WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden's pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget is quickly emerging as a political battle that could disrupt his efforts to swiftly fill out his administration.Some Republicans are expressing doubt that Neera Tanden could be confirmed by the Senate after she spent years attacking GOP lawmakers on social media — and many panned the choice.Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton claimed Tanden’s rhetoric was “Filled with hate & guided by the woke left.”Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Tanden's “combative and insulting comments" about Republican senators created “certainly a problematic path." He called her “maybe (Biden's) worst nominee so far" and “radioactive.”Potential Budget Committee Chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was less hostile, telling reporters, “Let's see what happens." Moderate Susan Collins, R-Maine, a target of Tanden's, said, “I do not know her or much about her, but I've heard she's a very prolific user of Twitter.”Such sentiment is notable considering the GOP's general reluctance to criticize President Donald Trump's broadsides on Twitter. But like all of Biden's nominees, Tanden has little margin for error as she faces confirmation in a closely divided Senate.That could be especially daunting for Tanden, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton and the president of the centre-left Center for American Progress, given her history of political combat.Biden's transition team released a litany of praise for Tanden from figures including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.Other Democrats also rushed to defend Tanden's nomination. Former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett said Tanden “grew up on welfare and lived in public housing. She experienced first hand the importance of our social programs. Her extraordinary career has been devoted to improving opportunities for working families. She is an excellent choice to lead OMB.”“Neera Tanden is smart, experienced, and qualified for the position of OMB Director,” added Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a member of the party’s progressive wing. “The American people decisively voted for change - Mitch McConnell shouldn’t block us from having a functioning government that gets to work for the people we serve.”On the Senate floor, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said it's impossible to take Republicans' criticism of Tanden seriously.“Honestly, the hypocrisy is astounding. If Republicans are concerned about criticism on Twitter, their complaints are better directed at President Trump,” Schumer said.At OMB, Tanden would be responsible for preparing Biden’s budget submission and would command several hundred budget analysts, economists and policy advisers with deep knowledge of the inner workings of the government.If Democrats should win runoff elections for Georgia’s two GOP-held Senate seats, Tanden’s job would become hugely important because the party would gain a slim majority in the chamber. That would allow them to pass special budget legislation that could roll back Trump’s tax cuts, boost the Affordable Care Act and pursue other spending goals. OMB would have a central role in such legislation.Top Democrats, Biden included, supported anti-deficit packages earlier in their careers, but the party has since changed. Biden was a force behind the establishment of the Obama deficit commission, which was created to win votes of Democratic moderates to pass an increase in the government’s borrowing cap and was chaired by former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.Tanden shares a commonly held view among Democratic lawmakers that Republicans usually profess concerns about deficits only when Democrats are in power, pointing to tax cut packages passed in the opening year of Trump’s administration and former President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut.___Taylor reported from Washington.Zeke Miller And Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation Chief Bart Tsannie welcomed 20 Canadian Rangers to his remote northeast community on the weekend. Tsannie said the First Nation asked for the rangers’ assistance to help its COVID-19 response efforts as case numbers climbed in the far north. “The cases are right on our doorstep” as they emerge in other remote communities like Fond du Lac, Tsannie said. As of Sunday, the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority reported 284 active cases of COVID-19 in its communities. In a prepared statement, a Department of National Defence spokeswoman said the rangers deployed on Saturday. Their role is to help make and distribute supports like food, firewood and care packages. They will also help spread information on health measures and precautions, the spokeswoman said. The request for help covers 30 days, after which the deployment will be assessed depending on the community’s needs. “(The rangers) will support the community of Hatchet Lake until the emergency has abated and the province along with other federal and private sector resources are able to effectively support the community without (Canadian Armed Forces) intervention,” she said. The rangers previously deployed in April to assist communities like Wollaston Lake, Île à la Crosse, Fond du Lac and Lac La Ronge with their response efforts, she said. That work included wellness checks, transportation, and assisting local officials. Other efforts included hunting, gathering, and fishing for local residents and helping elders with harvesting, cutting and delivering firewood. They also delivered medication and groceries and refilled and hauled water for residents. Similarly, they helped set up local clinics, transport humanitarian goods and work as information runners for command centres, she said. She added the four ranger patrols in northern Saskatchewan tasked with operation LASER, which aims to assist with COVID-19 responses, stood down on July 17. As of Monday morning, Tsannie said there were no COVID-19 cases in his community. He said the First Nation nevertheless responded to increasing regional case counts with tightened restrictions on Nov. 27. He said some residents have avoided taking those precautions, and some have continued to travel out of the community, “which is really, really tough. So the rangers will be extra help.” He said the First Nation has a positive relationship with the rangers. “If there’s ever COVID in Hatchet, we’re going to utilize them a lot.”Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
Tensions are rising in Lambton Shores as a contentious plan to tackle gypsy moths goes before council Tuesday, a report one community group is blasting as a “do-nothing” approach. After Port Franks and the surrounding area were ravaged by an outbreak of the invasive insects this summer, some residents mobilized into the Gypsy Moth Citizens Action Group, pushing for a municipally-led insecticide spray to combat the infestation. Romayne Smith-Fullerton, a spokesperson for the group which represents about 4,000 residents in more than 12 subdivisions, says that option was never properly considered by staff and is urging them to reconsider. “(The report) did not investigate, compare or evaluate the merits of a municipally-led spray programme against a privately-organized effort,” she said. “(It) provided council with inadequate information because it assumed one path forward.” The gypsy moth report – originally sent to council Nov. 10 – includes recommendations like creating a webpage to advise residents of resources to combat gypsy moths, and not objecting to any spraying on private properties adjacent to municipal property. Council voted 5-4 to defer the report until Dec. 1, citing the need for more public feedback. But Smith-Fullerton is calling into question the municipality’s openness on the issue. She said her request to present to council on behalf of the citizen’s group was denied without sound reasoning. Both Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber and Clerk Stephanie Troyer-Boyd cited COVID-19 safety restrictions as the reason why public presentations are disallowed. At the beginning of the pandemic, many municipalities, including Lambton Shores, amended their procedure bylaws to switch to electronic meetings; including a caveat that public presentations could be denied. But Lambton Shores’ council has been meeting in person since the fall, with the procedure bylaw stating, “the Mayor or Clerk may deny delegations to council during an electronic meeting.” Troyer-Boyd did not respond to a request to clarify if the policy had been extended to in-person meetings. Meanwhile, a transit presentation is on the Dec. 1 agenda. Weber said the presenter is a staff member, adding some presentations have been allowed at past meetings for statutory or Planning Act matters. “COVID is a bit of a convenient excuse to stifle democracy,” Smith-Fullerton said, adding she’s filed a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman. “I deserve an explanation,” she said. “They’re not playing by the rules as far as I can see. There are inconsistencies in their policy.” Council previously waved the restriction in July, allowing Smith-Fullerton to present virtually on the gypsy moth issue. A written delegation from the citizens' group has been accepted for Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s very weird to feel like this is a matter that is clearly of high public interest … And yet, the person who is the spokesperson for thousands of people right across this municipality, they’re not interested in me speaking to them,” Smith-Fullerton said. “(The group) certainly have put in letters and their position and presentation has been distributed through the agenda,” Weber said. The hot-button issue and report have drawn a swarm of response from the community, with dozens of letters sent to council as correspondence — there are more than 300 pages' worth — with the vast majority advocating for an aerial spray or greater assistance from the municipality. “We need council to develop an all-encompassing bylaw that permits the municipality to treat all the infested trees. Anything less will be unsatisfactory and a waste of money,” writes Port Franks resident David Hilliard. “We call on the municipality … to take immediate and effective action to address the gypsy moth threat before damage is done to our environment and tourism economy,” says a letter from the Grand Bend and Area Chamber of Commerce. Five letters attached as correspondence to the agenda oppose a municipally-led aerial spray, a view shared by the mayor. “I believe this should be a private property matter,” Weber said. Lambton Shores chief administrator, Kevin Williams, who drafted the report, did not answer questions emailed to him by The Free Press about the subject. “Let’s see what happens at Council" Tuesday night, he said. He previously said no environmental assessment on the extent of defoliation caused by the insects was ordered, nor was an egg mass assessment. Widespread spraying of a bacteria — bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki, referred to as Btk, — to control caterpillar pests has been the route taken in other municipalities in the past, including Sarnia and Pelham, as well as in parts of big cities such as Toronto and Hamilton. Many residents say it’s vital the municipality takes a lead in combatting the caterpillars as they pose serious threats to personal health and Port Frank’s diverse tree canopy. MaxMartin@postmedia.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPressMax Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
The government unveiled a record deficit of $381 billion in its fiscal update, along with spending plans for more pandemic relief and a huge stimulus plan to jolt the economy post-pandemic.
Consumer demand for credit intensified in the third quarter, driven chiefly by increases in mortgage balances and new auto loans, according to data released Monday by credit reporting agency Equifax.Mortgage balances and new auto loans were up 6.6 per cent and 11.7 per cent year over year, respectively, according to Equifax. Overall average consumer debt increased 3.3 per cent compared with the third quarter of last year.Rebecca Oakes, assistant vice-president of advanced analytics at Equifax Canada, said in an interview that growth in mortgages last quarter was especially high, with the largest increase among people under 35. That trend comes even as economic fallout from the pandemic and associated lockdown measures hit young people especially hard. “In terms of new mortgages, that could be refinancing, or it could be brand-new, first-time homebuyers or it could be people moving house,” Oakes said. “That was actually the highest value that we’ve seen ever.”The increased demand for auto loans in the third quarter could have been a result of pent-up demand from people who had to wait to buy cars later in the year, Oakes said.The figures in Equifax’s report are drawn from banks and other lenders that provide data to the credit rating agency.Equifax pegged total consumer debt at $2.04 trillion, while Statistics Canada reported in June that household debt had reached $2.3 trillion, with $1.77 in debt for every dollar of household disposable income.More than three million consumers have chosen to use payment deferral programs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Equifax. Since the start of this year, some banks have offered consumers the option to suspend their loan payments for several months, in recognition of the financial strain the pandemic has created for many households. However, under the payment deferral programs, interest continues to accrue during the months for which payments are suspended.The percentage of balances where credit users have missed three or more payments was at its lowest level since 2014, with deferral programs likely masking the true delinquency rates, according to Oakes.This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 30, 2020.Jon Victor, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba health officials are reporting more COVID-19 deaths among younger patients and ongoing high case numbers, more than two weeks after strict measures were enacted on public gatherings and businesses.A man in his 30s and a woman in her 40s were among the 11 deaths announced Monday. The death of the youngest person to date — a boy under 10 — was announced Saturday."We continue to announce many deaths every day," said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer."I think we all know we can't continue along these lines. We have to bring these numbers down. We can't keep losing this many Manitobans."Roussin did not reveal details about the boy who