Canadian astronaut Dr. David Saint-Jacques talks to The National’s Andrew Chang about why he’s traded his space suit for scrubs and working on a COVID-19 ward in Montreal.
Canadian astronaut Dr. David Saint-Jacques talks to The National’s Andrew Chang about why he’s traded his space suit for scrubs and working on a COVID-19 ward in Montreal.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
Four-County Crisis short-term case manager, Andrew Hodson, is busier than ever working during a pandemic. As part of the local mental health crisis response program, his job takes him all over the region. Demand for mental health services is up across the province and Four-County Crisis is no exception, with Hodson’s caseload up more than 25 per cent. Hodson said he helps people from all walks of life dealing with a wide range of issues, including drug addiction. He said Haliburton is not immune to the problem, with many types of hard drugs being used and becoming more readily available over the years as opposed to being imported from the city. “It’s a harrowing landscape,” Hodson said. “I see it having tentacles into housing, into health care, into mental health, relationships … Because there are so many paths to lead into these situations, I think we need that many paths out. I think options are great – I don’t think there’s a one-stop solution.” Hodson is one of many in the sector working to address addictions in Haliburton and beyond. But local providers say finding funding to improve their work can be challenging. Jack Veitch is the manager of community engagement and education at the district branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and works with Hodson. He said CMHA offers a range of successful programs to help those suffering from addiction but they are short-staffed. “We need five Andrew (Hodsons). We need to have a whole, big-structured approach. We need more and more support within the community, so it’s not reliant on one, fantastic employee,” Veitch said. Veitch highlighted the provincial government’s promise of $3.8 billion over 10 years toward mental health. But he said finances are an issue locally – with no baseline funding or cost of living adjustment for nine years. He said that $3.8 billion should go beyond just hospital settings and larger centres, adding those in positions of power might not understand how much distance can make accessing care difficult. “Sometimes think, ‘oh well, Haliburton County, we got a support out there. They’re in Wilberforce, they can get to Minden’,” he said. “Not realizing that’s a heck of a hike if you don’t have a car. “Let’s make sure these dollars are rolled out in community mental health care in our rural communities, where the need is clearly there,” Veitch added. Unifying care Minden’s Dr. Nell Thomas said the pandemic has brought increased struggle for her patients dealing with addictions. She said the impact on drug supply lines has made people turn to more dangerous substances. She further said with rural doctors dealing with COVID, there is not as much time to address addiction. “I know that a couple of my patients that I was holding their hand and maybe inching toward them getting to rehab, I have not seen in (months),” Thomas said. “We all know those folks with addictions are suffering and being lost.” But Thomas does have a vision for a solution. She said current care approaches are often too siloed and collaboration can be difficult in a rural setting. She said if the funding existed, she would like to build a new local medical centre that could bring more providers under one roof, improving ease of access. She further said a stronger, team-based method is necessary. “I attend conferences and I see just how many different organizations and agencies exist. I’m floored at all the different acronyms,” she said. “Spits and spurts and not a truly cohesive approach. My vision would be to have a team, representing social work, counselling, crisis, medicine, nursing, public health. I have patients that are going into (emergency rooms) far too often.” But she said the funding is not there for such a thing, particularly given Haliburton’s relatively low population. As is, she said it is difficult connecting people with different treatment options. “Very frustrating for the doctors, in general, trying to get resources for patients because of the waitlists,” she said. “Because of the hoops you have to jump to get people connected is time-consuming and frustrating.” Marg Cox is the executive director of Point in Time and sits on the CKL and Haliburton County Poverty Reduction Roundtable. She said there are some links to the stresses of poverty and substance abuse, though added drug abuse impacts people of all economic circumstances. “We know that people that are experiencing poverty are experiencing huge stressors in terms of daily living and trying to pay their rent, put food on the table,” Cox said. “Throw COVID on top of it and we know folks are under a great deal of pressure. And we know that when people are under pressure, they’re more likely to turn to substances.” She said the issues creating poverty – which the roundtable focuses on – would have downstream impacts on substance abuse as well. “There would be a very good reduction in terms of substance use if people had adequate incomes, adequate housing, good food to eat and less stress related to poverty,” Cox said. Help in the legal system Thomas said she believes in a “carrot, not the stick” method when dealing with substance abuse in the justice system. “You can lay charges around in circles. You can have a very short-term response to that, but you’re not going to have a long-term solution by using legal means. It’s really about providing alternatives and space and realistic options for people.” Veitch and Hodson both echoed the sentiment. However, they highlighted the successful collaborations they have with police and the justice system for court diversion, intervening to help those struggling with mental health or addiction issues. “We’re there ready in the court system,” Hodson said. “As opposed to a fine or some sort of punishment, we can encourage that person to engage with addictions support, engage with mental health support … I’ve stood in court beside people – literally – after six months of help. And speaking to the judge on behalf of their own recovery, these are powerful, powerful moments where people have recounted their gratitude for having an opportunity to turn things around.” Veitch said punitive measures have not been an historically successful way to stop repeat offences. “How can we still create this level of accountability and reduce recidivism?” Veitch said. “It’s creating all these fantastic court partnership programs, where there’s still a level of accountability for the offender. But there’s also a level of treatment and care and support.” Beyond the need for increased resources, Hodson said it is vital that the community care for those suffering from addiction. “We need to develop something for Haliburton, from Haliburton,” he said. “I ask people, ‘what on earth got you through that (addiction)?’ What I hear, it’s not what you’d expect. You hear things like, ‘my Mom never stopped loving me. My probation officer, ladies at the food bank, always treated me with dignity. Never made me feel like a second-class citizen.’ “That is everything. We can build all the buildings and develop all the medications we want to develop. If we don’t have that community that makes people feel loved - and there’s a place on the table waiting for them - I don’t know where we go.” But he said there are plenty of people in Haliburton – from police to churches to human services to parents – ready to lend a helping hand. “Are we perfect? Of course not, but there is an invisible army of people in this County offering their support,” he said. “I’ve seen so many remarkable cases of recovery in this community and it’s heart warming. Those stories just don’t make the headlines, but they are out there.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
TORONTO — Eight schools in Toronto now have at least one case of a more contagious COVID-19 variant. In a letter to parents, Toronto Public Health says the discovery is not unexpected as the variants are known to be spreading across Ontario. The health unit says affected students were sent home. The unit also says it has followed up with close contacts and is recommending testing. Of the schools, three are in the Toronto District School Board, three are in the Catholic board, and two are private. Public health says everyone in a household should complete the daily screening tool for staff, visitors and all students before going to school. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
(Submitted by Liam and Kim Dolan - image credit) After almost 40 years in Prince Edward Island's restaurant and tourism business, Liam and Kim Dolan may finally get a chance to sit down as they are honoured as the 2021 entrepreneurs of the year by the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce. The award will be given to the Dolans March 24 at a ceremony for the chamber's Excellence Awards, and recognizes the couple's accomplishments and entrepreneurial spirit. "Liam and Kim embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship," said Colin Younker, president of the chamber's board, in a written release. "Through their dedication to the family business, promotion of P.E.I.'s culinary offerings and contributions in the community, they set the standard for aspiring entrepreneurs." "We are humbled, grateful and honoured to be recognized in our community as entrepreneurs of the year," Kim Dolan said in the release. "We truly would like to thank the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce for all the tireless, dedicated work they do on behalf of ours and all businesses." Straight out of Ireland Liam moved from Ireland to P.E.I. in 1978 at age 19. Working as a chef, he dreamed of opening his own restaurant, the release said. He met Kim and in 1983 the couple opened the Claddagh Room on Sydney Street in Charlottetown. Two years later they opened the popular Olde Dublin Pub upstairs, where live bands play traditional Celtic music. Although they sold The Claddagh Oyster House and Olde Dublin Pub in 2018, the Dolan family continues to own and run Peake's Quay Restaurant and Bar. In 1994, the Dolans bought Peake's Quay on the Charlottetown waterfront, which came with the opportunity to operate the nearby Charlottetown Yacht Club. The venues became magnets for the public and further development of the area with seasonal shops and an expanded boardwalk ensued. Now, it's a major tourism destination and growth continues. In 1996, Liam founded the P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival, a successful event which continues to grow and attract more tourists to P.E.I. during the shoulder season contributing millions to the local economy. The pair has also been active in the community, volunteering with events and advancing the food and beverage industry locally and nationally. Liam has been a member of industry boards including the P.E.I. Chefs Association, Restaurants Canada and the American Restaurant Association, and currently chairs Downtown Charlottetown Inc., a non-profit that works with businesses to create and maintain a vibrant downtown. Kim is a well-known Island curler, having volunteered with the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and other Canadian championships hosted in Charlottetown. The family contributes to charitable organizations in the community, including Make A Wish Canada. The couple sold the Claddagh Oyster House and the Olde Dublin Pub in 2018, but continue to work at Peake's Quay Restaurant and Bar with their children, Marc and Sinead. Along with Peter MacDonald and Dan MacIsaac, Liam will also be inducted into P.E.I.'s Business Hall of Fame this June. More from CBC P.E.I.
WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project is looking toward the next phase targeting funding broadband projects in lower-density areas. SWIFT is a non-profit that aims to subsidize broadband projects in rural southwestern Ontario areas that have poor or no connectivity. George Bridge, Minto mayor and SWIFT board member, and Barry Field, SWIFT executive director, gave an update on the project to Wellington County council at Thursday’s meeting. In the presentation Bridge noted some highlights from the first phase of the project, called SWIFT 1.0. He explained they are exceeding their target of 50,000 premises served by a few thousand and are very close to reaching their kilometre of fibre laid goal. He was also happy to report that despite earlier concerns from smaller companies about SWIFT becoming a “Bell and Rogers show,” projects from small internet service providers (ISPs) accounted for about half of the funding given through SWIFT’s first phase. The small ISPs will become more important for SWIFT 2.0, the next phase of the project where SWIFT intends to focus on projects in lower density areas. “The bigger ones, Bell and Rogers, they go after so many people per km but your small ISP, for example they’ve gone down as low 3.1 density per km or three houses on a km,” Bridge said. “Our next round we’ll get into, some of the low hanging fruit has been done, now we need to get out to that last mile.” The funding is a big question for the next phase as there has been no commitment on what the province and federal governments will give, if anything at all. A third of SWIFT is funded by the province and a third from the federal government, with the private sector filling in another third and municipal governments providing some capital contributions. Coun. David Anderson asked if there’s anything they could do to give projects a better chance at a successful grant application. Field said municipal financial support or just letter of support for a grant application — which Field noted applies for other funding beyond SWIFT — can go a long way. He also said it might be helpful to encourage local ISPs to apply for funding if they haven’t done so. Wellington North mayor Andy Lennox questioned how to ensure funding gets distributed more equitably so lower density projects aren’t missed again. Field said by the time SWIFT 2.0 comes around those will be most of the projects left and to lower the number of premises per kilometre required, which in the first phase is at around 17 premises per km on average. “There are things we can do in the (request for proposals), the procurement itself, to not only encourage but ensure that we’re not getting at that easiest of the remaining premises,” Field said, noting this was a valid criticism of SWIFT 1.0. “We did have a very high premises count target we had to achieve and that kind of led to policies we had to encourage more premises passed.” Coun. Jeff Duncan asked if a possible federal election this year could delay or impact the next phase. Field said he wasn’t sure but did stress there is no commitment from upper levels of government to fund SWIFT 2.0. Bridge said they’ve been advocating through the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus to all political parties and there is no question from any of them that this is needed. The presentation was accepted as information from council. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
