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Enjoy this review about the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM, another ultra-sharp lens by Canon for the RF-mount. PRO + fast and precise working autofocus + sharpness, water- and dust protected CONTRA -big and heavy
President Joe Biden on Saturday said his administration would make an announcement on Saudi Arabia on Monday, following a U.S. intelligence report that found Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration has faced some criticism, notably an editorial in the Washington Post, that the president should have been tougher on the crown prince, who was not sanctioned despite being blamed for approving Khashoggi's murder.
(Submitted by Gerald McKenzie - image credit) First Nations in Saskatchewan have continued to be hit hard by COVID-19 in the first two months of 2021. According to Indigenous Services Canada, during the first seven weeks of 2021, there were 2,779 new cases in reserves in Saskatchewan — more than in any other province. By comparison, in that same time period, there were 2,290 cases on reserves in Manitoba and 2,389 in Alberta. In a Wednesday news release, Indigenous Services said it is "closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities across the country." However, there is some good news — active case counts are declining, and there has not yet been a confirmed case of any of the new coronavirus variants of concern on reserve. Vaccine deliveries are also ramping up, and as of Feb. 23, Indigenous Services reported that more than 103,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Indigenous communities throughout Canada. In Saskatchewan, as of Feb. 14, the federal department estimates that vaccine uptake in First Nations communities was at or above 75 per cent. Indigenous Services also said it is working to support the vaccine rollout for Indigenous adults living in urban areas. "ISC is working closely with [the] National Association of Friendship Centres, as well as provinces and territories, First Nation, Inuit and Métis partners, and other urban community service organizations to support planning efforts," the department said in its news release this week. "This includes working to identify barriers, challenges and opportunities for increasing vaccine uptake and ensuring the vaccine is available in culturally safe and accessible locations." According to the department, vaccine clinics for Indigenous adults are currently being planned for Saskatoon and Regina.
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine overview: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations," Sharma said, based on a preprint. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. AstraZeneca is working on reformulating its vaccine to address more transmissible variants of coronavirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. WATCH | Performance of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine so far: There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced scoring attack in a 6-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon at Canadian Tire CentreJuuso Valimaki, Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames, who ended Ottawa's three-game win streak.Drake Batherson, Colin White and Brady Tkachuk replied for the last-place Senators. Ottawa (7-15-1) remain in the NHL basement with 15 points.Calgary (10-10-2) moved into a fourth-place tie with Montreal in the North Division with 22 points. The Canadiens were scheduled to play the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.The Flames opened the scoring four minutes into the game. The speedy Johnny Gaudreau zipped around a couple of Ottawa players before sending a backhand saucer pass to Valimaki for the one-timer.The Flames scored again 37 seconds later as Backlund flipped a rolling puck past a handcuffed Matt Murray.The Sens goalie stopped 27-of-33 shots on Saturday.Perhaps in an effort to spark his teammates, Austin Watson fought bruising Flames forward Milan Lucic on the ensuing faceoff. Lucic, who had a 35-pound weight advantage, won the decision.Calgary took advantage of some sloppy defensive play ahead of its third goal. Josh Norris turned the puck over deep in the zone and Lindholm snapped it in at 11:05.Batherson extended his goal-scoring streak to five games with a power-play effort at 13:05. He beat David Rittich with a wrist shot from the faceoff circle.Another Senators' defensive lapse proved costly early in the second period as Chris Tierney coughed up the puck down low. Gaudreau fed it to Monahan for the power-play goal at 4:02.A Calgary shorthanded goal followed at 9:36. Mangiapane hit the post with a redirect attempt before tapping in the rebound. White responded 40 seconds later by scooping a loose puck off the faceoff and snapping it past a screened Rittich. The netminder posted 31 saves in Calgary's win.The lone goal in the third period came when Brady Tkachuk scored on the Ottawa power play at 10:00.The Senators dumped the Flames 6-1 on Thursday night. The teams will face off again Monday in the finale of Ottawa's five-game homestand. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
Saskatchewan Indigenous leadership are calling on Toronto-based uranium mining company Baselode Energy Corp. to stop surveys on Birch Narrows Dene Nation traditional territory in the far north unless consent is given. A permit was issued last month by the province to Baselode for access to land near Turnor Lake, on the edge of the Athabasca Basin and traditional territory of the Birch Narrows Dene Nation, while consultations with the community were still ongoing. The company set up camp and began conducting surveys on Birch Narrows resident Leonard Sylvestre’s trapline in an area traditionally used for such activities by the community. Birch Narrows Dene Elder advisor and trapper Ron Desjardin said it felt like an invasion. “I don't like what they did. They were very disrespectful, unfortunately. If they had any sense or any knowledge of what goes on in our country regarding Indigenous issues they would have stepped back, they would have not chosen to do this, but they went ahead anyway.” Having presented Baselode with a cease and desist order, Birch Narrows officials set up a blockade when they found that the company was not respecting promises to stop surveys, but took it down and are now patrolling the area regularly. “They threatened us if we set up a blockade ‘an illegal action’ and never mind the fact that they were on somebody's strapline,” Desjardin said. “They threatened us with legal action and they were trying to make it look like ‘oh our people, they're not safe.’ They even went to the RCMP saying ‘we want to ensure that our people are going to be safe.’” That mentality, Desjardin said, feels to him like the company is treating them like they’re “savages.” “That's what really ticks me off,” he said. “We're still viewed that way.” Birch Narrows is currently dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and Baselode crews went through the reserve, where they had left some equipment on their way to the survey site, Desjardin said. Baselode Energy Corp. President and CEO James Sykes said in a written response that his company believes a “near-term solution is achievable” and will look to “continue with its exploration activities in due course.” “Upon learning of the Community’s objections the Company has paused on-site work to continue further consultation with the local communities,” Sykes said. “Since applying for permits in October 2020, Baselode has proactively engaged in a positive and constructive dialogue consistent with the duty to consult and accommodate process. We share the common goal of a desire to proceed with mutually beneficial objectives, environmental considerations, and economic development opportunities.” Sykes said there have been mischaracterizations of the circumstances that the company deems to be inaccurate. “We have no further comment at this time as we choose to continue our ongoing positive dialogue directly with the community,” Sykes said. Baselode did send further comments through a law firm in Regina. The letter accused Desjardin of saving his allegations for “long after” they left the site. They alleged that he “has a history on this file of making inaccurate and inflammatory statements as part of his crusade and the illegal blockade.” The response came after the Herald asked specific questions about an interaction between a contractor and people staffing the checkpoint. The Herald is continuing to look into the interaction. The letter said Baselode is a “highly respected publicly traded exploration company” that has “built a reputation for going above and beyond in its interactions with indigenous people.” Ministry of Environment spokesperson Chris Hodges confirmed that Saskatchewan Minister of Environment Warren Kaeding met with the Birch Narrows Dene Nation to discuss the situation. “Minister Kaeding had an opportunity to discuss the matter further with Chief Jonathan Sylvestre of Birch Narrows Dene Nation and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. The Minister encourages that all parties involved continue to communicate and work together in a respectful and safe manner,” Hodges said. The ministry said it recognizes the lands in question have been used traditionally by the community but that “deliberately blocking public Crown lands is illegal” and can be a public safety issue. In addition to having two separate meetings with the community on Jan. 20 and on Feb. 9, the province said Baselode engaged by way of a radio broadcast describing the proposed mineral exploration and gave an opportunity to pose questions. The ministry confirmed that Baselode made a presentation available to the public and leadership through the distribution of flash drives and a printed report. Previous attempts to meet were postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks and a funeral. The ministry said it wants both parties to work together to “build a positive and mutually beneficial relationship so that opportunities can be discussed and evaluated.” ‘Bad business’ called out by leadership Desjardin said the core issue is that the Baselode was under the impression from the province that consultation with Indigenous communities is optional and that permits issued by Saskatchewan are sufficient to begin operations. He said the problem hinges on a lack of clarity around the duty to consult — a responsibility that ultimately lies with the Crown as opposed to industry. “When Canada came up with this whole duty to consult they told the territories and provinces to start doing business a different way. They were given this mandate to accommodate Indigenous rights and there were some clear guidelines, Desjardin said. “The Saskatchewan government turned this around and they've given this responsibility to industry. Industry now is in a conflict of interest because they want those resources. There was a failure to meaningfully address our concerns and too much reliance on industry to address the concerns.” He said provinces develop their own consultation protocols in line with what Canada expects and “Saskatchewan is way behind.” “Consultation and accommodation is not a means to an end nor an end in itself. There needs to be an opportunity to advance reconciliation for the purpose of improving relationships because that's what's lacking right now.” Birch Narrows Dene Nation Chief Jonathan Sylvestre said that resource developers need to understand that provincial permits don’t override the rights of First Nations or the consultation process and the community expects to be involved prior to any resource development or extraction on their traditional lands. “First Nations must be meaningfully and properly engaged on issues that have the potential to adversely impact our rights. It’s been especially difficult to meet deadlines during COVID- 19, while our efforts are keeping our communities safe — not on rubber stamping resource development activities in our territories,” Sylvestre said. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron said Saskatchewan has no authority to authorize permits without engaging with First Nations and without providing the opportunity to give input. “Stay off our lands unless given consent by the First Nation.” FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear said Indigenous connections to the land, water, animals and environment are paramount. “These kinds of bad business practices won’t be tolerated anymore,” Bear said. “Resource exploration and extraction within our territories presents our treaty hunters and gatherers with real problems, especially when it impacts their ability to exercise their Inherent and Treaty rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather.” The province said the ministry approved phase 1 of Baselode’s project on Jan. 27 and issued a permit for preliminary exploration, authorizing a survey with “very low impact” on the environment. Surveyors can access the area on snowmobile or in a snow-cat and collect ground gravity readings on foot to decide where to propose drilling. That information would then be given to the community. The next phase of exploration, for which a permit has not been issued, would involve core sampling after undergoing the consultation and community engagement process. The province said the Turnor Lake community and Baselode Energy are discussing plans for a comprehensive traditional land study in the area that it says falls outside the duty to consult process which focuses on how a community currently uses the area. According to the province, engagement with Indigenous communities by industry is separate from duty to consult obligations held by the province in this context and those discussions don’t influence the permitting process or timeframes. Meadow Lake Tribal Council Tribal Chief Richard Ben said the province needs to provide already underfunded First Nations with the financial resources to be able to participate at the table “in a meaningful way.” “Otherwise, many First Nations will be left out of the process. We can’t undertake studies at our own expense in order to be consulted on resource development within our territory,” Ben said. The Government of Saskatchewan First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework, drafted in 2010, states that Saskatchewan “does not accept assertions by First Nations or Métis that Aboriginal title continues to exist with respect to either lands or resources in Saskatchewan.” Desjardin says that’s insulting. He said while lip service is paid to engaging with First Nations, those words don’t ring true when they’re contradicted in policy. “The duty to consult document is outdated. How can a document support us on one hand and then tell us that on the other hand ‘you've got nothing here.’ It’s a weak document, it’s a contradictory document and it’s a patronizing document. It's not serving its purpose, not doing what it's supposed to do,” Desjardin said. ‘Cultural survival’ depends on wildlife habitat Desjardin said his community has long relied on an abundance of caribou and moose, who feed in muskeg areas such as the proposed exploration site near Harding Bay. Canada’s Species at Risk Act considers woodland caribou as a threatened species. Saskatchewan has not yet finished its habitat assessment for the Boreal Shield and Desjardin wants that data to be available before development happens in the area. “The provinces and territories agreed to come up with a solution, to come up with plans to address this. Saskatchewan is really late. Our area was supposed to be done in June of this year. And that's what I've been pleading with the ministry saying, ‘hold off, hold on, let's find out where the caribou are at.’ How can you make a meaningful decision if you're not basing it on scientific data?” Desjardin said. “We’ve proposed setting aside that whole area as a preserve to save those caribou because they do mean a lot to us. It's our grocery store. That's what it is. We’d like everything to be put on hold. Give us at least a year so that we can do our own research and we can find out where we’re at with everything that we want and then let’s talk.” The ministry said it initiated the duty to consult process with the Indigenous communities of Turnor Lake Oct. 27 last year for Baselode's proposal for mineral exploration on “unoccupied, public Crown land” about 50 kilometres northeast of the community. The process was extended so the community had more time to discuss the project and voice concerns to the ministry. The province said those concerns included impact to caribou, impact to trapping, the development of a new trail to the exploration site and a heavy haul ice road for equipment. Early concerns expressed about the new access roads were addressed by changing the program to a heli-assist, which reduces overall impact, the ministry said. Desjardin said the government and industry need to realize that there are “deeper issues” with the unique habitat of that area. “We are fighting for our cultural survival. That’s what we’re doing right now and that’s why we feel so strongly about this. Do we want a uranium mine in the middle of that knowing the possible consequences if anything ever happened with our watershed? Of course not. Do we really want something that’s going to lead to the demise and extinction of our caribou in that area? No, we don’t,” Desjardin said. “This is something that you need to listen to. We’re not totally against industry. We know people need jobs. But we’d like a say. Listen to us, this is why we don’t want it there.” ‘Speaking from the heart’ to build good partnerships Desjardin said companies that have built successful partnerships with Birch Narrows have gone through the full process of a meaningful consultation. “They sat down with people, they listened to the pros and cons, they addressed each of those issues as well as they could. They didn't hide anything and they were transparent,” Desjardin said. He said Baselode should follow the example set by NexGen Energy Ltd., another uranium company that operates in the Athabasca Basin. “When they drafted a benefit agreement here with Birch Narrows they chose not to call it an impact benefit agreement, they chose to call it a mutual benefit agreement and I thought that was awesome because they didn't rush. It took time,” Desjardin said. “They didn't come and say, ‘Okay, here's our timeline. We have until December. Please make a decision now.’ Basically, that's what Baselode did to us. We're saying ‘No, you have to fit into our timelines.’ We live here.” Desjardin said the issue is part of long-standing unresolved Indigenous grievances in Canada. “It's all about relationships. Canada and the province have to stop hiding behind their documents and their policies. We're speaking from the heart. We don't hide behind policies and documents because this means something to us. It might not mean much to somebody living in Saskatoon but it does to us,” Desjardin said. “It's a dichotomous relationship because we're going down this line and we're not bridging any gaps. Everyone's on their own. No wonder we've got all these issues. We need to bridge that gap and start respecting each other.” Citing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action Desjardin said it’s important to establish and maintain a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. In order for that to happen there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and action to change behavior. “Saskatchewan is falling short on the action part,” Desjardin said. “I like what Chief Dr. Robert Joseph (a Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation in British Columbia) said. Like he said, I want you to dream and imagine what reconciliation would look like in 20, 30 and 40 years from now on,” Desjardin said. “When we are reconciled, we will live together in harmony, be gentle with one another, we will be caring and compassionate. When we are reconciled every person living here will live with dignity, purpose and value. That's where Canada and Saskatchewan need to go.” Michael Bramadat-Willcock, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Northern Advocate
NEW YORK — With the nation's financial system on the brink of collapse, all but three Republicans voted against the massive stimulus package designed to protect millions of Americans from financial ruin. It was early 2009, just weeks after Joe Biden was sworn in as vice-president, and the vote marked the beginning of a new era of partisan gridlock in Congress. And for beleaguered Republicans coming off a disastrous election, it was their first step back to political power. Democrats voted alone to stabilize the economy, and two years later, a Republican Party unified only by its unwavering opposition to Barack Obama's presidency seized the House majority. Now, just weeks into the Biden presidency, the GOP is gambling that history will repeat itself. Early Saturday morning, 210 House Republicans joined two Democrats in voting against a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that would send $1,400 checks to most Americans and hundreds of billions more to help open schools, revive struggling businesses and provide financial support to state and local governments. Senate Republicans are expected to oppose a similar measure in the coming weeks, arguing that the bill is not focused enough on the pandemic. But with near-unanimous Democratic support, the measure could still become law. It's far too soon to predict the political fallout from the first major legislative fight of the Biden era. But as the nation struggles to recover from the worst health and financial crises in generations, strategists in both parties agree that it's risky for Republicans to assume their 2009 playbook will lead to the same ballot-box success this time around. “I think that the Republicans’ misread here is that it is the same, or that they can just oppose it and there’s no ramifications,” said John Anzalone, the Biden campaign’s chief pollster. “It’s a different world.” Veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz said Republicans now bear the burden of clearly articulating their opposition — a task made more difficult by the distraction of former President Donald Trump's high-profile war against the Republican establishment. “The definer of the legislation wins this battle,” Luntz said. “This could end up being the most important vote of 2021.” There are reasons to believe that politics have changed since Republicans last unified against a sweeping stimulus package, not the least of which is Trump's omnipresence in the party. At the same time, the scale of the economic devastation and disruption wrought by the coronavirus pandemic dwarfs that of the 2008 financial crisis. At its peak, roughly 9 U.S. million jobs were lost in the Great Recession, compared with 22 million jobs lost to the coronavirus. A year after the pandemic began, nearly 10 million U.S. jobs remain lost, more than 20 million children are out of school, half a million Americans are dead, and roughly 100,000 businesses are feared closed forever. Polling suggests that an overwhelming majority of voters — including a significant number of Republicans — supports the Democrats' pandemic relief plan. And the business community along with state and local leaders in both parties are crying out for help. On the eve of the House vote, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt joined 31 other Republican mayors in a letter encouraging leaders in both parties to approve the package. “The major part of the bill that relates to cities is sorely needed,” Holt told The Associated Press, citing pandemic-related cuts to his city's police and fire departments. “I don’t know any blue or red state or blue or red city that doesn’t have a revenue shortfall due to COVID-19’s fallout.” In another deep-red state, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice also broke with Washington Republicans and said Congress should “go big or go home” on the new stimulus package. “We have tried to underspend and undersize what was really needed to get over the top of the mountain,” the Republican governor told reporters during a Friday coronavirus briefing. “You got a lot of people across this nation who are really hurting.” Yet no Republican in Washington voted to support the sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus package early Saturday. Moderate Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon were the only two lawmakers to cross party lines, joining 210 Republicans to vote against the legislation that ultimately passed 219-212. “The swamp is back,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said shortly before the final vote, decrying what he called extraordinary “non-COVID waste” and a “blue state bailout.” “Most states are not in financial distress,” McCarthy said. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, traditionally a Republican ally, declined to support or oppose the Republican position. Neil Bradley, the chamber's executive vice-president and chief policy officer, said there is a need for a rescue package that is “targeted, timely and temporary.” “There’s a lot to like in the plan,” Bradley told The AP. “But there's also a whole lot of elements that fail the test of targeted and timely and temporary.” The chamber, like congressional Republicans, opposes Democratic efforts to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly by 2025 from its current $7.25 floor. The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the progressive priority could not be included in the Senate version of the bill, although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is considering a provision that would penalize large companies that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour. Whether the minimum wage provision is included or not, Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the final package. While there could be political fallout from the GOP's strategy in next year's midterm elections, Republican officials privately concede they are more concerned about the intense intra-party feud pitting Trump and his loyalists against leading establishment Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. That divide is playing out this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, where Trump himself is expected to attack his party's establishment on Sunday as he returns to the public stage for the first time since leaving the White House. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, another CPAC speaker and a 2024 Republican presidential prospect, said party unity is paramount moving forward. “I think that Republicans need to recognize that what brings us together right now is the left-wing agenda of the Biden-Harris administration," Cotton told The AP. "The more that we focus on what they’re trying to accomplish in the Congress and through the president's executive actions, the more united we will be, and the more we will move public opinion in our direction.” Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political powerhouse, opposes the Democratic-backed package as well, but its president, Tim Phillips, says it’s unclear whether the GOP strategy will be enough to unite the deeply fractured Republican Party. “This feels a lot like 2009 — that united the Republican caucus and the activist base in a way that probably nothing else could have,” Phillips said. “It served them well in 2009. I wonder if that’ll happen this time.” Steve Peoples, The Associated Press
(Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit) Some Halifax restaurants are questioning the latest COVID-19 restrictions, with at least one taking dining rules a step further. On Friday, the province announced new restrictions in the Halifax area to act as a circuit-breaker as case numbers moved higher. Four new cases were reported on Saturday, bringing the total of active cases to 39. As of Saturday, restaurants and bars must stop serving food and drink by 9 p.m. and must close by 10 p.m. The rules will be in place for at least one month. But Brendan Doherty, co-owner of the Old Triangle pub in downtown Halifax, said it seems like an "empty restriction" that won't accomplish much beyond hurting businesses during an already slow season. "We do feel like something extra does need to be done at the moment, we do need to be more cautious," Doherty said. "And … there are many tools in the tool chest that could have been used. "We decided to be proactive and put our heads together and say, 'You know, what can we do given the circumstances that actually gives a chance to help the situation we're currently in?'" To go that extra step, the pub will limit the number of people allowed at a table to six, which is below the 10-person cap mandated by the province. The business will be closed on St. Patrick's Day after Doherty said the government rejected a proposal for a pandemic-era plan on how to navigate the day. The pub is also working to bring in a sick-day program, Doherty said, so staff that feel unwell and go to get a COVID-19 test will still be paid for their scheduled shift. He said the move is important because this time of the year is always rough in the service industry, even without a global pandemic. Doherty said he doesn't want staff to feel financially obligated to come to work if they're not feeling well. Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang give a COVID-19 briefing earlier this week. Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, has consistently asked Nova Scotians to stay home if they have any symptoms of the virus. On Friday, Premier Iain Rankin said it's important to keep having discussions about paid sick days for people who need time off for testing. He said the point was raised when he reached out to speak with an opposition leader, but did not specify which one. "I met with him to discuss options so that we can support our workforce," Rankin said during the COVID-19 briefing. "It is something that we'll continue to discuss moving forward." The Nova Scotia NDP proposed a bill last year that would have allowed all workers, unionized or not, to be able to accrue up to six paid sick days per year, an idea the Liberals rejected during the spring sitting at Province House. Resources available now There is a federal program, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which provides $450 after taxes per week for up to two weeks. But some critics, workers' advocates and public health professionals say the program is flawed, and is an insufficient replacement for having employers guarantee paid sick leave. Doherty said he's not a health professional and doesn't know what the ideal plan would be to address the spread of COVID-19. But he suggested that zeroing in on travellers coming into the province, and big-box stores or businesses with far more customers in close proximity, might be more effective. He added that he's heard from many other restaurant and bar owners about their disappointment with the lack of communication and collaboration with the province, which Doherty said is different from earlier in the pandemic. Obladee, a wine bar in downtown Halifax, echoed that sentiment with a social media post on Saturday. It called on the government to show its evidence to support the 9 p.m. restrictions, and pointed out that their industry was given less than 24-hours notice before the changes went into effect. "Meaningful consultation with public stakeholders improves decision making and is a matter of transparency and fairness," the post said. "These decisions have major impacts on the livelihoods of thousands of Nova Scotians. We can do better." During Friday's briefing, Strang said cutting an hour of service is an attempt to balance public health risks while ensuring bars and restaurants can stay open. Any setting where people are in close proximity for a long period of time, without masks, carries a "significant risk" of virus transmission, Strang said. He said that the restriction sends a "very strong signal" that patrons need to limit their dining and drinking habits. "The restaurants themselves are not problematic, they're doing a very good job," Strang said. "But how the public are using the restaurants, the frequency, the going to restaurants [at] different times with different groups of people — the choices people are making when they go out to dine, is problematic." MORE TOP STORIES
A 17-year-old classical pianist and martial arts expert’s eyesight hangs in the balance as his mother begs for access to treatment for his rare disease retinitis pigmentosa. The teenager has a small window of opportunity: the treatment will stop or reverse a form of blindness, but only works if he has a certain amount of vision. They are fighting “like crazy” before he becomes ineligible for treatment and hoping for the government to step in soon. This is but one of the many stories shared by Durhane Wong-Rieger, president and CEO of the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders (CORD). Feb. 28 is Rare Disease Day, and with one in 12 Canadians affected by a rare disease — two-thirds are children — Wong-Rieger talked about the burden felt by patients and families. “Rare diseases do affect a lot of people. There are between 6,000 and 7,000 rare diseases. Some will affect one in 2,000, some will affect one in a million, some are so rare that we only know maybe two people (affected) in all of Canada,” Wong-Rieger said. Some well-known rare diseases include cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, sickle cell disease and Tay-Sachs disease. Many rare diseases are genetic due to a misprogramming of a person’s DNA, according to Wong-Rieger. Fifty per cent of rare diseases are non-spontaneous mutation: like cancer. “There are more people that have a rare disease than all cancer combined,” Wong-Rieger added. During newborn screenings in Ontario, where babies’ heels get pricked for a blood sample, only 36 rare diseases are tested. “Most children may seem normal, and will reach certain milestones, up until a certain age. Then they don’t progress or lose function,” Wong-Rieger said. On average, Wong-Rieger said it takes up to four to seven years to get a correct diagnosis for a rare disease, with parents getting from one to 14 misdiagnosis. Sometimes, treatments will make the child worse, or the misdiagnosis delays the treatment and the disease progresses. Wong-Rieger advises parents to keep a diary of symptoms to show physicians. “The federal government has promised $1 billion in 2019 to set up a rare disease program. We’re hoping before the end of this year, we will see this program in place and get the therapies available to patients who need them,” she said. “We want to make sure government is accountable. Canada is far behind than most of the European countries when it comes to (supporting those suffering from) rare diseases,” Wong-Rieger said. For more information, visit www.raredisorders.ca. Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News
EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe says Matthews won't play due to a wrist injury that he's been dealing with for much of the year. Matthews has 31 points (18 goals, 13 assists) in 20 games for the Leafs this season. Toronto (15-4-2) will get some other key pieces back in the lineup — forward Joe Thornton returns from a lower-body injury, defenceman Jake Muzzin slots back in after missing two games with a facial fracture and goalie Jack Campbell is available after dealing with a leg injury. The Leafs currently sit atop the all-Canadian North Division, but the Oilers (14-8-0) are just four points back. Saturday's game kicks off a three-game series between Edmonton and Toronto. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York's new coronavirus-era dance rules aren't exactly “Footloose” strict, but don't plan on cutting loose and kicking off the Sunday shoes with just anybody. The state says that when wedding receptions resume next month, guests will be allowed to hit the dance floor only with members of their immediate party, household or family seated at the same table. Even then, the rules say, dancers must wear face masks and stay within their own “dancing areas or zones” — spaces that should be at least 36 square feet (3.3 square meters) in size and positioned at least 6 feet (2 metres) apart from other dance zones and tables. There's no switching dance zones, either. Happy couples can still take a twirl for a ceremonial first dance, and other couples can join in, but they must all stay 6 feet apart. Live music performers and other entertainers are allowed, but if they're unmasked or playing a wind instrument, they must be separated from attendees by 12 feet (4 metres) or an appropriate physical barrier. Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously announced that weddings can begin again on March 15. Venues will be restricted to 50% of capacity, up to 150 guests, and all must be tested for coronavirus beforehand. The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Quebec's premier issued a caution about a growing number of COVID-19 cases tied to variants of concern on Saturday, but also expressed optimism that an escalating vaccination drive could offer relief from a situation that began playing out in the province exactly one year ago. In a letter posted to his Facebook page, Francois Legault said he feels great hope now that vaccinations of the general population have begun in some regions and are scheduled to start in the Montreal area on Monday. "We should receive around 175,000 doses of vaccine per week in March and therefore we will move quickly," Legault wrote. "We still have a few critical weeks ahead of us, especially because of the spring break and the new variants." New infections in the province have been stable, with another 858 confirmed cases and 13 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus being added to the overall tally on Saturday. The number of people in hospital dropped by 21 to 599, according to Health Department figures, with seven fewer patients requiring intensive care for a total of 112. As the province heads into March break week, authorities reported 984 presumptive variant cases, an increase of 110 suspected infections compared to Friday's figures. The province has 34 confirmed variant cases with 30 of them identified as the B.1.1.7 mutation first detected in the United Kingdom. The Legault government has frequently pointed to last year's spring break as the reason the pandemic initially hit Quebec much harder than other provinces where the break occurred after preventative measures were put in place. One year later, government officials said the more transmissible variants cropping up in the province represent the most pressing concern. "At the start of the spring break, I invite all Quebecers to be extra careful," Health Minister Christian Dube said on Twitter. "Although the data is encouraging, the virus is still circulating and cases of variants continue to increase." It was one year ago Saturday that Quebec authorities convened an evening news conference to report that a 41-year-old woman returning from travel to Iran was the province's first presumptive COVID-19 patient. The positive test confirmed by the provincial lab was re-confirmed the next day by the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. Since the pandemic was declared last March, the province has reported 287,003 confirmed infections and 10,385 deaths, with 268,645 people recovered. There are currently 7,973 active cases in the province. Quebec administered 15,902 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Friday for a total of 418,399, roughly 4.3 per cent of the population. Legault noted after vaccinating those 85 and older, the province hopes to quickly get to those over 70 before expanding to the entire adult population. The province expects to begin delivering second doses as of March 15. Quebec has already provided a first dose in long-term care homes and vaccinated 200,000 health care workers. Legault urged Quebecers to avoid gatherings as the province picks up the vaccination pace. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Award-winning Canadian film director Tyler Simmonds has suffered from mental health issues since his teenage years. He decided to use his craft to push for dialogue and discussion on mental health and mindfulness — especially within the Black community.
Several rounds of staff reports, public comments, and consultant presentations later, Tiny council still remains at square one around an effective strategy to address short-term rental (STR) issues in the township. At the end of the day, staff were sent back to prepare a public survey and to continue drafting an STR licensing bylaw and renters code of conduct with public input. In the process' latest round, council's committee of the whole received an open deputation Friday from a resident, who had concerns around the third-party monitoring system, a presentation from the third-party service provider and another staff report. "I read through the supplier and I have concerns about the cost and the Big Brother feel," said Kim Romans, who is a year-round Tiny resident with two rental cottages on her property. "This is not a registry, this is about regulation. "We are a small township and a small number of units," she added. "People who are offering STRs should come to the table and work with council to design something that works for the people and township. We shouldn't be burdening people with over-regulating and the costs associated with them." Coun. Tony Mintoff clarified for Romans that the township's intent was always to come up with some sort of regulation around STRs in the area. "It's always been the intent to have a registration and a licensing program," he said. "As for survey of the members of the public and property owners, that's part of the plan." Council also sat through a presentation by Samantha White, account executive with Granicus - Host Compliance, whose services were giving Romans the jitters. The company, White said, focuses and specializes in helping local governments address their short-term rental related challenges. "We pull down the data from the top 60 STR platforms and match that with your assessor data to drive greater compliance using the solutions we have," White said. The five tools that Granicus offers include digital registration and tax collection, address identification, compliance and rental activity monitoring and a dedicated hotline for complainants, she explained. Steve Harvey, chief municipal law enforcement officer, said staff had brought forward Granicus as an efficiency tool. "Staff see this as a very important efficiency tool to get us up and running very quickly for 2021," he said. "It's a critical component to rolling this out. Recreating something similar to this would take a lot of time and be cost prohibitive. (Granicus costs) $36,000 a year and we're asking council to consider them as sole-source provider." In addition to the $36,000 cost for bringing on Granicus, Harvey said, staff was also proposing an additional bylaw officer at a cost of $51,000 for eight months. Some council members still had concerns if the township had the right way of approaching the issue. "What are we trying to achieve and more particularly what are we trying to achieve for the 2021 season?" said Mayor George Cornell. "I don't think we're at a point where we can start writing up our bylaw and engage Granicus. There's a whole public consultation piece here that hasn't been looked at. We haven't made any decisions yet. I would caution council not to get ahead of ourselves." That's exactly where Mintoff was coming from. "I think it's premature to be thinking about engaging a third-party consultant and hiring a staff now when we haven't even put the issue of what the program is going to look like," he said. "I do agree with the bylaw approach versus the zoning approach because it would help us administer a monetary penalty system." Instead, Mintoff said a survey is a good first step in which to begin. He also wasn't convinced if the definition of an STR should focus on any period less than 28 consecutive calendar days since the problems lie with those renting for weekends. "We should be looking at under eight days," he said, adding, "We can get our feet wet and look at the ones that are causing the most problems. "If we just say, if you're going to rent less than eight days, you have to register," said Mintoff. "That doesn't say you can't rent for 28 days." All council members agreed that engaging Granicus services at this time wasn't necessary, however, White and her colleague offered to help staff in crafting the licensing framework. Meanwhile, staff will continue with the strict enforcement policy already in place. Council is hoping to have a report back with an implementation date for the end of May. The decision was ratified at the council meeting held later the same day. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Pembroke – Once again local MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke) has found herself in the middle of a very public controversy after a video emerged in which she accused the Liberal government of becoming “radicals” who want “all illicit drugs to be legal” and “to normalize sexual activity with children.” These and other statements made by the longtime Conservative MP are contained in a video that recorded a virtual meeting between the MP and a group of young Conservatives at Queen’s University in Kingston earlier this month. The video remained relatively obscure until Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell, (Pickering-Uxbridge) posted it on both her Twitter and Facebook Social Media accounts. When she posted the video she accused Mrs. Gallant of spreading “disgusting and dangerous lies” and goes on to state her fearmongering is “a threat to our democracy.” Although Mrs. Gallant went on to make a number of questionable and unsubstantiated statements including that Marxists have taken over university administrations across the country in an effort to stifle free speech and to push a socialist agenda, Ms. O’Connell accuses the MP of promoting anti-Semitic rhetoric. On her YouTube page, she labels the video as “Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant spews anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” and her Twitter posting goes one step further and infers that other Conservative MPs share Mrs. Gallants beliefs when she wrote “Gallant is yet another CPC MP (to a growing list of them) who repeats anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” Although several of Mrs. Gallant’s statements can be considered outlandish and offensive, she does not make any direct reference to anti-Semitism. Ms. O’Connell also compared her to supporters of former President Donald Trump and said the MP is promoting “deranged conspiracy theories.” Within the video she accuses Liberals of lacking any common sense, stating they have become “a bunch of radicals” and because of this “they want all illicit drugs to be legal. They want anything goes in every aspect of life. They want to normalize sexual activity with children.” Last Friday Mrs. Gallant provided a very brief statement in which she said “comments on the Liberals choosing to lower the age of consent were taken out of context.” She did not address any of her other comments and said she “will not be commenting further on this matter.” In the video, she goes on to complain “the liberal media have been bought and paid for” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and are now backing Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault — whom she dubs the “censor in chief” — in his plans to make Google and Facebook pay for news content they disseminate on their platforms. She also accused the prime minister of purposely driving a wedge between Google and Facebook and the Canadian government in order for the tech giants to follow the recent Australia example and remove all news contents from their platforms in Canada. “Why do you think Trudeau would want Canadians to be unable to search or share news right as he’s planning a snap election?” she asks. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who has been attempting to put a more moderate face on his party, said the Liberals are trying to distract from their failure to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. “Canadians have other priorities and so do I,” he said in a brief statement late Friday. Similar to Mrs. Gallant, Mr. O’Toole has not made any other comments despite the video being seen by thousands of Canadians and commented on by all major news outlets and several Social Media platforms. Familiar Pattern Mr. O’Toole joins a long line of party leaders who have either disciplined or did their best to distance themselves from Mrs. Gallant in order to isolate her and not have her actions become the namesake of the federal party. What has become a familiar pattern since she was first elected as a member of the former Canadian Alliance in 2000, her controversial statements have caused embarrassment for both her party and her former leaders. In 2002, she made anti-gay remarks to then Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham, when during a heated exchange, she kept interrupting "Ask your boyfriend" or "How's your boyfriend?" Although she at first refused to apologize for her statements, behind the scenes, Stockwell Day, leader of the Canadian Alliance at the time, had Mrs. Gallant apologize on the floor of the House of Commons. During the 2004 election, a controversy erupted when she compared abortion to the beheading of Iraq War hostage Nick Berg. Stephen Harper had just been elected leader of the newly-formed Conservative Party and his office announced she was suffering from laryngitis, and she did not appear at some scheduled debates and was not allowed to make any statements to both local and national news outlets. In 2005 she suggested Christians were being persecuted by the Liberal Party in a flyer she sent to her constituents. Confronted with the news, Mr. Harper said "I'll let Cheryl Gallant explain those remarks herself; I haven't seen them." In February 2011, during Defence Committee hearings in St. John's before an audience which included the family and co-workers of mariners lost at sea in recent accidents on the Atlantic, Mrs. Gallant remarked, "In Ontario we have inland seas, the Great Lakes, and it would never occur to any of us, even up in the Ottawa River, to count on the Coast Guard to come and help us." Her comparison of recreational boaters in sheltered inland waters to mariners on the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of miles from land drew outrage from many who had lost family at sea. Once again Mr. Harper attempted to distance himself and the party from her and suggested reporters contact her directly for any further remarks. She initially refused to apologize saying her remarks were misinterpreted, but a few days later she said she was sorry and did not mean to minimize ocean dangers. There were other incidents including a 2016 scandal when she used the death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo as a means to generate money for her campaign through an Easter ham lottery. Cpl. Cirillo was killed while standing guard at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22, 2014. In 2017, newly-elected leader Andrew Scheer called for a “whipped vote” in support of Canada’s commitment to the Paris Accord. However, when the roll was taken, Mrs. Gallant defied the Leader’s Office and voted against the Accord. She was the only MP from all parties who voted against it, thereby denying unanimous consent and caused great embarrassment to Mr. Scheer. Neither the Conservative Party, its members or the local riding association have made any public statements on the recent controversy and calls to the MP’s office were not retu Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
It's a year of change at the Canadian women's curling championship in the Calgary bubble. The field was padded to 18 teams this year for the first time. There are no spectators at the Markin MacPhail Centre due to the pandemic. The Page system was dropped in favour of a three-team playoff. Coaching benches are at opposite ends of the ice rather than beside each other. Traditional post-game handshakes are verboten with some players tapping brooms instead. Curling fans and athletes are still thrilled to have the sport back on the domestic stage after a long absence. The Scotties Tournament of Hearts — the first of six events to be held in the protected "bubble" environment — has been a success entering the final weekend. Championship pool play continues Saturday and the playoffs are set for Sunday. Many classic traditions specific to the Hearts are on hiatus for 2021. The HeartStop Lounge, a party barn with entertainment, food and drink, is obviously idle this year. The annual women's curler banquet and full-field group photo should also return in 2022. And in a change to a long-standing routine that Hearts competitors have held dear since 1981, many teams will not receive jewelry this year. Longtime event sponsor Kruger Products decided it will only award jewelry to the four teams — P.E.I., N.W.T., Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador — who were able to play provincial/territorial playdowns. The nine provincial teams who accepted invitations after the pandemic forced the cancellation of their respective association championships are out of luck. "Players/teams that were acclaimed entry into the 2021 Scotties and any alternate players that were not part of a winning provincial/territorial team are unfortunately not eligible to receive jewelry," said Kruger corporate marketing director Oliver Bukvic. "This is a very unique year, with many changes due to COVID, and we will recognize the winners who earned a berth in the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts." That's a change from last season when Nunavut — the other territorial entry in the field — received jewelry despite not playing down. Jewelry is not given out to defending champions (automatic entry) or wild-card teams (entry via ranking). Unlike the nine pandemic-affected provincial entries, Iqaluit was able to host championships this year. However, women's playdowns weren't held because the Nunavut team — which did not receive jewelry this year — was unopposed for a second straight season. Bukvic didn't comment on previous setups but said this year's plans came down to eligibility. "We look forward to next year when we'll hopefully be back to normalcy and we'll be able to recognize all of these provincial and territorial winners with their jewelry for winning their playdown," he said. First-year players who are eligible for jewelry receive a gold necklace with a four-heart pendant. A diamond is added to the pendant for each of the next four appearances. After that, a tennis bracelet is awarded with a diamond addition for every return to the Hearts. "We knew that that wasn't really on the table this year, which is fine," said Alberta vice Kate Cameron. "I think we were really excited to have this opportunity to even be here right now. "I think given the state of the world and everything we're going through and then being selected to represent Alberta, I think was something that we were really honoured to do. So I think we're just happy to be here." The jewelry is a significant perk for all teams who receive it, but particularly those who finish on the low end of the event payout structure. Teams cut after the preliminary round receive $2,500 apiece. The winning Hearts team receives $100,000 of the $300,000 total purse. Curlers who reach the podium will still receive traditional rings. The champions have rings set with a diamond, the finalists with a ruby and the third-place team with an emerald. The Hearts finalist receives $60,000 and the third-place team receives $40,000. Other championship pool teams receive $15,000 apiece. Kruger is celebrating its 40th year of Hearts sponsorship this season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Once again, the West Parry Sound Pool project is making waves in Whitestone’s online community. Following a question-and-answer document posted on the municipal website on Feb. 25, a Whitestone ratepayer named Bruce Morris shared the link with Whitestone Community Chat on Facebook where it soon drew discussion. “Even after all of the knowledge of how the majority of ratepayers are against the project and all of the data to show why it is a waste of time and money, I guess the mayor has decided to create this draft of fiction,” wrote Morris in the comments. Another ratepayer stated that the Q&A document was not impartial and should be dismissed. “The will of the majority of Whitestone ratepayers must be taken into consideration not the will of Parry Sound and some members of council,” said Sue Krusell. Whitestone’s councillor Joe Lamb was quick to comment on the Facebook post stating that he did not agree with the document being published as is. “I was asked for input on these questions and answers,” wrote Lamb. “I will post separately my input to the mayor.” The document says that it is answers to questions raised by Whitestone ratepayers regarding the proposed West Parry Sound Pool and Wellness Centre project and the municipality’s participation in the project. In a separate post on the Whitestone Community Chat, Lamb posted his opposition to the Q&A document posted on the municipal website. “Mr. Mayor, in addition to my earlier comments, I have reviewed each one of the 25 questions and ‘your’ responses,” said Lamb. “I must reiterate these are just your responses, they simply cannot be ‘from council’ because they are absolutely misleading.” It is not known at this time when Whitestone will make a decision on its involvement in the West Parry Sound pool project however it has been stated that the municipality will hold another public meeting before it makes its decision. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
(Government of P.E.I. - image credit) Prince Edward Island is reintroducing some public health restrictions — including no indoor dining at restaurants —after six new cases of COVID-19 were reported Saturday. The restrictions will begin Sunday and be in effect until at least March 14, Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, said in a COVID-19 briefing Saturday. P.E.I. has had 12 cases in the past four days, and a handful of potential exposure sites have been identified. "This outbreak is likely to get worse before it gets better," Morrison said. Other "circuit-breaker" measures announced Saturday include: Takeout only at restaurants. Personal gatherings limited to household members plus 10 "consistent" people. Organized gathering limit of 50 for activities including concerts, worship services, and movie theatres Weddings and funerals limited to 50 individuals plus officiants. Not eligible for multiple gatherings. No funeral or wedding receptions. No sports games or tournaments, though practices are permitted. Gyms, museums, libraries and retail stores can operate at 50 per cent capacity. No changes to current measures for long-term care facilities. Unlicensed and licensed child-care centres can operate at 100 per cent capacity, with physical distancing. The Chief Public Health Office has asked all people aged 14-29 in the Summerside area to get tested this weekend even if they are not experiencing symptoms. People with symptoms are asked to get tested at clinics in Slemon Park or on Park Street in Charlottetown. By 3 p.m. Saturday, Morrison said close to 1,000 tests were done at the temporary clinic at Three Oaks High School. The clinic is open until 8 p.m., and will be open Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for anyone in the Summerside area aged 14-29. Callbecks Home Hardware in Summerside was identified Saturday as a possible exposure site. The new cases, five men and one woman, are all in their 20s. Five are close contacts of previous cases. Four new exposure sites were also identified on Saturday — Callbecks Home Hardware in Summerside, Pita Pit locations in Summerside and Charlottetown, and Burger King in the Summerside Walmart. Premier Dennis King said the province does not know if the new cases are variants, but the assumption is they are. He said it's not the news he wanted to deliver, but said circuit breakers have proven effective in the past. "I think it's discouraging from the perspective for all Islanders simply because we've done very, very well to date and we can see the finish line, but we do seem to be stuck in this tangled spider's web of COVID that it won't really let us firmly out of its grip." P.E.I. has had 126 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began almost a year ago. Thirteen remain active. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. The Atlantic bubble remains suspended, as well. Here is a list of possible public exposure sites on PEI. Public health officials are urging anyone who was at these locations on these dates and at these times to immediately self-isolate and get tested. Pita Pit, Summerside: Feb 19, 11 a.m.-9 pm.; Feb 21, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Feb 22, 12 noon-9 p.m.; Feb 23, 12 noon-9 p.m.; Feb 24, 2-4 p.m.; Feb 26, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Callbeck's Home Hardware, Summerside: Feb. 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (all dates) Burger King, Granville Street, Summerside: Feb 14, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Feb 17, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; Feb 18, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Feb. 20, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-5 p.m.; Feb 21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Feb 22, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Feb 23, 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Feb 24, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Feb 25, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Dominos Pizza, Summerside: Feb 17, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Feb. 18, 4-11 p.m.; Feb. 19, 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Feb 20: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Feb. 21, 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Feb 22, 4-11 p.m.; Feb 23, 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Feb 24, 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Shoppers Drug Mart, Summerside: Feb 21, 10-11 a.m. Dollarama, Summerside: Feb 20, 3-4 p.m. Superstore, Montague: Feb 24, 4:30-5:30 p.m.; Feb 25, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Tailgate Bar & Grill, Montague: Feb 25, 9:30-11:30 p.m. Iron Haven Gym, Summerside: Feb. 20, 6-8 p.m.; Feb 23, 6-8 p.m. Toys R Us, Charlottetown: Feb 23, 10 a.m.-12 noon Taste of India, Charlottetown: Feb 20, 4-10 p.m.; Feb. 21, 3-9 p.m.; Feb 22, 3-9 p.m.; Feb 23, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The Breakfast Spot, Summerside: Feb 20, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. New Brunswick reported two new cases on Saturday as the active total, 41, continues to drop. New Brunswickers can now travel and visit people in different regions after a series of changes to the orange phase took effect. Nova Scotia reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as tighter restrictions came into force to stem a recent increase in case numbers. The province has 39 active cases. Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases, as well as another death. It has 217 active cases. More from CBC News
Si Le Bic est réputé pour son cachet et ses restaurants, l’histoire de ce village est intrinsèquement liée à la mer. C’est que rappelle le Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic dans sa toute nouvelle publication Le Bic, une histoire maritime, un livre d’une soixantaine de pages qui couvre 500 ans d’interactions entre les humains et les flots du Saint-Laurent dans ce coin de la province. En effet, les Premières nations qui fréquentaient la région avant l’arrivée des Européens étaient déjà des marins aguerris qui s’adonnaient à la pêche ou à la chasse au phoque. Les Mi’gmaq construisaient notamment des canots d’écorce, parfois équipés d’une voile. Plus tard, au 17e siècle, le havre du Bic s’impose comme une escale pour les bateaux européens remontant l’estuaire du Saint-Laurent vers l’important poste de traite de Tadoussac, qui en profitent pour faire du troc avec les Autochtones, chaudrons contre fourrures. Quelques colons s’installent dans la seigneurie créée en 1675 pour vivre de la pêche, mais c’est surtout les navigateurs qui seront à l’origine de l’essor du Bic, dès 1730. Ces spécialistes de la dangereuse navigation laurentienne vivent dans le village et prennent en main les bateaux venus d’Europe à partir de l’île du Bic, se rendant indispensables au commerce transatlantique. La chaloupe puis la goélette sont leurs moyens de transport de prédilection pour rejoindre les navires. L’activité est périlleuse et nombre de jeunes hommes perdront la vie dans les eaux du fleuve : 133 se noient entre 1815 et 1855. Les activités de navigation finiront par disparaître au 20e siècle, et si l’on cherche encore le bord de l’eau quand on vient au Bic, c’est avant tout pour les activités de villégiature. La construction navale y est toutefois encore présente, à travers l’atelier des chaloupiers Daniel St-Pierre et Pierre-Luc Morin. Gratuit pour les Bicois Les résidents du Bic peuvent se procurer gratuitement l’un des 1500 exemplaires du livre en présentant une preuve de résidence à la bibliothèque Émile-Gagnon. Les autres personnes intéressées par cette épopée maritime peuvent l’acheter sur le site du Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic ou à la librairie L’Alphabet de Rimouski. Il s’agit du deuxième ouvrage du comité, dix ans après le Guide des maisons traditionnelles du Bic. Le livre a demandé des années de travail et pas moins de huit personnes ont travaillé bénévolement à son élaboration, que ce soit à la recherche d’informations historiques et d’images, à la rédaction ou à la coordination. Deux ententes de développement culturel du ministère de la Culture et des Communications, la première avec la Ville de Rimouski et la seconde avec la MRC de Rimouski-Neigette, ont permis de financer ce projet. La coprésidente du Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic, Linda Lavoie, pense que ce type d’ouvrage est un bon moyen de sensibiliser la population à l’importance du patrimoine, ici et ailleurs. Vendredi après-midi, elle allait poster un exemplaire à destination de Vancouver, signe que l’histoire du Bic, qui s’inscrit dans celle plus longue de la colonisation et du développement de ce continent, intéresse bien au-delà des frontières du Bas-Saint-Laurent. Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
Thousands of flag-waving marchers demonstrated Saturday in Tunisia's capital in a show of support for the majority party in parliament. The demonstration follows political tensions between Tunisia's president and its prime minister, Hichem Mechichi. Mechichi has sought to reshuffle his Cabinet but has seen some of his proposed ministerial appointments blocked by President Kais Saied. Marchers in Tunis chanted “The people want national unity.” The demonstration was called by the Islamist Ennahdha party that holds the largest block of seats in Tunisia's parliament. Tunis,Tunisia, The Associated Press
(Submitted by Kevin Snyder - image credit) Maple Syrup is having a sweet moment as producers get ready to tap the trees in their woodlots to prepare to make stock for 2021. The natural sweetener is proving popular for families spending more time at home and using it more in their recipes. "I had an increase in sales since COVID started and I couldn't figure it out at first," said Kevin Snyder of Snyder Heritage Farms in Bloomingdale, Ont. "And then one of my customers made a comment. 'Before the lockdown,' he said, 'we were making pancakes once a month.' He says now that everybody's home, 'we're making pancakes three or four times a month.'" As customers purchase the remaining supply of 2020 Ontario syrup, producers like Snyder and Dan Goetz of Shady Grove Maple Company in Guelph, Ont. are tapping the trees at their woodlots and waiting for the sweet spot: a temperature formula that fluctuates from about –5 C at night to 5 degrees during the day. The modern pipeline collects from five to eight trees and moves the sap into a storage tank. Red leaves predict sweet season Goetz started tapping trees in early February. He needed to get ready for the March sap withdrawal, as he has 40 thousand taps and hoses to put in place at the 20 Ontario woodlots he owns in Kitchener, Guelph, Durham, Chatsworth and Campbellville. In addition to temperatures today, he also kept a close eye on the leaf colours last fall. They offer a clue about how the syrup will taste in the coming season. "We had real bright colours in the leaves, so that usually means high sugar production," said Goetz. "Reds especially tend to lean toward higher sugar contents, better sugar production. Sometimes that proves us wrong, but it's usually true." Also, he says, "there's lots of available water coming now with all the snow we're getting." Maple syrup being drawn off an evaporator at Shady Grove Maple Company. Regional flavour Syrups from each region of Ontario offer a different taste and spectrum of colours, from dark to light. "Every different region has different flavours according to how the the trees are grown and the soil type," explained Snyder. "So when you become a maple syrup connoisseur, there's a whole window of opportunity to sample and try many different flavours and grades out there. All maple syrup isn't the same. There's a huge difference in flavours, according to regions and producers." The finished product. The maple syrup is stored in stainless steel containers at Shady Grove Maple Company in Guelph. All Ontario made syrup is sold with the "Sweet Ontario" logo on the container and can be purchased directly from any maple syrup producer. "It's a local sugar," says Kevin Snyder. "And a lot of people don't realize how close their sources are until they start driving 10 or 15 kilometres and they find a local source."