When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The White House is making it abundantly clear it has no plans to share America's COVID-19 vaccines with Canada or Mexico. Press secretary Jen Psaki has been indicating for weeks that the Biden administration would not allow the export of doses manufactured in the U.S. any time soon. Today, with Mexico planning to explicitly ask for help, Psaki ruled the possibility out entirely. She says President Joe Biden is focused first on making sure the vaccine is available to every American. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was expected to ask Biden directly for doses when the two meet virtually later today. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly stopped short of making a similar request in his virtual meetings with Biden last week. "No," Psaki said today when asked whether the U.S. would be willing to share its supply of vaccine doses. "The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are available to every American. That is our focus." Psaki hinted last week that the White House position could change later this year once more Americans are vaccinated and the doses are no longer in such short supply.Johnson and Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine began shipping out today after it received emergency authorization over the weekend from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That now makes three vaccines that are available in the U.S., along with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health Canada has yet to approve the Johnson and Johnson shot, but gave the green light last week to a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
MADRID — It was a tactical change that didn't last more than 15 minutes, but it was just long enough to cost Real Madrid a chance to fight for the Spanish league lead in the derby against Atlético Madrid next weekend. Coach Zinedine Zidane's attempt to push Madrid forward by switching formations midway through the game against Real Sociedad backfired on Monday, leading to a 1-1 home draw that kept the defending champions from getting within range of the city rival going into the derby at Atlético's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday. Madrid conceded after Zidane changed a 4-3-3 formation to 3-5-2 at halftime, leaving Madrid more exposed defensively. It needed an 89th-minute equalizer by Vinícius Júnior to salvage the draw. “We changed to three defenders because I didn't like how we were pressing forward, but then we changed it back quickly,” Zidane said. “Maybe it hurt us. I was trying to change the dynamic of the game.” The draw halted Madrid’s four-game winning streak in the league and left the club five points from its city rival, which has a game in hand. Madrid has the same points total as second-placed Barcelona but trails on goal difference. A win would have moved Madrid within three points of Atlético entering the derby. “We had our chances but couldn't capitalize on them and in the end we lost two points at home,” Zidane said. “We can't forget that we were up against a great rival and it played very well.” Sociedad, which had won three in a row in the league, stayed in fifth place, six points from fourth-placed Sevilla in the final Champions League place. “We leave with a bad taste in our mouth,” Sociedad forward Cristian Portu said. “We deserved more. Usually an away draw against Real Madrid is a good thing, but not with the way that the game developed.” Madrid, still without injured players such as Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos, struggled against Sociedad’s well-organized team at Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium. Portu opened the scoring for the visitors with a header into the top corner in the 55th minute, taking advantage of some soft defending by Madrid left back Ferland Mendy. “There was some disconnection after the change to three defenders,” Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said. “We were a bit lost and they had more space. In the end, Mendy couldn’t get to the cross in time and they scored a great goal.” Zidane said he made the tactical change because he wasn’t happy with how the team had been playing. “It was only for about 10 or 15 minutes and then I changed it back to a 4-3-3 formation and we played better,” he said. Vinícius Júnior, in his 100th match with Madrid, equalized with a shot from inside the area. Madrid forward Mariano Díaz came close by hitting the crossbar earlier in the game, and midfielder Casemiro also wasted a couple of good opportunities with second-half headers that flew wide. It was Madrid’s first draw at home in the league, adding to three losses. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
Donwood Park public school is temporarily shutting its doors because of a COVID-19 outbreak that include four cases of variants or concern. Erica Vella has details.
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Rough estimates from Newfoundland and Labrador's elections authority indicate it could be April before a winner is declared in the province's chaotic pandemic vote — almost two months after the original election day. Elections NL spokeswoman Adrienne Luther said Monday she expected her office will begin counting votes later this week, and last election's experience indicates it could take a while. "There's no easy way to estimate a date of conclusion because it's entirely dependent on how many (mail-in ballots) we get back," Luther said in an email. The provincial election was derailed in February by an outbreak of COVID-19 in the St. John's metro region. Voting day was Feb. 13, but less than 12 hours before the polls opened, Elections NL cancelled all in-person voting after health authorities announced a provincewide lockdown. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by March 12 in order to count. Mail-in ballots take a lot of time, Luther said. Elections NL staff must verify the name and address of each ballot, she added. On average, her office opened and processed about 5,000 mail-in votes a day during the 2019 election, she said. "An estimate right now is that it will take approximately 20 straight days — we will be working full weekends — to do around 100,000 votes," Luther said. And that's on top of the 68,000 ballots that are already in the Elections NL office waiting to be counted, she said. Those ballots were cast before the outbreak upended the election and chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk has said there are at least 12,000 mail-in ballots among them. Luther's office anticipates about 120,000 people requested a mail-in ballot before the Feb. 19 deadline. Some of those may have requested ballots for several people in a household, and some may not be returned at all. "Historically, we have had a very high rate of return on (mail-in ballots) but this election has been anything but predictable," Luther said. If Elections NL maintains its rate of counting about 5,000 ballots a day, then it will take at least 24 days to count 120,000 ballots, not including the ballots received before the vote was delayed. That means residents of the province could have to wait until April to learn who won the election. In the meantime, Chaulk is finalizing the process and protocols for scrutineers to oversee the process, Luther said. "At this point," she said, "one scrutineer per party will be permitted in the building where counting will take place." Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey, who called the election on Jan. 15, has said in previous interviews his government will remain in "caretaker mode" until someone is declared the winner. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press
A massive iceberg twice as big as the city of Toronto broke off Antarctica on Friday, according to a news release from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The BAS operates a base on the Brunt Ice Shelf, where the 1,270 square kilometre iceberg — nearly one-third the size of Prince Edward Island — broke off. The Halley Research Centre, which is closed for the Antarctic winter, is unlikely to be impacted by the event, the organization said in the release. "Our teams at BAS have been prepared for the calving of an iceberg from Brunt Ice Shelf for years," BAS director Jane Francis said in the statement. Calving is the scientific term used to describe ice breaking off from a glacier. "Over coming weeks or months, the iceberg may move away; or it could run aground and remain close to Brunt Ice Shelf," Francis said. "Halley Station is located inland of all the active chasms, on the part of the ice shelf that remains connected to the continent." In November, a new chasm in the Brunt Ice Shelf — which the organization named the North Rift — headed toward another large chasm, the BAS said in its statement. It was the third major crack to become active in the last decade and eventually cut through the 150-metre thick ice shelf and released, the organization said. BAS said changes in the ice at the research centre is a "natural process" and said there is "no evidence that climate change has played a significant role."
A local conservation group is aiming to get phragmites at Wye Marsh. The invasive species is spreading and crowding out native vegetation that is at the centre of the food web supporting the biodiversity at the marsh, said Kate Harries, president of MTM Conservation Association (MTM). The MTM is a volunteer board responsible under contract of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for managing crown land at Marl Lake, Tiny Marsh, and Matchedash Bay, she explained to Tiny council during a presentation at a recent council meeting. Harries was looking for in-kind and financial support in the amount of $6,000 over the next three years for a project aimed at tackling the issue. She said the group is looking for $3,000 from the township for year one, two-thirds of that in year two and one-third in the last year. The association, Harries said, is budgeting an expense of $32,666 for each of the three years. This funding, she explained, is made up of support from Tiny Township and other community partners, such as Ducks Unlimited Canada. She said she will be applying for a federal grant seeking $22,166 annually for the three-year program. "We've identified a federal fund we feel we have a good chance of getting a grant from to cover a three-year project," she said, talking about the EcoAction Community Funding Program. Step one of the project will be to map the spread in the Wye Marsh, Harries said. "At present, an educated guess is that we have approximately 140 hectares of invasive phrag and the marsh could be plugged within eight years," she added. In some Southern Ontario wetlands, Harries said, the invasive plant grows in dense fields leaving nowhere for waterfowls to nest and trapping any turtles that wander into the stand. She said MTM started forming a plan of attack last year in collaboration with the Severn Sound Environmental Association and the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre. "The time to evaluate the problem is when the ice is in and you can walk out there and look at the phrag," said Harries. "Our first opportunity was in early February." For that visit, she said, the group invited Janice Gilbert, executive director, Invasive Phragmites Control Centre, to visit the location. "She's pioneered the use of truxors, amphibious vehicles in cutting the phrag out where it's growing in water," said Harries. "They can do in three days what it could take a crew of people a whole season." She said Gilbert is positive about the potential of an intensive three-day attack with herbicide and truxors this August. Volunteers can then work before and after to take out the less dense patches of phragmites. Harries explained to MidlandToday that the herbicide Gilbert is proposing is a form of glyphosate. "We didn't want any herbicide sprays," said Harries. "But Janice said there's no other way of dealing with the phragmites when it's growing along the dyke. We've tried digging it out of the dyke structure, but it's too tough. The roots are totally entangled." This, she said, is like having to choose between the evil of the phragmites and the evil of herbicide. "They do it very carefully with backpack sprayers and it's spot application, which looks at exactly the spot you're targeting," said Harries. "We would need to get a permit from the provincial government to use that. There's certainly a lot of concern among ourselves because we're very conscious of the need to be carefully of the amphibians in the area." After listening to the proposal, council was immediately on board with the idea, provided they could find some money, having recently approved their budget. Tim Leitch, director of public works, said there was money in his department for just such a project. "We do have money we just set aside for phrag control in the township and my recommendation would be to utilize that amount for this," he said. "I think this is a great opportunity for us to get involved with." Coun. Cindy Hastings asked if MTM would be able to cover the remaining 50% with another grant and what percentage of the 50% could be covered by in-kind contributions? "As far as I know, there's no limit," said Harries. "But when we get somebody like the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre in with the truxors, they are providing some in-kind services, but they need to be paid in cash." Since the grant application had to be submitted by March 3, council ratified its decision at its regular council meeting. The motion stated that Council would supports the phragmite removal project by providing a letter of support and $3,000 in cash for 2021 and offer additional support either through the Mayor's Charity Golf Tournament or through an in-kind donation. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
VANCOUVER — A lawyer for a group of British Columbia churches that are challenging the province's COVID-19 rules prohibiting in-person religious services argued Monday the orders reflect a "value judgment." Paul Jaffe says the provincial health officer's orders allow secular gatherings such as in-class education and food distribution for people in need to continue, while discriminating against the churches and their congregants' right to freedom of religion. He told the court his clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open. Jaffe also argued the province has not provided medical justification showing that the virus is spreading through church services and posing a greater risk to the public than other activities that remain allowed, including outdoor assemblies over matters of public interest or controversy. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news conference last month that churches were operating with safety measures in place throughout the summer and fall, but as the pandemic worsened, so did transmission in faith settings. Henry and the province have said they are confident the health orders are in accordance with the law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Hearings over the churches' petition are set to continue Tuesday. Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for the alleged violations of the health orders by the churches. B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson dismissed an injunction request in February by Henry and B.C.'s attorney general, whose lawyers argued churchgoers who are breaking COVID-19 rules would be more likely to comply with a court order. Hinkson said he did not condone the churches' conduct and he was satisfied with the province's argument that the public could suffer from transmission of the virus where people are unsafely attending gatherings. But he said during a hearing that the province was putting the court in an "impossible position" before the churches' own petition is heard this week. Hinkson said he was also concerned that the administration of justice could be brought into disrepute if an injunction was granted but not enforced if the Crown found it would not be in the public interest to prosecute people who refused to adhere to it. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Air Canada is simplifying its regional operations amid COVID pressures by reaching a deal to make Chorus Aviation Ltd.'s Jazz Aviation subsidiary the exclusive operator of Air Canada Express flights. The change means Air Canada will transfer operation of its 25 Embraer E175 fleet to Jazz from Sky Regional where they have operated for a decade. Jazz will become sole partner for regional flying for aircraft with at least 70 seats until 2025. It will also remove 19 Dash 8-300s from its fleet this year. Air Canada says the consolidation of regional flying with Jazz is due to the pandemic and the need to reduce costs. "This necessary realignment of our regional services will help Air Canada achieve efficiencies and reduce operating costs and cash burn by consolidating its regional operations with one provider," stated Richard Steer, senior vice-president, operations and express carriers. "Moreover, by streamlining the regional fleet, this agreement will also position Air Canada to operate more competitively with a single provider as traffic returns following the pandemic." Air Canada said it expects to save $400 million over 15 years by combining its fleet under one operator, reducing overall regional flying compensation and related operational cost savings from changes to the capacity purchase agreement. In addition, the new agreement will lower future contractual capital expenditure and leasing costs, avoiding an estimated $193 million in future capital expenditures. For Halifax-based Chorus, the agreement provides greater cash flow certainty and eliminates potentially significant draws on working capital. "With the Jazz fleet operating at a fraction of the capacity it flew a year ago, now is the time to update the CPA to help preserve regional flying and Jazz’s place within it," said Chorus CEO Joe Randell. "Bringing the Embraer 175 aircraft into the Jazz Covered Aircraft fleet ... is a demonstration of our cost competitiveness and strong relationship with Air Canada," he said in a news release. The changes to the capacity purchase agreement with Jazz are subject to Jazz reaching an agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association, International. Walter Spracklin of RBC Dominion Services said the changes were "positive." "For Air Canada, we view the consolidation of its regional flying with Jazz as a sound strategic move," he wrote in a report. Spracklin added that Chorus can sell or lease the Dash 8s that it owns, 15 of which have had their useful life prolonged by about 15 years, or convert them for cargo operations. Air Canada's shares gained $1.21 or 4.8 per cent at $26.31 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Chorus shares were up 23 cents or 5.5 per cent at $4.43. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:AC, TSX:CHR) Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The show must go on at the Stratford Festival, but this summer it'll be happening outdoors. Organizers say they've made tentative plans for "about a dozen" live productions held in-person at the renowned southwestern Ontario festival between late June and the end of September. The plays and cabarets will take place beneath two canopies, one at the Festival Theatre and the other at the new Tom Patterson Theatre. The idea was inspired by the original tent where the Stratford Festival first performed in the early 1950s. Under the outdoors model, the festival's organizers expect to seat up to 100 people in "socially distanced pods," double the usual number of audience members who could be seated at the indoor theatre. The full slate of plays and cabarets will be announced in the spring. The plan will keep the Stratford Festival in operation throughout this summer after COVID-19 forced the entire 2020 season to be cancelled, leading the organization to dip into its endowment and secure a line of credit to stay afloat. Stratford Festival's executive director Anita Gaffney says this summer's schedule is designed so that it can be modified to either shrink or grow in size, depending on provincial and community health guidelines. She added that it's "only through significant and thorough advance planning that we can put in place the safety measures that will be essential for any eventuality." Performances will be streamed online for those who cannot attend in-person shows. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
The province's call-out for COVID-19 testing has led to a busy day at P.E.I.'s testing sites. The Chief Public Health Office has asked anyone at any of the exposure sites — along with anyone who works in the food service, food processing and other industries — to get tested. That created long lines at some of the testing sites. Robin Estey said she waited more than two hours at the Slemon Park testing site Monday morning, But she said things were still moving quicker than she expected. "I was expecting a wait for sure. And to be honest, based on what people have been saying about the wait times over the weekend, I was expecting to be here longer," she said. Health PEI said the increase in testing has had no impact on the vaccination schedule. "Both are a priority and they are going forward as planned, with additional staff needed for testing coming from community-based staff to support the surge and allowing us to maintain COVID vaccinations," it said in an email to CBC News. P.E.I. Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling later told CBC News: Compass that about 3,000 tests had been collected as of late Monday afternoon, with many more expected at clinics scheduled to stay open until 8 p.m. More from CBC P.E.I.
Health Canada approved its third COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, authorizing the jab made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University after a lengthy review of clinical trial details. AstraZeneca was the first to apply for approval in Canada last October and was greenlit earlier in many jurisdictions including the United Kingdom, Mexico, India, and the entire European Union. But Health Canada sought further data from the company before authorizing the new vaccine. Here's what we know about the AstraZeneca product: WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG TO APPROVE? Health Canada's regulatory team had been reviewing AstraZeneca's application since Oct. 1, 2020, and was undergoing its final assessment of clinical data as of late last month. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said in January the review was "a bit more complicated'' because some volunteers in AstraZeneca's trials only received a half dose at first. IS IT RECOMMENDED FOR POPULATIONS OVER 65? The National Advisory Committee on Immunization said Monday it does not recommend the AstraZeneca product in people 65 or older "due to limited information on the efficacy of this vaccine in this age group at this time." In large clinical trials, the vaccine was not tested on enough people over the age of 65 to draw statistically meaningful conclusions. Health Canada said Friday that real-world data from countries already using the product suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. NACI says doses of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should be prioritized for older age groups and other "key populations" at highest risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The panel's advice helps provincial governments determine how best to use the vaccines available to them but provinces can make their own calls about what to do. HOW EFFECTIVE WAS THE VACCINE IN CLINICAL TRIALS? Data from clinical trials suggested AstraZeneca was 62 per cent effective against acquiring the virus when two full doses were given 28 days apart. That compares with the 95 per cent efficacy from the clinical trials of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the other two vaccines currently approved in Canada. A real-word study published last week showed the AstraZeneca vaccine was 94 per cent effective in preventing hospitalization after the first dose. The findings were based on data from nearly 500,000 people who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Scotland. DOES IT WORK AGAINST THE NEW VARIANTS? A group of experts on immunization working with the World Health Organization is recommending the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine, even in countries where variants emerged as dominant. That guidance comes after a small study in South Africa suggested AstraZeneca's vaccine was only minimally effective against the variant first detected there, causing the country to halt use of the product earlier this month. South Africa said it would instead give the still-unapproved Johnson and Johnson vaccine to front-line health workers to see how it protects against the more contagious variant that's dominant there. Oxford University, who helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine, has