The Olymel meat processing plant in Red Deer, Alta., is closed after a deadly COVID-19 outbreak raced through it and there are concerns about why it took so long for it to close.
The Olymel meat processing plant in Red Deer, Alta., is closed after a deadly COVID-19 outbreak raced through it and there are concerns about why it took so long for it to close.
When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has agreed to live in the seat of state government in Charleston, ending a long-running challenge over his residency. A Kanawha County judge Monday signed an order dismissing a 2018 lawsuit filed by a former state lawmaker. Through his attorney, Justice said he intends to reside in Charleston “consistent with the definition of ‘reside’ in the Supreme Court of Appeals’ opinion," according to the dismissal order signed by Senior Status Circuit Judge Dan O'Hanlon. “The parties agree that Respondent’s voluntary agreement to reside at the seat of government within the meaning of the Constitution renders this case moot and that the case should be dismissed,” O'Hanlon wrote. In allowing the lawsuit to proceed in November, the state Supreme Court rejected arguments from Justice that the courts could not force him to live in the state capital. The challenge has been a thorn in the side of Justice, a two-term governor who defended living in Lewisburg even though the state constitution says the governor “shall reside at the seat of government” in Charleston. The justices wrote that courts had the right to compel the Republican governor to comply with the constitution. Justice's lawyers had appealed to the Supreme Court after the lower court declined to throw out the case. Democratic Del. Isaac Sponaugle brought the suit after bipartisan criticism that Justice lived 100 (160 kilometres) miles away from Charleston, near his resort, The Greenbrier. Both sides had argued over the definition of “residency.” Sponaugle claimed the common sense meaning of the word “residency” holds that the governor needs to sleep in Charleston. But Justice's lawyers have said the term was vague and the matter was a political question outside the court's purview. While defending the constitution's residency clause, the justices also said the governor "failed to meet his burden to show that the circuit court exceeded its legitimate powers.” Under the terms of the dismissal order, Justice, a billionaire businessman and richest person in the state who owns a complex business empire of coal and agricultural entities, agreed to pay $65,000 to Sponaugle for attorney fees and costs. John Raby, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Ontario's long-term care minister said she didn't go public early last year with concerns about COVID-19 spreading in nursing homes because she didn't consider herself an authority on the emerging threat. Merrilee Fullerton faced criticism from all three opposition parties Monday after newly released transcripts showed she told Ontario's long-term care commission she was aware of the dangers the novel coronavirus posed to the sector long before it was declared a global pandemic but kept those concerns within government. The minister, who is a physician, said while she was worried about a number of issues and discussed them with cabinet colleagues and the province's top doctor, she was no expert. "As a long-term care minister, I understand my role," she said. "I'm not the chief medical officer. I'm not a public health expert. I'm not a scientist ... I'm a retired family doctor who cares very deeply about long-term care and the residents and the staff." Fullerton testified before the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission last week, with the transcript posted online Sunday night. The commission heard that Fullerton and her deputy advocated for stronger measures than what the government was willing to put in place. "You were ahead of the chief medical officer of health in many respects, from your notes anyway," John Callaghan, the commission lawyer questioning Fullerton, told her. For instance, Fullerton's notes from the time suggest she was concerned about asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes as early as Feb. 5, 2020. That possibility wasn't publicly acknowledged by the government until much later. Fuller told the commission her personal history gave her insights into the situation that other politicians may lack. "I had suspicions early on only — well, because I'm a family doctor and spent many years dealing with the elderly," she said. "They may not present with typical symptoms, and so you always have to be watching." NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Fullerton should have spoken out earlier, suggesting that could have saved lives. "The amount of tragedy that Ontarians have had to deal with as a result of this is unforgivable and it is unforgettable," she said. "So there's a lot of responsibility to go around here." Horwath said Fullerton's testimony also pokes holes in Premier Doug Ford's pledge from the early days of the pandemic to create an "iron ring" around nursing homes. "This iron ring never materialized, it never existed," she said. Liberal Party health critic John Fraser said Fullerton should have spoken out publicly. "It's definitely clear right now that she should have fought harder," he said. "There was a lot at stake." Fullerton said Monday that she did not consider resigning from her role in protest because she felt she could make urgently needed changes to the sector. "Why would I resigned from a position where I felt I could be a strong voice and move something that had been neglected for so many years?" she said. "Why would I resign from that duty, from that responsibility, from that obligation?" COVID-19 has devastated Ontario's long-term care system, causing the deaths of 3,865 residents and 11 staff members so far. The commission also heard that Fullerton refused to suggest the risk of COVID-19 was low in a video filmed in early March. Her notes from the pandemic's first wave, read out during the interview, also show that she advocated for locking down long-term care homes before the province did so, and was concerned about staff not wearing personal protective equipment at all times the week before the province made it mandatory. Fullerton told the commission she was also advocating for essential caregivers to be allowed back into long-term care homes as early as May. Such caregivers — usually family members — weren't allowed back into the facilities until July, and even then, the Ministry of Long-Term Care has said, the rules were being applied inconsistently until adjustments were made in September. But she said others — particularly Dr. David Williams, the chief medical officer of health — said the risk of essential caregivers bringing COVID-19 into the facilities was too great. "I was very eager to get caregivers back into the homes, because I believe it was well-being and emotional well-being," Fullerton said. "However, others understood differently and had their reasons for understanding the risks that they did, and so it was left." The commission is set to present its final report on April 30. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Shawn Jeffords and Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
A group of opponents of the Trans Mountain expansion project planned to be at the Kamloops Law Courts on Monday (March 1) to support those who were arrested last fall in the city during demonstrations agains the work. Miranda Dick, spokesperson for the We, the Secwépemc Unity Camp to Stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline, said eight protesters were attending court on Monday following their arrests on Oct. 15 and 17, 2020. Dick said the court has not made it clear to them if the charges against them are civil or criminal in nature. Dick said court has refused to accept documents from hereditary Secwépemc Chief Henry Sawses that indicate the courts have a lack of jurisdiction on Secwépemc territory. Dick said the Secwépemc Nation members and their allies are gathering to support those arrested as they “assert their rights and take on the systemic and environmental racism inherent to the same courts that continue assert jurisdiction with no legal rights to do so.” The protesters set up an encampment near a Trans Mountain worksite off Mission Flats Road last fall. Intent on staying there permanently in a bid to stop the pipeline project, which is crossing the Thompson River at that location, the camp was dismantled by the protesters at the onset of winter, with a vow to return in the spring. Work by Trans Mountain crews at that site to pull the new pipeline underneath the river was halted shortly afterwards when the company ordered a project-wide work stoppage to review its safety practices after an on-the-job death in Edmonton and serious injury to a person in Burnaby. There have also been more than 90 cases of COVID-19 workers along the Edmonton-to-Burnaby route. Construction was scheduled to resume in early February, though some sites in Kamloops remain quiet. The protesters argue the pipeline twinning project is being done on unceded Secwépemc territory. They have also cited safety concerns for the river and salmon populations within it, along with concerns about the safety of the ongoing project. The protesters have said they represent the will of the Secwépemc people and contend First Nations band councils that do support the pipeline project have been bought off to do so. The Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation has a $3-million mutual benefits agreement with Trans Mountain. On Oct. 15, 2020, five protesters were arrested following a demonstration at the Mission Flats worksite. Some were arrested at an entranceway to the beachside worksite after refusing to leave, while others were arrested after climbing on machinery on the south side of the road. Other protesters in the area that day told KTW April Thomas, Billie Pierre, Romilly Cavanaugh, Lorelei Dick and Chief Sawses were arrested. Four people were arrested on Oct. 17 at the gate to the project worksite near Kamloops Airport. All four are believed to be women with the We, the Secwépemc Unity Camp, including group spokesperson Miranda Dick. Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
WASHINGTON — The White House is making it abundantly clear it has no plans to share America's COVID-19 vaccines with Canada or Mexico. Press secretary Jen Psaki has been indicating for weeks that the Biden administration would not allow the export of doses manufactured in the U.S. any time soon. Today, with Mexico planning to explicitly ask for help, Psaki ruled the possibility out entirely. She says President Joe Biden is focused first on making sure the vaccine is available to every American. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was expected to ask Biden directly for doses when the two meet virtually later today. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly stopped short of making a similar request in his virtual meetings with Biden last week. "No," Psaki said today when asked whether the U.S. would be willing to share its supply of vaccine doses. "The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are available to every American. That is our focus." Psaki hinted last week that the White House position could change later this year once more Americans are vaccinated and the doses are no longer in such short supply.Johnson and Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine began shipping out today after it received emergency authorization over the weekend from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That now makes three vaccines that are available in the U.S., along with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health Canada has yet to approve the Johnson and Johnson shot, but gave the green light last week to a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Biden administration is pulling back an environmental review that cleared the way for a parcel of federal land that Apaches consider sacred to be turned over for a massive copper mining operation in eastern Arizona. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that it likely will take several months to further consult with Native American tribes and others about their concerns over Oak Flat and determine whether the environmental review fully complies with the law. The agency cited President Joe Biden's recent memo on strengthening relationships with tribal nations, and regularly consulting with them in a meaningful way. The USDA and the U.S. Forest Service acknowledged they can only do so much. Congress mandated that the land be transferred to Resolution Copper no later than 60 days after the final environmental review was published. The document was released in the last days of Donald Trump's administration. Michael Nixon, an attorney for the Apache Stronghold group that filed the first of the lawsuits, said the USDA's decision is welcome but doesn't have much impact. “Oak Flat is still on death row,” he said. “Essentially, they're just changing the execution date.” Dan Blondeau, a spokesman for Resolution Copper, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The parcel of land in the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix was set to be transferred to Resolution Copper by mid-March. At least three pending lawsuits have raised concerns over religious freedom rights, land ownership and violations of federal law. The land transfer was included as a last-minute provision in a must-pass defence bill in 2014 after it failed for years as stand-alone legislation. Resolution Copper would get 3.75 square miles (9.71 square kilometres) of national forest land in exchange for eight parcels it owns elsewhere in Arizona. Apaches call Oak Flat “Chi’chil Bildagoteel.” The land near Superior has ancient oak groves, traditional plants and living beings that tribal members say are essential to their religion and culture. Those things exist elsewhere, but Apache Stronghold said they have unique power within Oak Flat. San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler said Monday that the tribe will continue working to permanently protect Oak Flat. Resolution Copper, a joint venture of global mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP, has spent millions of dollars prepping the area to mine copper, but actual mining isn't expected to start for at least 10 years. Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press
Donwood Park public school is temporarily shutting its doors because of a COVID-19 outbreak that include four cases of variants or concern. Erica Vella has details.
“These are difficult days but there are better days ahead.” With the promise of new COVID-19 vaccinations available in both Barrie and Alliston, Kathy Dermott, spokesperson for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit signed off with a word of hope at Monday morning’s Zoom meeting. Midway through the inception of the province’s Phase 1 roll-out of vaccinations, Simcoe County was thrown back into the restrictive Grey Zone due to COVID-19 variants that have swept across Barrie during the last month. While businesses are balking at the imposed shutdowns and stringent customer visitation limits, seniors are rolling up their sleeves to take advantage of a chance to escape the deadly virus altogether. “Today we have four clinic locations that are open,” said Mary Ann Holmes, vice-president of the health unit’s immunization program. As of March 1, Holmes said vaccination clinics were open in Holly Community Centre, Alliston Memorial Clinic, in Huntsville, as well as a drive-thru clinic in Collingwood. “I’m happy to report that by the end of the week that all regions will have a clinic open and be able to offer vaccines,” she said. “The vaccine we’ve received to date has been Pfizer and we don’t have a line on when other products will be available. But we really would just be encouraging people to take advantage of the COVID vaccine that’s available to them whenever they’re eligible.” Simcoe County’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner, confirmed the current Pfizer doses will be interspersed with Moderna and AstraZeneca brands once their supplies become available. “The fridge-stable vaccines are more mobile and potentially can be used for vaccination at home or in family practice settings or pharmacies,” Gardner said. Phase 1 priority groups include adults aged 80 years and older, Indigenous adults aged 55 and older, adult recipients of chronic home care, staff and residents in care settings and very high priority frontline health-care workers. Once the expected roll-out of Phase 2 inoculation arrives in early April, availability and distribution will broaden across the province. Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
The Village of Big Valley council heard a report from their new chief administrative officer (CAO) that repairs to the municipal water tower will likely be in the $270,000 range. The report was made at the Feb. 24 regular meeting of council, held one day earlier than normal. The meeting was streamed via Zoom and Coun. Art Tizzard was absent from the meeting. CAO Tracy Mindus noted a contractor has provided an estimate of $270,000 to repair the cracked water tower, but instead of installing a bladder they will use carbon fibre to seal it. This would have a life expectancy of 20 to 50 years. The CAO noted several provincial government grants may be available for this work, including one that may cover up to 75 per cent of the cost. Municipal Sustainability Initiative money may also be available. Mindus said the village continues to receive information from the contractor and it appears the work can be done no earlier than spring. Councillors accepted the report for information. Garbage concerns Mindus read a letter sent from the Big Valley Historical Society, requesting the society no longer be charged for garbage pick-up because it appears their garbage isn’t being picked up. The letter noted the McAlister site hasn't had garbage pick-up in 10 to 12 months and the tool museum hasn’t had garbage pick-up at all in the roughly four years it’s been there. The society requested the village no longer bill them for the service and the volunteers would handle garbage pick-up themselves. CAO Mindus noted garbage pick-up is based on the number of users in the village, and if one or more users opt out, the rates will likely increase for everyone else. Coun. Harry Nibourg stated the garbage pick-up fee is about $8 a month and waiving it would set a precedent. Nibourg also noted he would recuse himself from a vote on this issue as it affects his own property. Mayor German stated the item would be tabled until March, as Tizzard’s absence and Nibourg’s recusal meant a vote could not be held. Invoice concerns Councillors read a letter from the Village of Donalda regarding their concerns about the County of Stettler's recent invoice for the Regional Emergency Management Agency. It was stated in the letter Donalda is concerned about the dollar amount, $7,944.32, which included a substantial increase and the village was requesting more information about why the invoice was so large. Mayor German noted he saw nothing wrong with the request and felt taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going. Coun. Nibourg stated the fee may seem high, but if the village decides to, for example, handle emergency services itself, costs may be much higher. Councillors passed a motion for CAO Mindus to contact the County of Stettler and get a breakdown of where the emergency management funds are going. Village election Councillors decided they will hold an advance poll for the village election next fall, and also advertise the position of returning officer after reading a report from the CAO. Mindus noted the municipal election will be held Mon. Oct. 18 and nominations close on Mon. Sept. 20. She noted Big Valley is small enough that it’s not mandatory to hold an advance poll but pointed out it would be convenient for people who work and aren’t able to vote on election day. S he suggested two Saturdays, Oct. 9 or 16, for the advance poll. She also noted advance polls can’t be held within 24 hours of the regular election day. Councillors passed a motion naming Oct. 9 the advance poll in Big Valley, appointing Mindus as returning officer and also authorizing the CAO to advertise for a deputy returning officer. Get the MOST The CAO reported Big Valley will receive $40,339 in Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) funding from the provincial government, intended to help with COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue. She estimated the village’s expenses at about $10,000, and asked councillors what they would like to do with the rest. She noted other communities have granted the funds to non-profits who have losses related to the pandemic. Mindus also noted the province has given a March 31 deadline to disperse the funds. Councillors instructed Mindus to reach out to non-profits and similar groups and offer the money while asking for an accounting of their losses due to the pandemic. The CAO will report back at the March regular council meeting. Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
BARRIE, Ont. — Police say they have closed Highway 400 in both directions due to a series of vehicle collisions. Ontario Provincial Police have shut down the major artery from Highway 88 outside of Bradford, Ont., to Mapleview Drive in Barrie, Ont. Whiteout conditions on the highway north of Toronto have limited visibility and made driving treacherous. Police and paramedics are on the scene, although they say no serious injuries have been reported yet. Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the OPP estimates that dozens of vehicles have been involved in accidents on the 30-kilometre stretch of Highway 400. Schmidt says that police have begun to remove cars from the road, but they're asking commuters to avoid the area as high winds and poor visibility continue. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
A Thunder Beach resident in Tiny Township is hoping to throw some light on three main traffic-related concerns he has for that area. Joel Rubinovich, who made a deputation to council at its recent meeting, said he was speaking for himself when bringing up these issues, but that others would also benefit from a resolution. His first complaint involved the placement of street signs, which he believes is impractical. "There is a lack of uniformity in sign size," reads his letter to council. "Placement of the signs often renders them useless as indicators of where to turn. Signs are often blocked by bushes, etc. Drivers cannot rely on them." Rubinovich said that's not just true for the intersection of Chemin du Loop and Green Point Road, but also for other areas within the township. "Another one that bothers me is Concession 12 East and Overhead Bridge Road," he said. "The sign is hidden behind the bush, it's small and can only be seen at the last minute." And even if there are signs, Rubinovich said, there are no street lights illuminating them for drivers. "When it's dark and you drive down (Chemin) du Loop and come to corner of Green Point (Road) there's absolutely no way you know this is where you turn," he said. "At the end of the street, there's a big yellow sign to indicate the end of du Loop. The turn off is before, you can't see it, and I miss it most every time. The street sign is on the right and the turn is on the left." The last matter of concern Rubinovich mentioned related to debris in the form of pebbles on the roads. "I've been up here, more of a permanent resident before my daughters," he said. "We take the same route to get to each other's homes and there's one particular corner where the pebbles have never been swept up. They did some repair work and there are more pebbles and there are no sidewalks. I'm not asking for sidewalks but as an older citizen, I find it inconvenient to walk on pebbles. I could fall very easily and break something." Rubinovich said he was aware none of this would be looked after immediately but perhaps the public works staff could consider a regulation with respect to street signs and street lights and clean up roads more often. In his conversations with department officials, he said, it seems as if they're on different wavelengths. "One of the things you have to be prepared to do is to to go on site, and it's difficult to do so these days with COVID," said Rubinovich. Tim Leitch, director of public works, said he did visit the site and staff did some corrections, including brushing around the current signs. "The road was swept and we redid the tar and chip," he said. "The lighting was looked at through the dark sky initiative and we feel that we do have consistency. However, we will continue to provide a response to Mr. Rubinovich and look at these three requests and make sure satisfactory answers are provided." Rubinovich said he disagreed with the claims of the clean up. "With all due respect, there's a lot of tar and a lot of chip but nothing has been cleaned up at that intersection in the past five years I've been here, despite what you think," he said. Coun. Cindy Hastings said it would be fruitful to hold some more discussions around this at an upcoming council meeting. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
TORONTO — Some Ontario seniors braved frigid temperatures Monday to get a COVID-19 vaccine as several regions in the province moved ahead with their plans to vaccinate the general public. With the broad launch of a provincial booking portal still two weeks away, some local public health units used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. In York Region, where bookings opened Monday morning for shots that could be administered as early as the afternoon, dozens of seniors and their caregivers lined up outside a sports centre to get the vaccine. Some huddled together for warmth - a winter weather advisory was in effect for the region - as the line to enter the centre in Richmond Hill moved slowly. Hassan Abbas Kara was saving a place in line while his grandmother waited in a car. “I don't want her to wait in the cold, so it’s a little thing I can do right now to help her," he said. Atta Hussain, 82, said the process was "beautiful" and well organized, and expressed relief after receiving his shot. "We thank everybody who is participating," he said. York Region said its vaccination clinics were fully booked just two hours after they started taking appointments. A spokesman said approximately 20,000 appointments were made Monday across five locations in the region. Clinics were also offering shots to those 80 and older in Windsor-Essex County, and to those 85 and older at a hospital in Hamilton, where officials warned of long wait times amid high call volumes to its COVID-19 hotline. Hamilton's top doctor apologized for backlog on the phone line and asked people who don't live in the city to not call about appointments. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. "Some of them are already vaccinating the over-80-year-old people that are living within their regions," Elliott said Monday. "I think that's something that we should be celebrating not denigrating." Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he's happy some public health units are offering shots already, but argued it could cause issues later when health units that have already started making appointments on their own systems have to switch over to the provincial one. The province also said Monday that it has asked the federal government for guidance on possibly extending the intervals between the first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses to four months. It pointed to British Columbia's decision to do so and said there's growing evidence suggesting intervals between the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses can be safely extended. Monday also saw two Ontario regions - Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka - return to lockdowns as a result of rising COVID-19 cases. Restrictions on businesses and gatherings were loosened in seven other health units: Niagara Region, Chatham-Kent; Middlesex-London; Southwestern; Haldimand-Norfolk; Huron Perth; and Grey Bruce. Municipal officials in Simcoe Muskoka raised concerns about pressure on small businesses and the effects of yet another lockdown on the public during a public meeting with the health unit on Monday. The region's top doctor said he's heard concerns about the strict measures from people in areas with fewer cases. Dr. Charles Gardner said he'll be in touch with the province's chief medical officer about whether a full lockdown is required for the region. In Thunder Bay, which entered a lockdown after reporting more COVID-19 cases in February than all of 2020, a local hospital reported it was expanding its COVID-19 and intensive care units to meet the needs of the community. Meanwhile, a spokesman for federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the Public Health Agency of Canada was reviewing a funding application for an isolation site in Thunder Bay after the city said it could no longer afford to keep it running. Ontario reported 1,023 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths from the virus on Monday. - With files from Cole Burston This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
After two full weeks of virtual events and activities, Bonhomme Carnaval has come to an end and the identity of this year's mascot has been unveiled. The annual carnival wrapped up with a virtual concert and unveiling of the Bonhomme last Saturday, Feb. 27. Emma Bertrand, a dance teacher at Dansons La Ronde and Melissa Kelly Dance Academy, was this year's Bonhomme Carnaval. The carnival was held virtually this year. Centre Culturel La Ronde’s executive director Lisa Bertrand said she didn’t expect such a big turnout and she was very happy with how many people tuned in online. “I’m super happy that the community supported (us). With the window contest, teachers and the principals were so supportive and the French community as well,” she said. “When I mentioned doing a virtual carnival to the board, I didn’t think it was going to be as much work as it was but I’m very, very happy with the result.” The evening show featuring the Lapointe family and Dayv Poulin and the reveal of Bonhomme reached 6,794 people on Facebook and garnered 1,770 engagements, 189 comments and 35 shares. Bertrand said the cooking workshops, as well as the Sip and Paint workshop, were a “great hit.” For the next year’s carnival, the centre is looking into offering virtual events again. “If we have our building, it will definitely be at our Centre Culturel La Ronde. If not, I’ll do a couple of events virtually. It was different and we had a lot of participation,” Bertrand said. “It was fun because we did have people from Montreal that joined, a few people from Cochrane, Iroquois Falls.” Hosting the carnival from a technical perspective has been challenging, Bertrand said, but it was also fun getting together virtually, seeing interactions between people and receiving love and support from the community. “It was virtual but we definitely felt the love,” said Bertrand. Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com
Bashaw town council heard a report that the frigid weather in mid-February caused some issues with ice removal in the arena. The report was given at the Feb. 18 regular meeting of council held via Zoom to meet pandemic rules. Mayor Penny Shantz was absent from the meeting, so it was chaired by Coun. Rosella Peterman. During the regular report of Public Works Foreman Murray Holroyd, councillors heard that staff were not able to remove skating ice from the arena because of the cold weather. “It is still too hard to remove,” stated Holroyd in his report. However, he noted the decals and re-usable centre line were removed. The foreman reported that in the week leading up to the council meeting, several water and sewer lines froze up in the very frigid weather. Holroyd also reported water meter replacement work continues. The town was able to sell the old sander truck for $5,500 along with the old cardboard baler, which sold for $800. Holroyd also sits in on regular COVID pandemic updates from the provincial government and reported that masks are still mandatory in all public places in Alberta and that the provincial government is planning on easing some restrictions when the number of people in hospital with COVID drops down. Holroyd’s report was accepted for information. CAO report The town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller stated in her regular report that the town’s new computer server was approved for purchase in 2020, and the new item has been somewhat delayed. “It has taken some time to receive the server and all the migration of data etc.,” stated Fuller. “It is still in process, contacting the various external software providers to migrate data accurately.” New staff The CAO reported the town has a new employee. “Natasha Larkin was hired for the municipal treasurer position,” said Fuller. “She has started full-time with us in January 2021. Training has been progressing well. “This time of year there are ‘one-time’ activities, being year-end close out on each financial module preparation for audit, etc.” Internet service Councillors received a letter from Telus requesting a letter of support from the Town of Bashaw for an improved tower. “Telus is currently in the process of applying for funding through the Universal Broadband Fund to upgrade our tower site in the Town of Bashaw,” stated an email from Dan Johnson, real estate manager. “Our tower in Bashaw currently has 90 customers who receive their home internet from the tower. “This upgrade would allow us to offer additional speed to these customers.” Coun. Rob McDonald thought it was a great idea. “I think we should sign onto that,” said McDonald. Pension question Fuller presented to councillors the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) document and the town’s own policy, noting there was an issue with them. She stated the LAPP identifies 30 hours of work per week for eligibility while the town policy states 35. She recommended councillors alter the town policy to match the LAPP. Coun. Lynn Schultz asked if this would cost the town money, and Fuller stated no. Councillors approved a change to the pension policy to match the LAPP number. Committee reports During committee reports, it was noted the Boys & Girls Club is currently interviewing for a new facilitator. It was also noted at the Bashaw Agricultural Society annual general meeting that grant money from the provincial government has been confirmed. Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
Hannah MacKinnon says her symptoms include a headache, sore eyes, sore throat, and runny nose — 'a lot like normal cold symptoms, as well as aches and pains in my body.' Hannah MacKinnon says she always wore a mask when she was supposed to, sanitized her hands so much the skin cracked, limited close contact, and went out only a few times. All that didn't prevent her from contracting COVID-19. MacKinnon, 22, is one of the 11 cases announced on the weekend, and one of P.E.I.'s 18 active cases. She's home in Montague, self-isolating. So far her parents have both tested negative but they too are isolating for the next two weeks. "I'm feeling OK, definitely better than I thought I would considering the circumstances," MacKinnon said in a message to CBC News. Be kind to your neighbour, as you never know the full story from their point of view. — Hannah MacKinnon "I have a headache, sore eyes, sore throat, and runny nose — a lot like normal cold symptoms — as well as aches and pains in my body." MacKinnon said she posted about her condition on Facebook because she wants people to know anyone can catch COVID-19, even people like her who are careful and follow the rules. "Even if you're doing everything right, there's still a chance you could contract it. And that slim chance decided to choose me. "I'm scared, it's very real, and it's hard on my family, but I hope everyone takes this as a lesson — be kind to your neighbour, as you never know the full story from their point of view." MacKinnon's father, Dan MacKinnon, supports his daughter's decision to go public. He said they still don't know how Hannah caught the virus. "We live in a small town. We might as well get out there and tell people the facts so they don't get false information, and just kind of deal with whatever happens," he said in a video interview with CBC's Steve Bruce for CBC News: Compass. Even if you're doing everything right, there's still a chance you could contract it. And that slim chance decided to choose me. - Hannah MacKinnon "So far, it's been very positive. "Not everyone who has contracted COVID-19 necessarily even knows that they have it. You could be walking around for two or three days and not [think] that you have it, and then all of a sudden, symptoms appear." Dan MacKinnon says his family wanted to go public with his daughter's condition to help people understand that anyone can become infected with COVID-19 — even if they follow the rules. In order to protect the privacy of her co-workers, CBC News is not identifying Hannah MacKinnon's place of employment. "Trust me, your health and everyone else's is so much more important than a couple days missed [work]. Better safe than sorry," she said. "I called in sick as soon as I was experiencing cold-like symptoms — and even though I thought I only had a cold, here I am." More from CBC P.E.I.
The B.C. government says it is in the process of sending out apology letters, and is prepared to compensate the thousands of Grade 12 students who were issued incorrect transcripts in 2019. In a statement Monday, the province says it is accepting online applications for compensation from affected students who can "demonstrate losses or expenses that arose from the June 2019 provincial Grade 12 exam tabulation errors." It also says apology letters are being sent to all students whose exam marks were impacted. In 2019, the Ministry of Education admitted two tabulation errors resulted in incorrect exam results for 18,741 students who wrote provincial exams in June 2019. An August 2020 Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson report made recommendations, two of which were to apologize and compensate students who faced financial implications as a result of the errors. The ministry says it has now acted on all six of the report's recommendations and had previously implemented four of those relating to "processes and protocols for quality assurance, escalation of issues and communication protocols." It also says it made immediate changes to "ensure a more rigorous process for provincial assessments." According to the statement, an independent third party will provide adjudication services for the compensation fund which launched Monday. It says applicants will be notified of claim decisions by that third party and promises a detailed process for appealing denials. Claim submissions will be accepted until May 24, and compensation will be issued for validated claims by August 2021.
The man who was shot while caring for Lady Gaga's French Bulldogs said on Monday he was recovering after nearly dying from the attack by assailants who kidnapped two of the pop singer's pets. Ryan Fischer, in his first public comments since the incident last Wednesday evening in Hollywood, detailed his recollections from that night and thanked family, friends, first responders and Gaga, who has been in Italy to shoot a movie. Kidnappers had taken two of Gaga's three dogs - Koji and Gustav - but a third, Asia, remained with Fischer.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida officials are recommending that the state's antiquated unemployment processing system be replaced after a review confirmed what had long been known: a broken system full of glitches that was incapable of handling the unprecedented deluge of jobless claims spawned by the coronavirus outbreak. The state's Department of Economic Opportunity is recommending that the current system, known as CONNECT, be discarded and replaced with a more robust and modern system that employs cloud-based technology that could allow the system to more nimbly respond to increased demands. The department, which oversees the state's unemployment system, is asking lawmakers for $73 million over the next two years to modernize the system that left hundreds of thousands of jobless Floridians without unemployment checks for weeks and sometimes months. The director of the agency, Dane Eagle, told lawmakers Monday that Florida was not alone in its struggles. “We are far behind in where we need to be,” he said. “Florida is not the only state to experience these challenges." But as the unemployment rate surged when businesses closed, Florida was among the slowest states — if not the slowest — in getting unemployment checks to those with no other income to pay mortgages, rents and other necessities. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who likened the benefits claim system to an “old jalopy” breaking down at the Daytona 500, ordered the inspector general to investigate. The Economic Opportunity Department launched a review of its own, and the results were presented Monday to the legislative select committee on pandemic preparedness and response. The report makes clear that the system was neither prepared nor responsive at a time of crisis, when some 1.3 million Floridians, at the peak of unemployment in April, tried to access benefits through online portals that continually crashed or phone systems that only added to frustrations. The long awaited inspector general’s report could be released in a matter of weeks. The inspector general’s findings are current being reviewed by economic opportunity officials. The CONNECT system prompted concern from the start. Soon after the online portal launched in October 2013, it was beset by system crashes that prevented people from claiming benefits. Despite previous audits that identified numerous glitches, many of the problems were never addressed. Those same system failures prevented people from accessing the system. Critics warned that the system was doomed to fail. “Unfortunately, as it turns out, we were absolutely correct," said Democratic state Rep. Evan Jenne, the House minority co-leader. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 3.1 million people have filed unemployment claims in Florida. The state has paid out more than $23.1 billion in benefits — less than a fourth of that from the state's reemployment assistance program. The rest of the funds came from federal pandemic relief packages, some of it earmarked to supplement meagre unemployment checks and to provide benefits to gig workers and others who were not eligible for traditional state benefits. The state's electronic portal was initially unable to process claims filed by freelancers and other independent contractors, adding to confusion, frustration and anger. The state eventually put in place a parallel electronic system to handle claims from nontraditional workers. In fact the state's electronic portal was so overwhelmed that state officials reverted to filing claims on paper forms. As part of its just-completed review, the Department of Economic Opportunity is also asking lawmakers for authority to establish an Office of Accountability and Transparency, but it was unclear in a presentation submitted to the pandemic committee exactly what its role would be. In addition, it wants to create a Reemployment Assistance Modernization Strategic Planning Office to oversee the modernization effort. The new money requested by the Economic Opportunity Department adds to the $39 million COVID-19-related outlays in its current year budget. The $73 billion being requested for the next two years would nearly double the department’s budget during the same time period. A more modest $8 million is also being requested to supplement the department's typical annual budget of $41.3 million in the three years after. Before the pandemic, the Reemployment Assistance System budget was about $12 million annually. Meanwhile, the state’s Unemployment Benefit Trust Fund has been dramatically depleted. Its balance is now just $777 million -- less than a fifth of the $4 billion it had before the pandemic. Bobby Caina Calvan, The Associated Press
Peel Public Health says it made a mistake in some of its information sent home to parents regarding advice for asymptomatic children sent home from school. While its website says they can isolate with a caregiver, the flyer did not. Matthew Bingley reports.