died or his age. Roussin did say the child had underlying health conditions and the case was not acquired in a school.So far, 312 people have died from COVID-19 in Manitoba.About 80 per cent of deaths recorded up to Nov. 21 have involved people 65 and over, provincial data charts indicate. Roussin has previously said that while severe outcomes occur predominantly among older people, the novel coronavirus can affect people of any age.The province reported 342 new COVID-19 cases Monday. It said 44 people with COVID-19 were in intensive care and there were only five beds available. Health officials were looking at opening up a new 14-bed intensive care unit in a Winnipeg hospital."Our health system is at risk of being overwhelmed if we can't reduce these daily case counts," said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with Manitoba Shared Health.In an effort to turn the tide, the government forced many non-essential retail outlets to close and banned public gatherings of more than five people on Nov. 12.That has prevented the daily number of new COVID-19 cases count from rising higher, Roussin said, citing projections of up to 1,000 cases a day by early December. But the number has remained steady rather than dropping. The percentage of people testing positive has also remained very high at 13 per cent."We need to decrease the number of contacts we have, and that's just a given," Roussin said."We have a fairly consistent secondary attack rate … about 14 per cent of contacts will develop COVID. And so if we decrease the amount of total contacts, we're going to decrease the amount of cases."The ban on gatherings has faced challenges from a couple of churches. One in a rural area outside of Steinbach was fined for hosting a service earlier in the month. RCMP were stationed at the church's parking lot entrance on Sunday to turn away people arriving by car.A church in Winnipeg hosted four drive-in services on the weekend and asked people to remain in their cars while a pastor spoke from a stage.Drive-in services were allowed during the first COVID-19 wave in the spring, but have been banned during the recent spike in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus."The more people you have coming together at the same time, the more likely you're going to have some sort of gathering, some sort of transmission go on there," Roussin said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Pastor Dereje Haileyesus is watching the situation unfold in his native Ethiopia with concern. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled conflict in the country to search for safety in neighbouring countries. Haileyesus would like to help these, and all, people fleeing conflict but is unable to do so. Despite his church, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church in Ottawa, being a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, he is unable to help. “Personally, I’m very very sad about the situation,” Haileyesus told NCM. “Canada values all lives, even dogs and pets. But human beings [around the world] are dying.” Haileyesus, who himself fled to Sudan in the 90s, started sponsoring refugees in 1998. He became a Sponsorship Agreement Holder in 2015. He tried to help refugees, regardless of ethnic background or regional loyalties through his organization as well as in partnership with other organizations as best he could, but he found the process too difficult due to financial constraints and the slow pace of approvals. “The process time is very long. You submit the application, after three or four years the [refugees] are coming [to Canada],” the pastor told NCM. “As a church, we can’t afford help… For example for one person, the government asks around $12,000 for one year commitment for the shelter and other things. When we sponsor 10 people, that means $120,000.” He implored the federal government to find ways to ease the financial burden by sharing half the cost between the government and the sponsorship holder. He also wants the government to increase quotas so that his church can help more people with a lightened monetary cost. NCM reached out to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for comment. None was provided by deadline. Tensions between the Ethiopian central government in Addis Ababa and the regional government in Tigray have boiled over into open conflict. One that could suck in other countries in the region like Eritrea, who fought a bloody conflict with Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000. The country is divided into 10 semi-autonomous regions roughly divided along ethnic lines. Tigray, the northernmost region which borders Eritrea, is home to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). This party ran the national politics through a coalition for close to three decades despite the Tigrayan people only being 6 percent of the population. The current Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, froze out the TPLF when he came to power in 2018. He also brokered a peace with Eritrea, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize. Last March, Ahmed postponed the country’s national elections citing COVID-19. The TPLF in their home region went ahead with their election anyway. Ahmed refused to recognize the legitimacy of that election and the TPLF responded by not recognizing Ahmed’s premiership. The government troops were sent into Tigray, who clashed with TPLF militias. “We call upon the people of Mekelle (regional capital of Tigray) to play a key role in bringing this treasonous group to justice by standing in solidarity with the national defence force in this law enforcement action,” read a Nov. 22 statement by PM Ahmed. “We’re inflicting heavy defeats on all fronts against the forces that came to attack us,” said TPLF Chairman Debretsion Gebremichael on Nov. 18. “I call upon all the Tigrayan people to go out en masse to drive out the invaders.” With civil war on the lips of world media and Ethiopians, a refugee crisis has broken out. It was reported on Nov. 21 that over 30,000 refugees from the Tigray region have crossed into neighbouring Sudan. As of the end of 2019, there were 95,000 Ethiopians who have had to flee their country for various reasons. Since 2013, the earliest available data, 2,201 Ethiopians have claimed refugees status with Canada. That number peaked in 2019 with 456 claimants. Between January and June of this year, 241 people have made the claim. Currently, all Haileyesus and his flock can do is pray. Inspired by the biblical Prophet Daniel, his church has been holding 21 days of prayer from Nov. 1 to Nov. 21 for the past seven years. Those prayers have included refugees of all nations, general peace around the world, the Canadian people and government etc. “A person can be given refugee protection in Canada if they meet the United Nations (UN) definition of a Convention refugee, or if they are a person in need of protection,” Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada told NCM. Refugees are defined by the United Nations as some with “a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.” More up to date definitions can include sexual orientation, gender identity and women fleeing domestic violence. “A claim for refugee protection can be made by speaking to an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at any port of entry upon arrival in Canada, or to an officer from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or CBSA at an inland office,” the IRB also said.Mansoor Tanweer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Canadian Media
Regina–Official Opposition Leader Ryan Meili expressed disappointment with the Sask. Party government’s Speech from the Throne today, calling it a “missed opportunity” to take the urgent action needed to fight the second wave of COVID-19. “This was a ‘business as usual’ Throne Speech, but we all know that business is anything but usual in Saskatchewan,” said Meili in a release. “Premier Moe spent the election campaign telling people we were out of the woods even though expert advice and pandemic modelling showed otherwise. Now the second wave is hitting us in a big way and the government is not prepared to invest in the immediate actions needed to flatten the curve.” Minutes before the Throne Speech began, a government press release noted 325 new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, with two deaths and 49 recoveries. There were now 3,879 active cases, while 4,638 people had recovered and 47 had died. Saskatchewan’s 7-day average of new cases is now and average of 268.3 per day. Meili said that the Sask. Party’s Throne Speech announced no new supports for businesses that were already struggling before the second wave hit, and that no immediate investments were outlined to fight the pandemic, according to the release. “Businesses are being told to stay open while their customers are being urged to stay home: it’s a recipe for economic disaster,” said Meili. “Now the government’s slow and contradictory approach has left our healthcare system in chaos – and things will only get worse if we do not act immediately to flatten the curve of COVID-19.” Meili said the Saskatchewan NDP Caucus is determined to fight for jobs, businesses, schools and health care during the first session of this new Legislative Assembly. “At a time when people are struggling, we should be planning to invest to get through this together, not making life harder for families,” said Meili. “We need clear, consistent messaging and a real plan that helps people – instead of mixed messages and half-measures that won’t get the job done. Our caucus is determined to push for a plan that will support all of Saskatchewan.”Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
The new Strathmore municipal building is nearing completion, with the town finding solutions for a few remaining pieces. An update on the project was presented to town council on Nov. 18 by Michael Stamhuis, the town’s special projects manager. The project is now in its “substantial completion” stage, meaning the building and work site are sufficiently completed such that they can now be handed over to, and occupied by, the town. The cost of the building has been updated to total $14.48 million, $130,000 less than the cost projected in mid-October. The final project costs will be more than $400,000 below the funding allocated for the project, reported Stamhuis. A report will be forthcoming presenting suggestions for how this surplus may be allocated. One of the options would be to set aside an amount for any issues that may arise, he said. Some uncertainties remain for the project. “While the project is substantially completed, it is not totally complete; there are some outstanding items,” said Stamhuis, who added these include the installation of audio-visual equipment, signage and furniture. All tenders for furniture and audio-visual equipment have been received, the cost of which is less than the $850,000 allocated for these components. The cost estimate for soft costs and furniture, fixtures and equipment decreased by $21,000, to $2.325 million. The audio-visual equipment was to be stored in a closet within the council chambers, but the consultant said it would generate too much heat to be stored there safely. So, the town is considering either installing a ventilation system for the closet or moving the equipment to the server room. The estimated cost for site servicing and rehabilitation has been revised to $2.599 million, representing a decrease of $16,000 from previous estimates. This reduction is due to a decrease in staff salary allocation (by $6,000) and reconciliation of consultant fees ($10,000). The total cost of the Strathmore Commons and north Kinsmen improvements is $1.675 million, equaling a reduction of $92,000 from prior estimates. The town saved money on soil disposal because the soil from site clearing was used on-site and hauling costs were minimal, resulting in a $92,000 cost reduction. Also during the meeting, a report was presented to council illustrating how the municipal building project resulted in improvements to several of the town’s assets beyond the new building itself. This assessment determined that of the approximately $14.5 million spent on the municipal building project, about $3.1 million can be attributed to Kinsmen Park and other site improvements. As such, about $11.3 million can be attributed to the building itself. According to Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule, this second report gives a more accurate picture of the cost of the new town hall building. “Obviously, some of those assets are tied to the new building, but some of them benefit and are tied to other parts of that project,” he said. The town is planning on having staff move belongings into the new building in late December and begin working there in the new year.Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Local businesses hard hit by the second lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto could have up to 90 per cent of their rent subsidized in some cases. The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), as it’s called, is one of several more supports the federal government has enhanced and extended until June 2021 responding to more lockdowns around the country in the fall and coming early winter season including Toronto. CERS provides rent and mortgage subsidies of up to 65 per cent of eligible expenses to qualifying businesses, charities, and non-profits. In cases where businesses are in lockdown zones, they can receive an additional 25 per cent subsidy. Businesses can also take advantage of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which covers 65 per cent of an employee’s wages for qualifying employers, available until June 2021. The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for small businesses are still available, with up to 25 per cent of the loan forgivable. For individuals, there are supports for loss of income, which have all been extended into the new year. The former Canada Emergency Response Benefit has been phased into Employment Insurance. Anyone who has lost income due to COVID-19 is eligible for support via EI. If not eligible for EI, in the case of some small business owners, they are eligible for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). EI will offer a taxable benefit of $500 per week, as will CRB. “We know this health crisis has had a devastating impact on small biz, lockdowns that have accompanied have exacerbated those issues,” Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said. He said the federal government is in a “stronger fiscal position” to help Canadians with financial challenges from COVID-19, but he urged the Province of Ontario to “step up” with funding allocated to it for pandemic relief. “The provincial government is sitting on money to help people,” Erskine-Smith said. “They need to get those dollars out the door immediately and step up to help businesses.” He’s referring to unallocated $9.3 billion noted by the province’s Financial Accountability Officer. Citing the FAO, Erskine-Smith said that on Sept. 10, the FAO noted that of the first $105.6 billion spent in Ontario by governments, $102 billion or 97 per cent, was federal money. As a way to immediately help people, the province could start with a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions again, he added. “It’s one thing to spend federal dollars, but at a minimum to establish a moratorium, it costs them nothing,” Erskine-Smith said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canadians would begin receiving vaccinations for COVID-19 in 2021. While the details are still being drawn on the logistical challenge of vaccinating millions of Canadians, Erskine-Smith said Canada is in a good position. “This is the largest vaccine rollout in history,” he said. “We’ve entered in more agreements with vaccines than any other country to ensure a readily available supply.” Those include established agreements with AstraZeneca, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Medicago, and Moderna for a combined “414 million doses of vaccine candidates, with a guarantee of at least 190 million doses,” Erskine-Smith said. “Health Canada has received submissions for authorization of three vaccines, and expedited reviews are underway.” The earliest vaccinations are expected in the spring, aimed primarily for essential workers, long-term care homes, vulnerable populations, seniors, and those with pre-existing conditions. “There’s also a plan underway to help provinces distribute millions of vaccines in early 2021, including through the use of the Canadian Armed Forces, and through the procurement of logistics services,” Erskine-Smith said. “Our public health officials have already procured materials for the coming deployment, including needles, syringes, alcohol swabs, and cold storage.”Ali Raza, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro News
Students in grades 7-12 have now moved to online classes until at least Jan. 11, and diploma exams will now be optional for the rest of the school year. Nailah Fuko, a Grade 10 student at Edmonton's W.P. Wagner School, said she found out she'd be back to learned online while scrolling through Instagram. "I came upon this post that was talking about the government saying that we were moving online," Fuko said in an interview on Edmonton AM. "And I was like, 'Oh, this is new.'" Rebecca Boroditsky, a Grade 10 student at Ross Sheppard, said she's not worried about the academic implications of going virtual. Hear the students talk about their next month online: "For the socializing portion, I'm kind of sad," she said. "I've made friends and I won't really get to talk to them anymore until January." Boroditsky said she had been enjoying the quarter system schools brought in instead of the usual two semesters. In quarters, the classes are longer and Boroditsky said she had been liking her ceramics class she's taking. "We have more time to really get into it and do lots of project things, whereas with the shorter classes ... there's less time because you have to designate time to clean up and get set up, and that eats into a good portion of the class if it's shorter," she said. Fuko said she prefers a semester setup. "I think they sped up a lot of the material and it wasn't as easy to learn," she said. One practical difference is that online learning will make it easier to physically distance. Boroditsky said that was much easier in classrooms than in hallways or at lunch. Fuko said her friends are being careful and do care about safety and what's going on with COVID-19. "I definitely think students particularly are very worried and trying to do their best with what the rules are and how to follow the rules," Fuko said.
WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says that the pace of improvement in the economy has moderated in recent months with future prospects remaining “extraordinarily uncertain.”In remarks released by the Fed on Monday, Powell said that the increase in new COVID-19 cases both in the United States and abroad was “concerning and could prove challenging for the next few months. A full economic recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.”Powell said while progress on developing vaccines had been “very positive,” significant challenges remained regarding the timing, production and distribution of the vaccines, and it remained difficult to assess the economic implications of this process with any degree of confidence.Powell's remarks were prepared for a joint appearance he will make on Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin before the Senate Banking Committee. The hearing is part of the panel's oversight responsibilities required under the multi-trillion economic support legislation Congress passed in the spring..Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
You should expect to see a lot fewer people gathered around the tree this Christmas. According to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby, celebrating the holidays with people outside your household is a recipe for disaster. “I know many people are looking forward to their traditional family celebrations at this time of year, but to keep your loved ones safe, traditions will have to be adjusted,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We’re asking everyone to please stick to your own household when celebrating. Avoid big holiday parties or large family dinners to help us stop the spread of this deadly virus. By following this public health advice, we can all have a safe and fun holiday season.” Those who live alone are encouraged to celebrate the holidays with only one additional household. As well, any post-secondary students living away from home are asked to consider a self-quarantine for 10 to 14 days before returning home. Dr. David Colby echoed Ford’s message, adding he doesn’t want people looking for loopholes in COVID-19 rules. The 10-person limit isn’t an excuse to invite over friends or relatives if you have a small household. Colby said a household and family members are two separate things. He defined a household as the people you live with. They are the ones who reside at the same address. They are your household and within your own living space. “I think it’s time to get away from rules. I mean, rules are helpful, but whenever there are rules, people are sort of saying, ‘Well, if I do this, can I circumvent the rules?’” said Colby. He added you not only have to look at the letter of the law but the spirit of the rule. “The spirit of the rule is to keep everybody safe,” said Colby. “Rather than worrying about whether the rules are being followed, we all have to ask ourselves, ‘What is the safest course of action for all concerned in this particular scenario?’ We’ve talked about that endlessly.” Additionally, Colby said people travelling from jurisdiction to jurisdiction is a big problem. He said when he does contact tracing, the trails always lead outside of Chatham-Kent. According to Chatham-Kent’s top doctor, smaller household parties mean less risk of catching and spreading the virus. Colby said this is something he has been “hammering away at for the last few weeks”. “There is clear evidence that the more people that you assemble, the higher the risk,” said Colby. “Indoor gatherings are riskier than outdoor gatherings, so having a large number of people, especially people who have travelled from a higher-prevalence jurisdiction, this is potentially a recipe for disaster.”Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
VANCOUVER — A legal battle over a missing diamond-encrusted eagle statue valued at nearly $1 million will continue, more than four years after the artwork was stolen during a robbery in Delta, B.C.In a unanimous ruling issued Monday, the B.C. Court of Appeal has sided with Lloyd's Underwriters and agreed that a default judgment against the insurer should be set aside.Ron Shore, president of a company called Forgotten Treasures International, won the judgment in 2018 requiring Lloyd's to pay a claim for the loss of the sparkling statue.Court documents show Lloyd's denied Shore's claim, arguing he violated conditions of the insurance policy, including that the statue be constantly safeguarded by two people.The eight-kilogram gold creation studded with 763 diamonds and appraised at $930,000 was going to be the final prize in an international cancer fundraiser.Justice Peter Voith agreed with a B.C. Supreme Court decision that set aside the default judgment, saying the insurer appears to have solid evidence to oppose the claim.On its website, the Supreme Court says default judgments can be filed against defendants if they fail to respond to the notice of a civil lawsuit, do not comply with the rules or a response to a civil claim is withdrawn.With the default judgment set aside, the matter may return to Shore's civil claim filed in May 2018, alleging breach of contract and failure to investigate the insurance claim in a timely manner, among other things.The statue remains missing after Shore reported it was taken in May 2016 by what the court describes as "unknown assailants'' as he placed a knapsack carrying the statue in the trunk of his car.Shore made an emotional plea for the return of the statue at a news conference shortly after it was taken, saying two men ambushed him, hit him over the head with a large flashlight and stole the eagle, plus a less-valuable decoy.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.The Canadian Press
Despite a "significant outbreak" of COVID-19 at the Calgary Remand Centre, there are reports of inmates being triple-bunked, according to defence lawyers sounding the alarm on conditions at the northwest facility. During her afternoon update, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw identified 41 cases at CRC, up from just three last Tuesday.According to a report prepared last week, the CRC has capacity for 34 infected inmates.The CRC is now on total lockdown. Inmates who are mid-trial — including one murder trial — are not allowed to leave the CRC for court and even CCTV appearances have been cancelled. CRC is a secure holding facility for those awaiting trial or a bail hearing. Many, if not all, of the inmates there have not been convicted of the charges they are facing. "It's grossly negligent," said Tom Engel, an Edmonton defence lawyer and president of the Canadian Prison Law Association."It's disturbing to hear about a client triple-bunking and someone tests positive, and they just leave them in that situation. I don't know how they could think this is appropriate."Engel called it a "significant outbreak" taking place in several units. Hinshaw said AHS is working to ensure strict protocols are maintained with aggressive testing underway.Masks are just now being provided to inmates. Previously, only those leaving the facility would have access to a mask.Defence lawyer Chad Haggerty says he has a client who is triple-bunked with new protocols only allowing inmates allowed to leave their cells for 1.5 to 2 hours a day.Alberta Health Services has previously stated provincial facilities are complying with COVID-19 safety protocols but some inmates say that's not the case. "I keep hearing from prisoners that what the government and AHS are saying about compliance with COVID protocols in Alberta jails is just completely false."New transfers to the Calgary Remand Centre spend 14 days on a quarantine unit. If they develop symptoms, they're moved to an isolation unit.The director of the Calgary Remand Centre was scheduled to meet with the Health Ministry Monday afternoon.
WASHINGTON — Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator and third in the line of presidential succession, is back in the Senate on Monday after testing positive for coronavirus two weeks ago.Grassley, 87, isolated after finding out he had been exposed to the virus and tested positive shortly after that. He said in a statement that he never had any symptoms and had been cleared to return to the office by his doctors.“This disease affects people differently,” Grassley said. “I did not experience symptoms, but more than a thousand Americans are dying every day and many more are hospitalized. That means we all have to do our part to help protect our friends, family and fellow Americans.”Grassley is the president pro tempore of the Senate, meaning he presides over the chamber in the absence of Vice-President Mike Pence and is third in line for the presidency, behind Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The president pro tempore is the senator in the majority party who has served the longest, and Grassley has been a senator for 40 years.As pro tempore, Grassley opens the Senate each day. He did so on the day before he started isolating, leading the Pledge of Allegiance alongside others on the floor and then giving remarks without wearing a mask. He also joined other senators on the floor later Monday evening for a procedural vote on a federal judge, that time wearing a mask but speaking to several senators at close distance.In his statement upon his return, Grassley said he would “continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing.”He also urged the Senate to pass long-stalled relief for those affected by the virus, saying that “Congress must do its part and pass long overdue relief legislation to help families, businesses and communities get through this crisis."Grassley was one of several members of Congress who tested positive in recent weeks. Florida Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced that he had tested positive two days after Grassley. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who is competing in a Senate runoff in Georgia, later announced that she had tested positive and then negative.Alaska Rep. Don Young, also 87 and the longest-serving member of the House, was hospitalized with the virus. The Republican said after he was discharged that “I had not felt this sick in a very long time.”Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
Local businesses are frustrated and exhausted as they weather the storm in Toronto’s second lockdown since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. The province announced Nov. 20 that Toronto and Peel were going into its Lockdown/Grey level of its pandemic response framework as of Nov. 23. The regions had seen continuous spikes of cases of COVID-19 since the end of summer, and hospitalizations and ICU admittance had drastically increased. But as the lockdown aims to reduce the spread of the virus, business owners in East Toronto are asking why big box stores are still permitted to remain open. “It’s just another hammer on the head,” Skaut Design owner Inese Korbs said. Her store on Kingston Road sells home decor, furniture, and other design products. Korbs doesn’t have the staff to move her inventory online for customers as a lot of her products are vintage pieces. “It’s another full-time job,” she said. Instead Korbs relies on “virtual visits” where people can phone in via video conference and she’ll walk them through the store. She said before the lockdown, while there were fewer visitors than normal years, individuals were buying more per visit. That came to a grinding halt last week. “The most difficult part is knowing that big box stores are allowed to operate,” Korbs said. “It’s kind of like they have different rules.” Walmart and Costco are some of the bigger chains permitted to open, while Amazon still remains ever popular for online shopping. It’s difficult to compete with bigger chains as it is, let alone if you can’t even stay open, Korbs said. Lita Yiu owns and operates the clothing store Set Me Free on Queen Street East. She expressed the same frustration that Korbs did about big box stores staying open. “If you really want to control the spread, shut down big box stores,” Yiu said. “I’m happy to have one or two customers allowed in the store at a time, we don’t have the same clout as big businesses, we can’t absorb the shock.” Yiu said she and her staff are uploading their inventory on e-commerce platforms online, but between all the clothing, accessories, and gifts, it’s a lot of work. “It’s tedious, it’s time consuming, and you don’t make much money. It’s not the same as walk-in.” However, Yiu and Korbs have been overjoyed by the local community’s support of their businesses. Before the lockdown, both business owners were receiving many local customers who were eager to support their neighbourhood businesses. “People came in, they expressed condolences, supported our store,” Korbs said of the weekend before the lockdown began. “The people in this neighbourhood are very supportive, and they’re going out of their way to help us.” It’s been the case throughout the pandemic, Yiu said. From the beginning to now, local customers have supported her. “They’re amazing,” she said. “They always try to shop local, especially after the first lockdown.” Like many small businesses across Canada, Yiu and Korbs have taken advantage of the federal government COVID-19 supports for businesses. It’s helped them with expenses such as rent and wages, but nothing will recover the loss of revenue in December and the anticipated holiday shopping seasons that so many retail businesses rely on. “The vast majority of small businesses adhere to the restrictions equally if not better than large chains,” Beach Village BIA executive director Anna Sebert said. “Most of the businesses on Queen Street can make a go of it with one or two people in the store at a time.” “Just because there are some bad apples, doesn’t mean all businesses should suffer,” she added. Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford agrees the “rules around some of the closures haven’t always made sense” regarding big box stores, but warns that the virus remains a threat. “There’s no doubt about it, the lockdown is taking a toll on all of us but we have to push through. It’s the only way out of this,” he said. “We’re all seeing the news of the businesses staying open in protest and people rallying against the closures. That’s concerning as it puts us all at risk, especially gathering in the way we’ve seen.” Bradford has received calls from local businesses asking if it is possible to ease up bylaw enforcement to allow some businesses to remain open. “I can understand the way they’re feeling,” he said. “We’re all tired, we’re hurting, but we have to follow the guidelines.” Cases have been among the lowest in the city for the Beach area, an achievement Bradford applauded as the community “is looking out for each other.” He said he’s making efforts to get relief for businesses from the federal and provincial governments. “What we need to focus on is getting the full weight of financial support possible for local businesses,” he said. “We also need clearer, fairer and more evenly applied rules if and when closures continue. City council doesn’t get to make these decisions – but we can elevate the voice of the impact they’re having on our communities and main streets.” Business owners say they understand the severity of the pandemic, and agree with most public health measures, but worry about local businesses in the community – especially restaurants, bars, and cafes. “I feel horrible for the restaurants,” Korbs said. “If they all survive that would be a miracle, their hands and feet are tied.”Ali Raza, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro News
OTTAWA — Key elements from the federal government's fiscal update, delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland Monday afternoon:A boatload of borrowing. The federal deficit is sailing toward $381.6 billion this year, but could close in on $400 billion if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks, according to the fall economic statement. A big reason for that eye-popping sum is the total cost of Ottawa's response to COVID-19, which amounts to $490.7 billion. That also means more than $8 out of every $10 in federal and provincial support comes from the capital, down from $9 out of every $10 from the July fiscal snapshot.The "Netflix tax." For the first time, Netflix and other foreign streaming giants such as Amazon and Apple TV+ will be subject to sales tax in Canada, according to the fiscal update. The government says GST/HST will apply to all companies that provide digital services — which means Netflix and Airbnb would charge sales tax on subscriptions and reservations north of the border. While the European Union moved to tax digital platforms two years ago, Freeland said Canada is prepared to act "unilaterally if necessary."Work-from-home tax break. Employees working from home with "modest expenses" in 2020 can claim up to $400, based on time spent at the dining-room desk. Canadians can make the claim "without the need to track detailed expenses," and the tax man "will generally not request" confirmation from employers, the economic statement says.Increasing fiscal-stabilization payments. Responding to a call from provinces whose finances have taken a beating, the Liberals say they will increase the maximum payment under a program designed to help provincial governments deal with temporary economic shocks. The cap will go from $60 per resident, set in 1987, to $170 per person and increase with economic growth.Support the troops. The government is also proposing to sign off on an additional $600,000 to top up the Veterans Emergency Fund that would ensure more financial support for veterans whose well-being is at risk "due to an urgent and unexpected situation."All the wage. For businesses, the government wants to bring the wage subsidy back to 75 per cent of company payroll costs and extend the business rent subsidy to mid-March. The Trudeau government had previously extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to the summer, while the adapted business-rent subsidy — revised from a less popular iteration that hinged on landlord participation — was slated only to continue through the end of the year.Clean water for Indigenous communities. The government is pledging to invest $1.5 billion in 2020-21 to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, and $114 million each year after. The Liberals have maintained a years-long pledge to lift all outstanding boil-water advisories for Indigenous residents by March 2021. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that about 95 advisories had been lifted since the party came to power in 2015, but more than 60 remained the last time figures were updated before the pandemic.A $100-billion stimulus. The government plans to spend between $70 billion and $100 billion over the next three years to stimulate the economic recovery from COVID-19. The boon amounts to between three and four per cent of GDP, and will tilt toward a "greener, more innovative" bounce-back, though the details are to be determined.Get retrofit. Ottawa is aiming to dole out $2.6 billion over seven years to help homeowners make their digs more efficient, starting in 2020-21. The cash, channelled through Natural Resources Canada, would take the form of up to 700,000 grants of $5,000 or less to help with projects that could range from energy-efficient heating to solar-panel installations. The upcoming plan, with eligibility retroactive to December 2020, fulfils a Liberal election promise from last year.Cash for families. Looking to boost temporary support for parents, the Liberals plan to provide up to $1,200 per child under six years old for low- and middle-income families that are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, starting next year. The bump marks an increase of nearly 20 per cent above the benefit's current maximum payment.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.The Canadian Press
As the number of cases fluctuates almost daily, it can be challenging to determine whether measures will be decreased or more implemented from one day to the next. As of Friday, November 27, there are 13 active cases in the community. As there are more than 10 cases, it placed the Town of Fox Creek on an enhanced status. As well, Fox Creek also falls under the MD of Greenview, which is also under the enhanced status with 83 cases. In addition to the mandatory face-covering bylaw, CAO Kristen Milne issued a public notice regarding the new health measures for town-owned facilities. Due to being in an enhanced area, as of November 27, entry into the town office and the Community Resource Centre is by appointment only. The Community Resource Centre playroom and Community Hall are also closed until further notice, as are the party rooms. Meeting rooms within the Multiplex will remain open; however, they can’t exceed 25 percent capacity. The Fitness Centre is down to a maximum of six people, and guests must pre-book. Another family favourite is the swimming pool; this area will carry a maximum of 35 people at any given time. All sports areas are closed to the public; however, they can still be utilized if participants are from the same household. In the case of those who live alone, they can socialize with two other persons. The sports facilities include the fieldhouse and arena, are by bookings only. For those who have memberships to the Multiplex, usage is free, and for non-members, the cost is $30 per hour. Lastly, the running track will remain open, but again, those who utilize the track must be from the same family or, if living alone, two others you socialize with regularly. Most retail businesses, such as grocery stores, liquor, and pharmacies, are now limited to 25 percent of the Alberta Fire Code occupancy. Dr. Deena Hinshaw signed the Record of Decision for Order 38-2020 on November 24, 2020, which further defines the new provincial health measures put in effect. It states, subject to sections four and five of the order, a person who resides in a private residence must not permit a person who does not live in that residence to enter or remain in residence. The exemptions that would allow entrance would include housekeeping services, health care, emergency response, childcare, home construction, or renovations, delivery, or real estate needs. Those who live alone are permitted to interact with the same two persons in their social circle and permitted within the home. Under Section two of the order, a social gathering is defined as a group of people who come together to move about freely, mix and interact with each other for social purposes rather than remaining seated or stationary for the gathering duration. With that said, there are to be no indoor social gatherings in any setting unless all persons are from the same household and a maximum of 10 for outdoors. Weddings and funerals may still occur but are restricted to a maximum of ten persons or less. Worship services are also limited to 1/3 of the usual attendance. Starting November 30, students in grades seven to 12 will go back to online learning until January 11, 2021. Those in ECS to grade six will remain in school until the Christmas break and switch to online studies from January 4 to January 11, 2021. All restrictions will remain in place for three weeks as indicated by Premier Kenney, at which time, the Alberta Government and health officials will re-evaluate. To keep up to date on COVID-19 numbers and health updates, please visit www.alberta.ca. Vicki Winger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press
Quinte Conservation announced plans to build a new state of the art storage facility at Potter’s Creek Conservation Area on Thursday. With support from the John M. & Bernice Parrott Foundation, the new facility will replace the old storage barn that was deemed a health and safety hazard to store Quinte Conservation’s maintenance and monitoring equipment. “We are extremely thankful for the support we have received from the John M. & Bernice Parrott Foundation and look forward to having a safe and accessible space for our staff to work in,” said CAO Brad McNevin. “We hope to incorporate a variety of green infrastructure initiatives into the design and use the area as a way to demonstrate the different opportunities that are available for stormwater management.” The new facility will provide a secure, heated location at the main office, as well as running water and proper drainage so staff can effectively clean equipment to help prevent the spread of invasive species throughout the watershed. Demolition and removal of the barn at Potter’s Creek Conservation Area is scheduled to take place from late 2020 into early 2021. Construction of the new storage facility is set to begin in the spring of 2021. The trails at Potter’s Creek Conservation Area will remain open during construction but may be modified for pedestrian access. Visitors are advised to be cautious of construction activities and follow posted information. “We understand the cultural relevance of this building for the local community and are investigating options that will allow us to create a small parkette in the same location as a way to pay homage to the history of the site,” said McNevin. McNevin explained that the preliminary design for the parkette will include a portion of the stone foundation, a seating area, and a plaque memorializing the barn. Residents interested in learning more about Quinte Conservation can visit www.quinteconservation.ca for more information.Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer