To say 2020 was a hard year might be an understatement. But despite all of the challenges, Canadians still found bright spots where they could.
To say 2020 was a hard year might be an understatement. But despite all of the challenges, Canadians still found bright spots where they could.
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
A regional chief from the Assembly of First Nations says the practice of birth alerts may result in court action. “I have not out-ruled bringing forward a class action for all birth alerts that have been put in place, for the atrocities and the separation between mothers and children unnecessarily in the past,” said Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart. Hart was speaking at the AFN’S virtual gathering Jan. 19 to discuss An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. That Act came into law Jan. 1, 2020. Section 14 of the Act ends the practise of birth alerts. It states, in part, “To the extent that providing a prenatal service that promotes preventive care is consistent with what will likely be in the best interests of an Indigenous child after he or she is born, the provision of that service is to be given priority over other services in order to prevent the apprehension of the child at the time of the child’s birth.” Birth alerts, according to the Manitoba Department of Children and Families, “are used as a mechanism to notify hospitals and other child and family services (CFS) agencies of the need for further assessment before a newborn is discharged to the care of a parent who has been assessed as ‘high risk’. Under this practice, a CFS agency issues the birth alert and Manitoba Families is responsible for the distribution of the alert.” Manitoba stopped issuing birth alerts as of July 1, 2020, six months after the federal Act came into force, announcing the practise would be “replaced with preventative and community-based supports for families.” For Ontario, the call came even later. The Ontario Ministry of Children and Women’s Issues made the announcement on July 14, 2020 that it would eliminate the birth alerts effective Oct. 15, 2020. “It has been reported the practice of birth alerts disproportionately affects racialized and marginalized mothers and families,” the Ontario government said in a news release. Ending the use of birth alerts was a recommendation from both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the legacy of Indian residential schools, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. “The birth alerts, in my respectful view as a law professor and someone who has worked in this field for a long time as a lawyer, they have never been legal in terms of taking your private information and pasting it into an entire healthcare system,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who also spoke at the AFN virtual conference. She called birth alerts “one of the most traumatic, toxic, harmful experiences” a mother could have with her newborn baby ripped away from her. Turpel-Lafond pointed out that that experience with the healthcare system followed the mother, who often times was reluctant to seek health care and when she did she experienced discrimination because the birth alert was on her file. “I do see for … Indigenous women, even by the time they’re grandparents, their kids have (been) brought up, they still feel they cannot access needed health care and they are treated disrespectfully in the health care system. That is discrimination, the stain of discrimination,” she said. Turpel-Lafond said she is aware of some provinces and territories claiming they are phasing out birth alerts, but have not as of yet, which she called “unconscionable.” Indiginews reported on Jan. 15 that British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon officially cancelled the practice of birth alerts in 2019, but Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Quebec continue the practice of birth alerts. Neither Hart nor Turpel-Lafond offered any suggestions for remedies should a class action go ahead. However, Turpel-Lafond said there has to be consequences “because harm has been done.” Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
TORONTO — Experts at a leading children's hospital say schools need to ramp up COVID-19 testing and masking in order to have all kids return to the classroom as soon as possible. The guidance comes a day after Ontario said it would permit just seven public health units in southern Ontario resume in-person learning Monday, while students in hot-spot regions will continue with online learning until at least Feb. 10. They join others in northern regions that returned to class last week, but areas including Toronto and Peel were deemed too-high risk to return to class. The new guidelines, led by experts at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, urge COVID-19 tests for all staff and students exposed to a confirmed case, while indoor masking be made mandatory for all those Grade 1 and up. The report's co-author Dr. Ronald Cohn says the current protocol is that testing is only required for those who display symptoms. He also stresses the social and mental-health needs of young children, recommending kindergartners be cohorted so they can play and interact with their peers. Cohn, president and CEO, SickKids, said schools closures should be "as time-limited as possible." "It is therefore imperative that bundled measures of infection prevention and control and a robust testing strategy are in place," he said Thursday in a release. The report also cautions against rapid tests using molecular or antigen tests because of their lower sensitivity and less effectiveness with asymptomatic cases. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
