California certified its presidential election Friday and appointed 55 electors pledged to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, officially handing him the Electoral College majority needed to win the White House. Secretary of State Alex Padilla's formal approval of Biden's win in the state brought his tally of pledged electors so far to 279, according to a tally by The Associated Press. That’s just over the 270 threshold for victory. These steps in the election are often ignored formalities. But the hidden mechanics of electing a U.S. president have drawn new scrutiny this year as President Donald Trump continues to deny Biden's victory and pursues increasingly specious legal strategies aimed at overturning the results before they are finalized. Although it’s been apparent for weeks that Biden won the presidential election, his accrual of more than 270 electors is the first step toward the White House, said Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University. “It is a legal milestone and the first milestone that has that status,” Foley said. “Everything prior to that was premised on what we call projections.” The electors named Friday will meet Dec. 14, along with counterparts in each state, to formally vote for the next president. Most states have laws binding their electors to the winner of the popular vote in their state, measures that were upheld by a Supreme Court decision this year. There have been no suggestions that any of Biden's pledged electors would contemplate not voting for him. Results of the Electoral College vote are due to be received, and typically approved, by Congress on Jan. 6. Although lawmakers can object to accepting the electors' votes, it would be almost impossible for Biden to be blocked at that point. The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate would both vote separately to resolve any disputes. One already has arisen from Pennsylvania, where 75 Republican lawmakers signed a statement on Friday urging Congress to block the state’s electoral votes from being cast for Biden. But the state’s Republican U.S. senator, Pat Toomey, said soon afterward that he would not be objecting to Pennsylvania’s slate of electors, underscoring the difficulty in trying to change the election results through Congress. “As a practical matter, we know that Joe Biden is going to be inaugurated on Jan. 20," Foley said. That was clear in the days after the election, when the count of mail ballots gradually made clear that Biden had won victories in enough states to win the Electoral College. It became even more apparent in late November, when every swing state won by Biden certified him as the winner of its elections and appointed his electors to the Electoral College. Trump has fruitlessly tried to stop those states from certifying Biden as the winner and appointing electors for the former vice-president. He made no effort in deeply Democratic California, the most populous state in the nation and the trove of its largest number of electoral votes. Three more states won by Biden — Colorado, Hawaii and New Jersey — have not yet certified their results. When they do, Biden will have 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232. Trump and his allies have brought at least 50 legal cases trying to overturn the results in the swing states Biden won — mainly Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. More than 30 have been rejected or dropped, according to an AP tally. Trump and his allies have also raised the far-fetched notion that Republican state legislatures in those states could appoint a rival set of electors pledged to Trump. But state Republican leaders have rejected that approach, and it would likely be futile in any case. According to federal law, both chambers of Congress would need to vote to accept a competing slate of electors. If they don't, the electors appointed by the states' governors — all pledged to Biden in these cases — must be used. The last remaining move to block the election would be the quixotic effort to vote down the electors in Congress. This tactic has been tried — a handful of congressional Democrats in 2000, 2004 and 2016 objected to officially making both George W. Bush and Trump president. But the numbers were not enough to block the two men from taking office. Michael R. Blood And Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press
A 21-year-old man is facing charges after a teacher was assaulted at a high school in King City, Ont., York Regional Police say.On Nov 10., right before 11:30 a.m., a man entered King City Secondary School and walked around the first floor of the building before entering a classroom on the second floor, police said in a statement. He punched a 37-year-old teacher in the classroom and then fled the school, heading west on King Road. The teacher sustained minor injuries, said Sgt. Any Pattenden in a news release.Investigators released a surveillance camera image of a suspect on Thursday and asked for the public's help in identifying him.The accused, who is from Richmond Hill, turned himself in on Friday in Newmarket, Ont., said Pattenden. He is charged with assault, mischief, trespass to property and failure to comply with a continued section 7.02 order. That order is an amendment under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that was to protect public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Police are asking anyone with information to contact them at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7141, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.
South Korean authorities urged vigilance on Saturday as small coronavirus clusters emerged in a third wave, centred in the Seoul area, with infections near nine-month highs. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 583 new coronavirus infections, down from the 629 reported on Friday, which was the highest since the first wave peaked in February and early March. This wave of infections is different from the first two, which were driven by large-scale transmission, said KDCA official Lim Sook-young.
VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor and the health minister are urging the public to slow the spread of COVID-19 this weekend by limiting any festive gatherings to immediate households. Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix say 711 new infections have been recorded in the province and 11 more people have died, for a total of 492 fatalities. They say in a joint statement that B.C. is continuing to see a significant surge in community transmission so all public health orders must be followed as more than 36,000 people have tested positive for the virus. Henry has said it's important to remain vigilant in containing the virus for the next few months and that everyone in the province who wants to be vaccinated could be immunized by September. Nearly 11,000 people who have been identified as being exposed to the virus are being monitored and 25,658 people who tested positive have recovered. The latest public health orders have meant the cancellation of adult indoor and outdoor team sports, though children can continue participating in local games without spectators. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
The union for blue-collar workers in Montreal says it wants to put pressure on the city to speed up negotiations and says it has issued a strike notice that will come into force in the next couple weeks. The city's 6,500 blue-collar workers have been without an employee contract since Dec. 31, 2017. In a news release sent by the union representing the workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said, "discussions are ongoing but we want to put some pressure to get things done.""Blue-collar workers want a new employment contract that is fair and respects the work they provide on a daily basis," the release said. It said in mid-November 2,846 members voted 97.2 per cent in favour of a mandate giving them the right to exercise pressure that could go as far as a general strike.The assembly was held in a temporary drive-in installed on the site of the Royalmount project, where members arrived by car. The City of Montreal says it is aware of the union's decision but that it has not been informed of the pressure tactics workers plan on taking, or which essential services they will continue to offer.
A 35-year-old Dawson Creek man was killed Saturday, November 28 when he was caught in an avalanche while out snowmobiling north of Mackenzie. Police and rescue personnel were called to the scene in the Powder King-Bijoux Falls area beginning shortly before 2 p.m. They said two snowmobilers were in the area at the time and one was buried in the snow. The victim's name was not provided. "The BC Coroners Service has conduct of this incident and is currently investigating to determine the facts surrounding this death. No further details are available at this time," RCMP said in a statement. On the previous Friday, Avalanche Canada had issued its first forecast of the season and had put the danger rating for the North Rockies at high for treeline and above and considerable for below treeline. "There was a pretty big storm that pass through the area, almost a week long storm," Avalanche Canada warning service manager Karl Klassen said Monday. "And that storm just started breaking up on Saturday, there was a fair amount of wind and quite a bit of new snow. Temperatures were quite warm and then they cooled off and those are kind of classic conditions for pretty significant avalanche danger. "We rated the danger as high, we told people to expect large avalanches on all aspects and all elevations given the amount of wind and snow and the temperatures that were occurring at the time." The high rating is one level below extreme and is used when conditions are deemed to be very dangerous. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended when the rating is in place although Klassen said it can be done with proper training and experience. "Even when the avalanche danger is high or even extreme, there are places in the mountains where avalanches just don't occur so as long as you can recognize that terrain and stay on that terrain, you'd be fine," Klassen said. "But again, just to stress, it's not something you (should do) without getting some training, getting some experience and gaining some knowledge and making a good trip plan before they leave." Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said avalanche courses remain available. Theory is being learned online or in smaller class sizes and with greater physical distancing and masks once outside for the practical part. To find a class, go to avalanche.ca and click on the learn tab. Thanks to an influx of federal funding, a three-person field team has been working in the region during the winter months since December 2019. Klassen said forecasts for the region will be issued four times a week this season, up from three times a week last winter.Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
Woodcliff United Church in southwest Calgary is known for its life-size, interactive advent calendar during the holiday season. Usually, it's in the form of drawers containing gifts, or doors that can be opened. This year, however, the committee had to get COVID-creative."Well, 2020 forced all of the pivoting in our church community — of course we can't meet in the sanctuary," said Sheri Bolitho, Woodcliff's faith formation minister, on the Calgary Eyeopener. "And it didn't make sense to us to have 100 or 200 people touching each drawer each day — we don't have enough sanitizing elves for that at all. "So we've had to make it a lot different. So this year, we've created a calendar that allows for social distancing."Bolitho said each of the stations or "days" is between six feet and 12 feet apart. The entire calendar is built as a labyrinth that runs across the front lawn of the property.The first few days of December have already been unveiled. The rest of the days are all laid out by climbing rope, linked together in a maze."Each day has a sign and activity, and they're individually wrapped like gifts, though we have special, wonderful elves who come out early in the morning and unwrap gifts for you," Bolitho said.Bolitho said the long-running tradition started as a way to connect with the community outside the walls of the church."We just really wanted to be able to spread the meaning of Christmas to us, which is the four elements — faith, joy, hope and love — into the community," she said."And our church loves to be outside of the building. This is the perfect opportunity to let everyone know where we are and what Christmas is all about and the season of gifting and how we connect all of the wonderful things back to those elements."The advent calendar is full of tactile elements, crafts, projects and things people can do with their hands. And it is always full of surprises.Yesterday was a Christmas star, for example. The day before that was a heart craft made out of a hanger and yarn. "We know people have a lot more time at home," Bolitho said. "They can take the activity and go home and make it as a family, and then they can maybe gift it, or they can use it as an ornament on their tree."Bolitho said there are elements of the Christmas story to be found along the way, such as the star, symbolizing the star that the shepherds followed to the stable in Bethlehem.But the calendar has many non-religious references as well."There's also a whole bunch of more secular elements, so there's the candy cane, and then there's the story of the candy cane, how it's really shaped like a shepherd's crook," Bolitho said. Charity outreachSince COVID hit, the church has been offering virtual services and online recordings of sermons.Meanwhile, the church has an outreach committee that is focused on ways to give back to the community, and the advent calendar is always a big highlight. This year, the church is collecting for both the food bank and the Calgary Drop-In Centre.The food bank collection week starts today and goes until Dec. 10, at which point the focus shifts over to the Drop-In Centre for the longest night of the year, Dec. 21. The church is collecting donations of mittens, hats, underwear and socks for the Drop-In Centre.There are some crafts that Bolitho said she's particularly looking forward to on the advent calendar."I have a couple of wonderful ones. The first one is the word 'joy.' It's a beautiful paper craft," she said. "Our wonderful elves that made all of these have taken strips of coloured paper and rolled them up into the word 'joy' and it's gorgeous. You have to come see."And then another one of my favourites is the Santa gnome — he's a little Christmas ornament covered in yarn. And he's got a beautiful felt hat. He's wonderful."Woodcliff United Church is located at 5010 Spruce Drive S.W. For more information go to Woodcliff United Church.With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.
Talk about Canadian, eh? Some Southwestern Ontario golf courses have done such brisk business through the pandemic, they’re opening through the winter, even in the snow. White Squirrel Golf Club, located outside Zurich, north of Grand Bend, is teeing off on winter golf for the first time to give house-bound and pandemic-weary folks a safe, outdoor activity. “It’s more about getting outside and swinging a golf club than taking your score seriously,” said Brittany Nigh, White Squirrel’s manager of golf operations. “It’s a bit more fun.” The fundamentals of the summer sport stay the same on frozen ground. Snowy golfers will still find the fairway in play, but there are no tee blocks and the green isn't used for putting. Instead, temporary greens have been crafted to protect the course. Nigh said COVID-19 pandemic safety restrictions have spurred creativity and the desire to keep the course open year-round. “We do try to always think outside the box and do things a little differently,” she said. “Let’s not focus on what we can’t do, let’s see what we can do within the restrictions and can do safely.” But what about tracking down a white ball in swaths of fluffy snow? Nigh recommends playing a fluorescent or coloured golf ball and still keeping the weather forecast in mind. “You can do it in some snow, but obviously if the entire course is covered in two feet of snow, it’s going to be pretty difficult to find a patch to hit the golf ball from,” she said. She also recommends wearing gloves and waterproof shoes, dressing in layers that still let you swing your arms, and packing a thermos. The club also has transformed its front nine holes into a hiking trail, free for the public to use, and is keeping its restaurant open year-round. Nigh said locals have warmed to winter golf. “It’s offered our community a nice outlet,” she said. Another course, the Fox Golf Club, just north of London near Granton, also is open for the winter, with similar snowy weather adjustments. The Fox is run by Waterloo-based company GolfNorth, which has set up eight of its Southwestern Ontario courses for winter play, including ones in Forest, Petersburg and Baden. “We thought golf was safe and fun and people felt comfortable doing it all summer, and in the winter this year, people need something to do,” said Doug Breen, GolfNorth’s vice-president. “It’s just a way to get outside, get some exercise, do something fun with your buddies.” He said any day that would be appropriate for skiing would be good for winter golf. If the pandemic brainchild of winter golf is popular, GolfNorth plans to keep running it in future years. And so far, the frosty conditions haven’t deterred any golfers. Breen said earlier this week, groups played their courses even after Tuesday’s storm, with snow up to their shins. “It’s absolutely a quintessentially Canadian thing to do to embrace the cold,” he said. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/MaxatLFPressMax Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
A new chamber of commerce partnership program designed to help businesses connect with new talent, and gain access to financial incentives, has just launched. The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Magnet and the Talent Opportunity Program (TOP) to connect chamber of commerce members to the Magnet platform, a digital social enterprise out of Ryerson University. Through Magnet, businesses can get connected with new talent, and get access to business growth opportunities and tools to navigate the impacts of the changing labour market and the COVID-19 pandemic. Key to the partnership between Magnet and local chamber is access to wage subsidies through the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP). Funded by the Government of Canada, SWPP lets employers tap into wage subsidies of up to $7,500 when they hire a Canadian post-secondary student, in a co-op style environment . "The combination of a national recruitment platform and the SWPP wage subsidy will be an important lifeline for our members," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. This chamber partnership initiative brings together local chambers and boards of trade, small and medium-sized enterprises, job-seekers, and post-secondary institutions to support opportunities for student job seekers from coast to coast, across Canada, in an effort to boost economic recovery. "The initiative represents an innovative and necessary approach to helping small businesses grow, connecting early talent to new opportunities to emerge from this challenge stronger and better," said Kirkland. Creating an account with the Magnet Business Growth Portal is free for businesses of all sizes and industries. The Magnet Business Growth Portal helps small and medium enterprises strategize, adapt, and grow with notifications about funding, wage subsidies, training and hiring programs, market research, and COVID-19 support, according to the portal. "Ensuring a strong economic recovery depends on the success of our students and youth. Programs like the Student Work Placement Program exist to provide post-secondary students with the chance to grow professionally and develop new skills while working in sectors that are in line with their interests and field of study," Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement. The SWPP can help business, working towards recovery, offset the cost of hiring, while giving youth an opportunity to gain work experience. "Our government's investment in Magnet will go a long way in helping young Canadians gain meaningful placement opportunities in a variety of disciplines including health care and other high demand sectors, all of which play an especially important role in responding to the current pandemic," said Qualtrough.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says that as soon as she knows when the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada, she will share that information with Canadians. But Anand told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the original contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines had to be vague about delivery dates because nobody knew at the time if the vaccines would be successful. It's only in the last few weeks, when the leading candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported such positive results from their large clinical trials, that the way forward became clear enough for Anand's department to start asking the companies to be more specific about when they can make good on their contracts with Canada. "We put these contracts in place in order to place Canadians in the best stead possible, of any country in the world, recognizing that we would need to negotiate additional terms such as precise delivery dates, once a vaccine was discovered, and regulatory approval was obtained," she said. "And that is what's happening now." As Canadians face a pandemic-plagued holiday season and dream that 2021 will not be the anxiety-laden and often tragic disaster that 2020 has proven to be, there is one gleaming hope dangling still just out of reach: a vaccine for COVID-19. Still, the federal government has yet to answer one big question: When will it get here? It is not that she doesn't want to tell Canadians when, said Anand. But the complexities of figuring out a specific date are linked to when Health Canada approves the vaccine, and when the vaccine makers can see that Canada is ready to receive and safely distribute the precious doses, some of which have to be stored at temperatures below -70 C. Those pieces are starting to converge now. Health Canada officials are days, maybe even hours, away from approving the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in Canada. Canadians got some more information on the logistics from a briefing of federal officials this week, including that Pfizer will ship its vaccine directly to 14 identified receiving sites in provinces. FedEx and Innomar Strategies were contracted Friday to oversee the delivery of other vaccines from a national receiving site to provinces. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued refined guidance Friday for who should get the vaccine first, including long-term care residents and workers, and people over the age of 80. The materials like syringes, gauze pads and bandages needed to vaccinate millions of people are in place. Ultralow temperature freezers have been purchased and nine new ones have already arrived. Provincial governments are lining up their own task forces. "We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible," Anand said. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has been decrying the lack of clarity from the Liberals about the vaccine plan. A week ago he accused the Liberals of only starting to buy vaccines in a panic this summer after a collaboration with China on a vaccine fell apart. The partnership between the National Research Council and China's CanSino Biologics was announced in May to great fanfare. But the doses to be used in a Canadian clinical trial failed to arrive, when the Chinese government — in the midst of political tensions with Canada — refused to issue an export permit for them. “I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said Nov. 29, adding the timeline shows it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Canada "started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options." Anand said that is not the case. She said the CanSino deal fell within Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies. Her marching orders to negotiate deals with other vaccine makers came weeks earlier. A team of procurement officials in her department was assigned to the file in March, at the same time as those negotiating contracts for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and rapid tests. In June, the COVID-19 vaccine task force provided a list of vaccines for Canada to pursue. Anand said talks with manufacturers began in early July. The first deal, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna, was struck July 24. Canada was first to sign with Moderna. It signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech a week later, on Aug. 1. It was the fourth country to do so, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. News of trouble on the CanSino deal first appeared in early July when the doses still hadn't been approved for export by China. Canada walked away from the deal at the end of August when it became clear it would not happen. By then, Canada had deals with four other vaccine companies, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and NovaVax. It added deals with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in September and then with Canada's own Medicago the next month. Anand said Canada approached every contract with a similar goal — to get 20 million doses guaranteed, and options to potentially buy more later on. In all, Canada is paying more than $1 billion to the seven vaccine makers for 194 million doses, even if those vaccines never get beyond the experimental stage. Another 220 million doses are available if Canada asks for them, a decision that will be made for the vaccines that are proving to be the best. Anand announced Friday another 20 million doses will come to Canada in 2021 from Moderna, for a total of 40 million. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
The Free Store in Summerside is booked solid with shopping appointments and asking clients to cancel their slots if they can't make it. Due to COVID-19 spacing restrictions, anyone wishing to shop at the store must make a 15-minute appointment in advance. The problem comes, said owner-operator Belinda Woods, when someone doesn't show up for their appointment. Then the time is wasted instead of another client being able to use it. "If you're coming, great," said Woods. "If not, please let other people come."My worry is that people aren't going to get the things that they need."> It's a little trickier now because we can't let as many people into the store. — Belinda Woods, The Free Store The Free Store allows people to shop free of charge for new and used goods such as winter clothes, bedding, furniture and household items. The store is always popular this time of year, said Woods, but before the pandemic, Islanders in need could line up outside and she let about 25 people into the store at once. Now, only one to five people are allowed inside at one time. "It's a little trickier now because we can't let as many people into the store," said Woods. "Please, please, either keep your appointment, or cancel it or let me know and I'll be able to fill it with somebody else." The store is open for shopping every Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. Appointments are all filled, but you can still get on a waiting list in case people cancel.Special children's shopping event Woods also just began taking appointments for her special annual children's shopping event on Saturday, Dec. 12. "That's where the children can come and shop for their parents," she said. She anticipates those spots will fill up fast as well, and she might extend the event to two Saturdays. More from CBC P.E.I.
BRAMPTON, Ont. — A 33-year-old man has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder after an early-morning house fire in Brampton, Ont. Peel police say a woman -- believed to be 61 years old -- was found dead in the burnt-out home on Friday. They say five other people made it out of the residence. A 34-year-old woman was taken to hospital with injuries not thought to be life-threatening, while a 71-year-old man and three children -- aged 11, nine and four -- were unharmed. Police say the accused was arrested at another Brampton home. They say he knew all of the residents of the home, but did not offer details on the nature of their relationship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
Fort Smith RCMP are asking the public's help in finding a 14-year-old boy.Dylan Lafferty was last seen Thursday at approximately 10 p.m. on Poppy Crescent in Fort Smith, N.W.T., police said in a news release late Friday afternoon. They believe Lafferty could still be in Fort Smith.RCMP say Lafferty has dark brown hair and brown eyes, is between 5' and 5'2" and weighs 130 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black sweater, grey polo pants and Nike shoes.Fort Smith RCMP are anyone with information on the whereabouts of Lafferty to call them at 872-1111, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or text nwtnutips and a message to 274637.
VANCOUVER — The City of Vancouver says it has reached a settlement with the owners of the Balmoral and Regent hotels to expropriate the derelict properties on the Downtown Eastside.The hotels, which had been operated as single-room occupancy buildings, were home to more than 300 of the city's most vulnerable people before they were ordered shut over safety concerns in 2017 and 2019. The city says in a news release Friday that the settlement ensures it can move forward with BC Housing to turn the buildings into safe and secure low-income housing. It approved the expropriation of the buildings for $1 in late 2019 but faced a legal challenge from the owners.The news release says the city decided to settle to lessen the financial risk posed by the upcoming judicial review and potential claims for greater compensation and to enable planning to begin on the future of the properties. It says it cannot share the value of the settlement under its terms. "Bringing the Regent and Balmoral into public ownership marks a hopeful new beginning for residents of the Downtown Eastside and something all residents should be proud of," Mayor Kennedy Stewart says in the release. "Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community." The settlement marks the end of many years of enforcement and legal action against the owners, who oversaw decades of underinvestment and unaddressed safety issues, the city says.Parkash Kaur Sahota, 90, and Pal Singh Sahota, 81, are identified as the owners in the petition for judicial review. They could not be reached for comment. Staff plan to report back to council, which approved the settlement, on the next steps and timeline for the revitalization of the properties early next year. Given the significance of the two properties to the Downtown Eastside community, the city says community engagement regarding their future is a priority and will also begin next year.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
A Vancouver home builder isn’t waiting for government regulations to change to demonstrate his idea for quickly offering emergency housing to homeless people. Bryn Davidson is putting the finishing touches on a prototype of what he calls a “tiny townhome,” a basic shed-like structure that Davidson has suggested could be an alternative for people who are homeless and live in a tent or without any shelter at all. “We’ve listened to people just talk, talk, talk for ages, and it seems like very little ever happens,” said Davidson, the owner of Lanefab Design/Build. “The ability to just jump in and do something is appealing.” Once the 100-square-foot prototype is finished Davidson hopes to put it up at a yet-to-be-determined location to give people a sense of how the idea could work. The prototype will meet the City of Vancouver’s current zoning rules for a shed, but Davidson said a bathroom and kitchen module could be added to the tiny dwelling. The basic unit Davidson is building costs around $15,000. Davidson posted a video tour of the under-construction tiny townhome on Twitter. Davidson first suggested his idea earlier this fall as the city was grappling with what to do about rising homelessness and a growing tent city at Strathcona Park. Out of several options — including trying out a tiny home village — city councillors opted to prioritize buying or leasing more hotels rooms and apartment buildings to provide housing for people who are homeless. That option provides the highest quality housing but takes time to put into place. Meanwhile, COVID-19 capacity restrictions mean Vancouver has 379 fewer shelter spots open this winter. Another city council motion from Coun. Pete Fry asked city staff to look at what zoning and building code regulations would have to change to allow tiny homes. But Davidson doesn’t expect to see any actual changes to the building code or zoning until summer 2021 at the earliest. “I feel like something needs to be done,” he said. “The city was analyzing all these options from the city’s point of view. The advantage of [the tiny homes] strategy is it’s something the private sector and private individuals can just jump in and contribute to.” Tiny home villages have sprung up in many North American cities, and range from prefabricated structures with power to very basic dwellings with no heat or electricity. City staff have expressed concerns about designs for tiny homes that don’t include heat and electricity or a private bathroom. Current zoning would also require dwellings to include a fire suppression system. But Davidson and other tiny home proponents say the idea is to provide a temporary solution that provides better shelter and security than a tent. People who store their belongings in tents often have their stuff stolen, and when tents leak in cold, wet weather it’s difficult or impossible to dry out bedding and clothing. The prototype is insulated but would need to be hooked up to electricity to allow heat and ventilation. Davidson said he’s currently talking with the city, church groups and non-profits about a location for the prototype. Davidson envisions small “villages” of 10 to 20 tiny townhomes across Vancouver, placed in vacant lots that are awaiting development, for instance. When the prototype is finished, Davidson plans to try sleeping inside with his family to see what it’s like. “I think that there should be one of these little villages in every neighbourhood in the city,” Davidson said. “It’s not just something where somebody in Dunbar thinks, ‘Oh, that’s just a Downtown Eastside problem.’ I’d like to see every neighbourhood contributing.” Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
A Fort St. James man has been fined $1,000 for flying a drone while out on a hunting expedition. Paul James Hesse was issued the penalty on November 9 in Fort St. James Provincial Court. He was also prohibited from hunting for one year and assessed a $150 victim surcharge. The outcome stems from a complaint conservation officers received on Sept. 22, 2018. The next day, officers attended a cabin on Marie Lake, southwest of Fort St. James, where they seized the drone along with a harvested bull moose. After securing a search warrant, they gathered photos and videos from the machine and forwarded the matter to Crown prosecution. Conservation officer Richard Keenan-Toop, who was the lead investigating officer on the file, said it was the first conviction for the offence in British Columbia. The Wildlife Act was amended in July 2016 to make the use of drones while hunting illegal. "It was definitely a different one and definitely a learning experience for the Conservation Officer Service for sure," Keenan-Toop said. "But it's not something we see very often, thankfully, because hunting with a drone completely defeats fair chase for wildlife." However, Connie Morrisey, a native court worker in Fort St. James who helped Hesse put together a defence against the charges said he never actually used the drone for actual hunting. Instead, she said he was using it to get images of the cabin and a route planned for a trail from big Marie Lake to little Marie Lake, but because he was at the cabin as part of a hunting trip, he was charged. "The minute you leave your house to go hunting to the minute you get back to your house, that's considered a hunting expedition," Morrisey said. "He did not use it to hunt but he flew it when he was at the cabin." She said Hesse uses the drone for work purposes and had it with him in camp. When he came back to Fort St. James, his father picked him up and went to the cabin. "He said 'I know you can't use it for hunting but if I had known you can't even have it one you, I would've went home, dropped the drone off and went out," Morrisey said. As part of the prohibition against hunting for a year, Hesse is also prohibited from accompanying other hunters and the drone was forfeited to the Crown. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
Gananoque kicks off its Christmas celebrations this weekend. The three-week event will start on Saturday with the Festival of Light and a stand-still parade on King Street, organized by the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. "We lit up the whole visitor centre, Town Hall, the bandshell and 20 trees today, thanks to Hydro One; they showed up today with four bucket trucks and 20 guys and they did an amazing job," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the chamber. On Saturday the parade will be a little smaller than previous years but no less spectacular. So far there are 29 confirmed floats and Kirkland says she is expecting another eight to show up on the day, bringing the total to 37 floats. "Before the parade starts at 5:30, the Gananoque Curling Club will be handing out free hot chocolate and apple cider in Town Park between 2 and 4 p.m.," said Kari Lambe, the town's manager of recreation. The 1000 Islands History Museum will also be lighting up the museum and is offering a walk-by window exhibit, "Toys of Yesteryear," on Saturday. The town is billing this year's celebrations as "A Wonderful Life in Gananoque" with a variety of festivities planned for the holiday season. "Starting on Sunday, Dec. 6, children will have the opportunity to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at his grotto in Town Park, where proper social distance and safety measure have been put in place," said Lambe, adding that there will also be carolling on the front steps of Town Hall from 3 until 4 p.m. The Gananoque Fire Service will be setting up firepits in Town Park from 2 until 5 p.m. Every Wednesday just after 6 p.m., Santa will be reading children's stories on 99.9 MyFM, with the final reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas scheduled for Dec. 24, just before the man in red takes off on his big journey. The town is also hosting a Winter Lights competition, and residents are encouraged to decorate their homes for the holiday season. Lambe said a group of judges will pick a winner from each ward, North, South and West, and one award will be given to the business with the best window and/or light display. The winners will be announced on Dec. 18 on the town's Facebook page. The Christmas celebrations are the work of several community groups, including those mentioned earlier as well as a committee of council, the Municipal Accommodation Tax Tourism Advisory Panel, 1000 Islands RV, the Thousand Islands Playhouse and several town volunteers. A full schedule of events is posted on the town’s website.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
Ahead of a looming year-end deadline, only 1,785 out of about 20,000 short-term rentals in Toronto have registered with the municipality. With fines beginning at $1,000 for both property owners and host platforms, the race is on to come into compliance. Matthew Bingley reports.
A West Coast MP wants the federal transport minister to ditch fines in the thousands of dollars and allow BC Ferries passengers to remain in their vehicles on enclosed car decks to protect themselves from COVID-19 despite regulations against the practice. Rachel Blaney, North Island-Powell River’s NDP MP, has written to Transport Minister Marc Garneau questioning the logic of potentially fining people up to $12,000 when they are heeding public health orders to keep their contact with other people to a minimum. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic and case numbers are growing in B.C.,” Blaney said. “And obviously it’s a concern to the point that people are willing to be written up and risk fines on the ferries to prevent exposure to COVID-19.” In the initial wave of the pandemic, Transport Canada temporarily waived regulations requiring people in cars on closed decks to head up to passenger lounges. But the federal agency rescinded the exception granted to ferry operators at the end of September. Blaney said she has made her second appeal to Garneau after learning 1,000 people have defied the order and have been reported to Transport Canada. The risks of exposure to the virus are higher now than during the initial exemption, Blaney said, adding B.C. Premier John Horgan has also called on Ottawa to extend the exemption. “The minister previously paused that rule so that people could stay safe,” she said. “Now, when case numbers are growing, why won't he do it again?” Ferry workers have not been policing passengers who choose to remain in their cars, said BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall. “We’re not an enforcement agency,” said Marshall. “We’re politely reminding customers of the Transport Canada regulations.” Staff has been handing out Transport Canada leaflets to passengers who don’t leave the decks that outline the regulations and potential penalties, she said. Those who elect to stay in their cars have their information forwarded to the transport ministry, she added. Marshall confirmed more than 1,000 incidents have been reported to Transport Canada, most often on the sailings between Horseshoe Bay on the mainland and Departure Bay on Vancouver Island. But the vast majority of passengers have been complying with the regulation, Marshall said. The rule is in effect again because Transport Canada believes that new distancing and cleaning protocols on the provincial ferry service mitigate the risk individuals face from COVID-19 exposure, she added. “We certainly understand people are concerned about COVID-19,” Marshall said, adding there a number of risks associated with staying on a car deck. Though it’s unlikely, a car fire could pose serious danger in an enclosed deck, she said. “A customer in their vehicle could be overcome by smoke inhalation or might not be able to find their way out of their vehicle or get through to a stairwell to get upstairs,” she said. Blaney feels the current risks from the virus are greater than those from remaining on closed decks. And she has asked for the risk assessment the transport ministry relied on to make its decision. Constituents in her riding, particularly those who are vulnerable to the virus but must travel to seek medical attention, are expressing grave concerns, Blaney said. “People are very scared,” she said. “They're already travelling to access the care that they need from bigger centres, asking them in their health conditions to risk exposure just adds to the tension.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Another North Island resident has confirmed they have COVID-19, and are isolating at home, this time in Port McNeill. Kelly Chadwick, mother of two, started feeling cold-like symptoms on Nov. 30. She stayed home from work the next day day and sent her kids to stay with their dad and began to isolate herself. On Dec. 3, Island Health called with the positive test confirmation. Chadwick was surprised; she thought it was just a regular sinus infection like she gets every winter. She works at the pharmacy but since Mondays are her regular day off, she hadn’t been at work during the contagious part of the disease, which Island Health says is 48-hours before the onset of symptoms. Still, the pharmacy took the situation seriously, double and triple checking it was safe to remain open. A couple of close friends who Chadwick saw over the weekend, as well as Chadwick’s two children, are now isolating for 14 days. The quarantine means Chadwick will miss her son’s 10th birthday on Dec. 10, but she’s glad she’ll still get to spend Christmas with them. She has no idea where she picked up the virus, saying it had been at least three weeks since she was last down Island. “At first I felt a little bombarded, like it was my fault,” she told the Gazette, but since sharing publicly on Facebook she feels supported by the community. READ MORE: First publicly confirmed COVID-19 case in Port Hardy has been isolated since before symptoms occurred Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom wrote a post on her official Facebook page, saying that while rumours of COVID have been going around, it’s a reminder to diligently follow the public health guidelines, and reminded people to stay kind. “We have always been a community that cares. Don’t let COVID steal that from us. Let’s be sure to remain caring by extending grace and kindness to all. Do not let fear consume you. We will get through this!” Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: email@example.comZoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette