A veteran Hollywood actor is in a Vancouver hospital after contracting COVID-19.
A veteran Hollywood actor is in a Vancouver hospital after contracting COVID-19.
Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
Rebecca Irving has applied to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, asking it to quash a decision by the province's minister of land regarding a controversial land transfer that took place in 2019.Irving is part of the larger Irving family, which has multiple corporate holdings throughout New Brunswick and P.E.I.In June of 2019, a company listing Rebecca Irving as its director, Haslemere Farms, became the owner of 2,200 acres of land in the area of Summerside and North Bedeque that had belonged to a family-owned farming operation.A previous attempt to purchase the same land involving several corporations with connections to the Irvings had failed to receive the necessary cabinet approval.But in the Haslemere Farms transaction, Minister of Land Bloyce Thompson said the transfer had not been put before cabinet for approval. He asked the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to investigate, and vowed to close "loopholes" in the Lands Protection Act, legislation that sets limits on individual and corporate land ownership on P.E.I.Haslemere Farms has since changed its name to Red Fox Acres. Under P.E.I.'s corporate registry, Rebecca Irving is the only person listed under the heading of "directors and shareholders."Minister says he asked for divestitureSixteen months after Thompson asked IRAC to investigate, the commission delivered its report to government in October. However, neither IRAC nor the province has released that report to the public. The minister said he would do so after it's been reviewed by P.E.I.'s privacy commissioner.Thompson issued a written statement Oct. 27 saying the investigation had found "there are reasonable and probable grounds that two individuals and the corporation involved contravened the Lands Protection Act by having aggregate land holdings in excess of the prescribed limits."The statement went on to say "the involved parties have received correspondence from government asking them to divest land and become compliant with the Lands Protection Act within 120 days," but the statement did not disclose who those involved parties are. Under the Lands Protection Act, individuals are limited to owning 1,000 acres of land. For corporations, the limit is 3,000. With allowances for leased and non-arable land, those limits increase to 1,900 acres for individuals and 5,700 acres for corporations.The act also includes measures to prevent corporations "directly or indirectly controlled by the same person, group or organization" from stacking up land limits in order to control more land. Minister exceeded jurisdiction, says IrvingTwo court applications for judicial review filed Monday, one from Rebecca Irving and the other from Red Fox Acres, ask the court to "nullify" the minister's decision, and seek an interim order affirming the status quo until a final ruling can be delivered.The two court applications argue Thompson exceeded the jurisdiction granted him under the Lands Protection Act and "erroneously interpret[ed] the provisions of the Lands Protection Act."The filings also argue Thompson breached "his duty of fairness" to Irving and Red Fox Acres for, among other things, failing to provide proper notice and opportunities to respond at various points throughout the investigation process. Jonathan Coady, legal counsel for both Rebecca Irving and Red Fox Acres, sent this statement to CBC News: "The filing made by the company was to preserve its right to court review, if it became necessary to do so. Because the matter is ongoing, the company has no additional comments to make at this time."The allegations have not been tested in court and there was no response from the minister or the department as of Wednesday.More from CBC P.E.I.
The response was immediate and huge after Erin Quiroga asked on Facebook if there would be a fundraiser for typhoon victims in the Philippines. Seven Filipinos in Jasper have family members in the Philippines who have been directly affected by Typhoon Rolly, hit the country from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, and Typhoon Ulysses from Nov. 11 to 12. Michael Oregines, media relations officer for the group that organized the fundraiser, said a couple of provinces in the Philippines had been hit hard. "Imagine when the rescuers were in helicopters, trying to find people in low light, and were asking people to shout or turn on their cell phone flash lights," he said. "People were sitting on their roofs, trying to be safe." As soon as notice of a fundraising bottle drive posted on Facebook group Jasper Buy, Sell & Trade, organizers started getting responses from people straight away that they had bottles at businesses and addresses that could be picked up. Clara Adriano led the bottle drive with Kathleen Bautista and Daren De Guzman, treasurer. And the fundraising didn’t stop there. Organizers asked Filipino families to donate $10 apiece per household. But when they went to collect the money, those donations ranged from $10 to $200, and were not only from the Filipinos. "Everybody supports the cause - the full community," Adriano said. Lito and Kathleen Bautista sold homemade Filipino food and money was donated to the fundraiser. Chowie Ismaili, a staff member at the Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge, and her Filipino colleagues donated prizes for a raffle draw with proceeds from the raffle being donated to the fundraising effort. Rodelita Rabago is also donating 100 per cent of her profits from selling breads and pastries from a bakery in Edmonton. Frank Marcojos, group leader of the Tim Hortons Jasper Family, collected a total of $1,100 within the group. Adriano said Marcojos' family was helped by a Filipino fundraiser in 2013. "He said that he will always be thankful for that," Adriano noted. "And this is the reason why we do what we do. His message keeps us motivated." So far, the group has raised $8,035: $2,100 from the bottle drive and $5,935 from monetary donations, the raffle, food sales and bread sales. The group will continue to raise funds into the first week of December. Some of the money raised will go to the local families whose family members in the Philippines were affected by the typhoons. The rest will go to organizers in the Philippines to provide clean water, food, blankets, and personal hygiene items. "There are many who lost their homes," Oregines said, "so they need basic essentials." Once a connection has been set up between Jasper and organizers in the Philippines, the community will be updated about how the donations were applied. "We're emotional about the support," Adriano said. "This is how the Filipinos have been every time there has been a typhoon in the Philippines. We just come together. "It's the same with our beautiful town and all the Jasperites. "We are truly thankful for the trust and support that our small community has given to us. Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude and joy."Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — Rocky the stowaway owl is back in the wild. The tiny Saw-whet owl was named Rockefeller after it was found by a worker setting up the holiday tree Nov. 16 at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. The owl was apparently trapped in the 75-foot-tall (23-meter-tall) Norway spruce when it was cut down 170 miles (275 kilometres) north, in upstate New York on Nov. 12. The female owl, initially thought to be male, was uninjured but hadn't eaten for at least three days when she was discovered and sent to Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in the Hudson Valley town of Saugerties. There, a rehabilitator nursed her back to health for a week with plenty of mice before Rocky was cleared to continue her migratory journey south. On Tuesday evening, rehabilitator Ellen Kalish held the winsome raptor aloft in a field against a backdrop of rounded mountains. In a video posted on Ravensbeard's Facebook page, Rocky sits quietly on Kalish's fingers before winging her way over to a nearby grove of pines. “She is a tough little bird and we’re happy to see her back in her natural habitat,” the centre wrote on Facebook. “We are sure that Rocky will feel your love and support through her journey south.” ___ This story has been corrected to show the Rockefeller Christmas tree is 75 feet (23 metres) tall, not 71 feet (22 metres) tall. The Associated Press
ESKASONI, N.S. — An Eskasoni Red Tribe boxing card has been postponed until further notice because of the recent rise in COVD-19 cases in the province. “Things can be moved around and rescheduled, but a life can’t be rescheduled, we have to look out for our safety,” said Barry Bernard, Eskasoni Red Tribe boxing owner and coach. The card was originally scheduled for Dec. 5 at the Sarah Denny Cultural Centre in Eskasoni and would have featured 14 amateur bouts with fighters from across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Because of the increase in active COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Bernard thought it best to reschedule. The card would have excluded audience members but would have been streamed on YouTube and the Eskasoni television channel. The main event fighters would have been Oromocto Boxing Club’s Josh Melvin and Eskasoni’s Israel Regalado. The 20-year-old Regalado made his boxing debut in October during the Lights Out drive-in boxing card which saw audience members watching the fights from the safety of their cars while the fights streamed on a 30-foot screen. Regalado won that fight against Crandall University boxer Jacob MacCallum. Headlining a card would have been special but Regalado understands safety comes first. “In the beginning, I was kind of sad but then when I thought about it, it was the best option we had,” said Regalado. The young man identifies as half-Aboriginal and half-Spanish and grew up in both Eskasoni and Guatemala. He spends most of his days training and says it has been his focus. He trained for an entire year before making his amateur debut and was glad to display his skills. Regalado spends most of his time training and with his girlfriend and he thinks boxing in Eskasoni helps keep people grounded. “I feel like it helps young people that don’t know what to do,” said Regalado. And he said he will keep training until the next card is scheduled. It is that drive that impresses his coaches, like Bernard. Bernard says Regalado has a strong character and work ethic and believes headlining a card will mean a lot for his future, something he hopes will happen sooner rather than later. Ideally, he’d like to have the next boxing card in January, but it all depends on the pandemic. “We have to take care of our community first,” said Bernard.Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post
The Goulds Lions Arena bears the Lions name, so it’s only appropriate that its warm room also bear a Lion’s name. During a short ceremony on November 19 attended by family and fellow Lions, the Lion Ron Whitten Room was unveiled. “A few months ago, one of our Lions came to me with a suggestion. He said, ‘We always honour Lions with a plaque or something, after they pass away. Why not do something for our Lions while they’re still alive?’” Goulds Lions Club President Charlie Phillips said to those gathered. So, when Phillips announced that they would be naming the warm room after Lion Ron Whitten, Whitten jokingly asked if that meant he was going to die soon. “Without Ron, I’m not sure if, or when, there would have been a Lion’s Club,” said Phillips. “It was the vision of Lion Ron when he returned from Labrador back in 1975. He had a notion of starting up the Lions Club, which, he did, in March of 1976. He is a well-respected member of our community, and also a well-respected member of our Lions Club. Ron is a strong supporter of the Lions Club and of it’s activities. I’m sure most of you, if we went around the room, could add another 10, 20, 40, maybe a hundred reasons why we should name this room after Lion Ron.” Whitten was grateful for the gesture. “I appreciate this, it’s very nice,” he said. “It’s important to help out the community where you’re from.” During the ceremony, the Goulds Lions Club also presented a $6000 cheque to the Arena Association.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Wednesday it will continue to hear arguments by telephone through at least January because of the coronavirus pandemic.The court’s announcement extended telephone arguments by a month.“The Court will continue to closely monitor public health guidance in determining plans for the February argument session,” the court said in a statement.The justices last met in person to hear arguments in February of this year, but they closed the courthouse to the public in March because of the public health crisis and postponed arguments in March and April.The court first held arguments by telephone in May and made the audio available live, also a first for the tradition-bound court. After a summer break, the court resumed hearing arguments by phone and making the audio available live in October.The Associated Press
Former Saskatchewan music teacher convicted of sexually assaulting students will be sentenced in January 2021. Gerard Loehr, 57, was found guilty in Wynyard Provincial Court Nov. 13 on three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference. In 2019 Loehr was charged with five counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual interference related to incidents involving students in the 90s. The court heard that the victims encountered Loehr when he was a teacher in Wynyard and Foam Lake schools when he worked in the Shamrock School Division. During a trial in Wynyard court in July 2020, five former students testified. The students ranged in age from 12 to 14 at the time of the incidents. Judge Lloyd Stang found Loehr not guilty on four counts of sexual interference because the girls were 14 at the time and according to the law in the 90s, the age of consent was 14. The age has since been raised to 16 and today, the Criminal Code Section 151 charge of sexual interference now states, “Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years… is guilty.” Judge Stang also found Loehr not guilty on two counts of sexual assault because he had concerns about the reliability of the witness’ memory. One charge of sexual interference was dismissed in July. Wynyard RCMP launched an historic sexual assault investigation against Loehr in February 2019 after a woman contacted them to report an assault that occurred in the 90s. Five others later came forward to police with sexual assault allegations against Loehr. Loehr left Saskatchewan in 1996 and taught in Ottawa schools. In 2019 Ottawa Police Service charged Loehr with sexual assault and sexual interference against 11 students. Ottawa Police say Loehr taught middle school level music in the west end of Ottawa between 2000 and 2003. He also taught privately in his home. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board removed him from the classroom. His trial on those charges is scheduled in November in Ontario. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
SpaceX will continue beta testing its satellite-based broadband service Starlink into next year, the company said late Tuesday, indicating commercial service would not likely be offered in 2020 as previously planned. Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, Elon Musk's private space exploration company, has launched nearly 900 Starlink satellites to orbit since 2019 with the goal of offering high-speed Internet to rural locations globally. Musk has said the Starlink service will be a crucial source of funding for his broader plans, like developing the super heavy-lift Starship rocket to fly paying customers to the moon and eventually trying to colonize Mars.
In the face of what advocates say is a growing housing crisis that includes ballooning rent costs forcing people out of their homes, the Nova Scotia government is stepping in with a cap on increases and a ban on so-called renovictions."Too many Nova Scotians are struggling to afford a place they call home," Housing Minister Chuck Porter said Wednesday."Now is not the time for people to be worrying about keeping a roof over their heads or being forced to find a new home for their family, but unfortunately that is exactly the situation many people are in."Effective immediately, rent increases are capped at two per cent per year without exception. The change is retroactive to September 2020 and will remain in place until Feb. 1, 2022, or whenever the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted. Porter said anyone whose rent has already gone up within the defined time period would receive the difference as a future credit.Landlords will be banned from evicting tenants for the purpose of renovating their buildings. Porter said unless an eviction order has been issued by the residential tenancy board, it will not be enforceable, and that includes notices already provided.Marites Sumat was thrilled by the news."I'm so thankful," she said.Sumat recently received six months notice that the Clayton Park apartment she shares with her husband, three children and mother was going to see the monthly rent go up from $850 to $1,250, a 47 per cent increase that would have priced the family out of their home.The new cap is "a big help for renters," she said.COVID-19 has exerted a major toll on many people, said Sumat. While she's been fortunate not to have her hours reduced at work, she said the pandemic has made what was an already difficult situation for many people all the more challenging.She's still waiting to speak with her landlord, but under the rules announced today the increase scheduled for March 2021 would not be permitted.Change in tuneThe rent cap is a stark departure from previous assertions by Premier Stephen McNeil and his government that rent control is not an effective tool for combating housing challenges.For months, there have been a litany of stories about people being forced from their homes due to renovictions or rent increases as high as 90 per cent. Porter acknowledged it took time to arrive at Wednesday's announcement, but said the government was trying to find the most effective way to deal with the situation.Although he said the main problem is one of supply, the minister noted that cannot be addressed quickly."It is incumbent on us as government to enact something in the interim," said Porter.Two of the candidates vying to be the new Liberal leader and premier recently proposed forms of rent control. Porter, who has endorsed candidate Iain Rankin, said those plans had no bearing on Wednesday's announcement.Affordable housing commission struckWednesday's announcement also included the creation of the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, which is charged with making recommendations about affordable housing strategies and actions. Their first list of recommendations is due in six months.The commission includes: * Catherine Berliner, Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing (co-chair) * Ren Thomas, Dalhousie University (co-chair) * Chief Sidney Peters, Tawaak Housing Association * Karen Brodeur, Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada * Fred Deveaux, Cape Breton Community Housing Association * Jim Graham, Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia * Mike Dolter, Association of Municipal Administrators Nova Scotia * Jeremy Jackson, Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia * Alex Halef, Urban Development Institute * Gordon Laing, Southwest Properties * Kelly Denty, Halifax Regional Municipality * Michelle MacFarlane, Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services * Joy Knight, Department of Community ServicesRepresentation will also include people to be appointed from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the justice and health departments.Another measure Porter announced is $1.7 million to replace 30 beds removed from the homeless shelter system as a result of changes required by Public Health protocols for physical distancing.The minister said meetings are imminent with service providers to determine how to get as many people off the streets as soon as possible. Advocates estimate homelessness numbers in the Halifax Regional Municipality have more than doubled in the last year and Porter said the government is committed to finding ways to address the issue.Should have come soonerOfficials with the housing advocacy group ACORN issued a news release calling the government's decision "an overdue first step" that comes following prolonged lobbying."We would not have seen any movement on rent control if it were not for the tireless work of our members, tenants across Nova Scotia and activists who have been fighting for our communities for years — organizing works," said the release.NDP housing critic Lisa Roberts said her party has put forward multiple pieces of legislation in recent years intended to address the issue, none of which received support from the governing Liberals."This is good, but, frankly, it shouldn't have taken a global pandemic for us to recognize the housing crisis," she said.Roberts said she hopes the new commission spends time looking at rent control on a longer-term basis and helps bring in some kind of permanent check, be it through new legislation proposals or use of the existing Rent Control Act, which was passed in the 1990s.Industry concernsKevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, said the size of the cap is a concern because it falls "well under" the operational cost of rental buildings.He predicted it would have the biggest effect on people who rent in older buildings, which make up the majority of housing stock in Halifax and are nearing "the end of their life cycle.""It will have an impact on operations," he said. "To what degree, that will be up to each individual landlord. It may put off some repairs and maintenance, it may affect other areas of operation."Russell said he's optimistic about the affordable housing commission and what it could do. Whatever changes come must be long term, he said."We've been trying to talk [about] affordable housing with the government for over 10 years and now it takes a crisis for everybody to come to the table. I guess that's how it works."MORE TOP STORIES
NEW YORK — “No New ‘Movies’ Till Influenza Ends” blared a New York Times headline on Oct. 10, 1918, while the deadly second wave of the Spanish Flu was unfolding.A century later, during another pandemic, movies — quotes no longer necessary — are again facing a critical juncture. But it’s not because new films haven’t been coming out. By streaming service, video-on-demand, virtual theatre or actual theatre, a steady diet of films have been released under COVID-19 every week. The Times has reviewed more than 460 new movies since mid-March.Yet until recently — with only a few exceptions — those haven’t been the big-budget spectacles Hollywood runs on. Eight months into the pandemic, that’s changing. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. experimented with the $200 million “Mulan” as a premium buy on its fast-growing streaming service, Disney+ — where the Pixar film “Soul” will also go on Dec. 25. WarnerMedia last week announced that “Wonder Woman 1984” — a movie that might have made $1 billion at the box office in a normal summer — will land in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously next month.Much remains uncertain about how the movie business will survive the pandemic. But it’s increasingly clear that Hollywood won’t be the same afterward. Just as the Spanish Flu, which weeded out smaller companies and contributed to the formation of the studio system, COVID-19 is remaking Hollywood, accelerating a digital makeover and potentially reordering an industry that was already in flux.“I don’t think the genie will ever be back in the bottle,” says veteran producer Peter Guber, president of Mandalay Entertainment and former chief of Sony Pictures. “It will be a new studio system. Instead of MGM and Fox, they’re going to be Disney and Disney+, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock.”Many of the pivots in 2020 can be chalked up to the unusual circumstances. But several studios are making more long-term realignments around streaming. WarnerMedia, the AT&T conglomerate that owns Warner Bros. (founded in 1923), is now run by Jason Kilar, best known as the former chief executive of Hulu. Last month, Disney chief executive Bob Chapek, the Robert Iger heir, announced a reorganization to emphasize streaming and “accelerate our direct-to-consumer business.”Universal Pictures, owned by Comcast, has pushed aggressively into video-on-demand. Its first major foray, “Trolls,” kicked up a feud with theatre owners. But as the pandemic wore on, Universal hatched unprecedented deals with AMC and Cinemark, the largest and third-largest chains, respectively, to dramatically shorten the traditional theatrical window (usually about three months) to just 17 days. After that time, Universal can move releases that don’t reach certain box-office thresholds to digital rental.While the nation’s second largest theatre chain, Regal Cinemas, has resisted such deals, there’s widespread acknowledgement that the days of 90-day theatrical runs are over. It’s something the studios have long sought for the potential benefit of covering both platforms with one marketing campaign. Many see the pandemic as accelerating a decades-long trend.“Windows are clearly changing,” says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount Pictures. “All this stuff that's going on now in the business was going to happen, the evolution is just happening faster than it would have. What would have taken three to five years is going to be done in a year, maybe a year and a half.”That condensed period of rapid change is happening at the same time as a land rush for streaming market share, as Disney+, HBO Max, Apple and Peacock wrestle for a piece of the home viewing audience dominated by Netflix and Amazon. With theme parks struggling and worldwide box office down tens of billions, streaming is a bright spot for media companies, and the pandemic may offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lure subscribers. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul” are essentially very expensive advertisements for those streaming services.Each studio, depending on their corporate ownership and streaming positioning, is taking a different approach. Paramount, like Sony Pictures, doesn’t have a streaming service to offload films to. Both have held back their tentpole releases while selling more midsized films to streamers. For Paramount, “A Quiet Place: Part II,” “Top Gun Maverick” and “Mission: Impossible 7” are waiting for 2021 while “The Trial of the Chicago 7” fetched a reported $56 million from Netflix and Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America 2” went to Amazon Prime Video for a reported $125 million.HBO Max has had a bumpier rollout than Disney+, so “Wonder Woman 1984” is an especially critical gambit for WarnerMedia following the audacious release of “Tenet.” As the first tentpole to test theatres reopened with safety protocols and reduced capacities, it has made about $350 million worldwide -- a lot considering everything but far less than originally hoped for. Credit Suisse analyst Douglas Mitchelson called the “Wonder Woman” plans — which include rolling theatrical runs in China, Europe and elsewhere — “a grand experiment that could have-lasting implications if successful.”Director Patty Jenkins acknowledged the simultaneous release was a kind of sacrifice, not just to HBO Max but to families stuck at home. “At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else,” Jenkins wrote on Twitter.It can be easy to cheer such moves, even if their financial performance remain cloudy (no studio has been transparent about its viewership numbers or digital grosses) and their long-term viability uncertain. Can you replicate $1 billion in box office in new subscriptions? And for how long will the one-time bounce of a new movie (unlike a series staggered over weeks or months) drive subscribers once streaming services are closer to tapping as many homes as they can?“The whole thing is more complicated than people want it to be,” says Ira Deutchman, the veteran independent film producer and Columbia University professor. “The way movies are made and distributed, certainly at the studio level, has been really in need of change and hopefully this will bring it on. But when people hear that, it’s like: The pandemic is the straw that broke the camel’s back and now theatrical is dead. I personally feel that’s garbage.”Deutchman considers the idea that people, after a year of quarantines and lockdowns, won’t want to leave their living room “ludicrous.” But he does imagine continued mergers and acquisitions, and “a new equilibrium” for distributors and theatre owners.So what could that mean on the other side of COVID, if moviegoers are once again comfortable sitting in packed theatres on opening weekend? It will almost certainly mean the months-long runs of films like “Titanic” or “Get Out” are a thing of the past. It could mean variable pricing on different nights. It could mean an even greater division between the franchise films of the multiplex and the boutique art house, with everything in between going straight to streaming.But after decades of slow but steady decline in attendance, most think movie theatres will have to innovate in a way other than raising ticket prices.“The outlook is pretty dire in terms of being a major theatrical exhibitor,” says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. He imagines shortened windows will mean few films — even the Marvel releases — ascending to $1 billion in worldwide box office. He can see some studios, like Disney, operating their own theatres as “mini-theme parks” with merchandising stuffing the lobbies.In the meantime, theatres are hoping for much-needed relief from Congress. With the virus surging, about 40% of U.S. theatres are open; in New York and Los Angeles, they’ve stayed shut since March. Chains have taken on loans to stay afloat and avert bankruptcy. Cineworld, owner of Regal Cinemas (currently entirely closed) on Monday announced a deal for a $450 million rescue loan.It will be a very different holiday season — usually the most lucrative corridor in theatres — for the movie business. How different 2021 and beyond will be remains to be seen. Some things, though, may never change.“If you’re going to be in this business, no matter what you do or where it plays, whether it’s streaming or in cinemas, you’re going to make hits and you’re going to make flops," says Guber. "The idea is to make more hits than flops.”___Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAPJake Coyle, The Associated Press
