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 The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said.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
After pivoting the popular Pig Out festival due to the pandemic in 2020, Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country is bringing back the new Pig Out Trails format to keep the event safe and fun as it marks 10 years in the community. On May 28 and 29, Pig Out Trails returns as attendees cruise down a curated trial of wine tasting experiences guided by some of the region’s most established winemakers in outdoor settings. The event’s format is again designed to be flexible in order to accommodate the fast-changing nature of the pandemic health and safety regulations. “Flexible” has been the key word for event organizers recently. Last year, the event was moved from May to October, and the team at Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country put together a modified event with groups in separate pods, touring and tasting outdoors at different venues. While the weather was briefly uncooperative last year, the response to the new format from attendees was very positive “I had emails in my inbox in November asking what we were doing for Pig Out for 2021 and what the format was going to be like,” said Jennifer Busmann, executive director of Oliver and Osoyoos Wine Country. Many guests at 2020’s Pig Out Trails were happy to simply be attending an event at all in a year that didn’t see many. “It was really heartwarming for all those Pig Out attendees who came in October. Just due to the restrictions and the numbers and how we safely move people through our region and what we were permitted to do. We had about 540 guests total attend in these small little groups. They were so thankful and so excited that it just gave you a little pep in your step to see that,” Busmann said. Oliver and Osoyoos Wine Country will be using the work they accomplished to create a safe event in 2020 as a foundation for this year’s Pig Out event. Working with the local health authority, developing health and safety plans, contact tracing, keeping guests spaced out and outdoors are all foundational building blocks for putting on events as case numbers and public health restrictions are liable to change at any moment. “We’re a really small team of people that put all of this together. So we’re using that framework as a basis, which was really a lot of work to put together and understand all of the pieces, all of the changes and all of the regulatory bodies,” Busmann said. “We’re using that as a foundation to build and brainstorm and put all of our pieces together. Then we really just have to wait and bend and flex and see what happens within the province.” On Saturday, May 29, 2021 Pig Out Trails attendees will board a dedicated bus adhering to recommended safety protocols including mandatory face masks and hand sanitizer, before heading to the first of four winery stops. The event’s “Escape the Pen” theme will be interpreted in different and unique ways at each of the 40 wineries that feature along 10 different trails, as they create outdoor tasting experiences, aimed at showcasing their wines as well as educating guests in farming and grape growing practices and the art of winemaking. Each stop will also feature a delicious dish prepared by Oliver Eats Ltd., visiting guest chefs, or from select onsite restaurant partners including Terrafina at Hester Creek Estate Winery, Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, the culinary team at Phantom Creek Estates and Masala Bistro at Kismet Estate Winery. A popular addition to last year’s Pig Out Trails, Vancouver’s Paella Guys, will return in 2021 as well. On Friday May 28, two iconic wineries, one on the Black Sage Road Bench and one on the Golden Mile Bench will host “guest chef dinners,” small, outdoor, multi-course feasts prepared by the Paella Guys alongside other notable local and guest chefs and paired with a range of wines from vineyards nearby. Tickets for the Pig Out Trails ($99 per person plus tax) and the Pig Out Guest Chef Dinner ($129 per person plus tax and gratuity) are now available on the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country website: www.oliverosoyoos.com. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
Ahuntsic-Cartierville - Malgré le lancement imminent de la campagne de vaccination de masse contre la COVID-19, les autorités de la santé à Montréal affichent un optimisme prudent à l’approche de la semaine de relâche alors que la transmission de variants progresse rapidement, principalement en milieu scolaire. Aux dernières nouvelles, aucun cas de variant n’avait encore été rapporté dans les écoles d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville. Le Centre de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM) rapporte par ailleurs une baisse de près de 50 % du nombre de cas confirmés dans les écoles du quartier cette semaine avec 31 élèves et 3 membres du personnel infectés en date du 23 février. Il s’agit du niveau le plus bas depuis la fin novembre. Cette baisse reflète le ralentissement de la transmission communautaire observée dans l’arrondissement depuis maintenant six semaines. Dans son plus récent bilan, la Direction régionale de la santé publique (DRSP) fait état de 166 nouveaux cas dans la dernière semaine pour un taux d’incidence de 123,65 nouveaux cas par 100 000 habitants, soit un taux pratiquement identique à celui observé à la fin novembre. Pour la première fois depuis la mi-novembre, on ne rapporte d’ailleurs aucun nouveau décès dans Ahuntsic-Cartierville. L’arrondissement demeure toutefois sensiblement plus chaud que l’ensemble de Montréal, où le taux d’incidence était de 116,48 cas/100 000, et seuls deux secteurs apparaissent encore sur la liste des voisinages ayant les taux d’incidence les plus élevés dans la métropole, sont Ahuntsic (9 cas, 171,59 cas/100 000) et Saint-Sulpice-Ouest (21 cas, 216,72 cas/100 000). Les variants sous la loupe La directrice de la santé publique de Montréal, docteure Mylène Drouin, a souligné que 100 % des résultats de tests positifs sont désormais soumis au criblage, une technique qui permet de détecter les cas associés à des formes mutées du virus, dont la souche B.117, aussi appelée le variant britannique. Elle prévient que le variant britannique, plus contagieuse et plus virulente, pourrait devenir la souche dominante dès la fin mars, si la semaine de relâche donne lieu à une augmentation des contacts sociaux et à un relâchement des mesures sanitaires dans la population. Le variant pourrait également compliquer la gestion des éclosions en milieu fermé, comme celle en cours depuis deux mois à la prison de Bordeaux. Au Centre de détention de Montréal, il ne reste plus qu’une vingtaine de cas actifs liés à l’éclosion, mais la transmission n’est toujours pas entièrement sous contrôle, avec de nouveaux cas déclarés cette semaine dans la population carcérale, mais aussi principalement chez des membres du personnel. Freiner la transmission dans les écoles Après avoir reconnu récemment que la contamination en milieu scolaire jouait un rôle dans la transmission communautaire du virus, Mylène Drouin a indiqué que c’est en milieu scolaire qu’on observait la plus forte contamination avec le nouveau variant. Elle explique que l’objectif premier de la Santé publique est de retarder autant que possible la progression des variants le temps que la campagne de vaccination ne prenne son envol. C’est d’ailleurs dans l’espoir de freiner la transmission du variant dans les écoles que le gouvernement du Québec a décidé d’imposer le port du masque de procédure en classe à tous les niveaux (sauf au préscolaire) dès le retour de la semaine de relâche. Coup d’envoi de la campagne de vaccination C’est donc dans une véritable course contre la montre que s’entame l’opération de vaccination de masse qui débute avec les personnes âgées de 85 ans et plus vivant dans la communauté. Depuis la mi-décembre, 14 200 doses de vaccin ont ainsi été administrées sur le territoire du CIUSSS. L’impact de cette première phase de vaccination se fait d’ailleurs déjà sentir. Éclosions en baisse, hospitalisations sur un plateau descendant En date du 24 février, on ne rapportait en effet plus aucun cas actif dans les CHSLD et résidences privées pour aînés d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville qui ont été aux prises avec des éclosions majeures le mois dernier. Bien que les hospitalisations soient nettement moins élevées qu’il y a un mois, la baisse semble se faire sur un plateau descendant en pente assez lente. Il y avait encore, en date du 24 février, 57 personnes alitées dans les unités COVID des trois centres hospitaliers du Nord de l’Île, soit huit de moins que le 13 février. Par contre, le nombre de personnes aux soins intensifs demeure stable depuis environ un mois, soit autour de 17 cas en moyenne. La Santé publique espère que la vaccination massive des groupes les plus vulnérables permettra de continuer cette tendance à la baisse sur les hospitalisations et limiter le nombre de décès. Pas de solution magique Elle souligne qu’il peut prendre jusqu’à trois semaines à faire effet chez les personnes âgées et que s’il semble assez efficace pour prévenir les formes sévères de la maladie, il est encore trop tôt pour dire s’il réduit de façon significative la transmission. La vaccination n’offrira « pas une protection d’immunité collective du tout » à court terme, précise-t-elle. La couverture vaccinale est actuellement évaluée à 3,5 % de la population montréalaise et à 18% chez les 80 ans et plus. Il faudra donc vraisemblablement plusieurs mois pour atteindre le seuil d’immunité collective de 70 %. Le JDV visitera vendredi l’une des cliniques de vaccination du CIUSSS qui doit ouvrir la semaine prochaine et reviendra prochainement sur les détails concernant l’opération de vaccination. Simon Van Vliet, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal des voisins
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as the province's pandemic indicators continue to improve. A set of proposed changes released Thursday includes doubling capacity limits in stores and restaurants, as well as for personal services, to 50 per cent. Seating at restaurant tables would still be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services could operate at 25 per cent capacity instead of the current 10 per cent. Indoor arcades and outdoor amusement parks could reopen with capacity limits. The few facilities that would have to remain closed include theatres, concert halls and casinos. The cap on outdoor gatherings would rise to 10 people from five. And instead of households being permitted to only designate two people as visitors, the province could allow two-household bubbles so entire families could get together. "Manitoba's case numbers, test positivity rate (and) health-care-system admission rates continue to trend in the right direction, which allows us to consider reopening more services cautiously and safely," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer. The proposed changes could take effect as early as March 5 and are subject to public feedback before any final decisions are made, he said. Changes could also be phased in. Health officials reported 70 new COVID-19 cases and one death Thursday. Three cases from unspecified dates were removed due to data correction for a net increase of 67. The province's case count has dropped sharply since a severe spike in the fall when Manitoba led all the provinces in the per-capita rate of new infections. The strain on intensive care units has eased and the test positivity rate has dropped from 13 per cent to 4.3. The proposed changes could also mean big shifts for sports enthusiasts and players of video lottery terminals. VLTs would be allowed to operate again as long as they were two metres apart or separated by physical barriers. Indoor gyms and fitness facilities could offer group classes again, although with a 25 per cent capacity limit. Roussin said there is a risk in such indoor settings. "There is risk involved with all these things and we're weighing the benefit ... to having businesses open, the benefit for people (of) physical activity," he said. "It's very cautious and 25 per cent capacity, I think, gives us that ability to have people spaced out quite a bit." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
(CBC - image credit) A second worker from the Olymel meatpacking plant in Red Deer has died after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. Henry De Leon, 50, worked at the plant for 15 years. His family told CBC News he died from COVID-19 on Wednesday night, after three weeks on a ventilator in an Edmonton hospital. A father of two adult children and grandfather of three, De Leon tested positive on Jan. 28, his family said and the company confirmed. He was hospitalized first in Red Deer, then transferred to Edmonton, where he died. His death has not yet been linked to the known outbreak at the plant, which ceased operations earlier this month in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The city of Red Deer hit a new record for COVID-19 cases this week, with 574 active cases as of Wednesday. Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak at the plant on Nov. 17. A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the department has only been notified of one death linked to that outbreak, the Jan. 28 death of Darwin Doloque, 35. "If a second death is reported to Alberta Health, we will publicly report it," spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement. He was always happy De Leon's daughter described him as "the happiest and most caring guy," and said he was "the best dad we could ever ask for." Like Doloque and many other employees at Olymel, De Leon immigrated to Canada. He came from the Dominican Republic, and his friend and former neighbour, Patricia Marcado, said he dreamed of returning there in retirement. Marcado said his friend was full of joy and love for his family. "He was a very happy guy," she said. "He cooked, he cleaned. He did everything for his wife. He was the best husband ever, the best dad ever." Patricia Salazar worked with Le Deon for 15 years and spent lunch breaks with him at the same table with other friends — some Canadian, some from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. De Leon's wife, who also works at Olymel, would often join them. "We always sit together at the same table with his wife and other friends," Salazar said. "He was very, very happy all the time." She recalled De Leon showing off photos of his grandchildren, and said De Leon and his wife were "all the time together, wherever they go, in the plant or outside."
OTTAWA — The federal government was granted one more month Thursday to expand access to medical assistance in dying even as its efforts to do so stalled in the House of Commons. Quebec Superior Court Justice Martin Sheehan agreed to give the government a fourth extension — until March 26 — to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 court ruling. But he suggested this will be the last one. Given that the government is close to finally reforming Canada's assisted-dying law, Sheehan said "it is appropriate to grant a final extension to allow it to end." But he added, if the government can't meet the new deadline, "it must be deduced that this incapacity results from a lack of consensus on the sensitive issues raised rather than exceptional circumstances justifying an extension." Sheehan's decision came just one day before the previous deadline was to expire. The 2019 ruling struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural deaths are "reasonably foreseeable." Bill C-7 is intended to bring the law into compliance with the ruling, expanding access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the ends of their lives. However, the bill is stalled in the Commons, where the Conservatives refused for the third straight day Thursday to facilitate debate on a motion laying out the government's response to amendments passed last week by the Senate. Conservative MPs talked out the clock on the motion Tuesday and then refused the unanimous consent needed to extend the debate until midnight, despite calling last week for extended hours to allow thorough debate on the issue. They refused unanimous consent again Wednesday to allow the Commons to sit into the night to wrap up debate on the motion. And they refused unanimous consent again to sit Thursday night. The Bloc Québécois offered to give up its opposition day Thursday, an opportunity for it to set the agenda in the Commons, to allow debate on the motion to continue. The minority Liberal government decided that would be pointless, given the Conservatives' stalling tactics. "Conservatives have twice blocked our proposal that the House sit late to debate this important issue, despite claiming that they want extended hours," Mark Kennedy, a spokesman for government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, said late Wednesday. "Based on this, we now know that Conservatives will continue to obstruct, and cancelling the Bloc opposition day tomorrow will not change anything." The Conservatives were largely opposed to the original bill and object even more strenuously to the amended version the government is now proposing. The bill originally would have imposed a blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses. The government is now proposing a two-year time limit on that exclusion, six months longer than the time limit approved by senators. The government has rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed advance requests for assisted dying, as well as an amendment intended to clarify what constitutes a mental illness. It has accepted a modified version of two others. The Bloc has said it will support the government's response to the Senate amendments, assuring the motion's eventual passage. But until Conservatives agree to wrap up debate, it can't be put to a vote. Once the motion is passed, the bill will still have to go back to the Senate for senators to decide whether to accept the verdict of the elected parliamentary chamber or dig in their heels on their amendments. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
(Google Street View - image credit) An argument over physical distancing in a Nanaimo mall parking lot quickly escalated into a stabbing late Wednesday afternoon. RCMP say a 50-year-old man, his wife and daughter were standing at their car outside the Dollarama in the Port Place shopping centre on Terminal Avenue, when the suspect walked in front of them. The wife reported to police that her daughter, 25, told the suspect he was too close to them and should maintain a six-foot separation, according to a police statement Thursday. "The suspect took exception to this comment and yelled some obscenities at her," the statement says. RCMP say the suspect then struck the father with a metal cup, and when a struggle began, the father was stabbed. He was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The suspect managed to run away but was spotted about an hour later on Gabriola Island where he was arrested at his home, the statement says. The suspect, whose name police are not releasing, is expected in Nanaimo Provincial Court on May 25, to face a charge of assault with a weapon.
WELLINGTON COUNTY – County of Wellington councillors had some thoughts on the possibility of losing the School Resource Officer (SRO) program in light of a soon-to-be completed review by the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB). The UGDSB has been undergoing a review of its police presence through a task force since last year, after receiving questions and concern from the community over treatment of BIPOC students. During Thursday’s county council meeting, Coun. David Anderson said while giving a report on the Police Services Board meeting that Robin Ross, board trustee and task force member, mentioned to him the Wellington County OPP had been very forthcoming with information relating to this program compared to other police departments. Anderson thanked Wellington County OPP detachment commander Insp. Paul Richardson for giving this information and his support for the program. “It’s amazing what these officers are doing for our kids and keeping in touch,” Anderson said. “They’re really helping a lot of kids who need help in our school system.” Minto mayor George Bridge asked how far along this review is because he’s concerned about not having police officers in school. Richardson said this question was timely as he was recently sharing data with UGDSB members to help with their recommendations expected soon. “We certainly value our relationship with the students and the schools and we want to be part of the lives of youth in this community,” Richardson said. “We’re hoping those recommendations support that.” Mapleton mayor Gregg Davidson, also formerly a Halton Region police officer, said in his experience SROs are a necessity. “I remember when this program started...when I was policing and it certainly made a difference,” Davidson said. “It made a difference in the crime in the schools and the lives of the students themselves.” Coun. Doug Breen said as a high school football coach in Guelph, he has seen this program benefit students going down a bad path but acknowledged there is room for improvement. “I absolutely understand concerns with the program and I’m sure if we dig deep enough we’d find some horror stories," he said. “I hope there are things we can do to keep making it better but to knee-jerk throw it out for political reasons I think is a very bad idea.” Coun. Diane Ballantyne, a teacher at Centre Wellington District High School, countered some comments made at the meeting. She said other people’s experiences with police are not the same as those on council. “Questions about the SRO program are not just about 'politics,'” Ballantyne said. “They are about the lived experiences of racialized communities which, again, is not reflected around this particular horseshoe or is our lived experience. I trust the board is gathering input and insight from a variety of diverse voices and they will come to the conclusion that is going to best serve the students in the UGDSB.” The task force is expected to bring forward a recommendation to the UGDSB by the end of March. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responded to an auditor general report from earlier in the day that stated AG Karen Hogan was "very concerned and disheartened" that the Liberal government was unable to meet its commitment to ending all boil water advisories for Indigenous communities. Miller accepted the AG's recommendations and went over the water advisories that have been lifted, as well as the finances secured to work ahead to end all the advisories.
MONTREAL — As Quebec began booking appointments Thursday for its expanded COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the province's health minister said he's in favour of vaccine passports for those who have been fully inoculated. Christian Dube was asked at a news conference whether such passports could be used to allow access to entertainment venues or restaurants. He said yes, drawing a parallel to the time of the H1N1 flu when people were required to provide proof of vaccination before boarding flights. "We're in digital world, I do not see why we could not have a QR code, like on a boarding pass when we fly," Dube said. “For me, a digital vaccine passport is normal, and we have teams that are looking into it." He said he has heard from businesses that would like to be able to check for proof of vaccination before letting people in. The notion of vaccine passports has been debated around the world as vaccinations have increased, but it has also raised ethical issues about possible discrimination. Quebec solidaire member of the legislature Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois criticized Dube's response and urged the government to tread carefully. “The potentially discriminatory effects of a 'vaccination passport' are considerable," Nadeau-Dubois wrote on Twitter. "It's not just about taking a plane or dining out, serious questions arise about access to housing, the right to work, to name just these two examples.” Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's director of public health, said he would not want such a passport to be seen as a free pass. “One of the dangers is that we say we’re vaccinated and we end up in a free-for-all,” Arruda said. "We know it'll protect you, it'll decrease your risk of complications, but it won't necessarily stop transmission to someone else." So far, only about four per cent of Quebecers have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Dube said Moderna has confirmed a shipment for March and the province expects to receive 700,000 doses in total, so it will be able to begin providing second doses as of March 15, falling within the 90-day limit the government set out in January. Inoculation is set to ramp up next week with vaccinations for anyone 85 and up in the Montreal area beginning Monday and elsewhere on March 8. In the Montreal suburb of Laval, some people in the designated age group were already getting shots Thursday. Dube tweeted at the end of the day that close to 100,000 people had signed up for appointments on the first day, and he said there were just minor issues with the online platform and phone booking system. Also Thursday, Quebec announced it will require elementary school students in regions hardest hit by COVID-19 to wear masks when they return from next week's March break, as the cases of the more transmissible COVID-19 variants continue to rise. Across the province, the number of suspected cases of coronavirus variants jumped to 772, an increase of 170. The number of cases confirmed through sequencing increased to 34, including 30 of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom. Arruda said that during the fall, outbreaks were seen mostly in high schools. But since Christmas more cases are being detected in primary schools. The Health Department said students in Grades 1 to 6 will wear pediatric procedural masks at all times inside classrooms and on school transport in Quebec's red pandemic-alert zones, which include Montreal and Quebec City. The new health orders comes into effect March 8, when students return from break. The province will be providing masks to the students, as it has done since Jan. 18 in high schools, where masks are mandatory. In elementary schools, only students in Grades 5 and 6 were previously required to wear masks in class. Health officials said certain students with special needs will be exempt from the new health order, and it won't apply when children are outside playing. On Wednesday, Montreal's public health director said 40 per cent of cases linked to variants in Montreal involve children, with another 20 per cent involving people in their mid-30s to mid-40s, believed to be parents of young children. As of Wednesday, there were 2,403 active cases in schools and 907 closed classrooms across the province due to COVID-19. Twelve schools were listed as closed or partially closed. Meanwhile, Quebec reported 858 new COVID-19 cases and 16 more deaths attributed to the virus. Hospitalizations declined by 22 to 633 and there were eight fewer patients listed in intensive care, for a total of 122. Quebec has reported 285,330 confirmed cases and 10,361 deaths attributed to the virus, with 266,879 people listed as recovered. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Environment Haliburton! (EH) attracted hundreds of people Feb. 9 for a discussion on blue-green algae blooms. Dr. Elizabeth Favot, an assistant lake stewardship coordinator with the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, spoke to blooms and her research into how they form. The discussion also featured additional commentary from ecosystem management professor, Barb Elliot, and environmental scientist Dr. Norman Yan. Approximately 300 people registered for the session. Favot said blooms can be caused by several factors, including nutrient runoff such as phosphorus reaching lakes, shifting lake levels and climate change. She said more research is needed to account for some lakes experiencing blooms without many changes in nutrient levels. “Nutrients are of course critically important to support blooms, but in terms of the drivers or triggers, they are not always the entire story,” Favot said. The presentation comes after the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks confirmed blue-green algae blooms in six Haliburton lakes last fall, though none showed toxin levels above the drinking water standard. However, Favot said a precautious approach is normally used to assume they are producing toxins given some uncertainty around what conditions lead to toxins. The presentation highlighted every aspect of blue-green algae, more technically known as cyanobacteria. Favot discussed how blooms are becoming increasingly common in Ontario and how they can create toxins that are potentially deadly if consumed. Favot said although nutrient runoff is a significant factor, there are other reasons for the increase, such as climate change causing temperature and conditional changes in lakes which can help blue-green algae thrive. Her doctorate examined the causes of blooms in the approximately 26 per cent of lakes globally with a low phosphorus concentration. “Even if nutrients have not increased, blooms can still occur in a modern climate,” Favot said. “Climate change is lowering critical nutrient thresholds for blue-green algae blooms to occur.” But Favot said from a management perspective, people should utilize terrestrial plants to filter nutrient runoff. “What we can do to mitigate them is relatively straightforward,” Favot said. “We need to keep nutrient concentrations in lakes as natural as possible.” Elliott agreed. Speaking to a question about the importance of natural shorelines, Elliott compared them to a Jenga game, and how taking away natural parts from shorelines repeatedly can make them unstable. “I liken it to death by a thousand cuts,” Elliott said. “When we make those changes, it just creates the potential for there to be more impacts because of that activity. We have to try to keep it as natural as we can.” Although about 300 people registered, only 100 people watched live due to technical issues with Zoom, the online platform used. “It is a shame there was a wrinkle in our Zoom plans,” EH! President Susan Hay said. “I’m sorry for those who joined late because you couldn’t get in earlier.” The full presentation is available on the EH Youtube channel. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
