Money expert Barry Choi narrows down the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for 2020 and why it’s important to also support local businesses.
Money expert Barry Choi narrows down the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for 2020 and why it’s important to also support local businesses.
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
PARIS — French university students protested Wednesday on Paris’ Left Bank to demand to be allowed back to class, and to call attention to suicides and financial troubles among students cut off from friends, professors and job opportunities amid the pandemic. Carrying a banner reading “We Will Not Be the Sacrificed Generation,” hundreds of students gathered to march on the Education Ministry, seeking government help for those struggling. Other student protests were planned Wednesday elsewhere in France. The government ordered all universities closed in October to stem resurgent virus infections, after a similar closure in the spring set many students back academically and socially. Students have increasingly been sharing their woes on social networks under such hashtags as #suicideetudiant and #etudiantphantomes, or ghost students. Heidi Soupault, a 19-year-old student in Strasbourg, wrote an open letter to President Emmanuel Macron last week saying she and her peers have “no more dreams” and have “the impression of being dead.” While France tightened its curfew last week as virus hospitalizations grow again, Prime Minister Jean Castex made a gesture toward college students, allowing first-year students to start returning to partial classes as of next week. The government acknowledged that lockdown-related mental health problems among young people are also a public health concern. But the protesting students say the measures don’t go far enough to address their woes. France has among the world’s highest numbers of virus infections and deaths. ___ Follow AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
Hydrogen-filled cargo airships could do for the Northern economy what the railways did for Western Canada 125 years ago. It's time to lift the antiquated ban on hydrogen gas for use in blimps.
Canadian companies are being told to ensure they’re not importing Chinese goods produced through the forced labour of the Uighur religious minority group. “Reports indicate mass transfers of Uighur labourers to factories across China where they are enrolled in forced labour programs that taint global supply chains in a variety of industries,” reads a Global Affairs Canada advisory. The federal government says it’s also aware of other human rights violations affecting Uighurs and other ethnic and religious groups by Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and other parts of China, including mass arbitrary detention, forced separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, and torture. China is a major trading partner for Canada, with $75 billion worth of merchandise imported from China in 2019, according to Statista. International Trade Minister Mary Ng said that the feds are committed to ensuring Canadian businesses aren't engaged with supply chains involving forced labour. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to increasing supply chain transparency, promoting responsible business conduct, and ensuring that Canadian companies are upholding Canadian values, wherever they may operate,” Ng said in a statement. Parliament amended the Customs Tariff Act last July to ban the imports of goods produced wholly or partly as a result of forced labour from any country. The government reminds companies that they must conform to these laws, adding that companies that operate within the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) may also be subject to human rights legislation. “In addition to legal risks, companies face reputational damage related to their supply chains if it is discovered that they are sourcing from entities that employ forced labour,” the advisory added. It remains unclear if there indeed have been confirmed instances of Uighur-made products flowing through Canadian supply chains. Canada’s National Observer asked Ng if she can definitively say there aren’t products made by Uighurs or other minority groups in Canadian supply chains, but the question was deferred to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which also didn’t provide direct comment to the question. However, Jacqueline Callin, spokesperson for CBSA, explained shipments containing goods suspected of being produced by forced labour are detained at the border for inspection by a border services officer who has the authority to ban these goods from entering Canada based on their analysis of the specific situation. The government announced Monday that companies with ties to Xinjiang will have to sign a “Xinjiang Integrity Declaration” recognizing they’re aware of Canadian laws regarding the prohibition of forced labour and the “human rights situation in Xinjiang” before they receive support from the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS). It wasn't indicated when this declaration requirement will come into effect. The government also appointed a Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise in April 2019 to review claims of alleged human rights abuses involving Canadian companies abroad, but Amnesty International Canada doesn’t think the office’s role goes far enough. “Without the power to compel documents or witness testimony, we fear the ombudsperson will be unable to fully investigate allegations of forced labour or other abuses from companies’ supply chains,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, the organization’s secretary general, in a statement. The Global Affairs advisory said the government urges Canadian companies with links to Xinjiang to “closely examine their supply chains to ensure that their activities do not support repression, including ... the Chinese government’s surveillance apparatus in Xinjiang, detention or internment facilities, or the use of forced labour.” However, Nivyabandi believes this shouldn’t be left to individual companies, calling for the Trudeau government to pass legislation that would require Canadian companies to conduct “human rights due diligence” within their global operations and supply chains. “The Canadian government has missed a crucial opportunity to hold Canadian companies accountable for human rights violations in Xinjiang and beyond,” Nivyabandi said. Yasmine Ghania, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Blizzard-like conditions are expected to descend on parts of eastern Newfoundland on Thursday as the provincial election campaign nears the end of its first week. Environment Canada says up to 30 centimetres of snow is in the forecast for the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas, starting Thursday afternoon. Even more snow could cover the easternmost sections of the Avalon, which includes St. John's. And with maximum wind gusts expected to reach up to 100 kilometres per hour, outdoor campaigning will likely come to a halt. It was just over a year ago that one of the worst storms in the province's history dumped more than 90 centimetres of snow on St. John's, paralyzing the city for days. Winds gusting at 134 km/h created snowdrifts up to 15-feet high, and there was a minor avalanche in one neighbourhood near the harbour. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — When Philip Rivers first started tossing footballs as a high-school ball boy, he heaved them any way he could. The throwing motion stuck — and success soon followed. Rivers used that strange, shot put-like style to land a college scholarship, become a first-round draft pick and eventually string together one of the greatest 17-year careers in NFL history. On Wednesday, the 39-year-old Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced his retirement. “Every year, Jan. 20 is a special and emotional day,” Rivers said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “It is St. Sebastian’s Feast day, the day I played in the AFC championship without an ACL, and now the day that after 17 seasons, I’m announcing my retirement from the National Football League. Thank you God for allowing me to live out my childhood dream of playing quarterback in the NFL. I am grateful to the Chargers for 16 seasons, and the Colts for the 17th season.” Rivers was one of a kind. Between his trademark throwing style and his penchant for trash-talking without cussing, he carved out his own niche in the NFL. There’s no doubt Rivers could sling it. When he threw for 401 yards and five touchdowns in his second college game, then-Indiana Hoosiers coach and future NFL head coach Cam Cameron proclaimed that the North Carolina State freshman had a future in the NFL. Rivers didn’t just play in the league — he created a legacy few achieve. “We kind of think it started at 5, 6, 7, 8 years old, throwing a regulation-size football,” Rivers said before the season opener, explaining how he developed his style. “I couldn’t hold it, grip it, palm it, so I had to kind of lay it in my hand a little bit. You’re not strong enough to throw it, you push it. Then as you get bigger and stronger, you change it a little bit. But I think the actual motion kind of stays with what’s most comfortable and muscle memory and how you get used to throwing it.” After being selected fourth overall in the 2004 draft, he was quickly traded to the New York Giants for Eli Manning. Rivers spent the next two seasons backing up Drew Brees in San Diego before taking over as the starter when Brees left in free agency. In the 2006 season opener, Rivers made his starting debut — and then the next 251 in a row including the playoffs. Nothing kept him out — not the awkward mechanics, not the critics who thought he should retire after his final season with the Chargers, not even the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered against the Colts following the 2007 playoffs. His 240 consecutive regular-season starts was the second-longest streak since 1970, trailing only Brett Favre (297), and it was one of the few stats Rivers cherished. “It’s certainly important to me and I’m thankful that I’ve been healthy enough to be out there,” Rivers said in November. “I do think there is something about that availability, being there each and every week.” He was more than just dependable, too. Rivers won 134 career games — No. 2 among quarterbacks without a Super Bowl ring — and was eighth all-time. Only Tom Brady (230), two-time Super Bowl champs Peyton Manning (186) and Ben Roethlisberger (156), Brees (172) and Hall of Famers Favre (186), John Elway (148) and Dan Marino (147) won more regular-season games than Rivers. He also finished his career ranked fifth in career completions (5,277), yards passing (63,440) and touchdown passes (421), and as the Chargers’ franchise record-holder in every major passing category. Age didn’t slow him down, either. Despite struggling in 2019, Rivers rebounded when he was reunited with coach Frank Reich in Indianapolis. After throwing five interceptions and four TD passes in his first five Colts games, Rivers finished with 22 TD passes and six interceptions over the last 12. Rivers, an eight-time Pro Bowler, had the second-highest completion percentage of his career (68%) in 2020 while leading the Colts to an 11-5 mark and their second playoff appearance since 2015. And he did it despite playing the final seven with an injured toe on his right foot. His teammates were upset they couldn’t help him go out by clearing the most glaring omission from his otherwise remarkable resume — a championship. “The ultimate goal is a Super Bowl and you’ve got a guy playing for 17 years,” two-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard said after a 27-24 loss wild-card round loss at Buffalo. “Adam Vinatieri played 23 years and he has some Super Bowl rings, but Philip doesn’t have any. So you’ve got to continue to work and for us not to give him one this year, it sucks.” Leonard was hoping Rivers would return. Reich and Colts general manager Chris Ballard both said they wanted him back, too. But last week, Ballard said he wanted to take some time to evaluate the season and possible off-season acquisitions and urged Rivers to take time to determine if he would be all-in for 2021. Rivers finally decided it was time to leave. He already has a day gig lined up, becoming the head coach of St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Alabama, where he hopes to coach his sons just like his father coached him. And where those children may perfect the motion Rivers made famous. “My son never did throw a big ball like I did at that age and he throws it the exact same way,” Rivers said. “He throws it the same way and anytime I try to tell him, he says, ‘Dad, you throw it that way.’ So I’ve left him alone also.” ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Michael Marot, The Associated Press
The arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine and stronger foreign demand is brightening the outlook for the Canadian economy in the medium term, the Bank of Canada said on Wednesday, as it held its key overnight interest rate at 0.25%. But the central bank warned the economy would contract in the first quarter of 2021 amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and lockdowns, with inflation not expected to return sustainably to target until 2023, keeping interest rates at record lows.
The Muskoka Lakes Snow Trail Association is looking to raise $10,000 to pay for the right equipment to fix their tricky snow trails for sledders this season. Steven Elliott, vice president of the association, said volunteers spend hundreds of hours every year grooming and maintaining trails in Port Carling, Bala, Moonbridge and Bass Lake. He said they pay a lot for special equipment to groom and maintain trails in the swampy lands of Muskoka Lakes. “If we, as volunteers, want to put together the best product that we can for our riders, then we need this equipment,” Elliott said. According to Elliott, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC), the non-profit organization financing their club and 230 others in the province, will not cover the expenses of this equipment. The federation declined a request for an interview or comment. The first week of January, the club began a fundraiser to purchase a Skandic Wide Track Utility Snowmobile and a small drag to be pulled behind the machine. The retail price of this Ski-Doo snowmobile begins at $10,099. As of Monday afternoon, Jan. 18, they’ve raised $1,800 via their GoFundMe page. “This is one of the first times we’ve really reached out … or done anything like this,” he said. “The reality is that the permit money people pay doesn’t go far enough to fund some of these types of equipment expenses.” People pay for a snowmobile permit, or season pass, to utilize the trails in the winter. A regular season pass currently costs $270. That money goes toward the grooming and preparation of the trails, including the purchase, fuelling and operation of purpose-built industrial groomers. However, Elliott said the funding doesn’t pay for utility snowmobiles, small drags or brushing equipment. Elliott said the club doesn’t have statistics on how many riders use their trails, but said OFSC's District 7, from Georgian Bay to Algonquin Park, sells 5,000 to 6,000 permits annually. Elliott said the club hopes they’ll receive support from the thousands who use trails like theirs for snowmobiling in Muskoka. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Check out this cute little Morkie dog attempting to attack the show dogs on TV. Too funny!
Aylmer resident Rayne Gelinas is taking a stand against “freedom” rallies, the local anti-restrictions movement, and its connection to the Aylmer Church of God Restoration. Ms. Gelinas is the organizer of three roadside protests along John Street North on Dec. 27, Jan. 3, and Jan. 10 just outside the Church of God. Dozens of cars line the road, with occupants displaying signs and occasionally honking during the church service. The move is to support wearing face masks and following COVID-19 health and safety regulations, which some church members and supporters have been vocal in opposing. Ms. Gelinas said she was pleased with the turnout, adding attendees, for the most part, strictly followed health and safety protocols by remaining in their cars. There was one notable exception at the Jan. 3 protest – a 34-year-old Sparta man, Terry Carrington – who was not associated with the group. They dispersed the Dec. 27 rally at Aylmer Police request, due to safety concerns and road congestion. “We’re not interested in getting to violence. We want to put public pressure on misbehaviour of this church and their associates,” explained Ms. Gelinas, specifically pointing to Church of God Pastor Henry Hildebrandt and his son, Herbert. Both Hildebrandts have been active participants with “freedom rallies” and gatherings across Ontario and are facing charges under the Reopening Ontario Act. Ms. Gelinas organized a social media group called Canadians Against “Freedom” Rallies and Misinformation. She intends to continue the peaceful roadside protests. “I have taken a lot of heat for being in the position I’m in,” she said. “I want our town to become the peaceful, beautiful community that it once was.” Ms. Gelinas alleged that she has been harassed and threatened by some associated with the church following the roadside protest, incidents which were subsequently reported to Aylmer Police. Several cars have driven by her home, with the occupants appearing to record with a cell phone. After the Jan. 10 roadside protest, Ms. Gelinas alleged that a black SUV belonging to a congregation member followed her car to her Aylmer home. The group is not a part of the “We Are One, We Are All” (WAOWAA) group that posted anonymous videos on YouTube, criticizing the actions of those associated with “freedom rallies.” Ms. Gelinas said she is in support of WAOWAA. On. Jan. 14, Ms. Gelinas said the roadside protests outside the church are now on hold as a result of the new provincial stay at home order. “I can’t have anyone in harm’s way.” Group members will now be working on a poster/flyer campaign. Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to revoke the permit for Calgary-based TC Energy's Keystone XL pipeline was a "gut punch," characterizing it as a direct attack on the trade relationship between the two countries. "Sadly, [this is] an insult directed at the United States's most important ally and trading partner," Kenney said during a press conference held Wednesday. Kenney said he was calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sit down with the new administration, suggesting that the federal government impose trade and economic sanctions should those efforts be refused. As a part of the broader climate order, the Biden administration wrote that the Keystone XL pipeline "disserves the U.S. national interest," citing challenges surrounding climate and the pursuit of a clean energy economy. In the order, the administration indicated that its analysis concluded that approval of Keystone XL would "undermine U.S. climate leadership" by undercutting the influence of the country on other nations to take climate action. "Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration's economic and climate imperatives," the order reads. WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reacts to Keystone decision: Prior to Kenney's comments, both Trudeau and Canadian Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman indicated that while disappointed with the decision, they were resigned to live with it. The 1,897-kilometre pipeline, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to Nebraska. It would then have connected with the original Keystone pipeline that runs to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Biden's revoking of the permit was part of a series of executive orders aimed at tackling climate change that also included re-entering the Paris climate accord. The Alberta government agreed last year to invest about $1.5 billion as equity in the project, plus billions more in loan guarantees. As a result, the Canadian leg of the project has been under construction for several months with about 1,000 workers in southeast Alberta. Trudeau pledges support for energy workers In a statement, Trudeau said he had spoken directly with Biden about the project in November, and Hillman along with others in the government had made Canada's case to high-level officials in the administration. Trudeau said his government did welcome the new administration's moves to rejoin the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, and to temporarily suspend oil and natural gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Kenney said that if the federal government doesn't approach Keystone XL discussions on the same level it did aluminum and steel tariffs, then the province would be forced to "go further in our fight for a fair deal in the federation." The comment appeared to be a reference to Alberta's so-called fair deal panel, a series of measures being studied by the province that would help the province better assert its standing within Confederation. In a statement, Alberta Opposition leader Rachel Notley called the cancellation of Keystone a "difficult day" for Alberta workers but criticized the provincial government's approach to the project. "This decision is made far worse by the premier's reckless gamble of at least $1.5 billion on a project that most people understood was at great risk and over which he had no authority," Notley said. TC Energy says it's considering its options Conservative Party Leader Erin O'Toole called the cancellation of the pipeline "devastating." "We need to get as many people back to work, in every part of Canada, in every sector, as quickly as possible. The loss of this important project only makes that harder," O'Toole said in a statement. "Justin Trudeau should have done more to stand up for our world-class energy sector and the men and women who depend on it to provide for their families." In a statement released Wednesday morning, TC Energy said it was disappointed in the move and warned it would lead to the layoffs of thousands of unionized workers. "TC Energy will review the decision, assess its implications and consider its options," the statement reads. "However, as a result of the expected revocation of the presidential permit, advancement of the project will be suspended." The company said the decision would "overturn an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade." The company struck a deal with four labour unions to build the pipeline and has an agreement in place with five Indigenous tribes to take a roughly $785-million ownership stake. Contractors association 'disappointed' The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada said in a news release it is disappointed that Biden is "putting politics before reason." "We're disappointed that the new president has lost sight of the huge economic and strategic advantages of this project," said PCAC president Paul de Jong. The association, whose member companies employ thousands of Alberta and B.C. construction workers, said the pipeline would have generated as many as 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada and the United States. Canadian producers, who have struggled for years from low prices partly related to sometimes-congested pipelines, have long supported Keystone XL. In a statement, Suncor Energy said it backed expanding market access to the U.S. through pipelines such as KXL, which, it said, would provide responsibly sourced oil to U.S. refineries for the benefit of U.S. consumers. But a Canada Energy Regulator report in November said western Canadian crude exports are expected to remain below total pipeline capacity over the next 30 years if KXL and two other projects proceed, prompting environmental groups to question the need for all three. Biden signalled plan for months For months, Biden had said he intended to cancel the project if elected. Hillman said she was disappointed but that Canada would accept the decision. "We respect that that's the decision he's made," she said. "He had made a commitment during his campaign, and he lived up to that commitment, and I think we have to accept that and move forward." WATCH | Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman reacts to Keystone decision: Greg Anderson, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, says Canadians tend to look at narrow trade conflicts as a sort of barometer for the larger relationship with the U.S. but added "that just isn't the case." He also says the province faces bigger challenges than the loss of one pipeline. "I think a lot of Albertans were hoping that maybe this could just kind of slide by and the pipeline would get built," said Anderson. "But the Keystone pipeline is not the Alberta economy. You know, it's not going to save Alberta or solve Alberta's problems. It might have helped on the margins, but Alberta has bigger fish to fry." The pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change. The Obama administration rejected it in 2015, prompting TC Energy in 2016 to launch a lawsuit and a multibillion-dollar North American Free Trade Agreement claim against the U.S. government. The company changed course after Donald Trump revived it once he became president four years ago and gave it strong support. Construction has already started in the United States. TC Energy could now take similar action in order to prevent walking away from Keystone XL empty-handed after a dozen years of setbacks, billions of dollars spent and thousands of pages of filings.
