Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the possibility of involving other countries in efforts to maintain a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire on Nov. 10 that halted six weeks of clashes in the mountain enclave, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the enclave under the ceasefire deal, which locked in Azeri advances.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Le 29 octobre dernier, un étudiant de Techniques d’animation 3D et de synthèse d’images du Cégep de Matane, Anthony Técher, a eu l’honneur de recevoir une mention spéciale pour sa bande dessinée « Monsieur H » à l’occasion de l’édition 2020 du concours CégepBD, réunissant près d’une centaine d’inscriptions cette année. En 3e année au Cégep de Matane et originaire de l’île de la Réunion, Anthony Técher a été félicité pour son oeuvre intitulée « Monsieur H », une bande dessinée de quatre planches traitant de la mélancolie moderne et de la sensation de perdre pied, une œuvre ayant vu le jour à l’occasion du confinement du printemps dernier. Malgré le contexte de l’édition 2020, 94 inscriptions ont été enregistrées au concours, qui est organisé par le Collège de Valleyfield depuis 1996. Les planches soumises ont été évaluées selon différents critères comme la qualité technique, les illustrations, la composition des éléments narratifs et l’originalité du scénario. Si Anthony Técher n’a pas figuré sur le podium, il est parvenu à recevoir l’une des six mentions spéciales accordées par le jury. En effet, le jury a souligné le « récit simple » du bédéiste ainsi qu’un « ton mélancolique soutenu par un dessin efficace et un design des personnages réussi ». L’illustrateur Mathieu Benoit, responsable de l’activité, a félicité M. Técher pour son « utilisation imaginative de la typographie et les couleurs choisies qui appuient l’ambiance claustrophobe » dans le récit. M. Técher a eu l’occasion de développer ses compétences artistiques lors de ses études au Cégep de Matane. « Cela fait longtemps que je dessine, mais jusqu’ici c’était surtout sur du papier. Pour ce projet-là, j’ai pu me mettre à fond dans le dessin numérique et développer de nouvelles compétences acquises au cégep. Sans ma formation au cégep, je n’aurais jamais pu me sentir assez à l’aise en digital painting pour participer au concours », a expliqué l’étudiant. Sa copine, Zoé Marchal, qui étudie en Techniques d’intégration multimédia, l’a notamment beaucoup aidé au niveau de l’histoire de la bande dessinée. « Le confinement du printemps m’a permis d’avoir plus de temps pour me pencher sur ce projet. Avant le confinement du printemps, la réalisation de la première planche, entre les heures de cours et les travaux à rendre, m’avait pris environ deux semaines. Après ça, j’étais capable d’en terminer une en trois jours », a commenté le bédéiste, qui avait accès à des tablettes graphiques pour l’aider.Claudie Arseneault, Initiative de journalisme local, Mon Matane
“Together, these public servants will restore America globally, its global leadership and its moral leadership,” US President-elect Biden said.View on euronews
Pour arriver à la Côte-Nord, il faut rouler des heures et des heures vers l’est. Ensuite, un contrôle routier nous attend. Avant d’embarquer sur le traversier direction Tadoussac, deux policiers s’arrêtent à chaque véhicule. « Qu’est-ce que vous allez faire sur la Côte-Nord ? » demandent-ils à chaque automobiliste, décourageant ceux qui s’y rendraient par plaisir. La mesure n’est que préventive, mais elle fait partie du plan que chapeaute le médecin-conseil de la Direction de la santé publique de la Côte-Nord, le Dr Richard Fachehoun. Visage des conférences de presse pandémiques nord-côtières, Richard Fachehoun peut aujourd’hui se réjouir du bilan provisoire de sa région. À ce jour, pour 90 000 Nord-Côtiers, les autorités ne recensent que 200 cas de COVID-19 et 2 décès. La région est une des seules régions du Québec, avec l’Abitibi, les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, le Nunavik et une partie de la Baie-James, à demeurer une « zone jaune ». Le chapelet de villages étendu sur plus de 1300 kilomètres de côte offre un avantage certain, admet le Dr Fachehoun. « La densité de la population est faible. Mais, le principal, c’est vraiment le rôle que joue la population. Si on veut contrôler la situation, c’est la population qui va la contrôler. » Originaire du Bénin, l’homme à l’œil vif a dû longtemps cheminer avant d’en arriver à ce poste stratégique. D’abord médecin généraliste en Afrique de l’Ouest, à « [prendre] en charge des patients atteints de VIH », il arrive dans la belle province en 2008. Entre Montréal et Québec en passant par Gatineau, il obtient ses équivalences québécoises avant de s’établir sur la Côte-Nord, il y a trois ans. La neige « qui fait disparaître les maisons » n’a pas manqué de le surprendre, ni les innombrables sentiers pour combler son besoin de course à pied. « Courir, c’est passionnant. Quoique ces derniers mois, non, parce que les gens parlent beaucoup des ours qui se retrouvent sur la piste cyclable… mais c’est passionnant ! » « Passionnant » aussi que de travailler avec les Autochtones, dit-il. Une passion qui s’est transformée en défi lorsque la COVID-19 a forcé la mise en place d’une « cellule innue ». En début de crise, la haute direction du CISSS s’est réunie avec les élus locaux pour protéger ces milieux tissés serrés. « [Les élus innus] avaient des réponses à tout. Ils étaient proactifs », salue le Dr Fachehoun. Rapidement, des points de contrôle bloquent l’entrée de villages à tous les non-résidents. Puis, des enquêtes épidémiologiques « faites en collaboration avec les services de santé des communautés autochtones » tiennent la pandémie en échec chez les quelque 15 000 Innus de la région. Autre défi pour l’équipe du Dr Richard Fachehoun : le fly in fly out ou, autrement dit, le navettage des travailleurs dans les mines dispersées sur le territoire. Pour assurer le contrôle sanitaire de ces industries jugées essentielles par Québec, les minières ont établi des plans : des cycles de travail plus longs, un nettoyage des navettes aériennes et des mesures d’isolement. « Toutes les minières ont été visitées », assure le Dr Fachehoun. Pour les autres recoins d’autant plus isolés, comme Schefferville, Anticosti ou la Basse-Côte-Nord, l’absence de lien terrestre avec le Québec complique l’offre de soins. Pour prévenir toute éclosion, un isolement est imposé aux voyageurs, doublé d’un test de dépistage au premier et au septième jour après leur arrivée sur place. La logistique du dépistage sur ce territoire de 236 000 kilomètres carrés n’a pas non plus été de tout repos. « Au départ, toutes les analyses étaient faites à Rimouski », explique Richard Fachehoun. Avant que l’échantillon ne traverse le fleuve et que le patient connaisse le résultat, cinq jours pouvaient alors s’écouler. Après avoir mis au point un protocole d’analyse sur place, les résultats sont maintenant connus dans un délai de 24 heures, se félicite le médecin. N’empêche, il encense surtout son équipe pour avoir convaincu les Nord-Côtiers de l’importance des gestes barrières, comme la distanciation physique. « C’est la population qui a le rôle déterminant. Si la population respecte les mesures, on n’aura pas de cas », rappelle-t-il, bien au fait que « les gens sont habitués à faire des “collures” ». Cette « chaleur humaine », qu’il tente à regret de dissoudre chez ses concitoyens, l’avait pourtant bien charmé lors de sa première visite sur la Côte-Nord. À l’époque, il se souvient s’être fait interroger en pleine rue par une citoyenne, curieuse de voir un nouveau visage. « Automatiquement, j’ai fait le parallèle », raconte-t-il. « À Montréal, tout le monde se dépasse. À Québec, sur la piste cyclable ou bien quand on fait de la course, on se salue. Mais ce qui frappe sur la Côte-Nord, les gens t’arrêtent pour te parler. C’est plus inclusif. C’est un petit milieu. »Jean-Louis Bordeleau, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
Despite a global pandemic, Victoria, B.C., is still one of the best "small cities" in the world, according to UK-based magazine Monocle.The magazine, which explores urban culture around the world, looked at cities with fewer than 250,000 people for their second annual Small Cities Index. The cities chosen were described as "well-connected cities that offer great business opportunities, a welcoming culture and access to nature."According to the index, Victoria placed No. 5, making a significant jump from 16 just a year ago. Porto, Portugal, took top honours followed by Leuven, Belgium; Itoshima, Japan; and Lucerne, Switzerland. Tomos Lewis, the Toronto bureau chief for Monocle, says the charm of a small city is not feeling lost in an anonymous metropolis."From having spoken to people from a variety of sectors who have lived in Victoria either for a long time or just moved there, that kind of intimacy comes part and parcel with moving to a city like Victoria," said Lewis to host Kathryn Marlow on CBC's All Points West.Cities were graded according to accessibility to international travellers, having "a good, progressive mayor," access to nature and for being warm and welcoming. Ratings also incorporated sustainability, environmentally conscious planning and opportunities for business. The magazine had compliments for Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps who it said "introduced initiatives to encourage young Canadians and foreigners to relocate here" such as free bus passes for children and bike lanes across the city. It also praised the city's diversifying economy, specifically noting its financial-services and ocean-research sectors, and its literary and food scene.Victoria has seen its fair share of challenges during the global pandemic including increased homelessness, a devastating shut-down of its tourism sector and rising housing costs."We do feel that all cities have their challenges that are particular to that place in question. But we don't think that those should always totally overshadow the other things a city has going for it," said Lewis.He said Victoria's civic attempts to address these issues is what earned it a top spot."This idea of the community first stepping in to try and solve, address and shine a spotlight on what those issues are and try to solve them I think is what gives a place its magic and that's certainly what we found having reported on Victoria for so many years from our vantage point."
NEW YORK — With police brutality continuing to devastate Black families and the coronavirus ravishing Black America disproportionately, the world was driven to the significance of this year’s Juneteenth more than ever before.And Beyoncé knew she wanted to release a song on that momentous day — so she dropped “Black Parade,” an anthemic jam where she proudly sings about her heritage, hometown and returning to her African roots.Months later, the song — and others focused on protesting, police brutality and the overall Black experience — are taking centre stage at the 2021 Grammy Awards.Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” scored nominations for two of the top awards: song of the year and record of the year. The track will also compete for best R&B song and best R&B performance.“There could have been a different approach as far as releasing the record and capitalizing off of timings of other things, but we really wanted to get it out during a time where we could all remember the feeling and the energy,” Derek Dixie, a longtime collaborator of Beyoncé’s who co-wrote the song with the pop star, said in an interview with The Associated Press.“It’s not always about the money and about catching streaming numbers and things like that. Sometimes it’s just about what it is — which was making our people proud.”“Black Parade” helped Beyoncé land nine nominations, making her the overall top Grammy contender. Dixie earned three Grammy nominations for co-writing and co-producing the song.For song of the year, “Black Parade” will compete with H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” the R&B singer’s track about police brutality.Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” a protest song he created in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, scored nominations for best rap song and best rap performance. Proceeds from the song will support the Black Lives Matter movement, Breonna Taylor’s attorney, the Bail Project and the National Association of Black Journalists.Anderson .Paak also released a song on Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free — and it’s competing for two awards. “Lockdown” is nominated for best rap performance and best music video..Country singer Mickey Guyton wrote the track “Black Like Me” a year ago but released it this year because she felt it was extremely relevant. Now, it’s nominated for best country solo performance, giving the performer her first-ever Grammy nomination.“It’s been so hard in the country music community and trying to get country music to even support my music and for me to get a Grammy (nomination), it just goes to show that writing your truth is just the way to go,” Guyton told the AP on Tuesday. “And not only writing your truth, but really bringing your brothers and sisters up with you.”But Guyton admits that everyone’s response to her song wasn’t warm. It features the lyrics, “If you think we live in the land of the free/You should try to be Black like me."“I released it and I did get people that were very angry. There were even radio stations that people were like, ‘Get this (expletive) off of my radio station,’” she said. “I would get people writing me messages like, ‘Well, if you don’t like it here then leave.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, it’s just as much my country as it is yours.’”Guyton added that some “radio stations were scared to play (‘Black Like Me’) because they were (angering) their listeners because their listeners didn’t want to hear that.”“But I wasn’t writing that song for them, I was writing that song got the people that understand this exact walk that I’m walking," she continued. “It’s for them."Apart from “Black Parade,” Beyoncé also earned nominations for her film honouring Black art and Black history, “Black Is King,” as well as her ode to dark- and brown-skinned women, “Brown Skin Girl.”Dixie, who has worked as Beyoncé’s music director and has produced, engineered and arranged songs for the singer, said he’s grateful he’s working with an artist who boldly speaks about Black pride in her music.“It’s just good to see that she’s willing to put that type of energy out and not necessarily be thinking about: ‘What’s going to guarantee me a No. 1? What’s going to guarantee me this?' It’s a part of our conversation, it’s a part of the process, but when it’s necessary to put that art out there, to put that energy out there, she’s usually ... leading the pack in that regard,” Dixie said. “So I’m grateful to be associated with her on that path.”Guyton added that it’s comforting to see some many Black musicians reflect the current times in their music, and she’s grateful to the Grammys for acknowledging those kinds of songs.“It’s so important because so often Black people, and Black women especially, are getting overlooked and constantly get overlooked and you’re constantly just trying to get people to remember that you’re there,” she said. “It feels like we’re seen and I don’t think we’ve always felt seen.”“I use this scenario of going into any grocery store — if you go to any grocery store ... and you look for hair products for someone who is ethnic and ... you see an entire aisle full of every and any hair product you can possibly think for someone that is not Black. But whenever it comes to finding hair products for a Black person, we’re designated a shelf. And today, it doesn't feel like we’re designated a shelf.”The 2021 Grammy Awards will air live on Jan. 31.Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
Vendredi dernier, le quotidien Le Journal de Québec a publié l’annonce du retour de l’éolien dans la ligne de mire d’Hydro-Québec pour 2021. Le député de Matane-Matapédia Pascal Bérubé a réagi à cette nouvelle, qu’il définit de majeure pour la région dans un contexte de relance économique du Québec. Le chef parlementaire du Parti québécois a d’ailleurs validé l’article journalistique auprès du gouvernement, dont le ministre des Ressources naturelles, Jonatan Julien, qui lui a confirmé l’intérêt renouvelé de New York pour l’électricité verte du Québec. « Cette nouvelle est importante pour nous, alors qu’elle tend à démontrer un virage du gouvernement de la CAQ sur le développement de l’éolien », a répété Pascal Bérubé. Il réitère que cette relance ouvrira des portes pour le Bas-Saint-Laurent et la Gaspésie. « Il y a également la possibilité d’exploiter d’autres filières pour s’assurer de notre sécurité énergétique », a-t-il rappelé. Des négociations sont en cours pour remettre le projet d’Apuiat sur les rails, ce même projet sur lesquels les élus régionaux misaient pour la survie de Marmen dans l’Est. Pascal Bérubé a doublement confirmé que le premier projet serait Apuiat. « Nous n’avons pas d’échéancier évidemment, mais le gouvernement du Québec me confirme qu’il y a une volonté d’aller de l’avant avec l’éolien, ce qui est majeur dans les circonstances. » Et pour le Parti québécois, cela se traduirait en un éventuel appel d’offres pour un projet de l’Alliance de l’Est. Selon le Parti québécois, l’Alliance de L’Est rapporterait pour l’ensemble des communautés de la région et permettrait la consolidation d’emplois chez Marmen, entre autres. « On ne sait pas si ce sera suffisant à court terme pour relancer Marmen », a toutefois précisé M. Bérubé. « D’autant plus que le coût a considérablement diminué ces dernières années, mais ça on le savait déjà. C’est le gouvernement de la CAQ qui a tardé à le réaliser. » Selon lui, les communautés locales pourraient bénéficier de retombées sur plusieurs décennies. « C’est l’ensemble des communautés de notre territoire qui vont chercher des revenus supplémentaires. De plus, le couplage de l’éolien et de l’hydroélectricité est une bonne combinaison d’énergies vertes », a-t-il lancé. Le Parti québécois suivra le dossier de près. Les députés péquistes continuent d’espérer un appui formel de la part du gouvernement québécois. Ils ont publiquement demandé à la ministre responsable du Bas-Saint-Laurent et de la Gaspésie, Marie-Eve Proulx, de porter ce projet au conseil des ministres, qui pourrait apporter une fortune à ces régions et étant « très faisable », a noté Pascal Bérubé. « Ce serait une des plus belles annonces qu’on pourrait faire dans les prochaines années », a-t-il affirmé.Claudie Arseneault, Initiative de journalisme local, Mon Matane
Canada's main share index is set to extend its rally over the coming year as the likely rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine bolsters prospects for the economically sensitive financial and resource stocks that dominate the index, a Reuters poll found. "The run-up in stocks will likely not end in 2021 as (U.S.) stimulus likely comes early in the new year, vaccines start to get distributed in the second half of the year and most companies go back to normal in the latter part of 2021," said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Global Investments. A vaccine rollout would "benefit Canada more than most countries because of the large proportion of value and cyclical stocks on the TSX," said Matt Skipp, president of SW8 Asset Management.
The Town of Lakeshore council has voted five to three in favour of approving its 2021 budget.The council voted after two full days of deliberation Monday and Tuesday.The budget includes a property tax increase of 2.71 per cent. When combined with rate changes at the county and education levy, the average home in Lakeshore, priced at $300,000, will pay a projected $37.00 more per year in tax compared to 2020 — a 1.17 per cent increase.Mayor Tom Bain says the tax increase is necessary to fund essential infrastructure projects, among them rebuilding and expanding the local sewage treatment plant and fixing the town's old waterlines."We were almost in a situation where infrastructure needs such as sewage and water take a priority, and are actually a health and safety matter where we needed to go ahead with these projects," he said.Bain added that he was happy with the proposed budget — especially considering the negative effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on municipal finances. "Certainly we've had problems with COVID, and there was a problem with cost overrun with regards to the COVID problem," he said. "But we were able to work that in our budget and still do some infrastructure projects."Bain added that he's also feeling optimistic about Lakeshore's long-term financial situation."Well, I think we're doing actually real well," he said. "Construction as far as residential development continues, Lakeshore is actually a leader in Essex County and it continues. And we're also doing fairly well in attracting new businesses to the area." The town has recently been the site of controversy, as several residents have complained of unusually high water bills.Bain said it's an issue the town is working daily to address."Well certainly we've had those complaints and we're trying to deal with each of those complaints individually," he said. "So daily, we're trying to deal with individual complaints and get to the bottom of the problems."
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues CBC North will keep track of the latest confirmed cases in each territory here, and the latest stories, updated every morning.Nunavut * The total confirmed cases as of Nov. 25 are 155, with 153 active, according to the government's Wednesday news release. Northwest Territories * The Northwest Territories has 15 confirmed cases in total, all of which have since recovered as of Nov. 24, according to the government's latest statistics.Yukon * Total confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 24 is 38 with 23 recovered and one death.
With the holiday season just weeks away and health officials urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel, there's a push from a number of Windsor groups to encourage people to shop and celebrate locally for the holidays — an initiative that helps local businesses that may be struggling because of COVID-19.Sisters, Rachel and Lauren Vollmer, noticed the "devastating effects" the pandemic has had on small businesses and took it upon themselves to curate gift boxes made of items from small local retailers.They started their venture, Local Provisions, in October and noticed a growth in interested buyers. They've partnered with Downtown Windsor BIA to distribute gifts to corporations looking to buy for their staff, but they've also sold their gift boxes to those looking to buy for their family and friends."I feel like there's no wrong way to shop small. It's just making sure that you support your community. You can do that, you know, in your neighborhood or the town," Lauren said. "Sometimes supporting local business isn't always, you know, to making a purchase ... it could be sharing things on social media."The Vollmers have different themed gift boxes and offer free delivery within the Windsor-Essex area.One of the local entrepreneurs they're partnered with is Craig Marentette, the owner of Red Lantern Coffee Co. in Kingsville, who already has nine bags of coffee going in his first order with Local Provisions."It's pretty great," he said. "Kingsville, you know, is a small town. There's a lot going on here ... but not as big of a market as Windsor. So it's nice to be part of that."Windsorites want to support local businessesSome Windsorites seem to be on board with the idea of supporting the local community."I'll support small businesses more than big business," Dragan Susic said.Hannah Westfall agrees, "I like to support smaller businesses in this time just because they don't get the money.""I try to support the smaller businesses. They're the ones that are hurting the most," Ron Durocher said. "Wal-Mart and Costco, they've been open and people have been going in, but the small stores have really been struggling."Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island is also encouraging people to stay-cation and shop within the region through their events and gift guides, which highlight local virtual events, holiday light maps showcasing houses with light displays and places to shop.Jason Toner, the director of marketing communications, said the gift guide is a big feature this year and it's been getting a lot of engagement online."Last year, it was an eight page guide. This year, it's a 24-page guide that features 175+ either artisans or small businesses to support. And it goes more beyond just gift giving, it goes about where to buy your local produce, where to buy a pre-made meals, experiences that you can give, a winery guide, a brewery guide, distilleries and ways to support small either in person or virtually," he said."We were able to offer it as a free marketing program to all these small businesses. And we know they need the support this year. So, we're really helping amplify that message for them and hope that it helps all of them in turn."These initiatives keep in line with what health officials are urging Canadians to do: keep within your own household and stay close to home."Christmas is not going to be having any kind of large group interactions," Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said. "Even with family, you've got to really think twice. Avoid non-essential travel. Keep to your current household contacts as much as possible."Skip Amazon, buy local, says VollmersThe Vollmer sisters think it's important to support local businesses which have been significantly impacted by COVID-19."There's just so many great small vendors in your area, [you] just might not know about them," said Rachel. "So, I think just even doing a bit of research and finding them, you'll realize that they have a lot of amazing products. A lot of them are handmade. A lot of them use materials that are even from Windsor. So it's all very local. And I think just keeping the money in your own economies is beneficial to everyone, ultimately.""I think if you can afford to do it, try and skip Amazon and buy from your local stores so that they can stick around," she said.Toner echoes the same sentiment."Keeping those dollars local are important ... and showing that support for your neighbours and friends. Half the time you can start up a relationship with that person that you're buying from to grow and repeat business. And I really think it helps people learn what Essex County is all about."
GUYSBOROUGH – “One complaint is too many complaints,” when it comes to ambulance delays putting patients at risk, MODG warden Vernon Pitts told media on Wednesday, Nov. 18 after the regular monthly meeting of council. Pitts was referring to a matter deputy warden Janet Peitzsche brought to council that afternoon; a constituent in her district waited seven hours for an EHS transfer from Canso to Antigonish, during which time the patient's appendix ruptured. And this was only the most recent complaint council had heard about EHS service in the municipality. Council has been in discussion with EHS about the lack of service in the municipality in the past and a motion was passed at Wednesday’s meeting to invite EHS to another meeting to discuss the issue. “We want some answers,” said Pitts. “There’s a disconnect here. They’re telling us one thing but in actuality other things are happening. We want to get this straightened out sooner rather than later.” And if things didn’t improve, Pitts said, “Our next step will be approaching the minister because ultimately the province is the one responsible for it. They pay for the service—we pay for the service through our tax rates—but the province in essence, they deal the money out. They’re supposed to get a service that they pay for and we want the service.” Another blow was dealt to health care in the municipality last week. Council was notified during Wednesday’s meeting that a doctor who had been slated to begin practice in the village had decided against a move to Guysborough. The physician shortage situation continues. In other business, council discussed the garbage pick-up service the MODG provides to the Town of Mulgrave. A letter was recently sent from the MODG to Mulgrave informing the town that garbage and recycling collection would move to a biweekly service. Prior to this notification, Mulgrave has had weekly pick-up of both waste streams. Pitts said of the change, “It’s not a cut in service, it is a service that all our residents (MODG) receive today…MODG is not making any money at this; it’s at a cost to us. That’s what Mulgrave is paying. They certainty have the option and the right to go out and look for garbage collection elsewhere.” Pitts explained that the weekly service Mulgrave has enjoyed was part of an accommodation given to the town when MODG took up garbage collection during the dissolution talks. “What happened is, this was first instituted when we were looking at the dissolution of Mulgrave…and it was a service to our neighbour.” Going forward, Pitts said, the MODG would have a contract with Mulgrave for waste collection; there currently isn’t one. Mulgrave has the option to put waste collection out to tender. If they chose that route, the MODG would put in a bid, Pitts said. The MODG will provide waste collection until Mulgrave tells them otherwise. Pitts said, “I don’t foresee MODG leaving them standing high and dry. They’re our neighbours, our friends.” Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
If you are a senior staying in your own home during pandemic times, a proposed new senior’s renovation tax credit may help with the cost of renovations to make your home more safe and accessible and keep you in your home longer. The Ontario government has proposed a Seniors' Home Safety Tax Credit for the 2021 taxation year, which would provide a 25 per cent credit on eligible renovations of up to $10,000. The tax credit would be a fully refundable tax credit for the 2021 tax year worth 25% of up to $10,000 ($2,500) in eligible expenses to make homes “safer and more accessible.” Seniors would be eligible regardless of their incomes and whether they owe income tax for 2021. Family members who have a senior living with them would also be eligible. Eligible expenses include those that are paid for, or become payable in, 2021. The expenses must relate to renovations that improve safety and accessibility or help seniors be more functional or mobile at home. Eligible expenses could include renovations to allow for first-floor occupancy or a secondary suite for a senior; wheelchair ramps, stair lifts and elevators; grab bars in washrooms to assist with use of the toilet, tub or shower, non-slip flooring, additional lighting, and automatic garage door openers. “This is a very important new program that is available to all seniors, regardless of income,” said Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson. “The intent of the Seniors’ Home Safety Tax Credit is to help make homes safer and more accessible for those with mobility issues. I encourage all interested residents to apply.” The government said it expects the credit would benefit 27,000 people and cost about $30 million in 2021. The province plans to work with the Canada Revenue Agency to allow the credit to be claimable through the 2021 personal income tax return. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Health-care workers are saying new restrictions introduced by Premier Jason Kenney on Tuesday don't do enough to slow the spread of the virus.Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, which represents 27,000 health-care workers in the province, says the measures fall short of what's needed. "Jason Kenney has once again put Albertans at grave risk due to his failure of leadership … the measures announced today are inadequate," Parker said in a release following Tuesday's announcement. Parker was among more than 400 doctors and health-care policy experts who had signed a letter to the premier on Sunday calling for a circuit-breaker lockdown, mask mandate, and mandatory paid sick leave. Indoor gatherings banned, restaurants stay openTuesday's measures and a renewed state of public health emergency saw a ban on indoor social gatherings, Grade 7 to 12 students moving to online learning and further mask mandates in the Calgary and Edmonton health zones — both cities already have mask mandates in place. It also allowed businesses like restaurants, bars and casinos to remain open, and religious gatherings to continue, subject to some restrictions.Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician and founder of Masks4Canada, questioned why restaurants are being allowed to stay open and why, despite major contact tracing issues, the province still hasn't adopted the national COVID Alert app."If there is one overriding message is that these measures will improve transmission rates but likely not to the extent needed. This essentially will cause a deeper lockdown in the near future that will last longer than is necessary, and overall, gets a D+ from me," he wrote as part of a series of social media posts. Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Alberta, delivered his concerns more succinctly in a single post. "Alberta priorities: schools closed, but bars stay open," he wrote. > How can the government possibly claim that they are making data-based policy decisions when we have virtually no provincial contact tracing data for the last three weeks? \- Sandra Azocar, Friends of MedicareSandra Azocar, executive director of the public health-care non-profit Friends of Medicare, questioned the premier's assertion that the restrictions are based on an understanding of where transmission is taking place."How can the government possibly claim that they are making data-based policy decisions when we have virtually no provincial contact tracing data for the last three weeks?" Azocar asked in a release. According to the province, 85 per cent of Alberta's more than 13,000 active COVID-19 cases have an unknown source."The truth is, we can't have targeted measures because we don't have any knowledge of where over 80 per cent of our cases are coming from," Dr. Tehseen Ladha, a pediatrician at the University of Alberta, said. On Monday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province admitted defeat in terms of the government's already limited contact tracing. She said the team could no longer keep up and that thousands of Albertans would not receive calls as tracers focused on more recent or high-priority cases. "If this government had listened to those who are working in our health-care sector, and who bear daily witness to the toll that this pandemic is taking on Albertans and their families, we could have avoided the disastrous place we find ourselves in today," the Friends of Medicare release read. "Instead, the premier of this province has been effectively missing in action since his last announcement of feeble COVID-19 restrictions, and a lack of leadership has been in full display for the past month." * WATCH | Premier Jason Kenney announces new COVID-19 restrictions for AlbertaAlberta reported 1,115 new cases on Tuesday — the sixth consecutive day with new cases above 1,100. There were 348 patients in hospital, 66 in intensive care. Sixteen more people died, for a total of 492 deaths. The province has more active cases than Ontario, despite having one-third of Ontario's population.Kenney said that Alberta isn't "involved in a chase after zero" cases, but is trying to slow the spread to keep the health-care system functioning. He said the province's response has been largely effective, touting that it was the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce a contact-tracing app. That app has only been used in 20 cases since it was launched.While health-care workers expressed concerns, business owners are now left assessing how the new restrictions will work in practice. "We're just trying to process now how we can enforce those rules and and keep our staff safe and make sure they're able to keep the customers safe," said Dandy Brewing Company co-founder Ben Leon.He'll need to implement restrictions like ensuring everyone who sits together lives together, unless someone lives alone, in which case they can dine with two people in their cohort. Leon said he had hoped for an early lockdown, rather than risk business shutting down at Christmas, but said he and his staff will adapt. "Any sort of restriction on the holiday business is worse than sort of stopping and starting again," he said.The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said it was pleased to see the restrictions continue to operate at reduced capacity, unlike wider shutdowns seen in Manitoba and Ontario — which both have lower active case counts than Alberta."A blanket lockdown would have pushed Alberta small businesses to the brink of closure. The new limited measures will give small business a fighting chance to surviving the holiday season. Its now up to Albertans to follow these new orders and do our part to slow the spread," CFIB Alberta provincial affairs director Annie Dormuth said in a release. Both Calgary and Edmonton's mayors said their cities will be evaluating the impact of the restrictions on their programs and services. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he'll be encouraging local employers to allow employees to work from home if possible."Ultimately, we as a city government will support the province in this work, we'll do so in every way we can, including enforcement, to ensure that we're keeping everybody safe," he said. Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said he empathizes with those who will have to make adjustments due to the restrictions, at a time when everyone's lives have already been significantly disrupted."This will be difficult, but it is critical that we do our part to keep our families and communities safe," he said in a release.
A new national survey by Women's Shelters Canada offers a glimpse into the experiences of front-line workers and women fleeing violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, with reports of clients facing more violence that is also increasing in severity.The Shelter Voices survey says 52 per cent of 266 participating shelters reported seeing clients who were experiencing either somewhat or much more severe violence, as public health measures aimed at fighting COVID-19 increase social isolation, while job losses fuel tension over financial insecurity in many households.Violence "was also happening more frequently, or abusers who hadn't used violence in the past were suddenly using violence," said Krys Maki, the research and policy manager for Women's Shelters Canada.The survey also found 37 per cent of shelters reported changes in the type of violence clients faced, including increased physical attacks resulting in broken bones, strangulation and stabbings.Shelters and transition houses that did not report changes in the rates or type of violence were often located in communities that had seen fewer cases of COVID-19, the report notes.The data show public health restrictions have a "huge impact on women and children who are living with their abusers," said Maki.The survey says 59 per cent of shelters reported a decrease in calls for help between March and May, when people were asked to stay home, and businesses, workplaces and schools shut their doors.From June to October, "as soon as things started up again, we see a huge increase in crisis calls and requests for admittance," said Maki.The survey includes responses from shelters and transition houses in rural and urban areas in every province and territory. Just over half of the shelters in population centres with 1,000 to 29,999 residents reported increases in crisis calls between June and October, said Maki, compared with 70 per cent of shelters in urban centres with populations between 100,000 and just under a million.Women in smaller communities may be more hesitant to reach out for help, said Maki, "because everybody knows everyone, and everyone knows where the shelter is, too."While the survey shows women are facing more severe violence at home, at the same time, 71 per cent of shelters reported reducing their capacity in order to maintain physical distancing and other public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.It was more common that shelters in large population centres had to cut their capacity. To continue serving women remotely, 82 per cent of shelters and transition houses reported purchasing new technology, such as tablets, phones and laptops, although limited cell service and internet connectivity pose challenges in rural and remote areas.For many shelters, financial difficulties increased throughout the pandemic, as 38 per cent reported raising significantly less money compared with last year. The shelters were mostly appreciative of the federal government's emergency funding in response to COVID-19, with some reporting it kept them open, while others said they had to lay off staff because the money didn't go far enough.The federal government announced last month it would double the initial amount it was providing to gender-based violence services in response to the pandemic for a total of $100 million, some of which has been distributed through Women's Shelters Canada.The survey found more than three quarters of the shelters faced staffing challenges during the pandemic. That's not surprising, the report notes, since women make up the majority of shelter workers and have been trying to balance paid work with childcare and other family responsibilities during lockdown periods.The release of the survey results on Wednesday coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.The Canadian Centre for Women's Empowerment is also working to have Nov. 26 recognized each year to raise awareness about economic abuse. So far, the cities of Ottawa, Brampton, Parry Sound and Kingston have signed on in Ontario, while Victoria and Comox, B.C., will also mark the day.There is little data about economic abuse in Canada, said Meseret Haileyesus, who founded the centre, although the shelter survey showed clients were subject to increasing coercion and control tactics, including limited access to money.A survivor's debt load, credit rating, and their ability to access housing and educational opportunities may be affected for years, long after they've left an abusive relationship, Haileyesus said.The centre is working with MP Anita Vandenbeld on a petition urging lawmakers to expand the strategy to end gender-based violence to include economic abuse. It also wants Statistics Canada to begin collecting data and studying economic abuse.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
CANSO -- The Canso Area Development Association (CADA) would like to bring a Fisheries Heritage Centre to the Canso waterfront. CADA president Harold Roberts spoke to The Journal about the group’s past year and ideas for the future, including the proposed centre, following CADA’s 11th annual AGM on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at the Canso and Area Library and Resource Centre. The Fisheries Heritage Centre, currently in the preliminary stages of planning, would be an interactive space for sharing the area’s long fishing history. “There is a lot of interest in that,” said Roberts. “This area is the oldest fishing port in the Maritimes dating back to 1604. We really don’t have a way of displaying, in a holistic way, our fisheries heritage.” The centre would highlight the indigenous fisheries, early European fishing and commercial fisheries. “We’ve had ongoing discussions with Parks Canada. We would like to have their support with this heritage centre,” said Roberts, noting that to, “advance this project to another level, we would have to seek out an RFP (Request for Proposals).” The Fisheries Heritage Centre was part of the discussion during the community visioning workshop held on Oct. 21 with Rob LeBlanc from the consulting firm Fathom Studios, regarding community enhancements that could happen through funds earmarked for the former Town of Canso from the sale of the Canso Electric Utility residuals. "Two hundred and eighty surveys were completed and forwarded to Fathom Studios; that shows that there is a lot of interest in how that money would focus on particular projects and initiatives within the former town boundaries,” said Roberts. In other business, CADA has helped several local organizations this past year, including a $250 donation to the Chedabucto Multi-use Trails Association, a donation to the Canso Flying Figures Skating Club to cover registration costs, and support for the Eastern Counties Rate Payers Association. Members of CADA sit on community liaison committees with the Black Point Quarry project and the proposed Maritime Launch Services project. They also work in partnership with MODG Recreation and Public Works to operate the swimming pool in Canso, which due to COVID-19 was not open this past season. They also participate in the Canso and Area Stakeholders Group and the Guysborough and Area Board of Trade. Cape Breton – Canso MP Mike Kelloway joined the AGM by video link.Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Tammy Roberts is used to carrying more weight than most people might be willing to lift.The executive director of the Foster Family Coalition of the NWT has been a foster parent herself for close to 30 years. In that time she's cared for around 250 children and young people, including some with severe learning and behavioural issues. Now, Roberts is assuming another leadership position as the executive director of SideDoor, a Yellowknife non-profit that helps young people in tough situations with emergency shelter, housing and other supports.When asked how she's managing the oversight of two organizations, Roberts sounds unfazed."It's going to be interesting, but they're very similar, so I think I have a lot of knowledge to bring forward," she says.Roberts began at SideDoor on Nov. 9, but says she'll be in a "transition period" until Dec. 10, when the non-profit's board is set to meet.She says that since official discussions have yet to take place, there's not much she can pass on about the organization's plans, like, for example, whether SideDoor might merge with the Foster Family Coalition. "I'm thinking that there won't be any huge, immediate changes, just because there's a transition time where we need to see what's working well, right? And then just build from that."Troubled period at SideDoorRoberts takes over SideDoor after a relatively tumultuous period in the organization's 25-year history. In early March, shortly before COVID-19 prompted a widespread shutdown in the Northwest Territories, SideDoor unexpectedly closed its youth drop-in centre downtown. Days later, allegations emerged of mismanagement and mistreatment at the organization. In the months that followed, the drop-in centre, called the Resource Centre, was moved into Hope's Haven, SideDoor's youth shelter, and Iris Notley, the former executive director, resigned. As the new head of SideDoor, Roberts says she wants to focus on building relationships with government, funders, other non-governmental organizations, and with "youth, especially."Exploring options for Resource CentreIn the waning months of Notley's tenure at SideDoor, she suggested to CBC that most of the young people who used the Resource Centre had housing, and that SideDoor would refocus on serving young people who are homeless. Roberts says funding agreements in place until the end of March outline who SideDoor is meant for, but didn't elaborate on those agreements, saying she wasn't sure of the details as she's still in the transition phase. As for the previous Resource Centre building downtown, that's now occupied by the city's new day shelter. Roberts says she can't comment on whether SideDoor wanted to reopen the Resource Centre in its former location."Everything's out of one building right now," she says, referring to Hope's Haven. "It is very crowded, of course, but we're looking at other options."Casting her sights into the future, Roberts says she hopes that SideDoor will be a place where "youth, and our staff, and everybody is feeling supported."
Chris Higgins and his family have traditionally gone out to find and cut their own Christmas tree. The annual ritual involves a drive from their East Vancouver home to Squamish to meet family friends, and children running through the bush in search of the best tree they can find."They make a couple of pulls on the saw," Higgins said of his two kids. "They don't do a substantial amount."He works the saw blade most of the way through the trunk, and everybody helps for the final pulls."And then 'timber!' It falls over and then we pull it out and strap it on the car," said Higgins, who gets a permit each year to harvest a tree from under a powerline.He said the family makes a whole day of it, with a thermos full of hot chocolate to warm up.That's out of the question for most Metro Vancouver residents because the Chilliwack forest district — which includes everything from Horseshoe Bay all the way to Boston Bar — doesn't issue Christmas tree cutting permits. And health officials have told people to avoid non-essential travel outside their communities until at least Dec. 7."Our plan B now, if they renew the current restrictions, is that we'd go for a local tree lot in our neighbourhood," said Higgins.But even the local tree lots will be affected by the pandemic.Changes at the charity lotsAunt Leah's Place, a charity that helps youth in government care and mothers with young children, has previously run five Christmas tree lots. This year that's down to three and customers may find service limited to curbside pickup at some locations."We're just making sure we're mindful of the health orders," said Sarah Stewart, executive director of Aunt Leah's Place. "The tree lot is a pretty big fundraiser for us to raise money for supportive housing programs."Stewart said people can buy trees online for pickup, but all 163 deliveries spots were booked up several days before the lots even opened up. Stewart said they may pivot to provide more delivery options, but on Tuesday they got the OK from the City of Vancouver to operate their Vancouver lot in a somewhat normal fashion. Customers will be allowed allowed to browse the trees and make their choice in person — with all the COVID-19 measures you would expect.At the Vancouver South Lions Club lot, which has been running for 57 years, customers will find reduced hours and significantly fewer trees than other years at 41st Avenue and Fraser Street."It's not going to be easy for us to run it," said Namtez "Babbu" Sohal, secretary of the Vancouver South Lions Club. "Things could change tomorrow, who knows when the next regulations will come."Fewer treesSohal said they usually bring in at least 2,200 trees, but this year that's down to 800 — he expects stock to sell out in a week rather than the normal three weeks.Sohal said some people in the organization suggested skipping this year, even though it's the group's only fundraiser, but he said they're doing it "just to keep the spirit going on."The tree lot will have fewer and wider aisles than normal, a maximum of six families at a time and a queue at the entrance. Sohal said they'll monitor for physical distancing, and hand sanitizer and masks will be available.Unless travel restrictions are eased, Higgins said he'll miss the seasonal experience of cutting his own tree with his family and friends."We all have to make sacrifices," he said, adding that not cutting a tree is one of the easier sacrifices to make during the pandemic.Do you have more to add to this story? Email email@example.comFollow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker
Ontarians across the province should only celebrate the upcoming holiday season with people inside their own household, Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday."Doing so is critical if you live in a lockdown region," Ford said. "If you live alone you can join one other household. Please don't have big holiday parties."A provincial news release also states that anyone "living away from home, including those studying at colleges and universities, should consider doing a self-quarantine, or reducing close contact with others, 10 to 14 days before returning home for the holidays."Health Minister Christine Elliott said she knows how difficult the last several months have been for people."The holiday season will need to be a little different in order to protect our loved ones and our communities," she said.Ford and Elliott also suggested virtual gatherings as an alternative."To keep your loved ones safe, traditions will have to be adjusted," Ford said.WATCH | Premier gives direction on holiday season:The announcement comes as Ontario reported another 1,373 cases of COVID-19 and 35 more deaths linked to the illness on Wednesday.The new cases include 445 in Toronto (which the city later updated to 481), 415 in Peel Region and 136 in York Region and drop the seven-day average to 1,389.Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in today's report were: * Waterloo Region: 61 * Hamilton: 49 * Windsor-Essex: 48 * Simcoe Muskoka: 30 * Halton Region: 30 * Durham Region: 26 * Ottawa: 23 * Niagara Region: 17 * Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 13 * Thunder Bay: 13[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.]There were also 162 school-related cases, including 138 students and 24 staff members. There are 688 publicly-funded schools in Ontario, or about 14.6 per cent, with at least one reported instance of COVID-19. Four schools are closed due to outbreaks.The new cases come as Ford's government is under fire for its pandemic response. A new report from the province's Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that the response was hampered by "delays and confusion in decision-making."Meanwhile, Ontario's labs processed 36,076 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a provincewide test positivity rate of 4.7 per cent.There are currently 12,779 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, 138 fewer than yesterday. The number of people with the illness in Ontario hospitals fell 11 to 523. Those being treated in intensive care stayed unchanged at 159, while 15 more patients were put on ventilators.The 35 additional deaths reported today include 29 people aged 70 and over who contracted the virus in an outbreak, most likely long-term care settings. Ontario's official death toll now sits at 3,554.Scathing AG report on pandemic responseThe province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was slower and more reactive than that of other provinces, Lysyk concluded in her report. She said outdated provincial emergency plans played a role in slowing down the provincial response in the winter and spring, as did systemic issues such as a lack of laboratory surge capacity and old IT systems.Lysyk also pointed to an increasingly cumbersome command structure, and one that was not led by public health expertise despite the creation and expansion of a provincial health command table that she says now involves more than 500 people.As well, she found the province's chief medical officer of health did not fully exercise his powers in responding to the pandemic, or issue directives to local health officials to ensure a consistent approach across regions.The auditor general also raised concerns that lab testing, case management and contact tracing were not being conducted in a timely enough manner to limit the spread of the virus, noting that between January and August, all but one public health unit failed to meet the target of reporting test results within a day 60 per cent of the time.The findings are part of a special report released today that examines Ontario's emergency management in the context of the pandemic, and its outbreak planning and decision-making, among other things.In the report, Lysyk said many of the issues her office identified would have been avoidable if the province had acted on key lessons from the 2003 SARS outbreak before or during the health crisis.Ford responded to the report Wednesday, saying that he had "serious problems" with it."This does nothing but undermine this entire health team," Ford said, adding that he "won't stand for this."Ford also directly criticized Lysyk herself, accusing her of sitting in her office and throwing "hand grenades" at the government's health officials."Stick with looking for value for money. Stick with the job we hired you for … stick with the number crunching," Ford said.COVID-19 and the holidaysToronto and Peel Region are currently under the grey or lockdown level in the province's tiered COVID-19 alert system, with those restrictions set to stay in place at least until the week of Christmas.Public health measures under the lockdown level include a ban on indoor gatherings except with those in the same household, as well as closing down restaurants for all but takeout and delivery.The province's chief medical officer of health said earlier this week it seemed unlikely the situation would improve in those regions enough over 28 days to warrant moving them to the red alert level, which is one level lower. Previously, Dr. David Williams was derided for his suggestion that the entire province could be in the green zone by Christmas. Five other regions — Hamilton, Durham, Halton, York and Waterloo — are currently classified as red zones, which caps social gatherings at five people indoors and 25 outdoors.Ontario's most recent modelling showed the province is on track to see up to 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December, though those projections are expected to be updated Thursday.