Watch out John Wayne, there's a new cowboy in town and he's a 10 year-old trans masculine actor. "Cowboys" explores gender identity and what masculinity means in America. (Feb. 11)
Watch out John Wayne, there's a new cowboy in town and he's a 10 year-old trans masculine actor. "Cowboys" explores gender identity and what masculinity means in America. (Feb. 11)
LOS ANGELES — When “WandaVision” wraps its initial run next month on the Disney+ streaming service, Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda will make her next appearance in the big-screen “Doctor Strange” sequel. It’s storytelling that determines how and when characters from the Marvel Comics universe hopscotch between TV and movies, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige said Wednesday. “All of the crossover between series, between films, will always vary based on the story,” Feige said. “Sometimes (a series) will go into a season two, sometimes it’ll go into a feature and then back into a series.” Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, plays opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s title character in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” planned for a 2022 release. Feige wouldn’t say whether “WandaVision,” Marvel Studios' first original series for Disney+, has a future after its March 5 season finale. The riff on generations of TV sitcoms — with the added superhero twist — brought Wanda and Paul Bettany's character, Vision, to the fore from the “Avengers” movie franchise. “I’ve been at Marvel for too long to say a definite no or definite yes to anything,” Feige replied when asked about the show's future during a virtual panel discussion held by the Television Critics Association. But second seasons are being considered and planned for series, he said, without giving away details. There’s a flurry of potential new Disney+ candidates, including “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” debuting March 19 with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprising their roles from “Avengers: Endgame.” “Loki,” starring Tom Hiddleston revisiting his character following the events of “Endgame,” debuts June 11. After “Ms. Marvel” arrives on the streaming service (with the date yet to be announced), the character will move to the next “Captain Marvel” movie, Feige said. He was asked if shifting Marvel stories and characters between film and TV might end up cutting into the potential audience. “I always say when the lights go down and and a movie starts, it’s a clean slate — forget everything that’s come before and be able to enjoy something that’s its own self-contained story line,” Feige said. He acknowledged that as the studio makes more shows and films and introduces new characters, it “becomes harder and harder” to meet that goal. “But it is something that all of our writers and filmmakers pay great attention to, to make sure that fans can follow" the latest chapter and that newcomers can enjoy it too, he said. When the Walt Disney Co. acquired Marvel Entertainment for about $4 billion in 2009, prior deals left some of its properties with other studios. Asked if Marvel Studios might be able to regain them, Feige said he believes it could happen, but added that “rumours online about things reverting” to Marvel aren't always true. Lynn Elber, The Associated Press
There’s a special recipe for “meat-counter economics” that’s simmering across grocery stores in Canada. The not-so-secret ingredient? COVID-19. Leading food economists believe spiralling pricing and consumption trends won’t just last during the course of the pandemic, but will likely result in sticker shocks for any kind of protein for many years to come. That includes plant-based products along with the “industry trifecta” of chicken, pork and beef, said Sylvain Charlebois, speaking to more than 700 nutritionists and food-sector professionals at a virtual conference Tuesday. Charlebois, a keynote speaker at the event hosted by the Canadian Nutrition Society and senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, talked at length about the many ways in which the coronavirus has “rampaged” the trajectory of food-related commerce. “Before the crisis, vegetable proteins were truly rising and very much in fashion, plastics were the new threat and shopping online was seen by many as a far-fetched idea,” said the supply management professor, based at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “That hasn’t only changed now, but it’s impacted everyone — from restaurants, grocers, abattoirs, online services and those that are customers for them, down to the suppliers and manufacturers, and even delivery people.” Through studies and polls conducted last year, food experts have many reasons to believe meat prices will likely continue to rise. At the same time, pricing for plant-based products is expected to remain stagnant, with fewer competitors in the market. “I like to think of those two food categories as the different dimensions of proteins,” said Charlebois. “Right now, there’s no equilibrium between them. Prior to the pandemic, we were thinking that would happen very soon. And it seems that that peace might still come, it just won’t happen for a while.” According to polling from the Agri-Food Analytics Lab shared Tuesday, the Prairies rank the highest across Canada in terms of daily consumption for meat — with 72.58 per cent saying they consume meat daily, 17.74 per cent once or twice a week, and 4.84 per cent monthly. Although they’re about 20 points down for daily consumption in other provinces such as Quebec or British Columbia, those trends are fairly consistent across Canada. In Manitoba, data from Statistics Canada for beef prices alone shows that, stewing cuts jumped to $17.20 per kilogram from $13.50; sirloin cuts climbed to $24.04 from $17.84; and striploin cuts came to a staggering $31.57 from $18.15. But those are figures from the summer of 2020, and experts believe they will continue bumping up across the board for several years. For Charlebois, a lot of that has to do with “the many economic anomalies” created by the pandemic. “We’ve never seen our trifecta of meats on sale with rising prices at the same time really, never ever before,” he said. “The only way I see this changing though is if consumption itself changes, and there’s some inclinations to show it could happen.” Since the pandemic has caused meat prices to rise, Charlebois believes Canadians might eventually start buying more plant-based products not just due to dietary desires, but also because of comparatively cheaper costs. “Think about it this way,” he said. “You’re doing your groceries and about to buy some meat, but you’re sticker-shocked at the price. Wouldn’t you want the cheaper alternative, which in this case is the greener choice and probably even healthier for you?” At the end of Tuesday’s presentations, moderator Mary L’Abbé asked questions on behalf of the attendees, poring from more than 50 that came in. L’Abbé is a much-lauded nutritional science professor at the University of Toronto. Questions ranged from how to navigate post-pandemic markets to the language that could be used to create awareness for nutritional products which aren’t performing well in terms of sales. It all depends on how companies and store chains market their products, Charlebois said, and whether nutritionists can fulfil the “heavy task” of educating widely and readily. “We’ve seen that food literacy is a pretty big issue for Canadians through our polls across the year,” he said. “We’d expected people would become more aware because of the pandemic, but the reality is, they’re just not. It’s like they know it’s good to be vegan or vegetarian and they respect those who are, they just don’t know why they should be one themselves. “To combat many of these interesting consumption and economic issues, I think it may be time to realize the entire trajectory has changed. Maybe then we can find the solutions.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
For eight years, Waheeda Giga has struggled with an eating disorder that was triggered by the death of her father. She viewed food as an enemy that needed to be restricted, and if she failed, she’d throw herself into a punishing routine of vigorous exercise. “I use food and exercise to control and feel safe when I can’t deal with heavy emotions or grief,” she says of her ongoing battle with anorexia nervosa and compulsive exercise. Giga, a 37-year-old city of Toronto employee, is now a year into her recovery at the eating disorders outpatient program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, which she participates in virtually from home. It’s a journey that took place under the unusual backdrop of the global pandemic, for better and for worse. It’s also a journey that isn’t unique to Giga. Hospital data from the Greater Toronto Area points to an alarming rise in eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia during the pandemic, as people try to cope with widespread grief from losing loved ones, income, or even a sense of routine and normalcy. The pandemic has also disrupted the way eating-disorder care is provided, shedding light on cracks in the system and the continued need for access as more people struggle. Ontario’s public health officials nodded to the issue in their latest COVID-19 projections on Feb. 11, where they noted a substantial increase in eating-disorder-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits among young people aged three to 17. In July 2020, the hospitalization rate for youth was three per 100,000, higher than the average of around 1.8 per 100,000. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre helpline has seen a 70 per cent increase in calls and texts, said Alexa Giorgi, a spokesperson for the University Health Network, which runs the helpline. This includes an 87 per cent increase in chats from individuals 25 and younger. Experts and people with lived experience say it’s a problem that has affected adults too. Dr. Michele Laliberte, a clinical psychologist and lead of the eating disorders program at St. Joseph’s Hospital, which treats adults, said wait-times for the program have doubled from three months to five or six months since the pandemic began, partly due to COVID’s interruption of the admission process while the program was transitioning to virtual care. But a virtual outpatient program may stay for the long-term beyond the pandemic, Laliberte added, as it could improve access to an already-scarce type of eating-disorder care in the region. It’s been especially helpful for Giga, who was able to attend her recovery program from the comfort of her own home instead of commuting weekly to Hamilton — the closest city to Toronto that houses an outpatient eating disorder program covered by OHIP. “I was scared to start because I didn’t know what it would involve with getting accommodations from work, and I was anxious because of the commute,” said Giga, who began treatment a month before the pandemic after being on a five-month long wait-list. At that point, Giga’s Body Mass Index (BMI) reached a critical point of 17.5 — what is considered to be close to severely underweight. She had weighed about 102 lbs. at that time, and was told she would require more intensive treatment if her BMI slipped any further. “I think that was a wake-up call for me,” she said. Limiting barriers to care is now paramount with more people looking to access eating-disorder care as a result of the pandemic. Kyle Ganson, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, said COVID-19 has presented many triggers for eating disorders, all tied to how our lives have changed in the last year. “The major disruptions in routines for people is key,” Ganson said. We’ve been forced to stay home where opportunities for exercise are limited, which could trigger changes in eating habits for some who worry about maintaining “a healthy lifestyle.” Some anticipate they will gain weight as a result of these changes, Ganson added, which creates stress, anxiety and even feelings of stigma. “There’s also a lot of loss and a lot of trauma,” Ganson said. “Food is a way to control some of that.” Maria Estrada, a 25-year-old woman who struggled with an eating disorder at age 15, said some elements of the disorder have resurfaced during the pandemic, mainly due to isolation and feelings of losing control over her life. “Nobody’s supervising you, nobody’s seeing you, nobody’s gonna notice,” Estrada said. “You’re not seeing your friends. They’re not going to feed you, or ask to go out for lunch. I don’t have that anymore.” Ganson is careful to add that these issues affect both women and men, albeit in different ways. For men, eating disorders can sometimes manifest in the form of seeking masculinity or leanness through excessive exercise or the use of supplements. “In our culture, we are much more OK with these types of behaviours and we don’t necessarily shun them or acknowledge there might be a problem,” Ganson said. For youth in particular, the pandemic has meant more time spent on screens and social media as schools transitioned online. Research has shown that increased time spent consuming social media can lead to issues like body dissatisfaction, Ganson said. “We also know that kids with eating disorders are known to have what we call co-occurring mental health issues, specifically anxiety and depression,” said Christina Bartha, the executive director of the brain and mental health program at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. At Sick Kids, the number of admissions for eating disorders began to dramatically increase in late August of last year, said Dr. Debra Katzman, co-founder of the hospital’s eating disorders program. It’s a trend that continues to be observed well into 2021. “We’re seeing a 35 per cent increase in the number of kids we are admitting in the hospital, and they’re coming in primarily in the latter half of the year,” Katzman said. Since April of last year, Sick Kids admitted 175 children for eating-disorder-related issues, compared to 120 children in the same time-frame before the pandemic. The wait-times for the outpatient program at Sick Kids have also more than doubled as a result, Katzman said. “Our systems were not designed for this sort of level of necessary clinical intervention, so we’re trying to adjust to that,” she said. Eating disorders are hard to treat, Katzman added. It’s not a health issue that is treated with prescription medication, but rather one that requires intensive care with a multidisciplinary team of experts that can continue for weeks to months on end. “I think we are taxing the system right now given the number of kids that are presenting to care,” Katzman said. The Ontario government announced a few funding initiatives geared towards eating disorders last October, though none involve directly supporting existing services. One includes $3.7 million for a new eating disorders program for youth aged 25 and under, with four pilot sites to start. “At this time, the program is in development as it is brand new,” said Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, in an email. Another $800,000 has been put forward to support the creation of Eating Disorders Ontario, a pilot program to train and deploy eating disorder prevention experts who will work with local communities and schools in the province. The program is also currently in development, Hilkene said. At St. Joseph’s Hospital’s eating disorders program, demand has quadrupled since 2010, Laliberte said. Despite that, staffing hasn’t increased in that time due to lack of resources. “Eating disorders are never at the table,” Laliberte said. But the pandemic hasn’t been all bad, especially for patients like Giga who have endured lengthy waits to receive adequate treatment. For example, the closure of gyms in Toronto heightened her anxiety as she tried to increase her food intake, a necessary and early component of her recovery plan. But gym closures also meant she had to increase her calorie-count knowing she wouldn’t be able to offset it by vigorous exercise — a feat that would have been harder to achieve with the temptation of open gyms and yoga studios. Being able to receive treatment in her own home, she added, meant she could receive treatment in a space she considered safe without the pressure of commuting. “My nutritionist at treatment called it a divine intervention,” Giga said. “Sometimes I feel like it honestly probably took a pandemic for me to recover.” Giga is now close to a fully-restored weight of 112 lbs. and a BMI of 20.3. It’s a small hopeful note in an otherwise difficult time for many. With a renewed focus on eating disorders, Laliberte and others hope the pandemic could be an opportunity to revamp what has been traditionally an inaccessible care system for the long term. Nadine Yousif is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering mental health. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Follow her on Twitter: @nadineyousif_ Nadine Yousif, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
(CBC News - image credit) Alberta voters will have ability to recall their MLAs, municipal representatives or school board trustees before the next provincial election should new legislation pass this spring, the government says. Government house leader Jason Nixon said a pledge to adopt recall legislation was in the United Conservative Party election platform, and he wants the citizen-led mechanism in place as soon as possible. "Obviously, the process has to be done right, and make a sustainable system within our election system to make that work," Nixon said on Wednesday. At a news conference highlighting some of the bills coming to the legislature this spring, Nixon said the debate and approval of the budget would be the initial focus, given the uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic creates. Also on a list of upcoming bills is the introduction of citizen-led initiatives. With enough signatures on a petition, a law would allow citizens to prompt a referendum on a policy or law of their choice. Recall legislation and citizen initiatives were both studied last fall by a special all-party committee of the legislature. No details are available yet about how they would work. If the legislature passed, Alberta would join B.C. as the second province allowing voters to turf an MLA for performing poorly. Barry Morishita, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and mayor of Brooks, said the nuances of the legislation will be critically important. The petition thresholds for prompting a recall vote should be different in municipalities of different sizes, he said. Otherwise, it would be too easy for a few people in a small town to unseat a mayor or councillor. It's challenging enough to get qualified people to run in some small communities, Morishita said. If a councillor was acclaimed then recalled, he wonders who would replace them. "I'm really concerned about what the disruption would be," he said. He also worries recall legislation would prompt local officials to avoid making unpopular decisions to avoid being booted out. An independent provincial body to hear code of conduct complaints would be more useful in holding municipal politicians to account, said Morishita, who noted the AUMA has not been consulted about the bill. Competing federal and provincial bills In December, Michaela Glasgo, the UCP MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat, introduced the private members bill, the Municipal Government (Firearms) Amendment Act, that proposed to stop Alberta municipalities from banning firearms. The federal government has since introduced legislation that would give municipalities the power to ban handguns. Now, the Alberta government wants to make Glasgo's bill a government bill, which could allow it to pass more quickly. "Unfortunately, the federal government has continued to focus again on farmers and hunters instead of dealing with the real issue, and has now overstepped, from our perspective, to try and give municipalities powers that are certainly within the purview of the provincial government, not the federal government," Nixon said. Legal opinions vary on whether the federal or a provincial government would have the ultimate authority. Nixon said Wednesday that Albertans will have a provincial referendum in the fall to express whether they support federal equalization. The result would not compel the federal government to take action. The government also intends to amend the Vital Statistics Act to prevent dangerous offenders from legally changing their names. Last year, the legislature passed an amendment to prevent sex offenders from altering their names. Also listed on the government's order paper is the College of Alberta School Superintendents Act. Last summer and fall, the government consulted with education groups about whether school superintendents should be given the legal power to regulate their own profession. NDP Opposition house leader Christina Gray said the government's legislative priorities show it is pandering to UCP members rather than responding to the substantial changes and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other than a labour mobility bill, there was little mention of legislation or policy that would improve Albertans' access to health care or boost the economy, Gray said. "That lack of having that vision for Albertans, that lack of responding to the very real crisis that Albertans are going through is very concerning to members of the official Opposition," she said. The spring sitting of the legislature will begin Thursday with the tabling of the 2021-22 provincial budget. Nixon said he anticipates the government will introduce 18 or 19 bills before breaking for the summer.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy was diagnosed with COVID-19 and is resting at home with mild symptoms, his office said on Wednesday. Dunleavy, a Republican, has been isolating at his home in Wasilla, about 44 miles north of Anchorage, since he was notified on Sunday that he had been in contact the previous day with an infected individual. An initial COVID-19 test on Sunday was negative, but Dunleavy remained at home in accordance with health guidelines, his office said in a statement.
The government dropped drunken driving and reckless driving charges against Bruce Springsteen on Wednesday stemming from an incident in November, admitting that the rocker's blood-alcohol level was so low that it didn't warrant the charges. Springsteen pleaded guilty to a third charge, consuming alcohol in a closed area, the Gateway National Recreation Area. Better known as Sandy Hook, it is an Atlantic Ocean peninsula with views of the New York City skyline. Facing a judge and more than 100 onlookers in a video conference, Springsteen sat next to lawyer Mitchell Ansell and admitted he was aware it was illegal to consume alcohol at the park. “I had two small shots of tequila,” Springsteen said in response to questions from an assistant U.S. attorney. The case was heard in federal court because the park is considered federal land. U.S. Magistrate Anthony Mautone fined Springsteen $500 for the offence, plus $40 in court fees. “I think I can pay that immediately, your honour," Springsteen told Mautone. In an emailed statement, Ansell wrote that Springsteen “is pleased with the outcome" of the court hearing. According to a probable cause document written by park police at the time of the incident, Springsteen told a park officer he had done two shots in the previous 20 minutes but wouldn’t take a preliminary breath test before he was arrested. Mautone said Wednesday that the preliminary test is not required, and is not admissible in court. When he took a breath test at the park’s ranger station, Springsteen's blood-alcohol came back .02, a quarter of the legal limit in New Jersey, prosecutors said Wednesday. The officer wrote that he saw Springsteen take a shot of tequila and then get on his motorcycle. The officer wrote that the rocker “smelt strongly of alcohol” Nov. 14 and “had glassy eyes” and that there was a bottle of Patron tequila that was “completely empty.” The report described Springsteen as “visibly swaying back and forth” during a field sobriety test and said he declined to provide a sample on an initial breath test. After news of the arrest, Jeep put on pause an ad that ran during the Super Bowl featuring Springsteen in Kansas urging people to find common ground. Jeep said in a statement Wednesday it was unpausing the ad now “that the matter has been resolved.” “As we stated previously, we paused the commercial until the facts were established," Jeep said. Springsteen performed Jan. 20 as part of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, singing “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. ___ Follow Porter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DavidPorter_AP David Porter, The Associated Press
Despite various changes in how the province releases information about COVID-19 cases in schools, parents still aren’t satisfied with the data being made public. Halfway through the academic year, families behind a new letter-writing campaign are calling for more detail about cases in both school and child-care settings, citing heightened concerns about the risk of new coronavirus variants. The group wants daily updates on exposures that include facility names, dates and total cases broken down into student and staff categories, historical data so the public can track trends, and information about variants identified. “In terms of what they’re publicly reporting on, it’s very, very limited. I think it undermines confidence in the statement that schools are safe and they aren’t seeing transmission,” said Susan Wingert, a mother of two K-12 students in Winnipeg. Wingert said reporting via an online dashboard, which launched earlier this month, falls short of providing all the information parents need to weigh decisions about sending children to school. The provincial dashboard shows cases among student and staff populations within the last 14 days, as well as totals dating back to Sept. 1. A map allows users to view recent cases in specific schools, including people who might not have been infectious in a classroom; there is no information on which — if any — cases were acquired at school. It’s a stark contrast to the first-ever alert, which detailed the grade, classroom and time frame at Churchill High School for a student who was asymptomatic but tested positive Sept. 8. Following pushback after that notice, the province began to publish a running list of less-specific notices, including exposure dates and letters sent to families until mid-December. That’s when letters disappeared online for more than a month while the province finalized its dashboard. Child-care centres are not included in the provided information. The most recent data shows there were 75 cases, involving 59 students and 16 staff members, during the incubation period prior to Feb. 21. Michelle Driedger, who researches health-risk communication at the University of Manitoba, questions the usefulness of that information if it isn’t contextualized. “There has to be a happy medium between full disclosure of absolutely everything and, ‘Here, we’re giving you some information, but in such an opaque environment that you can almost interpret what you want from it,’” said Driedger, a professor of community health sciences and parent of two K-12 students. Buy-in to COVID-19 protocols requires confidence in the system, she said, adding the province should be frank about how exactly it has come to the conclusion schools are safe. Education Minister Cliff Cullen was not made available for an interview Wednesday. In an email statement, he wrote the province is confident parents are receiving the “appropriate information” on the dashboard while noting letters are still being sent to parents when there is an outbreak. School-related cases represent approximately seven per cent of the number of confirmed cases in Manitoba, to date. On the subject of asymptomatic testing, Cullen said in the email the province is seeing its COVID-19 curve bend significantly. “Our government will continue to listen to our public health leaders and take action accordingly,” he wrote. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