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.Supporters of the 45th U.S. President gathered in West Palm Beach, Fla. to greet Trump’s motorcade when it arrived in the city.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Ontario's police watchdog has charged a provincial police officer with assault after an incident at a police station that sent a woman to hospital. The Special Investigations Unit says the altercation happened in September 2019, after the 43-year-old woman was arrested by OPP officers and taken to the Orillia detachment. The SIU says there was an interaction between the officer and the woman in a cell at the detachment. It says that the woman was taken to hospital for treatment and was diagnosed with a serious injury two days later when she returned to the hospital.The SIU has charged OPP Const. Bailey Nicholls with one count of assault causing bodily harm.It says the officer is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 9.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of a Barrie woman, upholding a local decision that she be awarded $1.3 million for injuries suffered during surgery resulting in the removal of her kidney. It echoed the endorsement made by an appeal court judge of Barrie Justice Gregory Mulligan’s decision following the original trial. Karen Armstrong underwent laparoscopic surgery in February 2010 at what was then called Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH). The trial judge found that, during the colonoscopy, Dr. Colin Ward improperly used a cauterizing device and caused a thermal injury. She experienced abdominal pain after the surgery and her ureter — which carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder — was blocked with scar tissue, severely damaging her left kidney, which was removed the following October. “This really changes her life; this is the end of the road,” her lawyer, Jan Marin, said of the high court’s decision. “It’s been almost 11 years since the original surgery.” Marin said Armstrong, who is now 48, isn’t working as a result of the injury and that she requires some assistance. The decision and monetary award means she can now access the help she needs, including hiring a personal caregiver. Justice Mulligan of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Barrie originally decided in favour of Armstrong, but that ruling was overturned by a majority at the Ontario Court of Appeal. In December 2019, Justice David M. Paciocco, writing for the majority of the Ontario Court of Appeal three-person panel, found the trial judge had erred in defining the standard of care the doctor had to meet, “improperly establishing a standard of perfection” and allowed Ward’s appeal, dismissing the action against him. Justice Katherine van Rensburg was the lone holdout on the panel and wrote a lengthy opinion about why the decision of the judge in the first instance should stand. It was that opinion that Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner relied upon Monday when he announced simply that the appeal is allowed. It came on the same day, shortly after the hybrid hearing was held. Both the Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada (HIROC) and the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association sought intervener status in the case. “HIROC participated as an intervener because it was important to have clarity on the issues before the court, including the role of an injury when considering whether there was a breach of the standard of care,” said Anna L. Marrison, who represented HIROC. “With the (Supreme Court of Canada) accepting Justice van Rensburg's reasons from the Court of Appeal, there has been no significant change in the law," she added. And that was the big fear, said Ron Bohm, representing the trial lawyers. If the Court of Appeal’s decision against Armstrong were to stand, it could have set a precedent, hampering the ability for others to bring medical malpractice action. “The Court of Appeal majority decision, in our view, had the risk of making it next to impossible for certain victims of medical negligence to be able to recover damages for their losses, putting up next to impossible hurdles,” said Bohm. “So we were very concerned about the access to justice issue.” The Court of Appeal seemed to suggest that if a physician conducting surgery says they follow the proper practice and procedures, then relying on the results would be improper for a trial judge, he said. Because a patient is unconscious during surgery, their version of events during that period is not available, resulting in “a tremendous imbalance” in the possession of information. Marin said medical malpractice cases are difficult to begin with and costly to bring forward, so only the most serious cases are pursued. If Armstrong had failed to succeed before the top court, it could have blocked further attempts to seek damages for medical errors. “This case truly underscores the importance of the dissenting opinion,” said Marin, referring to Ontario Court of Appeal Justice van Rensburg’s opinion in dissent, which the Supreme Court accepted in its entirety. “They adopted her reasons. Clearly it was impactful to them,” added Marin. Lawyers for the doctor did not respond to requests for comment. Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
On the recommendation of its recreation and facilities manager, Powassan council is removing the ice from the Sportsplex and Trout Creek arena. Michael Heasman prepared the report for council's consideration at Tuesday's regular meeting following the latest provincial lockdown orders. Heasman's report looks at what the financials were like from October to December of 2019 compared to the same period in 2020 when the lockdowns affected facilities such as community arenas. What Heasman found was that ice rentals were down by almost $15,000 year over year. Because the report had to be prepared quickly, Heasman couldn't provide council with an accurate figure on what the municipality has been paying in hydro bills to maintain the ice while no one uses it. However, Heasman estimated the cost at $5,000 to $6,000 every four weeks. Even if the arena was to reopen, when it comes to hockey, local minor hockey association players would have no one to play against because surrounding minor hockey associations have shut down, in addition to other area arenas removing their ice, Heasman pointed out. Without hockey, that leaves only a handful of hours where the Sportsplex would be rented by other users. Heasman's report notes it's not known when the arena can truly reopen. When this factor is combined with the lack of users and also spending money to keep the ice in during a pandemic, the best course of action for Powassan taxpayers is to turn off the compressors and remove the ice, he said. Heasman prepared the report at the request of Mayor Peter McIsaac, who urged his colleagues to make a decision on the ice at Tuesday's council meeting. Coun. Randy Hall had hoped the community “could salvage another month” of usage from the arena when this latest lockdown ends. But he told the council he changed his mind when he heard Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, say the number of new COVID-19 cases would have to drop to about 1,000 a day or less before the latest lockdown orders could be lifted. “When I heard that my instant feeling was we won't get to 1,000 before March or April,” Hall said. “I know people will probably be upset,” but Hall said the best course of action is to remove the ice now rather than continuing to spend money to maintain it while no one can use it. Coun. Markus Wand also voted to remove the ice, but also reminded council of his comments back in October when he cautioned against putting ice in the arena in the first place. “I was against opening the arena from the get go,” Wand said. During the October meeting, Wand warned that a second wave of COVID cases could shut down the arena and he suggested waiting until the end of that month. At this week's meeting Wand also doubted the latest lockdown will end after 28 days. “It's something they say to keep people positive and then they'll extend it (again),” he said. “We're not doing ourselves any favours by keeping the arena open.” Like Wand, McIsaac also expressed concern at the October meeting that it might be premature to open the arena at that time only to see the municipality remove the ice a short time later because of a spike in pandemic cases. At Tuesday's meeting McIsaac said it was a gamble to keep the ice in place in an effort to wait out the lockdown. Borrowing from Heasman's report, the mayor noted there'd be no other teams for the local minor hockey teams to play against. “I don't see the point of keeping the ice in the rink,” McIsaac said. “It's a tough decision to make, but financially it's the right one.” Coun. Dave Britton echoed the sentiments made earlier by Hall that people would be upset, but added from a monetary viewpoint “it's the right thing to pull the ice now.” Council was unanimous in the decision to shut down both arenas. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
Planning is important in this province’s tourism industry, and with only a short window to make things happen, operators must be ready and on schedule to welcome visitors at peak times during the tourism season. That was disrupted last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the province was cut off to outside visitors. The importance of having a plan heading into the 2021 season is paramount as the tourism sector stares down the barrel of a second season limited by the pandemic. “It is important that the plan is being worked on,” said Hare Bay Adventures owner Duane Collins, who is also with the Shore Tourism Association. “I think it is important that it is relayed to the industry broadly … and then it lets us communicate that to our guests and to the companies we work with.” The pre-election announcement of a tourism action group was a welcome one for operators across the province and seen as a good start, Collins said. On Jan. 15, the government announced the 14-member Premier’s Advisory Council on Tourism. The government pledged to spend $1.12 million over three years to support Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador as it prepares the tourism and hospitality sector for a post-pandemic recovery. That money is coming through the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Market Development Agreement. That means the industry wasn’t overlooked at the time, but there is still a question of how the group will look or operate in the wake of the election on Feb. 13. “I want to hear about a plan on how we open the province back up,” said Collins. “Not saying any particular date, because that is beyond our control, frankly.” For Collins, clarity and transparency will be important as that plan continues to evolve. There must also be an effort to work with the industry, he said. Janet Davis had conversations last summer with plenty of people who had never before been to her home of New-Wes-Valley. The owner of Norton’s Cove Studio and Café in the Brookfield part of the community, Davis found those conversations usually included a line about having little knowledge of her part of the province. “The staycation has been really good for my business,” Davis said of what brought those people to her door. As the election campaign begins to ramp up, how the next provincial government is going to help tourism operators in the future is at the top of a lot of operators' minds. For some, like Davis, want to continue to push people to explore their province as they did last summer through the Stay Home Year 2020 campaign. “Keep promoting our own,” said Davis. “It’s great to have your own people supporting you. “We have to keep promoting our own people.” Deborah Bourden says the number of people who will explore their own province next summer is just a fraction of what is needed to keep the tourism sector going. There also must be an effort to maintain the tourism department’s current pot for marketing initiatives, she says. That means having the next government maintain the current level of funding being put into marketing initiatives, both locally and abroad. “We don’t want to see any less in marketing,” said Bourden, who is the co-owner of the Anchor Inn Hotel & Suites in Twillingate. If things start to open back up to national and international travel next fall, then a part of the tourism plan will need to look at how best to get those people into the province, she says. “We have to be prepared so we can come out of the gate strong next year this time,” said Bourden. “We have to be thinking about what we need, and we need to be prepared for that.” Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
WASHINGTON — His term at an end, President Donald Trump said farewell to Washington on Wednesday but also hinted about a comeback despite a legacy of chaos, tumult and bitter divisions in the country he led for four years. “So just a goodbye. We love you," Trump told supporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland where he walked across a red carpet and boarded Air Force One to head to Florida. "We will be back in some form.” Trump departed office as the only president ever impeached twice, and with millions more out of work than when he was sworn in and 400,000 dead from the coronavirus. Under his watch, Republicans lost the presidency and both chambers of Congress. He will be forever remembered for inciting an insurrection, two weeks before Democrat Joe Biden moved into the White House, at the Capitol that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and horrified the nation. It was on Trump's on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017, that he had painted a dire picture of “American carnage." The first president in modern history to boycott his successor’s inauguration, Trump is still stewing about his loss and maintains that election won by Biden was stolen from him. Republican officials in several critical states, members of his own administration and a wide swath of judges, including those appointed by Trump, have rejected those arguments. Trump refused to participate in any of the symbolic passing-of-the-torch traditions surrounding the peaceful transition of power, including inviting the Joe and Jill Biden to the White House for a get-to-know-you visit. He did follow at least one tradition: The White House said Trump left behind a note for Biden. A Trump spokesman, Judd Deere, declined to say what Trump wrote or characterize the sentiment in the note, citing privacy for communication between presidents. Members of Trump’s family gathered for the send-off on the military base along with the president’s loyalists, who chanted “We love you!” “Thank you, Trump” and “U.S.A.” Four Army cannons fired a 21-gun salute. Speaking without notes, Trump said his presidency was an “incredible four years.” He told the crowd that he and first lady Melania Trump loved them and praised his family for its hard work, saying they could have chosen to have an easier life. “It’s been something very special. We’ve accomplished a lot,” Trump said, citing the installation of conservative judges, creation of the space force, development of coronavirus vaccines and management of a robust pre-pandemic economy. “I hope they don’t raise your taxes, but if they do, I told you so,” he said of the incoming Biden administration. He acknowledged that his was not a “regular administration” and told his backers that he would be returning in some form. He said the Trump campaign had worked so hard: “We’ve left it all on the field," he said. Without mention's Biden's name, Trump wished the new administration great luck and success, which he said would made easier because he had laid “a foundation.” “I will always fight for you," he told the crowd. “I will be watching. I will be listening.” Before arriving at the airport, Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that being president had been the honour of his lifetime. “We love the American people, and again, it has been something very special," he said over the sound of the Marine One helicopter. "And I just want to say goodbye but hopefully it’s not a long-term goodbye. We’ll see each other again.” If the schedule holds, by the time Biden is sworn in, Trump will have landed at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. He will face an uncertain future. Aides had urged Trump to spend his final days in office trying to salvage his legacy by highlighting his administration’s achievements — tax cuts, scaled-back federal regulations, normalizing relations in the Middle East. But Trump largely refused, taking a single trip to the Texas border and releasing a video in which he pledged to his supporters that “the movement we started is only just beginning.” In his final hours, Trump issued pardons for more than 140 people, including his former strategist, rap performers, ex-members of Congress and other allies of him and his family. Trump will retire to Florida with a small group of former White House aides as he charts a political future that looks very different now from just two weeks ago. Before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Trump had been expected to remain his party’s de facto leader, wielding enormous power as he served as a kingmaker and mulled a 2024 presidential run. But now he appears more powerless than ever — shunned by so many in his party, impeached twice, denied the Twitter bullhorn he had intended to use as his weapon and even facing the prospect that, if he is convicted in his Senate trial, he could be barred from seeking a second term. For now, Trump remains angry and embarrassed, consumed with rage and grievance. He spent the week after the election sinking deeper and deeper into a world of conspiracy, and those who have spoken with him say he continues to believe he won in November. He has lashed out at Republicans for perceived disloyalty and has threatened, both publicly and privately, to spend the coming years backing primary challenges against those he feel betrayed him. Some expect him to eventually turn completely on the Republican Party, perhaps by flirting with a run as a third-party candidate as an act of revenge. For all the chaos and drama and bending the world to his will, Trump ended his term as he began it: largely alone. The Republican Party he co-opted finally appeared to have had enough after Trump’s supporters violently stormed the Capitol, hunting for lawmakers who refused to go along with Trump’s unconstitutional efforts to overturn the results of a democratic election. White House cleaning crews worked overnight Wednesday and were still going as the sun rose to get the building cleaned and ready for its new occupants. Most walls were stripped down to the hooks that once held photographs, and offices were devoid of the clutter and trinkets that gave them life. While Trump has left the White House, he retains his grip on the Republican base, with the support of millions of loyal voters, along with allies still helming the Republican National Committee and many state party organizations. The city he leaves will not miss him. Trump rarely left the confines of the White House, except to visit his own hotel. He and his wife never once ate dinner at any other local restaurant and never ventured out to shop in its stores or see the sites. When he did leave, it was almost always to one of his properties: his golf course in Virginia, his golf course in New Jersey, his private club and nearby golf course in Palm Beach, Florida. The city overwhelmingly supported Biden, with 93% of the vote. Trump received just 5.4% of the vote — or fewer than 18,600 ballots — not enough to fill the Washington Capitals hockey arena. ___ Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report. Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Un volet de prêt-à-manger a vu le jour à la coopérative de solidarité Les Choix de Marguerite de Baie-Johan-Beetz pour encourager une saine alimentation et diminuer le gaspillage alimentaire. Derrière les fourneaux, on retrouve le chef cuisinier Sébastien L’Écuyer, récemment revenu habiter dans son village natal. Les plats à emporter qu’il prépare sont vendus à la coopérative depuis décembre, « mais on est encore en rodage », précise-t-il. Unique responsable – et employé – consacré à ce projet, Sébastien s’affaire à cuisiner des mets « pour améliorer la qualité de vie du village et des touristes ». « C’était important pour nous d’avoir quelque chose qui souligne la qualité des produits et des légumes qu’on a à la coop, explique-t-il. Un gros volet du projet, c’est d’utiliser des aliments qui sont très nutritifs pour essayer de faire manger plus de vitamines et de légumes [aux clients], et moins de choses transformées. » La ligne directrice pour le menu : des repas simples et accessibles pour tout le monde. « Je ne suis pas là pour réinventer la cuisine. L’important, c’est que les gens achètent des produits nutritifs et se sentent bien avec ce qu’ils mangent », poursuit Sébastien. Le prêt-à-manger se devait aussi d’avoir une composante écologique importante, fait-il valoir. Les légumes frais proviennent de la serre de la coopérative, « donc on évite le transport des aliments et ça nous permet d’éliminer le gaspillage alimentaire ». Les autres ingrédients sont pris sur les tablettes de l’épicerie. Une attention particulière a été portée au choix de l’emballage des repas, qui se vendent dans des contenants issus d’une fabrication écologique. « Les plats sont compostables, biodégradables ou recyclables. On encourage les gens à les réutiliser les plats plus résistants comme n’importe quel contenant style Tupperware. » Les mets qu’il prépare dans la cuisine de la salle communautaire Phidélem-Harvey vont des dîners rapides (sandwichs, soupes, salades) aux pièces de viande, selon une fourchette de prix allant de 5 $ à 16 $ par plat. En plus de pains au levain cuits quotidiennement, Sébastien estime cuisiner une dizaine de mets différents par semaine, ce qui représente environ 150 plats à emporter. Il aimerait doubler, voire tripler sa production d’ici un an pour atteindre entre 400 et 500 repas par semaine, mais à condition que d’autres personnes se joignent à lui en cuisine. « Le manque de personnel, c’est difficile partout. Si c’est difficile pour Le Goût du Large [de Natashquan] depuis cinq ans, ça risque d’être difficile pour nous aussi. » Un projet qui a mijoté Sébastien L’Écuyer le dit ouvertement : il cherchait à revenir résider à Baie-Johan-Beetz depuis longtemps, mais l’absence de restaurant dans le village posait problème. Cuisinier de formation, il a vogué ces dernières années entre la Minganie, de la pourvoirie La Corneille près de son patelin natal au café-bistro L’Échouerie de Natashquan, les Miels d’Anicet à Ferme-Neuve et Montréal. Puis, la pandémie a frappé : « Je ne voyais plus d’avenir à Montréal. » Le projet de mets à emporter à l’épicerie coopérative germe dans son esprit, mais il a fallu plusieurs mois avant qu’il ne se réalise. Finalement, grâce à la subvention de la municipalité régionale de comté (MRC de Minganie) de 53 486 $, au soutien financier et organisationnel de Les Choix de Marguerite et au coup de pouce du conseil municipal de Baie-Johan-Beetz, qui leur offre la location de la cuisine de la salle communautaire, l’initiative « est sur une belle lancée », considère Sébastien.Laurence Dami-Houle, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
A Jan. 11 budget presentation made by Corporate Services Director Kale Brown to Aylmer council detailed the financial outline for 2021 and provided a five-year project plan. Mr. Brown first outlined matters that were carried forward into 2021 from the previous year, and how the panemic was affecting certain projects. There are ongoing payroll adjustments for town staff. As a result of the provincial shutdown, some EECC staff will be transferred to other Aylmer departments, such as parks. Mr. Brown said that a tender for the Clarence Street reconstruction project was currently being prepared for this year. While the project was estimated to cost $1.2-million in 2020, the project is now estimated to cost about $1.5-million. The Clarence Street reconstruction was originally scheduled for 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic. “The consequence of that is it puts projects starting to stack up on one another,” said Mr. Brown. “So department heads are having to review things that didn’t get completed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and making sure the 10-year plan is adjusted to accommodate all of them again.” “We’re basically doing 10 years’ worth of projects in 9 years.” The development charges, water, and sewer rates study will move forward in 2021. This will allow staff to prepare capital plans, which will assist with the asset management plan and future capital planning for the water and sewer assets. The application for federal-provincial funding for 25 Centre Street renovations has been submitted. The renovations will cost between $200,000 and $250,000 and combine Aylmer town hall with the attached building on Centre Street. This will allow enough space for distanced in person council meetings. The town received $553,810 in 2019 from the province in the form of a modernization grant. Mr. Brown discussed five projects using this funding scheduled to take place this year. $90,000 will go to a records management system. Mr. Brown said this will allow staff to move more digitally in terms of file retention and file tracking. “Once it is established, it actually alters the way you process information, the way you track files, and the way it’s actually searchable and retrievable files as well.” $10,000 of the grant money will be spent on a Human Resources Information System. The add-on module will track staff training, sign offs, and pandemic-related information, such as daily health screenings. A bar code will be applied to tax bills. This will require a redesign that will cost an estimated $3,700. “If you were coming to pay your taxes at town hall, you would put your tax bill stub underneath the bar code scanner and immediately it would pull up information relating to your tax roll.” A parks and recreation master plan will cost $60,000, an item that has been discussed and put forward for several years. It will provide council with direction on available options in that department. $100,000 of this grant will go towards the 25 Centre Street renovation. There are other scheduled projects using this grant money for 2022 and 2023, leaving an unallocated balance left of $27,110. The town benefit renewal in April is projected to cost the town $31,000 more than last year. There is a 1.86% increase in the assessment roll, which represents “growth and expansion that has happened, which is coming online and being taxed for the first time.” This growth should help council address other increased costs, said Mr. Brown. He reiterated the uncertainty regarding the operating conditions in 2021. “We do not have a crystal ball as to how the year will progress. Operating environments can still change and they will be volatile, at least for the first half of 2021.” Councillor Tom Charlton asked for more details about the $60,000 parks and recreation master plan. Mr. Brown clarified that the master plan is a study. It would include input from the public as to what they would like to see from the parks and recreation department. This long-range document would also lay out operations and programming options available to council. The presentation also highlighted a financial sustainability analysis from 2015 to 2019 for the town of Aylmer. The sustainability indicators are prepared by the province, using information from financial information returns, which are submitted by each municipality. Aylmer ranked “low” level of risk in every category throughout 2019 when compared to other south region lower tier municipalities. Some of the indicators include debt servicing cost as a percent of total revenues, annual surplus (deficit) as a percent of own source revenues, and total reserves and discretionary reserve funds as a percent of municipal expenses. There was one “moderate” risk ranking in the debt servicing section in 2017. “That is pretty quickly explained – that was the final retirement of the debt relating to the EECC’s construction,” said Mr. Brown. “The moral of the story is that the financial sustainability in the current financial state of the town of Aylmer has been incredibly conservative and in good financial health for a number of years.” Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express