little said that after receiving a call from the coffee shop manager, he sent his accountant — a woman in her 50s — to see what was going on."It was at that point that the person was trying to enter again," Little said."And she said, 'Listen! You're not going to talk to our people this way, and this is the law.' And he proceeded to spit on her."Little says police arrived and removed the suspect and took a statement from the accountant. After arriving back at the office about an hour and a half later, Little said the accountant, who was distraught from the experience, reported feeling ill and fell to the ground. She was airlifted to a hospital in Kelowna where it was determined she'd had a heart attack."She's stable right now, but she's not out of the woods by any stretch," he said. Aggressive behaviour around mask mandateAt least one other business in the city of over 10,000 people said they've experienced an increase in aggressive behaviour targeting customer service representatives, after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced last Thursday that face coverings are now mandatory in all retail spaces.This week, Kootenay Co-op — a grocery store near the hotel — hired a security guard for the first time in its 45 years to head off rude behaviour among some shoppers who are resisting the mask mandate.The grocery store's manager said while most customers have followed the new regulations, about 10 to 20 per cent are refusing to wear a mask and become confrontational when asked to do so. "We all live here because of the quality of people that are here," Little said. "To see this kind of polarizing views on things and people going to such extremes is just disappointing."Police investigating spitting incidentStaff Sgt. Brian Weber with the Nelson Police Department says police are looking at the relationship between the woman's heart attack and the spitting incident with the customer. "There have been … some investigations that have made those causal links in the past," he said."[But] it's far too early and I know far too little about the exact file to make that kind of jump right now."The suspect is facing an assault charge.Tap the link below to listen to Bob Keating's conversation with Rob Little and Staff Sgt. Brian Weber on Daybreak South:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's system for paying unemployment benefits is so dysfunctional that the state approved more than $140 million for at least 20,000 prisoners, local and federal prosecutors said Tuesday, detailing a scheme that resulted in claims filed in the names of well-known convicted murderers like Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.From March to August, more than 35,000 inmates were named in claims filed with the California Employment Development Department, with more than 20,000 being paid, according to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. At least 158 claims were filed for 133 death-row inmates, resulting in more than $420,000 in benefits paid“It involves rapists and child molesters, human traffickers and other violent criminals in our state prisons,” Schubert said.The list includes Peterson, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing his pregnant wife following a trial that riveted the nation. The California Supreme Court recently overturned Peterson’s death sentence and has ordered a lower court to review his murder conviction.Schubert confirmed there was a claim made in the name of Scott Peterson, but declined to provide further details.Peterson's attorney, Pat Harris, said while Peterson's name surfaced during the investigation, there is no evidence Peterson received unemployment aid from the state.“This investigation, when it's completed, will show that he had not a thing to do with any kind of scheme to get fraudulent benefits,” Harris said.Schubert listed a number of inmates there who had claims filed in their names, including Stayner, convicted of killing four people in or near Yosemite National Park in 1999; Susan Eubanks, a San Diego woman convicted of shooting her four sons to death in 1997; Isauro Aguirre, who was sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in Los Angeles; and Wesley Shermantine, part of the duo dubbed the “Speed Freak Killers” for their meth-induced killing rampage in the 1980s and ’90s.Prosecutors said they learned of the scheme from listening in on recorded prison phone calls, where inmates would talk about how easy it was for everyone to get paid. They said the scheme always involved someone on the outside — usually friends or family members of the inmates, who would then receive the benefits.In Kern County, home to five state prisons, one address was used to receive benefits for 16 inmates.“In my nearly four decades as a prosecutor in this state, I have never seen fraud of this magnitude,” Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said.In some cases, inmates used their real names. In others, they used fake names and even fake Social Security numbers. In one instance, an inmate used the name: “poopy britches," Schubert said.“Quite frankly, the inmates are mocking us,” Schubert said.So far, 22 people have been charged in San Mateo County, including six people who were not in prison. Prosecutors said dozens of other investigations across the state are continuing.Prosecutors blamed the Employment Development Department, which has been overwhelmed by more than 16.4 million benefit claims since the pandemic began in March, resulting in a backlog that at one time totalled more than 1.6 million people.But prosecutors said in its haste to approve benefits, the department did not check unemployment claims against a list of prisoners, as many other states do. San Mateo District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said that when he notified the department about inmates fraudulently receiving benefits, they told him they could not cut off the payments until they were formally charged with a crime.The problem was so bad that on Monday, nine county district attorneys sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for him to intervene.“We face a manifest problem that requires action, not talk,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.Employment Development Department spokeswoman Loree Levy said the agency has been working with the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General on cross-checking claims with inmates, saying they are “pursuing how to integrate such cross-matches moving forward as part of enhanced prevention efforts during this unprecedented time of pandemic-related unemployment fraud across the country.”In an email to the AP, Newsom called the fraud “absolutely unacceptable.” He said he first learned of the fraud earlier this year, which prompted him to order the department to “review its practices and take immediate actions to prevent fraud and to hold people accountable.”Newsom said he has ordered the Office of Emergency Services to set up a task force to assist prosecutors with their investigation.“While we have made improvements, we need to do more,” Newsom said.___This story has been corrected to say that Cary Stayner killed four people in or near Yosemite National Park; to show 20,000 of 35,000 claims were paid; and to accurately spell the last name of convicted killer Wesley Shermantine.Adam Beam, The Associated Press
Riverside Place Long Term Care Home in Windsor saw an explosion of new COVID-19 cases Monday evening after 17 residents and a staff member tested positive for the virus.The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) had declared an outbreak at the home on Nov. 20 after a single staff member tested positive. Following the declaration, all residents and staff in the home's Peche unit were tested. On Monday evening, results came back that 17 residents and another staff members had tested positive.In a statement, Revera, the company which operates the Riverside Place, said that none of those cases are showing symptoms. It added that the residents are isolating in their rooms and the staff members are in isolation at home, and that all remaining residents and staff would be tested at the direction of public health officials."We are working very closely with Public Health officials and are following pandemic outbreak protocols and infection control practices. All residents are monitored twice daily for symptoms," the statement said.The sharp and sudden increase means that Riverside Place is behind only Iler Lodge when it comes to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region's long-term care homes. The latter has 21 cases and is also run by Revera.There are currently five outbreaks at long term care and retirement homes in Windsor-Essex, according to the health unit's website.In Tuesday's public health briefing, WECHU medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed acknowledged that it was unusual to see so many cases suddenly."We will be looking at these cases very carefully, just to make sure that we're not missing anything," Ahmed said.Revera says the home is taking a number of measures to contain the outbreak. They include enhanced cleaning, cancelling all indoor and outdoor visits temporarily, and ensuring that all residents of the Peche unit remain in their rooms at all times."We recognize how difficult these measures are for residents and their families. We appreciate the patience and understanding of families as we put these precautions in place for the safety of the residents," the statement reads. "Revera continues to do everything we can to keep our residents and employees safe as we work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at our long term care homes and retirement residences."
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Frustration and disappointment were the prevailing emotions for Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley on Tuesday night. His team had been expected to go on a long run in the Major League Soccer playoffs after finishing the regular season with the second-best record in the league at 13-5-5. Instead, TFC's was ousted in the first round as expansion club Nashville SC pulled off a stunning upset with a 1-0 victory in extra time. Toronto had decent control of the game, Bradley said, but wasn't able to push Nashville on to its heels enough. “We weren’t able to really create situations of wave after wave of being dangerous," he said. Daniel Rios scored in the 108th minute for Nashville's win at TFC’s temporary home in East Hartford, Conn.Toronto defenders tied up German striker Hany Mukhtar in deep, but couldn’t stop him from getting a shot off. Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg made an initial stop but couldn’t control the rebound, which Rios tapped in to the net.Westberg had held fast through a Nashville blitz to close out regulation, making a stunning stop on Alex Muyl in the final minute to force extra time. The ‘keeper had five saves for Toronto on the night.Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis stopped five on-target shots to collect his 11th clean sheet of the year and second of the post-season.Tuesday marked the first-ever meeting for the two sides, coming after Nashville advanced through the play-in round with a 3-0 win over Inter Miami CF on Friday.The upstart club posted an 8-7-8 record in regular-season play, finishing in seventh spot in the East.Toronto coach Greg Vanney said he'd been concerned before Tuesday's match because the visitors already had a successful post-season appearance while his squad's last action was a 2-1 loss on Nov. 8.“They had a little bit of momentum because of that," Vanney said. "We hadn’t played a game in (more than) 14 days. And I feel like we were a little bit sluggish and not sharp because of that.”TFC was simply "too slow" against the defensive stalwarts, said the coach. A strong back end has been key for Nashville all year. The club conceded just 22 goals in regular-season play.Toronto dealt with injuries to key players, including Pablo Piatti and Richie Laryea, to close out the campaign, and lacked some fitness and continuity Tuesday, Vanney said. “We hit the tail end (of the season) not firing on all cylinders," the coach said. "In the end, the guys had the right attitude tonight, they wanted to come out and try to take the game. We just didn’t execute and we didn’t execute in the speed. And that’s football.”Toronto nearly found the back of the net early in extra time when Laryea sent a beautiful ball across the six-yard box to Ayo Akinola, who couldn't quite catch up to the pass to tap it in. Mukhtar did ripple the netting for Nashville in the 100th minute, sending a shot high over Westberg and in. But on the sideline, the offside flag was raised. It was the third time a Nashville goal had been called off in Tuesday's game. While TFC was deemed the home side for the outing, the team was playing hundreds of kilometres away from home. Just four of the club's games were played in Toronto this year due to a rejigged schedule and border restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vanney wasn't inclined to blame adversity for Tuesday's loss, however. “Our team hasn’t made any excuses all year, we’re not going to start now," the coach said. "We didn’t do enough to win the game tonight. And the team that was more organized got the result and they’ll move on.” Seeing the long, hard season come to an end isn't easy, Bradley said. “Despite everything that’s gone on this year — in the world, for our team, for me personally — we never for one second felt sorry for ourselves and we never for one second wanted things to end one second earlier than they had to," said the veteran midfielder. The players and staff know that the club is stocked with talent, Vanney said, so it hurts not to win and push further into this year's playoffs. “We’ll lick our wounds, we’ll continue to try to make the team better. And set afoot next year for another journey," he said. “Hopefully it’ll look like a different season. But the guys will get themselves turned around and ready for another season when the time is right.” NOTES: Nashville outshot Toronto 21-to-12, though just six of the winning team's shots were on target … Tuesday's game was the fourth of the MLS playoffs to go to extra time … Nashville midfielder Anibal Godoy was unavailable for Tuesday's game after suffering a hamstring injury on Friday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020. The Canadian Press
A woman from Georgia says her family's reunion was saved by a man from British Columbia who drove them to the Alaskan border after they got stranded in a snowstorm and appealed for help.Lynn Marchessault began her trip with her two children, two dogs and a cat on Nov. 10 from Georgia to the Alaska border to join her husband, who serves in the U.S. military."I had never driven in the snow," she said in an interview on Monday. "It was like a whiteout kind of snowstorm. I wasn't really familiar with that, or even knew what it was called until this day."The family's pickup truck was pulling a U-Haul and did not have the appropriate winter tires to get through the winding, mountainous roads when they stopped at a highway lodge for temporary workers in Pink Mountain, B.C., on Nov. 17.She began looking for someone passing through the area who could drive them when Gary Bath, a Canadian ranger and military veteran, stepped up to the wheel.Marchessault said she and her husband talked to Bath and his family on the phone before they embarked on the rest of their trip."I felt good about it from the beginning, like I knew these were good people and that it was a good choice to make," she said.Marchessault said her trip was supposed to have taken place about two months ago but it got delayed by COVID-19, adding that she was "naive" about the road conditions.Bath, who lives in Fort St. John, said he wanted to help the family be together for Christmas, and he was doing something nice for fellow service members."A little bit like Santa Claus in this case," he said with a chuckle.Marchessault said the 1,700-kilometre drive to the Alaskan border near Beaver Creek, Yukon, is "not a road for the faint of heart.""Oh my goodness, beautiful views, amazing views, but some of those parts of the road were a little bit scary for me," she said laughing."I mean, Gary's just over there driving like a champ, you know, been doing it his whole life. But for me, I was like 'Oh my goodness.' Sometimes I would tell him I have enough anxiety and sweaty palms over here in this seat for the both of us and then he would just kind of chuckle." Bath said the two-day trip was "quite windy and really bumpy" but "not too bad."The two families hope to meet up soon."I'm so glad that the whole thing was over, but it was so hard to say goodbye to Gary and leave him," Marchessault said."We really bonded. I think we've become good friends. He's a great and grand guy and his wife is pretty awesome."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.The Canadian Press
LOS ANGELES — The Weeknd angrily slammed the Grammy Awards, calling them “corrupt” after the pop star walked away with zero nominations despite having multiple hits this year.The three-time Grammy winner criticized the Recording Academy on Tuesday after he was severely snubbed despite having one of the year’s biggest albums with “After Hours” and being tapped as the Super Bowl halftime headline performer. He also topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless.”“The Grammys remain corrupt,” the singer said on Twitter. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”The harsh words come less than a year after the Recording Academy's ousted CEO accused the group that determines nominations in the top categories of having conflicts of interest and not engaging in a transparent selection process.Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s interim president and CEO, spoke earlier about whether he was surprised the Weeknd didn’t earn a single nomination. He said it’s hard to predict the voters’ decisions.“You know, there’s so many nominations and there’s only so many slots, it’s really tough to predict what the voters are going to vote for in any given year,” he told The Associated Press. “I try not to be too surprised.”After the Weeknd called out the academy, Mason Jr. released a statement explaining some that “unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”“We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling,” Mason Jr. said.The Weeknd was shut out from being a Grammy nominee along with Luke Combs, who set records on streaming services and dominated the country charts. Morgan Wallen also had a successful year in country music, but he came away empty.A group of young R&B female acts moving the needle also missed out on nominations, including Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor and Kehlani. Late rapper Juice WRLD, Brandy and Chris Brown were also snubbed.Justin Bieber earned four nominations, but the singer also criticized the Grammys decision-making as well. He said music from his fifth studio album “Changes” was wrongly viewed as a pop album, rather than an R&B project.Bieber gave thanks saying he was “flattered” for being acknowledged but thought being left out of the R&B category was a mistake.“I set out to make an R&B album,” he wrote on Instagram. “’Changes’ was and is an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album, which is very strange to me.”Bieber was nominated in the categories for best pop solo performance, best pop duo/group performance, best pop vocal album and best country duo/group performance.The singer said he loves pop music, but he wants to be respected for his work.“I grew up admiring R&B music and wished to make a project that would embody that sound,” he said. “For this not to be put into that category feels weird, considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style, all the way down to the hip-hop drums that were chosen, it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!”Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press
In SABA’s Nov. 16 news bulletin, Angela Pollak informed everyone that the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation will be pausing the application intake for the Northern Ontario Recovery Grant program worth $25,000 on Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. to process the overwhelming volume of applications they have gotten in. She encouraged anyone with eligible products to apply as soon as possible, as there was no indication if or when the intake may reopen to applications. She stressed that people could apply on their own but that she was available to help out if necessary. So far, Pollak knows of several businesses that have applied for this grant. The NOHFC promotes economic growth across Northern Ontario by giving financial assistance to projects that stimulate recovery, growth, job creation and skilled workforce development. They have invested $193 million in 1,386 projects across the region since June 2018, leveraging over $748 million in investment and creating or sustaining nearly 4,000 jobs. According to John Guerard, the acting executive director of the NOHFC, the NORP has been really successful and consequently the applications have been halted, at least for the time being. The last applications will be accepted by 6 p.m. on Nov. 20. While the application deadline had initially been the end of the year, the huge volume of applications received prompted them to move the deadline forward. Natalie Dumont, with the communication services branch of the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, says the program has been overwhelmingly successful. “The NOHFC received over 1,000 applications in the first month of the program. While we have received applications from a wide range of communities, specific data by community is not currently available,” she says. NORP was launched on Oct. 1 by the provincial government to help support northern companies impacted by COVID-19. Greg Rickford, the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, announced the program on Sept. 28, and pledged his government’s support for business owners, entrepreneurs and workers. “There’s no denying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on businesses throughout Northern Ontario and that this program will deliver targeted funding so they can continue to serve their communities,” he said at the time of the announcement. NOHFC has already approved and processed hundreds of NORP applications. Due to this influx, the NOHFC is going to focus on processing the outstanding applications after Nov. 20 to get the funding out to the northern business owners who need it. “The Ontario government, through the NOHFC, is committed to moving NORP funding along swiftly so we can continue to promote economic recovery in every region of the north and get our northern economy back on track,” said Guerard in his press release. Guerard also mentioned that new NOHFC programs were coming in January of 2021, making it easier for more businesses to apply and to give them increased support to find market opportunities, address the skilled labour shortage in the north, provide more opportunities for Indigenous people and continue to aid in COVID-19 