It can be a tedious process for the artist but the finished product is impressive ✒️✍🏻📝
It can be a tedious process for the artist but the finished product is impressive ✒️✍🏻📝
ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
The position of County warden will be contested this year as both incumbent Liz Danielsen and Coun. Brent Devolin are vying for the position. The two councillors delivered speeches at the Nov. 25 council meeting about their candidacy for the role. Deputy warden Andrea Roberts and Coun. Cec Ryall backed Devolin’s nomination, while councillors Carol Moffatt and Dave Burton backed Danielsen’s. The election by councillors and swearing-in will occur Dec. 15. Danielsen is attempting to break recent historical precedent. Hers was the first multi-year warden term since Murray Fearrey in 2011-2012, and there has not been a three-year warden since at least 2004. Danielsen said her attempt may seem extraordinary but argued for the need for continuity in a time such as this. “I just have tried to remain steadfastly available every single day since the pandemic began,” she said. “I believe that continuity is vital. We do remain under a state of local emergency and I’ve been working closely with a lot of the department heads since early March. And continuity in such times brings consistency in decision making.” Danielsen went unchallenged for the position last year and beat out Burton for the role in 2018. Before that, there had been a one-year cycle for warden since 2013. Devolin, who served as warden for one year in 2017, said the County would face significant changes in the second part of council’s term, with COVID-19, population growth, and diminishing upper government funding. “Changes that will need to occur in Haliburton will involve municipal, County, City of Kawartha Lakes and Eastern Ontario governing bodies to achieve the best possible outcomes. I have a keen interest in nurturing these relationships to achieve outcomes that cannot be achieved alone,” Devolin said. He added he is not an unknown quantity to anyone on council. “By now, all of you pretty well know my strengths and weaknesses that I would bring to the position of warden,” Devolin said. “I wear my heart on my sleeve as you know and I’ll put time and energy to fulfill the role.” Danielsen also recognized the change to come with the County services delivery review. “I can honestly say that I have no preconceived bias or thoughts on the outcome of the services delivery review other than a willingness to work hard to see improvements made,” Danielsen said. “I’d be proud to continue as your warden. I believe I have good community support and a good rapport with all of you.”Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
A police union on Thursday urged prosecutors to charge a Black music producer with resisting arrest, six days after President Emmanuel Macron said the arrest and beating of the man, which was caught on film, was unacceptable and shameful for France. The beating of Michel Zecler by police officers inside his music studio was captured on closed circuit television and mobile phone footage. It was circulated widely online and sparked new criticism over police violence in France.
MORRISBURG – Alight at Night may be open for the holidays, but don’t expect to see bus tours arriving this year. The St. Lawrence Parks Commission kicked off the 20th annual light event at Upper Canada Village on November 27th with limited numbers of people able to attend. Tickets are sold online only and limited to blocks in 30 minute intervals between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on nights it is open. Already, the SLPC reports that the first two weeks of tickets have been sold out. However there was concern from area residents that bus tour companies were bringing visitors from areas where higher levels of COVID-19 infection are located. Several tour companies have listings on their websites for bus trips to Alight At Night from previous years, or for 2021. No bus tour packages have been advertised for 2020. “For the 2020 season, group sales have been paused,” said SLPC spokesperson Rosalyn Gambhir. “Upper Canada Village does not have tour operators/companies or buses groups booked for our winter event Alight at Night.” She said that the SLPC has been working to ensure the event continues during the holiday season, even with the current pandemic situation. “This year, like our fall event Pumpkinferno, there are a limited number of tickets available each night and attendance has been drastically limited every half hour,” Gambhir said. “If needed, numbers will be adjusted based on COVID-19 protocols.” This July, the provincial government provided a $7 million funding infusion to the cash-strapped agency, to assist with operating during the pandemic. Two million of that funding was specifically for Upper Canada Village, which ran a shorter season for 2020 with fewer parts of the attraction open. The SLPC was able to run the popular Pumpkinferno event throughout October. Alight at Night runs on select nights until December 17th, then operates nightly except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day until January 2nd.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
ESKASONI, N.S. — The provincial government announced Wednesday it was committing more than $700,000 to help with the transportation needs of multiple communities and as a result, Eskasoni First Nation will receive $117,685 for transit funding. “We’re excited, this is something the community members have been asking for and we got it,” said Chief Leroy Denny. In Eskasoni, the money will go toward purchasing a nine-passenger van for door-to-door service within the Mi’kmaq community and a 20-person bus offering routes to Sydney and Membertou First Nation. The province will contribute $67,685 for the van and $50,000 for the bus. Funding for the initiative was provided through the accessible transportation program and covers 75 per cent of the vehicle cost. Other funding announcements for Cape Breton communities includes: $17,353 for a five-passenger van for La Cooperative de Transport de Cheticamp; $55,385 for an eight-passenger