WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
MULGRAVE – “This year with COVID, people have been struggling lately, some people have lost their jobs in the community. It is a tough time for everyone. I figured why not change it up to help the people in our community,” Town of Mulgrave Recreation Director Heather Brennan told The Journal regarding the new spin they put on its annual Festival of the Trees. This year, instead of dressing a tree to the nines, festival participants were asked to build a tree, or any Christmas-themed art piece, out of non-perishable food items to be donated later to the recently created food pantry. First, second and third-place winners will be selected through online voting. For residents not online, they can cast ballots at the town office. While a prize will be awarded, Brennan said, “Everybody is a winner.” The response to the competition was greater than Brennan had expected with 10 entries and a great amount of food donated to the food pantry. “I am pleasantly surprised by how many people have done it and the amount of food taken in has surpassed what I thought,” she said. Participants taking part in the festival include local businesses Mulgrave Machine Works and DSM, along with the Town of Mulgrave, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 37 Mulgrave, Mulgrave Heritage Centre, Atlantic Association of CBDCs and several groups of friends. Along with the food used in the displays, Brennan said community members have been dropping off food at the Mulgrave Memorial Centre, where the Festive of Trees is set up in the hallway, for the food pantry. The food pantry is an initiative of the Mulgrave Medical Centre Board that got off the ground this past summer. Board chair Al England told The Journal that the project has been a “greatsuccess to date; a lot of people are supporting it financially and with goods.” The pantry consists of a locker and a cooler constantly restocked with food. It is being moved from the medical centre to the vestibule in the Superport building where the East Coast Credit Union has an ATM. “They were gracious enough to allow us to use that space and we are very thankful and appreciative of that,” said England, adding that the location was temporary for the winter months and the pantry would return to the medical centre, when weather allowed. England said of the pantry project, “It has been an excellent project and it has been well received. We are grateful that it is being supported in the manor that it is and hopefully it is providing some help and assistance to those that really need the help at this time of year.”Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, many in the community are anxiously awaiting the start of the 2020 ski season. “Skiing, like other activities, such as snowshoeing and hiking, can be a safe way for individuals and families to exercise during the winter months,” said Dr. Ian Arra, the medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU). “Cross-country and alpine skiing are enjoyed at many locations across Grey and Bruce.” One of the largest draws for winter adventure in the area is, of course, Blue Mountain Resort. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the resort will look a little different this year. “This season, we will be prioritizing pass holder access to the mountain and limiting day-lift tickets. Guests cannot arrive at the resort and purchase a day-lift ticket – all tickets must be purchased online and the number of available day-lift tickets has been significantly reduced,” said Tara Lovell, manager of public relations for Blue Mountain Resort. She adds that the number of available day-lift tickets will be based on available terrain, skier-visit data and available indoor space at the resort’s three base lodges. “The most important thing for visitors to know is that this year more than any other, the need to plan ahead. Research current public health guidelines, go online to plan and pre-book their experiences before arriving at the resort,” Lovell added. According to Arra, the GBHU has actively been working with area ski clubs and resorts to assist in modifying operations in order to reduce the likelihood of close contact between people. “The biggest risk is likely to be through close contact with other individuals, especially if people are not wearing facial coverings. Any activity where there are crowds of people, especially closer than two metres, is a concern,” Arra said. In relation to the ski hill, GBHU has released the following ski-specific guidelines: For individuals, the health unit recommends: “When guests arrive at Blue, we encourage skiers and riders to come to the hill prepared to ski,” Lovell said. “Masks are required. In accordance with our local public health guidelines, masks or face coverings will be required without exception in the lift line and on the lifts.” But what about crossing county or health unit lines for a day on the slopes? For instance, the Town of Collingwood sits in the County of Simcoe under the umbrella of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), which is currently in the Public Health Classification Level of stage three or zone orange. Yet, on the edge of Collingwood’s town limits sits the Blue Mountain Resort, which resides in Grey County and the GBHU, which is currently in stage two or the yellow zone. “The GBHU would advise people to keep up to date with current government requirements and guidelines. Currently, the province of Ontario is advising people in high-risk areas to not travel to areas of lower risk,” said Arra. Current provincial advice states travel from high-risk areas is to be restricted and should be for "essential purposes only." Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU, recently voiced his concerns around allowing visitors into the area from other high-risk regions. “The province’s official advice is that residents from grey and red areas not travel. ... Recreational skiing, while a pleasure … is not essential,” he said, adding that he would go as far as “recommending” businesses adopt a policy to only serve customers from orange zones or lower. Gardner also recently issued a letter to all the municipalities in the region, which strongly recommended they prohibit access to their recreational facilities by anyone residing in a red or grey zone. He also recommends residents in Simcoe-Muskoka not travel to regions that are under yellow or green restrictions except for essential purposes such as work, school, or medical appointments. For now, according to Lovell, Blue Mountain Resort does not have any travel restrictions in place for those travelling from high-risk areas. “At this time, we have not put formal travel restrictions in place. We do strongly encourage all visitors to review and abide by their own local public health guidelines and any guests planning to visit Blue Mountain must review and be prepared to adhere to our Personal Responsibility Code,” Lovell said. For the ski resorts operating in Simcoe-Muskoka, the SMDHU released a letter to area resorts at the end of October outlining the public health requirements for the coming season. According to the SMDHU, ski and snow resorts are permitted to open in stage three but are subject to various operating requirements, such as: “Daily screening applies to members of the public, staff and volunteers who only attend outdoor settings at ski and snow resort facilities even if they do not go inside a resort building,” noted Gardner in the letter to area ski resorts. In addition, earlier today Garnder released an updated letter of instruction for businesses and organizations located in the County of Simcoe, District of Muskoka, City of Barrie, and the City of Orillia. The new letter provides further detail around the expectations of screening of employees; physical distancing and ramifications for close contacts of an employee diagnosed with COVID-19. For the ski industry, the largest takeaways in the directive will be the requirement to: * Appoint a compliance officer responsible for the implementation of a COVID-19 safety plan * Utilize physical barriers (such as plexiglass) where reasonably possible, in particular in environments where physical distancing cannot take place. Note that a face shield is not considered an adequate face covering - a face mask must also be worn * Ensure accurate and updated contact information for all employees * Minimize instances of more than one individual per vehicle for driving associated with work. The additional requirements will come into effect on Dec.5. Kelly Sinclair, part-owner and operator of Highlands Nordic, a cross-country ski facility located in the Niagara Escarpment just outside of Duntroon in the SMDHU district, says operations at her resort have also been adapted for COVID-19 safety protocols. “As a cross-country ski resort we operate a little differently than a downhill resort. The obvious part is that we don't have a chairlift, which is the biggest restriction for downhill skiing,” Sinclair said. In regards to limiting traffic from other high-risk areas in the province, Sinclair says the resort does not have a policy in place currently but will follow the guidelines provided by Simcoe-Muskoka and Clearview Township. “We have needed to hire some additional staff to accommodate the demand for cross-country skiing and to ensure our facility stays clean and welcoming. We are a hardworking team who are ready to adapt and take on any tasks,” she said. Sinclair notes that anyone looking to visit Highlands Nordic should come with knowledge of the current public health recommendations and as ski-ready as possible. “We are encouraging skiers to come ready to ski, limit their time inside as much as possible and embrace winter!” she said. As the ski season and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, both the SMDHU and GBHU encourage the public to stay informed of the current public health recommendations and possible changes to the Public Health Classification Levels. “Follow public health advice, be respectful of club or resort instructions, wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and be kind,” added Arra. — With files from Erika EngelJennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Mounties who were looking for a woman and her three children in southern Alberta say the family has been found safe. Bow Island RCMP asked for help Tuesday in finding the 41-year-old woman and her children, who are 12, 10 and five. They said a relative last spoke with the family during the first week of November. Police also said neighbours had not recently seen the family. RCMP say they have been located and thanked members of the public for their assistance. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
La MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord consacre la plus grande partie de son budget 2021 au développement pour la première fois en plus de 20 ans. Un montant de 4 038 837 $ est prévu pour ce poste budgétaire, soit plus du double qu’en 2020 alors qu’il bénéficiait de 1 846 393 $. C’est ce qui a été dévoilé le 25 novembre alors que le conseil des maires était réuni en assemblée ordinaire de façon virtuelle. « Il s’agit d‘une année exceptionnelle en terme de développement », a déclaré la préfète Micheline Anctil en parlant des prévisions budgétaires pour 2021. « Cette croissance en faveur du développement s’explique, entre autres, par une participation financière accrue des instances gouvernementales. Ce choix du conseil des maires en faveur du développement aura des impacts considérables au cours des trois prochaines années », explique le directeur général de la MRC, Paul Langlois. Effectivement, de nouveaux fonds verront le jour en 2021 et toucheront « à plusieurs domaines tant la relance économique, l’agroforestier que le culturel », dévoile Mme Anctil. Le Fonds pour le rayonnement des régions sera doté d’un troisième (Innovation et signature) et quatrième volets (Vitalisation et revitalisation). Ils bénéficieront respectivement de 197 000 $ et 977 000 $ annuellement pendant cinq ans. De plus, le nouveau réseau de transport mis en place par Hydro-Québec sur le territoire de la MRC permet la récolte de redevances d’un montant de 1 900 000 $ à dépenser sur deux ans selon un protocole