Speaking to the media, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil reported two new cases of COVID-19 Friday. “It’s been two weeks since New Years and it looks like, so far, that we’ve made it through OK,” McNeil said at a briefing on Friday.
Speaking to the media, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil reported two new cases of COVID-19 Friday. “It’s been two weeks since New Years and it looks like, so far, that we’ve made it through OK,” McNeil said at a briefing on Friday.
(Sofia Rodriguez/CBC - image credit) The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development says it will consider other solutions to a conundrum facing many essential workers if the province's COVID-19 outbreak isn't tamed soon. The St. John's metro region moved into "circuit breaker" restrictions on Feb. 10 amid an outbreak, which was followed two days later by the entire province moving back into an Alert Level 5 lockdown. That meant schools switched to online learning and essential workers were left scrambling to find a place for their kids to stay during the day. The solution proposed last week was to allow those children to attend child-care centres — but there is no obligation on the part of those centres to help the kids with their online schooling. "These child-care services can choose to do so if they believe they can accommodate it," reads a statement from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. "In some cases this may not be practical, as services may have children from various grades and from different schools." This left some essential workers with tough choices. One nurse who spoke to CBC News said she pulled her son out of daycare and switched to night shifts so she could help him with schoolwork during the day. She was worried about finding time to sleep. Child-care centres operators also recognize the situation is not ideal, and have expressed concern in letters to Education Minister Tom Osborne. Some suggested children would be better off if they could go to school and attend classes in person. "We all understand the essential workers' cries they have to work because we are ourselves are essential workers," reads one letter obtained by CBC News. "If they can safely come to child-care centres, why can't they safely go to school?" That potential solution poses its own set of problems. Teachers have been working from home since the province went to Alert Level 5, and are teaching classes using tools like Google Classroom. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development amended its policies to allow school-age children to attend child-care centres for the entire day. The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association declined comment for this story, but raised concerns two weeks ago about having teachers in classrooms and not working from home. The Association for Early Childhood Educators of Newfoundland and Labrador, meanwhile, says there are many logistical problems when it comes to running virtual classrooms at childcare centres. The biggest problem is that a centre could have as many as 15 school-age children at one time, and have one staff member left to handle their school schedules and troubleshoot technical problems. Other concerns include privacy issues, not having wireless internet access for guests, and not having quiet spaces for kids to do schoolwork. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, is expected to provide an update on the circuit breaker on Friday. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
(Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit) "Ready," asks Leah Morris capturing her border collie Skye's attention. "Let's go." The dog dashes ahead, seemingly out of control. "She's very smart and thankfully, she listens to me," Morris said. Gliding on purple and white cross-country skis with a leash attached to the two-year-old canine, Morris follows behind continuing to provide commands. Leah Morris and Skye the border collie go skijoring once a week. "Right," she turns right. "Left," a smooth left. "Stop," the duo comes to a — you guessed it — halt. 'Adrenaline rush' The sport is called skijoring and is sometimes done with horses or snowmobiles, said Morris, an Atlantic Veterinary College student from Nova Scotia. She said she decided to give it a whirl this year after the pandemic put a hold on activities she would normally take part in during the winter. "I've definitely had more time to get out with her," said Morris. "A lot of the time, we don't go super fast. Like she's not a crazy dog, so we just go along — that's really nice, especially when you're in a nice spot. "When you get a slight downhill or when she's feeling energetic, we can go a bit faster. That's a nice little adrenaline rush and pretty fun." 'I never liked cross-country skiing that much because I like kind of the adrenaline rush and the downhill,' says Morris. 'Having her with me, pulling me kind of gives you that little extra adrenaline.' Morris has had Skye since she was a puppy. She said she trained her to know her left and right by tossing dog treats then shouting the direction. "She definitely mastered it pretty, pretty quickly." Skijoring challenges After learning directions, Morris said she would connect Skye to her bike and the pair would go cycling. From there, it was a rather simple transition to the skis. "I think she thought it was strange the first time that I asked her to pull me when I'd been doing all my training trying to get her to not pull on a leash," she said. "I think she likes it." And there's no debating that when Skye runs into the distance with no destination in mind. "She's pretty energetic and so anytime we can get out together in the nature, it's lovely." 'She was a little nervous of the skis at first, but having a nice long line that was bungee kept me far enough away from her that I think she got over her little fear, the noise that they made,' Morris says. There are challenges to skijoring in Prince Edward Island, however. For one, Morris said you have to find a trail that allows both skis and dogs. And those trails must be groomed. "It kind of rules out most trails that are groomed for skiing," she said. "If snow's too deep and she always gets snow stuck in her paws and on the skis, it's really hard to get any momentum going." 'Something a little bit different' But regardless, Morris said she thinks the skijoring community is growing and encourages other Islanders to give it a try. "It's really a sport you can do with any breed. I've seen people taking out their tiny little Yorkies. I've seen people with huskies," she said. "I think it's really good for dogs like her with a lot of energy to give them, you know, something a little bit different than just a walk in the park." 'It's pretty great, honestly,' says Morris. 'She's been pretty reliable.' And as Skye grows impatient, Morris returns to her skis and smiles down at her dog. "Ready?" Then almost as if exhaustion is a foreign concept, Skye's legs begin to build up power as the pair moves forward in the snow and on to enjoy the rest of their adventure. More from CBC P.E.I.
Les coopératives COFOR (coopérative des travailleurs forestiers de Sainte-Marguerite) et Unisaco (coopérative des travailleurs de Sacré-Coeur), la société de placements Investra ainsi que le Groupe Boisaco se sont portés acquéreur de l'entreprise Valibois inc., dont le siège social est situé a Falardeau, le 19 février. Les anciens propriétaires, Jean-Louis Gravel et son fils Jean Gravel, déclarent par voie de communiqué être particulièrement heureux d’avoir complété cette opération. « Eux-mêmes originaires de Sacré-Cœur, ils adhèrent à la culture, aux valeurs et à la vision du Groupe Boisaco, qui est fondé sur la coopération et le développement socio-économique régional », fait savoir le communiqué de presse. Les nouveaux acquéreurs se disent également satisfaits d'avoir réalisé cette importante opération. « Ces sociétés possèdent en effet déjà une autre entreprise qui se spécialise dans la transformation des essences feuillues, soit la société Bersaco, dont le siège social est situé aux Bergeronnes », peut-on lire dans le document. Cette acquisition vise à développer plusieurs synergies positives axées sur la gestion des approvisionnements, la mise en marché des produits finis et l’ajout de mesures visant la croissance et la création de valeur, ce qui favorisera l’amélioration de la qualité de vie des travailleurs et celle des communautés concernées. « Considérant que le Groupe Boisaco est partenaire dans Les Bois du Fjord depuis 2017, cette importante acquisition viendra renforcer ses activités au Saguenay en plus de permettre la continuité des opérations de Valibois, assurant ainsi le maintien des importantes retombées socio-économiques qu’elle engendre dans la municipalité de St-David de Falardeau », est-il dévoilé. Valibois procure du travail à plus de 30 travailleurs en usine et à des dizaines de travailleurs de la forêt du Saguenay pour assurer son approvisionnement via les opérations forestières de Scierie Girard et les coopératives forestières de Ferland-et-Boilleau ainsi que Groupe Forestra. Elle rejoindra ainsi la grande famille des sociétés qui ont été initiées par la communauté de Sacré-Cœur depuis 35 ans, regroupant Bersaco, Boisaco, COFOR, Unisaco, Granulco, Groupe Boisaco, Intrafor, Investra, Ripco et Sacopan. « Ces dernières procurent de l’emploi à plus de 550 travailleurs et ont un chiffre d’affaires consolidé dépassant 150 M$ », de conclure le communiqué. Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
Clearing the snow on roadways in town is a co-ordinated effort, from lining up staff to run equipment to alerting residents to move their vehicles in the areas being cleared. “Our first goal when we’re doing this is to make sure things are safe for drivers and pedestrians,” said John Greathead, director of operations with the Municipality of Jasper (MOJ). “From November to March, our focus is beating the weather and trying to stay ahead of the road conditions. We look at it as road maintenance. We’re geared up for snow removal.” Greathead said the town crew makes sure intersections and high-traffic areas - including Connaught Drive, Patricia Street and Miette Avenue - are cleared as soon as possible. Salting and sanding are part of the routine. “They’re out daily, working on that,” Greathead said. “We make sure we keep the walkability up on sidewalks and crosswalks.” Greathead explained that preempting the weather challenges presented by mother nature takes focus. “We pay attention to the weather a lot,” he said. “If we anticipate a significant snowfall or a change in the weather, we pre-wet the roads for easier removal of snow.” There are 12-to-14 workers involved in clearing the snow for a major snowstorm. After snow is plowed, crews use a snowblower to load it into dump trucks and it gets transported to the snow dump on Whistlers Road. Greathead, along with communications officer Amanda Stevens, explained in email that this snow clearing equipment includes two municipality-operated graders, two trucks to sand/salt the roads, two trucks and a pup trailer for hauling. There’s also a snowblower used that can move 3,500 tonnes per hour. “It can move more snow, more quickly, than we could possibly provide trucks for,” Greathead said. Greathead and Stevens added, “Additionally we have our grounds crew which look after cleaning municipal-operated sidewalks, specific Parks properties (under an agreement with Parks Canada), using many pieces of equipment including two tractors with sweeping attachments, a skid steer, a Toolcat and numerous shovels.” A couple of factors have led to cost savings for the municipality. Staff have been busier this year because a bulk of the work is being done in-house as opposed to contracting out trucks to haul snow away, and that has saved the municipality “a lot of money.” “We expect to see a significantly lower cost for this season once we finalize all the costs in the spring due to the lighter than normal snowfall this season so far as well as performing most of the work in-house as opposed to contracting out,” Greathead and Stevens said. “We usually spend more than $220k per winter season.” When an area is scheduled to be worked on, signage is placed on the streets at least 24 hours in advance and sometimes a few days before, when it’s possible. “If you see signage in your neighbourhood, it means the entire street will be plowed,” they said. “Whenever possible, it’s best to remove your vehicle from the street the night before, as snow removal operations may start in the early hours of the morning.” If signage was placed on the street less than 24 hours in advance, no tickets can be issued. Residents are expected to move their vehicles until the snow removal is complete. “We aim for compliance first but tickets ($65) can be issued if vehicles are not removed and signage was placed within the prescribed timeline,” Greathead and Stevens said. Residents and business owners are responsible for clearing the ice and snow on the sidewalk in front of their properties. Any accumulation of snow in excess of two centimetres has to be removed within 24 hours. Compliance is encouraged but if it comes down to it, a $100 fine may be issued. “Jasper is very pedestrian-friendly and people of all walks of life, from young parents with strollers to school-aged kids to seniors, use the sidewalk,” Greathead and Stevens said. “It is important that everyone do their share to keep our sidewalks safe and clear of snow and ice for everyone to use.” Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
WASHINGTON — Jill Biden offers comforting advice to Kelly Clarkson, telling the singer and talk-show host as she goes through a divorce that things happen for the best and that life will eventually “look better.” The first lady — a divorcee herself — also reveals one thing she looks forward to when COVID-19 clears up and explains why women should take some time for themselves every day as she does. She spoke during an interview with Clarkson that is set to air nationally on Thursday. Clarkson recently brought her show to the White House for a socially distant conversation with Jill Biden in the East Room. NBC released interview excerpts Wednesday, including a clip of Jill Biden offering comforting words about carrying on after a relationship breakup. Citing her late mother's advice, she tells Clarkson things happen for a reason. She also says her divorce freed her to meet Joe Biden and have a family with him. “My mother always said to me things are going to look better, tomorrow,” Jill Biden said, encouraging Clarkson to “take one day at a time, and things will get better.” 'I look back on it now, and I think, you know, if I hadn’t gotten divorced, I never would have met Joe," she continued. “I wouldn’t have the beautiful family I have now. So I really think things happen for the best and I think, Kelly, over time, I don’t know how long it’s been for you, but I think, over time, you heal, and you’re going to be surprised and I can’t wait until that day comes for you.” Clarkson has spoken in other interviews about the pain of her public breakup. She filed for divorce last year from Brandon Blackstock after nearly seven years of marriage. They have two children. After marrying Joe Biden, Jill Biden helped raise his sons Beau and Hunter after their mother and baby sister died in a car crash in 1972. The couple later had a daughter, Ashley. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46. The Bidens also have six grandchildren. During her first solo television interview, Jill Biden also discussed her interest in education, military families, cancer research and healing the country. She also answered questions from members of the show's live, virtual audience. “Maybe go have a martini and some french fries,” she replied to one audience participant who asked about the one thing she would do when COVID-19 clears up. She also explained why she makes sure to exercise and take time out for herself. “I love to exercise. I run, I bike. It clears my head, so that’s really important to me and I think all women should have something, it doesn’t have to be exercise, although hopefully it would be," she said. “Just to take a moment for yourself.” “So I get up early, and that’s my time that I have for myself," Biden said. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - image credit) Alberta reported 430 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 13 more deaths from the illness. Across the province there were 4,545 active cases, with 307 patients being treated in hospitals, including 56 in ICU beds. Laboratories completed 9,467 tests over the past 24 hours, with a positivity rate of about 4.6 per cent. As of Tuesday, 186,572 doses of vaccine have administered. Public health officials reported another 22 cases of a more-contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom. A total of 316 cases of variant B.1.1.7 has now been identified in Alberta, along with seven cases of variant B.1.351, first identified in South Africa. The regional breakdown of active cases was: Calgary zone: 1,564 North zone: 942 Edmonton zone: 925 Central zone: 759 South zone: 353 Unknown: two A total of 1,866 people have now died from the illness in Alberta since the pandemic began last March.
A new report that looks at the human trafficking transportation corridors throughout the country also reveals that Canadian women are most commonly the victims.
The U.S. Transportation Department's inspector general faulted "weaknesses" in U.S. government certification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that was grounded for 20 months after two crashes killed 346 people, according to a report released Wednesday. The 63-page report said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not have a complete understanding of a Boeing Co safety system tied to both crashes and said "much work remains" to address outstanding issues. Boeing said it has "undertaken significant changes to reinforce our safety practices, and we have already made progress" on recommendations outlined in the report.
Residents of Simon Place and Ryan’s Road were likely glad to hear the Town of Spaniard’s Bay will be putting money towards addressing flooding concerns in their area. “Because of the complexity of the issue, we needed engineers to help us come up with a resolution,” said Mayor Paul Brazil during the February 9 meeting of council. The engineering firm in question is Progressive Engineering, which sent the town a proposal with a staged estimate totalling up to $20,950 concerning the flooding concerns on Simon Place and Ryan’s Road. Councillor Eric Jewer moved to approve Progressive Engineering to proceed in accordance with the proposal. Council voted unanimously to approve the motion. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
WASHINGTON — Republican leaders in the House and Senate say a proposed plan for an independent commission to study the Capitol insurrection is overly tilted toward Democrats, arguing that the panel should have an even party split like the one formed to study the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that a legitimate commission would be comprised of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. A draft proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would create an 11-member commission with four Republicans and seven Democrats, three of whom would be chosen by President Joe Biden, according to one of multiple aides who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the details under negotiation. Pelosi has not commented on the draft or said why there should be more Democratic members. Last week, she said the commission must be “strongly bipartisan” and have the power to subpoena witnesses. But on Wednesday, House Democratic Conference Chair Hakeem Jeffries said McCarthy hasn’t operated in good faith and “set a bad tone” when he supported former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s legitimate election victory. The partisan bickering before the commission gets off the ground is raising questions about whether lawmakers can coalesce around a thorough review of the Jan. 6 riot that interrupted the presidential electoral count and led to five deaths. Both parties support creating an independent investigation, but much of the consensus ends there, with Democrats demanding accountability for lawmakers who amplified Trump's falsehoods about the election. The vast majority of Republicans stood by Trump as Democrats impeached him for telling his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat as Congress counted votes. And it is an open question whether the commission will be authorized to investigate Trump’s actions. Republicans have suggested an evenly divided 10-member panel and have also objected to some of the rationale for forming the commission. A second aide said that Pelosi's proposal would give broad latitude to the commission to investigate what led to the effort to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and that it quotes FBI and intelligence assessments that show some of the violence was motivated by racism and false narratives about the election. McConnell said on the Senate floor that the language is “artificial cherry picking” and that the commission should either look narrowly at the specific security failures in the Capitol or “potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of political violence here in our country.” He said an inquiry “with a hardwired partisan slant would never be legitimate in the eyes of the American people.” McCarthy pointed to the Sept. 11 commission as the model. “It’s only Speaker Pelosi who’s trying to make this thing partisan,” he said. That commission in 2004 made 41 recommendations to prevent another terrorist attack, covering tighter domestic security, the reform of intelligence gathering and new foreign policy directions. Several of them were later passed by Congress and signed by then-President George W. Bush. The two chairs of that panel, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean and former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, wrote a letter to congressional leaders and Biden after the Jan. 6 attack recommending they set up a similar commission to investigate and “establish a single narrative and set of facts to identify how the Capitol was left vulnerable, as well as corrective actions to make the institution safe again.” In their letter, Hamilton, a Democrat, and Kean, a Republican, said that a “strong, resilient, and responsive Congress is essential for our system of government to work,” and that the commission was essential so that the American people learn the truth of what happened. But politics have changed in the intervening 17 years, and Democrats and Republicans rarely agree on anything — including, in some cases, basic facts. Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress, and many of their constituents, still question whether Biden really won the election, even though Trump’s false allegations of widespread fraud have been rejected by election officials in both parties, his own attorney general and courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeffries charged on Wednesday that McCarthy had given “aid and comfort” to the insurrectionists by voting for GOP challenges to the election the evening of Jan. 6, when Congress reconvened after the riot to finish counting the electoral votes and certify Biden’s win. The rioters had been calling for Congress to “stop the steal” and even called for the death of then-Vice-President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the count and ultimately announced the results of his own defeat. Democrats now control both chambers, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said he also supports a commission. Jeffries said, “This is the beginning of a dialogue that ultimately will turn into a legislative product.” He added, “The guiding principle remains: This should be done in a bipartisan fashion. That is our intention. And that is I believe what will ultimately occur.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
When her owner was a few minutes late for a game of catch, this Golden Retriever decided to freeze in protest! Too funny!
On Feb. 9, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association issued a press release to its membership about the Ontario Energy Board’s upcoming hearing to eliminate Hydro One’s seasonal rate class and transfer those customers to one of their three residential rate classes; urban, medium density or low density. FOCA has been against this move since it was first put forward, as it will increase hydro rates for nearly 80,000 of its members. While the OEB’s decision to eliminate the seasonal rate class is final, this hearing will determine Hydro One’s proposed mitigation measures, to soften the blow of the rate hikes for over half of its current seasonal rate consumers. The changes are expected to take effect on or after Jan. 1, 2022. The OEB first made the decision to eliminate the seasonal rate class back in 2015. Several years and appeals hearings later by Hydro One, FOCA and others, the OEB finalized their decision to get rid of the seasonal rate class on Sept. 17, 2020. Last October, Hydro One sent in a draft rate application which illustrated how the elimination of the seasonal rate class would impact those customers. In this report, Hydro One found that the elimination of the seasonal rate class would result in a small rate reduction to the nearly 70,000customers moving to the medium density rate, while the nearly 80,000 customers being moved to the low-density rate would see their rates jump by about $54 per month. According to Terry Rees, the executive director of FOCA, the OEB has been looking Hydro One’s report over for the past several months. Once Hydro One has informed all of its consumers of the change, the OEB will hold a hearing to ask Hydro One any further questions, to consider any input from FOCA and other interested parties, and to determine whether rate mitigation is required and what that rate mitigation should be. If rate mitigation is deemed appropriate, Hydro One has been tasked with initiating these measures for the 77,595 seasonal rate customers who will see an increase in their hydro bills. This will of course depend on their usage, according to Rees. “We think in an era of low inflation, lots of economic pressures, especially in the north and in rural Ontario, that’s something that’s a pretty troubling decision,” he says. Hydro One’s proposed mitigation measure is a rate increase of not more than 10 per cent per year, spread out over a number of years, to reduce the impact to those seasonal residents who will now be paying more for service. According to their October report to the OEB, they would provide a fixed monthly credit for the seasonal customers affected based upon their prior year’s average monthly consumption. They estimate that these credits would need to be in place for nine years at a total cost of $150 million. Regarding billing and meter reading, they recommend that it be based upon seasonal customers’ usage level and patterns and their current reading and billing method. According to Hydro One, this would meet their needs while overall billing and meter reading costs would be minimized. Hydro One’s rate classes determine how much someone pays for hydro depending on their location and usage. A property qualifies as seasonal if it’s a secondary residence where the owner lives for less than eight continuous months out of the year. The 147,679 seasonal rate class consumers would mostly fall into the low-density residential rate class (77,595) or the medium density residential rate class (69,839), with only a handful of customers falling into the urban residential rate class (245). Alex Stewart is a spokesperson with Hydro One, and says that in the coming weeks, these seasonal customers will get a notice from the OEB with details on the next steps for the seasonal class elimination. “The notice will include details on moving customers to one of the three residential rate classes and the projected bill impacts associated with the move. This change could increase electricity costs for a typical seasonal customer by $650 per year,” he says. At the upcoming hearing, likely to be sometime this spring, the OEB will hear from Hydro One, FOCA and any other intervenors who wish to participate. If somebody does want to participate and have their say, they are invited to contact the OEB by visiting www.oeb.ca or by calling 1-877-632-2727, and quoting OEB file number EB-2020-0246. While the OEB has steadfastly refused to back down on eliminating the seasonal rate class, they will be looking at Hydro One’s proposals to mitigate the rate increase for their seasonal customers who will fall into the low-density rate category, as well as any comments from intervenors like FOCA. After the hearing, Hydro One will be implementing this changeover from the seasonal rate to the residential rates for its seasonal customers. This is a process that they estimate will cost between $3 million and $4 million. Rees is one of those customers affected by the upcoming rate change, as he lives south of Bancroft near Apsley. He had already gotten his notice, and was surprised to find out he would be classified as a low-density residential rate customer when this change takes effect. “I have neighbours on either side of me, about 100 feet away, so it’s not really remote. It’s typical of central Ontario. You can see your neighbour but they’re not too close,” he says. While surprised at his rate change, Rees also realized that the rate change may impact more people in the near northern parts of the province than he’d anticipated. “I thought it would be the north and the more remote areas [of Ontario] that would be affected,” he says. How does Hydro One determine who is a low density versus medium or urban density rate customer? According to Stewart, the urban density zone is defined as areas containing 3,000 or more customers with a line density of at least 60 customers per circuit kilometre. “The medium density zone is defined as areas containing 100 or more customers with a line density of at least 15 customers per circuit kilometre. The low-density zone is defined as areas other than urban or medium density zone,” he says. According to Hydro One, the main reason for the rate increases for current seasonal rate payers who fall into the low-density rate category is that these customers will not qualify for some of the subsidies available to normal residential consumers in the aforementioned rate categories, like the Rural and Remote Electricity Rate Protection and the Distribution Rate Protection. At the upcoming OEB hearing, Rees explained the basis of FOCA’s remarks in defence of its members, who will be facing this rate hike at some time next year. “We will remind them that we’ve been against this change and why. I think they will be based on the fact that we have to consider people’s household budgets and their ability to pay and how such a dramatic change would be budgeted for. And so, we’ll certainly be encouraging them to consider whatever mitigation is available to soften the blow.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
The electricity sector is expected to play a key role in Canada's push to net-zero emissions. Enhancing long-distance transmission can be lower the cost of providing clean and reliable electricity.
One of the few bright spots to the pandemic shines through in a crop of new entrepreneurs. For some, the shakeup in daily routines has brought the push they needed to jump into new business ideas that didn’t seem possible before. For husband and wife duo Seher Shafiq and Saad Khan, the absence of commutes to and from work and socializing opened up free hours that didn’t exist before the pandemic. An idea shaped up over a dinner conversation: Cardamom & Co., a tea and spice delivery service that could help their friends and family spread a little joy around in a rough time. They quickly got to work, setting up a Shopify website and Instagram account last summer. The venture offers care packages, chai kits and loose leaf teas, packed by hand in a small office in their North York condo. The focus is on gift giving and attempting to bridge the gap of social isolation. “Everything that we do comes with a personalized handwritten card so people love being able to send something to their friends, family (and) colleagues.” For Khan, the venture feels like a productive use of time. “I feel good, like we’re not wasting our time,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do something on my own and I feel like we just got handed this opportunity.” Like Cardamom and Co., Ottawa-based Boxed & Loved has zeroed in on gift boxes that can help people share the love while staying apart. Each box contains items personalized with a name, phrase or inside joke, explained co-founders and neighbours Noor Kamran and Dunia Jaradat. The pandemic made them think about what they could offer others, Kamran said. “COVID kind of forced us to think, ‘What is it that we can contribute?’” she said. “Maybe this is the time that forces you to slow down and think of what you’ve always enjoyed.” “Usually (the boxes are) tailored towards the gift recipients. So we talk to our clients on what they think that gift recipients would enjoy, whether it be self care items like face masks or bath bombs,” Jaradat said. With four children under age three between them, the pair wanted something to do that they loved and allowed them to manage their time alongside parenting. “It’s two people doing it, and we’re neighbours so we’ll share the tasks,” Jaradat said. For Kamran, the venture meant jumping headlong into a project instead of overthinking. “We just kind of (decided), ‘Let’s just do this and we’ll see how it pans out, how the logistics work.’” Whether it’s within your circle, or on a large-scale, there are more than a few businesses that have been started with others in mind. Manilla.co, for example, is an app that’s working to help people send money internationally, without the usual high banking and wire transfer fees. Two of the founders, Ashiana Ismail and Nehi Igbinijesu, spoke with the Star and said they made this app specifically with international students in mind. As former students themselves, they know many of their peers often rely on family support while studying overseas. And then there’s Goodszilla, founded by Toju Ogbeide. “It comes from the concept of a marketplace, that uses buying and selling of goods to do good at the world,” Ogbeide said. Goodszilla allows users — whether everyday people or retailers — to sell products and donate a portion of their sales to a charity of their choice. When Ogbeide first moved to Canada from Nigeria, he got involved in volunteering at food banks, Casey House and other organizations. When he was decluttering his place for a move, he thought, “How can I monetize these items (and) actually support the organizations that I’ve worked at in the past?” He noticed auctions were a popular way charities raised money, and he knew that funds could be more valuable than physical things, so he thought a platform where all of that was combined would be neat. Whether it’s a scrappy endeavour started in a condo, or bigger visions looking for funding, this kind of entrepreneurship is picking up. Both Manilla.co and Goodszilla are part of an incubator program at Parkdale Centre for Innovation, which has helped entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground since it opened in 2018. Rusul Alrubail, founder of the Parkdale Centre for Innovation, noticed a significant jump in applicants for the centre’s most recent cohort. People are finding time and motivation to invest in a new business idea and the reasons can vary, but Alrubail has noticed that even prior to the pandemic, the reason marginalized people can turn to entrepreneurship can have greater stakes. It can be a way to create opportunities for themselves when they face systemic barriers in their chosen fields. “It’s a way out for them,” Alrubail said. “People are literally starting businesses because they don’t have access to career opportunities. And they need that financial security.” As a result of the pandemic, unemployment peaked in May 2020 at 13.7 per cent, according to Statistics Canada and as of January it’s 9.4 per cent. For some, entrepreneurship may be a better option to finding traditional work in a hard economy. Either way, a time of upheaval can be a time to chase a dream. Mahnoor Khan said she had left her full-time job before the pandemic hit after feeling disillusioned and disenchanted with the rigidity of — something the onset of COVID-19 exacerbated. She remembers feeling something was structurally wrong with the economy and the way people work. Last summer, Khan found herself in the middle of home renovations. “I was renovating some space, my own personal home, and (thought) ‘I really just love this, I wish I could just do this,’” Khan recalled in a Zoom video call with the Star. Already inspired to take on a creative venture, Khan shared her feelings with her new business partner Maham Babar who suggested the two team up to launch Amavi Design Studio. The pair, who handle interior design and staging, have seen a growing stream of business since their studio launched. “You keep having these ideas of the kind of work space you wish there was or you know, ‘If I was a boss, I would do it like this,’” Khan said. “I feel like COVID really just proved to people that there’s no reason why you can’t work half of the week from home and still be as productive.” Her takeaway from the venture? Just jump into new ideas. “You just need to do it, you just need to do something — whatever you’re thinking.” Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jenna Moon, Toronto Star Staff Reporter, Toronto Star
On the Tudor and Cashel Township Facebook page, staff announced that the interim tax notices for the township were sent out on Feb. 18, and payments were due back to them by March 29. The township advised residents that if they hadn’t gotten their notices, they should contact the office at email@example.com. Surveys were also included with the tax notice, to get input on the proposed change to the ward system, and were to be returned by mail, email, or dropping them off at the municipal office. Nancy Carrol, the clerk and treasurer of Tudor and Cashel Township, explains that they do two tax billings. “The first is based on 50 per cent of the previous years’ taxes and the second will be calculated with the mill rate for the current year and any assessment changes. The final tax bill for the 2021 year will be due July 28,” she says. There was also a survey that was circulated with the tax notices. It was drafted in-house by the township, and is in relation to the ward system that council is looking to introduce and to get residents’ feedback on this plan. The ward system changeover discussion arose from a motion put forth by Councillor Noreen Reilly at the Jan. 12 council meeting. She proposed a bylaw to adopt a three-ward system in the township for the 2022 election to replace their current at-large system. She felt that the change would ensure that equitable political representation within the municipality continues on as time goes by, better than the current system, and council passed a bylaw to look into enacting this change after getting residents’ feedback. Carrol says the survey is very basic, with the goal of getting the information out to the electorate that council has asked for the introduction of a ward system through a bylaw. “Any feedback will be compiled and reported to council to assist in their decision-making process.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
If you can't find a summer cottage rental in Southwestern Ontario and your Plan B is camping, better start thinking of a new backup. Summer campsites at Ontario Provincial Parks are being snapped up months ahead of time, with some of the most popular times in the region already booked full. Chalk it up to a second summer of the pandemic's fallout, with traditional vacation travel no longer an option and people with a year of COVID-19 restrictions under their belt thinking far ahead. “We’re anticipating a really busy 2021 season,” said Megan Loucks, discovery specialist at Pinery Provincial Park. “We’ve noticed a lot more people are trying to book . . . it’s more competitive this year.” Bookings at Ontario Parks made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5 nearly doubled over the same time last year, rising to 58,475 reservations provincewide, up from the 29,504 in the same period in 2020. More than half of the reservations are for the province’s five busiest parks: the Pinery near Grand Bend, Algonquin, Killbear, Sandbanks and Bon Echo. In Southwestern Ontario, the Canada Day long weekend is already fully booked at the Pinery, Turkey Point, Long Point and Sauble Falls. While getting a reservation at the Pinery is often difficult during the height of the summer even in a normal year, Loucks said the shoulder season is becoming more popular. “We definitely noticed an increase in our spring reservations, much like all throughout the year,” she said, adding winter day use has also spiked. Park bookings open up five months in advance at 7 a.m. each day, but cancellations can free up spots last minute, Loucks said. Last year brought record numbers to Ontario Parks, with more than 11 million visits for day use or overnight camping. Loucks said that’s not likely to slow down this summer, as lockdown-weary residents seek safe, outdoor getaways within the province amid the ongoing virus crisis. “A lot of our visitors are just looking for that outdoor space and being able to get outside and connect with nature,” she said. “I think that has a lot to do with our increased visitation.” firstname.lastname@example.org The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Six additional variants of concern – for a total of nine - have been identified in COVID-19 cases in the region, and this afternoon the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit shared that those cases are located in Northumberland County and City of Kawartha Lakes but were acquired outside the region. Dr. Ian Gemmill, acting medical officer of health, spoke to the topic and provided the latest numbers on Wednesday afternoon at his regularly-scheduled weekly press conference. At that time, he mentioned five additional variants of concern, but later in the afternoon an additional case had been added. “The situation with VOCs can change quickly,” he said in comments shared by the health unit an hour after the press conference. “In fact as of now, there are nine variants of concern (VOC) cases in the HKPR District Health Unit region. Seven are in Northumberland County, while two are in the City of Kawartha Lakes.” “The source of all of these VOCs are tied to contacts with others outside the HKPRDHU region,” he said. “The nine VOCs involve three clusters and a single case … and in all these situations, these local VOCs are well under control as the people involved are isolating and limiting their contacts.” In the meeting, Gemmill said he did not have at that time the information about where the cases are located, nor which strain has been identified. When it was noted by a reporter that people are concerned and want further information, Gemmill said: “We need to assume that coronavirus is everywhere,” he said. “We need to assume that the variants could pop up anywhere. So far, they've all had the acquisition outside of our area, which means it's not being transmitted in [the HKPR region]. I agree there's a public interest in knowing which county it's in, we'll get that for you, but I think that people need to behave as though they could be exposed to this at any point. I think that's a message I have to keep repeating, repeating, repeating, because it's so key to the preventative measures.” On Feb. 9, the region's first identified variant of concern was reported. That case was linked to a resident in Port Hope, and later at a Feb. 17 press conference, Gemmill said two of that resident's household contacts were also identified as having variant cases of COVID-19, noting that those cases had been isolating. "This is a controlled situation," said Gemmill at that time. "Since they've all been quarantined, I'm not worried particularly about these cases." Last week, the public health unit had not yet been informed through lab results of which variant of concern was identified in the Port Hope cases. Across Ontario, Gemmill said at the Feb. 17 press conference, the proportion of positive cases that are constituted by the variants of concern are rising, and that he was hearing "worrisome chatter" about it being identified in other parts of Ontario. "We have been affected, but in a very minor way, but this is becoming a big issue across the province of Ontario," he said. The variants are more transmissible than the original virus, and can amplify cases because of the ease in which it spreads, which has led to speculation about a potential third wave and lockdown to protect hospital capacity. "Anything is possible, but I'll be completely forthright with you, the way this variant is behaving, the one from the U.K. primarily, I'm not sure we're going to have control of it, so it could theoretically replace the original virus and become the dominant one, and then it's going to be a lot more difficult to control,” said Gemmill. As of the Feb. 24 HKPRD health unit update, Haliburton County has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one current high-risk contact. City of Kawartha Lakes currently has 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 77 high-risk contacts, and Northumberland County has 20 current cases of COVID-19 and 71 high-risk contacts. “What is worrisome is the continuing spread of coronavirus variants across Ontario,” said Gemmill in Feb. 24 comments. “We are likely to see more of these VOCs in our region, so the need to take public health prevention measures continues to be important until more people are vaccinated.” Sue Tiffin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Minden Times
OTTAWA — Parliament’s budget watchdog is predicting another multibillion-dollar increase in the cost of a new fleet of warships for the Royal Canadian Navy, pegging the price for what was already the largest military procurement in Canada’s history at more than $77 billion.Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux’s latest estimate is $17 billion more than the government’s stated price for the 15 warships, which are to be built in Halifax over the next two decades and form the navy’s backbone for most of the century.Giroux’s estimate is in a highly anticipated report released Wednesday that is likely to set the stage for some tough discussions — and heavy industry lobbying — on whether Canada should push ahead on the project or change tack.To that end, the budget officer’s report includes a number of potential scenarios designed to provide a clearer picture of what options are available to the government should it decide to go in a different direction — and how much each would cost.That includes scrapping the existing plan to base the 15 warships on the British-designed model called the Type-26, which Canadian defence officials have repeatedly described as the right ship for Canada, and choosing a different design for the fleet.Giroux and his team also looked at the idea of a hybrid fleet, in which Canada builds three Type-26 ships and supplements them with 12 other vessels. That would mimic how the navy was previously built, with three Iroquois-class destroyers and 12 Halifax-class frigates.The Type-26 frigate is also being built by the United Kingdom and Australia, but Canadian officials have been making numerous changes to the design to meet Canada’s unique military and industrial requirements.Those changes have been made more complicated by the government’s attempts to pack all the capabilities from the navy’s now-retired destroyers and existing frigates into one type of ship.The destroyers provided air defence while the frigates specialize in hunting submarines.The PBO found that the government could save $40 billion if it built only three Type-26 frigates and supplemented them with 12 smaller, less capable Type-31s, which is similar to what Britain has decided to do.Canada could also save $50 billion if it scrapped plans to build any Type-26s and went with an entire fleet of Type-31s, according to the report, though the PBO notes that the Type-31 was “designed to operate alongside the ‘higher-end’ Type-26.” Restarting the entire project could result in a four-year delay to the start of construction.Giroux acknowledged during a media briefing that building a “hybrid fleet” would incur added costs over the long term due to the need for more training and spare parts for different types of ships, among other things, which were not figured into his calculations.“It also means that you don't put all your eggs in the same basket,” he added. “So if you find a major defect in one class of ship, you have a fallback option. You're not bound by 15 ships.”The PBO also looked at the potential cost to switch to a type of warship called the FREMM that is currently being built for the United States and which Giroux described as on par with the Type-26 in its capabilities.The budget officer found a revised project would cost around $71 billion whether the government decided to build an entire fleet of FREMMs or three Type-26s and 12 FREMMs.The Defence Department stood by its $60-billion cost estimate on Wednesday, arguing Giroux put too much emphasis on the ship's weight in his calculations, and noting his figure included tax. It also called the Type-26 "the right ship" for the navy, suggesting the other designs would not meet Canada' needs.While it said selecting a new design "is not an option we will be pursuing," the department did not specifically address the idea of a hybrid fleet.“As a taxpayer, I really hope they're right on the $60 billion — and even lower if they can,” Giroux said. “But we're confident that our cost estimate is the most likely scenario: $77 billion. I'm confident we have an accurate cost estimate.”The warship project was launched in earnest nearly a decade ago when Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax was selected in October 2011 to build the fleet, with the total cost estimated at around $26 billion and the first ship to be delivered in the mid-2020s.That vague schedule remained largely unchanged, at least on paper, even as the estimated price tag ballooned to $60 billion and Ottawa ordered several smaller ships so Irving would have work until the surface combatants were ready for construction.But defence officials revealed to The Canadian Press earlier this month while that construction on the first Type-26 is set to begin in 2023-24, the ship won't be delivered until 2030-31. Officials nonetheless insisted that the $60 billion budget would be sufficient despite the new delays.Giroux said his team’s analysis found a one-year delay in the project would add $2.3 billion to the overall cost, while a two-year delay would result in the fleet costing $4.8 billion more.Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and chief of the defence staff Admiral Art McDonald also appeared in a promotional video this month for a new design facility for the Type-26 that was organized by BAE Systems, which designed the warship, suggesting the government is doubling down on the warship.Wednesday’s report is the result of a request from a parliamentary committee for the PBO to look into the warship project, and had been highly anticipated given the amount of money involved and the relative lack of information about the project from the government.It also comes as the federal auditor general prepares to release her own report Thursday on the federal government’s entire shipbuilding strategy, which includes not only the 15 new warships but dozens of other vessels for the Navy and Canadian Coast Guard.The Naval Association of Canada, which represents current and retired naval officers, sent a commentary to members of Parliament last month warning them to exercise caution when it came to Wednesday’s PBO report.Giroux acknowledged that naval officials are in a better position to determine what the navy needs in its new fleet, and that each of the different designs provide pros and cons. However, he said MPs asked his office to look at the costs, “and that’s what we did.”“Ultimately, it's up to decision-makers to make these trade-offs as to what the navy needs and what Canada can afford,” he said. “And by providing them with these cost estimates, we're allowing them to have better information to make these important decisions.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
(CBC - image credit) The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer said she expects the territory to have full herd immunity — meaning, 75 per cent of the eligible adult population having received two doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine — by the end of the April. Territorial officials, including Premier Caroline Cochrane, had previously stated that their goal was to have 75 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated by the end of March. At the territory's weekly COVID-19 update on Wednesday, Dr. Kami Kandola said the territory will receive 16,200 doses of the vaccine later this week and another 16,200 doses in the territory's fifth and final shipment, at the end of March. She said the vaccination rollout to the general population in N.W.T. is expected to begin in late March or early April 2021, provided the territory receives its fifth shipment of doses in full and on time. She said this will allow 75 per cent of the population to receive one dose by the end of March and two doses by the end of April. "The N.W.T. is still leading the country in the delivery of first doses, which are already giving strong protection to about 42 per cent of our adult population," she said. Kandola said that as of Feb. 20, the territory had administered 14,520 first doses of the vaccine, and 1,932 second doses. She said all 33 N.W.T. communities have second-dose clinics scheduled. Outside of Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik, they are open to residents who are getting their second dose and to any resident who is 18 and older wishing to get their first dose. On Wednesday, the territory announced it was expanding second-dose clinics in Yellowknife beginning March 1 to allow people who received their first Moderna vaccine dose between Jan. 23 and 30 to get their second dose. Officials also announced they had finalized a schedule for vaccine clinics in all of the territory's communities, although they stipulated it was subject to change based on the supply and delivery of vaccine. Kandola said that if people hadn't received their first dose at a previous clinic in their community, they can still receive them at second-dose clinics. She also said that N.W.T. residents can now get vaccinated anywhere in the territory, not just the community in which they live. "If you are not going to be in your community for your second dose, or now want your first dose, you can now get the vaccine in another community anywhere in the Northwest Territories where there is a clinic going on," she said. She added that medical records are electronically stored and people will be assessed based on their home community's priority requirement, not the one they're in, if they're not home. Missed Wednesday's news conference? Watch it here: Travel not recommended during March break Students and teachers across the territory are about to go on March break. Kandola said she knows it's a time people often travel but she reminded people that non-essential travel outside the N.W.T. is still not recommended. She said transmission rates across Canada and other parts of the world are still high, the N.W.T. still needs to get 75 per cent of its adult population vaccinated, and public health officials still need more data on the impact of COVID-19 variants because they are more infectious than the original strain. "We still need to keep our guard up to keep the pandemic under control," Kandola said. Three hospitalizations from Gahcho Kué mine outbreak Kandola said three people who contracted COVID-19 at the Gahcho Kué diamond mine have been hospitalized. She wouldn't elaborate on their condition for privacy reasons but said it was a "stark reminder that we need to take this pandemic seriously." "We still have work to do to defeat this virus," she said. She said there are eight active cases at the mine right now. There have been 19 cases of COVID-19 at the mine and 11 people have recovered, Kandola said. She added public health officials "remain cautiously optimistic the situation at the mine has stabilized." Kandola also said the outbreak at the Gahcho Kué winter road worksite is over. The worksite, which is operated by a contractor and is 40 kilometres away from the mine, had three cases of COVID-19, all of which have recovered. Kandola said there hasn't been a new case there since Feb. 1. No Yukon-N.W.T. travel bubble at this point On Feb. 18, the office of the chief public health officer announced it will consider self-isolation exemptions for people traveling from Nunavut. On Tuesday, N.W.T. Health Minister Julie Green said in the legislature that she was hoping for "good news" on a possible travel bubble, or some form of freer travel, between the N.W.T. and Yukon by the end of March. Green said she would be meeting with Kandola about it Wednesday. Kandola said at the news conference that she is not considering a travel exemption for people who are entering the territory from Yukon at this point in time. She said that Yukon hasn't submitted a timeline or any direction as to whether they're going to ease their travel restrictions. "Should Yukon decide to ease their travel restrictions, we just have to take into consideration these issues around the border to Alaska and the border to B.C. and the entry from other provinces," said Kandola. Case numbers As of Tuesday, the territory had 10 active cases, five of which are N.W.T. residents and five are from outside the territory. According to the government's website, the N.W.T. has had 74 cases since the pandemic began, and 64 of those people have recovered.
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A man over the age of 70 is the fifth person to die in Newfoundland and Labrador because of COVID-19, health officials said Wednesday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced his death during an emotional public health briefing. While reminding residents that someday the pandemic will be over, Fitzgerald teared up and had to take a moment before she could continue. "One day we will be able to gather together and hug our friends and family," she said, her voice breaking. "Hold fast, Newfoundland and Labrador." Fitzgerald reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in the eastern health region of the province, which includes the capital, St. John's — where an outbreak began several weeks ago. Officials have said the outbreak was caused by the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. Despite low case numbers over the past few days, Newfoundland and Labrador remains under lockdown and Fitzgerald said residents must stay on guard. There are 345 active reported infections in the province and six people are in hospital with the disease, she said. Health Minister John Haggie confirmed that two patients of a St. John's hospital have been diagnosed with COVID-19, adding that it's not clear how they contracted the virus. "There is no outbreak," he said about the hospital. Haggie said health officials expect regular shipments from Pfizer to resume, including weekly shipments of 6,000 doses. He said the second and third phase of the province's vaccination plan will be released Friday, adding that officials are ready to ramp up vaccinations as soon as they have enough of the vaccine to do it. Pfizer, he said, has also promised an extra 80,000 doses in March and another 249,000 doses by the end of May. "Those last two quantities, we have not seen hide nor hair of as yet," Haggie told reporters. "But given the comments on the national scale, we're hopeful and optimistic that we may see some or all of that, in which case we have a plan to ramp up vaccination." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press