van for Strait Area Transit, and $50,000 for a 16-passenger bus for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Denny says the transit service is something the community has advocated for in the past and the system will address some of the barriers the residents face. Eskasoni is about 44 km from Sydney and Denny says some community members on a fixed income must pay money for rides into town so the bus will be a cost-saving tool. Bus service will come at a small fee, but the price will not be fixed until bus drivers are hired and more is known about the operating fees. “Public transportation allows people to more fully participate in their communities and better access work, schools, shopping and important services,” said Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, minister of communities, culture and heritage in a news release. Denny expects the transit system to be operational in early 2021 but will adhere to strict safety guidelines as the province deals with the second wave of COVID-19. He believes reliable transportation may lead to more employment for some community members. “Transportation is very important if you want to get to school or work,” said Denny. In October, the Eskasoni health department launched a bus system to help ease transportation concerns when accessing health care. The recent announcement is separate from that initiative. But both are expected to help residents without vehicles travel around the large reserve. Eskasoni has more than 4,500 residents and spans more than 100 hectares of land. Denny says the population continues to grow and the transit system is another way to help the community. “It’s a really good thing and we’re excited for it,” said Denny.Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post
Alberta schools are no longer waiting for public health confirmations to try and stop COVID-19 from spreading. Several school divisions say principals and support staff are spending hours making phone calls to students and employees, instructing them to isolate, after families report a positive test result for COVID-19. "Once you hear it, you are compelled to act upon it," Edmonton public school board chair Trisha Estabrooks said on Wednesday. "Early on, principals and staff within our division were essentially forced into becoming contact tracers." As cases have skyrocketed in Alberta throughout the fall, Alberta's contact tracers became overwhelmed. Although Alberta Health Services (AHS) says it is prioritizing the investigations of K-12 student cases, a growing backlog means tracers are unable to track and record every case linked to a school. AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said the organization's goal is to double its number of contact tracers to 1,600 full- and part-time workers by the end of 2020. As of Wednesday, 765 staff and students in Edmonton Public Schools had tested positive for COVID-19, Estabrooks said. About a third of those cases, or 273, have yet to be confirmed by AHS. That means principals and other school employees have asked nearly 5,400 students and 600 staff to isolate at home for two weeks based on family or staff reports that someone has tested positive. Edmonton Catholic Schools records confirmation differently, and didn't have comparable data to share. Last month, the Calgary Board of Education also decided to tell potentially exposed staff and students to isolate as soon as families or workers told the school someone had COVID. Spokesperson Megan Geyer says there are 110 division students in quarantine right now where the board has yet to hear from AHS. In other cases, students have tested positive, quarantined, and returned to school without a peep from AHS. The Calgary Catholic School Division didn't have a breakdown of how many of its 129 current cases were confirmed by AHS. Chief superintendent Bryan Szumlas said school staff feel an obligation to tell any possible contacts as soon as they have information from any source. Divisions have no information on schools with spread Many of these phone calls are happening on weekends and evenings in addition to employees' usual duties. Bruce Buruma, spokesperson for Red Deer Public Schools, said he offered to set up electronic notifications, but school principals wanted to call families individually. When a case crops up, parents and students have questions that can't be answered by bulk text messages or voicemails, he said. "We had one case where they were working on a Saturday night until 10 o'clock trying to get in contact with those families," he said. "It's a huge responsibility." The footprint of a single case can be huge. Buruma said the average number of contacts for a positive case in his division is 51 people. One case identified Wednesday at Edmonton's Allendale junior high prompted 83 people to isolate. The absence of current data also means school divisions don't know which of their schools coronavirus has spread from person to person. Estabrooks said that lack of information leaves administrators "floundering in the dark," and makes it hard to take additional measures. She hopes now that junior high and high school students are learning online, and with the winter holiday break approaching, the number of new diagnoses in schools will soon slow down. The education minister is aware of the substantial demand the work is placing on school staff, Estabrooks said. At the legislature, Minister Adriana LaGrange was not made available for an interview Wednesday, and her office did not respond to written questions. Williamson says AHS is working closely with school administrators who have lists at the ready for who to contact when a case is detected. The best way to prevent the spread in schools is to lower community transmission, he said. "We are sorry that [delays are] preventing parents, guardians and staff from having a conversation with AHS to understand where the infection was acquired, and how to prevent onward spread," he said in an email. As of Wednesday, 17 per cent of Alberta schools had COVID outbreaks with more than two associated cases. Alberta Health said in-school transmission had likely occurred in 253 schools.
TORONTO — The chief executive of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce says he's determined to protect and win more market share in areas like personal and small business banking as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage."We've made good progress … but there's more upside to capture in the year and years ahead," said Victor Dodig on a Thursday call to discuss the bank's fourth-quarter financial results.Dodig said the move is one of his top priorities as the bank and country head into another year of uncertainty caused by the virus.The bulk of 2020 has been challenging for banks like CIBC, which were forced to help customers navigate an unexpected pandemic replete with temporary lockdowns, soaring unemployment levels and consumer demand for loan deferrals and other abatements.CIBC, however, is already seeing some of the strains caused by COVID-19 ease up.Client applications, Dodig said, have recovered from earlier lows and are even generating positive year-over-year growth.Traction from digital offerings like the bank's GoalPlanner personal finance app, are also proving to be asset."Our investments in technology over the past several years to digitize and simplify our bank are allowing us to provide real-time remote support to our clients at a time when physical distancing has become the norm," Dodig said.His remarks came as CIBC beat expectations even as its fourth-quarter profit edged down compared with a year ago.The bank earned nearly $1.02 billion or $2.20 per diluted share for the quarter ended Oct. 21, down from $1.19 billion or $2.58 per diluted share in the same quarter last year.On an adjusted basis, CIBC earned $2.79 per diluted share for the quarter, down from $2.84 per diluted share a year ago.Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of $2.52 per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.CIBC's revenue totalled $4.6 billion, down from $4.77 billion a year earlier.Like most of the big Canadian banks, which reported fourth-quarter earnings this week, CIBC took a step back from pouring record-breaking amounts of cash into reserves to protect themselves from bad loans.Provisions for credit losses amounted to $291 million, down from $402 million a year ago and $525 million in the bank's third quarter.CIBC also announced Thursday that Katharine Stevenson, who has been an independent director since 2011, will become chair of the board at the company's annual meeting set for April 8, 2021.Stevenson will succeed John Manley, who will retire from the board at the meeting after serving six years as chair and 16 years as a CIBC director.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:CM)Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
SHEET HARBOUR – The Sheet Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce is on a mission to spread a little joy this holiday season to help make up for the numerous let-downs of the past year. Chamber director Meryl Atkinson is working with a committee to raise community spirit, provide opportunity and spread happiness. An idea for an outdoor Christmas event has evolved, taking all government protocols into consideration to keep participants safe from the coronavirus. The first call Atkinson made before any advertising was to the RCMP. “We will not be stopping any traffic, we will follow all public health guidelines and participants will be expected to social distance,” she said. “This is a community event and there are lots of people involved. We’ve tried to capture as many people and activities as we can, while having safety foremost in mind. “We are calling the event ‘Christmas on Main Street’,” Atkinson told The Journal. “We had a $1,100 grant we couldn’t use on Canada Day and so we are moving it to the Christmas season.” Taking all the restrictions into account, the event – slated for Dec. 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. – will have 22 vendors organized in separate locations along a 2.5-kilometre stretch of Main Street. Vendors, who would have normally sold their wares at indoor markets and craft sales, will supply their own tables and other necessities. “We will market the event,” Atkinson said. “What we are offering is opportunity and we have vendors selling their products, including Christmas ornaments, jewellery, preserves, mats, Scentsy – and so much more.” Vendors will set up in assigned vacant spaces, parking lots and empty areas on Main Street – between the bridges – West River Bridge to East River Bridge. Each vendor will supply sanitizer and those attending will be expected to wear masks. “There is so much more planned,” explained Atkinson. “We have a trackless train set up over by St. James Church in that large lot. It will be free and the operator, dressed as an elf, will sanitize after every child. Local photographer Robert Moser will be taking photos.” Residents have been asked to participate by adopting one of the 71 trees along the business district. “Let Rhea Snow know if you are interested in decorating one of the trees along the route,” Atkinson said, “… and you can make it in memory of someone special if you’d like. The more lights and colour the better.” Several businesses have donated cash to cover expenses and the Lions Club will serve free hot tea, coffee and individually wrapped cookies at MacPhee House. Sheet Harbour Radio will broadcast live music provided by local musicians Nathalie Ladouceur and Dan and Sherrie Goodsell. Chamber members have put up the annual LED wreaths on the light poles throughout the business district and MacPhee House will have the community tree lit. Ground search and rescue will be there with a food truck – hoping to raise some cash, with their annual fundraising events cancelled due to COVID-19. “Carollers will be singing next to Foodland and Santa and the Mrs. will be in the NSLC vacant lot. We have people selling hot chocolate to raise funds for the Gerald Hardy Society and a bonfire and hot apple cider will be offered in the farmers’ market lot,” continued Atkinson. “Lily’s Hill is hosting a ‘Slap Out 2020’ contest, where participants will shoot hockey pucks into an open dryer. The library is packaging individual grab-bags for the children, and others are putting out their Christmas inflatables.” A map of where vendors will be located and parking along the route will be on the Sheet Harbour Facebook page, with printed copies on notice boards. Vendors will also have copies. “There is lots of space, lots of vendors and lots of events…. Be mindful, follow guidelines and be safe,” said Atkinson. “Now… let’s hope for good weather … and let’s spread joy.”Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Saint-Tite – Chez Bottes Boulet, on croise les doigts pour que la troisième fois soit la bonne. Après avoir essuyé deux annulations, l'entreprise saint-titienne espère que la soumission qu'elle présentera aux Forces armées canadiennes pour la fabrication de quelque 40 000 paires de bottes se concrétisera enfin en un lucratif contrat. Lors des deux premières occasions, en 2018 et 2019, l'entreprise familiale était prête à présenter ses soumissions à l'armée, mais cette dernière avait fini par jeter l'éponge et mis fin abruptement à la demande de fourniture d'équipement. «On espère que notre troisième chance sera la bonne», sourit Louis Boulet, vice-président de la compagnie. «On s'apprête à soumissionner en compagnie de six autres compagnies canadiennes. On souhaite beaucoup obtenir le contrat évidemment, ce serait quelque chose de très bien, mais l'important, c'est que cette fois, ça sera fait au Canada», souligne M. Boulet. Le fabriquant de la MRC de Mékinac se charge déjà de confectionner des bottes pour les cadets, une commande de 24 000 paires, mais il s'agit d'autre chose dans ce cas-ci. «Ce sont des bottes qu'ils porteront dans différentes opérations militaires. Il y a des tests d'effectués pour le cuir, la doublure, la semelle, bref, la conformité. Ce sont des bottes avec de très haut standards de qualité, explique Louis Boulet. Le vice-président souligne que cette opportunité tombe à point, puisque le marché traditionnel de l'entreprise est au ralenti actuellement avec la pandémie. «Les bottes western, c'est plus compliqué, c'est sûr. On ne sait jamais dans quelle direction on s'en va. Ces bottes nous permettent d'assurer une certaine production.» Les soumissionnaires devront avoir déposé leur document pour le 18 décembre. Ce sont plus de 175 employés qui seront rappelés au travail grâce à ces commandes.Marc-André Pelletier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nouvelliste
NEW DELHI — Indian movie superstar Rajinikanth said Thursday he plans to launch his own political party in southern India in January, ending years of speculation by millions of his fans on his political future.He said in a tweet that he will make an announcement on Dec. 31, apparently in relation to legislative elections in Tamil Nadu state expected around June next year. He started taking an active part in politics in 2017.Rajinikanth, 69, is one of India’s most popular stars with more than 175 films since 1975, mostly in the Tamil and Telugu languages.“In the upcoming Assembly elections, the emergence of spiritual politics will happen for sure. A wonder will happen,” he tweeted. An announcement on matters connected to the party's launch will be made Dec. 31, he said.His political prospects appear bright following a vacuum created by the deaths of Jayaram Jayalalithaa, an actor-turned politician with the governing party in the state, and Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the leader of the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party.Cinema has always influenced Tamil politics by turning actors into popular politicians.C.N. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi were scriptwriters who went on to become chief ministers. M.G. Ramachandran, a top actor-turned-politician, also had a strong following.Born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, Rajinikanth worked as a bus conductor for three years before joining an acting school. He started in small roles as a villain in Tamil cinema and worked his way up, landing roles in Bollywood, the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai.Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan also tried his hand in politics as a member of India’s Parliament, representing the Congress party in support of his friend, then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in the 1980s. He resigned after three years following allegations that he accepted bribes in the purchase of artillery guns. His name was later cleared in the scandal.Ashok Sharma, The Associated Press
Two men charged with second-degree murder in connection to the death of Braden Richard Bull of Little Pine First Nation appeared in Lloydminster court Dec. 2 and their matters were adjourned. Twenty-four-year-old Vega Bear was arrested in September and twenty-six-year-old Branden Dillon was arrested in October. Bull’s body was found near a highway on Onion Lake Cree Nation Jan. 21, 2020. Bull was last seen on Jan. 7 and he was reported missing on Jan. 20. Bull’s death was one of three murders in a span of two months that prompted Onion Lake Cree Nation to declare a state of emergency. Conrad Mooswa’s body was found Oct. 23, 2019, at a residence on Onion Lake Cree Nation. Marvin Stanley was arrested in October 2019 and charged with second-decree murder. Braeden Sparvier’s body was found Jan. 1, 2020, along a road in the R.M. of Frenchman Butte, which borders Onion Lake Cree Nation. Shari Heathen, 27, was arrested in July and charged with second-degree murder. “The Nation has now experienced three deaths directly related to drugs and gang activity within the last two months, along with numerous high speed chases and violent crimes,” said Onion Lake Cree Nation when declaring a state of emergency Jan. 24, 2020. If anyone has any information that could assist investigators, please contact Onion Lake RCMP at 306-344-5550. Information can also be submitted anonymously to Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submitting a tip online at www.saskcrimestoppers.com. Onion Lake Cree Nation borders the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and is located about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster. Bear and Dillon remain in custody. They are both scheduled to appear next in Lloydminster Provincial Court Jan. 6, 2021, to speak to their matters. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Seven classrooms have been shut down at Diamond Trail Public School in Welland after an individual there tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual are being contacted and told by NRPH (Niagara Region Public Health) to stay home and self-isolate,” District School Board of Niagara said in a news release. Whether the individual who contracted the coronavirus is a student or staff member was not publicly known Wednesday. “The preventative COVID-19 practices that Diamond Trail has been following since the beginning of school, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue,” DSBN said. The same day DSBN reported the case at Diamond Trail, Niagara Catholic District School Board confirmed that the case count at St. Martin Catholic Elementary school in Stevensville had climbed to double digits. The province’s database is indicating that three of the school’s10 cases have been resolved. Of the remaining cases, four have been identified as students and three as staff. The Niagara Catholic website indicated these seven cases are the only active cases for the board. An outbreak was declared at St. Martin on Nov. 19. For DSBN, there are seven active cases from six schools; two at Prince Philip and one case at Martha Cullimore in Niagara Falls, two cases at Eden High School in St. Catharines, one at Port Colborne High School and one at Diamond Trail. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.comSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in Alberta, there is another number Albertans should be thinking about: the R-value.The R-value is essentially the number of people infected by each infected person. It's known as the reproduction number, R-number, or simply as "R."Last week, as Premier Jason Kenney announced new restrictions on gatherings and businesses, he also revealed that the R-value will be the key metric in determining whether those restrictions will be lifted on Dec. 18.Kenney said then he would evaluate the restrictions on Dec. 15, and the province would need to have an R-value below 1.0 in order to lift the restrictions. Ideally, he said, the province would have a R-value of 0.8. "That's the minimum metric goal that we must achieve by December the 15th," he said. "We must see the rate of transmission move below one. If we start to move it below one, then we know we have begun effectively to bend the curve."An R-value of one means with each person with the illness only infects one other person. That would mean the number of infected people would be fairly consistent. Any number above one means case numbers will grow.On Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said it had been "at least a month" since Alberta last saw an R-value of one. The metric is useful in understanding whether the restrictions were working, she said, though the impact of the measures announced last week wouldn't be seen until later this week at the earliest."As I said, that is one of the most important metrics right now," she said. "Because it does help us understand whether our actions are decreasing the curve enough to actually have that reduction in number of cases. Because that is the only way that we are going to be able to alleviate the pressure on the health-care system."Hinshaw said that even if Alberta got to one and was able to hold case numbers steady "we would still see the current impact and pressure on the health-care system."Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan told CBC last week the provincial R-value as of Nov. 23 was 1.12. Though CBC asked for the information several times over numerous days, Alberta Health did not provide a more recent R-value for the province. On Wednesday, Kenney said cabinet will discuss the possibility of publicly releasing the R-value, as well other metrics, at its next meeting. He said the provincial positivity rate is also and important metric that is publicly available.That rate was 9.2 per cent on Wednesday, the highest level since the pandemic began.Craig Jenne, associate professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary, said the R-value is an important marker but has limitations. "Although we often see an R-value, for example, for the province of Alberta, it is likely not uniform across the province," said Jenne. "Just because Alberta may have an R-value of a certain amount, it doesn't mean all communities have that same R-value. Or more importantly, not all areas, even within a single community, would have the same R-value. "It's a global measurement, but it can be over-interpreted and it may not reflect sort of what's happening at the ground level within specific environments in the province."Jenne said the R-value only gives a limited view of the COVID-19 situation and has to be considered as part of the bigger picture. "We can tolerate different R-values depending on what the overall health-care capacity is," he said. "So, if our health-care capacity has lots of of headroom, lots of open beds, lots of available staff, we can tolerate a slow growth in virus. Conversely, if we're already at the limits and we have started to strain or perhaps fully occupied most of our resources, we have much less tolerance for increased viral growth."It's not yet known whether Alberta can bend the curve to get below an R-value of one, but Jenne said based on what has happened in other places that would be difficult. "If we've looked at other areas, Ontario, Quebec and other parts of the world, where they've taken a more restrictive approach, we've actually seen in many cases it does not bring viral growth down to zero in a matter of two or three weeks," said Jenne. "It slows the growth, which is great, but viral cases in many of these jurisdictions continue to grow despite even more stringent lockdown than what we saw in Alberta.Based on modelling from other jurisdictions, he said, it's not likely that Alberta's current restrictions will bring the R-number to one or below by the middle of December.
We don’t know nearly enough about what the climate crisis will cost Canada — but what we do know is already troubling, and should inspire greater action. That’s the conclusion from the first of several sweeping reports on the economic, social and environmental costs of climate change in Canada by the independent, publicly funded Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. The institute pored over decades of data on the costs of weather-related disasters from both government relief and insurance industry payouts. Its findings make it clear that volatile weather events have already become more frequent, and more costly. But it also revealed how climate change-related costs are still barely understood today, and these unknown costs are likely to explode far beyond those that are known. “The lack of understanding of risk, plus the lack of tools to be able to address risk, create this dead zone, where it’s really hard to do anything,” said adaptation director Ryan Ness in an interview. “What we’re suggesting is, we have to act on the knowledge we have, and we have enough knowledge to move forward.” What is already known is stunning: the average cost per weather-related disaster has soared by 1,250 per cent since the 1970s, and the number of catastrophic events has more than tripled since the 1980s. In the nine years from 2010 to 2019, there was over $14 billion in disaster costs — the same amount as over the previous 40 years, save for the one-time $7-billion Eastern Canada ice storm in 1998. As the title of the Dec. 3 report, “Tip of the Iceberg,” indicates, these numbers are just the beginning. There are many more long-term impacts from climate change, such as an estimated $1.3-billion cost to dozens of communities across the Northwest Territories due to permafrost thaw. Such a cost will add to the stretched budgets of northern governments already coping with unaffordable food prices and other stressors such as long-term drinking water advisories. And all of this doesn’t even take into account the many impacts that are just not recorded at all in Canada — things such as the impact on health care that climate change is creating. “Canada lacks up-to-date evidence on the potential economic impacts of climate change,” reads the report. The institute said the last effort to “examine a broad range of costs at a national scale” was done in 2011, by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Over the next two years, it expects to publish further reports on health, infrastructure, macroeconomics and the North. Ness said there are many reasons why it is difficult to cost out climate impacts, but one main issue is that there are so many different ways that climate change affects Canada in the first place. Not only are disasters and extreme weather linked to death, disease and mental health challenges, for example, but there are a range of other consequences. Wildfire smoke harms lungs, for example, while extreme heat makes kids miss school. The Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016 was the “largest single weather-related insurance loss event in Canadian history,” the report states. Ocean warming and acidification will also likely impact fisheries, and therefore the food security and prosperity of First Nations that depend on them, while early heat waves can cause havoc for farmers depending on seasonal harvests. Then there are the economic impacts of extreme weather on Canadian small business operations, or the disruptions to household budgets, as well as the impact of climate refugees on domestic politics and international conflict. “Pick an economic sector, pick an infrastructure type, pick a health impact — each one of those is extremely complex to try and figure out what a changing climate means for those impacts, and then how those impacts play out in terms of costs,” Ness said. Another concern is how all these issues will interact with each other. Ness gave the example of how climate change could impact the electricity supply, causing power outages in the summer, at the same time as climate-driven heat waves drive up demand for air conditioning. “We don’t know how much the climate’s going to change in the end. We don’t know if there’s weird things that are going to happen in those systems ... we could see impacts that are way bigger than science might predict, because science is based on past climate and past behaviour,” he said. The institute said this all suggests that the debate over Canada’s progress in tackling climate change needs to broaden from its current focus on reducing carbon pollution to one that also addresses adaptation — or the ways that Canadians can adjust to account for the widening range of climate impacts. “Current adaptation policies and investments in Canada fall far short of what is needed to address the known risks of climate change, let alone those that are still unclear and unknown. This has to change,” the report states. Its three recommendations are for all orders of government to increase funding for adaptation, more closely co-ordinate their adaptation efforts and examine the current levels of transparency over climate risks. While the federal and provincial governments have come together previously over climate change, such as the Pan-Canadian Framework, Ness said more detail was needed over which authorities do what and how they work in unison. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Natalie Sideserf of Sideserf Cake Studio in Austin, Texas creates a realistic cake that looks like a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish! Unreal!
SHEET HARBOUR – The Royal Canadian Legion Courcelette Branch 58 is hurting like other non-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. During good times the legion was self-sufficient, sponsoring ongoing fundraisers – such as bingos, 50/50 draws, hall rentals, dances and darts – to cover operating costs and ongoing maintenance. After 10 months of an unprecedented pandemic affecting many aspects of the economy, legion members are looking at their budget and reaching out to the community for continued support. A member of the fundraising committee, Barby Cochrane has a message for residents who rely on the legion and the services it offers. “We need the community's help and support. When we open back up in two weeks, we need those who feel safe to come out on Friday night, even if it is just to have one drink or buy a strip of tickets [Chase the Ace]. We need those who cannot come out to reach out to us and we'll arrange to get tickets for you or you can support the 50/50 online,” says Cochrane. “Our numbers for Chase the Ace usually increase week by week, but this year they did not. We had our steady 30 or so participants weekly. “The legion is the only place in the community to gather and it would be a loss to the community, if we had to shut the doors permanently,” Cochrane tells The Journal in an email. “We'll continue to promote the 50/50. We'll hopefully get some of the Covid-19 relief funds from the government. Hopefully, we'll be able to open again after these two weeks, and we'll be able to start Chase the Ace again and community events. But, none of this will matter unless we get the support from our community,” Cochrane says. Past President Vance Thompson adds, “We have helped 25 different organizations within our community over the past few years with Chase the Ace – paying out more than $150,000. We also have a benevolent fund to help people in need – not only vets, but also community members…. The income is used to keep our aging hall going – roof repairs, plumbing repairs, new accessible washroom, new kitchen, new bar fridge, wheelchair ramps, general upkeep of exterior. All these help customers access the building and feel welcome.” Yearly dues are $40 per member, with the local legion receiving a small percentage of that income. Fundraising efforts are the main source of income, although the legion does rely heavily on grants. “We also support community groups, such as the Lions Club, Lily's Hill, GSAR, ATV club, HYGGE [Travel Club], the Sheet Harbour and Area Heritage Society and St. James Church by partnering with them for our Chase the Ace fundraiser,” Cochrane says. “In the past we have helped individual community members when we were able. We also provide rent free space to any and all fundraisers in the community. It is our way of contributing to the fundraiser.” The building is in need of a new roof. The expected expenditure will be in excess of $40,000. Cochrane says they have applied for grants to cover approximately $30,000, but the fundraising committee and legion members will need to work to raise the balance. “The pandemic has hit us hard,” Thompson says. “We had to close our hall in mid-March and we re-opened in mid-September – only now to be closed again for the next few weeks. All events and rentals we had going on are now cancelled until further notice.” There will be about $2,000 in lost income due to the cancellations. “Our membership is primarily made up of elderly residents who are now not able to visit our branch,” Cochrane says. “They cannot come out for Muffin Morning or Chase the Ace or bingo. The reduction in the number of people attending events has impacted our income substantially … yet the building must still be maintained and the expenses must still be paid.” The legion’s service officer supports veterans by providing a confidential service. The officer liaises with other organizations on behalf of the veteran to ensure that they receive everything to which they are entitled. “The branch provides a place for the veterans to gather, services to honour them, and a place where they can remember,” says Cochrane. “We support our veterans through our service officers and poppy campaign, helping them with any requirements they require. As for the community, the legion has always been there for them – even more now that we are the only hall open in the area,” Thompson says. The legion faces membership challenges as most branch members are elderly. “The legion won't continue to operate, if younger people in the community don't get involved. We have to hire maintenance, such as cleaning and sanitizing after events, and shoveling and snow clearing,” Cochrane says. Sometime after Dec. 7, a new Chase the Ace license will start and the Rafflebox 50/50 online draw will continue weekly. Bingo has been closed for the winter and the hall will be open to rentals or community fundraisers. Muffin Morning, dart league and pool will continue to be offered. “The government protocols allow half the normal allowance; 84 people can be accommodated downstairs, with 150 upstairs. Tables are arranged to allow for six-feet spacing. Masks are required and hand sanitizer is provided. We do have a sign-in procedure in case contact tracing is necessary,” says Cochrane.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
ATHENS, Greece — The body of a woman was recovered Thursday on the Greek island of Lesbos and identified as that of a woman reported missing after a migrant boat sank the previous day.The coast guard said the body was recovered from a rocky part of the coast, bringing the death toll from the sinking to two.Another 32 people, all from Somalia and including three children, had been rescued from the sea after the dinghy they had been travelling in from the nearby Turkish coast sank off Lesbos early Wednesday morning, Greek authorities said.Government spokesman Stelios Petsas accused the Turkish coast guard of refusing to help the migrants when they issued a distress call.“It is clear that the Turkish vessel, despite the request for help, didn’t help, didn’t rescue the passengers of the fatal boat while they were in Turkish territorial waters,” Petsas said Thursday. "On the contrary, it urged them to move forward, it carried out manoeuvrs against the boat so that it would continue its course toward Greek shores.”Petsas said smuggling gangs were knowingly endangering people’s lives by sending them out to illegally cross the European Union’s borders in unseaworthy vessels.“People who are not in danger on land, Turkey sends them into danger at sea, in boats that don’t fulfil any safety requirements and are driven by people without permits or knowledge of the rules of the sea,” he said, adding that turning a blind eye to such practices was a “usual practice” by neighbouring Turkey.Turkey's coast guard vehemently denied the allegation, saying in a statement that it dispatched a boat after the distress call but found the dinghy to be in Greek waters with a Greek coast guard boat close enough to help.“Due to the fact that the scene of said incident was within the Greek waters and there was no response to the calls in any manner, it had not been possible to intervene in the scene of incident; nevertheless, Turkish assets continued to stay and wait within the Turkish territorial waters," the Turkish statement said.The coast guard also provided a recording of a Turkish unit telling its Greek counterparts in a call that the migrants “need to be rescued immediately" or otherwise Greece would be responsible.Greece remains one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing poverty and conflict in the Mideast, Africa and Asia. The vast majority make their way from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands, often in unseaworthy and grossly overcrowded dinghies and boats.The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — Belgium plans to launch a COVID-19 vaccination campaign on a limited scale starting in early January and initially will use the shots developed by Pfizer and BioNtech, health authorities said Thursday.The small country with some 11.5 million inhabitants has been severely hit by the coronavirus, reporting more than 580,000 cases and nearly 17,000 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.Belgium’s health ministers said the national immunization strategy will be rolled out in phases, depending on the number of doses available. During the first phase, 600,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine will be used, enough for 300,000 people since each person needs two shots.European regulators are likely to authorize the first COVID-19 vaccines by the end of December or early January, and Belgium wants to start giving them to people soon after. Both BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna submitted conditional marketing authorization applications to the European Medicines Agency this week.In Belgium, residents and staff of care centres for elderly people will get priority access to vaccines along with frontline health care workers. Other people over age 65 or at high risk for the virus will be vaccinated at a later stage, when vaccines that can be stocked under less stringent refrigeration standards are available. The general population considered to be at low risk will have to wait longer.“It means that we won't have a majority of citizens vaccinated before the summer," said Dirk Ramaekers, who heads the country's vaccination task force.The European Union's executive commission has secured deals with Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, BioNTech-Pfizer and CureVac to allow EU member nations to purchase up to 2 billion vaccine doses. The commission said once a vaccine is authorized, members should get access to it at the same time, on a pro rata basis,The Associated Press
Councillors from local townships met Nov. 25 to digest a massive services delivery review with 12 recommendations for more collaboration that could save upwards of $1.18 million annually. Toronto-based consultant, StrategyCorp., presented 12 initiatives for more intermunicipal partnerships. Their report follows months of work and more than 100 interviews/workshops with councillors and staff. The firm said between operational efficiencies, productivity gains, and $74,000 in more revenue, the implemented strategies could provide that $1.18 million. StrategyCorp principal, John Matheson, said they did not approach the job like auditors but to work alongside staff. He said there is a clear willingness on the part of municipalities for more collaboration. “We’re not saying we found great big problems with waste here,” Matheson said. “We’re saying we were invited to come work with the team, to try and find better ways of doing things and not surprisingly, you spend this kind of effort, that we found some.” The recommendations do not directly address the idea of amalgamation, which was never in the terms of reference for the review. Instead, it tackles where municipalities could improve services with different levels of co-operation, including places where services could be integrated to one provider – whether the County, a special body or a lead municipality. Matheson praised the council for being open-minded about possible improvements and being willing to do a review, as well as creating a safe space for staff to consider different ideas. “What you’ve really done is wiped away a lot of the historical stresses that come out of the air about forced amalgamation. Where people are worried about hanging onto their right to continue providing governance for fear of being stripped away from them by a provincial government,” Matheson said. “There’s lots of different ways to achieve things to the benefit of better public administration, better value for money.” Councillors spent four hours delving into the report and questioning each of its recommendation sections. Coun. Bob Carter of Minden Hills questioned the fire service recommendations only extending to joint training, noting common issues across the municipalities such as succession planning, increased demand and escalating costs. “It seems to me the process for determining what was looked at was not only a quantitative process but a qualitative assessment,” Carter said. Matheson said that is accurate, adding their recommendations focused on improvements that could achieve more for fewer or similar dollars, rather than improvements that could be more costly. He added they decided on the subjects of deeper dives after their estimate of what was most worthwhile after the first phase of the process. “It’s not that theoretically, you couldn’t do more,” Matheson said. “We would just evaluate those opportunities as being a little less ripe in the light of the state of readiness of the organizations.” Next steps The review recommends implementation over several years, but divides recommendations into short, medium, and long-term. It suggests addressing some things, such as communications, economic development and collaborative procurement starting in 2021. The review recommends the County begin implementation of other initiatives like planning, building, septic and bylaw in 2022. Warden Liz Danielsen said the review should be a standing item on the County committee of the whole. She added a special meeting should be called in January or early February to start working through it and the proposed timelines. “We’ve got a lot to absorb and lots to talk about,” Danielsen said. “We need to start thinking about how we’re going to move forward.” Coun. Carol Moffatt said some of the ideas in the report are not new, such as the County having an economic development position. “To me, it seems like some of the reason why some of this collaboration isn’t already happening will be the same reasons why some of it doesn’t move ahead going forward,” she said. “We all sitting around this table today need to really, genuinely understand – that whether and how any of this moves forward depends on the will of each and all of us to conceive something for the greater good. For the benefit of the community.” The Highlander will detail more aspects of the 138-page report in the coming weeks. Significant changes recommended • Roads, bridges, and drainage: Implement capital bundling, allowing contractors to secure multiple projects at once. Formalize joint planning of road maintenance. • Fire services: Integrate fire training and explore a joint-training facility. • Waste management: Approve a working group to standardize waste management processes across the County and/or do a Countywide review of landfills and transfer stations. • Building, septic, bylaw: Explore either shared service agreements or integrate services. • Planning: Create one, central official plan with secondary plans below it. Standardize more of the planning processes across the townships. Create a new County-level planning position to assist. • Economic development: Create a new economic development staff position. • Collaborative procurement: Approve a new staff position for the process and approve a new shared-service agreement. • Integrated digital strategy: Integrate long-term IT planning and municipal IT investment decisions. • Co-ordination of legal services: Hire a county-level in-house municipal barrister and solicitor and approve a shared service agreement for it. • Human resources co-ordination: Explore the benefits of a centralizing human resource information system. Pool benefits together and create shared-service agreements for key HR functions. • Communications: Approve a new central communications position, which would also include grant writing. • Co-ordination: Create a new implementation committee of County council to promote effective collaboration between local municipalities.Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
For decades, Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities in Canada have disproportionately experienced the health impacts of toxic dumps, pollution, tainted water and climate change — and they’ve stood up to put an end to such environmental racism. Ingrid Waldron, an associate professor at Dalhousie University who researches social inequality in Nova Scotia, has been working to bring such issues to light for years in Nova Scotia. As director of the Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health (ENRICH) project, Waldron has spent the last eight years analyzing the socio-economic, political and health effects of environmental racism in the province. In 2018, she penned the book There’s Something in the Water, which explores the disproportionate effects of environmental damage on Black and First Nation communities in Nova Scotia. Last year, the book was developed into a documentary film. Now, Waldron is taking her work to the national level. “I’ve always wanted to go beyond Nova Scotia and start looking at issues of environmental racism across Canada,” she said. Alongside Naolo Charles, of the Black Environmental Initiative (BE Initiative), Waldron is creating a national coalition to address environmental racism across Canada. According to Waldron, the new coalition will connect allies, raise awareness and support organizations that are currently working to address environmental racism with funding and resources. One of the coalition’s main objectives, said Waldron, is to engage in policy dialogue to encourage the passage of Bill C-230. The bill looks to develop a national strategy to “redress environmental racism in Canada.” MP Lenore Zann will be re-introducing the bill for second reading and it will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday, Dec. 3. “It will put on the books for the first time, really, the idea of a rights-based environmental bill, so the fact that it would be the human right of people across Canada in racialized communities to be able to have the right to clean air and clear water, for instance,” said Zann. This is not the first time Zann has introduced legislation on this subject. In 2014, then an NDP member of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia, Zann introduced Bill 111, An Act to Address Environmental Racism. It didn't pass, but at the time it was touted as the first such bill in North America. According to Zann, it was Waldron who approached her with her research on the topic and gave her the idea for the provincial bill. Now that more people understand what environmental racism is, Zann said it’s time to “address and redress” it and make sure that laws are enacted throughout the country “so this cannot continue.” “The difference really, I think, between the provincial bill and the national bill, is that in Nova Scotia there are Black communities that have been hit by environmental racism and sadly have been affected by it. We can name them, we have a map, we can see that,” she added. “But the same thing has not been done yet in Canada and Ingrid is starting that work, but it’s time for governments and other people to start to do that work as well.” Waldron said the national coalition is “a work in progress,” but is slated to set up by the end of the year. She said there are many ways people can support the coalition. They’re currently looking to raise $200,000 by the end of this year. Funds will provide direct support for the ENRICH Project, BE Initiative and the development of the new coalition. People can also participate in a campaign to support Bill C-230 by visiting enrichproject.org/billc-230, Waldron added. While Waldron praised Nova Scotians for being aware of environmental racism happening around them, she hopes the coalition will be able to bring “greater, broader attention" in Canada. “There’s a history of environmental racism over the last several decades in Canada. It’s real and there are health consequences for communities that live next to waste sites, serious health consequences like cancer and for women, reproductive illnesses, this is serious, it’s real,” she said. “Bringing all of us together with our partnerships, with our activism, I think it’s going to make for an extremely powerful coalition.” With files from Andrea GunnNoushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald