Prince Wong was still in her mother's womb when the Chinese government reclaimed control over Hong Kong from the British in the summer of 1997. For her 23rd birthday this year, Wong posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a pastel-striped paper hat trimmed with pink pompoms. On a recent day, Wong spun a gold ring on her finger in continuous circles as she spoke quietly about the past year of her life.
Georgian Bay’s Honey Harbour Public Library is reopening at their new location, but only for curbside pickup, on Tuesday, Dec. 1 following its pandemic-related closure earlier this year. They’ll be open four days a week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Currently, the library is only handling drop-ins and contact-free pickups at their other locations in Georgian Bay, at the MacTier and Port Severn branches. On Dec. 1, all their locations will transition into curbside service only. The new library is located inside the Honey Harbour Public School at 2586 Honey Harbour Road. Tracey Fitchett, the library’s CEO, said she’s “really excited” to finally be operating out of the new facility, even though the public can’t come in. Official talks about relocating to the public school from their old location began last year. Fitchett said renovations began in fall 2019. Staff were in the midst of moving their things to the new location when public schools were closed provincewide on March 14. Until Friday, Nov. 27, their plan was to open the facility to the public, but they changed their plans out of fear of contributing to the spread of the coronavirus. “The numbers are so high every day and with other areas being in lockdown and potentially a lot of people from the red and grey zones will be coming here to stay at their cottages,” she said. “It’s just added risk to the staff and the people that come into the library.” Georgian Bay falls under the jurisdiction of the Simcoe Muskoka Public Health Unit, currently in the orange zone. No more than ten people can gather indoors under these rules. Curbside pickup will operate the same way it does at the other library locations in Georgian Bay. People can reserve books or movies online or over the phone, then the library will take either a day or up to two weeks to acquire the materials. Renters can then come pick up the materials during open hours and drop them off at the drop box. “It’s a beautiful space,” Fitchett said about the new library. “It’d be nice to have the community be able to come in again.” Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that the military alliance is grappling with a dilemma over its future in Afghanistan, as the United States starts pulling troops out while attacks by the Taliban and extremist groups mount.More than 17 years after taking the lead on international security efforts in Afghanistan, NATO now has around 11,000 troops from dozens of nations there helping to train and advise the national security forces. Most of the personnel are from Europe and other NATO partner countries.But the alliance relies heavily on the United States armed forces for air support, transport and logistics. European allies would struggle even to leave the country without U.S. help, and President Donald Trump’s decision to pull almost half the U.S. troops out by mid-January leaves NATO in a bind.“We face a difficult dilemma. Whether to leave, and risk that Afghanistan becomes once again a safe haven for international terrorists. Or stay, and risk a longer mission, with renewed violence,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the eve of a videoconference between NATO foreign ministers.Under a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban — without the involvement of other NATO allies or the Afghan government - all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan by May 1 if security conditions on the ground permit.“Whatever path we choose, it is important that we do so together, in a co-ordinated and deliberate way,” Stoltenberg said, on the eve of a videoconference between NATO foreign ministers where the organization’s most ambitious operation ever will be high on the agenda.Trump’s unilateral decision to leave only 2,500 U.S. troops with the mission had allied military planners scrambling, as they tried to work out whether NATO could continue to operate in Kabul, and other major cities. NATO diplomats say that for now they have enough “enablers” to get the job done.Afghan officials also fear that a rapid reduction in American troops could strengthen the Taliban’s negotiating position.NATO defence ministers are likely to make a final decision about the future of the Resolute Support Mission in February, after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. European diplomats expect the tone to change under Biden, but probably not the U.S. intention to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.The uncertainty comes amid a sharp rise in violence this year and a surge of attacks by the Taliban against the beleaguered Afghan security forces since the start of peace talks in September. Islamic State militants have also struck this month, notably in a horrific attack on Kabul University that killed 22 people, most of them students.“We have seen over the last months and weeks several attacks,” Stoltenberg said. “Some are conducted by Taliban, some attacks ISIS claimed responsibility for. But what we know is that the Taliban is responsible for attacks and the level of violence is far too high.”Even U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said: “We do not think the Taliban is keeping its word under the agreement. The violence is too high, and the Afghan people and the Afghan soldiers have paid a heavy price.”But despite the surge in violence, and deep uncertainty cause by the U.S. drawdown, the peace agreement appears to be an opportunity too good for NATO to miss.“We now see an historic opportunity for peace. It is fragile, but it must be seized,” Stoltenberg said. “We see an unpredictable and difficult military and political situation. But at least there are now talks.”Lorne Cook, The Associated Press
NORTH HURON – The museum committee has asked North Huron council to commit to owning and operating the North Huron Museum before they spend the time necessary to complete a proposal. Council had a lengthy discussion at their Nov. 16 meeting. Councillors expressed their concerns, reiterating the KPMG service review recommendations that the township should not be in the business of operating a museum. The KPMG report said that “the facility appears to be in need of a significant investment of upwards of $4 million.” They advised council in their report to consider “seeking out a third party to be responsible for the operation of the facility, including the assumption of gains or losses.” If that were not a viable option, they should “cease operations of the facility and determine how the township can display its exhibits through alternate means such as making use of other municipal facilities.” The report, presented by Vicki Luttenberger, director of recreation and community services, said that if council were to decide to discontinue museum programming and services, the township would need to commit both staff and financial resources for the deaccessioning of the museum collection. It is estimated that process would take approximately 12-18 months. Previously, volunteers ran the museum, and the township allocated $20,000 annually. The concern for additional costs associated with staffing requirements set out by the Government of Ontario, specifically hiring a full-time curator, was also discussed at length. A proposal to the previous council indicated that North Huron could obtain the former Wingham train station for $1. This proposal contained stipulations, including that North Huron staff be responsible for the day-to-day operations and commit to doing so for 20 years. Without a good business/financial plan, councillors are unwilling to commit to taking over the daily operations. The financial obligation needs to be presented to them, and an operational plan is required. Council prepared a motion to send back to the museum committee to prepare two proposals: one that utilizes township funds and one that doesn’t. Without this information, council feels they can not make an informed decision. Council also directed the museum committee to reach out to the current owner of the train station, Doug Kuyvenhoven, to determine if the stipulations set out in the offer to donate the train station for $1 are still the same as proposed to the previous council. They would like to confirm the stipulations to make sure they are still on the table or if revisions can be made for reconsideration. This matter will be before council again at a future meeting.Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times
Global News reporter Caryn Lieberman talks about getting an exclusive interview with the ‘bathtub girl’ who murdered her mother with her younger sister in Mississauga, Ont.
