Storms moved across Southern Ontario Friday evening.
Storms moved across Southern Ontario Friday evening.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
CALGARY — Police in Calgary have ticketed three organizers of an anti-mask rally held over the weekend. The province has banned outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19. Media have reported that hundreds attended the rally in the city's downtown. Artur Pawlowski has been charged under the Public Health Act with contravening a public health order, failing to wear a face covering where required and failing to have a permit for an event. David Pawlowski and Ryan Audette are also charged with contravening a public health order and failing to wear a face covering. A Calgary police spokeswoman says the public health order charges each come with a $1,200 fine and there is a $50 fine under Calgary's mask bylaw. The charge for failing to have a permit does not have a set fine but is to go to court on March 16. Investigators are seeking three additional people who face charges. The Calgary Police Service says in a statement that it's not always safe for officers to issue a ticket at the time of an alleged offence, like during a protest where "emotions are high." "In many instances, tickets are issued in the hours or days after an infraction based on evidence obtained at the time of the event," police said. "We know everyone is struggling right now and our intent is not to punish, but to protect the safety of Calgarians as we work together through this pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published December 2, 2020. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story; a previous version had incorrect charges and fines.
Another 12 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. and 834 new cases have been confirmed, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday.There are now 8,941 active cases across the province, and the number of patients in hospital has risen to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.Henry acknowledged that many British Columbians are feeling worn down by the pandemic and feeling fatigued by months of restrictions on daily life."COVID-19 is taking a toll on all of us," she said. "I am asking you all to continue and do a little bit more."To date, there have been 34,728 confirmed cases of the disease in B.C., including 469 people who have died. A total of 10,201 people are currently in isolation because of contact with known cases of the virus.New sports banWednesday's update also includes a new ban on indoor adult team sports, including everything from basketball and hockey to cheerleading and combat sports. Children's sports are returning to Phase 2 guidelines, which means no contact, no travel and modified training.Henry said she knows some sports teams have ignored her order against travelling, and that ended with an old timers' hockey team in the Interior bringing back the virus from games in Alberta, resulting in dozens of cases in their local community.Henry declined to identify the community, but said the returned players infected family members and co-workers. She also said that the situation is not unique in B.C.'I'm asking you to stay home'Wednesday's update included two new community outbreaks — one at the Cove Shelter in Surrey and another at Millennium Pacific Greenhouses.There are also three new outbreaks in the health-care system, including two hospital outbreaks announced by Island Health on Tuesday. Currently, there are 54 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and seven in hospitals.Though case numbers remain highest in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, the pandemic has caught up to the rest of the province. In the past three weeks, COVID-19 cases have stayed steady in Vancouver Coastal Health and doubled in Fraser Health — but they've gone up by nearly 500 per cent in the rest of B.C.As B.C.'s caseload continues to grow and hospitalizations creep ever higher, Henry said everyone needs to stay within their local communities when it comes to sports and recreational travel."I cannot order you not to get into a car or get onto a plane, but I'm asking you to stay home," she said.All community events and social gatherings involving anyone outside someone's immediate household remain banned as well.The current orders restricting social interactions, recreational activities and events are set to expire on Dec. 7. Henry said health officials will be reviewing them and looking at the evidence right up until the deadline to determine if they need to continue.Despite the grim news on the pandemic coming out of every daily briefing on COVID-19, Henry pointed to the U.K.'s approval of the Pfizer vaccine as a sign of hope."This is, of course, very exciting news for all of us … but it's going to be some time before we get there," she said.She added that while approved vaccines may arrive in Canada within weeks, in the meantime, B.C. continues to lose people to the disease every day and transmission is unchecked.Asked about whether the vaccine should be mandatory, particularly for those who work in the health-care system, Henry said Canada has never had mandatory vaccinations and that isn't going to change because of COVID-19.However, she said that anyone thinking of working in health who doesn't believe in vaccines or objects to immunizations should choose a different career.She was also asked about recent demonstrations by those who believe COVID-19 is a hoax and say she is hiding the truth. Henry said that those people represent a small minority in B.C., but it does make her angry to hear those things."This is very real. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one how real it is," she said.
PASADENA, Calif. — It was a rare sight after Los Angeles County restaurants were restricted to takeout to reduce the spread of the coronavirus: tables and chairs set up outside the Pie 'N Burger shop in Pasadena.Owner Michael Osborn explained to two men who approached him Monday that the city famous for its Rose Parade had marched to its own beat and kept outdoor dining open.“God bless Pasadena!” the two exclaimed, placing their order and taking a seat at one of the sidewalk tables, Osborn recounted.Pasadena has become an island in the nation's most populous county, where a surge of COVID-19 cases last week led to a three-week end to outdoor dining and then a broader stay-home order that took effect Monday.The decision by Pasadena health authorities to buck Los Angeles County has been a relief to restaurateurs who have struggled to stay afloat amid closures, ever-changing rules and attempts to keep workers on the job and money in the till. Even Pasadena has made changes, mandating that only people in the same household can gather starting Wednesday, which applies to outdoor seating.“We’re not out of the woods yet, but every day that goes by is a blessing that we can keep the outdoor dining open,” Osborn said.Infections and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have been rising sharply in the past few weeks, hitting an all-time high Tuesday of more than 7,500 new confirmed cases and the rate of positive tests rising to 12% from 7% a week ago.The county's health order, which only allows restaurants to prepare food to go, applies to about 10 million residents in the region except those in Pasadena or Long Beach — cities that have their own public health departments and can set their own rules.Long Beach, a city of about 460,000, also closed outdoor dining. It implemented a stay-home order Wednesday that mostly mirrors the county's: urging people to stay inside as much as possible, further restricting capacity in stores and banning all public and private gatherings except for protests and religious services.Closing dining at 31,000 county restaurants created a backlash among owners and some politicians who say there's no evidence eating outside is a big risk. Health officials counter that not wearing a mask while eating raises the threat of transmission.Owners argue it will force more people to gather indoors, where the virus is known to spread easier and no one is enforcing rules.A divided LA County Board of Supervisors rejected a measure Nov. 24 that would have kept outdoor dining open. The Los Angeles City Council passed an urgent resolution last week asking the county to rescind the order, and Beverly Hills took similar action Tuesday. Restaurants went to court to stop the restrictions, but a judge denied their request.Pasadena, a city of 140,000 at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, has mostly followed the county's lead during the pandemic.But the home of the Rose Bowl and California Institute of Technology decided to chart its own course last week. Because it's smaller and can more closely monitor its 600 restaurants, officials said they chose more aggressive enforcement.“We literally have seen COVID cases in a large percentage of businesses across the city,” Pasadena spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. “To single out restaurants was unfair.”County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said she couldn't predict whether Pasadena's decision would have an impact on the county's infection rate. Given the city's size, it may be able to ensure safety measures are followed, she said.But she noted that a lack of compliance was not the reason dining was shut down.“We are closing restaurants for outdoor dining for three weeks because people who are there are not able to wear their face coverings,” Ferrer said. “There’s much greater risk of transmission both to workers and to other people at your table and other people that are eating at the other tables.”Over the weekend, seven Pasadena restaurants were closed after inspectors found violations ranging from staff not wearing plastic shields over masks to seating people indoors, Derderian said. All had been approved to reopen after correcting errors.Inspectors also shut down a car show, broke up birthday parties and soccer matches in parks, and warned people exercising that they had to wear masks, she said.If the city doesn't stop outdoor dining altogether, it could be forced to do so by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who suggested Monday that a more “drastic” stay-home order could be in the works as the state tries to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.At Lucky Baldwins, a pub in Pasadena's Old Town, business picked up Monday around happy hour. A patio that was expanded into an alley was about half full, and servers wore masks and face shields.Anthony Angulo, who had driven from nearby Altadena to meet a friend, was glad he had an option to get a bite and some beers.“A lot of these business owners are struggling, and they don’t need to be hamstrung. They’re doing the best that they can,” he said. “Nobody is going inside standing shoulder to shoulder.”Owner Peggy Simonian said she was relieved Pasadena allowed two locations to stay open. She had to close a sister cafe in nearby Sierra Madre under the county order.“I feel stuck,” Simonian said. “I can’t move forward, can’t move backwards, can’t do anything. I can’t make this situation any better.”___Melley reported from Los Angeles.Brian Melley And Christopher Weber, The Associated Press
The County of Grande Prairie launched its newly redesigned website recently, intended to be more mobile-friendly and easier to navigate, according to county communications. The website serves as “a digital one-stop-shop for information about county programs, services and initiatives,” according to county communications. “Council approved the development of a new external website for the County of Grande Prairie to better meet the evolving needs of residents and the public,” said Allison Richels, county communications advisor. “The new website (will) ensure visitors to the site will have the best experience possible when engaging with the county online.” The previous version of the website was created in 2012 and a survey on a new design was open in January and February, she said. The survey drew a response from 90 people and an additional 10 participated in focus groups in March and April, Richels said. The focus groups discussed what the website should offer and how it should be organized. She said the feedback given had an influence in “every stage of the website development.” Users can continue to give feedback by scrolling to the bottom of the page at www.countygp.ab.ca, where “Website Feedback” can be clicked. To celebrate the website launch, the county is holding a ’Tis the Season contest now until noon Dec. 14 on the website. Residents of the county and the towns and village within it, the City of Grande Prairie and Greenview can enter by subscribing for events calendar updates and filling out their contact information. Four vouchers worth $100 will be awarded to those whose names are drawn, and Richels said these gift cards can be used at any business that accepts credit cards. Community groups can also enter by submitting an event to the county calendar, with two vouchers worth $150 available.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, is launching her bid for a third two-year term heading the GOP's governing organization after the party’s stronger-than-anticipated showing in November’s election, even though President Donald Trump lost. In a letter Wednesday to the 168 members of the RNC announcing her candidacy, McDaniel said she has the support of Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Minority Leader McCarthy of California, as well as a supermajority of committee members — all but assuring her victory. McDaniel was selected by Trump for the role four years ago and he endorsed her for a new term about a week after the Nov. 3 election. That could give the outgoing president additional sway over the party as he ponders his own future, including a potential presidential run in 2024. McDaniel, in her letter, echoed Trump's rhetoric about the election and said she would step up the RNC's voting-related litigation efforts and form a committee on election integrity "to continue battling the Democrats’ unprecedented attempts to change election laws." While she did not repeat Trump's false claims that he won the election, McDaniel said the GOP continues “to fight for President Trump" as he makes legal challenges across the country. McDaniel also promised “to explore ways to transition” from what she called the “biased” Commission on Presidential Debates.” Trump has vented about the nonpartisan commission, which instituted tight safeguards against the coronavirus after Trump came down with COVID-19. Trump refused to participate after the commission decided the second debate would be virtual; it ended up being cancelled. Despite Trump's musing about running again in four years, McDaniel pledged to uphold the party's neutrality in primaries. The GOP "will remain neutral and focus on laying the groundwork," she wrote. “I will work to ensure that all Republican candidates can be successful.” Under McDaniel, the GOP deployed the largest field operation in politics, including more than 3,000 staffers and 2.6 million volunteers, and raised more than $1.3 billion for GOP candidates. Republicans restored much of their field program this summer despite the pandemic while Democrats largely kept to all-virtual voter contacts. Republicans believe that helped them outperform expectations by retaining vulnerable Senate seats and narrowing Democrats’ majority in the House. “President Trump earned more minority votes than any Republican candidate in decades, and a record number of women, minorities and veterans were elected to office,” McDaniel wrote. “This is a legacy our Party can be proud of, and we must continue to build on this historic momentum.” Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
In a year of dramatic personal and professional challenge, newly-elected Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond had seven days to assign critic portfolios and has seven more to prepare with her reconfigured opposition caucus for a shortened, but sure-to-be intense, winter legislative session. “In the legislature, it's a place of emotion and passion,” said Bond, elected interim Liberal leader by her 27 caucus colleagues on Nov. 23. “People work hard to deal with the issues at hand.” With 13 fewer Liberal MLAs and a handful of longer-serving members unseated in the Oct. 24 election, Bond had to move at lightspeed to assess the new mix of personalities and capacities, and match them with the best-fitting critic portfolios. “We may have a smaller number in caucus than we expected, but I'm very impressed with the skill sets,” said Bond, whose bench shrank to 28 members. “We will be using those skills in the legislature.” Critic files were announced Nov. 30. “Just as ministers will be getting up to speed, our critics will be preparing,” said Bond. “We intend to be vigorous in the legislature, to work hard, and ministers will be expected to know their files.” Cabinet posts are something Bond knows well. Besides serving as deputy premier, the six-term MLA for Prince George-Valemount has held major cabinet positions under successive Liberal governments, including Justice, Attorney General, Health, Jobs, Education, Transportation and Infrastructure. Prior to the election, she was opposition finance critic and chair of the all-party legislative Public Accounts Committee. “I've been engaged in public service for much of my life,” said Bond, who served on the local school board prior to entering provincial politics. But interim opposition leader breaks new ground. A couple days after the election, former BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announced he would step down as soon as a new leader was chosen. A month later, he changed his mind, relaying his resignation via social media. “He did what he believed was in the best interest of the party, and that was to step aside,” said Bond, who became B.C.’s opposition leader two days later. “Bond is exactly the type of person and personality who can successfully lead the B.C. Liberals through their existential crisis in the run-up to the leadership contest,” wrote former Liberal strategist and now-political pundit Martyn Brown in an opinion piece for The Georgia Straight on Nov. 21. Bond was a highly respected and supportive team player who spoke her mind and had a deep grasp of her portfolio issues, Brown wrote. “Opposition leader Bond and I have worked together for 15 years, as adversaries admittedly,” said Premier John Horgan. “But we share a lot of commonalities. I have great respect for her and I like to think that it's mutual.” BC Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau has worked on files with Bond and other opposition members, a practice she hopes will continue under Bond’s leadership. “Her experience and her political capacity is immense,” said Furstenau. “She has a big job on her hands.” Priority one is becoming an effective and efficient opposition, said Bond. Second, is to work constructively with the party as they outline a process that will lead to a new permanent leader. “We are at a transition point,” Bond said. “The party needs to be renewed.” Liberals need to engage with supporters, members, and British Columbians at large, she said. “We need to first look back and ask what happened,” said Bond. “We need to be in listening mode.” A survey sent to members has elicited thousands of responses so far, and an independent analysis of the campaign will follow. Then the party needs to look forward, asking people what matters most to them, said Bond. “This is going to be transparent, it's going to be thorough, and at times, there are going to be some uncomfortable questions and discussions,” Bond said. “But that's absolutely essential if we're going to renew and rebuild the party.” As far as her own candidacy goes, Bond is unequivocal. “I have no aspirations or intention to consider permanent leadership.” Meanwhile, there’s the job at hand. The winter legislative session begins Dec. 7. A key priority for government will be passing COVID-19 relief legislation including Horgan's campaign promise of a one-time maximum $1,000 grant for eligible families or $500 for eligible individuals. The COVID-19 health crisis and related economic recovery concerns, and the opioid crisis are top of the opposition's agenda, said Bond. Rather than being overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, Bond seems energized, with a hint of bittersweet. Bill, her best friend and husband of 41 years, passed away in June. Bond deeply misses her mate and always will, she said, but the struggles of others have given her perspective. “We are surrounded by people who are facing difficult circumstances at the moment, some much more difficult than mine,” she said. “That helps me put my own loss in context and also gives me motivation and drive.” Legislators need to support families and individuals who are struggling in the pandemic, such as small business owners at risk of losing businesses, said Bond. “I need to do my part to help provide that support, raise those issues, fight on their behalf,” she said. Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanorFran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
South Peace communities are considering re-opening discussions to establish a regional handi-bus service. Wembley mayor Chris Turnmire sent out letters to councils in neighbouring municipalities inquiring about the interest in returning to the project, which was put on hold two years ago. “The focus was to identify opportunities to improve mobility options primarily for seniors and disabled residents to attend to basic needs, including medical and dental appointments,” Turnmire said. In 2017 Wembley applied to the Alberta Community Partnership program and won a grant of $67,500 to study the feasibility of a regional service. The town partnered with Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, Hythe and the city and county of Grande Prairie in the project, Turnmire said. Wembley and its partners then contracted Watt Consulting Group to conduct the study. Turnmire said $61,324 was spent on the study and the remainder was refunded to the Alberta government. In 2018 municipal councils decided to put the project on hold due to the launch of the County Connector, he said. The county-based transit service had space for wheelchairs but ended in August due to low ridership. “A regional handi-bus service would have a different focus,” Turnmire said. “This isn’t a money-making project; this is a service to individuals who may not have access to transportation to get to appointments or other places they need to go. “I suspect it’s going to have a cost attached to it, that each municipality would have to look at and (determine) what the proportional share would be.” In early November South Peace mayors and CAOs attended an intermunicipal meeting and the leaders discussed possibly renewing handi-bus talks, he said. None of the mayors rejected the idea outright and due to Wembley’s lead in the project two years ago, it was decided Turnmire would write a letter to all councils, he said. Early work completed In April 2018 Watt Consulting Group held an open house in Beaverlodge discussing plans for a regional handi-bus. The draft policy presented in 2018 called for a round trip running two days per week. Under the program, the bus would travel along the western and northern corridors connecting the city to each town and village, along with Clairmont, La Glace and Valhalla. Plans may change If the councils decide to re-open the possibility of a regional handi-bus, Turnmire said some of the 2018 plans for the service may change. The councils would establish a working group, with each appointing a councillor or staff member to re-examine the study, he said. Turnmire said with council meetings slowing down during December, he doesn’t expect the working group would be established until after the new year. Some of the municipalities have existing handi-bus services, and Turnmire said the working group would also have to consider how to avoid duplication of service and keep things efficient. COVID-19 poses another question as to how service will be affected if the health crisis is still ongoing, Turnmire added. During a recent regular meeting last week Sexsmith council approved Coun. Jonathan Siggelkow’s motion to express interest in the project. At Beaverlodge council’s last meeting Coun. Terry Dueck expressed interest in representing the town in the group. Mayor Gary Rycroft said joining the working group would allow for an exploration of various considerations. Coun. Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus’ motion to express interest was carried.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Yukon has confirmed three new cases of COVID-19 in the territory.The territorial government posted two updates to its website Wednesday to say Yukon's new total case count is 50, with 20 active cases.The first update, which is dated Dec. 1, announced two cases, but does not specify where the cases are. The second update, dated Dec. 2, was posted shortly after and announces the third case with no details about where it is located.Later on Dec. 2, authorities sent a release identifying two new possible locations of exposure.Health authorities say anyone at the Winter Long Brewing Co. on Friday, Nov. 27 between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., or at Whiskey Jacks Pub & Grill on Wednesday, Nov. 25 between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. should contact the COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre at 867-393-3083 to arrange for testing, if they are experiencing symptoms. To date there have been 29 cases in the territory that have recovered, and there has been one death.Mask regulations came into effect this week, as the territory has seen a dramatic increase in cases in the past month.One new case was announced on the territorial government's website on Monday in an unspecified location, and one new case was announced in Whitehorse Sunday. The territory also added a new public exposure notification over the weekend: Baked Café and Bakery on Nov. 21 between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.Three other cases were also confirmed in Whitehorse on Friday. The Yukon government also listed potential exposure notices for specific bus routes, the Better Bodies gym, the Canada Games Centre Wellness Centre and Sakura Sushi at certain times.
WASHINGTON — Arizona Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly was sworn into the Senate on Wednesday, narrowing Republican control of the chamber and underscoring his state's shift from red to blue.Kelly, 56, defeated GOP Sen. Martha McSally in last month's election, making her one of only three incumbents to lose. By taking office, he has reduced the Republican edge in the chamber to 52-48.That will have scant impact on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's control over the chamber for the final month of this congressional session. But it sets the stage for two pivotal Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia.If Democrats win both, they will command the 50-50 chamber for the new Congress that begins in early January because Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris would cast tie-breaking votes.Kelly cast himself as a problem-solving centrist during his campaign, and his slender 2 percentage point victory over McSally suggests he'll want to be part of Democrats’ moderate wing.In an interview, he praised the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a political maverick whose seat he now holds and whose grave he visited Tuesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis, Maryland.He also voiced support for a push by bipartisan congressional moderates to pass a COVID-19 relief bill before Congress adjourns for the year. “I think something should happen now,” he said.Kelly was sworn into office by Vice-President Mike Pence, and both men wore masks and bumped arms in congratulations when the oath was over. Among those watching from the visitors’ gallery were his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and Scott Kelly, his twin brother and fellow retired astronaut.Kelly's Arizona colleague, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, held the Bible on which he took his oath. In what may be a Senate first for such ceremonies, Sinema, known for dramatic fashion, wore a zebra-striped coat and had purple hair, or perhaps a wig.Kelly's Senate arrival marks a political milestone for Arizona, which has two Democratic senators for the first time since January 1953. That is when GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater took office, barely a decade before he became his party’s unsuccessful 1964 presidential candidate.In other evidence of Arizona's political shift, the state backed President-elect Joe Biden last month, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate carried it since 1996.McSally was appointed to her seat in 2019 to replace McCain. Her appointment lasted only until last month's special election was officially certified, which occurred this week. That cleared the way for Kelly to take office and fill the rest of McCain's six-year term, meaning Kelly will face reelection in 2022.Kelly was parachuting into a fractious lame-duck session in which lawmakers and President Donald Trump are so far deadlocked over whether to provide a pre-holiday COVID-19 relief package worth hundreds of billions of dollars. They’re also trying to address year-end budget work and a defence policy bill.In what was one of the country's most expensive Senate races, Kelly raised $89 million. That was second only to the $108 million collected by defeated South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama were the only other Senate incumbents defeated last month.The son of two police officers, Kelly is a retired astronaut who flew four space missions, including spending time aboard the International Space Station. He was also a Navy pilot who flew combat missions during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.Giffords was grievously wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in which six people were killed and a dozen others hurt. She and Kelly became leading figures in unsuccessful efforts to pressure Congress to strengthen gun controls.“Great day, excellent day,” Giffords told reporters afterward.Kelly is the fourth astronaut to be elected to Congress. John Glenn was a Democratic senator from Ohio and Harrison Schmitt was a GOP senator from New Mexico. Republican Jack Swigert was elected to the House from Colorado, but died of cancer before taking office.___AP reporter Jonathan J. Cooper contributed from Phoenix, Arizona..Alan Fram, The Associated Press
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls on the federal government to ensure vaccines and critical medicines for Canadians can be manufactured within the country. He says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Canadians shouldn’t be forced to rely on importing vaccines from other countries.
As the Christmas season approaches churches Island-wide are organizing to celebrate and welcome as many as safely possible to communal worship. Reverend Bonnie Fraser, with Hillcrest United Church in Montague, said her church currently has a 50-person capacity. She hopes plans to allow a second cohort of 50 might be approved by the Chief Public Health Office. “Whatever happens we will just roll with it,” Rev Fraser said. She is considering offering two services on Christmas Eve if needed to accommodate more people. The service, or services, will be live-streamed as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. “Some plan to gather with family members to watch the service from home. This is a good option for people who are still hesitant to come out with the pandemic.” Rev Fraser said there is a bit of uncertainty about what could happen between now and Christmas. “We don’t know if it will all get shut down but we have been blessed on PEI so far.” No matter what unfolds, whether it involves a full church or not, “one thing we do know is there will be Christmas.” Norma Dingwell is an active member of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Montague. They plan to hold a church service and welcome 50 people. They will also offer their fourth annual Christmas dinner, take-out style. Ms Dingwell said typically 70 to 80 people turn out for Christmas Eve service but that won’t happen this year. The service will also be live streamed. At St Mary’s Catholic Church in Montague, Father Raju Chebattina is also looking to offer additional services. His church can seat 150 people, according to their operational plan, but other years on Christmas Eve 180 to 200 people attending wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Despite limitations all three leaders are pleased restrictions have eased since Easter, when gathering limits were more strict. “We’re grateful things have improved since the lockdown when churches were closed,” Bishop Richard Grecco said. He is especially thankful people can get to church here (on PEI) considering some provinces are locking down again and implementing small gathering limits. While Bishop Grecco has seen improvement he recognizes that not everyone who wants to go to church has been able to. Funding has also improved since March and April but hasn’t completely returned to normal with fewer people in the pews and limits on fundraisers. “Funding is a concern but we’re getting by,” Bishop Grecco said. “We have to remember our people are up against it just like we are.” To get through tough situations like this, he said, at least churches and parishioners have each other. “Together, we’re going to get through this,” he said.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
Windsor-Essex Student Transportation Services (WESTS) says that all students, regardless of grade, will now have to wear a face mask on school buses.Previously, students from junior kindergarten to Grade 3 were exempt from the requirement.WESTS board of directors approved a motion with the requirement after the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board and the Greater Essex County School Board approved their own motions asking it to mandate masks for all students on any board provided transportation.In news release, WESTS says the requirement will go into effect right away, but that there will be a transition period until full enforcement starts on the first day of 2021."We understand that it may take some time for students and their families to implement the new requirement," said Gabrielle McMillan, WESTS general manager, in the news release."Communication through our website and the boards' social media platforms will inform students and their families of the new protocol."Beginning in the new year, children will not be able to board the bus unless they are wearing a face mask. However, we know that many of these students are already wearing masks and expect that they will begin complying with the new protocol sooner rather than later."The release says that all four constituent school boards of WESTS will begin informing the school communities about details of the change immediately.
ARECIBO, Puerto Rico — A huge, already damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century has now completely collapsed. The telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform fell onto the reflector dish more than 400 feet below on Tuesday. The U.S. National Science Foundation had earlier announced that the Arecibo Observatory would be closed. An auxiliary cable snapped in August, causing a 100-foot gash on the 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) reflector dish and damaged the receiver platform that hung above it. Then a main cable broke in early November. DáNica Coto, The Associated Press
As students in Nunavut’s COVID-19 hot spot of Arviat continue to learn from home, the territory’s education minister says his department hasn’t yet been able to deliver computers to students to help with remote learning. “We’re still dealing with the logistics of deploying to the affected communities,” said Education Minister David Joanasie on Monday about delivery of computers to students. Schools in communities other than Arviat are reopened to varying degrees today, following the end of a two-week lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Nunavut has 800 electronic devices — computers and tablets — for students to do homework on, Joanasie said. “I don’t have a breakdown of how many [students] will be able to have access [to computers and internet] as of Wednesday,” Joanasie said. The department “dropped the ball” on preparing teachers, parents and students to continue learning while schools on are shut down, said James Arreak, chairman of the Nunavut Coalition of District Education Authorities. The department ordered teachers to prepare learning packages for students in September in case schools had to close. But Arreak said there have been problems with teachers communicating to parents how to give lessons to their children at home. Right now teachers are trying to communicate through email, and not all parents have computers or access to the internet. Arreak also said instructions shouldn’t just be given in English, but in Inuktut. “It’s one thing to have learning resources prepared, but it should be done with a bit more practicality,” Arreak said. He asks why the department couldn’t use communication methods that people are familiar with and have access to, like local radio. The department is forcing teachers, parents and students to adapt to it, instead of the department adapting to local circumstances, Arreak said. The coalition’s role is to be partners with the department to help develop and deliver education. “At this point, the government is doing it all [on] their own,” he said. “It’s evident the department lost focus,” Arreak said. “Maybe they’re tired.” Most of Nunavut ends its COVID-19 lockdown on Wednesday, with the exception of Arviat, where the highest number of people are infected, and there are signs of community transmission. The community has 854 students. Public health restrictions there will be reassessed on Dec. 16. There are also people sick with COVID-19 in Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, but the virus is thought to be contained there, so schools have reopened. Elementary students are going to class three days a week, and high school students two days a week, as per Nunavut’s school reopening plan. “Remote learning doesn’t necessarily mean computer, computer, computer,” Joanasie said, in response to questions about why his department wasn’t more prepared for a community being locked down for an extended period of time. Teachers have been creative in getting learning packages to students during the lockdown, he said. For example, in Pangnirtung learning packages were dropped off and picked up at the post office, Joanasie said. In Whale Cove, the RCMP have been dropping off homework at students’ homes. But Arreak said what really matters is that teachers are coping, able to communicate to parents and students, and that their instructions are understood, so students can learn. He also said it’s key for teachers to be able to enter schools so they can prepare learning packages and use the internet to communicate with parents. On Wednesday, Nunavut chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said he was fine with teachers in Arviat using their classrooms to prepare materials. But he didn’t know if the Department of Education or the local DEA was allowing it. The federal government has committed funding to Nunavut, some of which is to buy computers and to expand internet capacity. There are 1,500 more computers on the way to Nunavut, and the department plans to buy 2,192 more. The department also bought a licence for an online learning platform called Edsby, which isn’t yet available. In Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, where there are people with COVID-19 but no signs of community transmission, all students are doing a combination of remote and classroom learning. In the rest of the territory elementary students are back to class full time, and middle and high school students will go two to three days a week with staggered schedules. Nunatsiaq News asked to speak to a teacher or principal from Arviat, but the Education Department has yet to respond to the request. It also reached out to the Arviat DEA and has yet to hear back.Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News
OTTAWA, Kan. — The federal government is expected to introduce a bill Thursday aimed at ensuring the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.The bill is expected to echo a private member's bill passed by the House of Commons two years ago, during the last Parliament.That bill, introduced by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash, stalled in the Senate, where Conservative senators argued it could have unintended legal and economic consequences.It died when Parliament was dissolved for last fall's election.In the Liberal platform, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to reintroduce it as a government bill.Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the bill is of "immense real and symbolic value" to Indigenous people in Canada.It will set out a number of principles "as to what inherent rights Indigenous Peoples have and the federal government's corresponding responsibility, which will be difficult … to implement changes into their laws," Miller told a news conference Wednesday."Those principles are a guiding light into what is expected of us as human beings," he said.Once passed, Miller predicted there will be "an immense amount of work" to be done to harmonize federal laws with those principles.In particular, it will necessitate a lot of work to "get out from under the Indian Act and move towards self-determination."The UN's General Assembly passed the declaration in 2007. Canada initially voted against it but eventually endorsed it in 2010.The declaration affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination and to their language, culture and traditional lands. It also sets "minimum standards for the survival and well-being" of Indigenous Peoples.It also spells out the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples on anything that infringes on their lands or rights.That provision proved particularly controversial among Conservative senators during debate on Saganash's bill. They expressed concern that it would mean giving Indigenous people a veto over natural resource developments.At the time, Justice Department officials assured senators that Saganash's bill would do nothing to alter Canada's legal framework. They said it would simply reinforce a long-standing principle that international standards can be used to interpret domestic laws.Saganash's bill consisted of just six clauses, one of which asserted that it would not diminish or extinguish existing constitutional or treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples.Among other things, Conservative senators wanted to amend that to specify that nothing in the bill would have the effect of increasing or expanding such rights.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
More small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a provincial grant under a recently extended program. Applications for the small and medium enterprise (SME) relaunch grant were due last week but a second round of applications will now be available until March 31, according to the Alberta government. “A lot of our small- and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of (the grant),” said Larry Gibson, Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce chairperson. Gibson said the chamber has heard from approximately a half-dozen businesses that have applied since the program was introduced in June, including a couple near Clairmont. The SME relaunch grant benefits businesses, co-operatives and non-profits that have experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic. The SME grant is for 15 per cent of the business’ pre-COVID monthly revenue, or a maximum of $5,000, said Justin Brattinga, Jobs, Economy and Innovation department press secretary. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t go far these days, but it is a helpful program when you’re looking at added expenses,” Gibson said. “Most of the (local businesses) are using the grant to offset some of the extra costs, in plexiglass shields, the masks and sanitization.” Gibson said Grande Prairie-area businesses that have shown interest in the grant represent a variety of sectors, including retail, small manufacturing organizations and the restaurant and hospitality industries. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 500 employees and be affected by provincial restrictions, or have revenue losses of 40 per cent, according to the Alberta government. Initially, the SME grant required the business to have revenue losses of 50 per cent, a threshold lowered to 40 per cent retroactively to March, Brattinga said. The lowered threshold will enable thousands of more businesses across the province to benefit, he said. The chamber observed many small- and medium-sized businesses experience losses in the range of 40 and 50 per cent between April and May, Gibson said. The new funding is available to businesses in enhanced-status areas of the province, such as the city and county of Grande Prairie and the municipalities within the county.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
The Dehcho First Nations is bringing back a familiar face to its executive team.Michael Nadli, who served as grand chief during the beginning of the Dehcho Process, was named as the First Nations' new chief negotiator according to a news release on Wednesday.The Dehcho process is a land, resource and self-government project. It began in 1999 and since 2019 has focused on self-government.The Dehcho First Nations call Nadli, a fluent speaker of Dene Zhatié, a "champion for Dene rights.""Michael ... is no stranger to the issues and challenges in negotiations," said Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian in a statement."Through his past roles in leadership and ability to speak our language, he has a strong connection to our culture and elders."Before his new role with Dehcho First Nations, Nadli was "helping build capacity in his home community" with the Deh Gáh Got'ıę First Nation (Fort Providence), the release says.He also served two terms as Deh Cho MLA from 2011 to 2019, was CEO of the Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee from 2007 to 2011, and was grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations from 1997 to 2003.His time in the public spotlight has not been without controversy. Nadli spent time in jail in 2015, when he served eight days of a 45-day sentence after being convicted of assault after breaking his wife's wrist. He had a similar conviction in 2004, when he pleaded guilty to a charge of assault against his spouse and was put on probation."I feel I can be a positive asset to the Dehcho First Nations," Nadli said in a written statement on Wednesday."At a deeper level my work is driven by a passion for justice and fairness. Negotiations is a common day occurrence."
The N.W.T. Housing Corporation on Wednesday said it was providing a total of more than $300,000 to projects in Nahanni Butte and Colville Lake. The corporation's Community Housing Support program will give $50,000 to the Nahɂą Dehé Dene Band in Nahanni Butte to fund emergency repairs to homes in the community. A 2019 GNWT housing report identified Nahanni Butte, one of the smallest N.W.T. communities, as having among the highest proportion of houses requiring major repairs. The Behdzi Ahda First Nation in Colville Lake will receive $264,000 to help construct four log homes providing affordable housing. Materials are scheduled to arrive in April 2021. The First Nation will provide the labour to complete the project. "Log homes are an important part of Colville Lake’s history and the look and feel of our town,” Chief Wilbert Kochon of Behdzi Adha First Nation is quoted as saying. “This project will also provide the community much-needed economic development, jobs and training.” The same 2019 housing report said Colville Lake, another of the territory's smallest communities, had the N.W.T.'s highest proportion of dwellings with housing issues. Ninety per cent of Colville Lake's homes had problems at the time of the report. Some community members said last year they were planning to make their own homes to address the community’s dire need for adequate and suitable housing.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio