In 2000, Madonna and Guy Ritchie married in Scotland. (Dec. 22)
In 2000, Madonna and Guy Ritchie married in Scotland. (Dec. 22)
WASHINGTON — Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling. “To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said. The sober moment on the eve of Biden's inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation. During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam. Biden was joined by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice-president when she's sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday's Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that's been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing. “These are dark times," Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. "But there’s always light.” Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump's effort to leave the Paris climate accord, cancelling Trump's travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments. Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden's name. Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself. Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey. “I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks. Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions. The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring. Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies. Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden's immigration plan. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles. Many of Biden's legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump. As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defence nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned. Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Aides say Biden will use Wednesday's inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together. To that end, he extended invitations to Congress' top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting. ___ This story has been corrected to show that flags on the National Mall represent people who couldn't come, not COVID deaths. Bill Barrow And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Nearly half of Canadians who plan to make an early return to concerts, theatres and other mass cultural experiences say it’ll take a vaccination before they feel comfortable to do so, according to a new survey.A report commissioned by the charitable organization Business/Arts, which links the businesses and arts communities, and conducted by Nanos Research, found respondents highlighted the vaccine as an essential step in their return, more so than a previous survey last summer.Forty-six per cent of those polled in November said that while they plan to attend indoor events within five months of reopening, they would still want a vaccine first.That’s an increase from the 28 per cent of eventgoers who said so in a survey conducted by the organization last July.Respondents who answered on the prospects of returning to mass outdoor events felt similarly, with 44 per cent saying they’d want a vaccine first, versus 15 per cent in July.The survey, conducted in partnership with the National Arts Centre, highlighted that safety and exposure to COVID-19 remain the key obstacles for a return to normalcy in the arts community, while people not respecting health measures was also mentioned.About one in 10 respondents said they do not currently have any obstacles to attending an in-person cultural event.The survey polled 1,096 Canadian adults by phone and online between Nov. 26 and Nov. 29, 2020. According to the polling industry's generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
A Haida filmmaker is pushing for new legislation in Canada to penalize people who pretend to be Indigenous in order to access grants, awards and jobs intended for Indigenous people. Tamara Bell said she wants those who misrepresent their identity to face fines and even prison time. Bell's move comes on the heels of Indigenous elders exposing filmmaker Michelle Latimer's unfounded claims that she was Indigenous. Latimer, who recently directed the CBC television series Trickster and the documentary Inconvenient Indian, is in fact primarily French Canadian, Irish and Scottish. "It is reprehensible in all measures, so I think as Indigenous people, we have to draw a line in the sand," Bell said Monday at a news conference in Vancouver. Right now, most Canadian institutions — even those that administer funds allocated specifically for Indigenous people — use self-identification as the gold standard for identifying who is Indigenous. That means anyone can simply say "I am Indigenous" to authenticate their Indigeneity. Some, like Latimer and author Joseph Boyden, have used the ease of self-identity to access grant money and opportunities that could have gone to Indigenous people. "People can't just come in and squeeze out dollars. We've gone a long time being starved and we have to stand up," said Métis Elder Corie Thunderchild, who is supporting Bell's bid for an Indigenous authentication law in Canada. 'Canada often turns a blind eye' Bell is proposing an Indigenous Identity Act, which she hopes will deter what she and others call "pretendians" from assuming Indigenous identity. She pointed to legislation in the United States known as the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, a truth-in-advertising law that makes it illegal "to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced." A first-time violation of the act could land a person a five-year prison term or a $250,000 fine, or both. "Unfortunately, Canada often turns a blind eye to the wholesale theft and exploitation of Indigenous identity, which has become a widespread problem all too frequently," Bell said. Bell is calling on the Indigenous Screen Office, the Canada Media Fund, Telefilm Canada, CBC and the National Film Board to support the call for Indigenous authentication legislation. In a statement, the executive director of the Indigenous Screen Office, Jesse Wente, said the ISO "will undertake a community engagement process in 2021 regarding Indigenous identity that will inform future policy directions." He said the process will start "over the next two months beginning with elders and Indigenous organizations with knowledge and expertise in this area, and will extend into the summer with broader consultations." The statement also explained "this is a nuanced issue that requires time to listen to the many different community perspectives ... we accept our responsibility in taking a leadership role for the sector on this important issue through this process." Bell said she understands the sensitivity of the issue of Indigenous identity, with colonial apparatuses like residential school and the Sixties Scoop removing children from their communities and families. But she said there are still ways to verify Indigenous identities — one can get a letter from an elder, their community, a relative or their band to verify which community they are from. "Right now it's a free for all," she said. "There is no way to ensure every single individual is authentically Indigenous, but [this proposed act] could prevent misrepresentation, because there's a risk that you will be found out and there will be consequences." Bell is supported by several Indigenous elders, including Elizabeth Sinclair from the Peguis First Nation, Gail Sparrow from the Musqueam Nation, and Corie Thunderchild from the Métis people. She said she is also in conversation with two Canadian senators. The CBC asked for comment from Indigenous Services Canada about its consideration of such an act. It said it is working on a response.
Albertans logged hundreds of rat reports in 2020, double a typical year, but it's not necessarily because more pests are scurrying around the province. Norway rats are considered to be extremely destructive — they can carry disease and eat through valuable crops. For more than 70 years the province has been determined to stop these pests from calling Alberta home, concentrating efforts along the Saskatchewan border, banning the animals as pets, and investigating any hint of a rat inside the province's borders. Out of 481 rat reports, just 17 turned out to be the real deal last year. Karen Wickerson, specialist with Alberta's Rat Control Program, said the province set up an email in 2020 which helps turn around a case faster than the 310-RATS number. The new reporting method could have helped bolster reporting numbers last year. "When they're out in the environment outside, they have their phones with them and so they can easily take out their phone and email us in a photo, and then we can respond very quickly and tell them which species it is," Wickerson said. "If it is a confirmed rat then we can contact the appropriate people and have them go out and investigate." Wickerson said while Albertans are diligent about reporting rats they usually get it wrong. "What I've noticed about Albertans is they feel a really strong responsibility to report a rat sighting because they know that we are rat-free, which is great," Wickerson said. "Because we don't have a resident population of rats in Alberta, they don't know what a rat looks like." Muskrats more common About half of the sightings in 2020 turned out to be muskrats. But Wickerson doesn't mind. "I'd rather have 100 muskrat emails and, you know, not miss out on a rat sighting or a confirmed rat than people think, 'oh, it might be a muskrat, I'm not going to send an email,'" she said. She added there may be an educational campaign coming in the spring to help Albertans better identify what rats look like. For her, the difference between a waddling muskrat, and a scurrying rat is night and day — but she has daily practice identifying the critters that land in her inbox. It's unclear if the pandemic played a role in last year's rat sightings. Dr. Kaylee Byers is the Regional Deputy Director with the B.C. Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. She's also a researcher with the Vancouver rat program. Byers said throughout the pandemic rats made headlines. The pests were seen in the daylight, reportedly on the move scouring the streets for scraps of food as more humans retreated indoors. "We would certainly expect to see some changes in rat behaviours in relation to major changes in the environment," Byers said. "What exactly those have looked like? All of those reports have been largely anecdotal." Rat research still in its infancy Byers said in many areas there aren't baseline studies or statistics to help better understand what kinds of effects the pandemic has had on rat populations. Rats are notoriously hard to research, as studying wild ones means catching them, sometimes more than once to monitor behaviour. "Wouldn't it have been nice if we were set up to study this in advance?" Byers said. "The way we answer these kinds of questions is through having systems of reporting so we can say whether or not rat sightings have gone up or down." Alberta's Saskatchewan border is patrolled several times a year to check rats aren't crossing over into the province. Rats can't live in mountainous areas, which is good as it keeps British Columbia rats at bay. But, Wickerson said the rodents are crafty hitchhikers. Out of the 26 rats found in 2020, many rode into Alberta on transport trucks or even personal vehicles, which is something Wickerson hopes to work on. There's also been a trend of rats ending up at recycling centres across the province. Wickerson said in Calgary, a family drove from Vancouver Island back to Calgary, making a stop in Kelowna before parking their SUV inside their garage at home. The next morning the homeowner found a rat dead in the garage, floating in a pail of water. Rats like to hitchhike "Check your vehicle when you come back from B.C. so that it doesn't increase our risk of rats entering into the province," Wickerson said, adding many Albertans own property in the neighbouring province. Wickerson hopes to collect more data on rats found in Alberta, mapping out where they are found, recording their specific species, all to see if she can tease out a pattern. "Location, urban-rural, the type of rat and then where it was reported, I'll put in the GPS location, alive or dead, how many, that sort of thing," Wickerson said. "I would like someone to come along, like a grad student, to do a study."
Huronia West OPP were called to a collision between a farm tractor driven by Springwater resident Teunis Ploeg, 84, and a motorcycle driven by David Ball, 64, of Essa Township on July 10. The bike and tractor collided on Highway 26 near Horseshoe Valley Road shortly before 1:30 p.m. Ball was thrown from his motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene. As a result of the police investigation, Ploeg has been charged with Careless Driving Causing Death and could face provincial fines up to $50,000 and/or up to two years in prison. Ploeg is scheduled to appear in Provincial Offences Court in Wasaga Beach on March 2, 2021. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact the Huronia West OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is an anonymous tip line; contributors don’t testify and could receive a cash reward up to $2,000. As a result of the police investigation, Ploeg has been charged with Careless Driving Causing Death and could face provincial fines up to $50,000 and/or up to two years in prison. Ploeg is scheduled to appear in Provincial Offences Court in Wasaga Beach on March 2, 2021. Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
In a moment of nation-splintering turmoil, an incoming American president, Abraham Lincoln, travelled by train to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., in a nerve-racking ride cloaked in disguise as he faced threats to his life. Now, 160 years later, an incoming president has cancelled plans for a train ride to Washington. It was supposed to be a symbolic journey highlighting Joe Biden's decades-long habit of riding the rails to D.C. each day from his family home in Delaware. Instead, it has taken on a sad new symbolism, of an American capital clenched shut in fear of political violence at Wednesday's inauguration. The question nagging at residents here, and at security analysts, is whether the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the worst of a passing storm, a one-off, or the start of a dark era of political violence. What's already clear is this will be no normal inauguration. The American capital has transformed into a heavily armed and tightly barricaded fortress. "Clearly, we are in uncharted waters," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told a news conference last week, urging tourists to stay away from her city during the inauguration. Fences are now up around Washington's downtown. Thousands of soldiers are patrolling the streets, bridges are blocked, parking garages are shut, bicycle-sharing services are suspended, Airbnb reservations are cancelled, and residents are being urged on neighbourhood chat groups against renting rooms to tourists. Suspicion strikes Capitol Hill neighbourhood Security concerns are most acute in the neighbourhood near the Capitol. Lawyer Matt Scarlato already has an overnight bag packed in case unrest spills into his neighbourhood and he's forced to flee the city with his family. He lives near one of the new security barriers near Capitol Hill, where police are forcing residents on some streets to show ID if they want to access their home. Scarlato was working from home the day of the riot in the Capitol building, when unexploded bombs were found near political party offices. He received a message from his son's daycare urging parents to immediately come pick up their children. Scarlato grabbed a baseball bat and tossed it in the car for the ride to the daycare. "It was a minute-by-minute escalation," Scarlato said. "We were all just sitting in the house saying, 'What the hell is going on?'" A longtime resident of the area, he compared the recent panic to a smaller-scale version of what he witnessed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On the day of the Capitol riot, he was concerned by the sight of an unfamiliar RV on his street given the reports of bombs in Washington and the recent explosion in Nashville. For her part, Monica Ingram, a retired health-care administrator, was rattled yesterday morning by the sound of helicopters hovering over the same Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Around that same time, the congressional precinct was ordered evacuated. The panic was the result of an explosion and fire nearby, caused by a propane tank in a homeless encampment. Ingram said people now look at each other differently, warily. Ingram saw a man taking pictures of streets near the Capitol the other day and she worried whether he was up to something nefarious. "We're suspicious of each other now. It's sad," she said. "It's very disheartening, upsetting. It's like I don't even know this country anymore." WATCH | Staff and media scramble as a blast goes off during inauguration rehearsal: Some call for indoor inauguration She's among the many people with mixed feelings about whether this inauguration should even be happening in public. Ultimately, she prefers it going forward, as opposed to moving to a makeshift indoor location, in order to deliver a message: that this country won't buckle in fear. There is, however, a part of her that hopes Biden might throw another inaugural party, a year from now, a real festive party, after this pandemic, and this panic. Biden should have a "redo" inauguration, she said. "It's so sad that president-elect Biden has to be sworn in like this. It should be a day of joy for this country." There's no guarantee this place will feel safer in a year. Mark Hertling, a retired lieutenant-general who led U.S. soldiers in Europe, said he worries about whether the United States is now entering an era of political insurgency. And he's not alone. One-time riot or preview of insurgency? Some analysts who study domestic political violence have warned for years (in thesis papers and books and government reports) that the conditions existed for an American insurgency on the right. Those conditions include a proliferation of guns, a surge in ex-military joining militia groups, two increasingly hostile political parties, and a split along racial and cultural lines in a rapidly diversifying country. A 2018 book, Alt-America, charts how membership in armed militia groups skyrocketed after the election of a first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, and these fringe groups began showing up at political protests. Alleged members of such militias are now accused of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where numerous people were dressed in paramilitary-themed clothing and several could be heard in the crowd warning they'd be back with weapons. "Welcome to the reality of other countries," said Greg Ehrie, who led FBI domestic terrorism units and is now vice-president of law enforcement and analysis at the Anti-Defamation League. "There is sort of an underlying belief that if we can get through Wednesday, this stops and then it moves on. And that's just not true.… This is going to be something we're going to be living with for several years — this heightened sense of security." Details released since the siege of the Capitol suggest things could have been worse. Jan. 6 could have been worse One man arrested that day allegedly had two guns and enough materials to make 11 Molotov cocktails, and another allegedly had a loaded gun, spare bullets and a gas mask. A federal prosecutor said one air force veteran who carried plastic handcuffs intended to take hostages. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City said in a YouTube video she believed she was going to die during the riot in the Capitol and that she experienced a traumatic event she declined to discuss: "Many, many, many members of Congress were almost murdered," she said in the video. "We were very lucky [to escape]." One police officer died as a result of injuries sustained during the riot. Another said he narrowly survived the angry mob and described how he was Tasered while some wanted to take his gun and kill him with it. Joseph Young, a professor at American University in D.C. who studies the factors that drive political violence, usually in other countries, said he is bothered by the trends he sees. "More and more, my work has been applicable to the United States," he said in an interview. "[And that's] troubling." A word of historical caution He said it's wrong, however, to conclude this is a more violent political era than the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. experienced hundreds of terrorist attacks back then, from white-supremacist church bombings to political assassinations to the activities of the left-wing group Weather Underground, which bombed the Capitol, the State Department and other government buildings. But he's still worried about the current U.S. situation. As are the authorities preparing for inauguration day. The Pentagon has authorized the Washington, D.C., National Guard to carry weapons on domestic soil amid ongoing worries about the possible use of explosives. About 25,000 National Guard troops from D.C. and several states were expected to be part of the security operation. National Guard members are being screened themselves for any extremist affiliations. On Tuesday, Pentagon officials said 12 National Guard members were removed from securing Biden's inauguration after vetting by the FBI, including two who posted and texted extremist views about Wednesday's event. A Secret Service member was reportedly under investigation over political comments related to the Capitol riot posted on Facebook. Jared Holt, an expert who monitors extremist chatter online, said it has gotten quieter lately. He said he was extremely worried before Jan. 6 about the heated and violent rhetoric he saw in online platforms. People were posting tips for smuggling guns into Washington and maps of the underground tunnels connecting the Capitol to lawmakers' offices. Those same forums erupted in joy after the attack. "It was initially jubilation," said Holt, of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank. "They were thrilled. They felt incredibly accomplished. [Now], the cohesion between groups has eroded." It became clear within hours of the riot that it might backfire — against those involved and against Donald Trump. It failed to stop the vote to certify Biden's election win. Then it led to Trump's swift impeachment in the House. WATCH | Preparations underway to fortify U.S. capital ahead of inauguration day: Has the threat already receded? Some rioters in the Capitol who posted triumphant images of themselves on social media have been arrested or fired from their jobs, with their posts used as evidence against them. Social media platforms are either limiting extremist rhetoric and shutting out Trump, are offline altogether (Parler), or are unusually slow (Gab). Holt now worries that violent rhetoric is moving to tighter channels that are harder to monitor publicly, such as Telegram and other private messaging apps. So residents of Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole, enter this historic transition week in a fog of uncertainty, about whether they've just witnessed a dark passing moment in the life of the American republic or a sombre omen. "It looks like a police state down here. We've never seen it like this," Emilie Frank, a communications professional, said in an interview a few days ago, referring to the imposing concrete-and-metal labyrinth being erected downtown. "It would normally be bustling, everybody's excited [for the inauguration]. But it's silent, blocked off, police cars everywhere." She doesn't know if any of this will be necessary. But she'd rather have this than the under-preparation by authorities that the city witnessed on Jan. 6, she said. "So, even if it's just [for] show, it's better than nothing, I guess," she said. "If some people will be convinced they should stay away after seeing all this stuff in place, then that's good." WATCH | Ex-FBI agent on the new domestic terrorism:
MADRID — Atlético Madrid appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Tuesday to suspend Kieran Trippier’s ban for breaching betting rules. Atlético filed its appeal to CAS a day after FIFA rejected the Spanish club’s attempt to keep the ban imposed on the defender by the English Football Association from being applied worldwide. The England international was punished by the FA for passing information on his 2019 transfer from Tottenham to Atletico to be used by friends to bet on. Spanish league leader Atlético succeeded two weeks ago in getting FIFA to pause Trippier’s 10-week ban that was imposed in December and runs through Feb. 28. As it stands, Trippier would miss nine more games, including the Champions League fixture against Chelsea in the round of 16 on Feb. 23. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Tiny Township residents can expect a 1% blended tax rate increase for this year. The decision was forwarded to the next meeting after hours of deliberation at Monday's budget meeting. Where a majority easily agreed on the option, one council member expressed some concerns. A blended tax rate is achieved after incorporating the county and education tax rates. "I’m not comfortable with 1%," said Coun. Tony Mintoff, adding he also wasn't comfortable sacrificing important projects to find the $400,000 to keep the township's tax rate increase at zero per cent. "Based on that, I will reluctantly agree to a 1% blended rate increase." Council approved $70,000 in salary for a full-time human resource person. Staff pointed out that there may yet be savings in this line item once recommendations from the North Simcoe services operations review comes forward in March. Further, even if the township hires an independent HR staff member, the $70,000 annual salary will not be realized in full for this year. Then council found $30,000 in savings by directing staff to take out the extra ask for arena use from the Town of Penetanguishene. "It’s my understanding the recreation master plan had created the recommendation that fulsome discussion be held with all three municipalities that provide arena facilities to us," said Mintoff. "Given the fact that hasn’t happened yet, my recommendation would be to remove the $30,000 that was asked by Penetang, subject to the discussions to take place in 2021." Agreeing with staff, council decided to delay the purchase of a vehicle for the parks department, instead moving the $70,000 to reserve funds. At the end of the day, staff was sent back to find efficiencies in departments or seek out projects that could be delayed to make up for the $8,500 in funding gap that still remains if the tax rate is to be set at 1%. Other budget approvals include a 6% increase in funds to be moved to the municipal infrastructure reserves. As well, council approved a 1% cost of living increase for staff wages, despite Mintoff's suggestion to the contrary so the township could show solidarity with residents who had suffered through the pandemic. "This has been a very difficult year financially for a lot of our residents," he said. "The majority that live in the private sector world and those who live on retirement income. I’m pleased we were able to maintain full employment for our staff, so I think it would be inappropriate and insensitive of us to consider any kind of increase in wages. My recommendation would be to remove this salary increase from the budget." Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma disagreed with his peer. "I can 100% justify the cost," he said. "When you look at municipal employees as a whole, there’s very little you can do in terms of incentives. There are no bonuses and there’s no additional time off you can get. I know there’s been a CPP increase this year. If we’re going to take a look at our retirees being affected, we have to back it up with quantitative evidence as well. "If a statement needs to be made in terms of leadership, then I’d be in favour of council taking no increase," added Walma. "The savings can be donated to a local charity. Or the council could take the 1% increase and donate it back to the municipality into the bursary program." Other council members agreed with his suggestion. And so did Mintoff. "I have no issue with council taking zero per cent increase," he said. "Speaking about council’s initiative to raise our rate of pay for staff from 50th percentile to the 55th percentile, how much did that bumping up of salaries cost? "I believe it was several hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t want my comments to be misconstrued that we don’t value our staff, but I believe we pay them above a comparative group. I don’t want staff watching to think they don’t deserve fair recognition and compensation for what they do." Staff will now bring back a third and possibly final draft of the 2021 budget at a meeting next month. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has delayed its high school scenarios process yet again, leaving parents of junior high students waiting to find out where their child will attend high school. Some of those parents say it's time for the school board to "pull the Band-Aid off," allowing families to plan for the future. Christopher Usih, chief superintendent of the CBE, said the purpose of this work will determine the catchment areas for students entering high school in the 2022-2023 school year. The plan is meant to deal with growing capacity issues faced by numerous high schools in the city. "Otherwise what will happen is we'll have situations where if a school is way above capacity, then we run into challenges around safety and even our ability to be able to provide effective programming because there are just too many students in that one building," he said. "You probably heard in fall of last school year that one of our high schools, [Ernest Manning], was way over capacity and we were really challenged from a health and safety standpoint." Changing timelines Documents posted on the CBE website in May 2019 said the original timeline for the engagement process would see the scenarios finalized and communicated between July and October 2021. In February 2020, the timeline was adjusted, pushing back the engagement and presentation of possible scenarios from March to June 2020, to September to November last year. However, that never happened, and in November, CBE parents were informed that the board would be sharing the high school scenarios with them this month. But in an email sent home last week, the CBE informed parents there would be yet another delay — and that scenarios would be released and and engagement would take place between Feb. 23 and March 17. Kelly Van Webber has a daughter in junior high who will be directly impacted by these decisions. The area their family lives in is currently designated for Ernest Manning, but these potential boundary changes could see them designated to Central Memorial. "The concerning part around that is … when they redid the boundaries for [Ernest Manning High School] before, they basically said in November of that year, 'your kids are going to these schools,' and it was under a year to plan and families were thrown into chaos," he said. COVID-19 to blame for delays Usih said all of the delays to this process have been caused by COVID-19 and the challenges the school board has faced when it comes to school re-entry and online learning. He said it's been an adjustment to switch to engaging families and staff online, as opposed to an in-person session. Van Webber said he struggles to see how this work can be dragging on for more than a year-and-a-half. "[The CBE] knows the numbers, so make a decision and let people plan," he said. "Pull the Band-Aid off already." For his family, Van Webber said knowing which high school their daughter is designated to has big implications. "We're going to see where our designated high school is and we've talked to different families and said, 'Hey, do we form some sort of carpool to go to Bowness?' for example. A bit of a circuitous route to get there, but at least it's a shorter commute," he said. "We've kicked around the idea of, do we move basically a kilometre away to get on the other side of Old Banff Coach road to get into the catchment for Manning if we decide that's the best or the appropriate school? Should move into the catchment area? So, going back and forth with that." CBE confident parents will have time to plan Usih said he appreciates and understands that families want their child to attend a school where there's strong and effective programming. "And, if parents have concerns about programming or any aspect of the school there, we have processes in place for addressing those," he said. "But I cannot emphasize enough the need to ensure that we have strong programming in every one of our schools." Van Webber said the uncertainty of this process is beginning to weigh on students too. "My daughter is in Grade 8 now, and she and her friends are starting to talk about it and, you know, you kind of want some certainty for them as they go into high school, especially with all the wackiness that COVID has caused," he said. Usih said he knows the last year has been a difficult period for many. "We want to make sure that we are we are doing our due diligence to communicate clearly and to provide opportunities for families to know what our plan is going forward," he said. "And I'm confident that, you know, the timelines that we've we've indicated will will satisfy that expectation." Following the engagement in March, Usih said the scenarios are subject to change. But, he said the CBE is committed to finalizing all scenarios for 2022-2023 by no later than December 2021.
Gil Hymer was sixteen years old when he came out of the closet. When he left home, he met his partner through a consciousness-raising group in the gay community. They became fast friends, and bonded easily over their mutual love for music. They were together for 40 years. "We sort of became very entrenched in our own relationship, and didn't make a lot of friends outside," he explains. When his partner died and he entered his golden years, Hymer found himself longing for community. For many people who are over 50 years old and LGBTQ+, it can be difficult to make new friends. While bars in the Gay Village are an option for younger people, the older generation are often left without a space to connect with others their own age. Hymer, however, found support through a group called Gay and Grey Montreal, a social group for people 50 and over who are LGBTQ+. They meet for barbecues, go out for walks, and offer a safe space for people to be themselves. For now though, because of the pandemic, the group meets primarily through video calls. Gil recalls a special moment he had with the group. "[They] came to one of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas I was singing in," he says. "It really touched me that they would go all the way out to the West Island to do that." Bruce Cameron founded Gay and Grey in 2018 . The goal was to counteract the homophobia that some seniors might experience as they get older, and to allow them to interact comfortably with people of the same orientation, gender identity, or who share similar experiences. As Cameron explains, many seniors go back into the closet when they enter residential care. "They have to be concerned again about people being homophobic," he says. "They can't really be free, and this is one of the last places where they're going to live." Through Gay and Grey, Cameron also hopes to fight ageism that exists within the LGBTQ+ community. "Whether you're 40, 50, 60, or 70, you still have needs, you still have wants, you still have desires," he said. "And people should be open and accepting of that." By connecting older members to younger people in the LGBTQ+ community, Bruce hopes to bridge the divide between members of the community. "The older generation, they lived through gay liberation. They remember a time when being themselves was actually illegal," Nikki Machin, an outreach co-ordinator for Gay and Grey, explains. "That's an experience that not many of us today, who are millennials or younger, have any experience with." One of the group's members, K. David Brody, was involved in a court case fighting for the right to a widower's pension after his partner died. At the time, the province of Quebec did not recognize gay couples' rights to the pension. The members of Gay and Grey have a message for young people who may be struggling to come out of the closet. As Cameron puts it: "Be proud of who you are. The people who aren't accepting, that's their issue. Live with who you are, and be proud of that." WATCH | Bruce Cameron discusses what it's like to age as part of the LGBTQ+ community with the CBC's Catherine Verdon Diamond.
Codiac Regional RCMP say the force will take some kind of action regarding anti-mask protesters in Moncton who violate the province's emergency measures order. Supt. Tom Critchlow, the commanding officer of Codiac RCMP, told Moncton councillors Monday police would act this week. He didn't offer specifics. "This group obviously wants some type of showdown," Critchlow said. "There's methods in how we deal with that. Rest assured, I will deal with that. We will deal with [it]. At this point, because of the current state that the province is morphing into, we will take action." His comments followed questions last week and by councillors Monday about what the force is doing regarding the protesters who appear to flout rules meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. A board member of the Codiac Regional Policing Authority, which oversees the force that polices Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview, last week questioned why tickets weren't handed out to those defying the rules. RCMP officers observed the protests held on weekends outside Moncton city hall. Under the orange recovery phase, outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people and masks are required outside when physical distancing can't be maintained. Critchlow told the police authority that the force is taking a "measured" approach, observing the protesters and trying to educate them about the rules. His comments Monday suggested a change in approach. Moncton deputy mayor Shawn Crossman said he understands people have a right to protest, but said he's anxious to see COVID-19 rules enforced. "It's really frustrating," Crossman said of those violating rules. Coun. Paulette Thériault also said she's not impressed by the protests. She said more than two million deaths worldwide have been linked to COVID-19. "To say that we shouldn't be concerned is beyond my comprehension," Thériault said. "I don't think we can ever educate these people because I don't think they really want to hear what the realities are out there." "But if we can find solutions so that at least we can protect our citizens, I think this is extremely important."
The Spanish soccer federation suspended Lionel Messi for two matches on Tuesday after he hit an opponent in an incident away from the ball in the Spanish Super Cup final. The Barcelona forward was facing a suspension of up to 12 matches for swinging his arm at an Athletic Bilbao player at the end of the team's 3-2 loss on Sunday. The federation’s competition committee did not deem the incident to be severe and applied a less severe penalty against the player. After passing the ball out to the left flank, Messi swung his right arm at the head of Athletic forward Asier Villalibre as they ran toward the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and after a video review, Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances for Barcelona. Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with “excessive force” while the ball was not near him. Messi will miss Barcelona's match against third-division club Cornellà in the Copa del Rey and against Elche in the Spanish league. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Boris Johnson has promised a compensation fund for seafood exporters hit by post-Brexit bureaucracy, but describes their difficulties as "teething problems".View on euronews
OTTAWA — Almost two-thirds of Canadians would support a nightly curfew if necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 — even though they're not convinced it would be effective, a new poll suggests.Sixty-five per cent of respondents to a poll by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they would support temporary curfews in their provinces if recommended by public health officials.In Quebec, where the government imposed a month-long curfew 10 days ago, 74 per cent said they support the move.Nevertheless, only 57 per cent of Quebecers and just 39 per cent of respondents in the rest of the country said they think curfews are an effective way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.The poll of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Jan. 15 to 18.Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the results suggest Canadians "want to do their part and will stand by their governments" in efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. But it also suggests provinces "need to sell this thing (curfews) if they want to make it work." The poll also suggests that Canadians' mental health has suffered as the pandemic drags on.Twenty-one per cent rated their mental health as bad or very bad, up eight points since last April, when the first wave of COVID-19 rolled over Canada.Thirty-two per cent rated their mental health as excellent or very good, a 10-point drop since April. Another 45 per cent described their mental health as good, down three points since April.Bourque said mental health experts do not consider "good" to be a particularly positive rating, akin to someone saying they feel OK.The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19, virtually unchanged since April.Seventy-one per cent of respondents said they intend to get vaccinated against the coronavirus when a vaccine becomes available to them.Two vaccines have been approved for use in Canada so far and provinces have begun immunizing front line health care workers, long-term care home workers and residents and some others considered among the most vulnerable.Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they'll take the first vaccine available to them, while 27 per cent said they'll wait for other vaccines to become available. Another 11 per cent said they won't take any vaccine and 15 per cent didn't know what they'll do.The online poll cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Greek coastguard officials recovered the body of one man and rescued 27 people from a rocky beach on the island of Lesbos after they apparently arrived by boat from Turkey, authorities said on Tuesday. The influx of refugees and migrants to Greece fell by 80% last year compared to 2019. Turkey hosts more than three million refugees and migrants and more than 90,000 are also in Greece, mostly housed in overcrowded camps while waiting for their applications for asylum to be processed.
Brandon Sun readers request specific questions be asked about COVID-19. QUESTION: if a person from Rapid City, for example, were to test positive at the Brandon site, would they not be added to Brandon district numbers? PROVINCIAL SPOKESPERSON: Numbers are tracked by home address — i.e., the address on the Manitoba Health Card is where that case will be attributed to in our numbers, not the testing location. As to your example, if that person’s home address were to show as Rapid City on their health card, that’s where we would consider the case to be from, not the testing location (Brandon). QUESTION: I understand Moderna’s vaccine efficacy in participants 65 years of age and older appears to be lower than in younger adults 18 to 65 years — 86.4 per cent compared to 95.6 per cent. Considering First Nation elders are top of list for vaccination — is this on your radar at all as an issue? The question would apply, as well, regarding any personal care homes using Moderna. DR. JOSS REIMER: We are constantly looking at the data that’s provided by the companies, as well as by other jurisdictions. We will be sure to analyze it on an ongoing basis. What we have right now shows it as a very effective vaccine and we are confident that it will be beneficial to those who are receiving it. QUESTION: People who work at a COVID testing site are eligible to receive the vaccine. Why aren’t people who work directly with COVID-positive clients at alternative isolation accommodation sites included in the eligibility criteria? REIMER: We have looked at a number of different issues when it comes to determining the eligibility criteria. We looked at issues like whether or not the people would potentially be exposed to the virus in the workplace. We’re also looking at how vulnerable the patients or clients in that setting might be. So for example, for personal care homes, it’s essential that the staff be immunized so that they’re not a source of infection or the individual living in that setting because they’re more likely to experience severe harm. We’re also looking at where we’ve seen evidence of outbreaks and disease transmission, particularly between staff and residents or patients. We’re looking at where we have a specialized workforce with specialized skills or those where any work disruption would be quite critical to the system. All of those factors have to be considered at the same time. So one of the reasons that the COVID immunization clinics became a priority was around that workforce issue. It is critical that these clinics be up and running with as many people as we need in order to give every vaccine as fast as we can. So it was important that not only that we have the eligibility in there to help recruit some of the workers to that batch location, but also to prevent that from ever becoming a source of infection. The last thing we would want for Manitobans is to have one of our vaccine clinics become the site of an outbreak, and so we wanted to ensure that we were protecting everyone who was working there, as well as protecting everyone who is coming through to get their vaccine. Do you have a question? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Readers Ask. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
When President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, 2017, he promised an end to “American carnage,” a bleak and dysfunctional nation he had insisted that he alone could fix. Closing out his presidency exactly four years later, Trump leaves behind an even more polarized America, where thousands are dying daily from the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy is badly damaged and political violence has surged. Trump didn’t create the bitter differences that have come to define American life.
BÉCANCOUR. Toujours généreux de son temps et reconnaissant pour l’intérêt qu’on lui porte, Zachary Bolduc a accepté de répondre aux questions du Courrier Sud au cœur de cette saison hors de l’ordinaire marquée par la COVID-19. Une année 2021 pour le porte-couleur de l’Océanic de Rimouski qui est également celle de son admissibilité au repêchage de la Ligue nationale de hockey (LNH). «En raison de blessures, j’ai disputé 7 matchs des 16 de mon équipe. C’est derrière moi. J’ai continué de m’entrainer en salle. J’ai mis les bouchées doubles et je ne crois pas que cela va compromettre mon développement», exprime le Bécancourois qui tire de grandes leçons de la COVID-19. Une pandémie qui affecte grandement les activités de la Ligue de hockey junior majeur du Québec (LHJMQ). «C’est certain que c’est fâchant de ne pas avoir une saison normale et de disputer moins de parties. On s’adapte. Notre entraineur Serge Beausoleil nous fait disputer des mini-matchs. C’est une épreuve qui va quand même m’être utile pour le futur. Ça me permet d’avoir le focus à la bonne place et de mettre l’accent sur ce que je contrôle», indique sagement l’attaquant qui a remporté le titre de recrue de l’année de la LHJMQ l’an dernier. Bien que d’une nature calme, il demeure que Zachary Bolduc ressent une certaine excitation à penser que 2021 est son année d’admissibilité pour le repêchage de la grande ligue. «Mais je ne suis pas trop distrait par ça. Quand j’ai commencé à jouer au hockey, c’était pour avoir du plaisir et c’est ce que je continue de faire tout en voulant m’améliorer», souligne un Zachary Bolduc qui a déjà été interviewé, virtuellement, par une dizaine d’équipes de la Ligue nationale de hockey. «Ça ressemble à une entrevue pour un emploi. Il y a des mises en situation. Les organisations veulent apprendre sur moi: comment je suis comme personne et comme joueur. Certaines équipes m’ont également fait passer des tests psychométriques», explique-t-il. Évidemment, en discutant avec Zachary Bolduc, on n’allait pas se priver de connaître son point de vue sur Alexis Lafrenière. Premier choix à l’encan amateur de 2020, l’ancien Océanic a amorcé sa carrière professionnelle la semaine dernière. «J’aime regarder le hockey, je n’ai pas manqué un match du Canada lors du championnat mondial junior de hockey. J’avais aussi hâte que la LNH recommence pour voir Alexis jouer avec les Rangers de New York. C’est un excellent joueur. Son talent et sa façon de travailler vont paraître. Je ne suis vraiment pas inquiet pour lui», conclut celui qui pourrait bien le retrouver dans le circuit Bettman sous peu. Mais d’ici là, il devra poursuivre son cheminement dans la LHJMQ. D’ailleurs, au moment d’écrire ces lignes, des rumeurs d’échange le concernant étaient dans l’air, l’envoyant chez les Rempart de Québec ou chez les Olympiques de Gatineau. À suivre… Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years. When word leaked this week that Joe Biden would pull the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline project the first day he's sworn in as president, the only person who seemed shocked was Premier Jason Kenney. "We hope president-elect Biden will show respect for Canada and will sit down and at the very least talk to us," said Kenney during an online news conference where he lectured, hectored, and pleaded with the Biden administration. Politically speaking, Kenney was at times on his knees begging, on his toes dancing, shaking his fist, shaking his head, and bending over backwards to justify sinking $1.5 billion into the troubled project in 2020 and promising another $6 billion in loan guarantees in 2021. It was like watching a tap dancer trying to juggle as he set his hair on fire. Kenney, of course, should have seen this coming since March last year when he announced the "wise investment." It was no investment but a gamble on a troubled project. He called it a "bold move." That should have been the first red flag. Whenever politicians describe something they're doing as "bold" they mean controversial or contentious or risky. Kenney, it turns out, meant all three. Another red flag was Kenney acknowledging the project "never would have moved forward" without $7.5 billion in support from the Alberta public. When government's jump in where private corporations fear to tread, plan for a rough landing. And, of course, there was this red flag big enough to cover the pipeline's proposed 2,000-kilometre route from Alberta to Nebraska: "I've been against Keystone from the beginning. It is tar sands that we don't need, that in fact is a very, very high pollutant." That was Biden on the campaign trail promising to take action against climate change. Hot button issue Just as Keystone has become a symbol of economic salvation for Alberta, it has also become a symbol of all the evils of global warming. Both are simplistic tropes. Building Keystone won't solve Alberta's systemic economic problems. Killing it won't end global warming. But, boy, it's been a lightning rod for more than a decade. Keystone was twice rejected under the presidency of Barack Obama and even though it received approval under Donald Trump, Biden promised to scrap the project should he become president. He'll be sworn in on Wednesday. Kenney says cancelling the Keystone expansion project "would be, in our view, an economic and strategic error that would set back Canada-U.S. relations with the United States' most important trading partner and strategic ally: Canada." WATCH | Kenney's message for Joe Biden Kenney is falling into the same political conceit that has beguiled Alberta premiers for decades: the belief that they or Alberta or even Canada really matters on the U.S. stage when partisan politics is involved. Yes, we are major trading partners but, to paraphrase Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's father, we are a mouse sleeping next to an elephant. And the elephant isn't taking our calls. Almost 20 year ago Ralph Klein travelled to Washington in a futile attempt to open up the closed U.S. border to Alberta beef during the mad cow scare. Others including Alison Redford and Jim Prentice tried to educate U.S. politicians and business leaders about the oil sands and its strategic importance in North America, as if highly placed Americans had never heard of Alberta. They have, but they'll only act in Alberta's interests if it's in their interests. Kenney seems to be under the assumption that if he can just get Biden, or someone close to him, on the phone, he could convince the new president to overturn an election promise to shut down Keystone. But Biden made an election promise — just like Kenney did in 2019 to scrap Alberta's carbon tax. Perhaps Biden should simply send Kenney a four-word email the premier would understand: "promise made, promise kept." Kenney asked Biden to "show respect for Canada" and sit down to talk. But where was Kenney's respect last November when he suggested Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was "brain-dead" because her state waged a legal fight last summer against Enbridge's Line 5? Whitmer isn't just any U.S. governor. She was a national co-chair of Biden's presidential campaign. Five days after Kenney's slur, Whitmer took legal action to shut down the pipeline completely this year. Maybe American politicians do listen to Kenney, after all. For Kenney, the impending death of the Keystone project isn't just an end to thousands of construction jobs or another hit to Alberta's beleaguered economy, it's a political humiliation and a harbinger of things to come as the world moves away from fossil fuel. Kenney campaigned in the 2019 Alberta election on a promise of jobs, economy and pipelines. Thanks in large part to the pandemic, Alberta now has some of the highest jobless rates in the country, the depressed price of oil has undercut the economy, and, what must be the most galling of all for a staunch conservative like Kenney, the only pipeline to tidewater under construction is the Liberal-government-owned Alberta-to-West-Coast Trans Mountain pipeline project. There are two questions looming: can Canada convince Biden at the last minute to change his mind on Keystone? If not, how long before Kenney hits his default button and lays the blame at Trudeau's feet?
Indian hyperlocal courier startup Dunzo has raised $40 million from existing investor Google and others, it said on Tuesday, after seeing a surge in usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many Indians stayed indoors for much of 2020 because of the health crisis, Dunzo and food-delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy recorded a fresh surge in popularity. Naspers-backed Swiggy also runs a hyperlocal courier service.