MEXICO CITY — The number of monarch butterflies that showed up at their winter resting grounds in central Mexico decreased by about 26% this year, and four times as many trees were lost to illegal logging, drought and other causes, making 2020 a bad year for the butterflies. The government commission for natural protected areas said the butterflies’ population covered only 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres) in 2020, compared to 2.8 hectares (6.9 acres) the previous year and about one-third of the 6.05 hectares (14.95 acres) detected in 2018. Because the monarchs cluster so densely in pine and fir trees, it is easier to count them by area rather than by individuals. Gloria Tavera, the regional director of Mexico's Commission for National Protected Areas, blamed the drop on “extreme climate conditions,” the loss of milkweed habitat in the United States and Canada on which butterflies depend, and deforestation in the butterflies' wintering grounds in Mexico. Illegal logging in the monarchs wintering rounds rose to almost 13.4 hectares (33 acres), a huge increase from the 0.43 hectare (1 acre) lost to logging last year. Jorge Rickards of the WWF environmental group acknowledged the lost trees were a blow, but said “the logging is very localized” in three or four of the mountain communities that make up the butterfly reserve. In addition, wind storms, drought and the felling of trees that had fallen victim to pine beetles or disease, caused the loss of another 6.9 hectares (17 acres) in the reserve, bringing the total forest loss in 2020 to 20.65 hectares (51 acres). That compares to an overall loss of about 5 hectares (12.3 acres) from all causes the previous year. Tavera said the drought was affecting the butterflies themselves, as well as the pine and fir trees where the clump together for warmth. “The severe drought we are experiencing is having effects,” Tavera said. “All the forests in the reserve are under water stress, the forests are dry.” “The butterflies are looking for water on the lower slopes, near the houses,” she noted. Tavera also expressed concern about the sever winter storms in Texas, which the butterflies will have to cross — and feed and lay their eggs — on their way back to their northern summer homes in coming months. “This is a cause for worry,” Tavera said, referring to whether the monarchs will find enough food and habitat after the winter freeze. It was also a bad year for the mountain farming communities that depend for part of their income on tourists who visit the reserves. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, visits fell from around 490,000 last year, to just 80,000 in the 2020-2021 season. It was unclear whether the drop in tourism income contributed to the increased logging. Rickards said there has long been pressure on the area's forests from people who want to open land for planting crops. Felipe Martínez Meza, director of the butterfly reserve, said there have been attempts to plant orchards of avocados — hugely profitable crop for farmers in the area — in the buffer zones around the reserve. The high mountain peaks where the butterflies clump in trees are probably a bit above the altitude where avocado trees like to grow, Martinez Meza said. But the buffer zones provide protection and support for the higher areas, and he said more must be done to combat the change in land use. Frequently, illegal logging is carried out by outsiders or organized gangs, and not by the farm communities that technically own the land. Millions of monarchs migrate from the U.S. and Canada each year to forests west of Mexico’s capital. The butterflies hit a low of just 0.67 hectares (1.66 acres) in 2013-2014. Loss of habitat, especially the milkweed where the monarchs lay their eggs, pesticide and herbicide use, as well climate change, all pose threats to the species’ migration. While there was plenty of bad news for the butterflies — very few showed up to some historic wintering sites like Sierra Chincua — there was the welcome news that a new wintering site was discovered nearby, in a mountaintop near the Lagunas de Zempoala protected area, near Mexico City. Tavera said the wintering site had always been there, but was so difficult to reach that it wasn't discovered until earlier this month. Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press
An Onion Lake man currently serving time on charges from Saskatchewan has a bail hearing in Alberta on charges out of that province. Michael Patrick Hill, 23, was scheduled to enter a plea in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on Feb. 24 but an agent appearing on his behalf asked for an adjournment. The matter was adjourned until March 10 for a bail hearing. Hill is charged in Alberta in connection to an incident where an RCMP officer was injured while pursuing Hill. If Hill is granted bail at his upcoming hearing in Alberta, he will first have to finish his custodial sentence from a Saskatchewan court. On Feb. 9, 2021, in Lloydminster, Sask., Provincial Court, Hill was sentenced to six months for theft over $5,000 and two months consecutive for breach of a curfew. Hill has been in custody since he was arrested in Alberta on Jan. 19, 2021. Alberta RCMP say that Hill was involved in an incident in Vermillion, Alta., where a gun was allegedly pointed at someone. The suspects fled in a black SUV, which police located about an hour later near Edmonton. One of the RCMP officer’s pursuing Hill hit the ditch and the police cruiser rolled on Range Road 540 just outside of Edmonton. The officer was taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries. A second RCMP vehicle was able to stop the SUV near Township Road 534. Strathcona County RCMP and Fort Saskatchewan RCMP assisted Vermillion RCMP in the pursuit. Hill was charged with assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a vehicle, flight from a peace officer, pointing a firearm, operation of a motor vehicle while prohibited, possession of stolen property under $5,000, possession of stolen property over $5,000, and failing to comply with conditions. Alberta RCMP also arrested a twenty-one-year-old woman from Onion Lake Cree Nation who was with Hill. She was released on an undertaking and is scheduled to make her first court appearance in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on March 17. Alberta RCMP say they will release her name after she makes her first court appearance. Sherwood Park is part of Strathcona County and part of the greater Edmonton region. Onion Lake Cree Nation is about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster and borders the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
OTTAWA — A British Columbia businessman who made an illegal contribution to New Democrat MP Peter Julian's 2015 election campaign has been ordered to pay $7,500 to the receiver general of Canada. Elections commissioner Yves Côté says Robert Gibbs, co-owner of Romar Communications, provided free website development services to Julian's campaign. Gibbs told Julian's campaign that the work was done by volunteers, after work hours. However, unbeknownst to the campaign, Côté says three workers were paid $1,000 each for their work, the commercial value of which Côté says was actually $6,000. In its report to Elections Canada, Julian's campaign reported non-monetary contributions worth $2,000 from each of the three workers. Since that exceeded the $1,500 individual donation limit, the campaign paid $1,500 to Gibbs' company on the understanding that it would be given to the three workers, but Gibbs kept the money. The $7,500 Gibbs must now pay the receiver general represents the commercial value of the work done plus the $1,500 from the campaign that was never given to the workers. Côté announced the payment as part of a compliance agreement with Gibbs. Compliance agreements are commonly used by the elections commissioner to deal with relatively minor violations of the Canada Elections Act. They do not constitute a criminal conviction in a court of law and do not create a criminal record for the offender. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Wheatland County voted not to support the draft of a regional planning document that, if adopted, could shape development across 10 municipalities in the Calgary region into the future. The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) was established by regulation passed by the NDP-led provincial government in 2017 to promote the long-term sustainability of the region around Calgary. It is composed of 10 member municipalities, including Strathmore and (a portion of) Wheatland County. A requirement of the CMRB is the creation of a regional planning document to establish overarching planning strategies for the region, relating to such things as land use, infrastructure investment and service delivery. This document, called the CMRB Growth and Servicing Plan, is due to be submitted to the province by March 1. While a draft growth and servicing plan has been developed by an external consultant, HDR Calthorpe, a planning consulting firm, it has not yet been finalized. As such, the CMRB is requesting an extension of this deadline to June 1, but it has not yet publicly received a response from the province. HDR Calthorpe has been presenting an overview of the draft CMRB Growth and Servicing Plan to member municipalities. This plan was presented to Strathmore town council during its Feb. 10 committee of the whole meeting and to Wheatland County council during its Feb. 16 regular meeting. Following the Feb. 16 presentation, Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link raised several questions about the impacts of the proposed CMRB Growth and Servicing Plan on Wheatland County. An aspect of the draft regional growth plan could affect Wheatland County as it prohibits employment areas from rural areas, outside of hamlets and “joint planning areas” (of which there are three: between Calgary and Chestermere, Calgary and Airdrie, and Okotoks and High River). The plan thus aspires to shut down rural growth and mandate that most of the growth in the Calgary metropolitan region be directed into urban municipalities, said Link. “This entire plan is built on a basic premise that specific types of development are only appropriate in certain municipalities, and that’s really being delineated by virtue of whether a municipality is considered urban or rural – and that doesn’t capture the reality of Alberta,” said Link. “Our rural neighbours in the CMRB have demonstrated that effective, sustainable and efficient servicing can happen for industrial or commercial developments outside of urban centres.” With challenges in the oil and gas sector, Wheatland County has seen significant reductions to its linear tax assessment revenue. In response, its council has been looking to attract investment, diversify and maintain the sustainability of the municipality, said Link. But this new restriction could hinder long-term investment attraction. “This growth plan certainly constrains, if not completely sterilizes, our ability to (attract investment).” The CMRB draft growth and servicing plan honours existing area structure plans (ASP), planning documents for major developments (e.g. residential communities, industrial parks), passed by member municipalities. But if significant amendments to an ASP are required, approval from the CMRB will be required. Under the CMRB regulation, if a decision is to be made by a vote, it must be supported by at least two thirds of the representatives from member municipalities with at least two thirds of the population in the Calgary metropolitan region. As Calgary accounts for about 90 per cent of the Calgary metropolitan region’s total population, this essentially gives the City of Calgary veto power. This voting structure of the CMRB, together with the growth plan, will move decisions away from local democratic governments to a model where one municipality exercises authority over all others, said Link. “That voting structure is essentially based on the notion that authority is given due to the population of that certain municipality, and ignores the responsibility we as rural municipalities have for stewarding large masses of land and our local communities.” This dynamic could affect Wheatland County directly, which has an approved ASP for its West Highway 1 industrial park which currently requires developers to provide self-servicing for wastewater and stormwater. But as the county is considering providing servicing to the area, this would likely constitute a significant change, requiring CMRB approval, and may not be seen as aligned with the new plan. “I don’t think anybody could have anticipated that our local autonomy would be stripped, and another municipality would be making the decisions on those amendments,” said Link. Link also questioned whether public engagement for the growth and servicing plan was sufficient. “The public was only asked to comment on high-level concepts,” she said. “They were never given the opportunity to comment on policy that would give them an understanding of how the plan would impact them.” There was little to no participation by Wheatland County residents, she added. Later in the meeting, Wheatland County council passed unanimously a multi-part motion to not support the draft regional growth plan, stating it is concerned significant portions of the growth plan have not been submitted as required. “We just don’t feel that we can in good conscience support the growth plan as it stands with the impacts of the policy that it contains,” said Link. “It is potentially extremely detrimental to economic growth in Alberta.” The contract between CMRB and HDR Calthorpe stipulates the submission of the regional growth plan, as well as a regional servicing plan and a regional evaluation framework, the motion states. But Wheatland County is “greatly concerned” none of this work has been “satisfactorily completed,” despite the county contributing over $165,000 worth of staff and elected officials’ time over the past 13 months towards the project, it reads. As a result, county council is requesting an analysis of the time and money spent by all member municipalities as contributions toward the work of the consultant for review and discussion at the next CMRB board meeting. An accounting of all project costs to date and project work submitted should also be provided, according to the motion. The final part of the motion states the CMRB board should review the draft submissions while considering the provincial mandate of red tape reduction and other provincial economic strategies. An updated growth and servicing plan will be presented to the CMRB during its next meeting, on Feb. 26. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
