LONDON — Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it was launching an investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had made a bullying allegation against the Duchess of Sussex. The Times of London reported allegations that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated.” It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, then the communications secretary to Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. He now works for Harry’s elder brother, Prince William. The palace said it was “clearly very concerned” about the allegations. It said in a statement that the palace human resources team “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article” and would seek to speak to current and former staff. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace,” it said. American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year. In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California, and are expecting a second child. The bullying allegations were reported four days before the scheduled broadcast of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, which is anticipated to draw a huge audience. It also comes less than two weeks after the palace announced that the couple’s split from official duties would be final. A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.” In a 30-second clip released by CBS Wednesday night, Winfrey asks Meghan how she feels about the palace “hearing you speak your truth today?” “I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Markle says. “And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there's been a lot that's been lost already.” The Associated Press
P.E.I.'s new Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers received a dressing down in the provincial legislature Wednesday, apologizing for remarks he made the day before where he dismissed the financial toll the pandemic has taken on young Islanders, referring to accounts of "precarious employment" among young people as "employment opportunities." Those comments came during debate on a motion introduced by the Green Party to recognize the contributions of Island youth in the province's fight against COVID-19, and to acknowledge those same youth have borne much of the "economic risks and harms related to COVID-19, as a result of inadequate wages, inconsistent paid sick leave, precarious employment and challenges obtaining gainful employment." "I have to say that, I think what we need from our elected officials is we need people who are going to support the youth, and not encourage them to be victims," Trivers said Tuesday in response to the motion. "On Prince Edward Island, I personally don't see a lot of precarious employment out there, I see a lot of employment opportunities." Trivers went on to describe growing up on a farm, working for no wages. "I wasn't making money doing that, but that was very gainful employment," he said. "Those were the type of experiences that made me the person I am today, and they made me appreciate every dollar I've earned." On Wednesday Trivers offered a short apology, saying the comments he made were "misinformed." But the Official Opposition was not satisfied with that apology. "Yesterday, the Minister of Social Development and Housing told us that he doesn't understand what precarious unemployment is and that he doesn't believe it exists in PEI," said Hannah Bell, the opposition social development critic during question period. MLA Hannah Bell, official opposition critic for social development and housing, says Islanders need to know that all cabinet ministers support the message of equality and inclusion. (Laura Meader/CBC) "He described low-wage precarious work, even unpaid work, as an opportunity for character building. He also said that we should stop pointing out the problems with precarious or low paying work, lest we make our youth victims." Bell had previously delivered a written statement to the house, describing constituents she said were struggling to work multiple low-paid jobs, raise children, pay tuition fees and make the rent. "This is what precarious employment looks like. It is unstable, poorly paid, unreliable, with few if any worker rights," said Bell. "While this may not be the experience of members of this house, it is the experience of thousands of Islanders." Asked by Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker whether he supported his minister's statements, Premier Dennis King said, "I don't support that statement at all. I think we're here to help Islanders, that's our job, and if we're not here to help Islanders, none of us should be in here." Minister should show 'empathy' "The Department of Social Development and Housing is a place where many marginalized Islanders seek support," said Bevan-Baker. "Do you think it's important for the cabinet minister in that portfolio to have a deep understanding of, and an empathy for the people that their department serves?" he asked the premier. The Greens also brought up previous comments Trivers has made on housing. At a committee meeting in January, before Trivers was housing minister, he said Islanders receiving rental support from the province living in substandard housing "have the freedom to choose to make their own decision about whether they stay there or not." At a meeting in October he calculated that two people earning minimum wage could buy a home, accessing a provincial funding program to make the down payment, and afford mortgage payments of $1,200 per month. "It may not be right in Charlottetown, maybe people will have to travel," he said. In question period Wednesday, Bell said anyone who was "precariously employed … can't actually qualify for a traditional mortgage." Minister hasn't shared 'life experiences' "These are very serious issues," Trivers said in the legislature Wednesday. "We're all learning, we're all growing and the comments I made yesterday, when I say they were uninformed, it's simply because I haven't shared the life experiences of people who were impacted in that way in many cases and I will freely admit that." At one point during the session Trivers committed to creating a rental registry to track rental rates on P.E.I., something the Opposition has been asking for. After question period, Bell said the point of questioning Trivers about his comments was to get him to acknowledge there are problems with issues like wages, employment and sick leave benefits. "Premier King needs to have his cabinet ministers on board" with the vision of equality and economic security delivered in last week's throne speech, Bell said. "Trivers' comments show a pretty huge gap. It makes it hard for Islanders to know what to believe, and who to trust."
EDMONTON — Five Black Muslim women, all Somali-Canadians wearing hijabs, have been attacked or threatened in Edmonton in the last 10 weeks. The city's Al-Rashid Mosque began offering Muslim women self-defence lessons following the attacks. The classes are full. Trent Daley is a member of Edmonton's Anti-Racism Advisory Committee. He says someone approaches him or his network on a weekly basis about an assault. Most victims are Black and Muslim women. "There's been a notable marked increase (in assaults) following the pandemic. It's so pervasive right now," Daley says. "It's full of racial epithets, full of disgusting language targeting them based off the scarf that they wear and the identity they presumed that this person has. It's dehumanizing." Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. Cheryl Voordenhout with the Edmonton Police Service says it received 60 reports of hate crimes last year. So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women. On Dec. 8, a mother and daughter were violently attacked in the Southgate mall parking lot. A week later, near the same mall, another woman was subject to racial slurs as someone tried to hit her head with a shopping bag. In February, a man made racial comments and became aggressive toward a woman at the University of Alberta transit centre. The same day, a man came up behind a woman walking in a popular neighbourhood, pushed her to the ground and made threats to kill her and tear off her burqa. The latest attack happened Feb. 17. The National Council of Canadian Muslims said a man approached a Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab at the Century Park transit station, swore at her and threatened to kill her. Political leaders, including Premier Jason Kenney, have spoken out against the attacks. But the CEO of the national Muslims council says condemnation is not enough and government leaders at the local and provincial level need to take action. "Anti-Black racism is a real problem in Alberta," says Mustafa Farooq. "Black-Muslim women tend to face greater challenges than almost anyone else, because racism and gendered Islamophobia are real problems. "We can look, for example, at street harassment bylaws. We can look at ways in which anti-racism initiatives are being funded. We can look at hate crime units and their advocacy in dealing with these challenges." "So much can be done immediately, but it's not happening." Daley added that recent rallies and marches in Edmonton and Calgary in opposition to COVID-19 measures are examples of how the pandemic has exacerbated racism in Alberta. Some participants were seen carrying tiki torches, which many say are a symbol used by white supremacists. Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said the police service is doubling down in its effort to work with the Somali community to address racially motivated assaults. "We've got to listen to what they need and then we've got to figure out how we can ... actually get some of the changes that they need," he said at a news conference Tuesday. McFee also alluded to the suspects in the assaults possibly having mental-health issues. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This story has been edited. An interview subject was removed from the original version because of concerns raised about her safety.
VANCOUVER — Endangered southern resident killer whales would have a much better chance of survival if chinook were in their hunting grounds during winter off the coast of British Columbia, a new study says. The whales expand their menu and the distance they travel as they forage for food from October to March in the waters off California up to Alaska, which leaves them with little energy, says the study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Plos One. Brad Hanson, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said this is the first study that looks at the diet requirements of killer whales from their perspective. Hanson, fellow author Robin Baird and others collected and analyzed the prey and fecal samples of northern and southern resident killer whales for 13 years, starting in 2004. They found that chinook salmon made up almost all of the whales' diet in spring but fell to around 70 per cent in mid-winter and plunged to about 50 per cent heading into the fall. Baird said the animals supplemented their diet with coho and chum salmon, as well as other fish including lingcod, halibut and flounder, which are bottom dwellers. Of all the fish in the sea, whales prefer chinook salmon because they are the largest, richest, most energy dense and easily intercepted, said Baird, who is a research biologist at Washington's Cascadia Research Collective. "The whales have become these chinook specialists probably over tens of thousands of years because of the great availability of those fish," he said in an interview Wednesday. "If the whales have to expend a lot more energy getting that prey then they basically get less bang for the buck." The whales then don't have enough energy to store fat that helps them keep warm in the cold waters. This leaves them weak and unable to reproduce, he said, adding most mothers are not able to feed a calf even if they do give birth. "Reproduction of southern residents is directly or indirectly related to chinook abundance," he added. Chinook populations have fallen dramatically over the last 100 years by human actions including farming, the construction of dams, industrial activity and the destruction of estuaries, he said. All 14 stocks of chinook salmon that are preferred by whales are threatened, he said. These fish would move in and out of inshore waters at different times of the year and ensure a steady supply of food for the orcas. "Let's say, just for sake of argument, there was one river that had 100 million chinooks that all came back during the same time of the year," Baird said. "That's going to be a lot less beneficial to the whales than 100 rivers, each of which have a million chinook and those chinooks all come back at different times of the year." One way to ensure a steady chinook supply for orcas is to catch fish at the mouths of rivers after they've passed through areas where whales forage, he said. "Unfortunately, there is no one simple solution." Overfishing and large-scale degradation of spawning and rearing habitat are some of the biggest threats to chinook salmon and by extension the southern resident killer whales, Baird said. The southern resident killer whale population is just over 70. Killer whales are top predators, which means they are often ecosystem indicators, he said. A reduction in the southern resident killer whale population is indicative of a degraded environment, which affects everyone, he said. "So, I think that killer whales are an indicator," Baird said. "And the big question is whether or not we're listening." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
Pembroke – A 21-year-old Bonnechere Valley man is back home after he was granted bail following his arrest last Thursday in relation to large objects left on local roads over a five-month period, among them a hot water tank left on Highway 17 in the middle of the night endangering the lives of unsuspecting motorists. Despite the strong objections of the Renfrew County Crown Attorney’s Office citing reckless behaviour putting at risk the lives of people travelling along the highway, Joshua Patrick Boyce was allowed to return home after his mother was appointed Surety along with posting a $500 bond. He was arrested last Thursday afternoon by members of the Crime Unit of the Upper Ottawa Valley Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). A long with other local OPP Detachments in the area, police originally charged him with two counts of mischief endangering life; theft under $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000. After his arrest, police laid three additional charges of mischief endangering life. The investigation began on October 1st, 2020 after police received numerous complaints of debris on roadways. The main roadway where this debris was located was on Highway 17 from the Olmstead-Jeffrey intersection east of Cobden, to the pull off lanes just east of B-Line Rd in Laurentian Valley. He is also accused of willfully leaving items on some other area roads endangering the lives of motorists. Beginning in early October it is alleged Mr. Boyce was involved with placing pylons on Pembroke St. E. near the 148 Highway. Along with Mr. Boyce, Annie Immel and Brent Ethier are said to have seen pylons on Cecilia St near LifeLabs, took them, and placed them on the Highway 148 west-bound turn off at Pembroke St E. across the lane so no car could drive through. It is alleged they then parked at the Esso gas station to watch what vehicles would do with the pylons on the road. After some of the vehicles started to drive off into the ditch to get around the pylons, Ms. Immel went out and removed the pylons before an accident occurred. Then, it is alleged Mr. Boyce and Ms. Immel returned to Pembroke St E near the small hill by Old Mill Rd. where the speed limit changes from 60km/h to 80km/h. They placed pylons across the road in the lanes near that location, but as they were unable to find a place to sit and watch the vehicles avoid the pylons, they removed them shortly after placing them there. On January 8, Mr. Boyce and three others are accused of placing numerous stones across the lanes of Highway 17 near Olmstead-Jeffrey Rd. causing vehicles to swerve to avoid the stones, with two vehicles hitting the stones, causing damage to the vehicles. On February 7, it is alleged Mr. Boyce and Ryan Fitzgerald were driving late at night on Round Lake Rd near Doran Rd. when Mr. Boyce left the vehicle and walked to the rear of the building coming back to the car with 4 black metal tire rims and put them in the rear seat area of the vehicle. The men proceeded to drive on Highway 17 towards Cobden and while en route, Mr. Boyce is alleged to have attempted to push out the tire rims onto the highway and Mr. Fitzgerald became upset and pulled off the highway. Mr. Boyce is said to have grabbed the ignition keys and placed the four tire rims onto the highway in the lanes despite Mr. Fitzgerald’s objections. A third incident on February 9 linking Mr. Boyce to the highway debris involved a hot water tank and water softener tank that had been left on the shoulder of the road at the intersection of B-line and Highway 17. Over the course of five months numerous other debris was placed along Highway 17 during the night hours. These caused many motorists to swerve and some caused damage to their vehicles. As a result, many people became hypervigilant and nervous to drive the highway due to the debris being found. History of Criminal Activity Mr. Boyce is also identified as a person of interest related to other criminal activities prior to the placement of objects on the highway. Based on interviews with some of those involved, it is alleged Mr. Boyce and some companions were driving through Pembroke in the early hours of May 24 when they began discharging fireworks at various locations. One of the locations was near 385 Mackay Street, and it is alleged Mr. Boyce had lit a firework and threw it over the car towards a residence. The firework ignited causing a fire. The Pembroke Fire Department responded and quickly contained the blaze. One occupant of the home escaped without injury and damages are in excess of $14,000. Police have also linked Mr. Boyce to a shed fire in an apartment fire located at 9 Bennett Street in Pembroke. The fire began shortly after six o’clock in the morning on December 26th, where it alleged Mr. Boyce and another individual started the fire which resulted in complete structural loss of the shed, with an estimated value of approximately, $20,000.00. On January 30th, an individual was being interviewed on another investigation. During the interview, the individual stated that Mr. Boyce had told him that he and Braden Baumhour started the shed fire because they were bored. The two men were charged with arson. When he appeared for his bail hearing last Friday at the Ontario Court of Justice in Pembroke, the Crown argued against his release, citing the numerous crimes linked to Mr. Boyce. Despite the Crown’s objections, Justice of the Peace Jocelyne St. Jean granted the accused bail with strict conditions and he is to remain at his Eganville home until his next appearance. Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
Mariah Carey's older brother on Wednesday sued the singer over her recent best-selling memoir "The Meaning of Mariah Carey," accusing her of defamation and inflicting emotional distress. Morgan Carey is seeking unspecified damages in a complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, including over book passages that he said falsely suggested he was violent. The lawsuit was filed one month after Mariah Carey's older sister Alison sued her for $1.25 million for alleged emotional distress over the memoir, which was published in September and topped The New York Times' nonfiction best-seller list in October.
The Transportation Department’s watchdog asked the Justice Department to criminally investigate Elaine Chao late last year over concerns that she misused her office when she was transportation secretary under President Donald Trump but was rebuffed, according to a report released Wednesday. The report said the Justice Department’s criminal and public integrity divisions declined in December to take up the case for criminal prosecution following the inspector general’s findings that Chao used her staff and office for personal tasks and to promote a shipping business owned by Chao's father and sisters, in an apparent violation of federal ethics rules. That company does extensive business with China. “A formal investigation into potential misuses of position was warranted,” deputy inspector general Mitch Behm wrote in a letter to lawmakers. Chao, the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, stepped down from her job early this year in the last weeks of the Trump administration, citing her disapproval over the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by Trump’s supporters. Chao has denied wrongdoing. In the report released Wednesday, she did not specifically respond to allegations, instead providing a September 2020 memo that argued promoting her family was an appropriate part of her official duties at the department. “Asian audiences welcome and respond positively to actions by the secretary that include her father in activities when appropriate,” that memo said. The watchdog report cited several instances that raised ethical concerns. In one, Chao instructed political appointees in the department to contact the Homeland Security Department to check personally on the status of a work permit application for a student who was a recipient of her family’s philanthropic foundation. Chao also made extensive plans for an official trip to China in November 2017 — before she cancelled it — that would have included stops at places that had received support from her family’s business, the New York-based Foremost Group. According to department emails, Chao directed her staff to include her relatives in the official events and high-level meetings during the trip. “Above all, let’s keep (the Secretary) happy," one of the department’s employees wrote to another staffer regarding Chao’s father. “If Dr. Chao is happy, then we should be flying with a feather in our hat.” The report found that Chao also directed the department’s public affairs staff to assist her father in the marketing of his personal biography and to edit his Wikipedia page, and used staff to check on repairs of an item at a store for her father. The IG report said Justice Department officials ultimately declined to take up a criminal review, saying there “may be ethical and/or administrative issues” but no evidence to support possible criminal charges. As a result, the inspector general's office said in the report it was now closing its investigation “based on the lack of prosecutorial interest” from the Justice Department. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chairman of the House transportation committee, who requested the investigation, expressed disappointment that the review was not completed and released while Chao was still in office. “Public servants, especially those responsible for leading tens of thousands of other public servants, must know that they serve the public and not their family’s private commercial interests,” he said. Hope Yen, The Associated Press
The City of Windsor is in the process of purchasing a hotel to house people experiencing homelessness. The city's chief of staff, Andrew Teliszewsky, told CBC News in an email Wednesday that city council had approved the deal during an in-camera meeting earlier this year and the legal steps are already underway. He said the city is also working out getting access to provincial funding sources to complete the sale in the coming weeks, though the costs associated with the purchase have not yet been revealed. Though the city's homeless population is currently experiencing a significant COVID-19 outbreak, Teliszewksy said the procurement of a space had been a topic of discussion since last year following an Emergency Shelter Review that went to council in the fall of 2020. He added that beyond the current challenges the city is experiencing with COVID-19 and shelter space, the hotel will be used to support long-term needs by providing an area for women with or without children, youth and young adults. "Proceeding with a property will allow the City of Windsor maximum flexibility in the years ahead to serve community needs," Teliszewsky said. Details of the hotel's location cannot be provided at this time, as the owner is still having conversations with their employees, he added. To cope with the large COVID-19 outbreak among the city's homeless population, an emergency shelter opened on Feb. 25 at the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre. As of Monday, 124 clients and staff have tested positive between the Downtown Mission and Salvation Army shelters. The Downtown Mission shelters have since been ordered to close by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
Pembroke -- A respected member of the Upper Ottawa Valley legal, business and agricultural community, Del O’Brien, was recognized by Renfrew County Council at its February 25 meeting for his coming induction into the Ontario Agricultural Wall of Fame. He was introduced via ZOOM by Donna Campbell, secretary-treasurer of the Renfrew County Federation of Agriculture, one of the bodies which supported the nomination for the honour. Ms. Campbell noted some of the highlights of Mr. O’Brien’s career during which legal, agricultural and business interests, local as well as provincial, continued to intersect. The nomination highlighted his agricultural involvement and specifically his years of work with the Ontario Drainage Tribunal, a body which adjudicates disputes under the Ontario Drainage Act with regard to the impact of water management on farmland use. “In 1975 he was asked to establish and chair the Ontario Drainage Tribunal,” said Ms. Campbell. “As such he had a major influence on the evolution of tile drainage law in the province. In 1984 he was appointed founding chair of the Ontario Agricultural Council. And in 1994 he was appointed the official Drainage Referee for Ontario, a position he held until 2006. Now retired, he continues to operate a 500-acre organic farm along the Ottawa River with his sons.” Mr. O’Brien thanked Mrs. Campbell for her introduction, and county council for the honour and for the opportunity to speak to them. He said he would take the opportunity to leave them with a message. He told the meeting the challenges of coping with the COVID-19 virus bring with them two revolutionary opportunities for Renfrew County. “If we follow the news, we see that city living has become almost untenable,” he said. “People want to flee to the country. Renfrew County is a green area which is very inviting and has a lot to offer. “The second is the IT revolution. The internet has made it possible to work from any home. Renfrew County has severances along every road where the municipality doesn’t have to spend a nickel for services. The road, hydro, and telephone are already there, and in most cases there’s good internet. People can have a large lot with a drilled well and a septic tank. It’s green, green, green! Why do business in the city when it can be done in any home, anywhere in the country?” He said every municipality could use more children in schools and rinks, and more people in the churches. “The county’s structure was originally set up for one family on every 100 acres,” he said. “Thousands of people could be attracted to the Valley by making building lots readily available. Every real estate agent and developer can tell you the demand for lots and houses is outrageous. We’ve got to accommodate that demand and do it quickly, and not by subdivisions which take years to get in place and cost a great deal of money.” He added residential development along existing roads is completely compatible with farming today. “It’s mainly cash crops that are being produced now,” he said. “Due to Mad Cow Disease, beef operations are almost non-existent. And dairy operations are in confined housing 24/7. Planning policies are outmoded and haven’t recognized the revolutionary changes in farming. They must be brought up to date and modernized so that severances move quickly because they are needed immediately. You, the leaders of county council, can be the engine of that change. You’re in charge and you have to seize the opportunity.” Warden Debbie Robinson thanked Mr. O’Brien for his input. “You did not disappoint,” she said. “Your message is extremely timely as we’ll be discussing our Official Plan later today. It was excellent and it was heard.” She congratulated him and displayed a certificate of recognition which she plans to present to him in person when COVID-19 regulations permit. “I can assure you that, if we were doing this today in person in council chambers you would receive a standing ovation with thunderous applause,” she said. Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday rejected calls for his resignation in the face of sexual harassment allegations that have threatened his hold on power and damaged his national political standing. The Democrat, speaking somberly in his first public appearance since three women accused him of inappropriate touching and offensive remarks, apologized and said that he “learned an important lesson” about his behaviour around women. “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.” Asked about calls for him to step aside, the third-term governor said: “I wasn’t elected by politicians, I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I’m not going to resign.” Cuomo acknowledged “sensitivities have changed and behaviour has changed” and that what he considers his “customary greeting” — an old-world approach that often involves kisses and hugs — is not acceptable. But the allegations against the governor go beyond aggressive greetings. Former aide Lindsey Boylan accuses Cuomo of having harassed her throughout her employment and said he once suggested a game of strip poker aboard his state-owned jet. Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo once asked her if she ever had sex with older men. Both women rejected Cuomo's latest apology, doubling down on their disgust after he issued a statement Sunday attempting to excuse his behaviour as his way of being “playful." “How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you ‘don’t know’ when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?” Boylan tweeted. Cuomo said he will “fully co-operate” with an investigation into the allegations overseen by the state's independently elected attorney general. Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, is selecting an outside law firm to conduct the probe and document its findings in a public report. Cuomo addressed the allegations during a news conference that otherwise focused on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the kind of briefings that made him a daily fixture on TV and a national star among Democrats. Before that, Cuomo last spoke to reporters during a conference call on Feb. 22. His last briefing on camera was Feb. 19. Two of the women accusing Cuomo worked in his administration. The other was a guest at a wedding that he officiated. Bennett, 25, said Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life, asked if she felt age made a difference in relationships and said he was fine dating "anyone above the age of 22." Bennett said she believed he was gauging her interest in an affair. Cuomo has denied making advances on Bennett. Boylan, 36, said Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent and went out of his way to touch her on her lower back, arms and legs. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations. Anna Ruch told The New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her just moments after they met at a September 2019 wedding in Manhattan. Cuomo didn't answer directly when asked by a reporter if he could assure the public that there were no other former aides who would come forward. “The facts will come out” in the attorney general's investigation, he said, reiterating his position that he “never knew at the time” that he was making anyone feel uncomfortable. Bennett's lawyer, Debra Katz, said the governor's news conference “was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.” She said Cuomo's claim that he was unaware he had made women uncomfortable was disingenuous, considering that Bennett had reported his behaviour to her boss and one of Cuomo's lawyers. “We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint and we fully expect that the Attorney General’s investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett’s serious allegations or to ensure that corrective measures were taken, in violation of their legal requirements,” Katz said. The harassment allegations follow accusations that Cuomo covered up the true COVID-19 death toll on nursing home residents. Cuomo’s support has plummeted amid the one-two punch of scandals, and even some Democrats have called on him to step aside. “I don’t think it’s in his DNA to resign or back down,” said Queens Assembly member Ron Kim, a Democrat who accused Cuomo of bullying him over the nursing home issue. “I think he will do whatever it takes to fight this.” Cuomo said he inherited his gregarious way of greeting people from his father, the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and that he intended to be welcoming and make people feel comfortable. Speaking about the allegations, Cuomo initially said he was apologizing to “people” who were uncomfortable with his conduct, but he didn’t make clear as he continued which of the women he was referring to. At one point, he said he was apologizing to “the young woman who worked here who said that I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace.” That description could apply to both Boylan and Bennett. Asked what he was saying to New Yorkers, Cuomo said: “I’m embarrassed by what happened... I’m embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration. I’m embarrassed and hurt and I apologize that somebody who interacted with me felt that way.” The governor, who has touted a law requiring all workers in New York to receive sexual harassment training, said he felt at the time that his behaviour was innocuous but now acknowledges that sexual harassment centres on how the victim is impacted — not the offender’s intent. "If a person feels uncomfortable, if a person feels pain, if a person is offended, I feel very badly about that and I apologize for it. There's no but — it's, 'I'm sorry,'” Cuomo said. ___ This story has been updated to correct the day of the press briefing. It was on Wednesday, not Tuesday. ___ Sisak reported from New York. Associated Press reporter David Bauder contributed to this report. Marina Villeneuve And Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press
You've got to love a movie that credits its dogs before it does its executive producers. “The Truffle Hunters," Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw’s exquisitely charming documentary about old Italian men who scavenge truffles and the dogs they're bound to, lists the canines with the appropriate respect in the end credits. Birba. Biri. Charlie. Fiona. Nina. Titina. Yari. These are some of the stars of “Truffle Hunters," a profoundly lovely movie that delights in the noble scavengers of a dog-eat-dog world. “The Truffle Hunters,” which is shortlisted for best documentary at the Academy Awards and which Sony Pictures Classics will release in theatres Friday, is set in the northern Italy forests of Piedmont. Dweck and Kershaw, both cinematographers, film the truffle hunters — aging, sweet men practicing an ancient and secretive tradition — in painterly, pointillistic tableaux as they walk through autumnal forests, foraging with their dogs. They seep into the landscape. The film, scored by composer Ed Cortes with retro Italian pop mixed in, conjures an otherworldly enchantment. In between backwoods trips where their dogs smell their way to the high-priced delicacies, the hunters live humbly in old country homes. Our main characters are never explicitly introduced, but we're drawn intimately into their world, as if we just passed through a magical portal. Aurelio, 84, dines with his companion, Birba, sitting on the table. Carlo, 88, never seems to stop smiling, especially when he manages to get past his wife (who sternly believes him too old to truffle hunt at night) and slip into the woods with his dog, Titina. The younger, long-haired Sergio, a kindly but passionate soul, bathes with his pups — Pepe and Fiona — in a pink-tiled tub. This, surely, is a gentle realm every bit as bewitching as Narnia. But the hunters' earthy endeavour isn't as simple as it seems. Their way of life is a dying one. The rare white Alba truffle is increasingly hard to find because of effects on the soil connected to climate change. The hunters are often pressed for their secrets. “If tomorrow something happens, your wisdom would be lost," one man urges Aurelio. So sought-after are the truffles that their dogs are perpetually at risk of being poisoned by competitors. Sergio, terrified of losing his, pounds on his drums for catharsis. Another hunter, intent on putting something down, hammers furiously at his typewriter. “Dogs are innocent,” he writes. The sense that the hunters — who are really in it for the dogs more than money or anything else — are, like their four-legged friends, innocents in a corrupt world only expands when the filmmakers follow the truffle food chain. Haggling over prices by headlight, the hunters seem always lowballed by a well-dressed buyer. Higher up, still, are the Michelin-starred restaurants and auction houses that feast on the hunters' finds. This commercial world, miles removed from the muddy forests of Piedmont, is seen in “The Truffle Hunters” like an antiseptic, colorless modern life that has lost the taste of the simple and eternal. Wonder and whimsy is back in the forest. “The Truffle Hunters” — surely among the greatest dog movies — even wryly occasionally shifts to a dog’s point of view. We see — via dog cam — like one of the hunters’ dogs when he's let out of the car and runs down a path, panting. Just as last year’s beekeeping beauty “Honeyland,” “The Truffle Hunters” is a richly allegorical documentary of a vanishing agricultural pastime. The truffles, weighed and sniffed at market, are delicacies. But the finer things rhapsodized here are not expensive rarities. What's worth savoring is natural splendor, the charms of tradition, and, above all, a good dog. Those things aren't delicacies, but they're fragile just the same. “The Truffle Hunters,” a Sony Pictures Classics release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for some language. Running time: 84 minutes. Four stars out of four. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Cheered on by President Joe Biden, House Democrats are hustling to pass the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide, confident they can avoid clashing with moderates in their own party who are wary of reigniting a debate they say hurt them during last fall's election. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was set for a House vote late Wednesday. The sweeping legislation, which was approved last summer but stalled in the Senate, was named in honour of Floyd, whose killing by police in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked protests nationwide. The bill would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement and create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability. Democrats say they are determined to pass the bill a second time, to combat police brutality and institutional racism after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans following interactions with law enforcement — images of which were sometimes jarringly captured on video. Those killings drew a national and international outcry. But the debate over legislation has turned into a political liability for Democrats as Republicans seized on calls by some activists and progressives to “defund the police” to argue that Democrats were intent on slashing police force budgets. This bill doesn't do that. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said it was a reason the party, after talking confidently of growing its majority in November, instead saw it shrink to just 10 seats, 221-211. “We played too much defence on ‘defund the police,’” Perez said. Moderate Democrats said the charge helped to drive Democratic defeats in swing districts around the country. “No one ran on ‘defund the police,’ but all you have to do is make that a political weapon,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Texas Democrat who has pushed for more police funding in places like his city of Laredo, where law enforcement presence is especially concentrated given the close proximity to the Mexican border. While Democrats used their then-larger majority to pass the police reform measure in the House last summer, it stalled in the then-Republican-controlled Senate, where GOP senators pushed an alternate plan that Democrats blocked from consideration, calling it inadequate. Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, but it seems unlikely the bill could pass the Senate without substantial changes to win GOP support. The bill had been set for a vote Thursday, but House leaders abruptly changed the schedule after U.S. Capitol Police warned of threats of violence by a militia group seeking to storm the Capitol two months after the Jan. 6 siege. Democratic control in the House is now so narrow that the loss of even a handful of moderate votes can sink legislation. But senior Democratic congressional aides said Wednesday they were confident the policing bill would clear the House and were eager to get it to the Senate, where negotiations will take longer. Despite the political attacks by Republicans, even the House's more centrist lawmakers, some representing more conservative districts, appear ready to back the bill. Aides pointed to the moderate New Democrat Coalition saying this week that its members would support it. “Black Americans have endured generations of systemic racism and discrimination for too long, and this has been painfully evident in their treatment by law enforcement," said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, who chairs the coalition. That endorsement came despite the bill's prohibitions on so-called qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement from certain lawsuits and is one of the main provisions that will likely need to be negotiated in any compromise with the Senate. Police unions and other law enforcement groups have argued that, without such legal protections, fears of lawsuits will stop people from becoming police officers — even though the measure permits such suits only against law enforcement agencies, rather than all public employees. California Rep. Karen Bass, who authored the bill, understands the challenge some House members face in supporting it., “My colleagues, several of them, I do not make light of the difficulty they had getting reelected because of the lie around defunding the police,” Bass said. She called provisions limiting qualified immunity and easing standards for prosecution “the only measures that hold police accountable — that will actually decrease the number of times we have to see people killed on videotape.” Bass said she was not planning to make concessions before the bill clears the House. Changes would only serve to weaken it while failing to shield Democrats from the false “defund the police” narrative surrounding it, she said. “Even if they were to vote against the bill, even if they were to have a press conference denouncing the bill, they are still going to be hit with the same lie,” Bass said of Democrats. She also acknowledged the challenges Democrats faced last November — and may likely see again — when former President Donald Trump's reelection campaign and other leading Republicans crowded the airwaves with images of cities around the country burning. But Bass said those attacks, like much of the opposition to the bill, are built on racism, promoting fears about how, “The scary Black people are going to attack you if you try to rein in the police.” “That's as old as apple pie in our history,” she said. “So do you not act because of that?” Still, she conceded that changes are likely to come if the measure is to win the minimum 60 votes it will need to advance in the Senate, which is now split 50-50s. Bass said she'd been in contact with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, and was confident he would help deliver some GOP support. Scott said this week that the legislation's sticking points were qualified immunity and prosecutorial standards and that in both areas, “We have to protect individual officers.” “That's a red line for me,” Scott said, adding “hopefully we'll come up with something that actually works.” That could prove a tall order, despite the White House's vocal support for police reform. Biden has promised to combat systemic racism and signed executive orders he says will begin doing that, though advocates are expecting the new administration to go further. Biden has tweeted that he hopes "to be able to sign into law a landmark police reform bill.” Will Weissert And Padmananda Rama, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Alberta is following guidance from a national vaccine advisory panel and increasing the time between COVID-19 doses. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, says the greater lag time will allow more Albertans to be effectively vaccinated sooner. She said the plan is for Alberta to match British Columbia, which announced Monday it will follow the four-month window and get a first dose to everyone who wants one by July. “This change will significantly increase how quickly we can offer Albertans the protection of their first dose,” Hinshaw said Wednesday. “We can all take heart that by getting more first doses to Albertans more quickly, the change I am announcing today brings the light at the end of the tunnel nearer.” Earlier Wednesday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended first and second doses can be to up to four months apart if supplies are limited. The decision was made based on emerging studies in places including Quebec, the United Kingdom and Israel that show even one dose of vaccine can be about 70 to 80 per cent effective. When vaccines were first available late last year, manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna recommended two shots spaced three to six weeks apart. Alberta is now into its second round of priority vaccinations. The 29,000 highest-risk Albertans, those in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities, have been vaccinated twice. Seniors over 75 and First Nations people 65 and older are among those now allowed to book their shots. Hinshaw said second dose appointments will go ahead for those who have already booked them, and those who want to book a second shot within the previous six-week window will be able to up to March 10. Starting then, those who book a first vaccine dose will have the second one delayed by as much as four months. Newfoundland and Labrador also announced an extension to four months. Manitoba has said it will bring in a delay. Ontario said it was weighing a similar move and seeking advice from the federal government. The change comes as more vaccine doses are on the way. Along with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the federal government has approved a third vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Hinshaw said Alberta expects to soon receive shipments of that vaccine as early as next week. Alberta has so far administered 255,000 vaccinations, with 89,000 people getting the full two doses. Hinshaw reported 402 new cases Wednesday. There were 251 people in hospital, 48 of whom were in intensive care. Twelve more people died, bringing that total in the province to 1,902. Case numbers and hospitalizations are a small fraction of what they were at the height of the second wave of COVID-19 in December. The economy remains under public-health restrictions, which include no indoor gatherings and limited capacities for retailers and restaurants. Premier Jason Kenney announced earlier this week a delay in loosening some rules, given unknowns, such as variant strains of the virus. The strains can spread much faster than the original one, with the potential to quickly overwhelm the health system. Alberta has detected 500 variant cases, and Hinshaw announced Wednesday the first variant case at a continuing-care home. Churchill Manor, in Edmonton, has 27 staff and residents who have tested positive, with 19 of them positive for the variant. “Local public-health teams and the operator are taking this outbreak extremely seriously and (are) working closely together to limit spread and protect everyone involved,” said Hinshaw. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021 Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
A promotional photo and video shoot was produced at McGeachie Trails in Limerick Township on Feb. 27 to highlight the trails’ suitability for various winter sports for residents and tourists alike, and to promote economic development. The photo and video materials, focusing on cross country skiing and snowshoeing, were produced by Hastings Destination Trails Inc. with a grant from the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization, in cooperation with Hastings County. It is set to be used to promote McGeachie Trails after the pandemic has subsided, likely for the 2021/2022 winter season. According to HDTI’s Cathy Trimble, the organization had received a $2,500 digital marketing grant from the OHTO recently, and decided to do a photo and video shoot to market McGeachie Trails as a winter tourist destination for the 2021/2022 winter season. Luisa Sorrentino is the marketing coordinator for economic development and tourism with Hastings County, and emphasizes that the photos and video will not be used to publicize McGeachie Trails this year, due to COVID-19, but will be used to do so next year for the 2021/2022 winter season. “So, we are not promoting the area this time during COVID-19. We are all local within Hastings County. We’re wearing masks and we’re doing everything according to protocol,” she says. While there was an uptick in local tourism to the area in 2020, with some businesses seeing a 30 per cent increase in revenues, Sorrentino wants to prepare for when the pandemic is behind us and tourism from other parts of Ontario, Canada and the world can start to resume. “We’ve been busy helping businesses survive and pivot during COVID-19, and also to be ready with services when [COVID-19] ends and tourists come back to the area,” she says. To that end, HDTI and Hastings County highlighted the trails’ suitability to use for cross country skiing and for snowshoeing. They had Clive Emery, the owner and operator of Trips and Trails Adventure Outfitting (tripsandtrails.ca), and an avid skier and sportsman, to teach a handful of people how to cross-country ski on the trails and take them on a short journey for the video. Trimble confirmed that Emery was there that morning teaching skiing fundamentals and that the photo and video shoot went well. “He was the instructor and supported us with equipment for the event. They [his students] were novice cross country skiers and they really enjoyed themselves. Clive just showed them the ropes and they went for a short ski,” she says. Bernie Hogan was also there that afternoon to teach a small group of people how to snowshoe for the afternoon’s video segment and to take them on a brief snowshoeing excursion. They were the Card family; Meredith, Shayne and son Maxwell, and Rick Cassidy and Mary Ann Pierce. An award-winning long-distance runner and snowshoe racer, Hogan is also the athlete ambassador for northern Ontario with Snowshoe Canada (snowshoecanada.ca/contact). He works at CP Rail as a track maintenance technician. He’s been snowshoeing since he was a kid, but took up snowshoe racing a few years ago to keep his conditioning for running in place over the winter. Racing snowshoes are smaller and lighter than traditional snowshoes. “I started getting injured running in the snow, so I was looking for a different kind of sport and found it with snowshoe racing,” he says. Hogan has seen more people on snowshoes this winter than he did last year, and says it’s even hard to buy snowshoes at all as they’re selling out. Grooming the trails that day was Don Stoneman, a retired editor and journalist, director of Canoe Kayak Ontario and an avid canoeist. He used his specialized extra wide track snowmobile and its grooming attachment. “It was a bit of a challenge as the snow was so wet, so I just packed it down with the snowmobile. I’ll track it when it gets a bit colder,” he says. The cross-country skiing and snowshoeing were captured for posterity that day by local photographer Emily Musclow (emilymaeannphotography.com) and local videographer Erica Tripp (ericasorensonmedia.ca). Tripp, who recently moved back to Gilmour from British Columbia, captured the action along the trail with her digital video camera and her gimbal, which is a camera mount that uses three motors within the mount to compensate for unwanted movements and keep the camera steady. “The weather was pretty interesting this morning. It was a bit of a challenge shooting with the snow, but we made it work,” she says. Overall, the photo and video shoot went great that day and Trimble and Sorrentino were happy with the results. “The idea is for people, not during COVID-19 but next year, to come up here as tourists or even if they buy a place up here,” says Sorrentino. “They want to be able to have opportunities to go out and live an active lifestyle and try new experiences, something they’ve never done before, like snowshoeing or skiing.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
In spite of a pandemic, or perhaps because of it, home prices in the Toronto region are now selling for an average of more than $1 million. Selling prices shot up by 15 per cent in the last year. As Sean O'Shea reports, even just a place to park your will cost a small fortune — and its price has spiked, too.
The top public health officials in Southwestern Ontario pulled in hundreds of thousands in overtime pay last year for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. At least two of the region’s medical officers of health received more than $100,000 each in overtime, including Middlesex-London’s top public health doctor, Chris Mackie, and Haldimand-Norfolk’s Shanker Nesathurai. The overtime pay is part of a provincial program to compensate local health units for extraordinary expenses incurred relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was one of the initiatives set up by the province to recognize some of the frontline healthcare workers,” said London city councillor Maureen Cassidy, who chairs the Middlesex-London board of health. “They’ve asked us to keep a tally of all the overtime hours and the dollars for every one of our employees who have worked overtime directly related to the COVID-19 response," she said. Between March 22 and Nov. 14 of last year, the health unit had 47 staff log overtime ranging from 44 to 716 hours. The global pandemic was declared in mid-March. Mackie, the London area's medical officer of health, logged 611 overtime hours during that period, earning a payout of $100,072. His base salary in 2019 was $300,000. “That reflects the leader of an organization that has gone from five days a week, 8:30 to 4:30, to seven days a week, 8:30 until some days, 10 at night,” Cassidy said about the overtime pay. The total staff overtime spending at the Middlesex-London Health Unit was $730,000. Cassidy said public health staff are making “incredible sacrifices” in their personal lives while battling the pandemic. As Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer of health, Nesathurai logged 1,100 overtime hours, worth $160,000, on top of a base salary of $240,000. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Oxford and Elgin counties, received just more than $62,000 in overtime pay “for hours worked over and above the regular schedule as well as unused vacation,” according to Larry Martin, Southwestern Public Health’s board chairperson. “The Ministry of Health has provided provincial health units with clear guidelines for allowable COVID-19 expenditures eligible for reimbursement,” Martin said in a statement. “(Lock’s) employment contract . . . allows for overtime payments in specific circumstances – such as those that have unfolded over the course of what is now a year-long pandemic response.” Lock’s salary in 2019 was $288,000. The base salaries of medical officers of health are paid by local health boards based on member municipalities' professional salary scale and benefits policies. Whether an individual medical officer of health is eligible for overtime pay, and how they're compensated, depends on each board’s contract and municipal policies. In Ontario, most managers and supervisors, usually paid a salary rather than by the hour, aren't typically paid overtime. “In September 2020, public health units were provided with an opportunity to request additional one-time funding from the ministry for COVID-19 extraordinary costs incurred,” Anna Miller, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said in an email. “Examples of eligible COVID-19 extraordinary costs included overtime for staff if local board of health policies related to overtime allowed for this.” Meanwhile, Lambton’s medical officer of health, Sudit Ranade, did not receive any overtime pay as the County of Lambton’s overtime policy sees employees take time off in lieu. Shari Sterling, executive assistant for Lambton County’s public health services, said Ranade has “some banked hours” but did not specify how many. Lambton submitted $848,429 to the province for reimbursement for COVID-19 extraordinary costs, including staff salaries, accommodation, supplies, equipment and communications. Health units in Huron-Perth, Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex and Grey-Bruce did not immediately respond to Free Press requests about overtime expenses during the pandemic for medical officers of health and other staff. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation slammed the overtime pay. “Ontarians hand over nearly half – 45 per cent – of their household income to governments every year in taxes, yet we're still a province struggling with hallway healthcare and chronic problems in long-term care,” said Jasmine Moulton, the federation’s Ontario director. “Then you see governments handing out six-figure top-ups and seven-figure severances to top health officials, and you start to see where the problem truly lies." Moulton said 355,300 Ontarians lost their jobs last year amid the pandemic. “This story is further proof that we're not all in this together." firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
One person is dead after being shot by police officers near a hotel in Calgary's Beltline district. According to a police release, officers were called to the Nuvo Hotel shortly after 4 p.m. on Wednesday for a complaint of a person with a gun. Police said that a "confrontation occurred" between officers and the individual. That confrontation allegedly led to the officer-involved shooting. The person died as a result of the confrontation. No officers were injured. Officers stand near the open trunk of a police vehicle near the scene of the Nuvo Hotel, where one person was shot by police on Wednesday.(Meghan Grant/CBC) The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has been directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting. The Nuvo Hotel is located at 827 12th Ave. S.W. No further information was immediately available.
Rideau Lakes Township has approved a one-per-cent property tax rate increase for 2021. At the township council's regular meeting earlier this week, members agreed in a 7-2 vote for the local tax rate increase, down from the 2.5-per-cent increase that was presented in December. The one-per-cent tax increase translates into an additional $12 per year in property taxes on the average home, assessed at $250,000. This in turn measures out to an increase of $113,000 in revenue for the township. The township ended 2020 with an estimated surplus of just over $1 million. Township administrators say this is attributed to the impact of COVID-19 delaying some projects and stronger-than-forecasted revenue. Many on council gave kudos to the township staff for configuring a budget for this year that increases property taxes by only one per cent while still increasing reserves and decreasing the debt level. "I'm really happy with the budget that the staff presented," said South Crosby Coun. Claire Smith during Monday's meeting, adding that in a way she feels the budget is more the staff's than council's due to the strains virtual meetings have on discussions and debates. Only Mayor Arie Hoogenboom and South Elmsley Coun. Jeff Banks voted against the budget. Banks said he would have preferred no increase in the property tax, with Hoogenboom agreeing. "I received a lot of calls, a lot of people are struggling with the COVID," said Hoogenboom. Despite the mayor voting against the budget on the "principle" of the matter, he also said he will respect the will of council and ensure it works best for the township. "The township's fiscal future is bright," said Hoogenboom. "The 2021 budget continues our commitment to prudent spending and progressive rural governance." In a municipal services committee meeting last week, council had a lively discussion on what budget proposal to bring to the regular council. Four options were presented by staff, two each offered either a zero- or one-per-cent property tax increase. At the committee meeting, Hoogenboom and Banks were joined by Couns. Cathy Livingston and Bob Lavoie in voting no on the eventual budget option. Both Livingston and Lavoie ultimately voted yes on the budget in the regular council meeting Monday. All other councillors – Carolyn Bresee, Joan Delaney, Marcia Maxwell, Ron Pollard and Smith – said in the meetings they were happy with the budget brought forward by staff and voted for it in both committee and council. According to a release by the township, the budget includes revenue and expenses of $18.6 million. A total of $2.9 million is being invested towards roads. Plum Hollow Road, which runs from County Road 5 to Healey Road at the Elizabethtown-Kitley Township line, has been designated for a full roadbed reconstruction. The schedule of maintenance stone application to gravel roads has been altered to have the program run at a two- and three-year cycle rather than a three- and five-year cycle. Major investments in buildings include revamping the Ronald E. Holman Municipal Complex. The building formerly housed the Rideau Lakes detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police before it moved to the former Rideau Centennial Public School in Portland. Along with renovating the former police space into a library, work on a new outdoor recreation area will begin this year. Other community halls and parks in the township will be receiving a combined $600,000 in investments, of which half is coming from revenue sources like grants, donations and parkland reserves. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
The man they call Father T now has the appropriate headwear to be Chaplain Father T. Father Thomas Dorward was given the white helmet last week that signifies him as the Fire Rescue Chaplain of the Rideau Lakes Fire Department. "It's wonderful to be recognized by your peers and by the township and village," said Dorward. Fire Chief Scott Granahan considered it to be "absolutely an honour" to entrust the helmet to Dorward. "We sometimes look past the roles that are often supportive," said Granahan. "But I don't forget, nor does our Deputy (Chief) forget, that we have that ability to pick up the phone and have somebody that can not just help, but also bring us back to where we need to be. "He's been just an absolutely amazing resource, not just for our members in the community, but also for our members' families." Dorward, who began serving with the fire department shortly after moving to Westport in 2002 following retirement, made the decision last year to step back from being a full-time responding volunteer firefighter. "As they say, 'time marches on,'" said Dorward. "It seemed the right time to step down from the rigours of firefighting." "We really wanted to keep him in our family, so that’s where this little bit of a change to him becoming a face within our command team came from," said Granahan, who is chief of the just over 80 other members of the fire department. There are many roles of a Chaplain within a fire department. Some include offering support and assistance at emergency incidents, conducting or assisting with fire department funerals or memorial services and acting as a confidential listening ear to personnel and family members. Granahan said the role is vital, as one call cannot drag into the next. "He offers such a level place to focus to get our members and our department as a whole back to where they need to be," Granahan said. Before his run with the township's fire department, Dorward's previous work experience included serving in the Canadian Forces medical services, an emergency EMS responder, and a full-time Toronto International Airport Emergency Services and volunteer firefighter. The last job he held before retirement was as security director for the Toronto District School Board. "It seemed a natural fit to be able to utilize the skills I had learned to serve our new home community," said Dorward on why he joined the volunteer fire department after he and his wife Brenda moved to Westport. When Dorward moved to Westport, he was a Religious Brother in the Order of Saint Andrew. Upon joining the fire department, he assumed the dual role of firefighter-chaplain. Soon after completing his studies, Dorward was ordained as a priest. Something that both Dorward and Granahan stressed was that Dorward's role as fire chaplain is not limited to Rideau Lakes. "With our mutual aid services and partners… this isn't a service that is limited to our own membership. It is something that is absolutely available to everybody in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Lanark and beyond," said Granahan. "There's been issues where a chaplaincy was required in other departments," said Dorward. "It's like any other fire department resource. If another department requires it, all they have to do is ask. "We're there for everybody." Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
The owner of a Calgary cafe has started a letter-writing campaign aimed at convincing city council to reverse a decision that will result in the eatery being evicted from a historic building in Eau Claire. The city, however, says its decision is irreversible — and has been in the works for a long time. The 1886 Buffalo Cafe has been running out of the historic Eau Claire Lumber Company building for about 40 years. Next month, however, the city will not be renewing its lease, in order to undertake some long-anticipated area refurbishment. City councillors said the cafe owners were given notice in 2017 that the city would need to move the building to do some major flood work, and as part of the redevelopment that was happening in Eau Claire. But owner Joanna McLeod told CBC News she feels the city led her astray with confusing communications that made her think they'd be able to stay in the building longer. It prompted her to start a letter-writing campaign and petition in the hopes of saving the cafe. "I just think there's a lot of missing information for the city's aspect," she said. "We've been the best tenants for 40 years … and we would really just love to stay in that building." 'Timeline of assurance' McLeod said they were in negotiations with the city to renew its lease in 2018. At the time, they were on a month-to-month lease, she said, because of the developments that were planned for Eau Claire. The cafe owners were told the revitalization of the area would have the cafe moved closer to the river, and in the same building. In February 2020, McLeod said, she was offered a five-year lease by the city that went unsigned after a realtor told her the language wasn't typical for a commercial lease, and the cafe owners wanted a few details changed before they committed. According to the city, the lease was rescinded in November 2020, after the tenant failed to sign and the city received confirmation of $8.6 million in funding from the province to proceed with the Eau Claire Plaza reconstruction project. But McLeod said there are documents and emails that showed a "timeline of assurances given to us by the city, and kind of leading us down a path of security with them." The owners were blindsided, she said, when they were eventually given notice by a leasing agent that they had 90 days to vacate the premises. And thinking they were going to be staying in the building, McLeod said they invested money into the place. "Had we known that it was a possibility that we wouldn't be able to continue business out of that building … we would have chosen to do business a little differently," McLeod said. Development plans not a secret, councillor says If the decision isn't reversed by the city, McLeod said, she is hoping they will be compensated for the business decisions they made "under bad faith." However, Coun. Druh Farrell told the CBC that while she is very sympathetic with the owners, they have known for a very long time that these developments were in the works. "It's not a secret, and the information has been shared with council, and we've been working on this for a number of years," said Farrell, who represents Ward 7. Significant changes are coming to the area, including essential flood work, that will be very disruptive — but there is a commitment to restore the building and put it in a new designated location, Farrell said. It will be available again in 2023. "There will be no reversing this decision," Farrell said. Still, McLeod is hoping the city might budge. "We're imploring them to change their mind. It's a building that's not only close to our hearts, it's a building that's close to many hearts," McLeod said. "It's just such an iconic piece of Calgary."