Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
The Northern B.C. Crisis Centre could use some help when it comes to helping others. In the time since the novel coronavirus pandemic took hold, the centre has seen a 25-per-cent increase in calls to its phone lines from people feeling anxious, depressed and suicidal. The jump has translated into about 600 calls per month from people in the Northern Health region plus a further 400-500 calls per month the centre fields from the national suicide prevention line. "Things really ticked up in March and they haven't really stopped. We've been very busy," Sandra Boulianne, the centre's executive director, said. She said there have been similar upticks in the past, such as during the two major wildfire seasons, but nothing as sustained as this. Adding to the trouble, Boulianne said the centre is short-staffed. The centre works on a hybrid model with trained volunteers taking calls during the days and evenings and paid staff working the overnight shift. The roster of volunteers has waivered between 25 and 30. Ideally, Boulianne said the count should be over 40. As it stands, the centre's call answer rate averages about 70 per cent. "So we're missing 30 per cent of our calls," Boulianne said. "It's not good." Moreover, the volunteers are typically university students looking for some practical experience while pursuing their degrees. While she welcomes them, Boulianne said she would like to have a broader representation of the community not only because they may be able to better relate to some of the callers but they may last longer than the two to three years a student typically does. "Sometimes it feels like we're training people as fast as we're losing people," she said. Retired folks and stay-at-home mothers with some spare time are among the kinds of people Boulianne said she is seeking, adding the centre also has a youth-serving-youth line. Newcomers go through 70 hours of training, delivered online, and once completed, they're asked to put in one four-hour shift per week, either from home or at the centre. "It's difficult work but it's very rewarding," Boullianne said. She added that she joined the centre after earning a social work degree as a mature student at UNBC and had intended to stay for just two years. That was eight years ago. "I can honestly say I've fallen in love with the work," Boullianne said. "I love the authenticity of people when they're calling anonymously and confidentially and I love the skills that we use to help people open up." On the bright side, the centre was one of 10 across B.C. to receive a $10,000 from Pacific Blue Cross. Boulianne said it has made a difference to the non-profit which relies largely on funding from Northern Health and the United Way of Northern B.C. "We're very, very grateful," she said. Pacific Blue Cross provided the funding after a survey indicated two-thirds of British Columbians predict their mental health will deteriorate in the coming months. "We know that those who engage early support through crisis lines, are less likely to require acute care later," said Jim Iker, Chair of the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation. "With BC now facing its second wave of the pandemic, supporting our community and our health care system has never been more critical.” Boulianne attributed a significant amount of the jump in calls to people stuck in quarantine or other forms of isolation brought on by the virus. For some, it's also meant they have been unable to access face-to-face counselling in a timely manner and just need someone to talk to while they're waiting. "The beautiful thing about crisis lines is you can talk to somebody right away," Boulianne said. "We are not counsellors because our service is anonymous and we don't have a therapeutic relationship with our callers but we're able to diffuse a situation in the moment." Even if the centre needs more volunteers, Boulianne said those in need of help should still call. "You don't need to be suicidal to call a crisis line," she said. "We take any kind of distress call. If anything is worrying or distressing an individual, we want to be there to support them and so, no issue is too small," she said. "It's really anything, all the way from social isolation and loneliness to suicidal ideation and everything in between." Those interested in volunteering can get more information at crisis-centre.ca. If you need help, call 1-888-562-1214. There is also a suicide prevention line at 1-800-SUICIDE and youth crisis line at 1-888-564-8336. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
SAN FRANCISCO — Some California counties are pushing ahead with plans to wind down a program that's moved homeless people into hotel rooms amid the coronavirus pandemic despite an emergency cash infusion from the state aimed at preventing people from returning to the streets in colder weather as the virus surges.Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced $62 million for counties to move hotel guests into permanent housing or to extend hotel leases that were part of “Project Roomkey," which he rolled out this spring as a way to protect some people experiencing homelessness from the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to pick up 75% of the cost.But counties say that with federal relief funding expiring soon, it's time to transition residents from expensive hotel rooms to cheaper, more stable housing. Officials hope to offer a place to every resident leaving a hotel, though they acknowledge not everyone will accept it and affordable housing is difficult to find.California is one of several states, including Washington, that turned to hotels to shelter homeless people as the virus took hold. Homelessness has soared nationwide during the pandemic, and it was already at a crisis level in California because of an expensive housing market and a shortage of affordable options. The nation's most populated state has by far the highest number of people on the streets, though other places have a higher per capita rate.In San Francisco, advocacy groups and some officials are outraged by the mayor's plan to start moving hundreds of people out of hotels around the holidays. They say it’s ridiculous when thousands of people are still sleeping on sidewalks and in cars, and they don't believe the city can find enough virus-safe housing for 2,300 people living in more than two dozen hotels.“It makes absolute zero sense. It is outrageous, it’s irresponsible, and it basically tells people experiencing homelessness that you’re not a priority for the city,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said as she and other leaders announced proposed legislation to slow the move and ensure every resident is offered alternative housing.The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said in a statement that money from the state will provide “more flexibility and time” but would not say if San Francisco had changed its timeline. The department has said it plans to move homeless people out of all 29 hotels by June.“We will continue to work with city staff and our service providers to deliver on our commitment to get people housed and ensure no one in our hotels gets moved back on the streets," the statement said.An estimated 150,000 people experiencing homelessness live in California, and there are signs that number will only increase with an economy ravaged by the pandemic. Newsom has awarded $800 million to cities and counties to buy hotels and other properties to convert into housing, saying he didn't want to squander an opportunity to get more people indoors.At times, connecting homeless people to shelter, work, medical care and social services boils down to finding them in time, and the hotels have been a huge help, advocates say. They say hotel residents have flourished with regular checkups and meals.“If this were to be taken away from us at this time, it really would be like having a carpet pulled out from under us in a really major way,” said hotel resident Nicholas Garrett, who appeared with the San Francisco supervisors.Dr. Danielle Alkov spoke of one of her patients, a transgender woman who has blossomed after being brought indoors. But her hotel is scheduled to be among the first to close.“She’s thriving, she’s engaged in medical care, she’s very future-thinking for probably the first time in a long time, thinking about her career goals, her educational goals,” Alkov said. “The idea of her not having a stable place to go, and losing all the progress that she’s made, would be devastating.”In Los Angeles, the Homeless Services Authority said nearly 600 people have moved out of hotel rooms and into interim housing, with 62 others in permanent housing. About 3,400 people remain in hotel rooms, and while the agency has received funding from the city to extend leases at several hotels, it will keep moving people into other housing, spokesman Christopher Yee said.Alameda County, which includes Oakland, hopes to use state money for rental subsidies and to extend leases on hotel rooms but will continue with plans to close five of nine hotels between December and February. Over 1,000 people are in hotels there.It's much more cost-effective to use the money “for permanent housing with leases than to continue the hotel program indefinitely," said Kerry Abbott, director of the county’s Office of Homeless Care and Coordination. And while some people have chosen to return to a shelter, “our goal is to make sure everyone has a housing offer. Most people will take a housing offer."The hotels won't go away entirely. Abbott said the county plans to operate a 98-room quarantine and isolation hotel for six months next year and keep an additional 240 hotel rooms open through 2021 for residents who require the extra care.By year's end, Sacramento County plans to close trailers housing 46 people either recovering from the virus or awaiting test results. But county spokeswoman Janna Haynes said shelter hotels will stay open through early next year and nobody will be forced to leave without a place to go.Even though the program is ending, Abbott, of Alameda County, says people have benefited deeply, with some able to start addressing issues that have kept them out of stable housing.“Many people have been inside for the first time in a decade or longer, and have stayed inside, and have benefited from a place to stay, the services and the food and even the community our providers have put in place," she said.Janie Har, The Associated Press
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La vice-première ministre de l’Ontario et ministre de la Santé Christine Elliott est en désaccord avec « certains aspects » du plus récent rapport de la vérificatrice générale, dévoilé mercredi. Le document de 260 pages qui porte sur la préparation et sur la gestion du gouvernement Ford face à la COVID-19 déposé mercredi matin par la vérificatrice générale « est à bien des égards une description erronée de la réponse de la province à la pandémie », selon la ministre Elliott. À LIRE AUSSI : Le gouvernement Ford a réagit plus lentement que les autres Le Dr David Williams sous la loupe de la vérificatrice générale Malgré les nombreuses failles soulignées par la vérificatrice à l’endroit du médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario, la ministre de la Santé continue de se porter à sa défense et de réitérer son appui. « J’ai une confiance complète envers le Dr Williams. Il a plus de 30 ans d’expérience, non seulement au niveau provincial mais aussi local. Il a le savoir de continuer et de nous mener à travers la pandémie. Il a été un vrai leader à travers cette pandémie. » Elle réfute aussi l’affirmation de la vérificatrice générale selon laquelle le Dr David Williams n’a pas dirigé l’intervention du gouvernement face au virus. « Il nous a fourni des recommandations depuis la première journée. » Ce n’est pas vrai que l’Ontario a réagi plus lentement que les autres provinces, a aussi relaté Mme Elliott. Quelques minutes après le dépôt du rapport, le bureau de la ministre a envoyé aux médias un tableau qui compare les données de la COVID-19 de l’Ontario à celles des juridictions autour, afin d’appuyer son argument voulant que la situation en Ontario est l’une des moins pires en Amérique du Nord. La vérificatrice générale surprise par cette réponse Bonnie Lysyk s’est dite un peu surprise par les propos de la ministre Elliott en réponse à son rapport. La vérificatrice a fait savoir en conférence de presse que des bureaucrates de haut niveau du gouvernement Ford ont approuvé son rapport. Elle aussi rappelé que son objectif n’est pas de blâmer personne, mais bien de répondre aux failles mises en lumière par son Bureau.Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched on Tuesday night from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying on it a new batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit for the Starlink internet satellite constellation system. (Nov. 25)
Trying to make sense of the shakeup at city hall? It's a bit of a puzzle, but a comparison of the old and new organizational charts - aided by a memo from acting city manager Walter Babicz that was leaked to CKPG - provides a certain amount of clarity. In essence, one half of a department has been scrapped and another has taken on a significantly bigger workload under a COVID-induced revamping at city hall. At its centre, the infrastructure and services department is being eliminated and replaced, in part, with a new civic operations department that will take on five divisions largely related to the public works side of its predecessor: transportation and technical services, project delivery (previously named infrastructure delivery), parks and solid waste, roads and fleet, and utilities. With the move, the old department's general manager, Dave Dyer, has gone into retirement and public works director Gina Layte Liston and infrastructure services director Adam Homes are no longer on the payroll. In turn, the planning and development department has been renamed the planning, development and infrastructure services department and has taken on two divisions previously under infrastructure and services - asset management and infrastructure and planning and engineering. As well, Babicz said in the memo that the environmental services division, previously part of infrastructure and services, has been reduced and split between civic operations through its utilities division, and the development services division within the planning, development and infrastructure services department. The bylaw services division, meanwhile, has been moved to the community services and public safety department from planning, development and infrastructure services department, while the financial services department has taken on the financial management functions for both the community services and public safety department and the old infrastructure services department. In an email, city spokesperson Mike Kellett confirmed that in addition to their roles as acting city manager and acting deputy city manager, Babicz and Ian Wells will continue as the heads, respectively, of the administrative services and planning, development, and infrastructure services departments. Blake McIntosh, who has been manager of the roads and fleet division, is acting director of the civic operations department, while Kris Dalio remains head of finance, Adam Davey head of community services and public safety and Rae Ann Emery head of human resources, now known as human resources and corporate safety. And strategic Initiatives and partnerships, which is led by Chris Bone, now reports to Wells in planning, development, and infrastructure services. Babicz has said the changes were made to reduce costs in the face of a major hit to revenue due to the pandemic. He has declined to say publicly who has lost their jobs as a result but in an emailed statement to the Citizen early this month, he did say six management and four unionized positions were eliminated. One of the management positions was to be refilled and one of the unionized jobs was vacant prior to the changes. Exactly how much savings they will deliver will be known as part of a bigger presentation staff will make to council's finance and audit committee meeting on December 7 at city hall.Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A mine in the Red Sea off Saudi Arabia's coast near Yemen exploded and damaged an oil tanker Wednesday, authorities said, the latest incident targeting the kingdom amid its long war against Yemen's Houthi rebels.The blast happened before dawn and struck the MT Agrari, a Maltese-flagged, Greek-managed oil tanker near Shuqaiq, Saudi Arabia.“Their vessel was attacked by an unknown source,” a statement from the Agrari's operator, TMS Tankers Ltd., said. “The Agrari was struck about 1 metre above the waterline and has suffered a breach. It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries.”The ship was still floating off the coast and had been boarded by Saudi officials, the company said. Shuqaiq is some 160 kilometres (100 miles) north by sea from the Yemeni border.Ambrey, a British security firm, reported the blast and attributed it to a mine. It said the Agrari had cargo from Rotterdam, Netherlands, that it had discharged at the Shuqaiq Steam Power Plant.“The explosion took place in port limits and punctured the hull of the vessel,” Ambrey said.The United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations, an information exchange overseen by the British royal navy in the region, acknowledged a ship had “experienced an explosion,” without elaborating. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, responsible for patrolling the waterways of the Mideast, said it was aware of the incident.Saudi state television later aired a report claiming a military coalition led by the kingdom destroyed a bomb-laden Houthi drone boat and that a merchant ship sustained light damage. The report offered no details and it wasn't immediately clear if the report was the same incident at Shuqaiq. Saudi-owned channels later aired reports about Houthi mining in the Red Sea.The explosion comes after a cruise missile fired by Yemen's Houthi rebels struck an oil facility early Monday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.The Saudi-led coalition reported Tuesday that it removed and destroyed five Iranian-made naval mines planted by the Houthis in the southern Red Sea, condemning the attempted attacks as posing “a serious threat to maritime security in the Bab al-Mandab strait.” The strait is some 585 kilometres (363 miles) south of Shuqaiq.The Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Iranian-backed Houthis since March 2015. Houthi military officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but they've been blamed for other mining incidents during the course of the war. A United Nations panel in 2018 found the Houthis used both improvised and what appear to be Iranian-manufactured “bottom” mines, explosives that could be live in the water for as a long as a decade.“Sea mines are low cost, easy to deploy, tactically very effective, difficult to detect and thus are a potent threat to both naval and commercial vessels,” that report warned. "Relatively small quantities present a threat out of proportion to their numbers."Iran repeatedly has denied arming the Houthis, though experts say Iranian weapons ranging from small arms to missiles have been smuggled to the rebels.The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for both cargo and the global energy supplies, making any mining of the area a danger not only to Saudi Arabia but to the rest of the world. Mines can enter the water and then be carried away by the currents, which changed by the season in the Red Sea.The Red Sea has been mined previously. In 1984, some 19 ships reported striking mines there, with only one ever being recovered and disarmed, the U.N. panel said.___Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre contributed to this report.Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
A snowmobiler got more than he bargained for when he ventured away from his friends in search of new terrain while out in the Yanks Peak area two Sundays ago. He took the detour without telling anyone and without a shovel. He paid for it by spending the night and much of the next day out in the wilderness. "He got really stuck," said Dave Merritt of Prince George Search and Rescue. "He got stuck multiple times, he just couldn't get himself out without a shovel." Merritt said search and rescue volunteers were originally called out to look for another member of the party of about 15-20 enthusiasts. By the time the searchers had shown up, that subject had made his way back to the parking lot at the entrance to the popular snowmobiling area south of Wells after spending a few hours extracting his sled from a tree well. But by then, the party had realized one other person remained unaccounted for. Volunteers from three search and rescue organizations plus members of the Wells Snowmobile Club and a couple of the missing man's friends participated in the search. Prince George SAR was called in because it has the skills to search in avalanche terrain. The second man was "cold and tired" but otherwise OK when he was spotted by a helicopter shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday. "We probably would've found him another hour and a half later by sled but the weather had lifted enough that we were able to spot him a little faster and get him home a little quicker," Merritt said. "We had maybe another 20 minutes and the helicopter would've had to go back to Prince George because of the darkness." Cell service in the area is spotty and neither snowmobiler had radios or satellite communication devices, Merritt said. The one who spent the night outside was also without fire starter and material to build a shelter. Merritt urged outdoor enthusiasts to check the AdventureSmart website for advice on being prepared in case something goes wrong. "The group did everything right once they realized somebody was missing," Merritt added. "They initiated all the proper procedures."Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter After several housekeeping items from Mayor Al Strathdee, he gave the floor to Town Treasurer Andre Morin, who began his presentation by introducing Denice Williamson, the new Deputy Treasurer for the Town of St. Marys. Williamson began her new role with the Town back on November 9th of this year and she was invited to sit in and watch the special meeting of the Council to get a feel for how the budget deliberations work and get introduced directly to members of Council themselves. Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer then gave a formal introduction to the 2021 budget deliberations. He noted that this year's budget deliberation is the first as part of the new budget schedule. Council has had more opportunities to discuss high-level aspects of the budget earlier than in previous years, which Kittmer noted has helped Town staff be better positioned to present a better version of the draft budget to Council. At the direction of Council, Town staff are using the remaining funds received by the Safe Restart program to help offset some of the increased costs, so there is less burden on the Town and its residents and businesses. An interesting comment made by the CAO, concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was the acknowledgment that the Town must find things for residents to do as pandemic fatigue continues to settle in, but that can be done safely and with proper safety measures in place. Additionally, according to Kittmer, the draft budget presented was the "worst-case scenario," meaning the Town is working under the assumption that the community will remain in some level of the pandemic state for the duration of 2021. The reason for this consideration going into the budget deliberations is so that Council can ensure it has what it needs if that worst-case scenario of remaining in some form of lockdown for the entirety of 2021 is realized.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
The Sexsmith Wellness Coalition is seeking space for its programming in early 2021, with council granting the coalition up to $7,000 to rent a facility. The space is needed for January to April and council granted the amount during its regular meeting last week. “Due to COVID, we can’t access the buildings we would normally be renting,” said Melody Sample, Sexsmith wellness co-ordinator. “We are on the hunt for a larger space to run our programs out of.” According to Sexsmith administration, at council’s Nov. 2 meeting council granted the coalition $6,800 to rent the former hardware store on 100th Ave. The plan to use that location fell through when the space was rented out to another party, according to administration. At last week’s meeting Coun. Clint Froehlick’s motion to add up to $7,000 to the coalition’s budget for a rental was carried unopposed. The previous $6,800 was rescinded. Sample is based in the town office but programming takes place in a variety of locations, including school gyms which are now closed to the public, she said. The coalition used the Peace River Bible Institute gym for pre-kindergarten playtime, St. Mary’s School for family gym nights and Robert W. Zahara School’s gym for pickleball, she said. The civic centre and community centre are also occasional venues, but some of the rooms aren’t set up for events like pickleball, Sample added. The coalition currently uses the civic centre for its few programs still operating, namely the seniors community kitchen and upcoming food and nutrition workshops, she said. Provincial restrictions and exercise classes wouldn’t prevent pickleball from restarting with sufficient space, she said. She said larger space in the civic centre is rented out, with the Sexsmith Tumbling Club having a home there. To observe physical distancing requirements the coalition needs space as large as a typical school gym, she said. Sample said the coalition is eyeing a few potential locations in town but couldn’t comment on which ones. A challenge is spaces available for rent are limited, with some already being rented and others not large enough, she said. After April, Sample said she envisions more outdoor programming. She also plans for some outdoor programming like a snowshoe group in December and January, she said. At this point, Sample said the coalition isn’t looking for permanent new space, although it’s possible a location secured for 2021 could become a regular venue. “We’re keeping in mind long-term solutions,” she said.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Crowsnest Pass councillors engaged in a lengthy discussion concerning rent rates for municipal facilities during the Nov. 17 council meeting. In 2018, a standard annual fee for renting the MDM Community Centre was set for all new and existing leases. That rate was set for $6.61 per square foot for 2020. In order to level the playing field throughout the municipality, council determined during its Jan. 14, 2020 governance and priorities committee meeting to apply the $6.61 rate as an annual fee to all organizations renting municipal facilities. Administration was directed to contact each affected group before standardizing the rates, and a five-year time frame for groups to work up to the $6.61 rate was established. Mayor Blair Painter brought the issue back for council’s discussion after the Crowsnest Pass Pistol Club contacted him with concerns over the expected increase to its rental rates for the Elks Hall in Blairmore. The club is currently negotiating a new lease with the municipality. The club’s rental rate was set at $1.70 per square foot for 2017, 2018 and 2019. To reach the standard $6.61 rate within the established time frame, the pistol club would be required to increase its annual rate payment by $1,800 a year to an annual rental fee that would amount to about $13,000. “I think it was our intention that we all agreed that we needed to come up with an even playing field for everybody, but I don’t think we need to go to today’s standard commercial rates for renting in the Crowsnest Pass,” Mayor Painter said. “These are not groups that are commercial. They’re not selling goods, they’re not making a profit.” Expecting the pistol club to reach the standardized rate within five years was unreasonable, he continued, and would put additional stress on the club’s finances since it wasn't able to collect any revenue from its annual guns show. Though the club’s reserves will cover costs this year, long-term operations with the increased rent would require doubling its $100 membership fee. Not all of council, however, was overly concerned with the prospect of pistol club members facing increased dues. “In order for my children to play hockey, I pay $400 a child to use the facility in the municipality that is subsidized by the taxpayer,” Coun. Lisa Sygutek said. “It’s not really fair for kids’ families to be paying $400 to play a sport and then a group of adult people paying $100. I have a bit of a problem with that.” She suggested the pistol club could take a page out of the minor hockey association’s play book and apply for casino shifts or fundraise in other ways. Expecting the club to jump from about $3,000 a year in rent to $13,000, she continued, was also an issue. “I also have a problem with the fact that we’re going to throw it down and say you gotta pay $13,000. That’s a big number,” she said. As such, Coun. Sygutek said the pistol club could come before council to ask for assistance in addition to whatever fundraising efforts it secured on its own. Such an arrangement, said manager of community services Trent Smith, had always been part of the intention behind the rental rate, and the five-year time frame was meant to be a flexible target to aim for. “Administration in no means was trying to shove a five-year lease down their throat,” he said. “If they needed to come to council and ask for 10 years, we would happily sit down and ask council and decide that.” As part of those discussions, Mr. Smith continued, the topic of fundraising was brought up, as well as looking at what financial options other small-town gun clubs pursued. “At no time was administration saying, ‘Hey, you must.’ We were saying, ‘Hey, if this doesn't work, we’ll come back and talk to council. And then communication went dead,” said Mr. Smith. Though certainly a jump from the pistol club’s $1.70 rate, Coun. Dean Ward said the $6.61 amount was agreed upon earlier in the year by council because about half of the community groups were paying rental fees near $6 a square foot. The pistol group’s rent, he added, had also been largely unchanged for close to 20 years. “If we cut these rates, we’re going to have to come up with $30,000 from somewhere else,” said Coun. Ward. “I have no problem phasing somebody in over time, but these groups are all earning, they’re all begging for money, they’re all working hard … selling vegetables, selling chocolates, to pay their bills. “It’s a sad situation when nine groups are paying one rate and one group is paying 20 per cent of that rate.” Beyond the pistol club’s concerns, Coun. Dave Filipuzzi expressed concern that the current rent arrangement would add financial strain to community groups already grappling with fallout from the pandemic. “If we continue to stress these groups out, we won’t have them. I think it’s fairly important we find a way to solve this problem; it’s good to accommodate these groups to stay a part of our community and be part of our community. I don’t want to lose these groups, any one of them,” he said. Expecting every group to conform to one amount, added Coun. Doreen Glavin, was also unfair. “Different groups have different resources in order for them to run and operate, and it isn't fair to say we’re going to standardize,” she said. “I think it comes down to what each group ... has for resources themselves in order to operate or pay for leases.” Backtracking on the $6.61 rate to accommodate groups, Coun. Sygutek responded, was the right way to respond. “We accepted that, we agreed with it. We can’t go back now and say, ‘Hey, you know, we made a mistake,’ and go to every one of those groups and lower their rent. I don’t think that’s an option,” said Coun. Sygutek. “But I do think it’s an option for them to come to us and ask for funding help.” Council eventually accepted two motions: the first directed administration to reach out to the Crowsnest Pass Pistol Club and see what options could be arranged for the $6.61 rate to be eventually met, and the second directed administration to notify the other nine groups paying the rate to approach council for assistance if they are facing financial hardships. The second motion, said Coun. Marlene Anctil, was especially important. “There are a lot of groups that we don’t know the positions they’re in right now who are struggling, so let’s notify every group and see what comes back to us,” she said.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to recover lobster traps left behind in the Northumberland Strait.Lobster fishing gear can be moved around by storms or by passing ships, and then lost. The traps are known collectively as ghost gear, and they are a problem because they continue to catch lobster in unknown numbers — and that could have an impact on the health of the stock.The project is divided into two parts. The first, already completed, saw 15 volunteer fishermen scanning the waters of the central Northumberland Strait for any visible buoys or lines showing where lost gear might be.The second part digs deeper. PEIFA has borrowed a large grapnel from the Maritime Fishermen's Union. The system of hooks and chains is designed to snare lines or the nets around a trap."We talked to fishers about key areas or hot spots that might have had some gear lost that they weren't able to retrieve," said Jennifer Dewland, administration and funding coordinator with the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association."Any gear that's lying on the bottom, without any buoy lines, if it catches that net or line or anything, it's going to haul [it] up."The hauled gear will be stored for 30 days, giving fishermen a chance to reclaim their own items.Dewland said it is possible they will recover illegally set gear during the process; that will be left up to DFO to resolve.Managers of the project will choose four fine-weather days in the first two weeks of December to do the sweep.More from CBC P.E.I.
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Following Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer's overall summary of the draft budget and some of its key elements, it was Town Treasurer Andre Morin's turn to speak more specifically on the high-level aspects of the 2021 draft capital budget. It is important to note that this is still a draft budget, meaning the budget is not finalized yet. With that in mind, this will give you a glimpse at how the 2021 budget is beginning to take shape. Morin began his presentation by noting that it's expected that revenues across the board will be down in 2021, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. These revenues that are expected to decrease include the largest, fees and charges, as well as ice rentals, rents and leases, and sales. Morin also pointed out that the carry-over from the 2020 Safe Restart funding the Town has yet to spend is about $250,000, which will help cover the extra costs and lost revenues. The draft capital budget also reflects several increases in expenses for the Town. The first that Morin touched on was an increased investment in the community safety and policing plan, as well as parks patrol. The expense increase for those areas is approximately $45,000. Most of the other increases proposed in the budget are spread over other departments within the municipality and are fairly standard and routine. The Town is seeing an increase in debenture payments in 2021, but not as large of an increase as they likely expected. The net increase of about $68,000 is largely due to an increase in debenture payments related to the fire hall, but there is also a debenture payment related to wastewater services that is coming off the books. The materials and services line of the budget did reflect a large increase of $140,000, however, that is largely due to its reflection of additional costs brought on by the pandemic. Lastly, an increase in salary and wages is also included in the budget, and the Council asked Town staff to report back later on the implications of a 1.5 percent increase in salary and wages. Morin then touched on the tax increase for St. Marys residents, which, thanks in no small part to the Town's handling of the pandemic, is not going to be as substantial as other municipalities. The net tax levy, according to Morin, will result in the average St. Marys resident paying approximately 0.82 percent more in taxes. Morin also said that the Town is projecting a 0.97 percent increase for the average municipal dwelling, as well as increases of between 2-2.5 percent for water and wastewater services. No increase is predicted for garbage and recycling wheelie bin services.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
The Trump administration on Wednesday granted ByteDance a new seven-day extension of an order directing the Chinese company to sell its TikTok short video-sharing app, according to a court filing. The administration previously had granted ByteDance a 15-day extension of the order issued in August, which was set to expire Friday. President Donald Trump on Aug. 14 had directed ByteDance to divest the app within 90 days.
The Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. is holding a town hall this Friday to ask Black Islanders how it can help them.President Tamara Steele says the group is putting together a strategic plan and wants to make sure it represents the community, whether it's newcomers or people whose families have been here for generations."I think the biggest challenge we have right now is connecting with everyone, so we know that there are people that we're not reaching and just figuring out how to reach them," she said."I don't hesitate any more to just ask people if they've heard about the society and get involved if they want to."Steele said the group has identified three main themes to discuss at the town hall — financial security, mental health and community engagement.The event will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there is only room for 100 people. Pre-registration is required.For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.More from CBC P.E.I.
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La province de l’Ontario a été plus lente et plus réactive que les autres provinces ainsi que plusieurs autres administrations internationales dans son déploiement de mesures pour lutter contre la COVID-19. Après avoir vivement critiqué l’inaction du gouvernement Ford en environnement, dans son rapport la semaine dernière, la vérificatrice générale de l’Ontario Bonnie Lysyk est de retour cette semaine avec un nouveau rapport tout aussi accablant portant cette fois-ci sur les mesures prises par l’Ontario pour lutter contre la COVID-19. La vérificatrice constate notamment dans son rapport que le gouvernement Ford a mis de côté, au début de la pandémie, la structure qui avait déjà été établie pour intervenir durant un état d’urgence. Il a plutôt élaboré une toute nouvelle structure pendant l’urgence sanitaire, engendrant l’embauche d’un consultant externe, le 25 mars, au coût de 1,6 millions $. À LIRE AUSSI : Le Dr David Williams sous la loupe de la vérificatrice générale La ministre de la Santé de l'Ontario contredit la vérificatrice générale Une somme supplémentaire de 3,2 millions $ a été versée à ce même consultant pour aider à la planification de la reprise économique et à la stratégie de réouverture des écoles. Ces coûts seraient supérieurs aux standards de l’industrie, note la vérificatrice. Ainsi, ce n’est que près d’un mois après avoir déclaré l’état d’urgence sanitaire que le gouvernement a commencé à mettre en œuvre sa stratégie de situation d’urgence. Effectivement, « en raison du changement de leadership au Centre provincial des opérations d’urgence (GSUO), des plans d’urgence désuets et du manque de personnel, la province n’était pas en mesure d’activer la structure d’intervention de son plan d’intervention d’urgence lorsqu’elle a déclaré l’état d’urgence le 17 mars 2020. » Mme Lysyk souligne que la mise en place d’une différente approche pangouvernementale a pris du temps, et la table centrale de coordination qui a été créée a tenu sa première réunion près d’un mois après le début de l’urgence, soit le 11 avril 2020. Un autre constat accablant de la vérificatrice: la structure d’intervention de l’Ontario face à la COVID-19 comprenait un Groupe de commandement pour le secteur de la santé qui s’est complexifié pendant la pandémie et dont la composition est passée de 21 à 83 participants en août. Pendant des mois, toutes les communications de ce groupe se faisaient par téléphone, ce qui créait de la confusion, note la vérificatrice. Ce n’est que le 14 juillet que des réunions ont débuté par vidéoconférence. Ces réunions n’ont pas eu lieu en personne, souligne Mme Lysyk, et il n’existe aucune documentation complète sur les discussions tenues. Au total, plus de 500 personnes s’investissent actuellement dans le Groupe de commandement pour le secteur de la santé. Par ailleurs, la vérificatrice indique dans son rapport que le ministère du Solliciteur général n’a pas mis à jour régulièrement ses plans d’intervention d’urgence, et n’a pas corrigé les lacunes des systèmes d’informations sur la santé publique. Il s’agissait pourtant de recommandations formulées par le Bureau du vérificateur général au fil des dernières années. « Cela a eu des répercussions négatives sur le travail des bureaux de santé publique pendant la COVID-19. » Quand la vérificatrice avait terminé ses travaux, le GSUO n’avait toujours pas planifié ni collaboré avec les municipalités en prévision des futures vagues de la pandémie. L’Ontario n’a rien appris du SRAS Les importantes leçons tirées de l’épidémie du syndrome respiratoire aigu sévère (SRAS) en 2003 n’ont pas été suivies pendant l’intervention de la province au moment où la COVID-19 a frappé l’Ontario, selon les découvertes de la vérificatrice. Ces leçons n’ont pas non plus été suivies pendant l’intervention de la province en réponse au coronavirus. Parmi les exemples rapportés par Mme Lysyk, le rapport final de la Commission du SRAS soulignait que le principe de précaution, qui consiste à prendre des mesures préventives pour protéger la santé du public même en l’absence d’informations complètes et de certitude scientifique, était la leçon la plus importante du SRAS. Selon la vérificatrice, si le gouvernement avait respecté ces conclusions, il aurait pris rapidement des mesures « énergiques et éclairées ». « Ce n’est pas ce que nous avons constaté dans notre travail d’audit, nous avons plutôt relevé des retards, des conflits et de la confusion dans la prise de décisions. » Les changements dans la gestion et le fonctionnement des bureaux de santé publique ont causé des incohérences partout en Ontario, soutient Mme Lysyk, selon qui la santé publique dans d’autres administrations comme la Colombie-Britannique, l’Alberta et le Québec est plus simplement organisée. « La réforme de santé publique recommandée il y a environ 15 ans par la Commission du SRAS n’avait pas été pleinement mise en œuvre. Au moment d’écrire ces lignes, les 34 bureaux de santé publique de l’Ontario continuaient de fonctionner de manière indépendante et, souvent, ils n’échangeaient toujours pas leurs pratiques exemplaires », peut-on lire dans le rapport. La vérificatrice générale Bonnie Lysyk publiera bientôt un deuxième rapport spécial sur les dépenses en santé liées à la COVID-19, sur l’équipement de protection individuelle et sur les soins de longue durée.Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and as residents of Quinte West make their lists and check them twice, holiday gifts that promote social distancing and staying home may be tricky. During the spring when the coronavirus first forced residents indoors, board games and puzzles were flying off the shelves. As the second wave of COVID-19 progresses into the colder months, indoor games and activities are expected to be popular items this holiday season. Mindful of the global pandemic, Canadian owned and operated Outset Media has partnered with Walmart Canada to launch limited-edition board games that bring fun to families by creating Canadian city-based board games. The Quinte West community is fortunate enough to be celebrated in Belleville-Opoly and Trenton-Opoly. Similar to the classic Monopoly games, Belleville-Opoly and Trenton-Opoly’s property spots highlight crucial aspects of the Quinte West community. Belleville-Opoly features properties like Zwick’s Centennial Parks and Trails, Downtown Belleville, The Empire Theatre, Glanmore National Historic Site, Burger Revolution and many more beloved spots throughout the community. On the Trenton-Opoly board, players will notice properties such as the National Air Force Museum of Canada, the Trent Port Marina, Trent Port Museum and other historically rich landmarks. Outset Media is thrilled that Trenton and Belleville have been selected to be featured in this exciting, limited-edition game. “Outset Media is excited to help families across Canada celebrate where they live. These games were created to help people appreciate some things they cherish about their community,” said senior vice-president of Outset Media, Jean-Paul Teskey. “We are grateful that families and friends all over the country have made us part of the time they spend together during the holidays.” Based on the best-selling game of all time, Monopoly, Belleville-Opoly and Trenton-Opoly draw attention to some of the great features and rich history of Quinte West. These Onset Media board games are available now at local Walmarts or online at walmart.ca.Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
TEMAGAMI – With COVID-19 not going away anytime soon, Temagami council has begun discussing some options when it comes to winter recreation opportunities at the Community Centre. With all the uncertainties surrounding COVID, and with current arena restrictions, the municipality had yet to determine if the ice plant would be operational for the 2020-21 winter season. Council looked at a pair of options at the November 19 regular meeting. The first option would be for the town to start up the ice plant and have the ice ready for the Christmas season. Staff would ensure that the municipality would continue to follow current health regulations while offering public skating, pick-up hockey, and other events for which revenue could be generated. “To proceed with this option we would need to develop health and safety protocols, cleaning protocols and purchase additional protective equipment,” recreation manager Kelly Hearn wrote in his report to council. “The start-up procedures for the ice plant would also need to be completed.” The second option would be that the municipality does not start up the ice plant this winter. Staff would consider other options for recreational programming for the community to stay active and healthy. “From the operational funds that are not utilized on the start-up, shut down and maintenance of the ice surface, staff would find alternate means of providing recreation to the community,” said Hearn. Hearn noted that staff are also considering the purchase of a made-to-measure, rubberized floor for the arena surface. “This would increase the options of non-ice arena use,” he reasoned. Councillor John Shymko was in favour of the second option, suggesting that the town “could plow a few rinks on Net Lake and Lake Temagami” so that they could still offer public skating. Treasurer-administrator Craig Davidson said he didn’t disagree with Shymko’s idea, but that it might not be something the municipality could do itself based on its insurance coverage. “It might need to be something that’s done at arm’s length (from council) volunteers,” he explained. Davidson added that he has always thought an outdoor rink, along with a bonfire, by the municipal office would be a good idea “as long as the fire doesn’t melt down into the lake.” Shymko then said he wouldn’t mind plowing the potential rink himself. Councillor Margaret Youngs was also in favour of the second option while Councillor Jamie Koistinen said she was leaning towards favouring the first option because of how “depressing” Northern Ontario winters can be. “If we’re removing any kind of recreation from the kids here in town, or even families to have some kind of outings that are safe within the community, then what does that do for the community members there?” she questioned. “Christmas is coming, there’s the two-week (school) break and possibly extensions beyond that. So I tend to think that some families might benefit from going to the arena, especially during a time where you’re not quite able yet to go ski-dooing, you can’t go ice fishing, there’s different things that can’t happen in the community at that time.” Councillor Barret Leudke stated that he didn’t feel the municipality should be encouraging group gatherings of any kind because of the increasing risks and uncertainty associated with the coronavirus. “We need to go into a full lockdown and other municipalities have suggested to stay directly home. I’m not in support of (group gatherings), I see this virus getting worse long before it gets better,” he said. “I want to encourage more distancing and no group gatherings.” Deputy Mayor Cathy Dwyer said she would be in favour of the second option as long as the municipality looks into other recreational possibilities for its residents. She said she has heard from some parents who understand the municipality might not put ice in the arena but were concerned about a lack of activities for their kids this winter. Council agreed on a motion to choose the second option and not start up the ice plant this winter. Hearn said that staff would work on seeking out other recreation opportunities to keep the community active this winter.Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
Regina International Airport is coming under review as NAV Canada, Canada's air navigation service provider, considers cost-cutting measures at airports across the country. Regina is one of seven airports where air traffic controller jobs might be eliminated. According to James Bogusz, the CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, NAV Canada looks for a threshold of approximately 60,000 aircraft movements per year to justify having an aircraft control tower. Last year, Regina's airport came close, with 56,000 airport movements.Bogusz said he is concerned about how NAV Canada's decision might impact the community. "I simply cannot [let] our airport, and by extension our community and our whole region — which is all of southern Saskatchewan — diminish any operational capability we have," he said. NAV Canada is able to safely operate without a control tower on site — and does, at many airports — but doing so limits how much activity an airport can accommodate at any one time. With commercial flights, charters, military planes and the flight school all relying on Regina's airport, Bogusz said having a local air traffic control tower makes a major difference. "It's quite obvious that having boots on the ground, or, in this case, eyes in the tower, is far more efficient than trying to advise services from a city that cannot see what's going on in the airfield," he said. Doug McNair, president of the Regina Flying Club, said the NAV Canada air controllers based in Regina are a positive presence in the city's aviation community and have helped local flight students graduate better prepared to take on all sorts of aviation jobs."A lot of our students go on to get their commercial licenses and they move on to the airlines or air ambulance — they have a career in aviation," he said. "A lot of those types of jobs will take them into larger airports, and larger airports and airspace that has more traffic requires a lot more training and experience. "So in Regina here, by having the tower, we have all the benefits for our students of learning advanced procedures, taking direction from the air traffic controllers."Rebecca Hickey, a spokesperson for NAV Canada, said the review process will include a detailed study of the types and patterns of aircraft movement at the airport, as well as consultation with local stakeholders. While the option of closing or reducing the hours of the air traffic control is on the table, at this point in the process that is not a foregone conclusion."The outcome of our study could very well be status quo," Hickey said. "It's not determined, and it will be a number of months before it's concluded."