said researchers were tweaking their product by inserting a genetic sequence from that specific variant. AstraZeneca's vaccine has some promising early data suggesting it works against another variant first detected in the U.K. Findings based on swabs taken from around 500 volunteers in trials between October and January showed a 74.6 per cent efficacy rate against that variant. HOW DOES THE VACCINE WORK? Unlike Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which use messenger RNA (mRNA), the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is a non-replicating viral vector, using a weakened chimpanzee cold virus as a vessel. Scientists stripped the genes from that virus, which isn't harmful to humans, and replaced them with the spike protein gene for SARS-CoV-2. Once injected, the vaccine shows our bodies how to produce the immune response needed to ward off future infections from the COVID-19 virus. Non-replicating means the virus won’t actually reproduce throughout the body. WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO THIS VACCINE? Oxford-AstraZeneca can be shipped and stored at regular refrigerator temperature, unlike Pfizer-BioNTech which requires ultra-low freezers to hold its product before it's injected. Moderna's vaccine is somewhere in the middle, needing a regular freezer to keep the injections at about minus 20 C. From a global vaccination standpoint, the low cost of AstraZeneca's vaccine — about US$4 per dose — gives it another advantage. AstraZeneca, which says it aims to manufacture up to three billion doses in 2021, has pledged to make their product available at cost around the world until at least July. The AstraZeneca vaccine forms the bulk of the stockpile acquired so far by the U.N.-backed vaccine-sharing effort known as COVAX, which aims to deploy coronavirus vaccines to people globally. WHEN CAN WE EXPECT A ROLLOUT TO BEGIN IN CANADA? The Canadian government has already procured 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and a rollout can be expected to begin shortly after the first shipments arrive in the country. Canada will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX by the end of June. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in early February he believes most of those 20 million doses — enough to inoculate 10 million people — will be delivered before Canada Day. The government has said it plans to vaccinate the majority of Canadians by September. — With files from The Associated Press This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern): 6:30 p.m. Alberta is easing COVID-19 restrictions on indoor fitness centres and libraries. However, it is delaying lifting measures for hotels, banquet halls, community halls and conference centres. Premier Jason Kenney says there has been a sharp decline in hospitalizations and cases in long-term care homes. However, he says caution is needed because the test positivity rate and cases of new, more transmissible variants are rising. Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says there were 291 new cases reported in the past day along with two additional deaths. There are 257 people in hospital, including 48 in intensive care. --- 5:05 p.m. Ontario is asking the federal government for guidance on whether it can extend the interval between the first and second dose of its COVID-19 vaccines to four months. The province is making the request today in a joint statement from Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. They say there is growing evidence to suggest that the intervals for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can be safely extended. British Columbia says today that it will extend the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to four months. --- 4:45 p.m. The only Nunavut community with cases of COVID-19 has extended its state of emergency until March 9. The community of Arviat declared a state of emergency Feb. 24 after COVID-19 cases continued to rise. The orders include a nightly curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Arviat Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr. says bylaw officers continue to patrol the streets 24 hours a day and four additional officers have been hired to enforce the curfew. The state of emergency was set to expire March 2. There are eight cases of COVID-19 in Arviat. --- 4:05 p.m. Officials say there are 154 new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. There are 151 people in hospital, with 21 people in intensive care. The Ministry of Health says to date, around 79,200 vaccinations have been done. --- 1:55 p.m. British Columbia will extend the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to four months, freeing up more supply to target younger age groups earlier. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines has been shown to provide “miraculous” protection of 90 per cent. Starting next Monday, seniors aged 90 and up can call to book their appointment for a vaccine, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and over. Henry says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- 1:55 p.m. Manitoba is releasing new data that shows COVID-19 infections have disproportionately impacted Indigenous and Black people, as well as other people of colour in the province. Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, says it’s largely linked to pre-existing inequities like housing and employment. There was one more death and 35 more cases of the novel coronavirus Monday. Manitoba vaccines became available for the general population last week depending on age. Roussin says the age has now expanded for people born in 1930 and earlier and First Nations people born in 1950 and earlier. --- 1:40 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. Health officials say the case involves a person in their 30s in the Miramichi region. There are 36 active reported cases in the province and two people are hospitalized with the disease, both in intensive care. The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick since the onset of the pandemic is 1,431 and there have been 27 deaths. --- 12:50 p.m. York Region says it registered 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments within two hours of opening its booking system to the public today. It’s one of several Ontario regions offering shots to residents aged 80 and older, weeks ahead of the scheduled start of the larger, provincewide campaign for that age group. Hamilton is warning of long wait times on its phone lines as clinics for residents 85 and older begin. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph is encouraging eligible people to book vaccine appointments online as its phone line is at capacity. --- 12:45 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today. Health officials say both cases are close contacts of previously reported infections and involve people under 20 years old. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says both cases are in the eastern health region, where officials have been battling an outbreak in St. John’s. The Avalon region, which includes the capital, remains under lockdown, while the rest of the province has moved to the less restrictive alert level four. --- 12:40 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. Health officials say the new case is in the Halifax area and involves a close contact of a previously reported infection. Officials say two people are in hospital with the disease and both are in intensive care. Nova Scotia has 35 active reported infections. As of Sunday, the province had administered 32,856 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 12,845 people having received a booster shot. --- 12:15 p.m. Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. The new case is in the western Hudson Bay community of Arviat, the only place in Nunavut with active known COVID-19 cases. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says Arviat is on the right track to contain the spread. Arviat has been under a strict lockdown since November, with all schools and non-essential businesses closed. There are eight active reported cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, all in Arviat. --- 11:15 a.m. Quebec is reporting 613 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one within the past 24 hours. Health officials say hospitalizations rose by 11, to 612, while the number of people in intensive care rose by five, to 122. Officials say 6,308 doses of vaccine were administered Sunday, for a total of 438,815. Quebec has reported a total of 288,353 COVID-19 infections and 10,399 deaths linked to the virus. --- 10:40 a.m. Ontario is reporting 1,023 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health Minister Christine Elliott says of the new cases, 280 are in Toronto, 182 are in Peel Region and 72 are in Ottawa. Ontario says 939 more cases were resolved since the last daily report. More than 17,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the province since Sunday's update. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden looks to dismantle the last administration’s hardline immigration agenda, he worked Monday to build a partnership with someone who found an unexpected understanding with Donald Trump: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Biden and López Obrador met for a virtual bilateral meeting, with immigration, the coronavirus pandemic and climate issues on the agenda. Looming large was how the two leaders would get along in what has become an increasingly complicated relationship. “We haven’t been perfect neighbours to each other,” Biden acknowledged in brief remarks at the start of his video conference meeting with the Mexican president. López Obrador, for his part, told Biden that he was thankful that the new president was “willing to maintain good relations for the good of our people in North America.” The Mexican president also gave a wink to a rueful observation attributed to José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori, the Mexican general who served seven terms as the country’s president, about the two countries’ relationship: “Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the U.S.” “I can now say ‘It’s wonderful for Mexico to be close to God and not so far from the United States’” López Obrador said. Lopez Obrador came to the meeting with his own checklist of priorities, including pressing Biden to give pharmaceutical company Pfizer permission to sell his country vaccine produced in the United States, something that Canada has also requested from the White House. “We want to have an answer about a request we made,” Lopez Obrador told reporters at his daily news conference, hours before speaking with Biden. Ahead of the meeting, White House officials reiterated that Biden remained focused on first vaccinating U.S. citizens before turning his attention to assisting other nations. Biden, in a brief exchange with reporters at the start of the meeting, said the two leaders would be discussing vaccines. Relations with Biden will be much more complex and multi-faceted than they were with Trump. As a candidate, Trump referred to Mexicans as rapists. The Republican's signature campaign promise was building a “big, beautiful wall’ across the length of the southern border. And leaked conversations showed Trump hectoring López Obrador's predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, against publicly saying that Mexico would never pay for a southern border wall. But López Obrador appeared to reach a one-issue understanding with Trump: Mexico stopped the flow of Central American migrants trying to reach the U.S. border, and Trump often appeared to turn a blind eye to just about every other facet in the complicated relationship. There was no shortage of issues that Trump largely overlooked or played down in exchange for Mexico slowing the flow of undocumented immigrants from the border. López Obrador, who took office in 2018, accused U.S. officials of fabricating drug trafficking charges against the country’s former defence secretary, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, and demanded the general's return after he was arrested in Los Angeles in October. U.S. prosecutors eventually acquiesced. Under his watch, López Obrador has attempted to consolidate the position of Mexico’s national oil company and national electric utility, and prioritized fossil fuel companies amid a global push to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Early in his term, the Mexican president pursued a counter-narcotics strategy that largely ended the pursuit of high-profile arrests and focused more on poverty alleviation. Still, Trump heaped praise on López Obrador, calling him a “friend” and “great president” in one of his final presidential speeches, an address from the border to celebrate progress made on building the wall. The effort to reset the U.S.-Mexico relationship under Biden comes as a flood of migrants have rushed to the border since his victory in November. Biden has backed a bill to give legal status and a path to citizenship to the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally. Biden also broke with Trump by supporting efforts to allow hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. illegally as young children to remain in the country. Border Patrol agents are apprehending an average of more than 200 children crossing the border without a parent per day, but nearly all 7,100 beds for immigrant children maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services are full. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday sought to push back against the notion that the situation at the border was spinning out of control. “The men and women of the Department of Homeland Security are working around the clock seven days a week to ensure that we do not have a crisis at the border, that we manage the challenge as acute as the challenge is, and they are not doing that alone,” Mayorkas said. Ahead of the meeting, López Obrador also floated a proposal for a Bracero-style immigrant work visa program for 600,000 to 800,000 Mexican and Central American workers annually. Asked about the Mexican president’s proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that reinstituting the Bracero program would require action by Congress. The original Bracero program allowed Mexicans to work temporarily in the United States to fill labour shortages during World War II and for a couple of decades after the war. López Obrador said the U.S. economy needs Mexican workers because of “their strength, their youth.” On Monday, López Obrador added that his new proposal would be a program not only for agriculture workers but for other sectors and professionals. ___ Stevenson reported from Mexico City and Madhani from Chicago. Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat and Josh Boak contributed reporting. Mark Stevenson, Zeke Miller And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
LONDON — A Moroccan landscape painted by Winston Churchill and owned by Angelina Jolie sold at auction on Monday for more than $11.5 million, smashing the previous record for a work by Britain’s World War II leader. “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” sold at Christie’s in London for 8,285,000 pounds ($11,590,715). The pre-sale estimate was 1.5 million pounds to 2.5 million pounds, and the previous record price for a Churchill painting was just under 1.8 million pounds. The image of the 12th-century mosque in Marrakech at sunset, with the Atlas Mountains in the background, is a piece of both political and Hollywood history. The only painting that Britain’s wartime prime minister completed during the 1939-45 conflict, it was completed after the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, where Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt planned the defeat of Nazi Germany. The two leaders visited Marrakech after the conference so that Churchill could show Roosevelt the city’s beauty. Churchill gave the painting to Roosevelt as a memento of the trip. The painting was sold by Roosevelt’s son after the president’s death in 1945, and had several owners before Jolie and partner Brad Pitt bought it in 2011. The couple separated in 2016 and have spent years enmeshed in divorce proceedings, amid speculation about the division of their extensive art collection. They were declared divorced in 2019 after their lawyers asked for a bifurcated judgment, meaning that two married people can be declared single while other issues, including finances and child custody, remain. The painting was sold by the Jolie Family Collection. The buyer wasn't immediately identified. The Associated Press
CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island entered a 72-hour, provincewide lockdown Monday meant to stop two clusters of COVID-19 cases from spreading, and officials reopened a financial aid program for workers affected by the new health orders. Chief medical officer Dr. Heather Morrison has said the clusters don't have a known source, which according to health experts is a possible sign of community spread. Morrison has said the clusters, which are in Charlottetown and Summerside, appear to be connected. On Monday, Morrison said a total of 6,632 COVID-19 tests were completed over the weekend, adding that health officials received 2,250 test results — all negative — from a clinic in Summerside, P.E.I., where one cluster has been identified. She said 1,600 results from the area are pending. She reported no new cases on the Island Monday. Prince Edward Island has 18 active known cases of COVID-19 and more than 190 people who were identified as close contacts of reported infections have been ordered to isolate for 14 days. Officials said the three-day lockdown will help public health officials contact trace and ramp up testing. Schools and most non-essential businesses are closed until Thursday. The new rules also require Islanders to practice physical distancing with anyone outside their immediate households. Exceptions are being made for people who live alone or require essential support. Health officials announced the lockdown order on Sunday after reporting five new COVID-19 infections, for a total of 17 cases over five days. On Saturday, officials announced so-called "circuit breaker" measures, cutting store and gym capacities in half, banning indoor dining and cancelling many sporting events. Those measures are set to be in effect until at least March 14. The CEO of the Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce says many business owners are frustrated and a bit deflated by the new health orders. "P.E.I. was doing so well and our freedoms were different than that of other parts of the country, so it's a tough blow that we find ourselves in this situation, but we recognize the need to manage the cases of COVID-19 and clusters we see in the province," Penny Walsh-McGuire said in an interview Monday. She said while some members feel the measures are overkill, moving quickly has proven effective in slowing the transmission of the virus. "We've seen the results unfortunately in other jurisdictions in our country and globally when that's not done," Walsh-McGuire said. Economic Growth Minister Matthew MacKay, said Monday the province was relaunching a program to help workers who lost income due to the new government-mandated restrictions. The aid measures include a $500 payment for people who lost their income entirely or who had their hours reduced by at least 12 hours a week between Feb. 28 and March 14. Employees who are laid off during that period will also be eligible for a $100 grocery gift card. "In the coming days we'll be rolling out a $1 million fund to help Islanders who are off sick and don't have access to paid sick leave and may experience a gap trying to access other federal supports," MacKay said. On Monday, Health PEI announced new restrictions for hospitals, allowing patients to have visits from a maximum of three separate people. Exceptions will be made for compassionate circumstances including end of life and in pediatrics, obstetrics and palliative care. Premier Dennis King said on Sunday it's better to "go harder and stronger" with protective health orders than to delay and risk the kind of outbreaks seen in other provinces. "With hard work, with time, and with your continued support we will get through this," King said in a statement. He encouraged anyone with any symptoms to stay home from work. "We don't need work heroes," he said. "We need you to be careful and do your part for your community and our province." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. — By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton. The Canadian Press
A man accused of holding a girl against her will at a remote northern Saskatchewan cabin wants to be tried in Court of Queen’s Bench by judge and jury. Defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle told the Meadow Lake Provincial Court on March 1 that he is in discussions with the Crown about the possibility of running an abbreviated preliminary hearing for Aaron Gardiner. Prosecutor Andrew Clements had indicated that the Crown may go by way of direct indictment. Pfefferle asked the court for a one-week adjournment to see if the defence and Crown can reach an agreement for an abbreviated preliminary hearing. Clements didn’t object. Judge Janet McIvor adjourned the matter until March 8. Canada’s Criminal Code allows for a case to be sent directly to trial without a preliminary hearing through a direct indictment. Direct Indictment is only used in serious crimes and when it’s in the public interest. Gardiner, 42, appeared in Meadow Lake Provincial Court by phone from the Regina Correctional Centre. He has been in custody since his arrest in April 2020. Gardiner allegedly held a girl captive for four days at a remote cabin across from Île-à-la-Crosse Lake. A specialized RCMP tactical unit was flown to the isolated cabin by two military CH-146 Griffon helicopters to rescue her and arrest Gardiner. He was charged with unlawful confinement, assault, overcoming resistance, uttering threats, resisting arrest, possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose, use of a firearm in commission of an indictable offence, proceeds of crime, and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Three months after his arrest, police added more charges after more alleged victims came forward. There have been numerous adjournments and delays in the case against Gardiner because he has gone through about five lawyers. Gardiner has either fired the lawyers or they have withdrawn from representing him. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Biden administration is pulling back an environmental review that had cleared the way for a parcel of federal land held sacred by Apaches to be turned over for a massive copper mine in eastern Arizona. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that it likely will take several months to further consult with Native American tribes and others about their concerns over Oak Flat and determine whether the environmental review fully complies with the law. The agency cited President Joe Biden's recent memo on strengthening relationships with tribal nations, and regularly consulting with them in a meaningful way. The USDA and the U.S. Forest Service acknowledged they can only do so much. Congress mandated that the land be transferred to Resolution Copper no later than 60 days after the final environmental review was published. The document was released in the last days of Donald Trump's administration. Michael Nixon, an attorney for the Apache Stronghold group that filed tthe first of three lawsuits seeking to stop the land exchange, said the USDA's decision is welcome but doesn't have much impact without intervention from the courts or Congress. “Oak Flat is still on death row,” he said. “Essentially, they're just changing the execution date.” Dan Blondeau, a spokesman for Resolution Copper, said the company is evaluating the decision. The parcel of land in the Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix was set to be transferred to Resolution Copper by mid-March for one of the largest copper mines in the U.S. At least three pending lawsuits have raised concerns over religious freedom rights, land ownership and violations of federal law. Apaches call Oak Flat “Chi’chil Bildagoteel.” The land near Superior has ancient oak groves, traditional plants and living beings that tribal members say are essential to their religion and culture. Those things exist elsewhere, but Apache Stronghold said they have unique power within Oak Flat. The effort to protect Oak Flat has the backing of the Poor People's Campaign, environmental groups, religious liberty scholars, the National Congress of American Indians and others. Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva said Monday he would again introduce a bill to reverse the land transfer “to make sure this needless controversy is settled on the side of justice once and for all.” Gov. Doug Ducey and other Republicans have touted the jobs the mine could bring to Arizona. He said Monday he's “extremely disappointed” in the decision to slow progress on the mine. “An effective and predictable regulatory environment is a critical factor in Arizona's booming economy,” he said in a statement. “In Arizona, we follow what works. Undoing lengthy, comprehensive and already completed federal environmental studies on a whim with the changing of federal administrations doesn't work.” The land transfer was included as a last-minute provision in a must-pass defence bill in 2014 after it failed for years as stand-alone legislation. Resolution Copper would get 3.75 square miles (9.71 square kilometres) of national forest land in exchange for eight parcels it owns elsewhere in Arizona. San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler and environmental groups that also sued the U.S. Forest Service over the environmental review said Monday that they'll continue working to protect Oak Flat. Resolution Copper, a joint venture of global mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP, said it has invested $2 billion so far on the project but actual mining wouldn't start for at least 10 years after the land transfer. Eventually, the mine will swallow Oak Flat. Resolution Copper said last week that it hired a company partly owned by members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe to run a campground at Oak Flat and ensure access to trails after the land is exchanged and until it's safe for people to be there. “We will continue to consult and seek community input as we refine and shape the Resolution Copper project over the coming years, to minimize any impacts on Oak Flat,” project director Andrew Lye said. Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press
Here's hoping Nick Jonas paid it forward!