Fast fentanyl tests help 'raise an alarm' of spike in overdoses

P.E.I. hospitals are now testing for fentanyl when patients come into an emergency department with an overdose.

Doing that testing on-site means faster results and enables public health officials to see quickly if there's a spike in overdoses from fentanyl and alert the public of the risk.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is sometimes cut into illicit street drugs, and has been linked to thousands of overdoses and deaths across the country. 

"If we see a number of fentanyl-related overdoses in a short period of time it would raise an alarm that there may be some supply that has been laced with fentanyl and we'd want to get the message out to the public in trying to reduce the harms," said Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer. 

Her office issued one such alert a year ago when fentanyl was found in some cocaine seized by police. 


Labs at four P.E.I. hospitals started testing for fentanyl in overdose cases last November. Tests are done at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, Summerside's Prince County Hospital, Western Hospital in Alberton and Kings County Hospital in Montague.

Sally Pitt/CBC

"Previous to doing this test here in the chemistry lab at the QEH … we had to send it to a lab in Toronto and it would take anywhere from a week to 10 days, up to 14 days for a result," said Donna Stanley, chief technologist in the chemistry lab at QEH.

Now when someone comes in with a suspected overdose from fentanyl, the lab drops everything else and does the test immediately, said Stanley.

"From the time we receive it to the time of reporting it usually takes five minutes to do the test. So from the time we receive it in the lab to the time we report it in [the ER] it should be about 10 minutes," she said.

When medical staff suspect an overdose, they treat the patient for that — but having a lab confirmation within minutes "is very important for the physician," if the patient isn't responding to treatment provided to that point.

The test analyzes the patient's urine and detects the presence of fentanyl in their system.

Shane Hennessey/CBC

1 fentanyl-related death in 2018

According to the latest numbers, 25 Islanders accidentally overdosed on opioids in 2018 — that's up from 10 in the last eight months of 2017, when Morrison's office began tracking them.

Last year three Islanders died from an accidental opioid overdose, and one of those deaths was from opioids containing fentanyl, the first lab-confirmed case since 2016. Those numbers could increase as investigations into deaths are completed. In 2019, as of March, there were two opioid overdoses and one of them involved fentanyl.

Shane Hennessey/CBC

While P.E.I. has not seen the dramatic numbers of fentanyl overdoses that are considered epidemics in parts of B.C., Alberta and Ontario, the impact here on P.E.I. is a concern, said the chief health officer.

"Although we haven't seen the same number of overdose opioid-related deaths in P.E.I. as they have in the rest of the country it still impacts individuals and their families to a significant degree here," she said, and "reinforces why we need to focus on harm reduction and distribution of naloxone kits."

P.E.I. Chief Public Health Office

Since June 2017 the province has provided free naloxone take-home kits to those at high risk of an overdose and groups that work with them.

So far more than 900 kits have gone out. It's difficult to tell how many have been used, but Morrison said at least 17 were used and returned for a replacement and in all those cases the kit successfully saved a life, said Morrison.

Prescription review

Morrison's office issues reports every four months on the progress of a provincial committee working to prevent opioid overdoses. That group has just finished its first annual review of prescription monitoring for the top five prescribed opioids on P.E.I., which Morrison said will help provide a baseline for health officials to monitor changes in opioid use.

It shows that since 2013 prescriptions for oxycodone and codeine have been decreasing; use of hydromorphone and morphine are up a bit. 

Sally Pitt/CBC

She said the increase of prescriptions for morphine could be that patients are getting smaller amounts more often. But the real change, which Morrison calls "a very positive thing" is the number of methadone and suboxone prescriptions, which has almost tripled, from 4,669 in 2013 to 12,559 in 2017

Morrison plans to continue with the prescription monitoring annually to monitor trends in opioid use.

More P.E.I. news

  • COVID-19 recovery phase put on hold after discovery of 6 new cases
    Health
    CBC

    COVID-19 recovery phase put on hold after discovery of 6 new cases

    The province has halted its yellow COVID-19 recovery phase, stopping gyms, pools, yoga studios and other businesses from reopening Friday and not allowing indoor church services or gatherings up to 50 as was planned.The province was expected to move into part two of the yellow phase by the end of the week. But Premier Blaine Higgs announced Thursday that the COVID-19 committee was putting a pause on that because of a cluster of six new active cases of COVID-19 in the Campbellton region.All of the cases are linked to a medical professional in his 50s from the Campbellton Regional Hospital who contracted COVID-19 outside the province.At a news briefing Thursday, Higgs also extended the province's state of emergency, which has been in effect since the end of March, for another two weeks.Higgs said activities that now won't be allowed until next Friday include: * Outdoor public gatherings of 50 people or fewer. * Indoor religious services, including weddings and funerals, of 50 people or fewer. * Low-contact team sports. * Swimming pools, saunas and waterparks * Yoga and dance studios * Rinks and indoor recreational facilities * Pool halls and bowling alleysThe first stage of the yellow phase was announced last Friday, allowing businesses such as spas, tattoo artists, barbers and hair salons to reopen."This is a reminder that the disease is still with us and we must all remain vigilant to ensure it does not overwhelm our health-care system," Higgs said. Higgs announced Wednesday that the Campbellton region, also known as Zone 5, has returned to the more restrictive orange phase of recovery because of the new cases.Business owner 'frustrated and angry'Cara Hazelton, owner of Precision Pilates in Fredericton, said she was "absolutely frustrated and angry beyond any measure" after learning she would have to wait another week to reopen her business.Hazelton said she and thousands of other businesses in the yellow phase, have spent weeks preparing to reopen in part two of the yellow phase.She said clients have been called, appointments have been made, staff have been rehired and childcare has been arranged."All of sudden at the drop of a hat with no notice that for the second week in a row we have been shut down through no fault of our own," she said."How many times are we going to have to go through this in the next two years?"Although she feels her business is safe and can stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, she's not sure how others will survive."How many businesses that have survived the last two months will survive bouncing up and down between opening and closing?" she said."I fail to understand how this is actually going to work in the long run."   Hazelton said she's given up planning for a concrete date for her business to reopen because it takes time, costs extra money and leads to further disappointment."I can't let down my staff again," she said. "I can't let my clients down again. That's not fair."

  • Toronto store owners brutally beaten after forcing customer out for not wearing mask
    News
    CBC

    Toronto store owners brutally beaten after forcing customer out for not wearing mask

    Zhao Guang Yu's face is still bruised from the night four men attacked him and his wife in their Toronto convenience store last month, hitting them and stomping on his face as he was lying on the ground.It's painful for Xue Lin to hear her own bloodcurdling screams on video from a surveillance camera outside their store, as attackers allegedly pummelled her husband.   Inside, Lin was shielding Yu with her body as the men battered him against the ice cream freezer, she says  — but that didn't stop the men from beating her as well.Minutes earlier, Lin says, the couple had forced a combative customer out after she refused to wear a mask. The attackers came in apparent retribution, after the customer told the men she was "hit" for "no reason," according to the sound on the surveillance video.None of the altercation with the customer, or the attack by the four men, is visible on camera, but some of it can be heard on the audio.Lin says she felt helpless during the attack; her mind was blank, as she desperately tried to protect her husband."Four guys, tall guys," she said. "Of course we can't do anything."Lin and Yu have insisted all customers wear a mask since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, even before mass closures started in March. The couple own Levol Convenience Food Mart on Dundas Street West, just south of Kensington Market. They opened in 2016, and Lin says she always remembers her customers after they've been in a few times. She says she doesn't scare easily, even while working alone at night with customers who can sometimes get difficultBut after the incident, to avoid conflict, she says they keep the door to the shop locked at night, and only open it to people wearing a mask. Masks are critical, Lin says; her parents live downstairs, and she feels a responsibility to her family and customers' health.Most customers willingly wear their mask, or buy one for a dollar. But on a Thursday night in mid-April, Lin says, a woman refused to put her mask on despite repeated requests to wear it or leave. She was laughing with another woman in the aisles, mask in hand, she says.After asking several times, Lin says she finally grabbed the woman to pull her out of the store. The customer punched her in response, Lin says, also hitting her husband.Lin says she fought back, kicking as the couple pushed the fighting customer out. Outdoor security footage, supplied by Lin, captures a woman saying, "Don't touch me," and then daring them to strike her, saying: "Hit me," as Lin screams at her to get out (the people are out of sight in the video).Outside the store, a woman's voice says to to call somebody. A sobbing woman later tells a man that store workers "attacked me for no reason."That's when four men entered, Lin says  — regular customers she recognized.To her shock, she says, they started hitting her husband.The audio captures a man yelling, "Why did you hit her?" and shouting before Lin starts shrieking. Her husband yells in apparent agony.A 'mountain' of bruisingThe men knocked store shelves down as they beat him, Lin says. Their blows knocked her husband to the floor, despite Lin hugging him to protect him.A man was stomping on his face while Yu was unable to move, she says, before they finally left.The next day Yu's face was black with bruises, with one eye "like a mountain," Lin says."My husband stayed home [for] two weeks," she said.'We're not fighting people'Toronto Police got a call around 9:30 p.m. on April 15, and continue to investigate a reported assault.Lin says she was crying as they talked to police, she was so worried about her husband. "I'm going to close my store," Lin says she thought after the attack, sleepless and devastated that night. She woke up with pain in her back and shoulders from the blows, but decided to open up later that day.Weeks later, Yu is also back to work, though he still has bruising on his face. He didn't want to see a doctor at the time because the hospital seemed too dangerous due to COVID-19, Lin says. But she worried about potential head injuries and exposure to COVID-19 during the assault.An attack like this has never happened before, says Lin: "We're not fighting people."Toronto Police say they have made no arrests in the case.'We don't want more people [to] get the virus'Lin says she and her husband can't have any tolerance for people who don't wear masks — even if it's meant losing business during the pandemic.It's more important to keep people safe, she says, and people need to respect their wishes."We don't want more people [to] get the virus," she said."I reduce business? Fine. I need to do my way."Lin notices more people taking precautions against COVID-19 in recent weeks, though some people still argue with the mandatory mask policy.Lin says there were two previous times that she had to grab people and call police when unmasked customers refused to leave. "We don't want fighting," said Lin, adding she usually tries to handle the situation herself before calling police."If you don't like to wear a mask ... you don't need to come in," said Lin, who sometimes fills simple orders for customers while they wait outside. They also offer free gloves for customers. "[It's] fair to other customers, fair to us."She urges people to take masks seriously."Right now... this weather is very hot," said Lin. "But still, think about health," she added."So, please wear [a] mask."

  • Legal experts weigh in on Meng Wanzhou decision from B.C. Supreme Court
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Legal experts weigh in on Meng Wanzhou decision from B.C. Supreme Court

    VANCOUVER — A loss in court for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has prompted another round of legal arguments in her attempt to avoid extradition to the United States on fraud charges.Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday the charges Meng faces in America could also be a crime in Canada and the case should proceed, a decision that one legal expert says puts the rule of law above political pressures."If you turn a blind eye in the favour of political outcomes, you're sacrificing the rule of law and then you do become subject to China's allegation or criticism that this is all political," said Robert Adamson, who teaches business law at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University.Meng's arrest by the RCMP at the Vancouver airport in December 2018 placed Canada in the middle of rising tensions between the U.S. and China, and two Canadians, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, were detained in China nine days later. They remain in custody.Meng is accused of misrepresenting Huawei's relationship with Skycom Tech Co. and making false statements to HSBC, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.Her lawyers argued that Meng's conduct could not constitute fraud in Canada because it related to American sanctions that Canada doesn't apply, while the Attorney General of Canada told the court the fraud allegations could be argued without reference to the U.S. sanctions.Justice Holmes found the U.S. sanctions are relevant to the issue of double criminality, but it wasn't enough to dismiss the case."The essence of the alleged wrongful conduct in this case is the making of intentionally false statements in the banker-client relationship that put HSBC at risk. The U.S. sanctions are part of the state of affairs necessary to explain how HSBC was at risk, but they are not themselves an intrinsic part of the conduct," she wrote in her decision."For this reason, I cannot agree with Ms. Meng that to refer to U.S. sanctions in order to understand the risk to HSBC is to allow the essence of the conduct to be defined by foreign law. Canada's laws determine whether the alleged conduct, in its essence, amounts to fraud."A broad definition of double criminality helps avoid unforeseen consequences, said Adamson, a member of the Canadian Bar Association.He said a narrower definition of double criminality could stop extradition hearings at preliminary junctures and limit Canada's ability to extradite as well as ask for someone to be extradited here.Vancouver extradition lawyer Gary Botting took a different view, saying Justice Holmes's ruling creates a "hybrid" way of looking at double criminality by importing some, but not all of the context of the U.S. sanctions.The Supreme Court of Canada has made plain that they prefer to say, "fraud is fraud, theft is theft," said Botting, adding that's "more or less what Holmes has followed."However, by importing some, but not all of the context of the sanctions, Botting said Justice Holmes "made a mistake of the law.""It can't be both ways. In other words, this is an appealable judgment, in my view."In the next phase of the proceedings, the court will hear arguments about whether Meng's arrest was unlawful.Her lawyers have alleged the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a "covert criminal investigation" at the airport and violated Meng's charter rights.Border officers seized Meng's cellphones, tablet and other devices and wrote down her passcodes, which were then handed to the RCMP.The Crown has told the court that when the border agency learned of its mistake it told the RCMP that the codes couldn't be used or shared because they were obtained during the agency's examination.It said officials followed the law and there's no proof that Meng was illegally arrested.Botting said he believes Meng's rights were violated."Whether that amounts to a stay of proceedings or not is entirely, again, up to the judge."Adamson disagreed, saying he hasn't seen "any strong evidence" of her rights being violated, and from what he understands, that argument from her defence team isn't as strong as the double-criminality argument was."That is, if Ms. Meng and her defence team had a better chance of this case coming to a conclusion it was more likely to be on the double-criminality issue and not on this abuse of process," he said.Canada's Justice Minister David Lametti will still have the final say on whether Meng should be extradited to the U.S.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.Brenna Owen , The Canadian Press

  • 'Two-tiered health:' Manitoba premier wants PM to clear up rules on powwows
    News
    The Canadian Press

    'Two-tiered health:' Manitoba premier wants PM to clear up rules on powwows

    WINNIPEG — Manitoba's premier has added his voice to provincial leaders calling on Ottawa to clear up mixed messages about Indigenous ceremonies, after a chief said his First Nation would be holding its annual powwow even if public-health orders continue to limit the size of gatherings."Now is not the time to begin to disrespect public health orders that have kept Manitobans safe — all Manitobans," Brian Pallister.Pallister said he would be bringing up the issue on a call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later Thursday. "We are not people who believe in two-tiered health," the premier added. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe criticized the federal government's approach earlier this month after RCMP were dispatched to a sun-dance ceremony. Moe said no one is exempt from provincial public health orders because no one is exempt from COVID-19.Thousands of people usually travel across the country to dance and reconnect during the powwow season. This year, most traditional gatherings have been cancelled or delayed over concerns about the novel coronavirus or due to provincial restrictions on how many people can gather.Chief Cornell McLean said that after careful consideration Lake Manitoba First Nation decided to go ahead with the community's traditional powwow next month."It is our culture," McLean said.Two months ago, Lake Manitoba was one of the first reserves in the province to restrict travel in and out of the community, about 160 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Many other First Nations followed. McLean said there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the region.He said it has been difficult for many residents as they deal with the stress of isolation, financial strain and concern over their families. Some have turned to alcohol or drugs, he said.He believes the powwow that is being organized will bring healing."It's important because we are trying to … start that healing process for our members."There have been 294 cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba. However, the number of infections has stagnated over the last few weeks. The government reported two new cases on Thursday; 14 are active.McLean and his council watched as the provincial government began to loosen restrictions this month. He said they decided to move forward with the powwow when the limit on outdoor gatherings was increased to 50 people."We will make sure that social distancing is being followed," said the chief, who added that anyone not feeling well should not attend the event running June 19-21."We won't have people standing arm in arm, that's for sure, but we will find a way to make it work for our community."The powwow is still being planned and McLean did not indicate how many people are expected to take part. Outside of community members, people from four nearby First Nations are likely to come, he said.Organizers will be watching what happens with provincial public- health orders and will decide if there needs to be a limit on attendance, but there won't be less than 100 people, McLean said.The First Nation may get criticized for holding the powwow, but McLean noted the federal government has made it clear that Indigenous ceremonies won't be stopped during the pandemic."Canada must not and will not prohibit these important practices," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said earlier this month.Any decision to cancel or postpone cultural practices remains up to community leadership, Indigenous Services spokesperson Martine Stevens said in an email. First Nations leaders and ceremonial organizers are given information on COVID-19 public health measures.Manitoba Health said Indigenous ceremonies need to follow current public health recommendations. The department said it will work with First Nations to provide public health guidance.Wab Kinew, Manitoba's NDP Opposition leader, said he believes the chief knows what is best for the community. He denounced Pallister's comments and said the only two-tiered health care that exists on reserves is the underfunding of health services for First Nations people."It's so unfortunate that we have a premier that would want to make inflammatory statements because it's counterproductive to the collaboration that would have all parties work together to stamp out COVID-19."Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said governments and First Nations need to be flexible to ensure traditions are maintained while keeping people safe."Everyone is super sensitive to the reality of what we are dealing with in the time of this pandemic," he said.Dumas said the assembly is in constant contact with the province's chief public health officer and the federal government. First Nations are being advised to remain vigilant and look out for one another.Manitoba chiefs acted quickly to keep communities safe when it was clear COVID-19 was spreading, Dumas said. They continue to do what's best for their communities now that Manitoba is taking steps to reopen,he added."We aren't going to be able to isolate ourselves forever, so how do we start living with this thing?"This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

  • More weapons being banned without public notice following May 1 order from Ottawa
    News
    CBC

    More weapons being banned without public notice following May 1 order from Ottawa

    Maple Ridge gun store co-owner Matt Mendel began reading rumours online in early May shortly after the prime minister announced a ban on 1,500 weapons and gun parts — even more guns were quietly being reclassified as prohibited. There was no public announcement by federal authorities. Businesses like Mendel's Wanstalls Hunting and Shooting had to find out by searching the guns they sell in the national Firearms Reference Table (FRT), available to them online.  Mendel, 32, and his staff began to check various models and sure enough some were suddenly banned — mostly shotguns.The RCMP, which manages the FTR through the Canadian Firearms Program, sent a written statement to CBC News confirming the re-classification was taking place beyond the original list of 1,500 banned items, and that so far no public notification has taken place."The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) has been working diligently to ensure that the FRT is updated to reflect all of the classification changes resulting from the Order in Council issued May 1st," read the statement, referring to Trudeau's order, adding that there are about 187,000 different items in the FRT.The changes are surprising, Mendel says.For example, the Typhoon F12, a semi-automatic shotgun, was listed as non-restricted on May 14, but then a subsequent FRT search the following day showed it as prohibited."If I wasn't a diligent business owner and constantly kept my ear to the ground with this sort of thing, I could have been selling illegal firearms to people, and people could be possessing illegal firearms without even knowing it," said Mendel.The Typhoon F12 has a striking resemblance to the AR-15 — a semi-automatic rifle which was named by Trudeau in his May 1 announcement. But Mendel says beyond the pistol grip, adjustable butt stock and general appearance, they're entirely different weapons.Including the one or two Typhoon F12 guns in his inventory, the store stands to lose $30,000 to $40,000 for a dozen firearm models that have been reclassified as prohibited, and much more over time on accessories and ammunition for these guns."As a business, we just hold on to that and we lose that money. We've paid for those firearms, and now they'll sit in my basement ... forever essentially," said Mendel.List of banned firearms to be published 'in the near future'The RCMP also said it will "publish a complete list of all the newly prohibited firearms and their variants in the near future."The RCMP spokesperson who sent the statement said businesses have the options of returning the newly banned weapons to the manufacturer, transferring them to other businesses with appropriate privileges, legally exporting them or having them deactivated.The spokesperson said people who own the banned weapons can wait for further instructions to take part in an expected buy-back program, have the weapons deactivated or legally exported.Mendel scoffed at the options presented by the RCMP, saying once they were paid for, the guns couldn't be returned to the manufacturers or distributors, deactivating them just meant taking the loss and he's still waiting to hear the details of the buy-back program.Do you have more to add to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.caFollow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

  • 'How did someone end up dying?': Family of black Toronto woman allege officers 'threw' her off balcony
    News
    Yahoo News Canada

    'How did someone end up dying?': Family of black Toronto woman allege officers 'threw' her off balcony

    Regis Korchiniski-Paquet’s died after falling from the 24th floor of her apartment in High Park in Toronto on Wednesday, but the family insists the young woman was pushed off the balcony and did not commit suicide.  

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    UK will extend HK visa rights if China pursues security law

    The British government said Thursday that it will grant hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents greater visa rights if China doesn’t scrap a planned new security law for the semi-autonomous territory. U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said about 300,000 people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) passports would be able to stay in Britain for 12 months instead of the current six if China does not rethink its plan. Raab said the length of stay also would be extendable and provide “a pathway” to U.K. citizenship.

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Alberta introduces bill to change rules on charter schools, home-schooling

    The Alberta government is proposing to change the rules on charter schools and home-schooling. Bill 15 introduced Thursday would allow a group seeking to establish a new charter school to bypass the local school board and apply directly to the government. "The Choice in Education Act will protect and expand student access to the full range of schooling options while strengthening parents' rights as primary decision makers in choosing their kids' education," Premier Jason Kenney said.

  • Joe Biden's pick for U.S. vice-president could be the most consequential in 60 years
    Politics
    CBC

    Joe Biden's pick for U.S. vice-president could be the most consequential in 60 years

    Sometime around August 1, promises former U.S. vice-president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, he will push aside all the advice from officious armchair campaign strategists to end the speculation and finally let us know whom he's chosen as a running mate for the Nov. 3 elections.  Historically those with an interest in the job of vice-president have been quiet about it or at least publicly coy, but not this time. The public clamouring to get on the ticket this year gets livelier by the day.It's hard to pinpoint when it began. Maybe when Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was asked on MSNBC last month if she would accept an offer from Biden, and her reply was startlingly direct and economical: "Yes."Or maybe it was when Stacey Abrams, an up-and-comer who ran unsuccessfully for governor of Georgia two years ago, equally bluntly told a magazine she would be "honoured" to serve with Biden and added, "I would be an excellent running mate."A half dozen African American women took the thing up several notches in a Washington Post video editorial this month telling Biden "You owe us" a black woman on the ticket. WATCH | Joe Biden apologizes for saying voters 'ain't black' if they're considering voting for Trump"Candidates like [Minnesota Senator] Amy Klobuchar will not energize us," warned Alicia Garza, principal of Black Futures Lab, a political advocacy group for African Americans.Klobuchar, meanwhile, seems to have kept her name in the game by allowing the leak that the Biden team is vetting her.Such boldness is understandable. Biden's pick could be the most consequential since Senator John F. Kennedy put Senator Lyndon B. Johnson on the Democratic ticket in 1960 — a campaign decision that ranks among the more far-reaching in American history.1st female VP?Charles Cook, of the independent Cook Political Report, says in his newsletter the Johnson pick was "arguably the last time a running mate made the difference in a key state," the Texan helping Kennedy win electoral college votes in the South.  Largely because of how well the Johnson pick worked, every four years the conventional wisdom is that the VP pick matters in November — even if Kennedy could not have foretold the lasting impact of his choice.He could not have known that his running mate would be at the centre of the socially and politically turbulent 1960s any more than he could have foreseen his own tragic death less than three years into his term. He did not dwell on whether he was opening the path to a Johnson presidency, much less on what kind of president Johnson might be, we learn in biographer Robert Caro's book Lyndon Johnson: Passage to Power.  For Biden it's different. He seems to embrace the size of the moment, to consider the VP decision as one that should have significance beyond its political value on election day. He promised in March that he'd choose a woman — meaning that if the ticket wins, she will be the first woman elected to the executive branch of the U.S. government. You could see that as just a political calculation, but what's more prophetic, perhaps, is Biden's vagueness about whether he'll even seek a second term if he wins a first. Some around him suggest he won't because of his age: He'll be 82 on inauguration day 2025.That inflates the chance that the person on the ticket with him in November will become the Democratic nominee for president after Biden's gone. Biden knows it, and so does everyone who wants to share the ticket with him.VPs have approximately zero power; their constitutional importance comes from where they stand in the line of succession: first. As Americans euphemistically say, the VP  is only "a heartbeat away from the presidency."But the unique perk of the office is that it confers a status that almost automatically puts its holder in the pole position for the nomination race in 2024, should Biden choose not to run again.  And, of course, that assumes Biden's health doesn't come into play before 2024, which could profoundly alter the course of everyone's history, including the country's.Long-term resonanceCook wrote this month that Biden's pick "matters more in terms of where the party is heading over the next few years than in terms of who wins this year."And yet the punditry about whom Biden should choose seems mostly framed by how the choice affects everything leading up to the election as opposed to everything that comes after. So most discussions about the pick seem focused on the same question: Who can help the ticket? Would an African American woman such as Abrams draw out the black vote? California Senator Kamala Harris, maybe? Or Val Demmings, a representative from Florida, a swing state with the third most electoral college votes — 29 — in the country.Could the centrist midwesterner Klobuchar appeal to soft Trumpers? WATCH | Joe Biden gets endorsement from former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary ClintonWould the lefty progressive Warren soothe the most bitter Bernie Sanders supporters still sulking because the senator from Vermont isn't the nominee? Political tactics drove Kennedy's thinking in 1960, too. In Caro's colourful and comical account of the behind-the-scenes machinations between Kennedy and Johnson at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles that July, Kennedy secretly settled on Johnson over the noisy protests of progressives in the party because Kennedy reckoned — correctly, it seems — that Johnson's most appealing qualification for the job was his Southern roots (Kennedy called him Cornpone behind his back).But just more than three years later it was as president that Johnson  began to steer through Congress a progressive agenda of civil rights bills, health and welfare laws, education legislation and so on — the Great Society — that has shaped the country for generations. He began an ambitious "war on poverty," though will forever be remembered for leading America deeper into a divisive and bloody war in Vietnam from which it has yet to fully recover. Biden lived through all that, saw the course of history rerouted in a moment by a rifle shot in Dallas. So now, vying to become the oldest president in U.S. history, he can't help but see that his choice for the ticket — the biggest decision he'll have made as the nominee — will not only define him as a candidate in November but will quite possibly define the next decade of the Democratic Party, and maybe the country.More likely than most nominees, he could be choosing a president.

  • 2nd-degree murder charges pending in hit-and-run that killed 15-year-old male
    News
    CBC

    2nd-degree murder charges pending in hit-and-run that killed 15-year-old male

    Calgary police will charge a driver with second-degree murder and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death in relation to an incident earlier this month that left one teenager dead.The driver cannot be named at this time as he has not officially been charged. During a Thursday press conference, Staff Sgt. Colin Chisholm said the pending charges are the result of a lengthy investigation based on information provided by the public."This investigation is ongoing," Chisholm said. "Anyone with information, contact police. We are grateful for everyone who has come forward to this date."Two people are under arrest in connection with the incident, Chisholm said, and charges are pending for both. Both are over the age of 18 and are known to police.Rollover incidentOn May 13 at approximately 2:30 a.m. at southbound 52nd Street at 16th Avenue N.E., a 2010 Dodge Journey was struck from behind by a 2008 Buick Allure, sending the Journey across the centre median.Fifteen-year-old Ibaad Yar was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.The Buick remained for a short time before its occupants fled the scene, and the vehicle was found unoccupied later in the day in the Saddleridge area.An online funeral was held for Yar on May 15. His best friend, Zabbie Safari, told CBC News that Yar was well-liked and loved to make people laugh."He was a beloved son, a loyal brother, he will be missed by everyone," said Yar's father Ismail during Thursday's press conference. "He took all our joys with him and our home and hearts are empty without him."Yar's sister Aasma said she still can't make sense of what happened."I'm used to him being so loud and so goofy … a heart like that is very rare," Aasma said. "It doesn't feel real that I'm looking down at the grave of my 15-year-old brother."Police are still looking to contact a number of people in a Chevrolet Tahoe seen at a residence in the Saddleridge area before and after the event."These people are believed to have knowledge of the incident," Chisholm said. "The actions that night have led to tragic consequences and we remain committed to uncovering how this all came to be."Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 403-266-1234 or through Crime Stoppers.

  • Police across US speak out against Minneapolis custody death
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Police across US speak out against Minneapolis custody death

    LOS ANGELES — Murder. Brutality. Reprehensible. Indefensible. Police nationwide, in unequivocal and unprecedented language, have condemned the actions of Minneapolis police in the custody death of a handcuffed black man who cried for help as an officer knelt on his neck, pinning him to the pavement for at least eight minutes.But some civil rights advocates say their denunciations are empty words without meaningful reform behind them.Authorities say George Floyd was detained Monday because he matched the description of someone who tried to pay with a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, and the 46-year-old resisted arrest. A bystander's disturbing video shows Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd's neck, even as Floyd begs for air and slowly stops talking and moving.“There is no need to see more video,” Chattanooga, Tennessee, Police Chief David Roddy tweeted Wednesday. “There no need to wait to see how ‘it plays out’. There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this ... turn it in.”The reaction from some law enforcement stands in stark contrast to their muted response or support for police after other in-custody fatalities. Sheriffs and police chiefs have strongly criticized the Minneapolis officer on social media and praised the city’s police chief for his quick dismissal of four officers at the scene. Some even called for them to be criminally charged.“I am deeply disturbed by the video of Mr. Floyd being murdered in the street with other officers there letting it go on,” Polk County, Georgia, Sheriff Johnny Moats wrote on Facebook. “I can assure everyone, me or any of my deputies will never treat anyone like that as long as I’m Sheriff. This kind of brutality is terrible and it needs to stop. All Officers involved need to be arrested and charged immediately. Praying for the family.”Typically, police call for patience and calm in the wake of a use of force. They are reluctant to weigh in on episodes involving another agency, often citing ongoing investigations or due process.“Not going hide behind ‘not being there,’" tweeted San Jose Police, California, Chief Eddie Garcia. "I’d be one of the first to condemn anyone had I seen similar happen to one of my brother/ sister officers. What I saw happen to George Floyd disturbed me and is not consistent with the goal of our mission. The act of one, impacts us all.”But Gloria Browne-Marshall, a civil rights attorney and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said she wouldn't be a “cheerleader” for a “handful” of chiefs who harshly decried the officers' behaviour.“Any minute progress is seen as miraculous because so little has been done for so long,” she said. “It’s nothing close to progress or what outrage would be taking place if it was a white man as the victim of this assault.”Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles, said she wasn't “particularly moved” by the relatively few police who voiced outrage.Abdullah said the three other officers who witnessed Chauvin's actions and did not intervene contributed to a long-standing system of police racism and oppression against people of colour.“We’ve got to remember that it was not just Officer Chauvin who was sitting on George Floyd’s neck,” she said.Abdullah and hundreds of others protested what she called Floyd's lynching on Wednesday night. Some blocked lanes of a freeway and shattered windows of California Highway Patrol cruisers.Minneapolis is bracing for more violence after days of civil unrest, with burned buildings, looted stores and angry graffiti demanding justice. The governor on Thursday called in the National Guard. On Thursday night, protesters torched a Minneapolis police station that the department was forced to abandon.The heads of the Los Angeles and Chicago departments — both of which have been rocked before by police brutality scandals — addressed Floyd's death and its potential effect on race relations between law enforcement and communities of colour.Even the New York Police Department weighed in. Eric Garner died in the city in 2014 after he was placed in a chokehold by police and uttered the same words Floyd did: “I can't breathe.”It took city officials five years to fire the officer, and no criminal or federal charges were brought."What we saw in Minnesota was deeply disturbing. It was wrong," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea wrote Thursday. “We must take a stand and address it. We must come together, condemn these actions and reinforce who we are as members of the NYPD. This is not acceptable ANYWHERE.”Before he was commissioner, Shea spearheaded the NYPD’s shift to community policing that moved away from a more confrontational style favoured by other commissioners after Garner's death.Harris County, Texas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who also spoke out online, told The Associated Press that law enforcement agencies keep promising reforms in the wake of fatalities, but they are "not delivering it on a consistent basis.”“When bad things happen in our profession, we need to be able to call it like it is,” he said. “We keep thinking that the last one will be the last one, and then another one surfaces.”Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press

  • News
    Canadian Press Videos

    Pelosi describes George Floyd's death as 'murder'

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the death of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis as "murder." "We saw it on TV, him being murdered on TV," Pelosi said, pledging Congressional action "so that this stops." (May 28)

  • Canadian man finally receives Canada Post package after 8 years
    Lifestyle
    Yahoo News Canada

    Canadian man finally receives Canada Post package after 8 years

    Good things come to those who wait, but eight years is absurd even in these times.

  • The long-term care crisis: How B.C. controlled COVID-19 while Ontario, Quebec face disaster
    News
    CBC

    The long-term care crisis: How B.C. controlled COVID-19 while Ontario, Quebec face disaster

    As COVID-19 continues to sweep through long-term care facilities, Ontario and Quebec are struggling hard to contain outbreaks — while British Columbia and other provinces have managed to keep infections under control.Experts say that's because B.C. took swift, coordinated and decisive actions to stop the transmission of the virus, such as providing adequate protective gear and financially supporting front-line staff to restrict their movement between sites.There have been 111 deaths in long-term care homes in B.C., compared to more than 2,500 in Quebec and 1,500 in Ontario.This week, the military issued separate reports on the conditions inside 30 homes in Quebec and Ontario where more than 1,600 Canadian Armed Forces members have been deployed to assist in the crisis.In five Ontario long-term care homes, the military reported incidents of neglect, aggressive treatment toward residents and cases of residents being improperly fed, left in soiled clothing or going unbathed for weeks. There were also reports of insect infestation and the smell of rotting food.The situation appears less dire in the 25 homes where the military is deployed in Quebec — yet even there the military reported improper use of protective equipment and staffing shortages.Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls military aid for long-term care homes a 'stop-gap'Pat Armstrong, a sociology professor at York University who led the 10-year international project Re-imagining Long-term Residential Care, said the military has drawn attention to deficiencies that existed long before the pandemic hit.She said one important way B.C. limited the spread of the virus was by taking over staffing — ordering that personal support workers each work in only one facility, instead of multiple locations. Wages were boosted to compensate for the loss of second jobs."They've had fewer deaths and fewer outbreaks, I think primarily because they acted so quickly and in the way they did to take over the employment of these people in long-term care. And they stopped extra people from coming into the homes. That was another factor," Armstrong said.Fewer four-bed unitsAnother factor reducing the risk in B.C.'s long-term care facilities is the fact that more nursing homes in the province have modern infrastructure with fewer four-bed units. They also provided more personal protective equipment to staff early on, Armstrong said.Officials should have made special efforts with long-term care homes because their residents have complex needs and are often in congregate living arrangements, she argued. Instead, she said, Ontario and Quebec focused on ensuring that hospital front-line workers were equipped first."We focused there and didn't pay enough attention to long-term care, even as we were being told that the elderly were particularly at risk," she said.Going forward, Armstrong said, Canada needs stronger inspection systems with tough enforcement measures to strengthen the long-term care system nationwide.Lessons learned from other countriesB.C.'s Health Minister Adrian Dix said his province took early action and a "whole of sector" approach to avert widespread transmission."Everyone understood the consequences in long-term care of this outbreak, how vulnerable people were. We knew that from what had happened in Wuhan, in Hubei province, and other places in the world, so there was a significant need to act in acute care," he said.Dix also said B.C. was lucky; Quebec's spring break happened earlier than B.C.'s, which meant the B.C. government had more time to warn international travellers against actions that could bring the virus home with them."That was good luck we had a later spring break and were able to tell people not to go away and bring COVID-19 back with them," he said. "That was something we learned from the province of Quebec, just like we learned from Italy and Hubei."Going forward, Dix said long-term care will need deep changes — everything from updating infrastructure to improving human resources and recruitment practices to hire the best people to care for the elderly.'Great tragedy'Jennifer Baumbusch, a nursing professor at the University of British Columbia, said the pandemic's impact on long-term care facilities is a "great tragedy" and the consequence of decades of policy and funding neglect.She said B.C. fared better than other provinces because government and health officials acted quickly to mobilize resources to control infection and support staff.Instead of each home in B.C. being left to procure its own protective supplies, a centralized service run by the non-profit SafeCareBC has been collecting and distributing PPE. Baumbusch said that was "absolutely key" to stopping the spread of the virus; in other provinces, gaps in protective gear supplies led to higher rates of infection.Requiring staff to work at a single site also helped to limit the spread, Baumbusch said. She welcomed the province's recent announcement that legislation will make that policy permanent."By paying people a decent wage, hopefully they're able to just limit themselves to that one site and stay with that employer," she said.Long-term care facilities fall under provincial jurisdiction, but the crisis has led to calls for the federal government to step up — either by putting long-term care under the Canada Health Act or by financing infrastructure projects to update or build new homes.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who has said more than once that Canada must do a better job of caring for the elderly — has promised that the federal government will support the provinces while respecting their jurisdiction. He has not made any specific commitments regarding the role the federal government will play in improving the system.NDP health critic Don Davies said that while the spotlight is now on Quebec and Ontario, it's important to recognize that long-term care facilities across the country are in poor condition."This is a national problem that affects all provinces and territories. If the [Canadian Forces] were in every care home in every province, I think you'd see many more examples of what we just saw in Ontario," he said."Not a single province or territory is meeting the minimum standard of 4.1 hours of hands-on care per day."While B.C. has managed to control the spread of infection, the death rates in long-term care in the province from COVID-19 are still relatively high compared to the rest of the population. The B.C. government recently had to take over three care homes because residents were not getting the care they need, he said.Davies blamed substandard care on a lack of strong, national standards, for-profit facilities pushing cost-cutting, poor working conditions and a lack of regular inspections."The outrageously low rates of inspection in Ontario and Quebec — nine out of more than 600 homes in Ontario in 2019, and less than half the homes in Quebec in last three years — breed conditions of neglect," he said.Davies is calling on governments to bring long-term care under the Canada Health Act along with hospitals. He's also calling for a targeted federal transfer tied to provinces and territories meeting care standards, working conditions and non-profit delivery.

  • Murals of Canadian doctors leading COVID-19 fight removed from Vancouver building
    News
    CBC

    Murals of Canadian doctors leading COVID-19 fight removed from Vancouver building

    Large murals featuring Canadian doctors Theresa Tam and Bonnie Henry have been stripped from a storefront in the Gastown neighbourhood of Vancouver after catching the eye of many a passerby since March.The portrait paintings were done on plywood used to board up Kimprints, a picture-framing store located in a heritage building on Powell Street. The wood was there to protect against vandals while the store was closed due to COVID-19 . Now that the shop has reopened, the boards and the artwork have been removed.Kim Briscoe, the store's owner, said the murals will be stored for safekeeping and the plan is to exhibit them again this summer in an outdoor space somewhere in the area. Painting them in the first place was Briscoe's idea."I saw all the brown boards up on the window and thought this looks horrible," said Briscoe Thursday on The Early Edition. She mulled over how to improve the look, came up with the idea to paint murals showing what was happening in the daily news and put a call out for people who could help."We could have just painted them a regular colour, but we thought what could we paint that could be interesting and good?"Artist Breece Austin said she was drawn to Canada's chief public health officer and chose to paint Tam. Emily Carr student Abi Taylor then painted B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry."Listening to those two women on the news [made] me feel secure," said Briscoe.After people saw the two initial portraits, other artists joined them to paint additional pictures of front-line health-care workers."I had an onslaught of artists that wanted to paint," said Briscoe, who happily offered up her plywood as canvas.Eventually, said Briscoe, the Gastown Business Association and the City of Vancouver found more paint and some funding for those paintings and the project expanded throughout the neighbourhood.Eric Keeping, who is the general manager at the Foot Locker on Robson Street, had had boards up on his store for about a month. Like many others downtown, they were decorated by artists. "Our boards started as just a plain white board, and ... it's kind of ugly, obviously, and if we can take an opportunity to beautify that … why not?"Business has now resumed at Kimprints, and there is no longer the need for a barricade of boards."We're back into business. This is great. Eleven to five, seven days a week," said Briscoe. "I am optimistic. I think we're going to be fine."To hear the complete interview with Kim Briscoe on The Early Edition, tap here.

  • PHOTOS: Swarms of locusts threaten India's crops
    News
    Yahoo News Canada

    PHOTOS: Swarms of locusts threaten India's crops

    Desert locusts have invaded India’s Rajasthan region, threatening summer crops. Millions of locusts have been descending on the region since April, and have begun entering neighbouring states.An estimated 50,000 hectares have been engulfed by the locusts so far, a devastating amount of destruction in conjunction with the economic impact of COVID-19 on farming regions. Higher than normal temperatures have helped the locusts breed and spread at a faster rate than normal. This year’s infestation is the worst the country has seen since 1993.Local authorities have been using vehicle-mounted sprayers, pesticides and drones to combat the threat of the locusts on crops.

  • Oilers' McDavid, Nurse size up new playoff format ahead of potential Hawks clash
    Sports
    CBC

    Oilers' McDavid, Nurse size up new playoff format ahead of potential Hawks clash

    During his downtime in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Darnell Nurse tuned into the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance for a dose of inspiration.The Edmonton Oilers rearguard plans to draw on motivational lessons from Air Jordan in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks."I think that's the perfect example — to see his mindset in a lot of those games – of creating your own environment, creating your own fire," Nurse said Thursday on a virtual news conference conducted via Zoom."That's a test that everyone in this situation is going to have to go through, having the ability to create your own excitement."WATCH | Nurse remains motivated by opportunity to win Stanley Cup:There will be no crowd due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The seats, empty. The energy in the building, absent."Yeah, there's no fans there," Nurse said. "And yeah, you might be in a hub city. But there's an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. I think that should be enough motivation to get anyone going."There's a lot of challenges. There are a lot of things that aren't ideal that come along with this situation. But that's the world. The world is in that position right now. So the Stanley Cup is all the fire you should need."On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league and NHLPA agreed to a return-to-play format, which concludes the remainder of the regular season and begins a 24-team playoff plan.The new plan would see the top-4 clubs in the Eastern and Western Conference play two abbreviated round-robin tournaments to determine playoff seeding.The other eight teams in each conference would play a best-of-five 'play-in' series — No. 5 versus No. 12, No. 6 versus No. 11, No. 7 versus No. 10, and No. 8 versus No. 9 — to determine the 16 clubs left standing for the playoffs.WATCH | 2-minute recap of Bettman's press conference:If fans were allowed in the building in Edmonton, Chicago forward Patrick Kane would have no doubt experienced the wrath of the Oiler faithful given the carnage inflicted over the years.Through 43 career games against the Oilers, Kane has 56 points. And in the post-season against any club, Kane is a certified gamer with 123 points in 127 career appearances and a Conn Smythe Trophy to boot.The Chicago faithful have reason to hope for an upset — if Kane can keep up the torrid scoring pace and the rest of the Blackhawks can somehow limit the damage inflicted by Leon Draisaitl and captain Connor McDavid.Holland approves of format"I'm happy it's a best-of-five," Oilers general manager Ken Holland said. "There might be a little bit of rust in the first game or two, but over the course of a five-game series it's an opportunity to — if you get off to a sluggish start — get back in the series."If you have a bad first game, you've still got to lose two more versus how quickly a best-of-three can go."In spite of the Kane factor, the Oilers (37-25-9) will enter the series — whenever it happens — as the undeniable favourites against the Blackhawks (32-30-8).On Thursday, McDavid, who was part of the NHL/NHLPA's Return to Play Committee, and Nurse addressed the merit of the 24-team format and whether a hub city approach would provide an advantage for the hometown franchise among other topics.WATCH | McDavid, Nurse discuss polarizing return-to-play format:The Oilers led the league in power-play efficiency at a whopping 29.5 per cent, and now they have the services of a healthy Mike Green as the quarterback on the point.As for the penalty kill, they ranked second behind only San Jose at 84.4 per cent."We've had that same power play for probably two years now, and that helps a lot," McDavid said. "We've had a lot of success on specialty teams, and we'll probably need to be a little bit better five-on-five."Draisaitl a driving forceThe difference maker could well be Draisaitl, the 2019/20 Art Ross Trophy winner with 43 goals and 67 assists for 110 points in 71 appearances. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder is a beast to move off the puck and one of the best pure passers in the league.During Thursday's conference, a reporter from Germany asked McDavid how he benefits from playing with Draisaitl."He gives me nice passes, so that definitely helps me out," McDavid said. "A lot was made of us playing together or not playing together, and that gives our team a different look."After Christmas, head coach Dave Tippett assigned McDavid and Draisaitl their own lines, and the Oilers became way more challenging to defend with the scoring spread around."As a general manager, and if you're a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, we're very fortunate to have two great players who are 23 and 24 years of age and, really, probably just coming into their prime years as athletes," Holland said. "They've been versatile. Obviously, Leon can move to the left wing and we can play them together as a line."And when that happens — even minus fans in the building — the atmosphere will no doubt be electric.

  • NDP mocks Alberta premier's UCP for taking COVID cash from 'sugar daddy' Trudeau
    News
    The Canadian Press

    NDP mocks Alberta premier's UCP for taking COVID cash from 'sugar daddy' Trudeau

    EDMONTON — The Alberta Opposition says Premier Jason Kenney's United Conservatives have a new "sugar daddy" in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and should not accept a federal COVID-19 wage subsidy the party has applied for.NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips says Kenney and his colleagues need to do more for Albertans fighting to get through the pandemic and a spiralling economy."I'm sensing a theme here," Phillips told the house in question period Thursday."Worry about yourself first, even if it means making Justin Trudeau the UCP's sugar daddy, but do nothing for working people."Kenney's party recently said it was applying for the federal wage subsidy because it was the best way to pay staff in a locked-down economy that erased party fundraising opportunities.Notley's New Democrats are not taking the subsidy. She reminded Kenney his party is asking for help from a federal leader he publicly disparaged in 2018 as a dilettante and a lightweight."An empty trust fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl," said Notley. "That's the premier describing his new biggest donor: the prime minister."Notley said the wage subsidy is meant for businesses that have lost revenue due to the pandemic."They are exploiting a loophole to get their hands on federal cash, while thousands of Alberta businesses get left out in the cold," she said."Will the premier stop distracting and instead ... step up to make sure federal money can get to the struggling Alberta businesses it is meant for?"Kenney did not respond directly, but instead accused NDP of shameful behaviour for sending out fundraising letters tied to the growing COVID pandemic."Unlike the NDP, the UCP suspended partisan fundraising for weeks following the beginning of the pandemic out of respect for Albertans," said Kenney."But on March 17, the day a public health emergency was declared, the NDP sent out a begging letter trying to monetize the pandemic. Shame on them."The letter from education critic Sarah Hoffman asked for a donation and noted that "the COVID-19 outbreak reminds us of the importance of a well-funded public health-care system and a government that has the backs of everyday people."While Kenney's UCP won the provincial election in the spring of 2019, it finished the year with a $2.3-million deficit and net liabilities of $1.1 million.The NDP, the only other party with members in the Alberta legislature, recorded a surplus of almost $750,000 in 2019 with net liabilities of about $377,000.Federally, the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green party have all applied for the wage subsidy. The Bloc Quebecois has not.Under the $73-billion program, Ottawa will cover 75 per cent of wages — up to $847 a week per employee — for companies and organizations that saw revenues from January and February decline by 15 per cent in March or 30 per cent in April and May.Political parties as non-profit entities are eligible to apply.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

  • Salmon expected to begin arriving soon at Fraser River landslide: DFO
    Science
    The Canadian Press

    Salmon expected to begin arriving soon at Fraser River landslide: DFO

    VANCOUVER — Parts of a pneumatic fish pump dubbed the "salmon cannon" have arrived at the site of a massive landslide along British Columbia's Fraser River, where Fisheries and Oceans Canada expects some salmon to begin arriving soon.Six 160-metre tubes of different sizes are being suspended along the canyon wall above the river, said Gwil Roberts, director of the department's landslide response team.A fish ladder that's nearly complete would attract salmon, guiding them into a holding pond before they enter the fish pump and tube system that will take them up river from the slide, said Roberts.The pump system is leased from a Seattle-based company and includes a scanner that measures the size of the salmon in order to send them into the appropriate tube.Roberts said the largest tube is about 25 centimetres in diameter and the system is more gentle than the "salmon cannon" label suggests.A deceleration mechanism would slow the salmon down and deposit them gently upstream after the fish have travelled about eight metres per second for 20 seconds, the department said in a statement. The pump and other measures underway at the site, including a series of boulders arranged to create pools where salmon can rest, are designed to minimize the need to handle the fish, said Roberts."This reduces stress to the fish," he said, adding that transporting fish by trucks equipped with large water tanks is a last resort this year.Tens of thousands of salmon were transported by truck and helicopter after the slide was discovered late last June.Roberts said spring water levels are still too high for salmon to navigate the series of boulders and pools that make up a "nature-like fishway."The site is being prepared and the fish pump will be installed shortly to aid the salmon until water levels drop, he said.There have been no reports of salmon arriving yet, said Roberts, but Chinook and other early returning salmon are expected soon.The landslide sent 75,000 cubic metres of boulders and debris into the Fraser River north of Lillooet, creating a five-metre waterfall and a major obstacle for salmon returning to their spawning grounds.Roberts said mortality was "extremely high" last year because fish had been arriving at the base of the waterfall and trying to swim upstream for at least a month before the slide was discovered."They were battering themselves and getting stressed," he said. "This year we have the plan in place to move the salmon to ensure they can get across the slide site and we are very hopeful we will have very, very low mortality."The fish have already travelled about 375 kilometres from the mouth of the Fraser River before arriving at the slide and some continue another 600 kilometres, said Roberts.He said the ultimate goal is to establish a natural fish passage at the site."You're looking at the destruction of salmon stock if we don't do something here. If we don't help, if we do not facilitate or make fish passage happen, then you will see the disastrous effects to those stocks."Roberts said a hatchery program is also in place if need be, which means some salmon could be captured and their offspring reared before being reintroduced into the wild, depending on the arrival of different salmon species.Fisheries and Oceans Canada has pointed to warming ocean waters, habitat degradation, disease and other threats as factors that are contributing to the decline of many wild Pacific salmon stocks and species.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.Brenna Owen, The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version based on information provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the fish travelled at 20 metres per second.

  • Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has lowest approval rating among premiers, poll suggests
    News
    CBC

    Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has lowest approval rating among premiers, poll suggests

    Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has the lowest approval rating of any premier in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 47 per cent of Manitobans giving his leadership a positive review, a new poll suggests.Only two premiers had approval ratings below 50 per cent during the previous quarter in the Angus Reid Institute poll, which was conducted online from May 19 to 24 and released Thursday: Pallister and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who had a 48 per cent rating.They are followed by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, who had an approval rating of 57 per cent.When asked about the poll at a news conference on Thursday morning, Pallister said Manitoba has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the country."I don't care about being popular, I care about getting results, and that's the same thing I've said since I got into politics, and I'm not likely going to change," he said."So if I have to choose between being popular or not and beating COVID, I'll choose beating COVID."New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs had the highest rating in the poll, with 80 per cent approval. Quebec Premier François Legault followed with 77 per cent approval and British Columbia Premier John Horgan with 71 per cent approval.Ontario Premier Doug Ford had an approval rating of 69 per cent, while Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe had an approval rating of 65 per cent and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil had 63 per cent approval, the poll suggests.Data on Prince Edward Island was not released because "its small population precludes drawing discrete samples over multiple waves," the poll information said.The poll was commissioned and paid for by the Angus Reid Institute. It included a representative randomized sample of 5,001 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. A comparable margin of error for a probability sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 1.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, the pollster said. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.Shachi Kurl, the Angus Reid Institute's executive director, said it's unusual to see the high approval ratings many premiers had during this period, and the jumps are likely due to how each premier is perceived to be handling the pandemic."Many Canadians, with the exception of some provinces, are looking to their premiers as beacons of leadership at this time," she said.The poll is significant because it's the first time the institute has gauged Canadians' approval of their premiers since the pandemic was declared, Kurl said.Pallister's approval rating this quarter is still four percentage points higher than it was in the previous Angus Reid Insititue poll, conducted in February. That's the second-lowest increase in premiers' approval ratings since last quarter, after Kenney's increase of one percentage point. Saskatchewan's Moe saw an increase of seven percentage points.Kurl said normally, an approval rating approaching 50 per cent is seen as relatively high. Pallister's low rating compared to other premiers could be partially due to the fact that Manitoba has had fewer COVID-19 cases than many other provinces."Because the COVID pandemic has not been as severe in Manitoba, Premier Pallister's response to it perhaps plays less of a role or a factor in how Manitobans are assessing his performance over the last three months," she said."In essence, I think leaders who have played a role that's been very front-and-centre, who've taken on a role that's been very both reassuring and directive to their people …. we see that Canadians and their constituents in their own provinces have responded to that."The premiers who saw the biggest jumps in approval ratings during this period were Ontario's Ford (38 percentage points), Nova Scotia's McNeil (35 percentage points), New Brunswick's Higgs (32 percentage points) and Newfoundland and Labrador's Ball (31 percentage points). Quebec's Legault saw a jump in approval of 19 percentage points during this period. The online survey's comparable margins of error are larger when looking at individual provinces. The margin in Manitoba is plus or minus 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20, the pollster said.In other provinces, it varies from plus or minus three per cent (in Ontario) to plus or minus 6.4 per cent (in New Brunswick).It's 3.4 per cent in Quebec, 3.9 per cent in Alberta, four per cent in British Columbia, 4.4 per cent in Saskatchewan, 5.7 per cent in Nova Scotia and 6.1 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Warrant issued for arrest of former PQ leader Boisclair on sex assault charges
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Warrant issued for arrest of former PQ leader Boisclair on sex assault charges

    MONTREAL — Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair is facing charges that he used a weapon to commit a sexual assault six years ago.An arrest warrant signed by a Quebec court judge and dated May 27 says the alleged assault took place in Montreal on Jan. 8, 2014, and that a second person participated.Under the terms of the warrant Boisclair needs to present himself at a police station before appearing in court to be formally charged.The 54-year-old is facing two charges related to a single, unidentified victim. If convicted, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.Boisclair served as the leader of the PQ from November 2005 until his resignation in May 2007.He served as Quebec's delegate general in New York from 2012 to 2013, and since June 2016 he has been president of the Urban Development Institute of Quebec. The institute confirmed Thursday that he has submitted his resignation.Boisclair was elected for the first time in the Montreal riding of Gouin in 1989, when we was just 23.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • No fines for people at two large family gatherings in Saskatchewan
    News
    The Canadian Press

    No fines for people at two large family gatherings in Saskatchewan

    REGINA — Officials in Saskatchewan say no fines have been levied against those who took part in two large family gatherings that triggered an outbreak of COVID-19 in Saskatoon.Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said up to four cases of infection have so far been tied to the 60 or so people who attended the events on different dates earlier this month.He did not disclose details of the gatherings, but health officials say close contacts are self-isolating.A public health order restricts crowd sizes to no more than 10 people, but that is to increase next month to 15 people indoors and 30 when outside.Although Shahab said those who violate the gathering order could face fines, officials decided in this case the best course of action was education."Obviously there's the possibility of issuing a ticket and fines but progressive enforcement has worked well for us in the past," Shahab said Thursday."In this case my understanding is there's an attempt to understand why some of those considerations were not thought of when the event was planned."Premier Scott Moe said people who repeatedly disregarded public health advice around the pandemic have been fined, but the first step is to educate them about transmission risks."If there's repeated not following the public health orders, most certainly we would move forward with a fine," he said."The goal of the public health orders is to have compliance with the public health orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It's not to fine anyone."Police in Saskatchewan have been receiving complaints related to COVID-19, and the province set up a phone line to report suspected violations, which has received hundreds of calls.In many cases police focused their attention on education, but some charges have been laid. In April, police in Regina fined a 23-year-old woman nearly $3,000 for not self-isolating despite being positive with COVID-19.Saskatchewan reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. A provincial state of emergency was extended for another two weeks.Officials said one new infection was in the north and the other was in the Saskatoon region.The total number of COVID-19 cases in the province sat at 639. Of those infections, 61 are considered active and 568 people have recovered. Ten people have died and four are in hospital.This report by the Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

  • Premier cool to proposals around paid sick leave for all workers
    News
    CBC

    Premier cool to proposals around paid sick leave for all workers

    The federal New Democrats might have been able to convince the Liberal government in Ottawa to consider bringing in paid sick days for all workers, but it appears it will be a more difficult sell with the Liberal government in Nova Scotia.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently agreed to a proposition from federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh that would see paid sick leave for workers rolled out in two phases.The first stage would be short-term support as the economy reopens and would be funded entirely by the federal government. The second, a longer-term stage, would see Ottawa work with the provinces and employers on finding a way to ensure all workers have access to 10 paid sick days each year.Although some provinces, such as British Columbia, have signalled support for the idea, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil offered little enthusiasm for it during Wednesday's COVID-19 press briefing.A collective bargaining issueMcNeil dismissed the idea as something that should be discussed during collective bargaining, a position that ignores the fact that most low-wage earners are not members of a union.The premier said he thinks the federal government could, through its employment insurance program, pay people if they need to take time off work to be tested for COVID-19 and await test results, and also if they subsequently need to quarantine."That would be a good first step as both private and public entities negotiated the sick benefit throughout the collective bargaining process," he said.McNeil did not address the longer-term aspect of the proposal, which Trudeau accepted in order to get the support of the NDP so he could extend the suspension of Parliament during the pandemic.In an interview Thursday, Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill said McNeil's response doesn't bode well for how talks between this province and Ottawa will go when the prime minister turns his attention to a potential long-term plan. Trudeau was scheduled to have a conference call with premiers Thursday evening with the topic of paid sick days expected to be part of the discussion.Burrill said McNeil's response was "insincere and unhelpful." The point is to amend and improve the Labour Standards Code, and that doesn't just apply to people who are members of a union, he said.Still, the premier's comments didn't exactly come as a surprise to Burrill.Earlier this year, the Nova Scotia NDP proposed a bill that would have allowed all workers, whether they're in a union or not, to be able to accrue up to six paid sick days per year, an idea the Liberals rejected during the spring sitting at Province House.But whether it's six days or 10, Burrill said governments must recognize how the public health landscape has changed.in a world that includes COVID-19, and in one that some day might not."The question of paid sick days indicates the extent to which there are really two worlds of work in Canada," he said.Labour minister needs more detailsThere are people who stay home from work when they feel unwell or have a personal emergency, yet they are still paid because they have sick benefits, said Burrill.There are others, however, who don't have benefits, for whom the decision of whether to go to work while sick is made on the basis of whether they can afford to miss a shift, he said.Burrill sees the plan from his federal counterpart as a necessary equalizer."If we had paid sick leave, people can make that decision just on the merits of how, in fact, they're feeling. And from a public health point of view, that makes way more sense."In an interview Thursday, Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis was more nuanced about the issue than McNeil.He agreed that in the short-term during the pandemic, it makes sense for Ottawa to cover sick days for people without benefits using the employment insurance system. However, Kousoulis said he and the premier discussed whether the province could potentially partner on such an initiative as it relates to the pandemic.The two did not discuss what a longer-term plan could mean and Kousoulis said he's not familiar with all the details of the federal NDP proposal.Still, the minister said the idea would need further examination to ensure small businesses aren't faced with additional financial burdens and provinces would also need time to analyze their own finances on the other side of the pandemic."I'd have to dig into it quite a bit more and really flesh it out."MORE TOP STORIES

  • Graham urges older judges to retire so GOP can fill openings
    Politics
    The Canadian Press

    Graham urges older judges to retire so GOP can fill openings

    WASHINGTON — Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is publicly urging federal judges in their mid-60s or older to step aside so President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans can fill the vacancies with conservative jurists.Graham’s comments, in an interview Thursday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, come as Republicans fret they may lose the Senate majority in the November elections amid the economic shutdown resulting from the coronavirus and Trump’s stumbles in addressing the crisis.Democrats have increasing hopes of gaining the minimum three seats they’ll need to capture a Senate majority, while Republicans who once banked on a robust economy and rising Trump approval ratings are showing signs of nervousness.“This is an historic opportunity,” Graham said. “We’ve put (nearly) 200 federal judges on the bench. ... If you can get four more years, I mean, it would change the judiciary for several generations. So if you’re a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status. Now would be a good time to do that, if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of centre.”Graham's committee is set to vote next week on Judge Justin Walker, a 37-year-old protege of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has been nominated to the nation’s second-most powerful court. If confirmed, Walker would take an appeals court seat being vacated by Judge Thomas Griffith, who intends to retire in September. The Judiciary Committee also is considering 49-year-old Cory Wilson, a Mississippi judge who has been nominated to a seat on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Asked by Hewitt if he can assure veteran judges that their successor “will indeed be confirmed before the election,” Graham said, "Well, if you wait, you know, (until) November the 1st, no. So do it now.''Hewitt replied: “Do it now. Loud and clear.”The interview with Graham was not the first time the issue of Republicans seeking judicial retirements has been raised publicly. Earlier this month, Chief Justice John Roberts turned down a request from the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to allow an ethics inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Griffith's retirement.A legal adviser to Roberts said the request from Judge Sri Srinivasan, the circuit’s chief judge, did not meet the standards for transferring the inquiry to another judicial circuit to pursue.Demand Justice, a progressive advocacy group, filed a complaint in March asking the appeals court to determine whether McConnell or any other lawmaker had inappropriately played a role in Griffith's decision to retire. The vacancy creates an election-year slot on the influential appeals court, where four of the nine current Supreme Court justices served, including Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh.Griffith issued a statement earlier this month saying no political pressure was put on him to leave the bench.Matthew Daly, The Associated Press

  • Cancer, coronavirus are a dangerous mix, new studies find
    Health
    The Canadian Press

    Cancer, coronavirus are a dangerous mix, new studies find

    New research shows how dangerous the coronavirus is for current and former cancer patients. Those who developed COVID-19 were much more likely to die within a month than people without cancer who got it, two studies found.They are the largest reports on people with both diseases in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain and Canada. In one study, half of 928 current and former cancer patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized and 13% died. That’s far more than the various rates that have been reported in the general population.Results were published Thursday in the journal Lancet and will be discussed this weekend at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference being held online because of the pandemic.A second study in Lancet from researchers in England of 800 patients with various types of cancer and COVID-19 found an even higher death rate — 28%. The risk rose with age and other health problems such as high blood pressure.The studies have big implications: More than 1.6 million new cancers are diagnosed in the United States each year, several million Americans are in treatment now and about 20 million are cancer survivors.Dr. Jeremy Warner, a Vanderbilt University data scientist who led the larger study, said the results show the wisdom of measures that many hospitals have taken to delay or modify care for many cancer patients, and the need for people treated in the past to be extra careful now.“If they don’t have COVID-19, they want to do anything they can to avoid getting it,” he said.For Luciano Orsini, that meant postponing surgery at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for about a month to avoid having it when virus cases were rising there. Orsini lost one kidney to cancer last year and was eager for this surgery to remove tumors on his sole remaining one. He was tested for the virus several times, including the night before his April 29 surgery.“It was a little daunting” waiting, he said. “I was constantly watching the clock.”He’s now recovering at home in Sicklerville, New Jersey, and tested negative for the virus as recently as last week.“The pandemic is posing incredible demands on the cancer care system” and the new studies show good reason for concern, said Dr. Howard Burris. He is president of the cancer society and heads the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, Tennessee.“We’re trying to minimize trips to the clinic” and telling older cancer patients and those with lung problems “to be extra vigilant, extra isolated, to stay at home, be careful with family members,” Burris said.Nearly half of the patients in Warner's study were receiving cancer treatment when diagnosed with COVID-19. The others either completed treatment, had not started it, been under observation or had cancer in the past. Researchers included all of these groups because some cancer treatments can affect the lungs or immune system years later and impact the odds of surviving coronavirus, he explained.Men seemed to fare worse — 17% of them died versus 9% of women. That might be because breast cancer was the most common tumour type in this group, and women with it tend to be younger and with fewer health problems versus many cancers seen in men that are typically diagnosed at later ages. Smoking also is more common among men.The risk of death also seemed higher for patients taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine plus the antibiotic azithromycin, but this could be because sicker patients were given those drugs. Of the 928 study participants, 89 took hydroxychloroquine and 181 took the combination.The rate of death in patients getting both drugs was 25%, about double the 13% for the group as a whole, Warner said.“We do not know if this is cause and effect,” and studies like this can’t prove such a link, he stressed. Use of hydroxychloroquine alone was not tied to a significantly higher risk of death, but there were fewer patients taking it this way. The study now has more than 2,000 patients enrolled and the next analysis will see if the trends stay the same, Warner said.Only two of the 270 took the drugs as part of a clinical trial, which “really stood out to me” because of the potential side effects, Warner said. Unless cancer patients are in one of the carefully designed studies that are testing hydroxychloroquine now, “don’t take that drug” on your own, he advised.___Marilynn Marchione can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press