Coldest of the air departing SASK and will linger in MAN until Thursday. Pacific ridging will bring some warmer air and flurries to finish the week
Coldest of the air departing SASK and will linger in MAN until Thursday. Pacific ridging will bring some warmer air and flurries to finish the week
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
Mark Nichols is taking mandatory Curling Canada isolation in stride ahead of the Brier. He's lapping it up, actually. On his second day of quarantine, he walked 5K in his Calgary hotel room. "12 steps from wall to door," he counted. "That's a lot of laps." It took the Olympian an hour, pacing past his bed, through the room's seating area, and back —something to keep moving while Team Gushue looks to win its fourth Brier in five years. "It's tough at times," Nichols said when asked how isolation will affect his mental game, adding he feels ready. "We've been preparing for this for a long time, whether it's visualization or meditation or anything like that," he said. "This team has done a lot to kind of get to this place. We're ready for it." 'We're ready for it' The Brier takes place from March 5 to March 14, but Team Gushue — the defending champions, playing as Team Canada — plans to bunker down for the curling season. There's mixed doubles, two grand slam events, and the world championships for whoever wins the Brier. Team Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue, left to right, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker hold the Brier Tankard trophy after defeating Team Alberta in the 2020 Brier curling final.(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) "It could be 55 days in this hotel and out on Day 56 if everything goes as planned." Nichols said, adding that with the required safety protocols, if the team were to win worlds, it wouldn't make sense to leave the hotel between tournaments. Curling Canada mandates two weeks of relative isolation for curlers and coaches in their home province before flying out to an event. For the last three days, people aren't allowed to leave their homes or have contact with their families. Teams have to test negative for COVID-19 four times: before arriving in the host city, upon arrival, the following day and, again, either two or three days after that. Participants have a check-in every day to disclose any symptoms. They're restricted to their individual hotel rooms and they're not allowed visitors. Teams each have a car. They're only permitted to drive to the rink and back. It's a minute-long drive and stopping anywhere other than the arena isn't allowed. Keeping up the 5K But once they're on the ice, Nichols said, the game will feel much the same. They're used to downtime between matches and hanging out in hotel rooms. This season will just be an extreme version of that, with more time spent doing hotel room laps. "If that's the worst thing that happens here, I have to walk 5K back and forth, and we're still winning, then that's a good thing to do," Nichols said. "If it distracts me from what's going on around, then that's a good thing." Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
China will increase its annual research and development spending by more than 7% every year over the next five years, the government wrote on Friday in its work report from the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress. The government will increase expenditure on basic research by 10.6% in 2021, the report added. The ramp-up highlights the country's commitment to advancing in the tech sector, as the country increasingly clashes with the United States and other countries over technology policy.
There were 31 new COVID-19 cases in the Terrace local health area (LHA) between Feb. 21 and Feb. 27, according to the latest data published by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). That is five fewer cases than the week before. There is one more case in the Northern Health region with missing address information. The Terrace (LHA), which includes Kitselas, Thornhill, and Kitsumkalum, continues to have one of the highest average daily rates per 100,000 people in B.C., along with several other LHAs in the northwest. The Nass Valley also has a high rate per 100,000 people, with four new cases. Those BCCDC figures for the Nass Valley may not match numbers self-reported by the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority (NVHA), due to differences in how the two organizations track cases. There were 73 new cases in the Prince Rupert LHA, 32 on Haida Gwaii, and seven in the Kitimat LHA. The week previous, there were no cases within the Kitimat LHA. All of the LHAs in B.C. with an average daily rate of greater than 20 per 100,000 people are in the northwest except for Merritt, Vancouver - Centre North and Bella Coola Valley. There was a COVID-19 exposure notice issued for Air Canada flight 8240 from Vancouver to Terrace on Feb. 26, according to the BCCDC’s list of flight exposures. Rows eight to 14 were affected. Northern Health has listed a Feb. 19 exposure at Caledonia Secondary School and a Feb. 22 to Feb. 23 exposure at Skeena Middle School on its public exposures and outbreaks webpage. As of Feb. 25, 33 residents and 23 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert. Fourteen residents of the long term care facility have died in association with the outbreak, which was first declared on Jan. 19. According to a Northern Health information bulletin, the outbreak is considered stable, and full outbreak measures remain in place. Officials from Pretivm Resources updated Terrace city council on the COVID-19 outbreak at its Brucejack Mine on March 4. As of that date, seven individuals were in isolation at the mine site, and the last case associated with the outbreak was discovered on Feb. 21 according to Greg Norton, vice president, environmental and regulatory affairs. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
The Stevenson Memorial Hospital Foun-dation and the Gibson Centre are partnering to create an “Idol style’ music competition to showcase local artists’ talent. The competition, dubbed Raise Your Voice will raise funds for community health care and the arts in Simcoe County and the surrounding area. A portion of the proceeds will support critical needs at SMH and the Arts and Cultural Programming at the Gibson Centre.Amateur performers from Simcoe County and surrounding area are encouraged to compete in the music competition. The top three artists selected through public voting will perform at the Raise Your Voice virtual concert on June 3, 2021. A first-place winner will be chosen. The final winner will take home a grand prize valued at over $1,000. The judges for the final competition will include three well-known artists. Marshall Dane, Male Artist of the Year at the CMAO Awards, for five years in a row, will be joined by blues vocalist Erin McCallum, and up and coming singer/songwriter Sophia Fracassi, to make the final decision. All three will also be headlining performances at the virtual concert. Tickets for Raise Your Voice – Virtual Concert will go on sale on March 15, 2021. You can enjoy a full line-up of local musicians and the grand finale of the competition from the comfort of your home. The competition will accept submissions from artists from February 11 through to March 14, 2021. Tickets will be available on March 15. The final virtual concert and competition grand finale will take place on June 3.Some funds raised will go toward the SMH Foundation’s Because of You, We Can campaign. This is the most significant fundraiser the in the Foundation’s history. Of the $43 million goal, $30 million rep-resents the community share of the hospital’s redevelopment project which includes doubling the square footage of the hospital and tripling the amount of parking space. A revitalized emergency department, re-freshed out-patient rooms, birthing suites, and laboratory space are also included in the plans. You can learn more about the Raise Your Voice competition by visiting them on-line at www.raiseyourvoiceconcert.ca. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the "geopolitical winds swirling around" Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng's legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. "With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians," Frater said Thursday. He made the comments in response to claims from Meng's legal team that Trump's words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings. Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would "certainly intervene" if he thought it was necessary. Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny. Her lawyers allege Trump's comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings. It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May. "Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it," Frater told the judge. "We're confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion." On Wednesday, Meng's team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China. Huawei's success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an "existential threat" to the United States and Meng's case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to "debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei," her lawyer Richard Peck said. Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a "threat to the security of the U.S.," Peck said. "This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today," he said. Frater, representing Canada's attorney general, sought to redirect the judge's attention Thursday. There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng's argument doesn't pass it, he said. The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused's right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn't a "powerless" person. Someone with "the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual," Frater said. Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng's celebrity makes her a "higher value target" for interference, adding that a person's resources shouldn't affect how they are treated by the court. Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump's failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. "This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there's been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it," Frater said. The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. "They've had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The lawyer for a pastor accused of holding Sunday services that ignored COVID-19 rules says his client should be released from jail and be free to lead worshippers until his trial. James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for more than two weeks and is appealing his bail conditions. Queen's Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn is to make a decision Friday. Coates is charged with violating Alberta's Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence. The judge noted that Coates did not want the publication ban that is normally imposed on bail hearings. Coates's lawyer, James Kitchen, told the judge that his client can't follow a bail condition that forbids holding church services, because that would violate the pastor's conscience by disobeying God. "Imposing upon a pastor the condition of his release that he not pastor ... that is an embarrassment to the courts," Kitchen told Michalyshyn. "This is a matter of deep, deep personal conscience and personal beliefs. He is compelled to obey the God he loves, he believes, as are his congregants." Kitchen said it should be determined whether Coates's charter rights are being violated before he is jailed. "We are putting the cart before the horse, doing things backwards," he said. If the pastor does not agree to bail conditions, he could remain in jail for two months until his trial begins in May, Kitchen added. The public health prosecutor, who asked the court to be addressed only by her title because she is concerned for her safety, argued that the pastor's release is a danger to the public. "The one condition that was imposed is directly related to the behaviours that come under the prohibition of the Public Health Act orders," she said. The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing. More than 50 people were gathered outside an Edmonton courthouse with their family and children to pray for Coates during the hearing today. They held a banner that read #freejamescoates. GraceLife Church has continued to hold services, even though Coates is in jail. Many gathered again on the weekend as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation. "Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,'' the Mounties said in a news release. "The Parkland RCMP remain engaged in continued consultations with several partner agencies to determine the most productive course of action in relation to the church.'' Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates had been addressing the province's health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
American midfielder Johnny Cardoso scored his first senior goal for Internacionale, tying the score in the 30th minute of a 2-2 draw at Pelotas on Thursday night in Brazil's Campeonato Gaúcho, the first tier of Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul. The 19-year-old, born in Denville Township, New Jersey, scored on a snapped header from about 8 yards off a cross from Guilherme Pato following a corner kick to tie the score 1-1. Cardoso made his U.S. national team debut in November at Wales and also played against Panama later that month, both times as a second-half substitute. He was among 35 players picked Monday for the U.S. training roster ahead of Olympic qualifying in the North and Central American region. The U.S. opens against Costa Rica on March 18 at Guadalajara, Mexico. Twenty players will be on the final Olympic qualifying roster. Players must be born on Jan. 1, 1997, or later to be eligible for qualifying. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Gananoque and the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands are again asking local businesses for their business chronicles. The fourth edition of the project aims to showcase local businesses through social media, websites and investment campaigns. Any business, whether home-based, just starting out or well established, is welcomed to apply, said Amanda Trafford, business development co-ordinator for the town of Gananoque. "What we are doing is using the businesses to tell the story of our communities," she said. The chronicles are funded by the Rural Economic Development (RED) program through the provincial ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Along with having the businesses advertised on social media, the information and website catalogue is also used to attract new businesses to the area. "Like every other community we are trying to attract new business," said Trafford. "By using our businesses, we can tell the story of why it’s good to do business here." Trafford said the chronicles are another way to showcase a positive quality of life for a business despite being in a rural setting. Terri Dawson, the owner of the Green Gecko shop in Lyndhurst, said she also took away that the chronicle is about showing off the community. "You're not always trying to push advertising," said Dawson. "What you're trying to say is look at this great business community we have here. "You could be a part of this too." The businesses involved will also receive a free professional photograph for their use in promoting the business, something Dawson said was greatly welcomed. "I really appreciated that I was given a print-quality copy of the photo because I've used it in other promotion of my business," she said. "Most businesses are not budgeting for a professional photo of you taken so it's a real bonus." Dawson, who was a part of the first round of business chronicles, said she found the process simple and straightforward. "Because you're the one filling out the information… you make sure that you are highlighting the things you really feel are important," said Dawson, whose store sells items "from down the road and around the world." McKenna Modler, project coordinator for RED, said that over 30 businesses have been chronicled in the first three editions, dating back to 2018. Each business is found on either the town or township's chronicles webpage, depending on the location of the business. Modler said if a business is interested in joining the chronicles, the owners can email her at email@example.com or visit either the town or township versions of the chronicles webpage. The deadline is March 31. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
Despite a closure for public access, all is not lost for the 150-year-old Springfield House and Escott Hall. Following a committee of the whole meeting Monday evening, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands and the Friends of the Springfield House Complex both say they are comfortable with where the issue is currently regarding the two buildings in the township. Last Thursday, the township released a long-awaited report that cited structural issues in its recommendation that council close public access to the two buildings located on County Road 2. The report also recommended that council direct staff to initiate the process for the consideration of declaring the two buildings surplus, a move that would allow the township to place the buildings on the market. However, township officials stressed they are a long way from placing the two buildings up for sale and it is not the goal of the township to sell the historical buildings. "We recognize the significance of the properties," said Stephen Donachey, the township's chief administrative officer. "This isn't going to be a consultation period that is very abbreviated… we want a fulsome discussion with the public." Most on council said it is not their preference to have the buildings put up for sale, but that time is of the essence to get something done with them due to their condition. Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke said the issue is at a critical period due to the condition of the buildings. "The conditions of the buildings are what they are today because everybody has sort of pushed this around and pushed it to the side," she said. Robert Burtch, chairman of the Friends of the Springfield House Complex committee, gave a presentation Monday before councillors discussed the matter. He says he is happy with the outcome of the meeting and thinks that the current mood of council is in favour of at least one of the buildings being saved. "We have to focus on what we can do now and if we've got the goodwill of the council with us, that's all we care about right now and we need to act on it," said Burtch. During his presentation, Burtch suggested to council that a historical engineer assess the buildings to get an accurate dollar figure on potential restoration costs. Smith-Gatcke said she is on board with having a more updated and historical assessment of the buildings. Along with the option to begin consideration of the buildings being surplus, the other two options presented to the committee were to repair the two buildings or close them for demolition. Nobody on the committee considered levelling the buildings, due in part to their historical nature. Springfield House was built in 1871 and is one of the oldest still-intact buildings in the township. Following restoration in the 1980s, the house served as the township public library until 2016. Both buildings have been given historical designations, which do limit potential outcomes and options for the township. Another limiting issue is the archives. The Escott Hall serves as the home for the archives of the township. Due to the nature of belongings in the archives, the space they can be kept in is limited. Further, the process for moving the archives would require experts and would not come cheap, said Burtch. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
BEIJING — China is increasing its defence spending by 6.8% in 2021 as it works to maintain a robust upgrading of the armed forces despite high government debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A national budget report issued Friday said China would spend 1.355 trillion yuan ($210 billion) on defence in the coming year. That’s up from 1.3 trillion yuan ($180 billion) last year representing a 6.6% boost, the lowest percentage increase in at least two decades. The military budget has dipped during periods of slower economic growth, but has also been dropping steadily from the double-digit percentage increases over years as the increasingly powerful military matures and rapid expansion of what is already the world’s second largest defence budget is no longer required. The lavish spending increases of years past have given China the second-largest defence budget in the world behind the U.S. With 3 million troops, the world’s largest standing military has been steadily adding aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighters to its arsenal. The government says most of the spending increases go toward improving pay and other conditions for troops while observers say the budget omits much of China’s spending on weaponry, most of it developed domestically. China’s military is largely designed to maintain its threat to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, although it has also grown more assertive in the South China Sea, the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and elsewhere. The U.S., whose defence spending is estimated to run to about $934 billion between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, has complained of a lack of transparency in China's defence programs, fueling speculation that Beijing aims to supplant America as the primary military power in East Asia. The People's Liberation Army exercises a strong political role as the military branch of the ruling Communist Party. President and party leader Xi Jinping heads the government and party commissions that oversee the armed forces. In his address to Friday's opening session of the ceremonial legislature, the National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said the government would “thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the armed forces and the military strategy for the new era, (and) ensure the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces." “We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security, and development interests of our country" Li said. The Associated Press
Thursday was the first day Londoners 80 and older living in the community could get the COVID-19 vaccine. The shots — coming nearly one year since Ontario first announced COVID-19 lockdowns — mark a milestone in the battle against the pandemic. Here’s what some Londoners had to say after getting their first dose: “I feel secure,” he said after the jab. “I was most concerned about my wife,” who got her first dose just hours before. While it’s good news, Loubert knows life won’t be back to normal soon. “My biggest thing is following the health rules . . . Until everyone is vaccinated, we’re not safe.” “I’m relieved . . . I’d been trying for two days to get through” to book an appointment, she said. “I’m glad to get the process started. They’re doing a fantastic job.” “We’ve spent three mornings trying to book,” Maureen said, with the couple finally booking last-minute slots Thursday morning. “We’re really, really pleased. We need it.” As for Gary, how he's feeling was summed up in one word: “good.” “I’m glad. I’m so glad. And to get it so early.” “I was lucky. I saw a couple of blanks this morning (in the booking) and jumped in.” As for after the shot, Friesen said he was "feeling OK." But it's still a mystery what life will look like once he's fully vaccinated. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll have to see what they say.” “I’m relieved. It was a long time coming,” she said. She doesn't expect life to change too much, even after she gets the second dose. “I’ll still keep my mask on and follow the rules.” “I’m delighted, relieved, excited,” he said. Henderson is eagerly awaiting the rest of the world to get inoculated so he can return to one of his favourite pastimes: travel. Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
With restrictions still in place for large gatherings of people, the Tottenham & Beeton District Chamber of Commerce is making the best of the current situation by moving some of their events to a virtual format. By going on-line, the TBDCC can still keep people connected while promoting the local business com-munity. VIRTUAL HOME SHOW & ARTISAN MARKET The TBDCC’s annual Spring Home Show which usually takes place in March, will be going on-line. Since restrictions regarding gatherings will likely still be in place, it is not practical to plan an indoor show. Instead, the Board of Directors decided to move to a virtual format this year. Local businesses and vendors will still be able to showcase their prod-ucts and services, just in a different format. The good side of this means more businesses will be able to participate and members of the public don’t have to commit to a specific day to attend the show. Businesses and services will also be showcased for a longer period of time. Launch date for the virtual Home Show and Artisan Market is April 17.Registration information will be available on the TBDSS website. TBDCC ONLINE LEARNING SERIES The TBDCC is presenting an op-portunity for local businesses to share their expertise and promote their products and services. This gives members and non-mem-bers the opportunity to take part in workshops on a variety of different subjects. The first workshop will take place on Friday, March 12, at 1:00 p.m. and will feature Devin Merkac, from 92.1 myFM radio. He will discuss the benefits of radio advertising. Also featured over the next few weeks will be investment basics, with Horan & Associates, Wills & Power of Attorney with lawyer Jerry Switzer, Understanding real estate listing agreements with Peter Barbati of First Choice Realty, thriving after COVID with Tonia Salvaterra of DinoLand, Gypsy Moth Control with Meadowood Tree Services, and PLUS Lifestyle workshops on topics like photography and wellness. Fees are $20.00 for non TBDCC members and free for members. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Baldy Mountain Resort is again speaking out against snowmobilers who use the ski hill as their own personal playground after an incident occurred while WorkSafe BC was conducting an inspection on the mountain. WorkSafe BC was on site following the death of a 70-year-old employee on Feb. 26 and during that inspection on Feb. 28 “snowmobilers came over the top of the hill and ripped down Burn Baby Burn right in front of them,” Baldy resort stated in a Facebook post Thursday. Motorized recreational vehicles using the mountain has been a longstanding issue at Mount Baldy. “It’s been an issue since Baldy re-opened. In the past two years we’ve been pushing the point of non-authorized, motorized vehicles are not permitted on the foot trails or on the hill,” said Caroline Sherrer, operations manager at Baldy. Not only does the unauthorized use of motor vehicles wreck the trails, keeping the Snowcat busy and unable to groom other trails, snowmobilers on the mountain are a safety issue, Sherrer said. “It’s also a danger. There are people out there walking, doing snowshoeing at moonlight at night. Sometimes you can’t hear these snowmobiles when they are in the trees and they come around a corner,” Sherrer said. Signs posted at all access points on the mountain make it clear motorized vehicles are not allowed, and barriers erected at Baldy entry points have been taken down in the past. “We had our investigators up here and (the snowmobilers) literally didn’t go down the Baldy trail they cut across and went up another trail right in front of the investigators. There are signs posted in every access point, they’ve been torn down. Barriers have been destroyed and we have to rebuild them. It’s destructive, it’s trespassing and it’s vandalism, plain and simple,” Sherrer said. “We don’t want someone to get hurt. That’s the reason we have been so adamant about this. We just don’t want to see a tragedy on the hill again.” Sherrer said there is an ongoing discussion in local snowmobiling groups that believe recreational vehicles have the right to access the land. “They feel they have a right to be on the hill because it’s ‘Crown land,’ but this is a recreational area that we have boundary access to, and we are the ones who are liable and responsible for this area,” Sherrer said. “We have spoken to the RCMP about it. They’re willing to come up, but need proof. Unfortunately, we don’t always get that proof or if we get proof it’s not clear enough prove who it is.” There are incidents of snowmobilers using the mountain three or four times a month during the ski season, Sherrer said, noting the latest incident, which occurred in front of WorkSafe BC inspectors was “especially egregious.” “It’s regularly. Would I say every week? No. But I would say probably at least three or four times a month. This week alone was twice,” Sherrer said. “This is a huge safety issue for us.” Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
OTTAWA — With a federal budget in the offing, premiers are stepping up the pressure on Ottawa to immediately boost health-care funding by at least $28 billion a year.They held a virtual news conference Thursday to reiterate their demand for a big increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.Starting this year, they want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.During a virtual first ministers' meeting in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers he recognizes the need for the federal government to eventually shoulder a bigger share of health-care costs. But he said that must wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent the federal deficit on track to exceed an unprecedented $381 billion as Ottawa doles out emergency aid, including at least $1 billion for vaccines and $25 billion in direct funding to the provinces to, among other things, bolster their health systems.Quebec Premier Francois Legault, chair of the premiers' council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are "non-recurring." He pointed to studies that suggest the federal government could quickly eliminate its deficit, and even return to surplus, once the pandemic is over while provinces would be mired in debt.The premiers argued they need stable, predictable, long-term funding for their health systems, which were already under strain before the pandemic hit and will be even more stressed once it's over and they must deal with the backlog of delayed surgeries, tests and other procedures.Manitoba's Brian Pallister said wait times have been a problem for decades and are destined to get worse as Canada's population ages. But he said the pandemic has made "a bad situation much, much worse.""The post-pandemic pileup is coming and it's real and its impact on Canadians and their families and their friends is real too," he warned. "The time is now to address this issue and to address it together."Pallister accused Trudeau of ignoring the problem of wait-times and the real life-threatening impact on people. Five years ago, he said he told Trudeau a true story about a woman with a lump in her breast who had waited for tests and referral to a specialist, only to be told in the end that it was "too bad we couldn't have caught this sooner.""He looked across the table at me and said, 'I'm not your banker,'" Pallister said."We don't need a banker. We need a partner."Trudeau has offered to give provinces immediate funding for long-term care homes, provided they agree to some national standards. Long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of deaths from COVID-19.But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa's latest offer would provide just $2,500 per person in long-term care — a drop in the bucket compared to the $76,000 it costs his province each year for every long-term care resident."The math doesn't work," he said.Legault ruled out conditional transfers for long-term care altogether as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. He said each province and territory has its own health-care priorities and their "jurisdiction must absolutely be respected."When universal health care was adopted in Canada, British Columbia's John Horgan said the cost was originally shared 50-50 between Ottawa and the provinces. The steadily declining federal share has led to ever more challenges in delivering health care, exacerbated now by the pandemic."Our public health-care system is at risk," Horgan warned."COVID has brought (the challenge) into graphic light. It's stark, it's profound and we need to take action."Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said Canadians deserve a well-funded health system "that is supported by both levels, both orders of government in this nation, not one that is propped up by almost entirely by the provinces and territories."Trudeau's minority Liberal government is poised to table a budget this spring, which could theoretically result in the defeat of his government should opposition parties vote against the budget. Legault said premiers have already talked to opposition parties to solicit their support for their health funding demand. He said the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the demand, while the Conservatives agree in principle with the need to increase the health transfer but have not specifically agreed to the $28-billion figure.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Elections for Hong Kong's legislature will likely be deferred for a second year to September 2022 as Beijing plans a major overhaul of the city's electoral system, a severe blow to remaining hopes of democracy in the global financial hub. The delay, which the South China Morning Post and other local media reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources, would be in line with a new effort by Beijing to ensure "patriots" are in charge of all public institutions in the former British colony. The National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, will pass the changes at its annual session which opened on Friday and will last a week.
Avalanche Canada, Parks Canada and Alberta Parks have issued a joint avalanche warning for a large portion of Alberta’s mountain parks. As Jackie Wilson reports, recent warm weather has created the dangerous conditions.
A family is raising concerns about decisions made at a private living facility dealing with an outbreak of a COVID-19 variant and a mouse infestation. Rose Zennick's 94-year-old father lives at Churchill Manor in southeast Edmonton. She says restrictions were loosened too soon. Her father tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday — the same day he received the vaccine. "With them knowing that the vaccine was coming within a two-week period, they should have waited," Zennick said Thursday at a news conference hosted by the NDP. "I'm so angry and frustrated and disappointed. I'm very concerned for my dad. He's scared right now. He has no symptoms, but his doctor told me to get ready." Emails shared with CBC show residents were informed the facility eased safety measures on Feb. 16, allowing residents to gather in groups of five, though with masks and social distancing. Residents were also allowed to visit with two family members indoors. Four days later, families were informed residents would receive their vaccinations on March 1. On Feb. 26, a resident tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then 32 residents and 4 staff have tested positive with at least 19 of those people infected by a highly contagious variant, the operator Atria said. The patients are being cared for by nurses with Alberta Health Services who are on site. NDP labour critic Christina Gray raised concerns about the mouse infestation at the facility at the news conference. She showed photos taken by a family member of mouse droppings and torn shavings. "We're asking for the government to make sure that the seniors in our community are being cared for, that they are living in hygienic condition [and] getting the support they need during this outbreak," Gray said. Health officials say they have been supporting Churchill Manor since Monday but, as an independent residence, the facility is not contracted to Alberta Health Services. AHS is working with the operator Atria to bring in pest control, the department said.
Pressure is mounting on the federal government to cap interest rates on payday money lenders, which can charge nearly 50 per cent interest. Advocates say it’s often the most financially vulnerable using them and the pandemic economy has made things worse.