PERTH COUNTY – When Coun. Todd Kasenberg brought forward a motion to Perth County council on Nov. 19 to establish an inclusivity and anti-racism charter and a committee of county staff and community members interested in starting a conversation on actions which could be taken to strengthen inclusivity in the county, he was met with silence from council. “I’ll just say that certainly we’ve been watched through society,” he said. “Changes occurred over the last year which has heightened our attention to inclusivity and diversity and I believe that Perth County is a place where we welcome and value all people and all their contributions but I think there have been occasions where I have felt that has been substandard in our communities, in our county.” Kasenberg was dismayed at the Canada Day parade in Atwood a few years back when a tractor included the Confederate flag and displayed U.S. political paraphernalia. “It just wasn’t appropriate,” he said. “Letters to the Lion’s Club from the community called out the provocative behaviour of the parade participant.” The Lion’s Club struggled with how to proceed because some people say it is a matter of freedom of speech versus community inclusivity standards. “I could tell you that the Lion’s Club at the time, we weren’t prepared,” said Kasenberg. “We weren’t aware and certainly our stand wasn’t solid so I find myself at this time in response to those who have presented to this council and who have petitioned council for action thinking it is at least a small step we can take to begin a discussion. Can I say I know what racism is? Can I say I know what I believe inclusivity requires of us? Not fully.” He knows he is privileged enough that he has not had to face racism but he said he is open to the conversation and to learn about the experiences of people who do face racism in Perth County. “Which is why I think our path forward is to start a committee to evaluate a few things and those few things include the possibility of our county joining an associate which is committed to inclusivity and diversity in communities and also to establish, as other communities in Ontario have, a charter that speaks to inclusivity and diversity and anti-racism,” said Kasenberg. “We’ve heard from our constituents. We have an opportunity to take some action and that action probably is best served at this point by deliberate and thoughtful conversations amongst ourselves and some of those citizens who are interested in this matter. So that’s why I’ve put forward this motion and I so move it.” Warden James Aitcheson asked for a seconder for the motion. Council was silent. None of the other councillors wanted to support, discuss or vote on the motion. “It’s failed,” said Aitcheson. “Todd, that never got a seconder so that will be the end of that discussion. OK, we’ve dealt with that.” Kasenberg was disappointed his colleagues did not want to take what he considers to be small steps towards improving inclusivity and diversity platforms in Perth County. “I believe that through the disinterest shown by the county council to this motion, we risk sending messages that are contrary to who we are – namely, good, hospitable people who are progressive and opportunity-creating for all those of goodwill,” he said. “I find myself wondering how those of minority communities are feeling at the neglect of this motion. This could send unintended signals.” Even with the complete shutdown of his motion by the other councillors, Kasenberg said he will continue personal work and, to the extent possible, political work to ensure that Perth County is a welcoming place for people to work and live. “It is fundamental to my belief in the worth and dignity of all,” he said. “I understand that my motion arose in the aftermath of some constituent criticism of the lack of ability by a lower-tier municipality to act to a private insult in plain sight to the general public. But I can assure – my motion was not intended to irritate a neighbouring municipality, or to call them out for their actions. It was a reaction to what I believe is a general harm that we can express ourselves about – and not a judgment on one of our peers. “Sometimes, we in politics can take things as slights – in this case, that was never the intent. Through this motion, I urged council to study possibilities for actions that will address those who feel unsafe or unwelcome, who feel diminished from being whole.” Melissa Bender raised the issue of a bylaw to deter hate speech and anti-racist action to both the Township of Perth East and Perth County councils. She was disgusted and disappointed as she watched the council ignore Kasenberg’s motion. “It was hard to watch,” she said. “I think it speaks volumes really about the council and the people who are on it. When you have the Region of Waterloo hosting anti-racism town halls, the City of Stratford joining the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities, and Stratford and the Township of Wellesley petitioning the provincial and federal governments to strengthen laws regarding symbols deemed unacceptable and Perth County can’t even put out an inclusivity statement. It’s pathetic.” Bender said she is deeply grateful to Kasenberg for bringing this issue to council. “I hope the lack of support that he received brings awareness to the character of the other council members in Perth County,” she said. “I hope their blatant disinterest in promoting diversity and inclusivity motivates people to speak up, get involved and run for council when the opportunity arises.” The lack of action from council on what she thought was a simple step has left her shocked and not sure of any future action she might take. “I guess I was hoping that charter Todd was proposing was going to be the solution to what I wanted and I thought that I was going to accept that as a step in the right direction,” she said. “I didn’t think there was going to be a need for anything else. I brought it twice to the Township of Perth East – the Confederate flag specifically and other anti-racism initiatives and I brought it forward to Perth County and Kasenberg… if they are not listening to a member of their council – if anyone has the power to sway them, it would be a member of their council and if they can’t even do it I don’t think I can.” Bender said in one of the letters from constituents she forwarded to both Perth East and Perth County, a resident who is concerned about hate symbols being displayed in Perth East said: “The solution is to elect better members of council or to run yourself.” “I hope this lights a fire,” said Bender. “I think it sheds a light on who is representing you. Maybe it will make people want to run and make change happen because it’s not going to happen with this council. I don’t want to believe that – say there are 10 councillors – I don’t want to believe that 90 per cent of them feel racism doesn’t exist and that 90 per cent of the population feels that racism doesn’t exist.” He doesn’t know what motivated the other councillors to not support the motion, but Coun. Daryl Herlick said he made his decision because he has worked in the agriculture community his entire life and mixed races are employed in that field. He has also worked in construction for the last five years where he also works with mixed cultures and races. “Me, myself – I don’t see racism as an epic issue,” he said. “I don’t believe having a working task force to combat something that isn’t there is necessary.” He said a mission statement is something he was considering bringing back to council to allow the community to know annually that Perth County is an inclusive, antiracist community. “I’ll tell you another thing,” he said. “My cousin is common-law with a Black lady. They have kids who are from mixed-race now. They come and go within the community like nothing. One of my best friends is dating a Filipino. On top of that, one of my best acquaintances on the side right now is the (owner of a) local gas station and he’s from the Pacific rim – Malaysian. He’s involved with the Tavistock community so to have a task force that we’re always trying to combat, you can get to the point where you are making people a poster child who doesn’t even want it. I don’t see colour. Some people do continuously, supposedly, but I don’t see it and to be honest, my community doesn’t. I know nobody that does.” Herlick said hog farmers “use people from all over the world.” “Is there going to be a racist?” he asked. “Of course there is always going to be a goof, of course, there is going to be but that it is epic and huge, I don’t see it. I don’t see it so I can’t support it.” Herlick said creating the committee would have people walking around on tiptoes scared to talk to mixed cultures or races because they might say the wrong thing. “It’s supposedly this epic issue that I don’t even see myself,” he said. “This summer I worked with three Black people off and on for two months straight and they worked with mixed cultures and they were great people.” Reassuring the community that there is no racism in Perth County is something Herlick said he can support. “Twenty years ago when I was in high school there was a couple of Black people and a couple of Asians and we shot the crap and I just don’t know, it’s frustrating to me at times; for me, I just don’t want to be making people uncomfortable,” he said. Herlick repeated that the farming community works with different races, cultures from around the world in sow barns. “The working relationships are great,” he said. “It’s a tough one for me to say we need to have a full-blown working task force because I don’t want to see – I don’t see colour.” “I don’t see colour and I haven’t ever. It’s weird. I don’t know if that’s naturally who I am but I say not because I have too much experience with people who think the same as me including all my family members.” Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron founder Gezahgn Wordofa said there are a lot of people from all around the world living and working in Perth County, but the Multicultural Association has to help many newcomers because they are struggling and there is very little support for them locally. “Nobody is helping us, nobody is supporting us,” said Wordofa. “We need more support because we are struggling. There are a lot of newcomers who need support, who need help.” Wordofa said the Multicultural Association does receive support for its efforts from local grassroots organizations, mostly churches and the Chamber of Commerce, but not much help comes from municipal levels of government. “We are working with church groups here in town,” he said. “We are working with the Salvation Army. Grassroots, many people are helping us.” Many of the people who Wordofa helps who work in Perth County factories are forced to commute from other cities because housing is not affordable. “Some of the newcomers are sleeping in their van,” he said. “Is this India? Is this Africa? We’re in Canada and we’re struggling and the factories are calling us. They need more people. They have a lot of jobs. They are telling us how we are lucky to be in this county but there are not enough affordable houses.” Wordofa said many newcomers to Canada feel forgotten and sometimes they face racism when they are out in the community. “Sometimes they tell us to “go home” when we walk into places like Tim Hortons,” he said. “Our home is here. There are so many people working in the factories. We don’t get support from the council or the city. It is not good. We are struggling. Me, of course, I can defend myself but lots of people don’t speak the language. We need support, we need to work together. There are so many Africans, there are so many multicultural people here, they are working in the factories, in variety stores and gas stations. We are working, paying taxes and other people reject us. We are working in these communities and we ask them for support many times, they reject us.” Clinton Springer Sr., a volunteer with the Multicultural Association, said there is education to be done for everyone. “We want to be educated in the Canadian culture but we also want to educate them on our culture,” he said. “This is an era when people are seeing a lot of stuff in the news, things like Black Lives Matter and people think ‘oh my god I don’t want anyone in Listowel to be into that’ and what they don’t understand is – that is change. If you talk to the young people in Listowel, in Stratford, the younger generation… it’s not us and them, it’s let’s build ‘we’. “Just remember in a few years from now that council might knock at my door to get my vote. So when the councillors who said ‘no, I don’t want it’ is knocking at my door and I open it, they will ask, can I have your support?” Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner
BRUCE COUNTY – Miguel Pelletier, director of transportation and environmental services, told committee members at last week’s meeting that speeding continues to be a problem on county roads. Local police are reporting an increase in people driving above the posted speed limit. The 50 km/h residential zones are of particular concern, Pelletier said in his report. “There isn’t a single thing that works at all times under all conditions … to get people to slow down,” he said. A combination of tools is usually required to achieve long-term traffic calming. County Coun. Janice Jackson, mayor of South Bruce Peninsula, commented on speeding in Colpoy’s Bay. Pelletier said a flashing speed radar sign didn’t work well there, but centreline flex posts were more effective. The report indicated they were becoming less effective over time. In May, the traffic and environmental services committee had approved a two-year trial for centreline flex posts. One area where the new signs were posted was on Bruce Road 9 in Colpoy’s Bay. Flashing speed radar signs were installed in areas of concern for a one- or two-week period, including Inverhuron, Glammis, Mildmay and Wiarton. Pelletier noted the effect isn’t consistent at every location, indicating other measures will be needed in some areas. The flashing signs become less effective over time in places where people drive on the same road daily. Another measure is reducing the posted speed limit. This was done in Whitechurch, from 70 km/h to 60. It appears lowering the speed limit had little effect, but the flashing speed radar signs did. Public education and police enforcement are other measures discussed in the report. Pelletier’s report outlined the process that’s in place for dealing with speeding. It consists of gathering data on speeds and collisions, engineering analysis to identify solutions, implementing the solutions, and gathering more data to confirm if the solutions are working. The county shares the information with lower-tier municipalities. There is a backlog of approximately 10 areas awaiting investigation to develop traffic calming solutions. These will be addressed in 2021. Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
LISTOWEL – Twice a year the council of the Bethel Christian Reformed Church has visioning sessions. This fall they decided to do one on how to be a hands and feet ministry of Jesus here in Listowel. “I don’t know if you know what that means – basically what it means is Jesus talks in the Bible several times about helping the poor, helping those in prison and helping those who are hungry,” said Ray Heeres, vice-chairman of the council. In Matthew 25, Heeres said there is a verse about people getting to heaven. When they arrive Jesus says, ‘I don’t know who you are.’ The people reply, ‘I don’t know what you mean, we’re Christian.’ To which Jesus said, ‘when I was hungry you didn’t feed me. When I was without clothes you never clothed me. When I was in prison you didn’t visit me.’ The people answer, ‘we didn’t know you were in there.’ Jesus told the people that whenever they do that for anybody they are doing it for him. “The whole point being, what good are you as a Christian if you don’t help your fellow neighbour if you don’t help your community,” said Heeres. That is the background behind why the church council decided to be more involved in the community. “What good is a church in a community if it is a clubhouse for the members to come every Sunday and they don’t give a hoot about anything in the community,” he said. “Then you’re not doing what you are supposed to do.” So, Heeres met with some other church leaders, Andrea Charest, executive director of It Takes A Village, and some representatives from social services at the old Anglican Church which is in the process of finding a new life as The Village Table. “I don’t know if you are aware what’s going on there – Ann and Daryl Voskamp have bought it,” said Heeres. “It’s going to be a ministry centre… So we had Ann and Daryl talk to us a bit about what their vision was for the place.” At the meeting, there was a lot of discussion about the homeless in North Perth and other people who need support. “We learned a lot but of course, now what are we going to do about it,” said Heeres. One idea which has been raised is doing potluck dinners where local families would bring food to The Village Table and people who need a meal would be invited to share in the meal. “That all sounds great until you try to figure out what the COVID guidelines are and all of a sudden – well you can meet with 50 people there – but the idea was a family sits down at a table with a couple of homeless people and shares a meal,” said Heeres. “The health unit says no you can’t do that. You can only sit at a table with people in your bubble. The other bubble has to be at a table six feet away.” Food also has to be prepared in a certified kitchen and the kitchen in the old Anglican Church building would need to be updated, so there are some obstacles to overcome when it comes to hosting meals. Heeres said he thinks using the word ‘homeless’ might limit the people who need some help. “What is better terminology to use because I don’t like saying we’re going to sit down with a few homeless people,” he said. “There has got to be something better than that.” The idea of providing a weekly meal was being talked about before the pandemic started. It was going to be a partnership with It Takes A Village. “We were all gung-ho to do that and then COVID hit and that sort of destroyed everything there,” said Heeres. “So that is still a goal… maybe it has to be take-out meals at this point.” This work is being done to complement efforts by the North Perth Committee on Homelessness which is working with the Salvation Army. “I know the warming centre was talked about and they are waiting on a grant for that I believe, but again at The Village Table I think we are going to look to see whether we can be open a couple of hours a few days a week just to have coffee and maybe you could provide store-bought cookies so it’s not a matter of food prepared in a certified kitchen,” said Heeres. “Now that will take volunteers to staff it… you’d be open a couple of hours in the afternoon so people could drop in and have a free coffee, hang out and warm up.” A cold snap in the winter could pose issues for this plan, but he hopes they would be able to extend the hours if necessary. He knows from experience there are no local motels which would provide shelter for people in need. “As a church, we’ve had to put somebody up once and we had to bring them to Palmerston because the local (motels) would not do it,” he said. “So that thought is in the back of our minds. So you have a warming centre. People come and you close at 5 p.m. and you have to boot them out the door. It’s howling wind and it’s minus-20. You feel like a jerk for doing it but on the other hand, are you set up?” Using The Village Table as an example, he pointed out the problems such as liability and staffing if people had to stay overnight. “You need staffing who can be there all night and be awake,” said Heeres. “You can’t be sleeping. Strictly volunteers, that’s asking a lot.” According to Heeres, the Voskamps would like to see The Village Table being used for a variety of programs. One that he recalled being discussed is Celebrate Recovery. “It’s a fairly intense program for those who are recovering from addictions but also other stuff, mental health issues,” he said. “They tried to have one in town a few years ago but it takes a lot of work and a lot of volunteers so they are hoping to maybe bring this back and operate it out of that building, too.” Heeres did not want to talk too much about programs which will be in the ministry because he is just one of many helpers who will be involved, but he said non-Christians should not worry about the word ‘ministry’, which he said is church talk for a program. “The public says ‘government-run programs’, but to us, in a church, if we are going to do a warming centre we would call it a ministry,” he said. “I don’t think you have to be Christian to be able to work out of there and certainly there will be no ‘we’ll only help you if you are Christian.’ Absolutely not, there is no quiz before you get help. It’s just if you need help, fine.” Heeres said he respects the model at It Takes A Village where they offer support to anyone without asking questions, but he does realize some other organizations have more administration to deal with and they require more information. “You can be tough and say – well if they want food they just better obey the rules,” said Heeres. “Well, we all know what happens then. They just stay away then and find other ways, so the answer isn’t to say to the poor, to the homeless – if you don’t follow our rules then you can’t get any help… I know some people think you are just enabling them … and I’m thinking to myself, ‘you think they’re living high off the hog if they are on disability and getting $1,000 a month? You try to live off that.’ They should be getting twice that so don’t think they are taking advantage of the system. It’s just not the way it is. I think people who say that kind of stuff have never really been in the trenches.” Heeres is open to people in need being involved in creating the programs which will help them. “I would want equal representation from both sides because I have done enough foreign mission trips to know you can do a terrible lot of damage if you think you know what people need,” he said. “I take youth to Nicaragua. I’ve gone there seven or eight times now. You can’t go there and say ‘OK, you need this so we’re going to build it for you.’ That’s not how it works.” When they go on mission trips, they work with the YMCA in Nicaragua, which is different than the YMCA here. “There it’s a community development organization,” said Heeres. “They go into a community and sit down with their council… and they come up with a vision and a plan for what they need… then we will go in and help them do what they need. So the same thing is necessary here. If we are going to ‘help the homeless’, we need to know what they need and I don’t know what they need… so definitely I think the people involved who you are ministering to need input on how the ministry is going to be done or else you can offer something and nobody will show up.” Heeres realizes this might mean they would be working with people who have an addiction and mental health challenges and may not always be reliable. “One of the first mission trips I went on was when the Mississippi River flooded,” he said. “We drove all night as a youth group… we were going to help some people clean up their place. We… showed up at this house at 10 a.m. and the people weren’t there. We’re all going – what ungrateful people, we drove all the way here – it’s all about us in our heads. They showed up at noon. “The whole point of that being, and I’m going to get into Christianity here, Jesus Christ died for us and we didn’t deserve it but he did it anyway, so we’re just like them and we expect Jesus to love us so how about we return the favour and we love the unreliable and do stuff for them and don’t make them being reliable a precondition for us to do something for them because then you are going to be disappointed.” When they are preparing for the foreign mission trips there is a day of orientation. “What I instill in these kids is Jesus doesn’t need you to go to Nicaragua for him if you are not willing to do something in your town so you better be willing, when you come back, to be of service in your town. It’s easy to go to Nicaragua and be a hero and it’s a great trip and it’s fun and everybody thinks you are great but it’s a little different ministering to the guy in Listowel who needs some food. The whole point for Christians is if you are not willing to do something in your town with the downtrodden then you’ve got no right to claim you are ‘a great Christian.’”Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner
British pop star Rita Ora apologised on Monday after she admitted she had attended a party to celebrate her 30th birthday which broke England's strict COVID-19 lockdown laws. Under the lockdown rules, people in England are not allowed to mix with other households indoors and can meet one person outside.
NEW YORK — General Motors will not be taking a stake in the electric vehicle company Nikola, and the company said Monday that it was scuttling one of its marquee vehicles, an electric and hydrogen-powered pickup, after GM pulled technological support from the project.Shares of Nikola plunged 24%.Nikola on Monday released updated terms between the companies for a supply agreement related to GM's fuel-cell system, replacing an agreement signed in September. That deal would have given GM an 11% stake in Nikola.The early agreement would also have allowed Nikola to use GM’s new battery electric truck underpinnings for its electric and hydrogen-powered pickup called the Badger, and its fuel cell and battery technology as well. That is no longer part of the agreement, essentially gutting Nikola's plans for the Badger.Nikola said Monday that it will begin refunding deposits made by customers who wanted first dibs on that pickup.“In a nutshell, the signing of GM as a partner is a positive but ultimately no ownership/equity stake in Nikola and the billions of R&D potentially now off the table is a major negative blow to the Nikola story," said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives. “This went from a game changer deal for Nikola to a good supply partnership but nothing to write home about."There were hints that the partnership was going sideways in late September as a deadline for an binding agreement approached. GM said then that negotiations about its $2 billion role were ongoing, sending shares of Nikola sliding.That announcement came just days after Nikola founder and Chairman Trevor Milton resigned after Hindenburg Research, a company that’s betting Nikola stock will drop, accused Nikola of Fraud.Hindenburg said Nikola’s success was an “intricate fraud,” including a video showing a truck rolling downhill to give the impression it was cruising on a highway, and stenciling the words “hydrogen electric” on the side of a vehicle that was actually powered by natural gas.Nikola denies the allegations and called them misleading. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are reportedly investigating.On Monday, GM spokesman Jim Cain said the revised agreement is more focused. He said the new memorandum of understanding will help Nikola produce its commercial trucks, and help GM commercialize its fuel cell technology.Nikola said Monday that its work on heavy trucks will continue. GM will still be part of a global supply agreement that would integrate GM’s Hydrotec fuel-cell system into Nikola’s commercial semi-trucks.“Heavy trucks remain our core business and we are 100% focused on hitting our development milestones to bring clean hydrogen and battery-electric commercial trucks to market," said CEO Mark Russell.Nikola is based in Phoenix.The Associated Press
PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegro will follow through with its decision to expel the Serbian ambassador, the country's foreign ministry said on Monday, despite a call from the European Union to reverse it. Just days before the inauguration of a new, pro-Serbian government, Montenegro’s outgoing cabinet on Saturday proclaimed the Serbian diplomat persona non grata, citing his “long and continuous meddling in the internal affairs of Montenegro.” Serbia initially reacted by ordering the Montenegrin ambassador to leave the country, but on Sunday went back on its decision. The EU enlargement commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, has called on Montenegro to do the same, saying “respect for good neighbourly relations and regional co-operation are cornerstones of EU enlargement.” But Montenegro's foreign ministry chided Varhelyi for offering advice before having full knowledge of what led to the country's decision. “Unfortunately, Commissioner Varhelyi has, before making the suggestion, failed to consult with partners and friends in Montenegro’’ about the basic information that led to the expulsion of the Serbian ambassador, the ministry said in a statement. Montenegro, the small Adriatic state of some 620,000 people, is considered the first in line of all the Western Balkan states to join the EU. Although also formally seeking the membership, much bigger Serbia has been forging close political, economic and military ties with China and Russia. The diplomatic incident added to already tense relations between Montenegro and Serbia that were part of one country before an independence referendum in 2006 led to Montenegro splitting off. Montenegro remains deeply divided among those seeking closer ties with traditional Slavic allies Serbia and Russia, and those who view Montenegro as an independent state allied with the West. The long-ruling pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists was defeated in an August election by a pro-Serb coalition whose government is set to take office this week. The DPS-led government defied Serbia and Russia to join NATO in 2017. The outgoing authorities have accused Serbia of aiding pro-Serb political forces in Montenegro with the goal of installing allies in power and regaining influence. ____ This story corrects the spelling of the last name of the EU official to Varhelyi. Predrag Milic, The Associated Press
SILVER SPRING, Md. — The number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes fell for the second consecutive month as lack of available homes continues to stifle house hunters.The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its index of pending sales fell 1.1%, to 128.9 in October, down from a reading of 130.3 in September. An index of 100 represents the level of contract activity in 2001.Thanks to a red-hot summer, contract signings are still 20.2% ahead of where they were last year after lagging in spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Contract signings are a barometer of finalized purchases over the next two months.Three out of four regions saw declines in contract signings, with only the South logging a small gain.Historically low interest rates are drawing prospective buyers into the market, but home prices have risen significantly the past year as supply remains near all-time lows.Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac reported last week that the average rate on the 30-year fixed-rate home loan remained at a record low 2.72%.The median price for an existing single-family home reached $313,000 in October up almost 16% from October 2019. The median price of a new home sold in October was $330,600, according to the Commerce Department.Matt Ott, The Associated Press
BRUCE COUNTY – County Coun. Steve Hammell, mayor of Arran-Elderslie, has been asked to be a member of the steering committee for an agricultural plastic waste recycling pilot project. Bruce County’s Transportation and Environmental Services Committee approved the CleanFarms Inc. project for collecting agricultural plastic waste in the county. In October, staff met with two representatives from CleanFarms Inc., a non-profit environmental stewardship organization that operates permanent collection programs for a variety of agricultural plastics across Canada. CleanFarms has 10 years of experience in such programs. The Bruce County bale wrap and twine collection pilot project would be a first for Ontario. The purpose, as stated in a report to the transportation and environmental services committee, “is to build a collection model that will be practical for farmers, cost effective and that can eventually be replicated in other regions of Ontario.” The Bruce County pilot project will be funded by CleanFarms and the Agricultural and AgriFood Canada’s Canadian agricultural strategic priorities program. “This could have a big impact on diverting waste,” said Miguel Pelletier, director of transportation and environmental services. Hammell said his farm does recycle bale wrap (with a different company). He said the pilot program, if successful, would “divert a lot that’s currently being burned.”Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
GREY-BRUCE – As of Monday, Nov. 23, Grey-Bruce entered the Yellow stage of the Ontario Public Health classification system. The change from Green to Yellow means greater restrictions and enhanced enforcement – including operational restrictions on bars and restaurants, sports and recreational facilities, personal care services, retail spaces and other businesses – an outcome that none of us desires, according to Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health. Arra added that collectively, it is in our control to change our designation back to Green as soon as we can – but it will take an effort from all of us. As of press time, there were 50 active cases of COVID-19 in Grey-Bruce, plus eight probable cases. Most concerning are the 280 high risk contacts associated with active cases. As stated on the health unit’s website, “It takes a tremendous amount of effort to manage this number of high-risk contacts. This number will keep increasing, unless we limit, starting today, our unprotected encounters with all people outside of our own households.” Two people in Grey-Bruce are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Although there are no facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks, as of Nov. 24, Grey Bruce Public Health was working with Bluewater District School Board to address a case of COVID-19 associated with Hillcrest Elementary School in Owen Sound. The bus route associated with this case has been deemed low risk. Public health officials will notify anyone considered at high risk, so they can isolate and be tested. There have been 283 cases to date in Grey-Bruce. Owen Sound has had the highest number – 69, while Southgate in Grey County has had 40 (15 of them active), and Kincardine in Bruce County has had 36 (nine active). All municipalities in the two counties have had at least one case of COVID-19. For detailed information on the Yellow category of the framework, please visit the provincial website. It helps to explain the changes resulting from the change from Green to Yellow. The Grey Bruce Health Unit has fact sheets available to assist the public and businesses in understanding these changes. Stated on the Grey Bruce Health Unit website was the following: “We have been seeing a deeply concerning trend of a significant increase in the number of cases locally, and in the number of close contacts of these cases. These findings are indicative of fatigue related to following public health measures. It is important that we re-focus our energy on the basic measures that can keep us safe – the same ones that got us through the spring first wave.” Those measures include: • Wash your hands frequently. • Watch your distance (ideally two metres or six feet). • Wear your face covering correctly (over nose and mouth). • Avoid crowds. • Arrange for outdoor activities instead of indoors whenever possible. • Stay home if you are sick. • Avoid close contact (unprotected contact within six feet of each other) with those from outside your household. • Avoid travel to areas with higher transmission and minimize non-essential travel. • Be kind, be calm, be safe. • Stay informed.Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
NEW YORK — In the land of lexicography, out of the whole of the English language, 2020's word of the year is a vocabulary of one. For the first time, two dictionary companies on Monday — Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com — declared the same word as their tops: pandemic. A third couldn't settle on just one so issued a 16-page report instead along the same lines, noting that a world of once-specialized terms entered the mainstream during the COVID-19 crisis. The year, Oxford Languages said in the report last week, “brought a new immediacy and urgency to the role of the lexicographer. In almost real-time, lexicographers were able to monitor and analyze seismic shifts in language data and precipitous frequency rises in new coinages." Its Oxford English Dictionary and others found themselves madly updating well beyond routine schedules to keep up. Such publication updates are usually planned far in advance. Because the coronavirus pandemic brought on gargantuan language changes, according to Oxford Languages, “2020 is a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single `word of the year.'” Not so at Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com, both of which also noted enormous shifts toward many other related words but announced just one nonetheless. Pandemic “probably isn’t a big shock,” Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster, told The Associated Press ahead of the announcement. “Often the big news story has a technical word that’s associated with it and in this case, the word pandemic is not just technical but has become general. It’s probably the word by which we’ll refer to this period in the future,” he said. John Kelly, senior research editor at Dictionary.com, told the AP before breaking the news that searches on the site for pandemic spiked more than 13,500% on March 11, the day the World Health Organization declared an outbreak of the novel coronavirus a global health emergency. The daily spike, he said, was “massive, but even more telling is how high it has sustained significant search volumes throughout the entire year." Month over month, lookups for pandemic were more than 1,000% higher than usual. For about half the year, the word was in the top 10% of all lookup on Dictionary.com, Kelly said. Similarly, at Merriam-Webster.com, searches for pandemic on March 11 were 115,806% higher than spikes experienced on the same date last year, Sokolowski said. Pandemic, with roots in Latin and Greek, is a combination of “pan,” for all, and “demos,” for people or population, he said. The latter is the same root of “democracy,” Sokolowski said. The word pandemic dates to the mid-1600s, used broadly for “universal” and more specifically to disease in a medical text in the 1660s, he said. That was after the plagues of the Middle Ages, Sokolowski said. He attributes the lookup traffic for pandemic not entirely to searchers who didn’t know what it meant but also to those on the hunt for more detail, or for inspiration or comfort in the knowing. “We see that the word love is looked up around Valentine’s Day and the word cornucopia is looked up at Thanksgiving,” Sokolowski said. “We see a word like surreal spiking when a moment of national tragedy or shock occurs. It’s the idea of dictionaries being the beginning of putting your thoughts in order.” The pandemic, Kelly said, made us all worthy of watercooler chatter with Dr. Anthony Fauci as our knowledge grew about all things pandemic, aerosols, contact tracing, social distancing and herd immunity, along with the intricacies of therapeutic drugs, tests and vaccines that can help save lives. “These were all part of a new shared vocabulary we needed to stay safe and informed. It’s incredible,” said Kelly, who works with a team of lexicographers to come up with words of the year based primarily on site traffic. Merriam-Webster began designating a word of the year in 2008, with “bailout.” The company's word of the year for 2019 was “they,” when a shifting use of the personal pronoun was a hot subject and lookups increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year. Dictionary.com has been in the word of the year game since 2010, with “change.” Its word of the year in 2019 was “existential" in a year that climate change, gun violence, the very nature of democracy and an angsty little movie star named Forky from Disney's “Toy Story 4” helped propel search spikes. Oxford went with two words last year: climate emergency. Kelly, Sokolowski and Oxford Languages noted other worthy search trends beyond the pandemic. After the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, words around racial justice experienced spikes, including fascism, anti-fascism, defund and white fragility, Kelly said. “There was no way for us to leave that out of the conversation this year,” he said. Oxford included a range in its report, from “karen” to “QAnon.” But it was all things pandemic that ultimately won the annual word sweepstakes. Jennifer Steeves-Kiss, chief executive for Dictionary.com, said one key ingredient in the hunt for the site’s word of the year is sustained interest over time. Pandemic met that standard. “This has affected families, our work, the economy,” she said. “It really became the logical choice. It’s become the context through which we’ve had dialogue all through 2020. It’s the through line for discourse.” Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The U.S. Embassy in Budapest on Monday condemned an article published by a Hungarian official that drew parallels between American-Hungarian billionaire George Soros and Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The embassy posted on its Twitter account that it “strongly condemns” statements made in an article equating a debate over the European Union’s bid to bolster democratic standards within its member countries “with the horrific murder of millions of people during the Holocaust.” On Saturday, Szilard Demeter, a ministerial commissioner for culture and the head of the Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest, wrote an opinion piece in pro-government news site Origo referring to Europe as “George Soros’ gas chamber,” and calling Soros “the liberal Führer (whose) liber-aryan army deifies him more than did Hitler’s own.” In the piece, Demeter also noted the conflict over the European Union’s next budget, which Hungary and Poland are holding up over provisions that could block payments to countries that do not uphold democratic standards. He referred to the two countries, both of which are under EU investigation for undermining judicial independence and media freedom, as “the new Jews.” Soros, who was born in Hungary and is a Holocaust survivor, is a frequent target of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who opposes Soros’ philanthropy which favours liberal causes. The statements prompted strong reactions from several Hungarian Jewish groups and Hungarian opposition politicians while the Israeli Embassy condemned the article. More than 12,000 people including numerous Hungarian public figures like Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony have so far signed a petition demanding Demeter’s resignation. Demeter retracted the article on Sunday following the backlash and said he would delete his Facebook account. In Hungary’s parliament on Monday, several opposition lawmakers inquired how long Demeter would be permitted to remain in his position while others demanded his dismissal. But deputy prime minister Mihaly Varga, who is also finance minister, said that Demeter would remain in his position since he had “admitted his mistake.” “He retracted his article, and he even deleted his Facebook account. He wrote that (his article) could harm the memory of the victims, so he admitted his mistake,” Varga said, and accused the opposition members of parliament of “applying a double standard.” Justin Spike, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Home prices are increasing in Canada’s cottage country as more buyers look to move there full-time, according to a report released Monday by Royal LePage. Prices of single-family recreational homes rose 11.5 per cent to an aggregate of $453,046 in the first nine months of the year, the real estate brokerage said.The data from Royal LePage comes amid an overall uptick in home prices this year, after COVID-19 lockdowns stymied the spring buying season. A rush of demand and a limited supply as the economy reopened this summer and fall meant that home prices were up 15.2 per cent last month in Canada compared to a year ago, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.Royal LePage chief executive Phil Soper says the number of cottages, cabins, chalets and farmhouses on the market have also dwindled amid the increased demand, at least through September.“Inventory levels are the lowest I've seen in 15 years," said Heather FitzGerald, a Royal LePage agent in Moncton, NB, in the report. While local buyers have moved away from cities and closer to nature, FitzGerald also noted an increase in buyers from Ontario and Quebec. Corey Huskilson, another Royal LePage agent quoted in the report and based in Halifax, said buyers from outside of the Maritimes, "who expect to be working remotely for the foreseeable future, are flocking to the area."Real estate agents in 54 per cent of regions told the brokerage that there was a significant increase in buyers looking to work remotely at a cottage as a primary residence. Eric Leger, a Laurentians-based agent, said in the report that Quebec’s lockdown periods “sparked an urgent desire for many city dwellers, in need of more living space, to relocate to the suburbs and cottage country.” Agents in other provinces noted similar trends, with one agent noting that Alberta-based buyers are competing with people across the country for properties in Canmore.“Highway developments have reduced the drive from Saskatoon to 1.5 hours, which makes working remotely more possible for those who still have to go into the office a few days a week," said broker Lou Doderai in the report.The report says retirees have also bid up cottage prices, with agents in 68 per cent of regions saying more retirees are buying cottages this year compared to last year. "Retiring baby boomers have been putting upward pressure on prices and reducing inventory for the last few years. Retirees are now finding themselves competing against remote workers,” said Bob Clarke, an agent in Ontario's Muskoka region, in the report.“The most common question used to be 'is the property West-facing?' Now my clients' biggest concern is internet quality." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press
BLYTH – A survey will be coming to mailboxes in North Huron soon to seek input on expanding the North Huron Childcare Services to Blyth. Outgoing Manager of Children’s Services, Valerie Watson, presented her final report to council on Nov. 16, responding to the possible need for expanded childcare services in the town. She suggested a survey would be an excellent way to get more information from residents about the subject. When they completed their 2020-2023 Strategic Planning, the report was requested by council to “explore the feasibility of expanding daycare services in Blyth.” In the report, Watson said that before the COVID-19 closure of childcare programs in March, North Huron’s children programs were consistently full. The electronic waitlist (OneHSN) regularly had numbers in the 70-80 range of children looking for care. The waitlist includes many infants, often put on the list well in advance of needing care, some as soon as they are born. North Huron continues to have approximately 80 children on the waitlist, four of which live in the Blyth area, Watson told council. She suggested the following factors to take into consideration: the number of children requiring care, a suitable location that satisfies the ministry’s licencing requirements, staffing, and funding opportunities. Childcare services are currently available in the Walton, Wingham, Seaforth, Clinton, and Goderich areas. When calculating break-even costs for staffing purposes, the minimum number of children to cover staffing costs would be approximately 16 children. Staff is considering the Blyth Community Centre auditorium as a possible location, saying that it could be utilized as a childcare centre with significant renovations. Childcare staff reviewed that space and offered the following information to council: This space contains a large commercial kitchen area, including a mandatory commercial dishwasher. There is ample floor space to divide up into suitable rooms as required by the Ministry of Education. It has open space around the building that could be developed into the necessary outdoor fenced play space. There are already defined rooms that could be renovated to provide the required staff break area, office, and storage areas. The space being located on the second storey is not ideal. However, clients can access the elevator, and there are appropriate fire evacuation doors and steps. It is also noted the space has a sound heating system and necessary plumbing. Council approved the motion to send out the survey and will consider the results at a future council meeting after completing the study.Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times
VAUGHAN, Ont. — York Region has confirmed 11 cases of COVID-19 linked to a soccer game at a sports facility in Vaughan, Ont.The public health unit says about 25 people played at TRIO Sportsplex and Event Centre on Nov. 11 and 15.It says the players wore masks during the game but not while they were in the change rooms.Most of the cases were Toronto residents, with some from surrounding areas.Team sports were allowed in York Region at the time but screening of patrons was required.The region moved to stricter pandemic restrictions on Nov. 16, prohibiting team sports except for training.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.The Canadian Press
WROXETER – Proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act have the board members of Maitland Conservation (formerly Maitland Valley Conservation Authority) concerned. At the MC meeting on Nov. 18, the members agreed that they must get loud and push back, making “as much noise as possible” to make sure the government hears their concerns. Among their concerns is “the glaring omission” of watershed management as a core service of conservation authorities. “Watershed management is the main reason that conservation authorities were formed,” according to a summary report prepared by the MC. “The province, municipalities and conservation groups realized that the best way to conserve forests and rivers was to undertake conservation stewardship on a watershed basis.” MC’s chairs and vice-chairs made this point to Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s minister of environment, conservation, and parks, and Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson when they met at MC’s office last August. Yurek did say that he could add watershed management services as a core service by regulation, according to a report presented to the MC board members. “Tacked on to the recent Government of Ontario omnibus Budget Bill 229 is Schedule 6, a proposal for significant changes to the Conservation Authorities Act. Schedule 6 has set off alarm bells amongst Conservation Authorities and our partners across the province,” a press release dated Nov. 22 from MC said. “The proposed changes will severely curtail the role of Conservation Authorities in watershed planning and management. This will negatively impact our efforts to build watershed resiliency and deliver stewardship, monitoring and flood and erosion safety services to our member municipalities and watershed residents.” Dave Turton, chair of MC, said that the government surveyed the 36 Ontario conservation authorities in 2019. They provided feedback to the province on flood and erosion safety, watershed stewardship, funding, severe weather events other than spring thaws, and water quality. He said they would like Schedule 6 removed, “as it goes against a lot of our thoughts to the province last year.” Yurek sent a letter to conservation authorities on Nov. 5 outlining the Conservation Authorities Act and the Planning Act. These updates, according to the letter, would “improve the consistency and transparency of the programs and services that conservation authorities deliver.” Yurek added that the updates would provide additional oversight for municipalities and the province. They would also streamline conservation authority permitting and land use planning reviews to increase accountability, consistency, and transparency. The anticipated changes are exempt from the public consultation requirements set out by the Environmental Bill of Rights because they are part of a budget. Once the province approves that budget, it will support the Conservation Authorities Act’s changes. During the discussion at the meeting, the board’s opinion was that the Ford government was again trying to change the greenbelt designation in Vaughn. “The government seems to be bending to the developers in and around the Toronto area,” said Turton. “The land development is so vast that all the non-conservation land is used up, and now where do you build?” Added Turton, “We understand that some environmentally-friendly areas are being filled in with dirt for housing construction, etc. This is not right. The Conservation Authorities have used science-based collaborative strategies in decision making and will continue this path.” The greenbelt has been a controversial subject since 2019, when landowner Lucia Milani of Rizmi Holdings approached the provincial government, intending to get the protected status lifted off a 60-acre piece of land in northeast Vaughan. The CBC reports that the campaign has since been closed. The MC encouraged watershed residents to “take a moment to read the material developed by Ontario Nature and the Canadian Environmental Law Association and sign their petition.” You can find it at Ontario Nature Petition. The campaign asks the Ontario government to retain the current mandate of the province’s 36 Conservation Authorities. An excerpt from the campaign letter said, “Ontario’s Conservation Authorities are a unique and widely- respected innovation. They provide a much-valued bridge across municipal boundaries to understand and address environmental concerns, such as flooding. They are ideally positioned to encourage science-based collaborative strategies and decision-making because they operate at the watershed level. “The changes proposed in Schedule 6 will reduce or constrain the mandate of Conservation Authorities, and are therefore contradictory to the interests of the people of Ontario, who are facing enormous risks and costs as a result of climate change and ongoing biodiversity loss.” In a statement on its website, Ontario Nature says, “The vital role of our Conservation Authorities in watershed-based land use planning and permitting must be retained to prevent unchecked development, that puts communities at risk from flooding and other climate change impacts through the loss of wetlands, woodlands, and farmland.” Conservation Authorities’ core role has been under review since 2019 when Ontario committed to its Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan to ensure that conservation authorities focus and deliver on their core mandate. The roles of preparing and protecting against the impacts of natural hazards, maintaining and managing conservation lands, and drinking water source protection are the focus of the review. According to a notice posted on Ontario.ca, consultations have been held with “conservation authorities and a diverse group of stakeholders, including municipalities, the agricultural and development sectors, environmental and conservation organizations, and landowners,” on the appropriate role for conservation authorities. Phil Beard, general manager of MC, said, “I attended the consultation session in London. The majority of presentations were supportive of conservation authorities and their present mandate and services. “However, the government did not release the results of the consultation sessions,” he added. “So, they are the only ones who know what was actually submitted for comments.” “If the government would reveal the results of the consultation sessions, then it would be transparent to everyone that they have or have not taken the consultation sessions into account,” added Beard. Conservation Ontario (CO) recommends the province repeal Schedule 6 because the changes being proposed will create more red tape and higher costs for Ontario taxpayers, as well as threaten the independent watershed-based approach used by conservation authorities in land-use planning, it said in a press release dated Nov. 18. CO is encouraging residents and watershed partners to reach out to the Premier, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, as well as their local MPPs to request them to repeal Schedule 6 of the Bill 229: Protect, Support and Recover from COVID- 19 Act (Budget Measures Act).Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times