THUNDER BAY — For more than five years, the Thunder Bay police force and its partner agencies have been dealing with a high-volume of individuals travelling from southern Ontario to traffic drugs in the northwest. Through a virtual news conference on Thursday, Jan. 21, Thunder Bay police announced the results of a major joint-forces police investigation involving several agencies in southern Ontario which resulted in the seizure of $2.7 million worth of street drugs. Despite the massive seizure of drugs and arrest of 12 individuals, police said they continue to be “plagued” with more individuals ready to take over for those who have been arrested. “Any given day, our highways have couriers bringing more drugs to our communities,” Det.-Insp. John Fennell of the Thunder Bay Police Service said Thursday. “It has been made very clear from our investigations and the people being charged that much of this illicit drug trade is coming from southern Ontario,” he said. Several police forces were involved in the operation called Project Valiant including Ontario Provincial Police, York Regional Police and Canada Border Services Agency. The operation was led by the Thunder Bay Police Service. “Our gang and gun problem is real and it needs to be taken very seriously by our legal system and our government,” Fennell said. "As much effort as we put into these initiatives we continue to be plagued with a steady stream of new persons taking over for those we have been able to charge.” The investigation took place from August 2020 to December 2020. Approximately six search warrants were conducted in Thunder Bay and one major search warrant was executed in Markham, Ont. As a result, police seized 11.9 kilograms of fentanyl, 1.55 kilograms of cocaine, more than 4,000 pills of fentanyl, 846 packages of cannabis edibles for the black market and eight capsules of hydromorphone. Furthermore, police seized several weapons including 10 rifles, four shotguns, one crossbow, two high-capacity magazines, two tasers and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Police also located and seized four cars, one motorcycle, more than $120,000 in Canadian cash, fake government identification and drug trafficking paraphernalia. The project’s lead, Det.-Sgt. Dan Irwin, said during Thursday’s news conference, the long-term impact of initiatives such as Project Valiant aimed to address the high volume of illicit drugs coming into the community from southern Ontario is minimal. “It makes an impact at the beginning but like Det.-Insp. Fennell said as soon as we make arrests unfortunately the highways and the planes are full of individuals coming from the south to continue to sell fentanyl, cocaine, crack cocaine, and various other drugs,” he said. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Chatham-Kent approved it’s list 2021 to-do list and longer-term investments for its capital budget at Monday night’s council meeting. Around $6.3 million was earmarked for the 2021 capital budget. On the list of stuff getting done this year is a plan to introduce traffic calming strategies throughout Chatham-Kent’s streets in an attempt to reduce speeding. The costs will amount to $300,000 put aside for 2021. Traffic calming strategies could include items such as speed bumps, raised intersections or narrowing roads. “One of the issues we have within Chatham-Kent is speeding. So often we call upon our police to ensure there's compliance - it’s very effective to have officers issue compliance, but the real solution, the long-term solution, is to design in speed reduction and you do that through what we term traffic calming,” Thomas Kelly said. Kelly said the municipality received a number of complaints regarding three-way and four-way stops installed throughout Chatham-Kent which has proved not to be an effective strategy. He explained that roads such as King Street where parking is available on both sides and the street is narrow, are the ideal design to reduce speeding. A report on specific traffic strategies and the locations will be issued to council at a future date. Also on the list are plans to upgrade cemeteries throughout Chatham-Kent, after starting to save for the project in 2018. Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham, as well as the Blenheim, Dresden and Wallaceburg cemeteries, will all get upgrades and paved roadways for vehicles. Kelly said the upgrades should hopefully last for 30-40 years. The most costly work to be done this year will be Grand Avenue East upgrades set to cost $1.5 million from the budget and a grand total of $7 million. Chatham-Kent is also closer to it’s $24.8 million goal for the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF) which was announced in 2019. The project involves reinforcing shorelines on the Thames River, Sydenham River and McGregor Creek. The 6th Street Dam will also be replaced in order to reduce potential flooding and ice jams from the nearby rivers. More than $3.5 million sitting in the capital reserve fund was transferred to the DMAF projects. The municipality has 10 years to come up with its target in order to receive a $16.6 million contribution from the federal government. In 2020, the municipality managed to save $16.4 million, resulting in a current municipal shortfall of $8.5 million. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
OTTAWA — It will likely be another year before a federal review of the government's key transparency law is complete. Newly released terms of reference for the government study of the Access to Information Act say a report will be submitted to the Treasury Board president by Jan. 31 of next year. The review, announced last June, has prompted skepticism from open-government advocates who point to a pile of reports done over the years on reforming the access law. The law, introduced in 1983, allows people who pay $5 to ask for a range of federal documents, but it has been widely criticized as antiquated and poorly administered. Ken Rubin, a longtime user of the access law, says putting the government in charge of reviewing its own secrecy and delay problems was never a good idea. He says the Liberals should either present a new transparency bill before the next general election or let Parliament and the public figure out how to improve access to federal records. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs announced that snowmobiling will still allowed the current rules of the province-wide shutdown. The OFSC cited a section of the Stay-at-Home Order which states: “The following outdoor recreational amenities may open if they are in compliance with subsection (3) with the permitted uses listed in subsection 16 as ‘snowmobile, cross country ski, dog sledding, ice skating and snow shoe trails.’” OFSC trails will remain open as they are considered a “permitted recreational activity, allowable across the province, provided the participants comply with all other provincial and local public health unit directives.” Trail grooming operations are also allowed in the province. While trails are open, snowmobilers are limited as to which trails they can use. Feeder trails between public health regions will be closed to avoid having sledders moving between regions.In addition, you should only be rid-ing with those in your household in groups of five or less and only ride trails if they are in a yellow or green availability. The OFSC reminded riders that the information they provided refers only to riding the trails – not travelling with your trailer to to the trails, so questions about getting to the trails and travel restrictions should be directed to local law enforcement agencies such as municipalities and public health units across Ontario. Anyone found to be trailering a snowmobile to a starting point in another health district may find themselves subject to a fine. The Alliston Snowmobile Club hasn’t had a lot of luck getting on the trails this year. While other regions have open trails, the Alliston system still lacks enough snow so the tails have not been open and th Club’s website is requesting people stay off the trails until there is enough snow for a good base so they can be properly groomed Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
American forward Sebastian Soto was recalled to Norwich of the second-tier English Championship on Thursday from his loan to Telstar of the Dutch second tier. The 20-year-old from Carlsbad, California, has seven goals in 12 appearances or Telstar this season. Soto scored twice in his U.S. national team debut against Panama in November and also appeared in December's match against El Salvador. Norwich said his recall is subject to confirmation of a British work permit. Norwich leads the League Championship with 53 points, seven ahead of second-place Swansea. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — A British Columbia man who plied two teenagers with drugs and alcohol and then failed to intervene as they died will remain in prison indefinitely after the B.C. Court of Appeal refused to overturn his sentence. Martin Tremblay was convicted in 2013 of two counts each of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life, and was labelled a dangerous offender, which carries an indeterminate sentence. His trial heard he invited 16-year-old Kayla Lalonde and 17-year-old Martha Jackson to his home, gave them drugs and alcohol until they passed out, sexually assaulted them and then failed to get help when their conditions deteriorated. In a decision posted online Thursday, a panel of three judges ruled unanimously against allowing the appeal of his sentence or an introduction of new evidence that shows his progress in sexual offender programs. Tremblay asked that his sentence be changed to 20 years in prison, followed by 10 years under supervision, claiming the trial judge failed to properly consider his risk during sentencing. Writing for the panel, Justice Patrice Abrioux says there was no legal error and while Tremblay had made progress is addressing his risk factors, he wouldn't admit it as new evidence. "The reasons as a whole indicate that the judge paid careful consideration to the appellant’s risk assessment and treatment prospects," he says in the ruling. Tremblay had a long history of offences, the court noted. He was convicted in 2003 of assaulting five teenage Indigenous girls. He invited them to his house to party, gave them alcohol and drugs, waited until they passed out and videotaped himself sexually assaulting them. Tremblay claimed as a result of the programs he had completed in prison, he had taken responsibility for his actions. The Crown had opposed the introduction of the new evidence, telling the Appeal Court it did not relate to the legal error Tremblay claimed the trial judge made or relate to the prison sentence he had been given. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Nick Wells, The Canadian Press
Thursday January 14th the next step in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic began in communities radiating outward from Prince Albert as the first community vaccination clinics began. In the modeling statistics presented by Dr. Shahab at the provincial update that day, the seven day average from January 5-11 showed the North Central zone to have the highest daily active cases at 585.4 ahead even of Saskatoon and Regina. In response, this past week, the Saskatchewan Health Authority organized COVID-19 clinics in 11 communities for individuals 70 years of age and older: Wakaw, Cudworth, Rosthern, Big River, Canwood, Shellbrook, Birch Hills, Debden, Blaine Lake, Candle Lake and Christopher Lake. The first clinic was held in Big River As news of the clinics were released to the public, residents from all over the province began phoning trying to book appointments. In Wakaw appointments were available for residents of Wakaw, Cudworth and surrounding areas from 4 – 8 p.m. on Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and when those filled in just a few hours, some more appointments were made available on Sunday January 17th. These appointments were filled just as quickly. The Saskatchewan Health Authority has stated that as more shipments of vaccines become available staff at the eleven locations will be able to open more appointments. In Wakaw the EMT’s have been trained in the procedures necessary to reconstitute, store and administer the Pfizer vaccine. Frontline healthcare workers in Wakaw’s Primary Health/ CEC, Wakaw Ambulance EMS, and Lakeview Pioneer Lodge as well as any resident at the Lodge who wished to receive it were also given their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine on January 15th. In all, Mayor Steve Skoworodko said, 200 doses came to the community and he was happy that the roll out was beginning and that it was beginning here in our community. By the end of the weekend, Wakaw EMT’s administered over 200 doses of the vaccine in Wakaw and Cudworth. Public Health had brought more vaccine with them and after administering the vaccine at Lakeview and the Mill Site, they then went to the care home in Bellevue and administered vaccinations there as well. Mayor Skoworodko is hopeful that regular shipments of the vaccine will continue to come into the area. Wakaw and the surrounding areas have a significant population of seniors who still live in their own homes and with the recent outbreak at Lakeview Pioneer Lodge in Wakaw and Pineview Manor Assisted Living in Rosthern as well as a high case positivity in the area, this undoubtably played a role in the decision to initiate the community vaccination clinics in our areas. While the announcement of the temporary reduction in the incoming supply of Pfizer vaccine is worrying there is nothing local officials or even provincial ones can do. All people can do is hope and pray that the expansion at the European manufacturing plant that produces the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be back up and running at maximum production capacity soon. Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
Though the position of school settlement worker — someone who guides and supports students and their families who are new to Canada as they familiarize themselves with their new home — is not a new one in Southern Ontario, it is new to the North. In July, 2020, Tibila Sandiwidi took on the role of “Travailleur d’établissement dans les écoles” (school settlement worker) for the two Francophone school boards (Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon and Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l'Ontario ) in Sudbury through his position with Centre de santé communautaire du Grand Sudbury. In addition to degrees in early childhood education, political science, applied research and social work, Sandiwidi is a newcomer to Sudbury himself, arriving in Sudbury in 2003 from Burkina Faso, West Africa. In his role as settlement worker, Sandiwidi aids parents and children new to Sudbury from beyond Canada’s borders, as well as the educators that have called Sudbury home for years – perhaps their whole lives. The role itself is financed through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IIRC) and co-ordinated through the Centre de santé, where Francophone newcomers to Sudbury can find most of the guidance and resources they need to succeed in their new home. It is about ensuring that parents and students can become a part of their school community by helping them understand how the education system works, the curriculum they will be learning, the interactions between parent and educator, and how to make the most of them, as well as helping with the cultural aspects of Canada that those who have lived here their whole lives may take for granted. “Everything is new,” said Sandiwidi. “To the parents, to the children, everything is new. So, you have parents who are learning new things, but they are supposed to teach their children, who are also learning new things.” It is a challenge, to say the least. For as much as it is of the utmost importance to make sure a child is succeeding in school in their new home country, it is also important they understand cultural traditions here – for instance, Halloween. The event features the simple and oft-repeated question: ‘What are you going out as?’ If you have not heard that line all your life, that’s a pretty vague question. “When you celebrate Halloween, if you ask them about Halloween activities when they have never been in them, have never done them before, it’s hard for them. Even for a newcomer parent to understand how to dress the kids with a Halloween costume or do activities like trick-or-treating, or even activities at the school.” Sandiwidi not only ensures that educators understand the need to offer more information or background on these events for any students in their class, but he also ensures that parents can understand the requirements as well, so that students can enjoy the fun and never have to feel as though they are on the outside. They can participate as if they had been ‘trick-or-treating’ all their lives. It also helps with cultural differences in behaviour; for example, looking someone in the eyes. There are many cultures that consider looking anyone older than you in the eyes while they are speaking, rather than casting them down at the ground, is considered a sign of disrespect – challenging your elders in a way that is disrespectful and rude. Eurocentric traditions would have you meet an elder’s gaze. The phrase ‘look me in the eyes when I am speaking to you,’ may be a familiar one here among parents and teachers, but not so in other countries. This results in a child that doesn’t know whether to choose up or down. And it’s something that Sandiwidi can help with as well. He also works to offer intercultural training workshops, supports schools with their registration efforts and acts as an ambassador for Francophone schools in Greater Sudbury. Of course, like everything in the world, the pandemic has changed how Sandiwidi is working. It is much more virtual and Sandiwidi says that though “it is hard to build trust when someone has never met you in person,” he continues to work within the limitations to assist parents, students and educators in their learning and development. He says that while online learning has presented even more challenges, not to mention a focus on achieving what’s possible under the circumstances rather than moving ahead with goals, the program is going strong and his interactions with newcomers are proving everyday that he can make a difference in their lives. If you would like more information on the program, visit SanteSudbury.ca. Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
