Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand says Canada is pursuing a two pronged approach to ensure that all Canadians can be vaccinated by the end of September.
Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand says Canada is pursuing a two pronged approach to ensure that all Canadians can be vaccinated by the end of September.
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls for an inquiry into his government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday as the country's death toll neared 100,000 and his chief scientist said hospitals were looking like war zones. There have been calls for a public inquiry from some doctors and bereaved families into the management of the crisis. As hospital admissions soared, the government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said there was enormous pressure on the National Health Service with doctors and nurses battling to give people sufficient care.
Thirty-five homeowners in the small B.C. community of Old Fort — just south of Fort St. John — are suing the province and BC Hydro after two landslides they claim were caused by Site C dam construction rendered their properties worthless. On Monday, the group filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court saying the excavation activities carried out by BC Hydro on the $10-billion dam project have destabilized the soil that supports their properties. The first landslide, which happened in September 2018, damaged the only road that provides access in and out of Old Fort and put the entire community under evacuation for a month. Another landslide damaged the same road in June 2020. The homeowners also accuse Deasan Holdings of causing soil instability with mining activities near Old Fort. Malcom MacPherson, lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the families involved cannot sell, mortgage or insure their homes because there is no property value. He says they support industrial development but don't feel they should pay for it with their homes' worth. "They shouldn't be de facto subsidizing the broader wealth creation, which is good for the whole province," he said. "It's not fair that they have to unreasonably bear that burden." In October, the B.C. government posted a report saying despite geotechnical assessments, the root cause of the slide in 2018 remains "inconclusive." The report doesn't address the slide in 2020. In 2018, BC Hydro said there was no evidence the slide was related to the Site C project. Last week, Premier John Horgan said Site C dam construction would continue while his office awaits geotechnical reports written by experts from outside B.C. The lawsuit names the province and the Peace River Regional District for approving the construction work of BC Hydro and Deasan Holdings. They are also suing the City of Fort St. John for operating a sewage lagoon they claim has led to soil instability in the Peace River community. None of the five defendants has responded in court. CBC News has contacted the City of Fort St. John, the Peace River Regional District and BC Hydro. The municipality didn't respond, and the other two parties declined to comment.
South Korea's LG Electronics said on Wednesday it was considering all options for its loss-making mobile division, which analysts said could include shutting its smartphone business or selling off parts of the unit. LG said in a statement that 23 consecutive quarters of losses in its mobile business had totalled around 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) amid stiff competition. "In the global market, competition in the mobile business including smartphones has gotten fiercer," LG said in the clearest sign yet that it could be considering a winding down of the troubled business.
Alphabet Inc's Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team and has locked the corporate account linked to that person after finding that thousands of files were retrieved from its server and shared with external accounts, the company said on Wednesday. Axios, which first reported the latest investigation around a member of Google's AI team, said Margaret Mitchell had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Timnit Gebru, a former employee in the AI team who was fired. Gebru, who is Black, was a top AI ethics researcher at Google and was fired in December.
WASHINGTON — Stop. Stabilize. Then move — but in a vastly different direction. President-elect Joe Biden is pledging a new path for the nation after Donald Trump’s four years in office. That starts with confronting a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans and extends to sweeping plans on health care, education, immigration and more. The 78-year-old Democrat has pledged immediate executive actions that would reverse Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and rescind the outgoing president's ban on immigration from certain Muslim nations. His first legislative priority is a $1.9 trillion pandemic response package, but there are plans to send an immigration overhaul to Capitol Hill out of the gate, as well. He's also pledged an aggressive outreach to American allies around the world who had strained relationships with Trump. And though one key initiative has been overshadowed as the pandemic has worsened, Biden hasn't backed away from his call to expand the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a public option, a government-insurance plan to compete alongside private insurers. It's an unapologetically liberal program reflecting Biden's argument that the federal government exists to help solve big problems. Persuading enough voters and members of Congress to go along will test another core Biden belief: that he can unify the country into a governing consensus. What a Biden presidency could look like: ECONOMY, TAXES AND THE DEBT Biden argues the economy cannot fully recover until the coronavirus is contained. He argues that his $1.9 trillion response plan is necessary to avoid extended recession. Among other provisions, it would send Americans $1,400 relief checks, extend more generous unemployment benefits and moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and boost businesses. Biden also wants expanded child tax credits, child care assistance and a $15-an-hour minimum wage — a provision sure to draw fierce Republican opposition. Biden acknowledges his call for deficit spending but says higher deficits in the near term will prevent damage that would not only harm individuals but also weaken the economy in ways that would be even worse for the national balance sheet. He also calls his plan a down payment on his pledge to address wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans. He plans a second major economic package later in 2021; that's when he'd likely ask Congress to consider his promised tax overhauls to roll back parts of the 2017 GOP tax rewrite benefiting corporations and the wealthy. Biden wants a corporate income tax rate of 28% — lower than before but higher than now — and broad income and payroll tax increases for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. That would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years, money Biden would want steered toward his infrastructure, health care and energy programs. Before Biden proposed his pandemic relief bill, an analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that Biden’s campaign proposals would increase the national debt by about $5.6 trillion over 10 years, though that would be a significantly slower rate of increase than what occurred under Trump. The national debt now stands at more than $25 trillion. ___ CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC Biden promises a more robust national coronavirus vaccination system. Ditching Trump’s strategy of putting most of the pandemic response on governors’ desks, Biden says he’ll marshal the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to distribute vaccines while using the nation's network of private pharmacies. As he said as a candidate, Biden plans to invoke the Defence Production Act, aimed at the private sector, to increase vaccine supplies and related materials. The wartime law allows a president to direct the manufacture of critical goods. Much of Biden’s plans depend on Congress approving financing, such as $130 billion to help schools reopen safely. Beyond legislation, Biden will require masks on all federal property, urge governors and mayors to use their authority to impose mask mandates and ask Americans for 100 days of mask-wearing in an effort to curb the virus. Biden also promises to deviate from Trump by putting science and medical advisers front and centre to project a consistent message. Meanwhile, Biden will immediately have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization. The incoming White House has tried to manage expectations. Biden said several times in recent weeks that the pandemic would likely get worse before any changes in policy and public health practices show up in COVID-19 statistics. ___ HEALTH CARE Biden wants to build on President Barack Obama's signature health care law through a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans. He'd also increase premium subsidies many people already use. Biden's approach could get a kick-start in the pandemic response bill by expanding subsidies for consumers using existing ACA exchanges. The big prize, a “public option,” remains a heavy lift in a closely divided Congress. Biden has not detailed when he'd ask Congress to consider the matter. Biden estimates his public option would cost about $750 billion over 10 years. It still stops short of progressives' call for a government-run system to replace private insurance altogether. The administration also must await a Supreme Court decision on the latest case challenging the 2010 health care law known as “Obamacare.” On prescription drugs, Biden supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for government programs and private payers. He'd prohibit drug companies from raising prices faster than inflation for people covered by Medicare and other federal programs; and he'd cap initial prices for “specialty drugs” to treat serious illnesses. Biden would limit annual out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare enrollees, a change Trump sought unsuccessfully in Congress. And Biden also wants to allow importation of prescription drugs, subject to safety checks. ___ IMMIGRATION Biden plans to immediately reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allowed people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain as legal residents. He's also planning an Inauguration Day executive order rolling back Trump’s ban on certain Muslim immigrants and has pledged to rescind Trump's limits on asylum slots. Additionally, Biden will send Congress, out of the gate, a complex immigration bill offering an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. As a candidate, Biden called Trump's hard-line policies on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and promised to “undo the damage” while maintaining border enforcement. Notably, the outline of Biden's immigration bill doesn't deal much, if at all, with border enforcement. But his opening manoeuvr sets a flank with plenty of room to negotiate with Republicans. Biden also pledged to end the Trump's “public charge rule,” which would deny visas or permanent residency to people who use public-aid programs. Biden has called for a 100-day freeze on deportations while considering long-term policies. Still, Biden would eventually restore an Obama-era policy of prioritizing removal of immigrants who have come to the U.S. illegally and have been convicted of crimes or pose a national security threat. Biden has said he would halt all funding for construction of new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. ___ FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY Biden's establishment credentials are most starkly different from Trump in the area of foreign policy. Biden mocked Trump's “America First” brand as “America alone” and promises to restore a more traditional post-World War II order. He supports a strategy of fighting extremist militants abroad with U.S. special forces and airstrikes instead of planeloads of U.S. troops. That's a break from his support earlier in his political career for more sweeping U.S. military interventions, most notably the 2003 Iraq invasion. Biden has since called his Iraq vote in the Senate a mistake. He was careful as a candidate never to rule out the use of force, but now leans directly into diplomacy to try to achieve solutions through alliances and global institutions. Biden calls for increasing the Navy’s presence in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia. He joins Trump in wanting to end the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but thinks the U.S. should keep a small force in place to counter militant violence. Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken is Biden's longest-serving foreign policy adviser and holds essentially the same worldview. Both are strong supporters of NATO. Biden and Blinken warn that Moscow is chipping away at the foundation of Western democracy by trying to weaken NATO, divide the European Union and undermine the U.S. electoral system. Biden believes Trump's abandonment of bilateral and international treaties such as the Iran nuclear deal have led other nations to doubt Washington’s word. Biden wants to invite all democratic nations to a summit during his first year to discuss how to fight corruption, thwart authoritarianism and support human rights. He claims “ironclad” support for Israel but wants to curb annexation and has backed a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. He says he'd keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after Trump moved it from Tel Aviv. On North Korea, Biden criticized Trump for engaging directly with Kim Jong Un, saying it gave legitimacy to the authoritarian leader without curbing his nuclear program. Biden also wants to see the U.S. close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Obama pushed the same and never got it done. ___ ENVIRONMENT Beyond immediately rejoining the Paris climate agreement, Biden has proposed a $2 trillion push to slow global warming by throttling back the burning of fossil fuels, aiming to make the nation’s power plants, vehicles, mass transport systems and buildings more fuel efficient and less dependent on oil, gas and coal. Parts of his program could