Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci says state and local leaders should be as forceful as possible on wearing masks to prevent spreading the deadly coronavirus, as the state of Georgia and its major cities tussle over masks.
Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci says state and local leaders should be as forceful as possible on wearing masks to prevent spreading the deadly coronavirus, as the state of Georgia and its major cities tussle over masks.
WASHINGTON — Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling. “To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said. The sober moment on the eve of Biden's inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation. During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam. Biden was joined by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice-president when she's sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday's Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that's been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing. “These are dark times," Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. "But there’s always light.” Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump's effort to leave the Paris climate accord, cancelling Trump's travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments. Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden's name. Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself. Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey. “I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks. Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions. The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring. Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies. Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden's immigration plan. "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., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles. Many of Biden's legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump. As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defence nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned. Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Aides say Biden will use Wednesday's inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together. To that end, he extended invitations to Congress' top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting. ___ This story has been corrected to show that flags on the National Mall represent people who couldn't come, not COVID deaths. Bill Barrow And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
Brandon Sun readers request specific questions be asked about COVID-19. QUESTION: if a person from Rapid City, for example, were to test positive at the Brandon site, would they not be added to Brandon district numbers? PROVINCIAL SPOKESPERSON: Numbers are tracked by home address — i.e., the address on the Manitoba Health Card is where that case will be attributed to in our numbers, not the testing location. As to your example, if that person’s home address were to show as Rapid City on their health card, that’s where we would consider the case to be from, not the testing location (Brandon). QUESTION: I understand Moderna’s vaccine efficacy in participants 65 years of age and older appears to be lower than in younger adults 18 to 65 years — 86.4 per cent compared to 95.6 per cent. Considering First Nation elders are top of list for vaccination — is this on your radar at all as an issue? The question would apply, as well, regarding any personal care homes using Moderna. DR. JOSS REIMER: We are constantly looking at the data that’s provided by the companies, as well as by other jurisdictions. We will be sure to analyze it on an ongoing basis. What we have right now shows it as a very effective vaccine and we are confident that it will be beneficial to those who are receiving it. QUESTION: People who work at a COVID testing site are eligible to receive the vaccine. Why aren’t people who work directly with COVID-positive clients at alternative isolation accommodation sites included in the eligibility criteria? REIMER: We have looked at a number of different issues when it comes to determining the eligibility criteria. We looked at issues like whether or not the people would potentially be exposed to the virus in the workplace. We’re also looking at how vulnerable the patients or clients in that setting might be. So for example, for personal care homes, it’s essential that the staff be immunized so that they’re not a source of infection or the individual living in that setting because they’re more likely to experience severe harm. We’re also looking at where we’ve seen evidence of outbreaks and disease transmission, particularly between staff and residents or patients. We’re looking at where we have a specialized workforce with specialized skills or those where any work disruption would be quite critical to the system. All of those factors have to be considered at the same time. So one of the reasons that the COVID immunization clinics became a priority was around that workforce issue. It is critical that these clinics be up and running with as many people as we need in order to give every vaccine as fast as we can. So it was important that not only that we have the eligibility in there to help recruit some of the workers to that batch location, but also to prevent that from ever becoming a source of infection. The last thing we would want for Manitobans is to have one of our vaccine clinics become the site of an outbreak, and so we wanted to ensure that we were protecting everyone who was working there, as well as protecting everyone who is coming through to get their vaccine. Do you have a question? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Readers Ask. Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top migration official on Tuesday criticized Bosnian authorities for failing to properly care for hundreds of migrants living in sub-zero temperatures on its territory, warning the Balkans country of its obligations if it hopes to join the EU. Bosnia has faced sharp criticism for leaving around 1,000 people without shelter after a fire gutted the makeshift Lipa refugee camp near the northwest border with EU-member Croatia just before Christmas. The authorities at first said they would move the migrants to another location, but finally set up military tents at the site instead after locals elsewhere protested. “Bosnia-Herzegovina must show it’s capable of managing migration. It must take responsibility, address the humanitarian situation,” Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told EU lawmakers. “As a country with a perspective of EU accession, we expect Bosnia-Herzegovina to work on sustainable, long-term solutions, to set up facilities evenly distributed across the full territory of the country,” Johansson said. She said she would visit the area in February. The problem is not new. Bosnia has been widely criticized in recent years for mishandling the arrival of thousands of people, many fleeing war and poverty. The politically unstable and impoverished Balkan country is still recovering from its own war in the 1990s. Divided into two feuding entities, Bosnia lacks a unified policy on migrants. The Serb-run part of the country has refused to accept any, and the overburdened northwestern region has complained it has been abandoned despite help from international organizations. Migrants come to Bosnia with the aim of reaching Croatia before moving on into Western Europe. Many have complained about being pushed back, which is illegal under international refugee law, and violence at the hands of Croatia’s police. Johansson said thanks to EU help, around 900 people at the site in Bosnia now have shelter in weather-proof tents, with access to heating and food supplies. “Thanks to our action, the situation has improved, but only from grave to serious. Stopping immediate risk to life is the beginning, not the end, of ensuring acceptable, dignified living conditions,” she said. The Lipa camp was only ever set up as a temporary measure to cope with the impact of the coronavirus over the summer. Bosnian central authorities wanted to move some migrants to a nearby facility at Bira, but local authorities blocked the move as protests erupted. “Winter has a long way to run and I must admit that it is frustrating to have to set up tents and temporary shelters when we have an empty, fully equipped and winterized facility just 30 kilometres (19 miles) down the road,” Johansson said. ___ Jovana Gec in Belgrade contributed to this report. Lorne Cook, The Associated Press
KABUL — Some 10 million children in war-ravaged Afghanistan are at risk of not having enough food to eat in 2021, a humanitarian organization said Tuesday and called for $1.3 billion in new funds for aid. Just over 18 million Afghans, including 9.7 million children, are badly in need of lifesaving support, including food, Save the Children said in a statement. The group called for $1.3 billion in donations to pay for assistance in 2021. Chris Nyamandi, the organization's Afghanistan country director, said Afghans are suffering under a combination of violent conflict, poverty and the virus pandemic. “It’s a desperately bad situation that needs urgent attention from the international community,” he said. The latest round of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators that began earlier this month in Qatar has been slow to produce results as concerns grow over a recent spike in violence across Afghanistan. The pandemic has also had a disastrous impact on millions of Afghan families. In 2020, the World Bank estimated that the pandemic had hugely disrupted imports, including vital household items, which in turn led to rapid inflation. The added health and economic strains of the pandemic have deepened the humanitarian impact across the country. Many Afghans also blame runaway government corruption and lawlessness for the country’s poor economy. The U.N. and its humanitarian partners will seek $1.3 billion in aid for 16 million Afghans in need this year, U.N. secretary-general spokesman Stephane Dujarric, said this month. That’s up from an estimated 2.3 million people last year who needed life-saving assistance. “It’s a huge increase in people who need aid,” he said. Nyamandi said that with no immediate end in sight to the decades-long conflict, millions of people will continue to suffer. “It’s especially hard on children, many of whom have known nothing but violence," he said. According to the U.N., nearly 6,000 people — a third of them children — were killed or wounded in fighting in Afghanistan between January and September last year, Nyamandi said. The violence continues to force hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes every year and limit people's access to resources including hospitals and clinics. In a Save the Children report in December, the group said more than 300,000 Afghan children faced freezing winter conditions that could lead to illness and death without proper winter clothing and heating. The organization provided winter kits to more than 100,000 families in 12 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. The kits included fuel and a heater, blankets and winter clothes, including coats, socks, shoes and hats. Nyamandi said the plight of the Afghan people is threatened by inadequate humanitarian funding pledged by wealthy nations at a conference in Geneva in November. “Aid to Afghanistan has dropped alarmingly at a time when humanitarian need is rising. We’re now in the unsustainable position where aid falls far short of what’s needed to meet the needs of the people” he said. The London-based Save the Children report cites 10-year-old Brishna from eastern Nangarhar province as saying her family was forced to leave their home and move to another district because of the fighting. “Life is difficult," she said. “My father, who is responsible for bringing us food, is sick.” Brishna said she and her brother collect garbage for cooking fires and it has been a long time since they had proper food and clothes. “My siblings and I always wish to have three meals in a day with some fruits, and a better life. But sometimes, we sleep with empty stomachs. During the winter we don’t have blankets and heating stuff to warm our house,” she said. ___ This story has been corrected to show that the aid group is calling for $1.3 billion, not $3 billion in aid money. Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press
City council unanimously voted on Monday to direct the fire service to start carrying naloxone nasal spray kits. The decision came after a motion was brought forward by Coun. Kieran McKenzie. "The numbers bear out the fact that we should be looking at adding this particular service as part of the the toolkit, the broader toolkit that we have with respect to harm reduction," he said, adding that it's a service used by many other communities in Ontario. Fire chief Stephen Laforet told city council he favoured the idea, noting that firefighters arrived first on scene of a suspected overdose before EMS 25 times last year. Naloxone can save lives when administered to someone who has overdosed on opioids. It temporarily reverses the effect of an overdose. "Putting [naloxone] on the trucks right now is not a significant burden and there is potential to help somebody in the future with it. So based on that, at this point in time, I would put it on," he said. Coun. Rino Bortolin said it's a "no-brainer" for all first responders to be carrying it across the region. "Naloxone is not the end-all-be-all, but it's a no-brainer that we should have it," he said. "Firefighters who are paid to respond to these types of events, who are trained, physically active and strong, capable people can easily be trained on how to address this." "If it gets used once in five years, that once makes it more than worth it." Laforet told city council it will cost $2,000 to train the fire department and will take about eight weeks. A report to council stated that drug-related overdoses and deaths "continue to be growing problem in North America" particularly those related to opioids. The report said the annual rate of opioid-related deaths in Ontario increased 285 per cent between 1991 and 2015. It said that 2018, there were 220 opioid-related emergency department visits in Windsor and Essex County. In 2019, there were 249, which is 3.2 times greater than the 78 opioid overdose ED visits in 2007. In 2019, 47 people died from opioid overdoses, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. Council supports WPS to carry naloxone Council also passed a motion advising the police that council was in favour of them carrying the life-saving drug as well, but not everyone was in favour of this, including Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. "Arming your police officers to attend medical calls as opposed to crime-related calls, the chief will have to make that decision," he said. Coun. Fred Francis said he felt uncomfortable "micromanaging" the police board on what to do with respect to carrying naloxone. Currently, Windsor police have officers with three units — detention, city centre patrol and problem-oriented policing — that have access to the drug.
In a moment of nation-splintering turmoil, an incoming American president, Abraham Lincoln, travelled by train to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., in a nerve-racking ride cloaked in disguise as he faced threats to his life. Now, 160 years later, an incoming president has cancelled plans for a train ride to Washington. It was supposed to be a symbolic journey highlighting Joe Biden's decades-long habit of riding the rails to D.C. each day from his family home in Delaware. Instead, it has taken on a sad new symbolism, of an American capital clenched shut in fear of political violence at Wednesday's inauguration. The question nagging at residents here, and at security analysts, is whether the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the worst of a passing storm, a one-off, or the start of a dark era of political violence. What's already clear is this will be no normal inauguration. The American capital has transformed into a heavily armed and tightly barricaded fortress. "Clearly, we are in uncharted waters," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told a news conference last week, urging tourists to stay away from her city during the inauguration. Fences are now up around Washington's downtown. Thousands of soldiers are patrolling the streets, bridges are blocked, parking garages are shut, bicycle-sharing services are suspended, Airbnb reservations are cancelled, and residents are being urged on neighbourhood chat groups against renting rooms to tourists. Suspicion strikes Capitol Hill neighbourhood Security concerns are most acute in the neighbourhood near the Capitol. Lawyer Matt Scarlato already has an overnight bag packed in case unrest spills into his neighbourhood and he's forced to flee the city with his family. He lives near one of the new security barriers near Capitol Hill, where police are forcing residents on some streets to show ID if they want to access their home. Scarlato was working from home the day of the riot in the Capitol building, when unexploded bombs were found near political party offices. He received a message from his son's daycare urging parents to immediately come pick up their children. Scarlato grabbed a baseball bat and tossed it in the car for the ride to the daycare. "It was a minute-by-minute escalation," Scarlato said. "We were all just sitting in the house saying, 'What the hell is going on?'" A longtime resident of the area, he compared the recent panic to a smaller-scale version of what he witnessed during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On the day of the Capitol riot, he was concerned by the sight of an unfamiliar RV on his street given the reports of bombs in Washington and the recent explosion in Nashville. For her part, Monica Ingram, a retired health-care administrator, was rattled yesterday morning by the sound of helicopters hovering over the same Capitol Hill neighbourhood. Around that same time, the congressional precinct was ordered evacuated. The panic was the result of an explosion and fire nearby, caused by a propane tank in a homeless encampment. Ingram said people now look at each other differently, warily. Ingram saw a man taking pictures of streets near the Capitol the other day and she worried whether he was up to something nefarious. "We're suspicious of each other now. It's sad," she said. "It's very disheartening, upsetting. It's like I don't even know this country anymore." WATCH | Staff and media scramble as a blast goes off during inauguration rehearsal: Some call for indoor inauguration She's among the many people with mixed feelings about whether this inauguration should even be happening in public. Ultimately, she prefers it going forward, as opposed to moving to a makeshift indoor location, in order to deliver a message: that this country won't buckle in fear. There is, however, a part of her that hopes Biden might throw another inaugural party, a year from now, a real festive party, after this pandemic, and this panic. Biden should have a "redo" inauguration, she said. "It's so sad that president-elect Biden has to be sworn in like this. It should be a day of joy for this country." There's no guarantee this place will feel safer in a year. Mark Hertling, a retired lieutenant-general who led U.S. soldiers in Europe, said he worries about whether the United States is now entering an era of political insurgency. And he's not alone. One-time riot or preview of insurgency? Some analysts who study domestic political violence have warned for years (in thesis papers and books and government reports) that the conditions existed for an American insurgency on the right. Those conditions include a proliferation of guns, a surge in ex-military joining militia groups, two increasingly hostile political parties, and a split along racial and cultural lines in a rapidly diversifying country. A 2018 book, Alt-America, charts how membership in armed militia groups skyrocketed after the election of a first Black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, and these fringe groups began showing up at political protests. Alleged members of such militias are now accused of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where numerous people were dressed in paramilitary-themed clothing and several could be heard in the crowd warning they'd be back with weapons. "Welcome to the reality of other countries," said Greg Ehrie, who led FBI domestic terrorism units and is now vice-president of law enforcement and analysis at the Anti-Defamation League. "There is sort of an underlying belief that if we can get through Wednesday, this stops and then it moves on. And that's just not true.… This is going to be something we're going to be living with for several years — this heightened sense of security." Details released since the siege of the Capitol suggest things could have been worse. Jan. 6 could have been worse One man arrested that day allegedly had two guns and enough materials to make 11 Molotov cocktails, and another allegedly had a loaded gun, spare bullets and a gas mask. A federal prosecutor said one air force veteran who carried plastic handcuffs intended to take hostages. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City said in a YouTube video she believed she was going to die during the riot in the Capitol and that she experienced a traumatic event she declined to discuss: "Many, many, many members of Congress were almost murdered," she said in the video. "We were very lucky [to escape]." One police officer died as a result of injuries sustained during the riot. Another said he narrowly survived the angry mob and described how he was Tasered while some wanted to take his gun and kill him with it. Joseph Young, a professor at American University in D.C. who studies the factors that drive political violence, usually in other countries, said he is bothered by the trends he sees. "More and more, my work has been applicable to the United States," he said in an interview. "[And that's] troubling." A word of historical caution He said it's wrong, however, to conclude this is a more violent political era than the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. experienced hundreds of terrorist attacks back then, from white-supremacist church bombings to political assassinations to the activities of the left-wing group Weather Underground, which bombed the Capitol, the State Department and other government buildings. But he's still worried about the current U.S. situation. As are the authorities preparing for inauguration day. The Pentagon has authorized the Washington, D.C., National Guard to carry weapons on domestic soil amid ongoing worries about the possible use of explosives. About 25,000 National Guard troops from D.C. and several states were expected to be part of the security operation. National Guard members are being screened themselves for any extremist affiliations. On Tuesday, Pentagon officials said 12 National Guard members were removed from securing Biden's inauguration after vetting by the FBI, including two who posted and texted extremist views about Wednesday's event. A Secret Service member was reportedly under investigation over political comments related to the Capitol riot posted on Facebook. Jared Holt, an expert who monitors extremist chatter online, said it has gotten quieter lately. He said he was extremely worried before Jan. 6 about the heated and violent rhetoric he saw in online platforms. People were posting tips for smuggling guns into Washington and maps of the underground tunnels connecting the Capitol to lawmakers' offices. Those same forums erupted in joy after the attack. "It was initially jubilation," said Holt, of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think-tank. "They were thrilled. They felt incredibly accomplished. [Now], the cohesion between groups has eroded." It became clear within hours of the riot that it might backfire — against those involved and against Donald Trump. It failed to stop the vote to certify Biden's election win. Then it led to Trump's swift impeachment in the House. WATCH | Preparations underway to fortify U.S. capital ahead of inauguration day: Has the threat already receded? Some rioters in the Capitol who posted triumphant images of themselves on social media have been arrested or fired from their jobs, with their posts used as evidence against them. Social media platforms are either limiting extremist rhetoric and shutting out Trump, are offline altogether (Parler), or are unusually slow (Gab). Holt now worries that violent rhetoric is moving to tighter channels that are harder to monitor publicly, such as Telegram and other private messaging apps. So residents of Washington, D.C., and the country as a whole, enter this historic transition week in a fog of uncertainty, about whether they've just witnessed a dark passing moment in the life of the American republic or a sombre omen. "It looks like a police state down here. We've never seen it like this," Emilie Frank, a communications professional, said in an interview a few days ago, referring to the imposing concrete-and-metal labyrinth being erected downtown. "It would normally be bustling, everybody's excited [for the inauguration]. But it's silent, blocked off, police cars everywhere." She doesn't know if any of this will be necessary. But she'd rather have this than the under-preparation by authorities that the city witnessed on Jan. 6, she said. "So, even if it's just [for] show, it's better than nothing, I guess," she said. "If some people will be convinced they should stay away after seeing all this stuff in place, then that's good." WATCH | Ex-FBI agent on the new domestic terrorism:
The City of Summerside, P.E.I. has set the wheels in motion to expropriate four parcels of land in the north end of the city to construct a new roundabout. The roundabout will go at the corner of Central Street and Pope Road, part of a major realignment for that section of road which will also include new sidewalks and upgrades to exits to businesses in the area. Coun. Justin Doiron, chair of the technical services committee, said the city needed about a half dozen parcels of land and they were able to negotiate deals with some landowners,.but they were not able to strike a deal with the owners of four properties, so the city moved to expropriate them. "What those resolutions were tonight was serving notice of our intention to expropriate," Doiron said following a meeting of Summerside city council Monday night. Independent, third-party appraiser hired The vote on expropriation will be in February, Doiron said. In the meantime, the city will continue to negotiate with the landowners, which include one commercial and three residential lots, in an effort to come to a negotiated agreement. If no agreement is reached by next month's council meeting, the city will proceed with expropriation, he said. The city hired an independent, third-party appraiser to come up with a price for the land. Doiron said these are small parcels of land. "Nobody is going to have to relocate. It is minimal impact on homeowners, landowners and business owners," he said. 'We just want safety' Coun. Barb Ramsay said the intersection is dangerous. She is glad to see it's finally going to be fixed. "It's not lined up, there are no sidewalks, they've tried to adjust it a number of years ago. That didn't work," said Ramsay. "We just want safety for our residents." Construction is expected to begin on the new roundabout in the spring. The cost of the project is still not known. Doiron said the city has been trying to get this section of road upgraded for nearly three decades. "There has already been improvements to that intersection," said Doiron, adding that lanes at the intersection have been widened. "It's not like they haven't addressed the problem before; it's just population grows, traffic increases. It's time to really solve it for good." More from CBC P.E.I.
La proposition du conseiller de l’opposition David De Cotis de rebaptiser l’aréna Saint-François du nom de Jacques St-Jean a rallié les élus du parti au pouvoir, des deux oppositions et des élus indépendants lors de la séance du conseil municipal de janvier. Ainsi, il a été décidé à l’unanimité d’en saisir le comité chargé d’analyser les demandes de dénomination toponymique. «C’est un honneur en tant que représentant des citoyens de Saint-François d’appuyer cette proposition», a déclaré le conseiller et membre du Mouvement lavallois – Équipe Marc Demers, Éric Morasse. Son collègue Yannick Langlois, qui préside aux destinées du Comité de toponymie, a pour sa part qualifié Jacques St-Jean de «bâtisseur» et de «personnalité très importante dans l’histoire du hockey et du sport de Laval», précisant que «le comité analysera le dossier» à la lumière de la Politique de dénomination toponymique. Celle-ci, adoptée au printemps 2018, vise à mettre en valeur le patrimoine et la culture locale par l’attribution de noms évocateurs à des lieux et espaces publics. Aux yeux de M. De Cotis, le proposeur, il s’agirait d’un «honneur bien mérité» pour celui qui s’est dévoué pendant plus d’un demi-siècle auprès de la population lavalloise. Conseiller municipal de Saint-François pendant 24 ans, soit jusqu’à ce qu’il quitte la vie politique en 2017, Jacques St-Jean avait été régisseur des sports pour l’ancienne ville de Chomedey avant la grande fusion de 1965. Son nom est indissociable du hockey, lui qui a notamment dirigé dans les années 1970 le National de Laval à la belle époque de Mike Bossy. En 1975, il fonda sa propre école de hockey qui, pendant plus de 40 ans, a accueilli des milliers de jeunes Lavallois. Aujourd’hui âgé de 85 ans, M. St-Jean, qui fut intronisé au Temple de la renommée du hockey québécois en 1996, a fait carrière dans l’enseignement, plus précisément au sein de la défunte Commission scolaire de Chomedey où il a œuvré à titre de conseiller pédagogique en éducation physique. Si cette proposition devait être entérinée par le Comité de toponymie, l’aréna Saint-François deviendrait le 4e amphithéâtre à être rebaptisé sous l’administration Demers. En 2014, l’aréna Laval-Ouest est devenu l’aréna Hartland-Monahan en l’honneur de celui qui fut le premier Lavallois repêché par la Ligue nationale de hockey. Les défunts Golden Seals de la Californie en avait fait leur choix en 1971. Deux ans plus tard, ce fut au tour de l’aréna Samson de changer de nom pour celui de l’ex-grande vedette du Lightning de Tampa Bay, le Lavallois Martin Saint-Louis. Enfin, en 2019, l’aréna Chomedey était renommé l’aréna Pierre-Creamer en l’honneur de cet entraîneur lavallois qui a notamment eu le privilège de diriger Mario Lemieux à la barre des Penguins de Pittsburgh à la fin des années 1980. À lire également: Jacques St-Jean reçoit le Prix Artisan 2020 Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
Beijing-based ByteDance recently launched its own third-party payment service for Douyin, the Chinese version of its hit short video app TikTok, as it presses to expand into the e-commerce business in China. "The set-up of Douyin Pay is to supplement the existing major payment options, and to ultimately enhance user experience on Douyin," Douyin said in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday. Users of Douyin, which accumulated 600 million daily active users, previously could use Ant Group's Alipay and Tencent Holdings' WeChat Pay, the country's two ubiquitous third-party mobile payment channels, to buy virtual gifts for livestreamers or items from shops on the platform.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's trailblazing Black food writer Dorah Sitole's latest cookbook was widely hailed in December as a moving chronicle of her journey from humble township cook to famous, well-travelled author. The country's new Black celebrity chefs lined up to praise her as a mentor who encouraged them to succeed by highlighting what they knew best: tasty African food. Now they are mourning Sitole's death this month from COVID-19. She was 65. In “40 Years of Iconic Food,” Sitole engagingly described how she quietly battled South Africa's racist apartheid system to find appreciation, and a market, for African cuisine. Her book became a holiday bestseller, purchased by Blacks and whites alike. Sitole's career started in 1980 at the height of apartheid when she was hired by a canned foods company to promote sales of their products by giving cooking classes in Black townships. She found that she loved the work. In 1987, Sitole became the country's first Black food writer when she was appointed food editor for True Love, one of the few publications for the country's Black majority. The magazine, and its competitor Drum, were known for giving Black writers, photographers and editors the freedom to write about the Black condition and experience. With stories that were about much more than food, Sitole described how traditional African dishes brought pleasure to families and communities in troubled times. She was known for her distinctive takes on well-known recipes and tips on how to make them on a budget. She won an avid readership and became a household name, even as South Africa's townships were roiled by anti-apartheid violence. When apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, Sitole found new opportunities. She trained as a Cordon Bleu chef and got a diploma in marketing. She travelled across Africa to learn about the continent's cuisine, producing the book “Cooking from Cape to Cairo.” In interviews, she pointed out her East African fish dish with basmati rice that she developed while travelling through that region, and the seafood samp recipe, which is basically a paella using chopped corn kernels instead of the traditional rice. In 2008, Sitole's success was acknowledged when she was appointed True Love's editor-in-chief. Sitole's warmth and generosity is credited with opening doors for many Black chefs, food writers and influencers who are thriving in South Africa today. “Mam (mother) Dorah’s approach to food was a mixture of things. First, it was something that was driven by her background, she was very true to who she was," said Siba Mtongana, one of South Africa's brightest new chefs, who started out as food editor for Drum magazine and now has a television series and cookbooks. “She would take what we grew up eating and add a twist to them, and add flavours that we would not ordinarily have thought of putting together,” said Mtongana who has opened a restaurant in Cape Town, featuring food from all over Africa. She said Sitole imbued her with a passion for exposing the world to Africa's many cuisines saying she loved describing to her readers what others enjoy eating across Africa, and around the world. Another chef who credits Sitole for assisting her is Khanya Mzongwana, a contributing editor for food retailer Woolworths’ Taste magazine. “Mam Dorah wore so many hats — she was a writer, a creator, a mother, a friend, a real artist. I remember just how awesome it was to see a Black woman blazing trails in food media. Nobody was doing that," said Mzongwana. “What made Mam Dorah the best was definitely how she could fill a space with pleasantness," said Mzongwana. “She was so generous with her resources and wanted to see all of us — her daughters — win. Paying it forward in meaningful ways is something I saw Mam Dorah do first," she said. “She loved and respected everybody and made what seemed like such a wild dream appear so reachable and normal. She was one of the most impactful Black women in the food world.” Sitole received numerous awards for her contribution to South African culture. In one of her last interviews, Sitole said the highlight of her four-decade career was her trip across the continent. “I had always wanted to travel through Africa and I had no clue what to expect," she said on Radio 702. "It was almost like you don’t know what you are going into, and then you find it. I loved every moment and every country that I went to, I loved the food and the experience." Sitole is survived by her children Nonhlanhla, Phumzile and Ayanda. Mogomotsi Magome, The Associated Press
When President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, 2017, he promised an end to “American carnage,” a bleak and dysfunctional nation he had insisted that he alone could fix. Closing out his presidency exactly four years later, Trump leaves behind an even more polarized America, where thousands are dying daily from the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy is badly damaged and political violence has surged. Trump didn’t create the bitter differences that have come to define American life.
The company that operates the Eurostar rail service between the UK and mainland Europe has called for a UK government bailout following a collapse in travel. The train operator runs daily services through the Channel Tunnel between London, Paris and Brussels.View on euronews
Indian hyperlocal courier startup Dunzo has raised $40 million from existing investor Google and others, it said on Tuesday, after seeing a surge in usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many Indians stayed indoors for much of 2020 because of the health crisis, Dunzo and food-delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy recorded a fresh surge in popularity. Naspers-backed Swiggy also runs a hyperlocal courier service.
A Thai court on Tuesday sentenced a 65-year-old woman to more than 43 years in jail for sharing online posts criticizing the royal family, her lawyer said, the country's harshest ever sentence for insulting the monarchy. Her sentence comes at a time of unprecedented youth-led demonstrations in which protest leaders have openly criticised the monarchy, risking prosecution under Thailand's strict law known as lese majeste, which carries a 15-year penalty for each violation. Anchan Preelert pled guilty to 29 separate violations of sharing and posting clips on YouTube and Facebook between 2014 and 2015, her lawyer, Pawinee Chumsri, told Reuters.
Ninety per cent of physicians would feel comfortable getting immunized against COVID-19 today, if they could. That’s according to Doctors Manitoba vaccination survey, which saw 507 physicians respond — 75 per cent of whom are in the Winnipeg region. Some physicians indicated they would wait to allow those "more at risk" to get immunized first, according to the survey. "I would say no to the vaccine today, because I think there’s others who need it first. But I do want it when there’s enough to go around," stated one physician. Overall, physicians are supportive of the vaccine and are eager to participate in its delivery, said Dr. Cory Baillie, president of Doctors Manitoba and a rheumatologist who works at the Manitoba Clinic. Conversations with the province have begun, he said. Included in the survey results shared with media is a public poll which found that 90 per cent of people would be willing to go to their physician’s office to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Baillie said that’s because doctors know their patients’ histories and patients trust them. Baillie also said vaccine hesitancy does exist, and the main concerns relate to how quickly vaccines have been developed, as well as there not being a lot of resources and educational material related to them. Social media hasn’t helped in that regard. "There’s no end to different theories that are available on different social media sites. Talk to your physician. Talk to a health-care provider who you can trust to get appropriate information," he said. "These vaccines were studied and are safe and our future out of the pandemic is going to be essential on getting enough Manitobans immunized." According to the survey, doctors want more information about vaccines regarding safety and effectiveness. "In the survey, and one of the things I found particularly helpful about it, was that they outlined what types of tools physicians would find most useful when it comes to vaccine information," Dr. Joss Reimer said at Monday’s provincial news conference. Reimer is a member of Manitoba’s vaccination task force. "We’re going to take the information that they provided and take that back to the task force, to start looking at how we might be able to develop, in partnership, some of those tools, because we absolutely want our physicians, our nurses, our pharmacists, and all of our other immunizers to have every tool that they need to provide accurate information to their patients, to their clients, and to help inform Manitobans about this vaccine to demonstrate how safe and effective it is," she said. Tools include fact sheets and brochures, frequently asked questions, posters, webinars, videos and podcasts. Reimer also noted that for those few patients where there might be some risks that need to be considered, it’s important physicians have the tools to be able to have that conversation with them. The Doctors Manitoba survey results can be read at bit.ly/3sDHXSU Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
MADRID — As soon as the lifeless body is silently pushed away on a stretcher, a cleaning battalion moves into the intensive care box. In a matter of minutes, the bed where the 72-year-old woman fought for over two weeks for another breath gets rubbed clean, the walls of glass isolating it disinfected with a squeegee. There is little time to reflect on what has just happened, as death gives way to the possibility of saving another life. “Our biggest source of joy is obviously emptying a bed, but because somebody is discharged and not because they have passed away,” said Ignacio Pujol, the head of this Madrid ICU. “That's a little space there for somebody else to get another chance.” As a surge of infections is once again putting Spain’s public health system against the ropes, the Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital that employs Pujol, a project seen by many as an extravagant vanity enterprise, is getting a fresh opportunity to prove its usefulness. Named after the 19th-century Spanish nurse who took smallpox vaccination across the Atlantic Ocean, the facility was built in 100 days at a cost of 130 million euros ($157 million), more than twice the original budget. It boasts three pavilions and support buildings over an area the size of 10 soccer fields, looking somewhere between a small airport terminal and an industrial warehouse, with ventilation air ducts, medical beds and state-of-the-art equipment. The original project was for 1,000 beds, of which roughly half have been installed so far. The Zendal opened to a roar of competing fanfare and criticism on Dec. 1, just as Spain seemed to dampen a post-summer surge of coronavirus infections. By mid-December, it had only received a handful of patients. But Spain on Monday recorded over 84,000 new COVID-19 infections, the highest increase over a single weekend since the pandemic began. The country’s overall tally is heading to 2.5 million cases with 53,000 confirmed virus deaths, although excess mortality statistics add over 30,000 deaths to that. As the curve of contagion steepened after Christmas and New Year's, the Zendal has gotten busy. On Monday, 392 patients were being treated, more than in any other hospital in the region of 6.6 million. Spain's surge follows similar infection increases in other European countries, most notably in the U.K. following the discovery of a new virus variant that experts say is more infectious. The London Nightingale, one of the temporary hospitals across Britain designed to ease pressure on the country's overwhelmed health care system, has also reopened for patients and as a vaccination centre. Spain's top health officials insist they have found no evidence that new variants wreaking havoc elsewhere are contributing in any way to its own rocketing infections. Some experts dispute that, claiming the country's limited ability to sequence coronavirus cases is distorting reality and that a new stay-at-home order is necessary. On the ground, increasing hospitalizations for the virus already surpass the peak of the second resurgence. Nearly one out of every five hospital beds has a patient with COVID-19. The new illness is also taking up one-third of the country's ICU capacity and non-urgent surgeries are already being called off. Joined by some medical experts, left-wing politicians and workers’ unions accuse Madrid's conservative government of spending on vote-attracting hardware instead of reinforcing a public health system they have underfunded for years. Investing in contact tracing and primary care previously, they say, could have averted the need for a Zendal altogether. “Rather than the success they boast, the filling up of this makeshift hospital represents a tremendous failure of those at the helm of the pandemic's response, and also a failure of all of us as a society that could have done better," said Ángela Hernández, a spokeswoman for Madrid's main medical workers' union, AMYTS. The last straw for the unions, she said, has been the regional government laying off medical staff who refuse to abandon their positions in regular hospitals when they are reassigned to the Zendal. "The project has been nonsense from beginning to end," Hernández said. "A few beds without adequate personnel don't make a hospital.” Fernando Prados, Zendal's manager, says he doesn't mind the debate but the 750 patients treated over the last month and a half have already taken significant pressure off other hospitals. “We have already contributed in one way or another," Prados said. "We know that we will continue to have COVID patients and once the pandemic is over this infrastructure will be here for any other emergency.” Past automatic glass doors, patients recover in modules of 8 beds, leaving little space for privacy but providing better monitoring of possible complications in their recovery, said Verónica Real, whose challenge as the head nurse has been to organize staff teams drawn from other hospitals. “Some of the sanitary workers arrive with a degree of anger for all the noise out there about our hospital,” Real said. “But once here, the attitude completely changes.” The Zendal's managers say a modern ventilation system renews the entire facility's air every 5 minutes, which contributes to a safer work environment. But they are most proud of the expansion of the intermediate respiratory care unit, where patients receive varying types of assisted respiration to overcome lung inflammation. The unit's chief, Pedro Landete, says by admitting potentially worsening patients in one of its 50 highly-equipped beds, they are reducing the number of people who later require the more demanding intensive care. José Andrés Armada arrived with mild symptoms at the facility after all his family was infected despite what he said was a very careful approach to the pandemic. But the 63-year-old's health quickly deteriorated and last week he was on the brink of being intubated in one of the Zendal's dozen ICU boxes. “I know that the economy is something to safeguard, but health is more important. We should be in lockdown by now. You can’t have bars and other places open," the former entrepreneur said. “I never imagined it could attack you in such a way." ___ AP reporter Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Aritz Parra, The Associated Press
The two companies developing small modular nuclear reactors in New Brunswick are defending their use of Liberal-connected lobbyists. ARC Nuclear has former premier Shawn Graham working on their behalf, while Moltex Energy is using Jordan O'Brien, the one-time chief of staff to another Liberal premier, Brian Gallant. O'Brien has lobbied several federal government departments and ministerial staffers, along with Liberal cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc, Saint John-Rothesay Liberal MP Wayne Long and Conservative Senator Percy Mockler. Moltex's Canadian CEO, Rory O'Sullivan, said they need the government relations expertise lobbyists can provide. "We are experts in nuclear energy, clean nuclear power," O'Sullivan said. "We are not experts in government relations, but it's almost as difficult. "So we are hiring lobbyists because we need to know who to go to in government, how government works. … We would love to not have any need for government at all." Public registrations show who's being lobbied Graham's public registrations show him lobbying NB Power and the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, and contacting Louis Leger, the chief of staff to Premier Blaine Higgs. He has not recently lobbied his federal Liberal allies in Ottawa. Susan O'Donnell of the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development, which opposes small modular nuclear reactors, says the lobbying shows how political connections are driving support for a technology she calls questionable. "It's a club," she says. O'Brien would not comment on his work for Moltex, instead deferring to O'Sullivan. Graham also declined to comment, saying answers from ARC Canada CEO Norm Sawyer would suffice. Sawyer said Graham is "a bit of an ambassador for us, really." The former power utility executive, who is from New Brunswick, said Graham has advised ARC on which parts of the province could be part of its supply chain. "He knows where some areas of the province would need more help than others from an economic perspective," Sawyer said. "We use him for that piece and because of that he does talk to government a little bit, so he had to register." Sawyer said he's been able to arrange his own meetings with NB Power. Lobbyists dealing with government must register publicly Consultants and in-house lobbyists dealing with the provincial government have been required to register publicly since 2017. Graham's registration to lobby the federal government for ARC Nuclear lists him as "inactive." Until last year, Moltex was also using Moncton-based consultant Chad Peters, who has Progressive Conservative connections, as a provincial lobbyist. His registration showed he lobbied or arranged meetings with several cabinet ministers and NB Power executives. O'Brien lobbied the federal departments of Innovation, Science and Economic Development; Finance; Indigenous Services; Environment and Climate Change Canada; Foreign Affairs and Infrastructure Canada. One of the Finance Department contacts he listed on his registration was Matt DeCourcey, the former Fredericton Liberal MP who was a senior advisor to the minister of finance at the time. O'Brien also lobbied the Prime Minister's Office. "It's government relations we're buying," O'Sullivan said. we're doing the meetings and presenting. They're not doing the lobbying. - Rory O'Sullivan, CEO of Moltex Energy Canada "We're buying to know who to go to, what conversations to have, and that's been very valuable. And we're going to continue with that." He said the consultants were making introductions but "we're doing the meetings and presenting. They're not doing the lobbying." ARC Nuclear and Moltex Energy have been waiting for word of federal funding to support their development work. During last year's provincial election campaign, Higgs said a federal announcement would happen soon after voting day. Four months later, there's still no sign of it. Ottawa announced an SMR strategy in December, but with no money attached. O'Sullivan says his team was disappointed. "Of course, yeah. We were hopeful there were going to be some announcements in there." He said SMRs are "a very complicated file" that takes time for anyone to understand. Sawyer says he didn't assume that the December announcement of a federal strategy would necessarily involve immediate funding. "I didn't see that link," he said. "That was an intermediate step, hopefully, to the next step."
Health officials in northern Quebec Cree communities are pleased with the early rollout of a region-wide vaccination campaign launched in a snowstorm over the weekend. Shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine were delivered safely Saturday across the nine inland and coastal communities of Eeyou Istchee, the traditional name of the Cree territory in northern Quebec. "[Teams] were fully prepared ... as the vaccines arrived, everybody was set to go," said Bertie Wapachee, the chairperson of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay. As the vaccines arrived, everybody was set to go. - Bertie Wapachee, Chairperson of CBHSSJB "We were very proud of our team. And I'm very grateful to have all of them on the ground," said Wapachee. Cases up in two Cree communities More than 3,000 vaccinations have already been administered across Eeyou Istchee, according to officials. That includes 1,200 advance doses sent to Mistissini and Oujé-Bougoumou, two communities currently dealing with outbreaks of the virus. On Monday, local officials confirmed there are 26 cases of COVID-19 in Oujé-Bougoumou and 25 in Mistissini, up from last week. "Vaccination is an important first step toward being able to finally put this pandemic behind us as a nation," said Grand Chief Abel Bosum, who was vaccinated last week in Oujé-Bougoumou. In Chisasibi, the largest of the Cree communities, more than 700 people had been vaccinated by 3 p.m. Monday, according to Jeannie Pelletier, who is the local director of the community's health clinic. "I believe the vaccine will help us, and I am happy that many [people] came," said Pelletier in Cree. She also reminded people of the importance of continuing with the measures in place, such as physical distancing and wearing a mask, even after they have been vaccinated. "I wish to tell people that this won't end soon, and we still need to be vigilant in keeping with the safety protocols that are in place to keep us all safe," she said. The launch of the territory-wide vaccination campaign has been months in the planning, according to Jason Coonishish, coordinator of the pre-hospital and emergency measures for the CBHSSJB. In recent weeks, the coordinating team has been meeting weekly to go over the logistics of the arrival of the doses and the transportation by air charter and car to the different communities across the vast territory. The vaccination campaign is expected to last eight weeks. "We've been doing this for many years since H1N1, and every year after that we've been having influenza vaccines," said Coonishish. "We know how to handle it and we're ready." Coonishish is confident as the campaign gathers momentum and more people share photos and stories of being vaccinated, more and more Cree will choose to receive the vaccine and protect their families.
OTTAWA — Almost two-thirds of Canadians would support a nightly curfew if necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 — even though they're not convinced it would be effective, a new poll suggests.Sixty-five per cent of respondents to a poll by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they would support temporary curfews in their provinces if recommended by public health officials.In Quebec, where the government imposed a month-long curfew 10 days ago, 74 per cent said they support the move.Nevertheless, only 57 per cent of Quebecers and just 39 per cent of respondents in the rest of the country said they think curfews are an effective way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.The poll of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Jan. 15 to 18.Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the results suggest Canadians "want to do their part and will stand by their governments" in efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. But it also suggests provinces "need to sell this thing (curfews) if they want to make it work." The poll also suggests that Canadians' mental health has suffered as the pandemic drags on.Twenty-one per cent rated their mental health as bad or very bad, up eight points since last April, when the first wave of COVID-19 rolled over Canada.Thirty-two per cent rated their mental health as excellent or very good, a 10-point drop since April. Another 45 per cent described their mental health as good, down three points since April.Bourque said mental health experts do not consider "good" to be a particularly positive rating, akin to someone saying they feel OK.The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19, virtually unchanged since April.Seventy-one per cent of respondents said they intend to get vaccinated against the coronavirus when a vaccine becomes available to them.Two vaccines have been approved for use in Canada so far and provinces have begun immunizing front line health care workers, long-term care home workers and residents and some others considered among the most vulnerable.Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they'll take the first vaccine available to them, while 27 per cent said they'll wait for other vaccines to become available. Another 11 per cent said they won't take any vaccine and 15 per cent didn't know what they'll do.The online poll cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
A new poll suggests Ontario Premier Doug Ford's popularity has dropped in the last three months, along with his government's approval rating, and a market research firm attributes the decline to the province's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ford, however, continues to be Ontario's most popular party leader and his popularity is still higher than it was before the pandemic knocked the province off course, according to the survey released Tuesday. In an online poll entitled "A New Year Brings Old Politics to Ontario," Abacus Data has found that only 39 per cent of respondents have a positive view of the premier, while 35 per cent have a negative view. Ford's personal popularity has plummeted seven per cent over the past three months, according to the survey. When it comes to the Ontario government, 10 per cent strongly approve of it and 34 per cent mostly approve, while 21 per cent mostly disapprove and 10 per cent strongly disapprove. Twenty four per cent feel neither way. There has been a decline of eight percentage points in the government's approval rating over the past three months, the poll suggests. Pollster David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, told CBC Toronto this week that he believes the decline in numbers can be attributed to the government's handling of the pandemic's second wave. He said the numbers are clearly trending in the wrong direction for Ford and his Progressive Conservative government. "The overall picture that we're seeing in this poll suggests that over the last few months, both the government's approval rating and views of the premier have taken a hit, I think largely because of some mistakes or decisions that the government has made, specifically around COVID-19," Coletto said. Coletto noted that Ford is still viewed more positively than negatively and continues to have more people approving than disapproving of him. "But I think the longer this pandemic has gone on and the more challenging it actually has become to manage this crisis and deal with the second wave, the more toll it has taken to how people feel about this government and the premier specifically," he said. Ford's approval still higher than before pandemic The PC party, however, can take some solace in the finding that Ford is still getting higher approval numbers than he did before the pandemic, he said. In late 2019 and early 2020, more than 60 per cent of Ontarians had a negative view of the premier. Coletto added that Ford's rivals are not reaping benefits from the decline in his popularity. Feelings about NDP Leader Andrea Horwath are mixed, with 27 per cent having a positive view, 27 per cent having a neutral view and 28 per cent having a negative view. Thirty-eight per cent don't know enough about Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca to have an opinion of him. According to the poll, if a provincial election were called today, 34 per cent of Ontario residents would vote for Ford and the PC party, 29 per cent would vote Liberal, while 25 per cent would vote for the NDP. Colletto said he thinks the downward trend in numbers for Ford and his government are tied directly to what the public thinks of the government's pandemic approach. 37% think government in control of situation Only 37 per cent believe the Ontario government is in control of the situation right now, a drop of 25 percentage points since October. "The belief that the province has a clear plan, is providing consistent advice and guidance and is generally making the right decisions have all dropped significantly in the last few months," the poll suggests.. Sixty-one per cent of Ontario residents, for example, continue to believe the government is making public health "the priority." Twenty-seven per cent believe the premier has done a bad job and made crucial mistakes, an increase of 10 percentage points since October. "I think the reason that, despite the numbers softening, the premier remains more popular today than he was prior, is because at the core, far more people believe that the premier's intentions remain sound, that despite some mistakes that have been made, most people believe that he's either doing a really good job or there's some mistakes, but at the end of the day, he's doing the best that he can," Coletto said. "And that is what gives him, I think, some latitude with the public to make mistakes, to change course here and there, but at the end of the day, people have a good sense that he's doing what he can in a very challenging situation." As for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Ontario residents give the premier a little more slack. Twenty-two per cent believe Ford has done a good job, while 53 per cent believe he has made mistakes but has done as well as can be expected, while 25 per cent believe he has done a bad job and made crucial mistakes that could have been avoided. According to the survey, 43 per cent say vaccine distribution is going either well enough or very well, while 57 per cent say it is going poorly or very poorly. 75% say holiday trips 'completely unacceptable' Not surprisingly, the poll suggests 75 per cent of residents believe that holiday trips taken outside of the Canada by politicians and health-care leaders are "completely unacceptable." Nine in 10 residents have heard about the Caribbean vacation taken by Rod Phillips, former finance minister. Of those aware, only 37 per cent believe the premier handled the situation well, while 49 per cent believe he handled it poorly, with 14 per cent suggesting it was largely out of his hands. Coletto said he was not surprised by the "overwhelming anger and disappointment" over the trip and the general reaction that it was unacceptable. But he said it has had less of an impact on the government than pundits might expect, although it might have weakened trust in elected officials. "It hasn't cratered support for the government or approval rating for the premier," Coletto said. "And that, I think, continues to remind me and us that the people are looking at government today and all the actors in government through the lens of COVID and how they are trying to make people's lives better and protect people from from this virus." Nearly 900 residents surveyed in January The poll concludes that "a lot of the fundamentals" are declining for the Ford government. "His personal reputation, assessments of his government's leadership, and assessments of his handling of COVID-19 have all been in a steady decline over the past few months. However, vote dynamics are largely unchanged," the poll says. Abacus conducted the poll 793 Ontario residents recuruited online from Jan. 8 to 12, 2021. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.48 per cent, 19 times out of 20.