A one-time payment will be provided to hundreds of thousands of Albertans working to provide critical services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The $465 million program, a joint initiative between the provincial and federal government, will give $1,200 cash payments, called the Critical Worker Benefit, to workers across various sectors. The program includes about $118 million in provincial funds and up to $347 million in federal funds. Workers in healthcare, social services, education and the private sector that have worked at least 300 hours between Oct. 13, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021 are eligible to receive the payment. “It’s a sign of appreciation for the people whose hard work make life easier for the rest of us,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney,” during a Feb. 10 press conference announcing the funding. “These workers are the ones who have sustained and maintained Alberta through the pandemic at very considerable risk to themselves, and they will continue doing that through the months to come.” About 161,000 employees in the health-care sector will be eligible to receive the payment, including orderlies and patient service associates, respiratory therapists and technologists, nurses (RNs, RPNs, LPNs), food services, housekeeping and maintenance workers, and unit clerks. In social services professions, another 45,000 workers will also be eligible, including community disability service workers and practitioners, personal care aides, child development workers, family and youth counsellors, crisis intervention and shelter workers, home support workers, seniors lodge staff, cleaners, food preparation and maintenance workers. Up to 36,000 workers in the education sector will eligible, including teacher assistants, bus drivers, custodians and cleaning staff, and administration support. Additionally, private sector workers making $25 per hour or less also qualify, including critical retail workers in grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations; private health provider workers, such as dental assistants, massage therapists and medical administration assistants; food manufacturing and processing workers; truck transportation workers, such as truck drivers, and delivery and courier services drivers; and warehouse and storage workers, such as shippers and receivers. Private-sector employers must apply for the funding by March 19. Public-sector employees will automatically receive the funding if they are part of the government’s payment system. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told sailors on the USS Nimitz Thursday that he hopes to avoid long ship deployments like the more than 10 months they just spent at sea. But as he made his first aircraft carrier visit as Pentagon chief, he acknowledged the demand for American warships around the globe as he wrestles with security threats from China in the Pacific and Iran in the Middle East. Standing in the ship's hangar bay, Austin said he will make a decision soon on whether to send a carrier back to the Middle East, where the Nimitz had been. But he said there have been times when the U.S. has opted not to have a carrier strike group in that region. “There’s going to be gaps,” he said. “As we do that, we do things to make sure we have resources in the right place so can respond.” The Nimitz, which left its homeport of Bremerton, Washington, last April, has been at sea for nearly 300 days, including several weeks of pre-deployment exercises. By the time it gets home in March, the ship and its strike group — which includes the USS Princeton and the USS Sterett — will have sailed about 99,000 nautical miles around the globe. The ship’s return home has triggered renewed debate over whether the U.S. should keep a persistent aircraft carrier presence in the Middle East as a deterrence to Iran. And it underscores the persistent competition for Navy ships as the U.S. and the Pentagon focus on China as a key threat that has required an escalating presence in the Indo-Pacific. Over the past year, however, military commanders have successfully argued for a carrier presence in the Gulf region because of threats from Iran and Iranian-backed militias. Just a year ago, the U.S. poured more than 20,000 additional troops into the Middle East to counter escalating tensions with Iran that peaked with the missile attack on American forces in Iraq in early 2020. The Nimitz’s lengthy deployment was largely due to decisions to keep it in the Middle East last year and this year to serve as a deterrent to Iran. Sailors late last year were just starting to head home, after being held in the Gulf region for an extended time. But in early December, as the U.S. pulled troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, then-acting defence chief Christopher Miller announced that they would be staying in the region -- forcing the ship to turn around and head back to the Gulf. On Dec. 31, Miller announced the ship was finally going to head home. It's now off California. President Joe Biden has announced plans for a Pentagon review of national security strategy on China as part of his push to recalibrate the U.S. approach with Beijing. Biden’s call for a new task force to review strategy comes as the new administration shows growing recognition of the challenges that the U.S. faces from China’s modernized and more assertive military. The review will weigh U.S. intelligence, troops levels in the region, defence alliances with China and more. Speaking to reporters travelling with him on the Nimitz, Austin said that as directed by Biden, he is doing a detailed review of how the U.S. forces are positioned around the globe to ensure resources are focused on national security priorities. His visit to the ship came on Austin's first travel as defence secretary. He spent two days on the West Coast, largely visiting military vaccination centres in San Diego and Los Angeles. But as he spoke to sailors on the ship, he acknowledged their sacrifices in being away from families for so long. Recalling his 18-month deployments to Iraq as a commander, the retired Army general said, “I understand the stress that that can place on families. “Any potential adversary out there in this ocean or any other ocean, has to know when they look at what you’ve accomplished, that the United States takes very seriously our security commitments around the world,” Austin said. He added, however, “I don’t want deployments like this one to be the norm, and so we need to take a hard look at that, but you handled it very very well.” Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
QUEBEC — The health authority that runs the Quebec hospital where an Indigenous woman was mocked before she died last September said Thursday it is taking concrete steps to ensure Atikamekw people receive better care. Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, died in hospital after she filmed staff making derogatory comments about her. The video was shared around the world. Caroline Barbir, interim CEO of the regional health authority in Lanaudiere, north of Montreal, told reporters the agency is hiring members of the Atikamekw community to improve its relations with Indigenous people. Barbir said two community liaison positions have been created, one of which has already been filled. The agency will also hire an assistant to the CEO responsible for Indigenous relations and an assistant commissioner responsible for complaints and service quality regarding Indigenous communities, she added. A seat on the agency's board of directors will be reserved for an Indigenous representative, Health Minister Christian Dube told a virtual news conference. The health authority is also creating a reconciliation committee, Barbir said, adding that all employees will be required to take a sensitivity training program, the content of which will be approved by the Atikamekw community. Barbir said all the employees involved in the incident with Echaquan have left. Two workers were fired and the head of emergency services left on her own, Barbir added. Paul-Emile Ottawa, the chief of the Manawan Atikamekw Council, said he welcomes the changes. "These things should have been done a long time ago," he told the news conference. "We've decided to get involved in this process because our people want to regain their faith and confidence in the system and health-care professionals." Quebec, however, has refused to adopt a set of policies called "Joyce's Principle" — named after Echaquan and developed by the Manawan Atikamekw Council and the Council of the Atikamekw Nation. The policies are aimed at ensuring equitable access to health services for Indigenous people. That document was rejected in November by the government over references to "systemic racism." Benoit Charette, recently appointed as Quebec's minister responsible for the fight against racism, has denied the existence of systemic racism in Quebec. Earlier on Thursday, the Quebec coroner's office said public hearings into Echaquan's death will begin May 13 in Joliette, about 75 kilometres northeast of Montreal. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press
Strathmore town council passed first reading of a bylaw that, if enacted, would prohibit conversation therapy from being practiced or advertised in Strathmore. First reading of the Prohibited Business Bylaw passed unanimously by town council on Feb. 17. The bylaw will be deliberated again for second and third reading at the council meeting on March 17. The bylaw was first introduced to council by Geoff Person, communications manager, during the town’s Feb. 10 committee of the whole meeting. During a public engagement process held last summer, the town received views from over 170 people providing support for banning conversion therapy in Strathmore, said Person. The town used this feedback to help draft the specifics of the bylaw, which is modelled off the City of Calgary’s Prohibited Business Bylaw, passed in May 2020. Under the proposed bylaw, conversion therapy is defined as any practice, treatment or service designed to change, repress or discourage a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour. If adopted, the bylaw would prohibit conversion therapy from being offered as a business service in town, and would also prohibit the advertising of these services. The specified penalty for an offence under the draft bylaw is $10,000. If that fine is not paid, anyone guilty would be liable to up to a year in prison. An in-person session will be held for residents to share their views on the bylaw on the evening of March 17. Speakers must register and each presentation will be limited to three minutes. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
(CBC - image credit) Front-line workers who took part in a provincial symposium on harm reduction yesterday say the opioid crisis that has been moving from west to east in the last several years has definitely arrived in New Brunswick. The names of more than 50 people who have died of opioid overdoses were read aloud during the online video conference. Julie Dingwell, one of the organizers, said participants had been asked to submit the names. Some may have been from outside the province, but Dingwell said New Brunswick probably has "very close to that" many deaths on its own. Meanwhile, the conference also heard that more New Brunswick babies are being born addicted to opioids. A newly released national study by researchers from Queen's University found 9.7 in every 1,000 babies born in the province in 2014 had neonatal abstinence syndrome, a collection of symptoms usually caused by prenatal opioid exposure. With about 6,500 annual births, that means it affected 63 babies. Saint John pediatrician Sarah Gander says opioid addictions can have a major impact on child health. Dr. Sarah Gander, a Saint John pediatrician who moderated the symposium, believes that rate has increased in the six years since the data was collected and would be even higher today. Babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome have to stay in hospital an extra two weeks, on average, said Gander. That's very expensive, she said, and it also has long-term effects on the child, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, learning difficulties and medical problems. "Separation and adverse childhood experiences and the trauma of the early years is really where we need to go upstream to try to prevent the downstream pieces," she said. Gander says the pandemic is compounding addiction issues as people face increased stress due to precarious employment and housing, increased isolation and disrupted support services. She applauded the province's new mental health and addiction plan, which includes overdose prevention sites, walk-in mental health clinics, supported housing and treatment opportunities for youth. "There's no time to waste," she said. Dingwell agreed. "I felt that minister Shephard got where we were at and that we're going to move forward. I'm crossing my fingers that we're going to do that really soon." "I'm hopeful." Executive director Julie Dingwell of Avenue B Harm Reduction says there's a big increase in demand for clean drug supplies. Dingwell is executive director of Avenue B, a harm reduction group in Saint John. It provides services to about 950 individuals, she said. Last year they distributed a record number of clean needles, in excess of 400,000. The demand for needles has been increasing significantly in the last several years, said Dingwell, as has demand for safer inhalation kits and crystal meth pipes.
Authorities say that all those connected to the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have now been arrested.View on euronews
1. “A Court of Silver Flames” by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury) 2. “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Press) 3. “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” by Bill Gates (Knopf) 4. “Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Griffin) 5. “Relentless” by Mark Greaney (Berkley) 6. “Just As I Am: A Memoir” by Cicely Tyson (HarperCollins) 7. “Bridgerton: The Duke and I” by Julia Quinn (Avon) 8. “Missing and Endangered” by J.A. Jance (William Morrow) 9. “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee (One World) 10. “Walk in My Combat Boots” by James Patterson, Matt Eversmann with Christ Mooney (Little, Brown) 11. “I Love You to the Moon and Back” by Amelia Hepworth (Tiger Tales) 12. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy (HarperOne) 13. “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig (Viking) 14. “Keep Sharp” by Sanjay Gupta (Simon & Schuster) 15. “The Sanatorium” by Sarah Pearse (Pamela Dorman Books) 16. “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart (Ember) 17. “Winning the War in Your Mind” by Craig Groeschel (Zondervan) 18. “Faithless in Death” by J.D. Robb (St. Martin’s Press) 19. “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett (Riverhead) 20. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear (Avery) 21. “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz (Amber-Allen) 22. “Bridgerton: The Viscount Who Loved Me” by Julia Quinn (Avon) 23. “The Russian” by James Patterson and James O. Born (Little, Brown) 24. “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab (Tor) 25. “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (Crown) The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as early as March 5. The proposed changes include raising capacity limits at stores and personal service operations to 50 per cent from the current 25 per cent. Restaurant capacity would also increase to 50 per cent capacity from 25 per cent, but tables would continue to be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services would be allowed at 25 per cent, up from 10 per cent and outdoor public gatherings would be capped at 10 people instead of the current five. Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says Manitoba's COVID-19 statistics are heading in the right direction. He says the public is encouraged to provide feedback in the coming days before a decision is made. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 The Canadian Press
WHITEHORSE — Yukon is beginning to look toward revising its pandemic restrictions as the number of active cases of COVID-19 returns to zero. Speaking at the weekly COVID-19 update in Whitehorse, deputy premier Ranj Pillai says Yukon is "putting resources in place" to be prepared when the time to adjust restrictions arrives. In the meantime, Pillai says the government is extending and expanding assistance to hard-hit Yukon businesses. Supports include extensions to Sept. 30 for several programs, including a plan that helps businesses break even and another that supports employers who pay workers to stay home when they're sick. A new program also allows small and medium-sized businesses to seek up to $100,000 in deferred-interest loans, with no payments due until 2023 and forgiveness of 25 per cent of the amount if certain conditions are met. Pillai and chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley both mentioned "hiccups" as the territory launched its online reservation site for immunization appointments, but Hanley says the problems have been resolved. The availability of vaccine marks an "exciting time" for Yukon residents, he told the news conference on Thursday. "We have seen an incredible uptake in appointments," Hanley says, confirming he has a booking next week for his first dose of the vaccine. "The turnout so far shows so much promise that we are well on our way to immunizing the majority of our population." Yukon has had 72 cases of COVID-19 and one death since the pandemic began. Its website shows 10,781 people have received their first vaccination and 3,585 have been given their second shot. The government has assured all Yukon residents who want the vaccine that they are guaranteed to receive both doses required for maximum immunity. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
(CBC - image credit) Liberal Leader Andrew Furey says he's confident of the processes in place for the mail-in election. Liberal Leader Andrew Furey says it's too early entertain the possibility of legal challenges to the provincial election results. During a media availability via Zoom on Thursday morning, Furey told reporters he has confidence in the processes in place for an election that has been in flux for weeks. "It will be a legitimate election," he said. After advance voting wrapped up earlier this month, the in-person vote was originally set for Feb. 13. But just days before, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the metro St. John's area, Elections NL announced that in-person voting in nearly half of the province's electoral districts would be delayed. Then, less than 12 hours before polls were set to open in the rest of the province, a lockdown was put into place when it was confirmed the outbreak was due to coronavirus variant B117. In-person voting was then taken off the table completely, while special ballot application deadlines were extended for a mail-in voting process. Some people have said they couldn't access the online portal just before the deadline, and couldn't get through to call centres to get a ballot kit. With no in-person voting, those who didn't complete an application won't be able to vote, setting the province up for perhaps its lowest-ever voter turnout. When asked if he believes the election results would be legitimate, Furey's response was brief: "Yes." Furey said he's confident he will have the mandate needed to form a government if re-elected, but wouldn't comment on the possibility of historically low voter turnout. There's no bogeyman here. - Andrew Furey "I think it's far too premature to judge the turnout at this particular moment in time. I don't even have the updated numbers on how many packages have gone out," he said. "But I do encourage everybody who has a package to vote." Before announcing the election in January, Furey said, he had looked at all the information and science available to him, and had discussed the status of the pandemic with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald. "There was already published guidelines surrounding elections and COVID and we had already been through a byelection," Furey said, referencing the byelection he won in Humber-Gros Morne last year. "We talked daily, of course, and we knew that there was a risk of COVID spread during the Christmas period and the New Year's period. That's why we waited until we were a healthy incubation period away from those events and not seeing any spread or outbreak. The decision was mine, of course, and mine alone, as it is the premier's prerogative." The provincial election is being done entirely with mail-in ballots. He also said he reviewed how three other provinces ran elections during the pandemic, and had discussions with Elections NL's chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk to ensure there were plans in place for a COVID-19-era election. Chaulk said a couple of weeks ago that in all the planning done by Elections NL, there was never any anticipation that there would be no capacity for in-person voting. "My understanding from discussions with Elections NL is that they were ready for a COVID-style election. Again, I'm not responsible for running it, nor should I be, but they informed us and Mr. Chaulk himself was on the media telling people that they were ready for a COVID-style election," Furey said, adding that he had been assured the province's Elections Act allowed Chaulk and Elections NL to run an election in the pandemic. "There had to be a COVID-style election, as we know. The 12-month timeline started ticking back in August, so again I'm assuming Elections NL did all that homework, as well." Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says Furey made a mistake in calling the election. Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie argued the voting situation makes it "crystal clear" that there was inadequate planning and consultation. "It was poor planning. It was a poor election call by Mr. Furey. He did the most superficial questioning of Mr. Chaulk, the electoral officer, and it seems that Mr. Chaulk said, 'Yes, b'y, we're all ready.' Well, obviously they're not," Crosbie said Thursday afternoon. He said Furey's election call was a mistake. "I guess he figures he has to defend it because otherwise he's admitting he made a very grave and very serious error, which is what I think he did do." Some experts have said a case could be made for challenging the election under Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms if the measures in place and factors in play do not allow someone to vote, meaning there is the possibility for a legal fight regardless of the outcome. Furey said to his knowledge, the Liberals are "not at this point" looking to retain legal counsel. "I'm not entertaining it at this time," Furey said. "We're trying to get through the next couple of weeks. We're not looking at challenges right now.… Elections NL has pivoted with respect to the style that is being run now, but businesses have pivoted, schools have pivoted, everyone has pivoted, and we need to make sure that we get as many as we can out to vote at this point in time." Crosbie said the Tories are focusing on the voting process, but are also gathering complaints about the voting process, should a legal challenge arise after the votes are counted. "We've made no decision about challenging the election or any aspect of it in court. That's something that would have to be looked at and a decision made at the end of the whole process," Crosbie said. "We're collecting complaints and evidence of inadequacies or irregularities against the possibility that we may have to go to the law once all the dust has settled." NDP Leader Alison Coffin says her party is encouraging people to submit a complaint if they're having trouble voting. NDP Leader Alison Coffin said her focus was on getting people able to vote to cast a ballot, while directing people to the party's website, where they could submit a complaint. "All manner of things could come form this election, and I'm certain that the courts will decide that," she said. "Gathering up the concerns, I think that's gonna bolster into reforming the Elections Act, and if we see on the other side of the vote count that something needs to be done, we'll certainly have some comments to support some decision-making and some discussions for sure." Interim economic recovery report expected soon As for the status of the report expected from Moya Greene and the premier's economic recovery team, established in September, Furey said the interim report is still expected by Feb. 28 but he hasn't discussed it with Greene. "I have no visibility into the report itself. As I said from the very beginning, as soon as I get it, I will release it so that everyone can have a look," Furey said, adding that the final report is expected to be completed in April. "This report is just recommendations. Moya Greene is not the premier; they're not the cabinet. We'll take those recommendations from smart, successful Newfoundlanders who are volunteering their time to look from the outside and see if we can come up with creative, new ideas to reshape the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, and then as a government we will take that to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for broad consultation. "Everyone will have a chance to have a say. There's no bogeyman here." Furey said the last time he spoke with Greene was during the holiday season, and the conversation had nothing to do with the team or the report. "I don't want to bias the report, as I've said from the very beginning. I want them to come with new ideas, outside-the-box ideas, and those ideas will have broad consultation. If I was to influence the report, what's the point? I could just write the report myself," Furey said. For him to now describe it as just a discussion document is trying to backtrack. - Ches Crosbie For both Crosbie and Coffin, the apparent lack of discussion and the overall characterization of the report from Greene was a point of confusion. "Given that it was in her mandate to meet with him on a weekly basis … I'm a little surprised by that," Coffin said. "I would have expected that given the gravity of the situation and the importance of the report, I would have thought they would have spoken about that on a more regular basis." Crosbie said the Greene report was touted as Furey's "blueprint for the province" on how to deal with immediate fiscal problems, and if it doesn't turn up and get released to public on Sunday, "there is reason to wonder whether dirty tricks are not being played." Crosbie said Furey is being "grossly negligent" if the weekly discussions aren't happening. The characterization of the report is different from what Furey first said it would be, Crosbie added. "For him to now describe it as just a discussion document is trying to backtrack, because when it becomes available, unless there been some political chicanery and it's had its fangs pulled out, then the people of the province will get to see for themselves what Andrew Furey's true plan for them is," Crosbie said. 'No one could have predicted the situation' As for why he called an election for February, rather than waiting until later in the year, Furey said much of the same thing he's said since the outbreak: that he made the decision based on the low number of cases and strict public health measures that had gotten the province this far. "There's one thing that's certain about this pandemic: we don't have any certainty. There's no certainty around vaccine supply, there's no certainty around variants, there's no certainty that we'll be out of this in the fall," Furey said. "At the time that I made the decision, the numbers were extremely low, we were the envy of the world, there was no community spread, we were living, for all intents and purposes, a normal life, and no one could have predicted the situation that we are currently in." If he's re-elected, Furey said, he's open to looking at changes to the Elections Act to cover such a situation arising again. "It's always healthy after an election to reflect on what has gone well and what hasn't gone well," he said. Furey said he will continue to participate in COVID-19 briefing updates with Fitzgerald, adding that he doesn't see it as either helping or hindering him but as a way to assure the province there is still leadership in place. Until the election is over — mail-in ballots postmarked by March 12 will be counted, but there's no firm date for when results will be released — the province will remain in caretaker mode, Furey said. "That's the situation we're in, and we'll navigate it to the best of our abilities." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
A coalition of five local agencies are working together to provide better support services for members of the community. The Strathmore Wheatland Wellness Resource Project will help residents of Strathmore and Wheatland County come to one place to access resources. It is composed of the Golden Hills School Division, Growing Family Society, Strathmore FCSS, Wheatland County Counselling and Wheatland FCSS.“ It’s a great partnership of not-for-profits coming together,” said May Rostecki-Budzey, executive director of the Growing Families Society. The provincial government announced the provision of grant funding of $100,000 to Wheatland County Counselling and $85,460 to the Growing Families Society on Feb. 11. Wheatland County Counselling is providing service delivery of the navigation phone lines, helping direct people to the proper channels for whatever they need, explained Rostecki-Budzey. If a crisis does arise, the caller can be redirected to one of the therapists there. Each member organization also collaborates to determine what resources are needed in the community, both in Strathmore and among rural communities in Wheatland County, explained Brittany Olsen, Wheatland County Counselling office manager. “We’ve able to identify needs for residents, from counselling to nutrition support and financial support,” said Olsen. The project is in its infancy, so it provides information only and does not perform case management. Other organizations may connect their services through the project as well, she said. “We’ve been able to help a dozen people so far, and we’re just wishing to still continue to help,” she said. Residents can access the project online at swwellness.ca or by phone 403-962-0167, email email@example.com and through its Facebook page. Providing access to many programs from a single point and contact makes getting support easier and less time consuming for residents, explained Olsen. “Instead of them being frustrated with Google searching, finding what resources are available to them and clicking a bunch of links, we’ve provided a one-stop shop resource providing them the information they need.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times