This column is an opinion from journalist and political commentator Jen Gerson. Dear Alberta Conservatives: Now that U.S. President Joe Biden has followed through on his promise to cancel the Keystone XL permit, I have to ask you all a simple question: How is this working? I'm not trying to be mean about it. I understand why this province elected the UCP with historic turnout in 2019. I get the appeal of that campaign, the lure of nostalgia that it evoked. It was a tempting fantasy, one in which Rachel Notley allied with Justin Trudeau, and Alberta's noble oil industry was beleaguered by a gaggle of environmentalists and socialists, who were conspiring to bring the province down. I also understand why so many bought into the claim that by electing a conservative government, we could just make all of these problems go away; that Alberta would return to the glory days of 2014, or 2005, or 1994. Or 1973. The 2019 campaign promised tax cuts that would bring the jobs back; fiscal discipline; fair deal panels that would put Ottawa in its place and highlight this province's growing, muscular sense of its own independence. A white knight returns Kenney promised to rescind the job-killing-carbon-tax. He promised to be a premier who would win the province glory, a white knight and returning prodigal son who would finally fight for Alberta. He promised "war rooms" and inquiries that would finally unearth Alberta's nefarious enemies. Somehow, this was all going to work wonders for pipeline capacity — which is why it made sense to invest $1.5 billion in taxpayer money in Keystone XL. Whoops. Almost two years into this mandate, I have to ask: How has it been going? Is this working? From the cheap seats, things don't look great. I've been trying to come up with one single solitary win since that election, and I can't find it. It looks to me like the UCP spun a fantasy in 2019 that it now can't make real. And, yeah, this province has been hard hit by COVID-19, but I thought I was being generous by putting that file to the side for a moment. WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reacts to Keystone decision: The jobs haven't come back. Alberta had a competitive corporate tax rate before the UCP was elected. It was always doubtful that cutting the rate even more was going to make a difference. Our public finances are in shambles. A tax hike is inevitable. Kenney did kill Notley's carbon tax — and then replaced it with another, less effective one. Meanwhile, this province's court challenge of the federal carbon tax is unlikely to hold up. Kenney's "war room" is an international joke led by a PC-party loyalist who didn't get elected in 2019. And that inquiry into foreign funding — dogged at the outset with reports that its commissioner, Steve Allan, awarded a sole-source $905,000 contract to the law firm in which his own son was a partner, because, of course — has already devolved into a series of delays and controversies. A clown show The latest, that the inquiry spent $100,000 to commission reports from several external groups, including a U.S. firm called Energy in Depth, which is affiliated with the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and a paper from Calgary-based political scientist Barry Cooper, whose contribution was entitled: "Background Report on Changes in the Organization and Ideology of Philanthropic Foundations with a Focus on Environmental Issues as Reflected in Contemporary Social Science Research." Meanwhile, Greenpeace, which has already been publicly excoriated by the Allan inquiry as "a new breed of zealots less interested in saving Planet Earth than in destroying the capitalist system," has yet to be contacted to provide any evidence at all. (In fact, Greenpeace has already issued a legal warning to the inquiry.) It should be noted here that we've spent an estimated $3.5 million on this clown show. Put aside for a moment, dear Conservatives, the question of whether you think anything the inquiry is "investigating" is true. Instead, ask yourselves this question: whom is this inquiry going to convince? Is anyone under the impression that a report informed by Cooper and the climate change denial group Friends of Science is going to turn the tide for Alberta? What's the theory, here? Were we going to FedEx the Oval Office a final report that prompts Joe Biden into an epiphany on climate change? Or is it possible — just maybe — that doubling down on climate change skeptics and conspiracy theories paints a worse picture of Alberta and her priorities than anything the environmentalists themselves have concocted to date? How hard does Greenpeace really need to work to make Alberta look like a cartoonishly villainous backwater right now? In November, Premier Kenney starred in a podcast in which he criticized Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — Biden's campaign co-chair — over their attempts to decommission a segment of Enbridge's Line 5. Kenney noted that those fighting to cut off Alberta's oil and gas exports were "brain dead." Kenney also said: "We thought it was essential to send a message to the interest groups trying to block us, that resistance is futile, that Alberta is determined to take control of our own destiny." Again, I ask: How is this working? Delusions of self-importance For the record, I think Alberta has been treated unfairly and hypocritically; we clearly have been the target of international and national campaigns to obstruct oilsands development. That's not in dispute. Ironically, many of those campaigns began to abate in 2015 when Notley introduced an aggressive carbon tax policy that demonstrated Alberta was taking climate change seriously. And these anti-oilsands actors aren't the cause of all of our problems. The price of oil is down everywhere, and we're now producing a commodity that is extracted in abundance within the United States thanks to the fracking boom. Further, global concern about climate change means more banks and major companies are disinvesting in a jurisdiction that goes full ride-or-die on coal and petroleum extraction. Something needs saying here, and there's no way to say it kindly. Boom times and wealth have conditioned Albertans to believe that we matter a lot more than we do. Money gave this province delusions of self-importance that is reflected in a premier whose bombastic bar-brawl banter is increasingly revealed as short-man bluster. We're the guy who gets drunk and picks a fight but can't actually land a punch. I don't mean to be too mordant about all of this. I love Alberta, and I still think we have a lot going for us. We're good people, we work hard, and we pull together in a crisis. But we're a landlocked jurisdiction of four million on the high plain that happens to enjoy large oil and gas reserves that are costly and emissions-intensive to produce. By population, that puts us somewhere between Oklahoma and Oregon, and all the less important to a United States that is effectively energy independent. In other words: we don't matter to these people. We don't matter to Joe Biden, who would happily torch our entire provincial economy if it bought him two weeks of peace from his own restive left flank. And what's Canada going to do about it, exactly? Issue a letter of protest? Proclaim tariffs and boycotts that will hurt us more than it will hurt the U.S.? Oh wait, Kenney implied that we should do exactly that on Wednesday, or Alberta would "go further in our fight for a fair deal in the federation." On and on it goes. This is the same obstinate attitude that led to the cringey display Kenney offered us in a press conference earlier this week. It included an appeal — just short of a demand — to Justin Trudeau to advocate more fiercely on behalf of the Keystone XL. By the feds' own account, Trudeau has attempted to make the case for Keystone XL, and even brought it up in his first phone call with Biden, to the prime minister's credit. But let's reflect on the idea that Trudeau has any special motivation to help Kenney out, here — Kenney, the man who has spent the last three years winning Alberta's heart by drawing blood from Trudeau's. Hey, maybe Kenney could reach out to some international oil and gas players. The very ones led by the CEOs he denounced for supporting the carbon tax in 2019. Get the head of Royal Dutch Shell on the line. I'm sure he's waiting for Alberta's call. Limitless self-aggrandizement The thing that continually baffles me about the UCP is its combination of limitless self-aggrandizement coupled with its incredible parochialism. You see this in who the government selects to head its pet projects. You see it in the habit of tripling down on ideologically derived solutions to complicated problems. You see it in the lack of original thinking; hell, their platform was practically cribbed from the Reform Party. Even the fair deal panel is just a rehash of ideas that were largely rejected as cost-ineffective in 2003. This party acts like it's run by a bunch of jocks in a secret fraternity at a second-rate school who suddenly realize that nobody who matters knows their names. They're kings of the small campus. Oil means nothing if nobody buys it. The only lever we have — the only real lever we've ever had — is vested in the relationships we maintain with the nations, provinces, interests and people around us. And, yes, that includes relationships with people who disagree with us: Ottawa, environmentalists and NGOs. So, hey, all you Free Alberta types, here's some good news for you: Kenney is teaching us all what it really means to stand alone. How is it working? This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please readour FAQ.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland hired Paulo Sousa as its national team coach Thursday to replace the fired Jerzy Brzeczek. The appointment was announced by Polish soccer federation president Zbigniew Boniek, three days after Brzeczek was surprisingly dismissed despite leading the team to the 2020 European Championship, which was delayed to this summer. The 50-year-old Sousa, a former Portugal international, has previously coached clubs including Basel and Fiorentina. He takes over a Poland team that includes Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, FIFA's world player of the year for 2020, but has just two months to prepare for the start of World Cup qualifying. His assistants will be fellow Portuguese Manuel Julio Cordeiro da Silva and Spaniard Victor Manuel Sanchez Llado. Poland will face Spain, Slovakia and Sweden at Euro 2020 in a group being played in Dublin and Bilbao, Spain. In World Cup qualifying, Poland was drawn into a six-team group that includes England and Hungary. Boniek said the decision to fire Brzeczek was a “very difficult” one but that he didn't expect the team to improve without a coaching change. ____ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The new U.S. president has signed a string of executive orders to combat the worsening COVID-19 situation in the United States. Canadian infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says the approach signals 'good news' for the U.S. and Canada.
Regina police have charged Adam R. Hook in the death of Jeffrey Gerald Lehto. Hook, 39, made his first appearance in Regina provincial court on Thursday charged with second-degree murder. On Tuesday, police responded to the 1700 block of Quebec Street following a report of an attack. Inside, police and emergency medical responders found a seriously injured Lehto, 30. He was taken to hospital, where he died on Wednesday. Police say it's the city's second homicide of 2021.
A Calgary father who killed his daughter when he rolled his Jeep while drunk wants his conviction overturned or at least a lighter sentence. Michael Shaun Bomford was convicted of drunk driving causing death and bodily harm, as well as dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm. In September, Bomford was handed a 5½-year sentence for his crimes. In a notice filed with the Alberta Court of Appeal this week, Bomford asked the province's top court to overturn his conviction and either substitute an acquittal or order a new trial. If he is turned down, he wants a lesser sentence because he says the one imposed "was excessive and unreasonable in the circumstances." On Oct. 18, 2016, Bomford's Jeep Liberty was travelling west on McKnight Boulevard between 68th Street and 52nd Street N.E. when it went out of control, fishtailing in the far right lane. Meghan Bomford, 17, died after she was thrown from her father's Jeep. Meghan's best friend, Kelsey Nelson, was also thrown from the vehicle. She survived but suffered a serious brain injury. A number of Good Samaritans stopped to help, including an off-duty firefighter, a paramedic and an ER nurse. Family members credit them with saving Nelson's life. At the time of the crash, Bomford's blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit. Accident reconstructionists were able to show the Jeep was travelling more than 30 km/h above the speed limit when the father lost control. Bomford had picked up his daughter and her friend so the girls could go to the police station to get criminal background checks done that would allow them to become junior ringette coaches. While they were en route to the police station, Meghan was texting with her mother. The text messages were important evidence for the prosecution because they showed Bomford was behind the wheel, not Meghan, as defence suggested. But in his notice of appeal, Bomford indicated he will argue the text messages should not have been admitted as evidence. After Bomford was convicted and sentenced, Meghan's family said that with the court process over, they'd finally be able to properly grieve their loss.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania on Thursday expelled a Russian diplomat for allegedly not respecting the country’s virus lockdown rules. An Albanian foreign ministry statement declared Alexey Krivosheev “person non grata,” asking him to leave the country within 72 hours. The ministry said that since April last year there were continuous violations from the diplomat. It said Albanian authorities first contacted the ambassador but the diplomat still persisted in breaking pandemic restrictions. “A repeated challenging of the protective rules and steps on the pandemic, and disregarding of the concern of the Albanian state institutions related to that, cannot be justified and tolerated any more,” the statement said. The ministry did not provide details on the alleged violations, or give the post of the diplomat. Albania has set an overnight curfew, mandatory use of masks indoor and outdoors and social distancing. “We hope that such a decision ... at such a very challenging time for the globe, will be well understood from the Russian side as a necessary step to protect the health and security" of everyone in Albania, the ministry statement added. Albania resumed diplomatic ties with Moscow in 1991, 30 years after the country's then-communist regime severed previously close relations with Russia. The Associated Press
One of Nova Scotia's most respected politicians and steadfast cabinet ministers has announced she will be leaving public life whenever the next provincial election is called. Liberal deputy premier and Finance Minister Karen Casey told reporters Thursday she decided "within the last week" to call it quits. The decision means Premier Stephen McNeil's two closest political colleagues have decided they will follow him out of public life. Health Minister Leo Glavine announced his retirement in late November. He too will stick around until the next general election. Casey, the MLA for Colchester North, told reporters it was the right time to go. "The time comes when, you know, 15 years I think is a good amount of public service to give," Casey said during an almost 25-minute question-and-answer session with reporters, following a meeting with her cabinet colleagues. The premier is usually first to take questions following a cabinet meeting, but as he did when Glavine announced his decision to retire, McNeil allowed Casey to make her decision public. "I'm happy to say I've done my service to my constituents, I'm happy with the work that we've achieved and it's time to let somebody else represent Colchester North," said Casey, who is 73. "I'm sure there will be somebody very strong who comes out to carry on." Casey was first elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in June 2006 as a Progressive Conservative. Newly elected Premier Rodney MacDonald named the former school teacher and administrator the minister of education. He later gave her an even tougher portfolio, health. She was chosen to lead the party as interim leader when MacDonald stepped down, after his government was defeated in the 2009 election that brought the NDP to power for the first time in Nova Scotia's history. There was a falling out with the new PC leader, Jamie Baillie, and in January 2010 Casey left her Progressive Conservative colleagues to take a seat alongside McNeil and his third-place Liberal caucus. A colleague, a confidant The move may have cost her friendships within PC ranks but it didn't cost her a single vote in her constituency. She won the 2013 election with the biggest majority of her political career, taking almost 61 per cent of the vote. "I felt very respected and I guess if there's one word that I would use to describe what motivated me, it would be knowing that my ideas and those of my constituents, and me as a person would be respected," Casey said Thursday of her decade-old decision. Of that day, McNeil said he "not only got a colleague, but a confidant." "Someone that I relied on through my time as opposition leader, but probably more importantly when I became premier," said McNeil, who will step down as premier when the party selects a new leader next month. "She's the one person that I have always sought counsel of [in] my most difficult days. She saw me at my best and, quite frankly, probably at my worst." Key portfolios Since 2013, McNeil has entrusted Casey with key portfolios, education and finance. She has also chaired Treasury Board, one of the most powerful roles in any government. Casey told reporters she wasn't sure what she would do next beyond spending time with her four grandchildren. "I'm not leaving this to go to another career, I'm leaving it to go home and spend time with my grandchildren," she said. But she did leave the door open for her to go back to her first career as a teacher. "Maybe there are kids in the neighbourhood who need a little tutoring or extra help in reading and writing and math at the end of their day." MORE TOP STORIES
You can pass through Penville and not real-ize the area was once a thriving village that was settled by early pioneers in the 1830s. The area has no real reminders of a village that would have had all the amenities needed to keep a small town viable at the time. It was located at what is now the 5th Line and 19th Sideroad of New Tecumseth. There are now several houses surrounding the site but almost all are of a relatively recent design. Penville was founded in the 1830s when the area was unpopulated and wild.With no real roads leading into the region, settlers would have had a tough life arriving, probably by ox cart, and building their fi rst home from the materials on the land. The Penfield, Ausman, and Dale families are recorded as being the first to arrive in the area and they began clearing the land for farming operations. They were all Scottish immigrants.Presumably, the Penfield family lent its name to create the village on a map. The village attracted more settlers to the area.So many arrived that a Town Hall was built in 1858 at a cost of $450.00 with the fi rst Reeve being recorded as Robert Cross. Black’s Methodist Church was built in 1850 and a cemetery established in 1858. There is no record of a tavern in the area, however almost every new town in Ontario had at least one local watering hole, and some had several, so most likely some enterprising entrepreneur set up some kind of hotel or tavern in the town. By 1871, the town had grown to a thriving village of 130 souls. By early Ontario standards, that was a sizable population for a pio-neer settlement. Most likely the town would have had a blacksmith, cabinet maker, and a saw mill, which were pretty much standard business in pioneer towns at the time. Like many small towns in Central Ontario, Penville reached its peak in the late 1800s. Over time, residents began to leave to search for more opportunities in other places. By the time the twentieth century arrived, the village was all but abandoned. The church was still standing as late as the mid 1950s, but by that time hadn’t had servic-es in decades and was being used as a granary. The church was demolished sometime in the 50s although the cemetery remains.There are 18 recorded interments in the cemetery, with the last person buried in 1933. After the demolition of the church, the remaining headstones were grouped together in a cairn in the middle of the property. It has been suggested that many of the graves in the cemetery were moved to other cemeteries in the area in the late part of the 19th century, however there is no offi cial record of that. Penville had a good start; however, like many small early settlements, it faded into history as residents moved on to fi nd their fortunes elsewhere. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
American midfielder Mix Diskerud has signed a 1 1/2-year contract with Denizlispor of Turkey's first division. Now 30, Diskerud was with Major League Soccer's New York City in 2015 and 2016, spent the spring of 2017 on loan to Sweden's Goteborg, then signed with Manchester City in January 2018 but never got into a match. He was loaned back to Goteborg for the spring of 2018, to South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai for the 2018-19 season and to Sweden's Helsingborg last June. Born in Oslo to a Norwegian father and American mother, Diskerud has six goals in 38 appearances for the U.S. and was on the 2014 World Cup roster, though he did not get into a game. Denizlispor announced his acquisition Wednesday. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press