With COVID-19 caseloads spiraling and the daily death toll equaling records, a bipartisan group of lawmakers says momentum is building for finally passing a second major relief bill. (Dec. 3)
With COVID-19 caseloads spiraling and the daily death toll equaling records, a bipartisan group of lawmakers says momentum is building for finally passing a second major relief bill. (Dec. 3)
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Chinese technology firm Huawei plans to establish a flagship store in Riyadh, the largest such store outside China, the Saudi government said on Friday. Huawei has signed a leasing contract with Saudi Arabia's Kaden Investment for the store that will allow the Chinese company to have direct access to consumers amid rising demand for digital products and services in the kingdom, the statement said, without giving a date for the opening. Saudi Arabia expects internet usage in the kingdom to increase from covering 82.6% of the population in 2022 from 73.2% in 2017, the Ministry of Investment statement said.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned Friday to take political responsibility for a scandal involving investigations into child welfare payments that wrongly labeled thousands of parents as fraudsters. In a nationally televised speech, Rutte said he had informed King Willem-Alexander of his decision and pledged that his government would continue work to compensate affected parents as quickly as possible and to battle the coronavirus. “We are of one mind that if the whole system has failed, we all must take responsibility, and that has led to the conclusion that I have just offered the king, the resignation of the entire Cabinet,” Rutte said. The move was seen as largely symbolic; Rutte’s government will remain in office in a caretaker mode until a new coalition is formed after a March 17 election in the Netherlands. The resignation brings to an end a decade in office for Rutte, although his party is expected to win the election, putting him first in line to begin talks to form the next government. If he succeeds in forming a new coalition, Rutte would most likely again become prime minister. The Netherlands is the third European country thrown into political uncertainty this week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the government resigned over a corruption scandal, while Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition is at risk of collapse after a small partner party withdrew its support. Rutte said earlier this week that his government would be able to keep taking tough policy decisions in the battle against the coronavirus even if it were in caretaker mode. The Netherlands is in a tough lockdown until at least Feb. 9, and the government is considering imposing an overnight curfew amid fears about new, more contagious variants of the virus. “To the Netherlands I say: Our struggle against the coronavirus will continue,” Rutte said. On Thursday, the leader of the Dutch opposition Labor Party stepped down because he was minister of social affairs in a governing coalition led by Rutte when the country’s tax office implemented a tough policy of tracking down fraud with child welfare. Lodewijk Asscher’s decision put further pressure on Rutte ahead of Friday's Cabinet meeting. Ministers were to decide on their reaction to a scathing report issued last month, titled “Unprecedented Injustice,” that said the tax office policies violated “fundamental principles of the rule of law.” The report also criticized the government for the way it provided information to parliament about the scandal. Many wrongfully accused parents were plunged into debt when tax officials demanded repayment of payments. The government has in the past apologized for the tax office’s methods and in March earmarked 500 million euros ($607 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents. One of those parents waited near parliament as the Cabinet met and said she wanted it to resign. “It's important for me because it is the government acknowledging, ‘We have made a mistake and we are taking responsibility,’ because it's quite something what happened to us,” Janet Ramesar told The Associated Press. Rutte plans to lead his conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy into the March election, and polls suggest it will win the most seats. That would put Rutte, who has been in office for a decade at the head of three different coalitions, first in line to attempt to form the next ruling coalition. Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren, who serves as interior minister, said as she entered Friday's meeting that “it is very important to be accountable and also to show responsibility in the political sense, and we are going to talk about that in the Council of Ministers today.” Mike Corder, The Associated Press
MILAN — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was released Friday from a hospital in the French Riviera city-state of Monaco where he underwent medical tests for heart problems, his press office said. The 84-year-old three-time premier said in a message to supporters that his health was good and that he entered the hospital to carry out some tests that were “a little more than routine” and ordered by his personal physician out of caution. “I am not worried about my condition,’’ Berlusconi wrote. “I am worried for the many Italian victims of COVID and other illnesses, and for the many other Italians who are suffering from the consequences of a very serious crisis.” Berlusconi was hospitalized for COVID-19 for about 10 days in September and underwent heart surgery to replace an aortic valve in 2016. He has had a pacemaker for years, and also has overcome prostate cancer and a series of other ailments. . Berlusconi described his bout with COVID-19 as “insidious,” calling it the most dangerous challenge he ever faced. The media mogul no longer holds public office, but remains the head of his Forza Italia party and is vocal in national politics. On Friday, he sent a message of solidarity for the opening of the Christian Democratic Party’s national convention this weekend. Last week, he issued a strong condemnation of the siege of the U.S. Capitol, saying President Trump’s refusal to accept his election defeat had created “a very dangerous laceration in American society.” The Associated Press
The Township of Seguin and the other six municipalities that make up west Parry Sound have signed off on a letter, dated Dec. 1, to Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks. The letter states that they would like the ministry to reconsider the transition of the blue box from 2025 to 2024. What exactly is the blue box transition program? The Blue Box Transition program is being legislated by the Province of Ontario and means the responsibility of collecting and processing recyclable products will be on the manufacturers who make the items. What that means is the duty of recycling is being shifted to the manufacturers who produce the material rather than society. Will this effect how I put out my recycling? The government says there shouldn’t be any change of service. You may have to go to a different location to drop off your recycling, if rural, or you may have a new company that picks up your curbside blue box materials. When is this supposed to come into effect? For the municipalities that make up west Parry Sound — Parry Sound, Archipelago, Seguin, McKellar, McDougall, Carling and Whitestone — the change is supposed to come into effect in 2025; however, all seven municipalities have signed a letter to Minister Jeff Yurek requesting the transition take place in 2024. Why? The District of Muskoka is transitioning in 2024 and, currently, the west Parry Sound municipalities process blue box materials in Bracebridge. They are concerned about issues that may happen if the transition happens at a different time than Muskoka. Another concern is the fact the Greater Toronto Area is transitioning in 2023 and the expanded list of recyclables there will differ from what is offered in west Parry Sound for a time. Residents who migrate north for the summer may expect to recycle the same list of items, which may cause contamination in waste systems. Will this transition raise my taxes? Once the producers and manufacturers take over the recycling process, it’s going to save the taxpayers; however, prices for products may go up to pay for the manufacturers’ cost of processing the recycling. The Township of Seguin said at its Jan. 11 council meeting that the mayors from the seven municipalities would follow up on the letter once a response was received. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia — A pigeon that Australia declared a biosecurity risk has received a reprieve after a U.S. bird organization declared its identifying leg band was fake. The band suggested the bird found in a Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 was a racing pigeon that had left the U.S. state of Oregon, 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles) away, two months earlier. On that basis, Australian authorities on Thursday said they considered the bird a disease risk and planned to kill it. But Deone Roberts, sport development manager for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, said on Friday the band was fake. The band number belongs to a blue bar pigeon in the United States which is not the bird pictured in Australia, she said. “The bird band in Australia is counterfeit and not traceable,” Roberts said. “They do not need to kill him.” Australia's Agriculture Department, which is responsible for biosecurity, agreed that the pigeon dubbed Joe, after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, was wearing a “fraudulent copy” leg band. “Following an investigation, the department has concluded that Joe the Pigeon is highly likely to be Australian and does not present a biosecurity risk,” it said in a statement. The department said it will take no further action. Acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack had earlier said there would be no mercy if the pigeon was from the United States. “If Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures, then bad luck Joe, either fly home or face the consequences,” McCormack said. Martin Foley, health minister for Victoria state where Joe is living, had called for the federal government to spare the bird even if it posed a disease risk. “I would urge the Commonwealth’s quarantine officials to show a little bit of compassion,” Foley said. Andy Meddick, a Victorian lawmaker for the minor Animal Justice Party, called for a “pigeon pardon for Joe.” “Should the federal government allow Joe to live, I am happy to seek assurances that he is not a flight risk,” Meddick said. Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird, who found the emaciated bird in his backyard, was surprised by the change of nationality but pleased that the bird he named Joe would not be destroyed. “I thought this is just a feel-good story and now you guys want to put this pigeon away and I thought it’s not on, you know, you can’t do that, there has got to be other options,” Celli-Bird said of the threat to euthanize. Celli-Bird had contacted the American Racing Pigeon Union to find the bird’s owner based on the number on the leg band. The bands have both a number and a symbol, but Celli-Bird didn’t remember the symbol and said he can no longer catch the bird since it has recovered from its initial weakness. The bird with the genuine leg band had disappeared from a 560-kilometre (350-mile) race in Oregon on Oct. 29, Crooked River Challenge owner Lucas Cramer said. That bird did not have a racing record that would make it valuable enough to steal its identity, he said. “That bird didn’t finish the race series, it didn’t make any money and so its worthless, really,” Cramer said. He said it was possible a pigeon could cross the Pacific on a ship from Oregon to Australia. “In reality, it could potentially happen, but this isn’t the same pigeon. It’s not even a racing pigeon,” Cramer said. The bird spends every day in the backyard, sometimes with a native dove on a pergola. “I might have to change him to Aussie Joe, but he’s just the same pigeon,” Celli-Bird said. Lars Scott, a carer at Pigeon Rescue Melbourne, a bird welfare group, said pigeons with American leg bands were not uncommon around the city. A number of Melbourne breeders bought them online and used them for their own record keeping, Scott said. Australian quarantine authorities are notoriously strict. In 2015, the government threatened to euthanize two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, after they were smuggled into the country by Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard. Faced with a 50-hour deadline to leave Australia, the dogs made it out in a chartered jet. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A partnership with the Trump administration has reduced disparities in Alaska Native access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and protective equipment, tribal health care leaders said. The administration’s coronavirus initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments, Alaska Public Media reported Thursday. Operation Warp Speed, as the initiative is known, designated vaccine doses for tribes in the same manner as for the Department of Defence, Veterans Health Administration and Bureau of Prisons. The federal government distributed more than 35,000 doses to Alaska tribes, in addition to 78,000 doses to Alaska’s state government. More than 250,000 doses were dedicated to tribes nationwide through the Indian Health Service. “It’s something to celebrate,” Alaska Native Health Board CEO Verné Boerner. “When you embrace tribes and tribal sovereignty, you can bring so much more to the state.” Tribal shipments have afforded broad vaccine access for rural and Indigenous Alaskans and expanded availability of doses beyond older people. Providers acknowledge part of their ability to offer expanded access is because about a third of health care workers and older residents have declined to immediately take vaccines. While tribal providers are vaccinating Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, state and Native leaders said there is a legal basis for separate shipments because of longstanding recognition of tribes as sovereign governments. Officials said the decision also is appropriate from a scientific and medical standpoint because of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Alaska Native people and the dynamics in many rural communities that make the virus difficult to control. Factors include crowded, multi-generational homes, lack of running water and sewer and distance from advanced medical care. “It’s never been about equal distribution of the vaccine. It’s about equitable distribution,” said Dr. Ellen Hodges, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. chief of staff. “The congregate living settings that exist in most of our villages are a setup for the virus to just spread like wildfire, and there’s no defence against that.” For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
Brandon Sun readers request specific questions be asked about COVID-19. Question: What is Brandon’s test positivity rate? We are anxious for loosening restrictions and feel we should be counting on our own numbers rather than the rest of Manitoba’s stats. I got a little worried yesterday when seeing Winnipeg’s positivity rate has dropped, but the rest of Manitoba of which we are part of didn’t. Dr. Jazz Atwal: Sorry, I don’t have all the test positivity rates off the top of my head or on a paper in front of me right now. So I do apologize. I do know, Manitoba test positivity is 10 per cent, Winnipeg is 7.1 per cent. I think it’s somewhat intuitive to know that the Northern RHA (regional health authority) likely has a high positivity rate with all the new cases and a smaller population. Again, I think we need to understand that test positivity is just one indicator that public health looks at, right? So, when we look at our epidemiology, we look at test positivity, we look at cases, we look at risk. We look at a whole bunch of different things when we’re looking at restrictions and orders and what should be done from an orders perspective, to look at those things. So, again, we don’t look at one indicator. I know people get fixated on a case number or just test positivity, or both, but there are many other indicators on top of that, that we look at. We look at hospitalizations, etc. to take those next steps, to create a sound plan for Manitobans. Follow-up question: Is it nevertheless possible to provide the region’s positivity rate or even just Brandon’s? Is it possible to tease that out for the area? Atwal: I have to come back to you on that. We’ll have to seek out that information and see what we can provide. Do you have a question about something in your community? Send your questions to email@example.com with the subject line: Readers Ask.Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.3% in December led by a the biggest jump in energy costs since June. The Labor Department reported Friday that the gain in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach consumers, followed a modest 0.1% gain in November and matched the 0.3% rise in October. The December increase reflected a 5.5% surge in energy costs, the biggest gain since a 9.6% jump in June. That offset a 0.1% drop in food costs, the first decline since August. Over the past 12 months, inflation at the wholesale level has risen a modest 0.8%. The government reported Wednesday that consumer inflation was also well-behaved last year, rising just 1.4% over the past 12 months. These low inflation reading are giving the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels in an effort to help lift the economy out of a pandemic-induced recession. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
Une seconde procédure de destitution de Donald Trump vient d’être déclenchée. Si les démocrates sont partis confiants, son succès est en réalité compromis par la posture des élus républicains.
A 21-year-old woman who went missing Thursday after she went snowshoeing in B.C.'s North Shore Mountains has been found dead. CBC has identified her as Nikki Donnelly of Ontario based on information provided by rescue officials and social media accounts. Donnelly posted a short video Thursday afternoon on Instagram from atop St. Mark's Summit, a popular hiking spot north of Vancouver, that documented the picturesque ocean view. Shortly after, the young woman, who was visiting B.C. from Ontario, made her way back down the Howe Sound Crest Trail, according to officials with North Shore Rescue. She soon called her boyfriend in Toronto to tell him she was lost and in distress before the call dropped. The woman's disappearance set off an 18-hour search that ended with rescue crews discovering her body Friday morning, at about 10:40 a.m. PT, in a steep drainage area below the summit. The crew flew the woman by helicopter back to their rescue base, where she was pronounced dead. "Our thoughts are with the woman's family and friends, as well with all the responders and search teams to the St. Mark's area last night and today," Sgt. Sascha Banks with Squamish RCMP said in a statement. The police did not identify the woman, but rescue officials referred to her by her first name, Nikki, and noted she had posted a video from the summit. WATCH | Hiker posts video atop St. Mark's Summit before going missing: Called boyfriend several times Crews were called to look for Donnelly round 5 p.m. PT Thursday, but despite an all-night search with two helicopters and night-vision equipment, she was not found overnight. North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks said fresh search teams returned to the area at first light on Friday to look for any signs of the woman or possible tracks off the trail. The St. Mark's Summit hike is part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, a 28-kilometre trail that winds through the mountaintops north of Vancouver. The hike typically takes four to five hours round-trip and leads hikers to a peak with a view of the ocean and islands. Danks said the woman called her boyfriend when she reached St. Mark's Summit. She phoned him again on her way down, and shortly after made the final distress call that dropped. Snowshoer unlikely prepared to spend the night Rescue crews said Donnelly was likely out for a day trip and was probably unprepared to spend the night on the mountain. There was a "significant" amount of snow, and windy, rainy weather had wiped out searchers' tracks. Danks said the only indication that the woman was on the mountain was from the video she took and her registered rental car still parked in the Cypress Mountain parking lot. Her cellphone was most recently pinged at 3:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Based on the ping, Danks said, crews reasoned the woman was on the east side of the peak, where her body was later found. RCMP on Friday urged anyone who is in need of help while exploring remote areas to call 911. "As well, before you leave, please: research your area, take all the equipment you need, know your skill level, follow weather patterns, know snow conditions, and have a trip plan," Banks said. Squamish RCMP will work with the BC Coroners Service to investigate the woman's death.
During a COVID-19 modelling update on Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the rise in case numbers is largely due to Canadians gathering during the holidays. She added that measures must be “further intensified,” in order to help stop the spread.
Canadian international Mark-Anthony Kaye has been elected to the Major League Soccer Players Association executive board. The 26-year-old Los Angeles FC midfielder, along with Jalil Anibaba (Nashville SC) and Victor Ulloa (Inter Miami CF), was elected to a three-year term. The executive board serves as the decision- and policy-making body of the Players Association with its members serving as the MLSPA’s chief officers. “The leadership and hard work of our executive board members, both past and present, has made the MLSPA into what it is today,” MLSPA executive director Bob Foose said in a statement. “I want to congratulate our newest board members, and those who are returning, and thank them for their commitment to serving their fellow players and continuing to grow and improve the MLSPA." Foose thanked departing board members Jeff Larentowicz and Luis Robles. Other current members of the executive board are Scott Caldwell (New England Revolution), Ethan Finlay (Minnesota United), Clint Irwin (Colorado Rapids), Eric Miller (Nashville) and Patrick Mullins (Toronto FC). The MLS and MLSPA are currently at loggerheads over the league's decision to trigger a "force majeure" clause in the collective bargaining agreement to reopen negotiations on the CBA signed in January 2019. The league has said it lost nearly US$1 billion last season due to the global pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15. 2021 The Canadian Press
Ontario crept toward 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, the latest line in the shifting sand. Before the weekend, Premier Doug Ford teased modelling projections he said were so shocking, “You’ll fall off your chair”. Despite the dire warning, no further information was shared with the Province. Instead, over the weekend, reporters from the Queen’s Park Press Gallery suggested a curfew was being considered, similar to the rules in Quebec. By Monday, it appeared to be off the table again. The first two days of the week dragged by with a sense of doom hanging over Ontario as the lack of clarity from the ruling PCs turned into a running provincial joke. On Tuesday, Ford’s 1 p.m. presser was delayed by half-an-hour, only adding to the tension. Finally, he walked up to the microphone and began to speak. Unusually, there was no preamble. Ford launched straight into the news: a second state of emergency and the introduction of a stay-at-home order, planned to come into play on Thursday. More confusion ensued. And the jokes kept rolling. Almost immediately, social media was flooded. Journalists, members of the public and local politicians struggled to grasp exactly what was being announced. Weren’t people meant to be staying home under the grey lockdown anyway? Weren’t non-essential businesses already closed? What was the difference between a stay-at-home-order and being told to stay at home? “There is no confusion,” the Premier insisted at his Wednesday press conference. “The message is simple: stay home.” It’s the same directive Peel residents have been under since November 23. The restrictions have failed to reduce the case counts in the region, and few understand how the latest order will change things. Reducing business operating times for non-essential shops by one hour seems like lip service at this point. Ford says he “hates” closing anything down, despite claiming for months that he will do anything it takes to keep Ontarians safe. The one obvious thing Ford could do to address the “fall-off-your-chair” reality staring at besieged hospitals, is another thing he’s unwilling to do. “"I've never been in favour of a curfew," he said Tuesday. "The last thing I've ever believed in ever is having a curfew." The one area of clarity came from Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. She did not lay out new rules or detail how exactly the measures would be enforced, but made it apparent that authorities are placing an increased emphasis on policing. “The Government of Ontario cannot determine what is essential for every person in this province, each with their own unique circumstances and regional considerations,” a list of answers to frequently asked questions issued by Ford’s office Wednesday admits. The document also says essential work, trips and items cannot be defined. Around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, five hours before it was due to come into force and after the interviews featured in this story were conducted, the Province released its official order, stating 29 acceptable reasons to be outside the home while the rules are in place. They include travelling to an airport, obtaining services from a financial institution or selling and buying a house. According to the Province, going for groceries or to the pharmacy, outdoor exercise and work that can’t be completed at home are all acceptable reasons to leave the home. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said at her Wednesday press conference that things like walking the dog or playing basketball with fewer than five members of your household are also allowed. “A police officer or other provincial offences officer who has reasonable and probable grounds that an individual has committed an offence … may require the individual’s correct name,” the new rules state. Questions remain around how these rules will be communicated and enforced after they were sent to police and bylaw officers so late. With 29 different reasons to avoid any violation, and so much interpretation, it seems unlikely the public will be able to easily remember the list or necessarily know how to demonstrate they’re adhering to it. Despite this, police and bylaw are being empowered to crack down. Asked at a Wednesday press conference for details on how the rules would be applied, Solicitor General Jones referenced gatherings and their enforcement, but did not provide a fulsome response. "If you are not at your place of residence and you need to be fined or ticketed, [police] have an obligation to ask for your name, date of birth and address,” she said. In Mississauga and Brampton, the vagaries of the new rules and delay in releasing the specifics are causing concern for some. The Peel Regional Police has a well-documented history of discrimination and, toward the end of 2020, vowed to end its systemic problems with racism. Under former chief Jennifer Evans, the force spent considerable time aggressively defending its use of street checks, while the rest of the province, including the previous Liberal government, quickly moved away from the destructive practice. It involved the random stopping and documenting of residents, and was shown to disproportionately target Peel’s Black community at more than three times the rate compared to white residents. In a slip of the tongue during her comments on Tuesday, Jones articulated this fear. “They will be subject to fines and persecution,” she said of rule-breakers, presumably intending to say “prosecution” instead. “In the case of discretion … we know that discretion will turn to compulsion when it comes to Black bodies,” Kola Iluyomade, a leader of local equity group Advocacy Peel, told The Pointer. Iluyomade played a key role in forcing change at the Peel District School Board in 2020 after years of anti-Black racism and has also been vocal in his criticism of the Peel Regional Police. “Obviously, not being able to have a definition is very problematic because should you need to fight [a fine] in court or something like that, the word discretion itself is what the police will use against you. The data shows that that’s what’s going to happen.” Stephen Warner, press secretary to Jones, said the Solicitor General’s office has “confidence in our law enforcement personnel to take the necessary enforcement actions”. Concerns about systemic issues of racism within policing and how it may impact COVID-19 orders were not addressed. It’s also unclear how bylaw officers are going to apply the rules, with concerns that white residents will receive informal privileges, while others will be heavily surveilled. The behaviour of many politicians, such as former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips, and Ford himself, are held up as examples of the entitlement some have. Despite knowing Phillips had left the country in mid-December for a vacation in the Caribbean, neither did anything about the blatant violation of their own government’s directives until after the trip was exposed. But now, residents are being threatened with police action for violating essentially the same rules. “Serious questions: I choose to work from school. What am I supposed to say/show to a police officer who stops me? Are teachers essential workers or not?” Jason Bradshaw, a high school science teacher in Peel, wrote on Twitter. “As a side note, I’m not trying to play ‘the race card’ here, but as a Black man, I do consider what steps I need to take to ensure that any potential interactions I have with police officers have positive outcomes,” he added in a second tweet. Sam Rogers, in charge of Mississauga’s bylaw officers, said the Peel Regional Police would take the lead on enforcement. “Still a lot of questions to be answered on our end,” he said, speaking at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday with the orders due to come into place less than eight hours later. “We’ve got very, very good at short notice changes throughout this pandemic and I am very confident, regardless of the regulations that do come out, our staff will be ready to implement a reasonable and balanced enforcement approach.” Asked how it would ensure an equitable application of the rules, Peel police highlighted the need to stay at home and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Peel Police, Mississauga bylaw nor Brampton bylaw did not suggest any equity or bias training to ensure their officers apply vague rules without over-policing Black and other racialized residents. “Enforcement will be an option when responding to calls relating to the order, and/or public gatherings; however every call for service will be evaluated individually and the appropriate action will be taken for each,” Constable Sarah Patten, a member of the Peel Police communications team, told The Pointer in an email. Crombie placed emphasis on staying home, telling residents to avoid any trips or errands that could reasonably be put off or done online. “We don’t want to see any scenario that people are stopped unnecessarily as we had with the street check program whether that be by bylaw – what will their role be? Or by Peel Police – what will their role be?” she articulated at her Wednesday press conference, saying she hoped clarity would be coming from the Province within hours of her address. “That hopefully will all be explained in the regulations which we will receive later.” As they have throughout the pandemic, bylaw enforcement officers will play a key role in plans to enforce the new stay-at-home-order. Staff have the power to write tickets for individuals breaking the rules and disperse crowds. “We have a very diverse, multicultural community within the City of Brampton,” Paul Morrison, the City’s bylaw head, said at a Wednesday morning press conference. “We police ensuring that all the citizens’ rights are maintained and, when it comes to race, we’ll understand as best we can culture and race when it impacts on enforcement.” He did not address measures in place to ensure bias-free enforcement. “The laws are changing so quickly and so often in terms of emergency protocols, I know Brampton bylaw always attempts, on first brush, always to educate and to make sure that the communities know what the new provisions are,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown added. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Seguin Township has completed Milestone 1 of the Integrated Community Energy and Climate Action Plans (ICECAP) project as of December 2020. Milestone 1 tasked municipalities involved with ICECAP to create a greenhouse gas emissions inventory of both the corporate and community aspects of the township. During its Jan. 13 council meeting, members of council discussed what moving forward into Phase 2 of the program would look like. Here’s the discussion captured in five quotes: 1\. “There’s two pieces to Milestone 1 — one being corporate, the township; one being community, all the residents,” said Daryle Moffatt, ICECAP co-chair and Seguin councillor. “ … The next hurdles are to set emissions targets and develop a plan. We’ve done a number of things corporately and residents have done a number of things, we just need to continue to set our goals to see if we can achieve some lower greenhouse gas emissions.” 2\. “How long will it take to set targets? What is the procedure going into Milestone 2 and what’s the timing?” asked Coun. Rod Osborne. 3\. “We will be working with other ICECAP members (and) organizations around the table in 2021 to start to develop our emission reduction target as well as our local plan,” said Moffatt. “What we’ve realized is ICECAP is not one-size-fits-all — it’s going to ebb and flow. It’s going to be a work in progress but it is a goal in 2021 to achieve Milestones 2 and 3.” 4\. “I will emphasize again to all the councillors, if you have not done your own personal carbon calculator, please do it. It will make a difference to how West Parry Sound moves forward,” said Seguin’s mayor, Ann MacDiarmid. “It’s worth doing. It’s a real eyeopener.” 5\. “I would extend that to all staff and residents, not only in Seguin but across all the municipalities that are participating in ICECAP,” said Moffatt. “It is critical to capture that data because it will only help us going forward.” MacDiarmid thanked those involved with the ICECAP initiative from Seguin and mentioned that the carbon calculator could be used as a good school assignment for teenagers. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte worked the phones on Friday, trying to secure enough votes in parliament to allow him to stay in power after a junior ally quit the cabinet this week. There was growing confidence within the coalition that the government could stay afloat as a new, pro-government group formed in the Senate and the head of the country's influential bishops' association appealed for stability. Conte is due to address the lower house on Monday and the upper house Senate on Tuesday about the political chaos which was triggered by former premier Matteo Renzi in a row over the coalition's handling of the coronavirus and economic crises.
Some Niagarians were stocking up on groceries on Wednesday in advance of an impending stay-at-home order, recently announced by the provincial government. On Jan. 12, Ontario declared a 28-day state of emergency as COVID-19 cases continue to rise aggressively, having already filled more than 400 intensive care unit beds across the province. With the goal of preventing movement and contacts between people, Premier Doug Ford issued a stay-at-home order, which came into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Dave Mace made a point of visiting the Niagara Falls Costco to stock up because he wasn’t sure what exactly the stay-at-home order would involve. “It’s necessary,” he said of the order, adding that he believes the Ford government made the right move. Regardless of what decisions were made, people would still criticize, he said. Complying with the order won’t be a challenge for him and his partner, Mace said — there’s plenty to keep them occupied at home with computers, TVs and books. Under the new rules, people are expected to stay home with exceptions for things like grocery shopping, accessing medical services, including pharmacies, exercise or for work. Social gathering limits have also increased, and non-essential businesses are required to close by 8 p.m.. Robert Howieson and Christina Lancaster also made a trip out for groceries at the Costco location on Wednesday, predicting that reduced shopping hours would result in longer lineups. “I expect that there will be large crowds,” Howieson said of the days ahead, noting that he was surprised there weren’t more people out. Howieson supports the order but said it “should have been done sooner.” His impression of the Ford administration’s handling of the pandemic was positive before the second wave, but Howieson’s views have since changed. “He’s too beholden to business,” he said. “What do you want, happy businesses or people dying?” Others spoken with on Wednesday said they would support more stringent government measures, like a curfew, to bring an end to COIVD-19 sooner. “Let’s get on with life because this is ridiculous, it’s been going on too long,” said Tracy McIntee, as she loaded groceries into her vehicle. She’s in favour of a full-on lockdown instead of what she said are incremental steps. She was expecting more from Tuesday's announcement, saying that the new rules look much like what people are already doing. “In a sense, I don’t think the government is doing enough,” she said. “I wish they would have done more yesterday.” Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
After 11 years in the trades – from scaffolding and metal work, to her current role in concrete forming – Mulisius Joe has also become skilled at navigating the male-dominated construction industry. “I've worked with a few men who didn’t think I should be there,” she said, citing times when empty reasons were given to exclude her from contributing to a job. “It’s never said out loud but you could feel it…where you don't know if it’s racist or it’s sexist, but you know it's something.” Calls for equity among construction labourers in the GTA were made decades ago, with African-Canadian carpenters and their allies protesting the exclusion of Black workers from trades unions and construction companies in the early ‘70s. Trade union programs are now slowly helping to change that. Joe said she has seen a shift in how journeypersons, or mentors for trade apprentices, are increasingly focused on the treatment of women and visible minorities on site, and are better prepared to foster an equitable environment. These changes make her hopeful the industry will develop a similar awareness around issues of discrimination and equity, especially after the racist incidents this past summer, when five nooses were found tied onto scaffolding or hanging in view at GTA construction sites. Despite police and union investigations – and the firing of at least one worker – another two nooses were found at Michael Garron Hospital in East York in late September. “It didn't just go away because we said how we feel,” said Brampton resident Chris Campbell, of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. In November, Campbell became the union’s first Equity and Diversity Representative. He will work to include racism in the scope of “toolbox talk” – trades-speak for frank discussions about safety issues – in an attempt to change the culture of silence around workplace discrimination in the construction industry. The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario represents more than 30,000 workers across 16 affiliated trades unions. Campbell completed his apprenticeship in the early ‘90s, and became a project supervisor at various sites across the GTA before teaching at the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades, based in Woodbridge. An active member in the Jamaican Canadian Association and other Black community organizations, Campbell went on to become a Local 27 Toronto Carpenters’ Union rep prior to his current appointment. Following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring, Black Lives Matter demonstrations underscored the urgent need to confront anti-Black racism in the workplace. Campbell said he and other union representatives marched in the downtown Toronto protests in June, sporting the union flag. Mulisius joined the marches, and commended the union for making their presence visible. “It feels good, because as a woman on site, and also as a Black person, I’m always the minority. To see our union jump behind this, it makes me feel so much prouder to be a Local 27 member,” she said. But later that month, the first noose was found at the Eglinton Crosstown LRT job site. Campbell said one of the union’s members admitted to tying it and was fired, had his union membership revoked and was banned from working on projects operated by Crosslinx Transit Solutions. “It’s not just a noose for some people. It’s a health issue, because they’re traumatized, they can’t mentally handle it,” Johnson said, adding that there were Black workers at the site. “Some people, they become emotional and they cannot go back to work because to them, it symbolizes an extreme aggression. To them, it symbolizes what their grandparents went through a few decades ago.” According to 2016 Census data, close to one-fifth of Brampton’s workforce was in the trades, transport and equipment operations industry, compared to about 12 percent in Mississauga. Peel Region also has the highest proportion of immigrants compared to its bordering regions – at about 52 percent of the population – and the highest proportion of visible minorities, at 62 percent, compared to 51 percent in Toronto, and the GTA average of 48 percent. The booming construction industry holds the potential to dramatically improve the employment prospects of Peel’s large visible minority communities. Many of these residents have not been well represented in the trades, traditionally. The BOLT (Building Opportunities for Life Today) program was launched by construction giant Tridel in 2009, and in 2013 it was established as a charitable foundation aimed at introducing career opportunities to marginalized and other “under-resourced” youth across the GTA. It has provided more than 400 post-secondary scholarships for construction-related programs, in an effort to help young people from all backgrounds pursue a career in the trades. Opening up one of Ontario’s largest industries to reflect the province’s population, is a challenge the unions are now taking up as well. Whether it’s because of cultural issues, for example the view among some South Asian-Canadian communities that trades jobs are not traditionally socially acceptable, or because of discriminatory dynamics within the industry, the lack of representation means many Peel residents are being cut off from highly lucrative careers. In 2018, the average wage of workers in the construction industry across the country was almost $32 an hour, according to Statistics Canada. The average minimum wage in the country (which is what many newcomers earn) at the time sat at about $12 an hour. A 2016 Peel-Halton Workforce Characteristics Report notes that women, racialized minorities and newcomers face disadvantages when holding precarious positions in Peel, with the largest proportions of people earning lower incomes located in Brampton and Mississauga compared to Halton municipalities. In the construction and industrial sectors, about 97 percent of Peel and Halton journeypersons and apprentices are male, though there is no race-based data provided or notes on discrimination trends in the workplace. The recent rash of racist incidents raises questions about what the industry is doing to confront discrimination. At the large LRT construction site where the Fairbank Station in Toronto, near Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue will open in 2022, Campbell said the union interviewed people on site and had a “toolbox talk” after a noose was tied there. The union has partnered with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council to create a charter document and establish standards for an inclusive workplace that rejects racism, xenophobia and discrimination. The document is now posted at some construction sites, Campbell said, adding that the union is planning to address racism in the workplace through new educational initiatives and training for members and senior leadership. In his new role, Campbell will be notified and involved in the complaints resolution process related to racism in the workplace, and encourages workers to report these incidents. “It’s a health and safety issue,” he said. With the work of craft and trade unions based in skill development, at the forefront of efforts to address racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination is the question of whose skills are being recognized, said Tania Das Gupta, a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at York University. As part of her research into racism in the labour movement, Das Gupta interviewed visible minority workers in leadership roles within larger unions, who expressed feeling obstructed in their work. “In other words, you could have diversity, but sometimes it becomes tokenism and the [union] structures are not conducive to inclusion,” she said. Education is integral to making anti-racism programs a success, she added. “If the workers are prepared, and they’re educated on why these changes are happening, then they're likely not to feel threatened.” Professional associations and developers such as Tridel and Ellis Don have launched anti-racism campaigns in response to the incidents this past summer, including quarterly roundtable discussions with 21 industry partners, spearheaded by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). The group is meeting for the second time this month. “These incidents didn’t happen in isolation, and it wasn’t just one incident…so we realized that this is an issue that we need to dive deeper into combatting,” said Amina Dibe, manager of government and stakeholder relations at RESCON. The collective launched the Construction Against Racism Everyone (CARE) Campaign, distributing more than 2,000 hardhat stickers for workers to show their solidarity, while launching educational webinars and subcommittees to tackle education, communication and training within the industry. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
When at least five centimetres of snow falls in Mississauga, the City’s army of plows, salters and other winter maintenance vehicles are dispatched to clear the slippery stuff within 24 hours. An excess snowfall volume, or limited on-site space, forces clearers to haul the snow over to a City storage facility – and there aren’t enough of them. The essential work that makes Mississauga’s streets safer to navigate during the winter months, and allows for the smooth operation of parks and recreation features, is made harder as Works, Operations and Maintenance departments vie for places to store equipment, in the same limited spaces where snow sometimes has to be stored. Now, the City is gearing up for a temporary solution by transforming the West Credit Avenue storage site originally planned for MiWay transit vehicles – near Derry Road and West Credit Avenue – to accommodate more snow clearing vehicles and other related uses. The City’s new $141-million winter maintenance contract – which includes additional snow clearing vehicles – is leaving the Works department even more strapped for space. Council opted for a short-term solution in the 2021 budget to create a temporary site at the West Credit location, ahead of the 2022 Yard Master Plan and Modernization Study. This fall, the site was used to stockpile dry leaves after three of the City’s existing yards reached capacity. The “extraordinary high volumes of leaves” that fell this November slowed the Region of Peel’s ability to transfer them to composting sites, according to a staff report that month. In other words, were it not for the West Credit site’s use as a backup storage location, the leaf collection program would have ground to a halt. Mississauga’s One Million Trees program and commitment to urban forest development will affect leaf collection in the future, the report notes. And when the seasonal storage of nature’s elements is not a factor, the City is still left needing room to tuck away equipment. Mississauga has four operations yards: the Mavis yard, built in 1956; the Clarkson and Malton yards, built in 1977; and the Meadowvale yard, built in 1996. In 2005, staff said a fifth operations yard needed to be built urgently, by 2008, for the Engineering and Works Operations, and Recreation and Parks divisions. Thirteen years after that hard deadline, the yard still has not been built. The rapidly growing city faced criticism recently for chronically neglecting desperately needed expansion of its fire service, while through the Region of Peel, which all 12 Mississauga council members represent at the higher tier, affordable housing in the city has been ignored for decades and the recent report revealed crucial infrastructure to keep streets running and parks cleared are also being kicked down the road. “This is understandable, given that yards are costly to construct and yards are not public facing like community centres and libraries,” the November 30 staff report reads. “However, yard capacity is important to maintain Council-approved service levels.” In 2022, the City will release its Yard Master Plan, and Modernization Study completed by consultants, as part of budget discussions for that year. The Works department says its snow storage capacity right now is in deficit of about 26,000 cubic metres, not including the West Credit site. That floor space alone translates to at least six-and-a-half average sized football fields. The Hurontario LRT in 2024 will result in the need for another 51,000 cubic metres of space to store snow, the report states. Earlier this year, the City’s Enforcement staff had to relinquish some of their storage space at a Mavis North facility to the Works department for winter vehicles. The City has 31 tractor and loader plow units, and added another 24 single-and tandem-axle plows, which remove snow and distribute salt at the same time. Outdated winter maintenance practises in Mississauga result in the City using 60,000 tonnes per year of road salt, which will be reduced with the addition of more plowing and be better for the environment. These changes are part of an eight-year, $141 million winter maintenance contract Council approved this summer. The contract begins next year, and will cost about $17 million in its first full year, by 2022. According to 2021 budget documents, the City will be tapping into its winter maintenance reserve to the tune of about $1.9 million, which will go toward funding priority sidewalk and bus stop clearing services. Staff are expecting that the West Credit site can be used for a minimum of a decade. The report was drafted following a request from Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito during budget discussions last month, after some of the $3.5 million project budget line was mistakenly qualified to Council as “throwaway” costs. Saito said she did not want Council to approve the project without having a closer look at the spending. Staff were able to reduce the West Credit site cost by $700,000, to $2.8 million, after changing the type of asphalt for the project, Saito said in an interview. “If we're going to put money into anything, we need to put it into our maintenance locations because if we don't have somewhere to store the snow, to put the leaves…the parks equipment, the forestry equipment and the snow plows, we can't provide service to the community,” Saito said. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer