Disney announced that the Jungle Cruise ride will undergo renovations in an effort to remove negative depictions of indigenous people.
Disney announced that the Jungle Cruise ride will undergo renovations in an effort to remove negative depictions of indigenous people.
In the opening moments of a Golden Globes night even more chaotic and confounding than usual, co-host Tina Fey raised a theoretical question: “Could this whole night have been an email?” Only the next three hours would tell. Well, sure, it could have been an email. But then you wouldn't have had Chadwick Boseman’s eloquent widow, bringing many to tears as she explained how she could never be as eloquent as her late husband. Or Jane Fonda, sharply calling out Hollywood for its lack of diversity on a night when her very hosts were under fire for exactly that. Or Chloé Zhao, making history as the first woman of Asian descent to win best director (and the first woman since 1984.) Or 98-year-old Norman Lear, giving the simplest explanation for his longevity: never living or laughing alone. Or Jodie Foster kissing her wife joyfully, eight years after very tentatively coming out on the same telecast. Of course, there were the usual confounding results and baffling snubs, compounded here by some epic Zoom fails. But then we had the kids and the dogs. And they were adorable. Next year, can we still have the kids and the dogs, please? Some key moments of the first and hopefully last virtual Globes night: AN OVERDUE RECKONING The evening began under a cloud of embarrassing revelations about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its lack of inclusion, including the damaging fact that there are no Black members in the 87-person body. Fey and co-host Amy Poehler addressed it early: “Even with stupid things, inclusivity is important." Winners like Daniel Levy of “Schitt's Creek” and presenters like Sterling K. Brown referred to it. Jane Fonda made it a theme of her powerful speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award. And the HFPA made a hasty onstage pledge to change. “We recognize we have our own work to do,” said vice-president Helen Hoehne. “We must have Black journalists in our organization.” “I DON'T HAVE HIS WORDS” The best-actor award to Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom” had been expected. That did not dull the emotional impact of his victory. His widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, tearfully accepted in his honour, telling viewers that her husband, who died of colon cancer at 43 before the film was released, “would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can. That tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history.” But, she said poignantly, “I don't have his words." Co-star Viola Davis could be seen weeping as Ledward spoke. She was not alone. PREDICTABLE ZOOM FAILS It was obvious there were going to be awkward Zoom fails. It started early, when the very first winner, Daniel Kaluuya for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” was on mute as he accepted his award, leaving presenter Laura Dern to apologize for technical difficulties. Thankfully, the problem was resolved in time for the actor to speak. Jason Sudeikis, whose charmingly rambling speech ("This is nuts!") and rumpled hoodie signalled he hadn't expected to win, finally realized he needed to “wrap this puppy up.” And winner Catherine O'Hara ("Schitt's Creek") had some perhaps unwelcome help from her husband, whose efforts to provide applause sounds and play-off music on his phone while she spoke lost something in translation, causing confusion on social media. Oh yes, and there were those conversations between nominees before commercials — did they know we heard them? KIDS AND PETS, STILL BRINGING JOY Still, the virtual acceptances from winners stuck at home had a huge silver lining: happy kids and cute pets. When Mark Ruffalo won for “I Know This Much is True,” two of his teens could not control their joy enough to stay out of the camera shot. Not to be outdone, the adorable young daughter of Lee Isaac Chung, writer-director of the Korean-American family drama “Minari,” sat in his lap and hugged him throughout his acceptance for best foreign language film. “She’s the reason I made this film,” said Chung. Winner Jodie Foster ("The Mauritanian") also had a family member in her lap: her dog. Also seen: Sarah Paulson's dog, and Emma Corrin's cat. LOVE FOR BORAT, SNUB FOR BAKALOVA ... AND EXPOSURE FOR GIULIANI Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, breakout star of Amazon’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” had been widely expected to win, but lost out to Rosamund Pike ("I Care a Lot") who saluted Bakalova's bravery. In her movie, Pike said, “I had to swim up from a sinking car. I think I still would rather do that than have been in a room with Rudy Giuliani.” The former New York mayor's infamous cameo was also the butt of jokes from “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen, who called Giuliani “a fresh new talent who came from nowhere and turned out to be a comedy genius ... I mean, who could get more laughs from one unzipping?” Baron Cohen, who won for best actor in a comedy, also joked that Donald Trump was “contesting the result” of his win. A FIERY FONDA Did you expect anything less from Fonda? In her memorable DeMille award speech, the multiple Globe winner extolled the virtues of cinematic storytelling — “stories can change our hearts and our minds” — then pivoted to admonishing Hollywood. “There's a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves,” she said, “a story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out: a story about who’s offered a seat at the table and who’s kept out of the rooms where decisions are made.” She said the arts should not merely keep step with society, but lead the way. “Let's be leaders,” she said. ZHAO MAKES HISTORY When Zhao won best director for her haunting and elegant “Nomadland,” she was the first Asian American woman ever to win that award. But that wasn't the only way she made history: it was the first directing Globe for a woman in nearly 40 years, since Barbra Streisand won for “Yentl." Her film, a look at itinerant Americans, “at its core for me is a pilgrimage through grief and healing,” Zhao said. “For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, we don’t say goodbye, we say: See you down the road.” With Zhao's win, the road widens for other female directors. ___ This story has been corrected to show that Norman Lear is 98, not 99. Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Emma Corrin just won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Princess Diana.
It’s hard to say what is the more impressive feat — remotely landing a spacecraft on Mars, or a kid from Norfolk County landing a job at NASA. Christopher Heirwegh’s unlikely trajectory took him from a Simcoe Composite School physics class to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where an instrument he helped design is scanning the surface of Mars for signs of ancient life. “It’s been a very exciting past couple of weeks, starting with the anticipation leading up to the landing, followed by the joy of knowing it made it successfully,” said Heirwegh, 39, a few days after watching the Mars rover Perseverance complete its 300 million-mile journey to the Red Planet on Feb. 18. As Perseverance floated down to the surface, Heirwegh was on the edge of his seat at his home in Pasadena, Calif. His wife, Meagan, and their six-year-old daughter, Harper, were by his side, with the rest of Heirwegh’s JPL team sharing in the suspense on a video call. “It hit me right at that moment before landing, around the parachute phase, that things are going to come in fast, and oh boy, if this doesn’t make it, where do we go from here?” Heirwegh said. “There was certainly some tension.” Perseverance’s thrusters soon kicked in to start its powered descent, and a sky crane took over to gently place the rover on Mars. While mission control filled with the cheers of relieved scientists, the Heirweghs tucked into celebratory shawarma and cake. Now that Perseverance is trundling around the Jezero crater, Heirwegh’s work has just begun. The physicist is keeping a close eye on PIXL, a high-tech X-ray machine that has been his sole professional focus since joining NASA in 2016. PIXL — the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry — is one of two instruments mounted on the lander’s robotic arm that will help answer the mission’s central question — has there been life on Mars? About the size of a lunch box, PIXL’s job is to scan Martian rocks for trace elements that could point to the presence of ancient life, while taking what Heirwegh describes as “super close-up pictures of rock and soil textures” that could reveal microbial evidence smaller than a grain of salt. PIXL has an X-ray tube at its heart, similar to what dentists use when photographing teeth. The scanner shoots pinpoint-sized X-ray beams into the rock, a process not unlike how artwork investigators chemically analyze paintings to detect forgeries. “We’re looking at things that tell us what the rock is made of, where the rock might have come from, if it was exposed to water, and also if it might have potentially harboured very primitive forms of life at one time,” Heirwegh explained. PIXL is best at finding evidence of inorganic material — heavier elements like calcium, lead and strontium — while another instrument on the rover, called SHERLOC, looks for “the building blocks of life,” lighter organic molecules like carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Together, they search for “biosignatures” suggestive of fossilized bacteria that may have called a Martian ocean home billions of years ago. “Our two instruments can each produce two-dimensional elemental maps,” Heirwegh said, likening each pinpoint of data collected to the pixels on a television that combine to form a clear picture. “We’re hoping we can eventually overlay the two maps so we can really get a good idea of what the rock is all about.” Reaching for the stars The grandson of tobacco farmers who immigrated to Norfolk County from Belgium, Heirwegh grew up enthralled by the stars in the night sky and the vastness of space. He never missed an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation — “mostly just the Rodenberry years,” he clarified — and pored over images of the solar system captured by the Voyager probes. “I found that pretty fascinating, and that kind of led me to what I do now,” he said. Mike and Laurie Heirwegh have followed their son’s career with pride. “Some of the stuff is way above what we understand. Christopher always keeps it as simple as possible for us,” Mike said with a laugh. Mike, a retired pharmacist and business owner, said his “studious” and “reserved” son excelled in a science-heavy course load at Simcoe Composite School. “Whitney, our daughter, said he had this microscope he got at Christmas and would project images up in his room and explain what was on the slides to her and her sister Danielle,” added Laurie, who owns a gift shop in Simcoe. Four years studying undergraduate science at McMaster University in Hamilton led to a master’s in medical physics at Mac, where Heirwegh first tried his hand at X-ray technology. He further studied X-ray fluorescence and radiation science while doing his PhD and post-doctoral fellowship in applied physics at the University of Guelph, which involved analyzing data collected by the Opportunity and Curiosity Mars rovers. That piqued NASA’s interest, creating a rare opportunity for a Canadian to join the Jet Propulsion Lab. “There were not too many people who were doing that,” Mike Heirwegh said. “To get a job like he’s doing in NASA, you have to be uniquely different than any American.” The family left their house in Guelph to make a new life in America, with Meagan Heirwegh, herself an accomplished academic, putting her career on hold so her husband could follow his dream. “She was extremely supportive of taking this step,” Heirwegh said. “That’s been a really key part of it, and something that helped me to have the courage to make such a drastic move.” While navigating the immigration process, Heirwegh got to work calibrating PIXL years ahead of its launch on Perseverance. Past Mars rovers have used X-ray fluorescence spectrometers, but PIXL is the first with an X-ray tube, a technological milestone Heirwegh finds “quite rewarding.” In the months ahead, Heirwegh and his fellow scientists will analyze the trove of scientific data Perseverance will transmit across space to the Jet Propulsion Lab, while making sure their high-tech scanner stays properly calibrated. To keep himself calibrated in what can be a high-pressure job, Heirwegh exercises every morning, and he and Meagan solve a Mensa puzzle together over breakfast. “It’s a nice way to jump-start the physical and mental gears,” he said. Heirwegh could not have known what the future held when he decided to leave Canada and boldly go to NASA to reach for the stars. But his parents say their son was destined to work on the Mars project. “I think the term ‘perseverance’ is very much like Christopher,” Mike said. “He persevered to get to where he is.” J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Dozens of people braved the cold in Richmond Hill, Ont., Tuesday to get vaccinated against COVID-19. York Region began vaccinating people over 80 on Monday and initial appointment slots were quickly filled up.
BRUSSELS — The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials over the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile political foe. The 27-nation bloc imposed bans on travel and froze the assets in Europe of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the prosecuto general, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service. EU headquarters said the four were listed “over their roles in the arbitrary arrest, prosecution and sentencing of Alexei Navalny, as well as the repression of peaceful protests in connection with his unlawful treatment.” Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption investigator, was arrested in Moscow in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation. In February, a court sentenced Navalny to two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated. The European Court of Human Rights has also ruled that it’s unlawful. Navalny’s arrest and imprisonment have fueled a huge wave of protests across Russia. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days. The sanctions were the first used by the EU under a new system for imposing restrictions on people and organizations deemed responsible for human rights abuses. The Associated Press
GUSAU, Nigeria — Hundreds of Nigerian girls abducted last week from a boarding school in the country’s northwest have been released, a state governor said Tuesday, as the West African nation faces a spate of school kidnappings. The girls, ages 10 and up, dressed in light blue hijabs and barefoot, packed into Zamfara state’s Government House conference room. They appeared calm, chatting to one another as they sat in long rows while journalists photographed them. They will receive a medical checkup before being returned to their parents. Zamfara Gov. Bello Matawalle said that 279 girls had been freed after being abducted from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School in Jangebe town on Friday. The government last week said 317 had been kidnapped. It was not clear if the higher number was an error or if some girls were still missing. “Alhamdulillah! (God be praised!) It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students,” Matawalle said in a post on Twitter early Tuesday. “I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.” Officials said “bandits” were behind the abduction, referring to the groups of armed men who operate in Zamfara state and kidnap for money or to push for the release of their members from jail. At the time of the attack, one resident told The Associated Press that the gunmen also attacked a nearby military camp and checkpoint, preventing soldiers from responding to the school. One of the girls recounted the night of their abduction to the AP. “We were sleeping at night when suddenly we started hearing gunshots. They were shooting endlessly. We got out of our beds and people said we should run, that they are thieves,” she said. Officials ended the interview before the girl could give her name. The attackers eventually found her and some classmates and held guns to their heads, she said. “I was really afraid of being shot,” she said, adding that they asked for directions to the staff quarters and the principal. “We said we don’t know who she is.” Nigeria has seen several such attacks and kidnappings in recent years, the most notorious in 2014, when 276 girls were abducted by the jihadist rebels of Boko Haram from the secondary school in Chibok in Borno state. More than 100 of those girls are still missing. Boko Haram is opposed to western education and its fighters often target schools. But most attacks in the northwest are perpetrated by armed criminal groups with no such ideology. Police and the military have been trying to rescue the girls from the Zamfara abduction, which caused international outrage. Officials did not say if a ransom had been paid for their release. “We have been in discussion since Friday with the abductors and reached agreement on Monday,” the governor said, adding that he would ensure additional security at all schools in the state. President Muhammadu Buhari expressed “overwhelming joy” over the release of the girls. “I join the families and people of Zamfara state in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatized female students,” he said in a statement. “Being held in captivity is an agonizing experience not only for the victims, but also their families and all of us.” The president called for greater vigilance to prevent bandits from carrying out such attacks — but warned that paying money for the release of victims would only result in more assaults. Ernest Ereke, of the University of Abuja, agreed that ransoms are allowing criminal groups to buy more arms and expand their power. And the Nigerian state increasingly looks too weak to respond, he said. “It is a lucrative venture in a country where a lot of young people are impoverished, jobless and hungry," he said. "The state, which should confront these criminals, is enabling them by always pandering to their dictates. It should be the other way round, that is, the criminals should be scared of the state, but, in this case, it is the state that is scared of criminals.” “If the state is not able to crush them,” he added, "it means something is wrong with the Nigerian state.” On Saturday, 24 students, six staff and eight relatives were released after being abducted on February 17 from the Government Science College Kagara in Niger state. In December, more than 300 schoolboys from a secondary school in Kankara, in northwestern Nigeria, were taken and later released. The government has said no ransom was paid for the students’ release. ___ Olukoya reported from Lagos, Nigeria. AP writer Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal contributed Lekan Oyekanmi And Sam Olukoya, The Associated Press
With its support in polls dropping, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party is considering changes to electoral laws which could rescue its prospects in elections due to be held by 2023, three AK Party officials say. Polls show combined support for the AK Party and its MHP ally has fallen to just 45%. For the first time, pollsters say, disenchanted supporters who drifted away from the AK Party appear unlikely to be won back.
SAINT-WENCESLAS. Les Loisirs de Saint-Wenceslas invitent les amateurs de raquette et de randonnée pédestre à tester un circuit de 1,4 km. Un essai, s’il est concluant, qui mènerait, possiblement au développement de nouveaux sentiers dans la forêt située au bout de la rue Saint-Arnaud. «On est en campagne et il faut aller en ville pour marcher dans le bois», s’étonnait Éric Thériault. L’entrepreneur, avec l’aide de Mathieu Lessard, l’initiateur de la Course de la conquête du bois, va s’attaquer au problème. «Déjà, le circuit est tracé pour la course à obstacles. On a discuté au comité des loisirs de le rendre accessible cet hiver et, après autorisation de la municipalité, le site était fonctionnel après quelques jours», explique Éric Thériault qui s’assure de l’entretien avec sa motoneige. Accessible à pied ou en raquette, le circuit est pensé tant pour les débutants et les familles que pour ceux qui sont à la recherche d’une expérience plus intense. «On a la rivière Blanche et les arbres sont magnifiques, encore plus avec la neige qui tombe en ce moment, c’est féerique», ajoute Mathieu Lessard. «C’est un site avec beaucoup de potentiel pour les amateurs de plein air qui pourrait être exploité à l’année. C’est un joyau à découvrir», conclut Éric Thériault. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Ontario reported another 966 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as debate continues around whether the province should expand the time between vaccine doses to speed up its immunization efforts. The new cases include 253 in Toronto, 223 in Peel Region and 99 in York Region. Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were: Ottawa: 64 Waterloo Region: 46 Thunder Bay: 39 Simcoe Muskoka: 36 Durham Region: 34 Halton Region: 32 Hamilton: 23 Windsor-Essex: 23 Sudbury: 19 Brant County: 13 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 13 Lambton: 11 (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.) The seven-day average of daily cases fell slightly to 1,098. The cases come as Ontario's lab network processed 30,767 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 2.9 per cent. Seven more cases of the virus variant first found in the United Kingdom were confirmed through whole genome sequencing, bringing the total in Ontario so far to 542. However, coronavirus variants remain tied to several outbreaks, including one at a Toronto school. The Ministry of Education also reported 262 further school-related cases: 231 students, 30 staff members and one person who was not identified. According to the Ministry of Health, there were 677 people with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals. Of those, 284 were being treated in intensive care, four more than yesterday, and 189 required a ventilator to breathe. With 11 additional deaths in today's update, Nearly 7,000 people with COVID-19 have now died in Ontario. As of yesterday evening, the official death toll stood at 6,997. The seven-day average of deaths, however, has decreased in the wake of the province giving out first doses of vaccines to residents of long-term care and high-risk retirement homes. Health units administered 22,326 shots yesterday. A total of 264,896 people have now received both doses of a vaccine and are considered fully immunized. Ontario explores extending time between vaccine doses Public health officials in Ontario are currently exploring whether the interval between doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be extended. The move would allow for more first jabs to be given out more quickly, and single doses of both have been shown to impart considerable immunity to the virus. Yesterday, British Columbia's provincial health officer said that the province would extend the time between doses to four months, with the goal of giving all of its residents who want one a first dose by July (B.C.'s population is just over five million.) Dr. Bonnie Henry said the change is based on the "miraculous" protection offered by a single shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which can be up to about 90 per cent. Quebec has similarly increased the interval between shots to 90 days. Internationally, both the United Kingdom and Israel have also allowed for more generous timing between shots. Other jurisdictions, such as the U.S., are for now sticking with the recommended 21 and 28 day intervals dictated by clinical trials for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones released a joint statement Monday, saying the province has sought guidance from the federal government and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on whether it should follow B.C. WATCH | Vaccine task force member Dr. Isaac Bogoch on extending time between doses: Throughout Phase 1 of Ontario's ongoing vaccination campaign, second doses were delayed up to 42 days for some cohorts. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and member of Ontario's vaccine task force, said that given the urgency of the vaccination effort, people should expect to see more discussion about how long a second shot can wait. "Quite frankly, this is a public health emergency and that's why many jurisdictions are starting to delay that second dose and that's why I think you will see the debate raging around how far we can extend that second dose," he told CBC News Network. Bogoch added that there is "emerging data" from multiple places and sources to support increasing the interval. Seniors wait to enter a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Brampton. Peel Region is one of several public health units that began offering first doses to people 80 years and older this week, ahead of the provincial government's official start date. Speaking to reporters at Queen's Park today, Elliott said her ministry is "anxiously awaiting" the results of NACI's review of Ontario's request. "We've been following the recommendations of NACI and Health Canada at every step along the way. We want to make sure that the decisions that Ontario makes are based on science," she continued. Re-visit guidance on AstraZeneca vaccine, expert says Meanwhile, there is also continued debate over NACI's guidance on the recently-approved AstraZeneca vaccine. NACI said late last week that it is not recommending the vaccine for those 65 years old and above. The committee argued that AstraZeneca's clinical trials did not provide enough data on the efficacy of the vaccine for that age group. Evidence from the U.K. however, suggests that a single dose of the Astrazeneca vaccine is "extremely effective" at limiting severe illness and death from COVID-19 for those aged 65 and older, said infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti. In an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Chakrabarti said he believes NACI's decision is short-sighted and could actually contribute to vaccine hesitancy for those offered the AstraZeneca product. "People have it in their minds that AstraZeneca is an inferior vaccine and I don't blame them because the messaging around this has been very poor," he told host Ismaila Alfa. LISTEN | Infectious disease expert on NACI's AstraZeneca guidance: In Europe, France and Germany had previously announced they would also limit AstraZeneca doses to those younger than 65. Yesterday, however, France reversed it's decision, citing evidence from other jurisdictions. Getting a first dose of vaccine to as many people as possible is "our ticket out of the pandemic," Chakrabarti said. "Right now, as it stands, I would get any vaccine that is offered so that we can vaccinate as many people as possible," he added. That includes the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite limited data from the clinical trials themselves. "We're in a public health emergency and I think that sometimes a little bit of uncertainty is going to be there." Elliott said she anticipates Ontario's first doses of AstraZeneca to begin arriving next week, though she could not say how many are expected in the initial shipment.
Unifor Local 444 has reached a tentative deal with one of the local factories that supply parts for the Stellantis Windsor Assembly Plant. The union said on social media Monday that workers with Avancez will vote virtually on the new collective agreement Saturday. Avancez is a Michigan-based company, which has a plant at 599 Sprucewood Ave., on the west side of Windsor. Union members at another one of the "feeder four" plants, ZF/TRW, voted 78.1 per cent in support of accepting a new deal struck late last month. The union is pattern bargaining with the four Stellantis suppliers, which also include Dakkota and HBPO. Workers at each of the plants have previously indicated they support going on strike if necessary. More from CBC Windsor
Credit experts say Canadian consumers who are in debt should prepare for collections agencies to ramp up their activity as the economy reopens.Credit Canada, a non-profit credit counselling organization, said Canadian debt collectors have reduced collections efforts over the past year, largely because of deferral programs that were offered to consumers during the pandemic.“None of the creditors wanted to be accused of being aggressive with collections during the pandemic,” said Keith Emery, chief operating officer of Credit Canada, who said creditors wanted to be conscientious about putting undue pressure on Canadians.His organization saw a roughly 30 per cent drop in demand for their credit counselling services, but Emery said there are signs of collections resuming in recent months, and that consumers should expect that forgiveness to end when deferral programs start finishing.“We are already starting to see a slight uptick in activity.”Data from Equifax showed that only 24 per cent of debt-ridden Canadians who accessed deferral programs this year used the breathing room to improve their credit situation.While people who are in debt might have some time yet until collections agencies start coming for them, Emery says it's imperative that Canadians start preparing now to put themselves in a better position to repay any outstanding debts.“One thing we’ve noticed during the pandemic is a lot of clients have been unwilling to take action on their situation, so they might be carrying debt because… they didn't feel any pressure to be proactive,” said Emery. “If that mindset continues and people continue to say ‘I’m not going to do anything until I’m absolutely forced to,’ we’ll definitely hear a lot more stories about collectors.”’Calls and emails to five collections agencies across Canada from The Canadian Press went unanswered.Credit Canada and Equifax both say there are already signs of increasing credit delinquencies and action from debt collectors from the end of 2020.“We would expect that to increase again as the economy reopens,” said Rebecca Oakes, assistant vice president of advanced analytics at Equifax Canada.She said Canadians who are concerned about their debt having an effect on their credit score should try to at least make minimum payments on all of their accounts.“Consumers can look at their credit reports free of charge in order to understand which of their accounts are reported to the credit bureau and may affect their credit scores,” said Oakes.Oakes and Emery also advised Canadians who are struggling with debt to consult with a not-for-profit debt counselling agency, which can often provide their services for free or at a low cost. If your debt goes to collections, Emery said a counselling agency can ensure you know your rights while helping negotiate a repayment plan.“There are a lot of rules about what debt collectors can do, but if you don't know what those rules are then they will exploit your ignorance,” said Emery. “The No. 1 thing that people can arm themselves with is knowledge.”He said collections agencies have restrictions around how often they can contact you, what they can discuss if they contact your friends and family, and about the use of threatening language if they contact you. Debt collectors will also be reluctant to set up a payment plan because it’s in their interest to receive all the owed money at once, said Emery.That’s where a counselling agency can negotiate on your behalf to help slowly repay your debts.Ultimately, Emery says consumers will have to face their debts at some point, and said it’s better to act sooner than later.“You do have to take action, burying your head in the sand is not going to work,” said Emery.“If you want to build a financial future then you want to get this stuff out of the way.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press
If you want to freshen up your kitchen, look no further than Grandma’s old casserole dishes. Vintage kitchenware is back in style -– pieces from the mid-20th century painted with flowers, bright colours, and specific functions, such as bracketed chip and dip bowls or four-piece refrigerator storage sets. “I’ve always been an old soul and loved anything old,” said Megan Telfer, a collector of vintage dishes, salt and pepper shakers, cookie jars and “a little bit of everything.” The 26-year-old parole officer from the Dallas area said this hobby started with family. Her grandmother gave her mother a green and white Pyrex “Spring Blossom” mixing bowl. “That’s when my interest was piqued,” Telfer said. Three years later, she has more than 300 pieces of vintage Pyrex, displayed on three large bookcases. Her 5-year-old daughter has some vintage Pyrex, too. “We don’t use 90 per cent of it,” Telfer said. “I display it.” Some collectors buy vintage dishware to try to resell it at a profit, while others are in it for nostalgia. "It reminds them of their mothers, aunts, grandmothers,” said Hope Chudy, owner of Downstairs at Felton Antiques in Waltham, Massachusetts. A year of pandemic lockdowns has led to a surge in home cooking and time spent hanging out in the kitchen. Vintage cookware fits right into that homey, old-fashioned vibe. There are lustrous chili bowls with handles, and casserole dishes set on top of brass candle warmers. These are durable dishes, often smaller than modern serving pieces, that can go from freezer to oven to table. But collectors usually acquire them for enjoyment, not utility. “It really sets your kitchen apart from others,” said Victoria Aude, an interior designer in Canton, Massachusetts. “It’s not an item you can just buy off the shelf at Bloomingdale's.” The old dishes are also nice accents when decorating a room, said Atlanta-based interior designer Beth Halpern Brown. “They can add that quick pop of colour," she said. "You can decorate a wall with them, or put one on display and change the space.” Corning first released a Pyrex dish in 1915. By the 1930s, Anchor Hawking Glass Corporation released its competitor brand Fire King. But it’s the kitchenware made between 1950 and 1980 that seem to be most popular right now. Jo Adinolfi, a 62-year-old nurse from Shelton, Connecticut, collects Pyrex mixing bowls and stackable refrigerator sets, what collectors affectionately call “fridgies.” She started collecting and selling about 10 years ago and owns more than 2,000 pieces. The mid-20th-century glass bowls and casserole dishes from brands like Fire King and Pyrex haven’t changed, but their prices have. “The more people that collect, the higher the demand is, the more people are trying to source the right goods to be able to feed that request,” said Stan Savellis, 42, of Sydney, Australia, who has collected vintage kitchenware since his teenage years and runs the online store That Retro Piece. Television and social media have also generated interest. Series like “WandaVision,” “Firefly Lane,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Mad Men" all highlight midcentury kitchens and kitchenware. And then there's social media too, said Vicki Matranga, the design programs co-ordinator for the International Housewares Association and author of the book “America at Home: A Celebration of Twentieth-Century Housewares.” “With everyone at home now, you can look at collections on Facebook or Instagram,” she said. In pre-pandemic days, vintage collectors would meet up at swaps. Now, people are buying and selling on eBay, Etsy, Facebook and other websites. The rarest pieces have sold for thousands of dollars, such as the 1959 “Lucky in Love” covered casserole dish that Goodwill sold for $5,994 in 2017. Still, some enthusiasts simply like the vintage look and sentimentality. “It goes with my house,” said Ashley Linder, 37, of Lake Jackson, Texas. Linder’s vintage collection includes can openers from the 1950s, and they still work. “Fortunately, I have the space to display most of it, though some are seasonal-use,” she said. One of her most treasured finds was a Pyrex “Pink Daisy 045” casserole dish on eBay. It was in great condition, still in the box. “You don’t come across a lot of pink pieces in the box,” she said. She paid $300 for it and messaged the seller in hopes of finding out how it was so well preserved. “The lady had bought an old farmhouse in Nebraska, and it was left there,” she said. “It’s an investment.” Tracee M. Herbaugh, The Associated Press
Arya Peruma got into coding at the age of seven, and the 15-year-old from Mississauga is now helping educators spark that same passion in more elementary students while also boosting the efforts of girls and other youth often underrepresented in technology. Peruma is currently researching DNA microarrays to see if artificial intelligence can be used to predict someone’s risk of developing cancer, but the 10th-grader has yet to take a dedicated computer science class, which, in Ontario, is first offered in Grade 11. “By then, it’s already too late to learn,” she says. “The passion for the subject matter starts when you're really young, and in order to spark the interest, you have to be exposed to it, and the younger the better. “It’s something that is really vital and crucial to learn, not just if you want to go into the field of computer science or programming, but it’s something that will develop cognitive skills, critical thinking and so many more really integral problem-solving skills.” Coding concepts are included as early as Grade 1 in a new math curriculum the Ford government unveiled last year. “This is definitely a step in the right direction, but I think more needs to be done,” Peruma says. To help spread the word, she started the Coding for Young Minds community group in 2019. So far, some 5,000 students around the world have taken up her offer of free live tutoring sessions on various aspects of coding and programming. “It's really important to me because especially thinking back to how many barriers they were for me to access supplemental education, it made me think that if I have these barriers, what would the barriers for other students be?” she says, pointing out that online programming and coding classes can be prohibitively expensive and not particularly approachable for younger learners. Top tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google have consistently reported workforces made up overwhelmingly of white and Asian men since the companies began releasing diversity reports in 2014, a fact critics say creates a web of subtle biases that exclude minorities. Peruma will be taking her project to another level this year, creating a three-part free virtual workshop series for educators wanting to know how to engage their students in the topic. “One thing I really like to be able to do is connect everything back to real life,” she explains. “When you're talking about algorithms with younger students, we can compare it to a cooking recipe and tell them that it's a step-by-step procedure just like a cooking recipe.” Late last year, Peruma helped cut the ribbon on an in-person coding lab in Mississauga. For now, she mostly uses the space to host her virtual tutoring sessions, but once COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, the space will offer local students access to equipment including a 3D printer and tailored training to accommodate special needs. Morgan Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The U.S. Army has launched a new recruiting campaign that targets prospective soldiers who want to live and work in Alaska. Previously, soldiers could only request assignment to Alaska after completing basic training, KTUU-TV reported Sunday. Now, they can ask recruiters to be sent to the state. Alaska provides some of the harshest winter U.S. military training regimens, the television station reported. “That’s good for us because we’re trying to build soldiers that have some of these skills,” said Major General Peter Andrysiak. “That’s a key component of what we’re doing. They’re more apt to thrive.” The Army is researching other ways to provide incentives for prospective soldiers who would move to Alaska, Andrysiak said. “If we’re going to ask soldiers and families to live here and endure some of the challenging winters, we’re looking at opportunities for how to improve that,” Andrysiak said. The Associated Press
KITCHENER — Get ready for more major Highway 401 construction: the bridges crossing the Grand River in Kitchener are about to be replaced. Work will start this spring and is scheduled to finish in spring 2025, according to Jacob Ginger, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation. Both of the bridges crossing the Grand River will be replaced to widen the highway from six lanes to ten lanes total in that section. Ramp closures and lane restrictions will be needed to complete the work, but in general two lanes of traffic will be maintained in both directions on the 401, says Ginger. Work to replace the bridges will be done in three stages beginning with the westbound lanes. While the bridges are being replaced, work will also be done on the King Street overpass and on the King Street interchange ramp. This will involve widening the 401 in certain areas to stage a westbound speed change lane from King Street to Homer Watson Boulevard. Pavement and storm sewers will be reconstructed, and lighting improved. The Ministry of Transportation has completed the detailed design of the project and is now finding a contractor. This portion of the Grand River is home to multiple species at risk including one mussel species and two fish species, according to Gary Wheeler, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. The ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has given the Ministry of Transportation a permit to complete work in the area that allows the ministry to capture, collect, transport, harm or kill the species at risk, as well as damage habitat. To minimize the impact of the project, the ministry is required to choose a bridge design with minimal in-water components, complete the in-water aspects of the project outside of the species’ spawning season, find and relocate individuals of the species before construction begins in the water, among others requirements. “No direct impacts such as killing or harming individual members of the Species are expected to occur given the proposed mitigation measures and capture/handling and relocation protocols,” says Wheeler. “However, individual members of the species may be incidentally harmed or killed and, therefore, the permit authorizes accidental harm or mortality,” Some habitat destruction is expected because the project will use in-water rock-based causeways and because of staging equipment on the banks of the river, says Wheeler. He says these areas will be rehabilitated after the project is finished. The bridges cross the Grand River about four or five kilometres downstream from the Kitchener wastewater treatment plant. This is within the section of the river researchers dubbed the ‘Dead Zone’ where mussel species were found to be completely missing most likely because of high nutrient levels coming from the plant. Since the plant received upgrades that greatly improved the river’s water quality more than seven years ago, area researchers have been monitoring the dead zone to see if mussel species make a comeback. Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email email@example.com Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record
Two recent graduates of the Civil Engineering Technology program at St. Lawrence College have launched a bursary to support upper year Civil Engineering students. Braedan Rogers and David Logan, 2020 graduates of the program, wanted to give something back to future students in the Civil Engineering Technology program. Last year was the inaugural year for the bursary, and the duo hope to increase the amount available to the recipients through donations. “We found most, if not all, of our classmates never applied for any funding as the prevailing thoughts on most bursaries was they were so competitive, what was the point," Logan said. "Our classmates worked in industry during summer breaks, and really struggled hard to get decent grades as it is very challenging subject material." The list of bursaries available at St. Lawrence College is quite lengthy, but the duo say most rely on grades, extra-curricular activities, and volunteering, which students with jobs find difficult to fit into their days. The Solid Ground Award is awarded to returning students who are enrolled full-time in the Civil Engineering Technology program, are passionate about their field, and interested in pursuing a career in Civil Engineering. When asked how they fund the bursary, Logan said they decided to run it through SLC Alumni. “It keeps everything really easy and allows for donors to get charitable tax receipts,” he said. “When talking with the coordinators, we expressed how the main goal of this was to support a Civil student who was passionate about future work in the Engineering field,” Logan continued. “As such, we really only had one criteria: the student had to be a second or third year civil engineering student in good standing. This allows the most amount of students to apply. With help from the Civil faculty, one student is selected.” Last year the Solid Ground Award provided $500 to the recipient. The duo say their ultimate goal is to provide a full year’s tuition. “Breadan and I have committed to fund this for a minimum of three years. We each donate $250 a year, with my share coming through my business ‘Wise Cracks Kingston’,” Logan shared. “We feel this is worthwhile and important. There are many roles in the civil [engineering] world that need new bright talented workers,” he said. “Kingston, and eastern Ontario, have many companies that need people with the skills learned through the Civil Engineering program at SLC. The hope is that each year we can grow the amount of donors, and in doing so help the donors get the skilled workers they need!" “We hope to make this a sustainable award that can be counted on for years,” Logan added. Those interested in donating to this bursary are asked to contact SLC Alumni. Mention the Solid Ground Award to ensure your donation goes directly to support the Civil Engineering bursary. Students can apply for the bursary through the SLC website. Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
The P.E.I. legislature went ahead with its regularly scheduled sitting Tuesday afternoon — in spite of an effort to reach agreement among all three parties Monday to delay the sitting while the province remains under a COVID-19 lockdown. On Tuesday morning both the PCs and the Greens issued statements saying all three party leaders had agreed Monday to adjourn the house until Thursday, but that the Liberals had backed out — something interim Liberal Leader Sonny Gallant referred to as a false accusation in his own statement, issued just as the legislature was about to sit Tuesday. Gallant said he made it clear to the other leaders any agreement from him to adjourn the house was "contingent on [a] conversation with my colleagues." And after speaking with the rest of the five-member Liberal caucus, in his statement Gallant said "a collective decision was made that we could proceed safely with a sitting of the House — and that, like thousands of Islanders, we could do the jobs we are paid to do." Two-week lockdown On the weekend, the province announced a two-week lockdown period with restaurants closed to dine-in customers, and stores and gyms operating at reduced capacity. Schools are also in the midst of a three-day shutdown. MLAs are considered essential workers on P.E.I., and even if they weren't, they operate outside the jurisdiction of the province's chief public health office and thus are not bound by its restrictions. In his statement Gallant said "an emergency is precisely the time for government to be explaining the situation and its response to Islanders." But Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker accused the Liberal party of political grandstanding. "I am at a loss to understand how following CPHO guidelines, striving to secure the health, safety, and security of Islanders, is of less importance than political posturing and gamesmanship," Bevan-Baker said in his statement. In his statement Premier Dennis King said there had been "unanimous" agreement among the three leaders and speaker Colin Lavie that the house should adjourn until Thursday, and for the three leaders to sign a joint statement to that effect. "Both the Leader of the Opposition and I signed the letter and returned it yesterday by end of business day," King said in his statement. It was communicated late last night that the Third Party had changed their mind and would not agree to adjourn until Thursday." Peter Bevan-Baker, the leader of the Green Party of P.E.I., is one of three leaders who have to agree to a suspension. The clerk of the legislature, Joseph Jeffrey, said the assembly has consulted with public health since the latest lockdown began and instituted additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Coles Building. Among those measures, the house suspended the legislative page program for two weeks. That program has Island high school students serving as couriers within the legislative assembly. As the legislature got underway Tuesday, some members were absent: among them, Green MLA Hannah Bell, who said she stayed away because she's immuno-comprised; and Environment Minister Steven Myers, the father of young twins. "I don't believe anybody should be in there today," Myers told CBC. "Based on the CPHO guidelines laid out for the 72-hour shutdown, I feel like it's the best decision for me to stay home. Having 27 people from 27 different geographic locations meet in a single spot during an outbreak is irresponsible." On Monday, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said all Islanders "should take this [lockdown] very seriously and act accordingly." Privately, some MLAs told CBC that each caucus was divided on whether MLAs should sit or suspend the legislature, and that some were worried about the optics of suspending the legislature while other essential workers like grocery store clerks and medical staff were required to keep working. Sonny Gallant is the interim leader of the Prince Edward Island Liberal Party; he is shown at the legislature on Feb. 25. MLAs have adopted new rules which would allow for a virtual or hybrid sitting, but the clerk said the house would have to break for one week to be prepared to do that. The house can also sit with a quorum of 10 members, but the Liberal and PC caucuses resisted a call to sit with fewer members one year ago, after a provincial state of emergency had first been declared. More from CBC P.E.I.
The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) took another major step in improving high-speed broadband internet access in Eastern Ontario on Monday. Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison, Belleville Mayor Mitch Panciuk and Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson joined with EORN Chair J. Murray Jones, Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus Chairwoman Debbie Robinson, Eastern Ontario Mayors’ Caucus Chair Dianne Therrien and wardens and mayors of surrounding regions to send a letter to Laurie Scott, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure and Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, in regards to EORN’s Gig Project proposal. Representing 1.2 million people and thousands of local businesses across the region, the letter explains how COVID-19 has exacerbated the already present frustrations from constituents about the poor or limited access to high-speed broadband services. As the pandemic continues, many citizens of Ontario are experiencing difficulty working from home or accessing online learning platforms reliably due to this issue. “Residents and businesses need to be assured that they will have access to the kinds of technologies that many in large cities already enjoy,” wrote the 21 mayors and wardens. “They also tell us that they want solutions that will last for years to come because they know demand is growing exponentially every year for more and more bandwidth at higher speeds.” The letter acknowledged that there are many ways to tackle the problem and bring broadband infrastructure to homes and businesses across the region and that undertaking this project would be a major commitment for any government. The wardens and mayors collectively expressed their support and the need for all levels of government, along with the private sector, to come together to connect residents and businesses to the right high-speed services that they require and deserve. Expectations among residents and businesses in eastern Ontario continue to rise with the announcement of the provincial ICON program and the federal UBF broadband funding programs. While a regional strategy with a coordinated approach may not be readily available in many areas of Ontario, the letter explains the strong belief that a coordinated, comprehensive regional project for the 113 municipalities of eastern Ontario is the best way to address the challenge of getting the region from 65 per cent coverage with access to even 50/10 speeds to 95 per cent coverage. “We stand ready to push forward with the Gig Project,” stated the letter. “Let EORN be your vehicle to connect the more than 550,000 premises across eastern Ontario that deserve the same fibre optic technology that is available in most large cities today.” Quick, efficient and effective, Eastern Regional Ontario Network is a non-profit organization that addresses the digital divide by improving rural connectivity and supporting economic growth. The organizations represented in the letter understand the critical importance of access to world-class broadband technologies to local economies. The letter closed by asking the addressed ministers Scott and Monsef to partner with and help fund the EORN Gig Project set in motion. Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
OTTAWA — Canada's new COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules for international air travellers appear to have convinced even more would-be travellers to stay put in recent weeks. In the last two weeks of January international arrivals fell to 106,000 people, and in the first two weeks of February, the figure fell further to 94,000 people, according to data from Canada Border Services Agency. The drop in international arrivals in early February is about four times the decline seen between early January and early February in 2019 and 2020. It came after Ottawa started making all international air travellers show proof of negative COVID-19 tests before boarding their planes. Since Feb. 22, international air travellers also must quarantine in specified hotels for three days after landing, pending the results of second COVID-19 tests. "That’s a very strong disincentive for people to fly," said John Gradek, an aviation expert and McGill University lecturer. "They scared everybody with a $2,000 bill for those three days." The government began musing about the quarantines in January but didn't confirm the details until Feb. 12. CBSA data doesn't yet reflect what impact that may have had. Reports of 10-hour phone waits to book a room and overcrowded hotels with delayed meal service have only added to the disincentive since the quarantine rule took effect Feb. 22. "It appears that it's just running totally out of control," said Marty Firestone, president of Travel Secure, a Toronto-based company that specializes in travel insurance. "The whole thing is not only a logistical nightmare, but it's turning into just, well, a nightmare." He said the quarantine is pushing snowbirds to delay their return or to make plans to fly to a border city such as Buffalo, N.Y., and cross into Canada by land — typically via car rental — to avoid being holed up in a hotel. The quarantine applies only to air travellers. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and national public health officials began urging Canadians to avoid international travel last March as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading rapidly around the globe. By the end of March they started barring most non-citizens or permanent residents from travelling here for purposes that aren't considered essential — such as helping with the pandemic or truck drivers bringing in supplies. The impact was relatively swift and massive, with international arrivals falling from an average of about 780,000 a week in April and May 2019, to fewer than 20,000 a week in 2020. While air travel did start to tick up in the summer, and rose even further in December, overall it has consistently remained less than 10 per cent of what it was in previous years. There was a small increase after Christmas, with almost 170,000 people arriving in Canada by air between Dec. 28 and Jan. 10. That compares with about 128,000 between Dec. 14 and Dec. 27. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. — With files from Christopher Reynolds Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press