Icebreaker ships are out preventing high water levels on the St. Clair river.
Icebreaker ships are out preventing high water levels on the St. Clair river.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
There has been much community engagement and debate over the proposed Cardston recreation centre through recent letters to the editor and social media posts. The Temple City Star conducted interviews with municipal CAO’s this week in an effort to get straight to the facts, and tidy up any confusion. When a municipality has a large capital project in the works, it can take years to work from conception to completion. During the process, administration inquires with different vendors for preliminary pricing, gets an idea of community need (town halls, surveys and discussion), and researches where to best elicit funds (grants, partnerships, reserves, levies, or a tax increase) before council makes any concrete decisions about the project and approves the tendering process in which companies can bid for the job. As CAO Jeff Shaw shares, the indoor recreation facility project has been somewhat different because “we have a community champion in Gibb Schaffer, and council wants to support the project while we have the momentum.” Still, there are processes that legally have to be followed by any municipal level of government, and the red tape can be confusing to untangle. Town councillors have been interested in building a recreation center since the 2018 election, and a committee of council began pursuing this idea in 2019 with a very large indoor recreation center in mind. The intention of the committee was to commence public consultation in 2020, but due to COVID, the public consultation had to be cancelled. In the fall of 2020 major discussions on the specifics of an indoor recreation building were resurrected around the council table when Mr. Schaffer asked council to pursue it more assertively. As it stands, the Cardston Town Council has made very few official resolutions regarding the project, only those resolutions which direct administration to seek information regarding community need, project scope and size, and preliminary pricing. The recreation center is still just a proposal, but one council is actively seeking more information about before committing fully. Council recently created a short survey gathering community interest in a general use indoor recreation center which includes questions about potential user fees and tax impacts. The potential project scope and size has yet to be determined, as discussions around the council table have ranged from the building being an 8,000 square foot structure to a 19,000 square foot structure. According to CAO Jeff Shaw, the “survey attempts to grasp at basic community need and interest… we can shape what the building will look like once we understand the need better.” Hasegawa engineering group has been consulted as a third party to help determine preliminary costs of a larger building, and these were presented in a public meeting. Cardston town council has publicly, and informally, committed 1 million dollars to the capital funding (or building costs) of the proposed recreation centre, contingent on other funding covering any capital expenses over and above their contribution. At this time it is expected that $700, 000 of the town’s portion of the funding will come from reserves that have been put away for the recreation department, and $300,000 will come from Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) dollars. MSI is funding received from the provincial government to support local infrastructure projects, but has recently been on the chopping block in provincial budgets. Every year town councils wait to set their municipal budgets depending on the ramifications of the provincial budget, so these numbers are not yet set in stone for the year. Even if the 2021 provincial budget does not decrease council's expected MSI dollars, the recreation center would still require other funding in order to go ahead as Shaw has shared that “council isn’t willing to extend themselves past the first million.” In discussions with Mr. Shaffer at council meetings, much has been mentioned about easing the financial load by working with local contractors who are willing to donate time and materials, soliciting funds from other partners, and from private donations. However, Cardston Council first needs an idea about the total scope of the project, and the potential price, then they will make a decision about tax rates for the year, all before they will start to officially solicit funds from other partners. As previously reported, Westwind school division has already declined the invitation to become a financial partner this year. In last week's front page article, it was reported that the County was “willing to set aside $250,000 for the project.” Clarification on this point comes from Cardston County CAO Murray Millward, who says that “the County has not received any official funding requests from Cardston, and they will not act until a request comes through the official line”. If they do receive a request, Cardston County may also want to conduct a survey of citizens to gauge the desire for county support. The County has heard Mr. Shaffer’s presentation on the matter and would consider recreation donations for the project. Their recreation funding to any adjacent municipality is determined by an Inter-municipal Collaboration Framework (ICF), and such an agreement with Cardston has been underway and will soon be signed by both councils. Any donations to the recreation center would be over and above the ICF agreement. However if county council votes to not assist in funding the project, and the town of Cardston decides to go ahead with it anyways, the county would not be on the line for future operational costs for the center. Operating costs for most recreation centers make building restrictive to many small municipalities, which is why you don’t find a full sized swimming pool and gym in every single small town. There is sometimes an assumption that the charges to enter a recreation facility cover the operational costs for that facility but this is often not the case. Estimating the operational costs of the facility cannot be done until size and scope are determined, which will not be decided until council receives feedback from the survey about community interest.Once feedback is received, and the taxation levels for the year decided in the budget, then the council can go ahead and solicit funds from partners, knowing more precisely how much capital and operational help they require in order to get the project off the ground. Once enough capital funds have been gathered, it would be time to go ahead with the tendering process, which is when commitments become real and cannot be backed away from (without major financial consequence). It is mandated by trade agreements that council go through a formal process to get bids on jobs that are above a certain price threshold, and this project will inevitably be above the threshold. It is the hope that, if the project goes forward to tender, local contractors would bid for the job, and include the very generous donations of time and labour that some have discussed with Mr. Shaffer during his initial legwork attempting to reduce costs. Contractors willing to donate some of their time and supplies because they believe in the project could score favourably in the evaluation process. However, the financial magnitude of the job disallows the town from favouring any bids by local contractors. The financial magnitude of the project is heavy on the council's mind and has kept them from jumping in with both feet at this point. Time will tell, and budgets dictate, what the future is for this proposal. Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
WASHINGTON — The number of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases reported at the military service academies dropped in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 school year, the Pentagon said Thursday. The report, which is required by law annually, comes as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that reducing sexual assault is one of his top priorities. He was recently briefed on the military service's programs to counter the problem. “We have been working at this for a long time in earnest, but we haven’t gotten it right,” Austin said last week at his first Pentagon news conference. He promised stronger efforts. “You can look for us to take additional steps in looking in detail at ourselves and what has worked, what hasn’t worked and what measures we need to take going forward to ensure that we provide for a safe and secure and productive environment for our teammates,” he said. “Any other approach is, in my view, irresponsible.” Thursday's Pentagon report said the number of reported sexual assault cases at the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy fell to 129 from 149 in the previous academic year. Sexual harassment reports dropped to 12 from 17. The report said the reason for the declines is unclear, but it noted that in-person classes at the military academies were suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Officials altered most academy activities, including holding graduations virtually and postponing commissioning ceremonies. Thus, it said, the academies offered only about three-quarters of normal levels of interaction. Separately, an in-person survey of military academy students that is normally conducted to give the Pentagon a better understanding of the sexual assault problem and its prevalence was cancelled because of the pandemic. Robert Burns, The Associated Press
A dairy producers' lobbying group is asking farmers to consider alternatives to palm supplements in livestock feed pending the results of an investigation launched in response to consumers' concerns about perceived changes to the consistency of butter.In a statement Thursday, The Dairy Farmers of Canada said academics and industry experts will soon convene to examine the use of palm oil and its derivatives to boost cows' diets, while maintaining that the common practice doesn't raise health or safety concerns.The inquiry comes in response to anecdotal reports that butter has gotten harder, but some experts question whether spreadability is a widespread issue.Quebec Dairy Producers released a statement Wednesday calling on farmers to stop supplementing cattle feed with palm-based products as part of a broader look into the use of these ingredients in human food.The association says while the use of dairy feed supplements is in line with federal standards, there are concerns about the environmental impacts of palm oil production.The Quebec Dairy Producers said it will follow the recommendations of the Dairy Farmers of Canada's working group, which will set out to assess the issue based on scientific literature and feedback from consumers."It is essential that decisions be made on a factual basis and that science guide our sector," Dairy Farmers of Canada said."Notwithstanding this announcement, we stress that all milk produced in Canada is as safe as always to consume and is subject to Canada's robust health and safety standards."At the centre of the churning controversy, which some have dubbed "buttergate," is Calgary food writer Julie Van Rosendaal, whose investigation into the issue has garnered international media attention.Van Rosendaal said her deep dive into the dairy sector began in her own kitchen, when she noticed that it seemed to be taking longer for her butter to soften.She took to social media to see if other bakers were having similar struggles, and was flooded with responses from users who had also detected a change in texture."The fact that it was people across Canada, the fact that it kept coming up throughout the season, indicated to me that it wasn't just me," Van Rosendaal said by phone."A lot of people are asking this question, 'What's up with butter?'"After consulting with experts, Van Rosendaal homed in on a possible explanation for why the spread seemed to be stiffer.Her theory, which she laid out in an article for the Globe and Mail, posits that dairy producers have increased use of palm supplements in cattle feed to keep up with demand for butter amid a pandemic-fuelled baking craze.For about two decades, famers have added palmitic acid, a saturated fat found in palm oil, to dairy rations to boost milk production and fat content. This can affect the makeup of milk fat to increase the melting point of butter, according to researchers, which would make it harder to spread.Van Rosendaal said it's hard to find exact figures on the prevalence of palm supplements in cow feed, but industry stakeholders she spoke to say their use is widespread."Butter isn't something that you really look at the ingredients on, because it is an ingredient," Van Rosendaal said."I think people are always surprised to learn about how the food system works ... and how consumer demand affects how our food is produced and made."Alejandro Marangoni, a food science professor at University of Guelph, said in the absence of solid data, he's skeptical of claims about a sector-wide stiffening of butter."You have a sensationalist statement that is completely based on zero data, just some feelings," Marangoni said. "And now the dairy industry is launching an investigation, for what? It might not be true."Marangoni, who researches fats in food, said it wouldn't take much effort to see if "buttergate" stands up to scientific scrutiny. All one would need to do is take samples of butter, measure their hardness and see if it correlates to palmitic acid content.In recent statements, the Dairy Farmers of Canada said industry data suggests that the proportion of palmitic acid in milk fat has been within the range of expected variations over the past year.The group notes that the use of palm fat in dairy feed has been approved by Health Canada, and dairy farmers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand have also adopted the practice.David Christensen, a professor emeritus of animal and poultry science at the University of Saskatchewan, said if the consistency of butter has changed, the use of palm supplements could be a contributing factor.But he said there's too much uncertainty to rule out other possible explanations, such as new processing methods that can affect the formation of fat crystals in butter.Christensen said of the 75 million metric tonnes of palm oil produced annually, 90 per cent is used by the food industry.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
WHITEHORSE — Yukon is beginning to look toward revising its pandemic restrictions as the number of active cases of COVID-19 returns to zero. Speaking at the weekly COVID-19 update in Whitehorse, deputy premier Ranj Pillai says Yukon is "putting resources in place" to be prepared when the time to adjust restrictions arrives. In the meantime, Pillai says the government is extending and expanding assistance to hard-hit Yukon businesses. Supports include extensions to Sept. 30 for several programs, including a plan that helps businesses break even and another that supports employers who pay workers to stay home when they're sick. A new program also allows small and medium-sized businesses to seek up to $100,000 in deferred-interest loans, with no payments due until 2023 and forgiveness of 25 per cent of the amount if certain conditions are met. Pillai and chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley both mentioned "hiccups" as the territory launched its online reservation site for immunization appointments, but Hanley says the problems have been resolved. The availability of vaccine marks an "exciting time" for Yukon residents, he told the news conference on Thursday. "We have seen an incredible uptake in appointments," Hanley says, confirming he has a booking next week for his first dose of the vaccine. "The turnout so far shows so much promise that we are well on our way to immunizing the majority of our population." Yukon has had 72 cases of COVID-19 and one death since the pandemic began. Its website shows 10,781 people have received their first vaccination and 3,585 have been given their second shot. The government has assured all Yukon residents who want the vaccine that they are guaranteed to receive both doses required for maximum immunity. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Democratic-led House is poised to pass a bill that would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation's labour and civil rights laws, a top priority of President Joe Biden, though the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The Equality Act amends existing civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics. The protections would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education, public accommodations and other areas. Supporters say the law before the House on Thursday is long overdue and would ensure that every person is treated equally under the law. “In the absence of federal civil rights protection, there are members of the LGBTQ community who are fair game in the eyes of the law to be targeted, based on sexual orientation,” said House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. “That is not America.” Republicans broadly oppose the legislation, echoing concerns from religious groups and social conservatives who worry the bill would force people to take actions that contradict their religious beliefs. They warn that faith-based adoption agencies seeking to place children with a married mother and father could be forced to close, or that private schools would have to hire staff whose conduct violates tenets of the school's faith. “The bill may have equality in the title, but it certainly does not serve all Americans," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. “It is a vehicle for serious, harmful consequences." The House passed the Equality Act in the last Congress with unanimous Democratic support and the backing of eight Republicans, but Donald Trump's White House opposed the measure and it was not considered in the Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Democrats are trying to revive it now that they have control of Congress and the White House, but passage appears unlikely in the evenly divided Senate. The Supreme Court provided the LGBTQ community with a resounding victory last year in a 6-3 ruling that said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to LGBTQ workers when it comes to barring discrimination on the basis of sex. Civil rights groups have encouraged Congress to follow up that decision and ensure that anti-bias protections addressing such areas as housing, public accommodations and public services are applied in all 50 states. Biden made clear his support for the Equality Act in the lead-up to last year's election, saying it would be one of his first priorities. Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said her home state of Pennsylvania was one of about 30 that doesn’t have legal protections for LGBTQ people. She said the Equality Act is needed to end “the patchwork of state laws” around gay rights and create “uniform nationwide protection.” “It's been personal since my baby sister came out to me almost 40 years ago," Scanlon said. “For many people all across this country and across this House, that is when the fight hits home." The debate among lawmakers on Capitol Hill has also become personal. Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., whose daughter is transgender, tweeted a video of herself placing a transgender flag outside her office. Her office is across the hall from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who was recently blocked from serving on two committees because of past comments and tweets. “Our neighbour, @RepMTG, tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is “disgusting, immoral, and evil.” Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.," Newman tweeted. Greene responded with a video of her own in which she puts up a sign that reads: “There are Two genders: MALE and FEMALE. “Trust The Science!" “Our neighbour, @RepMarieNewman, wants to pass the so-called “Equality” Act to destroy women’s rights and religious freedoms. Thought we’d put up ours so she can look at it every time she opens her door," Greene tweeted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed to the exchange to advocate for the bill Thursday. “I wish it weren’t. It breaks my heart that it is necessary, but the fact is, and in fact we had a sad event here even this morning, demonstrating the need for us to have respect," Pelosi said, at one point pausing and taking a deep sigh. “Not even just respect, but take pride, take pride in our LGBT community." Leaders at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote lawmakers this week to say they had grave concerns about the bill. Among the concerns the five bishops raised is that the bill would expand the government's definition of public places, forcing church halls and equivalent facilities to host functions that violate their beliefs, which could lead to closing their doors to the broader community. Some of the nation's largest corporations are part of a coalition in support of the legislation, including Apple Inc., AT&T, Chevron and 3M Co., just to name a few of the hundreds of companies that have endorsed it. Kevin Freking, The Associated Press
Advocates behind a campaign for province-wide public transit say it would increase safety and access in underserved rural communities, while others recommend improving competitiveness so the private sector steps up. “There have to be substantive investments made by government all across the province,” said Interim BC Liberal Leader Shirley Bond. “But there also needs to be a climate in British Columbia where we have the private sector looking at filling some of those gaps, as well.” In 2018, Greyhound cancelled bus routes across the province citing low ridership and reduced profitability, the provincial government opened the routes up for bids, and all but two are now covered by private operators, according to a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson. One remaining gap is the former Greyhound route from Kamloops, through Valemount and Jasper, and into Edmonton. “If it's not a medical issue, you can't go to Kamloops or Vancouver or anywhere points south for any sort of pleasure or business, unless you drive,” said Barb Shepherd, a winter bus rider and advocate for increased bus service through Valemount. “Even twice a week like the one going to Prince George would be fine.” When Greyhound cancelled its B.C. routes, the provincial government formed BC Bus North to connect regional centres, including Valemount, Prince George, Smithers, Prince Rupert, Mackenzie, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. “A lot of the rest of the province was left with a kind of a piecemeal bunch of routes that don't necessarily work together and don't run very often,” said Maryann Abbs, one of the volunteers behind the Let’s Ride! campaign to make public transit B.C.-wide. “Why don't we treat the rest of the province like it needs transit, and have it as a public service?” said Abbs. “We think it's a win-win for the government to put some money into providing decent transit service for the rest of the province outside the Lower Mainland.” Transportation dollars tend to focus on massive infrastructure projects and regions of congested traffic, said Bond, a former transportation minister under the Liberal government and current MLA for the rural-urban riding of Prince George-Valemount. “I'm certainly a supporter of those kinds of (urban) investments, (but) transportation issues exist across the entire province.” In fact, nearly 20 per cent of most people’s expenses in B.C. are for transportation costs, according to BC Transit’s 2020 Strategic Plan. “It is far and away the number one thing we're trying to improve on in the province,” said Ed Staples, president of the B.C. Rural Health Network, a collective of communities advocating for improved rural health care delivery. In a survey of British Columbians last year by UBC’s Centre for Rural Health Research, rural residents spent an average of $777 in transportation costs to access healthcare services outside their home communities for their most recent health issue. “For people living rural, to be able to access the care that they need, many have to rely on transportation that they can't provide for themselves,” said Staples. “Even if they can provide transportation, sometimes it's a huge inconvenience.” The province has a mix of public city transit and private-public intercity services. Communities over 10,000 population, and most over 5,000, usually have transit run by local government in partnership with BC Transit. In smaller communities, residents can book custom transit, via Handy Dart or the health authorities, to reach medical appointments as far away as Vancouver. Still, non-medical transport between many rural communities remains a challenge. “Many areas of the province are without any regional transit system, and rely heavily on private transportation services such as taxis and private charters,” said representatives of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (IBCIC) in a letter to Premier John Horgan last November. “We need a unified, provincially-owned and operated public transportation system across BC, bridging communities and making transportation accessible for all.” People need better access to get to work, daycare and medical appointments, said UBCIC secretary-treasurer and Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson. “It should be provided without hardship to families that live below the poverty line.” Some people resort to hitchhiking or finding rides through social media, said Wilson. “(The Province) did a lot of investments in Vancouver, but they need to also invest in the rural and remote areas,” she said. Recently announced Safe Restart funding, provided jointly by the federal and provincial governments, will limit fare increases and provide $86 million, mainly to BC Transit municipal partnerships, according to the ministry. The provincial government also funded 12 mostly Indigenous communities in the north to purchase vehicles and operate their own transportation services. “People question the viability of Greyhound routes, but it depends on how convenient they are; it depends on the frequency of when they come through communities,” Bond said. “How do we make it competitive enough and how do we make it convenient enough that there's room for private sector companies to survive?” According to a ministry source, the application process was simplified to encourage private sector intercity bus operators to serve abandoned Greyhound routes. Thompson Valley Charters, a Kamloops owned and operated transportation company, recently applied to run a twice-a-week bus service from Kamloops to Edmonton. “Public transportation to urban centres is a need for Valemount, particularly in the winter,” said village mayor, Owen Torgerson. “The offer from Thompson Valley Ltd. will provide a partial solution and hopefully will show others in the private sector that rural public transport is a sound business model.” The solutions are up for discussion, but ideally, people would have a public transportation system that runs on a regular basis, that they can count on to get them where they need to go, said Staples. “And that's not what we have right now,” he said. Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
TORONTO — The head of the Business Council of Canada is worried about the country's inability to produce vaccines and certain medical supplies, but hopes the pandemic will pressure governments to rectify the situation. "Canadians saw back in the crisis, when it began last year, that we got caught relying on the integrity of supply chains that were vulnerable to a pandemic," said Goldy Hyder, the council's president and chief executive, in an online discussion hosted by MedicAlert Canada on Thursday. "Who knew you could only get masks or something from one country? How did that happen? … That innovation needs to be brought back to Canada to some extent." Hyder's remarks, made in conversation with University Health Netwok infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch and MedicAlert chief executive Leslie McGill, come as Canada nears the anniversary of the first closures of businesses and public spaces because of COVID-19. The country has spent the last year trying to quell the virus, but also grappling with a lack of vaccines, medical supplies and pharmaceutical manufacturers in Canada. With most manufacturing facilities for these products located overseas, it has impacted Canada's ability to quickly access personal protective equipment, edge out other countries vying for vaccines and prepare itself to deal with future pandemics. Hyder is proud of how companies including Canada Goose shifted from making luxury winter coats to scrubs and patient gowns and aviation manufacturer CAE Inc. rushed to start producing ventilators, but said Canada needs to look at pain points the pandemic highlighted too. "How did we get to the point where Canada can't manufacture vaccines?" he said. "Canada had that capacity and we lost it and so clearly there has to be analysis of what are the actions that policy-makers took that drove away the investment that would create the manufacturing capabilities for vaccines." Canada is buying at least 238 million doses of seven different vaccines, but only one is from a Canadian company — Medicago — and none will initially be produced in Canada. So far the country has been purchasing and receiving vaccines made in the U.S., Germany and Switzerland from Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech. Earlier this week, Entos Pharmaceuticals in Alberta said a lack of federal funding early in the pandemic kept homegrown COVID-19 vaccines from moving as quickly as international versions. Dr. Gary Kobinger, a Laval University microbiologist behind Ebola and Zika vaccines, added his non-profit had a COVID-19 vaccine with promising early results last February, but it stalled because they lacked funding. Hyder has grown used to seeing Canada lack this kind of capital and "muddle through things." The pandemic has been no different, he said. Canadians have taken pride in having far fewer COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations than the U.S., but Hyder believes that shouldn't be the measure of success. "We have to aspire to do better and policy is a very big part of that," he said. "Policies effect the next time, so I am really hoping we don't let ourselves off the hook by saying thank God we did better than the Americans … We need to build back better. — With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX: GOOS, TSX:CAE.TO) Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
On December 8th of 2020 the provincial government announced sweeping restrictions that many Albertans thought would only be in place for 4 weeks. However, as we rang in the New Year, most restrictions pressed on and Albertans had to readjust to a new pandemic plan. In early February, a 4 phase system for easing restrictions was announced by the provincial government. We are currently in Step 1 of the ‘Path Forward,’ which allows for in-person dining with one’s own household, increased team sport opportunities for children, and one-on-one indoor fitness training by appointment. According to the Alberta government website, indoor social gatherings will not begin to be allowed until Step 3, and those required to work from home will not be allowed back into regular workplaces until Step 4. The website specifies a minimum of three weeks between each phase, meaning they won’t consider entering phase two until next week, but changes are also based on a continual reduction in the hospitalization numbers. The ‘path forward’ comes with challenges, but the government is also attempting to relieve some of the related burden. An announcement was made February 10th outlining the critical worker benefit, a one-time payment of $1,200 to “recognize critical workers… for putting themselves at risk on the job during the pandemic.” In June 2020, the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant was announced to help thousands of businesses safely reopen and rehire staff. This program was expanded in January 2021 to ensure new businesses have access to the support they need. The grant provides up to $15,000 worth of funding per business based on possible lost revenue and can be used to pay employee wages, purchase personal protective equipment, pay rent, replace inventory and more. This program will conclude in the Spring, and just last week the government announced that it will be replaced by Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit which begins in April. According to the new release “businesses that can demonstrate a revenue reduction of 60 per cent or more will be eligible to receive 15 per cent of their monthly revenue, up to a maximum of $10,000”. The purpose of the new program is to fill any gaps left by federal programs short falls. Businesses who apply will have to “report the total amount of provincial and federal support received, to ensure no more than 80 per cent of revenue is covered”. Other tools used to reduce pressure during the pandemic include freezing the education property tax rates, and ensuring employees are entitled to 14 days of unpaid, job-protected leave if they are required to quarantine or need to tend to pandemic related family responsibilities (i.e. caring for children in quarantine). If you, your family members, or your business have used some of these services feel free to write into the Star and tell us about your positive or negative experiences with provincial and federal support during the pandemic. Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
Ce jeudi, les résultats d’une consultation sur l’autonomie alimentaire menée auprès des citoyens de la Haute-Gaspésie ont été dévoilés par le LAB Nourrir notre monde. Ils donnent une bonne idée des volontés de la population, et des infrastructures concrètes qui pourraient voir le jour dans cette MRC. Le LAB Nourrir notre monde est un projet d’innovation sociale et de revalorisation des savoirs d’antan qui vise à mettre en place des infrastructures bioalimentaires collectives en Haute-Gaspésie. Celles-ci permettront de produire, transformer et conserver des aliments locaux, et in fine d’améliorer la résilience de la population face aux changements climatiques. Pas moins de 275 personnes ont répondu à la consultation, qui a débuté en novembre : 113 l’ont fait en ligne, et 162 par le biais de cartes postales imprimées à cet effet et distribuées dans les commerces d’alimentation locaux. Agente de mobilisation pour le LAB Nourrir notre monde, Mireille Jalbert y voit la preuve d’« un engouement, un besoin et un désir de se mobiliser pour les projets du LAB ». Un participant sur deux s’est d’ailleurs dit intéressé à s’impliquer dans la suite du processus. Sur les cartes postales et le formulaire en ligne, plusieurs suggestions d’infrastructures collectives étaient données. Six d’entre elles ont été plébiscitées par la population, recevant plus de 90 votes chacune : pépinière, biodigesteur pour faire du compostage, poulailler communautaire, caveau pour conserver les légumes, serre solaire passive et fumoir à poisson. Les participants à la consultation y sont également allés de leurs idées personnelles, allant du rucher communautaire jusqu’à la cuisine collective de transformation et la bibliothèque de semences, en passant par des idées très originales comme l’achat de chaloupes collectives afin de pouvoir partir à la pêche au large. Une entrée dans le vif du sujet dès mars Au courant du mois de mars, l’équipe du LAB Nourrir notre monde va effectuer une tournée virtuelle des différentes localités de la Haute-Gaspésie. Dans chacune d’entre elles, la population sera informée des résultats de la consultation au niveau local. C’est à partir de ce moment-là que les choses sérieuses commenceront : les projets seront choisis puis mis en place en collaboration avec les citoyens. Ces derniers pourront s’impliquer à deux niveaux : soit dans les comités citoyens qui piloteront les projets de A à Z, soit plus ponctuellement lors de corvées. Selon la co-coordonnatrice du LAB Marie-Ève Paquette, « le comité citoyen qu’on va mettre en place après nos rencontres locales va être central pour aller fouiller : est-ce qu’on a un terrain ciblé pour le projet qu’on aimerait voir naître dans notre municipalité? Combien ça pourrait coûter? Est-ce qu’il y a des gens qui ont des connaissances sur notre territoire pour nous aider à construire cette infrastructure? Tranquillement, il y a des projets qui vont nous sembler de plus en plus viables. » Il faudra également s’assurer que toutes les règlementations municipales sont respectées. Le budget sera ensuite distribué entre les différents projets selon les besoins, donc pas nécessairement en parts égales partout sur le territoire. D’après Mme Paquette, des infrastructures pourraient être construites dès cet été. Lancé en octobre, le LAB bénéficie d’un budget de 800 000 $ pour trois ans, financé majoritairement par le ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, dans le cadre du programme Climat municipalités-Phase 2. Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
OTTAWA — The government did not provide the support needed to ensure First Nations communities have access to safe drinking water, says federal auditor general Karen Hogan in a report released Thursday. Hogan found Indigenous Services Canada failed to meet its commitment to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories by the end of March. She also noted the government has not created a regulatory regime for managing drinking water in First Nations communities. Many First Nations in Canada have had water that’s unsafe to drink from the tap for years and fixing those problems has been a signature promise of the Liberal government. The report concludes that 100 long-term advisories were lifted between 2015 and 2020 but 60 remained in effect as of Nov. 1, 2020, and almost half of those have been in place for more than a decade. “Indigenous Services Canada must work in partnership with First Nations to develop and implement a lasting solution for safe drinking water in First Nations communities,” said Hogan. She said the government should strengthen its efforts to eliminate all long-term water advisories and prevent new ones. Hogan said the COVID‑19 pandemic has slowed progress on some projects but many were already delayed. Hogan’s report notes access to safe drinking water is vital to the health and well-being of 330,000 people living in more than 600 First Nations communities across the country. It says some First Nations communities continue to experience a lack of access to safe water 15 years after auditors called on the government to address the issue for the first time. The Liberal government committed to eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems on First Nations reserves by March 31, 2021. The government began allocating more than $2 billion to improve water and wastewater in First Nations communities in its 2016-17 budget, including funding to operate and maintain public drinking water systems. This government’s funding to resolve the situation ends next month. Indigenous Services Canada estimated that $1.79 billion had been actually spent by the end of November. The government promised an additional $1.5 billion in funding, starting in 2026-27, for water treatment projects in First Nations communities in its fall economic statement. The government said the new funding aims to accelerate the work to end all the long-term drinking water advisories. The announcement included an additional $114 million per year, starting in 2026–27, for the operation and maintenance of water and wastewater systems in First Nations communities. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