Nathan Hann has been a long-time member of GoodLife in Grimsby, and lately has been seeing a lot of new faces at the gym on 9 Industrial Drive. Hann, a health-care professional and pharmacist by trade, said he began noticing changes at the gym just as restrictions in Hamilton increased, limiting the number of people allowed to book appointments at gyms and fitness centres as the region moved from orange to red under the province’s COVID-19 alert system. “When I have been going to book an appointment, I have been noticing that it has been really full and I haven’t been able to get in. I gave GoodLife a call to ask why, and they told me a lot of Hamilton people are coming down to the gym.” The potential influx of gym-goers from Hamilton, where cases of COVID-19 are higher than here in Niagara, has Hann concerned, not just for his own personal safety, but also about the potential spread of the virus across regions, as people living in areas with higher restrictions travel to cities with fewer limitations. In Niagara, which currently sits in the orange ‘restrict’ category, a maximum of 50 people are allowed in gyms at a time, while in Hamilton, the number is 10. Hann said he has already seen the impact first-hand. “I know people who usually go to the Hamilton location, they are all coming to the Grimsby location now, because they can’t get into the extremely limited appointment slots available in Hamilton. “My concern is that if they keep doing this, then Niagara is going to get hit even harder than we already are.” Tracy Matthews, vice-president of operations for GoodLife Fitness, said with gyms in Hamilton still open, the company has currently not placed any restrictions on members, and which locations they may choose to visit. "Gyms in Hamilton are not closed, and we did not ask Hamilton members to limit travel because their gyms are still open.” Matthews did add though that in previous situations where gyms have closed in certain regions across the province such as the GTA, GoodLife has placed members living in those areas on a temporary freeze, asking they refrain from visiting clubs outside of their region. With gyms and fitness centres still open in Hamilton though, GoodLife members are free to travel to other locations in Grimsby, or anywhere in Niagara where booking an appointment is easier, and spaces are more plentiful. Of course, that could change if Hamilton is moved into the lockdown measures currently seen in the GTA, or if GoodLife updates its policies as conditions develop, something Matthews said is possible in the future. “We will continue to review and update policies and procedures where needed to ensure we are providing our members with the best experience possible while meeting or exceeding government and public health protocols in relation to health and safety." In the meantime, Hann said he will continue to take all safety precautions necessary, including wearing a mask at all times, and keeping distance from other members, adding that he continues to see potential public health risks with a system that puts people in a position to move from region to region during a pandemic. “The virus is not going to spread on its own. It is only going to go where people take it. By putting people in a position where they travel outside of their region, it is really just creating the possibility for more cases in Niagara.” Story behind the story With COVID-19 restrictions being increased in Hamilton, reporter Bryan Levesque looked at the impact on gyms in Grimsby, where some have concerns that an increase in Hamilton visitors could lead to further spread of the virus in Niagara.Bryan Levesque, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched on Tuesday night from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying on it a new batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit for the Starlink internet satellite constellation system. (Nov. 25)
If you happen to pop by Ranchland Mall in Pincher Creek this Wednesday you’ll see a booth manned by purple-clad staff from the Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter. On top of sporting purple fashion, the workers are handing out information and resources raising awareness for Family Violence Prevention Month, as well as recognizing Nov. 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Throughout November, family shelters and resource groups across the province have been participating in a public and social media campaign through gopurpleAlberta to help individuals and families feel safe in their homes and in their communities. The campaign is especially important as Alberta has the third-highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in Canada. Lori Van Ee, executive director for the shelter, says community members are asked to don purple throughout the day to help highlight efforts to prevent family violence. The shelter’s plans extend beyond the day of Nov. 25 and into the night as well. “We are encouraging community members to take part in our first-ever Shine Your Light Event,” says Lori. “This event will ask community members to shine their outside light, put a glow stick in their window, or turn on their holiday lights for the remainder of the night to help raise awareness.” The goal of Family Violence Prevention Month is twofold: help provide resources that prevent family circumstances from deteriorating, and ensure people in an unsafe domestic situation find the information and the help they need. Helping families through stress, says Kayla Strandquist, is the main focus for the Crowsnest Pass Women’s Resource and Crisis Centre. The centre provides counselling and support services for anyone who may be feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Though acknowledging that reaching out for help can be tough, Kayla emphasises the centre is a safe place to talk. “There’s always someone that will be willing to listen. Lots of times people don’t think that they can reach out for help, but there are people out there willing to help,” she says. “Sometimes people feel isolated or scared to ask for help, but just know that you’re not being judged.” Though the centre has shifted the majority of its counselling services to telephone or virtual sessions, people without access to technology are still welcome to come for conversations in person as long as they wear a mask. The centre is also running a Coats for Kids program and can provide free household items for families in need. A Christmas toy hamper will also be starting in December. Should anyone find themself in a situation where their safety is in danger, the centre can also provide same-day transportation from Crowsnest Pass to the shelter in Pincher Creek. The shelter, explains Lori, is more than a bed for women fleeing abuse. “Our residential program is a 21-day stay and assists women to assess their danger levels, create a safety plan, provide the necessities, and work with women to attain short-term goals such as finding housing independent from their abuser,” she says. “Women’s shelters remain the safest place for women fleeing violence. Our staff are trained to help women assess their danger levels and create a safety plan,” Lori continues. “We encourage anyone facing immediate danger to call 911. You are not alone.” The shelter also runs a support program to help moms meet the needs of their children, as well as facilitating age-appropriate activities for children staying in the shelter. Helping get women out of immediate danger is only one aspect of the shelter’s mandate. An outreach program also helps clients identify their needs, helping put women on a path to living independently and productively from abuse. The program lasts up to six months but can be extended as needed. Additionally, Lori says, women do not have to be living in the shelter to access the outreach program. “We can take referrals from community agencies and or community members themselves who see a need to access the supports that our outreach program can offer,” she says. A host of resources are available for anyone experiencing family violence. Any individual can contact the Pincher Creek crisis line at 403-627-4868 or 403-627-2114. In Crowsnest Pass, anyone in need of assistance can contact the resource centre at 403-563-9077. Provincially, a toll free crisis line is available at 1-888-354-4868. The Family Violence Info Line is also available in more than 170 languages at 310-1818. In case of immediate danger, people are encouraged to call 911. Online provincial resources can be found at www.alberta.ca/family-violence-find-supports.aspx. Provincial shelters can also be looked up at www.alberta.ca/find-shelters.aspx. Further information on the Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter can be found online at www.pcshelter.ca. Likewise, additional information on the Crowsnest Pass Women’s Resource and Crisis Centre is available at www.cnpwomensresourcecentre.ca.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
Chadwick Boseman surges onto the screen as fast-talking trumpeter Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” like a man on an electrified tightrope -- balancing precariously between hope and cynicism, humour and sadness, joy and pain, and love and hate.Unlike with some of Boseman’s other famous characters who’ve had a clear moral centre from the start, it's not clear what Levee, a creation of legendary playwright August Wilson, has up his sleeve. Handsome and wiry, he’s constantly on edge, and behind even his most brilliant smile there’s a whiff of something amiss. We don’t really know what we're looking at. But we sure don't want to look away.Boseman’s performance in this film adaptation of Wilson's 1982 play, lovingly directed by George C. Wolfe, would be heartbreaking even if the actor hadn’t tragically lost his life to cancer this year.But watching it now, that knowledge informs every moment, as one imagines the challenges he must have faced in a famously taxing role that was clearly so important to him. It goes without saying that the performance is brilliant, and yes, electric, but it’s also heroic. If there had to be a final role, what a gift that it was this, an exclamation point to a career that seems ever more momentous.Boseman isn’t the only volcanic force in “Ma Rainey,” a meditation on power, race, sex and commerce in early 20th-century America treated with sensitivity and grace by Wolfe, with a screenplay by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and score by Branford Marsalis. There’s also the matter of the titular Ma herself, played by a superb Viola Davis, nearly unrecognizable in her broadened silhouette, mouth of gold teeth, and coat upon coat of eye makeup. Together, she and Boseman conduct a master class.A historical note: Ma Rainey, who died in 1939, was a groundbreaking Black singer from Georgia known as “Mother of the Blues.” She’s the only real-life character in Wilson’s 10-play cycle documenting the African American experience, and the only LBGT character, too.Wolfe, who doesn't try to underplay the material's theatrical roots, gives us a a few tone-setting performance scenes. But the action takes place almost exclusively inside a white-owned studio in Chicago, where Ma and her band are scheduled one afternoon in 1927 to record a few hits. Intensifying the claustrophobia, Wolfe has turned it from winter to sultry summer; Ma is perpetually glistening in sweat.Before Ma arrives -- suitably late -- her band gathers. There’s the fatherly Cutler (Colman Domingo), Slow Drag (Michael Potts), and pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman). Then Levee bursts in, brandishing a prized new pair of shoes. Not only does he have talent, he boasts to the older guys: “I got STYLE.”That he does. And ambition. Encouraged by the white studio owner, he's writing songs and plans to launch his own band. And he has his own, jazzier version of “Black Bottom," sure to get people dancing.But Ma isn’t having it. She has her version of the song, and it works. She's also insistent that her nephew Sylvester give the introduction, even though he stutters. And she won’t begin recording until she’s good and ready. "That's the way it go around here,” she says.Ma isn’t merely throwing around her weight. She's staking a claim to her very dignity. Once the studio has what they need, she knows, they won't care a whit about her. And so, when the ice-cold Coke she requires is forgotten, she won't budge until it comes. Watch Davis guzzle down that Coke ferociously when it does.Ma rightly sees Levee as a threat to her style of performing, but also to her authority. To make it worse, she senses he has eyes on her young girlfriend, Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige). She's right -- and it’s more than his eyes.But Levee isn't just a brash troublemaker. Behind the bluster is a deep well of pain, which we come to understand through several devastating tour-de-force monologues that hark back to past demons, and hint at future tragedy. If you haven’t seen the play, brace yourself.Seven years ago, Boseman wrote poignantly about the experience of meeting Wilson, whom he clearly revered, and reciting the playwright's lines, which he likened to poetry.“Filling one’s nostrils with the emotionally charged breath to recite an August Wilson monologue,” he wrote, “can be transformative.”And now we know how transformative it can be to watch Boseman himself recite those monologues. We should all count ourselves lucky to be able to witness this, his final and arguably finest performance.“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” a Netflix release, has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America “for language, some sexual content and brief violence.” Running time: 94 minutes. Four stars out of four.___MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires a parent or adult guardian.___Follow Jocelyn Noveck at www.Twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAPJocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
St. John's city councillors are finally speaking about recent municipal job cuts and a reduction in Metrobus service — both which have put people out of work or will see their shifts reduced. A week ago, the city outlined its plan to eliminate 16 full-time positions within municipal operations, and an additional five full-time jobs at St. John's Sports and Entertainment, in addition to two part-time ones. Few details were provided.One day later, CBC News reported Metrobus was paring back service levels due to an $800,000 budget cut from the City of St. John's. "This decision has me torn up honestly. I don't like that we are doing [this] … but there are a lot of challenging decisions that have to be made," Coun. Dave Lane, who chairs the finance committee, told reporters Wednesday. After the cuts and Metrobus reduction were announced last week, no member of council, including Mayor Danny Breen and Lane, would do an interview or answer questions on ether of those topics, city spokesperson Kelly Maguire told CBC News. Now several are speaking out. Lane said routes, 1, 2, 3 and 10 will be most impacted, with longer wait times between rides, analogous to the usual summer schedule.He said moving to a reduced schedule seemed like a better option than another proposal, which was to raise fares. However, he warned that a network-wide review would be needed next September, to see where ridership levels end up. Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary told The St. John's Morning Show that cuts are necessary, since municipal governments can't run a deficit. "So that means that in every single department, everybody has to look for efficiencies. And I think that that's, you know, a common goal of everybody. Nobody wants to see their taxes raised. However, services are really important, especially at this point in time," she said. Not all councillors support Metrobus service reductionCoun. Maggie Burton also said she doesn't support the changes, particularly because they "will have a real impact on some of the most vulnerable residents in the city."She said retail and food industry jobs are usually shift-based and people will have fewer options to get to and from work, and will have to wait longer for a bus. "I hope that people can use this time before Dec. 7 to let council know whether or not they support a permanent reduction of $800,000 in the annual budget to Metrobus," Burton told CBC News on Wednesday afternoon. Coun. Ian Froude tweeted Tuesday that he doesn't support the cuts to Metrobus service. Lane said he respected dissenting opinions, but ultimately, a financial plan needs to be approved."I don't like everything in the budget, but we need to pull something together that balances the budget, [that] doesn't have undue pressure on the public," he said. Other councillors were asked to comment by CBC Radio's On The Go on the cuts, including Jamie Korab, Debbie Hanlon and Breen. They either didn't respond or said they were not available. Missed money from OttawaIn July, the federal government earmarked $19 billion to assist provinces and territories, including municipalities, with restarting their economies amid COVID-19.At the time, it was stated N.L. would receive $146 million of that amount, to be funnelled into everything from COVID-19 testing to personal protective equipment to child-care spaces, and to municipalities in need.However, there was an exception: provinces and territories could also apply for extra money destined for public transit, to offset pandemic losses.Newfoundland and Labrador did not apply for that money. Though it was a provincial government decision, at the time, Breen said any transit losses it experienced were minimal compared with larger cities."We wouldn't have a significant enough loss to make value of that," he said in July. Breen has not responded to recent interview requests from CBC. In July, the city had collected $18 million less in taxes than in the same month in 2019. The monster blizzard that stalled the city for over a week in January also dealt a massive blow to the city budget, leaving an estimated $7-million bill in its wake.Metrobus ridership downSince September, ridership levels have hovered at about half of what they normally are, according to Metrobus manager Judy Powell, who also refused to do an interview. While regular service was reinstated this past September, a combination of people working from home, plus Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic moving to online classes, added up to fewer people taking the bus. Uncertainty will persist for drivers. Those who don't have a shift effective Jan. 4 will get a record of employment so they can file for employment insurance."However you will remain on the recall list and called to work on an as needed basis," Powell wrote in a letter to drivers obtained by CBC News.The municipal budget will be tabled Dec. 7. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Giant dumps of snow are nothing new to people in the Big Land, but even by Labrador standards the snowfall over the last 24 hours was a doozy. Snow began to fall Monday evening and by 11 a.m. Tuesday 60 centimetres of snow had fallen, with 25-30 more expected before evening. SaltWire Network meteorologist Cindy Day said the storm, the first blizzard of the season for Labrador, tracked across Ontario and Quebec, bringing significant snow across those provinces, and was just off the Northern Peninsula Tuesday afternoon. “The system really is a two-season system. North of the storm it’s a blizzard, snow and wind and significant windchill. On the south side of that low-pressure system it's extremely mild, but also very windy. So, depending on where you are, there are either spring-like conditions or deep into winter.” Day said it’s interesting to note that as of 11 a.m. Tuesday Gander was the hot spot in the country, while there was 60 centimetres of snow in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, about 840 kilometres away. Schools and many businesses closed for the day in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, but some remained open or were slated to open after lunch. All town facilities, including the town hall and the E.J. Broomfield Arena, remained closed for the day, and the scheduled town council meeting was moved to Thursday. Canada Post announced it would not deliver mail in the region Tuesday due to the weather. The average snowfall for the month of November in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is 56 centimetres, Day said, so Tuesday alone will top that. There has already been a record amount of snowfall this month, she said, but depending on how the calculations are done it could also be a new one-day record. The previous record was set, she said, on Jan. 16, 1985, when 71 centimetres fell in one day. “It’s going to be tricky how they add these numbers, since it will have fallen on the 23rd and 24th, so we’ll see how that comes out, but it’s on track for a record,” she said. Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Mayor John Tory urged Torontonians to avoid big box store shopping on Black Friday as Dr. Eileen de Villa warned that everyone in the city remains at risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19.Toronto is now in day three of a 28-day lockdown intended to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The city recorded 481 new cases on Wednesday.Tory said stamping out the virus hinges in part on people not gathering at large stores and GTA shopping centres that have been allowed to stay open under the provincial lockdown. Instead, Tory said, shop local and shop online where possible.De Villa, the city's medical officer of health, warned COVID-19 is still spreading in the community. You can watch her comments in the video below:Earlier Wednesday, de Villa showed city council a map that showed all but a handful of Toronto's neighbourhoods meet at least the criteria for the province's red zone restrictions — the second highest level of restriction. De Villa has repeatedly said that there are COVID-19 cases across the city, even though some areas of Etobicoke and Scarborough have been the major hot spots. Today, she said there's little stopping the entire city from reaching the red zone thresholds."The fact is, rates are alarmingly high in Toronto," she said.Mayor muses about blocking off BBQ restaurant that keeps reopeningTory also urged Torontonians who can to order takeout from a local restaurant to support those businesses amid the lockdown.However, Tory said the book should be thrown at the owner of an Etobicoke barbecue restaurant that defied city and provincial rules and reopened again Wednesday for indoor dining. You can read more about that story here.Tory said he hopes if the restaurant opens again at 11 a.m. on Thursday, it's shut down by 11:01 a.m, but noted he doesn't direct police. Tory also suggested he's open to the idea of putting concrete blocks in front of the business, like the city recently did with illegal cannabis dispensaries. The mayor also announced a number of initiatives to make it easier for people to enjoy the outdoors this winter, including everything from toboggan hills and "snow loops" for walking to disc golf courses.Skating rinks are set to open as soon as this weekend, but they will operate with a cap of 25 due to provincial rules. Many Torontonians had been calling on the city to ensure there are safe spaces to get outside during the second wave of the pandemic. You can read more about that here. For more news about Ontario's COVID-19 situation and how the pandemic is being handled, check out these CBC News stories:
BERLIN — German media giant Bertelsmann said Wednesday that its Penguin Random House division is buying rival Simon & Schuster in a megadeal that would reshape the U.S. publishing industry.Penguin Random House, already the largest American publisher, will buy the New York-based Simon & Schuster, whose authors include Stephen King, Hillary Clinton and John Irving, from TV and film company ViacomCBS for $2.17 billion in cash.“Simon & Schuster strengthens Bertelsmann’s footprint globally, and (particularly) in the U.S., its second-largest market,” the Guetersloh, Germany-based company said in a statement.The purchase of Simon & Schuster would reduce the so-called Big Five of American publishing — which also includes HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan — to four.The deal, expected to close in 2021, requires approval from the U.S. Justice Department. No U.S. publisher in modern times would approach the power of the new company. ViacomCBS said Bertelsmann will pay a termination fee if the deal fails due to regulatory reasons.Agents and authors often worry that a concentration of power in publishing could mean less competition for book deals, and lower advances.The Authors Guild, a writers' organization, said Wednesday that it opposed the sale because it would hurt competition, making it more difficult for authors and agents to negotiate with publishers, and said the Justice Department should challenge it.“As an organization of writers it’s important to us that the publishing industry (thrives), and that there be multiple, robust outlets to bring the widest variety of books to audiences,” said Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America. “To the extent that efficiencies are garnered through consolidation, it is our hope that they are a catalyst to enable greater investment in authors, books, and outreach to readers.”Bertelsmann's rival News Corp., which owns HarperCollins, also slammed the deal. “Bertelsmann is not just buying a book publisher, but buying market dominance as a book behemoth,” said News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson said in a statement. “This literary leviathan would have 70% of the U.S. literary and general fiction market."Penguin Random House Chief Executive Markus Dohle told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Simon & Schuster would retain its editorial independence and that individual imprints within Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster could continue to compete with each other for book deals.Simon & Schuster’s current president and chief executive, Jonathan Karp, will continue to lead the publishing house, Bertelsmann said.Under the new company, authors would range from John Grisham and Stephen King to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Every living former or current American president, from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, will have published a book with the new company. So will first ladies such as Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.Dohle declined to say whether there would be any layoffs, saying it was too soon to speculate.The German conglomerate, which was founded in 1835 and also owns a broad portfolio of broadcast, music and online businesses, has been the sole owner of Penguin Random House since April.ViacomCBS put up Simon & Schuster, founded in 1924, for sale earlier this year as the entertainment company tries to sell off “non-core assets” to pay down debt, please shareholders with dividends and stock buybacks, and invest in streaming.ViacomCBS owns cable networks Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and Comedy Central as well as broadcast network CBS and movie studio Paramount. It is trying to navigate consumers’ shift from watching live TV on a television set to streaming shows and movies on the internet.___Italie reported from New York. Associated Press writer Tali Arbel in Phoenix contributed to this report.Frank Jordans And Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter After several housekeeping items from Mayor Al Strathdee, he gave the floor to Town Treasurer Andre Morin, who began his presentation by introducing Denice Williamson, the new Deputy Treasurer for the Town of St. Marys. Williamson began her new role with the Town back on November 9th of this year and she was invited to sit in and watch the special meeting of the Council to get a feel for how the budget deliberations work and get introduced directly to members of Council themselves. Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer then gave a formal introduction to the 2021 budget deliberations. He noted that this year's budget deliberation is the first as part of the new budget schedule. Council has had more opportunities to discuss high-level aspects of the budget earlier than in previous years, which Kittmer noted has helped Town staff be better positioned to present a better version of the draft budget to Council. At the direction of Council, Town staff are using the remaining funds received by the Safe Restart program to help offset some of the increased costs, so there is less burden on the Town and its residents and businesses. An interesting comment made by the CAO, concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was the acknowledgment that the Town must find things for residents to do as pandemic fatigue continues to settle in, but that can be done safely and with proper safety measures in place. Additionally, according to Kittmer, the draft budget presented was the "worst-case scenario," meaning the Town is working under the assumption that the community will remain in some level of the pandemic state for the duration of 2021. The reason for this consideration going into the budget deliberations is so that Council can ensure it has what it needs if that worst-case scenario of remaining in some form of lockdown for the entirety of 2021 is realized.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent