Drone footgae flying above a snow capped evergreen forest.
Drone footgae flying above a snow capped evergreen forest.
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden's pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget is quickly emerging as a political battle that could disrupt his efforts to swiftly fill out his administration.Some Republicans are expressing doubt that Neera Tanden could be confirmed by the Senate after she spent years attacking GOP lawmakers on social media — and many panned the choice.Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton claimed Tanden’s rhetoric was “Filled with hate & guided by the woke left.”Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Tanden's “combative and insulting comments" about Republican senators created “certainly a problematic path." He called her “maybe (Biden's) worst nominee so far" and “radioactive.”Potential Budget Committee Chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was less hostile, telling reporters, “Let's see what happens." Moderate Susan Collins, R-Maine, a target of Tanden's, said, “I do not know her or much about her, but I've heard she's a very prolific user of Twitter.”Such sentiment is notable considering the GOP's general reluctance to criticize President Donald Trump's broadsides on Twitter. But like all of Biden's nominees, Tanden has little margin for error as she faces confirmation in a closely divided Senate.That could be especially daunting for Tanden, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton and the president of the centre-left Center for American Progress, given her history of political combat.Biden's transition team released a litany of praise for Tanden from figures including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.Other Democrats also rushed to defend Tanden's nomination. Former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett said Tanden “grew up on welfare and lived in public housing. She experienced first hand the importance of our social programs. Her extraordinary career has been devoted to improving opportunities for working families. She is an excellent choice to lead OMB.”“Neera Tanden is smart, experienced, and qualified for the position of OMB Director,” added Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a member of the party’s progressive wing. “The American people decisively voted for change - Mitch McConnell shouldn’t block us from having a functioning government that gets to work for the people we serve.”On the Senate floor, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said it's impossible to take Republicans' criticism of Tanden seriously.“Honestly, the hypocrisy is astounding. If Republicans are concerned about criticism on Twitter, their complaints are better directed at President Trump,” Schumer said.At OMB, Tanden would be responsible for preparing Biden’s budget submission and would command several hundred budget analysts, economists and policy advisers with deep knowledge of the inner workings of the government.If Democrats should win runoff elections for Georgia’s two GOP-held Senate seats, Tanden’s job would become hugely important because the party would gain a slim majority in the chamber. That would allow them to pass special budget legislation that could roll back Trump’s tax cuts, boost the Affordable Care Act and pursue other spending goals. OMB would have a central role in such legislation.Top Democrats, Biden included, supported anti-deficit packages earlier in their careers, but the party has since changed. Biden was a force behind the establishment of the Obama deficit commission, which was created to win votes of Democratic moderates to pass an increase in the government’s borrowing cap and was chaired by former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.Tanden shares a commonly held view among Democratic lawmakers that Republicans usually profess concerns about deficits only when Democrats are in power, pointing to tax cut packages passed in the opening year of Trump’s administration and former President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut.___Taylor reported from Washington.Zeke Miller And Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation Chief Bart Tsannie welcomed 20 Canadian Rangers to his remote northeast community on the weekend. Tsannie said the First Nation asked for the rangers’ assistance to help its COVID-19 response efforts as case numbers climbed in the far north. “The cases are right on our doorstep” as they emerge in other remote communities like Fond du Lac, Tsannie said. As of Sunday, the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority reported 284 active cases of COVID-19 in its communities. In a prepared statement, a Department of National Defence spokeswoman said the rangers deployed on Saturday. Their role is to help make and distribute supports like food, firewood and care packages. They will also help spread information on health measures and precautions, the spokeswoman said. The request for help covers 30 days, after which the deployment will be assessed depending on the community’s needs. “(The rangers) will support the community of Hatchet Lake until the emergency has abated and the province along with other federal and private sector resources are able to effectively support the community without (Canadian Armed Forces) intervention,” she said. The rangers previously deployed in April to assist communities like Wollaston Lake, Île à la Crosse, Fond du Lac and Lac La Ronge with their response efforts, she said. That work included wellness checks, transportation, and assisting local officials. Other efforts included hunting, gathering, and fishing for local residents and helping elders with harvesting, cutting and delivering firewood. They also delivered medication and groceries and refilled and hauled water for residents. Similarly, they helped set up local clinics, transport humanitarian goods and work as information runners for command centres, she said. She added the four ranger patrols in northern Saskatchewan tasked with operation LASER, which aims to assist with COVID-19 responses, stood down on July 17. As of Monday morning, Tsannie said there were no COVID-19 cases in his community. He said the First Nation nevertheless responded to increasing regional case counts with tightened restrictions on Nov. 27. He said some residents have avoided taking those precautions, and some have continued to travel out of the community, “which is really, really tough. So the rangers will be extra help.” He said the First Nation has a positive relationship with the rangers. “If there’s ever COVID in Hatchet, we’re going to utilize them a lot.”Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) has confirmed another case of COVID-19 at the University of Windsor.In a news release, the university said that this case was unrelated to previous confirmed cases at the institution. According to the University of Windsor's COVID-19 information page, the university has had 10 confirmed on-campus cases, all of which have come this month. Eight of those cases are marked as "resolved.""The member of the campus community is self-isolating and all appropriate protocols and cleaning measures have been taken," the university said in a press release. "As with all COVID-19 cases, the WECHU will take the lead on contact tracing. The University continues to work with and support the Health Unit as needed.""There is no additional risk to the campus community at this time," it added.Most of the university's classes are being taught online this semester.
A wildlife rescue centre near Calgary has seen an enormous uptick in animal patients since the start of the pandemic.The Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, which is just north of Airdrie, says it's taken in 2,042 animals this year — a 37 per cent increase compared with 2019. Holly Lillie, executive director of the institution, says it's hard to say why there was a rise in numbers but notes demand increases every year."What we think is happening is that with people more at home, they're finding wildlife that would otherwise not have been found, or potentially, you know, there is more human wildlife encounters," she told the Calgary Eyeopener.She says staff have also noticed the wider range of animals that have come to the hospital, and that this year alone, they've taken in 160 different species, including twin moose calves."We're seeing a greater variety of animals of different species, especially some of the migratory songbirds," she said."Over the weekend, we admitted a juvenile bald eagle … this bird was found by a kayaker on the banks of the Bow River. So that was a bit unusual that, you know, the bird was down in that area," she said.The director says that to take care of the bald eagle — who had to be tested for lead — it costed $300 for just the weekend alone."It can range anywhere from $100 to well over $1,000 for an individual animal," she said."There is lots of costs, you know, some diagnostics to medical care to food. We spent over $16,000 this year on just meal worms."Since the institute is considered an essential service, Lillie says COVID-19 hasn't had large impacts. However, she says the volunteers had to be put on hiatus for a couple of months, but the institute has now found a way for people to help from home."For example, a wildlife hotline, which is answering calls," she said."But even with that break of some of our positions, our volunteers have still donated over 6,000 hours this year. So it's fantastic all that they do, from fundraising, to taking photographs and so forth. We really have a fantastic support."With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.
The new Strathmore municipal building is nearing completion, with the town finding solutions for a few remaining pieces. An update on the project was presented to town council on Nov. 18 by Michael Stamhuis, the town’s special projects manager. The project is now in its “substantial completion” stage, meaning the building and work site are sufficiently completed such that they can now be handed over to, and occupied by, the town. The cost of the building has been updated to total $14.48 million, $130,000 less than the cost projected in mid-October. The final project costs will be more than $400,000 below the funding allocated for the project, reported Stamhuis. A report will be forthcoming presenting suggestions for how this surplus may be allocated. One of the options would be to set aside an amount for any issues that may arise, he said. Some uncertainties remain for the project. “While the project is substantially completed, it is not totally complete; there are some outstanding items,” said Stamhuis, who added these include the installation of audio-visual equipment, signage and furniture. All tenders for furniture and audio-visual equipment have been received, the cost of which is less than the $850,000 allocated for these components. The cost estimate for soft costs and furniture, fixtures and equipment decreased by $21,000, to $2.325 million. The audio-visual equipment was to be stored in a closet within the council chambers, but the consultant said it would generate too much heat to be stored there safely. So, the town is considering either installing a ventilation system for the closet or moving the equipment to the server room. The estimated cost for site servicing and rehabilitation has been revised to $2.599 million, representing a decrease of $16,000 from previous estimates. This reduction is due to a decrease in staff salary allocation (by $6,000) and reconciliation of consultant fees ($10,000). The total cost of the Strathmore Commons and north Kinsmen improvements is $1.675 million, equaling a reduction of $92,000 from prior estimates. The town saved money on soil disposal because the soil from site clearing was used on-site and hauling costs were minimal, resulting in a $92,000 cost reduction. Also during the meeting, a report was presented to council illustrating how the municipal building project resulted in improvements to several of the town’s assets beyond the new building itself. This assessment determined that of the approximately $14.5 million spent on the municipal building project, about $3.1 million can be attributed to Kinsmen Park and other site improvements. As such, about $11.3 million can be attributed to the building itself. According to Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule, this second report gives a more accurate picture of the cost of the new town hall building. “Obviously, some of those assets are tied to the new building, but some of them benefit and are tied to other parts of that project,” he said. The town is planning on having staff move belongings into the new building in late December and begin working there in the new year.Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
The provincial government confirmed to the East Central Alberta (ECA) Review this week that the Minister of Municipal Affairs will make a decision on how the Village fo Morrin will be governed after two of the three elected councillors recently quit. A few weeks ago both Mayor Howard Helton and Melissa Wilton tendered their resignations; Wilton in fact resigned a few times before coming to a final decision. At the organizational meeting in October, remaining Coun. M’Liss Edwards was elected mayor. Since there’s no quorum for the village council, it was unclear to the community and media how or if regular council meetings would proceed. The ECA Review newspaper contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs Nov. 23 to find out how and if regular council meetings would proceed and how taxpayers could get information about their village government. Justin Marshall, press secretary for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, responded via email by Nov. 30. “Right now, two of the three Village of Morrin councillors have resigned leaving council with no quorum and therefore, the village is unable to conduct business or hold regular council meetings,” stated Marshall in the email. “A decision will be made in the coming weeks and Minister (Tracy) Allard is quickly reviewing the situation as local government is important to our democracy. “When the number of councillors is less than a quorum due to resignations, the Minister of Municipal Affairs may appoint an official administrator who has the powers of the council or ordering that the remaining councillors constitute a quorum. “The MGA clearly states that the meetings have to be public, press has to be allowed in the council chambers and they must to be able to record. The only time this is different is when council goes into camera.” Morrin council had a regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 18, but no information was posted on how or if the meeting would be held. The ECA Review sent a text message to Village of Morrin Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner Nov. 18 which went unanswered, this was followed by an email to Mayor Edwards the same day. Edwards responded at about 7:30 p.m. that night, half an hour after the meeting was supposed to have started. "There was no council meeting as we don’t have a designated councillor from Municipal Affairs,” stated Edwards in an email. "Maybe follow the Morrin Discussion Facebook page. Information gets posted there usually.” Several ECA Review staff members follow the social media page in question, and no information could be found about Morrin council meetings. However, it should be noted that Nov. 19 Edwards posted an explanation why the 2019 Financial Statements apparently still remain under review. During the discussion dated Nov. 19 Edwards stated, “To clarify some issues. The auditor is not only preparing the regular audit but has also been tasked with making sure all the tracking of expenses is up to date. “The old computer crashed and could no longer be upgraded. A new computer was purchased at an excellent price from a local source. "Now the auditor has made sure that the proper programs are in place and that the CAO is up to date on the software. “When we have a councillor in place appointed by Municipal Affairs we can then publish the finances of the Village and minutes, etc.” The next regular council is scheduled for Dec. 18.Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
One man was killed in an avalanche near Mackenzie, B.C., on Saturday, according to RCMP.Two people were snowmobiling in the Power King/Bijoux Falls area when the avalanche happened just before 2 p.m. PT. One of the snowmobilers was buried in the snow, according to a statement Monday.A search and rescue team, as well as avalanche-trained searchers from Prince George, B.C., later found the man dead.RCMP said he was 35 years old and originally from Dawson Creek, B.C. The second sledder was unhurt.The B.C. Coroner's Service is investigating the man's death. RCMP did not release any further details.A "significant" storm left up to 70 centimetres of fresh powder in the area on Saturday. Avalanche Canada said there were "very dangerous avalanche conditions" in the treeline and alpine at the time.
MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Monday he is relieved after an association of Quebec booksellers apologized for removing an online list of his reading recommendations.Legault shared some of his favourite books during a Facebook live video last week as part of a campaign by the Association des libraires du Quebec to promote Quebec literature during the COVID-19 pandemic.While Legault's video remained online, the association said it removed posts detailing the premier's book list on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter on Friday after receiving "a flood of comments.""My intention was never to hurt anyone or censor anything because that goes against the fundamental values of the association and our commitment to freedom of expression,” the group’s director, Katherine Fafard, said in a statement Monday.Fafard, who apologized for what she said was an error, did not say which of Legault’s recommendations drew the comments.A spokesman for the premier, Ewan Sauves, said the association received complaints about one of the titles Legault selected but did not confirm which book it was.The premier's list of 11 books included "Kukum" by Michel Jean, Dany Laferriere's "L'enigme du retour," and "L'empire du politiquement correct" by Mathieu Bock-Cote, a conservative author and columnist. On Sunday, Bock-Cote, whose book title translates as "The Empire of Political Correctness," accused the association of censorship for removing the premier's selections.Legault addressed the controversy Monday afternoon, saying in a Facebook post that he was at first angered and saddened by the decision but was relieved to see his list was back online."We cannot accept a handful of radical activists trampling on our freedom of expression to defend their diktats. That goes way too far," Legault wrote."The beauty of books is that there is room for all voices. Reading transports us to points of view that are sometimes far from our own, but always enrich us. It makes me sad to know that people in Quebec would like to take that away from us," he added.Legault also encouraged people to support Quebec authors, saying that was "the best response we can offer those who want to silence them."Ruba Ghazal, a member of the Quebec legislature with the left-of-centre Quebec Solidaire party, welcomed the association's decision to republish Legault's book list."It's a positive thing that the (premier) shares his readings with us and that we can debate them honestly and openly," Ghazal tweeted. She also suggested that if Legault "enjoys reading intellectuals," he should next pick up Mark Fortier's Melancolies Identitaires, a book that critiques Bock-Cote's work.The Association des libraires du Quebec has 134 members, primarily independent book shops.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, The Canadian Press
Montreal police say they'll step up their presence in the northeast of the city after four shootings in a five-hour span Sunday that left at least three people injured."Police officers from different units will be more visible on the ground to reassure the population while others carry out priority investigations to identify those responsible," the force said in a statement Monday. "These events underscore the importance of continuing to work on the gun violence that troubles our communities and undermines our sense of security."Police said no arrests had been made in connection with the attacks, which spanned roughly five hours beginning with a report of gunshots in Montreal North on Sunday evening around 5:30 p.m.Police found no victim but there was evidence of gunfire and shell casings near a parked car, and shortly afterwards a man in his 20s showed up in a hospital in serious condition requiring emergency surgery.About 9:30 p.m., first responders found a man in his 50s who was shot while parking his car at his home in the Riviere-des-Prairies district and was rushed to hospital.Just 10 minutes later, shots rang out in the parking lot of an apartment in the same neighbourhood, with a bullet striking a car that had at least one person in it before a suspect fled the scene.And at about 10:20 p.m., a man on his balcony was struck by bullet fired from ground level, leading to a man in his 20s being transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.Police said they would meet with residents in the area soon to discuss measures to better secure neighbourhoods.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
SAN DIEGO — The Navy said Monday that it will decommission a warship docked off San Diego after suspected arson this summer caused extensive damage, making it too expensive to restore.Fully repairing the USS Bonhomme Richard to warfighting capabilities would cost $2.5 billion to $3 billion and take five to seven years, said Rear Adm. Eric H. Ver Hage of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center.The amphibious assault ship burned for more than four days in July and was the Navy’s worst U.S. warship fire outside of combat in recent memory. The ship was left with extensive structural, electrical and mechanical damage.Restoring the 22-year-old ship for another use, perhaps as a hospital, would take almost as long as full restoration and cost $1 billion. Decommissioning the ship will take nine months to a year and cost $30 million, Ver Hage said.“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Navy Secretary Kenneth J. Braithwaite said. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her."Navy officials and industry experts studied the cost and schedule with an eye toward “the art of the possible,” Ver Hage told reporters. They considered the impact that restoration would have on other spending priorities.“The dollars definitely would disrupt our strategy for investment,” Ver Hage said.Arson is suspected in the July 12 fire, and a U.S. Navy sailor was questioned as a potential suspect, a senior defence official said in late August.The sailor was questioned as part of the investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, an official with knowledge of the investigation said in August. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to provide details not yet made public. The sailor was not detained.Ver Hage declined to comment Monday on the status of several investigations and he didn't give a timeline for their completion, saying they "will conclude when the time is right.”Ver Hage said about 60% of the ship would likely need to be replaced to have it fully restored, including the flight deck, mast and many levels directly below the flight deck.The ship will likely be decommissioned in San Diego. Crew members will be notified of reassignment.The Bonhomme Richard was nearing the end of a two-year upgrade estimated to cost $250 million when the fire started.About 160 sailors and officers were on board when the flames sent up a huge plume of dark smoke from the 840-foot (256-meter) amphibious assault vessel, which had been docked at Naval Base San Diego while undergoing the upgrade.Firefighters attacked the flames inside the ship while firefighting vessels with water cannons directed streams of seawater into the ship and helicopters made water drops.More than 60 sailors and civilians were treated for minor injuries, heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.Lawrence B. Brennan, a retired Navy captain and adjunct professor of law at Fordham Law School, said the decision to decommission was “inevitable and correct.”Aside from the ship's extensive damage and advanced age, evidence would have to be preserved for any prosecution, delaying repair work, he said. Defence attorneys would be entitled to examine the wreck for expert witnesses to testify at trial.Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Key elements from the federal government's fiscal update, delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland Monday afternoon:A boatload of borrowing. The federal deficit is sailing toward $381.6 billion this year, but could close in on $400 billion if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks, according to the fall economic statement. A big reason for that eye-popping sum is the total cost of Ottawa's response to COVID-19, which amounts to $490.7 billion. That also means more than $8 out of every $10 in federal and provincial support comes from the capital, down from $9 out of every $10 from the July fiscal snapshot.The "Netflix tax." For the first time, Netflix and other foreign streaming giants such as Amazon and Apple TV+ will be subject to sales tax in Canada, according to the fiscal update. The government says GST/HST will apply to all companies that provide digital services — which means Netflix and Airbnb would charge sales tax on subscriptions and reservations north of the border. While the European Union moved to tax digital platforms two years ago, Freeland said Canada is prepared to act "unilaterally if necessary."Work-from-home tax break. Employees working from home with "modest expenses" in 2020 can claim up to $400, based on time spent at the dining-room desk. Canadians can make the claim "without the need to track detailed expenses," and the tax man "will generally not request" confirmation from employers, the economic statement says.Increasing fiscal-stabilization payments. Responding to a call from provinces whose finances have taken a beating, the Liberals say they will increase the maximum payment under a program designed to help provincial governments deal with temporary economic shocks. The cap will go from $60 per resident, set in 1987, to $170 per person and increase with economic growth.Support the troops. The government is also proposing to sign off on an additional $600,000 to top up the Veterans Emergency Fund that would ensure more financial support for veterans whose well-being is at risk "due to an urgent and unexpected situation."All the wage. For businesses, the government wants to bring the wage subsidy back to 75 per cent of company payroll costs and extend the business rent subsidy to mid-March. The Trudeau government had previously extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to the summer, while the adapted business-rent subsidy — revised from a less popular iteration that hinged on landlord participation — was slated only to continue through the end of the year.Clean water for Indigenous communities. The government is pledging to invest $1.5 billion in 2020-21 to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, and $114 million each year after. The Liberals have maintained a years-long pledge to lift all outstanding boil-water advisories for Indigenous residents by March 2021. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that about 95 advisories had been lifted since the party came to power in 2015, but more than 60 remained the last time figures were updated before the pandemic.A $100-billion stimulus. The government plans to spend between $70 billion and $100 billion over the next three years to stimulate the economic recovery from COVID-19. The boon amounts to between three and four per cent of GDP, and will tilt toward a "greener, more innovative" bounce-back, though the details are to be determined.Get retrofit. Ottawa is aiming to dole out $2.6 billion over seven years to help homeowners make their digs more efficient, starting in 2020-21. The cash, channelled through Natural Resources Canada, would take the form of up to 700,000 grants of $5,000 or less to help with projects that could range from energy-efficient heating to solar-panel installations. The upcoming plan, with eligibility retroactive to December 2020, fulfils a Liberal election promise from last year.Cash for families. Looking to boost temporary support for parents, the Liberals plan to provide up to $1,200 per child under six years old for low- and middle-income families that are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, starting next year. The bump marks an increase of nearly 20 per cent above the benefit's current maximum payment.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — A former judge says she found widespread systemic racism in British Columbia's health-care system where extensive negative profiling of Indigenous patients affects treatment and care.Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said Monday she could not confirm allegations of an organized game to guess the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous patients in B.C. emergency departments, but found extensive harmful profiling of patients based on stereotypes about addictions and parenting. The former Saskatchewan provincial court judge and one-time children's advocate in B.C. was appointed by Health Minister Adrian Dix in June to investigate the guessing-game allegations and conduct a broader examination of Indigenous racism in provincial health care."Indigenous people consistently told us, and this was confirmed by the health-care workers who responded and the cases, that they are subjected to negative assumptions, negative assumptions based on prejudice, based on racism, based on beliefs that should not exist in our health-care system," Turpel-Lafond said at a news conference.She said 84 per cent of the review's Indigenous respondents reported some form of discrimination in health care and 52 per cent of Indigenous health-care workers said they experienced racial prejudice at work, mostly in the form of comments."Among the top negative assumptions that are circulating in our health-care system today is that Indigenous patients and people are less worthy," Turpel-Lafond said. "That they are alcoholics. That they're drug seeking."These negative assumptions lead to the denial and delay of patient services, and cause some people to stay away from hospitals to avoid further incidents of discriminatory treatment, she said.Indigenous people told the review they feared hospitals and would rather face uncertain health than return to get care, said Turpel-Lafond.The review heard from nearly 9,000 Indigenous patients, family members, third-party witnesses and health-care workers. It also examined the health-care data of about 185,000 First Nations and Metis patients.Turpel-Lafond's report makes 24 recommendations. They include bringing in measures and legislation to change behaviour and the appointment of three new positions to focus on the problem, including an Indigenous health officer and an associate deputy minister of Indigenous health.The report also said the government should work with Indigenous organizations to improve the patient complaint processes to address individual and systemic racism specifically experienced by Indigenous people, as well as create a new school of Indigenous medicine at the University of British Columbia.Dix said B.C. will work to implement the recommendations and the review's findings will be felt across the country."Racism is toxic for people and it's toxic for care," he said. "I want to make an unequivocal apology as the minister of health to those who have experienced racism in accessing health-care services in B.C., now and in the past."The First Nations Leadership Council, comprising several B.C. Indigenous organizations and Metis Nation B.C., called on the government to act."These are the voices of our families and our relatives and they have to be heard," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said in a statement. "They can no longer be silenced by a narrative of indifference and negligence and a culture of low expectations."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
The government unveiled a record deficit of $381 billion in its fiscal update, along with spending plans for more pandemic relief and a huge stimulus plan to jolt the economy post-pandemic.
EDMONTON — Aurora Cannabis Inc. says it is indefinitely pausing operations at one of its Alberta facilities and laying off a few dozen staff.The Edmonton-based cannabis company says the pause will occur at its Aurora Sun property in Medicine Hat, where it will layoff about 30 workers.Aurora spokeswoman Michelle Lefler says that the moves are expected to be complete around Dec. 18. She says the measures are part of a review the company is conducting to ensure all of its operations are a fit for its current and future business and to help the company adjust to recent shifts in the industry.Aurora's shares gained 11 per cent to $15.25 in Monday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.In June, the company laid off 700 workers and announced plans to cease operations at five facilities in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. It also said it planned to consolidate production and manufacturing at four facilities in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:ACB)The Canadian Press
ATLANTA — U.S. Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia has tested positive for COVID-19, making him the third Georgia congressman to contract the virus.Scott's chief of staff Jason Lawrence confirmed the positive test result in a statement on Monday and said the Republican is “following guidance from the House Attending Physician as well as his personal physician.”Scott represents Georgia's 8th District, which stretches through the interior of south Georgia. The statement from Lawrence did not say if Scott was experiencing symptoms.All three Georgia congressman who've tested positive for the virus have been Republicans.Rep. Rick Allen announced last week that he had tested positive for the virus.Rep. Drew Ferguson tested positive in October after experiencing mild symptoms. He had appeared at an indoor rally with Gov. Brian Kemp days before the November election, sending the Republican governor into quarantine. Kemp never tested positive.U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler had isolated after she got a positive COVID-19 test earlier this month, but later received two negative tests and quickly returned to public campaigning ahead of her Jan. 5 runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock.The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are keeping much of their roster in tact next season, but are still working to secure the services of two veterans long term. The 'Caps announced Monday that the club has picked up options on seven young players, including forward Theo Bair, midfielders Michael Baldisimo and Patrick Metcalfe, centre back Derek Cornelius, right back Jake Nerwinski, and goalkeepers Isaac Boehmer and Thomas Hasal.“We see for all of those players next steps and development in the future that makes us believe that they can be an important part of our MLS team, maybe not at the starting point of next season but in the long term," sporting director Axel Schuster said on a video call Monday.The 'Caps opted not to pick up an option for veteran midfielder Andy Rose. Schuster said both Rose and the club agreed the contract that the option would trigger wasn't the best fit. “We are now in an ongoing process to find a better deal or better construction of a contract for him in our club. But there’s no question that we would like to keep him," Schuster said, noting that Rose has been key helping to develop the club's young talent. Discussions also continue with forward Fredy Montero, whose contract runs out at the end of December. Schuster said he was in contact with Montero's agent on Monday morning. “I can tell you that our first idea of a new contract was not exactly the idea Fredy and his agent had. So that’s part of negotiations," Schuster said. "Everyone is a little bit fighting for his position. But I can tell you that the communication is very open.” Whitecaps staff are also working with David Milinkovic to try and find the winger a new team. If they can't find the 26-year-old French winger a new home, he will remain with the club, Schuster said. “He’s showed that he can help this team," he said. "If it ends in another way, this is nothing that concerns us or would be a bad scenario for us.”Milinkovic had a goal and four assists in 16 appearances for the Whitecaps last season. Vancouver has opted not to exercise its option on academy product Georges Mukumbilwa, and 'keeper Bryan Meredith has not been offered a new contract.The Whitecaps finished the season with a 9-14-0 record, missing the playoffs for the third year in a row. Schuster said he's happy that the club isn't overhauling the roster this off-season.“We are confident with this squad that we are able to make next steps," he said, adding that the 'Caps are still looking to bring in a few key pieces. “For this quality that we want to add, you are never alone in the market and it costs always a little bit more.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says that the pace of improvement in the economy has moderated in recent months with future prospects remaining “extraordinarily uncertain.”In remarks released by the Fed on Monday, Powell said that the increase in new COVID-19 cases both in the United States and abroad was “concerning and could prove challenging for the next few months. A full economic recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.”Powell said while progress on developing vaccines had been “very positive,” significant challenges remained regarding the timing, production and distribution of the vaccines, and it remained difficult to assess the economic implications of this process with any degree of confidence.Powell's remarks were prepared for a joint appearance he will make on Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin before the Senate Banking Committee. The hearing is part of the panel's oversight responsibilities required under the multi-trillion economic support legislation Congress passed in the spring..Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — The coronavirus pandemic’s widespread impact has reminded Las Vegas officials that they need to diversify their economy beyond tourism.There hasn't been a lack of trying but the need has been laid even more bare thanks to COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.With people afraid to enter hotels and casinos and residency shows postponed till next year, there have been wrenching job and revenue losses. Resort operators themselves have tried to broaden their offerings to all ages on casino and hotel floors. But it's not enough for some.“We've got all our money in one stock,” North Las Vegas City Manager Ryann Juden said.The region has successfully wooed many businesses and real estate developers in the last decade with tax breaks and a relatively cheap cost of living. Between 2010 and 2019, Nevada officials passed a combined $728.7 million in tax breaks for more than 180 companies setting up shop in Clark County. Southern Nevada has also become a distribution hub for online retailer Amazon, baby products maker The Honest Co. and other ventures that don't involve casinos.But there have also been ventures that fizzled. Faraday Future had proposed a 3.4 million-square-foot factory that would build up to 150,000 electric vehicles annually. Lawmakers even passed a $335 million incentive package. Faraday officials broke ground in 2016. But in 2017, the project went nowhere after reports of financial troubles. The company took over an existing facility in California instead.Some analysts say Southern Nevada still doesn't have the assets that some are looking for. Sin City's party image, underperforming schools and a shortage of doctors don't appeal to families.Bob Potts, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said a good jolt in the local economy would be some sort of industrial park south of Las Vegas near the California border.But, “you don’t build those kinds of things overnight," Potts said.The Associated Press
Local businesses are frustrated and exhausted as they weather the storm in Toronto’s second lockdown since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. The province announced Nov. 20 that Toronto and Peel were going into its Lockdown/Grey level of its pandemic response framework as of Nov. 23. The regions had seen continuous spikes of cases of COVID-19 since the end of summer, and hospitalizations and ICU admittance had drastically increased. But as the lockdown aims to reduce the spread of the virus, business owners in East Toronto are asking why big box stores are still permitted to remain open. “It’s just another hammer on the head,” Skaut Design owner Inese Korbs said. Her store on Kingston Road sells home decor, furniture, and other design products. Korbs doesn’t have the staff to move her inventory online for customers as a lot of her products are vintage pieces. “It’s another full-time job,” she said. Instead Korbs relies on “virtual visits” where people can phone in via video conference and she’ll walk them through the store. She said before the lockdown, while there were fewer visitors than normal years, individuals were buying more per visit. That came to a grinding halt last week. “The most difficult part is knowing that big box stores are allowed to operate,” Korbs said. “It’s kind of like they have different rules.” Walmart and Costco are some of the bigger chains permitted to open, while Amazon still remains ever popular for online shopping. It’s difficult to compete with bigger chains as it is, let alone if you can’t even stay open, Korbs said. Lita Yiu owns and operates the clothing store Set Me Free on Queen Street East. She expressed the same frustration that Korbs did about big box stores staying open. “If you really want to control the spread, shut down big box stores,” Yiu said. “I’m happy to have one or two customers allowed in the store at a time, we don’t have the same clout as big businesses, we can’t absorb the shock.” Yiu said she and her staff are uploading their inventory on e-commerce platforms online, but between all the clothing, accessories, and gifts, it’s a lot of work. “It’s tedious, it’s time consuming, and you don’t make much money. It’s not the same as walk-in.” However, Yiu and Korbs have been overjoyed by the local community’s support of their businesses. Before the lockdown, both business owners were receiving many local customers who were eager to support their neighbourhood businesses. “People came in, they expressed condolences, supported our store,” Korbs said of the weekend before the lockdown began. “The people in this neighbourhood are very supportive, and they’re going out of their way to help us.” It’s been the case throughout the pandemic, Yiu said. From the beginning to now, local customers have supported her. “They’re amazing,” she said. “They always try to shop local, especially after the first lockdown.” Like many small businesses across Canada, Yiu and Korbs have taken advantage of the federal government COVID-19 supports for businesses. It’s helped them with expenses such as rent and wages, but nothing will recover the loss of revenue in December and the anticipated holiday shopping seasons that so many retail businesses rely on. “The vast majority of small businesses adhere to the restrictions equally if not better than large chains,” Beach Village BIA executive director Anna Sebert said. “Most of the businesses on Queen Street can make a go of it with one or two people in the store at a time.” “Just because there are some bad apples, doesn’t mean all businesses should suffer,” she added. Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford agrees the “rules around some of the closures haven’t always made sense” regarding big box stores, but warns that the virus remains a threat. “There’s no doubt about it, the lockdown is taking a toll on all of us but we have to push through. It’s the only way out of this,” he said. “We’re all seeing the news of the businesses staying open in protest and people rallying against the closures. That’s concerning as it puts us all at risk, especially gathering in the way we’ve seen.” Bradford has received calls from local businesses asking if it is possible to ease up bylaw enforcement to allow some businesses to remain open. “I can understand the way they’re feeling,” he said. “We’re all tired, we’re hurting, but we have to follow the guidelines.” Cases have been among the lowest in the city for the Beach area, an achievement Bradford applauded as the community “is looking out for each other.” He said he’s making efforts to get relief for businesses from the federal and provincial governments. “What we need to focus on is getting the full weight of financial support possible for local businesses,” he said. “We also need clearer, fairer and more evenly applied rules if and when closures continue. City council doesn’t get to make these decisions – but we can elevate the voice of the impact they’re having on our communities and main streets.” Business owners say they understand the severity of the pandemic, and agree with most public health measures, but worry about local businesses in the community – especially restaurants, bars, and cafes. “I feel horrible for the restaurants,” Korbs said. “If they all survive that would be a miracle, their hands and feet are tied.”Ali Raza, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro News
The big takeaways for agriculture in Ontario’s behemoth $187 billion 2020 budget are funding for rural broadband infrastructure and the Agri-Food Prevention and Control Innovation Program. The provincial government has made available an additional $680 million across four years to bring reliable internet connectivity to rural and underserved areas of the province. “We look forward to seeing that infrastructure actually put in the ground,” said Peggy Brekveld, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s newly elected president. Over three years, the budget allots $25.5 million to the Agri-Food Prevention and Control Innovation Program. The cost-sharing funds are available for projects to mitigate disruptions to farm business from COVID-19 through technology. Brekveld said she believes the funds “will help us continue to find ways to innovate and invest in new technologies” to push back against COVID-19's effects on the sector. The budget reads that innovation funding will lead to “increased efficiencies and productivity” while supporting “resilience and long-term sustainability and growth in the agri-food sector.” Bill George, chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, also highlighted the innovation funding as the budget’s main appeal for the agri-food sector. “There’s not a lot really other than that,” he said. Only a small element of the budget, there’s also $5 million set out for Ontario’s struggling agricultural and horticultural societies. For the societies, who put on many of the province’s fall fairs (there are three in Niagara put on by agricultural societies) the funding is significant. Speaking to Niagara This Week for a November story on the funding, Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies manager, Vince Brennan, said he’s never seen anything like it before and called it the “single largest influx of dollars for our organizations.” For the 2020-21 fiscal year, a record provincial deficit of $38.5 billion is projected in the budget. Reflected as a percentage, the net debt of the deficit makes up 47 per cent of all of Ontario’s economic production or gross domestic production (GDP). Ontario’s GDP is also projected to fall 6.5 per cent during 2020. Two deficit outlook scenarios are presented, one for slow growth and another for faster. Under a fast growth projection, the provincial deficit by the 2022-23 fiscal year would decline to $21.3 billion. Under slow growth, the projection for the same period would be a decline to $33.4 billion. Currently, the 2020 budget projects the deficit to decline to $28.2 billion for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Of the total $187 billion in spending in the 2020 budget, $12.5 billion is forecasted to be spent on paying interest on government debt. There is also $2.5 billion being kept in reserve to weather any unforeseen circumstances. There was no plan presented to balance the multi-year budget, as is required by law, and the province will be seeking a pause on the requirement given the "volatile and uncertain economic situation” of the pandemic. The province plans to table a path to balance in the 2021 budget.Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week