recovery. Dustin Turner is the northern development advisor with the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines reminds people that the program offers 100 per cent grant funding up to $25,000 for private for profit businesses only, as not for profits and public sector business are not eligible, to reimburse them for costs incurred while adapting their business operations to adhere to public health guidelines to protect their employees and customers. Eligible costs for reimbursement will be retroactive to March 17, 2020 and businesses are permitted to apply for future costs they may incur. Pollak is gratified by the response to the NORP grant funding she’s seen from businesses in South Algonquin Township. “I know of three businesses in South Algonquin who plan to apply. Two of these businesses reached out after the SABA bulletin went out. I also know that Explorers’ Edge picked up the thread about the new deadline and forwarded it to businesses in the area to get the word out to the northern communities in our region on the west side of [Algonquin Park],” she says. ”This is an indication that the SABA bulletin is working from a communication perspective, which I find encouraging.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, his province bending precariously under the weight of record COVID-19 cases, imposed new sweeping public health restrictions Tuesday that include a ban on gatherings in people’s homes.Kenney also announced changes to schools, churches, restaurants and retailers, and banned sports teams from playing and sharply curtailed attendance at weddings and funerals.He said the goal is to slash the rate of infections and keep people alive while preventing the loss of jobs and livelihoods that threaten to make an already dire situation even worse.“This whole thing is just incredibly tough for everyone,” Kenney said Tuesday.“I just never imagined I’d be in this place in public life where I was telling people who could come visit them at home.“We really just felt we had no option given that 40 per cent of traceable cases connect back to private social activity.”Indoor gatherings are banned immediately, but people who live alone can have two personal contacts they are allowed to meet up with.Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people, as are funerals and weddings.Kenney said the government is still working out how officers will enforce the gathering ban, but said there will be not be a “snitch line” for people to report on their neighbours.“(Officers) will be able to write tickets for fines of up to $1,000 per individual who is violating these rules against indoor social activities."He added that police and peace officers will have latitude on enforcement "They will be able to see if there are obvious signs of a large gathering, a lot of cars parked outside somebody’s house, for example," Kenney said. Starting Friday, businesses will remain open at reduced capacity or by appointment only.Places of worship must operate at one-third capacity. Banquet halls, conference centres and concert venues must also close.And children in grades 7 through 12 will move to at-home learning at the end of the month and other students will follow after Dec. 18.The orders will be reviewed in three weeks.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reported 1,115 new cases on Tuesday — the sixth consecutive day with numbers above the 1,100 mark. There were 348 patients in hospital, 66 of them in intensive care. Sixteen more people died, bringing that total to 492.A day earlier, Hinshaw compared the COVID-19 situation in Alberta to a snowball rolling down a hill, growing in size and speed.Lives and livelihoods have been the crux of the debate in Alberta. Kenney has maintained that the best approach is targeted health restrictions to keep COVID-19 from overrunning the health-care system while keeping the economy from collapsing.Others, including many physicians, infectious disease specialists and the Opposition NDP, have called for sharp, short economic lockdowns, arguing that if the COVID-19 wave isn't stopped, there won’t be an economy left to save.Kenney’s decisions were made after Hinshaw made new undisclosed recommendations Monday to the cabinet subcommittee directing COVID-19 decisions.NDP Leader Rachel Notley called the new restrictions “half-measures” and said they were likely the result of political bargaining instead of advice from public health officials.“We cannot know, unfortunately, exactly what Dr. Hinshaw recommended to this UCP cabinet. But I do not for one second believe it was this,” she said.Mike Parker, head of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, a union representing paramedics and other health professionals, said Kenney tried to find the middle ground and failed.“The measures announced today are inadequate,” Parker said. “(Kenney) continues to put business interests ahead of the well-being of Albertans.”Jason Schilling, head of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the groups supports the move "to move to a combination of in-school and at-home learning that will allow schooling to continue in a safer environment."This is the second time Kenney's government has imposed sweeping rules to combat COVID-19.The province shut down many retail businesses, restaurants, recreation centres and schools during the first wave in March. Most were allowed to reopen in May and June with restrictions. Schools opened again in the fall.In recent weeks, the province has limited public gatherings in areas including Edmonton and Calgary and forced bars and restaurants to stop serving booze by 10 p.m. and to close by 11 p.m.Indoor group fitness and team sports, along with group singing and arts performances, are also banned in several large cities.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press