Quebecers 85 years and older were able to register for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Thursday, while seniors in Ontario will have to wait weeks to book in that province. The Quebec appointments are to begin next week in the Montreal region. Ontario’s vaccine distribution committee, blaming a lack of supply for the delay, has said seniors won’t be able to book appointments until March 15. Provinces are moving forward with their vaccine distribution plans as federal officials assure the disruptions that have plagued supply lines have been rectified. The vaccine appointment launch in Alberta on Wednesday left many frustrated when the government's online portal crashed after more than 150,000 people tried to get access to it about the same time. Some 230,000 people born in 1946 or earlier are now eligible to be immunized in that province. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, military commander in charge of the federal vaccine distribution program, said he understands that provinces may not have a lot of confidence in dose deliveries after a disappointing performance in February. But supply is already ramping back up, he said. The largest number of doses yet was delivered this week — 643,000 across the country. "Provinces are now in a position to fully deploy their immunization plans," Fortin said. Even with setbacks in recent weeks, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said more than 40 per cent of seniors over 80 have received one dose of the vaccine. About 5.5 per cent have received a second dose. Njoo cautioned it is not time for people to let their guard down. "For now, however, COVID-19 remains a serious threat” Concern over spread of the novel coronavirus in Quebec has prompted officials there to require primary school students in red pandemic-alert zones, including the greater Montreal area, to wear masks starting March 8. It won't apply to certain students with special needs or when children are playing outside. The more contagious B.1.1.7 variant — first detected in the United Kingdom — has become a significant concern in Montreal, where there is still widespread community transmission. The variant is making up eight to 10 per cent of new cases. Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal's public health director, said 40 per cent of cases linked to variants in the city involved children. Hospitalizations, however, are declining provincewide. Health authorities are reporting 858 new infections and 16 more deaths. Ontario was to release new COVID-19 projections later Thursday. The province has reported 1,138 new infections and 23 more deaths linked to the virus. There has been a total of 20,945 new cases across Canada over the past seven days. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
1. “A Court of Silver Flames” by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury) 2. “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Press) 3. “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” by Bill Gates (Knopf) 4. “Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Griffin) 5. “Relentless” by Mark Greaney (Berkley) 6. “Just As I Am: A Memoir” by Cicely Tyson (HarperCollins) 7. “Bridgerton: The Duke and I” by Julia Quinn (Avon) 8. “Missing and Endangered” by J.A. Jance (William Morrow) 9. “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee (One World) 10. “Walk in My Combat Boots” by James Patterson, Matt Eversmann with Christ Mooney (Little, Brown) 11. “I Love You to the Moon and Back” by Amelia Hepworth (Tiger Tales) 12. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy (HarperOne) 13. “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig (Viking) 14. “Keep Sharp” by Sanjay Gupta (Simon & Schuster) 15. “The Sanatorium” by Sarah Pearse (Pamela Dorman Books) 16. “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart (Ember) 17. “Winning the War in Your Mind” by Craig Groeschel (Zondervan) 18. “Faithless in Death” by J.D. Robb (St. Martin’s Press) 19. “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett (Riverhead) 20. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear (Avery) 21. “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz (Amber-Allen) 22. “Bridgerton: The Viscount Who Loved Me” by Julia Quinn (Avon) 23. “The Russian” by James Patterson and James O. Born (Little, Brown) 24. “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab (Tor) 25. “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (Crown) The Associated Press
Canada's top court has declined to hear an appeal from the Crown regarding the overturned murder conviction in the case of a former Nova Scotia medical student. William Sandeson was originally convicted in 2017 of first-degree murder in the killing of Taylor Samson. The trial heard Sandeson shot Samson during a drug deal at the accused's apartment on Aug. 15, 2015, and he was sentenced in July 2017 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Nova Scotia's Court of Appeal ordered a second trial last year, saying the lower court judge had infringed on the accused's right to a fair hearing. The defence asked for a mistrial when they learned a private investigator they had hired had secretly told police about a key aspect of the case. The prosecution appealed the Appeal Court's decision, but the Supreme Court of Canada said today the Sandeson case is among 17 that it has declined to review. The court did not give a reason for its decision. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Canada's Auditor General Karen Hogan on Thursday delivered her 2021 report, including five performance audit reports to the House of Commons. Hogan's report found that Canada's ship building strategy was slow to deliver combat and non-combat ships.
Le Regroupement lavallois pour la réussite éducative (RLPRE), le Centre de services scolaire (CSS) de Laval, le Collège Montmorency, le Carrefour jeunesse-emploi de Laval (CJEL) et les bibliothèques de Laval collaborent dans le cadre de la campagne régionale Lire, ça se vit! afin de créer une mosaïque qui montre tous les visages de la lecture. L'objectif est de créer une action collective rassembleuse chez les jeunes adultes en les sensibilisant à l'importance de la lecture dans leur vie quotidienne, ainsi qu'en démontrant que la lecture est partout et peut prendre plusieurs formes. Ces derniers sont d'ailleurs invités se prendre en photo avec leur lecture du moment, que ce soit une bande-dessinée, un roman, livre scolaire, bail, livre de cuisine ou plan de construction. Lorsque toutes les photos seront rassemblées, une image globale sera formée et dévoilée en mai. La mosaïque sera ensuite en exposition nomade dans les divers lieux rejoignant les jeunes adultes tout au long de la prochaine année. Elle va également être diffusée sur diverses plateformes, dont les médias sociaux. « En tant qu’autrice-bédéiste lavalloise, je suis très fière de collaborer à ce grand projet rassembleur autour de la lecture, affirme Valérie Hamel, alias Velm, porte-parole du projet. Voilà une belle façon d’impliquer les jeunes adultes et de les sensibiliser à l’importance de la lecture sous toutes ses facettes!» Afin d'encourager la participation, le comité a profité du lancement pour organiser un concours parmi tous les participants. Cinq prix seront à gagner: un fauteuil poire (180 $), une carte-cadeau de 100 $ à la Librairie Martin, une sélection de trois jeux de sociétés provenant du Premier Joueur (100 $), un abonnement de trois mois à Audible incluant trois crédits supplémentaires à utiliser pour l'achat de livres audio (90 $), ainsi qu'une carte-cadeau de 75 $ échangeable contre des abonnements à des revues chez Rabais campus. Pour participer, les intéressés doivent se rendre sur le site du projet avant le 23 avril. Il est aussi possible d'y retrouver une liste de suggestions de lecture sur le même site dans l'onglet Construire. Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
CAMEROON, Cameroon — Linda Thomas-Greenfield presented her credentials as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, officially taking on one of the most challenging jobs for the Biden administration of helping to restore the United States as a top multilateral player on the global stage after former President Donald Trump’s unilateral “America First” policy. The longtime American career diplomat thanked Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who swore her in on Wednesday, for choosing her for the “distinguished position.” “That was made all the more wonderful because I knew you were here,” she told Guterres who served as the U.N.’s refugee chief before his election to the U.N. post. “I worked with you in the past on refugee issues so I’m looking forward very anxiously to getting to work and working on many of the key issues that we know are before the United Nations and we know that people around the globe are looking to us for.” Guterres warmly welcomed Thomas-Greenfield, calling her a “distinguished global citizen" with great compassion for refugees. Thomas-Greenfield and Guterres then moved to his private office on the 38th floor of U.N. headquarters overlooking New York’s East River for private talks. She will be jumping right into her new job, tackling global peace and security issues with Russia, China and a dozen other countries because the United States takes over the rotating presidency of the powerful U.N. Security Council on Monday. And she might even decide to attend a council meeting on Friday. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told a group of reporters Wednesday that “the red carpet” will be rolled out for Thomas-Greenfield and Moscow is ready to work with President Joe Biden’s administration -- but “it takes two to tango.” “We are looking forward to interactions with her,” he told a group of reporters Wednesday. “You can count on our most favourable attitudes and positive emotions towards her as a member of our Security Council family.” Noting Thomas-Greenfield's decades as a U.S. diplomat, he said “it's always easier to interact with professionals." But he said America’s view that Russia is “an enemy” and a “threat” hasn’t changed under Biden, so “it’s very difficult to imagine how the interaction with us might change with such starting points of the positions of the new administration.” Nonetheless, Polyansky said, “there are a lot of things Russia and the United States can do together” and “we will judge the new administration by what it does.” “We’re in favour of co-operation,” he said. But “it takes two to tango, and really we’re ready to dance, but we need a good and reliable partner who knows all the moves and who respects us” as a country with certain positions, “doesn’t view us as a threat” and sees “our obvious national interests in many issues.” Thomas-Greenfield, a retired 35-year veteran of the U.S. foreign service who rose to be assistant secretary of state for Africa, resigned during the Trump administration. She will be the third African-American, and the second African-American woman, to hold the U.N. post. Her confirmation on Tuesday was hailed by Democrats and advocates of the United Nations who had lamented former President Donald Trump’s “America First” unilateral approach to international affairs and rejoiced at President Joe Biden’s return to multilateralism. At the Senate hearing on her nomination, Thomas-Greenfield called China “a strategic adversary” that threatens the world, and called a speech she gave in 2019 that praised China’s initiatives in Africa but made no mention of its human rights abuses a mistake. The Senate voted 78-20 to confirm her with Republican opponents saying she was soft on China and would not stand up for U.S. principles at the U.N. Thomas-Greenfield said at the hearing that Washington will be working not only with allies “but to see where we can find common ground with the Russians and the Chinese to put more pressure on the Iranians to push them back into strict compliance” with the 2015 agreement to rein in their nuclear program. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement in 2018 and Biden has indicated the U.S. will rejoin it, though how that might happen remains a major question. Polyansky said Russia welcomes the “positive developments” on the Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. agreement to extend the START nuclear agreement, adding that Moscow is ready for serious and meaningful discussions “first and foremost in the area of strategic stability.” Thomas-Greenfield stressed at the hearing that the U.S. will be reengaging internationally and promoting American values -- “support for democracy, respect for universal human rights, and the promotion of peace and security.” Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that Thomas-Greenfield should promote human rights as “a top priority.” “She should abandon the Trump administration’s selective approach to human rights – enthusiastically condemning its enemies’ abuses while ignoring rights violations of allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia,” he said. “But there’s room for continuity on China and Syria," Charbonneau said. “She should make expanding the coalition of nations willing to speak out against Beijing’s human rights abuses one of her chief goals at the U.N., above trying to bring African, Asian, and Latin American states into the fold. And she should continue to push for expanded humanitarian access to all parts of Syria.” Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
Retention bonuses and incremental increases for volunteers are being considered to better reward members of the East Ferris Fire and Emergency Services Department. Council had asked Fire Chief Frank Loeffen last year to look at how the municipality’s renumeration compared to other similar-sized townships. His report presented at Tuesday’s meeting indicated there is much variety in how each department compensates its members, with East Ferris in the mid-range for volunteers and top end for officers. Loeffen, representing the municipality’s fire and emergency services committee, recommended a $10,000 increase for 2021 to the annual points system allocation used to compensate volunteers at each call for service and training sessions. It would bring that budget up to $54,566, which is slightly above the mid-range of comparable departments, he said, suggesting it then increase three percent annually in following years. His report also looked at the implications of moving to a “minimum wage per point” system, but said it would be “unpredictable for budgetary purposes” as calls to service and number of members responding fluctuate. As it functions now, the budget is divided up based on points with the hourly amount going up or down depending on volume of calls and training sessions. Included in the recommendations was a two percent increase to the annual officer honourarium, bringing it to $1,081.20 for 2021. In addition, it was suggested to council that the Fire Prevention Officer be given the same officer honourarium instead of $50 per inspection. Council warmly embraced the suggestions and several members recommended two options to recognize longer service. Deputy Mayor Steve Trahan suggested that senior volunteers be given an extra point or two to reflect the skills and experience they provide at fire scenes and collisions. “They are asked to do extra roles … (we) lean on them a little heavier compared to someone newer,” Trahan said. Councillor Rick Champagne said he's interested in a system that works as an “incentive for people to step up and stay a little longer. “These people do work very hard for us,” Champagne said, “I think we’re getting away fairly cheap the way we’re paying them right now.” East Ferris currently has 26 volunteer members on its roster. Four of them are rookies less than one year of participation, six are in the one to five year's of experience, nine are in the five to 10-year bracket, two at 10-15, two 15-20 and five with more than 20 years involvement. Councillor Terry Kelly, a long-time fire and emergency services volunteer, said he looks at that kind of thing as a “retention bonus,” noting they now get a “recognition” plaque every five years, joking the plaque grows in size the longer you are there. Kelly suggested a $500 bonus every time a volunteer hits a five-year milestone as recognition for long-time service. “We’ve been very fortunate with retention,” he said, “and if you look at what the fire department does not cost the taxpayer … it’s one of the best deals we have with the service they do, and quite frankly, they knowingly put themselves I harm’s way with great training.” Last year, a report looked at running a part-time service with scheduled shifts at $20 an hour that would have doubled the budget to about $90,000. Loeffen was asked to explore the suggestions at the committee level and cost out the “pros and cons” as well as financial impacts of both the retention and recognition of skills systems. Mayor Pauline Rochefort thanked him for an “excellent report with lots of comparables” and she looked forward to considering the initial recommendations and new information for the budget deliberations. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
Weyburn, Bismarck, N.D., Regina, – The Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show committee is still planning on holding its bi-annual event this June 2-3, but things are still up in the air due to public health restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s not the only oil show affected. “We are hopeful and optimistic,” said Tanya Hulbert, Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show manager, by phone from Weyburn on Feb. 25. She said they’ll know more March 19, when the provincial government announces its plans for public health restrictions beyond that date. As Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 numbers have been dropping, the committee was hopeful the provincial government would have started lifting restrictions in mid-February, as North Dakota and Montana have done. That has not been the case. “If anything, we are still going to go through with our golf tournament, because we know that last summer, golfing was allowed,” she said. It may have to be done differently, such as not using a shotgun start, but they intend to find a way. The golf tournament would be held on June 1, but that could change, depending on what happens with the show. And no matter what, they will be announcing this year’s Oilman of the Year, Southeast Saskatchewan Oilman of the Year, and Saskatchewan Oil Patch Hall of Fame inductees. The layout of the show may be changed, and the committee is looking at options for suppers which would allow for more spacing. “We're looking at an all-outdoor show which wouldn't have the same restrictions, but right now we're exploring every possible avenue and we're hopeful and optimistic,” Hulbert said. Williston Basin Petroleum Conference If the global pandemic hadn’t come along in the spring of 2020, the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference would have been held in Bismarck, North Dakota, with this year’s edition to be held in Regina. However, nothing has been normal for the past year, and that schedule was kyboshed a long time ago. However, the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) is planning on going ahead with the convention, live and in person, this May 12-13. Traditionally, for over 30 years, the show has alternated between Saskatchewan and North Dakota, with participation from Manitoba, Montana and South Dakota, all of which have parts of their land area in the Williston Basin. For Saskatchewan, that means the southeast corner of the province. The NDPC has announced that registration is open. “We appreciate your patience as we navigated the uncertainty over the past year - North Dakota is open for business and we want you to join us this May,” they said in an email. “We are firming up our agenda and look forward to making announcements about keynote speakers in the coming weeks. Our trade show is also filling up, over 150 exhibitors so far, and we expect a busy and engaged exhibit hall!” That’s a far cry from Saskatchewan, where this weekend’s TeleMiracle will have no audience, and substantial portions of its show will have been pre-recorded separately. Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 new case numbers have come down somewhat, with seven-day average now 155, and 211 new cases reported on Feb. 25. Saskatchewan had 1,493 active cases. But North Dakota, which saw a tremendous spike in new cases in the late fall, has seen its COVID cases plummet. On Feb. 25, it had 91 new cases, but only 706 active cases. As of Feb. 24, its seven-day average was 90 new cases. In Saskatchewan, the Petroleum Technology Research Centre heads up our version of this event, in conjunction with the Minister of Energy and Resources and the Saskatchewan Geological Survey. Norm Sacuta, spokesperson for PTRC, said they’ve heard recently from North Dakota and talked about their sponsorship. “We will not be going,” Sacuta said on Feb. 24. The Canadian board is meeting this week to discuss what they’re going to do in terms of sponsoring the event. One thing being considered is providing a virtual morning session focused on Saskatchewan, with the PTRC, University of Regina, International Carbon Capture and Storage Knowledge Centre and one other group making presentations. They will be discussing the Canadian version in 2022, which, hopefully by that time, will occur after borders are opened and public health restrictions have eased. Sacuta said it helps in that Saskatchewan’s version of the WBPC is more focused on presentations than the trade show, while the North Dakota version has a heavy emphasis on its large trade show. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
DENVER — Months after protesters tore down a statue of a U.S. soldier who took part in the slaughter of Native Americans, tribal members and descendants of those who survived the Civil War-era attack urged Colorado lawmakers on Thursday to replace it with the likeness of an Indigenous woman at the state capitol. The new statue would replace the one depicting a Union Army soldier who helped carry out the Sand Creek Massacre of 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people in 1864, one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history. It was toppled over the summer amid the national reckoning over racial injustice and the movement to remove symbols from public spaces that are tied to military atrocities against people of colour, typically the Confederacy. The proposed new bronze statue would depict a young woman sitting on a white flag, wearing a native Cheyenne dress, with her left arm extended. She has cut off her braids and the joint of a finger on her left hand in signs of mourning. Ryan Ortiz of the Northern Arapaho Tribe testified virtually in favour of the new statue for the Capital Development Committee. He said the massacre is the origin of historical trauma for the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes and that the statue would be a chance to right previous wrongs. “It’s not very often in history do we have a chance to atone for our ancestors’ mistakes,” Ortiz said. Otto Braided Hair, a Northern Cheyenne tribal member and descendent of a Sand Creek survivor, has worked on education surrounding the massacre for the last 20 years. He shared details passed down by his great-grandfather. “He was part of a recovery crew to go down and look for survivors and couldn’t get near the village because the whole valley permeated with burnt bodies,” Braided Hair said. “And so that’s what the soldiers did and the soldier represents for us.” On November 29, 1864, Col. John Chivington led around 700 U.S. volunteer soldiers to a village of nearly 500 people camped along the banks of Big Sandy Creek. Chivington ordered his men to attack and kill mostly women, children and elderly at the camp. The village had believed they were under the protection of the U.S. Army, and people even approached the unit with white flags. Over the next two days, the troops shot and hunted fleeing women and children in a 35-square-mile (90-square-kilometre) area. Chivington never faced a trial for his actions. The Sand Creek Massacre site is tucked away in rural southeastern Colorado and honours the victims. “We should be your neighbours. We should be living amongst you. But we were forced out of the area,” Ortiz said to the committee. State Rep. Susan Lontine, a Democrat and chairwoman of the Capitol Building Advisory Committee that reviews art, memorials and architectural designs, said she supported the statue after hearing from tribal members. “We are at a moment of social reckoning, and we have, as a state, our own sins to atone for,” she said. Lontine, whose committee approved the replacement in November, said the statue’s placement is important to the tribes because after the massacre, soldiers came back to Denver, displaying the victims’ body parts as trophies and ended their parade at the steps of the Colorado Capitol. “We’re also dealing with Indigenous people to our state who have suffered numerous broken promises, and I feel that the approval of the committee is a step toward a promise to fulfilling and placing their memorial on the Capitol grounds,” Lontine said. The Capital Development Committee, which is in charge of reviewing funding requests for projects, will deliberate the new statue and make a decision over the next few weeks. ___ Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Patty Nieberg, The Associated Press