Canada's largest airlines are calling for a delay in the upcoming rule that anyone flying to Canada will have to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.
Canada's largest airlines are calling for a delay in the upcoming rule that anyone flying to Canada will have to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Huronia Airport's tri-party owners pored over the various options presented by a consultant to keep the asset viable. Trent Gervais, president and CEO of Loomex Group, which was hired to prepare a detailed report around the aviation property, talked Monday evening to the three municipalities that own the 300-acre piece of property in Tiny Township. He said the airport has some crucial positive features, such as room to grow, an approximately 4,000 foot runway that can accommodate small charters, commercial and larger general aviation aircrafts, proximity to cottage country, and low tax, utilities, and fuel costs. Some downsides, as Gervais pointed out, include weak internet access, outdated machinery and equipment, outdated fuel system and lack of a flight school. In the report, he lists a number of ways the airport can be revived as a revenue-generating asset for the area. Increasing communications on various channels can not only bring in tourism and visitors, but also attract a flight school, and open up the space to events. Additional hangar spaces can be added and some of the airport building space can be leased out to other businesses. Another suggestion was to strike a partnership with Tay Township, which is the only North Simcoe municipality currently not sharing in the ownership of the airport. When the floor was opened for questions, Midland's Coun. Jon Main was the first to jump in with a query. "How have you seen the airport industry change in the pandemic and are we close to seeing it return to normal?" he asked. Gervais said it's no secret that COVID-19 has decimated the aviation industry. "Airports hurting the most are those that rely heavily on schedule service," he said, adding some airports have lost 90% of their business. Despite that, it’s still going fairly strong, said Gervais. "We also think it’s a great opportunity that when the general population gets out and moves around, it’s going to take them time to build up the trust to travel abroad," he said. "Domestic travel is a great asset. What can your airport do to attract that potential business to the area?" Tiny Township's Coun. Tony Mintoff said despite the challenges and the hardships COVID-19 has created in every other area of life, the airport's movements were up by 17% over 2019. "Our fuel sales are up 60% over last year," he said. Main asked about another use for the airport. "We have all these extreme weather events that are potentially going to be affecting us, so are the airport's emergency capabilities would be fantastic to be further explored?" he said. Gervais said that could work. "Your airport could be equipped to assist with emergency management," he said. "It could be a small evacuation shelter. It could be a small transportation hub. It could play another role. It's just an asset sitting there." Penetanguishene councillor George Vadeboncoeur wanted to know if the tri-party municipal agreement would be reviewed. Jeff Lees, chief administrative officer for Penetanguishene, said that was one of the suggestions made by Loomex and agreed upon by the three CAOs. Midland's Coun. Bill Gordon wanted to know more about the suggestion around hosting events on the airport property. "I've heard that a couple times now, and as I recall there were at least two events that were proposed and denied," he said. "Has there's been a shift in the mentality now?" Gervais clarified the types of events the report was suggesting. "What we are really encouraging is that the events should be aviation and aerospace related," he said. "They're the types of events we would encourage you to attract to the airport." Mintoff, who is part of the Huronia Airport Commission, added to that. "We've had two significant proposals brought to us," he said. "One was for a concert-type venue. We worked with the proponent, but what happened was that they were asking us to undertake all the liabilities and responsibilities, without any commitment to revenue from that opportunity. "The second opportunity was to host drag races on the airport runway," continued Mintoff. "We worked very much with the proponent to make sure we had the appropriate insurance policies, but found out that these events can create significant damage to the runways. The amount of money we were being offered wouldn't have cleaned it up." The commission, he said, understands the desire of the three host municipalities to generate revenue to offset the deficit. "We feel we have to have the right things that will generate reasonable revenue without exposing municipalities to the liabilities," Mintoff said. Gordon then asked about the airport competing with the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport in Oro-Medonte. "The Lake Simcoe (Regional) Airport is in significant growth mode and it's proven so likely to produce income," he said. "Are we really wise to be competing against our own upper tier of government when our collective tax dollars are promoting their growth?" Gervais said there's plenty of room in the airspace for all the airports. "The Lake Simcoe Regional Airport sits as part of the Southern Ontario Airport Network," he said. "Each one of those airports is defined around the type of business they're in. Although Simcoe won't turn away general aviation traffic, that's not what they're promoting. They're out there promoting the big jet traffic. "Those that are travelling to North Simcoe are going to want to land in North Simcoe," added Gervais. Gordon then asked about divestment. "Why did we choose not to look at divestment as an option?" Gervais said that wasn't part of the mandate. However, the report does include a section about divestiture. Small and medium-sized municipalities may look at selling off airports with aging infrastructures, but there are many advantages and disadvantages to consider, says the report. Selling may be difficult negotiate considering the agreements already in place with hangar owners. Private investors may not want to invest back in the airport. "Another challenge with a private airport structure is managing noise and other environmental externalities generated by airports," says the report. "Seldom, costs of noise pollution are included in the profit and loss sheet of a private airport. Often, politicians spend tax dollars to cover the costs of noise mitigation; this would remain a burden on the municipality, regardless of ownership structure, in order to calm neighbouring voters/taxpayers." As well, the Loomex report says, selling the airport to a private owner would take away municipal control over the activities at the airfield. Midland's Mayor Stewart Strathearn spoke up against divestiture. "If you divest totally of the airport, you'll never get it back," he said. He then asked about the runway capacity to allow larger planes to land. "We have a 4,000-foot runaway, can it accommodate a Dash-8? What would the range of an aircraft like that be?" he said. "If we're talking about a more focused marketing plan, tied into something like cruise ships, then you start to have people who are deposited in our area and may need to go back to, for example, Chicago." Gervais said the strip is equipped for a Dash-8 to land on it. "We'd have to look at what size, but a Dash-8 300, would have 50 to 70 passengers," he added. Strathearn also wanted to know how the Huronia Airport would stand apart from all the other airpotrs in the region that already offer flight school. Gervais' advice was to look for the niche. "There are a lot of international pilots that could be attracted," he said. "Could it be an ultra light flight school? There are a lot of unmanned aircrafts that are reaching potential. I wouldn't suggest attracting just another flight school, but what niche market can you get into that nobody else is doing?" Strathearn then asked about funding. "If this airport were to attract a charter services, what would it do to its status in the hierarchy of airports?" he said. "Would we be eligible for significant federal funding as a consequence?" Gervais said the airport would have to reach a certain threshold for regularly scheduled service for that. "The better you can collaborate as a region and have a solid business plan, the more inclined you are to be able to get some federal and provincial funding," he said. Tim Leitch, Tiny Township's acting CAO and director of public works, explained next steps. "Moving forward on this, we felt that one of the main things to get us going would be a task force made up of three staff members from the ownership groups, an aviation expert, the airport manager, and representation from our councils," he said. "We want to develop a road map for how we're going to move forward to make sure the airport is a sustainable business." The task force, said Leitch, will bring back a report to respective councils to create a consistent plan of action moving forward. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Saskatchewan saw its deadliest day of the pandemic, with a record-high 14 fatalities reported on Tuesday. The previous record came on Jan. 21, when 13 people died after being diagnosed with the virus. The province has now reported 268 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic came to the province. Of those, 115 deaths have happened in 2021. One of the newly reported deaths Tuesday was a person was in their 40s who lived in the north central zone. Two people were in their 50s, with one from the Regina area and the other from the Saskatoon zone. Another two people were in their 60s from the Saskatoon zone. Three people were in their 70s and were from the Regina, Saskatoon and southeast zones. Six people were in their 80s and lived in the far northwest, north central, Regina, southeast and Saskatoon zones. New cases The province also reported 232 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total provincial caseload so far to 22,646. Here's where the new cases are: Far northwest: 23. Far north central: three. Far northeast: four. Northwest: 45. North central: 31. Northeast: seven. Saskatoon zone: 47. Central west: three. Central east: four. Regina zone: 46. South central: two. Southeast: six. There are 11 cases with pending locations. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 254, or 20.7 new cases per 100,000 people. The province says a total of 19,729 known cases have recovered from the virus, an increase of 839 since Monday. Of the province's total cases, 2,665 are considered active. There are 208 people with COVID-19 in hospital, 33 of whom are in the ICU. The province processed 2,160 COVID-19 tests on Monday. Public health measures extended The province is not implementing any new health measures to contain the spread of the virus, but it is extending the measures that currently are in place. The public health order will remain in effect until Feb. 19. They were set to expire on Jan. 29. The measures include a province-wide mask mandate, outdoor gatherings limited to 10 people maximum, while private indoor gatherings are limited to immediate households only. Visits to long-term care and personal care homes remain suspended except for compassionate reasons. Additionally, no alcohol sales are permitted after 10 p.m. in licensed establishments and sports remains suspended. A full list of current measures is available here. 3 businesses fined for not following public health order The government of Saskatchewan says enforcement of public health orders will continue to ensure businesses and events are brought into compliance as quickly as possible. On Tuesday, three businesses were fined under the Public Health Act. Crackers and the Crazy Cactus in Saskatoon and Stats Cocktails and Dreams in Regina have each been fined $14,000 each. Vaccine update The province administered 362 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, bringing the total number of vaccines administered in Saskatchewan to 34,080. The doses were administered in the following areas: Saskatoon: 241. Far North West: 22. North East: 23. North West: 66. Central East: 10. As of Tuesday, the province says it has administered 104 per cent of the number of doses it has officially received, with the overage due to efficiencies in drawing extra doses from vials.
Public health regulations in the Sudbury district could be made even more restrictive than the current lockdown and stay-at-home order if a variant of the COVID-19 virus somehow increases the number of infections. The issue was discussed in an online interview hosted by Science North on Monday with Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for the Public Health Sudbury and Districts. Staff scientist Katrina Pisani joined Sutcliffe for a 40-minute discussion on why the COVID-19 guidelines in Ontario keep changing. Pisani told the online audience the purpose of the discussion was to get a better understanding of why guidelines change and what the public needs to know about the current emergency regulations and the stay-at-home order currently in place. On Monday afternoon, the province decided to expand the order for an additional two weeks. Sutcliffe said despite some initial confusion, the order was simple and direct. "So the stay-at home order is exactly that for all Ontarians, to stay home unless it is really essential that you're not at home." She said it is intended to be as simple as possible notwithstanding some of the confusion about it. This is despite speculation and questions that people might have about every little excuse to somehow get around essential reasons for leaving home. Sutcliffe said essential reasons could include such things as picking up groceries, going to the pharmacy, getting health care or doing some essential work that cannot be done from home. "It's different from the lockdown, because the lockdown is one of the areas of the coded phases for management of COVID in our province. And so those that were in the gray or lockdown parts of our province meant that they had high rates of COVID-19 and there are specific requirements there, but not an overall stay-at-home order as we have now, really to protect our health and our health-care system as we have seen rates of the disease really increase across the province," said Sutcliffe. Pisani asked about the importance of one's mental health, because some people believe it is important to get out of the house for something like a walk around the block. Sutcliffe said it was an important point as the pandemic has left many people feeling isolated, not being able to engage with their friends or their families as they would normally. She added it has had an impact on people with addictions and risks associated with drug overdoses. Sutcliffe said the stay-at-home order does allow people to go outside for exercise. It allows you to spend time with members of your own household, but not to have more than five people when you are gathered outdoors and no gatherings indoors. Sutcliffe said from the public health perspective the order does recognize the importance of having time outdoors. She said it is understood the risk of the virus outdoors is lower, with fresh air and better ventilation by not being in an enclosed space, but it is still important to wear a face mask when one is close to others in the outdoors. When asked if the outdoor activities could be made more restrictive, Sutcliffe said that had more to do not necessarily with an increase in active COVID-19 cases, but more about the kind of virus that presents itself. "People will be aware that there are the variants of concern (VOC) or different variants; the UK Variant, the South African Variant, the Brazil Variant that we understand are more transmissible," Sutcliffe explained. It was revealed Monday afternoon that a variant of the COVID virus might have infected a Sudbury person who had been travelling. That person is now in isolation. "The big concern is, as those get more commonplace and spread in our communities, what additional public health measures might be needed to prevent transmission?" said Sutcliffe. "If something is so transmissible that it might require further restrictions outdoors then those decisions, based on science, will have to be made," she added. "But really I think that the kind of virus we are seeing and the transmissibility is a big factor in that. If we're finding that being outdoors people are still gathering together closely, then there might be additional measures and we know that's been the case in some parts of the province put in place." Pisani mentioned the situation of the North Bay Parry Sound district health unit, where it was decided earlier this month that snowmobiling, outdoor skating and tobogganing would be banned for the time being. Sutcliffe also acknowledged that the pandemic is indeed frustrating and people are having a difficult time with it. “I think we are tired of hearing that we are all in it together, but we are still all in it together. And that means Team Sudbury, or Team Northern Ontario or Team Ontario or Team World. You know we are all in this together and we need to support each other.” Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick reported 10 new COVID-19 infections Tuesday as health officials prepared to ease restrictions in the Saint John and Fredericton regions. Five of the latest cases were reported in the Edmundston region, which is under a 14-day lockdown that began Sunday. Three cases were identified in the Saint John area while the Moncton and Campbellton regions each reported one new case. The Saint John and Fredericton regions were scheduled to move into the lower pandemic-alert level of "orange" Tuesday at midnight. Gyms, spas and entertainment centres can reopen in those areas under strict guidelines. Officials said the province had 339 active reported cases and seven patients were in hospital with the disease, including three in intensive care. New Brunswick has reported a total of 1,161 infections and 14 deaths linked to the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Suzanne Birt can book her ticket for the Calgary bubble. The veteran skip wants to make sure she's wearing familiar Prince Edward Island colours when she's there. Birt will be a heavy favourite in a best-of-five playdown starting Friday against unheralded Darlene London at the Maple Leaf Curling Club in O’Leary, P.E.I. The winner will represent the province at the Feb. 19-28 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. "It would mean a lot to us to be that team," Birt said Tuesday from Charlottetown. The two-team competition is one of the few provincial or territorial championships to be played this season. Several playdowns around the country have been cancelled due to the pandemic. The Prince Edward Island result will have direct ramifications on the wild-card picture at the Scotties. No. 2 Tracy Fleury and No. 11 Mackenzie Zacharias, both from Manitoba, have already secured the first two wild-card spots in the expanded 18-team draw. If Birt wins the provincial title, the third and final wild-card entry will go to Beth Peterson of Manitoba, based on her No. 12 position in the Canadian rankings. A loss would give Birt the berth since she's ranked higher at No. 9. "We've been practising and preparing for the past few months (since) we were in the mindset that we would be there," Birt said. "We wanted to train like normal and be in that setting. That hasn't changed at all." Many top national teams have been limited this season due to bonspiel cancellations, club closures and government restrictions. Some players have turned to practising on frozen lakes to maintain at least some level of on-ice training. The curling season in P.E.I., meanwhile, has been running rather smoothly. Curl PEI even eased some modifications this week to allow for the return of pre-pandemic sweeping rules. Prince Edward Island did not report any new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. There are only six active cases in the province. London has been a regular at provincial playdowns in recent years with skip Tammy Dewar. She took over as skip this season when Dewar stepped away from competitive play. London knows she's an underdog against Birt but feels it's still "anyone's game." "We've beaten Team Birt, they've beaten us," she said from Montague, P.E.I. "Team Birt has (also) wiped us off the scoreboard." Birt has made 11 career appearances at the Scotties. The 2001 world junior champion recorded a career-best third-place Scotties finish in 2003. London nearly qualified for the nationals as a second for Dewar in 2010. They dropped an 8-6 decision to Kathy O'Rourke in the provincial final that year. London said she's been playing four nights a week this season out of the Montague Curling Club, including once a week with her competitive team. "We have the utmost respect but we feel we have a chance ... we just hope we'll go to the other end of the island and play five really good games," she said. A Birt victory would send a whopping five Manitoba teams to the Scotties. The three wild-card teams would join Team Canada's Kerri Einarson and Manitoba skip Jennifer Jones in the field. The Prince Edward Island men's championship is also set to begin Friday. Eddie MacKenzie and Blair Jay will meet in a best-of-five showdown for a berth in the March 5-14 Tim Hortons Brier. The Scotties and the Brier will be held at the Markin MacPhail Centre on the grounds of Canada Olympic Park. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Construction on Place des Arts began in earnest, then a pandemic set back. Work resumes once again, then a second lockdown — then the announcement of a sort-of third lockdown. The construction was supposed to continue, but then everything was shut down once again last week, with the building work ceasing on Friday. But then Monday it started again. There was an amendment to the legislation. It’s just another part of the journey, says Léo Therrien, executive director of the new Francophone arts and culture centre in downtown Sudbury. “The construction is expected to be done at the end of the summer, give or take, and again COVID willing,” said Therrien. “And then our hope is to open later in the fall. Even once the work is finished, everyone has to move in, we have to test all the equipment, you have to do a few shows, too.” But he’s pleased this timeline should coincide with the vaccination process in Sudbury. “I think everyone will be ready to get back to shows,” he said. It is also this specific, pandemic-related journey that has revealed an interesting way for the seven organisations behind ROCS (Regroupement des organismes culturels de Sudbury) to offer planning and programming that is not only accessible in the pandemic world, but in the post-pandemic world as well: streaming. “Our hope is with streaming that we'll be able to stream internally to the various venues inside,” said Therrien. That includes the ability to watch a performance from anywhere in the building. “There's a performance in La Grande Salle (main theatre),” he said. “We can send it to the studio, we can send it to the Bistro, we can send it to other venues. We could split people in various places internally. “But we can also Zoom it, stream it externally, too, for conferences, for performances, and so on.” Whether you love a live show, or your life is more conducive to enjoying it in your pyjamas, there will be options for you. There will even be recordings, something in the works for La Nuit sur l'étang music festival. “Right now, they're planning the shows in March,” said Therrien, “But they might be able to get only 50 people right now because of COVID. So, their plan is to have various cameras and record the whole show and sell it later on at another date – present it as a recorded show.” And because of the occasional pause in the construction, there is the opportunity to consider these aspects: when you can’t build, you have the advantage of time while you work out the kinks of closed-circuit television. Silver Linings, as they say. “It's the right time for us to put the equipment in place because the walls aren't done yet. It would be too hard to do it if it was all finished,” said Therrien. “That's one of the only bonuses from COVID, is that we were able to adapt.” But also, they are not open. That means they are not bringing in revenue as of yet. Still, that may again be fortuitous (to be generous with the interpretation). Therrien said that while they wish the building was finished, it also prevented them from having to cancel or postpone. “We didn't have to stop any shows because we didn't have any shows planned,” he said. “So many of our partners had to cancel their season, then restart it and cancel it again. And it's been that nightmare for them.” He said that they hope the opening of the Place des arts will allow community arts and culture groups — both Anglophone and Francophone — to come together and pool resources, to use the knowledge and experience from every corner of the city to create programming to enrich Francophone culture and, by extension, Sudbury culture, as well as offer a home to Anglophone groups, like YES Theatre, which is currently in negotiations with the Place des arts team. There will not only be the headquarters of the seven founding Francophone organisations, as well as a gift shop, bookstore, bistro and multi-purpose studio space, but also a grand theatre and office space and rehearsal space. And there has never been a better time for art, said Therrien. Movies, television, books, puzzles, art galleries tours and musicals on Zoom — you name the medium, the world consumed content on it — and he’s hopeful this trend will continue. “Art and culture is healthy to our wellbeing, the health of ourselves,” said Therrien. “That’s why a place like this is essential to our community and to everyone in it.” Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
A prospective COVID-19 vaccine touted as a made-in-Canada response has begun human clinical trials in Toronto, and the company says it's already preparing a follow-up that will target more infectious variants. Providence Therapeutics of Calgary says if all goes well, it could start manufacturing millions of doses of its first prospective vaccine by the end of the year, guaranteeing a Canadian stockpile that wouldn't be subject to global supply pressures or competition. That's if the formulation proves safe and effective, of course. Among the challenges of developing a vaccine amid a raging pandemic is the uncertainty of how more infectious variants now emerging will complicate the COVID battle. Even if successful, by the time Providence Therapeutics releases its vaccine hopeful much of the country could be in the throes of a more infectious virus that does not respond to this formulation, allowed company CEO Brad Sorenson. "We don't believe that this is going to be resolved by a single vaccine," said Sorenson, whose biotech also produces a personalized mRNA-based vaccine against cancer. It's a challenge now facing Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which have each said its products appear to respond well to the variant initially identified in the United Kingdom, and to a lesser degree, the variant first detected in South Africa. Moderna said earlier this week it plans to test two booster vaccines aimed at the variant associated with South Africa. Sorenson said Providence is already internally testing a vaccine candidate that targets the variants, and he hoped to begin clinical trials by the end of the year. "We believe that there's going to be a need to be in a position of readiness to be able to respond as these variants are coming up, and to be able to make sure that we have that capacity." That doesn't mean Providence is changing production runs just yet. Sorenson said the immediate focus is to establish the safety and efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed PTX-COVID19-B and designed in the early days of the pandemic last March. It uses messenger RNA technology and focuses on the spike protein located on the surface of a coronavirus that initiates infection, similar to the Pfizer and Moderna products. The trial involves 60 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 25 who will be monitored for 13 months, with the first results expected in February. The subjects are divided into four groups of 15, three of which will get three different doses. The fourth group gets a placebo. Sorenson said immediate pandemic efforts should be focused on the novel coronavirus currently devastating many parts of the country. "It's a matter of capacity. Right now these variants are there, they're concerning, and we're keeping a close eye on it, but that's not predominantly what the needs of the population are," said Sorenson. "Right now the needs of the population are still tied to the primary spike protein virus that's out there and is ravaging around the world." Sorenson said his next vaccine candidate takes a broader approach by attempting to elicit a T-cell response, thereby creating a longer-term vaccine "and cover what we believe would be a lot more variants." "We have to prove it out but we believe that if we are successful that it will allow for a much more durable immunity and a much broader immunity." The other goal is to prepare for large-scale manufacturing in Calgary, if all goes well with the trials and approval process. Sorenson said doses for the Phase 1 trial are being made in Toronto but the plan is to commercially manufacture the completed vaccine through a contract with the Calgary-based Northern RNA Inc. That won't be up and running by the end of the year, Sorenson allowed, so the short-term plan is to send raw materials made in Canada to a plant in the United States that would make the commercial product. Eventually, the whole process would be completed in Canada, he said. "We're building the entire chain within Canada so we're not going to run into a problem where this particular input into the vaccine is unavailable," he said. Much of this also depends on financial support from the federal government, Sorenson added. While the National Research Council of Canada has backed Phase 1 trials, Sorenson said he's awaiting word on further support. He'd also like Ottawa to back Providence's efforts to address the new COVID variants. "They've already recognized the importance of mRNA technology. What they don't realize is the power of mRNA technology to be responsive to these challenges that are coming up," he said. "Hopefully the politicians and the people that cut the cheques and write the policies that give direction to the bureaucrats will hear that and we'll start seeing a more concerted approach that looks at a fuller picture." Pending regulatory approval, Sorenson said a larger, international Phase 2 trial may start in May with seniors, younger subjects and pregnant people, followed by an even broader Phase 3 trial. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Quebec plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions in some regions as of Feb. 8 if the situation in the province continues to improve, Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday. Legault said the average number of new cases in the province has declined in recent weeks — something he credits to government measures that include a nighttime curfew. The premier said he would announce more details next week, but he said the Montreal region was likely to be kept under a higher tier of restrictions than other areas of the province. The government has introduced a series of measures aimed at curbing COVID-19 in recent weeks, including closing non-essential businesses, requiring those who can to work from home and imposing an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The curfew was originally set to expire Feb. 8, but Legault implied that Quebec's biggest city should be prepared to endure strict measures for longer. "Everyone sees the situation is much different in greater Montreal than what we're living in the rest of Quebec," Legault said at a news conference. In the last few weeks, the average number of new cases in the province has gone down, from an average of about 2,500 a day to about 1,500, Legault said. But he said hospitalizations are still too high, especially in Montreal. Currently, there are more than 1,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the city, and more than half of surgeries are delayed, he said. Health Minister Christian Dube said the decision for each region would be based on a combination of factors, including case numbers, hospitalizations and outbreaks. Horacio Arruda, the province's director of public health, said the situation in the province remains "unstable" and the progress made in recent weeks could easily be derailed by the spread of a new variant or a population that eases off on following public health directives. "We can’t think in the next weeks, 'That's it, we’ll go back to normal,'" he said. "That’s the most dangerous thing that threatens us." Citing the danger posed by new variants, Legault expressed frustration with the federal government's failure to announce any new concrete restrictions for travellers, such as mandatory quarantine in supervised hotels or banning non-essential trips altogether. "We're in a little bit the same situation as the beginning of March of last year, where we have a little bit of trouble with Mr. Trudeau for him to act quickly to prevent travellers from coming to infect the population of Quebec," Legault said. Quebec reported 1,166 new cases of COVID-19 and 57 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, including four that occurred in the past 24 hours. Health officials said Tuesday that hospitalizations rose by three, to 1,324, following six consecutive days of decreases in the number of COVID-related patients. The number of people in intensive care remained stable at 217. Officials say they administered 5,927 doses of vaccine Monday and say they have used all but 13,221 of the doses received thus far. The province says 1,916 more people have recovered from COVID-19, for a total of 230,803. It says 15,622 reported cases remain active. Quebec has reported a total of 256,002 infections and 9,577 deaths linked to the virus. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 26, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
The first fully battery-electric bus line in Metro Vancouver will be up and running in 2022, according to TransLink, thanks to a $16 million investment from Canada's gas tax fund. In a joint announcement, the federal government and TransLink said the money will be used to purchase 15 battery-electric buses from Canadian manufacturer Nova Bus. the vehicles will run on the No. 100 route through New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver. Outgoing TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said the acquisition of the buses will more than quadruple the company's current fleet of four battery-electric buses. "Our plan is to continue to replace diesel buses being retried… with all zero-emission battery-electric buses," he said. Each zero-emission bus is expected to save 100 tonnes of greenhouse gases and $40,000 in annual fuel costs compared to a conventional diesel bus. Martin LaRose, general manager of Nova Bus, said the vehicles being sold to TransLink will have a battery range of around 350 to 450 kilometres. The buses can be charged in approximately five minutes at charging stations while picking up passengers. Nova Bus is based in St. Eustache, Que., and is a division of Swedish-owned Volvo Buses. Almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, said Desmond.
The Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) has been caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On January 19, the municipality announced on its website that maintenance staff would be clearing away unnatural items in Pine Grove Park, including locally hand-painted rocks that have been placed there over the past few years. “While some consider these items an added feature of the park, others feel they detract from the pristine natural setting,” read the website notice. “While we appreciated the time and creativity of people, municipal staff today removed the items.” Pine Grove Park is a 54-acre wooded community enclave situated in Milton. It offers visitors about two kilometres of walking trail with points of interest and a scenic picnic area overlooking the Mersey River. People were quick to register their reaction to the stony cull, posting a landslide of comments on social media. “I am so disappointed with this action taken. So many young children (including my grandchildren) enjoyed walking/running along the paths to search for the hidden rocks, fairy homes, etc. They truly looked forward to going there for both exercise and fun while supervised by a parent or grandparent,” said Verna Wagner in a Facebook post. “Way to take away what little fun children can have during this pandemic,” criticized Angela Mansfield in another comment. The reaction caused RQM Mayor Darlene Norman a sleepless night, prompting her to reverse the cull, which, she indicated, was her decision. On the morning of January 20, the mayor addressed residents in a video posted to RQM’s social media accounts. “I’m here to publicly apologize for the removal of the painted rocks from Pine Grove yesterday. I will admit it was my questioning of staff and encouragement of them to remove all the artificial things that have been added into the park,” she confessed in the video. “It was not until I started reading the objections that I realized I have caused great dismay and have upset so many people within this region,” added the mayor. Norman said items, such as decorations, will be removed from the park, but the rocks are more than welcome to stay. She later said in an interview that the rocks that were there already were rescued by someone from Queens County Rocks, who will put them back in the park. Jane Dunlop-Stevenson is the founder of the Facebook group, Queens County Rocks. She’s been encouraging people to paint rocks and place them in the park to make it an even more delightful place to visit. She said she was given permission to do so by the region in the spring of 2020, and reported that the response from everyone has been positive. She was surprised when she heard about the decision to remove the rocks and decorations. “I had permission from the municipality. I even have a sign at the park saying Queens County Rocks with a Facebook logo on it. It wasn’t a secret that I was doing this,” Dunlop-Stevenson stressed. “I got on the horn immediately after I found out about it.” People of all ages have contributed painted rocks to the park. “It’s an amazing past-time. It is such a great thing to focus on that keeps you busy. In the spring and summer, the kids weren’t in school and it became a very popular attraction,” she said. She has also posted monthly themes for people to work on and hosted contests to engage even more people. Dunlop-Stevenson suggested the removal was just a miscommunication. “I don’t think anything was done with malice.” In the end, she hopes something good will come out of the incident. In her video, Norman suggested that maybe a Friends of the Pine Grove Park group might be something to start up, and Dunlop-Stevenson agreed. “I think there are endless possibilities of how we can utilize the park, like putting on festivals or competitions. The sky is the limit for the fun you can create,” she said. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
Months-long protests in India escalated on Tuesday as thousands of farmers clashed with police in New Delhi over new laws that they say will push small farmers out of the market and let private corporations exploit them.
OTTAWA — Companies that want in on a new federal loan program will have to show sharp revenue declines during the pandemic and that they have already applied for other business aid. The new loans, from the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), will open for applications on Monday and is on top of existing loan programs targeting small businesses. Loans will start at between $25,000 and $1 million for a single business depending on the size of the operation, and run up to $6.25 million for companies with multiple locations like a chain of hotels or restaurants. Details made public Tuesday say rates will be set at four per cent across the board, terms will be up to 10 years, with up to a 12-month postponement of principal payments at the start of the loan. But to get the money, companies will have show a year-over-year revenue drop of 50 per cent or more over three months, not necessarily consecutive, in the eight months before filing an application. Companies will also have to show that they at least applied for either the federal wage or rent subsidies. The federally backed loan can be used for rent, utilities and help with payroll, among other costs, to keep operations running through public health restrictions, but can't be used to pay or refinance existing loans. Small Business Minister Mary Ng says the funding isn't targeted to any one sector, but available to any business that meets the eligibility criteria. "So whether it is your favourite neighbourhood restaurant, that bed and breakfast, a local movie theatre, or even a franchise restaurant or hotel, businesses that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 will now have the support that they need to keep moving forward," Ng said by video during a midday press conference. The head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is welcoming the launch of the new program to provide fresh financing to troubled companies. But Dan Kelly also says in a tweet that the government must consider making part of the loan forgivable, like an existing aid program, because "more loans are not the answer to the mountain of debt small firms are facing." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Northern Health has released COVID-19 exposure notices for Uplands Elementary School and Centennial Christian School in Terrace. The exposure at Uplands Elementary School occurred Jan. 19 to Jan. 21, and Centennial Christian School’s exposure took place on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, according to Northern Health’s list of public exposures and outbreaks. There have been numerous COVID-19 exposure notices for Terrace schools issued by Northern Health since Nov. 2020, and nearly all Terrace schools have had at least one exposure notice. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
Municipal leaders who sit on the Grey Bruce health board expressed their frustration with the lack of vaccine at Friday’s meeting. Medical officer of Health Dr. Arra said that we have been “the victim of our own success” in keeping COVID numbers down, because high-risk areas have been the main priority. He said a plan for using three mass vaccination hubs has been submitted. “If we don’t get a response about piloting this hub and getting enough vaccine for high-risk task force, I plan to turn to advocacy,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a matter of advocacy… but it seems there is disparity in the distribution to some degree,” he said. Brian Milne, Southgate deputy-mayor, said that it is frustrating that Grey-Bruce had received only 200 doses at that time, and many frontline staff members were left waiting to be inoculated, while in other areas the cafeteria staff at facilities had received the vaccine. Dr. Arra said he heard the frustration and shared the concern. But he added that there is a fine line that needs to be walked, so that public health is to be seen to be working with the province, at the same time as advocating for the local area. It’s important that the public perceives that there is a united approach, Dr. Arra said. And it’s not a matter of if the vaccines come, it’s when, he said. “And we will be ready whenever that happens.” On Monday, Public Health informed the public that it had received 600 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and expected delivery of another 700 doses of the vaccine next week, which will be enough to complete first dose vaccine coverage for all long-term care residents in Grey Bruce. The latest international news is that shipments that were expected are not confirmed, and that has affected many areas in the province. Health board members were happier about the return to school on Monday for Grey-Bruce students. Many parents will be relieved from the burden of making home learning work, but others are still cautions, said Selwyn Hicks, deputy-mayor of Hanover. He said that the health unit had done a good job of communication, explaining that the data shows that transmission is not taking place in schools. Members praised the outreach and media releases. Dr. Arra said that when he meets weekly with the mayors, he learns about issues in the community quickly and the health unit can address them. A standing item on the Board of Health agenda is the opioid crises, and Dr. Arra reported that there have been more than 10 overdoses in the last two weeks in Grey-Bruce – “not deaths, thankfully, overdoses.” Anecdotally, there were 13 deaths in Grey-Bruce in 2020 from opioids, zero from COVID. It’s a difficult crisis to address, Dr. Arra commented, with many complex issues, social, technical, ethical. When the pandemic ends, he said that the health unit, with credibility gained during COVID, will have an opportunity to address opioid like never before. Other partners are doing good work right now, he said, and the pandemic is the public health priority. M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald
ROCKY MOUNT, Va. — Two Virginia police officers charged in the storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington earlier this month have been fired, a town official announced Tuesday. Rocky Mount Town Manager James Ervin announced the firings in a statement, but did not provide any additional details on the firing of former Sgt. Thomas “T.J.” Robertson and former Officer Jacob Fracker, The Roanoke Times reported. The town had no precedent to refer to for how to deal with this situation, Ervin wrote. “The events of the past few weeks have been challenging for our town, as they have been for the entire nation. The actions by two have driven our beautiful town into the national spotlight in ways that do not reflect our whole community and the people who call Rocky Mount home.” Ervin said in the statement. Robertson had told the newspaper he and Fracker received letters of termination from the town Friday, offering them the opportunity to resign before the firing took effect. Fracker, reached via text message, declined to comment Tuesday. Federal authorities have charged Robertson, 47, and Fracker, 29, with a misdemeanouroffence of knowingly entering a restricted building without authority to do so to engage in conduct that disrupts government business. They also face a petty offence of engaging in disruptive conduct in the Capitol in order to interfere with a session of Congress. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanour is a year in jail. The maximum penalty for the petty offence is six months. In a selfie Fracker took inside the Capitol Crypt on Jan. 6, Fracker is making an obscene gesture. Robertson is pointing at Fracker while holding a wooden pole. Both officers have repeatedly said they did nothing illegal and did not participate in any of the violence that unfolded Jan. 6. The Associated Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Typically in Canadian elections, Conservatives promise to balance budgets while Liberals accuse them of hiding secret agendas to cut public services — but not in Newfoundland and Labrador. Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says he has no plans to balance the provincial budget within a four-year mandate if he's elected on Feb. 13. Instead, the Tory leader says he'll help grow the economy through government spending. Crosbie's position is a rebuttal to what he claims is Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey's secret plan for budget cuts. The reversal of traditional roles among the two main parties is beffudling to Tim Powers, managing director of polling and market research company Abacus Data. "I feel like I'm watching and living in what a toddler would describe as 'Opposite Day,'" he said in an interview Monday. "It really is a strange thing to see the Conservatives accusing the Liberals of effectively having a hidden agenda." He adds: "Somewhere Stephen Harper is smiling," referring to similar allegations that were lobbed for years by the Liberals against the former Conservative prime minister. Newfoundland and Labrador has always marched to the beat of its own drum, Powers said, adding that the province's distinct nature is likely not going to change in a winter election held in the midst of a global pandemic. Polls had Furey with a robust lead over Crosbie before the Liberal leader called the election on Jan. 15. Crosbie is working to close that gap by promising to increase government spending and by pressuring Furey to release what he calls the "Greene report" before the Feb. 13 vote. The so-called Greene report is what Crosbie calls the review of government services and spending undertaken by an economic recovery team assembled by Furey in the fall. The team is chaired by Moya Greene, a St. John's-born businesswoman with a reputation for privatization. A draft of the report is due two weeks after election day. Crosbie's approach is "risky," Powers said, adding that the hidden agenda narrative might be hard for the public to swallow. Furey, meanwhile, has made a series of low-cost and low-key promises, while skirting discussion about the province's troubling financial situation, which includes a $16.4-billion net debt, Powers said. Even before the pandemic hit, the province's flirtation with insolvency was big enough news that Manitoba millionaire Walter Schroeder financed a national musical theatre production about it. The Liberal leader's strategy could pay off, Powers said. "Elections are no time to talk about policy," he joked. "And that's not entirely unusual in Newfoundland (and Labrador) campaigns; they can be about personalities." Furey is a young surgeon who founded Team Broken Earth, a non-profit that sends volunteer health-care workers to Haiti and to a few other countries. He has connections to the federal government through his father, George Furey, the current Speaker of the Senate. During a campaign stop in Labrador on Tuesday, Furey told reporters he wants to remain premier because he wants to rebuild the province's prosperity. Crosbie is a lawyer and the son of notoriously outspoken politician John Crosbie, and he's not without his quirks: In his 20s, he lived on a kibbutz in northern Israel and he's a noted practitioner of yoga. "More recently, I got into doing Kundalini-style yoga," he said in a recent interview. Powers says the Tory leader has a few more public relations hurdles to overcome than Furey does. Crosbie famously refused to concede the 2019 election and then apologized, admitting later that he was perhaps not the most charismatic candidate. Crosbie said he sees a "Progressive Conservative" as a progressive in social policy and conservative in spending — as long, he said, as the province can afford it. "And we can't afford it at the moment," he said. Powers says voters are looking for more than accusations of hidden agendas and campaign promises that downplay the province's financial problems. "There are real issues that all of the leaders and all of the parties should be talking about," Powers said. "The Newfoundland and Labrador public is not dumb, and they know that." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press
Three years ago, filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West got a dream Sundance debut. They premiered their film “RBG” to a sold-out crowd with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg not only in attendance but seeing it for the first time. There was a standing ovation, a bidding war and a big sale. It also went on to be a major awards contender. It’s the kind of Sundance experience most filmmakers fantasize about. This year they’re returning to the festival with their follow-up, “My Name is Pauli Murray” about the somewhat obscure legal trailblazer, and while their excitement remains high, the festival itself will be quite different. Like so many in the past year, Sundance has had to reinvent itself as a mostly virtual experience. Still, the 2021 Festival which kicks off Thursday is shaping up to be a robust market for companies looking for content. More than 72 feature films are debuting over the seven days. It’s slimmed-down lineup from the previous years’ 118 and some already have ways to get to audiences, like Robin Wright’s “Land” and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which will both be available to the masses in the coming weeks. But many this year are acquisition titles seeking distribution deals. “Buyers and sellers have found a rhythm for conducting business at virtual markets, to great success. And consumers are continuing to ask for more content,” said Deb McIntosh, an SVP at Endeavor Content. “I’m confident that we’ll find distribution partners for all of our films." Julie Dansker, an executive at Shout! Studios, is coming to the virtual festival looking for films to buy and Sundance, she said, always offers a variety of films from established and emerging talents. This year there are high profile projects from well-known names like actor Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut “Passing,” starring Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson as two light-skinned Black women who choose to live on opposite sides of the colour line in 1929 New York. Jerrod Carmichael is making his debut with the dark satire “On the Count of Three” with Christopher Abbott and Tiffany Haddish. Questlove is too with his opening night documentary “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).” Zoe Lister-Jones also reunites with her “Craft: Legacy” star Cailee Spaeny for “How It Ends,” co-starring Olivia Wilde and Fred Armisen. And “CODA,” a day one film from Sian Heder about a child of deaf adults, is expected to be one of the breakouts. As always, the documentary sections are fertile ground for buyers. Cohen and West’s “My Name is Pauli Murray” is among the sales titles as is Mariem Pérez Riera’s “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It,” which examines how the entertainer battled racism to become one of the few performers to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Lucy Walker has a documentary about the history of wildfires, “Bring Your Own Brigade” and Jonas Poher Rasmussen will debut his animated refugee documentary “Flee.” And then there’s the more unconventional efforts like animator Dash Shaw’s psychedelic “Cryptozoo,” featuring the voices of Lake Bell, Michael Cera and Grace Zabriskie. Or Nattawut Poonpiriya’s Wong Kar-Wai produced drama “One for the Road” and Timur Bekmambetov’s social media age Romeo and Juliet riff “R#J.” There are boundless “discovery” opportunities for parties looking beyond the flashy names who might just stumble upon the next Ryan Coogler or Damien Chazelle. As Sundance programmer Kim Yutani said, “You don’t really know what these films are until you see them.” Audience enthusiasm for a particular film might be harder to judge virtually, though. “There’s all this energy that happens at a festival when you’re in person that is hard to translate to a virtual environment,” said Jordan Fields, head of acquisitions for Shout! Studios. “But on the upside, it gives us the ability to judge movies a little more objectively because we’re not necessarily influenced by a crowd who stands up to cheer it at the end.” And indeed, for better or worse, that in-person energy has often played a role in negotiating the price. Sometimes the hype is warranted, and you get a “Little Miss Sunshine.” But other times off the mountain, the glow fades and companies are left with a flop. Prices have also been going up steadily due to the influx of deep-pocketed streaming companies who don’t have to worry as much or at all about box office returns. Six years ago, Amazon and Netflix both struggled to get titles. Now, the streamers are some of the biggest players in the game. Last year saw Hulu and NEON pay over $17.5 million (a record) for the worldwide rights to the Andy Samberg comedy “Palm Springs.” “Boys State” also got a $12 million deal from Apple and A24. This year there is an added anxiety about content since many productions were put on hold because of the pandemic. But there’s also opportunity in the fact that there could be a bigger and more diverse audience seeing the films who may never have had the opportunity to attend the expensive festival. The cost of entry for the virtual films is $15 a ticket and many are sold out. “Taking Sundance off the mountain and to the whole country will be a beautiful way to commune together over our shared love and need for artistic expression,” said McIntosh. There have already been a few pre-Festival deals. RLJE Films on Tuesday announced that it had acquired the Nicolas Cage film “Prisoners of the Ghostland,” Magnolia Pictures took the rights to “A Glitch in the Matrix” from “Room 237” director Rodney Ascher, Bleecker Street snagged the Ed Helms drama “Together Together” and Juno Films picked up the documentary “The Most Beautiful Boy” about Swedish actor Bjorn Andresen. But many are holding back pre-screenings and waiting until the actual Sundance premiere. “I’m still excited,” said Hall, whose “Passing” premieres Saturday. “But would I rather that we were all together wandering through the snow, freezing cold and, you know, trudging down Main Street? Yes, I would, because that communal experience is part of it.” Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
ZURICH — FIFA set a new target Tuesday of finalizing North American host cities for the 2026 World Cup — if the COVID-19 pandemic allows. The 23 candidate cities likely need to be cut to 16. FIFA said it could confirm them at the end of the the year. The pre-pandemic schedule called for cities hosting the first 48-team World Cup — likely 10 in the United States and three each in Canada and Mexico — to be picked early this year. The new deadline will depend on FIFA officials being able to take inspection trips to 17 cities in the United States and three each in Canada and Mexico. “The visits will only take place if the health and safety situation in the host countries allows FIFA to do so,” the governing body said in a statement. The proposed Canadian cities are Edmonton (Commonwealth Stadium), Toronto (BMO Field) and Montreal (Olympic Stadium). A FIFA delegation met with Canada Soccer and representatives from the Canadian cities in Toronto last March before the pandemic started shutting sports down. The plan is for Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each with the U.S. hosting 60, including all games from the quarterfinals on. Most of the venues in the United States will be NFL stadiums, with the home of the New York Giants and New York Jets expected to host the final on July 12, 2026. “Realizing the commercial potential of each venue, as well as in terms of sustainability, human rights and event legacy, is of the utmost importance,” FIFA said. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Harvesting seaweed on the B.C. coast has been the on-and-off-again dream of back-to-landers intent on subsisting on nature's bounty since the '60s and '70s. But next to none have really ever been able to make a go of it long term, says Louis Druehl. And he would know. Druehl started the first commercial kelp farm in North America and now produces seed and advice for an ever-growing number of cultivators and conservationists. In his mid-80s, the retired professor and marine biologist has been researching and growing kelp for close to four decades in the waters near Bamfield on Vancouver Island’s wild west coast. “We’ve been farming seaweed, one way or the other, since about 1982,” Druehl said. “And we’ve always sputtered along. And I mean sputter, we didn’t (even) putter along.” But recently seaweed has become “a really big deal,” Druehl said. “I’d like to say it’s because of me, but I don’t know that’s true,” he said, laughing. Investment and interest in farming seaweed on the B.C. coast, as well as in North America and Europe, is reaching a fever pitch. Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos recently earmarked a portion of $100 million awarded to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to curb climate change by developing new markets for cultivated seaweed. The economic potential of an expanded seaweed market in Europe could tally €9 billion in just a decade, all while creating more than 100,000 jobs and delivering both environmental and health benefits, according to a recent report by the Seaweed for Europe Coalition. Many science, industry and investment stakeholders support seaweed aquaculture as a potential means to grow a sustainable super food that benefits the economy and environment. B.C.’s Cascadia Seaweed, established in 2019, is aiming to become North America’s largest seaweed provider and believes cultivating ocean algae is the ticket to a triple bottom line, said the company’s chair, Bill Collins. Seaweed is a sustainable, plant-based nutritional food that gets its nutrients from surrounding waters while potentially capturing carbon and contributing to ocean regeneration, he said. “When we looked into it, the opportunity was tremendous. And we asked ourselves, 'Why hasn't it happened before?'” Collins said. Rising concern around impacts of climate change and the corresponding interest in plant-based foods means North American consumers are ready to consider seaweed as a fresh or dried whole food item — whether it be in salads, soups, dried snacks, as a vegetable dish or mixed into bread or plant-based burgers, he said. The time is ripe to shift seaweed aquaculture from a small, cottage-based industry to a large commercial scale for a number of reasons, Collins said, adding Cascadia’s seaweed food products should be on the shelves by summer 2021. But to shift the North American palette to a food item long eaten in Asia and by First Nations — and make seaweed products available beyond the confines of specialty health food stores — growers must produce enough to consistently supply food chain companies and grocery market selves, he added. Typically, intensive, industrial agriculture can have detrimental environmental impacts, Collins said, but unlike land crops, seaweed requires no water, feed or fertilizer inputs. “We have to pay way more attention to our climate and our planet as we create food,” Collins said, adding the company is currently growing sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) and winged kelp (Alaria marginata), similar to the Japanese-grown wakame seaweed. Cascadia will also produce seaweed for the large food ingredients market, which typically uses powders and extracts in bakery or dairy products, salad dressings or alcohol production. But the company is also doing research on B.C. seaweeds as potential sources of cattle feed and bioplastics, he said. The company has teamed with coastal First Nations communities interested in seaweed cultivation as a sustainable means for economic development, Collins said. Cascadia has partnered with Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood on the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Klahoose First Nation on Cortes Island, located in the inner passage along B.C.’s mainland. The company and its partners expect to harvest at least 100 tonnes of kelp out of the waters this April, with 20 per cent from the two farms near Cortes and the remainder from the waters near Bamfield following a six-month winter growing season, Collins said. However, the biggest obstacle hindering the expansion of seaweed aquaculture is the length of time it takes to secure licences from the federal and provincial governments and agencies, Collins said. “The biggest single threat to the business is not being able to grow fast enough,” he said. “The government has told us they want to improve and they have, but we need a wholesale commitment from government if we’re going to expand at the rate that we need to service the market.” B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham was unavailable to clarify how or if the province was working to foster seaweed farming, or if the province had any reservations about growing the industry. Part of the overall problem is there aren’t enough resources dedicated to processing aquaculture tenure requests, which typically evaluate the impacts of raising animals in the ocean, Collins added. “The process is adapted for animals, which you have to be way more cautious with,” he said. Additionally, most of the policy framework from the province focuses on the wild harvest of seaweed rather than cultivation, Collins added. Tenure licences for aquaculture operations are processed by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO). Before issuing licences, regulators evaluate the locations to ensure they don’t conflict with other land uses such as parks or natural reserves. First Nations are consulted and public comments are considered to establish whether the tenure is the “highest and best use of the land,” the ministry said in an email. Tenure holders must also submit a management plan indicating what infrastructure is on site and how and what species will be cultivated and harvested, along with estimated production yields. Druehl said given kelp operations have relatively low impacts to the marine ecosystem, in his experience, most resistance to seaweed farm operations comes from recreational boaters, fishermen and kayakers. “We have a bit of joke,” he said. “We actually have two crops. One is the kelp, and the second one is fishing lures.” Some other potential impacts to consider might be negative interactions with marine mammals or really dense seaweed operations robbing nutrients from the surrounding waters, Collins said. Cascadia minimizes the amount of equipment it deploys in the water and would work to avoid areas that might endanger wildlife, Collins said. And given the vast amount of coastline in B.C., no operation is likely to pull enough nutrients from flowing waters to endanger other marine life, he added. “We want to do this in harmony with the environment,” Collins said. “So as our industry improves and grows so, too, will our efforts to ensure that we identify the risks and accommodate them.” Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer