Fears of a fourth wave of COVID-19 are increasing in the U.S. after six million people travelled over the Easter weekend and the average age of new cases drops because of variants of concern.
Fears of a fourth wave of COVID-19 are increasing in the U.S. after six million people travelled over the Easter weekend and the average age of new cases drops because of variants of concern.
BILLINGS, Mont. — Grizzly bears are part of life in the gateway communities around Yellowstone National Park, and backcountry snowmobile guide Charles “Carl” Mock knew well the risks that come with working, hiking and fishing among the fear-inspiring carnivores, his friends said. Mock was killed after being mauled by a 400-plus pound (181-plus kilogram) male grizzly while fishing alone at a favourite spot on Montana's Madison River, where it spills out of the park and into forested land that bears wander in search of food. The bear had a moose carcass stashed nearby and wildlife officials say it likely attacked Mock to defend the food. The grizzly was shot after charging at a group of seven game wardens and bear specialists who returned the next day. Bear spray residue found on Mock's clothing suggested he tried to ward off last week's attack using a canister of the Mace-like deterrent, considered an essential item in the backcountry. He usually carried a pistol, too, but wasn't on the day he was killed just a few miles north of the small town of West Yellowstone where he lived, according to two friends. While some on social media questioned the inherent perils of such a lifestyle in the wake of Mock's death, those who knew him said he accepted the risk as a trade-off for time spent in a wilderness teeming with elk, deer, wolves and other wildlife. “People don't understand that for us who live here, that's what we do every day,” said Scott Riley, who said he fished, hunted, hiked and kayaked numerous times with Mock over the past decade. West Yellowstone has just over 900 full time residents but gets throngs of summer tourists at one of the main entrances to the park. “We had a bear in town two nights after Carl was mauled. It's not like we're just running around in the forest tempting them. They are everywhere," said Riley, who manages a snowmobile dealership in West Yellowstone. Mock, 40, managed to call 911 following the mauling and was found by rescuers propped against a tree with the cannister of bear spray in one hand, his father, Chuck Mock, told the Billing Gazette. His other hand had been “chomped off” as he tried to protect himself. One of the animal's teeth punctured his skull and Mock died two days later in an Idaho hospital after undergoing extensive surgery. The Yellowstone region that spans portions of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming has more than 700 bears. Fatal attacks on humans are rare but have increased in recent decades as the grizzly population grew and more people moved into rural areas near bear habitat. Since 2010, grizzlies in the Yellowstone region killed eight people including Mock. The last fatality around West Yellowstone that town Mayor Jerry Johnson could recall happened in 1983, when a 600-pound (272-kilogram) bear dragged a Wisconsin man from his tent and killed at the Rainbow Point campground north of town. Grizzlies are protected under federal law outside Alaska. Members of the region’s congressional delegation have introduced legislation to lift protections and allow grizzly hunting. Mock had been “in awe” of Yellowstone from a young age, according to his father, and moved from Idaho to West Yellowstone about 10 years ago. For the past five years he worked as a guide for a snowmobile touring company owned by Johnson. He was known for being helpful to friends and his love of outdoor adventure, Johnson said. A community memorial service for Mock, is scheduled for Saturday at West Yellowstone's Union Pacific Dining Lodge. His relatives will hold a private funeral, Johnson said. Riley said he and Mock came upon bears in the wild numerous times. Sometimes a grizzly would make a bluff charge, running at Riley and Mock but always backing down before last week's attack. “I've held my bear spray 100 times but never had to use it,” Riley said. “What happened to Carl could happen to anybody that walks into these forests at any given time ... I would say if the forest kills me, the forest kills me." Matthew Brown, The Associated Press
Toronto reached a grim new high Wednesday, reporting 1,010 people with COVID-19 are in hospital and 194 are in the intensive care unit. "Today's numbers reflect the seriousness of the situation in which we find ourselves," said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, warning the city is on track to reach the milestone of 3,000 COVID-19 related deaths. The city reported 27 more deaths Wednesday, bringing the total to 2,970, along with 1,302 new cases of the virus. Toronto will ramp up vaccinations further in the 13 "hottest" of the hot spot neighbourhoods, as part of a "sprint strategy" Mayor John Tory said on Wednesday. Tory said Toronto will be "significantly" increasing vaccination capacity at city-run clinics by 20 to 25 per cent. "We have dramatically increased available capacity but we don't have the supply," the mayor said. A woman is vaccinated with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccine clinic in Toronto's Jane and Finch neighbourhood, in the M3N postal code, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Despite rates of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations far exceeding other areas of the city, residents of the M3N postal code continue to struggle with the lowest vaccination rates in Toronto. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press) The city expects that situation to change in about three weeks when the province increases supply of doses to more than 60,000 doses per week, up from 56,000. To match supply forecasts, 231,000 additional appointment spots will soon be available for May 10 through June 6, said Toronto Fire Chief and head of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg. As the city expands its mobile vaccination clinic efforts, it's enlisting the help of paramedics and firefighters, Pegg said. "This will further assist some of our most vulnerable residents, such as those experiencing homelessness, those who rely on shelters and drop-in centres and those living outdoors," Pegg said. The city vaccinated over 25,600 people yesterday, with thousands of doses administered at pop-up and mobile clinics in hot spot neighourhoods, according to Toronto Public Health, noting only a small number of appointments are available at city-run clinics for the next two weeks. A pop-up clinic for residents 18 years and older will run at Jane and Finch for postal codes M3L, M3N and M3M, the city said. A mobile clinic will operate in postal code M3N. Doctors say a record number of patients in the Toronto area are being transferred to other regions as the third wave puts incredible strain on the health-care system. There's concern about what would happen if there's a further spike in COVID-19 cases. "I am very concerned about the potential for us to not be able to meet the demand of the pace at which patients will present through the front doors of our hospital," said Dr. Andrew Healey, chief of emergency services and an emergency and critical care doctor at William Osler Health System, a network of hospitals in Toronto and Peel Region. "We are dangerously close to not being able to provide typical care in typical spaces to the patients who present with COVID-19 infection and others in our hospital system."