TORONTO — Ontario's explanation that ongoing tests are delaying the launch of its vaccine-booking web portal doesn't carry water for experts, who said Thursday that the province should have begun those trials months ago. The website – set to launch in mid-March when residents aged 80 and older can start getting vaccinated against COVID-19 – has already been piloted, but the government said it won't go live until the province is sure it can withstand the large volume of requests expected. Experts said, however, that the government should have been able to have the site up and running earlier. Similar sites are already up and running in provinces such as Quebec and Alberta, though the web portal for the latter crashed Wednesday when 150,000 people visited it at once. It's since been restored. Elsewhere, such as in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, the websites won't launch until March. Nancy Walton, a professor of nursing at Ryerson University with a specialization in mobile technologies, said Ontario has had plenty of time to plan its vaccine rollout and could have launched the web portal well in advance of the appointments that will be booked through it. "Rolling out that plan and setting up an online portal with a call centre ahead of time seems reasonable," she said. There are a number of things the government must take into account when building such a system, not the least of which is accessibility, she said. People who are not particularly tech savvy – including those who are older and didn't grow up around computers – should be able to navigate the system intuitively, she said, noting that could tack on time to the development process. Eyal de Lara, a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, said the site also has to be accessible to people with disabilities – and specifically must work with screen readers used by people who are blind. That tends to be lower on the to-do list for private corporations building websites, rightly or wrongly, he said. The province's site also should be accessible to people who don't speak English or French as a first language, he noted. From a technical standpoint, he said, concerns about the site crashing are legitimate but can be dealt with. "It's not an impossible task, of course, but it is a complex task," de Lara said, pointing to initial problems with the Obamacare website launch in the U.S. as an example. That site wasn't engineered properly to be able to handle a huge influx of traffic, he said, making it impossible to use. Ontario is right to put time and effort into widescale testing of its web portal, though it could have started on that process sooner, he said. The province also has to make sure the site is incredibly secure, given the sensitive nature of health-care information, not to mention privacy laws. "It's a potential target for attacks, and actually doing a proper security review takes time," de Lara said. "This type of application is not something that you can just put together in a couple of weeks... It's clearly a task that will take several months to do." The head of the province's vaccine task force, retired general Rick Hillier, said his team is "furiously working" to test and refine the website so it can launch on March 15. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that the government wanted to ensure the system won't crash when it goes live. "We don't want to rush to failure," she said. Elliott also said it "will probably take another short while" to get vaccinations started for those aged 80 and older after they book their appointments through the portal as the province has to first vaccinate those in the highest-priority groups, such as long-term care. The province also plans to launch a phone line alongside its web portal in mid-March. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Facebook Inc ended a one-week blackout of Australian news on its popular social media site on Friday and announced preliminary commercial agreements with three small local publishers. The moves reflected easing tensions between the U.S. company and the Australian government, a day after the country's parliament passed a law forcing it and Alphabet Inc's Google to pay local media companies for using content on their platforms. The new law makes Australia the first nation where a government arbitrator can set the price Facebook and Google pay domestic media to show their content if private negotiations fail.
(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press - image credit) As the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients rises, so too does the need for ventilators — and the people who know how they work. And that, according to one union, is an urgent problem. The Association of Allied Health Professionals, which represents respiratory therapists, says their members were already stretched thin prior to the pandemic. It penned a scathing open letter to the Liberal government Thursday, claiming the union's pleas for help have been roundly ignored. "It's not access to ventilators, but access to the respiratory therapists needed to operate them that's the real risk right now," the letter said. Union president Gordon Piercey told CBC News he's hearing from some of the 60 respiratory therapists in Newfoundland and Labrador, worried about how the province will handle a spike in people admitted for breathing issues. "They worry about their patients. They worry about their coworkers working that night shift, and they're worried about what they're going to face the next morning when they go in," Piercey said. "We are really concerned about what the plan is. If we have increased hospitalizations due to COVID, what that will look like." Gordon Piercey, president of the union that represents the province's 60 respiratory therapists, says many of them fear the worst if hospitalizations continue to rise. There aren't any contingencies he's aware of if those therapists are sent to quarantine or fall ill themselves, he says. Piercey says his members often work 12-hour shifts without a break, running between departments. If enough of them are forced to stay home, he wonders how treatment could continue. "They will do the work, probably to their own detriment, their own ... mental health and wellbeing," he said. "But that's not good enough." As an outbreak in the most populous part of the province continues to spread coronavirus variant B117, patients have found themselves facing delays when seeking emergency care. Eastern Health has said its staff at Health Sciences Centre in St. John's is pushed to its limits this week, as COVID patients flock there for treatment and upwards of 300 health-care workers remain in isolation. For weeks prior to the outbreak, the province had no more than one person in the hospital at a time. Now it has ten, according to the Department of Health, with five of those in intensive care. Therapists fear worst-case scenario Staffing shortages continue to plague the regional health authorities, with some medical workers told they may be summoned to fill gaps left by those completing a quarantine period. It's especially noticeable in long-term care centres, like Pleasantview Towers in St. John's, said Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Association of N.L. "They are looking at people with skill mix," said Coffey. "They are looking at people with the experience to redeploy back to Pleasantview Towers." "We've been a year into this pandemic and we feel like some of these conversations probably should have happened before this," Piercey said, indicating that the union wrote to the premier's office Monday to request a discussion. "It's now after lunch on Thursday and we still haven't heard a thing ... I've never experienced us treated that way by any former administration of government." Later Thursday afternoon, the premier's office issued a statement to CBC News, saying Premier Andrew Furey and Health Minister John Haggie — both in caretaker roles until votes are counted in March — had acknowledged the union's concerns and offered to set up a meeting. "We are happy to meet as representatives of the Liberal Party," the statement said, "respecting the caretaker government convention currently in place." "I think everyone's worst-case scenario right now is this pandemic accelerating to a point where health-care resources are going to become very, very strained," Piercey said. "We want to have this conversation ... And we don't want to be caught in a situation where we're trying to catch up after things have gone astray." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Dysart et al council expressed concerns with a Places for People proposal to turn Lakeview Motel into a new affordable housing development. City of Kawartha Lakes (CKL) housing program supervisor, Michelle Corley, presented to council Feb. 23 about the proposal to rehabilitate the motel into 15 affordable housing units, including 12 bachelor suites. As part of the CKL-Haliburton affordable housing program, Corley sought approximately $45,268 from Dysart in waived building fees and exemptions. But council delayed approval for staff to review the plan further. Mayor Andrea Roberts said they only have about $10,000 that could be used for affordable housing in the 2021 budget under economic development. “Very large contribution. We don’t have any reserves for that,” Roberts said. The proposal is part of an overarching Affordable Housing Target Program, spurring development with government incentives. Corley said the project is also contingent on a $150,000 interest-free forgivable loan from the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative. The project is separate from an affordable build Places for People is also proposing on Wallings Road municipal land, which Dysart council provided in-principal support for. Coun. John Smith said the Wallings Road project is more aligned with the municipal vision. He said he takes issue with converting the motel, given the need for summer tourism accommodations. “I struggle with, on a conceptual level, how this really advances the wellbeing of our community,” Smith said. Roberts said they cannot get into that philosophy and council’s responsibility is to examine what Dysart’s contribution should be. The Lakeview Motel went on the market in November, with its owners planning to retire. Coun. Larry Clarke said he was concerned about whether the development would provide for locals versus being taken up by people from outside the community through the housing program, which has a waiting list with both County and CKL residents. “To have it targeted for people looking for affordable housing, that are not going to be part of our economy here, to me is a concern,” Clarke said. Corley said people on the waiting list often choose communities they are familiar with, but it is not a guarantee. She further said council should keep in mind they plan to have a quarterly intake, with more projects to come. The County aims to create 750 new affordable units within the next 10 years. “We are really trying to work hard toward meeting and achieving these targets,” she said. “There’s the hope we can eventually have a plan within budgets or other planning and development policies that when it comes to affordable housing, there’s kind of a clear standard on what incentives could be offered.” Roberts said she wants to get clarification from staff around the equivalent residential unit (ERU) calculation. The development is requesting an exemption for adding seven additional ERUs, amounting to $32,900. Council voted to receive the report. Roberts asked staff to bring it back to the next committee of the whole meeting March 9. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
BERLIN — Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored late to steer Arsenal into the last 16 of the Europa League with a 3-2 win over Benfica on Thursday, while Napoli and both German teams were knocked out. Arsenal had to come from behind to advance 4-3 on aggregate, while Napoli is out despite beating Granada 2-1 in the second leg. The modest Spanish club surprisingly advanced 3-2 on aggregate. “The dream continues!” Granada midfielder Luis Milla said on Twitter. Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim went out with 2-0 losses at home to Swiss side Young Boys and Norwegian minnow Molde, respectively. "A huge disappointment," Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz said after losing 6-3 on aggregate. Manchester United drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad for a 4-0 aggregate win, and Milan progressed on away goals, 3-3 on aggregate, after drawing 1-1 at home with Red Star Belgrade. Goals from Lukas Provod and Abdallah Sima in the second half gave Slavia Prague a 2-0 win at Leicester to progress after their goalless first leg. Roma had little difficulty getting past Sporting Braga with a 3-1 win at home for 5-1 over two legs. AUBAMEYANG’S LATE DECIDER Aubameyang scored twice for Arsenal, including the decisive 87th-minute winner just as the Gunners were poised to go out on the away goals rule despite playing both games abroad due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. The teams played the second leg in Athens while the first leg ended 1-1 in Rome after Benfica’s home game was relocated from Portugal. Aubameyang opened the scoring in the 21st, finishing clinically after Bukayo Saka played him through. Diogo Gonçalves equalized with a perfectly placed free kick inside the top left corner in the 43rd. A mistake from Dani Ceballos gifted Benfica its second goal after an Arsenal corner in the 61st. Benfica goalkeeper Helton Leite produced a long kick out that Ceballos tried heading back to his own goalkeeper, but only inadvertently laid it off for Rafa Silva, who rounded Bernd Leno before finishing into the empty net. It was just the Portuguese team’s second effort on target on the night. But left back Kieran Tierney replied with a strike inside the far post in the 67th after showing good composure to elude a Benfica defender, and Aubameyang completed the turnaround with a close-range header to the 19-year-old Saka’s cross. “We never seem to do it the easy way,” Tierney said. UNITED YOUNGSTER MAKES BOW Shola Shoretire came on as a substitute to become Manchester United's youngest player in European competition. Aged 17 years, 23 days, Shoretire replaced previous record holder Norman Whiteside. Sociedad captain Mikel Oyarzabal missed a good chance to start an unlikely comeback when he sent a penalty high and wide in the 13th minute, and United did enough thereafter to keep the visitors from getting into the game. United defender Axel Tuanzebe thought he scored his first senior goal midway through the second half, but it was disallowed as teammate Victor Lindelöf had crashed with his knee into Jon Bautista’s head while jumping for the ball. The Swedish defender was booked after a VAR review. TRIBUTE FOR TA BI Milan forward Franck Kessié paid tribute to Atalanta youth player Willy Ta Bi after scoring his penalty early against Red Star Belgrade. The 21-year-old Ta Bi died of cancer on Tuesday. Kessié held up a shirt with the text “To God, champion.” Mirko Ivanic played a brilliant pass for forward Ben to equalize in the 24th, two minutes after he hit the crossbar with a free kick. Belgrade defender Marko Gobeljic, who had conceded the penalty early on, was sent off with his second yellow card in the 70th as his team was chasing the goal it needed to get through. EINDHOVEN OUT, AJAX THROUGH Egyptian forward Kouka scored late for Olympiakos to knock PSV Eindhoven out despite a 2-1 defeat. The Greek team won 5-4 on aggregate. Ajax progressed with a 2-1 win over Lille (4-2 on aggregate), Rangers cruised through with a 5-2 win over Belgian team Antwerp (9-5), Shakhtar Donetsk beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 (3-0), Villarreal defeated Salzburg 2-1 (4-1), Dinamo Zagreb beat Krasnodar 1-0 (4-2), and Dynamo Kyiv won 1-0 at Club Brugge to progress 2-1 on aggregate. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP CiaráN Fahey, The Associated Press
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A former Canadian soldier who killed three family members and himself in 2017 received sporadic mental health treatment immediately after he left the military in 2015, a fatality inquiry heard Thursday. The provincial inquiry in Nova Scotia learned the Canadian Armed Forces had arranged for therapy to continue for Lionel Desmond after he was medically discharged. But the lack of structure outside the military created new challenges for the mentally ill veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Psychologist Mathieu Murgatroyd, who worked at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, was tasked with providing the former corporal with treatment from June 2015 to October 2016. The psychologist said there were problems from the start because Desmond, then 32, often cancelled appointments or didn't show up. Plans for therapy were derailed by the fact that Desmond spent much of his time travelling between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where he was trying to re-establish a relationship with his wife, Shanna, and his young daughter, Aaliyah. "In terms of commitment and engagement, it was interfering with the therapy process," Murgatroyd testified. "We were concerned with this inconsistency." Murgatroyd said it was clear Desmond needed help. In 2011, while posted to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. That was four years after he served as a rifleman during a particularly violent tour of duty in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, mental health professionals contracted by the military told the inquiry that Desmond initially responded well to treatment, but that he suffered a relapse in May 2013 when military colleagues subjected him to racist comments about his African Nova Scotian heritage. Murgatroyd testified that Desmond appeared guarded and distant when they first met in June 2015 at the federally funded clinic, which receives referrals from the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and the RCMP. "Based on his presentation, the risk was more elevated in terms of spiralling down," Murgatroyd said. As well, he said Desmond made it clear his relationship with his wife, Shanna, was in turmoil. "There were moments when they seemed to be doing better, but for the most part, strained," he said, adding that Desmond had increased his alcohol consumption to deal with stress. Murgatroyd recalled that during their first treatment session, Desmond complained about nightmares, night sweats, daily intrusive thoughts, disturbed sleep, chronic pain and "homicidal thoughts without intent." "He hardly gets out of his house because of his paranoia," Murgatroyd noted after an early therapy session in 2015. Desmond said he had suffered a number of head injuries while serving in the military, and that he worried about a possible brain injury. The inquiry has heard the former corporal did not disclose this concern while he was in the military. Though Desmond was under Murgatroyd's care for 16 months, the psychologist said his therapeutic plan never got off the ground. "We were just putting out fires rather than working on any real intervention," he said. He said it appeared Desmond's source of psychological distress eventually shifted from his combat-related PTSD symptoms to an angry "fixation" with his wife's handling of their finances and concerns that she may be cheating on him. Murgatroyd said Desmond told him about gruesome nightmares he had that suggested his wife had been sleeping with another man, whose head was later found on the floor. The psychologist agreed when asked if Desmond's dreams were having an impact on his perception of reality. Murgatroyd said that helped explain why Desmond would later revoke his consent to allow the clinic to share information with his wife. Eventually, staff at the clinic decided therapy for Desmond wasn't an option until he was properly stabilized. They recommended he should take part in an intensive treatment program at Ste. Anne's hospital in Montreal, which has an in-patient operational stress injury clinic. By April 2016, Desmond had agreed to go to Ste. Anne's, having recognized that his relationship with his wife was deteriorating amid talk of divorce, Murgatroyd said. The following month, Desmond reached "an all-time low," Murgatroyd said, adding that his patient was distressed about the state of his finances and the idea his wife was manipulative and could not be trusted. "With things spiralling down, he was looking for help." Desmond arrived at St. Anne's on May 30, 2016, but he left less than three months into a six-month program, even though he had reported he was enjoying his stay there, Murgatroyd said. The inquiry has heard that Desmond returned home to Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., in August 2016. Evidence presented to the inquiry has shown Desmond received no therapeutic treatment for the next four months, even though Murgatroyd and Veterans Affairs Canada were making arrangements for treatment in Nova Scotia. Staff at Ste. Anne's had recommended Desmond receive an in-depth neuro-psychological assessment and more treatment, but that never happened. On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a semi-automatic rifle. Later that day, he fatally shot his 31-year-old wife, their 10-year-daughter and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before killing himself in the family's home. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax The Canadian Press
The City of Terrace is reaching out to the Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson in the wake of councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller’s resignation and allegations of systemic racism. At a Feb. 25 committee of the whole meeting, councillors unanimously agreed to direct staff to review its current policies and pursue an independent review by the ombudsperson’s office, which investigates complaints about public agencies in B.C. Should the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson decline the invitation, city staff have the flexibility to look into other bodies to conduct an independent review. “We unfortunately live in a society where systemic racism exists, accusations of systemic racism need to be taken very seriously, I think that having a conversation about systemic racism and the ways we can all improve and work towards diversity is important and timely,” said councillor Sean Bujtas during the meeting. McCallum-Miller, the youngest and first Indigenous councillor in Terrace’s history, resigned on Feb. 22. She said in a Facebook post that she questioned whether truth and reconciliation was a priority for council. “It is my personal belief that systemic and internalized racism as well as sexism had played a role in the inability of my colleagues to respect and understand my personal and diverse perspectives,” McCallum-Miller said in the post which was addressed to the City of Terrace. In the post, McCallum-Miller said she attempted to have council partake in cultural awareness training twice, and felt unheard and spoken over. Carol Leclerc, Terrace mayor, said during the committee of the whole meeting that council voted unanimously to partake in cultural education training from the Kitimaat Valley Education Society, which operates the Kitimat Valley Institute (KVI) on March 9, 2020 but that the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the session. “Right after that, COVID came, we did not know how long COVID was going to be, we wanted to do this face-to-face so we thought we would just hold off on our cultural awareness training and it wasn’t able to take place,” she said. In January 2021, councillor James Cordeiro proposed the training again and staff arranged for council to take Diversity and Inclusion virtually through KVI on March 18. Diversity and Inclusion is a six hour workshop with an instructor using the Microsoft Teams platform. “It wasn’t long after that councillor McCallum-Miller decided that she would like to put out to the rest of council that it be a Tsimshian cultural training session and there was some discussion that happened over email about the notice of motion that was going to come to our Monday meeting on February 22,” Leclerc said. “Unfortunately councillor McCallum-Miller brought in her letter of resignation on February 22 and the notice of motion for the Tsimshian portion did not reach the council table at that time.” Terrace council is committed to participating in cultural education training on March 18 with the Kitimaat Valley Education Society if the time slot is still available. Leclerc said she has reached out to Kitselas First Nation Chief Councillor Judy Gerow and Kitsumkalum First Nation Chief Councillor Don Roberts about McCallum-Miller’s resignation. City staff are working with Saša Loggin, project director at the Skeena Diversity Society, part of the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network, to bring a presentation to council at an upcoming meeting. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
NEW YORK — Another mutated version of the coronavirus has popped up in New York City, and experts reacted to the the news with a mixture of caution and concern. The new variant first appeared in the New York area in late November, and has since cropped up in neighbouring states, according to researchers at the California Institute of Technology, one of two teams to share their work this week. But how problematic the variant may be isn’t known yet. Viruses are constantly mutating — or making typos in their genetic code — as they spread and make copies of themselves. “Most are not of particular concern,” said Francois Balloux, director of the University College London’s Genetics Institute. However, he added, “Noticing them early, flagging them, raising concern is useful." That's because some genetic tweaks can be worrisome, especially if they help the virus spread more easily, make it more deadly or curb the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists use genome sequencing and other research to figure out which are a potential problem. New York City health officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday sought to tamp down worries about the new variant, emphasizing that the new research is preliminary and little is known about the variant. “Some variants are just that, they’re variants.” said Dr. Jay Varma, senior health adviser to the mayor. WHAT DID THEY FIND IN NEW YORK? Two research groups — at Caltech and Columbia University in New York — released papers this week describing their findings about the new variant. Neither paper has been published or reviewed by other scientists. The Caltech researchers found that the new variant showed up in about a quarter of the 1,200 virus sequences they looked at this month. The variant has also shown up in New Jersey and Connecticut and has made “isolated appearances across the country,” said CalTech's Anthony West, a co-author of the paper. On Thursday, Columbia University researchers released their research that scrutinized about 1,100 virus samples from patients treated at the university's medical centre, dating back to November. During the second week of February, the new variant was identified in 12% of the samples, they reported. They also found patients infected with the mutated virus were more likely to be older and have been hospitalized. Both groups noted that the new variant has a mutation that could potentially weaken the effectiveness of vaccines — a mutation seen in other worrisome variants. “There is clearly something to keep an eye on,” Balloux said. HOW MANY OTHER VARIANTS ARE THERE? New variants have been showing up throughout the pandemic, but three are considered the most worrisome — they've been designated “variants of concern." They were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil but have spread to other countries. The one identified in the U.K. late last year has since been found in 45 U.S. states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain is concerning because it has so many mutations, nearly two dozen. Some are on the spiky protein that the virus uses to attach to and infect cells — and that current vaccines and antibody drugs target. One of the spike protein mutations is seen in the variants discovered early on in Brazil and South Africa, and, now, the new variant in New York. A variant that has been spreading in California is also getting attention. It's been found in 40% to 50% of samples examined by the Los Angeles Count Department of Public Health, according to Director Barbara Ferrer. But there isn't enough rigorous research to determine what, if any, effect its mutations might have. WHAT'S NEXT? After what many described as a slow start, the federal government in recent weeks has ramped up its genetic sequencing to look for and study virus variants to figure out which ones might be a problem. In the meantime, Ana S. Gonzalez Reiche, a virologist at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, urged caution. “Without evidence, we don’t need to alarm ourselves about every variant detected,” she said. Studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don’t work as well against a variant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions. In response, drug companies are already figuring out how to modify their vaccines. Experts say that in the meantime, public health measures like social distancing and masks will reduce opportunities for the coronavirus to continue mutating and run rampant. “Emerging of variants will occur," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC on Thursday. "The trick is when they do occur, to prevent them from spreading.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marion Renault, The Associated Press
CALGARY — Pembina Pipeline Corp. is reporting a $1.2 billion net fourth-quarter loss thanks mainly to $1.6 billion in non-cash after-tax impairment charges on its proposals to build an Alberta petrochemical plant and Oregon LNG export facility. The Calgary-based company said in December it and joint venture partner Petrochemical Industries Co. of Kuwait had decided to halt work on an integrated propane dehydration plant and polypropylene upgrading facility near Edmonton. Pembina has a 50 per cent interest in the project designed to turn propane into plastic pellets, similar to the nearby $4 billion Heartland Petrochemical Complex under construction by rival Inter Pipeline Ltd. It says it is also taking a charge against its proposed Jordan Cove LNG Project at Coos Bay, Ore., and a related natural gas supply pipeline in light of "regulatory and political uncertainty." The project received tentative Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval last year but hasn't been able to secure a required clean water permit from the state. Pembina says it thinks both projects are sound but it is taking the impairment charges because it can't reasonably forecast when they will be built. "We believe the time for these projects may come; however, we can sadly no longer predict with certainty when that time will be and hence were compelled to reflect their impairments in our 2020 financial statements through a non-cash charge," it said in a news release. It says its fourth-quarter earnings would have been $338 million excluding the impairments and the associated deferred tax recovery. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:PPL) The Canadian Press