EDMONTON — An Edmonton Police Service officer has been charged with sexual assault. Alberta's police watchdog, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), says the alleged assault happened on Jan. 20 when the officer was off duty. In a release, ASIRT says the man knows the woman and during an encounter committed a sexual assault. Investigators forwarded their findings to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service which determined the evidence met their standard for prosecution. The release says Const. Samuel Sanson was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of sexual assault. Sanson has been released and is to appear in Edmonton provincial court on March 23. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa House Republicans cast the final vote needed Wednesday to send a bill to the governor that sharply limits early voting in the state, months after a general election overseen by a Republican secretary of state resulted in record turnout and overwhelming victories by GOP candidates. The bill passed with only Republican votes just a day after it similarly passed the Senate. Supporters of the legislation cited fraud concerns as the reason early voting must be reined in. However, like in many other Republican-led states where similar steps are being considered, there historically haven't been widespread concerns about irregularities in the election system. “When we go back home and talk to people in the gas stations, at the grocery stores and at the hardware stores there is no disputing there are tens of thousands of Iowans that tell this Republican caucus every single week when we go home we emphatically support this bill, we want this bill, we think this bill is necessary and we support it,” said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, who managed the bill in the House. Democrats who are outnumbered in both chambers were left aghast but in no position to stop the changes. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, has indicated she'd consider them. “Last fall we had elections overseen by a Republican secretary of state in which Republicans gained seats in the Iowa House and the U.S. House, so if there is any significant voter fraud in this state then two things are true," Democratic Sen. Herman Quirmbach of Ames said. “It’s your fault, and second, it raises questions of the legitimacy of your own elections.” The bill written by Republicans would shorten the early voting period to 20 days from the current 29, just three years after Republicans reduced the period from 40 days. It also would require most mail ballots to be received by county election officials by the time polls close on Election Day, rather than counting votes as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and arrived by noon on the Monday following the election. The bill prohibits the use of a U.S. Postal Service postmark as a way to verify when a ballot was mailed. Polling times also would be reduced by an hour, closing at 8 p.m. rather than 9 p.m. And there would be new rules on absentee ballot request forms, banning officials from sending out the forms unless a voter requests one. Satellite voting sites also could only be set up if enough voters petition for one, and voters would be removed from active voting lists if they miss a single general election and don't report a change in address or registered as a voter again. Rep. Chris Hall during House debate told Kaufmann his bill “is a cruel trick on the very voters we are here to serve. It is morally hollow.” The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group, has counted 253 bills across the country this year meant to limit access to voting. Republican lawmakers have said the proposals are meant to bolster confidence in future elections, though they have been the loudest proponents of meritless claims that the previous election was fraudulent. Sylvia Albert, director of the voting and elections project at Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization that advocates to expand access to voting, said the GOP is moving to depress turnout following their losses in the last election cycle. “Instead of dealing with real issues these legislatures are revoking access to the ballot,” she said. “The motivation is not to secure an election, the motivation is to undermine access to the ballot.” Democratic Sen. Pam Jochum pointed out that 76% of Iowa Democrats voted by mail in November and 52% of Republicans as mail voting surged in popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic. Iowa Republicans backing the bill argue there was voter fraud in states where Trump narrowly lost to Democrat Joe Biden, though courts have repeatedly ruled there was no significant fraud. Still, Republicans said that belief has caused their constituents to lose faith in the integrity of elections, so changes are needed. Their action follows repeated claims by Trump that mail balloting was vulnerable to fraud, again without any evidence. During Senate debate, Sioux City Republican Sen. Jim Carlin said “most of the Republican caucus believe the election was stolen.” He added, “Who believes that Joe Biden got 12 million more votes than Obama on his best day? I don’t believe that he did better than Barack Obama.” Iowa City Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom said those kind of conspiracy theories and cult behaviour toward Trump are what has led some people to lose faith in elections. “I for one am not going to normalize this bizarre irrational conspiracy theory thinking and behaviour,” he said. In a public hearing held Monday night nearly 1,200 people signed up to comment on the measure. All but 28 opposed the legislation. Janice Weiner, a retired U.S. foreign service officer, said the section of the bill that shortens the time for absentee voting will hurt people who go south for Iowa winters, victims of domestic violence, voters in rural areas and the elderly. She cautioned lawmakers against believing debunked lies about election fraud. “Just as Sen. (Joni) Ernst won her election and each of you won yours, President Biden won freely and fairly,” she said. “The remedy for the big lie of a stolen election is not to take an axe to election laws that worked exceedingly well, it’s simply to tell the truth.” Gary Leffler, a West Des Moines resident who supports the bill, said he was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and could attest that people are concerned about voter integrity. “Right now you’ve got half the people who voted in a national election who are feeling like yesterday’s newspaper in the bottom of a birdcage and they’re trying to figure out how in the world did this happen. You must restore integrity back into our voting. I think this bill goes a long way to getting that done," he said. ___ Associated Press writer Anthony Izaguirre in Lindenhurst, New York, contributed to this report. David Pitt, The Associated Press
Plastic bags have been overtaken by face masks as one of the most common pieces of plastic waste. In fact, 102 million are thrown every week in the UK alone. View on euronews
(Submitted by Chris Haines - image credit) Grace Haines has always enjoyed a challenge, but she is now facing the biggest challenge of her life — recovering from devastating injuries from a hit-and-run. "She took pride in being able to out-lift boys at the gym," said her father Chris Haines, who often trained with her. "She could deadlift just under 250 pounds, which when you weigh 120 pounds is pretty good." But one month after being hit by a car, the 17-year-old has almost no movement on her left side and is struggling to speak. 17-year-old Grace Haines enjoyed weightlifting with her father before she was injured in a hit-and-run crash. Haines went for a run in North Vancouver around 9:45 p.m. PT on Jan. 25, 2021 after a long day of studying for exams, according to her father. She was found around half an hour later, injured and unconscious near Keith Road East and St. Andrews Avenue. Haines was rushed to Lions Gate Hospital where she had emergency surgery for bleeding on her brain. The accident damaged her corpus callosum — the part of the brain that allows both sides to communicate. Her father says the damage was clear after she awoke from her coma. "She could open her right eye, but not her left eye. She can move her right hand, but not her left hand," he said. Grace Haines (right) enjoyed weightlifting and often trained with her father Chris (left). Signs of progress Last week Haines was moved to the Sunny Hill Health Centre at BC Children's Hospital for rehabilitation. Her father says she still has some confusion, but understands she was in an accident. On the bright side, he says they are already seeing small signs of improvement. "There are some little movements in the left hand and left leg... Take those little victories as you can," he said. Investigation continues North Vancouver RCMP say a driver was arrested the same night of the crash, but the person was released and no charges have been laid yet. Several witnesses have come forward, but police are still appealing for information from anyone who may have seen anything in the area around the time of the accident. Sgt. Peter DeVries says these types of investigations are complex, and can take a few months as it may involve accessing video and technical information from the car computer. Focusing on Grace But Chris Haines isn't thinking about any of that. "I'm not focused on a month from now or a year from now, that scares me, that depresses me. I'm focused on tomorrow. What can we do today to make it for a better tomorrow," he said. Grace Haines underwent emergency surgery to relieve bleeding on her brain. He says he has been overwhelmed with community support, including from people who are still dropping off food and offering to raise funds. He's encouraging people now to donate to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation or Children's Hospital. Haines says a social media campaign titled "#liftingforgrace" is also bringing inspiration. People from as far away as Brazil and Australia have posted videos of themselves weight-lifting or doing other fitness activities in her name. Even Canada's Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan did chin-ups in Haines's honour. Sajjan served in the military with her father. Haines says he has shown his daughter the videos, which have elicited a thumbs-up. Grace Haines has been moved to the Sunny Hill Health Centre for rehabilitation, and her father says she is already asking him to wheel her to the gym where they lift small weights together. He says she is already asking him to wheel her to the gym where they lift small weights together. "She will outlift the boys of the gym, again. She will outlift me one day, probably very soon. I've got no doubt about that," he said. "She's very strong, and she's very driven, and she's very intelligent and none of that is going to change."
(Tahmina Aziz/CBC - image credit) A week into the province's COVID-19 red zone, Windsor-Essex business owners and customers are taking advantage of the services that are now open. Some businesses had to close for two months due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the region. While those who spoke with CBC News say they're glad to finally reopen their doors, some hope restrictions will ease up even more. Tina Ngoc Tram, owner of Paris Nails in Windsor, says the first week back was "busy" but she's excited to be in the chair and playing with nail designs again. Headline Barbershop owner Hussein Tehaili also said business is booming, with his days fully booked since the reopening. WATCH: To hear more about how local businesses are doing a week into the red zone, tap the player below. Under the province's 'red-control' zone, these sorts of personal services are allowed to open, though customers can't remove their mask. Restaurants and bars are also allowed to open their indoor dining sections with a limit of 10 guests at a time. As of February, the province also expanded the capacity limits of retailers under the red-control zone. This meant that supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies could have 75 per cent capacity limits. Meanwhile, all other retailers could open at 50 per cent capacity.
A remote First Nation in Northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency for its off-reserve members in Thunder Bay after an outbreak among them in the city, where COVID-19 infections continue to surge. In a press release Wednesday, Chief Chris Moonias of Neskantaga First Nation said 12 off-reserve members in Thunder Bay have confirmed infections, affecting six per cent of the 217 members living in the city. Chief Moonias is asking Indigenous Services Canada to provide emergency housing for at least 14 of its members who are among those without adequate housing in Thunder Bay and at higher risk of becoming infected. He says a lack of housing in Neskantaga forces members to leave the community. Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller said his department is prepared to offer support to the community and has been in close contact with Thunder Bay authorities as the cases rise. COVID-19 outbreaks have affected the city’s homeless population and schools. Associate Deputy Minister Valerie Gideon said the department has funding available for First Nations affected by COVID-19 while living away from their communities. Chief Moonias said immunizing First Nation members living in Thunder Bay against the virus has to be a priority as soon as more vaccines are available. Ontario has identified all Indigenous adults as among the next priority groups in phase one of its vaccine rollout. In a COVID-19 update Wednesday, Mr. Miller said Ontario’s Ornge air-ambulance service and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority in Northern Ontario are close to vaccinating 70 per cent of members in 31 remote, fly-in First Nations, including Neskantaga, with the first dose. Manitoba has opened up vaccinations to the general public, with appointments now available to people 95 and older and First Nations people older than 75. Mr. Miller said the department is working closely with the National Association of Friendship Centres and provinces and territories in the vaccine rollout for Indigenous adults in urban cities and towns across the country. “Urban Indigenous populations face many if not the same systemic barriers to accessing services of those living in isolated or remote communities or on reserve,” said Mr. Miller. Jocelyn Formsma, the executive director for the National Association of Friendship Centres in Ottawa, has been advocating for safe and accessible vaccination clinics for urban Indigenous populations. She said that because the vaccines are allocated by provinces and territories to local public-health authorities, Friendship Centres are pushing for provincial vaccine rollouts to include a plan for urban Indigenous people. She said it’s encouraging to see vaccine clinics for urban Indigenous adults being set up in places such as the Wabano Centre in Toronto – a result of local public-health authorities partnering with urban Indigenous organizations. However, she added that there need to be vaccine clinics in rural locations, as well, and that Friendship Centres have the resources to facilitate those clinics and ensure that all Indigenous adults have appropriate access. Mr. Miller said that overall COVID-19 case counts in First Nations continue to decline and that more than 103,000 vaccine doses have been administered in about 450 First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities. Tom Wong, Chief Medical Officer of Public Health for Indigenous Services, said that there have been no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variants in Northern Manitoba. However, Dr. Wong said that it’s a matter of when, not if, the variants arrive in First Nations and that redoubling public-health efforts will be key to stopping the spread to prevent outbreaks. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
(Anderson family, CBC - image credit) February is Black History Month, and we recognize it by celebrating the contributions that Black Canadians have made to Canada's history and culture. CBC Calgary is highlighting the legacies of three Black Calgarians who broke barriers, changed the city's history and influenced its present. WATCH | Find out more about their lives in the video above Virnetta Anderson became the first Black city councillor in Calgary. When American-Canadian activist and politician Virnetta Anderson was elected to city council in 1974, she became Calgary's first Black municipal councillor. And according to Barry Anderson, Virnetta's youngest son, the work reflected a fundamental aspect of her personality: a commitment to public service that can be traced throughout the entirety of her life. "I think one of the reasons people still seem to recognize her and celebrate her today, after all these years, is that she brought that sense of service and community commitment to politics," Barry said. "She had the heart of a volunteer and she wanted to serve the community. She was not naive in any way, in that she knew what politics was all about. And she was able to play that game as good as anybody could. "But she did it from kind of a point of integrity and authenticity." Politician, leader, civic champion Born in Monticello, Arkansas in 1920, Virnetta moved from Los Angeles to Calgary in 1952 after her husband, Ezzrett (Sugarfoot) Anderson, was signed to play in the Canadian Football League. In Alberta, the weather was colder but the prairie hospitality was warm, Barry said, and Virnetta soon became involved in the community and the United Church. "Even as she kind of grew her base of supporters and friends and influencers, it was still all during a time when women were thought of as supporting the man. And for many years she raised the family, was Sugarfoot's wife," Barry said. Virnetta Anderson relaxes with her family. But Virnetta was energetic, sharp and committed to contributing to her community, Barry said. She would be encouraged by her friends, and people she had met through years of volunteer work, to run for a city council seat. And in 1974, more than 20 years after moving to Calgary, Virnetta threw her hat into the political ring — and won. "It was kind of radical for her to be a woman, a woman of colour, and to be branching out — getting out from under her husband's shadow, doing anything but church socials and church organizing, to get out and actually be a politician," Barry said. "She never thought that politics would be a place where she would flourish, she really had the heart of the volunteer all her life, the heart of someone of service and contributing to the community in that way. "But, yeah, you know, wife and mother. And then all of a sudden: politician, leader, civic champion." 'It all just came down to helping people' During her years at city council, Virnetta focused heavily on social issues, Barry said. That funding was secured for social services, community services, and the health and welfare of seniors and disadvantaged people were priorities for her. According to the City of Calgary, Virnetta also took on issues such as Indigenous employment opportunities, affordable housing and transportation, and influenced decisions to build the CTrain line. "She was very much concerned about making sure that there was proper attention paid — and money — backing up these types of services and community organizations and institutions that would help people. [It] just all came down to helping people," he said. Virnetta Anderson not only had a lot of heart, but a lot of style, too. However, as a Black woman in a male-dominated field, Barry said she faced challenges. Racism and sexism were forces back then, as they still are now, he said. "People used to approach her and say, 'Well, are you for women's rights, are you for Black rights,' and all of those things. And she would always say to them … 'I'm for human rights,'" he said. "So, she saw herself as a human being. A wife, a mother, a Calgarian, a Canadian … she was just who she was, and that's the way she carried herself her whole life." Part of her world Though Virnetta served only until 1977, the role built upon itself, Barry said. It led to connections and volunteer opportunities that helped her to continue a life of public service well after her political career. She worked with the United Way and the Calgary Rotary Club, which named her a Paul Harris Fellow in 1988. Virnetta Anderson dedicated a lot of her time to public service over the years. Virnetta was also a nominee for the YWCA's Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award for community service in 1992. That same year, she was nominated for the Canada 125 Commemorative Medal. Virnetta died in 2006 at the age of 85. When the restoration of Calgary's Historic City Hall was completed in 2020, a municipal reception hall was named after Virnetta, to honour her legacy. "She was just an amazingly loving woman," Barry said. "But I also just remember how much fun she was … as well as her ability to to bring that all together, to connect with people and make them feel comfortable and make them feel part of her world." If you've ever taken the CTrain in Calgary, you have Oliver Bowen to thank for the ride. Oliver Bowen was a civil engineer with the City of Calgary who would become the architect of Calgary's CTrain system. He graduated from the University of Alberta in 1965, and moved to Calgary to work in the public transit department that same year — and that work would be groundbreaking, said Nicole Dodd. Alongside Cindé Adgebesan and Pam Tzeng, Dodd is a founder of the AB Anti-Racism EDU Committee that campaigns for Black Canadian history and anti-racism coursework to be included in Alberta's K-12 curriculum. Dodd said that with a $144-million budget and five-year timeline, Bowen was tasked with creating and building the CTrain — which he completed under-budget and with time to spare. "Oliver Bowen is very inspirational, because he has had a lasting impact on the City of Calgary with the design and implementation of one of the largest infrastructure projects in the city," said Dodd. "[And] his legacy, design and leadership are still benefiting Calgarians today." Full of the dickens Bowen was born in 1942 in Alberta's Amber Valley, which is about 170 kilometres north of Edmonton. It was one of several communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan settled by Black people from Oklahoma, Texas and other southern states, who were looking for a life away from racial segregation and violence in the early 1900s. But they still faced pushback in Western Canada. Oliver Bowen got a job with the City of Calgary right out of university. Peggy Brown, Oliver's cousin, lived a mile and a half from him. She remembers Oliver as funny, impish and well-liked; he delighted in driving too fast and cheating at board games, she said. "[Oliver] was full of the dickens, he was always full of mischief," she said. "He had a little shy smile, a little grin, and you knew right away that he was up to something." Bowen had a strong work ethic, however, and that dedication led to a quick professional ascent. 'He was going to do it' According to Brown, Bowen studied hard throughout university, and when he was offered a job with the City of Calgary before graduating in 1965, he would go on to work hard there, too. Bowen began his career as the city's first special project engineer, where he was responsible for construction of major roads, Brown said. Oliver Bowen was known by his colleagues for his hard work. And he would be promoted many times until 1977, when he became the manager of light rail transportation construction and implementation. The division was responsible for designing and building Calgary's first light rail transit leg. "[Oliver] had sort of an ability to figure out things … if a situation came up, he could think of how to manage it," Brown said. "He just put his mind to it — that he could do it, and he was going to do it, as far as I know of, and it happened. But it was by no means easy." The opportunity to shine It was not easy, Brown said, because of how much work the role required. But there is a likelihood that Oliver faced other challenges, too. If Bowen experienced racism and discrimination, he did not discuss it with her directly — but Brown acknowledged it was commonplace. "I would imagine he did, as we all did, once we left the farm and went into work," she said. "We all had difficulties getting jobs, being promoted. Now, did he have that or not, I don't know, because he was promoted through the city quite rapidly, and did very well." Dodd said Bowen was likely recognized by progressive administrators within the city for his sterling qualifications and his committed work ethic. "Obviously, there was some visionary leadership who provided him the opportunity to shine," Dodd said. Bowen's legacy Oliver Bowen receives a gift as Ralph Klein, who served as premier and Calgary mayor, looks on. Bowen died in 2000. Nine years later, the City of Calgary paid tribute to the transportation pioneer by naming a light rail transit maintenance facility after him — the Oliver Bowen Light Rail Facility in the city's northeast. But what he leaves behind goes even deeper than that, Brown and Dodd said. "Black students, and specifically Black male students, are often funnelled into athletics, or into music," Dodd said. "It's important for … all students, really, to be exposed to a historical figure such as Oliver Bowen, because he breaks those stereotypes." Bowen, Dodd said, was involved in science, technology, engineering and math before it was called STEM. His accomplishments and legacy are lasting, still seen and used by Calgarians every day. "For all students to recognize that Black achievement has many, many different outcomes, and it's not simply in entertainment or in sport, I think, is very important." And as a Black man who was so influential in Calgary's history, and its present, Brown hopes Bowen serves as an inspiration. "I'd think that [young Black people] would be encouraged to try, if they wanted to — in whatever field they wanted to work in. I think they would think of, well, 'Oliver made it back then, certainly, I can make it now,'" Brown said. "So I think they would be encouraged, and think, well, they would pursue what they wanted to do, with Oliver in mind." In 1953, Violet King became the first Black graduate of the University of Alberta's faculty of law. She was the first Black woman to practise law in Canada after being called to the bar in 1954. And she would become the first Black lawyer admitted to the Law Society of Alberta. To understand the impact of Violet King's legal career is to recognize a series of broken barriers. In 1953, she became the first Black graduate of the University of Alberta's faculty of law. She was the first Black woman to practise law in Canada after being called to the bar in 1954. And she would become the first Black lawyer admitted to the Law Society of Alberta. "She is just a trailblazer in terms of being a Black Canadian, and having her achievements reach such high levels, during a time that was historically quite discriminatory and racist toward people of African descent," said Dodd. "Today there are Black student law associations, there are all types of associations specifically for different Black professionals in their fields. And I feel like somebody like Violet King was a trailblazer to allow for those types of organizations to exist today. "So, her impact in Alberta and in Canada was truly immeasurable." Her character Born in Calgary in 1929, King lived in the northwest community of Sunnyside and went to Crescent Heights High School, where she excelled, Dodd said. King would attend the University of Alberta in 1948. Six years later, she would become Canada's first Black female lawyer. And to accomplish what she did, Dodd said, King was likely confronted with both racism and sexism in a field that was overwhelmingly represented by white men. "I think it says a lot about her character, it says a lot about her ability to look past, probably, comments and behaviours that were discriminatory," Dodd said. "It speaks to her ability to just continue moving forward with the belief that this is what she was supposed to be doing, and nothing can stop her. Not racism, not discrimination and not barriers against women. "And I believe that that is truly what powered her through her law career." Strong and resilient and tenacious King defied stereotypes that would undermine Black women's achievement and success, Dodd said. And as a Black woman who also attended the University of Alberta while completing a bachelor of commerce, Dodd said she would ask King about her experience if she could. "I remember my own experience at U of A, feeling relatively isolated and not really feeling like I saw a lot of people that looked like me in leadership positions," Dodd said. Violet King, right, stands beside her family as her brother, Ted, arrives back in Calgary in 1946. "I can't even imagine how it would have felt in 1948, walking through those halls.… I just would be interested in knowing: Where does she get her resolve? Her resolve to keep going, her resolve to make a difference, her resolve to do something, that she literally had never met anybody else who looked like her who was doing that same thing. "That is truly incredible, and something within her must have been very strong and resilient and tenacious to keep going." And, indeed, King would openly acknowledge the struggle for people of colour in the workforce. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, King delivered a speech in 1955 at a Beta Sigma Phi sorority banquet in Calgary. "It is too bad that a Japanese, Chinese or coloured girl has to outshine others to secure a position," she said. Standing on their shoulders King practised criminal law in Calgary before she moved to Ottawa, where she worked for the federal department of citizenship and immigration for seven years. Eventually, King made her way to New Jersey, where she became the executive director of the Newark YMCA's community branch. Violet King, pictured as a young Calgary lawyer, was guest speaker at the Beta Sigma Phi pledge banquet in 1955. In 1976, she became the first woman to have an executive position with the National Council of the YMCA's Organizational Development Group. King died in 1982. She was 52. She was inducted into the National YMCA Hall of Fame in 1998. "As somebody who later pursued higher education beyond my undergraduate degree, I think knowing about Violet would have helped me to feel as though my accomplishments are not novel," Dodd said. "That there are people who have accomplished great things in Canada who look exactly like me, and, in fact, I am standing on their shoulders." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
Scuffles broke out between rival protesters in the southern Mexican city of Iguala on Wednesday amid growing anger over President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's backing of a gubernatorial candidate accused of rape. Video shared on social media showed one woman hitting another woman with a megaphone, bloodying her face, following a joint event between Lopez Obrador and Argentina's president, Alberto Fernandez. The injured protester, Yolitzin Jaimes, was demonstrating against Felix Salgado, a gubernatorial candidate for the southern state of Guerrero and a member of Lopez Obrador's ruling MORENA party.
MONTREAL — Nathan Todd had two goals and an assist as the Manitoba Moose downed the Laval Rocket 4-2 on Wednesday in American Hockey League action.Mikhail Berdin stopped 29-of-31 shots and Tyler Graovac had three helpers to lead Manitoba to its fourth win in a row.Kristian Reichel and Nicholas Jones also scored for the Moose (4-2-0), AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.Brandon Baddock and Jesse Ylonen supplied the scoring for the Rocket (3-2-1), the Montreal Canadiens' AHL club.Charlie Lindgren turned aside 12-of-15 shots for Laval.---This report by The Canadian Press was first published February 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canada's main stock index is expected to extend its record-setting rally this year as a global economic recovery boosts the outlook for the index's heavily weighted financial and resource stocks, a Reuters poll found. "The TSX Composite with its heavy makeup of financials, energy and material stocks should be a perfect proxy and beneficiary of a global economic reopening," said Matt Skipp, president of SW8 Asset Management. Investors expected the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, historically low interest rates and fiscal stimulus to support an economic recovery.
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) The good news is a long anticipated elementary school promised for Vancouver's Olympic Village neighbourhood seems one step closer to reality with the announcement a lease is about to be signed to secure land for the project. The bad news is funding for the school is not yet secured, meaning there's still no guarantee it will ever be built. On Wednesday, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver School Board announced they were working on a 99-year ground lease for the empty lot at 161 Columbia Street adjacent to Hinge Park, which was first identified as a potential school site in 2007. Under the terms of the proposed agreement, provincial funding has to be in place and construction started no later than January 31, 2024. Olympic Village resident and school advocate Lisa McAllister said she'd be more excited about today's news if there was confirmation the three political entities — school board, city council and the provincial government — were all moving forward together on the project. "There's significant need for this school today," she said. "The announcement doesn't have impact for the people who live here now." McAllister's daughter was 50th on the 2020-2021 kindergarten wait-list at catchment school Simon Fraser Elementary. Without a car, schools further away were not an option for the family so she is now homeschooling her five-year-old. Olympic Village is home to many young families. According to VSB chair Carmen Cho, if the January 31, 2024 construction start deadline is met, the school likely wouldn't be ready to open for another two years after that. "I think this school getting built is a very high priority for the board as we have identified that children attending their neighbourhood schools is something that is very important to us," Cho said. In last year's provincial election, the NDP campaigned on a promise of funding a school in Olympic Village, which may have helped flip the riding from Liberal incumbent Sam Sullivan to NDP newcomer Brenda Bailey. In a statement to CBC, the Ministry of Education said it was "committed to providing a long-term solution for Olympic Village families." The site for a school in Olympic Village was first identified in a 2007 city planning document. "The VSB's five-year capital plan, submitted in June 2020, includes a request for a new Olympic Village school as the board's top priority for expansion. Ministry staff have reviewed that request, and will bring forward options as part of Budget 2021." For years, people living in the core of Vancouver have faced lotteries and wait-lists at neighbourhood schools as more families move into the downtown and immediate surrounding area. According to the Vancouver School Board, more than 300 students are currently wait-listed at 14 city schools for the 2021-2022 school year, up from 269 in 2019-2020.
Council voted Wednesday to approve a 2.5% blended (municipal, county, and education) tax rate for 2021. The decision came at the end of day three of deliberations, at the end of which some were still dissatisfied by the lack of options to save more money. "I won't be able to vote for this budget," said Coun. Beth Prost, who with her peers Couns. Bill Gordon and Carole McGinn voted against the rate. "We're in a pandemic and I just cannot do it. Not to say everybody's hard work isn't acknowledged. It's a hard decision, but I have to think about every resident in this town and that's what I'm doing." Her stance was backed by Gordon. "I really don't think we've sharpened our pencils enough; there wasn't enough appetite," he said. "Not a single thing pulled from the capital budget. There wasn't an appetite. In totality, if there was ever a year in this corporation's history to hold the line, I don't know what else would be. I believe we failed in that, and I cannot support the budget." Deputy Mayor Mike Ross said he would have liked to see more savings, but would respect the democratic process and vote with his "team." Others expressed more clear support for the budget. "The last couple of days have been incredibly eye opening," said Coun. Jon Main. "I would say this isn't a catch-up year and we certainly don't want this to be a fall behind year. We want to continue to deliver quality services the town provides. It's a work in progress and I think for this year, we have to survive and the theme is healing. Next year, the theme might be celebration." Mayor Stewart Strathearn was in agreement. "I will support the budget," he said. "I think it's appropriate. Yes, we're in a pandemic, yes people are struggling, and if we're going to change that, we're going to have to invest. You can't save your way to prosperity, but you can invest and get a dividend and build prosperity." The budget features gross operating expenditures of $31,585,011, including: $29,385,598 for municipal operations, $2,099,413 for agencies, boards. The capital budget is set at $9,218,680 while the waste and wastewater operating budget is $7,050,911. During the question hour earlier in the day, Gordon was on top of the list when it came to looking for places to save money. One of the sections of budget he targeted was under council and committees. He, along with Ross, Prost, and McGinn, was looking for a reduction in the amount budgeted under the line item grants and donations. Gordon started out by asking for the $130,000 to be slashed to $110,000, saving $20,000 for physician recruitment purposes. Others viewed that as a bit extreme. There was opposition to the motion. "I will not be supporting that motion," said Main. "This is not a lot of money that is disbursed. It's community development. We're very mindful of how we disburse it. Our hospital is woefully underfunded by the province and we have to make up for the difference. If we want to gradually pull out money, that's a good discussion to have." Ross said he would want to have the conversation around it later this year and reduce the amount to around $60,000. Gordon proposed an amendment to his motion. Gordon said his suggestion was only for this year. "We need everybody to be all-in to help reduce the spend," he said. "I have seen some flexibility, nowhere near what I was hoping, but there's some flexibility. I'd be okay cutting it down to $60,000. We need to reduce something." His motion, however, was defeated by majority vote. "From my perspective, there are a lot of people who have put effort into the application process so far and that deserves to be respected," said Mayor Stewart Strathearn. "I'm interested in seeing a staff report on this. I understand the goal is to reduce the levy, but I'm not sure this is the best place of doing this at this late point in time." Earlier during the day, there were also questions around various other items such as insurance costs, which have increased significantly, harbour fees, and parking revenues. Ross asked about how the increase in parking revenue was calculated. In 2021, it is budgeted at $730,000, up $230,000 from the previous year. "We're increasing our parking from 350 to 1,100," said Jim Reichheld, municipal law enforcement officer. "That's where that revenue is coming from. We're tripling our paid parking spots." Ross also asked about an opportunity for long-term parking down at the harbour front. "We're working out the fine details," said Reichheld. "We're looking at a pass for slip holders. We're exploring avenues for the boat launch as well to allow out-of-towners to use it with a fee." Gordon wanted to clarify the parking rate. "The initial shock is that we're going to rape the town with no more free parking," he said. "But the parking rate itself, are we holding the line on that?" Reichheld confirmed that was the case. "You may see a change in the fine on the tickets," he said, adding that was why the department is looking to bring on a second summer law enforcement student. "Parking permit fees are going down, an annual cost of under $100 for permit holders. We'll pilot that for a year at that price and then see where it is." Town solicitor and executive director of corporate services, Tina Lococo, was asked about the increase in insurance fees, which have been on the rise overall. "It's not specific to Midland," she said. "Everyone is experience huge insurance hikes because of the industry risk. Municipalities are viewed as high risk for a number of reasons." In the another section, Gordon asked staff if the half a million approved for playground equipment would be spread out or could it be focused on only one park, such as Little Lake Park. Andy Campbell, executive director of environment and infrastructure, said that would be up to public input and council. On day two, he had presented to council some design concepts that showed how much equipment could be added to four parks. With $500,000 divided among them, each listed park would receive up to three structures, or as otherwise decided by council with public input. Ross wanted to know if there was opportunity to bring in more revenue through increased harbour fees. "Last year, we increased the fees by 10%," said Campbell. "That was a significant increase. Over the last few years, it's only been inflationary increase. That 10% wasn't to recoup all those repair dollars in one year but over time. For this year, we've raised it only by 1.5% (inflationary increase)." After no more savings could be found, council voted on the budget with the three main reductions that lead to the tax rate being reduced to 2.5% blended (municipal, county, and education). The savings came from moving $100,000 for affordable and transitional housing policy and initiatives to the tax-rate stabilization reserve instead of the operating budget, vetoing a $76,500 library communications hire and a reduction of $60,000 in the total ask for four other staff positions within the organization. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The hand-picked successor to former House Speaker Michael Madigan's seat abruptly resigned Wednesday, under pressure from his sponsors, who accused him of unspecified “questionable conduct." Edward Guerra Kodatt submitted his resignation to the House clerk Wednesday morning, according to Democrat Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside, citing a spokesman for the new House speaker. Kodatt quit just three days after he was chosen from among 10 candidates to replace Madigan, a Democrat from the Southwest Side of Chicago who had held the post for more than 50 years. “After learning of alleged questionable conduct by Mr. Kodatt, it was suggested that he resign as state representative for the 22nd District. We are committed to a zero tolerance policy in the workplace,” Madigan and Chicago Alderman Marty Quinn, who share office space, said in a statement. They did not elaborate on the allegations against Kodatt, who was previously a bilingual outreach and budget assistant in Madigan and Quinn's constituent services office. Technically, Madigan's replacement is chosen by ward committee members for the 22nd House district — volunteer Democratic Party officials responsible for organizing elections and boosting turnout. But Madigan, committeeman for the 13th Ward since 1969, controls 56% of the weighted vote, based on the number of ward votes cast for the seat in the 2020 election. So, he single-handedly chose Kodatt and retains that control for another selection hearing scheduled Thursday morning. The 26-year-old Kodatt's rise and demise marked another curious turn in the meteoric crash of Madigan's own career. The product of the old-style Chicago political machine, Madigan was head of the House for all but two years since 1983, the longest-serving legislative leader in U.S. history. But utility company ComEd admitted in a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors last summer that it engaged in a yearslong bribery scheme to influence Madigan for favourable legislation. After that, support for Madigan, 78, began to peel away, with 19 formerly loyal Democrats announcing they would not support him for a 19th term at the helm. He failed to collect the necessary 60 votes in January and suspended his campaign while the caucus coalesced around Welch. Madigan then resigned his job as state representative last week and relinquished control of the state Democratic Party by stepping aside as its chairman on Monday. Enthusiasm for Madigan had been deteriorating since the resurgence of the #MeToo movement more than three years ago, with critics questioning his handling of reported incidents of sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation by campaign workers, lawmakers, and legislative staff, including Madigan's longtime chief of staff, Timothy Mapes, who was forced to resign in June 2018. One highly publicized case involved Kevin Quinn, a Madigan political consultant and Marty Quinn's brother. Veteran campaign worker Alaina Hampton complained in early 2018 that Madigan and party officials had reacted too slowly after she reported that Quinn had sent her unwanted text messages commenting on her appearance and asking her for dates, beginning in 2016 and continuing despite her requests that he stop. She reported Quinn to Marty Quinn, his supervisor, in February 2017 and later wrote Madigan a letter, but Kevin Quinn was not fired until after Hampton quit her campaign job and was about to go public. In November 2019, Hampton received $275,000 in settling a federal lawsuit against several Madigan political committees alleging her complaints about Quinn halted her career advancement. ___ Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor John O'Connor, The Associated Press