From the frontlines in the COVID-19 fight, a BC doctor is making an emotional appeal for others to take the virus seriously. It comes after the North Vancouver doctor lost three patients in a single weekend to the virus. Jordan Armstrong.
From the frontlines in the COVID-19 fight, a BC doctor is making an emotional appeal for others to take the virus seriously. It comes after the North Vancouver doctor lost three patients in a single weekend to the virus. Jordan Armstrong.
WASHINGTON — Easing off a stalemate, the Senate moved forward Tuesday with a power-sharing agreement in the evenly-split chamber after Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed off his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the procedural tool known as the filibuster. The stand-off between McConnell and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had all but ground the Senate to a halt in the early days of the Democratic majority and threatened President Joe Biden's agenda. Schumer refused to meet McConnell's demands. “I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said Tuesday as he opened the chamber. “My only regret is it took so long because we have a great deal we need to accomplish.” While the crisis appeared to have resolved, for now, the debate over the filibuster — the procedural tool that requires a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation — is far from over. Progressive Democrats see the tool as an outdated relic that can be used by the minority Republican Party under McConnell to derail Biden's agenda, and they want to do away with it. They point to the way the filibuster was wielded during the 20th century to stall civil rights legislation, and warn of a repeat. Democrats control 50 votes in the split chamber, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, and Biden's allies would typically need Republican senators to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance Democratic priorities on COVID-19 relief, immigration or other issues. Even as he dropped his demand, McConnell warned Tuesday of all the ways the Senate business could still be tied in knots if Democrats try to press on with plans to pursue changes to the filibuster. “They would guarantee themselves immediate chaos,” McConnell warned. “Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.” Usually a routine matter, the organizing resolution for the chamber became a power play by McConnell once Democrats swept to control after the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia and the new senators took the oath of office after Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. McConnell had been holding up the organizing agreement, which divides up committee assignments and other resources, as he tried to extract a promise from Schumer of no changes to the filibuster. Schumer would not meet the Republican leader's demands, but McConnell said late Monday he had essentially accomplished his goal after two Democratic senators said they would not agree to end the filibuster. Without their votes, Schumer would be unable to change the rules. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell said in a statement. He was referring to West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema who have expressed reservations about doing away with the tool. Schumer's office said the Republican leader had no choice but to set aside his demands. “We’re glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand," said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for the Democratic leader. "We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.” But the debate over the filibuster, which has increasingly become weaponized as a tool to thwart the opposite party’s agenda, is far from over. A decade ago, then-Democratic majority leader Harry Reid ended the 60-vote threshold to confirm some judicial and executive branch nominees during the Obama administration that were being blocked by Republicans. Reid told The Associated Press recently that Biden should waste little time testing Republican’s willingness to work with him before eliminating the filibuster. He gave it three weeks. McConnell during the last administration upped the ante, and did away with the 60-vote threshold to confirm President Donald Trump's three nominees to the Supreme Court. He wanted to prevent Schumer from taking it to the next level and ending the filibuster for legislation. The details of the rest of the organizing resolution are expected to proceed largely as they did the last time the Senate was evenly divided, in 2001, with any immediate changes to the filibuster, at this stage, appearing to be off the table. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet's battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island's air defence zone over the weekend. Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been on edge since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with a U.S. carrier group entering the South China Sea. The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles jets to intercept China's air force.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
Canada's natural resources minister accused the Opposition of beating their chests in a show of support for the oil and gas industry, during an emergency debate in the House of Commons regarding the Keystone XL pipeline expansion project Monday evening. "Do we, as some are suggesting, start a trade war with our closest ally and largest trading partner, with the single largest customer for Canadian crude? ... I have not yet heard a single argument that would convince me a trade war is in the best interests of our oil and gas workers," Seamus O'Regan said. O'Regan said the new U.S. administration represents an opportunity to work together with a government aligned with Canada's priorities on clean energy, pointing to TC Energy — the Calgary-based company behind the Keystone project — committing to buying renewable energy to achieve net zero emissions. Last week, on his first day in office, U.S. President Joe Biden scrapped the pipeline's permit as one of multiple actions intended to fight climate change, effectively killing the $8-billion US project. If completed, the 1,897-kilometre pipeline expansion project, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of oilsands crude from Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska, where it would then connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Opposition Leader Erin O'Toole called for the debate earlier on Monday, accusing the government of not doing enough to advocate for the expansion. During the evening's debate, which stretched until just past midnight in Ottawa, O'Toole described empty office towers and job losses in Calgary. "Canada has been dealt a serious blow … these are Canadians, thousands of them, being totally forgotten and left behind by this government," he said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has repeatedly said it supports the project, and Trudeau expressed his disappointment with Biden during a call between the two nations' leaders on Friday. "We will stand up and have our workers' backs.… Let's talk TMX. We approved it, we bought it, we're building it," O'Regan said, referring to the federal purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is under construction. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has called for sanctions against the U.S. in response to the permit's cancellation. Kenney's government invested $1.5 billion Cdn in equity in the project alongside billions in loan guarantees.The provincial opposition NDP is calling on the Alberta government to release documents containing details of that deal, calling it a risky one. The project had been rejected under former president Barack Obama's government. It was later approved under former president Donald Trump, but Biden had repeatedly stated he intended to rescind that permit once elected. Canada's ambassador to the U.S. has said it's time to respect that decision, however disappointing it may be to proponents, and move forward. WATCH | Keystone XL pipeline project 'appears to be dead,' says Rachel Notley Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson said Biden's decision should have come as no surprise given Biden's opposition and legal challenges of the project. "Remember when Jason Kenney gambled on Donald Trump. He didn't gamble his money — he gambled ours … that was his plan to get jobs for workers in my province," she said. "Now, he wants to start a trade war with the U.S., the customer for 95 per cent of our energy exports." Lakeland Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said while the decision did not come as a shock, it underlines that Canada is in a vulnerable position when it comes to its energy industry as the U.S. has increased domestic production. "With the stroke of a pen thousands of people are out of work in the middle of a global crisis ... Canadians whose livelihoods depend on the oil and gas sector are rightfully anxious about their future," she said. O'Regan referred to climate change as an "existential crisis." "The market has an important role here. It is the leading role in determining how investment decisions should be made, but it is our government's duty to set the parameters on that and to incent what we believe to be extraordinarily important goals, namely net-zero emissions by 2050. That is the goal we have set for ourselves, and many of our friends, colleagues and competitors around the world have also set that goal for themselves. This is an existential crisis, there is no question." It's also an economic crisis for the many people across the country who worry they may be left behind, he said. "We cannot allow that to happen." Former Green Party Leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May said it would be extremely unfair to say those who think the Keystone expansion cancellation was a good decision don't care about workers losing their jobs. "I would no more say that people who are supporting the oilsands are deliberately and consciously threatening my grandchildrens' future than I would say it's right to be celebrating when people suffer an immediate downturn in their economic prospects."
WASHINGTON — The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden's dogs Champ and Major. The two German shepherds are the first pets to live at the executive mansion since the Obama administration. Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association. Champ joined the family after the 2008 presidential election that made Joe Biden vice-president. The dogs moved into the White House on Sunday, following Biden's inauguration last week. “The first family wanted to get settled before bringing the dogs down to Washington from Delaware,” said Michael LaRosa, spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden. “Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace and Major loved running around on the South Lawn.” The dogs were heard barking outside near the Oval Office on Monday as Biden signed an executive order lifting the previous administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military. Last week, the Delaware Humane Association cosponsored an “indoguration” virtual fundraiser to celebrate Major's journey from shelter pup to first dog. More than $200,000 was raised. Major is the first shelter dog to ever live in the White House and “barking proof that every dog can live the American dream," the association said. The Bidens had promised to bring the dogs with them to the White House. They plan to add a cat, though no update on the feline's arrival was shared on Monday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki predicted, while on video answering questions from members of the public, that the cat will “dominate the internet” when it arrives. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, a self-described germaphobe, does not own any pets and had none with him at the White House. Just like they do for ordinary people, pets owned by the most powerful people in the world provide their owners with comfort, entertainment, occasional drama and generally good PR. “Pets have played an important role in the White House throughout the decades, not only by providing companionship to the presidents and their families, but also by humanizing and softening their political images,” said Jennifer Pickens, author of a book about pets at the White House. Pets also serve as ambassadors to the White House, she said. Pickens added that she hoped the Bidens' decision to bring a rescue dog to the White House might inspire others to adopt. President Theodore Roosevelt had Skip, who is described by the White House Historical Association as a “short-legged Black and Tan mongrel terrier brought home from a Colorado bear hunt.” Warren G. Harding had Laddie Boy, who sat in on meetings and had his own Cabinet chair. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his beloved terrier Fala. At night, Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed. More recently, George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel Millie was featured on “The Simpsons” and starred in a bestseller, “Millie’s Book: As dictated to Barbara Bush.” Hillary Clinton followed Bush’s lead with a children’s book about family dog Buddy and cat Socks: “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” When he declared victory in the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama told his daughters: “You have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.” Several months later, Bo joined the family, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. A few years later, fellow Portuguese water dog Sunny arrived. Among the stranger White House pets was Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge’s raccoon Rebecca. She was given to the Coolidge family by a supporter who suggested the raccoon be served for Thanksgiving dinner, according to the White House Historical Association. But instead she got an embroidered collar with the title “White House Raccoon” and entertained children at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Some notable pets belonged to first kids, including Amy Carter’s Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, and Caroline Kennedy’s pony Macaroni. The Kennedy family had a veritable menagerie, complete with dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa. President Harry Truman famously said that “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — and many successors have followed Truman's advice. The first President Bush once said, “There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to help you get through the rough spots.” ___ Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — A third-party report examining how the British Columbia government responded to COVID-19 in long-term care homes during the first wave of the pandemic reveals confusion over policies and infection prevention. The report, by Ernst & Young, says specific policy orders from the provincial health officer were interpreted differently by health authorities and there were gaps in infection prevention and control as well as emergency preparedness. It also highlighted a lack of consistent provincial policy on how health authorities and facility operators handled residents who tested positive for COVID-19. Ernst & Young did praise the government for its decision to create a health emergency command centre as well as restricting staff from working at multiple long-term care facilities, which it says contributed to stopping the spread of COVID-19 infections in care homes. But it added that those restrictions also highlighted staffing shortages and other underlying issues. Health Minister Adrian Dix said last week that his government has implemented all the recommendations in the report and its assessment of the province's actions was "overwhelmingly favourable." The report was completed last fall and stakeholders and the Opposition Liberals have questioned why it was not released sooner. More than 650 of B.C.'s over 1,100 deaths from COVID-19 have been in long-term care facilities. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
A man is in critical condition following a two-vehicle collision in Mississauga, Peel Regional Police say. Police earlier said the man had died but later issued a correction indicating he had lost vital signs and was revived. Emergency crews were called to the area of Dixie Road and Winding Trail at 2:47 p.m, where the man had been found with life-threatening injuries. He was rushed to a trauma centre and by 4:23, police said he had died. Shortly afterwards, they said the man had in fact lost vital signs and that medical staff were able to revive him. Dixie Road has been shut down in both directions from Burnhamthorphe East to Winding Trail, with drivers asked to use alternate routes. Peel police's major collision bureau has taken over the investigation. Anyone with dashcam or surveillance footage is being asked to contact police.
WASHINGTON — These suspects weren't exactly in hiding. “THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot. In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends' willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down. “Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.” In the last few weeks, the FBI has received over 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said. “They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building. A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more." Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.” In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said. Even defence attorneys have acknowledged that the evidence poses a problem for them. “I’m not a magician,” said an attorney for the man seen in a photo carrying Pelosi's lectern. “We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside a federal building or inside the Capitol with government property,” he told reporters. Police at the Capitol planned only for a free-speech demonstration and were overwhelmed by the mob that broke through and roamed the halls of the Capitol for hours as lawmakers were sent into hiding. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump was impeached after the riot on a charge of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” Opening arguments will begin the week of Feb. 8. He is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. Unlike criminal cases, impeachment trials do not have specific evidence rules so anything said and done that day can be used. And several of the people charged have said in interviews with reporters or federal agents that they were simply listening to the president when they marched to the Capitol. ___ Richer reported from Boston. Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
A look inside two Toronto hospital ICUs one year after Canada's first case of COVID-19, and at the doctors and nurses both exhausted and determined to keep fighting.
OTTAWA — The seats were nearly empty Monday as the House of Commons returned in hybrid form, but the opposition was full of fighting spirit over the Liberal government's handling of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. A new sitting convened after an extended winter break for MPs, though many remained in their ridings Monday after reaching an agreement to resume sitting in a format that allows them to either log in virtually or attend in person. While a smattering of Conservatives, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois MPs took up their seats, Liberal cabinet ministers — including the prime minister — appeared from their homes or offices to fend off criticisms from their rivals about their COVID-19 response. The fury emanating from the Opposition was such that Speaker Anthony Rota was forced to remind them several times to watch their language, even as he also had to remind MPs to unmute their devices. The sitting began as the country continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic: over 19,000 people are dead, there are new outbreaks of a highly contagious variant ripping through long-term care homes, curfews, stay-at-home orders and a vaccine rollout that started with promise now being compromised by manufacturing delays. The Liberals insist their goal of getting a shot in the arm of every Canadian who wants one by September remains feasible even as Canada was set to receive no doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, and sharply curtailed deliveries next week. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner challenged the math, noting the time in between the required two doses of vaccine means September seems impossible. "This means that Canada, on average, needs to be administering roughly two million doses per week to meet this goal. This week's total is zero," she said. "How the hell did this happen, and what are the Liberals doing to fix it?" Though she was rapped on the knuckles by Rota for her language, Rempel Garner continued her pressure unabated, a theme picked up by MPs from all opposition parties as they castigated the government for appearing to fail Canadians. Procurement Minister Anita Anand insisted again and again that was not the case. The delays — due to Pfizer needing to retool a factory in Belgium — won't compromise the ultimate goal, she said. Claims from Ontario that it has run out of vaccines are untrue, she said, as there are thousands of doses yet to be used. Anand invoked the fact her own 90-year-old father is waiting for his vaccine as proof she understands the pressure to get the rollout right. "We are on track to have vaccines for all Canadians before the end of September because we will stop at nothing to ensure that all Canadians have access to a vaccine this year," she said. The political scandal that broke last week — the resignation of Julie Payette as governor general ahead of a damning report into working conditions at Rideau Hall — barely made the cut in question period. Ahead of time, opposition leaders had demanded the prime minister provide more transparency around the terms of her departure. Both Conservative and NDP leaders said given the circumstances around her departure, Payette should not receive the customary lifetime salary afforded to outgoing governor generals, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ought to disclose whether he offered one. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the scandal created by Payette's departure was one of the Liberals' own making and also serves as a distraction from the goal at hand: managing through the pandemic. But even as he pushed on the vaccine rollout, Singh also sought — and won — a symbolic victory on another subject: all-party consent on a motion condemning white supremacy and asking for the group Proud Boys to be listed as a terrorist entity. The group has ties to Canada and was involved in the deadly riots in the U.S. earlier this month. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole was also successful in his efforts to get emergency debates on vaccines, and also on the implications of a decision by the new U.S. president to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, which will kill thousands of jobs in Tory-held ridings in the prairies. Such a show of unity was not in place for efforts by the Liberals to fast-track their first piece of legislation for the sitting, a bill that would close a loophole allowing anyone forced into quarantine for COVID-19 to access government benefits. The bill, which was in response to people returning from vacations abroad accessing the benefit, will now move through the legislative process. The key piece of legislation up ahead for the government, however, is the next federal budget, which Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday is one of the most significant of a generation. It could also send Canadians to the polls, as any vote on its contents will be a confidence motion. The NDP and Conservatives suggested the Liberals are too focused on pre-positioning for an election than on pandemic response, a charge Trudeau denied Monday. "Our focus is on delivering for Canadians and supporting Canadians through the tragedies and the incredible heroics we're seeing on display right across the country from our front-line workers," he said. "There are far too many tragedies but we know that Canadians are continuing to be there for each other and this government will continue to be there for them." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Alberta is reporting its first case of a COVID-19 variant, first seen in the United Kingdom, that cannot be directly traced to international travel. Health Minister Tyler Shandro says while it is one case, the variant has the potential to spread faster than the original novel coronavirus and could quickly overwhelm hospitals if not checked. “There’s no question that this kind of exponential growth would push our health-care system to the brink,” Shandro told a virtual news conference Monday. “It would significantly impact the health care and the services available to all Albertans.” Alberta has 20 known cases of the U.K. variant and five of another strain first reported in South Africa. Alberta is not alone facing the variant. In Ontario Monday, public health units announced plans to enhance infection control measures given evidence the U.K. variant had emerged across the province. Shandro noted the case of U.K. variant outbreak at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home is a sobering example of its deadly swiftness. “This outbreak has seen more than 200 residents and staff infected within a few weeks and more than 30 people have lost their lives,” he said. Shandro announced changes to travel rules as a result of the variant. International passengers returning to Alberta via Calgary's airport or at the border crossing at Coutts will have to remain in isolation between their first and second COVID-19 tests. Up until now, they could go about their business after receiving a negative test result and before getting a second test six or seven days later. Shandro said travellers will now have to self-isolate for a full two weeks if either test is positive. Alberta continues to reduce the cases of COVID-19 but Shandro said the numbers, and the threat of the variant, prevent current lockdown measures from being lifted. Those measures include a sharp reduction in the number of customers in stores at any one time, and closure of all amusement and entertainment venues like casinos and movie theatres. There is a ban on indoor gatherings and outdoor gatherings of no more than 10 are allowed. Alberta introduced the stricter measures in mid-December after soaring case rates threatened to swamp the health system. Some non-urgent surgeries in Edmonton have had to be put on hold. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, announced 362 new cases of COVID-19, compared with daily numbers peaking as high as 1,800 in mid-December. There 637 people in hospital with COVID, 113 of whom are in intensive care. Hinshaw announced 25 more deaths, bringing that total to 1,574. Shandro also announced more than 99,000 Albertans have received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Both require two doses spread weeks apart to be fully effective. Alberta has prioritized those most at-risk, as well as residents in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities. The vaccinations began in mid-December and Shandro said about 10,000 Albertans have now received the double dose. The main supplier, Pfizer, has announced Canada will not get any vaccines this week and sharply reduced numbers in the weeks to follow as it retrofits its Belgium facility in order to produce more vaccine. Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd urged Shandro to continue to share critical information and the data supporting it. “I’m glad the government has finally released modelling that demonstrates just how dangerous these variants can be,” said Shepherd. “A clear and transparent plan with daily -- not weekly -- reporting is crucial to public confidence. “(Premier) Jason Kenney failed to act as second-wave cases grew exponentially in November and December. He must not repeat that mistake with these dangerous new variants.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
The increasingly popular Sun Peaks Nordic trail system boasts 35 kilometres of groomed trails. Looked at from above, they criss cross in numerous ways, with a total of 29 different intersection points and 38 individual trail sections. Like others before him, one day several years ago Richard Taylor put his mind to determining a route that would allow him to ski all the trails in a day. “I sat down to try to actually like draw out a route, just using the trail map, and I just got overwhelmed with how hard it was,” he said. “You inevitably have to kind of retrace your steps a little bit and do parts of the trail network twice, just to hit everything.” While other people might have simply called it a day and moved on, Taylor took things to the next level. Drawing on his robust education background—Taylor teaches math and physics at Thompson Rivers University—he developed a computer program to help determine some solutions (ie. the best routes possible). “I just kind of made it a fun weekend project, ” he said. In the end, the program ended up running over the weekend, processing billions of options, and eventually coming up with several of the most efficient options. Taylor said there is a certain amount of subjectivity when it comes to which is the most efficient, and that the shortest of the options clocks it at around 45 kilometres—a distance that is doable for strong cross country skiers. Taylor added that the math involved in solving the problem draws from graph theory, and that the specific problem is actually quite well known. “I guess the classic version of [the problem] is that you imagine a travelling salesman who needs to travel to a bunch of different cities, and needs to find the kind of most efficient way of getting to all of them so that they all get visited at least once,” he explained. Wikipedia has a good description of this “travelling salesman problem” if you’re interested. After producing his work,Taylor shared his findings with the Sun Peaks Nordic Club, where they received an enthusiastic reception. If interested, you can view a blog post he wrote on his findings here. Taylor said while he was thrilled that his work got a positive reception and that some people (including his wife) have completed one of the suggested routes, ultimately he decided doing so wasn’t for him. Having skate skied for the past six years, he would rather stick to his favourite trails, and enjoy the beautiful Noridc trail system on his own terms. “In the end, I just kind of felt like it was boring,” he said. “I’d rather ski my favorite routes repeatedly, rather than trying to hit everything.” Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
It may be getting colder out, but stepping inside Rita Pintea's greenhouse offers a balmy escape from the chill. Rising steam fills the humid tunnel with the smell of fresh, soft earth, planted recently with lettuce. The 75-foot-long greenhouse is a first for Rita and her husband, Laurentiu, who, two weeks ago, constructed the framing and assisted Rita in installing a plastic covering. "We were trying to figure out how we can deal in Canadian winters with some inexpensive methods," Rita said. Also known as a "caterpillar tunnel," for its ribbed segments, the greenhouse is covered by two, six-millimetre-thick polyethylene sheets, which have warm air funnelled in between, inflating the layers to help prevent temperature loss and keep snow from piling up. "It should keep the zone difference about two zones up," she said, referring to hardiness zones, which traditionally dictate what plants will have the best chance of survival according to climate conditions. Rita is educated as a nurse and paramedic but has opted to stay close to her familiar roots, settling down and planting some of her own in Canada, eight years ago. “As kids, we grew up constantly on the field,” she said of her parent's farm back in Romania, where they still grow food today. Now, her children, ages three, nine and 12, help out with the farming on roughly an acre of land in Beamsville where she operates Rita's Market. Manure from their chickens is used for fertilizer inside the greenhouse and absolutely no sprays are used, Rita says. Had the greenhouse been around sooner, it would've prolonged her growing season beyond last year's fall killing frost. This year, she hopes to plant salad greens, green onions, peas and cucumbers. Provided seeds and trays arrive on time, harvesting could begin as soon as February for some salad greens. "Everything is an experiment this year," she said. Not so for Sascha and Agnes Ohme, of Ohme Farms, who have had a greenhouse since first acquiring their Jordan Station property in 2009. “Within a month we had a greenhouse up," Sascha said. They knew it would be a necessity to keep growing when winter came. The farm could operate 52 weeks of the year, "no problem," he says — breaking a concept of domestic production being hampered by cruel Canadian winters. “We have something growing in every greenhouse, back to back, all year round,” Sascha said. While hardy root vegetables like squash, rutabaga and carrots actually do better outside and can tough out a freeze, the climate-controlled greenhouse environment allows for a head start on the growing season, keeping fresh greens local and providing more products during wintertime. “Variety truly is interesting and keeps it fun for the person eating,” Sascha said, mentioning some of their rarer offerings: crosne, oca tubers and mâche. The Ohmes also farm organically, using composted cow manure, organically-certified sprays and biologically beneficial insects. “They basically just slow release; there’s different stages of insects in there and they just come out of holes,” Sascha said of small, white packets stuck into dirt on a stick around a mâche crop. But with more variety and organic farming methods also comes added cost. Unlike Rita's tunnel, the Ohmes electrically heat their greenhouses and, on days with less sun, use artificial light to supplement daylight, resulting in hefty energy bills. The Ohmes also try to add another greenhouse each year, leading Sascha to notice what he says is a doubling of cost for greenhouses since cannabis production became legal. Once supplying Niagara's restaurants with premium greens, Ohme Farms and Rita's Market now rely on individuals consumers to reap what they've sown. Rita's Market runs a winter stand selling microgreens and produce, while Ohme Farms offers a smorgasbord of veggies and greens via a community supported agriculture model. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
The RCMP in New Brunswick has suspended criminal background checks in red zones across the province. Such checks are required for coaches, educators, youth workers, those who work or volunteer with the homeless or other vulnerable populations, as well as numerous other professions. They can also be required for those looking to start or grow their family. Nicole Boucher and her family have begun the process of adopting two children, but the process has now stalled until background checks can resume, she said. Foster parents and prospective adoptive parents require these checks, Boucher said. Their social worker told them to get them done as soon as possible, she said, but that now depends on when Zone 1, which covers southeastern New Brunswick, comes out of red. Const. Hans Ouellette, media relations officer for New Brunswick RCMP confirmed that the decision was made to limit front counter services in these zones, which includes criminal record checks, vulnerable sector checks and fingerprinting. However, community members who need to obtain these services are being encouraged to contact their local detachment for more information. All current volunteers now working in Anglophone East District schools would have completed their criminal record and vulnerable sector checks, so they will be able to continue as normal and follow the red phase guidelines, said Stephanie Patterson, director of communications for the Anglophone East. But, since these checks are mandatory, the district will not be accepting any new volunteers until the restriction on checks is lifted by the RCMP, she said. If the zone stays in the red level for a short time, it will post few problems, said Ghislaine Arsenault, strategic communications director for District scolaire francophone sud. But, longer term, it could impact the district's volunteer system and the hiring of new employees, she said. Rob Campbell, councillor for the Village of Salisbury, said as many organizations, like sports leagues, can't operate while the region is in red, meaning a pause in this service is likely not a major concern right now. However, if someone were to leave a job that requires a check, the town or any organizations in a similar position, may not be able to replace them as quickly as they would like, he said. And if the suspension remains in place in April when summer students are being hired by municipalities and organizations, it could become a bigger issue, he said. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
WASHINGTON — Five days into her new role, Jill Biden signalled Monday that she'll be a more active first lady, with a trio of virtual appearances before governors' spouses, young Latinos and library officials. She also used the meetings to promote President Joe Biden's call for national unity and his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal, which is facing resistance from some Republicans lawmakers. Jill Biden's early moves seemed designed to signal that she intends to be more active than her predecessor, Melania Trump. Mrs. Trump often allowed weeks to pass between her public appearances. Mrs. Trump also was largely absent from Washington in the opening months of Donald Trump's administration. She returned to New York shortly after the inauguration in January 2017 to live with their son, Barron, as he finished out the school year uninterrupted. On Monday, Jill Biden took on the role of top surrogate for the president, encouraging unity and promising the administration would listen to all voices. “We can’t do this alone," she told the governors' spouses meeting over Zoom. "Congress will need to pass the legislation and, ultimately, it will take state and local leadership.” Biden pushed the same message to a Zoom meeting, or “charla,” with young Latinos. “We need you in this effort,” she told them. “No one can speak to your communities like you can, and you know how much this matters.” Blacks and Latinos are among those suffering the most severe economic and life-and-death consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. In a videotaped message to the American Library Association's midwinter virtual conference, the first lady pledged that “empathy, resilience, diversity, learning and trust” will be the “foundation of the administration that we will build.” “We're going to invest in all communities. We going to listen to all Americans,” she said. “We're going to work to heal the pain that has come from this time of crisis.” Two days after last Wednesday's inauguration, Biden visited the Whitman-Walker Health clinic to highlight services for cancer patients. Afterward, she made an unannounced stop at the U.S. Capitol to deliver chocolate chip cookies to National Guard members as a thank you for providing security for the swearing-in. Jennifer Pickens, an author who studies the White House, said Biden, 69, had “hit the ground running, as she should.” “She has had the benefit of being married to a statesman of nearly 50 years and has come to the role of first lady after spending eight years as the second lady, something we have not had since first lady Barbara Bush,” Pickens said. Barbara Bush was married to George H.W. Bush, who spent eight years as vice-president to Ronald Reagan before he was elected president in 1988. Bush lost his reelection bid in 1992. Joe Biden was a U.S. senator for 36 years, followed by eight years as vice-president. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — California officials say hackers, identity thieves and overseas criminal rings stole an estimated $11.4 billion in unemployment benefits last year. But the extent of the fraud might grow far larger: billions more in jobless payments are under investigation. California Labor Secretary Julie Su told reporters in a conference call Monday that of the $114 billion the state has paid in unemployment claims during that time, about 10% has been confirmed as fraudulent. Nearly $20 billion more is considered suspicious, and a large part could be confirmed as fraud. Su says the state did not have sufficient security measures in place and criminals took advantage of the gaps. Michael R. Blood, The Associated Press
Barry Gelfand put up a sign in his yard on Jan. 18 for passersby to see, a cheerful reminder to wear masks and maintain physical distancing to help prevent COVID transmission. It’s the third sign he has put up since April 3. From that first time to today, Gelfand said the feedback from those who have read the message has been positive. The reason for a third sign is that the second one went missing. A couple of months after he put up the first sign, painted blue to signify spring, Gelfand decided a change was needed and he put up a bright green sign on June 18 with the same message. The sign was made by Matt Quiring at Tekarra Color Lab Ltd., who made the first and third signs too. Throughout the summer and into the fall, both Jasperites and visitors viewed the second sign and photographed it numerous times. But on the morning of Sept. 27, when Gelfand looked out the window around 8 a.m., the sign was nowhere to be seen. Gelfand drove around the neighbourhood to see if it had been deposited somewhere but found nothing. A phone call to the RCMP had the same result and he hasn’t heard anything since. “It was one of those post-marauders, who a guy like me will never understand,” Gelfand said. “I just don’t get it.” What he did get is a desire to “Spread the word - Not the Virus,” as written on the sign, and after his good friend “Aldo Al” made a new base for the sign, Gelfand put up a similar uplifting, humorous message - winter style - on Jan. 18. “There’s a message for one and all - it’s your choice to read it or not,” Gelfand said. “A lot of people have stopped in their footsteps when they’re walking by or driving, local folks and folks from elsewhere. I watched a (few) people go by and they stopped and read the sign and a smile came across their faces. That was great.” Gelfand gets comments from folks about the sign when he’s out and about around town. “It’s almost like, ‘Way to go’,” he said. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
China reported a fall in new COVID-19 infections as the number of cases in two of the provinces particularly hard hit by the latest coronavirus wave fell to single digits, official data showed on Tuesday. A total of 82 confirmed cases were reported in the mainland on Jan. 25, the National Health Commission said in a statement, down from 124 cases a day earlier. The Heilongjiang province reported 53 of the new cases.
TORONTO — Officials with the Yukon government have confirmed the identities of a couple from Vancouver who allegedly travelled to a remote community last week to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine amid media reports that the former president of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. was one of those charged with breaching the territory’s Civil Emergency Measures Act. Tickets filed with a court registry in Whitehorse last Thursday show 55-year-old Rodney Baker and Ekaterina Baker, who is 32, were each charged with one count of failing to self-isolate for 14 days and one count of failing to act in a manner consistent with their declarations upon arriving in Yukon. The tickets were issued on Thursday under Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act and both face fines of $1,000, plus fees. The allegations against them have not been proven in court and the tickets indicate the couple can challenge them. Great Canadian Gaming Corp. president and chief executive Rodney Baker resigned on Sunday and media reports say he is the same person charged in Whitehorse. Rodney Baker and Ekaterina Baker could not be reached for comment and The Canadian Press could not independently confirm their identities, including that they are married and that Ekaterina is an actress. Great Canadian Gaming Corp. spokesman Chuck Keeling says in a statement that the company does not comment on personnel matters. The statement also says the company complies with guidelines from public health authorities in all the jurisdictions where it operates. "Our overriding focus as a company is doing everything we can to contribute to the containment of COVID-19," it says. Yukon officials could only confirm that the two people charged in Whitehorse had travelled to the small community of Beaver Creek near the border with Alaska. Yukon Community Services Minister John Streiker said Friday the couple who allegedly chartered a plane to Beaver Creek posed as visiting workers and received shots of COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic. Territorial enforcement officers received a call about the pair who were later intercepted at the Whitehorse airport trying to leave Yukon, he said. Streiker said he was outraged by their actions and members of White River First Nation in Beaver Creek felt violated. In a statement, White River Chief Angela Demit said the unwanted visitors put elders and vulnerable people at risk for selfish purposes. "We implore all Canadians to respect the vaccination rollout process and to not take similar actions." White River was prioritized to receive vaccine because of its remoteness, elderly population and limited access to health care, Demit added. Great Canadian said in a statement released Monday that its former CEO has also resigned as a member of the company's board of directors. It said Terrance Doyle, president of strategic growth and chief compliance officer, has been appointed as interim chief executive. The company is in the middle of being acquired by a fund affiliated with Apollo Global Management Inc. Great Canadian shareholders voted to approval the deal late last year and the Supreme Court of British Columbia has also signed off on the investment fund's takeover offer. The gaming company is expected to be delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange after the deal is finalized in the second quarter of 2021, as long as regulatory and closing conditions come through. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:GC) The Canadian Press
A variety of community groups and individuals will seek support from Tay council at Wednesday's meeting. The packed agenda begins with a service pin presentation to volunteer firefighters, followed by a number of delegations. The first one is by Patricia Michener, who wants to the township to consider a different approach to roadside mowing to help encourage pollinators to come to the area. "In the past years, however, mowing has been taking place, so far as I’ve observed, three times a year," she writes. "The question is whether it might be reduced to perhaps once a year, in the fall. Sight-lines are important, and have to be maintained, but this should be compatible with less mowing. The result would be a win-win, increasing pollinator habitat while reducing carbon emissions and expense." Then the baton will be handed to the Waubaushene Action Group (WAG) that hopes to convince council to purchase the Waubaushene Pines School and use it as a community space. "We believe two promising options exist for the realization of a multi-purpose public centre in Waubaushene: the renovation of the existing Catholic School Building or an addition to the fire hall in Bridgeview Park," says the group's presentation. The former Pine Street School is an existing structure that will likely require retrofitting to make an ideal home for the multi-purpose community space, says WAG, adding the building’s location along Waubaushene’s main street and proximity to the Veteran’s Memorial park playground, makes it easily accessible by township residents of all ages. A third delegation is by Dan Travers, who wants to Keep Keewatin Home. He and Fred Addis, curator for Friends of Keewatin, are requesting the township endorse this new initiative by designating the S.S. Keewatin as a historically significant structure in Tay. Travers lists two reasons for this move. "It would provide a public declaration by council, on behalf of the citizens of the township, many of whom have signed both petitions, that the S.S. Keewatin is historically significant and therefore worthy of local designation," he writes in his presentation. "Under the protections offered by local designation through the Ontario Heritage Act, it would require the owners of the ship to provide notification to council in the event that the ship is significantly altered or moved within or from Tay Township." Council will also receive a presentation on an age-friendly community plan on how to make the township more accessible for seniors allowing them to age in place while living in affordable housing and being socially included through increased transportation and support services. Council will also discuss the issue of council composition and the future of the ward system, as well as look at an updated open air burn permit and revisit council's previous decision around winter trail maintenance. The meeting that begins at 7 p.m. can be viewed online or residents can call in at (705)999-0385 and enter meeting ID 836 2919 7656 for an audio-only version of the events. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com