Washington increases security to prepare for potential violence leading up to Joe Biden's inauguration, while more ugly details emerge about the white nationalist mobs that rampaged Capitol Hill last week.
Washington increases security to prepare for potential violence leading up to Joe Biden's inauguration, while more ugly details emerge about the white nationalist mobs that rampaged Capitol Hill last 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.
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.
WASHINGTON — House Democrats passed the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide, avoiding a potential clash with moderates in their own party who were wary of reigniting the “defund the police” debate they say hurt them during last fall's election. Approved 220-212 late Wednesday, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is named for the man whose killing by police in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked demonstrations nationwide. It would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement while creating national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability, and was first approved last summer only to stall in the then-Republican controlled Senate. The bill is supported by President Joe Biden. “My city is not an outlier, but rather an example of the inequalities our country has struggled with for centuries,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who represents the Minneapolis area near where Floyd died. Floyd’s family watched the emotional debate from a nearby House office building and said “defunding the police” is not what the legislation is about. “We just want to be treated equal. We just want to deescalate situations,” said Brandon Williams, Floyd’s nephew. “We want to feel safe when we encounter law enforcement. We’re not asking for anything extra. We’re not asking for anything that we don’t feel is right.” Democrats hustled to pass the bill a second time, hoping to combat police brutality and institutional racism after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans following interactions with law enforcement — images of which were sometimes jarringly captured on video. But the debate over legislation turned into a political liability for Democrats as Republicans seized on calls by some activists and progressives to “defund the police” to argue that supporters were intent on slashing police force budgets. Though this bill doesn't do that, moderate Democrats said the charge helped drive Democratic defeats in swing districts around the country last November. “No one ran on ‘defund the police,’ but all you have to do is make that a political weapon,” said Teas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar. Republicans quickly revived the “defund the police” criticisms before the vote. “Our law enforcement officers need more funding not less,” Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis. Still, even the House’s more centrist lawmakers, some representing more conservative districts, ultimately backed the bill. “Black Americans have endured generations of systemic racism and discrimination for too long, and this has been painfully evident in their treatment by law enforcement,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, who chairs the moderate New Democrat Coalition. That endorsement came despite the bill’s prohibitions on so-called qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement from certain lawsuits and is one of the main provisions that will likely need to be negotiated in any compromise with the Senate. Another possible point of contention is provisions easing standards for prosecution of law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing. Police unions and other law enforcement groups have argued that, without legal protections, fear of lawsuits will stop people from becoming police officers — even though the measure permits suits only against law enforcement agencies, rather than all public employees. California Rep. Karen Bass, who authored the bill, understands the challenge some House members face in supporting it. “My colleagues, several of them, I do not make light of the difficulty they had getting reelected because of the lie around defunding the police,” Bass said. She called provisions limiting qualified immunity as well as those changing standards for prosecution “the only measures that hold police accountable — that will actually decrease the number of times we have to see people killed on videotape.” Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci released a statement on behalf of the Floyd family saying the House was “responding to the mandate issued by thousands of Americans who took to the streets last summer to raise their voices for change.” “This represents a major step forward to reform the relationship between police officers and communities of colour and impose accountability on law enforcement officers whose conscious decisions preserve the life or cause the death of Americans, including so many people of colour,” Crump and Romanucci said. “Now we urge the Senate to follow suit.” That may be a taller order. Even though Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, it seems unlikely the bill could pass the Senate without substantial changes to win GOP support. Bass acknowledged the challenges Democrats faced last November — and may likely see again — when former President Donald Trump's reelection campaign and other leading Republicans crowded the airwaves with images of cities around the country burning. But she said those attacks, like much of the opposition to the bill, are built on racism, promoting fears about how “the scary Black people are going to attack you if you try to rein in the police.” “That's as old as apple pie in our history,” she said. “So do you not act because of that?” Still, Bass conceded that changes are likely to come if the measure is to win the minimum 60 votes it will need to advance in the Senate, which is now split 50-50. She said she'd been in contact with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, and was confident he would help deliver some GOP support. Scott said this week that the legislation's sticking points were qualified immunity and prosecutorial standards and that in both areas, “We have to protect individual officers.” “That's a red line for me,” Scott said, adding, “Hopefully we'll come up with something that actually works.” ___ Lisa Mascaro contributed. Will Weissert And Padmananda Rama, The Associated Press
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
IQALUIT, Nunavut — COVID-19 infections rose sharply in Arviat on Thursday, but Nunavut's top doctor said there is no sign of uncontrolled spread and numbers are declining overall. The community on the western shore of Hudson Bay tallied 10 new illnesses to bring the active case count to 14. Arviat's population of about 2,800 has been under a strict lockdown since November. Schools and non-essential businesses are closed and travel is restricted. A state of emergency was declared Feb. 24 and there's a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said there is no evidence of community transmission. "If things continue on this way, we can look at working with the hamlet to ease some of the measures next week," he said. Arviat is the only place in the territory where COVID-19 is active. It has had higher numbers than anywhere else in Nunavut since the pandemic began — 325 of 369 total cases. Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat, said the overall weekly decline is "still encouraging." Last week, there were 25 cases. "We should expect that case numbers will vary day to day," he said. Two COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been held in Arviat. The second one was dedicated to administering second doses. Patterson said there is no evidence of "vaccine failure" in Arviat. "A failure ... would be getting new COVID (cases) two weeks or more after a vaccination." Health experts say it takes about 14 days for the COVID-19 vaccines to take effect. Patterson said his department is not releasing community-specific vaccination numbers and would not say how many people in Arviat have been vaccinated. To date, 8,628 of Nunavut's 39,000 residents have received one dose of the vaccine and 5,125 have had two shots. The territory has received 26,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine so far. Nunavut's original goal was to have its vaccine rollout completed by the end of March, but Patterson said that will be extended into April. The territory initially faced some delays in vaccine shipments, he said. "As the vaccine supply ramps up, we're now into the stage where that's no longer an issue. Staff will be able to go much faster and much more efficiently starting now." John Main, Arviat's member of the legislature, is urging the government to provide isolation spaces for infected residents who live in overcrowded housing 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 Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press
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.
Inside, Kazuyoshi Sasaki carefully dials his late wife Miwako's cellphone number, bending his large frame and cradling the handset. He explains how he searched for her for days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami a decade ago, visiting evacuation centres and makeshift morgues, returning at night to the rubble of their home. Sasaki's wife was one of nearly 20,000 people in northeastern Japan killed by the disaster that struck on March 11, 2011.
MIAMI — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state health officials came under deeper scrutiny amid revelations that seniors in a wealthy enclave in Key Largo received hundreds of life-saving vaccinations as early as mid -January, giving ammunition to critics who say the Republican governor is favouring wealthy constituents over ordinary Floridians. The revelations were the latest example of wealthy Floridians getting earlier access to coronavirus vaccines, even as the state has lagged in efforts to get poorer residents vaccinated. DeSantis pushed back Thursday, saying a local hospital — not the state — was behind the vaccinations of more than 1,200 residents of the exclusive Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, and that the state “wasn't involved in it in any shape or form.” Despite the governor's denials of quid pro quos, the charges of favouritism were amplified by money pouring into the governor's campaign coffers from wealthy benefactors with ties to communities awarded vaccination sites — like the one in Key Largo. One resident of Ocean Reef, Republican former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, last week gave the Florida governor's campaign committee $250,000. Revelations about Ocean Reef residents getting vaccinated were first reported by the Miami Herald. The inequitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines is becoming a public relations challenge for the governor. As of Wednesday, nearly 3.3 million Floridians had received at least one shot of the two-step vaccination process, about three-quarters of them 65 or older. But less than 6% have been Black — about a third of their share of the state's population. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joined Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in calling for federal officials to probe the DeSantis administration’s vaccine distribution programs. “If this isn’t public corruption, I don’t know what is,” Fried said Thursday at a press conference in the Florida Capitol, calling on the FBI's public corruption to launch an investigation. “Give campaign contributions big dollars, get special access to vaccines -- ahead of seniors, ahead of our teachers, ahead of our farmworkers and so many of our residents here in our state of Florida who are scared and who are wanting these vaccines.” Citing reporting from the Herald, Fried noted that DeSantis in February had his biggest fundraising haul since 2018, when he was running for governor. In asking the U.S. Department of Justice to look into matter, Crist, a former Florida governor, asserted last week that DeSantis were benefiting "political allies and donors, over the needs of higher-risk communities and existing county waitlists.” Both Crist and Fried are considering campaigns to oppose DeSantis in next year's gubernatorial election. Other Florida Democrats, including the top Democrat in the state Senate, Gary Farmer, joined in the call for a federal investigation. "The exchange of hard-to-get vaccines for political contributions is nothing short of criminal," Farmer said in a letter dashed off to acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson. During a Thursday news conference, DeSantis expressed no misgivings about the early vaccinations at the exclusive Key Largo community. “If you are 65 and up, I am not worried about your income bracket," he said. “I am worried about your age bracket because it’s the age, not the income, that shows the risk.” A spokesperson for the governor called the controversy “a manufactured narrative with political motivations.” “Leadership matters and because of Governor Ron DeSantis’ commitment to ensuring vaccine access to all seniors – regardless of background, income or zip code – millions of seniors have received the vaccine, resulting in over 50 per cent of our state’s senior population being vaccinated, the highest in the nation,” said the spokesperson, Meredith Beatrice. The Republican Party of Florida came to the governor’s defence, calling the controversy “another bogus conspiracy theory.” “It doesn’t matter what party you belong to, whether you are rich or poor, if you qualify for the vaccine, you can get a vaccine,” said Helen Aguirre Ferre, the state party’s executive director. The Ocean Reef Club, a senior community in Key Largo, had more than 1,200 homeowners vaccinated through their second dose by late January, according to a message to community members by the management obtained by the Miami Herald. Those vaccinations came at a time when “the majority of the state has not received an allocation of first doses,” the management noted. Officials from Monroe County, home to Key Largo, said the affluent club’s medical centre received the vaccines through the Baptist Health hospital as part of the governor’s program to vaccinate communities with a populations of people 65 and older. County spokeswoman Kristen Livengood said the allocations were co-ordinated through Baptist and the state of Florida. In recent weeks, other reports have surfaced of wealthy retirement communities getting exclusive access to vaccine doses through pop-up vaccine sites. Democrats have criticized him for choosing those places, but the governor’s office has noted that more than half of them have been in Democratic stronghold counties of Broward and Palm Beach. Supporters of DeSantis say he has also co-ordinated clinics with faith-based groups in underserved areas. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat and the state's director of the Division of Emergency Management, said the administration is working “diligently” to increase vaccine access in underserved communities. After Publix was made the sole distributor of vaccines in Palm Beach County in late January, the mayors of predominately Black farming communities in the area urged the governor to reconsider, and the state set up a vaccine station shortly after. While critics point to disparities in vaccine distributions as a call for more outreach into underserved areas of the state, including in communities of colour and impoverished neighbourhoods, DeSantis noted that "demand was relatively tepid in FEMA sites in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. The governor said the four sites had the capacity to administer 12,000 doses but only vaccinated 6,500 people. —- A previous version of the story erroneously reported the donation amount given by former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to the Florida governor's campaign committee. —— Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. ____ Calvan reported from Tallahassee, Florida. Associated Press writer Anila Yoganathan contributed from Atlanta. Bobby Caina Calvan And Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press
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.
The province is sending some pandemic relief money to Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover to help the cultural institution get back on its feet. Lighthouse will receive $71,858 through the government’s Arts Recovery Support Fund. Lisa MacLeod, the minister overseeing the province’s tourism and cultural industries, announced the funding this week as part of a $25-million package for artists and arts organizations in Ontario. “Ontario’s arts sector was among the first and hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a ‘high-touch’ sector that depends on gatherings of people, and will take the longest to recover,” MacLeod said in a statement. Reopening venues like Lighthouse “will play an important role in the mental health and well-being of Ontarians and an equally important role in the province’s economic and social recovery,” MacLeod said. The funding was available for organizations and individuals who already receive grants through the Ontario Arts Council. Venues with operating budgets of over $1 million automatically qualified. “We’re so grateful for it, and we’re thrilled,” said Lighthouse executive director Nicole Campbell. “The government recognizes the arts and culture industry as being devastated during this time, with not being able to open for the last year.” Lighthouse closed its doors in mid-March of last year, which meant scrapping the entire summer season, the popular community show starring local amateur actors, and a crowded slate of off-season events. It added up to “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in lost revenue, Campbell said. While the provincial money will help — as will almost $215,000 brought in by a summertime fundraising campaign — Campbell cautioned that there are more financial and logistical hurdles to overcome before the theatre can welcome patrons back. “We don’t want anyone to think that just by receiving this money, we can reopen,” she said. “With the regulations, up until a few weeks ago we couldn’t have anyone in the building. So we keep having to adapt.” One challenge for Lighthouse is even the loosest of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions means “severe revenue limitations,” Campbell explained, because a theatre that usually fits 350 patrons is limited to 50 per show. When Lighthouse can reopen is of keen interest to restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts throughout the region that rely on the theatre to bring in customers, as mentioned by Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett in the funding announcement. “This is quite welcome news for our Lighthouse Festival Theatre and all who enjoy its offerings,” Barrett said. “Lighthouse Theatre is an anchor for our area’s visitor-based economy.” Campbell expects to make an announcement about the summer season in the next few months. “We’re waiting as long as we can to announce anything,” she said, explaining that she and artistic director Derek Ritschel are mulling over scenarios that will ensure the safety of artists, patrons and staff. “We can pretty confidently say that we’re going to have theatre this summer,” Campbell said. “We just have a few different options of what it’ll look like.” J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
That’s it for hockey this year. After a short-lived time on the ice, minor hockey is throwing in the towel – and they have no choice. The TNT Tornados have announced the season is over. The decision to cancel the rest of the season comes after the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit decided the region needs to go back into lockdown mode. The kids were back on the ice on February 20, when the region went into a Red Alert situation. Teams were able to practice and do training drills with restrictions. Those restrictions included limiting the ice to ten people and having no contact during practice. Parents were not allowed into the arena to watch practices.No dressing rooms were available, so players had to arrive dressed for the ice with the exception of helmets and skates. The move back to a lockdown situation on March 1, means arenas will again be off lim-its. The TNT executive had no choice but to finally just cancel everything. Previously, they said they had hoped to continue playing through to the end of April with hopes that a move to a Yellow or Orange alert would allow more kids to participate and be on the ice. The on again, off again situation when it comes to lockdowns in the region has crippled most sports with many activities not tak-ing place at all this year. There is a lot of doubt whether spring and summer sports will even be allowed this year. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
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
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
MONTREAL — A Universite de Montreal education professor has been charged with a sexual offence involving an 11-year-old child. Police in Longueuil, Que., south of Montreal, said Thierry Karsenti, 52, was arrested Feb. 23. He faces a single charge of sexual interference and is due in court on Friday. Karsenti, who is also the Canada Research Chair on information and communication technologies in education, allegedly committed the offence in 2015, according to a release issued by police. Police said Karsenti also goes by the name "Thomas." They said there could be other victims from a period between 2015 and 2017 and want people who may have information to come forward. Karsenti has been suspended indefinitely from his role at the university, according to Universite de Montreal spokeswoman Genevieve O'Mera. 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. The Canadian Press
We might take a starry night sky for granted in our corner of the province, but Quetico Provincial Park has proven itself dedicated to providing a celestial haven for night owls that is guaranteed to be free of intrusive light pollution. The park has recently earned itself a certification from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) recognizing it as a Dark Sky park, a location that has met stringent regulations that help to curb the impacts of light pollution in the night sky, as well as the negative effects it can have on plants and animals - including humans. Quetico has now joined its "sister parks" Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in their Dark Sky Park designation, and is only the third Provincial Park in Ontario to achieve the feat. Trevor Gibb is the park superintendent for Quetico Provincial Park and he noted the recognition from the international association really highlights the efforts that park staff have made in order to keep the park as pristine as possible. "The Dark Sky Park designation is awarded to a park that has an exceptional quality of starry night skies and an exceptional nocturnal environment," he explained. "It has to be a park that's protected for scientific, natural, educational or cultural reasons and have opportunities for the public to visit the park and enjoy it. You have to meet a bunch of criteria to be considered for Dark Sky Park status, but the key criteria is just the quality of the night sky." Light and fixtures that aren't designed with dark skies in mind contribute to light pollution that both hampers the natural vistas of the Milky Way galaxy. Think of the glow you can see when driving at night as you approach the nearest town or city, or how few stars can be seen from inside of town versus out in the country. Light pollution can also have negative impacts on the natural processes and behaviours of plants and animals in the environment, similar to how it can throw off our circadian rhythms and make going to bed at healthy times much more difficult. In order to achieve that Dark Sky Park recognition, Gibb explained there were several steps, two years in the making, that had to be taken in order to reduce the amount of light that would beam up into the sky at night. "It was a lot of work," he said. "It's a voluntary process, but it's quite the rigorous application process with the IDA. One of the first things we had to do was an inventory of all of our light fixtures around the park, park offices and campgrounds, and then we had to create a lighting management plan to change all the lighting we needed to change to dark sky friendly outdoor lighting." The changes to fixtures doesn't mean taking them away, as that can create safety hazards. Instead, Gibb noted that new fixtures were installed that directed light downwards instead of allowing it to beam up into the night sky. Another step in the process was proving to the IDA that the night sky is "exceptionally dark, beautiful and free of light" as Gibb put it, which is obvious to anyone who has camped out under the stars at Quetico, but hard to convince with word of mouth alone. The answer, then, was plenty of legwork and some very late nights. "Starting in 2019, we sent our park rangers all over the park, but into the backcountry as well to do sky quality measurements in the middle of the night to measure the darkness of the night sky," Gibb said. "Over time, since this is an annual thing we'll be reporting on, it will show improvements or degradation of the quality of the night sky due to light pollution. We owe a huge kudos to our backcountry rangers for paddling all day long, clearing portages, and then waking up in the middle of the night. They have to take these readings during astronomical darkness. In August, that's the middle-middle of the night, like 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning." Gibb said there isn't a lot that will change for visitors to the park now that Quetico is Dark Sky certified. The park will have some new educational signage and publications to teach campers and other park visitors of the importance of keeping skies dark, and those who camp overnight will be encouraged to keep their own lights to a minimum in order to let everyone experience the majesty of the stars. "At Quetico and Ontario Parks, what we do is preserve the natural environment and we are concerned with maintaining the ecological integrity of our parks," he said. "This is just one way that we can do that by reducing our light pollution in our campgrounds and developed areas and promote the importance of natural night skies." For more information of the International Dark-Sky Association, their initiatives and the importance of combating light pollution, visit their website at www.darksky.org. Ken Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
Calgary will offer low-intensity individual and group exercise appointments at community recreation centres in response to reopening plans outlined by the province in recent days. Under Step 2 of the province's relaunch plan announced earlier this week, gyms and fitness centres are allowed to reopen for "low-intensity" activities. Calgary will offer the activities by appointment at the following locations: Bob Bahan Aquatic & Fitness Centre. Canyon Meadows Aquatic & Fitness Centre. Killarney Aquatic & Recreation Centre. Sir Winston Churchill Aquatic & Recreation Centre. The Thornhill Aquatic & Recreation Centre will reopen on March 8 to accommodate demand. Low-intensity fitness appointments, which include weight room access, aquatic lane walking, and shallow and deep-water exercise, can be booked starting March 5 and will begin March 9. Low-intensity group fitness classes can be booked starting March 9 and will begin the week of March 15. The city says face coverings are still required inside municipal recreation facilities, except while in the pool. Masks are also required when using fitness equipment or while engaging in low-intensity activities. City-owned recreation facilities are still available for one-on-one sport training and low- and high-intensity aquatic bookings. Games and league play are still not allowed.
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to first responders and essential workers, but it still needs to be determined which industries will be included. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the first shipments of the recently approved vaccine are expected in the province next week and the B.C. Immunization Committee is developing a detailed plan of who should be immunized and when. She says she expects the plan will be finalized around March 18, and in the meantime, the initial supply will be used to address ongoing outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing case numbers in some communities. Henry also apologized to long-term care residents and health-care workers whose second dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was suddenly postponed this week after B.C. decided to extend the gap between first and second shots to four months. She says the decision was not taken lightly, but it did need to be made quite rapidly because the province was approaching a time when tens of thousands of second doses were scheduled to be given. Henry reported 564 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 1,376, and she also says two of those who died had variants of concern. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Some of the most active companies traded Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange: Toronto Stock Exchange (18,125.72, down 194.95 points.) Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Industrials. Up five cents, or 8.33 per cent, to 65 cents on 20.7 million shares. Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU). Energy. Up 64 cents, or 2.44 per cent, to $26.89 on 17.3 million shares. Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE). Energy. Up 47 cents, or 4.95 per cent, to $9.96 on 13.8 million shares. Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB). Energy. Up 13 cents, or 0.29 per cent, to $44.59 on 11.8 million shares. The Supreme Cannabis Co. Inc. (TSX:FIRE). Health care. Down two cents, or 7.14 per cent, to 26 cents on 11.6 million shares. Baytex Energy Corp. (TSX:BTE). Energy. Up seven cents, or 5.47 per cent, to $1.35 on 10.9 million shares. Companies in the news: Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ). Up 71 cents or 1.9 per cent to $38.36. The move by U.S. President Joe Biden to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline in January continues to plague Canadian oil companies, with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. forced to digest a related $143-million charge on its fourth-quarter results on Thursday. If not for the blemish on its earnings in the last three months of 2020, analysts said the company would have registered a solid beat on expectations driven by strong oilsands mining production and operating cost cuts. The company's production of synthetic crude from its oilsands mining and upgrading operations reached a record of 490,800 barrels per day in December due to high utilization rates and ongoing incremental production growth projects. Last year's operating costs fell by $2.10 to $20.46 per barrel of synthetic crude. Bombardier Inc. — While the business jet market will take "several years" to return to pre-pandemic levels, Bombardier Inc. plans to capitalize on growth of after-sales service to achieve its goal of US$7.5 billion in sales in 2025. In its outlook released Thursday, the Quebec aircraft manufacturer said it expects to turn free-cash-flow positive next year and generate more than US$500 million by 2025. Its operating profit is expected to reach US$1.5 billion while the adjusted operating margin target has been set at 20 per cent. Calfrac Well Services Ltd. (TSX:CFW). Up six cents or 1.5 per cent to $4.04. Calfrac Well Services Ltd. reported a fourth-quarter profit of $125.9 million, boosted by a gain on the settlement of debt. The oilfield services company says the profit for the quarter ended Dec. 31 amounted to $2.19 per diluted share. The result included a $226.3-million gain on the settlement of debt and a $54.2-million deferred income tax expense. Calfrac posted a net loss of $49.4 million or $17.07 per share diluted in the fourth quarter of 2019 when it had fewer shares outstanding. Revenue was $180.7 million, down from $317.1 million a year earlier. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Town of New Tecumseth has hired a new Director of Ad-ministration Services and Clerk. Pamela Fettes will take over the position effective March 22, 2021. She will fill the vacancy created when the former clerk retired at the end of 2020. Ms. Fettes’ previous experience includes the past eight years with Clearview Township as the Director of Legislative Services and Municipal Clerk. “We are excited to welcome Pamela to the Town of New Te-cumseth,” said Mayor Rick Milne. "Her experience, expertise and knowledge of Simcoe County and our growing community will be an asset to the Town. Council and staff are looking forward to her leadership in the important role of Director of Administration Se-vices and Clerk as we continue to move the Town’s administration forward.” Under the Corporate Services division, as the Director of Admin-istration Services and Clerk, Ms. Fettes will lead the Town’s admin-istrative services which includes customer service, the Municipal Bylaw Enforcement area, licenses and permits, the preparation and circulation of Council documents, records management, requests for information under the Mu-nicipal Freedom of information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the conduct and administration of municipal elections. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has shot a boost of optimism into its fight against COVID-19, announcing it will join other provinces by delaying the second dose of vaccines to speed up immunizations. Speaking Thursday at a news conference with other premiers, Premier Scott Moe said people will get their second shot up to four months after the first, which falls in line with a recent recommendation from Canada's national immunization committee. Alberta, Manitoba and other provinces made similar announcements after British Columbia first said Monday it was moving to a four-month delay. The shift comes as health experts point to people being well protected against the novel coronavirus with a first dose, noting the country faces a limited supply of vaccines. "The benefits are tremendous," Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said during a briefing. "We can emerge out of the pandemic three months earlier than we had anticipated. With a two-dose program, it would have taken us till September. Now we can vaccinate everyone 18 and older as early as June." Provincial health officials said that starting Friday, staff will only be giving first shots. The change will not apply to people who have appointments booked to receive a second dose, long-term care residents and staff, as well as those in personal care homes. Shahab said since vaccinations started in long-term care homes, there have been fewer outbreaks and infections in the facilities. To date, about 84,000 vaccinations have been done in Saskatchewan out of the roughly 400,000 shots needed to inoculate residents 70 and older and health-care workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure. Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said he expects most of these vaccinations under the first stage of the province's immunization program will be finished in early April. He also asked for patience, as the authority has to adjust how it delivers vaccines with the new four-month window between doses. Saskatchewan reported 169 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Thursday. The province of 1.1 million people also continues to lead the country with the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. Moe said earlier in the week that delaying the second dose of vaccine would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions need to stay in place. The current order is in effect until March 19. Shahab said decisions about what rules might be relaxed could come next week. "I know it's been very hard for people not to be able meet each other in their houses," he said. "In the past, we did have, you know, two to three households as a bubble of up to ten. So that's something that we're looking at." The Ministry of Health also said it would use 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on people aged 60 to 64 and certain health-care workers. A national panel has recommended it not be used on seniors. The province said these vaccinations will start later this month and eligible residents will be able to book an appointment by phone through a system that is expected to launch next week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press