be included in the second sweeping legislative package Biden plans after the initial emergency pandemic legislation. Biden says his administration would ban new permits for oil and gas production on federal lands, though he says he does not support a fracking ban. Biden’s public health and environmental platform also calls for reversing the Trump administration’s slowdown of enforcement against polluters, which in several categories has fallen to the lowest point in decades. That would include establishing a climate and environmental justice division within the Justice Department. Biden says he would support climate lawsuits targeting fossil fuel-related industries. ___ EDUCATION Biden has proposed tripling the federal Title I program for low-income public schools, with a requirement that schools provide competitive pay and benefits to teachers. He wants to ban federal money for for-profit charter schools and provide new dollars to public charters only if they serve needy students. He opposes voucher programs, in which public money is used to pay for private-school education. He also wants to restore federal rules, rolled back under Trump, that denied federal money to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debts and unable to find jobs. Biden supports making two years of community college free, with public four-year colleges free for families with incomes below $125,000. His proposed student loan overhaul would not require repayment for people who make less than $25,000 a year and would limit payments to 5% of discretionary income for others. Among the measures in his COVID-19 response plan, Biden calls for extending current freezes on student loan payments and debt accrual. Long term, Biden proposes a $70 billion increase in funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and other schools that serve underrepresented students. ___ ABORTION Biden supports abortion rights and has said he would nominate federal judges who back the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. He's also said he'd support a federal statute legalizing abortion if the Supreme Court's conservative majority strikes down Roe. Biden committed to rescinding Trump’s family planning rule, which prompted many clinics to leave the federal Title X program providing birth control and medical care for low-income women. In a personal reversal, Biden now supports repeal of the Hyde Amendment, opening the way for federal programs, including his prospective public option, to pay for abortions. ___ SOCIAL SECURITY Biden's proposals would expand benefits, raise taxes for upper-income people and add some years of solvency. He would revamp Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment by linking it to an inflation index tied more directly to older Americans' expenses. He would increase minimum benefits for lower-income retirees, addressing financial hardship among the elderly. Biden wants to raise Social Security taxes by applying the payroll tax to earnings above $400,000. The 12.4% tax, split between an employee and employer, now applies only to the first $137,700 of a worker's wages. The tax increase would pay for Biden’s proposed benefit expansions and extend the life of program’s trust fund by five years, to 2040, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute. ___ GUNS Biden led efforts as a senator to establish the background check system now in use when people buy guns from a federal licensed dealer. He also helped pass a 10-year ban on a group of semi-automatic guns, or “assault weapons,” during the Clinton presidency. Biden has promised to seek another ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Owners would have to register existing assault weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He would also support a program to buy back assault weapons. Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one and would require background checks for all gun sales with limited exceptions, such as gifts between family members. Biden would also support prohibiting all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits and gun parts. As with his public option plan for health insurance, it's not clear how Biden will prioritize gun legislation, and the prospects of getting major changes through the Senate are slim, at best. ___ VETERANS Biden says he'd work with Congress to improve health services for women, the military’s fastest-growing subgroup, such as by placing at least one full-time women’s primary care physician at each Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical centre. He promises to provide $300 million to better understand the impact of traumatic brain injury and toxic exposures, hire more VA staff to cut down on office wait times for veterans at risk of suicide and continue the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to stem homelessness. ___ TRADE Biden has joined a growing bipartisan embrace of “fair trade” abroad — a twist on decades of “free trade” talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. That, and some of his policy pitches, can make Biden seem almost protectionist, but he's well shy of Trump's approach. Biden, like Trump, accuses China of violating international trade rules by subsidizing its companies and stealing U.S. intellectual property. Still, Biden doesn’t think Trump’s tariffs worked. He wants to join with allies to form a bulwark against Beijing. Biden wants to juice U.S. manufacturing with $400 billion of federal government purchases (including pandemic supplies) from domestic companies over a four-year period. He wants $300 billion for U.S. technology firms’ research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before any new international trade deals. He pledges tough negotiations with China, the world’s other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the U.S., is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice-president. ___ TRUMP Biden won't escape Trump's shadow completely, given the many investigations and potential legal exposures facing the outgoing president. Biden said as a candidate that he wouldn't pardon Trump or his associates and that he'd leave federal investigations up to “an independent Justice Department.” Notably, some of Trump's legal exposure comes from state cases in New York. Biden will have no authority over any of those matters. ___ Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Kevin Freking, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ben Fox, Deb Riechmann, Collin Binkley and Hope Yen contributed to this report. Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
More than 100 British musicians, from Ed Sheeran, Sting and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters to classical stars like conductor Simon Rattle, have said tours of Europe by British artists are in danger because of Brexit. In a letter to The Times newspaper published on Wednesday, the musicians said the government had "shamefully" broken a promise to negotiate a deal allowing musicians to perform in the European Union without the need for visas or work permits. "The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be: everyone on a European music tour will now need costly work permits and a mountain of paperwork for their equipment," they wrote.
Tuesday's Games NHL Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 3 (OT) New Jersey 4 N.Y. Rangers 3 Philadelphia 3 Buffalo 0 Florida 5 Chicago 4 (OT) Pittsburgh 5 Washington 4 (OT) Detroit 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Colorado 3 Los Angeles 2 Dallas at Tampa Bay — postponed Carolina at Nashville — postponed --- NBA Denver 119 Oklahoma City 101 Utah 118 New Orleans 102 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
New York-listed Best Inc, a Chinese logistics firm backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is considering a sale as part of a strategic review, six people with knowledge of the matter said. With the endorsement of Alibaba, its biggest shareholder, Best has tapped financial advisers to explore options as its shares have been underperforming and are worth a fifth of its IPO price in 2018, two of the people involved in the discussions said. Billionaire Jack Ma's Alibaba, which owns 33% of the firm, as well as Best founder and CEO Johnny Chou, who has a 11% stake on a fully diluted basis, could both end up selling their stakes, five of the people said.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Months-old embers from a deadly California fire were blown back to life Tuesday by powerful winds that raked the state and prompted safety blackouts to tens of thousands of people. Firefighters chased wind-driven blazes up and down the state, trees and trucks were toppled, Yosemite National Park was forced to close and two coronavirus vaccination centres were shut down. South of San Francisco, the state’s firefighting agency said it responded to 13 vegetation fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties in 12 hours, and isolated evacuations were ordered for a total of 120 homes near two of them. The fires were small, with the largest no more than a couple dozen acres, and by nightfall were “creeping" rather than racing, according to state fire website descriptions. Two were within the area burned by last year's CZU Lightning Complex inferno. “Fires within the CZU Lightning Complex burn area were regenerated by high winds,” the local unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted. The complex started Aug. 16, 2020, during a barrage of lightning strikes. Separate fires merged, torching 1,500 buildings across 135 square miles (350 square kilometres) in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. One person died. The Santa Cruz Mountains have a thick layer of “duff,” dead vegetation under heavy timber in which deep smouldering embers can be revived by the wind, said Cecile Juliette, a Cal Fire spokeswoman. Cal Fire received nonstop reports of toppled trees and branches during the windstorm, Juliette said. Small fires blazed throughout the state, though most were quickly stopped from spreading and posed no serious threat to homes. The largest, near Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley, burned about 1 square mile (2.77 square kilometres) but was mostly surrounded. In both the north and south, residents were blacked out by utilities to prevent downed or damaged power lines from sparking blazes. Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 78,000 homes and businesses in seven counties and was considering blacking out well over a quarter-million more. Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to more than 5,000 customers. Most of California is experiencing drought conditions and the remainder is considered abnormally dry. Winter snowfall and rain have largely been woeful. Gusts howled at speeds up to 95 mph (152.8 kph) in the Mayacamas Mountains to the north of San Francisco Bay, and winds raised clouds of ash and dust from wildfire burn scars across Monterey County, the regional National Weather Service office said. High wind warnings were posted in the Sierra Nevada and adjacent foothills. “People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches,” the Hanford weather office wrote. “If possible, remain in the lower levels of your home during the windstorm, and avoid windows. Use caution if you must drive.” Yosemite National Park closed for the day, citing the winds and downed trees that smashed trucks and at least one building. In Southern California, the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds were ramping up, making travel hazardous for big rigs. Some were blown over. One gust hit 86 mph (138.4 kph) in northern Los Angeles County, the National Weather Service said. The wind forced closure of a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley. Another site at a Disneyland parking lot was closed in advance of the gusts. The city of Los Angeles instituted its program of restricting parking in hilly neighbourhoods where narrow, winding streets can be difficult for fire engines to manoeuvr. Downtown Los Angeles has had only 1.95 inches (4.95 centimetres) of rain since the Oct. 1 start of the “water year,” nearly 4 inches (10.16 centimetres) below normal. The Associated Press
Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday, offering a message of unity and restoration to a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans. Standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the building, Biden called for a return to civic decency in an inaugural address marking the end of Trump's tempestuous four-year term. The themes of Biden's 21-minute speech mirrored those he had put at the center of his presidential campaign, when he portrayed himself as an empathetic alternative to the divisive Trump, a Republican.
Local reactions to the provincial government’s latest lockdown restrictions have been mixed to say the least, and moving into another nearly total shutter on small business operations has many concerned for their future. After Premier Doug Ford announced the second provincial emergency and stay-at-home orders on Jan. 12 in response to alarming surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the province, there was near immediate confusion. Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson said there was a major lack of details from the province. “A lot of people are left scratching their heads, trying to figure out exactly what this staying-at-home order is. The Premier says, ‘I don't believe in curfews’ but he’s doing a stay-at-home order, and quite frankly a stay-at-home order is a type of curfew,” Bisson told The Daily Press. The province's release read that the stay-at-home order was “requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for permitted purposes or activities, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for work where the work cannot be done remotely.” Bisson wondered why there was no stringent travel restrictions included in the plan. “I was told there was no ban on travel between regions. So, somebody can go from Timmins to Sudbury or Toronto or wherever. I was also told by the Minister of Solicitor General that if you’ve got to pick up your son or daughter at university and bring them back home, you can do that.” He said the plan is rife with confusion and mixed messages. “The staying-at-home order needs to be clarified. Northerners are prepared to do their bit, but we need to know why government does things, based on good medical and scientific evidence, and make sure that what their orders make sense.” Bisson said he's received lot of calls from constituents over the past few days, critical of the provincial orders. “They’re saying, ‘How come I can go into Walmart and buy something, but I can’t go into my local business and buy the same thing?’ They can provide the same type of security and probably better safety when it comes to COVID, than what Walmart and other large stores are doing. “People are wondering about this stay-at-home order. They’re thinking this is rather ridiculous. If there's a five-person limit on meetings and gatherings, why are we putting kids on buses that have more than five people and putting them in classrooms of more than five people? A lot of people are just very confused.” Bisson said he is also concerned with the recent surge in cases, but this latest approach might not be the right move. “Do we need to do something? Absolutely. But what the government needs to do is be clear about what it is they’re asking us to do — and they’re not doing so.” Loralee Boucher, who operates a hair salon as well as a private party lounge in Downtown Timmins, is very concerned about the next few weeks until a new announcement comes from the province. Hair appointments are not considered essential at this time, which is a massive portion of her income. She has been unable to provide her services since Dec. 26. Her hair salon has been in operation for more than nine years. Her second venture, above the salon, is the Top Shelf Lounge which is a licensed rental space popular for parties and private functions, and sometimes offers live entertainment. It opened in August 2019. Boucher said it has been a brutal stretch for the lounge. “Top Shelf has had a minimum 80 per cent decrease in revenue over the holidays, compared to last year, because I wasn't able to rent it out nearly as much as I did last year,” she said. In the meantime she has been applying for the various assistance programs offered by the federal government. “I applied for the $900 every two weeks, which is what they gave us, online through the government, and then I applied for the grant that they’re offering, somewhere between 10 to 20 thousand,” she said, still awaiting the results. She said it would be a much-needed financial boost. “I’m hoping some kind of funds become available. I own the building. So on a single income, by myself, I have two mortgages, my home and my business. I also have double the bills, two hydro bills, two gas bills, two property tax bills and I have multiple insurances, because you have to have two business insurances, health insurance, you name it; car insurance; my vehicle payment on top of that. “I need to make a minimum of $10,000 a month just to pay that.” Boucher expressed frustration at the blanket approach the feds took with programs like The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). “The government treats everybody like they’re the same, offering everybody just 900 bucks every two weeks. Well how do you explain that I can’t pay my mortgage now, or I can’t get groceries now, things like that off just a tiny amount? For some people, it’s OK, but you’re treating everybody equally and some people have a lot more bills than others to account for.” The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) is a program offered to help businesses and landlords to cover part of their commercial rent or property expenses. “You can apply for a property tax rebate, but the percentage of that is not clear. I guess it’s for them to decide. I know somebody applied for a hydro rebate, and they got $21.” Before the pandemic, her salon was booked full nearly every day. She shudders to think about the total of her lost business. “I’m losing so much money, it’s crazy.” To make it sting a little more, Boucher had also recently made a major investment by adding spa facilities to her salon, including another employee, and some very pricey equipment, only to be shut down a few months later. The only current income is selling some of the hair care products online. “They said they initially closed small businesses to stop the spread of the virus, but after our initial two week shutdown, our numbers went up dramatically.” She realized the blame will be on the holiday season, which is likely accurate, but that it proves some people will gather in large groups regardless of provincial orders, which essentially has nothing to do with small businesses. “Small businesses follow the rules. We don’t want to get closed down. We don’t want to get fines. We wear our masks. We wash our hands. For example, a salon, we’re working one on one. There’s no more risk going into a hair salon than there is going into a grocery store or Walmart.” Boucher said the vast majority of small- to medium-sized businesses have taken the protocols very seriously, and have made the necessary adjustments to their operations in order to be able to provide services safely. “There is no reason why any small business should be shut down, if you’re following protocol. If you’re not following protocol, that’s when you should be shut down.” Boucher said she started a local Facebook group called Outside The Box where small business owners can share ideas, supports, advice on grants, and other initiatives. “It’s all about helping each other. That’s why I created the group in the first place.” Although her online sales have been decent, it is but a small fraction of her standard income which relies on personal appointments. However, she does appreciate the support she is getting and feels a silver lining of this whole thing might be a renewed appreciation for local businesses. “The community has been very supportive. A lot of people are doing their part to support local, so that is a very positive outcome.” said Boucher. Another downtown business and building owner, Matthew Poulin of Total Martial Arts Centre, is irked by the fact his business can’t operate, despite the province stating that people can go out for exercise purposes. “We're actually not sure why. Based on government data, which is on their site, transmission from gyms is under 2.2 per cent and other things that are still open contributed a much higher percentage. Also the restrictions we had in place make us even safer than most gyms. Booking systems, high amount of cleaning daily, 50 per cent capacity for us is 18 people, which is extremely low for a facility of our size,” he said. In the meantime, TMAC has attempted to generate some revenue by opening up some online gear sales. “Currently we’re bringing back our online gym, which isn’t ideal but it’s something nonetheless. Also we will be selling memberships for the online gym too,” said Poulin. He said he has also applied for “as many grants as possible” to keep his business afloat. “Some of our members were able to keep their accounts open with us to support the gym during this time. Really, if it wasn’t for that, we would likely have to close. This second lockdown is scary but we’re confident we will make it through.” Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday he won't shut down all restaurants and bars because a few are flouting COVID-19 rules. Instead, he said, he has asked public-health officials to look at more enforcement measures beyond handing out fines, such as forcing rule breakers to close "indefinitely." "I don't believe that we need new measures put in place to bend the COVID curve here in Saskatchewan. What we need is everyone to follow the measures that are in place," Moe said at a news briefing Tuesday. "Enough is enough." For months, Moe has rejected calls to return the province to an economywide shutdown in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. He has opted to allow retail businesses, restaurants and bars to stay open, but with reduced capacity, and a prohibition on activities like dancing and mingling between tables. But that was exactly the behaviour on display in a recent video circulating online that shows young people partying at a bar in Regina. "The question I ask myself is do we need to punish all of the restaurants, many that are adhering to the public-health orders that are in place, because there are these few that are not?" said Moe. "I would say no we don't." The premier contrasted the bar footage to a petition sitting on his desk that he said has been signed by thousands of families who want the province to allow kids to play competitive hockey. All team sports outside of practices for athletes 18 and younger have been banned because health officials cited recreational sports as leading to infections in some schools and workplaces. "At the very same time as we have these adults asking for their children to participate in a sport like hockey, we see a video of a number of adults that are selfishly and drunkenly dancing," Moe said. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, announced another 309 new infections and said the province's daily case average remains stuck at about 300. Six more residents were also reported to have died from the virus, while 207 were in hospital, 31 of them in intensive care. Even with a stubborn caseload — which has made Saskatchewan the jurisdiction with the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada —Shahab said it's promising that the test positivity rate sits at 10 per cent, down from about 12 per cent. Still, he warned that more people are ending up in hospital and intensive care because of the virus. And it's when this pressure builds up on health-care systems, he says, that leaders have no choice but to bring down the strictest possible measures to avoid widespread collapse. "We may not be there yet," Shahab said. He added that said many of the province's outbreaks are tied to people not following public-health rules in places like bars, at funerals and outside. No more than 30 people are allowed to gather for weddings and funerals. The current health order, which is set to expire next Friday, also prohibits households from having guests over and caps outdoor get-togethers to 10. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2020 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Jessica Henwick may be known to fantasy and sci-fi nerds, but she's about to breakout onto the mainstream.
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
New South Algonquin Business Association chair Gabriela Hairabedian and outgoing chair Evelyn Lesage made a presentation to South Algonquin Township council on Jan. 13 about the township’s plans for a wayfinding map for visitors. They had some issues with the current draft map and wanted to suggest changes to make it more informative and visually attractive to tourists. They wanted to ensure they had more input on the map as it progresses to completion and also asked council to implement a policy to ensure there’s a feedback process into future economic development projects. The wayfinding map stems from South Algonquin Township’s rebranding initiative, which is being paid for by the Main Street Revitalization funding procured from the Association of Municipalities Ontario. Since the purpose of the revitalization grant was to invest in small businesses and the map itself was proposed by SABA as part of the grant proposal, Harabedian believes that SABA’s input is essential. The township has been working with Placemaking Design since December 2019 on their rebranding efforts, which includes the map. Unavoidably, COVID-19 has slowed this process over the course of 2020, but the initiative is slowly but surely coming to fruition. Hairabedian began the presentation by suggesting that the proposed wayfinding map should cater more toward long-term tourists versus day-trippers. She says that SABA has found that most tourists come from about three hours away and stay longer periods versus those who just come for the day, or day-trippers. While they don’t have any firm data on this, they estimate that less than five to 10 per cent of visitors are day-trippers. “If they have access to a visual map with attractive pictures and where to find those attractions, tourists will consider staying longer in our township and contribute to our economy, instead of going to the park, staying for only one night or having a quick lunch and going home,” she says. On that basis, SABA wanted to request some changes to the draft wayfinding map. These changes were; to remove all businesses and places where tourists would likely not want to go, like the township office and local daycare centres, to focus on natural features like trails, waterfalls and fishing spots, where tourists would more likely want to visit, to have QR Code links on the map to other helpful sources like the township website and trail maps, and to add a scale to the map so people can determine the distance between featured attractions. Hairebedian felt these changes would make the map less cluttered and it would not go out of date as quickly. Finally, she asked council if they could implement a policy that builds a feedback process into future economic development projects. “These decisions affect businesses most of all. We want to be involved and we’d really appreciate if you could do that. Thank you very much,” she says. Mayor Jane Dumas thanked Hairebedian, and said it was a fantastic presentation. “It was very visually pleasing. The work that you and your committee have done is excellent,” she says. She then asked council if they needed any clarification from Hairebedian on the presentation. Councillor Bongo Bongo thought everything had been pretty clear, but was a little surprised to see SABA’s request that all businesses be removed from the map. “But at the same time, I suppose that is one way to really level the playing field and have it very fair towards all businesses. At the end of the day, I really hope this map is well designed and a lot of thought goes into it,” he says. Holly Hayes, the clerk and treasurer of South Algonquin Township, also requested some clarification and asked Hairebedian if she meant that she wanted no private industry like hotels or gas stations on the map. Hairebedian replied that was exactly what she had meant, and that SABA was suggesting just a map to show attractions like beaches, fishing spots and features of that nature. “People can google things like hotels, gas stations, the LCBO easily enough if they need them. It’s nice to have a unique map, something that’s not anywhere to be found. We don’t want to bring confusion either, we don’t want people all over the place. It’s a way to guide them and take them where we want them to go,” she says. As a final suggestion, Hairebedian suggested that since Maynooth and Bancroft appear on the draft map, that they also include Barry’s Bay and Ottawa, so people get a clearer sense of where everything is. Dumas brought up the point that while they appreciated SABA’s suggestions, that council wants to ensure that the final wayfinding map caters to the needs of all South Algonquin businesses and not just to SABA members. She said that she intended to take the presentation back and have a discussion about it at the next economic development meeting on Jan. 20. Hairebedian expressed interest in SABA attending this meeting and Dumas said that she would confirm and let her know soon. “You’ve given us a great deal of food for thought through your committee and we appreciate it very much.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
TORONTO — Another Ontario COVID-19 official has resigned over foreign travel. Premier Doug Ford's office says he has accepted the resignation of Linda Hasenfratz as a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Task Force.Ford's office says she stepped down after it was brought to his attention that she travelled outside the country in December.No other details were released other than that she has apologized.Earlier this month, Dr. Tom Stewart resigned from a group of experts that help guide the provincial government's response to COVID-19 after travelling to the Dominican Republic over the holidays.At the time, Stewart said he regretted the non-essential travel and recognized that everyone should be avoiding non-essential trips.Stewart later stepped down as chief executive officer of the Niagara Health System and the St. Joseph's Health System.Ford's office gave a brief statement Tuesday about Hasenfratz's resignation."Thanks to the efforts of all Ontarians, we are starting to see early signs of progress in bending the curve," reads the statement. "Now is not the time to let up. We continue to urge everyone to stay home." Last week, Dr. Paul Woods, the CEO of a hospital network in London, Ont., was ousted from his post after concerns were raised about his international travel during the pandemic.Woods travelled to the U.S. five times since March, including during the December holidays, the London Health Sciences Centre said.Last month, Rod Phillips, Ontario's former finance minister, resigned from his post after it was revealed he travelled to St. Barts for a December vacation. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021 The Canadian Press
TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisian youth clashed with police overnight, maintaining their protests and riots over economic difficulties despite efforts by the president and the prime minister to calm tensions. "Your voice is heard, and your anger is legitimate, and it is my role and the role of the government to work to realize your demands and to make the dream of Tunisia to become true,” Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi appealed to the protesters on national television Tuesday night. Hours later, dozens of people throwing projectiles and setting barricades on fire faced off with police firing tear gas in the Tunis suburb of Ariana. Unrest was reported in other cities as well, the fifth straight night of protests that prompted Tunisia to deploy the army to try to keep order. The unrest has shaken the country just as it marks 10 years since an uprising over similar frustrations that pushed out a longtime autocrat, ushered in a new democracy and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings. A third of the North African nation’s young people are unemployed. This and Tunisia's prolonged economic crisis — aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic — have fueled the anger. Protests have notably rocked impoverished towns in the interior of the country but also reached bigger cities on the coast. “I know that the economic and social situation is a crisis deepened by COVID and the necessary measures that we have taken to preserve the health of Tunisians, and that they (lockdown measures) have limited some personal freedoms such as the freedom of movement,” the prime minister said. However he condemned looting and violence by protesters, who have sometimes targeted police. “I make a distinction between the peaceful protests and acts of robbery and sabotage,” he said, adding that while Tunisia's post-revolution Constitution guarantees the right to protest, his role is to maintain the peace. The Associated Press
MILLBROOK -- Millbrook’s 4th Line Theatre will launch its Digital Festival of Light and Dark next week. Micro-grants have been provided to 13 regional artists by the festival so they can create 12 five-minute digital showcases of their work, the theatre announced Tuesday. The digital festival is free-of-charge to watch online and will allow people to engage with the artists’ creations in the safety of their own homes during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown through the theatre’s digital video gallery. Managing artistic director Kim Blackwell said the theatre — which had to cancel last summer’s performances and then staged the Open Spaces Theatre Festival in downtown Peterborough in September followed by a limited run of “Bedtime Stories and Other Horrifying Tales” prior to Halloween at the theatre in October — wants to support local artists. “That was the genesis for the idea which ultimately became the Digital Festival of Light and Dark. I am excited to showcase the work of so many talented local artists from almost every conceivable discipline,” Blackwell said. “These short, digital works will be a chance for 4th Line audiences to see the depth and breadth of regional artists and their creative worlds.” A variety of artistic styles such as poetry, photography and puppetry are manifested in the artists’ projects. Topics and issues explored include the new silent nightlife in downtown Peterborough in lockdown, an exploration of physical vulnerability in the pandemic and the story of a girl trapped alone in a Welsh mine, to name only three, according to the theatre. The 12 artists include Madison Constello, Naomi Duvall, Jennifer Elchuk, Josh Fewings, Madison Sheward, Frank Flynn, Steafan Hannigan, Mike Moring, Tristan Peirce, Kelsey Powell, Benj Rowland, P.J. Thomas and Laura Thompson. In Hannigan’s multimedia project titled “the many shades between light and dark: art v COVID-19 in 2020,” artists, performers, musicians and directors reflect upon their life-changing experiences during the past year amid the global pandemic. Hannigan is a multidisciplinary artist working in a variety of mediums including photography, video and music. Born and raised in Ireland, he currently lives in Baltimore in Northumberland County. Peirce’s project, “Night Shift,” gives viewers a glimpse into Peterborough’s night life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pierce is a photographer and videographer, based in Peterborough, who is also taking part in the Art Gallery of Peterborough’s group exhibition Presently. “It’s Political,” a project created by Thompson — a designer based in Peterborough whose video work draws on found footage to create moving collages that are surreal and dynamic — explores the women’s movement and its evolution, history and future. The 12 projects will be posted at www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca/festival-of-light-and-dark and at www.youtube.com/user/4thlinetheatreVIDEO starting at noon on Monday. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: email@example.com Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
Saskatchewan will run out of COVID-19 vaccine "over the course of the next few days," says Premier Scott Moe. During a press conference on Tuesday, the premier said the province has gone through 15,000 doses in the past week. About 84 per cent of the province's 24,400 doses have been administered, and new supplies coming in are not enough to replenish what has already been used. At this time, the shortage should not have an impact on those requiring a second dose said Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, as it's believed second doses can be administered up to 42 days after the first and still be effective. On Tuesday, it was reported that Canada won't be getting any of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine next week because of a production slowdown, resulting in fewer doses for provinces. WATCH | Trudeau on vaccine supply challenges in the first three months of 2021: According to the Saskatchewan government, 2,925 doses will arrive next week, but it's not what officials expected. "Over the next four weeks we are now expecting about 17,500 doses from Pfizer, and that is rather than the 37,000 we were expecting to receive," Moe said. "We did almost that many shots this past week alone." Light a firecracker under Pfizer execs: premiers Moe is calling on the federal government to provide "reliable information" on when vaccines are coming in. "We are short of vaccines at every location in Saskatchewan we are providing them," Moe said, adding that the government will revise its vaccine rollout in the weeks ahead. "We need the federal government to pick up the pace of their vaccine delivery in the weeks ahead, and pick up their negotiations and discussions with Pfizer in particular." WATCH | Moe says premiers would line up with lighters to ignite a firecracker under Pfizer execs: Moe also echoed a commentmade by Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Tuesday, in which Ford expressed frustration with Pfizer executives. "If I was in [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's] shoes ... I'd be on that phone call every single day. I'd be up that guy's yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn't know what hit him," the Ontario premier said of Pfizer's executives. "I would just say that … if the prime minister is able to do that, there would be a lineup of premiers behind that would bring a lighter to that party," Moe said.