Looking at the great lakes' moderating influence on arctic air and how it varies across southern Ontario. Kevin MacKay has more.
Looking at the great lakes' moderating influence on arctic air and how it varies across southern Ontario. Kevin MacKay has more.
WASHINGTON — The Defence Department took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol despite a frantic request for reinforcement from police, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a 1:49 p.m. call, but the Defence Department's approval for that support was not relayed to him until after 5 p.m., according to prepared testimony. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol. That delay stood in contrast to the immediate approval for National Guard support granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities last spring as an outgrowth of racial justice protests, Walker said. As local officials pleaded for help, Army officials raised concerns about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, he said. “The Army senior leadership” expressed to officials on the call “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said. The Senate hearing is the second about what went wrong on Jan. 6, with national security officials face questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. Even as Walker detailed the National Guard delay, another military official noted that local officials in Washington had said days earlier that no such support was needed. Senators were eager to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations for that day. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington that day and interrupting the electoral count. At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress. The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated. Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators who will preside over Wednesday's hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters. “Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Klobuchar said. The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the insurrection. In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops. “While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same." Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops, but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol. Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defence Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated though the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months in order to boost the number of Canadians being vaccinated. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that means going from a three week interval to a full four months. "NACI recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine up to four months after the first," the committee said in a statement. Prior to this new recommendation, NACI had said that the maximum interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for the Pfizer-BioNTech product should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. Since first doses of all three vaccines have been shown to dramatically increase immunity to the disease, or to significantly reduce the illness associated with contracting COVID-19, the committee said stretching the interval would help protect more Canadians sooner. NACI said that it reviewed evidence from two clinical trials that looked at how effective the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were after a single dose. Those studies, NACI said, showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines started providing some level of protection 12 to 14 days after the first dose. By the time the second dose was administered — 19 to 42 days after the first — the first shot was shown to be 92 per cent effective. Population studies find lower protection Outside of clinical trials, NACI looked at the effectiveness of a single shot of these two vaccines in the populations of Quebec, British Columbia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. NACI said that analysis showed the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine was between 70 per cent and 80 per cent among health care workers, long-term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. "While this is somewhat lower than the efficacy demonstrated after one dose in clinical trials, it is important to note that vaccine effectiveness in a general population setting is typically lower than efficacy from the controlled setting of a clinical trial, and this is expected to be the case after series completion as well," NACI said. The committee said that published data from an AstraZeneca clinical trial indicated that delaying the second dose 12 weeks or more provided better protections against symptomatic disease compared to shorter intervals between doses. Earlier this week, before NACI changed its interval advice, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and countries around the world showed a "miraculous" protection level of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The head of Moderna's Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, said Monday that the company's own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four-week interval. "That being said, we're in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made," Gauthier said. "This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments ... can make their own decisions." Gauthier said she was not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months. 'We have to do it safely and watch carefully' Dr. David Naylor, who has been named to a federal task force charged with planning a national campaign to see how far the virus has spread, said the data have been "very encouraging." "The evidence is there for the concept of further delay," Naylor told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "We [had] trial data from earlier showing that going out from 90 days, a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. So things are triangulating." He said health officials need to pay close attention to the data coming out of other countries to determine if the protection provided by the first dose remains strong four months after it was administered. "We do it because we can cover more people with a single dose of the vaccine, spread the protection, prevent more severe disease and prevent fatalities, and the evidence is clear that that's what you can do if you spread those doses out widely. But we have to do it safely and watch carefully," Naylor told host Vassy Kapelos. Watch: The evidence is there for the 'concept of further delay' of second doses: Dr. Naylor: Storage and transport recommendations also changed Health Canada also announced today that after reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech, it would authorize changes to the way the vaccine is handled in Canada. The new rules allow the vaccine to be stored and transported in a standard freezer with a temperature of between -25 C and -15 C for up to two weeks, instead of the previous requirement that it be stored in ultra-cold conditions of -80 C to -60 C. Vials of the vaccine stored or transported at this higher temperature for no longer than two weeks remain stable and safe and can then be returned to ultra-cold freezers once, said the department.
MILAN — Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares on Wednesday said the new car company formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Peugeot would be a “disruptive” force in the industry, and that both sides would provide technologies to achieve the promised 5 billion euros ($6 billion) in cost savings each year. The Italian-American carmaker and the French mass-market automotive company completed their merger on Jan. 16, creating Stellantis, the world’s fourth-largest carmaker, despite a pandemic year that saw profits plunge. “Stellantis is not born from a crisis,’’ Tavares told a conference call after fourth-quarter earnings were released. “This is not only about implementing synergies, it will also be a disruptive plan. We do not accept to be cornered as a legacy carmaker.” Tavares cited the recent investment in the Archer aviation company to develop vertical flying devices for urban mobility as an example of how Stellantis intended to be a disruptive force. “We believe that this strategic investment is going to be highly convergent with the technology we need for the automobile world,’’ he said, citing energy management, lightweight batteries and quick-charging technologies. “We are not going to let ourselves be cornered as dinosaurs, that is clear,’’ Tavares said. Tavares also indicated that both FCA and PSA would contribute technologies that would help the company get rid of duplications and save money. He cited bigger engines from FCA, and smaller ones from Fiat, and said that PSA has been adept at achieving efficiencies through sharing components and platforms, while FCA has faster processes. “So if I combine both, I should go fast and I should be very efficient at the end of the day,” the CEO said. Offering its first financial guidance, Stellantis announced it was targeting an adjusted income margin of between 5.5% and 7% in its first year of operation as a new company. Tavares said one “strong caveat” to the guidance is that they cannot anticipate if there will be lockdowns or restrictions on business due to the pandemic. While strong North American performance is expected to help Stellantis meet the goal, Tavares said “three big gorillas’’ were providing headwinds: rising costs of raw materials, potential production losses due to a shortage of semiconductors and increased costs for electrification. Earlier Wednesday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Peugeot reported their last financial statements as independent companies, each contributing full-year profits of around 2 billion euros to the new company. Fiat Chrysler reported adjusted net profits in the pandemic year of 1.9 billion euros ($2.3 billion), down 57% from 2019. PSA reported earnings of 2.2 billion euros, a drop of 32%. Fiat Chrysler reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings before interest and taxes of 2.3 billion euros, a record 2.2 billion euros of those generated in North America, where the profit margin was 11.6%. As a result, about 43,000 employees represented by the United Auto Workers union will each get $8,010 profit-sharing checks on March 15, Stellantis said in a separate release. Last year the workers got $7,820, and the average hourly worker has received over $44,700 in profit sharing since 2009, Stellantis said. All regions and Maserati made a positive contribution to the results, for the first time since the first quarter of 2019, said Mike Manley, the former FCA CEO and current head of North American operations for Stellantis. The French mass carmaker said second-half operating margins hit 9.4% at record levels. “These figures demonstrate the financial soundness of Stellantis, bringing together two healthy companies,’’ Tavares said in a statement. ___ AP Business Writer Tom Krisher contributed from Detroit. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
Brad Gushue won his first Canadian men's curling championship in a sold-out hometown venue that erupted in joy after his game-winning throw. The three-time champion will try to win another Tim Hortons Brier title in an arena setting that will be the complete opposite. Play begins Friday night in a spectator-free Markin MacPhail Centre as elite men's domestic curling returns after a long absence due to the pandemic. The Scotties Tournament of Hearts provided a successful kickoff to a run of six straight bonspiels at Canada Olympic Park. Now the Brier takes centre stage as 18 teams — many of them competing for the first time in months — square off for the right to hoist the Tankard. "It's going to be interesting and really I have no idea what to expect," Gushue said. "I think once we get through the first weekend, you'll probably settle in and know the level (everyone) is at and then you just kind of accept it and battle it out." The preliminary round will continue through March 11. The top eight teams will qualify for the two-day championship round. The top three teams will advance the playoffs on March 14. The second- and third-place teams will meet in an afternoon semifinal with the winner to face the first-place side in the evening final. It has been four years since Gushue won his first Brier in front of a euphoric crowd in St. John's, N.L. He beat Alberta's Brendan Bottcher last year in Kingston, Ont. The Canada skip is listed as an early 2.35-to-1 favourite to repeat by online sports book Coolbet Canada, just ahead of Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs, wild-card entry Kevin Koe and Bottcher. "I think the fact that there have been so few games and the practice time hasn't been there for a lot of teams, it's a bit of a crapshoot to be honest," Gushue said. "I think this could go a lot of different ways than what it would if we had all had our regular run-up to the Brier." Like many rinks at the recent Scotties Tournament of Hearts, most Brier teams were invited by their respective associations to play after the cancellation of annual playdowns due to the pandemic. "I think we'll probably be as patient as we can because I think everybody is going to make some mistakes," Gushue said. "It's the teams that don't compound those mistakes that are going to be successful." There is no play-in game this year. Ontario's Glenn Howard, Koe's Alberta-based team and Mike McEwen's rink from Manitoba are the wild-card entries. Koe will attempt to win a record fifth Brier title as a skip, a mark he shares with Ernie Richardson, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin. Koe is a headliner in Pool B along with Gushue, Ontario's John Epping and Saskatchewan's Matt Dunstone, who finished third last year in Kingston. They're joined by Quebec's Mike Fournier, Greg Smith of Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I.'s Eddie MacKenzie, Nunavut's Peter Mackey and Jamie Murphy's Nova Scotia team that will be skipped by Scott McDonald. Bottcher, McEwen and Howard are in Pool A along with Jacobs, Manitoba's Jason Gunnlaugson, B.C.'s Steve Laycock, New Brunswick's James Grattan, Greg Skauge of the Northwest Territories and Yukon's Dustin Mikkelsen. The Brier winner will represent Canada at the April 2-11 world men's curling championship in the Calgary bubble. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada expects to spend up to $5 billion on vaccines and other COVID-19 treatments. Procurement Minister Anita Anand previously said vaccines alone would cost at least $1 billion but the specific contract costs are protected by confidentiality clauses with drug makers. Federal budget documents show $5.3 billion was approved in December for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, including the purchase of doses, research and development. Last month $5 billion of that was shifted from the current fiscal year into 2021-22 because most of the vaccine doses Canada is buying aren't being delivered until after March 31, which is when the federal fiscal year ends. Canada is guaranteed to buy more than 240 million doses of seven different vaccines if all are approved, with only 6.5 million doses expected before the end of March. The Public Health Agency has not said specifically how much of the $5 billion is going to vaccines versus other COVID-19 medications. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
BISMARCK, N.D. — Republican and Democratic legislative leaders were finalizing a resolution Wednesday to expel a North Dakota House member accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the state capitol. House Majority Leader Chet Pollert told The Associated Press that the resolution to expel GOP Rep. Luke Simons will be introduced on the House floor Thursday. Simons, who has denied wrongdoing and refused Republican leaders' calls for him to resign, is accused of a pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behaviour, dating back to shortly after he took office in 2017. The GOP-controlled Legislature reconvened Wednesday after its midsession break known as crossover. Pollert and Democratic House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said they worked together over the recess to craft the expulsion resolution. Legislative officials said there is no record of any lawmaker being expelled since statehood. Pollert said lawmakers on Wednesday will discuss the process outlining the potential removal of Simons. The resolution could be debated by a yet-to-be formed committee, an existing committee, or by the entire House, the leaders said. Pollert and Boschee said they preferred the latter. “Rep. Simons will have his day and will be able to defend his actions,” Pollert said. A 14-page document compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Council includes allegations that Simons made “advances” toward female staffers and interns, commented on their appearances and tried to give one staffer an unsolicited shoulder massage. One staffer described his behaviour as “really creepy.” Simons, 43, said in a statement issued late Tuesday that the allegations “have been totally misconstrued and taken out of context.” “If the Legislature decides to inquire into any of my conduct or any of the allegations made by the director of the Legislative Council, then I look forward to a full and complete public hearing in which witnesses are heard, the true facts are determined, and where I am provided all of my due process rights and afforded the opportunity to require the attendance of witnesses, if necessary by subpoena,” Simons’ statement said. Simons, a barber and rancher, is a member of the loosely organized Bastiat Caucus, a far-right group that supports limited government and gun rights. Simons has insisted on social media that he’s being targeted for his politics. Simons’ attorney, Lynn Boughey, said he believes the House cannot expel Simons, and beyond censure, can only impeach him, which would require a Senate trial. Legislative leaders and their lawyers note the North Dakota Constitution says either chamber can expel a member with two-thirds approval. That would mean 63 members of the House would need to approve. Republicans hold an 80-14 advantage in the chamber. James MacPherson, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The United States is at a COVID-19 crossroads — and public health officials are worried about which path it will choose. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, is urging Americans not to let their guard down. For a second straight day, Walensky is warning about the potential for highly contagious COVID-19 variants to undo the country's hard-won progress. Her message is competing with a torrent of seemingly good news. President Joe Biden says the U.S. will have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses in stock for every adult American by the end of May. And a number of states are easing their pandemic restrictions, most recently Texas, which is planning to reopen completely by next Wednesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
THUNDER BAY — Two Thunder Bay youth detention facilities will close permanently by April 30, the Ontario government has announced. Due to a reduction of youth being admitted into custody and detention in Ontario since 2004, several youth justice facilities including the Jack McGuire Centre and JJ Kelso Youth Centre in Thunder Bay have been significantly underused. “A focus on prevention and education programs has contributed to an 81 per cent reduction of youth admitted into custody and detention,” a spokesperson with the ministry of children, community and social services said in an emailed statement. In 2019 and 2020, Jack McGuire Centre, a male youth detention centre in Thunder Bay, had a utilization rate of 29 per cent and JJ Kelso Youth Centre, a female youth facility, had a utilization rate of 12 per cent, the ministry said. “Youth who resided in these facilities are from northern communities were transferred to remaining facilities in the northern region,” the ministry said. The decision to close these facilities comes from recommendations made by the auditor general. These actions will address the significant under-utilization, build a sustainable system that will fully support youth in conflict with the law and will allow the government to reinvest more than $39.9 million annually into programs that support Ontario families and communities," the statement said. The facilities will no longer be operational by April 30. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says extra vaccine shipments could make it possible to vaccinate all willing Canadian adults before September. The United States has an earlier target at the end of May, but Trudeau cautions against using the U.S., with its worse record of infections and deaths, as a guide for what Canada does.
TORONTO — Veteran Canadian strawweight Randa (Quiet Storm) Markos will face Luana Pinheiro at UFC 260 on March 27. It will mark the 17th UFC fight for the 35-year-old from Windsor, Ont., who made her debut in the promotion in December 2014. Markos (10-10-1) has lost three straight and four of her last five, dropping her record in the UFC to 6-9-1. Markos lost a decision to Japan's Kanako Murata last time out in November. Pinheiro (8-1-0) is making her UFC debut after posting a first-round KO win in November over Stephanie Frausto in Dana White's Contender Series. The 27-year-old Brazilian has won her last six outings. The main event at the UFC's Apex production facility in Las Vegas sees Stipe Miocic (20-3-0) put his heavyweight title on the line against No. 1 contender Francis (The Predator) Ngannou (15-3-0). Miocic won by unanimous decision when they met at UFC 220 in January 2018, There are two other Canadians on the UFC 260 card. Flyweight Gillian (The Savage) Robertson, a native of Niagara Falls, Ont., who makes her home in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., faces Miranda (Fear The) Maverick and Quebec middleweight Marc-Andre (Power Bar) Barriault takes on Morocco's Abu (Gladiator) Azaitar. Robertson and Miranda were supposed to meet Feb. 13 at UFC 258 but the Canadian had to withdraw due to a non-COVID-related illness. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
One of Kamloops’ most wanted, who had been on the lam for nearly a year, has been arrested in Vancouver. Robert James Rennie, 33, was arrested on Monday (March 1) by Vancouver Police officers following a traffic stop at 2:20 a.m. He was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for charges of armed robbery, assault with a weapon and forcible confinement stemming from a drug-related Valentine’s Day robbery and kidnapping in 2019. Rennie was one of three men arrested in connection with the incident. The other two men — Michael Mathieson and Justin Daniels — have since been sentenced. The robbery and kidnapping took place in the midst of a violent local gang war and involved people active in the Kamloops drug trade. In January, Mathieson, 38, was sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver to 6.5 years in a federal prison after being convicted of armed robbery, unlawful confinement, kidnapping with a firearm and assault. Incriminating text messages and selfie photos on a phone seized by anti-gang police officers led to his conviction. After credit for time served in pre-trial custody — 1.5 days for every day served — Mathieson has less than six years left to serve. Daniels, charged alongside Mathieson, pleaded guilty last August and was sentenced in October 2020 to 7.5 years in a federal penitentiary. The 40-year-old pleaded guilty to counts of armed robbery, kidnapping with a firearm and robbery. After being given credit for time served, he has 5.5 years left behind bars. Police stumbled upon a kidnapping in progress in the early-morning hours of Feb. 14, 2019, while monitoring a wiretap as part of a separate, ongoing investigation. The violent spree began hours earlier when a man was beaten and robbed inside a suite at the Hospitality Inn in Lower Sahali. Assailants then went to the Acadian Inn, downtown on Columbia Street, where they held a couple against their will and lured an acquaintance to the scene with the promise of money. The target arrived with his girlfriend and another man. The two men were robbed, strip-searched and hog-tied. The woman was then kidnapped and taken to the target’s home in Dallas, which was ransacked, then driven to Kelowna. In Kelowna, the kidnapped woman was handed over to a driver, to be taken back to Kamloops. On the drive from Kelowna to Kamloops, she was rescued by police during a high-risk traffic stop in Falkland. On Feb. 15, 2019, Mounties arrested Daniels at a home on Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. Mathieson was arrested five days later, on Feb. 20, 2019, in a home on Brandon Avenue on the North Shore of Kamloops. Rennie was arrested during a traffic stop two days after that, on Feb. 22, 2019, in Kaleden, a small town 13 kilometres south of Penticton, along Highway 97 and on Skaha Lake. Rennie, who had obtained bail following his arrest, fled from a halfway house in April 2020 and had been on the run since, having failed to show up for his trial last September. He remains in custody, with his next court appearance scheduled for March 11. Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
By Jamie Mountain Local Journalism Initiative Reporter EARLTON – A set of stop signs that had been installed recently in Earlton was the unfortunate victim of theft and vandalism. Acting public works foreman Caleb Fotheringham told Armstrong Township council at its regular meeting on February 24 that he was notified on February 14 that two stop signs, along with an all-way sign below the stop sign, had been stolen. The signs are located at the intersection of 10th street and Sixth Avenue, near the Earlton Recreation Centre. “After investigating I noticed that the stop ahead sign had been broken off as well and thrown into a ravine,” Fotheringham told council. He noted that there had been a fresh snowfall the night before the incident, which fortunately made it easy to track down the culprits. “I called the police and an officer and I went to the house. We spoke with the residents and we were able to get the signs back. I told the offenders that a bill would be coming their way for my time and for the 4x4 posts they broke.” Fotheringham said they wouldn’t be pressing charges in light of that, which the offenders agreed to. The stop signs were originally erected at the intersection back in the fall as there were speeding concerns in that area of Earlton with cars entering and leaving the town. At the time, council felt it was the best option to combat the speeding issues. Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
LONDON — Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday strongly denied being part of a plot against her predecessor, as she testified under oath in a political saga that is threatening both her leadership and her push for an independent Scotland. Sturgeon defended the way her government handled sexual assault claims against former First Minister Alex Salmond, saying the #MeToo movement had made it clear that abuse allegations about powerful people must not be “ignored or swept under the carpet.” Sturgeon testified for more than seven hours to a committee of lawmakers probing a political and personal feud that is wracking Scotland’s pro-independence movement and the governing Scottish National Party. Its antagonists are Salmond and Sturgeon, two former allies and friends who have dominated Scottish politics for decades. Salmond was tried and acquitted last year on sexual assault charges, and claims the allegations made by several women were part of a conspiracy to wreck his political career. He accuses Sturgeon of lying about when she learned of the allegations and breaking the code of conduct for government ministers. He alleges her administration undermined democratic principles and the rule of law by allowing the distinctions between government, party and civil service to become blurred. Scotland’s highest civil court ruled in 2019 that the way the Scottish government had handled the misconduct allegations was unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias,” and awarded Salmond 500,000 pounds ($695,000) in expenses. Sturgeon told a Scottish Parliament inquiry into the handling of the complaints that no one had “acted with malice or as part of a plot against Alex Salmond.” “A number of women made serious complaints about Alex Salmond’s behaviour,” she said. “The government, despite the mistakes it undoubtedly made, tried to do the right thing. As first minister I refused to follow the age-old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants.” The opposition Scottish Conservatives have demanded Sturgeon resign, but she insisted she acted properly. Sturgeon defended not reporting to civil servants a meeting and a call with Salmond in 2018 about the complaints, saying it was because she did not want to influence the investigation. She denied leaking the complainants’ names, and said she refused Salmond's request to intervene on his behalf because that would have been “a heinous, egregious breach of my position.” Salmond, who led the SNP for two decades, built the separatist party into a major political force and took Scotland to the brink of independence by holding a 2014 referendum. He stepped down as first minister after the “remain” side won, and Sturgeon, his friend and deputy, replaced him. In 2019, Salmond was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape after allegations by nine women who had worked with him as first minister or for the party. Salmond called the charges “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose,” and was acquitted after a trial in March 2020. Salmond has called the last few years a “nightmare.” Sturgeon expressed sympathy for her former friend, but said she had searched in vain for “any sign at all that he recognized how difficult this has been for others, too.” “That he was acquitted by a jury of criminal conduct is beyond question,” she said. “But I know just from what he told me, that his behaviour was not always appropriate." Yet she said Salmond had not spoken “a single word of regret.” Sturgeon said she had “revered” Salmond as a mentor for decades. "I’ve learned things about Alex Salmond over the past few years that have made me rethink," she said. “Many of us, including me, feel deeply let down by him. And that’s a matter of deep personal pain and regret for me.” The political drama in Edinburgh could have major implications for the future of Scotland and the U.K. Scotland's 2014 independence referendum was billed at the time as a once-in-a-generation decision. But the SNP says Brexit has fundamentally changed the situation by dragging Scotland out of the European Union against its will. A majority of Scottish voters backed “remain” in the U.K.’s 2016 EU membership referendum. The U.K. as a whole voted narrowly to leave the bloc. A Scottish Parliament election is due in May, and the SNP leads in opinion polls. Sturgeon says if she wins a majority, she will push for a new independence referendum and challenge British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the courts if his government refuses to agree. John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the damaging saga could hurt the SNP’s electoral prospects. “(The possibility) is that sufficient people, as they see the drama on the accusations played out between Mr. Salmond and Ms. Sturgeon, that some say ‘Well hang on, is this really a country that can govern itself, or at least is this a party that I want us to take us on the road to independence?’” he said. Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced more than $518 million in funding for research projects at colleges, universities and hospitals across the country. The funding will finance 102 "state-of-the-art" projects at 35 post-secondary institutions and research hospitals covering a variety of subjects, from vaccine production and climate change to smart cities and Indigenous reconciliation, the Canada Foundation for Innovation said in a news release. Some of the funding will go toward projects aimed at speeding up domestic vaccine production. The Liberal government has faced criticism over what critics say were insufficient efforts to invest in domestic COVID-19 vaccine research and manufacturing capacity early in the pandemic. The Canada Foundation for Innovation will provide the money, which will cover 40 per cent of the costs of eligible infrastructure for each project. The projects being funded include: A public vaccine production program to build and test vaccines, launch startup companies and support existing ones, led by researchers at the University Hospital of Quebec and Laval University ($1.8 million). A project to deploy sensors in the North Atlantic Ocean to collect information about ocean warming and carbon capture, led by researchers at Dalhousie University ($3.5 million). A data analysis study of more than four million pregnant women and children to better understand the effects of medications on expectant mothers and kids, to be led by researchers at the University of Montreal and the pediatric hospital CHU Sainte-Justine ($1.1 million). A 'smart campus' testing lab at Ryerson University to allow researchers to test new smart building, security, lighting, construction and energy efficient technologies ($1.9 million). A digital archive of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation's records, to be built by the University of Manitoba ($2.4 million). Each project was chosen through competitions held by the the CIF's Innovation Fund which take place every two to three years and involve a rigorous review process, the release said. At a press conference today, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the funding will help fund research facilities, lab equipment and research databases. "Our Canadian researchers need these kinds of tools to turn their bold ideas into reality," said Champagne.
The Healthy School Foods Program has adjusted its menu this term to offer items more familiar to Island students. “Some families loved the old menu,” said Katelyn McLean, the registered dietitian who has been leading the program. “But maybe the menu items were a bit too unfamiliar, especially in rural areas.” As a food literacy initiative, last semester’s pay-what-you-can lunch menu included items intended to introduce students to new ingredients and foods such as butter chicken, hummus or taco bowls. Some of the lesser known items discouraged some students from ordering the meals rather than trying new foods, according to Ms MacLean. Through talking with parents and students, she has witnessed, the definition of familiar food varies greatly in the province. “When we were developing the new menu and asking some students what they thought, we tried chili with a roll. One of the students had never heard of chili before. This student was in Grade 6.” Ms MacLean explained that the menu will continue to offer foods that are new to some. Providing hot, healthy foods daily even if they are familiar is still a component of food literacy. The pay-what-you-can model continues to ensure equitable access to healthy food for all students. This may be even more crucial as families deal with economic fallout from the pandemic. Ms MacLean didn’t have specific numbers but families paying the full price of $5 for a meal is less than projected. “There are a lot of factors going into that. One being we launched this program in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. Overall the program has been well received. Local vendors had served more than 235,000 meals to Island students by the program’s 24th week running in February. Jayme Brown, Marlee Howlett and Lauren Howlett, Grade 7 students at Souris Regional School have all tried the lunches. They say the program is something that should definitely continue. “It’s great to have a reasonable price for lunches that are good quality,” said Marlee who knows not everyone in her school can afford a cafeteria meal every day. “Some of it is amazing; for the most part it is really good,” Lauren said. Occasionally Lauren has skipped items that didn’t personally appeal to her. “There was a stir-fry I just wouldn’t eat,” she said. The group, however, loves items such as pulled pork and potatoes or spaghetti. They all noted the menu appears to have improved over time. Ms MacLean said that could be attributed to vendors getting used to the flow of things or to the work necessary to come up with a new menu and with Canada’s Smartest Kitchen. Canada’s Smartest Kitchen helped Ms MacLean and her team to thoroughly review what students would like and helped to refine recipe instructions right down to the weights of each ingredient. Jack Kristinsin is in Grade 3 at Souris Regional. After finishing a meal he approved of (carrots, mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy) he said he likes the lunches most of the time because he gets a nice hot meal rather than a sandwich that gets “squished” in his lunch box. Just as his peers said, Jack doesn’t like all of the meals. Chloe LaBrech, in Grade 12, says she likes the convenience of pre-ordering online. She doesn’t have to rush in the morning to make a lunch and cafeteria food can be expensive. Ms MacLean sees improving food literacy and maximizing the program’s potential as a marathon of work rather than a sprint. “It’s something that will evolve.” Ms MacLean looks forward to reviewing Island schools’ curriculum and identifying gaps that could be filled. Right now Food Literacy items are learned in science, health, home economics and cooking classes. “I think we’ve already done a good job of incorporating nutrition information and the Canada Food Guide information into the curriculum,” she said. Other areas of Food Literacy could likely use some attention, Ms MacLean said. “Where does our food come from, how do you grow it? How do you prepare it? How does a potato get from the ground to our plate?” She expects Island students could gain a better understanding of answers to these questions. Right now various local food vendors make and deliver the hot meals to most Island schools. However a non-profit has been developed and its board is looking to hire and organize staff to prepare and deliver the meals possibly by September. Ms MacLean said a variety of models may work in tandem next year. Some vendors may continue to provide the meals alongside the non-profits. Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
TORONTO — CBS All Access will be renamed Paramount Plus on Thursday, which brings heaps of new streaming programming to its U.S. subscribers, but not Canadian customers.A representative for ViacomCBS says while American audiences will have access to a library of Paramount films on the platform, as well as TV series from Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Showtime and Comedy Central, none of those options will be available north of the border.Instead, the Canadian rebrand to Paramount Plus is little more than a logo change, at least for now.Michelle Alban, vice president of communications for the Canadian market at ViacomCBS, said programming announcements are expected at an undetermined future date.It's another twist in the increasingly complex world of streaming rights for Canadian viewers.Last week, ViacomCBS executives pulled out all the stops for the revamp and rename of the U.S. streaming platform. More than 50 new productions were announced for the streaming service in the coming years. They include original series based on popular Paramount films, among them "Fatal Attraction," "Flashdance" and "The Italian Job." But whether those shows wind up on Paramount Plus in Canada is still unclear.Several years ago, leadership at ViacomCBS began selling off licensing rights to its marquee CBS All Access original series, including "Star Trek: Discovery" and "Star Trek: Picard."Those shows went to Canadian broadcaster Bell Media who first aired them on traditional TV channels before they appeared on Crave, its own streaming platform. Others were acquired by fellow streamers.That left CBS All Access with the leftovers of its own service in Canada, a handful of less memorable shows such as a remake of "The Twilight Zone" and "Why Women Kill."With its new life under the Paramount Plus brand, the streaming platform's future is still to be charted in Canada.For now, Paramount Plus will be absent of Hollywood movies and largely house older TV series, such as "Beverly Hills 90210," "Taxi," "The Brady Bunch" and "I Love Lucy," and a live feed of CBS News.A commercial-free subscription to Paramount Plus will remain at its current price of $5.99 a month in Canada.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
CHARLOTTETOWN — The health orders that closed schools and most non-essential businesses on Prince Edward Island for three days will end at midnight tonight. Premier Dennis King said today the 11,000 COVID-19 tests conducted since the weekend provide confidence restrictions can be eased. The restrictions were imposed after clusters of COVID-19 cases emerged in Charlottetown and Summerside. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today involving a woman in her 20s who is a close contact of a previously reported case.Morrison says results from about 800 tests are still pending, so there may be more positive cases.There are 22 active reported cases in the province — the highest number since the start of the pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Housing Minister David Eby says he's willing to wade into city council decisions on homeless shelters — even if that means angering local politicians along the way. "I was doing things entirely backwards: It's much better to provide information to councils before the vote, so they're making a fully informed vote, rather than after the vote," said Eby, hours before the City of Penticton unanimously rejected an application by B.C. Housing to extend its permit for a homeless shelter located in the centre of the Okanagan city. That was despite council previously assuring him it would grant the extension, according to Eby. The minister said a follow-up phone call with Mayor John Vassilaki went poorly. "I asked the mayor what's the plan, and he told me there'd be no more meetings and he hung up on me," Eby said Wednesday morning. Eby argued there's no current alternative for shelter residents once the permit expires at the end of the month, and said not extending it could create an indefinite homeless encampment similar to ones in Vancouver and Victoria. "There's simply no debate about what we need to do here. We need to get people inside, we need to get them the support they need," he said. "Even leaving them in the emergency shelter is not an acceptable outcome, but emptying out the shelter into the park is bizarre to me." Penticton city council wants to close a 42-bed emergency winter shelter at 352 Winnipeg St. at the end of March, citing the location as 'inappropriate' and too close to seniors' housing.(Google maps) Eby vs. Cranbrook mayor It isn't the first time in recent weeks Eby has waded into a debate over a homeless shelter in a B.C. community. In early February, he asked Cranbrook council to vote in favour of rezoning a property for a 40-bed shelter, which faced plenty of controversy in the city. Council did approve the rezoning 5-2, but Mayor Lee Pratt was critical of Eby's influence. "That was totally an abuse of his position," said Pratt. "He's using his position of trying to influence a decision on this council, sitting around here trying to make a decision for the municipality and the citizens of our city … that was totally uncalled for." Pratt said he didn't want to comment further on his statement, saying he was in discussions with the province. But Eby defended proactively lobbying municipalities before their vote, saying it was preferable to the time lost in finding alternatives if councils voted against B.C. Housing proposals. "I would suggest as minister responsible for housing, I would be incredibly negligent in not [speaking] to municipal leaders that are voting on vitally important projects to prevent entrenched encampments in their communities," he said. "Please, save yourself the resources, the time, the headache, the heartache of an encampment. Save the provincial government time, and let's work together." Eby said Tuesday he will do everything in his power to compel Penticton to keep the city's shelter open, including using a procedure called paramountcy, which allows the provincial government to circumvent the city's wishes. Slow progress housing tent city residents The "entrenched encampments" Eby referred to still remain in B.C.'s largest city and its capital. Victoria is now petitioning the B.C. Supreme Court for a long-term ruling on whether Beacon Hill Park can ever be used to house people in temporary structures, even with a self-imposed March 31 deadline to house everyone currently in the park. In Vancouver, where a homeless camp has moved between three different locations over the past 30 months, it was announced Monday the city had purchased another facility to convert into a shelter, a motel on Kingsway. However, unlike the facilities announced last week, the motel won't be ready until November, and Coun. Jean Swanson worries that all the additional units won't make up for what's been lost in recent years. "A lot of homeless people are coming from [shuttered] SROs ... they're coming from the Regent and the Balmoral, that's about 300 units, but they're also coming because we don't have vacancy controls," she said. "I just think a lot of this is from senior levels of government. By refusing to fund social housing adequately, by refusing to have adequate welfare rates, the issue of homelessness is basically placed onto the city."
After nearly four straight months, top doctors in Toronto and the Peel Region are asking the province to lift stay-at-home orders. Both are recommending a move into the grey zone of Ontario's pandemic framework as soon as March 8, which is when the province's current stay-at-home orders for the regions are set to expire. The move would still see the regions locked down but with what Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa called "more flexibility." Residents "earned this change... often at a personal sacrifice," de Villa said during a news conference on Wednesday. However, both she and her Peel region counterpart, Dr. Lawrence Loh, cautioned people to continue to stay at home, only leaving for essential reasons. "I know it has been long and we all want to get back to normal," Loh said during a separate news conference, but "chasing normal too quickly could mean losing the progress that we've made to this point." WATCH | Toronto's mayor, top doctor recommend lifting stay-at-home order, moving back into grey zone The updates come as Ontario reports an additional 958 cases of the illness. The total number of deaths connected with the novel coronavirus has now surpassed 7,000 in the province. However, the new cases reported Wednesday are the lowest single-day increase logged in the last two weeks. In Toronto, there were 290 new cases reported, according to de Villa. In Peel region, Mayor Bonnie Crombie said they're averaging 95 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from 88 cases per 100,000 people last week. A visibly disappointed Crombie had hoped to move Peel region into the less severe red zone. "I'm really hoping this week's case numbers are just an anomaly," she said, adding she will be asking Loh to do weekly reviews "in the hope that we can progress to the red zone and beyond very soon." Both de Villa and Loh expressed concerns over the rise of COVID-19 variants, which are more transmissible than the original virus. In Peel region, Loh said there are currently 100 confirmed cases of variants of concern, up from just five a week ago. In Toronto, de Villa said "the number of cases screening positive for a variant has more than doubled." Both acknowledged how hard this announcement will be for some residents who have now spent 15 straight weeks under stay-at-home orders — 100 days. A spokesperson for the Ontario minister of health said residents can expect an announcement this Friday, adding that a decision will be made "in consultation with local medical officers of health." Loh urged caution, saying that what happens in the coming weeks will determine whether Peel region begins its exit from the pandemic or descends into a third wave. Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's top doctor, is urging caution when it comes to reopening, saying 'a third wave would devastate our small businesses.' (CBC) "I don't want to reopen only to have the province pull the emergency brake," he said. "A third wave would devastate our small businesses." In Toronto, de Villa encouraged people to act in ways that do not "squander" this opportunity. "While I believe moving into grey is reasonable, we are also scaling up enhanced safety measures to protect those essential front-line workers who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19," she said. "This is the right approach," said Toronto Mayor John Tory, adding that "vaccinations taken together with regional and economic realities make it the right time for Toronto to move cautiously back." Both Toronto and Peel region's vaccination efforts are being hampered by delays in supply. "Vaccines do us no good if they're not in arms yet," Loh said. "We must stay the course."
The social media persona "Roaring Kitty," whose online posts helped spark January's trading frenzy in GameStop Corp shares, appeared before Massachusetts securities regulators on Wednesday to testify as part of an examination into his activities. Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, the state's top securities regulator, last month subpoenaed Keith Gill, who touted GameStop stock in his spare time while he was a registered broker and working at the insurer MassMutual. He was a key figure in the so-called "Reddit rally," which saw shares of GameStop surge 400% in a week before crashing back to pre-surge levels.