A warm morning and plenty of heat later this afternoon. Highs will be well above 100 degrees in the valley. Chance of storms in the Sierra. We'll continue to see very hot afternoons and warm nights until Wednesday.
A warm morning and plenty of heat later this afternoon. Highs will be well above 100 degrees in the valley. Chance of storms in the Sierra. We'll continue to see very hot afternoons and warm nights until Wednesday.
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — A man and woman have each been fined for pretending to cough on customers in a gym just steps from Vancouver police headquarters. A statement from police says the owner of the gym flagged down two passing constables outside the business Saturday night. He said a man and woman, who were not wearing masks and were not members of the gym, were inside coughing in the general direction of patrons and equipment. A 60-year-old man and his 25-year-old girlfriend told the officers they were only pretending to cough. Police say the couple claimed they reacted because gym members were staring at them. The police statement says both people left the business after being handed $230 tickets for violating the Emergency Program Act by failing to wear a face covering. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Chief Tony Alexis wants to make it clear he does not begrudge Maskwacis the early vaccines the four First Nations received. His concern is about the process in Alberta. Alexis said three meetings last week between chiefs and staff with health officials from both the province and federal government gave no indication that any First Nation would see early arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine doses. They were informed that Elders 65 years and over on reserves would be the next to receive the vaccine. At this point, both long-term care facilities and front line health personnel on reserves had been vaccinated against the coronavirus. On Saturday, the third day of successive funerals on his First Nation, Alexis was told by one of his band members that Maskwacis had received the vaccine. He assured his community member that wasn’t the case, because it hadn’t been discussed at previous meetings. But it turned out that it was the case. “Everybody, whether you're Albertan or Canadian or some different part of the world, everyone is afraid. People are afraid and every leadership I know have been doing their best to keep things calm and try to eliminate the noise.” Alexis said “things like this create that noise. Experiences like this go back to examples like the residential schools, Sixties Scoop, leaving the Indigenous people out of that decision-making table.” A news release issued last night by Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson confirmed Maskwacis received a “limited number of doses” as they “are currently experiencing a serious rise in cases.” The combined population of the four First Nations—Louis Bull, Samson Cree, Montana and Ermineskin Cree—which comprise Maskwacis is 18,000. Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback told the media last Friday that nearly 10 per cent of the community were COVID-19 positive. More than five per cent of the population on Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation has COVID-19. Then yesterday, like everyone else, Alexis heard the announcement from Premier Jason Kenney that a cut by 20 to 80 per cent over the coming weeks in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meant a delay in vaccinating those in the next priority group, including First Nations and Métis Elders. “It’s disappointing. It’s disheartening,” said Alexis, both about the news and not being part of the discussion before the announcement was made. Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras was surprised by Kenney’s announcement. “In terms of the decisions, how things are rolling out, whose decision was it to put a hold on vaccines distribution to First Nations? We don’t know. I really don’t know. Like everybody else, I found out (Monday) morning. The First Nations are the most vulnerable population everywhere, so it doesn’t make sense to me,” said Poitras. Both Poitras and Alexis reference the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and say Health Minister Tyler Shandro needs to comply with it. NACI has “adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences” included in stage one of the COVID-19 roll out. Poitras points to Alberta Health statistics to emphasize the point: 7.1 per cent of First Nations in Alberta have been hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to 4.3 per cent of Albertans generally. After Kenney’s announcement, Poitras began a text conversation with Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller. She said Miller said he was unaware of the decision and did not know how the province had arrived at it. Poitras said she requested information from Miller on the national roll out of the vaccine. “The numbers don’t pan out. That’s the issue,” said Poitras. “If we’re not at that decision-making table, how do we know how many vaccines are being rolled out? How many are actually being distributed to who? Who are the priorities? I know they sent out a priority list, but now they’re changing that, putting First Nations on hold. Without our direct involvement how are we to know exactly what kind of decisions are being made?” Wilson said in his statement that First Nations were “particularly vulnerable.” He points out that Phase 1 will see Indigenous Elders living on reserve and Métis settlements vaccinated at 65 years of age and up while the rest of the Alberta population in that phase has to be 75 years or older. The priority list for Alberta has phase one divided into three timelines beginning in December 2020, with Phase 1B to begin in February 2021 and including First Nations and Métis Elders on reserves and settlements. Phase 2, which spans April to September, says “work to identify sequencing … is underway.” “We value the leaders’ input and measures taken to date by First Nations,” said Wilson. However, both Alexis and Poitras believe that First Nations have not had enough input. “We’ve been trying to keep the people calm. Trying to be supportive, trying to provide proper information. When you hear information coming from the general public and they know more than we do, as leaders being told we’re sitting at this important table. It’s disheartening,” said Alexis. “There needs to be a coordinated response where First Nations are involved and that we’re making these decisions together,” said Poitras. Alexis would like to see not only chiefs directly involved with Alberta politicians in the decision making, but also First Nations experts, such as Treaty 6 physicians James Makokis and Alika La Fontaine, weighing in. “There are experts that the chiefs would listen to their advice and support them at the same time. They would echo where our communities are at. Whether it’s this or anything else in government, our people need to be at those tables and a fair process needs to be put in place that we’re following. Right now what it does, it actually damages that conversation because (the communities) will look at their leadership that they're not doing enough,” said Alexis. He added that if that process isn’t solid and transparent, First Nations may be further ahead by operating on their own and advocating for themselves. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
Regina – By Tuesday, Jan. 19, SGI Canada had already received 1,885 property claims as a result of the Alberta clipper storm that whacked southern Saskatchewan Jan. 13-14. That’s according to Tyler McMurchy, manager, media relations, with SGI. He added that’s for just for one insurer, as SGI is one of many property insurers in the province. A further 386 auto claims were also received – not from people bumping fenders, but from things like trees landing on vehicles, or trailers being blown over. “Those were some pretty crazy winds,” McMurchy said by phone from Regina on Jan. 19. He said claims came from throughout the province, anywhere south of Prince Albert. Regina, Moose Jaw and Weyburn were particularly hit, but so were places like Saskatoon, Radville, Estevan and Milestone. In October, 2017, there had been a similar storm, but McMurchy said, “This past one had higher wind speeds and more trees knocked down.” Environment Canada had reported wind gusts as strong as an EF1 tornado north of Regina. Since it was winter, more outside items like lawn furniture and trampolines had been put away, while other items were frozen to the ground, he noted. There will be some “very large claims” he said, including building damage and farm claims. Adjusters worked throughout the weekend, and by Jan. 19, most of those who had filed claims had initial contact with an SGI adjuster, according to McMurchy. Shingles, roofs, soffits and siding are just some of the damage claims that have come in. “Some neighbourhoods, everyone’s got some shingles missing,” he said. He spoke of limiting further damage, but it may be necessary to get contractors to do that. Hold onto receipts, he noted, and take pictures, both wide angle and closeups. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Council and the Town, has received a number of inquiries from religious orga-nizations as to the availability of land in Shelburne for the use of churches. Deputy Mayor Steve Anderson brought up these requests to Council on Monday night, asking if there was available land in the industrial or commercial zones for these organizations to utilize. The question was then addresses by the Town Planner, Steve Wever. Mr. Wever noted that places of worship must be located in either Residential or Institu-tional zoning only and that currently, no available land is being offered for sale, to his knowledge. He did say that there is presently undeveloped land zoned for institutional use, owned by the Arch Dio-ceses and surrounded by the Summerhill Subdivision, on Highway 10.Mr. Wever also noted that there’s land surrounding Centennial Hylands school, owned by the Upper Grand School Board, but that to his knowledge neither site is currently for sale. Speaking to the ques-tion of Industrial land use, Steve noted that under the Ministry of the Environ-ments Land Use Compatibility Guidelines, a church is considered a sensitive land use and consequently limits the potential use of surrounding lands. As a result, he has tried to steer that use away from Industrial Zones so as to maxi-mize the potential of those lands for indus-trial or commercial ventures. Councillor Benotto spoke up to say that he believes that the Arch Diocese has plans for their land and will move forward with those shortly Peter Richardson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's youngest daughter, Tiffany, is engaged to be married. The 27-year-old recent Georgetown law school graduate announced her good news on Instagram on Tuesday, her father's final full day in office. She shared a photograph of herself and fiance Michael Boulos posing on the West Wing colonnade at the White House. “It has been an honour to celebrate many milestones, historic occasions and create memories with my family here at the White House, none more special than my engagement to my amazing fiance Michael!” Tiffany Trump wrote. “Feeling blessed and excited for the next chapter!” Boulos, a 23-year-old business executive, also shared the photograph on his Instagram account. “Got engaged to the love of my life! Looking forward to our next chapter together,” he wrote. Tiffany Trump is the president's daughter with Marla Maples, his second ex-wife. She and Boutros have been dating for the past few years and have attended White House events together. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Canada’s veterans ombudsman is calling on the federal government to reverse restrictions on mental-health services for veterans' families. Ombudsman Nishika Jardine’s demand is in a scathing report released today, a year after Ottawa cut off this federal funding for veterans' families, even when the family member needs treatment because of their loved one’s military service. That move followed outrage over Veterans Affairs Canada having paid for Christopher Garnier’s PTSD treatment while in prison because he was the son of a veteran, even though Garnier had been convicted of killing police officer in Halifax. Jardine’s report quotes several veterans and their family members about the harm those restrictions have done to them and their children, most of whom were receiving support before the change was made without notice. Some of those quoted also question how the government can justify the restrictions when Canadian Armed Forces commanders have repeatedly stressed how supporting military families at home contributes to successful missions abroad. Jardine says reversing the restrictions is a matter of fairness given the unique challenges facing veterans' families, including constant moves, long periods of separation and the stress of living with someone suffering from physical and mental injuries. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Steve Fortin and his family survived a harrowing COVID-19 infection and he wants to share it with everyone “because it may save a life.” Fortin, a trucker and musician, said he and his wife started to notice mild symptoms Dec. 22, three days after exposure. “Sniffles, slight cough, and a dry, sore nose,” he wrote, but they weren’t sure if it was sinus problems or a cold. “Here is our mistake, we should have immediately been tested,” Fortin said, adding they were being careful in case they were infected that they wouldn’t spread it. “We are new to the area so we didn't really go anywhere to spread it but I did go to work and went to the store but wore a mask and sanitized regularly and kept a safe distance at all times,” he said. By New Year’s Eve, he and his wife “became terribly ill” with the full laundry list of symptoms. “We couldn’t get off the couch the pain was so bad, fevers and chills almost unbearable,” he wrote, with “stomach ache and diarrhea with no appetite at all. “My wife was vomiting and I was lucky enough not to vomit,” Fortin wrote. “Then we got the call, a friend of ours who works in the medical field tested posted for COVID-19. “Immediately we called the North Bay COVID centre for testing and our results came back positive as well. “My wife, kids, and myself all had COVID-19,” he said, explaining the children had no symptoms. “They didn’t even know they had it but my wife and I were very ill. “Public Health and I back-tracked all our steps to make sure we didn’t come into contact with anyone. They called my work and had employees that were around me tested and thank God they were all negative,” Fortin said. See: Some provinces see positive signs in COVID fight See: Two new COVID cases “My stupidity could have made a lot of people sick. I became so ill I should have been hospitalized but was afraid that I may never see my kids again,” he said. A Public Health nurse called to check and suggested they be hospitalized for treatment and to be more comfortable, he added. “I had every symptom possible and by the second week it started to affect my lungs, nose, and bronchial tube,” Fortin said. “It burned to breathe. One night, I woke up and asked my wife to talk to me because I was sure it may be our last conversation.” Things started to improve after being sick for three weeks and the Fortin family cases were considered resolved Sunday. “I feel much better but still a little weak,” he said, adding praise for the support they received. “As sick as we were, our neighbors were amazing with support and help. My closest neighbor Marcel did our grocery shopping and his wife made our family an amazing meat pie,” he said. “Neighbors were calling to check on us and to offer their help and I must say thank you so much to them” for being there in their time of need. “Sturgeon Falls is the most amazing community we have ever lived in and thank you for accepting us and making us feel so welcomed,” he wrote. He suggests people be diligent and follow Public Health advice: “If you show any cold or flu symptoms don't assume it is. Go get tested, it’s easy, painless, and fast. “Always keep your mask on and practice safe distancing in public. It’s so easy to spread this virus. When you go through a drive-thru or use a debit machine, sanitize immediately before they hand your stuff to you. “When grocery shopping, ask if your cart was sprayed before you use it and if not clean it yourself or request it to be and the most important thing when you’re around friends or family you don't live with, WEAR YOUR MASK. “I made one mistake and almost lost my life so I feel very lucky to be here and just want to help this amazing community in any way I can. Thank you,” he wrote. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
A union representing health-care workers in long-term care is calling on the province to make vaccines more accessible — just as the province scales back on vaccinations due to a pause in production. SEIU Healthcare wrote to the province asking for paid sick leave for all staff in long-term-care homes and hospitals in order to remove “barriers” to getting vaccines. The union has members working in Hamilton homes such as Grace Villa and Shalom Village — both with large ongoing COVID outbreaks. “We’ve been advocating for paid leave in support of vaccination from the time to consult with a physician, to the time and cost related to travel and transportation, to paid sick days that may be required if someone experiences adverse side effects,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare in an emailed statement. She noted members raised concerns about scheduling, where workers don’t often know when and where they’ll be vaccinated far enough in advance. Language is also a hurdle. “Many long-term-care staff are new Canadians whose first language may be neither English nor French,” Stewart said. “We’re asking for more multilingual communications about the process to establish confidence in the rollout.” Meanwhile, as of Jan. 18, the province says only residents, staff and caregivers at long-term-care homes and “high risk” retirement homes will be eligible to receive the vaccine, as Pfizer pauses work at its Belgium facility to prepare for increased production in future weeks. That means retirement homes not deemed high risk — which were next in line for vaccines — will have to wait. Anyone who already received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is expected to get their second dose on time, though Hamilton’s medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, said Monday that public health is “continuing to work with the province ... to ensure that happens.” The city has administered 13,400 doses so far and aims to wrap up its first phase of vaccine rollout by Wednesday. In an email Monday, the city said there are about 700 eligible workers left to be vaccinated. The news comes the day a new death was reported at Grace Villa, Hamilton’s worst outbreak which has now seen 44 deaths since Nov. 25. Two new resident cases each were reported at Shalom Village (specifically in long-term care), Macassa Lodge and the Cardinal Retirement Residence. Richardson said she’s happy with vaccine uptake so far in long-term-care and retirement home workers. “We were up over 65 per cent vaccine coverage as of the end of last week,” she said. “We’re moving forward quite well.” Richardson said public health has asked homes to work with their staff to schedule their vaccines, but acknowledged language barriers persist and said there’s ongoing translation work to address them. “It’s been a little slower than we would’ve liked on that front,” Richardson said. “That’s absolutely something that we need.” Stewart said the work should happen “immediately.” “Front-line workers have given everything to their communities through this battle with COVID-19. Many have gotten sick. Some have lost their lives,” she said. “We owe it to these workers ... to ensure that vaccines are available and that the barriers that could imperil the vaccination effort are eliminated.” Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Four people have been arrested in connection with the death of Amber Dawn Wood, 38, of Bienfait, Sask. Justin Julien Englot, 29, and Jayden Marie Sanford, 25, both of Regina, have been charged with accessory after the fact to murder and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000. Sanford and Englot made their first appearance in Regina provincial court Tuesday morning. Two other people, both males, are also in custody. They haven't been charged, but police say an investigation is continuing. Wood died after being severely injured Saturday morning at a home on the 700 block of Athol St., police said. Police were called to the scene following a report someone had been shot. Wood was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead. It was the city's first homicide of 2021.
NEW YORK — R&B star Jazmine Sullivan and country singer Eric Church will join forces to sing the national anthem at the next month’s Super Bowl, where Grammy-winning singer H.E.R. will perform “America the Beautiful.” The performances will take place Feb. 7 at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa before the big game and halftime show starring The Weeknd. It will air on CBS. Deaf rapper and recording artist Warren “WAWA” Snipe will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” in American Sign Language. Emmy-nominated musical director Adam Blackstone will arrange and produce Church and Sullivan’s rendition of the national anthem. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company is executive producing the halftime show for a second year. Jesse Collins, who has produced the BET Awards and is working on this year’s Grammys and Oscars telecasts, will serve as an executive producer. Sullivan rose to the top of the R&B charts in 2008 with her debut single and album. She’s earned 12 Grammy nominations and written songs for Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Monica. Her new album, “Heaux Tales,” debuted at No. 4 on this week’s all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart. Church, a 10-time Grammy nominee, released his debut album in 2006 and has topped the country charts with songs like “Drink In My Hand,” “Springsteen,” “Talladega” and “Record Year.” He’s released multiple multiplatinum and platinum albums and was named entertainer of the year at last year’s Country Music Association Awards. H.E.R. won two Grammys in 2019 and has earned critical acclaim for her live performances, including her work as a guitarist. She’s won honours at the MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards and Soul Train Music Awards and launched R&B hits such as “Focus,” “Best Part,” “Slide,” “Damage” and “B.S.” with Jhené Aiko. Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.Supporters of the 45th U.S. President gathered in West Palm Beach, Fla. to greet Trump’s motorcade when it arrived in the city.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Empty shelves at the grocery store, products out of stock, the soaring price of fresh produce and meat products: that was our “wake-up call” that we have to take the food industry seriously. “We need to make sure we have a system that will always be there and can always supply food: enough farmers, enough processors, enough distribution systems that we don’t run into food shortages. We take food security for granted,” said Craig McLaughlin, a beef farmer from Renfrew county. Often faced with the unpredictability of Mother Nature and “geopolitical” turmoil, including the rail blockages last year and China’s recent suspension of canola, soy, beef and pork products, farmers often end up paying the price, explained Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. “The other aspect to agriculture that people don’t understand is that we don’t get to set the price on our product. We are price takers, not price setters. Any time there’s an expense (such as the carbon tax), we can’t pass that on. We have to absorb that,” Currie said. The pandemic has also exposed challenges such as labour shortage. “(It’s) not just a lack of people, but a lack of people with skills to operate machinery,” said Debra Hauer, a labour market intelligence manager at the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) in Ottawa. “We did a 10-year labour forecast for the country up to 2029. Even with 60,000 temporary foreign workers, there will be 16,500 unfilled vacancies in agriculture, with an estimated loss of sales at $2.9 billion,” Hauer said. “We understand the frustration of the industry. It is a pervasive shortage. Our role is to help employers develop their skills in terms of recruiting and retaining (farm) workers,” said Jade Reeve, agri-jobs manager at CAHRC, an organization focused on addressing human resource issues in agriculture. CALL TO ACTION “The time for farmers to really have the general public with us, to get us the tools we need — is now,” Currie said. “We need society to put the pressure on the government, to make sure they’re taking care of agriculture.” “Everybody has a role to play: government, educational institutions, industry, farmers’ associations, individual farmers,” Hauer said. Tyler Armstrong, a sheep farmer from Renfrew, suggests reducing “red tape” for abattoirs (slaughterhouse for livestock) and meat processing plants to reduce wait-lists of up to six months. “I’m sure there are a few things (the government) could do to reduce the burden for abattoirs,” he said. Angie Hoysted, co-owner of Valley Custom Cutting, a meat processing plant in Smiths Falls, said “there’s next to no schools teaching (meat processing). They need to put ‘butcher’ back on the list of trades, and give them support like other trades.” Reeve talked about a government program running until May 2023 called ‘The Agri-Food Pilot program,’ which helps address labour needs and provides a pathway to permanent residence for experienced, non-seasonal workers in industries such as meat processing. “There are lots of interesting jobs in agriculture that are year-round, full time and have benefits,” Hauer said. “It includes jobs in greenhouses, pig farms, dairy farms, chicken barns, egg farms and service jobs such as fixing and manufacturing farm equipment and supplies.” THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT “I’m very hopeful and optimistic about agriculture in Canada: there is room to grow in a variety of ways. The opportunity is there, and the future is bright,” Hauer said. Currie said agriculture is recession-proof and that “there’s a real opportunity for agriculture to be a real economic driver. Let’s put our heads together to see how we can capitalize on these opportunities, to have all our tools in place to make sure that we can drive the economy coming out of COVID-19.” For more information about Agri-jobs and the Agri-Food Pilot program, visit https://cahrc-ccrha.ca and https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/agri-food-pilot/eligible-industries.html. Yona Harvey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Smiths Falls Record News
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says all long-term care and high-risk retirement homes will receive vaccinations by Feb. 15 despite a shortage of Pfizer vaccines. As Morganne Campbell reports, the backlog is causing a delay in the province's rollout plan.
As with businesses elsewhere in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has left companies in Queens County scrambling to adjust and become more lean and efficient. Strict provincial pandemic regulations motivated residents to shop local. The South Queens Chamber of Commerce is determined that they continue to do so. While at least some local businesses, such as Liverpool’s Main & Mersey Home Store and Coffee Bar and Lloyoll Prefabs in Brooklyn, are managing to pivot toward continued prosperity. Kerry Morash, the chamber’s president, suggested that most businesses in Liverpool so far have been able to ride out the pandemic. But like those elsewhere they’re looking forward to a new start. “A lot of the businesses went above and beyond the rules and regulations that had been set out by the province – sanitation, masks, everything,” he said. “Businesses were very vigilant and made consumers feel as comfortable as possible.” Morash is among others in anticipating that the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine will be a shot in the arm of local business. “Once they get started with the vaccinations, I’m hopeful things will ramp up after that and we will have a brighter 2021,” he said. Meanwhile, business owners such as Shani Beadle of Main & Mersey Home Store and Coffee Bar, on Main Street in Liverpool, are working to adjust. “We had to adapt, but we’re lucky because obviously Liverpool didn’t have a lot of cases.” As with other years, summer residents returned for the season, and other visitors from the Nova Scotia “bubble” also visited. “We had people traveling from all over Nova Scotia here. People that haven’t come to Liverpool for years were coming down because of the bubble, spending their money here. And so we had all of these people that discovered us. For us, that’s great,” said Beadle. She and her husband, Andreas, opened Main & Mersey in 2017, after they moved from London, UK. They began with the interior décor portion of the business and added a small coffee bar in 2019 with outdoor space. “I’ve been a business owner for a long time. I had a manufacturing business in the U.K., so I’m very familiar with having to adapt a business formula on a regular basis,” said Beadle. The coffee shop consists of a small bar and a large communal table. not allowing for a lot of people under normal circumstances. And government health restrictions have meant that available seating has had to be reduced even further. With the onset of winter, the owners closed off their outdoor space with corrugated plastic, so that patrons might use it on warmer days. And with the Christmas tree gone in the home décor part of the business, they were able to add another table. Lloyoll Prefabs meanwhile is also managing to ride out the COVID storm, according to its president, Jonathan Lloy. The company, which builds premium modular homes in Liverpool, has been in operation since 2010. Lloy admitted being concerned early on in the pandemic last year about what the summer and fall were going to look like. “From a sales perspective, many customers were limited in their ability to travel to Nova Scotia, which was a deterrent to start some projects,” said Lloy. But contrary to initial expectations, there was “a surprising surge in demand and we were fortunate that opportunity came our way.” The businessman indicated that the biggest adjustment through COVID-19 was working with the “market volatility, especially when it comes to commodities.” Prices for materials skyrocketed and the shortcomings of the supply chains they use were brought to the forefront. “We had to start buying materials way ahead of schedule and materials were costing a lot more and some were just unavailable,” he said. “This year we bought a fireplace from Italy and it was four months behind getting here. We regularly buy cabinet products from New York and that has been a challenge.” While the company’s usual Canadian suppliers were struggling to keep supplies in stock. However, through it all, he said, the company has become leaner and better. It was able to purchase shaping equipment this year, allowing it to secure raw wood materials and mill it in-house, alleviating some of the reliance the business had on other companies. “This also allows us to grow the business a little bit. We can now employ more people to run this equipment specifically, that don’t necessarily have the training and experience to do some of the more technical things that we do,” added Lloy. “It opens things up to who we can hire, which is important when you are from a small area like we are.” Meanwhile, the company has managed to retain its existing component of 14 staff members, and hopes to employ another six workers by the end of summer. “We took some of our slower times and did some infrastructure work on the shop, did some organizing, made some improvements and now we’re really set up for a strong year in 2021,” said Lloy. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic who was jailed at the weekend, on Tuesday released a video in which he and his allies alleged that an opulent palace belonged to the Russian leader, a claim the Kremlin denied. The allegations, which first surfaced in 2010 when a businessman wrote about them to then-President Dmitry Medvedev complaining of official graft, come as Navalny's supporters urge people to join nationwide protests on Saturday. Reuters reported in 2014 that the estate in southern Russia had been partly funded by taxpayer money from a $1 billion hospital project.
CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island's premier says public health orders should soon be eased across the province because of its low COVID-19 infection rate. "At a time when other jurisdictions are experiencing tightening restrictions and increased lockdowns, we are in the very fortunate and enviable situation to be looking at the days ahead to see an easing of restrictions within our borders," Dennis King told reporters Tuesday. But King said it won't be until at least mid-February before the Island re-enters the Atlantic bubble, which allows residents to travel freely between regional boundaries. "At this time, as a province, we are not comfortable moving forward with re-entering the Atlantic Bubble," King said. Health officials in Prince Edward Island reported two new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison said the new cases involved a woman in her 40s who is a contact of a previously reported case, and a woman in her 20s who recently travelled outside Atlantic Canada. She said there are now seven active reported cases on the Island. Morrison, however, said she's concerned by the situation beyond P.E.I.'s borders. "The situation in Canada remains concerning, with over 715,000 cases and 18,000 COVID-related deaths," she told reporters. "Since Jan. 1, New Brunswick reported 372 new cases, Nova Scotia 60 new cases, P.E.I. has had 12 since Jan. 1, and Newfoundland and Labrador reported six new infections. "Our friends and neighbours in New Brunswick are working hard to contain the spread of COVID-19, reporting 89 new cases in the last three days. They currently have over 300 active cases — the most since the pandemic began," she said. P.E.I. has reported 110 COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic. Indoor private gatherings are limited to members of a household plus ten people, while most businesses are still required to operate at 50 per cent capacity. The restrictions are scheduled to remain until Jan. 25. Morrison said that as of Monday, 5,910 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered on P.E.I., including 1,407 second doses. "By the end of this week, everyone living and working in long-term care and community care facilities will have received their first dose of the vaccine," she said. "They will start receiving their second dose next week." Morrison said the anticipated slowdown in the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will have very little impact on the Island. "The Pfizer slowdown means that we may not get a shipment of the product for one week, on Jan. 25. That shipment contains 975 doses. However, we will get two shipments of that same amount in the middle of February," she said. "Given the fact that we have been holding back the second dose of vaccine, and we expect the increased supply in February, we are confident that we have enough vaccine to continue with our original plan." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. — By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton. The Canadian Press
A huge dump of snow at Marmot Basin kicked off this year’s Jasper in January and staff are continuously monitoring conditions as well as keeping up with COVID protocols. Lasting until Jan. 31, Jasper in January includes virtual and private events at the ski resort along with deals on lift tickets. Although COVID-19 has altered the format of the festival and the overall operations of Marmot Basin, staff say the recent snowfall has proven to be a significant boon. “The recent snowfall has been fantastic - we've had 29 centimetres in the last two days - and conditions are absolutely superb,” said Alyssa Golbeck, active content producer, said in an email on Jan. 14. “I can personally attest to the fact that there is still tons of powder and there is some really great skiing up here right now.” Although Saturdays and weekends aren’t as busy as last year, there is a steady flow of skiers from Monday to Friday. With that pace, staff are managing COVID protocols with the visitors. “Business has been good,” said Brian Rode, vice president. “We are now seeing quite a few people who haven’t been to Marmot for a number of years or who haven’t skied for a number of years. Right now, we’ve had more skiers visit this year than last year.” He attributed these numbers to Albertans staying closer to home and the warmer weather. Chalets run at 15 per cent capacity, and Rode said people have been patient and complying with health restrictions. “Outside, people wear masks and naturally spread out when they’re skiing,” he said. Upon arriving to work, staff must sign in and declare they have not come to work with symptoms. “All of our supervisors are talking with and monitoring the staff. Our staff body is healthy,” Rode said, noting staff have a personal responsibility to monitor their health. Golbeck said the avalanche team has been hard at work the past few days, and staff were able to open much of the upper mountain on Jan. 14. Rode said Marmot Basin’s safety team monitors conditions regularly “to ensure all of the runs are safe to ski, without any risk of avalanches occurring.” “To do that, they’ve got patrols in place,” he said. The team makes sure the main runs are ready to use first thing in the morning, then the higher runs are tackled later. Factors to monitor include the amount of snowfall, wind, temperature and moisture content. “All of these affect the type of snowpack we have,” Rode said, adding any runs with an avalanche risk are kept closed until the ski patrol team checks the conditions. They do ski cutting, or “traversing the slope” as Rode called it. “Without fail, they do it in such a way so you can traverse from point to another,” he said. “They ski across the slope. That knocks the air out of it. They start at the top at a safe point - a rock outcrop (for example) - and ski across to the other side. That will give them a good sense of what that slope is like.” That measure sometimes releases the snow without having to use explosive charges. For slopes higher in the alpine region, explosive charges are thrown in and detonated, which knocks the risky snow down. “All slope angles are charted on every single run - 91 of them - some long and (some) short,” Rode said. “Below the treeline, the runs are risk-free of avalanches. The slopes above the treeline, where there’s a risk of avalanches, if the slope doesn’t avalanche, they’ll continue to monitor it, looking for trigger points.” Slopes are only opened once staff determine them as safe. While the scenery may be beautiful, Rode noted boundaries are in place for a reason. “If people stick to runs that are open and don’t go into areas that are closed, they’re safe,” Rode said. With avalanche control, there are temporary closures, but there are other areas around the mountain, outside the ski area boundaries, that are permanently closed. “We don’t patrol those areas,” Rode said. “Some areas are closed because they’re caribou closures. It’s illegal to be in that area.” Rode warned the public not to duck under any ropes or enter these closed areas. “Not only are you putting yourself in danger and the ski patrol team in danger, you’ve established a trail that other people may follow,” he added. Rode said people went outside the boundaries twice this year so far. “We sent a ski patrol in,” he said. “They knew where (they) were going, and that they’d have difficulty going through a particular area.” Wearing snowshoes themselves, the team brought in a pair of snowshoes for the wanderer to wear out. “Often, a person will report to ski patrol that one of their buddies ducked under,” he said. “That’s typically what happens. Invariably, we can determine where they’ve gone.” Rode recalled there have been incidents where it’s dark before people get back to safety, such as one incident a few years ago where a male didn’t get out until the following day. Marmot Basin is also posting a series of videos about avalanche safety at the hill this week, which can be viewed on its Facebook page. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
ATCO began the process of changing out all of the town’s streetlights to LED lights last week as per their agreement with the Town of Swan Hills. There isn’t an exact date available for the end of this project, but it will more than likely take a couple of months to accomplish. The streetlights would usually be switched out when they had to be replaced, but this process is generally haphazard and could take a few years until all of the streetlights in town had been changed out. The Town of Swan Hills entered into the agreement with ATCO to change all of them out at once to avoid having a random spattering of LED streetlights here and there amongst the traditional streetlights for an extended period of time. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
This dynamic Northern Lights display shone in the winter sky near the Finnish town of Muonio, by the Swedish border.