Premier Doug Ford says he's doing the best with his caucus telling him they want to see restrictions stay in place while another faction is pushing for a reopening of the economy as quickly as possible. Travis Dhanraj has more.
Premier Doug Ford says he's doing the best with his caucus telling him they want to see restrictions stay in place while another faction is pushing for a reopening of the economy as quickly as possible. Travis Dhanraj has more.
For a man obsessed with winning, President Donald Trump is losing a lot.He’s managed to lose not just once to Democrat Joe Biden at the ballot box but over and over again in courts across the country in a futile attempt to stay in power. The Republican president and his allies continue to mount new cases, recycling the same baseless claims, even after Trump’s own attorney general declared the Justice Department had uncovered no widespread fraud."This will continue to be a losing strategy, and in a way it's even bad for him: He gets to re-lose the election numerous times," said Kent Greenfield, a professor at Boston College Law School. “The depths of his petulance and narcissism continues to surprise me.”In an Associated Press tally of roughly 50 cases brought by Trump's campaign and his allies, more than 30 have been rejected or dropped. About a dozen are awaiting action. Trump has notched just one small victory, a case challenging a decision to move the deadline to provide missing proof of identification for certain absentee ballots and mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.Trump has refused to admit he lost, and this week posted a 46-minute speech to Facebook filled with conspiracies, misstatements and vows to keep up his fight to subvert the election.Five more losses came Friday. The Trump campaign lost its bid to overturn the results of the election in Nevada and the Michigan appeals court rejected a case from his campaign. The Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed a challenge brought by GOP lawmakers. And in Arizona, a judge threw out thrown out a bid to undo Biden’s victory there, concluding that the state’s Republican Party chairwoman failed to prove fraud or misconduct and that the evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s loss. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a conservative group over Trump’s loss.Thursday dealt another blow in Wisconsin, where a split state Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s lawsuit seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. The case echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes. Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court late Wednesday.Judges in battleground states have repeatedly swatted down legal challenges brought by the president and his allies. Trump's legal team has vowed to take one Pennsylvania case to the U.S. Supreme Court even though it was rejected in a scathing ruling by a federal judge as well as an appeals court.After recently being kicked off Trump's legal team, conservative attorney Sidney Powell filed new lawsuits in Arizona and Wisconsin this week riddled with errors and wild conspiracies about election rigging. One of the plaintiffs named in the Wisconsin case said he never agreed to participate in the case and found out through social media that he had been included. The same lawsuit asks for 48 hours of security footage from the “TCF Center,” which is in Detroit.The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have raised are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postmarks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost. Election officials from both parties have said the election went well, and Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the election's outcome.Trump's lawyers responded by criticizing Barr, who has been one of the president's biggest allies.Greenfield says their criticism speaks volumes. “It goes to show how vehement their ability to overlook reality is," he said.Failing to gain any traction in court, Trump and his allies are now turning to events with Republican lawmakers and rallies in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan where they can use unfounded claims of fraud to incite the president’s loyal base.At a rally in Georgia on Wednesday, Powell and another pro-Trump attorney, Lin Wood, suggested that Republican voters sit out of the two January runoff elections that will decide control of the Senate because of the potential for fraud. And in Michigan, Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, urged Republican activists to pressure, even threaten, the GOP-controlled Legislature to award the state’s 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Biden’s 154,000-vote victory.In his video posted Wednesday, Trump said there were facts and evidence of a mass conspiracy created by Democrats to steal the election, a similar argument made by Giuliani and others before judges that has been largely unsuccessful. Most of their claims are rooted in conspiracy theories about voting machines that are not true, and affidavits by partisan poll watchers who claimed they didn't get close enough to see ballots being tallied because of safety precautions in the coronavirus pandemic. Because they couldn't see, they argued, something untoward must have happened.“No, I didn’t hear any facts or evidence," tweeted Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, after watching the video Wednesday night. “What I did hear was a sad Facebook rant from a man who lost an election."___Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
Twelve people have died in a COVID-19 outbreak at a hospital in London, Ont., that has seen dozens of staff and patients sickened. As of Friday, the outbreak at University Hospital, which began on Nov. 10, was tied to 48 cases among staff and 64 in patients."We are doing everything in our power to keep this number from growing but trying to keep the pandemic out of a hospital is a challenge," said Dr. Paul Woods, president of the London Health Sciences Centre, which oversees the hospital. He said the hospital remains open and safe for emergencies, but has been redirecting some admissions to another facility.The outbreak began in a single unit and has since spread to five other parts of the hospital.That disruption could last through December, hospital officials said. The network has made several measures to control the growing outbreak at the hospital.It has limited movement of staff and patients between different parts of the hospital and directing staff to "work-quarantine" -- meaning they can't have social interactions outside of work.The health network has also reduced activity at the hospital to only urgent and emergent services.It said it has continued to work with Middlesex-London Health Unit to implement measures as part of its response to limit transmission.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor and the health minister are urging the public to slow the spread of COVID-19 this weekend by limiting any festive gatherings to immediate households.Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix say 711 new infections have been recorded in the province and 11 more people have died, for a total of 492 fatalities.They say in a joint statement that B.C. is continuing to see a significant surge in community transmission so all public health orders must be followed as more than 36,000 people have tested positive for the virus.Henry has said it's important to remain vigilant in containing the virus for the next few months and that everyone in the province who wants to be vaccinated could be immunized by September.Nearly 11,000 people who have been identified as being exposed to the virus are being monitored and 25,658 people who tested positive have recovered.The latest public health orders have meant the cancellation of adult indoor and outdoor team sports, though children can continue participating in local games without spectators.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says that as soon as she knows when the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada, she will share that information with Canadians.But Anand told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the original contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines had to be vague about delivery dates because nobody knew at the time if the vaccines would be successful.It's only in the last few weeks, when the leading candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported such positive results from their large clinical trials, that the way forward became clear enough for Anand's department to start asking the companies to be more specific about when they can make good on their contracts with Canada."We put these contracts in place in order to place Canadians in the best stead possible, of any country in the world, recognizing that we would need to negotiate additional terms such as precise delivery dates, once a vaccine was discovered, and regulatory approval was obtained," she said. "And that is what's happening now."As Canadians face a pandemic-plagued holiday season and dream that 2021 will not be the anxiety-laden and often tragic disaster that 2020 has proven to be, there is one gleaming hope dangling still just out of reach: a vaccine for COVID-19.Still, the federal government has yet to answer one big question: When will it get here?It is not that she doesn't want to tell Canadians when, said Anand. But the complexities of figuring out a specific date are linked to when Health Canada approves the vaccine, and when the vaccine makers can see that Canada is ready to receive and safely distribute the precious doses, some of which have to be stored at temperatures below -70 C.Those pieces are starting to converge now.Health Canada officials are days, maybe even hours, away from approving the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in Canada.Canadians got some more information on the logistics from a briefing of federal officials this week, including that Pfizer will ship its vaccine directly to 14 identified receiving sites in provinces. FedEx and Innomar Strategies were contracted Friday to oversee the delivery of other vaccines from a national receiving site to provinces.The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued refined guidance Friday for who should get the vaccine first, including long-term care residents and workers, and people over the age of 80. The materials like syringes, gauze pads and bandages needed to vaccinate millions of people are in place. Ultralow temperature freezers have been purchased and nine new ones have already arrived. Provincial governments are lining up their own task forces."We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible," Anand said.Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has been decrying the lack of clarity from the Liberals about the vaccine plan. A week ago he accused the Liberals of only starting to buy vaccines in a panic this summer after a collaboration with China on a vaccine fell apart.The partnership between the National Research Council and China's CanSino Biologics was announced in May to great fanfare. But the doses to be used in a Canadian clinical trial failed to arrive, when the Chinese government — in the midst of political tensions with Canada — refused to issue an export permit for them.“I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said Nov. 29, adding the timeline shows it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Canada "started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options."Anand said that is not the case.She said the CanSino deal fell within Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies.Her marching orders to negotiate deals with other vaccine makers came weeks earlier. A team of procurement officials in her department was assigned to the file in March, at the same time as those negotiating contracts for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and rapid tests.In June, the COVID-19 vaccine task force provided a list of vaccines for Canada to pursue. Anand said talks with manufacturers began in early July. The first deal, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna, was struck July 24. Canada was first to sign with Moderna. It signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech a week later, on Aug. 1. It was the fourth country to do so, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. News of trouble on the CanSino deal first appeared in early July when the doses still hadn't been approved for export by China. Canada walked away from the deal at the end of August when it became clear it would not happen.By then, Canada had deals with four other vaccine companies, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and NovaVax. It added deals with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in September and then with Canada's own Medicago the next month.Anand said Canada approached every contract with a similar goal — to get 20 million doses guaranteed, and options to potentially buy more later on. In all, Canada is paying more than $1 billion to the seven vaccine makers for 194 million doses, even if those vaccines never get beyond the experimental stage.Another 220 million doses are available if Canada asks for them, a decision that will be made for the vaccines that are proving to be the best. Anand announced Friday another 20 million doses will come to Canada in 2021 from Moderna, for a total of 40 million.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020.Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Anthony Rota is marking his first anniversary as Speaker of the House of Commons by, as he puts it, having his throat slit.He's having surgery this coming week to remove his thyroid gland, which was damaged by radiation treatment he received almost 35 years ago for the first of two bouts of Hodgkin lymphoma.But it seems a perversely fitting conclusion to a tumultuous year in which Rota has presided over Canada's first-ever pandemic Parliament.He has been forced to oversee an unprecedented overhaul of Commons operations to allow for hybrid sittings, with some 80-odd MPs in the chamber and the other 250 or so MPs participating virtually and voting remotely."It's not what I signed up for but it is what it is," Rota said in an interview."It's been an interesting trip, I gotta tell you. It's been an interesting challenge."Rota's debut as Speaker was always bound to be a baptism by fire, riding herd on a Commons in which the governing Liberals hold only a minority of seats — a surefire recipe for hyper partisanship and cliffhanger confidence votes.But no one could have imagined all the normal operations of the chamber would be upended by the advent of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March.These days, when he sits in the Speaker's chair, Rota has to pay attention not just to the MPs sitting physically distanced from one another in the chamber but to three different computer screens. They show him how much time the current speaker has left, who's up next, and the names of all 338 MPs who signal him with a little, blue "raised hand" feature when they want to talk.He has to repeatedly remind MPs to mute or unmute, speak louder, activate their cameras and adjust their headsets so interpreters can hear them properly. He's had to chide MPs for using partisan backdrops or displaying props (in one case, a dog in an MP's lap), or being improperly attired while speaking or voting online.He's even had to instruct MPs driving in their cars to pull over before voting."One of the things you've got to remember too is we really did start from scratch and we were in uncharted territory so we didn't really know how things were going to go," Rota said."We're constantly adjusting it."Indeed, House technicians are currently doing test runs with a new voting app that aims to make electronic voting easier and faster.Fortunately, Rota has always been a tech geek. Even in high school, he was building electronic devices and fooling around with computers before they were "in vogue.""I just enjoy the challenge … My interest in technology is something that has made this (pandemic Parliament) interesting," he said.Rota credits the Commons' IT team, which he says worked night and day, for pulling off what has been a remarkably smooth transition to hybrid sittings, despite some glitches.Liberal and opposition MPs alike believe Rota's fascination with new technologies has made him ideally suited to the role of Speaker in these unprecedented times.They also praise his calm, good-humoured and patient approach to refereeing proceedings in what most seem to feel is a non-partisan manner, even though he's a veteran Liberal. He has represented the northern Ontario riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming since 2004, except for a four-year hiatus after being defeated in the 2011 election.Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell declined to comment on how Rota has managed the Speaker's job. But the House leaders for all other parties in the Commons were unstinting in their praise."It is a complex task to establish a virtual Parliament," Bloc House leader Alain Therrien told The Canadian Press."The challenges were numerous and we were able to find in Mr. Rota a collaborator anxious to implement effective solutions to the problems that we encountered. In all my interactions with Mr. Rota, I have dealt with a man of great kindness, fairness and respect."NDP House leader Peter Julian said it normally takes a new Speaker a year or two to become "seasoned," a task infinitely more complicated for Rota because he had to simultaneously deal with a minority Parliament in the midst of a "once-in-a-century pandemic.""I think Anthony just basically got thrown into the deep end … You would think that that would have been an impossible hill to climb but he's done it admirably."Julian said Rota's ability to remain affable and "very, very calm" has helped all MPs cope with the intensity of the pandemic and minority Parliament.Similarly, veteran Green MP Elizabeth May said Rota is a "lovely person" who has been "a calming influence when things are out of control." He can be firm when necessary but is gentle when he chides MPs for bad behaviour and rarely loses his temper, she said.Rota was elected Speaker one year ago, largely because the Conservatives threw their votes behind him in a bid to defeat the previous Speaker, Liberal MP Geoff Regan, whom they considered overly partisan.Despite the partisan machinations that won him the job, May said: "Against the odds, Anthony has managed to maintain what I think is being accepted by all sides of the House as a non-partisan hand in all this."Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, who used to be seat mates with Rota back when the Liberals were in opposition, said Rota has never been particularly partisan. "He's a gentleman. He's likable. It's hard not to like him. Again, he's not partisan. That's why he has the respect of everyone on both sides of the House," Rodriguez said."He's a great human being and that reflects in the way he treats people and how he's able to motivate people just by being who he is."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020.Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
President Donald Trump's frantic effort in the courts to delegitimize an election he lost has come no closer in a month to reversing any results.Lawyers for Trump and his allies have asked judges in several states to take the drastic and unprecedented step of setting aside President-elect Joe Biden’s wins. They have filed new cases and vowed to press on with appeals.But the quantity of affidavits, lawsuits and claims made by Trump belies that they are spurious or often repetitive of arguments already rejected by judges and elections officials, some of them Republicans.Here is a look at where the legal action stands in several key states:ARIZONAA judge on Friday threw out a Republican bid to undo Biden’s victory in Arizona, concluding the state’s GOP chief failed to prove fraud or misconduct in her challenge of election results in metro Phoenix. The judge also noted the evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s loss in the state.Judge Randall Warner dismissed Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s challenge of ballots in metro Phoenix that were duplicated because voters’ earlier ballots were damaged or could not be run through tabulators. Poll observers called to testify by Ward said they witnessed problems in the processing of duplicated ballots, but the judge said those problems were pointed out to election workers, who then fixed the mistakes.Warner wrote “there is no evidence that the inaccuracies were intentional or part of a fraudulent scheme. They were mistakes. And given both the small number of duplicate ballots and the low error rate, the evidence does not show any impact on the outcome.”Courts there had already dismissed four other cases. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, certified Arizona's results Monday. In a touch of symbolism, he declined a phone call from Trump while signing the certification papers. Lawyer Sidney Powell, who was recently kicked off Trump's legal team and has been pushing wild conspiracy theories about the election, has also filed a lawsuit there.PENNSYLVANIATrump has lost repeatedly in Pennsylvania, collecting a series of stinging rebukes from Republican-appointed judges. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld a district judge's dismissal of a key lawsuit argued in an error-filled performance by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections,” wrote Circuit Judge Stephanos Bibas, nominated by Trump.The district judge, Matthew Brann, wrote of the complaint, “One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption." Brann, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, noted that the campaign did not provide that evidence.Trump's lawyers have vowed to ask for review from the U.S. Supreme Court anyway.MICHIGANSix cases brought by Trump and Republican allies in Michigan have either been rejected or dropped. On Wednesday, Giuliani appeared at a public meeting with lawmakers and urged activists to pressure, even threaten, the GOP-controlled Legislature to “step up” and award the state’s 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Biden’s 154,000-vote victory. A Michigan appeals court turned down an appeal Friday from Trump’s campaign in a challenge to how absentee ballots were handled in Detroit and other issues.WISCONSINThe state’s Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear Trump's lawsuit seeking to overturn his loss in the battleground state. In a divided decision, the court didn’t rule on the merits of the claims but said the case must first wind its way through lower courts. Trump wants to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. In urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, Trump’s lawyers said they didn’t have enough time to start in a lower court. Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”Trump's campaign filed a similar lawsuit in federal court Wednesday.The Wisconsin Supreme Court also declined Friday to hear a lawsuit brought by a conservative group over Trump’s loss.____Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix; and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.Nomaan Merchant And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
President-elect Joe Biden says that the most recent jobs report is "dire" and that there is no time to lose in crafting a rescue package as millions of people have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes slashed during the pandemic. (Dec. 4)
Alberta’s top doctor is reminding Albertans that the COVID-19 virus is spreading across the whole province, not just in large urban centres. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said COVID-19 cases are rising and spreading in rural communities. The warning came on the same day the province broke another daily case record with 1,854 new cases found in the past 24 hours. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or an Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within a global problem,” Hinshaw said. Hinshaw said in the spring rural communities were less impacted than urban areas by the virus' spread, but right now, cases are growing in the north, central and south zones, with one third of all active cases outside of the province's two major cities. COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live or what your postal code is, Hinshaw said, and she reminded residents it just takes one case in a community to cause an outbreak. On top of spread, Hinshaw said it may be more difficult to access services for serious outcomes in rural areas, including being further away from health care and intensive care beds. On Thursday, the province saw 1,854 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day case climb yet. “Anyone who contracts the virus needs our support,” Hinshaw said, reminding residents to not stigmatize those who have come down with COVID-19. In the last 24 hours, the province has conducted 19,600 tests, with 9.5 per cent coming back positive. There are currently 17,743 active cases of the virus in Alberta, with 511 people in the hospital and 97 in intensive care. “These numbers are very concerning and I know that AHS is watching them closely,” Hinshaw said. In the past 24 hours, 14 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported. “Sharing the number of lives lost is a little more difficult each day because I know the pain and sadness their deaths cause for their families and friends left behind,” Hinshaw said. On Nov. 24, the province announced new restrictions to help curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the province, with most of the restrictions kicking in on Friday and Monday. Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
La poète Marie-Andrée Gill a remporté mercredi le prix Prix du CALQ – Artiste de l’année au Saguenay−Lac-Saint-Jean lors d’une cérémonie virtuelle intime organisée par Culture Saguenay−Lac-Saint-Jean. Elle se voit ainsi décerner une bourse de 10 000 $. La poète a publié trois recueils aux Éditions de La Peuplade, Béante, Frayer et Chauffer le dehors en plus d’avoir collaboré à de nombreux ouvrages collectifs. « Marie-Andrée Gill se démarque par une poésie touchante et unique. Multipliant les lectures publiques, les conférences et les spectacles, notamment pour la jeunesse, la poète démontre un engagement social exceptionnel. Elle se pose en véritable ambassadrice, à la fois de sa région et des communautés autochtones », ont fait valoir les membres du jury du Conseil. Ilnue du Lac-Saint-Jean, Marie-Andrée Gill est notamment animatrice d’une balado (Laissez-nous raconter : l’histoire crochie) et étudiante au doctorat en lettres à l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. « Son écriture allie l’intime et la relation à la terre comme guérison, avec les imaginaires québécois et ilnus. Sa démarche artistique se fonde sur la décolonisation des stéréotypes et de la protection du territoire, avec une écriture décomplexée alliant le kitsch, la réalité régionale et la quête de soi », explique Culture Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean dans un communiqué.Julien B. Gauthier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Lac St-Jean
Produits Forestiers Résolu (PFR) a remis 100 000 $ aux Fondations du Domaine-du-Roy et du Centre Maria Chapdelaine, soit 50 000 $ chacun, suite à une vaste campagne de sollicitation menée auprès de ses fournisseurs, à défaut de pouvoir tenir son annuel tournoi de golf depuis 2012. « Je tiens à remercier très chaleureusement le PDG de Résolu, M. Yves Laflamme, d’avoir même en temps de pandémie tenu à ce que son entreprise soit à nos côtés pour prendre soin de la santé des gens de la région. À quelques mois de son départ à la retraite, je tiens à souligner sa grande implication auprès de la Fondation », a affirmé le président de la Fondation, Marc-André Levesque. Ainsi, ce sont 620 500 $ qui ont été amassés par PFR depuis 2012 dans le cadre de cette campagne. En guise de remerciements, la Fondation du Domaine-du-Roy a remis une plaque commémorative à Yves Laflamme pour souligner son engagement exceptionnel pour la santé de la population de la région. Sous sa gouverne, de 2018 à 2020, c’est plus de 265 000 $ que les campagnes de financement de Résolu ont permis d’amasser pour la Fondation.Julien B. Gauthier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Lac St-Jean