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's COVID-19 case count continued to climb Wednesday as the province announced 25 new infections one day after banning non-essential travel from most of the rest of Canada. The province has identified 64 cases since last Friday and now has a total of 79 active infections. The steady rise prompted Premier Iain Rankin to step in and cancel next month's women's world hockey championship slated for Halifax and Truro. It is the second year in a row the pandemic has scuttled the tournament. The move came a day after chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang defended the event as not posing a significant health risk to Nova Scotians. "I sincerely regret the short notice, but the rapidly changing environment dictates this decision in the interest of the safety of Nova Scotians and participants," Rankin said in a statement. Nineteen of Wednesday's cases were identified in the Halifax area, with four related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada, nine close contacts of previously reported cases, and six under investigation. One of the cases under investigation is a staff member at the Ocean View Continuing Care Centre in Eastern Passage, where all residents are being isolated and cared for in their rooms as a precaution and the facility is closed to visitors and designated caregivers. An investigation was also being conducted into a case connected to Joseph Giles Elementary school in Dartmouth. Officials said the school would remain closed to students who would learn from home until Tuesday while cleaning takes place. Officials said three of the other cases were in the northern zone with one related to international travel and two under investigation. The remaining three were in the eastern zone, all linked to domestic travel outside Atlantic Canada. "We are seeing a concerning rise in cases," chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said in a news release. Strang reiterated that health officials are seeing early signs of community spread in and around Halifax. "We're asking residents of these areas to closely follow public health measures and go get tested for COVID-19," he said. The heightened concern comes as new figures indicate Nova Scotia's COVID-19 vaccination program has picked up its pace after an admitted slow start. Tracey Barbrick, the associate deputy minister for Nova Scotia's vaccine strategy, said in an interview Wednesday the province administered 14,742 doses on Tuesday — the highest one-day total since the start of the campaign. Barbrick said 23.6 per cent of people who are eligible for a shot had received at least one dose, just below the national average of about 25 per cent. "As of yesterday us and New Brunswick were tied with vaccinating at the fastest rate in the country," she said. But Nova Scotia is still roughly one week behind other provinces because it held back about 25,000 doses for booster shots before changing its strategy to a four-month interval between first and second doses. Barbrick said the province also took time to develop a centralized booking system which meant it was "a little later out of the gate." She said a recent increase in supply of vaccine allowed the province to move from administering 11,000 doses the week of March 14 to an expected 65,000 doses this week. And despite an interruption in the supply of the Moderna vaccine, Rankin has said the province remains on track to reach its goal of giving all Nova Scotians who want vaccine at least one shot by the end of June. Barbrick said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been the only supply with any relative certainty, and it's expected continued shipments of that vaccine would help the province reach its end-of-June target. "Right now with Pfizer alone we are darn close," said Barbrick. "If we get a little bit more of something else it might mean we can move even quicker." As of Wednesday, the province had also administered about half of its Oxford-AstraZeneca allotment of 60,000 vaccine doses for people aged 55-64. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2021. Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. official said Wednesday that the Biden administration has laid out examples of the kinds of sanctions on Iran it’s willing to lift in exchange for Iran’s return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. The official said the U.S. through intermediaries has presented Iran with three baskets of sanctions: those it’s prepared to lift, those it’s not prepared to lift and those that will require further study to determine if they are in fact appropriate for relief under the nuclear deal. The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the discussions. The official declined to specify which sanctions fall into which baskets but said the third group is the most problematic. That’s because it includes measures that current officials believe may have been imposed by the previous administration simply to complicate any potential return to the deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. Any sanctions relief offered by the administration will be strongly opposed by Republicans in Congress, who on Wednesday unveiled draft legislation to codify the Trump-era sanctions in law. Relief will also likely be opposed by Israel, which regards Iran as an existential threat, as well as Gulf Arab states wary of Iran's increasing aggressiveness in the region. The 2015 deal gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. But that relief largely evaporated after Trump pulled out of the deal and began a self-styled “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran by re-imposing the earlier sanctions and adding new ones. While the agreement allowed countries to continue to impose sanctions on Iran for non-nuclear reasons, such as support for terrorism and human rights abuses, some of the additional U.S. sanctions would have to be removed if Washington is to return to the deal, according to the official. The official said the Trump administration had designated some nuclear sanctions as terrorism sanctions. That makes it more difficult for a future president to return to the deal. Many of the sanctions that Trump imposed on Iran were clearly related to the nuclear program, including those that targeted companies and officials working on atomic matters, and would have to be removed if the U.S. returned to the deal. But others, ostensibly imposed on terrorism and human rights grounds, are less clear cut, including those on Iran’s financial, shipping, manufacturing and energy sectors. The official said the Biden administration is still determining which of those were legitimately related to terrorism and human rights. The official said there is not yet any sanctions relief agreement between Iran, the U.S. or other parties in the indirect negotiations taking place in Vienna on reviving the nuclear deal. Those talks are in recess but are expected to resume next week. The official would not give a timeframe on when the talks might conclude. Iran is demanding the removal of all sanctions that the Trump administration imposed on it following its withdrawal from the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The Biden administration has said it will only lift sanctions if Iran returns to compliance with the restrictions the agreement placed on its nuclear activities. The official said no decision had been made on the sequencing of either side's moves but stressed that a situation in which the U.S. removes its sanctions before Iran takes any action to resume its compliance would be “unacceptable.” State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier Wednesday that the talks had produced “some signs of progress.” But, he cautioned that “we probably have a longer road ahead of us than we do in the rearview mirror at this point. And that is because of the inherent challenges in this process. And many of those challenges, at least, are not going away.” The talks in Vienna broke on Tuesday with delegates from Russia and Iran reporting limited progress. Russia’s representative Mikhail Ulyanov said after a meeting of the deal’s so-called Joint Commission of senior officials from France, Germany, Britain, China and Iran that they had noted “with satisfaction the progress in negotiations to restore the nuclear deal.” Meanwhile, Iran’s delegate, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, also sounded a positive note, telling Iran’s official IRNA news agency that the talks were “moving forward despite difficulties and challenges.” Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
Students and seasonal workers who have returned to Yukon and are self-isolating won't have to wait to be vaccinated against COVID-19, says Yukon's chief medical officer. In his weekly news conference on Wednesday, Dr. Brendan Hanley said health officials have figured out a way to allow those in mandatory self-isolation to get a shot. Right now, most people arriving in Yukon are required to self-isolate for 14 days. Hanley said on Wednesday that returning students or seasonal workers will be allowed to leave isolation "for a short period of time" to attend a vaccination clinic. Before their shot, however, they'll be tested. Only those who test negative will then get a shot, he said. They'll then have to go back into self-isolation for the remainder of the 14-day period. "This is certainly not a get-out-of-self-isolation-early card," Hanley said. He also said health officials are now recommending that anybody sharing accommodation with someone in self-isolation should also be isolating. However, they are not required to do so by Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA). "We know it is hard to keep apart unless completely separated," Hanley said, explaining his new recommendation. "And with the spread of variants, we need to be extra-cautious." Watch Wednesday's news conference here: 2 active cases 'close to recovery' Also on Wednesday, health officials announced one new case reported in Yukon, but said the person was never infectious in the territory. The affected person is an adult and the case is associated with international travel, according to a news release. The person tested positive on return to Canada, and completed self-isolation before arriving in Yukon. Officials say the person is now recovered, and there were no exposures in the territory. The case is the territory's 78th. Yukon's 77th case of COVID-19 was announced on Monday. Officials said the affected person is an adult in rural Yukon, and the case was connected to travel within Canada. An exposure notice was also issued for a restaurant in Watson Lake. On Wednesday, Hanley said that person was now recovered. Two other cases, in Whitehorse, were announced last week and health officials said they involved the P1 variant of concern. Hanley said on Wednesday that those people are "close to recovery." The territory's online vaccine tracker, updated Monday, says 71 per cent of eligible Yukoners had received their first shot of the Moderna vaccine, and 59 per cent had received their second shot. Vaccination rates in Yukon are 'moving up and that's great. And I think we just need to keep that upward movement going,' said Hanley.(Steve Silva/CBC) Hanley said Yukon is doing relatively well, but is still at risk of importing variants of concern. He says the territory is not immune to what's happening elsewhere in Canada. "It is hard to predict the next few weeks, but waves do come to an end and vaccine uptake is really starting to take off in the rest of Canada. And that is good news for us." He said younger adults in Yukon still lag when it comes to getting vaccinated — though the numbers are still climbing, he said. "It's moving up and that's great. And I think we just need to keep that upward movement going," he said. "If we can continue to get our younger people up to the same levels as our older citizens, we will be well-positioned to have great summer where we can ease up on many of our current restrictions." He would not say what restrictions might be eased, or when. Asked about the N.W.T.'s announcement on Wednesday that it was changing self-isolation requirements for vaccinated adults, Hanley said he was happy to see changes being made "where they can be," but would not say whether Yukon would make similar changes.
Workers in Alberta will be allowed three hours of paid leave to get vaccinated against COVID-19 thanks to changes to employment standards that took effect Wednesday night. It comes as new cases of COVID-19 hit the highest level in months. The government introduced legislation earlier Wednesday to amend the Employment Standards Act, which were to come into effect upon first reading. It passed second reading, committee of the whole and third and final reading within 30 minutes Wednesday night. "Hard-working Albertans want to get the vaccine, but some may not be able to schedule an appointment because of their working hours," Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping said earlier in the day at a news conference. "And they may not be able to afford a loss of pay, which is a barrier to getting vaccinated," On Wednesday, Alberta Health confirmed 1,699 new cases, the highest single-day total since mid-December. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, posted the numbers on Twitter late Wednesday afternoon, after the province's COVID-19 website experienced technical issues. Hinshaw said screening confirmed another 1,332 variant cases in the last 24 hours. Variants now make up about 59 per cent of the 18,873 active cases in the province. "I remain concerned about the high spread in our province," Hinshaw wrote in her post. "We all must continue to work together on behalf of our loved ones, neighbours, co-workers and communities to bend the curve and drive cases down provincewide." Copping said that as with other leaves "Albertans cannot be fired or disciplined by their employer for taking this leave. Leave can be used twice if Albertans are getting a two-dose vaccine." The leave applies to full-time and part-time workers, regardless of their length of service. The idea was first floated by the Opposition on Tuesday when NDP Leader Rachel Notley raised the issue during question period. Premier Jason Kenney said at the time he would look into it. Copping said the government consulted with the Opposition before bringing forward the proposed amendment. "This is something we've been watching for a number of weeks," he said. "As you may know, Saskatchewan passed a similar paid vaccine protected leave; B.C. just introduced this in the house this week. A question was raised by the leader of the Opposition, and our premier made a commitment that we would look seriously at this issue, which we are." Notley said on Wednesday she was pleased that the province will fast-track a bill similar to those in B.C. and Saskatchewan. "This is good news for Alberta workers and good news for Alberta's economy," Notley said. "These three hours of leave will benefit hundreds of thousands of working Albertans, because no one wants to log in to book their vaccine just to see that the only spots left are during their work hours when they can't otherwise afford to leave. "Lost income is already a barrier for so many working people throughout this COVID period in these difficult times but it should not be a barrier to vaccination. So I'm proud to help tear that barrier down, speed up the vaccination program and speed up our economic recovery." Copping said no one in Alberta should have to choose between getting vaccinated and collecting a paycheque. "Now, as always, we encourage employers and employees to work together on scheduling appointments, minimizing the impact on employees, and also minimizing the impact on employers when taking this leave," he said.
EDMONTON — Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the group representing Alberta teachers is playing politics with a proposed new kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum and isn’t sincere about real bridge-building. The Alberta Teachers' Association has publicly stated the proposed learning plan is “fatally flawed, and teachers, academics and curriculum experts should work on a revised version." “I have the utmost respect for teachers, and the work that they do, and the professionalism that they have,” LaGrange said when asked about the association Wednesday. “I want them to weigh in on the curriculum," she said. "The union for teachers appears to want to make it more political. I really don’t want to go down that path. I prefer to work collaboratively. “The fact they have not reached out to me or my department since the curriculum has come out to set up a meeting, to have a discussion, speaks volumes to me.” LaGrange’s spokeswoman, Nicole Sparrow, in a subsequent statement, said the minister’s door remains open. “Alberta’s government will continue to work with the education system, including the teachers' union, to gather all feedback to make this the best curriculum possible,” said Sparrow. “It is clear that the union is more interested in political theatre than actually providing feedback.” Teachers president Jason Schilling lobbed the accusation right back. “We need to have the whole curriculum redesign process depoliticized. In fact, I would like to see politicians get out of the way and let’s go back to the way we used to do curriculum redesign,” Schilling said in an interview. Schilling said LaGrange cancelled a memorandum of understanding in late 2019 that had put teachers and other experts at the centre of the curriculum review. Teachers have fought for a place at the table ever since, he said. “The association has essentially been shut out,” said Schilling. “The minister is very well aware of the fact I have concerns about the curriculum, that I want to make sure that teachers are involved, (so) that we can get this right.” The result has been a high-profile back-and-forth word fight. The teachers association says it was shut out of the curriculum consultation. LaGrange counters that 100 teachers were involved. Schilling has said it was 100 teachers for two days who had to sign non-disclosure agreements. The ATA has said 91 per cent of teachers in an in-house survey are against the curriculum. LaGrange has dismissed the survey sample she says was less than seven per cent as minuscule. Sarah Hoffman, the NDP Opposition's education critic, said LaGrange and the United Conservative government need to meaningfully work with teachers who have the expertise and front-line experience on what works and what doesn’t. “The minister is picking massive fights and trying to discredit teaching professionals who work to make sure students learn quality information to set them up for success,” said Hoffman. The draft is to be piloted in select schools this fall and fully implemented in September 2022. To date, almost 30 of Alberta’s 63 school boards, including the public school boards in Edmonton and Calgary as well as francophone school boards, say they won’t teach it. It’s been the subject of fierce debate since being outlined by LaGrange in late March. Advocates defend it as a common-sense approach that includes basic concepts, such as multiplication tables, along with real-life skills for the information age, including how to budget and computer code. The ATA and other critics say the plan is not developmentally appropriate for young kids, is jammed with random facts, and too loosely structured with concepts well over students' heads. They say it pushes Eurocentric history while giving short shrift to francophone and Indigenous cultures and perspectives. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Citing an expected increase in COVID-19 vaccine shipments, the Saskatchewan government is planning to offer doses to residents aged 44 and up through booked appointments beginning this Thursday. Then, by mid-next week, people aged 40 and up will become eligible and more front-line workers will be offered doses too, Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday. Moe said the province's plan is pegged on vaccine shipments picking up in early May, pointing in particular to a boost in Pfizer-BioNTech shipments touted earlier this week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In the meantime, Moe said, "we do have a difficult 10 days ahead of us." Saskatchewan is expected to receive about 31,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week — a figure officials have previously said provides about three days' worth of supply. Meanwhile, the province and other parts of the country have faced several Moderna vaccine delays in recent weeks. "We're hoping for a Moderna schedule that will include increases as well," Moe said. "We'd also like to see more AstraZeneca arrive." Supply crunch delays 9,000 appointments The current supply crunch has forced the province to reschedule around 9,000 appointments and temporarily close its Saskatoon and Regina drive-thrus, Moe said. It's hoped the increase in vaccine shipments in early May will allow Saskatchewan to ramp up its delivery of vaccines through pharmacies — an effort set to begin on April 26 — and potentially allow the province to reopen those shuttered drive-thrus, Moe said. Saskatchewan has been disappointed before when federal shipments of COVID-19 vaccines have fallen short of initial estimates. Moe and his ministers have frequently blamed the Trudeau government and its shipment schedules for any slowing in the pace of vaccinations in Saskatchewan, which has led all provinces in inoculations for much of 2021. Moe's announcement Tuesday about opening up vaccines to younger people and more front-line workers came despite those earlier frustrations. Once people aged 40 to 43 are able to book vaccine appointments next week, "We're then going to prioritize all remaining police officers and firefighters, front-line health care workers, corrections officers, border crossing officers, public health inspectors as well as our teachers and educators and others that are working in schools," Moe said. Eligible workers will need proof of employment before going to a clinic, according to a release. Anyone with those vocations currently eligible for a vaccine should immediately book an appointment, Moe added. Moe's government has been under pressure in recent weeks to add more groups of front-line workers, including teachers, to Saskatchewan's vaccine priority list. The premier looked ahead to a time when all adults aged 18 and over will be able to get a shot. "We'll all have equal priority at that point," he said, adding that the province's previously-stated hope of offering first doses to all people aged 18 and over by mid-May remains "a very ambitious target."
Serious differences persist between the United States and Iran over how they might resume compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despite making some progress in their latest indirect talks in Vienna, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday. The talks were likely to require several rounds, their outcome remained uncertain and they were not near conclusion, the senior U.S. State Department official told reporters in a conference call. The main differences are over what sanctions the United States will need to remove and what steps Iran will need to take to resume its obligations to curb its nuclear program, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri House on Wednesday ousted a lawmaker accused of sexually and physically abusing his children years ago. The Republican-led House voted almost unanimously to kick out Rick Roeber, a Republican from Lee's Summit who was elected in November to represent his suburban Kansas City district. Nobody voted against his ouster, though one lawmaker voted “present" to sidestep taking a position. Roeber's expulsion followed a House Ethics Committee investigation into claims made by his now-adult children that he sexually abused two of them at the ages of 5 and 9. The committee found their allegations credible. “It is unacceptable what he has done to the home life of these children,” GOP House Speaker Rob Vescovo said during an emotional speech from the chamber floor. “And I find him in the worst capacity to represent the people, and more specifically represent the children, of the 34th District or the children of the state of Missouri.” Roeber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. He previously told the committee that he didn’t sexually abuse his children. Several of Roeber's children testified to House investigators this year that he also frequently beat them with a belt, choked them and once drowned a litter of puppies. One child who said Roeber was sexually abusive told investigators that “to have someone that you are trusting as your parent to treat you in that manner and to not treat you like a child ... takes away your innocence.” The committee found records showing that his children reported the abuse around the time it allegedly occurred in the 1990s, but the Jackson County prosecutor's office didn't file charges. Mike Mansur, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said records from the time show that the office didn't file charges because there was insufficient evidence, but that it is reviewing documents provided by the Missouri House. State Rep. Robert Sauls, a Democrat from Independence who served on the Ethics Committee, said: “The state of Missouri has failed these children, and I will not sit back and let the state of Missouri continue to fail them.” Roeber tried to resign last week after the Missouri Independent first reported that House leaders went to the Jackson County prosecutor with concerns that Roeber currently has weekend visitations with a child. Roeber didn't mention any of the allegations against him in his resignation letter, saying he planned to move out of state to be closer to family. But the House refused to let him resign, which allowed the Ethics Committee to complete its report and recommend that he be publicly expelled. “I don’t think it is appropriate for him to walk away on his own terms as he has continued to walk away on his own terms on his children his entire life,” Vescovo said to his colleagues Wednesday. Lawmakers also agreed with the committee's recommendation that Roeber should reimburse the House for the roughly $1,570 it spent investigating the claims. House leaders said in a joint statement Wednesday that they hope law enforcement "will continue the work we started by thoroughly investigating Rick Roeber and the serious allegations against him.” Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press
Wildlife officials in Ontario are drafting a new strategy to keep wild pigs from establishing themselves in the province, to prevent what officials have referred to as an "ecological train wreck." The province published its proposal on Wednesday, asking hunters, trappers and other outdoor enthusiasts for their input into how to deal with a potential porcine invasion, should it arrive. "Based on experiences from other jurisdictions, it is clear that the least costly and most effective approach for managing wild pigs is to act early," the Ontario government website said. The proposal seeks to add wild pigs, along with 12 other invasive species, to the Ontario Invasive Species Act, giving authorities more means at their disposal to eradicate the wily and elusive animals. The new regulations would also ban the release of pigs into the wild. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is drafting protocols in the event a pig escapes from a farm or transport truck, so it can be notified immediately, and the animal can be recaptured or dispatched as soon as possible. Sask. expert says Ontario on right track Ontario's announcement Wednesday follows the introduction of a wild pig protocol this spring by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) to help hunters, trappers and outdoor enthusiasts properly identify the animals and report their locations to the MNRF. A wild pig spotted at the side of the road near Alderville First Nation, north of Cobourg, Ont.(Inaturalist.org) "Once they become established, it's virtually unheard of to get rid of them. If they become widespread in a place like Ontario, there's virtually no chance of eradication," said Ryan Brook, a wild pig expert and an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan. "We've missed that window in Saskatchewan. I think Ontario is in a good position to get on it. If I were grading this as a project, I would give them an A-plus for effort." Brook and his team have been studying wild pigs in Canada for 11 years. He said there is so far no evidence of any established populations in Ontario, and the province is doing the right thing by showing leadership on the issue and acting early. "I would argue they are the worst invasive large mammal on the planet. They have an amazing ability to reproduce," he said. "A small problem can turn into a massive out-of-control problem very quickly." "They can be very large. They're very dangerous to people. They have razor-sharp tusks. They can be aggressive and they're highly mobile, and they're incredibly smart. So all those characteristics and the fact that they will eat literally almost anything means they will be very successful." React 'as soon as you find pigs' Brook said wild pigs were introduced to Saskatchewan many years ago when a tractor-trailer carrying a load of domestic wild boar across the province crashed. The 11 animals on board escaped and only seven were recovered. "There was four that went into a park and they turned into well over 100 animals in a few years," he said. Brook said Saskatchewan has tried a number of methods to eradicate wild pigs without success, including traps and highly trained ground teams who quickly go into an area and physically remove the pigs. In his studies of wild pigs, Brook has travelled to other jurisdictions, including the United States, to see how other places have handled the problem, and in all of them, he's seen only one common thread for dealing with the animal effectively. "You need really good leadership that's going to make tough decisions. You need to be monitoring very hard, and as soon as you find pigs, you have to react." 'Active surveilliance' needed for eradication Brook said that, more than any other province, Ontario is showing solid leadership on the wild pig issue and is embracing a science-based approach. Researchers net a wild pig in Saskatchewan. The animal's legs are put in handcuff-like restraints and they are blindfolded while biologists examine and collar them.(Submitted by Ryan Brook) "I think eradication is on the table, but it will still take major effort, especially through active surveillance," said Brook. He said most jurisdictions rely on passive surveillance, by encouraging hunters, trappers and anglers to report pig sightings to a tip line. Ontario just recently added wild pigs to the list of animals that can be reported to its invasive species tip line. But Brook said finding wild pigs is more complicated than just sitting by the phone. The more proactive we are and aggressive we are in searching out those pigs, the better. - Ryan Brook, University of Saskatchewan, wild pig expert "'We'll wait and you call us,' that's useful, but we've found in our research here in the Prairies that you probably only get one to three per cent of actual pig sightings from that. The overwhelming majority of pig sightings we have is by putting out trail cameras or going out and knocking on doors." Brook said pigs are nocturnal, elusive and often hide in thick cover, making underground burrows or nesting among cattails in wetlands, spruce trees in forests and building what he calls "pigloos" in the winter. "They tunnel into snowbanks and make almost like an igloo," he said, noting he's fitted pigs with radio collars, and even with the aid of satellites and a helicopter, still wasn't able to spot them with his own eyes. "They're very hard to find," said Brook. "I don't think we should pretend this is easy. The more proactive we are and aggressive we are in searching out those pigs, the better."
LAS VEGAS — A convicted killer who is fighting a possible June execution date that would make him the first person put to death in Nevada in 15 years is calling for the state to consider the firing squad as an option, a rare method in the United States. Attorneys for Zane Michael Floyd say he does not want to die and are challenging the state plan to use a proposed three-drug lethal injection, which led to court challenges that twice delayed the execution of another convicted killer who later took his own life in prison. “This is not a delaying tactic,” Brad Levenson, a federal public defender representing Floyd, said Monday. But a challenge of the state execution protocol requires the defence to provide an alternative method, and Levenson said gunshots to the brain stem would be “the most humane way.” “Execution by firing squad ... causes a faster and less painful death than lethal injection,” the attorneys said in a court filing Friday. Nevada once allowed firing squads, but state law now requires the use of lethal injection in sentences of capital punishment. Three U.S. states — Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah — and the U.S. military allow capital punishment by gunfire. The last time that method was used in the United States was in Utah in 2010. Floyd's attorneys are asking a federal judge in Las Vegas to stop Floyd from being put to death until prison officials “devise a new procedure or procedures to carry out a lawful execution.” Levenson said he and attorney David Anthony are fighting multiple issues in state and federal courts, with the possibility that Floyd’s death could be set for the week of June 7. Prosecutors will seek an execution warrant at a state court hearing next month. The 45-year-old was convicted in 2000 of killing four people with a shotgun in a Las Vegas supermarket in 1999 and badly wounding a fifth person. Floyd appeared to exhaust his federal appeals last November, and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear his case. Floyd wants a chance to seek clemency at a June 22 meeting of the Nevada State Pardons Board, Levenson said. Floyd's attorneys argue that a three-drug injection combination the state wants to use — the sedative diazepam, the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl and a paralytic, cisatracurium — would amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his constitutional rights. Anthony made similar arguments on behalf of Scott Raymond Dozier before Nevada's last scheduled execution was called off in 2017 and 2018. Dozier killed himself in prison in January 2019. A judge blocked the first date after deciding that use of the paralytic might cause painful suffocation while Dozier was aware but unable to move. Pharmaceutical companies that made the three drugs stopped the second date with arguments against using their products in an execution, an issue several states are facing. Floyd would be the first person executed in Nevada since 2006, when Daryl Mack asked to be put to death for his conviction in a 1988 rape and murder in Reno. Nevada has 65 inmates awaiting execution, a state Department of Corrections spokeswoman said. ___ This story was first published on April 19, 2021. It was updated on April 21, 2021, to correct the number of Nevada inmates awaiting execution based on information from the Department of Corrections. There are 65 inmates, not 72. Ken Ritter, The Associated Press
A Toronto pharmacist says demand for the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine is "through the roof" after the Ontario government lowered the minimum age limit for the shot from 55 to 40. Kyro Maseh, owner and manager of Lawlor Pharmasave, said demand has been extremely high since the change took effect on Tuesday. On that day, public health units in Ontario administered a new single-day high of 136,695 doses of vaccines, according to the provincial health ministry. "In addition to the age being lowered, I feel that people are a bit more educated on the risks involved and they understand that it's really minute and insignificant. Yes, very, very high demand," Maseh said on Wednesday. Other provinces, namely B.C., Alberta and Manitoba, have also lowered their age limits to 40- plus after the federal government said Sunday eligibility for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine could be expanded to any adult over the age of 18. Maseh was worried that his doses were going to expire on the weekend because the 55-plus age group was not making appointments, but everything changed after the age was lowered. On Tuesday, he allowed front-line workers to get their first dose without an appointment, vaccinating about 84 essential workers who walked in that day. He said his vaccine supply will be depleted by the end of Wednesday after he will have vaccinated about 60 people. He doesn't know when he will get more supply. "The majority have been under 55," Maseh said. Lawlor Pharmasave has made a video to mark its 1,000th dose. Maseh said the pharmacy felt it was a cause for celebration that 1,000 people will not end up in intensive care units due to COVID-19. Pharmacist Kyro Maseh prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at his pharmacy in Toronto on Tuesday. Toronto pharmacies began administering the vaccine to people born in 1981 and up on Tuesday.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) "We've been getting a lot of phone calls. We've been getting a lot of emails, Twitter messages, carrier pigeons, you name it. But we're using our booking systems," he added. "And some people are angry at the fact that we only have 50 or 60 doses in stock today. But just be patient, be patient, we will get to you as soon as we can." 'No hesitancy here, that's for sure' The uptick in the number of vaccinations is being marked across social media, under the hashtag #GenXZeneca, as 40 to 55 year olds embrace the opportunity to get their first dose. According to Twitter posts, lots of people in this age group seem to be heeding the call to get vaccinated, despite concerns about the possibility of rare blood clots. WATCH | CBC's Angelina King reports on why Generation X is embracing AstraZeneca: Betsy Hilton, 42, a consultant in Toronto, said her friends immediately texted each other when they learned they were eligible. She said she thinks people in her generation were willing to wait their turn if they weren't essential workers or in any high-risk categories. "And then suddenly it just was our turn. And that was really exciting," she said. "No hesitancy here, that's for sure." Hilton said there has been "this incredible mobilization of people in our generation so excited to get vaccinated and to do their part. And I think we're all here for it and we're all coming together." She said it's been a busy and stressful year for 40-somethings and the vaccine is a way to get back to life before the pandemic. "We're at a really interesting stage of life and a challenging stage of life. Many of us have kids, many of us have aging parents. And it's been a really worrying time for us," she said. "The opportunity to get vaccinated, the opportunity to get back to being together again and get back to some semblance of normal life and mostly to get back to a place where we're not worried all the time, I think has been a huge sort of rallying point for this generation." 'We know what risk is and this is not it' Hilton said getting the AstraZeneca vaccine is an acceptable risk. "This is safe. Science is good," she said. "We know what risk looks like and this is not it." She said being comfortable around technology has helped 40-somethings book their spots. "If you've ever tried to register for swimming lessons in through the city, we know how to get online and try to get those spots. Everyone jumped on board." Stephanie Bolton, 44, posted this photo of herself on Twitter after she got the first dose of AstraZeneca on April 20. She said in a tweet: 'Got my AZ vaccine yesterday. So glad to be part of a cohort that is fearless and doing the right thing for the country. I took AZ so someone who's hesitant can pick a vaccine. We got your backs, Boomers!'(Submitted by Stephanie Bolton) Stephanie Bolton, 44, a teacher in York Region, agreed, saying it's a matter of weighing the risk versus reward. People aged 40 to 55 are enthusiastic about getting vaccinated and have embraced AstraZeneca, she said. "It's been kind of held up in the 55 plus age category, where they were more nervous. They were kind of hoping for Moderna or Pfizer. But we were just like: 'Give us a vaccine!'" Association says vaccine hesitancy declining steadily Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, a non-profit organization that has been tracking the pandemic's social and economic impacts, said the percentage of people who are vaccine hesitant in Canada has been steadily declining across all age groups. There was a higher rate of hesitation a few months ago, he said. Part of the decline is due to a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, which has increased collective anxiety, he added. That in turn has increased a sense of urgency to get vaccinated. Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Manitoba have lowered their age limits for the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to 40 plus after the federal government said on Sunday that the provinces and territories were free to expand eligibility for it to any adult over the age of 18.(Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images) A survey done by the association last week shows that about 80 per cent of Canadians, a record number, are willing to get vaccinated. People in the upper age groups, 55 and older, are the least hesitant, while people in the lower age groups, 35 and younger, are the most hesitant. About 12 per cent say no to the vaccine, while about eight per cent say they don't know if they will get vaccinated. As for people in the 40 to 55 age group, he said: "As we get closer to bringing that age group into the proverbial mix with respect to their eligibility for vaccination, the hesitation seems to decline even further, because there's been a bit of a snowball effect. "As more and more people have gotten vaccinated, more and more people have been put at ease about their concerns with respect to either side effects or long-term effects of vaccination."
A wood carving destined to overlook the Williams Lake Stampede grounds was destroyed in a fire that ripped through the creator's studio last Friday. The cedar cow boss statue, a replacement for the 15-year-old original that collapsed due to rot, was accidentally set ablaze by the wood stove that carver Ken Sheen uses to burn off sawdust in his studio located off Highway 97 near McLeese Lake. The highway was reduced to single-lane traffic for two hours as a result of the fire. The statue was charred along with Sheen's carving tools and a number of other wood sculptures. Over the years, Sheen has been hired by Williams Lake to create wood sculptures that are displayed across the city, including the Heart of a Champion located at the intersection of two local highways. Sheen's wood works are also displayed in Quesnel and 100 Mile House. The carver says he was in shock when he discovered fire had spread from his sawdust burner to the entire studio after he left it to go to his house and check his computer. Fire at Ken Sheen's studio near the McLeese Lake.(Marlene Pegg) "I could hear [the fire] sounded like gunshots going off," Sheen said Monday to Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. "My dogs were barking outside … I finally went out to see what they were barking about and there was a huge flame. It must have been 60 feet or 80 feet tall." "It was intense and everything was on fire," he said. "It was so intense you couldn't get anywhere near that." Sheen says he lost not only several months of work carving the cow boss statue but also chainsaws and many other specialized sculpting tools estimated to be worth about $7,000. "It burned up thousands and thousands of dollars worth of tools that I've been collecting over 20 years," he said. "Everything is gone." A carved wooden eagle side table was one of many artworks destroyed by the fire in Ken Sheen's studio last Friday. (Ken Sheen) Williams Lake Coun. Scott Nelson says the entire council feels for Sheen and the losses he's sustained. "Our hearts are with Ken Sheen and the family," Nelson said. "He's certainly got the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cariboo inside of him." Sheen says the community helped clean up the mess and is holding a fundraiser to help him get back to work. "I'm just trying to figure out what to do …I'm trying to get my ducks in a row," he said. Tap the link below to hear Ken Sheen's interview on Daybreak Kamloops:
BARCELONA, Spain — Since the coronavirus pandemic struck Spain, a glass pane has separated Xavier Antó and Carmen Panzano for the first prolonged period of the couple’s 65-year marriage. Antó, age 90, appears three or four times a week at the street-level window that looks into the Barcelona nursing home where his 92-year-old wife lives, which closed to visitors more than a year ago to protect residents from COVID-19. Employees from the home provide him with a chair and bring Panzano to the other side of the window. Antó shows her photos of their grandchildren on his phone to try to counteract the effects of her Alzheimer’s disease. Both have vaccines against the coronavirus, but Spain’s nursing homes still are under tight controls after tens of thousands of the country’s oldest adults died in senior care facilities during the early months of the pandemic. The couple met in 1953 and got married in 1955. Except for a spell early in their marriage when he worked away from home, they always were together. “We had never been apart,” Antó told The Associated Press. “Last March, the home’s director told me that when I left I wouldn’t be able to come back because the local authorities had established some very strict protocols,” At first, workers at the home made video calls on a tablet two or three times a week so he and Panzano could see each other, he said. “Then they set up a booth with a transparent divider, but I prefer this window because with the booth you were limited to a certain day, and then only had half an hour,” Antó recalled. “I come to the window since in the booth there is also a screen between you, and I can’t touch her or give her a kiss anyway.” When he comes to visit, the wife and husband put their hands on the glass and blow each other kisses. Although they cannot hear each other speak, at least they don’t worry about how much time they have to share. When he cannot come, a home assistant who worked for the couple for over 20 years comes in his place. “She is like a daughter to us,” Antó said. “I come as often as I can and will keep doing so as long as my body allows me,” he said. “If I were the sick one, she would do the same thing for me, and then some.” ___ AP writer Joseph Wilson contributed to this report. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Emilio Morenatti, The Associated Press
Speaking to Global News reporter Richard Zussman, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about how his government plans to deliver $10-a-day childcare as promised in the 2021 federal budget. Trudeau says Canadians should see "immediate improvements" and provincial governments must be willing partners.
Test positivity rates for COVID-19 reached 22.4 per cent in Brampton this week, officials say, with that troubling marker an indicator of just how dire the situation has become. "This is unfortunately the crisis that we feared," said Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for Peel region, at a news conference Wednesday morning. There are now a record 200 COVID-19-positive patients admitted at Brampton Civic Hospital. "The patients fighting for their lives are our most vulnerable, our elderly, but also our essential workers who are increasingly younger, and are often our newest Canadians and our racialized residents," Loh said. This week, he said, Brampton's test positivity is at 22.4 per cent — that's more than double the province's highest rate at 10.5 per cent, which was recorded on Monday. Mississauga also reported a worrisome test positivity rate of 14.5 per cent on Wednesday. The goal set by the World Health Organization is to keep positive test rates below five per cent. At the news conference, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown urged the provincial government to prioritize the city for vaccines in pharmacies. "If you look at every piece of medical advice in the province, it says focus on the hotspots. Focus on the areas that are facing the greatest transmission of this virus," Brown said. Right now, he said, Brampton has eight pharmacies offering vaccines per 100,000 residents. Toronto has nine, he added, and Mississauga has 10. Kingston, by contrast, has 26 pharmacies per 100,000 people offering vaccines, Brown said. "I would plead with the provincial government to continue to expand the pharmacy rollout in Brampton," Brown said. "It makes no sense that the city that has the highest positivity rate, that is a clear hot spot, wouldn't be getting the same vaccine pharmacy resources as other municipalities that are not in a predicament as difficult as Brampton." Loh said that Peel region hit 400,000 vaccine doses administered on Tuesday. He urged people to book appointments and seek them out at pharmacies where possible. "But we cannot vaccinate our way out of this third wave," he said. Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for Peel region, issued an order that will force businesses with five or more COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks to close.(CBC) At a news conference Wednesday, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said Peel Region's seven-day moving daily average of cases is now up to 801 from 747 last week. She said in Mississauga the daily cases are now averaging 275 per 100,000, up from 226. "ICU doctors fear hospitals across Ontario will soon be in a situation where gut-wrenching decisions will have to be made," Crombie said. Both Peel and Toronto are now issuing orders to force businesses with five or more COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks to close. Loh has previously said the closures will last 10 days if it is found that those infected "could have reasonably acquired their infection at work" or if "no obvious source" for transmission is identified outside of the workplace. Loh said Wednesday that he knows this measure could be tough for businesses and residents, but added that it is necessary at this stage of the pandemic. "We are seeing more and more workers who cannot work from home sickened and ending up in hospitals and on ventilators," he said. "I ask employers to support this measure, by making any such leave paid for impacted employees. It's the right thing to do," Loh said. He added that he is hopeful that changes to sick pay are on the horizon in Ontario. The provincial government has long resisted instituting any paid sick days in Ontario, saying it doesn't want to duplicate the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). Medical experts and Opposition parties, meanwhile, have been adamant that the province needs to institute its own program if Ontario is to have any hope of curbing transmission of the virus. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Health Minister Christine Elliott suggested the province might be rethinking its position. "It was apparent yesterday with the federal budget that they weren't making any amendments to their sick benefits program and so those gaps still remain and that is what we are going to be addressing," Elliott said.
RCMP have charged four people in connection with the murder of Damian Moosomin after an 11-month investigation. Moosomin, 20, was found dead in the backyard of a home in North Battleford on May 16, 2020, five days after he was reported missing. Tye Patridge of the Moosomin First Nation has been charged with first-degree murder. Jannay Blackbird of the Saulteaux First Nation is charged with second-degree murder. Stormy Wapass-Semaganis of Edmonton and Melissa Semaganis of the Sweetgrass First Nation are facing charges of accessory after the fact to a murder. Patridge, Blackbird and Semaganis are scheduled to appear in North Battleford Provincial Court on April 27. Wapass-Semaganis is scheduled to appear in North Battleford Provincial Court on April 28.
After a "wonderful turnout" in the first few days of administering the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine last week, pharmacists on P.E.I. are reporting a significant drop in appointments. Twelve pharmacies on P.E.I. began offering the AstraZeneca vaccine April 12 to Island residents 55 and older. Rebecca Dunn, pharmacy manager at Murphy's in Cornwall, said the first few days were fully booked, with about 65 vaccines administered a day. "Today I'm doing a clinic and I have 65 availabilities but unfortunately I only had 30 appointments. So it definitely has slowed down," she said in an interview Wednesday with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin. "It is a little disappointing." The Cornwall pharmacy received 500 doses, and has used about 360. The doses expire at the end of May, Dunn said. More doses are due in time for people to get their second shots in 12 weeks. Dunn said some people are hesitant to get the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the risk of blood clots, though she emphasizes the risk is very low. AstraZeneca has been linked to blood clots, though Dunn said the risk is very low.(Andrew Couldridge/Reuters) "There are all sorts of vaccine-hesitant people," she said. "There are those people who are hesitant to get any type of vaccine. There are those people who want to get a vaccine but they're hesitant because they think they can't because of certain medical conditions or certain medications, and then there are those who are hesitant specifically about the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the risk of blood clots." She said there are risks with all medications, and pharmacists can help customers weigh those risks and answer questions about side-effects. AstraZeneca, like all vaccines available on P.E.I., has been approved by Health Canada. "This is a large scale, worldwide vaccination rollout so you are going to see these rare adverse events and they are going to be under very high scrutiny." One of the benefits of AstraZeneca is that the wait time to receive an appointment is weeks shorter than with other vaccines. "If you can get a vaccination sooner, then the more protected you are." More from CBC P.E.I.
A PC motion to investigate Newfoundland and Labrador's wildly controversial election —and for Chief Electoral Officer Bruce Chaulk to be suspended while it would have been held — went down to defeat late Wednesday afternoon in the House of Assembly. The motion, moved by Conception Bay South MHA Barry Petten, was rejected by a vote of 21-17. Petten wanted an independent investigator appointed "to determine what went wrong" during an election that took 10 weeks to complete, and which saw the province move into a pandemic lockdown and toward mail-in voting on the night before the vote would have been held. There are three challenges of election results currently before the courts, launched by defeated candidates Jim Lester, Sheila Fitzpatrick and Alison Coffin. Earlier in the day, Justice Minister John Hogan announced an all-party committee will help modernize the Elections Act from 1991. Justice Minister John Hogan will lead the committee charged with reforming the Elections Act.(CBC) It will be made up of four Liberals, two PCs, one NDP and one Independent. The committee, which will be chaired by Hogan, "will review the facts of the 2021 general election and provide input in relation to making voting as accessible as possible for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," according to a media release issued Wednesday afternoon. It was one of Premier Andrew Furey's first promises, and one that PC Leader David Brazil said was much needed: an overhaul of the Elections Act, following an election unlike any other, one that included a 10-week campaign and a largely mail-in vote. But NDP House leader Jim Dinn said the committee is nothing short of "window dressing." "In what world would we come out of the election we just had, called by the government in power for their political gain, and then entrust all of the decision-making on reforming the Elections Act to that same group of people?" Dinn said in a media release issued Wednesday. The 2021 Newfoundland and Labrador election included a 10-week campaign. (Josee Basque/Radio-Canada) "Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should be outraged at this blatant attempt to control the outcome and recommendations that come from this committee. I am." Dinn said the committee should be chaired by an Independent MHA to ensure the process is non-partisan. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador