Ducks waddle across the ice to get to the flowing water on the other side.
Ducks waddle across the ice to get to the flowing water on the other side.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
Another step was taken in a roof replacement project as an engineering firm has been selected for the Ecole St. Mary High School roof plan at the Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education meeting on Monday. The board selected Prakash Consulting of Prince Albert to oversee the engineering side of the replacement. Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen outlined the steps in the process before the board unanimously chose the firm. “We are commencing planning for replacement of sections of the Ecole St. Mary High School roof. The first step in the process was to solicit submissions from qualified engineering firms to provide project management and engineering services for that project. As a result of that process we did receive three submissions and evaluated those submissions,” McEwen told the board during Monday's meeting. McEwen explained that the project was approved as part of the three year Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) plan under three separate parts. Division administration sent out a request for estimates from firms in Prince Albert for engineering and project management for the project. Three firms submitted for the roof replacement and after evaluating the submissions Prakash was selected by administration for engineering and project management. The evaluation was made after applying board policy regarding purchasing of goods and services. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
An independent inquiry into the workplace culture of Australia's Parliament launched after several rape allegations involving staff members of the ruling Liberal party will report its findings by November, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said on Friday. Three female employees of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Liberal party last month said they had been raped by the same man in 2019 and 2020. So far, one of the alleged victims has lodged a complaint with police after first going public with her accusation, without naming the man.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has faced political pressure and angry constituents over her state’s mask order during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the 76-year-old governor of the deeply red state has resisted calls to drop the requirement as Republican governors across the South either shunned mask mandates altogether or lifted them in late winter. “Maybe they don’t have access to the same information I have. We want to be abundantly clear and abundantly safe before we drop the mask mandate,” Ivey said when asked about fellow Republicans — including the Alabama Senate and the lieutenant governor — who urged her to end the order. Ivey issued Alabama’s mask order in July and announced on Thursday that she would extend it five more weeks until April 9. “We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer,” Ivey said at a Thursday news conference. GOP governors from Texas to South Carolina have resisted, or ended, statewide mask orders. Florida, South Carolina and Georgia never had a statewide order. Ivey’s announcement came days after Mississippi and Texas dropped their mandates, decisions President Joe Biden called “Neanderthal thinking.” Mississippi's governor took issue with the criticism. “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them,” Gov. Tate Reeves responded on Twitter. On social media, Ivey’s decision drew a mix of rage and gratitude. “Meemaw you gotta go.... I ain’t wearing it and whoever runs against you in 2022 has got my vote,” one person tweeted at Ivey using the phrase for a Southern grandmother. Another thanked her and wrote, “you are the only Southern governor doing the right thing.” A few questioned if a five-week extension was long enough. In extending the order, Ivey threaded a political needle — following medical advice while letting people know a firm end date is in sight. The governor said wearing a mask will be a personal responsibility after the order expires. “Let me be abundantly clear: After April 9, I will not keep the mask order in effect,” she said. Early in the pandemic, the governor closed dine-in restaurants, beaches and nonessential businesses — all orders that have been lifted. Alabama’s State Health Officer Scott Harris said he presented the governor with information and options, but she made the final decision. “I really appreciate her being willing to do that. I understand it’s a very difficult decision for her. I think the science on masks is very clear that they prevent disease,” Harris said. Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease specialist who contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and now treats patients with the illness, said Ivey deserves credit for standing up to calls to lift the order from fellow Republicans. “I think it was a bold step forward considering the pressure she was under,” he said. But rather than setting a firm deadline for the requirement to expire, Saag said, it would be better to see where both caseloads and vaccinations totals are next month and then make a decision. Comparing Alabama’s hospitalization trend with those from states that are lifting mask orders could be illuminating, he said. “My only plea at this point is to keep an open mind, to watch the data,” Saag said. “Keep an eye on where Alabama is as compared to where Mississippi and Texas are.” Ivey, known for her folksy demeanour, in December made a tongue-in-cheek quip about the heaping doses of criticism she has received from some over masks. “Y’all, I’m not trying to be Governor Mee-Maw as some on social media have called me. I’m just trying to urge you to use the common sense the good Lord gave each of us to be smart and considerate of others,” she said. Kim Chandler, The Associated Press
When the opportunity to open up his own FreschCo franchise came around, Eric Nugent jumped at the chance. After all, the born-and-raised Winnipegger has done everything possible to climb up the corporate ladder from one grocery store to the next, in many ways, for nearly a decade. “But back when I first started that minimum-wage supermarket job in high school, I never thought I’d even stick around — let alone own my own store,” Nugent said. “I couldn’t be happier and prouder about being able to achieve this after all of that.” Today, Nugent will open the doors for the first time to a new FreshCo store at Kimberly Avenue and Henderson Highway. He’s already hired more than 90 staff members to make this possible, and he’s set up partnerships with several local businesses — including Perfect Pierogies, Natural Bakery, City Bread, Winkler Meats and Jimel’s Bakery — to feature their products at the new location. Getting any of that done during COVID-19, however, wasn’t easy. “The pandemic completely changed everything about the way we set any of this up, or how we went about it,” he said. “Especially when it came to hiring, it’s weird not being able to see the people in-person that you’re recruiting… everything was online for the sake of making things safe.” Still, Nugent thinks it’s an advantage that his supermarket is opening up after proper pandemic protocols — sanitization stations, arrows to allow physical distancing in aisles, plexiglass barriers and deep daily cleaning among others — have already been established by other stores. “We’re almost a year into this crisis now,” he said, “but that means we don’t have to do that kind of adapting that other grocers had to do when they had no idea how to navigate this. “And to me what’s most exciting is that it’s a discount store, which is especially the perfect fit for the Winnipeg market.” Sobeys Inc., the company that owns the FreschCo brand, seems to agree. In June, 2020, the grocery store chain announced it would be converting several current and former Safeways in Winnipeg into FreshCos. And across Western Canada, back in 2017, Sobeys’ parent conglomerate Empire Company Limited, said it was on its way to converting at least 25 per cent of its Safeway and Sobeys stores to FreshCos due to underperformance. A Sobeys spokesperson confirmed Thursday that, apart from Nugent’s franchise, three other FreschCos are coming to the city in the next few months. One of them will open next week at Niakwa Village on Alpine Avenue. Two others (on Sargent Avenue at Sherbrook Street, and Pembina Highway at McGillvray Boulevard, respectively) do not have a set date yet. Two FreshCos are already open, one on McPhillips Street at Jefferson Avenue, and the other on Regent Avenue at Lagimodiere Boulevard. Sylvain Charlebois, a leading food distribution and supply management expert, said the writing has been on the wall for premium stores like Safeway for quite some time. “The pandemic just accelerated this,” he said. “The market is shifting from a socio-economic perspective and I think you’re going to see more companies trading down their premium stores for a while because of the trends customers are setting, who are getting used to seeing discounts.” “To me, it’s all about what the consumer wants,” said Nugent. “Right now, more than ever, we’re all trying to save up on money. And I’m proud to own a FreshCo franchise because it’s that hard-discounts supermarket which is what my community wants.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. There are 878,391 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 878,391 confirmed cases (29,903 active, 826,337 resolved, 22,151 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,832 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 78.68 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,063 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,866. There were 47 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 286 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 41. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,763,481 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,002 confirmed cases (125 active, 871 resolved, six deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 23.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,101 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 138 confirmed cases (23 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Thursday. The rate of active cases is 14.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 18 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 109,360 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,649 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,555 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 350,135 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,443 confirmed cases (37 active, 1,378 resolved, 28 deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 4.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 239,229 tests completed. _ Quebec: 290,377 confirmed cases (7,379 active, 272,553 resolved, 10,445 deaths). There were 707 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 86.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,047 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 721. There were 20 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 84 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 304,757 confirmed cases (10,309 active, 287,424 resolved, 7,024 deaths). There were 994 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 69.97 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,446 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,064. There were 10 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 108 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 15. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,017,094 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,051 confirmed cases (1,143 active, 30,005 resolved, 903 deaths). There were 51 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 82.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 394 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 56. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 536,934 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,220 confirmed cases (1,422 active, 27,407 resolved, 391 deaths). There were 161 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 120.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,029 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 147. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.17 per 100,000 people. There have been 581,914 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,785 confirmed cases (4,613 active, 128,261 resolved, 1,911 deaths). There were 331 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 104.32 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,353 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 336. There were nine new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 37 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.22 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,425,265 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 82,473 confirmed cases (4,808 active, 76,289 resolved, 1,376 deaths). There were 564 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 93.4 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,691 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 527. There were four new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.73 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,950,778 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,187 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,743 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 369 confirmed cases (14 active, 354 resolved, one death). There were 10 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 35.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,755 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
BEIJING — China’s No. 2 leader set a healthy economic growth target Friday and vowed to make this nation self-reliant in technology amid tension with Washington and Europe over trade and human rights. Another official announced plans to tighten control over Hong Kong by reducing the public's role in government. The ruling Communist Party aims for growth “over 6%” as the world's second-largest economy rebounds from the coronavirus, Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech to China’s ceremonial legislature. Some 3,000 delegates gathered for its annual two-week meeting, the year’s highest-profile political event, under intense security and anti-virus controls. The party is shifting back to its longer-term goal of becoming a global competitor in telecoms, electric cars and other profitable technology. That is inflaming trade tension with Washington and Europe, which complain Beijing's tactics violate its market-opening commitments and hurt foreign competitors. Li promised progress in reining in climate-changing carbon emissions, a step toward keeping President Xi Jinping's pledge last year to become carbon-neutral by 2060. But he avoided aggressive targets that might weigh on economic growth. The NPC meeting focuses on domestic issues but is overshadowed by geopolitics as Xi’s government pursues more assertive trade and strategic policies and faces criticism over its treatment of Hong Kong and ethnic minorities. The ruling party has doubled down on crushing dissent as Xi tries to cement his image as a history making leader reclaiming China’s rightful place as a global power. An NPC deputy chairman, Wang Chen, said a Hong Kong election committee controlled by businesspeople and other pro-Beijing figures will be given a bigger role in choosing the territory’s leader. Wang said the Election Committee will be allowed to reject candidates for the 35-member Legislative Council. That came after a spokesman for the legislature on Thursday said Beijing wants “patriots ruling Hong Kong,” fueling fears opposition voices will be shut out of the political process. Li, the premier, said Beijing wants to “safeguard national security” in Hong Kong. At last year’s legislative session the party imposed a national security law on Hong Kong following pro-democracy protests. Dozens of activists have been arrested under the law. Also Friday, the government announced a 6.8% rise in military spending to 1.4 trillion yuan ($217 billion) amid territorial disputes with India and other neighbours and ambitions to match the United States and Russia in missile, stealth fighter and other weapons technology. That is less than the double-digit increases of earlier years but a marked rise in real terms when inflation is close to zero. Foreign analysts say total military spending is up to 40% more than the reported figure, the world's second-highest after the United States. China became the only major economy to grow last year, eking out a multi-decade low 2.3% expansion after shutting down industries to fight the virus. Growth accelerated to 6.5% over a year earlier in the final quarter of 2020 while the United States, Europe and Japan struggled with renewed virus outbreaks. The 6% target is higher than expectations for the United States and other major economies but less than the 7%-8% forecasters expected Li to announce. That suggests Beijing is “shifting focus from quantity to quality of economic growth,” said Chaoping Zhu of J.P. Morgan Asset Management in a report. Beijing might allocate resources to environmental protection and other initiatives "to boost China’s long-term growth potential," Zhu said. Li vowed to “work faster" to develop tech capabilities seen by communist leaders as a path to prosperity, strategic autonomy and global influence. Those plans are threatened by conflicts with Washington over technology and security that prompted then-President Donald Trump to slap sanctions on companies including telecom equipment giant Huawei, China's first global tech brand. The ruling party’s latest five-year development blueprint says efforts to make China a self-reliant “technology power” are this year’s top economic priority. The party sees "technological self-reliance as a strategic support for national development,” Li said. Li promised to pursue “green development” following Xi's pledge last year to ensure China’s carbon emissions peak by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. That will require sharp increases in clean energy in an economy that gets 60% of its power from coal and is the world's biggest source of climate-changing industrial pollution. He promised to reduce carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 18% over the next five years. That is in line with the previous five-year period's goal, but environmentalists say Beijing needs to do more. “It defers some of the most important questions to the future,” said Li Shuo of Greenpeace. Li repeated official promises to promote “peaceful growth of relations" with Taiwan but announced no initiatives toward the self-ruled island that split with the mainland in 1949 after a civil war. Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory and has threatened to invade if it tries to make its de facto independence official. Li said the mainland will “resolutely deter” any activity “seeking ‘Taiwan independence.’” This year's legislative meeting is being held mostly by video links to keep Chinese leaders, delegates and reports separate as an anti-virus measure. Last year's meeting was postponed from March to May due to the outbreak. The official Xinhua News Agency said the decision to stick to this year's political calendar shows life is "returning to normal.” The ruling party earlier announced it achieved its goal of doubling economic output from 2010 levels by last year, which required annual growth of 7%. Xi has talked about doubling output again by 2035, which would imply annual growth of about 5%, still among the highest for any major economy. As Xi has sought to cement his image as a history-making leader who is reclaiming his country’s rightful place as a global power, China has doubled down on repression of dissent in ways that could stifle innovation. The ruling party’s desire for the prosperity produced by free-market competition also clashes with its insistence on playing a dominant role in the economy and strategic goals of reducing dependence on other countries. Beijing will promote “domestic circulation,” Li said, a reference to official pressure on industries to use more Chinese-supplied components and technology and rely less on foreign inputs, even if that increases costs. That emphasis on self-reliance and the conflict with Washington has fueled fears the world might split into separate U.S., Chinese and other industrial spheres with incompatible technologies, less competition and higher costs. The goal of “decoupling them from foreign technology” is “more likely to harm productivity than help it,” Mark Williams of Capital Economics said in a report this week. ___ AP Writer Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed. Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
A Brandon father is accusing the provincial government of “blatant discrimination” against his teenage son, who has Down syndrome, because Manitobans with disabilities have been left off the COVID-19 immunization priority list. Bruce Strang said he filed a formal complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission this week to pressure the province to edit its vaccination plan. “Disability rights shouldn’t be the first thing to go in a time of crisis,” Strang, a father of two, told the Free Press. “It’s unethical in my view. It’s unconscionable in my view and I can’t see how a medical professional can advocate for a plan that discriminates actively against people with disabilities.” Strang’s oldest son, Sean, 16, hasn’t been in a classroom — let alone, left his family home for any other reason — for nearly a year because of his immunocompromised status. (While Health Canada has approved Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for anyone 18 and older, Pfizer-BioNTech doses can be given to patients as young as 16.) Health-care workers, seniors and staff in long-term care facilities, adults who are 80 or older and the elderly in remote and isolated Indigenous communities make up the priority population in Manitoba. The province has started to vaccinate the general population, based solely on age. Strang said his son should not get priority over an 85-year-old who lives in a nursing home, but it doesn’t make sense that Sean can expect a vaccine at the same time a healthy teenager can. People with Down syndrome are nearly five times more at risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization and 10 times more likely to die after contracting the virus in comparison to the general population, according to a U.K. study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in autumn. The population’s unique genetics and predisposition to respiratory illnesses are believed to be contributing factors. Ready for My Shot, a countrywide campaign, is calling on all jurisdictions to clearly identify adults with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities as high priority patients, citing that research. Only the Northwest Territories has explicitly opened up vaccine appointments to adults with disabilities. “I would love to be able to offer vaccine to everybody — everyone in Manitoba, but, certainly, everybody who’s at any level of higher risk. We just don’t have that luxury until we have more supply,” said Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force, when pressed on the subject during a news conference Wednesday. Reimer said all health conditions that put people at a higher risk, including Down syndrome, will be considered as more doses become available. Mike Waddingham, an organizer with Ready for My Shot, called that reasoning — that this is a supply-linked issue — “a red herring.” “You either accept that people with Down syndrome are at higher risks and therefore should be prioritized with other people who are high risk, like elderly people or Indigenous people, or you don’t,” said Waddingham, when reached by phone in Burnaby, B.C., Thursday. Given the commission complaint process is a lengthy one, Strang suspects the immunization issue will have passed by the time his grievance is resolved; nevertheless, he said the act of filing a complaint sends an important message. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The rollercoster ride in bitcoin since the start of the year has not dampened wealth manager Jim Paulsen's enthusiasm for the cryptocurrency. Yet Paulsen, chief investment officer for Leuthold Group, which manages $1 billion, cannot own bitcoin in client portfolios due to regulatory constraints. The promise of an asset class that behaves differently than stocks or bonds is leaving portfolio and wealth managers scrambling own cryptocurrencies if they can.
Walter Gretzky, the ultimate Canadian hockey dad who taught and nurtured the Great One, has died. He was 82.The father of Wayne Gretzky became a name himself, a constant in Wayne's world. As Wayne's star ascended, Walter remained a blue-collar symbol of a devoted hockey parent in a country filled with them.Wayne Gretzky confirmed his father's death on Thursday night with a social media post."It's with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my dad," said Wayne. "He bravely battled Parkinson's and other health issues these last few years, but he never let it get him down."For me, he was the reason I fell in love with the game of hockey. He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life."The two were also often intertwined, their father-son story used in commercials from Tim Hortons to Coca-Cola. And following in the footsteps of Alexander Graham Bell, they made Brantford, Ont., famous.Walter was celebrated for far more than just fathering a superstar, however. His down-to-earth, no-airs approach to life and devotion to his family struck a chord with Canadians."Sometimes, I swear to you, I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming," Walter wrote in his 2001 autobiography "Walter Gretzky. On Family, Hockey and Healing.""Wayne says the same thing."Walter's celebrity status increased after making a remarkable recovery from a stroke suffered in 1991. His autobiography and a 2005 made-for-TV movie told the story.Walter Gretzky was the son of immigrants — a Polish mother and Russian father — who started a vegetable farm in 1932 in Canning, Ont., just outside Brantford, on the Nith River, where Wayne learned to skate when he was two. They bought it for $600.Walter's father Tony, whose parents had emigrated to the U.S., came to Canada from Chicago to enlist during the First World War with his name switching to Gretzky from Gretsky because he did not know how to write in English. Walter's mother Mary came to Canada by herself in 1921 as an 18-year-old.Walter's parents met in Toronto in the 1930s. He was the fifth of seven children.He played minor hockey in Paris, Ont., then junior B for four years in Woodstock. He went on to play some senior hockey but said he wasn't good enough to play pro.Walter met Phyllis, his wife to be, at a wiener roast at the family farm. She was 15 at the time. Three years later, they got married.Wayne was the first born in 1961, followed by Kim, Keith, Glen and Brent. Keith and Brent also played professional hockey.The same year as Wayne was born, Walter fractured his skull in a work accident as a Bell lineman. He spent some time in a coma and was off work for 18 months. Left deaf in his right ear, he was eventually transferred to another Bell department and became an installer/repairman.The winter when Wayne was four, his father turned the backyard of their Brantford home into a rink which young Wayne called The Wally Coliseum. From the time he was a tot, Wayne wanted to do nothing but play hockey.Walter decided to make his own rink to avoid having to freeze standing outdoors at some outdoor rink elsewhere — or sit in his car with the engine running to get some heat — while Wayne skated. Gas was too expensive, he said."It truly, truly was self-preservation," he explained.Walter fed his eldest child’s obsession, recruiting bigger kids for Wayne to practise against in the backyard rink, and finding him a spot on a team of 10-year-olds when he was six."You knew he was good at his age at what he was doing," Walter said in a 2016 interview. "But to say that one day he'd do what he did, you couldn't say that. Nobody could."Wayne recalled crying after that first year of organized hockey when he didn’t get a trophy at the year-end banquet."Wayne, keep practising and one day you're gonna have so many trophies we’re not going to have room for them all," his dad said.Walter preached an old fashioned ethic — hard work pays off.After a bad game when he was 11, Wayne got a chewing out from his dad: "People are going to judge you on how you perform every night. Never forget that."The NHL star recalls getting a similar earful when he was 21, during the 1983 Stanley Cup playoffs."I don’t know where I’d be without him, but I know it wouldn't be in the NHL," Wayne said in his autobiography."I just think I told him to play good," said Walter.At times, hockey got in the way. Walter recalled missing the 1972 birth of Brent, their youngest, because Wayne was playing at a big minor tournament south of the border."Phyllis remembers that when I walked into her room in the maternity ward, the first thing I said to her was 'We won, we won!'" he wrote. "She looked at me like I was crazy and said 'It's a boy, Walter.' I guess I have to admit that sometimes I took my devotion as a hockey dad a little too far!"But of course, I welcomed my brand new son with open arms — another budding hockey player, after all."Walter drove one old blue Chevy station wagon after another — calling each the Blue Goose — until it clocked about 200,000 kilometres or fell apart. He called it a "reliable car for a family of seven."Wayne bought his father a blue Cadillac for his parents' 25th wedding anniversary."My hero as a kid was a man with constant headaches, ulcers and ringing in his ears," Wayne wrote. "He stays in the same house driving the same car — teaching kids the same way he always has, believing in the same things he always had."I've sometimes said that everything I have I owe to hockey, but I guess that's not true. Everything I have I owe to them (his parents).""On Family, Hockey and Healing" was reproduced in paperback when the movie came out. In the introduction, Walter answered a question: What’s it like being Wayne Gretzky’s dad?‘"I say that mostly it’s been fantastic beyond my wildest dreams,’" he wrote. ‘"It's given me the chance to travel widely, meet amazing people and do things that I never would have had the opportunity to do otherwise."‘I love to tell stories, and believe me, these experiences have given me some good ones! It's all been a great adventure, and I've been happy to share it with my family and friends."But he said there was another side."It's a privilege but also a responsibility that has to be handled carefully," he wrote. "Living so close to the spotlight, you can be a magnet for some pretty strange things, and we've certainly seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly," he wrote.That was demonstrated in 2020 after some of Wayne's memorabilia was stolen from his father's home, which was packed with souvenirs and other mementoes.Police eventually recovered several items including game-used sticks, hockey gloves, pants, jerseys and the NHL's Player of the Year award from the 1983-84 season. The estimated value of the recovered property was believed more than US$500,000.Arrests were made in the case.Walter travelled afar, including Europe, to watch his sons play hockey, and was a regular visitor to Phoenix after Wayne took over as head coach of the Coyotes in 2005.He recalled being on a bullet train during the 1998 Nagano Olympics. In a good mood, he stated dancing around the car singing "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." When he took off his cap at the behest of a friend, a Japanese woman put some money in it.And while being Wayne's father opened doors, he stayed true to himself.In Paris to see a horse owned by Wayne and Bruce McNall run, he and a longtime friend, Charlie Henry, were stunned by the huge rooms they were booked into at the Ritz-Carlton. The two opted to stay in one room, cancelling the other.He was a much sought-after speaker by groups organizing sports awards dinners, and he worked tirelessly as national spokesman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2007.In 2010, Walter carried the Olympic torch on the last day of the Olympic relay in the leadup to the opening ceremonies in Vancouver, where Wayne lit the Olympic flame.He was 53 when he suffered his stroke, just a few months into retirement after 34 years at Bell. He wasn’t expected to live through the night. But he did, and it changed his life.He lost much of his memory and it took time to get snippets of it back."Those were dark times," he wrote about the early days after the stroke, "and I wouldn't want to go back there for anything in the world. It's an awful thing not to know who or where you are, to feel confused and hopeless and not know whether you are ever going to be able to do all the things your used to to."Hockey helped his recovery as he started working with kids in the Brantford Minor Hockey Association. The four- and five-year-olds used to call him Wally.In his remaining years, he was more outgoing and carefree. After one game when his minor hockey team was downcast, he invited everyone to his home to see Wayne’s memorabilia. There were 61 of them. He also became an avid golfer.He'd been a hyper chain-smoker before the stroke. He gave that up, while devoting more of his time to worthwhile causes.‘"I really don’t like to sit still for too long," he said. "I'm most comfortable when I'm active."Walter is also survived by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.Phyllis died of lung cancer in 2005. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 76,438 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,168,138 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,720.79 per 100,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,614,020 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 82.94 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,842 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 37,590 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.518 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 60.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 17,794 new vaccinations administered for a total of 490,504 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 57.324 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.83 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 30,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 784,828 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 53.429 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 86.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,408 new vaccinations administered for a total of 82,579 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.97 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 116,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.79 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,493 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,090 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 71.314 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 112.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 10,948 new vaccinations administered for a total of 266,231 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.479 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 96.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 9,042 new vaccinations administered for a total of 298,851 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.238 per 1,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.61 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 18,158 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 435.12 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 96.07 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 360 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,753 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 355.136 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 57.54 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Worried about continuing threats, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police has appealed to congressional leaders to use their influence to keep National Guard troops at the Capitol, two months after the law enforcement breakdowns of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. Yogananda Pittman told the leaders Thursday in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that the board that oversees her department has so far declined to extend an emergency declaration required by the Pentagon to keep Guardsmen who have assisted Capitol officers since the riot. Pittman said she needed the leaders' assistance with the three-member Capitol Police Board, which reports to them. She said the board has sent her a list of actions it wants her to implement, though she said it was unclear whether the points were orders or just recommendations. The letter underscored the confusion over how best to secure the Capitol after a dismal lack of protection in January and biting criticism for law enforcement's handling of the invasion. And it came came as authorities spent the day on high alert, primed for a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the building again, two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors in an insurrection meant to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. The list in the letter to lawmakers included a partial removal of the imposing fence encircling the Capitol grounds starting Monday and a drawdown of the Guard to 900 troops from the current 5,200 remaining in Washington. Police want to keep the fence indefinitely. In her letter, Pittman said she would ask for a drawdown of the deployment “based on the threat environment and physical and operational security capabilities.” Earlier Thursday, The Associated Press reported the Pentagon was reviewing a Capitol Police request to keep up to 2,200 Guardsmen at the Capitol another 60 days. A statement from the police said Pittman had formally made the recommendation to the Pentagon. A similar dispute had erupted between the Capitol Police and its board before Jan. 6 and even as rioters were storming the building. The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the House and Senate sergeants at arms and the architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force. Steven Sund, the now-former Capitol Police chief, has testified to Congress that he wanted to request the Guard two days before the invasion following reports that white supremacist and far-right groups would target the building to disrupt the certification of Biden's election victory over outgoing President Donald Trump. Paul Irving, who served on the Capitol Police Board as House sergeant-at-arms, denied that Sund asked him to call the Guard. Sund has testified that he asked repeatedly for the Guard to be called as rioters stormed the building, breaking police lines and running over officers unequipped to hold them off. He ultimately called the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard just before 2 p.m., who in turn testified that the request for help was delayed by the Defence Department. The request was not approved until after 5 p.m., as hundreds of rioters marauded through the building and left without being arrested. Five people died in the riot, including a Capitol Police officer and a Trump supporter shot by police. On Thursday, despite the warnings of new trouble, there were no signs of disturbance at the heavily secured building. Nor was there evidence of any large group heading to Washington. The most recent threat appeared to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that former Trump would rise again to power on March 4 and that thousands would come to Washington to try to remove Democrats from office. March 4 was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20. But Trump was miles away in Florida. In Washington, on one of the warmest days in weeks, the National Mall was almost deserted, save for joggers, journalists, and a handful of tourists trying to take photos of the Capitol dome through the fencing. Online chatter identified by authorities included discussions among members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group, concerning possible plots against the Capitol on Thursday, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Members of the Three Percenters were among the extremists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. But federal agents found no significant increases in the number of hotel rooms being rented in Washington, or in flights to the area, car rental reservations or buses being chartered. Online chatter about the day on extremist sites was declining. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, was briefed by law enforcement about the possible threat and said lawmakers were braced for whatever might come. “We have the razor wire, we have the National Guard. We didn’t have that January 6. So I feel very confident in the security,” he said. But those measures aren't permanent. Some states have threatened to pull their Guardsmen amid reports that some troops had been made to take rest breaks in parking garages or served spoiled food. Other Guardsmen have said they have been given good meals with accommodations for those on vegan or halal diets. In Michigan, which sent 1,000 troops, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she did “not have any intention of agreeing to an extension of this deployment.” Meanwhile, Trump continues to promote lies that the election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud, even though such claims have been rejected by judges and Trump's former attorney general. He repeatedly told those lies on social media and in a charged speech on Jan. 6 in which he implored thousands of supporters to “fight like hell.” Many of those supporters eventually walked to the Capitol grounds and overran officers to breach the building. Trump was impeached by the House on a c harge of incitement of insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate. So far, about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot. Trump's election rhetoric continues to be echoed by many national and local Republicans posting online messages about voter fraud and questioning the legitimacy of Biden's victory. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited “a years-long trend of false narratives fueling violence.” “On the specifics of today’s threats, the FBI and DHS have warned that the threat of domestic violent extremism, particularly racially motivated and anti-government extremists, did not begin or end on January 6 and we have been vigilant day in and day out,” she said Thursday. ___ Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Alan Fram, Mary Clare Jalonick, Colleen Long, and Lisa Mascaro in Washington, and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report. Lolita C. Baldor, Lisa Mascaro And Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press
Fairy Creek blockade activists trying to protect some of the last stands of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island have won a three-week reprieve after a judge adjourned an injunction hearing on Thursday. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Power granted a request by the blockade’s legal team for more time to assemble materials necessary for a defence against the injunction. Forestry company Teal-Jones had sought the injunction to remove the Fairy Creek blockades at various entry points to its Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46 near the community of Port Renfrew until Sept. 4. However, Power said it was in the interest of justice to allow the delay, so defendants could better prepare and the court could set aside more time to hear the matter. Additionally, Power was unconvinced a short delay would be problematic given the blockade started in August 2020, but the forestry company did not apply for the injunction until Feb. 18, 2021. “I am not persuaded that I should find urgency or prejudice to the extent that the plaintiff now alleges,” Power said. “If, as the plaintiffs argued (that) there will be a prolonged civil disobedience campaign after a court order, it is, in my view, all the more important that any order that the court makes be made (based) on a full hearing.” The blockade activists want to save pristine old-growth forest at the headwaters of Fairy Creek with yellow cedars thought to be 1,000 years old, as well as other remaining groves on near Camper Creek, Gordon River, and in the Upper Walbran Valley. Pacheedaht First Nation elder Bill Jones, one of defendants named in the injunction application, says the Fairy Creek valley falls within the nation’s traditional territory and contains bathing pools with spiritual significance that are endangered by clear-cutting. It was also in the public’s interest to adjourn the hearing, said defence lawyer Patrick Canning. Demonstrators in solidarity with the Fairy Creek blockade gathered on the Victoria courthouse steps on Thursday, and in various other communities on Vancouver Island prior to the court decision. Lawyers representing Teal-Cedar, a division of Teal-Jones, had argued that Power should grant the injunction immediately because a delay would endanger road building in the region necessary before logging could occur later in the spring and summer. Any further delays due to the blockades would threaten timber harvesting and jobs at its mills, said the company’s lawyer Dean Dalke. The elected council of the Pacheedaht Nation were also aware of and did not oppose the proposed logging activity in the region, Dalke said. The request for an adjournment by the defence was to raise issues that wouldn’t, in fact, be a defence to an illegal blockade, he added. Regardless of whether the defence arguments “would pass muster,” it was important to allot enough time to adequately hear them, Power said. A two-day injunction hearing is now scheduled to start March 25. Teal-Jones did not respond to a request for comment following the hearing decision before Canada’s National Observer’s publication deadline. Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Ontario’s first and only diamond mine is moving to the next phase of its closure plan with the appointment of Golder, a Canadian-owned engineering and environmental services consulting group, as the primary contractor who will oversee the remaining demolition and site rehabilitation. Victor Mine, owned by The De Beers Group, is located approximately 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat in the James Bay Lowlands. It opened in 2008 as only the second diamond mine in Canada. The open pit operation also included its own airstrip located on the property. It ceased mining operations in June 2019. De Beers reports that as of the end of 2020, approximately 65 per cent of the on-site infrastructure has been safely demolished, and around 40 per cent of the site has been rehabilitated with more than 1.2 million trees planted on the property since 2014. The De Beers Group will remain accountable for the site, and will retain responsibilities for achieving site closure objectives, keeping in line with government regulations, as well as relationships with Indigenous communities, the company stated in a release. All permits and licences remain in De Beers’ name. A small site-based oversight team will work directly with Golder personnel throughout the process, in addition to the De Beers employees who will continue to be responsible for daily environmental monitoring. Golder was chosen after what De Beers called an “extensive commercial process” which was undertaken throughout 2020. Golder’s responsibilities will include the remaining closure activities, as well as the day-to-day management of the site. They will also handle the remaining infrastructure demolition work, and site rehabilitation through 2023. “A similar model, hiring a prime contractor, was used during construction of Victor Mine, which opened ahead of schedule and on budget,” said Maxwell Morapeli, head of closure for De Beers. “Golder has a strong track record of successful closure and rehabilitation of industrial sites around the world, including working with local communities where they operate. We look forward to benefiting from their experience as we continue the responsible closure of Victor Mine.” Included in its contract with the De Beers Group is a commitment from Golder to work with local Indigenous contracting companies to provide necessary on-site services such as catering, housekeeping, and security. Heavy equipment operators and other personnel will be hired from the Attawapiskat First Nation and will be provided training and other opportunities. Golder and its sub-contractors have also hired 19 former De Beers Victor Mine employees to continue on-site work. “We are proud to have been selected to lead the responsible closure of the Victor Mine,” said Greg Herasymuik, Golder's Canadian Region president. “As we manage activities at site, we are committed to providing employment opportunities and to continue involving the local community.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
In a preview of an interview with Oprah, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, says Buckingham Palace is ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ after a British newspaper reported allegations of bullying by Meghan before she and Prince Harry stepped away from being senior royals.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will begin sending 40% of all vaccine doses to the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in the state to try to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus and get the state’s economy open more quickly, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday in the latest shake-up to the state's rules. The doses will be spread among 400 ZIP codes where there are about 8 million people eligible for shots, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health and human services secretary. Many of the neighbourhoods are in Los Angeles County and the central valley, which have had among the highest rates of infection. The areas are considered most vulnerable based on metrics such as household income, education level and access to health care. Newsom said that not only is this the right thing to do, it's critical to opening up more of the state's economy. “It is a race against the variants. It's a race against exhaustion. It's a race to safely, thoughtfully open our economy, mindful that it has to be an economy that doesn't leave people behind, that is truly inclusive,” Newsom, a Democrat, said at a news conference. He also encouraged people to wear two masks. The announcement is the latest change in an evolving approach to getting nearly 40 million residents vaccinated, adding to ongoing confusion among people clamouring for shots. The move to ease reopening also comes days after several Republican-led states lifted COVID-19 restrictions as the U.S. now has three vaccines available. Tying reopening to vaccination equity metrics was cheered by representatives of the legislative Black and Latino caucuses, as well as social justice and equity groups. Latinos make up roughly half of cases and deaths in California even though they are 39% of the population. Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, said the dedicated vaccine hasn't come soon enough given the disparate numbers of deaths and the lack of access to vaccines in the hardest-hit communities. “They are living day-to-day, so they have to go and work in order to survive and they don’t have the luxury to take half a day to go where the vaccine sites are,” he said. The current standards for who can get a vaccine won't change. Right now that's people 65 and over, farmworkers and grocery clerks, educators and emergency service workers. Transit workers, flight attendants and hardware store clerks are among those clamouring to be added to the priority access list. “I wouldn’t say it’s not fair, but it should be thought out a little bit more," said Lee Snyder, assistant manager at Brownies Ace Hardware in San Francisco. Setting aside 40% of vaccine supply essentially means that hard-hit ZIP codes will be administering double what they are currently, Ghaly said. Data show that of shots given, only about 17% were administered in vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Double that amount was going to those in the top quarter of what California deems the healthiest communities, Ghaly said. Newsom has called equity the state’s “North Star.” Yet community health clinics that serve low-income and vulnerable Californians say they haven’t been getting enough doses and are hopeful that will change. Ghaly said Thursday that the administration will work with communities to make sure the vaccine gets to those patients, not to day-trippers from wealthier ZIP codes who have the time and tech savvy to schedule appointments online. Newsom said addressing the problem is like playing “whack-a-mole.” The health centres want to protect appointments for patients and others from underserved communities “to ensure those people we are targeting are coming, not the vaccine seekers" from wealthier neighbourhoods, said Andie Martinez Patterson, vice-president of government affairs at the California Primary Care Association. She said a recent South Los Angeles clinic recently found its appointments had been booked by people from Beverly Hills. Ghaly said that people with certain disabilities or underlying health conditions who will be eligible in mid-March will not be left out, as many live in some of the disadvantaged areas. He said he expects all communities to receive at least as many doses of vaccine as they are receiving now. As more doses are administered in the targeted neighbourhoods, the state will make it easier for counties to move through tiers that dictate business and school reopenings. Right now, counties can move from the most restrictive purple tier to the lower red tier based on metrics including the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per day over a period of several weeks. The strict standard for that rate will be lowered, allowing businesses such as restaurants and gyms to reopen indoors at limited capacity. While race and ethnicity are not explicit factors in designating vaccinations, the 400 vulnerable ZIP codes overlap heavily with neighbourhoods with higher populations of Blacks, Latinos and Asian and Pacific Islanders, officials said. ___ Har reported from San Francisco. ___ Associated Press writer Amy Taxin in Orange County contributed to the story. Janie Har And Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press
A community organizer and grandmother who was killed in a crash with a suspected drunk driver in North Vancouver earlier this week is being remembered for her fearless advocacy and gentle heart. Marcelina Perdido Agulay, 65, died in hospital after a head-on crash late Tuesday night that left her husband in critical condition. The driver of the other vehicle had crossed the centre line, and investigators believe alcohol was a factor in the collision. Agulay lived in Burnaby with her husband, and the couple had one son and two grandchildren, according to family and friends. She was active in her union and politics, and volunteered with Migrante B.C., which advocates for the rights of Filipino migrants. "She was a really quiet, gentle soul," Leila Lolua, president of the NDP Burnaby South riding association, told CBC News. "She would never be loud, she'd never be forceful, but she was a force — always with a smile. What made her special to me was she didn't just talk, she actually did the work." Agulay's longtime friend Beth Dollaga, a founding member of Migrante B.C., said she met Agulay in church in 1996 on her very first Sunday in Canada. They became "sisters in faith" and then close friends. Agulay had earned a university degree in agriculture back home in the Philippines, but left in search of employment as a domestic worker, first in Hong Kong and then eventually in Canada. After settling in B.C., she went back to school to become an early childhood educator, and volunteered with Migrante B.C.'s temporary foreign worker outreach program. "She's able to immediately connect with these workers," Dollaga remembered. "She has a gentle spirit of listening." Dollaga said Agulay and her husband, Manong Leo, loved cooking and sharing signature Ilocano dishes from the northern Philippines with their friends and family. Though Agulay was retired, she continued door-knocking for political campaigns and worked at the Burnaby Citizens Association. Premier John Horgan described her as "a tireless advocate for working people" in a tweet on Wednesday night. "She made our communities and our world better. She will be forever missed and forever loved," NDP MLA Mable Elmore said. Agulay's family says her love extended far beyond them to her community and its newest arrivals — a legacy they intend to uphold in her honour.
As Cowessess First Nation sits on the cusp of asserting its rights under C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, Mi’kmaw Nations in Nova Scotia are leaning toward asserting their rights for their children and families through their existing Treaty and Aboriginal rights. Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme and Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Nova Scotia/Newfoundland Regional Chief Paul Prosper explained their different journeys toward the same goal—taking control of the wellbeing of their nations’ children and families. They were speaking on March 2 at the third of five virtual gatherings hosted by the AFN on Child and Family Services and Self-Determination. “Our coordination agreement is draft-ready to sign,” said Delorme. Those signatures will come from Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller, Saskatchewan First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Minister Lori Carr, “and myself on behalf of Cowessess. It’s not signed as of this hour. We’re just working on some final technical stuff.” Whether it’s the federal or provincial government that has the financial obligation to the First Nation is “kind of grey in the act,” said Delorme, and that is the hold-up at this point. When the funding does come, it will be a one-year commitment to allow Cowessess to get a better understanding of its funding needs. “On April 1, in less than a month, Cowessess will have coast to coast to coast jurisdiction over our children and prevention for our families. It’s not reserve-based,” said Delorme. He explained that Cowessess First Nation was moving forward with asserting its jurisdiction with a single coordination agreement with its home province of Saskatchewan, although 126 children living in other provinces had been identified. “Cowessess is going to do this. We’re going to do it well. But if any province challenges us, we’re prepared to answer. We’re prepared to educate, but this is not a negotiation. We are already asserting,” said Delorme. In February 2020, Cowessess First Nation ratified the Miyo Pimatisowin Act (MPA), affirming its rights and jurisdiction to act in the best interest of the child. “If anyone ever challenged it from a colonial perspective, we didn’t go outside the goalpost of the (Bill C-)92, but the Miyo Pimatisowin Act is custom to Cowessess,” said Delorme. The MPA is only one part of the work Cowessess undertook. They created the Eagle Woman Tribunal Council, their own judicial system which will oversee the MPA; created Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge, which will serve as their child and family services agency; opened Sacred Wolf Lodge, a 10-bedroom facility which began as a home for females aging out of the system and is now a prevention place for families; and formed a variety of committees to examine finance, interprovincial needs and data, and legal aspects. Before entering into coordination discussions with Ottawa and Saskatchewan, Cowessess began exploratory discussions with the two levels of government in June 2020. “We were very technical in that word ‘exploratory’ because we didn’t officially launch our coordination discussion. No rights holder in Canada at that moment were doing coordination agreement discussions,” said Delorme. Official coordination agreement discussions were launched in August 2020 and consisted of four months, with at least 10 hours dedicated weekly, to the topic with “minimal complications,” he said. “Cowessess never gave up jurisdiction. We were just colonized and now we’re asserting,” said Delorme. The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw is now in the second phase of a three-phase approach in their child welfare legal regime and are presently drafting their law. That process is being led by the Maw-Kleyu’kik Knijannaq (MKK), an initiative launched in 2018 prior to the federal government beginning to draft and discuss Bill C-92. MKK was formed to address gaps that impacted Mi’kmaw family, children, youth and communities in the 25 legislative amendments the province adopted to the Children and Family Services Act in 2017. The work of the MKK was both interim and long term, said Prosper. “The interim process was to work with the provincial legislation to seek as much gains as we can to that amendment process, but our larger, longer-term goal was to develop a Mi’kmaw law for Mi’kmaw children and families,” he said. That law will apply to Mi’kmaw children throughout Nova Scotia, both on and off reserve. MKK also began to consider the implications of C-92 when it was introduced. “(MKK) sought to build Mi’kmaw-specific child and family law which will depart from provincial and federal legislation. When you’re departing from legislation … it’s always an important consideration and it’s something certainly that we don’t take lightly. With it comes a huge responsibility,” said Prosper. MKK has undertaken a meticulous, lengthy process to both develop Mi’kmaw child welfare legislation as well as policies and protocols to support the implementation of that legislation. MKK is engaging and re-engaging with working groups, rewriting and revising as input requires, said Heather McNeill, legal advisor for MKK. “Once it’s all done, when we get to the third stage, and we think that we have a final product that everybody’s had a look at then we’re going to take it to the assembly to seek ratification, but only after the assembly and leadership review it and then we will have our Mi’kmaw laws developed under the legal regime,” said McNeil. She pointed out that they have a five-year funding agreement with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) which began in 2018 when MKK started doing its work with the province. That five-year timeframe is still in place to undertake the work, she said. “My understanding is leadership … don’t want to forego any options with respect to which regime that they would fall under, whether it be the act itself or just to have full recognition outright on the basis of our existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights, so there’s two potential streams in that scenario,” said Prosper. “There is a process by which we are looking to enact our law and we’re mindful of timelines, but we’re also mindful of ensuring that our leadership and our communities are ready for this,” he added. AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who is also the social development portfolio holder, noted that in December 2020, ISC had received letters and documentation from 26 Indigenous groups representing more than 80 communities expressing their intent to assert their jurisdiction over child and family services. “This represents a significant step forward not only toward reducing the number of First Nation children and youth in care but toward increasing the over all well-being of our children, families and communities in our nations as we work toward reconciliation and self-governance and self-determination for First Nations,” said Hart. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
American midfielder Johnny Cardoso scored his first senior goal for Internacionale, tying the score in the 30th minute of a 2-2 draw at Pelotas on Thursday night in Brazil's Campeonato Gaúcho, the first tier of Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul. The 19-year-old, born in Denville Township, New Jersey, scored on a snapped header from about 8 yards off a cross from Guilherme Pato following a corner kick to tie the score 1-1. Cardoso made his U.S. national team debut in November at Wales and also played against Panama later that month, both times as a second-half substitute. He was among 35 players picked Monday for the U.S. training roster ahead of Olympic qualifying in the North and Central American region. The U.S. opens against Costa Rica on March 18 at Guadalajara, Mexico. Twenty players will be on the final Olympic qualifying roster. Players must be born on Jan. 1, 1997, or later to be eligible for qualifying. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press