d’entente qui sera signé en février. « Les MRC sont appelées à devenir des intermédiaires du gouvernement pour le développement économique des régions. Le ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation a d’ailleurs instauré de nouveaux comités de développement régional, qui auront à agir dans un avenir proche », de dévoiler le directeur général, en entrevue téléphonique. Les critères de ces nouveaux programmes d’aide financière ne sont pas encore fixés et la MRC n’est pas prête à recevoir des demandes. Ils seront établis au cours de l’année et « les fonds qui ne seront pas dépensés comme prévu, seront redistribués dans l’enveloppe 2022 », soutient M. Langlois. « Les efforts de la MRC porteront fortement sur la consolidation des entreprises, des organismes et des commerces des huit municipalités qui la composent, tout en cherchant à favoriser le développement du tourisme, de l’agroalimentaire et de l’innovation pour la création d’emplois », a précisé Micheline Anctil, lors de l’adoption du budget. Les secteurs social et communautaire feront aussi l’objet d’une attention plus intensive en 2021 « dans le but d’assurer des services de qualité, entre autres, par le biais de programmes sociaux, et de favoriser le mieux-être des personnes aînées et des moins favorisés de nos communautés », a dévoilé Mme Anctil. Revenus et dépenses En ce qui concerne les revenus, les municipalités de la Haute-Côte-Nord devront contribuer pour un total de 2 236 181 $ en quotes-parts, divisées selon la richesse foncière. La Ville de Forestville déboursera la plus importante quote-part, soit plus de 500 000 $ tandis que Portneuf-sur-Mer versera environ 99 000 $, la plus basse. Les transferts gouvernementaux totaliseront 6 213 314 $ et les services rendus procurent 1 645 595 $ à la MRC. Les autres revenus d’intérêts rapportent 31 000 $ dans les coffres et les revenus d’investissement 1 460 000 $. Quant aux dépenses, 1 710 228 $ seront décaissés pour l’administration générale, 863 624 $ pour l’aménagement, 4 038 837 $ pour le développement, 2 815 902 $ pour la gestion des matières résiduelles, 455 000 $ pour l’évaluation, 704 800 $ pour les baux, 460 700 $ pour le transport et, finalement, 40 000 $ pour la forêt privée. Les dépenses d’investissement atteindront 497 000 $. C’est donc un budget équilibré qui a été déposé par la préfète tout comme celui de l’an dernier qui s’élevait à 8 892 387 $, soit 2,6 M$ en moins.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
A proposed class action suit has been launched against Dell Technologies on behalf of thousands of Canadians whose personal information was compromised in a data breach.According to a claim filed in a Nova Scotia court, the suit's proposed representative plaintiff is seeking compensation for two years of scam calls and emails he received after a 2017 data breach exposed information about him and more than 7,000 other Dell customers.In response to Wednesday's announcement of the suit, filed Oct. 1, Dell issued an emailed statement saying it "places the highest priority on the protection of customer data.""The Office of the Privacy Commissioner's related investigation found that we improved our 'security safeguards along with (our) complaint handling and breach investigation practices.' "According to the suit, which hasn't been certified as a class action, its proposed representative plaintiff suffered through years of inconvenience and anxiety as a consequence of the breach, which occurred at a call centre in India that provided customer support services for Dell.It says Dell tech support collected and stored information about the plaintiff, including service history, warranty information and model numbers as well as personal information, after he sought assistance with his computer.It says he began to get harassing calls from individuals claiming to be Dell employees, starting in January 2018.After taking steps to get Dell to deal with the problem to his satisfaction, the man filed a complaint in February 2018 with the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner.The OPC reported earlier this year that the man had a well- founded complaint. It also uncovered additional detail about how the breach occurred.In the meantime, according to the statement of claim, the plaintiff "received five to 10 scam calls per day, seven days a week, at all hours (from January 2018 to early 2020)."The calls would wake (him) from sleep, and constantly interrupt his life. (He) was eventually left with no option but to change his work phone number used by countless clients, work contacts and employers."After the phone number changed, the suit claims its main plaintiff began to get numerous emails per day requesting that he call a number to resolve a Dell computer issue."(He) continues to suffer anxiety and distress over the materially increased risk of identity theft, being the target of additional scams, and further cybercrime," the claim says.His lawyers are asking the court to recognize him as a representative for other Canadian customers of Dell that were affected by the 2017 breach,The Wagners law firm in Halifax said in a Wednesday press statement that the suit claims that Dell Canada and its parent company were negligent and didn't sufficiently protect the privacy of its customers.The suit doesn't specify how much money the plaintiffs should get, but asks the court to award damages for breach of privacy and negligence and other compensation.The defendants named in the suit are Dell Technologies Inc., headquartered in Texas, and its Canadian subsidiary in Toronto.The federal privacy commission said in a July 2020 report it investigated two complaints from people with Dell computers and found them well-founded.One of the complainants, who the OPC didn't identify by name, fit the description of the law suit's plaintiff. The other case involved calls received by a complainant and her father, starting in July 2017."At the time of the complaints, Dell used a service provider to deliver support for its customers in a call centre located in India. Two employees of the provider inappropriately disclosed Dell customer data lists in June and November of 2017," the OPC report says.It added that "Dell is unaware what information was disclosed in the June 2017 breach, but both complainants had their personal information breached in November 2017."The report also concluded that certain safeguards "were insufficient given the sensitivity of the personal information at issue. "We also found that Dell failed to adequately investigate the circumstances of the June 2017 breach and failed to adequately respond to customer complaints."However, the privacy office said Dell made numerous changes in response to its recommendations and it considered the matter resolved.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020David Paddon, The Canadian Press
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) released a final decision recently on the applicable uses of the fungicide, mancozeb after a years-long process. Popular among vegetable and fruit growers, mancozeb is a broad-spectrum fungicide with a low risk of parasite resistance that has been used in Canada since the 1960s. Today, according to Health Canada’s pesticide registry, mancozeb is used in at least 40 registered products. Under the Pest Control Products Act, the PMRA regularly re-evaluates pesticides to ensure they’re safe for people and the environment. In 2018, a document outlining proposed changes to the use of mancozeb was released, revealing that the PMRA was proposing cancellation of all mancozeb use, aside from greenhouse tobacco, “due to risks to human health and the environment that were not found to be acceptable.” “I was in an apple meeting and I was told apples were cancelled, and my face went white,” said Charles Stevens of the moment he was told of the news. Stevens, an apple grower in Newcastle and chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s crop protection committee, said mancozeb is likely the most important fungicide to the apple industry — he says he’s used it on crops for over 40 years. Leading a mancozeb task force, Stevens, Craig Hunter, Caleigh Hallink-Irwin, and Jason Smith pushed back against the government’s proposal, meeting with then PMRA executive director, Richard Aucoin, in 2018. “It was the most important crop protection meeting of my life in this industry,” Stevens said. “They pulled the final decision back which has never happened in North America ever, so this was a big deal,” he explained. “There were a lot of things that we had presented that the executive director had not heard. He was not happy with his staff that had done the re-evaluation. That was all there was to it; tey had not done a good job and he recognized that and he put the hammer down,” Stevens said of the agency’s decision to pull back. That started the year’s long process of redoing the re-evaluation of mancozeb, which culminated in a final decision being released on Nov. 19 this year. In an emailed response to questions from Niagara This Week, Health Canada spokesperson Kathleen Marriner said the agency’s evaluation found mancozeb products meet current health and environment standards when used with new mitigation measures. Under the 2020 decision, use is approved for: ground and aerial foliar application to potatoes; and ground foliar application on apples, onions, sugar beets, ginseng, field cucumbers, field tomatoes, grapes, pumpkin, squash, and melon (but not watermelon), and in-furrow application to onions. According to Marriner’s email, use has been repealed for all seed treatments, greenhouse uses, and use on pears, carrots, celery, lettuce, watermelon, lentils, wheat, alfalfa grown for seed, as well as ornamentals and forestry uses. Mancozeb also cannot be applied using hand-held equipment, or used for commercial-class wettable powder or dust formulations. “At the end of the day, they haven't changed the amount used in Canada,” Stevens said, explaining that usage limits had previously been granted to potatoes, leaving the rest of the horticulture sector wanting. In this year's decision, removing two uses of mancozeb from potatoes provided enough uses to be distributed among other crops, while staying within limits of the total amount of the fungicide that can be used. “It was worth the effort, and it got done correctly at the end of the day,” Stevens said. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
The owner of the Water Street Dinner Theatre in Saint John says he gave Public Health the names and numbers of the 120 guests and staff who were present for a Nov. 13 show, but he can't say whether that was a superspreader event. Roy Billingsley says he's aware that people are speculating that his was one of " two venues" that the chief medical officer of health has described as being the source of 80 per cent of the current active cases in the Saint John zone. "The timeline might suggest that we were involved," said Billingsley. "But I've received no confirmation of that." Billingsley said Public Health notified him on Nov. 18 about a potential public exposure at the theatre on the previous Friday evening. "I was told that myself and my staff had to isolate for 14 days," said Billingsley, who has since decided to close the venue indefinitely. He said about a dozen employees were working that night, and all were tested for the coronavirus but none tested positive.Billingsley said the business was complying with the strict protocols that were in place at the time and masks were mandatory except when customers were seated at their tables. The venue can accommodate 14 tables of 10 people each, with two metres of distance between the tables. As another precaution, customers were able to place their food orders online in advance of the show, he said.> I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines. We were playing by the rules. \- Roy Billingsley, Water Street Dinner Theatre ownerThere was an option to order drinks by texting the bartender, and diners could also order beverages in advance of the event.Those who decided to line up for drinks had to maintain the appropriate distance. "I guess I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines," Billingsley said. "We were playing by the rules. "It's unfortunate that somebody was identified as attending one of our productions having COVID-19. However, I think as long as business owners abide by the rules, anybody who lays blame is kind of foolish for doing so. We're all working within the guidelines, and I think people really need to be kind at this time."Owner not sure when dinner theatre will reopen CBC News asked Billingsley how his business has been faring since the start of the pandemic. He operates both the dinner theatre and a restaurant in the same building across from the cruise ship terminal He said the restaurant, Steamers, is a seasonal business that normally closes in November. This year he decided to close it in September. In March, Ottawa announced a ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters and later cancelled the season entirely. Billingsley said he doesn't know when he'll be able to safely open the theatre, especially since singing is part of the show. "It's been a bit of a roller-coaster," he said. "We've been very fortunate in our region that we haven't had to deal with the effects of COVID for very long … but it certainly takes a toll on you, financially and psychologically." On Nov. 20, when Dr. Jennifer Russell first mentioned the superspreader event in response to a question from CBC News, she said it involved "many" health-care workers. Billingsley said he didn't know about health-care workers attending the show but said many of the customers that night would have known each other.Russell brought up the subject again on Tuesday, without naming dates, times or locations of what she called the superspreader event. She said it occurred at two venues over the course of one evening in Saint John and was directly responsible for 60 confirmed cases in Zone 2. "Sixty people have contracted the respiratory disease from the event — 34 who attended and 26 others who were infected when they came into contact with attendees," said Russell. "This isn't about casting blame, it's really about a teaching moment."
SIOUX LOOK — Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police have released the name of a woman who died in a house fire last month as they continue to determine the cause of the fire. Clara Ash, 37, of Sioux Lookout has been identified as the individual who died in a house fire on Nov. 19. In a news release issued Wednesday, Dec. 2, police say the cause of death was smoke inhalation. Police responded at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 19 along with fire and emergency crews to an apartment on First Avenue in the municipality of Sioux Lookout. Two individuals were extracted from the building and neighbouring units were safely evacuated, according to a news release. A third deceased individual was located by firefighters. OPP continue to investigate the cause of the fire under the direction of the criminal investigations branch, the chief coroner, and the Ontario Fire Marshal. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact OPP or their local police service.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 6, 2020 Jamie Thomas hopes his artistic talents are a hit for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO. The Barrie artist created a piece depicting baseball great Jackie Robinson called Breaking Barriers, that will be up for auction online to raise money for the museum. Thomas will be among participating artists from Asia, Europe, and North America who will be featured at www.nlbmart.com where their work will be prominently displayed by @Tagboard. Thomas will have his piece up for auction on eBay, with 42 per cent of sales going to the museum to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Negro League. Established in 1990, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America. The online event runs until Oct. 10. Amid a backdrop of renewed calls for social justice and equal rights throughout 2020, the NLBM has led a nation-wide celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
The Lower Thames Valley Conservation Area wants residents to voice their opposition to changes made by the provincial government to the Conservation Act. On Nov. 5, the Ontario government held its first reading of Bill 229 known as the Protect, Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act. Of the many changes in the omnibus bill included the Conservation Act. Mark Peacock, CAO secretary treasurer of LTVCA said he takes particular issue with changes that now limit the scope of what a conservation authority’s mandate is. “Basically, the object or purpose of conservation authorities, since 1946, has always been the same; to do watershed management to better the watershed. We’ve been doing that for 70-some-odd years and made significant connections with our farmers, communities and took local action to make our watershed better and protect the species,” he said. Peacock said the new mandate would limit authorities’ programs and services related to the risk of natural hazards. “That’s not what a conservation authority is all about or what the public expects us to be.” Bill 229 would also allow the ministry to “arbitrarily make a decision” regarding permits for developers who would be allowed to appeal conservation authorities’ decisions directly to the ministry. The current system was put in place after Hurricane Hazel struck southern Ontario in 1954, killing more than 80 people living on flood plains. In response, the provincial government amended act to enable conservation authorities to acquire lands for recreation and conservation purposes, and to regulate that land for the safety of the community. “One of the challenges we have is we are trying to make it so people can work together. You can very well make it so one person’s piece of shoreline blows out. We are trying to get neighbours to work together to support each other, If people start appealing this stuff, decisions may be made that don’t necessarily work to follow larger shoreline problems,” Peacock said. One of the first principles passed in the early days of the Conservation Act was that the costs of projects should be shared by municipalities and by the provincial government. A local conservation authority follows the natural boundaries of the watershed, not municipal lines, Peacock explained. However, the new act would make it so that the municipal councillors who sit on LTVCA are only responsible for their municipalities. “But the purpose is to get all the member municipalities together to work for the betterment of the watershed, not just the municipality. Takes away from the whole concept of what we are about,” he said. “We are saying Lakeshore and Chatham-Kent have to get together because if Lighthouse Cove floods, that affects everyone. So farmers have to work together to be responsible to everybody on the river.” Peacock said Bill 229 is only an enabling act so the full effects it will have on conservation authorities will not be known until regulations for the act are passed. In the meantime, Peacock is hoping to drum up local support by having residents reach out to their local MPPs and discuss the issue. “The idea of a conservation authority is about a municipality forgetting about the square lines of their map and realizing water runs right from the top to the bottom.”Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
JERUSALEM — Israel took a major step toward plunging into its fourth national election in under two years on Wednesday as lawmakers — supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner — passed a preliminary proposal to dissolve parliament. The 61-54 vote came just seven months after the coalition took office following three inconclusive elections in just over a year. Netanyahu's Likud party and Defence Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White said they were seeking national unity to confront the coronavirus crisis. But since then, the rivals have been locked in infighting. The vote gave only preliminary approval to ending the alliance and forcing a new election early next year. The legislation now heads to a committee before parliament as a whole takes up final approval, perhaps as soon as next week. In the meantime, Gantz and Netanyahu are expected to continue negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to preserve their troubled alliance. By joining the opposition in Wednesday's vote, Gantz’s party voiced its dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own personal interests ahead of those of the country. Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges, and Gantz accuses the prime minister of hindering key governmental work, including the passage of a national budget, in hopes of stalling or overturning the legal proceedings against him. Gantz and other critics believe Netanyahu is ultimately hoping to see a friendlier parliament elected next year that will give him immunity from prosecution. Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sponsored the bill to trigger new elections, accused the government of gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. He said the one thing all citizens share is “the feeling that they lost control over their lives.” The government still has not yet passed a budget for 2020, a result of the deep divisions produced by its power-sharing agreement. The lack of budget has caused severe hardships and cutbacks for Israelis at a time when unemployment is estimated at over 20% because of the pandemic. In a nationally broadcast news conference Wednesday evening, Netanyahu delivered a mixed message, calling on Gantz to remain in the government but also sounding very much like a politician on the campaign trail. Netanyahu began his address by claiming credit for leading the battle against the coronavirus, forging diplomatic agreements with Gulf Arab countries and protecting Israel against its enemies in the region. He derisively referred to Gantz's party as “an opposition within the coalition" and skirted around questions about passing the budget or honouring the rotation agreement with Gantz. “In dramatic times like these, we don’t need to go to elections. The people of Israel want unity, not ballots. It wants vaccines, and not campaign ads,” he said. "The only way we can defeat corona is defeating it together. We need to put politics aside.” Gantz, meanwhile, released a video blaming Netanyahu for the political paralysis and economic damage resulting from the pandemic. “We all know the truth. You know the truth,” Gantz said in the video. “If there was no trial, there would be a budget. If there was no trial, there would be a functioning government. There would be unity.” Israel has gone through two nationwide lockdowns since March, and officials are already warning that rising infections could result in a return to strict restrictions that were only recently lifted. If a budget for 2020 isn’t passed by Dec. 23, Israeli law stipulates an automatic dissolution of parliament and new elections three months later in late March. Under the coalition deal, Netanyahu is to serve as prime minister until November 2021, with the job rotating to Gantz for 18 months after that. The only way Netanyahu can hold onto his seat and get out of that agreement is if a budget doesn’t pass and new elections are held. There were no indications that either side is interested in preserving their partnership for the long run. Instead, the battle is expected to be over when the election will be held. Although Gantz's party has plummeted in opinion polls, he appears to have concluded that elections are inevitable and the sooner they are held, the better. By pushing for an election early next year, he seems to be banking that Netanyahu will be punished by voters for a still-raging pandemic, a struggling economy and the resumption of his corruption trial. Starting in February, Netanyahu's corruption trial is scheduled to kick into high gear, with a string of witnesses testifying against him. The prime minister expected to be a frequent visitor to the courtroom. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is expected to try to drag out budget talks to delay elections until the summer in hopes that a vaccine will arrive and the economy will begin to recover. If he can put together a hardline coalition at that time, he might finally be positioned to push through an immunity bill or appoint new judicial officials to freeze or overturn his case. “Over the last two years, the only question you need to ask is not what is best for the country and not what is best for this or that party, but what is in the best interest of Benjamin Netanyahu," Gayil Tashir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, told reporters. She said it looks like Netanyahu thinks it is his best interest to hold an election next summer. One wild card in any Israeli election will be the administration of President-elect Joe Biden. Netanyahu has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump after clashing with President Barack Obama for the previous eight years. Israeli officials fear that Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, will return to the policies of that era, especially renewing possible diplomatic engagement with archenemy Iran. Tashir said this would be a “big issue” in the next Israeli campaign. “Netanyahu is going to put forward an argument which says 'I’m the only Israeli leader who can actually stand up against a Biden administration,'" she said. Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
Halifax councillors want to crack down on landlords who purposely make rental units unlivable as a ploy to pressure tenants to move out of their homes. Rosanna Chilton, a renter in Halifax, said the door to her basement apartment on Joseph Howe Drive was removed on Dec. 1 for 24 hours."My roommate was there when he removed the door and ran away with it," she said. "He wanted to bully us out of here."Chilton had to miss work and make a number of calls before the door was put back. She is looking for another place to live, but has not been able to find one that she can afford.Councillors are hearing from other tenants with similar stories."I just had another note from a young woman who had her doors and windows taken off," said Coun. Pam Lovelace. "Landlords should know that Halifax will not put up with this."Councillor calls for $10K finesThe province handles landlord-tenant disputes, such as overdue rent, through the tenancy board. The municipality is responsible for health and safety standards of rental buildings."If the tenancy board has problems, that's an issue for landlords to take to the province," said Coun. Waye Mason. "But in the interim, they can't do these things that put people's lives at risk."Mason said there should be a $10,000 fine per day, per incident, and the municipality should have the ability to send in a contractor to immediately replace a door or window.HRM officials are already working on a new rental bylaw that will have occupancy standards and a rental registry. Mason is calling for new fines for health and safety violations to be included in the bylaw, which is expected to be ready by April."I think our bylaw officers need the biggest stick possible," he said. "You cannot make a unit dangerous because you have a tenant dispute."MORE TOP STORIES
Indigenous Services Minister Mark Miller was asked on Wednesday about the results of an investigation that found an RCMP officer in Nunavut “did not intentionally strike” an Inuk man with his truck’s door over the course of an arrest in June. A reporter asked how Miller could describe the incident as “disgraceful” and “dehumanizing,” yet no charges have been laid at this time, to which he replied, “I saw what I saw,” followed by a long pause.
New membership is bringing new ideas to one Tay Township neighbourhood. Several of those new ideas were presented to council at a recent meeting by Victoria Reaume,president, Talpines Property Owners' Association. “Waubaushene has changed over the last few years and it's still changing a lot,” she said. “We see young families and retirees moving into town. They're looking for wonderful new things to do in the community.” One of those, said Reaume, is to enhance the usability of the Tay Trail. “We've raised a number of issues with bylaw about motorized vehicles,” she said. “The township did do some stakeouts and managed to catch some folks who were riding motorcycles on the trail and other types of vehicles.” But the trail, said Reaume, is increasingly being used by bike clubs and there seem to be no speed limits. “They will ride by in numbers like 20 and it's scary when they drive by at that speed,” she said. “We're asking for more signage because clearly people are not seeing the signage that exists.” The group is also looking to beautify Pine Street Beach with a mural on the tin building in the vicinity, said Reaume. “It's a very popular site and we're starting to see people use it more,” she said, talking about the beach. “We also mentioned last year a ramp or stairs at the beach so people with mobility problems could have better access to the beach. We don't want a boat ramp for sure. We do want a pedestrian ramp, something that people can use to walk down more easily.” As well, Reaume said, a lot of the seniors and kids go down to enjoy the beach, where there's no shade. “We know that other parks in Tay have gazebos,” she said. “We just want something to provide a bit of shade; we don't need anything fancy.” At least two councillors expressed support at the meeting. “We could maybe look at accessibility grants out there to make that beach more accessible,” said Coun. Mary Warnock. “I'm sure there are artists out there looking to paint something so you could collaborate with them. And I'm sure staff would appreciate the help in getting some money for signage.” Coun. Jeff Bumstead said he could watch out for opportunities through the Cultural Alliance Committee channel. A final decision about how much money can be given to the Talpines POA will be made at a December council meeting around grants.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
La pandémie de COVID-19 n’a pas épargné les lieux de culte qui ont dû s’adapter aux directives gouvernementales après plusieurs mois de fermeture. Les célébrations du temps des Fêtes ne feront pas exception et les paroissiens devront réserver leur place à certains endroits. « Compte tenu de la pandémie qui nous oblige à pratiquer la distanciation physique, un système de réservation est mis en place afin d’optimiser l’espace pour la célébration de Noël du 24 décembre à 22 h », a dévoilé la paroisse Ste-Croix de Tadoussac sur sa page Facebook. Pour réserver un banc, les citoyens doivent téléphoner au presbytère à 418 235-4324 et des places leur seront octroyées selon le nombre de personnes requis. « Vous devrez cependant être arrivés 15 minutes avant le début de la célébration sinon les places pourront être assignées à d’autres personnes », est-il précisé. C’est le même processus pour la paroisse Sacré-Cœur-de-Jésus où le curé Léonard Kapia présidera la messe de Noël le 24 décembre à 20 h. Les intéressés doivent téléphoner au presbytère au 418-236-4323 pour placer une réservation afin de « maximiser l’espace disponible dans l’église ». En ce qui concerne l’église St-Marcellin des Escoumins, un maximum de 100 personnes sera accueilli le 24 décembre à 19 h. L’équipe pastorale s’occupera de faire le décompte des présences et du respect des mesures de la santé publique. Comme le nombre de paroissiens assistant aux célébrations a diminué depuis la pandémie, ce n’est pas inquiétant de devoir retourner des gens le soir de Noël, selon la paroisse. Secteur est À Longue-Rive, l’église Saint-Paul célébrera Noël le 24 décembre à 21 h 30. « Pour ce qui est de la COVID, nous sommes en zone jaune et l’église peut contenir 160 personnes », mentionne la responsable Marjolaine Tremblay, précisant qu’il ne sera pas nécessaire de réserver son banc à l’avance. De Portneuf-sur-Mer à Colombier, les messes du 24 décembre se dérouleront en rotation. Le curé Irénée Girard débutera la soirée à l’église Ste-Thérèse à 16 h et poursuivra à 19 h à Ste-Anne-de-Portneuf, à 20 h à l’église St-Luc de Forestville pour terminer à la paroisse Saint-Marc-de-Latour à 21 h. L’abbé Antonio Laflamme, quant à lui, célébrera pour la 53e année consécutive la messe du 25 décembre à 10 h 30 à Forestville. Les célébrations de la fête de Jésus se dérouleront comme à l’habitude pour ces quatre municipalités qui pourront accueillir 50 cellules familiales afin de respecter la distanciation sociale. « On prendra toutes les précautions nécessaires pour instaurer les directives sanitaires et offrir une messe de Noël mémorable aux gens présents », affirme M. Girard. Il n’y aura toutefois pas de chorale, ni de crèche vivante.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
BERLIN — The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted Wednesday to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from a category of the world's most dangerous drugs, which could impact the global medical marijuana industry.The Vienna-based U.N. agency said in a statement that it had voted 27-25, with one abstention, to follow the World Health Organization's recommendation to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed with heroin and several other opioids.The drugs that are on Schedule IV are a subset of those on Schedule I of the convention, which already requires the highest levels of international control. The agency voted to leave cannabis and cannabis resin on the list of Schedule I drugs, which also include cocaine, Fentanyl, morphine, Methadone, opium and oxycodone, the opiate painkiller sold as OxyContin,Wednesday's vote therefore does not clear U.N. member nations to legalize marijuana under the international drug control system. Canada and Uruguay have legalized the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes, but many countries around the world have decriminalized marijuana possession.The schedules weigh a drug's medical utility versus the possible harm that it might cause, and experts say that taking cannabis off the strictest schedule could lead, however, to the loosening of international controls on medical marijuana.The Associated Press
More small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a provincial grant under a recently extended program. Applications for the small and medium enterprise (SME) relaunch grant were due last week but a second round of applications will now be available until March 31, according to the Alberta government. “A lot of our small- and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of (the grant),” said Larry Gibson, Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce chairperson. Gibson said the chamber has heard from approximately a half-dozen businesses that have applied since the program was introduced in June, including a couple near Clairmont. The SME relaunch grant benefits businesses, co-operatives and non-profits that have experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic. The SME grant is for 15 per cent of the business’ pre-COVID monthly revenue, or a maximum of $5,000, said Justin Brattinga, Jobs, Economy and Innovation department press secretary. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t go far these days, but it is a helpful program when you’re looking at added expenses,” Gibson said. “Most of the (local businesses) are using the grant to offset some of the extra costs, in plexiglass shields, the masks and sanitization.” Gibson said Grande Prairie-area businesses that have shown interest in the grant represent a variety of sectors, including retail, small manufacturing organizations and the restaurant and hospitality industries. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 500 employees and be affected by provincial restrictions, or have revenue losses of 40 per cent, according to the Alberta government. Initially, the SME grant required the business to have revenue losses of 50 per cent, a threshold lowered to 40 per cent retroactively to March, Brattinga said. The lowered threshold will enable thousands of more businesses across the province to benefit, he said. The chamber observed many small- and medium-sized businesses experience losses in the range of 40 and 50 per cent between April and May, Gibson said. The new funding is available to businesses in enhanced-status areas of the province, such as the city and county of Grande Prairie and the municipalities within the county.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News