ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
OTTAWA – Changes are on the way to the board that manages the water management plan for Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River. The International Joint Commission announced November 24th that the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River board will be reformed, reducing the number of members of the board from 18 to six – three from Canada and three from the United States. “The restructuring represents a streamlined approach for this Board,” said Jane Corwin, chair of the IJC’s US section. “Commissioners enlarged the board last year, but after careful consideration determined that a smaller decision-making body with input from a more-inclusive advisory body would be more effective and appropriate.” Appointees to the board include one representative from the Canadian government, and one each from Ontario and Quebec. There will be two appointees from the US government and one from the State of New York. The ILOSLR board oversees Plan 2014, the controversial river management plan adopted to manage water levels and flow on Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River between Lake Ontario and Quebec. That plan has been criticized by many for the wildly fluctuating water levels on Lake St. Lawrence. Changes to the ILOSLR were announced after a review was made by the IJC. “On behalf of IJC Commissioners, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all members of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board who have served above and beyond the call in recent years and have provided excellent leadership in the face of extremely challenging conditions,” said Pierre Béland, chair of the IJC’s Canadian Section. The restructuring of the ILOSLR board was welcomed by local river advocate Cliff Steinberg from Ault Island. Steinberg has been advocating for Lake St. Lawrence users for the past three years and said the change was needed and a positive step forward. “At one point, the previous board had one commissioner from Ontario and five from Quebec,” he said. “This restructured board is more fair and equitable.” The IJC jurisdiction on the St. Lawrence River ends just east of Cornwall Island where the river ceases to be an international waterway. Steinberg is a member of the public advisory group for the ILOSLR of users of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. That group, along with the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management committee or GLAM, will be providing more guidance to this new incarnation of the ILOSLR board. “I think they want to put more emphasis on the public advisory group and the GLAM for decision making,” he said. “That’s where the real information is coming out.” While cutting representation on a board may have been seen as a negative in the past, Steinberg said that the situation between waterway users and the board has improved over the past three years. He attributed much of that to the inclusion of local information to the GLAM, and the creation of the public advisory group. “The communication is much better,” he said. “We are being heard. Our concerns are being heard.” He pointed to examples like this year, when the board removed a deviation from Plan 2014 so that water levels would remain at a higher level longer for boaters, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That deviation was put in place at the end of the shipping season in 2019 to drain more water off Lake Ontario to help prevent shoreline flooding. It attributed to extremely low water levels along the river in January. “[The IJC] were going to deviate longer and keep the water levels low which would have meant we wouldn’t have any water to get our boats into our docks and marinas,” Steinberg said adding that the advisory group made a presentation and the board agreed. “What that meant was they could maintain the water level similar to the level of the Thanksgiving boat haul out,” he explained. “It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than what was originally planned.” Steinberg feels that the IJC is now paying attention to the concerns of those along the St. Lawrence River. That said, he explained that the board still has to follow the adopted Plan 2014. “They are limited to what [the IJC] are going to be able to do, but they are now well aware of the conditions of this area and how it’s affecting people,” he said. “Things are improving though.” The IJC did not announce a timeline on when appointments would be made to the new restructured board. In a statement, the commission said it expected to have the restructuring complete in early 2021. Established in 1909, the IJC provides oversight and management of joint waterways along the Canada-US board. The ILOSLR was created after the completion of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system in 1959. Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said Thursday in a written news release one additional COVID-19 case has been confirmed in P.E.I. The man is in his 20s and is a rotational worker who recently travelled to the Island from outside the Atlantic region. He has been self-isolating since arriving in P.E.I. and tested positive on routine testing. Contact tracing has been completed, the release said. The case is not related to any other recent positive cases.In a weekly interview with CBC News: Compass, Morrison said she is pleased P.E.I. hasn't seen widespread community transmission. A youth centre in Cornwall that suspended activities when the pandemic hit said it will not reopen, even when public health restrictions allow.Storytime from the P.E.I. Library Service has returned, but has gone online.Islanders who want to donate reusable face masks can now drop off donations at Access PEI locations across the province, and free masks will now be available at 14 food banks and pantries around P.E.I. P.E.I. is adding 55 new front-line positions to schools across the province to support students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.Several P.E.I. appliance stores are dealing with a shortage of products to sell because COVID-19 is affecting the manufacturers of fridges, stoves, washers and dryers.Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday; the province now has 119 active cases. New Brunswick reported six new cases Thursday, and is dealing with 111 active cases.P.E.I. currently has five active cases, and there have been 73 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
Charlottetown is expecting work on stormwater culverts on Capital Drive in Charlottetown will be completed Thursday.The work closed the busy road between North River Road and the Maypoint roundabout. That section of Capital Drive connects Charlottetown to Cornwall and other communities to the west.Traffic had to take a detour.The project, which started about a month ago, replaced twin stormwater culverts under the road.Guardrails and fencing were installed Wednesday, city officials said. Lane marking will be done Thursday, and the road should be open in the afternoon or evening.The budget for the project was $1.3 million.More from CBC P.E.I.
Seven classrooms have been shut down at Diamond Trail Public School in Welland after an individual there tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual are being contacted and told by NRPH (Niagara Region Public Health) to stay home and self-isolate,” District School Board of Niagara said in a news release. Whether the individual who contracted the coronavirus is a student or staff member was not publicly known Wednesday. “The preventative COVID-19 practices that Diamond Trail has been following since the beginning of school, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue,” DSBN said. The same day DSBN reported the case at Diamond Trail, Niagara Catholic District School Board confirmed that the case count at St. Martin Catholic Elementary school in Stevensville had climbed to double digits. The province’s database is indicating that three of the school’s10 cases have been resolved. Of the remaining cases, four have been identified as students and three as staff. The Niagara Catholic website indicated these seven cases are the only active cases for the board. An outbreak was declared at St. Martin on Nov. 19. For DSBN, there are seven active cases from six schools; two at Prince Philip and one case at Martha Cullimore in Niagara Falls, two cases at Eden High School in St. Catharines, one at Port Colborne High School and one at Diamond Trail. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.comSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Storytime from the P.E.I. Library Service has returned.Before the pandemic, Storytime was a popular event for children and families, who would gather to hear a local librarian read, but pandemic public health restrictions shut them down.Storytime has now made a virtual return, and the first online story was read Thursday morning. The event will happen weekly at the same time on Zoom, with space for about 20 families to participate."We really miss the children coming in for programming,' said Lori MacAdam at the library service."Our staff misses them. I'm sure the families miss that connection as well."The virtual Storytime will be conducted in the same format as the old in-person sessions, with the occasional song mixed in with the book readings. Families do need to contact the library using this email address to pre-register for each session.MacAdam said there are plans to add more online offerings from the library —for all ages — until it's safe to resume programming inside the libraries again.More from CBC P.E.I.
BRUSSELS — A senior legal adviser said Thursday that the European Union’s top court should reject Hungary’s attempts to overturn a European Parliament action aimed at holding the country to account for what lawmakers consider to be a breach of the bloc’s values.Advocate General Michal Bobek recommended that the European Court of Justice “dismiss Hungary’s action as unfounded.” Advocates General routinely provide legal guidance to the ECJ. Their opinions aren't binding on the Luxembourg-based court, but are followed in most cases.The EU parliament launched a procedure in 2018 to force Hungary’s EU partners to sanction the government in Budapest over concerns about the country’s constitutional and electoral systems, the independence of its judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest, as well as fundamental rights concerns.The “Article 7” procedure was contained in a resolution that was adopted in a 448-197 vote, while 48 lawmakers abstained. Hungary argued that had the abstentions been taken into account, the vote wouldn't have achieved the required two-thirds majority.In Bobek’s opinion, a person who abstains from a vote asks to be counted as neither in favour nor against a proposition, and to be treated as if they weren't voting at all. He also said that EU lawmakers had been informed more than a day before the poll that abstentions wouldn't be counted as votes cast.It’s the first time the parliament has launched such a procedure. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has also taken similar action against Hungary. If four-fifths of Hungary’s 26 EU partners agree “there is a clear risk of a serious breach” of the bloc’s values, Budapest could lose its voting rights.The EU’s treaty says the bloc “is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”The Associated Press
Parry Sound-Almaguin hunters say they feel targeted by a federal firearm ban that came into effect in May, but they don’t believe it influenced the recent hunting season. Bruce Hatt, a member of the Parry Sound Hunters and Anglers Association, said that the association supports safe hunting, gun handling and shooting sports. “The regulations that are out (now), do not do anything for safe hunting, they do not do anything for crime — they do not do anything for anybody, honestly,” said Hatt. “The guns they’re banning are as dangerous as the people that are using them.” On May 1, 2020, the federal government prohibited nine types of “assault-style” firearms as well as placed new restrictions on muzzle energy, which determines the damage a bullet can do, and the bore diameter, which is the calibre of gun. “If you’re a safe gun handler, there’s no reason those guns should be banned — there’s no justification for it,” he said. Asked if the new firearms ban had any effect on the recent hunting season, Hatt replied, “No, I don’t think so.” “Most of the guns that were banned are target rifles used for recreational shooting — the guys I hunt with use the same rifles they’ve used for the last 20 years,” he said. However, the pandemic did impact the hunting season, according to Hatt. “We have people from all over the province come to our camp. A lot of people decided not to come; a lot of us stayed in different locations, met in the morning and social distanced in the field, which was easy to do,” he explained. “But it did impact it — there was a lot people that opted out.” In Sundridge, the Eagle Lake Gun Club has been operating for over 60 years and has over 550 members. Peter Turnbull manages membership for the club and has been hunting in Almaguin for years. He said that in the Parry Sound-Muskoka region, the federal gun ban doesn’t have a big impact; however, the issue, according to Turnbull, is it doesn’t target the right group of people. “There’s about 2.3 million people that are lawfully licensed to have firearms — we’re not the problem,” said Turnbull. “We go through extensive training just to be able to have that privilege.” The firearms ban didn’t affect the hunting season in his opinion, as he said not many hunters would consider hunting with the calibre of rifles listed in the prohibition. “For the most part, the AR-15 are .223 calibre, which isn’t suitable for bear hunting or any big game,” he said. “But there are cases in places, especially up in the far north, where people are using stuff like that.” Echoing Hatt’s sentiments regarding the pandemic’s effect on the 2020 hunting season, Turnbull said there were less hunters at his camp. For both Hatt and Turbull, the emphasis is on the safe handling of guns. “We have to go through courses to get firearms, it’s very regulated, it’s very safe,” said Hatt. STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After seeing a release about a recent federal firearms ban, our reporter wanted to find out if hunters in the Parry Sound, Almaguin region found the firearms ban to alter the hunting season. With the pandemic entering the second wave during the hunting season, she thought it was important to find out if hunting had seen a decline. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
Patricia Young describes her home of Walker’s Point as a place where people believe in the importance of community. “I think if you look up ‘community’ in the dictionary, you’ll see Walker’s Point listed,” she said. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada, that community often gathered at the Walker’s Point Community Centre for activities and socializing: people went to check out books at the library inside, attend exercise classes, crafting sessions or the monthly potluck dinners. Paola Randall, like Young, has lived in Walker’s Point for over 20 years. She spent a lot of time at the community centre before the pandemic: she’s part of the library’s executive board and used to play pickleball there. “We see it as a hub,” she said. “It really connects us to all the services of the township, as well as bringing us together.” Young, who’s part of the community centre’s hall board, said while people are understanding of the situation they’re in, the loss of some of their traditional events is felt. “I’ve run into a few people and they have specifically said, ‘We really miss the potluck suppers,’” she said. She added, however, no one wants to “jeopardize people’s health and safety.” Community centres in Bala, Port Carling, Minett and Milford Bay reopened Nov. 2, allowing 10 people maximum in their facilities at a time for an hour a day, booked in advance. However, many feel they aren’t out of the woods yet. Residents, particularly seniors, don’t want to take the risk of infection by going out and are still leaning on the adjustments and virtual support systems they’ve developed during the pandemic in lieu of these in-person gathering places. Part of the Walker’s Point Community Centre is open to the public for limited use. The library, which has 500 members, reopened on Nov. 4. It’s open Wednesdays and Fridays, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and allows one person at a time into the library to check out or return books. The reopening, limited in its capacity, has been a mood-booster for many. "I think people are just happy to have it there," Young said. Heather Elliott works with the District of Muskoka, where she’s in charge of running free service programs for seniors in the region, including community centres in Torrance Bay, Milford Bay, Port Carling and Ullswater. They host a handbell choir, a course on learning to use the computer and various social events — all held virtually now. Once the pandemic began and people were confined to their homes for several weeks, Elliott said her team began reaching out to residents to see how they were faring physically and mentally. “Many of them are living alone and life is very different for them during a pandemic,” she said, “but we see them logging in and participating in ways that I don’t think they ever would a year ago.” While Young said she and the people she knows in the community have been doing well throughout the pandemic, she understands many must be feeling isolated. Connections through Facebook, email and over the phone have become essential in Walker’s Point. “We are definitely there for each other. It’s a very strong community,” Randall said. Elliott said, for the health and safety of their elderly population, who are more vulnerable to the consequences of the virus, they haven’t transitioned into hosting indoor events. “We’re hearing from seniors at this point that they’re not comfortable resuming in-person programming,” she said. She said they’re prioritizing plans for outdoor events like walking groups in Muskoka Lakes trails this winter. Walker’s Point residents, like Young, know one thing for certain: things are likely not going to change before the year is over. A clear sign of this is the cancellation of their annual holiday potluck, a hit event with local families and children, which ran out of the community centre. Young is planning for a more quiet, subdued Christmas in town: “We just won’t have any of the normal socializing,” she said. STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Our reporter wanted to see how residents are faring in places where the community centre is a cornerstone of local socialization and togetherness given limited openings during the pandemic. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Federal officials today explained how they plan to roll out millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks as Ottawa launches its mass inoculation campaign.The initial supply of the doses will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get shots in the first three months of 2021. Millions more doses are expected to arrive as the supply chain stabilizes.One of the principal challenges facing the immunization effort is the distribution of vaccines that must be kept at very low temperatures – well below those that a standard commercial refrigerator can offer.The Pfizer vaccine, which is expected to get the green light from Health Canada as early as this month, needs to be kept at approximately -80 degrees Celsius to remain stable. The Moderna product, another vaccine that uses groundbreaking messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, must be kept at -20 degrees Celsius.Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq, is leading vaccination logistics and operations at a new national operations centre in the Public Health Agency of Canada.While the country is facing unprecedented "logistical complexities," he said, the military and its partners will be ready to deploy vaccines as soon as they are approved in Canada.Fortin said the national operations centre isn't waiting for Health Canada's sign-off to begin preparations. The Pfizer product will be delivered by that company directly to provincial and territorial distribution points as early as the end of the month.The federal government already has secured the cold storage required for this product. All of the provinces have indicated where the Pfizer-specific fridges should be placed and 14 distribution points nationwide will be ready to receive the vaccine starting on Dec. 14, Fortin said.WATCH: Six million doses to arrive in Canada in the first three months of 2021A senior official, speaking to CBC News on a not-for-attribution basis, said Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec will get two such delivery sites each, with one in each of the other provinces. A plan for the territories is still being finalized, the official said.The shots likely will be distributed on a per capita basis, the official said, much like how federally procured personal protective equipment has been issued to those jurisdictions throughout this pandemic. Some observers have said provinces dealing with higher caseloads should get priority access to vaccine shots at first.Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday a per-capita distribution plan will disadvantage his hard-hit province. He also raised concerns about Ottawa's plan to take the lead on inoculating Indigenous people. "This hurts Manitobans, to put it mildly," he told reporters.Eventually, there will be 205 "points of issue" locations across the country where health care professionals can administer the vaccine, Fortin said. It will be up to the provinces and territories to specify where and when individual Canadians will be inoculated.WATCH: Maj.-Gen. Fortin says simulation tests will be held at vaccine distribution sitesFortin said at least one "dry run" has been executed so far, with more planned in the days ahead, to ensure things run smoothly once this vaccine hits our shores from manufacturing hubs in the U.S. and abroad. These practice runs will ensure officials are comfortable with what Fortin called the "very unique requirements" of this Pfizer vaccine.Preparing for the worstFortin said he's actively planning for multiple worst-case scenarios, such as bad weather, cyber attacks and fires at distribution hubs. IBM, the information technology company, said in a blog post published on Thursday that it had uncovered "a global phishing campaign" targeting the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine distribution mission, Operation Warp Speed."We're very much executing a whole-of-nation approach. The size and scope and scale of this problem is unprecedented and there's a number of factors at play," Fortin said."I like the idea of being ready before the Christmas timeframe, so we are certain to be ready when it comes in January."The general said his team is in daily contact with Pfizer and the company is "comfortable" with the plan that Canada has crafted. Pfizer has said it won't ship product to a country that isn't ready to receive a vaccine that is so temperature-sensitive.Pfizer review 'progressing really well': Health CanadaDr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday that the regulatory review of Pfizer's vaccine is "progressing really well" and her department has the "majority of information" it needs from the company to certify that it's safe and effective.In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics, Sharma said the final approval could come in the next 7 to 10 days. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to meet on Dec. 10 to decide on an emergency use authorization (EUA) for that shot and Sharma said Canada is following a similar timeline.Canada has placed orders with Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for 20 million doses of the two-dose vaccine, with options for millions more in the months to follow. The company has reported its vaccine was 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 among clinical trial participants who had no evidence of prior infection.Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said Canadians shouldn't be fixated on the exact date when Pfizer gets the nod from Canadians regulators."I think we shouldn't be so obsessive with the actual delivery of the vaccines themselves, the dates and so on. I think what's really important is the fact we're planning, preparing, doing exercises," he said."We're doing the dry runs, the soft launch so that once the vaccine technically arrives, everyone will be comfortable, we'll be trained to actually utilize the vaccine." The Moderna vaccine, which is expected to secure regulatory approvals after the Pfizer product, will be imported into Canada by the federal government, largely through private shipping companies. Ottawa will in turn divide up the product for the provinces and territories.The government is now finalizing "end mile" contracts with logistics firms — the companies that will transport the Moderna vaccines to centres where Canadians can go for a shot.On Monday, the Massachusetts-based company applied to the FDA for its EUA for the American marketplace. Data from the company's final clinical trial are encouraging, demonstrating the vaccine is 94.1 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 and 100 per cent effective at preventing severe cases of the disease.Two other companies, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical division, Janssen, have also submitted their vaccines for regulatory approval. Sharma said those companies still need to submit "large chunks of information" before a final decision can be made.Njoo said the federal government is now refining who is best suited to get an early dose of a vaccine — early guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) suggests seniors in long-term care homes and frontline health care workers will be among the first to get a shot.Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and his party's health critic Michelle Rempel Garner held a news conference this morning to discuss an opposition day motion that will call on the government to release its plan by Dec. 16.O'Toole accused the government of failing to provide Canadians with a plan and a timeframe for vaccine distribution."Without a concrete timeline for vaccines, businesses won't have the confidence to reinvest in their operations and rehire Canadians who have been laid off during the pandemic," he said."Without a reliable timeline, or details, provinces have the impossible task of establishing complex supply chains with no lead time."The motion calls for a status update on: * How each type of vaccine will be safely delivered, stored and distributed to Canadians. * The date on which each vaccine type will be first deployed in Canada and the rate of vaccinations anticipated by month. * Any planned federal guidance with respect to the deployment of the vaccine by priority group, such as front-line health workers and seniors. * The plan to distribute the vaccine to Indigenous communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.
SHEET HARBOUR – The Sheet Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce is on a mission to spread a little joy this holiday season to help make up for the numerous let-downs of the past year. Chamber director Meryl Atkinson is working with a committee to raise community spirit, provide opportunity and spread happiness. An idea for an outdoor Christmas event has evolved, taking all government protocols into consideration to keep participants safe from the coronavirus. The first call Atkinson made before any advertising was to the RCMP. “We will not be stopping any traffic, we will follow all public health guidelines and participants will be expected to social distance,” she said. “This is a community event and there are lots of people involved. We’ve tried to capture as many people and activities as we can, while having safety foremost in mind. “We are calling the event ‘Christmas on Main Street’,” Atkinson told The Journal. “We had a $1,100 grant we couldn’t use on Canada Day and so we are moving it to the Christmas season.” Taking all the restrictions into account, the event – slated for Dec. 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. – will have 22 vendors organized in separate locations along a 2.5-kilometre stretch of Main Street. Vendors, who would have normally sold their wares at indoor markets and craft sales, will supply their own tables and other necessities. “We will market the event,” Atkinson said. “What we are offering is opportunity and we have vendors selling their products, including Christmas ornaments, jewellery, preserves, mats, Scentsy – and so much more.” Vendors will set up in assigned vacant spaces, parking lots and empty areas on Main Street – between the bridges – West River Bridge to East River Bridge. Each vendor will supply sanitizer and those attending will be expected to wear masks. “There is so much more planned,” explained Atkinson. “We have a trackless train set up over by St. James Church in that large lot. It will be free and the operator, dressed as an elf, will sanitize after every child. Local photographer Robert Moser will be taking photos.” Residents have been asked to participate by adopting one of the 71 trees along the business district. “Let Rhea Snow know if you are interested in decorating one of the trees along the route,” Atkinson said, “… and you can make it in memory of someone special if you’d like. The more lights and colour the better.” Several businesses have donated cash to cover expenses and the Lions Club will serve free hot tea, coffee and individually wrapped cookies at MacPhee House. Sheet Harbour Radio will broadcast live music provided by local musicians Nathalie Ladouceur and Dan and Sherrie Goodsell. Chamber members have put up the annual LED wreaths on the light poles throughout the business district and MacPhee House will have the community tree lit. Ground search and rescue will be there with a food truck – hoping to raise some cash, with their annual fundraising events cancelled due to COVID-19. “Carollers will be singing next to Foodland and Santa and the Mrs. will be in the NSLC vacant lot. We have people selling hot chocolate to raise funds for the Gerald Hardy Society and a bonfire and hot apple cider will be offered in the farmers’ market lot,” continued Atkinson. “Lily’s Hill is hosting a ‘Slap Out 2020’ contest, where participants will shoot hockey pucks into an open dryer. The library is packaging individual grab-bags for the children, and others are putting out their Christmas inflatables.” A map of where vendors will be located and parking along the route will be on the Sheet Harbour Facebook page, with printed copies on notice boards. Vendors will also have copies. “There is lots of space, lots of vendors and lots of events…. Be mindful, follow guidelines and be safe,” said Atkinson. “Now… let’s hope for good weather … and let’s spread joy.”Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker says the territorial government will likely need to keep extending a state of emergency until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.The current state of emergency is set to expire Dec. 8. Streicker said the government plans to extend for another 90 days. The last extension was in Sepetmber.The government needs to renew it in order to maintain ministerial orders under the Civil Emergency Measures Act. Those orders give the government the authority to establish border controls and self-isolation requirements."I'll keep saying that if you want to have border control, if you want to have isolation requirements, if you want to have enforcement, those things are in place because of the state of emergency," Streicker told reporters Wednesday.In the legislature, Streicker introduced a motion calling on MLAs to support the extension. That will allow MLAs to debate the measure.All three parties say they support the state of emergency, saying it's needed for the government to handle the pandemic. Yukon Party pitches MLA oversight of emergenciesBut the Yukon Party says there needs to be more accountability when the government invokes states of emergency and uses the Civil Emergency Measures Act."We agree that some of the measures that they have in place are necessary and they are brought into force by the state of emergency. So we certainly don't oppose that," said leader Currie Dixon. "What we do oppose is the government bringing [the state of emergency] forward outside of the legislature and without the democratic oversight that comes with it."The Yukon Party has introduced a private member's bill that would give MLAs the power to review regulations and ministerial orders issued under the CEMA. It would also allow for public hearings.It would not give the Legislative Assembly the power to overturn ministerial orders. Private member's bills rarely become law.Streicker said the state of emergency will be needed until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available."I am hungry for the day when we end the state of emergency," he said. "Like all Yukoners, I don't want us to be in a state of emergency. It's just right now the best way to keep everybody safe."
ESKASONI, N.S. — The provincial government announced Wednesday it was committing more than $700,000 to help with the transportation needs of multiple communities and as a result, Eskasoni First Nation will receive $117,685 for transit funding. “We’re excited, this is something the community members have been asking for and we got it,” said Chief Leroy Denny. In Eskasoni, the money will go toward purchasing a nine-passenger van for door-to-door service within the Mi’kmaq community and a 20-person bus offering routes to Sydney and Membertou First Nation. The province will contribute $67,685 for the van and $50,000 for the bus. Funding for the initiative was provided through the accessible transportation program and covers 75 per cent of the vehicle cost. Other funding announcements for Cape Breton communities includes: $17,353 for a five-passenger van for La Cooperative de Transport de Cheticamp; $55,385 for an eight-passenger van for Strait Area Transit, and $50,000 for a 16-passenger bus for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Denny says the transit service is something the community has advocated for in the past and the system will address some of the barriers the residents face. Eskasoni is about 44 km from Sydney and Denny says some community members on a fixed income must pay money for rides into town so the bus will be a cost-saving tool. Bus service will come at a small fee, but the price will not be fixed until bus drivers are hired and more is known about the operating fees. “Public transportation allows people to more fully participate in their communities and better access work, schools, shopping and important services,” said Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, minister of communities, culture and heritage in a news release. Denny expects the transit system to be operational in early 2021 but will adhere to strict safety guidelines as the province deals with the second wave of COVID-19. He believes reliable transportation may lead to more employment for some community members. “Transportation is very important if you want to get to school or work,” said Denny. In October, the Eskasoni health department launched a bus system to help ease transportation concerns when accessing health care. The recent announcement is separate from that initiative. But both are expected to help residents without vehicles travel around the large reserve. Eskasoni has more than 4,500 residents and spans more than 100 hectares of land. Denny says the population continues to grow and the transit system is another way to help the community. “It’s a really good thing and we’re excited for it,” said Denny.Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post
EASTERN SHORE – Former Moser River resident Marie Turner entered Northwood Continuing Care facility last November. While it was her first placement, it was not her first choice. When she applied, she selected Harbourview Lodge (HVL) in Sheet Harbour as her first choice, to allow her to live in the same community as her family. Turner’s sister, former Dartmouth mayor Gloria McCluskey, is unhappy her sister has not, after a year, been transferred back to her home. McCluskey looked into the policy posted on the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) website. “The policy reads ‘as soon as a vacancy becomes available – you are transferred to your first choice’ – but that’s not true. She’s housed now – they have no compassion. There have been vacancies in HVL over the past year but no transfer for Marie,” she says. Turner contracted COVID-19 last spring as a Northwood resident and spent months unable to have any visits from family members, especially while she was ill. “Marie was in a room with another woman and they didn’t even move her,” complains McCluskey. “She suffered from pains in her legs and headaches. She was lucky and did not become extremely ill – and she survived.” The former politician with a 23-year history in municipal government stresses long-term care facility workers are underpaid for the work they do. “They work hard. Administration undervalues the work they do so they can have a lower pay scale. They’ve dropped the ball. COVID should never have been in there [Northwood].” Turner will turn 93 on Dec. 6 and her sister says she should have been given the opportunity months ago – before the pandemic – to transfer to HVL to spend these years near her children and grandchildren. “They don’t care,” McCluskey tells The Journal by phone. “They have such little empathy for seniors. The dear soul has already had COVID, she could have been transferred before this second wave.” McCluskey does not feel there is any hope her sister will get moved now. “They’ve closed the facilities again. They had given false hope and now there is no solution – they are not going to move anybody now,” she said. McCluskey and Turner are two of the four sisters left from a family of nine. “How little do our seniors mean? They seem to think seniors only die anyway. They built our country and deserve dignity,” McCluskey says. Arthur Turner, Marie’s son, tells The Journal how difficult it was for his family when his mom was diagnosed with coronavirus. “I feel frustration about her being there – and not here – as her choice was. The system should be in place that puts her where she chooses to live.” The last time Arthur saw his mother, in person, was this fall at Northwood. “I had all the COVID gear on and was able to hug her – but only for a second.” When Turner heard of his mother’s COVID diagnosis he felt there had been no consideration for either his mother or her family. “We might never see her again. She was quite low and we couldn’t visit and maybe had seen her for the last time….” Communication with his mother, while she lives in a facility 90 kilometres away from him, has proven to be a challenge. “We try to reach her by phone – but we usually can’t get a hold of her. It’s always an ordeal,” Arthur says. “We have to wait until the nurses are available to help us set it up and get Mom to the phone. She is in her room a lot.” Arthur remains hopeful his mother will ultimately get the transfer she desires and become a resident at Harbourview Lodge. “It would be so good for her to return to her home community. I feel she deserves it, really. You know, she taught school down here and worked for the Guild faithfully,” he shares. “She was a real good person – she was a member of the Eastern Star and helped raise a lot of money for her community. She set a good example.” Arthur’s sister, Ann Martin, is a registered nurse at HVL. “It would be wonderful for Mom to be here and have my sister so close – helping to care for her. We could all see her. I know during COVID they were not moving anybody but there have been quite a few openings here – but there always seems to be red tape,” she says. The Journal contacted NSHA to inquire about the transfer and placement policy, but did not receive a reply by press time.Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Parents of students with special needs are struggling to adapt as states decide whether to close schools again as a second wave of COVID-19 hits the country. (Dec. 3)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — About 750 gallons (2,800 litres) of diesel and water have been cleaned up after an Alaska oil spill that state Department of Environmental Conservation officials said occurred during a fuel tank transfer. State conservation officials said the Nov. 25 spill in the village of Selawik happened after workers started transferring fuel from a city fuel tank to a water treatment plant tank. The reasons for the spill and the amount spilled is still under investigation, officials said. “We know that 35,000 gallons is still in the tank and is not threatening to release at this time," said Sarah Moore, a state conservation agency spokesperson. "So we have a ballpark estimate, but are still working on some more concrete numbers about the volume spilled." The incident was reported to state conservation officials at about 1:30 a.m. last Thursday. The spill happened about 600 feet (183 metres) from the Selawik River, a source of water for the village. The fuel tank holds just under 46,000 gallons (147,000 litres) of diesel while the water plant tank holds about 4,000 gallon (15,000 litres), Alaska's Energy Desk reported. U.S. Coast Guard officials arrived in the village on Tuesday to provide equipment and investigate the cleanup. “In addition to investigating the causal factors of the incident, we are on site to assess any potential environmental impacts,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Dane Grulkey in a statement. “We are assisting our community and agency partners organize a safe, effective and co-ordinated response.” The Associated Press
A youth has been acquitted in the Orillia stabbing death of Jordan Carter-Bonfield during the summer of 2018 in a robbery gone wrong. “It was clear to me that there was an abundance of evidence… to (show) self-defence,” said the youth’s criminal lawyer, David Heath. “Really from the time of the incident the police investigation centred on the fact that it appeared there was a robbery planned.” Emergency crews were summoned to the Tim Hortons coffee shop on Westmount Drive North at 7:35 a.m., July 30, 2018, where they found Carter-Bonfield, 25, with a neoprene black face mask under his chin and suffering from several stab wounds. He was declared dead at the scene. The cause of death was later attributed to a stab wound of the right chest and neck. Police subsequently issued an alert that they were looking for a suspect. Five days later, a youth surrendered to police in Toronto and was charged with second-degree murder. “There is no question that (the youth) caused the death of Jordan Carter-Bonfield at the time and place alleged. The focus of this trial was on whether (the youth) caused that death unlawfully and with the requisite state of mind for second-degree murder,” Justice Vanessa Christie of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario wrote in her decision dated Nov. 25 following a nine-day trial at the Barrie courthouse. In the 146-page decision, the judge pointed out that on Sept. 23, 2019, Zachary Jones-Sheppard pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit robbery in connection with the event. On Oct. 30, 2019, Miles Mathias pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit robbery. They admitted being at an Albert Street house in Orillia with Carter-Bonfield and Donnie Johnson earlier, planning to buy drugs. After meeting with the youth three times to make purchases, they hatched a plan to rob him of drugs, according to details in the decision. Charges were dropped against Johnson, who testified for the Crown at the youth’s trial. The presence of cocaine and cocaine metabolite were later found in Carter-Bonfield’s blood. Christie found the four drove a borrowed car and parked near the Bank of Montreal at Westmount Drive and Coldwater Road where Jones-Sheppard and Mathias waited while Carter-Bonfield and Johnson went to meet the youth in the woods across the street behind Tim Hortons. Carter-Bonfield was then stabbed in an altercation while trying to rob the youth. Johnson ran back to the car to tell the others about the stabbing. Mathias called 911 and then the three took off in the car. At his trial, the youth claimed he acted in self-defence, saving himself from being stabbed as he faced his robber, a much larger man who was armed with a knife. In contending the youth’s guilt, the Crown pointed to his behaviour after the stabbing. He went back to the scene to retrieve his shoes, threw his knife into a lake, changed his clothes, went to a crackhouse and secluded himself in the washroom where he shaved his head and tried to alter his appearance. He then left Orillia. The judge found that the youth became frightened when, approaching along the footpath, a masked Carter-Bonfield raised his head and appeared in front of him quickly while pulling out a knife. “(The youth) reacted by grabbing the right wrist of Mr. Carter-Bonfield with his left hand, and with his right hand, pulled his own knife out of his hoodie pocket, opened it, and swung that knife in the direction of Mr. Carter-Bonfield, several times,” Christie wrote, concluding that the Crown prosecution failed to disprove self-defence. “Having considered the totality of the circumstances, this court finds (the youth) not guilty of second-degree murder; in fact, not guilty of any crime," the judge added. Heath said the youth was released on bail in December 2018 and has since been thriving. “He and his family are looking forward to having an opportunity to get on with his life,” he said.Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
CORNWALL – Helping businesses stay safe and open is the goal of a provincial COVID-19 education and enforcement campaign for businesses that will happen in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region later this week. The “multi-ministerial” team from the provincial government will be working with the EOHU to visit local businesses, conduct assessments, and promote health and safety requirements needed according to the COVID-19 Response Framework. The visits are prescribed under the Reopening Ontario Act passed earlier this year. “The aim of the campaign is to ensure that workplaces have the resources and information they need to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said a release from the EOHU. “EOHU public health staff, in collaboration with local enforcement partners, have been working diligently with businesses in our region to help ensure they can operate safely and protect their workers and customers,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health for the EOHU. “We know many businesses have made enormous efforts but still need some assistance. We’re pleased that the provincial campaign coming in early-December will provide added support.” The visits will see officers assess business owners and provide guidance on how to fix any compliance issues. While the goal of the campaign is to educate, officers do have the power to deal with infractions with fines and other measures. The inspection blitz began in early November in Peel Region with 350 businesses visited. Most of the infractions dealt with improper mask wearing, or a lack of screening measures in place. If charges are warranted, a person or a business can be fined $750 for an offence, up to a maximum fine of $100,000 for a prosecuted offence. Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
MORRISBURG – Alight at Night may be open for the holidays, but don’t expect to see bus tours arriving this year. The St. Lawrence Parks Commission kicked off the 20th annual light event at Upper Canada Village on November 27th with limited numbers of people able to attend. Tickets are sold online only and limited to blocks in 30 minute intervals between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on nights it is open. Already, the SLPC reports that the first two weeks of tickets have been sold out. However there was concern from area residents that bus tour companies were bringing visitors from areas where higher levels of COVID-19 infection are located. Several tour companies have listings on their websites for bus trips to Alight At Night from previous years, or for 2021. No bus tour packages have been advertised for 2020. “For the 2020 season, group sales have been paused,” said SLPC spokesperson Rosalyn Gambhir. “Upper Canada Village does not have tour operators/companies or buses groups booked for our winter event Alight at Night.” She said that the SLPC has been working to ensure the event continues during the holiday season, even with the current pandemic situation. “This year, like our fall event Pumpkinferno, there are a limited number of tickets available each night and attendance has been drastically limited every half hour,” Gambhir said. “If needed, numbers will be adjusted based on COVID-19 protocols.” This July, the provincial government provided a $7 million funding infusion to the cash-strapped agency, to assist with operating during the pandemic. Two million of that funding was specifically for Upper Canada Village, which ran a shorter season for 2020 with fewer parts of the attraction open. The SLPC was able to run the popular Pumpkinferno event throughout October. Alight at Night runs on select nights until December 17th, then operates nightly except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day until January 2nd.Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
Alberta schools are no longer waiting for public health confirmations to try and stop COVID-19 from spreading. Several school divisions say principals and support staff are spending hours making phone calls to students and employees, instructing them to isolate, after families report a positive test result for COVID-19. "Once you hear it, you are compelled to act upon it," Edmonton public school board chair Trisha Estabrooks said on Wednesday. "Early on, principals and staff within our division were essentially forced into becoming contact tracers." As cases have skyrocketed in Alberta throughout the fall, Alberta's contact tracers became overwhelmed. Although Alberta Health Services (AHS) says it is prioritizing the investigations of K-12 student cases, a growing backlog means tracers are unable to track and record every case linked to a school. AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said the organization's goal is to double its number of contact tracers to 1,600 full- and part-time workers by the end of 2020. As of Wednesday, 765 staff and students in Edmonton Public Schools had tested positive for COVID-19, Estabrooks said. About a third of those cases, or 273, have yet to be confirmed by AHS. That means principals and other school employees have asked nearly 5,400 students and 600 staff to isolate at home for two weeks based on family or staff reports that someone has tested positive. Edmonton Catholic Schools records confirmation differently, and didn't have comparable data to share. Last month, the Calgary Board of Education also decided to tell potentially exposed staff and students to isolate as soon as families or workers told the school someone had COVID. Spokesperson Megan Geyer says there are 110 division students in quarantine right now where the board has yet to hear from AHS. In other cases, students have tested positive, quarantined, and returned to school without a peep from AHS. The Calgary Catholic School Division didn't have a breakdown of how many of its 129 current cases were confirmed by AHS. Chief superintendent Bryan Szumlas said school staff feel an obligation to tell any possible contacts as soon as they have information from any source. Divisions have no information on schools with spread Many of these phone calls are happening on weekends and evenings in addition to employees' usual duties. Bruce Buruma, spokesperson for Red Deer Public Schools, said he offered to set up electronic notifications, but school principals wanted to call families individually. When a case crops up, parents and students have questions that can't be answered by bulk text messages or voicemails, he said. "We had one case where they were working on a Saturday night until 10 o'clock trying to get in contact with those families," he said. "It's a huge responsibility." The footprint of a single case can be huge. Buruma said the average number of contacts for a positive case in his division is 51 people. One case identified Wednesday at Edmonton's Allendale junior high prompted 83 people to isolate. The absence of current data also means school divisions don't know which of their schools coronavirus has spread from person to person. Estabrooks said that lack of information leaves administrators "floundering in the dark," and makes it hard to take additional measures. She hopes now that junior high and high school students are learning online, and with the winter holiday break approaching, the number of new diagnoses in schools will soon slow down. The education minister is aware of the substantial demand the work is placing on school staff, Estabrooks said. At the legislature, Minister Adriana LaGrange was not made available for an interview Wednesday, and her office did not respond to written questions. Williamson says AHS is working closely with school administrators who have lists at the ready for who to contact when a case is detected. The best way to prevent the spread in schools is to lower community transmission, he said. "We are sorry that [delays are] preventing parents, guardians and staff from having a conversation with AHS to understand where the infection was acquired, and how to prevent onward spread," he said in an email. As of Wednesday, 17 per cent of Alberta schools had COVID outbreaks with more than two associated cases. Alberta Health said in-school transmission had likely occurred in 253 schools.