A request from a long-time Port McNicoll resident could present a winter activities opportunity to people living along 1st Avenue. Joyce Burns is asking that the sidewalk/trail along the entirety of the busy road be plowed for safe winter use. She presented her case through a letter that Coun. Sandy Talbot read to other council members at a recent council meeting. "The mental health benefits of having it plowed is that young families can still walk and run it safely as can all the people that use it,” Burns wrote. “They will be able to use it to teach them how to cross-country ski safely when the conditions are good. “The kids that catch the buses on 1st Avenue will have a safe place to walk to get back and forth and also when they're waiting for their buses,” continued the letter. “With COVID still around this winter, people will be able to get out and enjoy the sidewalk/trail, like they have in spring and summer. They will see wildlife and birds and even a decorated Christmas tree on the sidewalk trail to brighten their day.” Burns also said in her letter that she’d counted eight sidewalks in Port McNicoll that she believes are plowed. “They plow Talbot (Street) to Davidson (Street), a two block section,” she noted in her letter. “Why not all the way down 1st Avenue? I'm hoping there will be a positive outcome to this. I don't expect it to be as wide as it is now. If it is plowed like the rest of the sidewalks, that would be great." Talbot said she had no problem supporting the request considering the cost the township would incur. “I think sometimes we have to think outside the box and there will be an increase in cost if there's an increase in service level,” she said. “It's well-utilized. Other people have trails in other communities and they make skating rinks out of them so they're multi-purpose uses.” Coun. Paul Raymond supported the idea, but also brought forth concerns. “We have a growth of young families down by that area and they are increasingly using the road or the trail in summer time,” he said. "My only concern with cleaning the trail off is that in winter we have motorized vehicles ripping up and down there. What happens if we open it up and see some destruction because of these vehicles? I think we have to put some more thought into the whole thing.” Mayor Ted Walker, who also backed the request, said the snowmobile issue could be mitigated by a 'No Snowmobiles' sign as is done in other areas. “I'd be open for a one-year trial,” he added. Where Talbot had a few peers in her corner, Coun. Barry Norris was at the other of the spectrum on the issue. “Seriously?” he asked. “Why don't we clear the whole trail then? It makes no sense. I'm sorry we're not here to turn around and allow all of this? We're talking about a two-mile sidewalk to allow a couple of pedestrians to walk it. “I don't support it one iota,” continued Norris. “I think there is a policy in place as to what sidewalks we actually do and I doubt this is actually going to be covered under it.” And not to mention the costs of having to maintain it with sand, he said. “There's more to it than just clearing it off,” said Norris. “What's the rough cost on it?” Staff didn’t have an immediate answer as to how much it would cost to clear the two-kilometre pathway and were asked to bring back a report to a December meeting for a final decision. When asked for her reaction to council's decision, Burns wrote in, "I'm hopeful that council will go ahead with plowing 1st Ave., but if not, that will be alright ... I'll try again for next year."Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
WASHINGTON — The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local): 8:05 p.m. More than a half dozen Democratic congresswomen have sent an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to make Michèle Flournoy the country's first female defence secretary. They say in the letter dated Thursday that the selection of Flournoy would be “a symbolic moment for the United States, and for all women who over the years have aspired to careers in national security.” They call Flournoy “eminently qualified to serve." Biden has been facing escalating pressure from competing factions within his own party over his defence pick. Black leaders have encouraged the incoming president to select an African American to diversify what has so far been a largely white prospective Cabinet, while others are pushing him to appoint a woman to lead the Pentagon for the first time. Meanwhile, some progressive groups are opposing Flournoy, citing concerns about her record and private-sector associations. Among the seven women who signed the letter pushing Flournoy are Reps. Jackie Speier of California, Lois Frankel of Florida and Veronica Escobar from Texas. ___ HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN'S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE: President-elect Joe Biden is adjusting the scope of his agenda to meet the challenges of governing with a narrowly divided Congress and the complications of legislating during a raging pandemic. Read more: — EXPLAINER: Trump’s failing, monthlong fight against election — Trump loves to win but keeps losing election lawsuits — Dangerously viral: How Trump, supporters spread false claims — Optimism growing for coronavirus relief bill as pressure builds ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 4:05 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says keeping people safe is his first consideration for his Jan. 20 inauguration, making it “highly unlikely” that a million people will pack the National Mall for his swearing-in during the coronavirus pandemic. Biden was asked about inauguration planning during a news conference Friday in Wilmington, Delaware. He suggested that the festivities could end up looking like the largely virtual convention Democrats held in August, with online activity in the states. Biden says his team is talking with congressional leaders about their plans for the inauguration. The swearing-in ceremony and a lunch for the new president and vice-president are held at the Capitol. Biden says he wants people to be able to celebrate safely. He says, “There will probably not be a gigantic inaugural parade.” He says details are still being worked out. ___ 4 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration has diminished confidence in science so much that it will take some time and effort to rebuild it across the board, including convincing people that the coronavirus vaccines are safe. He said Friday that he’s bothered by what he said were “wild assertions” President Donald Trump has made about the virus going away on its own. He noted how Trump once suggested that perhaps scientists could come up with a way that injecting bleach would kill the coronavirus. Biden says that a president’s words matter and that he hopes to especially convince hard-hit Black and Latino communities that the vaccines are safe. Biden took questions about the pandemic in Wilmington, Delaware, after making comments on the virus’s impact on the U.S. economy. ___ 3:50 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration’s plan for distributing an approved coronavirus vaccine to the public lacks important detail. Biden said Friday that “there’s no detailed plan that we’ve seen” for how to get vaccines out of a container, into syringes and into people’s arms. He says more equitable distribution is also needed to get the vaccine into underserved communities, not just to drugstores and large retailers. Biden noted that Black people and Latinos are more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people are. Biden says the “equity side” is an important part of the process, too. He says he’s working on an “overall plan” and adds that’s why he asked government infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to be part of Biden’s COVID-19 team and to serve as his chief medical adviser. ___ 3:35 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says that the most recent jobs report is “dire” and that there is no time to lose as millions of people have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes slashed. With the pandemic accelerating across the country, America’s employers sharply scaled back their hiring last month, adding 245,000 jobs, the fewest since April and the fifth straight monthly slowdown. Biden called on Congress to urgently pass an economic stimulus to help turn the corner on the impact that the coronavirus has had on the U.S. economy. Friday’s report provided the latest evidence that the job market and economy are faltering in the face of a virus that has been shattering daily records for confirmed infections. Economic activity is likely to slow further as the pandemic worsens during the winter months. “It was grim,” Biden said. “It shows an economy that’s stalling,” In the past three months, 2.3 million more people are long-term unemployed and deaths are rising. Biden says, “Americans need help and they need it now.” ___ 8:15 a.m. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday. As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. But during President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away. Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House. On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president. “I told him I thought that was a good idea,” Fauci told NBC. ___ 8 a.m. National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe says foreign adversaries are using social media and other platforms to amplify allegations of voter fraud. But he won’t say which countries are using the issue to try to undermine public confidence in the U.S. democratic process. President Donald Trump and his allies continue to mount new legal cases alleging voter fraud in battleground states since he lost the November presidential election to Joe Biden. But they have been losing in court. And Trump’s own attorney general has declared the Justice Department uncovered no widespread fraud. Ratcliffe is a Trump loyalist. He says on CBS that U.S. intelligence agencies have no indication that any foreign adversary or criminal group had the ability to change vote results but that they are still analyzing all the information collected. Ratcliffe told “CBS This Morning” on Friday that he plans to issue a report on foreign election interference in January. The Associated Press
VENTNOR, N.J. — The FBI is telling anyone who underwent a coronavirus test at a New Jersey laboratory to get retested and to contact the agency.In a statement Friday on Twitter, the FBI’s Newark office urges people who were recently tested for the virus at Infinity Diagnostic Laboratory in Ventnor “to be retested as soon as possible.” It also asks that anyone who was administered a finger-prick blood test at the laboratory to contact a victim assistance unit at the FBI.The announcement gave no further details, and a message left with the FBI seeking further information was not immediately returned.Voicemail for the company’s operations director Friday evening said it was closed and did not offer the opportunity to leave a message.___THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— Vice-President Pence: Confidence in vaccine important for US— Fauci apologizes for suggesting UK rushed vaccine decision— As hospitals cope with a COVID-19 surge, cyber threats loom— A World War II veteran from Alabama has recovered from COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has authorized medically trained National Guard soldiers to fill nursing roles, drive ambulances and perform coronavirus testing for hospitals that are overstretched on staffing while they care for a climbing number of coronavirus patients.The order Friday allows the adjutant general to send hospitals reinforcements from the Tennessee National Guard. The state is focusing on troops who are actively assigned, including those serving in coronavirus testing roles statewide, but not those currently serving in civilian jobs in health care.State health officials decline to identify which hospitals have expressed interest, but say there is need statewide.The state reports 2,485 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with only 14% of floor beds and 8% of ICU beds available.___SAN FRANCISCO — The health officers in six San Francisco Bay Area regions issued a new stay-at-home order Friday as the number of virus cases surge and hospitals fill.The changes will take effect for most of the area at 10 p.m. Sunday and last through Jan. 4. The counties have not yet reached Gov. Gavin Newsom’s threshold announced a day earlier requiring such an order when 85% of ICU beds at regional hospitals are full, but officials said the hospital system will be overwhelmed before the end of December when Newsom’s order would apply.It comes the same day the state recorded another daily record number of cases, with 22,018, and hospitalizations topped 9,000 for first time.It means restaurants will have to close to both indoor and outdoor dining, bars and wineries must close along with hair and nail salons and playgrounds. Retail stores and shopping centres can operate with just 20% customer capacity. Gatherings of any size with people outside of your household are banned.___RALEIGH, N.C. — A judge agreed on Friday to name a third-party expert to scrutinize the COVID-19 response within North Carolina’s prison system, which like the rest of the state is experiencing a surge in cases and hospitalizations.Ruling again in ongoing litigation about health and safety within prisons, Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier said he’s worried about the pressure the coronavirus is now placing upon correctional institutions.The prison system closed temporarily three units over the last two weeks to handle staffing challenges, brought on in part by the upward swing in positive cases and the medical care prisoners need.The Department of Public Safety said that 370 correctional staff testing positive for COVID-19 were out of work Friday, up 50 workers from last week. There were 667 active cases among the roughly 30,000 prisoners statewide. Twenty-five prisoners have died from COVID-19 related illnesses since the pandemic.___ATLANTA — Georgia’s coronavirus infections are soaring above their worst peaks of the summer, pushing more people into hospitals and resulting in more deaths.Hitting a new single-day record of more than 6,000 suspected and confirmed infections on Friday pushed Georgia’s rolling 7-day average of infections to nearly 4,300. That rolling average was above its previous July record for the second day in a row.Hospitalizations have not yet reached their summer heights in Georgia, but beds are filling rapidly with COVID-19 cases. Nearly 2,400 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital Friday.Deaths, which usually come after infections and hospitalization, are also rising. Georgia has now recorded 9,725 confirmed and suspected deaths.___BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama health officials have urged the state Friday to extend its statewide mask mandate, set to expire next week.Dr. Sarah Nafziger, who teaches emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said it was “critically important” for Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to maintain the requirement, which is opposed by some who consider it an infringement on personal rights or discount the threat of the new coronavirus.The president of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Donald Williamson, said the organization “absolutely” supports continuing the order as cases of COVID-19 rise statewide.The order, which expires Dec. 11, requires anyone older than 6 to wear a mask when in public spaces indoors and outside if they can’t stay away from others. First imposed in July, health officials credit the rule with a sharp decline in cases until a recent spike began nationwide.___HARRISBURG, Pa. — States faced a deadline on Friday to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths.The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high in the U.S. on Thursday at 100,667, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That figure has more than doubled over the past month.New daily cases are averaging 210,000 and deaths are averaging 1,800 per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.Arizona on Friday reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases for the second straight day as the number of available intensive care unit beds fell below 10% statewide. Pennsylvania’s top health official says intensive care beds could be full this month.___SALEM, Ore. — As Oregon reached a new record number for reported daily COVID-19 cases and deaths, lawmakers, advocates and others continue to call on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to declare a special legislative session.The Oregon Health Authority on Friday reported 2,100 new COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths. The previous daily records have been 1,699 cases and 24 deaths. Oregon also surpassed 80,000 cases since the start of the pandemic in March.Housing advocates in the state are asking the Legislature to act on a proposal to extend a statewide eviction moratorium until July 1. The current eviction moratorium, which was ordered at the beginning of the pandemic, is scheduled to lapse on Dec. 31.___TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas considers meatpacking plant workers and grocery store employees essential workers, putting them in the second phase for possible vaccinations.Kelly says the Kansas vaccine plan calls for the first shots to go to front-line health care workers with a high risk of coronavirus exposure.She says the second phase will focus on vaccinating essential workers, including first responders but also grocery store and meatpacking plant workers.The Democratic governor says members of the Legislature will get vaccinated at different times, based on their risk of being exposed or developing serious complications.Next week, the Food and Drug Administration will consider whether to grant emergency authorization for vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.Kansas has reported 168,295 confirmed cases, an increase of 6,234 since Wednesday, and 1,786 total confirmed deaths.___KYIV, Ukraine — About 1,000 representatives of small business rallied outside the Ukrainian parliament against possible new coronavirus restrictions.Demonstrators in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv attempted to block access to the parliament building but were pushed back by police.Ukraine, which is facing a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, tightened weekend restrictions last month but lifted them this week. The government is considering a lockdown in early January. Protesters are concerned the new restrictions could deal a harsh blow to small and medium business.Ukrainian reported 15,131 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 787,891 confirmed cases. There’s been 13,195 confirmed deaths.___ATLANTA — Vice-President Mike Pence is trying to boost Americans’ confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines that are awaiting regulatory approval and distribution.At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention main campus in Atlanta, Pence said Friday the Food and Drug Administration could approve the first vaccines “the week of Dec. 14” with the first wave of Americans being vaccinated “in all 50 states” within 48 hours of that approval.Pence said “the confidence piece is so important” so that enough Americans will take the vaccine and ensure its maximum effectiveness. Pence called on “all of us in public life” to vouch for the process that got vaccines to the cusp of mass distribution.“We’ve gone at record pace, but we’ve cut no corners in this,” Pence said, sitting beside CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “What we want to do is assure the American people that there’s been no compromise of safety or effectiveness in the development of this vaccine.”Pence’s comments come the day after former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said they’d be willing to take a vaccine on television to boost confidence.___UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. health chief says positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials are encouraging but warns against poorer nations being left behind in “the stampede for vaccines.”World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Friday. He says vaccines must be shared “as global public goods.”Referring to the upsurge in cases and deaths: “Where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self-interest, the virus thrives, the virus spreads.”Tedros urged all nations to unite and build the post-pandemic world by investing in vaccines, preparedness against the next pandemic and basic public health.Tedros says Covax, an ambitious but troubled global project to buy and deliver virus vaccines for the world’s poorest people, faces a $4.3 billion gap and needs $23.9 billion for 2021.He says the total is less than one-half of one per cent of the $11 trillion in stimulus packages announced by the Group of 20, the world’s richest countries.___MILAN — Italy recorded another 814 coronavirus deaths on Friday. There were 24,099 new coronavirus cases reported among more than 212,000 tests.While the rate of transmission in Italy has dropped below 1, signalling that the virus curve is under control, the government has imposed tight restrictions for the Christmas holiday.They include a ban on travelling between regions from Dec. 21-Jan. 6, and a strong recommendation against hosting guests for holiday lunches and dinners.New cases remain highest in Lombardy, the epicenter of both the spring peak and the fall surge, with 4,533 new cases. Neighboring Veneto followed with more than 3,700. There were 201 fewer new admissions to Italy’s intensive care units than a day earlier, dropping the total to 3,657 in ICU. Hospitalizations dropped by 600 to 31,200.Italy has 1.6 million cases and 58,842 confirmed deaths, the second-highest death toll in Europe, behind Britain.___WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic.Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday.As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. During President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away.Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House.On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president.___The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says tougher health restrictions likely to be aimed at Calgary and Edmonton are coming if current public-health orders don’t bend the curve down on COVID-19.Kenney, taking questions on a Facebook town-hall meeting, says it makes sense to target the novel coronavirus where it’s having the most impact.“If you’re in a remote community with a negligible number of COVID cases, where there are no cases in the local hospitals, that is not the issue right now,” Kenney said Thursday night.“The issue is the hot zones in Calgary and Edmonton — and that’s what we’ll be addressing with increasing focus in the days to come.”His comments came just hours after Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical health officer, reported a concerning rise in rates in rural areas. She stressed that even one case can move like wildfire and COVID-19 doesn’t respect geographical boundaries. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem,” Hinshaw said.“Our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn't care where you live or what your postal code is."The province reported 1,828 new cases on Friday. Active cases stood at 18,243. There were 533 people in hospital, 99 of them in intensive care, and a total of 590 Albertans had died.Alberta Health says more than 15 per cent of active infections are in areas outside the Edmonton and Calgary medical zones. About 30 per cent are outside the four largest cities of Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge. Areas with high active case counts per 100,000 population include Banff, the Municipal District of Acadia and Smoky Lake County.Kenney has been lauded and criticized for taking a regional, nuanced approach to try to stem the spread of the pandemic while trying to keep open as many businesses and community centres as possible.It's not going well.Alberta has registered well over 1,000 new cases a day for two weeks and, on some days, has had more new cases than larger provinces such as Ontario. Health officials are reassigning staff, space, and patients to free up more intensive care beds, while dealing with outbreaks at 22 hospitals and health facilities. The government is also exploring bringing in medical field tents from the Red Cross if needed.Last week, Kenney introduced tighter provincewide health restrictions that included a ban on indoor gatherings. But there are looser measures for areas with low infection rates. They don’t have to follow a 25 per cent capacity limit in businesses or a maximum of six people — all from the same household — at one table in restaurants. Nor do they have to abide by a one-third capacity rule for worship services.Most municipalities have made it mandatory to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Kenney has, unlike all other premiers, refused to implement that provincewide. He has said it’s unnecessary in remote areas and some rural folk would refuse to wear masks if it were an order. Cold Lake, a city of almost 15,000 in the province's northeast, has twice voted down a mandatory mask bylaw. Mayor Craig Copeland said Friday masks don't need to be required, because people are following guidelines from Hinshaw."Ninety per cent of the people in Cold Lake now are wearing masks," Copeland said. "Do they really need to be told by a mayor and council to wear a mask?"Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said Kenney’s public-health directives cater to his rural political base and the anti-mask fringe he wants to keep happily ensconced in his United Conservative Party.“(Kenney) is more interested in protecting his political fortunes with a small minority of folks who are going to resist."In Smoky Lake County, northeast of Edmonton, restaurant owner Hong Hu said her Maple Gardens Restaurant is one of the few in the area that is doing takeout only."If it gets worse, of course I (will) worry about it," said Hu, who added she's more worried about the mounting cases in Alberta than the cases in her region.She said the county has a mask bylaw and has put notes up at businesses reminding people to wear face coverings and to sanitize regularly.Back in Cold Lake, resident Cathy Olliffe-Webster, 60, said she is disappointed in the premier and her mayor for not making masks mandatory.Cold Lake is still holding indoor events such as Christmas craft sales, despite the area's first COVID-related death this week and active cases rising to more than 70, she said."I understand that Alberta's economy has been hit harder than most, but I'm really sick of people putting money before people's lives," Olliffe-Webster said.She said she was moved by an emotional speech Thursday by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who begged people to follow COVID-19 rules."I just wish Jason Kenney was a little like him."— With files from Fakiha Baig and Daniela Germano in EdmontonThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
The federal government is laying plans for the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The approval of a vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech is said to be imminent. The second vaccine in line for approval in Canada is from Moderna. The Canadian military will have a role to play in vaccine distribution and a dress rehearsal is planned for next week to make sure doses can get to every corner of Canada. Various provinces have started spelling out their plans as well. Here's a look at what they've said so far: —Newfoundland and LabradorPremier Andrew Furey announced the members of a COVID-19 vaccine logistics team for the province at a news conference on Friday.The team will include Health Minister John Haggie, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Cmdr. David Botting of the Canadian Armed Forces, Indigenous Affairs Minister Lisa Dempster and Municipalities Minister Derek Bennett.Furey said the team will be ready to administer the vaccine to the province's most vulnerable people as soon as it becomes available, but did not specify who may fall into that category.—Nova ScotiaThe province's chief medical officer of health says he will release a detailed plan for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once Ottawa shares more information. Dr. Robert Strang says there is no certainty yet about the availability of a vaccine, but expressed hopes an initial supply will trickle into Nova Scotia early in the new year.Strang says the plan will include tight control of the supply and clear rules dictating who can be first in line for immunization. He says he's waiting for more federal guidance on issues ranging from priority groups to transportation and storage logistics. —QuebecThe province says it will be ready to start rolling out its vaccine plan as of Jan. 1.Premier Francois Legault says that public health officials have already settled on the list of priority vaccine recipients, but details have not been released. Legault says the province is also working to put the necessary infrastructure in place to support a vaccine rollout. That includes obtaining fridges capable of maintaining the extremely low temperatures needed for the Pfizer vaccine.Quebec has also tasked assistant deputy health minister Jerome Gagnon and former provincial public health director Dr. Richard Masse to oversee the province's vaccination effort. —OntarioPremier Doug Ford is among the leaders calling on Ottawa to provide more clarity as officials work to develop a provincewide vaccination strategy.Health Minister Christine Elliott has said Ontario will receive 1.6 million doses of the new vaccine from Pfizer and 800,000 doses from Moderna in early 2021, although federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said such details were still in the works.Ford has named former general Rick Hillier, who served as chief of defence staff, to oversee the province’s vaccine rollout.Nine others were named to the provincial vaccine task force on Friday, including medical experts, the province's chief coroner, former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders, Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald and bioethicist Dr. Maxwell Smith. The province had initially said it would develop its vaccine plan by year’s end, but earlier this week Ford said the province would be ready even if the vaccines arrive sooner. He has urged Ottawa to provide detailed information on potential vaccine delivery.“We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments,” Ford said.—Manitoba Government officials say they've been assembling the necessary people and equipment to set up a large-scale "super site" to deliver the vaccine as soon as it is available.Premier Brian Pallister says the province has also purchased the necessary supplies to administer two doses of the vaccine to every person in the province.The first freezer able to store the Pfizer vaccine at low temperatures has been delivered and installed, with another four on the way. As the vaccine supply from the federal government expands over the coming months, the province says it will become more widely available in a larger number of sites, similar to a conventional vaccination campaign, such as the annual flu shot.\--AlbertaPremier Jason Kenney says Alberta expects to start getting COVID-19 vaccines in the first week of January.High-risk patients and health workers will get them first. Kenney says his government has struck an interdepartmental team to roll out the vaccines from 30 different locations in the province.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, has said the province is expected to receive 680,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year, a figure not yet confirmed by the federal government. —British ColumbiaThe provincial health officer says seniors in British Columbia's long-term care homes and hospitals will be the first to get immunized starting in the first week of January with two vaccines.Dr. Bonnie Henry says vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna will be the first to be rolled out after approval by Health Canada.Henry says B.C. health officials are working with their federal counterparts on ways to facilitate the delivery of vaccines as they anticipate various challenges that could come up in the immunization process.More details will be provided about the province's vaccine plan next week.—YukonPremier Sandy Silver says the territory has been in discussions with various levels of government on a vaccine rollout plan. He says the goal will be to provide vaccines to elderly people and health-care providers.Silver says rural and remote communities should also get priority status in northern regions, a fact he says he's emphasized with federal authorities. The premier says he has joined the other provincial and territorial leaders in pushing for a national strategy to distribute the vaccine. Silver says the Pfizer vaccine could cause logistical problems for remote communities because of its cold-storage requirements, but those issues may not apply to other vaccines under development. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The man who killed 10 people after deliberately driving down pedestrians in Toronto told a psychiatrist he knew what he did was wrong, court heard Friday. "I know what I did was morally wrong," Alek Minassian told Dr. Alexander Westphal, a U.S. based psychiatrist retained by the defence. "And extremely devastating. And irreversible."Those words were not captured in Westphal's final report, Crown attorney Joe Callaghan said.Westphal has said Minassian lacks empathy and does not understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but said criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one.The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. The defence argues he is not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018.Minassian's state of mind at the time is the sole issue at trial after he admitted to planning and carrying out the attack. Callaghan alleged the star witness for the defence purposefully left out the admission by Minassian "because it did not fit" Westphal's narrative.Westphal denied the charge, saying he synthesized information from various sources, including his hours of interviews with Minassian. In a report, Westphal concluded: “The act was also completely beyond his comprehension given his absence or understanding of emotional nuance, social exchange, and contextual accommodation," he wrote. "He had absolutely no insight into the terrible impact that the act would have on other beings, and did not think about the pain he was bound to cause, nor understood it, even slightly, now."Callaghan took issue with the conclusion."How can you testify in this court in this trial on mass murder and leave out 'It was extremely devastating and irreversible'?" Callaghan said.The prosecution pointed it out it never would have known about Minassian's statement if Justice Anne Molloy didn't order videos of the interviews released to the Crown two weeks ago. Minassian's lawyer had said Westphal would be the only expert to say Minassian should be found not criminally responsible for his actions due to autism spectrum disorder, but the psychiatrist has stopped short of making that conclusion. Earlier, Westphal conceded Minassian has shown empathy in some instances.Under cross-examination from the prosecution, Westphal said Minassian showed a touch of empathy for his father in his police interview.About nine hours after the attack, Det. Rob Thomas had a long interview with Minassian. At one point, Thomas confronts Minassian after catching him in a lie.Minassian initially told the detective he had taken the bus to the Ryder rental agency to pick up the van. But his father actually dropped him off at a coffee shop and then Minassian walked four kilometres to the rental agency, court has heard.Minassian told the detective he lied in order to protect his father, worried he'd be charged as an accessory to murder.His father, Vahe Minassian, did not know about his son's plans for the attack, court has heard."Do you agree Mr. Minassian lying to protect his father shows his ability to take perspective and have empathy for his father?" Callaghan asked."That statement is too general for me — to some degree it does, but I don't think that requires much sophistication in this context, but I will grant you it does require reference to his father's needs as opposed to his own needs, which is unusual for him," Westphal said.In that police interview, Minassian also refuses to name or discuss anyone else, including his parents or family members. Callaghan suggested that meant Minassian didn't want to involve others, demonstrating "his ability to have empathy and take the perspective of others and respect their privacy" — assertions Westphal agreed with. The psychiatrist, who specializes in autism, maintains that despite some examples of empathy, Minassian does not understand that other people have feelings. Westphal has previously testified that Minassian views people as objects and does not comprehend the devastation of his actions.He has also said Minassian does not understand what he did was wrong, despite the young man telling the doctor repeatedly he did.He has concluded that Minassian was incapable of rational decision making at the time of the attack based on his irrational thoughts due to autism spectrum disorder.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has appointed two close allies of President Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, to a defence advisory board, continuing a post-election purge in the final weeks of the administration.The acting secretary of defence, Christopher Miller, who was installed by Trump on Nov. 9 after he fired then-Defence Secretary Mark Esper, said in a written statement Friday that nine members of the Defence Business Board had been replaced with the appointment of 11 new members.Lewandowski and Bossie are among Trump's most vocal supporters. The nine other appointees are Henry Dreifus, Robert McMahon, Cory Mills, Bill Bruner, Christopher Shank, Joseph Schmidt, Keary Miller, Alan Weh and Earl Matthews.“These individuals have a proven record of achievement within their respective fields and have demonstrated leadership that will serve our department and our nation well,” Miller said.The Miller statement initially said the nine individuals removed from the board had been serving in ”expired positions," implying they were overdue to leave. But later the Pentagon amended the statement to say some board members had been “terminated.” It gave no reason for the firings.The board's charter says members are appointed for terms ranging from one to four years, with annual renewals.The board's charter says members must possess “a proven track record of sound judgment and business acumen in leading or governing large, complex private sector corporations or organizations and a wealth of top-level, global business experience in the areas of executive management, corporate governance, audit and finance, human resources, economics, technology, or healthcare.”The role of the Defence Business Board, which was established in 2002, is to provide the secretary of defence and deputy secretary of defence with independent advice and recommendations on overall Defence Department management, business processes and governance from a private-sector perspective.Lewandowski was Trump’s first of three campaign managers in 2016, and both he and Bossie were regulars on the campaign trail with Trump this year.Bossie was brought on as part of a 2016 campaign team shakeup to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. He briefly fell out of favour with Trump aides over his involvement with political groups that sought to fundraise off Trump’s name but did not benefit his reelection campaign. He found his way back into Trump’s orbit earlier this year thanks to his vigorous advocacy of the president.—Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.Robert Burns, The Associated Press
BURLINGTON, Vt. — By late morning on Oct. 28, staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center noticed the hospital’s phone system wasn’t working.Then the internet went down, and the Burlington-based centre's technical infrastructure with it. Employees lost access to databases, digital health records, scheduling systems and other online tools they rely on for patient care.Administrators scrambled to keep the hospital operational — cancelling non-urgent appointments, reverting to pen-and-paper record keeping and rerouting some critical care patients to nearby hospitals.In its main laboratory, which runs about 8,000 tests a day, employees printed or hand-wrote results and carried them across facilities to specialists. Outdated, internet-free technologies experienced a revival.“We went around and got every fax machine that we could,” said UVM Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Al Gobeille.The Vermont hospital had fallen prey to a cyberattack, becoming one of the most recent and visible examples of a wave of digital assaults taking U.S. health care providers hostage as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide.The same day as UVM's attack, the FBI and two federal agencies warned cybercriminals were ramping up efforts to steal data and disrupt services across the health care sector.By targeting providers with attacks that scramble and lock up data until victims pay a ransom, hackers can demand thousands or millions of dollars and wreak havoc until they’re paid.In September, for example, a ransomware attack paralyzed a chain of more than 250 U.S. hospitals and clinics. The resulting outages delayed emergency room care and forced staff to restore critical heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level monitors with ethernet cabling.A few weeks earlier, in Germany, a woman’s death became the first fatality believed to result from a ransomware attack. Earlier in October, facilities in Oregon, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin and California also fell prey to suspected ransomware attacks.Ransomware is also partly to blame for some of the nearly 700 private health information breaches, affecting about 46.6 million people and currently being investigated by the federal government. In the hands of a criminal, a single patient record — rich with details about a person’s finances, insurance and medical history — can sell for upward of $1,000 on the black market, experts say.Over the course of 2020, many hospitals postponed technology upgrades or cybersecurity training that would help protect them from the newest wave of attacks, said health care security expert Nick Culbertson.“The amount of chaos that’s just coming to a head here is a real threat,” he said.With COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations climbing nationwide, experts say health care providers are dangerously vulnerable to attacks on their ability to function efficiently and manage limited resources.Even a small technical disruption can quickly ripple out into patient care when a centre's capacity is stretched thin, said Vanderbilt University's Eric Johnson, who studies the health impacts of cyberattacks.“November has been a month of escalating demands on hospitals," he said. "There’s no room for error. From a hacker’s perspective, it’s perfect.”A 'CALL TO ARMS’ FOR HOSPITALSThe day after the Oct. 28 cyberattack, 53-year-old Joel Bedard, of Jericho, arrived for a scheduled appointment at the Burlington hospital.He was able to get in, he said, because his fluid-draining treatment is not high-tech, and is something he's gotten regularly as he waits for a liver transplant.“I got through, they took care of me, but man, everything is down,” Bedard said. He said he saw no other patients that day. Much of the medical staff idled, doing crossword puzzles and explaining they were forced to document everything by hand."All the students and interns are, like, ‘How did this work back in the day?’” he said.Since the attack, the Burlington-based hospital network has referred all questions about its technical details to the FBI, which has refused to release any additional information, citing an ongoing criminal investigation. Officials don’t believe any patient suffered immediate harm, or that any personal patient information was compromised.But more than a month later, the hospital is still recovering.Some employees were furloughed for weeks before returning to their regular duties.Oncologists could not access older patient scans which could help them, for example, compare tumour size over time.And, until recently, emergency department clinicians could take X-rays of broken bones but couldn't electronically send the images to radiologists at other sites in the health network.“We didn't even have internet,” said Dr. Kristen DeStigter, chair of UVM Medical Center's radiology department.Soldiers with the state's National Guard cyber unit have helped hospital IT workers scour the programming code in hundreds of computers and other devices, line-by-line, to wipe any remaining malicious code that could re-infect the system. Many have been brought back online, but others were replaced entirely.Col. Christopher Evans said it’s the first time the unit, which was founded about 20 years ago, has been called upon to perform what the guard calls “a real-world" mission. “We have been training for this day for a very long time," he said.It could be several more weeks before all the related damage is repaired and the systems are operating normally again, Gobeille said.“I don’t want to get peoples’ hopes up and be wrong,” he said. “Our folks have been working 24/7. They are getting closer and closer every day.”It will be a scramble for other health care providers to protect themselves against the growing threat of cyberattacks if they haven't already, said data security expert Larry Ponemon.“It’s not like hospital systems need to do something new," he said. “They just need to do what they should be doing anyway.”Current industry reports indicate health systems spend only 4% to 7% of their IT budget on cybersecurity, whereas other industries like banking or insurance spend three times as much.Research by Ponemon's consulting firm shows only about 15% of health care organizations have adopted the technology, training and procedures necessary to manage and thwart the stream of cyberattacks they face on a regular basis.“The rest are out there flying with their head down. That number is unacceptable,” Ponemon said. “It’s a pitiful rate.”And it's part of why cybercriminals have focused their attention on health care organizations — especially now, as hospitals across the country are coping with a surge of COVID-19 patients, he said.“We’re seeing true clinical impact,” said health care cybersecurity consultant Dan L. Dodson. “This is a call to arms.”___Renault reported from New York.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Marion Renault And Wilson Ring, The Associated Press
A 35-year-old Dawson Creek man was killed Saturday, November 28 when he was caught in an avalanche while out snowmobiling north of Mackenzie. Police and rescue personnel were called to the scene in the Powder King-Bijoux Falls area beginning shortly before 2 p.m. They said two snowmobilers were in the area at the time and one was buried in the snow. The victim's name was not provided. "The BC Coroners Service has conduct of this incident and is currently investigating to determine the facts surrounding this death. No further details are available at this time," RCMP said in a statement. On the previous Friday, Avalanche Canada had issued its first forecast of the season and had put the danger rating for the North Rockies at high for treeline and above and considerable for below treeline. "There was a pretty big storm that pass through the area, almost a week long storm," Avalanche Canada warning service manager Karl Klassen said Monday. "And that storm just started breaking up on Saturday, there was a fair amount of wind and quite a bit of new snow. Temperatures were quite warm and then they cooled off and those are kind of classic conditions for pretty significant avalanche danger. "We rated the danger as high, we told people to expect large avalanches on all aspects and all elevations given the amount of wind and snow and the temperatures that were occurring at the time." The high rating is one level below extreme and is used when conditions are deemed to be very dangerous. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended when the rating is in place although Klassen said it can be done with proper training and experience. "Even when the avalanche danger is high or even extreme, there are places in the mountains where avalanches just don't occur so as long as you can recognize that terrain and stay on that terrain, you'd be fine," Klassen said. "But again, just to stress, it's not something you (should do) without getting some training, getting some experience and gaining some knowledge and making a good trip plan before they leave." Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said avalanche courses remain available. Theory is being learned online or in smaller class sizes and with greater physical distancing and masks once outside for the practical part. To find a class, go to avalanche.ca and click on the learn tab. Thanks to an influx of federal funding, a three-person field team has been working in the region during the winter months since December 2019. Klassen said forecasts for the region will be issued four times a week this season, up from three times a week last winter.Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
Twitter recently made an update to it’s hateful conduct policy, which now includes race and ethnicity. Anti-racism activists are glad action is being taken but say it’s a little too late social platforms like Twitter to react to hate. Global’s Sharmeen Somani tells us more about this reaction.