New Brunswick's success against COVID-19 will depend on four things over the next 10 weeks, says the province's chief medical officer of health. These include limiting the spread of the more transmissible and severe variants, maintaining Public Health measures during the vaccine rollout, rapidly vaccinating as many New Brunswickers as possible, and the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting against severe symptoms, ICU admission and death, said Dr. Jennifer Russell. There are now 49 active cases of variants in the province, including two new cases in the Fredericton region, Zone 3, of the variant first detected in South Africa, she told reporters during the Thursday afternoon COVID update. The Saint John region, Zone 2, also has two cases of that variant, while the remainder of the cases are the variant first reported in the U.K., which are spread across the province, except the Campbellton region, Zone 5. Nearly 25 per cent of New Brunswickers age 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and the province remains on target to have at least one dose to everyone who wants one by the end of June, said Russell. But the goal remains "two dose maximum protection," she stressed, cautioning against a false sense of security. People can still contract the coronavirus after being vaccinated and new data shows these individuals often have very mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all, said Russell. "So these asymptomatic carriers can spread the virus to others who have not been vaccinated, resulting in further spread." Given this and the growing list of potential public exposures, Public Health is now offering COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic people who have been in an exposure area, she said. "If you feel that you have a spring cold or mild flu, it's probably COVID-19 or one of the variants. Please get tested, even if you've been vaccinated," Russell said. People can book a test online or call Tele-Care 811. "Don't take chances with the virus, especially now," Russell urged. Lockdown for at least another week in Edmundston region There are eight new cases of COVID-19 in New Brunswick, half of them in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, part of which will remain under lockdown for at least another week, the province's chief medical officer of health announced Thursday. Officials need to see more signs of improvement before ending the lockdown order in Edmundston and the Upper Madawaska area, now in its third week, said Russell. Of the 140 active cases in the province, 104 are in Zone 4, "mostly in the lockdown area," she said. Meanwhile, the situation has improved in the communities of Grand Falls, Saint-Léonard, Drummond, New Denmark and Four Falls and they will move from the red level to the less restrictive orange level at midnight, Russell said. The Saint-Quentin and Kedgwick regions will remain at the yellow level, along with the rest of the province. Russell compared the outbreak in the Edmundston region, Zone 4, on April 7, left, and April 14 to illustrate why the lockdown must continue. Each dot represents a confirmed case and each line represents a connection to another case.(Government of New Brunswick ) In the lockdown area, new cases continue to be confirmed every day and contact tracing remains "a challenge." To illustrate her point, Russell compared graphics of the region from April 7 and April 14, with each dot representing a confirmed case and each line representing a connection to another case. There are still three large clusters of cases, a few unrelated cases outside of these groupings and 19 cases Public Health officials have been unable to conclusively link to any of the existing clusters, she said. In addition, there are still "a number" of cases of community transmission in the area, as well as "numerous incidents" of public exposure to the coronavirus, Russell said. "We're working very, very hard at protecting everyone in that community," she said, thanking residents for their efforts to help slow the spread of the virus. 'Closer to a return to normal' Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said New Brunswick's vaccination rollout remains on schedule and has marked "an important milestone" with at least one dose administered to nearly 25 per cent of people age 16 and older. This "puts us closer to a return to normal," she said. In the Edmundston region, Zone 4, where extra doses have been allotted because of the outbreak, that figure is more than 35 per cent. "I want to stress that we are not sitting on doses of vaccine in this province," Shephard said during her speech at the Thursday COVID-19 briefing. "All of the vaccine we have is spoken for. "There is a process that begins when doses of the vaccine arrive in our province and are recorded as received through to when they are recorded as administered. And this process can take from two days up to a week. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the province's vaccination rollout remains on schedule.(Government of New Brunswick ) "But make no mistake, any vaccine that we have in New Brunswick is accounted for in our rollout plan and will be administered to residents in a timely and efficient manner. In fact, we are accepting every dose made available to us," she said. When asked about delayed shipments of the Moderna vaccine across Canada, Shephard confirmed the 16,100 doses New Brunswick was scheduled to receive the week of April 5 have not yet arrived. She expects them this week, she said. "We've had to, you know, pivot and push out some clinics. But essentially we are at where we thought we would be at the end of Q1 and going into Q2." Shephard did not provide an update on the 23,800 doses due to arrive the week of April 19, but the military commander leading vaccine logistics in Canada said those shipments are not expected until later this month, possibly as late as the first week of May. 18 in hospital, 12 in ICU Eighteen people are in hospital, 12 of whom are in intensive care. The eight new cases break down in this way: Moncton region, Zone 1: two An individual 20-29. An individual 50-59. One case is travel-related and the other is under investigation. Saint John region, Zone 2: one An individual 20-29. This case is travel-related. The eight new COVD-19 cases announced on Thursday put the total number of active cases in the province at 140.(CBC) Edmundston region, Zone 4: four An individual 30-39. An individual 50-59. An individual 60-69. An individual 80-89. Two of the cases are contacts of a confirmed case and the other two are under investigation. Bathurst region, Zone 6: one An individual 50-59. This case is travel-related. New Brunswick has had 1,760 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020. There have been 33 COVID-related deaths and 1,586 recoveries. A total of 271,811 tests have been conducted to date, including 1,296 on Wednesday. Province will pay people to travel at home again The Department of Tourism is offering to pay New Brunswickers to vacation at home again this summer as part of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan. The Explore NB Travel Incentive Program will be reoffered again this year, with a budget of $4.5 million, Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace announced Thursday as part of the department's budget estimates. The program, launched last summer and recently renewed for fall-winter travel, "has supported many tourism operators throughout the province by allowing them to stay open and generate revenue during the pandemic," Scott-Wallace said in a statement. Hopewell Rocks, a provincial park, is one of the province's top attractions and popular with tourists.(Submitted by Brian Atkinson) No details about this summer's program have been released yet. The department's website says they will be shared soon. Under the previous programs, residents could apply for a 20 per cent rebate on eligible expenses of up to $1,000 for travel within the province that included an overnight stay. To further support the hotel sector and communities significantly impacted by COVID-19, the department will provide $200,000 to help bring meetings, conventions and sport tourism back to the province and spend $350,000 on the tourism regional fund to assist regions with their tourism plans, she said. Tourism Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace said details about the renewed Explore NB travel rebate summer program will be announced soon.(Submitted by Tammy Scott-Wallace) Funding has also been set aside to help the arts and culture sectors rebound post-COVID-19, said Wallace. "We want to ensure that creative New Brunswickers can continue to connect and inspire us when times are tough and as they improve," she said. The plan includes: $300,000 for the arts and culture recovery and reactivation fund. Continuation of the Inspired by NB campaign to bring awareness of New Brunswick arts and cultural products through spending of $150,000. COVID-19 funding for the New Brunswick Museum and Kings Landing at $100,000 and $200,000, respectively, to help them with their recovery. An $85,000 increase in the New Brunswick Museum's operating budget. More possible exposures Public Health has identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious on the following flights on April 2: Air Canada Flight 396 from Calgary to Montreal, departed at 1:10 a.m. Air Canada Flight 8898 from Montreal to Moncton, departed at 8:35 a.m. Edmundston region, Zone 4: April 10, between 11 a.m. and noon, Staples, 11 Centre Madawaska Blvd. April 10, between noon and 1 p.m., Walmart, 805 Victoria St. Previous exposure notices Moncton region, Zone 1: April 8 between 4:45 and 5:30 p.m. – COSTCO Wholesale customer service (140 Granite Dr., Moncton) April 6 between 5 and 8 p.m. – YMCA Vaughan Harvey, (30 War Veterans Ave., Moncton) April 4 between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. – Moncton Wesleyan Church (945 St. George Blvd., Moncton) April 3 between 8:00 and 9:30 p.m. – Kelseys Original Roadhouse (141 Trinity Dr., Moncton) April 1 between 12 and 1 p.m., April 3 between 1 and 1:30 p.m., April 6 between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m., April 8 between 2 and 4 p.m. – CF Champlain (477 Paul St., Dieppe) Saint John region, Zone 2: March 29 and April 1, Guardian Drugs-Herring Cove Pharmacy (924 Rte. 774, Unit 2, Welshpool, Campobello Island) March 31, Service New Brunswick (73 Milltown Blvd., St. Stephen) March 31, Giant Tiger (210 King St., St. Stephen) March 31, Kent Building Supplies (188 King St., St. Stephen) March 31, Carman's Diner (164 King St., St. Stephen) April 9 between 2:10 and 2:40 p.m., GAP Factory East Point, (15 Fashion Dr., Saint John) April 9 between 5 and 6 p.m. – McAllister Place, 519 Westmorland Rd., Saint John April 8 between 12 and 1 p.m., – McAllister Place, 519 Westmorland Rd., Saint John April 8 between 1:15 and 2 p.m. – Service New Brunswick, 15 King Square North, Saint John April 1 between 6 and 7:30 p.m. – YMCA of Greater Saint John (191 Churchill Blvd., Saint John) Fredericton region, Zone 3: March 31 – Murray's Irving Big Stop (198 Beardsley Rd., Beardsley) Edmundston region, Zone 4: April 7, 8 and 9, Canada Post (4 Grondin St., Edmundston) April 8 and 9 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Fenêtre Unique (130 Rivière à la Truite Rd., Edmundston) April 8 and 9, National Bank, (111 de l'Église St., Edmundston) April 9 between 12:00 and 1:30 p.m. – Shoppers Drug Mart (160 Hébert Blvd., Edmundston) April 8 between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., April 7 between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., and April 6 between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. – Tim Hortons (262 Isidore-Boucher Blvd., St-Jacques) April 7 after 6:00 p.m., April 6 after 6:00 p.m. – Epicerie Chez ti-Marc (256 Isidore-Boucher Blvd., St-Jacques) April 7 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., and April 6 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. – Dollarama (787 Victoria St., Edmundston) April 7 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., and April 6 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. – NB Liquor, (575 Victoria St., Edmundston) April 7 between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. – Jean Coutu (177 Victoria St., Edmundston) April 7 between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. – Subway (180 Hébert Blvd., Edmundston) April 7 between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. – Atlantic Superstore (577 Victoria St., Edmundston) April 6 between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. – Scotiabank (75 Canada Rd., Edmundston) March 26 to April 8 – Napa Auto Parts - (260 Canada St., Edmundston) March 20 to April 9, Atlantic Superstore (577 Victoria St., Edmundston) April 5 at 11 a.m. – Shoppers Drug Mart (160 Hébert Blvd., Edmundston) April 1 – Royal Bank (48 Saint-François St., Edmundston) March 31 between 12 and 4:30 p.m. – Scotiabank (75 Canada Rd., Edmundston) March 30 between 12 and 4:30 p.m. – Scotiabank (75 Canada Rd., Edmundston) March 29 between 8:45 a.m. and 4 p.m. – Scotiabank (75 Canada Rd., Edmundston) What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: Fever above 38 C. New cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.
EDMONTON — A committee that is supposed to consult Albertans on coal development in the Rocky Mountains won't be allowed to hear what people want to say about water and land use. "The terms of reference say we're consulting on everything but what we want to talk about," said local landowner Kevin Van Tighem. That document, posted to a government website, says the five-member committee will only be able to consider issues under the control of the Department of Energy. "The committee will focus only on matters related to coal that are under the administration of the minister of energy," the document says. That means it will only be able to discuss matters that arise under legislation such as the Coal Conservation Act and the Responsible Energy Development Act. The panel won't be able to consider concerns that would come under laws such as the Land Stewardship Act, which controls land-use plans, or the Water Act. "The vast majority of people are concerned about water and they're concerned about protecting the Rockies," said Van Tighem. "We're not allowed to talk about water and we're not allowed to talk about land use." The panel was formed in response to a massive public outcry over the United Conservative government's plan to dramatically expand open-pit coal mining in the summits and foothills of the Rockies — one of the province's favourite landscapes as well as the headwaters of most of its drinking water. Municipalities, First Nations, ranchers and tens of thousands of Albertans have said they're worried about the threat of water contamination posed by coal mining. Many fear permanent damage to an area of great scenic beauty. But the word "environment" appears nowhere in the four-page document outlining the terms of a panel that Energy Minister Sonya Savage promised would be "focused on the views of Albertans and making sure the government of Alberta has a fair understanding of what those views are.'' It is, however, heavily focused on gauging how much Albertans understand about current coal policies and regulations. It will ask if Albertans perceive their province as a responsible developer and if they're aware of regulations that govern coal development. "I find it really condescending," said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "As if the government is saying, 'Clearly, Albertans don't know what they're talking about. If they only understood our regulations, they wouldn't be so opposed.' I don't think that is true at all." As well, the government-appointed committee won't have to report anything it hears outside the narrow scope it has been given. "The committee may post summaries online of input received from Albertans on matters within committee scope," the document says. As well, the document tasks the panel with "establishing relationships with Indigenous knowledge-keepers," despite Savage's promises of a government-to-government consultation. Alberta Energy did not respond to a request for an interview or comment on the terms of reference. "It will be very frustrating for a lot of people," said Craig Snodgrass, mayor of High River, Alta., whose town council has sent a letter to the government demanding an end to coal exploration. Opposition New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt said the document raises doubts about the consultation. "It’s clear that (Premier) Jason Kenney and the UCP have given this committee a mandate only to reach a predetermined outcome, which is expanded coal mining in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and their watersheds," he said in an email. "If Jason Kenney was sincere about consultation, he would halt all exploration activity. But the damage to Alberta’s natural spaces and watersheds continues as we speak.” Snodgrass said the panel is just the next step. "Albertans have to understand this is going to be a very, very long fight." This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021. — Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960 Bob Weber, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. Previous version had last name spelled van Tighem. Van Tighem is correct.
Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says his government does not plan to have settlement talks with Northern Pulp, despite a warning from the company that it might sue the province if the two sides can't agree on the terms of an environmental assessment for a new effluent treatment facility. The company said in an affidavit recently filed in a B.C. court that it intends to submit a revised proposal for the new facility next month. It added litigation may be necessary to resolve disputes if common ground can't be found. Rankin said Thursday the company is showing interest in finding a way to resume operations and he's waiting to see what unfolds. "If litigation ends up happening, then we'll participate in that," Rankin told reporters at Province House. 'Potentially not achievable' The premier said he has no details about the potential proposal and described the timelines outlined in court documents as "questionable." "We thought that it was potentially not achievable, but that's for them to answer," he said. In February, a community liaison community established in the wake of the mill shutdown said if company officials were serious about restarting and building community trust, they should withdraw an application for a judicial review and the proposal that is currently before the province. The court documents provide no details about whether this new plan would include using a pipeline to send treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait. That was part of an earlier proposal — which to date has not been approved — that caused a firestorm of protest from the Pictou Landing First Nation, fishing and environmental groups and many others living in Pictou County. The mill shut down at the end of January 2020 when it failed to get approval for its proposal and it could no longer use Boat Harbour as its treatment lagoon. Old proposal remains on the books Rankin said the province is considering filing its own affidavit with the court to identify where government officials see challenges with what the company is suggesting, including the idea that the project could be ready for an environmental assessment decision by the end of June 2022. Like the premier, Environment Minister Keith Irving said he's heard nothing from the company about the proposal. In fact, Irving said the company has not officially abandoned its original proposal, which is subject to a deadline of April 22, 2022, to complete an environmental assessment report. "That's still the information that we have at the department," he told CBC News. "If they submit any alterations to that, then we'll make a judgment on what's appropriate timelines." Feds should do the assessment Tory Leader Tim Houston, whose riding includes the Pictou Landing First Nation, said if a new plan comes forward, the evaluation process needs to be clear from the start. He recommended a Class 2 environmental assessment, which would require a report and a formal public review that could include hearings. NDP Leader Gary Burrill agreed on the need for a stringent assessment, but said he doesn't think the evaluation should be left to the provincial government. "If there is an effluent treatment facility proposal, we can only go forward on the basis of the very highest standard available of arm's length, independent review — and that is a full-scope federal environmental assessment," he said. Northern Pulp's court filings suggest they view their new submission as being classified as a "modification to existing infrastructure," something that would be subject to a 50-day review, which could be extended at the environment minister's discretion. MORE TOP STORIES
TORONTO — Ontario could announce new public health restrictions today to curb surging cases of COVID-19 which are straining hospital capacity. The province's associate medical officer of health said Thursday that additional recommendations have been made to cabinet. Dr. Barbara Yaffe said the situation in the province is "dire" and worse than any other point in the pandemic. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said "everything is on the table" when asked about possible new restrictions on Thursday. She would not say what specific measures cabinet was considering, or could be announced today. Ontario's science advisory co-chair Dr. Adalsteinn Brown is also expected to provide an updated pandemic modelling briefing today. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2021. The Canadian Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador's house of assembly opened on shaky foundations Thursday, with Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote delivering a throne speech less than three weeks after an election that faces several court challenges. Though the speech was meant to inspire, there was no escaping the grim financial outlook facing Liberal Premier Andrew Furey and the unease around the election that returned him to power. "The road before us starts with fully coming to terms with the extensive economic crisis facing this province," said the speech read by Foote. A few lines later, the government pledged a complete review of the province's Elections Act. The legislature's opening came after a protracted 10-week election that was upended in mid-February by a COVID-19 outbreak in the St. John's area. With the province in lockdown, chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk cancelled in-person voting and instead held the election by mail. Furey's Liberals were re-elected March 27 with a slim majority, winning 22 of the province's 40 seats. The Progressive Conservatives won 13 seats, down from 15, and the NDP was reduced to two seats from three. Three Independents were also elected. Voter turnout was 48 per cent, marking a historic low for the province. One of those Independents, Paul Lane, announced he'd be putting forward a motion on Monday to request an independent investigation into the election. "There are so many very serious allegations," Lane told reporters. "We need to confirm what is fact, what is fiction. Were there breaches of the Elections Act?" When asked whether he felt the troubled election left Furey with a legitimate mandate, Lane said that was a decision best left for the courts. NDP Leader Alison Coffin said she'd happily support Lane's motion. She and her party launched a constitutional challenge of the election on Monday, asking that the results be thrown out and a new vote be held. Her suit claims Chaulk failed to run a fair, impartial vote and that the election violated charter rights. Her application lists 28 specific irregularities, including an allegation that Chaulk encouraged his staff to include people on the voters list without verifying their identity. Coffin has also requested a judicial recount in her St. John's East-Quidi Vidi district, where she lost her seat to Liberal John Hogan by 53 votes. Two unsuccessful Progressive Conservative candidates are also challenging the results in their ridings. Sheila Fitzgerald lost the race in St. Barbe-L'Anse aux Meadows to Liberal Krista Lynn Howell by 216 votes. According to court documents viewed by The Canadian Press, Fitzgerald signed an application Monday to have the results in her district tossed out. The application alleges that Chaulk misled Furey when he told the premier it was safe to hold an election and that he failed to let Furey know changes to the Elections Act were needed. Fitzgerald did not respond to a request for comment. Jim Lester said he also filed his legal paperwork on Monday claiming that some voters in his riding never received ballots and others were added to voting lists without proper verification. He had held the Mount Pearl North seat but lost to Liberal Lucy Stoyles by 109 votes. The Progressive Conservatives have said they will not be challenging the election in court as a party. When asked Thursday if he felt Furey had a legitimate mandate, interim party leader David Brazil said that "will be determined by the courts." Furey and the Liberals have shied away from commenting on the election, pledging instead to revisit the Elections Act. As for the financial sinkhole ahead of him, Furey said his first goal is to find a solution for the cash-sucking Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project. The massive dam and generating station in Labrador has run over schedule and over budget, essentially doubling in cost to $13.1 billion. Without outside assistance — ideally from Ottawa — power rates across the province could also double in order to pay for it. "And that effects the economy," Furey told reporters. "Muskrat Falls is an incredible anchor around our souls and our finances." Furey said the province's next budget, which should be tabled in June, will be another "COVID-19-style budget," aimed at maintaining stability as the province navigates the global pandemic. "This is not time for austerity," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is pitching a loyalty-card style of carbon pricing where consumers would see what they pay on fuel stored into an account that can be used for green purchases later. He unveiled the party's plan to tackle climate change Thursday, of which the so-called "personal low carbon savings account" is a signature policy.
Toronto FC's Patrick Mullins and Justin Morrow acknowledged their goals against Club Leon on Wednesday night came with an outpouring of emotion. For Mullins, the reason was simple. His grandmother passed away recently. His teammates knew and captain Michael Bradley was quick to get to Mullins after he opened the scoring in Toronto's 2-1 win over the Mexican side in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The result gave TFC a 3-2 victory on aggregate, moving the MLS side into the quarterfinals of CONCACAF's flagship club competition against Mexican league leader Cruz Azul. Starting in place of the injured Jozy Altidore, the 29-year-old Mullins got the job done with some help from his friends. Bradley helped trigger the Mullins goal, driving into the Leon half and finding Jacob Shaffelburg open to the left. The pacey winger sent a perfect cross through the legs of one Leon defender and out of the reach of another, to find Mullins who was in the right place and the right time for a simple tap-in in the 55th minute. "Things happened very quickly in that goal … And once the ball was in the net, a lot of things hit me," Mullins recalled after the game. "But then I heard Michael come over and say, 'That's for the Mullins family.' "Then things really came down to earth to me. I had lost my grandmother this past week, so I had very much had a heavy heart in this game, and I think the team supported me so much through that loss of my family." Morrow made it 2-0 in the 71st minute, five minutes after entering the game. "It felt really good. It felt like a little emotional release, to be honest," said Morrow, who did not dress for last week's first leg in Mexico. "It's been a couple of months since I've been on the field. (I've been), dealing with some little injuries. I was out most of pre-season. So to make my way back — I was in contention to maybe be subbed into the game in a couple of different positions. At the end of the day I was happy just to get on the field and make a difference for the team." Taking a pass from teenage midfielder Ralph Priso, Morrow somehow bundled the ball in as he collided with goalkeeper Rodolpho Cota. TFC's high press made the goal with a Leon defender, under pressure, giving the ball way to Priso. "Not the most pretty goal but I'll take it. Any goal is a goal for me," said the 33-year-old fullback. "So it was really emotional to get that." Toronto kicks off the MLS regular season Saturday against CF Montreal in Fort Lauderdale. Both Canadian teams have taken up residence in Florida while the Vancouver Whitecaps have shifted their base of operations to Sandy, Utah, because of pandemic-related travel restrictions. The Whitecaps host the Portland Timbers at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sunday. --- Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021 Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
The former CEO of a Saskatoon lab that develops vaccines, including one for COVID-19, says Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer has no game plan for dealing with the novel coronavirus. Andrew Potter, who worked at VIDO-InterVac for 22 years, first made the comment on Twitter following Tuesday's provincial update on COVID-19. "I must admit that I think Dr Shahab is way over his head with COVID based on what he has said so far at the press conference," the University of Saskatchewan professor tweeted Tuesday. "He dwells on the past and present but no game plan for the future (which is what counts right now)." In an interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Potter said he hadn't "seen any evidence yet that they're taking this seriousIy. "I recognize that there are medical decisions and recommendations and then there are political ones. And he doesn't control the political ones obviously." The Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for comment before publication. Potter said the government needs to communicate better with the public. He said the province has to stop comparing current cases with past waves — especially since the third wave involves coronavirus variants which are more transmissible. "Nobody's looking into the future as to where do we want to be and how we're going to get there," Potter said. "Right now, we're essentially repeating history that we know didn't work." Andrew Potter, former CEO of VIDO-InterVac, is now a professor at the University of Saskatchewan. (Andrew Potter) Variant cases erupting across province On Tuesday, Saskatchewan implemented a province-wide ban on private indoor gatherings while limiting crowds at places of worship to 30 people. Nazeem Muhajarine, a Saskatoon-based epidemiologist, said "it's a bit too little, too late." "We are going back to what should have been done on March 9 when public health measures were relaxed on that day," Muhajarine said on CBC's Saskatoon Morning. When the province allowed residents to expand their bubbles to a maximum of ten individuals in a home at any one time, Saskatchewan had 35 coronavirus variant cases. "And in the intervening five weeks, numbers increased a hundredfold." As of Thursday, Saskatchewan reported 4,183 coronavirus variant cases. "Expanding the bubbles has really backfired here in Saskatchewan, and especially knowing that the variant was spreading quite aggressively in the province," intensive care specialist Dr. Hassan Masri said. With variants erupting across the province, Muhajarine said the government is still doing "too little." "It's almost like, you know, trying to put off a raging house fire with a home fire extinguisher," Muhajarine said. Call to close bars and restaurants Masri, who works in intensive care units in Saskatoon, said "the variant is making people really sick." "We would not be in the situation that Regina is in, but certainly with the rising numbers ... we won't be surprised if that's our fate in the next week or so," Masri said. Intensive care specialist Dr. Hassan Masri says bars and restaurants in Saskatchewan should be closed.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press) He said further restrictions, like closing bars and restaurants across the province and further reducing gathering sizes at religious institutions, could prevent further strain on the health-care system. Muhajarine agreed. "The question can be asked whether these cases, hospitalizations and even deaths could have been averted had timely action been taken," he said.
VICTORIA — The B.C. government is investing $2 billion in a low-interest loan program for builders of affordable housing. Housing Minister David Eby said Thursday the financing will be offered to private developers and community groups through the province's HousingHub program, a division of BC Housing. The funding will target projects for renters and buyers with average household incomes of $75,000. Eby said the loans will be provided at below-market rates and in return, developers will commit to passing the construction savings on to residents through more affordable rents and housing prices. The loans will be repaid once construction is complete, allowing HousingHub to reinvest in more units, he added. Finance Minister Selina Robinson said the funding is part of Budget 2021, which will be unveiled in full next week. "For far too long, housing in British Columbia was viewed as a commodity and a tool for building wealth, rather than a basic necessity of a home," said Robinson, who was the housing minister before taking on the finance portfolio. "The simple truth is, affordable housing is life changing." In order to ensure the savings are passed on to the residents, each developer must make a 10-year commitment around affordability. The agreements signed are unique to each project, Eby said. Financing rates will depend on factors like a developer's credit rating and relationship with banks, he said. BC Housing has already received about 90 applications from builders interested in accessing a loan, he said. "There's lots of demand and competition for the funding," Eby said. Applications will be prioritized based on maximizing affordability, such as the number of units and the price per unit offered to tenants or buyers, he said. Developments will also be assessed through a geographic lens to ensure the benefit of the program is felt across the province. "There's really not a community in our province that isn't facing some aspect of the housing crisis, although it looks different in different communities," Eby said. Paul Kershaw, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia's school of population and public health, said the HousingHub is a positive and important program. The program has seen private developers partner with non-profits to deliver the housing, which is an effective way to ensure the supply is affordable for middle-income households, said Kershaw. But increasing supply should be complemented with other policy measures if the government truly wants to dampen the escalating housing market, he said. "Anything being built and offered anew in a setting where ... home prices continue to rise on average is going to erode the affordability that the provincial government is aiming to bring in by offering these low-interest loans," he said. Complementary measures could include similar low-interest loans aimed at strengthening other parts of the economy, such as small businesses, he said. British Columbia is in an unhealthy situation when 18 per cent of B.C.'s economy is real estate rental and leasing, but only two per cent of the population is employed in that sector, Kershaw said. "It is a massive gap and as a result, that's why there's big growth in that industry but it's not generating earnings that are spread out to a whole bunch of people," he said. The Opposition Liberals said skyrocketing housing prices during the pandemic show the NDP government's housing plan is failing. The party referenced a report from the B.C. Real Estate Association that found the average home price in the province increased by 20.4 per cent last month compared with the same time last year. At the same time, active residential listings dropped by 24.4 per cent as the housing supply sunk to the lowest level seen in decades, it said. "It’s clear that the NDP’s supposed solutions for affordability have had no meaningful effect on the housing market," housing critic Ben Stewart said. "Young British Columbians are still watching their dreams of home ownership fade away, while this government takes an undeserved victory lap.” — By Amy Smart in Vancouver. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — One by one, the Republican leaders of Congress have made the trip to Mar-a-Lago to see Donald Trump. Kevin McCarthy visited after the deadly Jan 6 Capitol insurrection, counting on the former president's help to win back control of the House in 2022. The chair of the Senate Republican campaign committee, Rick Scott, stopped by to enlist Trump in efforts to regain the Senate. Lindsey Graham goes to play golf. But missing from the appearances has been perhaps the most powerful Republican elected official in the country, Mitch McConnell, a onetime ally who ushered the former president’s legislative and judicial agenda to fruition, but now claims to want nothing to do with Trump. The very public pilgrimages, and the noticeable refusal to make one, have placed congressional Republicans at a crossroads, with one branch of the party keeping close to Trump, hoping to harness the power of his political brand and loyal voters for their campaigns, and the other splitting away, trying to chart the GOP’s post-Trump future. With no obvious heir apparent or leader-in-waiting, the standoff between the party’s two highest-ranking figures poses an uneasy test of political wills and loyalties, particularly for the rank-and-file lawmakers in Congress dependent on both men for their political livelihoods. Congress has become more Trump-like in the former president’s absence, as a new generation of Trump-aligned lawmakers emerges, particularly in the Senate, and more centrist Republicans announce their retirements. “We've got enough problems without fighting within ourselves," said Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who was swept into office this year with Trump's support. “You know, being a football coach, that’s what I would tell our players and coaches,” he said. "You bring your whole team down. So that’s pretty much how I think about this. As a team, we don’t need arguing between teammates. We just need them to be on the same page.” The stark fallout was on display at the Republican donor retreat when Trump lashed into McConnell as a “stone-cold loser” but then was feted with an honorary award from Scott, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair launching the campaign efforts. Asked about it later, McConnell responded with perhaps the most cutting retort of all: He simply ignored Trump. “What I'm concentrating on is the future,” said McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. Unlike past presidents who did not win a second term, the end of Trump’s presidency has not brought closure as much as it has a lingering uncertainty on Capitol Hill about the party’s pathway back to power. He is promising to return to the political stage, perhaps for his own bid for the White House. But more immediately he is being enlisted by GOP leaders in support of congressional candidates to win back the House and Senate. As McConnell tries to position Republicans as the opposition to President Joe Biden's agenda, it is clear that while he is the leader of the Senate, Trump remains, for now, the leader of the GOP. “Is it ideal? I don’t know. But is it sustainable? Sure,” said Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and longtime McConnell confidant. “It’s easy to see how they both could frankly be successful in their individual goals without ever speaking another word to each other.” Jennings said McConnell and Trump aren’t jockeying for power as much as bringing complementary skills to the campaigns ahead. The former president can rev up his base of supporters with rally-style speeches while McConnell can assemble the campaign strategies and candidates to regain control of the Senate. “One of them is in party-building mode, which is McConnell, and the other one is in axe-grinding mode,” he said. “They don’t have to be golfing buddies,” he said. The congressional leaders want, and expect, Trump to play a role in next year’s midterm elections as they try to wrest control from Democrats, who have the slimmest majorities in the House and Senate in recent memory. “God, yes,” Graham, R-S.C., said recently. “He’s sitting on a mountain of money and has a 90% approval rating among Republicans.” McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said Trump has been helpful so far in House GOP campaign efforts. “Like all of the former presidents, they help, they’re engaged in many different ways,” McCarthy said. Yet as Trump assembles a political operation from his private club in Florida, his biggest priority so far appears to be trying to defeat some of the party’s most prominent lawmakers, including Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who were among those voting to impeach him over the Jan. 6 insurrection. While Trump has also endorsed some GOP incumbents, other Republican lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, have simply announced they are retiring. Asked specifically if Trump should quit attacking the Republican Party's leaders, McCarthy demurred. “The No. 1 thing I want to have happen is make sure the next century is the American century,” he said. “If the next century is going to be ours, we’re going to have to change administrations, we're going to have to change Congress. That’s my focus.” The deadly riot has become a political line of demarcation on Capitol Hill over those GOP lawmakers who stood with Trump to overturn Biden’s victory during the Electoral College tally. Trump was impeached for inciting the insurrection as he urged a mob of supporters to “fight like hell” for his presidency. One of the lawmakers Trump recently endorsed is Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks, who is running for the Senate seat that will be vacant with the retirement of longtime GOP Sen. Richard Shelby. Brooks had been a leader of the House efforts to challenge the election results and joined the rally outside the White House on Jan. 6. Trump encouraged the mob that day to head to the Capitol. Five people died, including a Trump supporter shot by police and a police officer who died later after fighting the mob of Trump loyalists who stormed the Capitol. At a dinner last month at Mar-a-Lago, Scott said he encouraged the president's support to win back the Senate — after the primaries are settled. Many Republicans recall the 2010 election when they won back control of the House, but not the Senate, because some of the candidates who won primary elections on the tea party wave were too conservative or hardline to appeal to voters statewide. Shelby said he wished the former president and McConnell would "put their differences aside," minding President Ronald Reagan's admonition not to battle each other. “Republicans fighting Republicans benefits who? The Democrats,” said Shelby. “I wish he’d stay out of all the Senate races, but he’s not,” Shelby said about Trump. “He’s got a lot of energy, he’s got a dedicated following. I don’t think he’s looking for retirement.” Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Newfoundland and Labrador has two new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, both related to travel. One is in the Western Health region, a man between 20 and 39 years old who travelled within Canada. The second case is in the Eastern Health region, a man in his 60s who travelled internationally. The Department of Health said contact tracing by public health officials is underway. Anyone considered a close contact has been advised to quarantine. Public health is asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 8008, leaving Toronto on Saturday and arriving in Deer Lake on Sunday, to arrange COVID-19 testing. The province reported one more recovery Thursday, in the Western Health region. There are now 15 active cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, and one person is in hospital due to the virus. A case in Western Health reported on April 9 has been determined to be related to travel within Canada. A case reported on April 8 in the Eastern Health region is still under investigation. The Health Department is also advising rotational workers about a COVID-19 outbreak at the Royal Camp Services in Grande Prairie, Alta. The department said it was notified about the outbreak by the Public Health Agency of Canada as people from Newfoundland and Labrador work at the site. Workers with this project who have returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in the last two weeks must isolate themselves from any household members, call 811 to arrange testing and complete the full 14-day self-isolation period, regardless of test result. To date, 128,432 people have been tested, including 597 since Wednesday's update. Meanwhile, Eastern Health has opened all of its COVID-19 vaccination clinics to people 65 years old and older for their first shots of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Pre-registration is no longer necessary and eligible residents can book an appointment online with an email address. Anyone 70 years old and up who has already registered can also book an appointment. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
While the age of consent was previously 15, prosecutors in France used to be required to prove sex was non-consensual to obtain a rape conviction. "This is an historic law for our children and our society," Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told the National Assembly. As a consequence, a "Romeo and Juliet" clause that allows for sexual relations between a minor and an individual up to five years older.
EDMONTON — The Alberta Teachers’ Association wants the province to immediately scrap its draft education curriculum for young students and to start over. Association president Jason Schilling says most of his members feel teaching what's being proposed for kids in kindergarten to Grade 6 could damage their development. “This curriculum is fatally flawed,” Schilling said Thursday. “Many of the teachers believe that putting it before children will cause harm. We cannot allow that to happen.” Schilling said the plan is not developmentally appropriate for young kids, is jammed with random facts, and too loosely structured with concepts well over students’ heads. He said it pushes Eurocentric history while giving short shrift to francophone and Indigenous cultures and perspectives. He noted that since the curriculum was introduced by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange two weeks ago, more than 20 school boards have said they will not pilot it in classrooms this fall. They include the public school boards in Edmonton and Calgary. Schilling pointed to a survey of teachers released last week that revealed an overwhelming call for the draft to be overhauled. The proposal has also faced accusations that parts of it have been cribbed or lifted verbatim without citation from Wikipedia and other sources. Advocates, including LaGrange, say it takes a common-sense approach that includes basic concepts, such as multiplication tables, along with real-life skills for the information age, including how to budget and computer code. LaGrange spokeswoman Nicole Sparrow said in a statement that the Alberta government "has been very clear that we want feedback from Albertans on the draft curriculum. "Teachers have been very involved and will continue to be involved in the curriculum development process. Alberta’s government brought together more than 100 Alberta teachers, many who are members of the teachers’ union, to review the draft K-6 curriculum and provide feedback." Schilling said the participation was short and secret. “We had 100 teachers who met for two days that had to sign a non-disclosure agreement," he said. "We have no idea what they said, what they saw, and if the feedback they provided to government was actually taken into account and is reflected in the draft.” He acknowledged teachers can face disciplinary measures if they do not follow lawful direction, such as implementing a curriculum, but added there is a higher principle at stake. “Teachers who believe this curriculum is flawed and potentially damaging to student learning have the professional responsibility and moral right to refuse to participate in any voluntary piloting.” Schilling said he hopes school boards will respect such refusals, but declined to say specifically what the teachers association will do, legal or otherwise, should co-operation turn into confrontation down the road. “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to that point, but my hope is that we don’t.” The K-6 curriculum is part of a broader overhaul. A new learning plan for Grades 7 to 10 is to be in place in the fall of 2023, and one for Grades 11 and 12 in September 2024. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021 Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Daimler AG on Thursday unveiled the electric "sibling" of its flagship Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan, taking the fight to market-leader Tesla Inc in the battle for market share as electric car sales take off. The EQS is the first in a family of Mercedes-Benz cars built on a dedicated electric vehicle platform built from the ground up. Sales of electric and plug-in hybrid cars in the European Union almost trebled to over 1 million vehicles last year, accounting for more than 10% of overall sales.
WASHINGTON — It was one of the more tantalizing, yet unresolved, questions of the investigation into possible connections between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign: Why was a business associate of campaign chairman Paul Manafort given internal polling data — and what did he do with it? A Treasury Department statement Thursday offered a potentially significant clue, asserting that Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant, had shared sensitive campaign and polling information with Russian intelligence services. Kilimnik has long been alleged by U.S. officials as having ties to Russian intelligence. But the statement in a broader Treasury Department sanctions announcement was the first time the U.S. government had so directly drawn a connection from the Trump campaign to the Kremlin's intelligence services. The revelation was all the more startling because it went beyond any allegation made in either special counsel Robert Mueller's 2019 report or in an even more damning and detailed document released last year by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Both those investigations were unable to determine what Kilimnik did with the data and whether he shared it further. The issue resurfaced Thursday because Kilimnik was one of 32 people and entities sanctioned by the U.S. government for interference in the 2020 election. Officials say Kilimnik sought to promote the bogus narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election. Kilimnik was a key but mysterious figure in Mueller's investigation into potential co-ordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. A business associate of Manafort's who worked closely with him, even managing his firm's office in Kyiv, Kilimnik is mentioned by name 156 times in the Mueller report. He was also indicted alongside Manafort on witness tampering allegations, but has not appeared in the U.S. to face those charges. The FBI has issued a $250,000 award for information leading to his arrest. A key episode examined by Mueller involved Manafort's decision to share campaign polling data with Kilimnik — something prosecutors say Manafort lied about when questioned about it. Investigators scrutinized a series of secretive encounters between the men, including one August 2016 session at the Grand Havana Club in New York. There, according to statements provided by Mueller, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on internal campaign data and messaging and they discussed battleground states. The exchange of polling data was an eye-catching data point, especially since it raised questions that perhaps Russia could have exploited such inside information to target influence campaigns aimed at boosting Trump's election bid in 2016. But Mueller's team said it couldn't “reliably determine” Manafort's purpose in sharing it, nor assess what Kilimnik may have done with it — in part due to questions over Manafort's credibility. The Senate committee also came up empty, though its report drew attention for its characterization of Kilimnik as a Russian intelligence officer. It was not clear what new information, if any, led to the Treasury Department's assessment that Kilimnik had “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.” A Treasury Department spokesman did not return an email seeking comment. ____ Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
The mayor of a small Saskatchewan town whose residents were recently alerted they are at heightened risk of contracting highly transmissible coronavirus variants of concern says the area has recently experienced "excessive" partiers. Meanwhile, health officials confirm a "recreational party" took place near the community and has sparked a superspreading event. RCMP are investigating but no fines have been issued yet. Maple Creek Mayor Michelle McKenzie made the remarks Tuesday during a council meeting. RCMP Sgt. John Phipps had just completed a regular address about local crime statistics when McKenzie asked other councillors if they had any questions or concerns for the officer. McKenzie had one. "I think it comes down to just what we've been experiencing the last couple of days with the excessive.... partiers or anything else that exceeds the public health order," she said. WATCH | Mayor McKenzie addresses the RCMP (at the 15:58 mark): CBC News has reached out to McKenzie for further comment. One town councillor, Betty Abbott, declined to comment and referred CBC News to McKenzie and the Facebook feed. Event 'disappointing': health minister Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman was pressed for the second day in a row for details about the event. Asked if it was either a high school party or a religious gathering, Merriman said he did not have those details. He said the event went "way over" the limit of 10 people for private and public outdoor gatherings and that there was "minimal" adherence to public health rules. "We've had very low numbers in the southwest part of the province, in the Maple Creek and Swift Current area," Merriman said. "It takes one event like this to start up another superspreader. It's disappointing." Health Minister Paul Merriman said he was briefed on the situation but offered few details about the event. (CBC) Saskatchewan RCMP said their Maple Creek detachment is investigating the April 2 event after receiving more than one complaint. It allegedly took place at a home in a rural area near Maple Creek, according to an RCMP spokesperson. 21 cases linked to outdoor event On Wednesday, the day after McKenzie's remarks, the Saskatchewan Health Authority warned residents in Maple Creek and Rosetown, Kindersley, Swift Current, Davidson, Moose Jaw, plus their surrounding areas, of increased risk of COVID-19 variants of concern "related to a number of recent large outdoor gatherings and failure to comply with current public health measures." The health authority later confirmed an outdoor gathering in southwestern Saskatchewan was tied to 21 infections, including some cases of variants of concern, although the exact variant was not yet identified. No other details about the event were provided. Town affairs on lockdown In a virtual address posted on the Town of Maple Creek's Facebook page on Wednesday, McKenzie announced a series of clampdowns to protect town staff and residents from the spread of COVID-19. A masked McKenzie said town employees were going door to door with flyers about variants of concern. Some town staff would work from home, she said. The town office and visitor centre is closed, she added. "Residents of Maple Creek are strongly urged to strictly adhere to the current public health order and measures, including immediately [seeking] testing," McKenzie said. Maple Creek is one of 27 communities monitored by health officials in the South West 1 zone. As of Thursday, that zone had 32 active cases of COVID-19, with one new case announced that day.
WINDSOR, England (Reuters) -When Prince Philip's coffin is conveyed to church for his funeral service, it will be taken in a specially-commissioned Land Rover that the British royal himself helped design. Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth, died last week aged 99 and his funeral will be held entirely at Windsor Castle on Saturday, with no public allowed. Although the event has been scaled down because of COVID-19 restrictions, many traditional elements will remain, with a military procession inside the castle and pall bearers from units with close links to Philip.
Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez and former New York Yankees baseball star Alex Rodriguez called off their engagement because "we are better as friends," announcing the breakup on Thursday just months after denying their four-year relationship was on the rocks. “We have realized we are better as friends and look forward to remaining so," Lopez, 51, also known by her nickname J.Lo, and Rodriguez, 45, known as A-Rod, said in a joint statement. "We will continue to work together and support each other on our shared businesses and projects,” Lopez and Rodriguez said.
The RCMP say a body found near Saint Andrews last weekend was that of a 68-year-old woman who disappeared in the area last December. Police don't believe foul play was a factor in her death. Wilhelmina (Wilma) Catherine Montgomery was reported missing on Dec. 8, 2020, after not being seen since around noon in Saint Andrews the day before. Her disappearance triggered a response from the Charlotte County Ground Search and Rescue team, which mobilized 20 searchers to look for her in the days after she was last seen. On Saturday, RCMP said the body of a woman was found by a kayaker on Navy Island, near Saint Andrews. "Even though this is not the outcome we were hoping for, we are glad to be able to bring closure to the family," said RCMP Sgt. Christopher Henderson.
Canada's opposition Conservative Party on Thursday dropped its resistance to carbon pricing and adopted the fee on emissions and fuels as part of its own climate plan, a move that could put it at odds with some of its staunchest supporters. Climate change has proved a thorny issue for the Conservative Party under leader Erin O'Toole.