With Jaclyn Whittal.
With Jaclyn Whittal.
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is drafting legislation around the sale of used police vehicles and equipment, after a man driving a replica RCMP cruiser killed 22 people last April. Justice Minister Mark Furey told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday the legislation will regulate how police vehicles are decommissioned, which will include, he said, ensuring they are stripped of equipment and decals. "We are certainly aware of the previous circumstances and the most recent circumstances," Furey said. The minister made the comments a day after the Mounties said a 23-year-old suspect from Antigonish, N.S., may have driven a vehicle that looked like an unmarked police car and pulled over drivers. The vehicle in question, a white 2013 Ford Taurus, is similar to the car Gabriel Wortman used during his 13-hour, deadly rampage in northern and central Nova Scotia on April 18-19, 2020. Furey noted that under current law it's illegal to impersonate a police officer. "When it comes to police articles and decommissioned police vehicles there is certainly some work to do to fine-tune that legislation and the ability to mitigate and prevent, as best we can, access to this equipment that is used to mock-up police vehicles." he said. Furey said there are no plans to ban the sale of decommissioned police vehicles despite calls by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives to prohibit those sales. He said RCMP and municipal police services have been consulted and are in support of the government's draft legislation. Furey is recommending the Liberal government table a bill during the next sitting of the legislature. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
Chatham-Kent police have seized more than 25,000 marijuana plants worth $25.5 million after dismantling four illegal grow-ops in the region over the last few months, according to a news release. Since September, Chatham-Kent police have dismantled four illegal cannabis operations in the region, three of which were uncovered in January. "This past year, a significant amount of cannabis associated to illegal drug operations has been found in Chatham-Kent," Chatham-Kent police chief Gary Conn said in a news release. "These operations will not be tolerated here in our community as we know their actions may lead to violent behaviour, property crimes and organized crime." Since the operations are unsupervised, police said there are a number of threats to the community from unsafe electrical outlets, building code violations to the illegal use of pesticides and disposal of waste water. They said they are not targeting people who are legally growing cannabis for personal use or storefronts that have a legal permit. "These are large scale illegal production sites, who pose a negative impact on legitimate local businesses, as the money generated has been linked to funding organized crime," the news release reads. On Sept. 16, members of the Chatham-Kent Police Service's Intelligence Unit executed a search warrant at a greenhouse on Maynard Line. From this, more than 7,300 plant, valued at $7.3M, were seized. Police have issued an order for a 48-year-old London man to appear in court for growing and possessing cannabis for the purposes of selling that violated the Cannabis Act. On Jan. 8, Intelligence Unit members used another search warrant for a place on Richmond Street in Chatham, which led them to seize 9,004 plants valued at $9 million and a large amount of Canadian money. A 34-year-old Markham man and 62-year-old Stouffville man were arrested inside the building and charged with cultivating and possessing cannabis for the purposes of selling that conflicts with the Cannabis Act. They were released with a court date of Feb. 11. Police also issued an order for a 58-year-old Markham man for the same offences. That same day, emergency crews responded to a fire at a building on Grand Avenue East in Chatham and discovered that the property was being used to illegally grow cannabis. Police obtained a search warrant and seized 489 plants valued at $489,000. An order was issued for a 62-year-old Kitchener woman for growing and possessing cannabis for the purposes of selling that conflict with the Cannabis Act. Days later on Jan. 15, members of the Intelligence Unit yet again searched another property on Richmond Street in Chatham and found 8,580 illegal plants valued at $8.6 million. Following this, a 46-year-old Markham man, 26-year-old Scarborough man, 24-year-old Oshawa man, 52-year-old Markham woman and 26-year-old North York man were found hiding inside the building. They were arrested and charged with growing and possessing cannabis for the purposes of selling that was against the Cannabis Act. They are expected to appear in court on Feb. 18.
The elephants are counted using a computer algorithm trained to identify the creatures against a variety of backdrops.View on euronews
Island Abbey Foods, makers of Honibe cough and cold lozenges, is eliminating 30 temporary staff at its Charlottetown production plant. The P.E.I. company is putting the blame on the "almost non-existent cold and cough season" so far this winter, as potential customers wear masks, stay two metres away from others and practise good hand hygiene. "Cold and cough season is almost non-existent this year, which has resulted in a decline of our lozenge business for the first two quarters of 2021," Scott Spencer, president and chief operating officer of Island Abbey Foods, said in a statement to CBC News. "While we have seen substantial gains with our digital retail strategy, it does not replace the volume we projected in anticipation of a regular cold and cough season. Therefore, unfortunately, we've made the difficult decision to eliminate 30 temporary positions from our production operation. The company says demand for its Gummie Bees multivitamins and other health products continues to be strong, and planning is well underway for an expansion to meet those demands. "2020 was a tremendous year at Island Abbey Foods," said Spencer. "We increased headcount significantly across our company to meet higher than anticipated demand and position our company for success. Like other businesses, we are continuously adapting to the ever-changing business realities that COVID-19 is imposing on the world." More from CBC P.E.I.
Retirement home residents in Simcoe Muskoka will begin receiving the Pfizer-BoNTech vac-cine after the provincial government determined the vaccine can be safely transported to Long Term Care and retirement homes in the Region. The immunization program began on Monday, January 11, in Barrie, at Victoria Village Manor. Resident Pat Sinclair, a former nurse, became the region’s first long-term resident to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. “I’m thrilled to be able to do this. I’m hoping it gives me and my family that feeling of we’re okay, we’re going to be okay. We’ll get through this,” said Ms. Sinclair.“ COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on both the residents and em-ployees in long-term care and being able to offer the protection this vaccine provides to those who are the most vulnerable is a critical milestone,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. (SMDHU) “We are hoping everyone who opts for the vaccine within our LTC and RH communities to have received it over the next two weeks.” The pilot immuniza-tion program began with 111 residents from Victoria Village Manor and 67 residents at Oak Terrace Long-Term Care Home in Orillia receiving the vaccine. Supply of the vaccine remains limited and at this time is being offered by appointment only to pri-ority groups identified by the provincial government, including residents, staff and essentialcare-givers from congregate living settings as well as prioritized hospital workers. Staff at all four Simcoe County long term care homes, including Simcoe Village and Manor in Beeton, have already starting receiving the vaccine after attending inoculation sites in Barrie. Of the 1.000 care givers who work at the facilities, about half had already received the vaccine as of Friday, January 15. A spokesperson for the County of Simcoe confirmed residents at Simcoe Manor started receiving the vaccine on January 16. Vaccinations are not mandatory for residents, however they are given information to help them make an informed decision. Some residents are considered at risk when it comes to receiving the vaccination due to other health related issues.As additional vaccines are approved by Health Canada, and as part of Ontario’s three phase immunization plan, vaccine dis-tribution will be expanded to other priority groups and then to the general public Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
BATON ROUGE, La. — Julia Letlow, the widow of Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, described herself as “both full of grief while also having hope for the future" as she registered Thursday to compete for the congressional seat her husband was unable to fill because of his death from COVID-19 complications. After filing her paperwork for the March 20 election, Julia Letlow faced reporters at the same podium where she stood with her husband six months earlier when he signed up for his bid to represent northeast and central Louisiana. This time, she stood alone. She pledged to continue Luke Letlow's vision for the 5th District, defended her own accomplishments and talked of the respect for public service she shared with her husband and wanted to pass along to their two young children. “We don’t always get to choose what happens to us. But we do get to choose how to respond. Today, I choose to continue to move forward. Today, I choose hope,” said Julia Letlow, 39, a Republican who lives in the small town of Start in Richland Parish. Her husband died Dec. 29 at the age of 41, only weeks after winning a runoff election for the congressional seat and days before he was scheduled to be sworn into office. Julia Letlow said she knows the issues of the poverty-plagued district from travelling with her husband during the campaign and because of Luke Letlow's tenure as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a Republican who stepped down after three terms and endorsed Luke Letlow for the job. Abraham now is supporting Julia Letlow for the seat in the special election. “I wouldn’t have done this without his blessing,” Julia Letlow said of Abraham. Julia Letlow has never run for office “besides sixth-grade president" but said she often had conversations with her husband about the possibility. She dismissed suggestions she was riding her husband's political coattails or trying to capitalize off sympathy to get the congressional job, saying she has her own experience to qualify her for the position. “While Luke and I were a dynamo team and I miss him every day, still you’re your own individual person with your own qualifications and accomplishments in life, and I feel like I am very well qualified to run for this 5th Congressional District seat,” Julia Letlow told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. “Look at my qualifications. Take a look at my bio. Make your decision there.” She has a career in higher education, with a Ph.D. in communication. She's on leave from her job with the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where she works as top assistant to the president for external affairs and community outreach. Six other contenders so far are vying for the congressional seat on the March ballot, including two who ran last fall. One of them, Allen Guillory, an Opelousas Republican, said Wednesday he’s worried about Julia Letlow’s two young children. Guillory said if Julia Letlow wins the congressional seat, “those kids could lose two parents.” Julia Letlow responded that she's running because of 3-year-old Jeremiah and 1-year-old Jacqueline. “I hope to illustrate for them the power of fortitude, resilience and perseverance," she said. Her campaign platform remains similar to her husband's priorities, with a focus on job development, expanded access to broadband internet and support for agriculture industries. She said she intends a bipartisan approach, “while staying true to my conservative ideals and values that I hold dear.” Asked if she thought President Joe Biden was properly elected to the office, Julia Letlow paused. Then, she said she believes Biden “is the legitimate U.S. president." When pressed, she said she does not have the continuing concerns that some Republicans have cited about fraud. She noted those allegations were litigated in many court cases, where no widespread voter fraud was found. “I have faith in our election cycle, I do,” she said. “I have faith in our democracy.” The sprawling 5th District covers all or part of 24 parishes, including the cities of Alexandria and Monroe. It's one of two congressional seats on the March ballot. Voters also will fill the New Orleans-based 2nd District seat, which is open after Democrat Cedric Richmond left the position to work for President Joe Biden’s administration. The signup period for both races wraps up Friday. ___ Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte. Melinda Deslatte, The Associated Press
The OPP is enforcing a new stay-at-home order and dispersing larger gatherings, but said it is not targeting individuals. The province introduced a new stay-at-home order Jan. 14, demanding people only leave for essential trips such as work, purchasing goods, exercise, caring for animals or others, or moving. The province also said law enforcement would be empowered to issue fines under the order. OPP spokesperson Const. Iryna Nebogatova said the attention the order has received has brought more complaints, which drive enforcement. She added gatherings - limited to five people outdoors - are the main source of the complaints. “I do understand the stay-at-home order under the emergency management and Civil Protection Act, Reopening Ontario Act are quite confusing,” Nebogatova said. “What we are focusing on here would be the large gatherings, the gatherings whether they’re indoor or outdoor. “The individuals are not the focus of this enforcement,” she added. In a press release Jan. 15, OPP said it could levy fines of $750 for failing to comply with the order and/or $1,000 for preventing others from complying. However, the press release added that officers will not arbitrarily stop an individual or vehicle to check compliance with the orders. “Individuals are not expected to provide proof of essential work,” OPP said. “Officers can ask an individual to identify themselves if they have reasonable grounds to believe the individual is violating an act.” The province said bylaw enforcement can also issue fines under the order, but Dysart et al bylaw officer Robert Mascia said he is redirecting complaints to OPP. “If the OPP require assistance in enforcement measures, the municipality’s bylaw department will gladly help,” Mascia said. Cottagers being allowed County resident Donna Pugh said she called police on a cottager neighbour who visited their secondary residence this past weekend. But Pugh said OPP indicated that it is allowed – and they were not going to attend to address someone travelling to a secondary residence. “Our premier of the province has strongly told us all to stay home,” Pugh said. “Then to see our County booming with people who don’t live here all the time, when they’re asked to stay home, I just find that really frustrating.” The order states someone can travel to another residence if they intend to be there for less than 24 hours and are attending for an essential purpose; or if they intend to reside there for at least 14 days. Nebogatova did not directly address cottager enforcement when asked but said there are exemptions for people to leave their homes under the order that should be respected. “We are requesting that the members of the public voluntarily comply with the new stay-at-home order to limit their mobility outside their homes except for essential reasons,” she said. Pugh said despite the province’s words, the enforcement is not going far enough. “The whole thing doesn’t have many teeth,” she said. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
A yet-to-be identified variant of COVID-19 found in a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home is extremely concerning because it appears to be spreading more quickly among residents, public health officials said Thursday. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said the unusually rapid spread of the virus at Roberta Place earlier this month prompted officials to start testing for a variant strain. Fifty-five people at the nursing home became ill within 48 hours of the first COVID-19 case being identified, said Dr. Colin Lee, the unit's associate medical officer of health. As of Wednesday evening, the health unit reported that 122 residents and 69 staff had been infected, and 19 residents had died. The variant was identified in six cases and further results are expected in the coming days, the unit said. "The problem is that this spreads so quickly to so many people that ultimately you're going to have a higher chance of more people severely ill and (more) deaths," Lee said. There's a "very high probability" that the variant detected at the home is one of three known COVID-19 variants – strains from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, said Lee. Public health officials will be carrying out more testing at the home and will be trying to immunize as many residents and staff at the facility as possible, he said. An earlier immunization effort saw only 21 residents vaccinated as most others were already infected with COVID-19, he said. "We went in there on Saturday and immunized as many as we could," he said. The health unit is trying to reach all close contacts of those infected as quickly as possible so they can self-isolate if needed, said Lee. "One of our primary goals right now is to prevent the spread further, as it gets into households and other hospitals," Lee said. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical of health, said public health officials will also be stepping up infection prevention and control at the home. Yaffe said the source of infection is still hard to determine as the outbreak at the home is still under investigation. "At this point, we know a mutation is in there. The 501 mutation that’s associated with increased transmissibility ... We don’t know which mutant it is, or which variant of concern," she said. “So it’s hard to say right now how widespread it is because we don’t even know exactly what it is.” Last week, the Canadian Red Cross was deployed to Roberta Place to help with the growing outbreak. Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital, along with other local organizations, has also been asked to help manage it. The Ministry of Long-Term Care said Thursday that it was working with its health partners to ensure staffing levels at the home were sufficient. “This development underscores the need for everyone to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our long-term care homes, especially as we find more evidence of new variants in our communities,” said spokeswoman Krystle Caputo. The nursing home's website says it can accommodate 137 residents. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A Newfoundland and Labrador ferry company has confirmed a second case of COVID-19 among the crew of one of its vessels that travels to Nova Scotia. The company and provincial health officials reported the second infection today and said the affected person is isolating. Authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador say the employee is a man in his 60s. Marine Atlantic reported the first infection among the crew of the MV Blue Puttees on Wednesday. The Newfoundland and Labrador company suspended service along the vessel's route between North Sydney, N.S., and Port au Basques, N.L. The company said today the Blue Puttees is still out commission and the MV Atlantic Vision will pick up its route. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
In a typical year this would be the beginning of snowmobile/poker rally season; the time of year when avid snowmobilers help community halls and recreation centres in small towns and villages across the province to raise money for the upcoming year’s operating expenses and improvements. However, with COVID continuing to run rampant, the typical fundraisers are not happening this year and organizers are trying to think ‘outside the box’ and devise safe ways to raise the funds they need. For a village of roughly 150 people, any major financial undertaking requires many volunteer hours of fundraising. The hall is an important part of any small community and Prud'homme is no different. Funerals, weddings, and Ukrainian dance are all held on the hall, which is also home to the community's library, but with no events last year the volunteers had to put their collective thinking hats on. The Village of Prud’homme regularly runs a poker rally and holds other fundraisers throughout the year to raise money to operate and maintain the Prud’homme Community Centre. One day COVID will end, but until then bills still need to be paid. The volunteers at Prud’homme have held drive-through suppers where individuals pre-pay for their meal and then just come and pick-up the cooked and packaged meal on the designated day. They also hosted a lobster fundraiser where people pre-ordered the number of lobster they wanted, and the group then brought in frozen lobster from the Maritimes for supporters to come and pick-up. Saturday January 23, 2021 the Prud’homme virtualsnowmobile rally will take place (Registration deadline is 9 pm on rally day). There is no need to own or have access to a sled. To purchase a $20 hand, first send payment via e-transfer to: email@example.com(memo: Hand). Second, pick three sets of five numbers from 1 – 500 and email your name and the three sets of numbers to: firstname.lastname@example.org . To purchase 50/50 tickets for $20 each send payments via e-transfer to: email@example.com(memo: 50-50) Anyone wishing to purchase a drive through supper of perogies and smokies for $15 per meal must pre-order by Friday January 22 and send payment via e-transfer to: firstname.lastname@example.org(memo: supper) The supper will be available for pick-up at the Prud’homme Community Centre between 4 and 6 pm on January 23, 2021. For additional information on this event contact Candice at 306-491-2371. Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
OTTAWA — Julie Payette resigned as Canada's Governor General Thursday, saying that to protect the integrity of her office and for the good of the country, it was time for her to go. Clouds of controversy have hung over Payette since she took over the post in 2017 but a storm was poised to break out with the imminent release of the results of an investigation into allegations of a toxic workplace at Rideau Hall. Payette apologized for the tensions at Rideau Hall in the last several months, but in a statement announcing her historic resignation — a first for a Governor General — she also suggested she disagreed with the characterizations of her leadership. "We all experience things differently, but we should always strive to do better, and be attentive to one another’s perceptions," she said. "I am a strong believer in the principles of natural justice, due process and the rule of law, and that these principles apply to all equally. Notwithstanding, in respect for the integrity of my viceregal office and for the good of our country and of our democratic institutions, I have come to the conclusion that a new Governor General should be appointed," she continued. "Canadians deserve stability in these uncertain times." She also suggested the move was made for personal reasons, citing her father's declining health. "So it is with sureness and humility, but also with pride over what was accomplished during my tenure as Governor General and in my service to the country for the past 28 years, that I have submitted my resignation," she wrote. In a terse statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged he had received her resignation. “Every employee in the Government of Canada has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, and we will always take this very seriously," he said. "Today’s announcement provides an opportunity for new leadership at Rideau Hall to address the workplace concerns raised by employees during the review." Trudeau had previously defended Payette, even as the Privy Council Office hired a third-party investigator to examine allegations of workplace harassment in the office of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. That came after CBC reports alleged that Payette belittled and publicly humiliated employees, reducing some to tears and prompting some to quit. Payette had welcomed the review at the time, saying she was deeply concerned about the allegations. Payette, a former astronaut, was named to the position in 2017. Her predecessor David Johnston had been selected by the previous Conservative government using an ad hoc committee that was later turned into an official panel on viceregal appointments. But upon forming government in 2015, Trudeau abandoned that approach and moved the selection process inside his office. Payette's appointment was controversial from the outset. Shortly after she took the job, it emerged that she'd been charged with second-degree assault while living in Maryland in 2011. She called the charged unfounded, and it has since been expunged. But as details of that incident emerged, so did revelations that she was involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident that same year. The case was closed without charges after a police investigation. Both incidents raised immediate questions about how thoroughly she had been vetted for the job, and accusations she wasn't the right fit for it have dogged her ever since. She did not move into the official residence of Rideau Hall when she took the job, and nearly two years in, still wasn't living there, citing privacy concerns linked to ongoing renovations. The cost of those renovations became one of several issues that dogged her, as questions were raised about whether they were necessary or being done out of preference and at too high a cost to the taxpayer. Instead, Payette based herself in her home province of Quebec, where she has also spent a great deal of time during the COVID-19 pandemic. As reports of how she was allegedly treating her staff emerged, Trudeau expressed his confidence in her abilities, dismissing the idea of replacing her. During an interview on RED FM's The Harjinder Thind Show in Vancouver in September he said she was excellent. "I think on top of the COVID crisis, nobody's looking at any constitutional crises," he said. In the event a Governor General can't carry out the job, is removed, or dies, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada assumes the office's powers as long as necessary. "A recommendation on a replacement will be provided to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and announced in due course, ” Trudeau said. While the Governor General is a largely symbolic position, it does have some constitutional importance, particularly during a minority government such as the one Canada has now. In 2008, former prime minister Stephen Harper asked then-governor general Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament to avoid a non-confidence vote he was expected to lose — a decision that was controversial at the time but in keeping with constitutional tradition. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is easing some of its COVID-19 restrictions in southern and central areas as case numbers continue to slowly drop. Starting Saturday, non-essential retail stores will be allowed to reopen at 25 per cent capacity. Since November, they have been limited to delivery or curbside pickup service. Hair salons, barber shops and some personal health services such as reflexology can restart as well. A ban on social visits inside private homes is being eased. Households will be allowed to designate two people who will be allowed to visit indoors. Up to five people can visit outdoors. "Our collective progress in reducing the spread of COVID means we can undertake these very careful, very cautious reopenings at this point," Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said Thursday. The changes will last three weeks, at which time more openings could be considered, Roussin said. The changes are not being made in the northern health region, where outbreaks in isolated communities have caused a spike in case numbers in recent weeks. Health officials reported 196 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday and five more deaths. More than half the new cases were northern residents. The Retail Council of Canada welcomed the news that some restrictions would be eased. "We're relieved by today's announcement that follows over two months of very severe restrictions that have left retailers limping along using curbside delivery where possible," council spokesman John Graham said. While non-essential stores can reopen, some other businesses, including gyms, bars and nail salons, must remain closed. Restaurants will continue to be limited to takeout and delivery. With the demand for intensive care unit beds still running above pre-pandemic capacity, Roussin said special care must be taken when it comes to places where people gather. "Venues that have prolonged, indoor contact — crowded places, enclosed spaces — those are where a lot of the risk (of virus transmission) lies," Roussin said. Premier Brian Pallister has left the door open to providing more supports for businesses as the closures and capacity limits continue, although did not provide specifics. Pallister said he is trusting Manitobans to follow the rules, and made special mention of household visits. "We don't have enough enforcement people to check every household," Pallister said. "We're asking you to follow the rules because that's how we'll keep each other safe." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Muskoka Climate change co-ordinator Kevin Boyle said the district’s goal of reducing its corporate and community emissions by 50 per cent in the next 10 years was no certainty. Boyle spoke to an audience of 37 at the Environment Haliburton! (EH) enviro-café Jan. 12 to discuss “A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy” and its creation. The strategy’s goal is significantly greater than Haliburton County’s corporate plan to reduce its emissions by 30 per cent from 2018 levels by 2030. Boyle doubted the goal would have been reached without the advocacy efforts of Climate Action Muskoka (CAM), who demanded it. “You see them every Friday on the corner. That momentum really builds,” Boyle said. “While that is an ambitious target, that shouldn’t be seen as an ambitious target. That is what the science tells us we should do. That should be seen as the baseline.” Boyle highlighted the years of effort that went into building the climate strategy passed Dec. 21, which also includes a net-zero emissions target by 2050. He said action is needed to address climate change and took pride in Muskoka’s efforts. “I am very happy despite how confusing the process was - and it was - where we got to and how much support the council has for it and how much support the community has for it,” Boyle said. “It brings strong policy leadership and firm targets which put climate action at the forefront of all decision-making,” CAM spokesperson Melinda Zytaruk said in a press release. The County of Haliburton passed its corporate climate change mitigation plan in September. The County is still working on adaptation and community plans. Boyle complimented the County for getting all its lower-tier townships on board with the overarching plan but said he could not celebrate if Muskoka went for a lower target, given scientific consensus about the need for greater reductions. “I would rather fail at meeting 50 per cent but try, rather than set something lower. In saying that, I’m not criticizing other governments that haven’t set that target. Maybe they could set that target and blow beyond it,” Boyle said. Canada’s formal goal is to reach a 30 per cent reduction of 2005 levels by 2030, though the federal government has said it will exceed that. Ontario’s climate action plan aims to reduce its emissions by 37 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels. Boyle said Muskoka's goal will require community buy-in, given 98 per cent of the district’s emissions are from community-based sources. “You need buy-in from everybody. So, you really want everyone at the table when you’re developing those reduction strategies,” he said. EH! vice-president Terry Moore said the presentation had takeaways for the organization for when the County begins its community planning. “It’s a lot of encouragement,” Moore said. “Some really good ideas and lessons for us.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has restored an online portal through which the public can submit freedom of information requests, almost three years after the site was shut down because of a security breach. The new site was launched Thursday and allows people to track the progress of requests, pay fees and receive responses. The site was shut down in March 2018 after a 19-year-old downloaded documents from the site to his home computer. About 7,000 documents were accessed over two days, affecting 700 people. The young man wasn't charged because he told officers he had used a widely available software to search for documents about a teachers' labour dispute, and it became clear to authorities that the basic firewalls weren't in place. The province says it has updated and improved security features on the site to prevent further breaches. Paula Arab, Nova Scotia's Internal Services minister, said the province has a five-year contract worth $760,000 with two companies to operate the site. Arab said it took time to set up the portal because the project was split into several parts. One portion involved receiving requests while another involved disclosing documents. Added security measures also required time, she said. "We wanted to do as many security tests as we could and to come up with the right solutions, and we took seriously two reports given to us following the (security) breach," Arab said. The new access to information application site can be found at iaprequest.novascotia.ca. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit says it is ready to start rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and expects to get its first shipment in early February. Medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Gemmill, addressed media Jan. 20 and said the unit submitted its rollout plan to the Ministry of Health earlier this week. Gemmill said although the date could change, the province has told the health unit to expect its first vaccines in early February. Vaccines will initially be directed to long-term care homes. “We are ready to go as soon as we get a vaccine available, with a focus on the residents, the staff and the essential caregivers in long-term care,” he said. Gemmill noted the region has relatively fewer cases, so it is a lower priority to receive the vaccine. But he added staff will be ready as soon as it does arrive. “The speed with which the general population will be protected will be determined by one factor only, and that is the supply of the vaccine,” he said. “We are going to have all hands-on deck.” Meanwhile, the district’s COVID cases are going down thanks to the Dec. 26 lockdown, according to Gemmill. There were only four new cases Jan. 20 – including zero in Haliburton – down from the 10-15 daily case average in the two weeks previous. “Our cases, at least for the last couple of days, have been diminishing. I hope that trend continues and I thank people for doing the things that need to be in place to make that happen.” However, the district saw a spike in cases the next day, with 40 new cases Jan. 21, including two in Haliburton. 35 of the cases were in Kawartha Lakes, which the health unit said was due to an outbreak at a long-term care come there. Snowmobile trails staying open The district is not planning to follow the lead of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit in closing Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club (OFSC) trails. “I have received many complaints about people travelling from other districts to use the local snowmobile trails, thus putting our district at risk of COVID-19,” their medical officer of health, Dr. Jim Chirico, said. “The OFSC recommends that snowmobilers avoid trailering and travelling to destinations that are outside their health unit region to snowmobile, but people have not taken the direction seriously.” Their closure is effective Jan. 21. Gemmill said he does not intend to close local trails, but people need to follow the stay-at-home orders. “I have no problem with people going out for recreation,” Gemmill said. “But do keep within the spirit of the regulations so we don’t have transmission.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled House easily passed legislation required to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as President Joe Biden’s secretary of defence, brushing aside concerns that his retirement occurred inside the seven-year window that safeguards civilian leadership of the military. Thursday's 326-78 vote would grant a waiver that would exempt Austin from the seven-year rule. All signs point to quick action in the Senate after that, putting Austin on track to be confirmed as secretary by week's end. Austin, a 41-year veteran of the Army, has promised to surround himself with qualified civilians and include them in policy decisions. He said he has spent nearly his entire life committed to the principle of civilian control over the military. While the waiver is expected to be approved, the vote puts some Democrats in a position to look like they've flip-flopped. Many of them opposed a similar waiver in 2017 for Jim Mattis, former President Donald Trump's first secretary of defence. Austin, who would be the first Black secretary of defence, said he understands why some have questioned the wisdom of putting a recently retired general in charge of the Defence Department. Much of his focus this week, including in his remarks at his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, has been on persuading members of Congress that although he has been out of uniform for less than five years, he sees himself as a civilian, not a general. Some aspects of his policy priorities are less clear. He emphasized on Tuesday that he will follow Biden’s lead in giving renewed attention to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. “I will quickly review the department’s contributions to coronavirus relief efforts, ensuring we are doing everything we can — and then some — to help distribute vaccines across the country and to vaccinate our troops and preserve readiness,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Under questioning by senators, Austin pledged to address white supremacy and violent extremism in the ranks of the military — problems that received relatively little public attention from his immediate predecessor, Mark Esper. Austin promised to “rid our ranks of racists,” and said he takes the problem personally. “The Defence Department’s job is to keep America safe from our enemies,” he said. “But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.” Austin said he will insist that the leaders of every military service know that extremist behaviour in their ranks is unacceptable. “This is not something we can be passive on,” he said. “This is something I think we have to be active on, and we have to lean into it and make sure that we’re doing the right things to create the right climate.” He offered glimpses of other policy priorities, indicating that he embraces the view among many in Congress that China is the “pacing challenge,” or the leading national security problem for the U.S. The Middle East was the main focus for Austin during much of his 41-year Army career, particularly when he reached senior officer ranks. He served several tours of duty as a commander in Iraq, including as the top commander in 2010-11. An aspect of the defence secretary’s job that is unfamiliar to most who take the job is the far-flung and complex network of nuclear forces that are central to U.S. defence strategy. As a career Army officer, Austin had little reason to learn the intricacies of nuclear policy, since the Army has no nuclear weapons. He told his confirmation hearing that he would bone up on this topic before committing to any change in the nuclear policies set by the Trump administration, including its pursuit of nuclear modernization. Austin, a 1975 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served in 2012 as the first Black vice chief of staff of the Army. A year later he assumed command of Central Command, where he fashioned and began implementing a strategy for rolling back the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He describes himself as the son of a postal worker and a homemaker from Thomasville, Georgia, who will speak his mind to Congress and to Biden. Robert Burns And Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
Highlands East council voted to move ahead with drafting an exotic animal bylaw to address the possibility of them in the municipality. Bylaw enforcement officer, Kristen Boylan, brought the idea forward Jan. 19. She said it was a response to a recent controversy in the neighbouring Hastings Highlands, where the municipality lacked such a law to address a family bringing in a collection of lions and tigers to create a roadside safari experience. Boylan said Ontario is the only Canadian province without exotic animals legislation. About half of Ontario municipalities have rules on them, but none within the County. She said with the dog bylaw due for an update, she decided they should address the matter. “If we do not have a bylaw, there’s nothing to stop anyone from bringing in say, lion cubs, bears, pythons,” Boylan said. “No way of having any enforcement should we receive any complaints.” Boylan also offered an option to have a unified bylaw including dogs and exotic pets, but deputy mayor Cec Ryall said it would make more sense to separate them. “In the case of dogs, it’s pretty well defined,” Ryall said, noting the distinction between exotic and other unregulated animals such as domestic cats. “We’re going to licence exotic animals, but we’re not going to licence cats.” As an example, Boylan cited a 2019 Huntsville bylaw, which she said reduced complaints there. Coun. Suzanne Partridge said she is in favour of prohibiting exotic pets but added she did not want to do so for dog hybrids, which are illegal in Huntsville. “My last dog who just died in June was a hybrid and I wouldn’t have been allowed to have her and it was a sweetheart,” she said, adding it can be difficult to determine a hybrid without DNA testing. “It can’t just be the judgement of the bylaw control officer.” Boylan replied she could research and bring forward information on hybrids. Coun. Cam McKenzie said the municipality would need to figure out how to grandfather the rules for those who already have such pets. “Snakes are more common than what most people realize,” McKenzie said. “To try and prohibit them is going to cause some issues … That is something we maybe want to think about before we do this.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Toronto Mayor John Tory has joined a chorus of Canadian politicians in urging Pfizer-Biotech to produce more COVID-19 vaccine. Tory followed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, among others, in speaking directly to executives from the pharmaceutical multinational. Tory said he wanted to make a constructive case after the company said it would not be able to fulfil next week's order to the federal government. "The best way to go about these kinds of conversations is to make your case as a Canadian, which I did, and as the mayor of the largest city in the country, and to try to make Canada's case," Tory said. Trudeau has said he spoke to Pfizer on Tuesday and Ford said he was in contact with the pharmaceutical manufacturer on Wednesday. Tory said he knows members of Pfizer's management team from his previous career as a business executive, and that he reached out to them in concert with the federal government. "I'm trying to help the country's efforts to try to see if we can't get more supply," the mayor said. "I can't tell you what results my intervention, or anybody else's, will have." Toronto has had to shut down its two vaccination programs until the federal government provides more doses to the city's public health unit. An immunization clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre closed after two days of inoculating front-line health care workers. The city also paused a pilot in shelters for people experiencing homelessness. Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto's chief medical officer, said everyone's frustrated with the shipping delay, because the vaccine offers people hope. "Having it slowed down and having the change in course is not what we wanted," De Villa said. "But we expect there will be eventually vaccine coming available and we'll do our very best." De Villa said there were 986 new cases of COVID-19 in Toronto on Thursday and 10 more deaths linked to the virus. The update included 102 cases from earlier in the week that had previously gone unreported because of a technical error. Councillor Joe Cressy, chairman of the Toronto Board of Health, joined Tory and De Villa at the Thursday afternoon news conference. All three detailed the city's ongoing efforts to support racialized communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Toronto, Ontario Health, hospitals, and community health providers have been working to improve access to testing in those neighbourhoods. Toronto reports nearly 271 testing clinics have been booked in more than 20 different city-owned facilities, with 89 more dates to come in January at 12 different sites. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
Airlines have seen at least 50,000 flight reservations cancelled since the federal government introduced mandatory pre-departure COVID-19 testing for travellers returning to Canada. A spokesperson for Transport Minister Omar Alghabra shared the figure, citing data reported to Transport Canada by domestic airlines and international carriers that operate flights to Canada. "As part of the broader effort to prevent the spread of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has consistently advised Canadians to avoid non-essential international travel," Amy Butcher, communications director for the minister, wrote in an email. "On December 31, 2020, the government announced new pre-test requirements for passengers seeking to fly to Canada from other countries. Not surprisingly, this has led to a decline in future bookings." The new rule took effect on Jan. 7, 2021. It requires all travellers over the age of five to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken no longer than 72 hours before boarding a flight to Canada. The federal government announced the new testing regime following multiple reports of prominent Canadians — including political figures — travelling abroad for the holidays in defiance of government advisories against non-essential travel. The government was also facing pressure at the time from premiers — primarily Ontario's Doug Ford — to crack down on international travel to reduce the risk of importing COVID-19 from other countries. The requirement was unpopular with Canadian airlines, which said said they weren't consulted about the new policy before it was announced. They lobbied unsuccessfully to delay the rollout by two weeks, which they argued was necessary to ensure an orderly transition. Travellers reported confusion and anxiety in the days following the testing requirement as many struggled to find legitimate laboratory tests because the government did not initially offer a list of locations where the tests could be obtained. Five days after the implementation of the new rule, the federal government launched a website for passengers travelling to Canada that lists accredited testing sites in some countries.