WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Nothing about us, without us: the idea that no policy should be decided, by any representative, without the full and direct participation of those affected by that policy. It’s the main issue that Lisa Long has with the Downtown Task Team, a group hand-picked by Mayor Brian Bigger to tackle the myriad social challenges, from drugs and crime to homelessness, facing the city’s downtown core. The task team has been criticized by some social services organizations for excluding groups that actually work with the homeless. “I believe representation from our vulnerable populations should also be made available,” said Long. “The ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’ philosophy that emphasizes people, our vulnerable population, being valued as integral and essential contributors. “It seems fitting, as the (Downtown) BIA has a seat.” If there is representation on the mayor’s team from the business community, Long wonders why the same courtesy hasn’t been extended to organizations that actually work with vulnerable and marginalized downtown populations. Long is the executive director of The Samaritan Centre and, together with partner agencies the Blue Door Soup Kitchen and the Elgin Street Mission, works with individuals facing multiple social barriers including homelessness, food insecurity, poverty, mental health and addictions, in downtown Sudbury. She, like other downtown community service groups, were not invited to be a part of the mayor’s task team. She first heard of its creation in October from Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc. “He asked me why I wasn’t on it,” she said. Long said not only does she want to ensure a more equitable perspective on the team, one that “represents those who call the downtown core their home,” but that the Samaritan Centre would offer valuable insight. “These are our neighbours,” she said. “This is our neighbourhood.” Prior to the pandemic, The Samaritan Centre would receive a daily average of 300-400 people. The pandemic hasn’t changed that. Though they have been forced to change their methods, the Samaritan Centre still offers meal services, showers, laundry and other grooming opportunities, as well as a weekly nurse practitioner clinic – all with COVID-19 restrictions in place. Additionally, Long said that while maintaining all safety protocols, she is consistently interacting with clients who are waiting for services, as well as moving through the downtown to check in and distribute items like granola bars, vitamins, socks, and winter wear. “I have regular, direct contact with the individuals we serve through the Samaritan Centre, and I’m aware of their needs, challenges and stories.” The most recent meeting of the Downtown Task Team took place Nov. 25. In an interview with Sudbury.com, Mayor Brain Bigger said he was pleased with the progress the task team is making, but he does recognize the need for expert advice. The most recent meeting of the task team focused on hearing more from experts. “Our conversation was: how do we engage effectively with the large number of smaller service organizations? They’re working with the people that are experiencing these challenges and crises in the downtown.” He said the focus now is “trying to understand how we can be strategic, and really drive that value for money from the resources that we do have.” He also said there is a misconception in terms of the knowledge that council already possesses. “Many people seem to have this impression that if you’re a member of council, people think we’re completely unaware of what’s happening,” he said. “That’s far from the truth.” He said that because city councillors are interacting with citizens from their wards on a regular basis, “we’re continually involved in trying to resolve challenges in the community, and looking for opportunities to help people navigate and find support.” Mayor Bigger said this is the impetus for a public engagement forum that the city plans to hold “as soon as possible.” He said it will be a chance to hear from those who have a vested interest: community groups, business owners, those with lived experience, and the general public. But as the mayor himself noted, a pandemic-world does make this a challenge. He said it will be “essentially, a listening experience, and an opportunity to hear the ideas and the solutions — to hear about the challenges, about some of the gaps that we might not think of.” Still, despite the criticism the task team can’t really address issues it doesn’t understand, the mayor said he is “proud of what we’ve accomplished.” Long, however, isn’t quite sure it will be enough to shape the view that is required, one that is built upon the idea of nothing about us, without us. “If you look at issues from the perspective of privilege and power, the perspective will be subject to tunnel-vision, and limited in scope and purpose” she said. “If the objective of the Task Force is to install LED lights downtown, then I am sure they will have a measure of success,” said Long. “If they want to gain an understanding of the people and social issues in our downtown, then I think the framework from which they are problem-solving needs to be reconsidered.”Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
A fourth route for the Town of Orangeville’s transit system will be delayed thanks to a decision to nix the transfer hub plans on Broadway. The route was set to be established in order to serve an area of town that currently does not have transit service. “(It’s) so frustrating,” Coun. Todd Taylor told the Orangeville Banner. “We are losing precious time to serve all of our community.” He added that Veteran’s Way and the west end of town are two examples. “We currently have entire neighbourhoods not served by transit,” said Taylor. The fourth route would allow the transit service to operate on a four-quad system. Each quad would serve a different area of the town and meet with the rest at a central location, allowing riders to transfer to reach their destination. Council reversed their decision on the Broadway hub in a 4-3 vote on Nov. 23, after hearing numerous concerns from businesses in the downtown core and the BIA. Taylor, along with Councillors Lisa Post and Grant Peters, felt that sufficient work had been completed to prove the safety and benefits of a Broadway transfer point, which would have been located between First and John Street. Instead, several members of council would like to see staff investigate the possibility of using the Edelbrock Centre, an idea which was favoured until more recently. “I am disappointed in the decision,” said Taylor. “The Edelbrock site will cost over $300k to implement, while downtown was minimal.” Until council settles on a location, any work on the transit project, which includes the fourth route, has been put on hold. Taylor added that part of the reasoning behind a centralized station is to improve challenges deterring ridership, such as reliability and access to certain parts of town. “Our buses are underutilized today; this is a fact,” said Taylor. “Why would anyone want to ride a bus that is frequently late and does not get you close to a desired location?” Council is scheduled to vote on a motion to revisit the idea of using the Edelbrock Centre at its Dec. 14 meeting.Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner
Windsor West MP Brian Masse, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Rakesh Naidu and members of Windsor's aviation community on Tuesday morning called on the federal government to intervene and have Navigation Canada (NAV Canada) remove Windsor International Airport from a list of six airports being studied for possible removal of air traffic controllers."The Minister of Transportation, Marc Garneau, must provide a clear and definitive answer that the future of Windsor's Airport is secure and that air traffic control services will be maintained," said Masse.Masse said he will have a petition to the federal government online that reads, "Remove NAV Canada's decision to consider closure, or reduction of services of the air traffic control tower at the Windsor Airport or explicitly express opposition to any decision or recommendation of this nature.""The minister can simply intervene and he should do that," said Masse in a news conference in front of the airport terminal and control tower.Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmiercyzk recently told CBC News that Garneau did not have the power to tell NAV Canada what to do, and that he and anyone else opposed to losing air traffic controllers here will have their say when NAV Canada consults with stakeholders.But Masse said there should have been clear signals from the government to NAV Canada before this study, adding that he doesn't believe any of the other airports, including in Whitehorse and Regina, should lose air traffic control either."So even if he says [Garneau] technically can't take them off the list at this point in time, he can still go out and publicly say that he's actually against closing the towers and he's not going to approve them," said Masse. "In fact, if NAV Canada actually does eventually recommend closure or reduction of services, the minister then has to do another study and the study then actually comes back again. So we're into the cycle of study after study after study when it is completely unnecessary," he said.Dilkens also said Garneau can certainly have a conversation with NAV Canada officials.The airport has seen a 300 per cent increase in traffic since 2009 and was serving 383,000 passengers in 2019. Dilkens said losing the air traffic controllers jeopardizes future growth and threatens the continuation of commercial air traffic the airport has now."Moving bodies out of a control tower causes issues for the future prosperity of Windsor airport. It will cut this success story off at the knees," said Dilkens, adding he has not heard back from Garneau, to whom he sent a letter asking that the air traffic controllers remain.Commercial pilots also added their voices of concern for safety, considering the high volume of air traffic in and around Detroit.Corporate pilot Dante Albano likened air traffic control to traffic lights, and when they go out the intersection turns into a four-way stop."In a busy air space like this with Detroit so close it gets kinda of crazy up there sometimes," said Albano.Richard Bradwell, manager of the Windsor Flying Club, said loss of air traffic control is the "first step toward" to closing the airport entirely."Our business has been growing. We've been surviving through COVID. This is absolutely the last thing that we need is to see NAV Canada considering closing the tower and doing this sort of damage to our airport," said Bradwell.Essex MP Chris Lewis has also issued a statement calling on Garneau to remove Windsor airport from the study.Masse's petition is expected to go up on his Facebook page and website Wednesday afternoon.
Pandemic times—and specifically the months-long shutdown we experienced earlier this year—led many to take up or double down on hobbies. There was a run on yeast, skateboarding blew up, and people spent all sorts of time making inane Tik Tok videos. For amateur photographer Tim Fitzgerald, COVID-19 has caused him to focus more on photographing his own surroundings. Earlier this month, he shared some of his recent shots of SilverStar Mountain Resort with the community’s Facebook page. “The mountain and of course the village was completely deserted,” he said, in the caption of his photos. “Glad to see things starting to come around again.” Fitzgerald told Sun Peaks News this year he will likely be spending a lot of time up at the hill taking photos. He’s currently awaiting a knee surgery, so he can’t ski. Overall, he said that the pandemic has forced him to focus his photography close to home. “Normally, we would travel somewhere,” said Fitzgerald, who works as an electrician. “This year, we made a point of going out and camping, and seeing things that we haven’t seen before. It’s been really eye opening.” He’s done trips to Wells Gray Provincial Park, Rosebery Provincial Park, and he recently returned from a trip to the town of Princeton, where he shot a section of the Kettle Valley Railway. “We went down there a couple weeks ago and got some great shots,” he said. “There’s some really really, rugged and beautiful terrain there.” You can see more of his photos here.Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
There’s a $600,000 hole in Au Chateau’s annual budget West Nipissing may have to help plug with municipal tax dollars. It’s one of several issues coming up on tonight’s council agenda, which includes a general government discussion about ‘ward boundaries’ for the 2022 election. Au Chateau, which has 102 long-term care beds, serves West Nipissing and Temagami, and it can levy their taxpayers to make up any shortfalls. Au Chateau’s funding shortfall is being caused by the Jan. 31, 2021 end of 35-year funding agreement with the federal and provincial government. The issue is critical for both communities as they look at COVID-19 impacted revenue and expenses heading into the 2021 budget deliberations. It was briefly mentioned at the last council meeting with the municipality hoping to set up meetings with representatives of higher levels of government for assistance. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and is live-streamed using Zoom on the West Nipissing YouTube channel. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
TORONTO — Netflix Canada will bid farewell to "Friends" later this month as the hit sitcom moves to Crave.Both streaming platforms confirmed the switch on Tuesday, saying Dec. 31 will see all 10 seasons of the show depart Netflix for their new home on Crave under an exclusive agreement.The change comes as Crave continues to bulk up its streaming library of hit network TV comedies, which include "30 Rock," "The Bernie Mac Show" and "Frasier."The streamer, owned by Bell Media, also recently picked up the rights to "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," which will leave Netflix on Dec. 30.Netflix isn't left empty-handed when it comes to classic TV, however. The company says it will have the Canadian streaming rights to "Seinfeld" starting next year.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
Rugby League Cares, the official charity of the Rugby Football League, has set up a fund for Toronto Wolfpack players suffering because of the transatlantic team's collapse.The fund will award grants to help players deal with financial difficulties.Wolfpack players and staff have not been paid since June 10. The club stood down July 20, saying it could not afford to play the remainder of the Super League pandemic-interrupted season.Toronto's subsequent bid to win reinstatement for 2021 under new ownership was rejected.“Due to circumstances entirely out of their control, many of the Toronto players are now finding it difficult to pay their bills," Chris Rostron, head of Rugby League Cares, said in a statement.“Some of them were on very modest salaries: six months without pay and no access to the U.K. government furlough scheme has been incredibly tough. We have been providing practical support to the players over recent months, including debt management advice and access to counselling services.“Our welfare team has spent the last 10 days working with the players to identify those who are suffering most hardship: thanks to the support of the RFL and Super League we are now in a position to begin making payments to those in most need."Because the team is Canadian-owned, players and staff in England have been unable to take advantage of many U.K. government support programs.A dozen or so players have found other clubs, either on loan or permanently. Some signed for lesser deals. Others have had to take jobs outside their sport to pay the bills.The players have already received two "hardship payments" to date from English rugby league authorities.Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter confirmed the earlier 1,000-pound ($1,735) payments. He said the Wolfpack pushed for the financial help with the first coming from a bond of some 30,000 pounds ($52,095) the transatlantic team had put up in the past.The club owes in excess of 500,000 pounds ($868,425) in missed payroll. Majority owner David Argyle, who could no longer fund the club, has stepped away from the franchise.Argyle, a Toronto-based Australian entrepreneur who specializes in mining and natural resources in emerging markets, has offered a personal guarantee for the player pay but has not been in a position to make good on it. He has said the original ownership group poured $30 million into the franchise.\---Follow @NeilMDavidson on TwitterThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
The federal government wants to hear from you on temporary foreign worker accommodations. The window to provide comments and have your voice heard will close on Dec. 22, 2020. In consultation with provincial governments, employers, workers and foreign partner countries, the federal government announced this past summer that it would develop minimum mandatory requirements for housing under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP), under which upwards of 60,000 foreign workers come to Canada each year to ensure our agricultural sector continues to function. “The intent is not to pursue short-term changes … but to develop a lasting approach to improve living conditions for workers while considering elements that would make accommodations more adaptable to addressing any communicable disease outbreaks in the future,” read a document provided to Niagara This Week by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). To that end, the feds want to reduce overcrowding to bring about five outcomes: personal space and privacy; adaptability to public health measures to prevent virus spread; more amenities; heating, cooling and air quality; and internet access. The current open consultation process requires those wanting to participate to send an email to NC-TFWP-APT-PTET-EPA-GD@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca requesting to take part. Through the public consultation period, the government wants feedback on “impacts and considerations for transitioning to new requirements,” and “approaches to strengthen oversight of worker accommodations.” New requirements under consideration for the TFWP include: ensuring workers have freedom of movement and can receive guests without restrictions; having proper heating and cooling equipment to maintain temperature range of 20 to 25.5 C; a maximum of four workers per bedroom with a minimum distance of two metres between all beds; washrooms being within work accommodations; and access to phones and free internet where available. The requirements under consideration can be viewed in their entirety by clicking here. “The consultations will inform the development of a lasting approach to improve living conditions for workers. Creating clear and consistent standards will also ensure employers fully understand their obligations and can better adhere to them,” an Oct. 27 press release read. The release also announced that the federal government will survey those employing agricultural temporary foreign workers so government can better understand current accommodation arrangements. Niagara This Week was provided a survey sample, which revealed questions about housing types like bunkhouses and mobile homes, square footage of common areas and sleeping spaces, amenities, and whether cooling/heating systems are controllable by workers — to name some. Another document provided to Niagara This Week from ESDC read that housing provided to workers “who may be vulnerable to exploitation due to their immigration status and other factors” is inconsistent. Common complaints, the document listed, are “overcrowding and lack of privacy, an inadequate number of washrooms and kitchen facilities per worker, lack of adequate heating/cooling” and deficiencies like leaks, mould and poor plumbing. “The increased attention on employer-provided accommodations through COVID-19 has highlighted several other common deficiencies in the quality of housing and living conditions for workers, including that group accommodations provided on many farms may increase the risk of communicable disease transmission, potentially putting the health of TFWs and the community at large at risk,” another paragraph read. Of the foreign workers who come to Canada each year, approximately 3,000 men and women come to work at Niagara’s farms; two of which experienced significant COVID-19 outbreaks so far this year.Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
Le bilan lavallois est désormais de 756 cas actifs selon les données émises par le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de Laval. Cela signifie que le territoire connait une hausse de 54 cas actifs par rapport à la veille. Le total de décès augmente à 726 depuis le début de la pandémie. 120 tests positifs ont été effectués dans les 24 dernières heures. Ainsi, depuis le mois de mars, 11 584 citoyens lavallois ont été affectés par le virus. Parmi les personnes touchées par la COVID-19, 23 sont présentement hospitalisées, dont 5 aux soins intensifs. 29 employés de l’organisation de santé sont toujours absents du travail en raison de la COVID-19. Chomedey a été durement touché par la nouvelle mise à jour des données. On y compte 45 cas de plus que la veille. Il demeure le quartier le plus touché de Laval avec 337 cas confirmés et un taux d'infection de 358 cas par 100 000 habitants sur les 14 derniers jours. Duvernay/Saint-François/Saint-Vincent-de-Paul a aussi été particulièrement affecté lors des dernières 24 heures. Ce secteur ajoute 22 cas à son total. Fabreville-Est/Sainte-Rose suit avec 15 nouvelles personnes touchées. De leur côté, Pont-Viau/Renaud-Coursol/Laval-des-Rapides et Sainte-Dorothée/Laval-Ouest/Laval-Les Îles/Fabreville-Ouest/Laval-sur-le-Lac comptent 13 nouveaux cas confirmés sur leur territoire respectif. Vimont/Auteuil constate la plus petite augmentation de l'île Jésus avec huit nouvelles personnes infectées. Il est d'ailleurs le secteur lavallois qui s'en tire le mieux au cours des deux dernières semaines. 109 personnes touchées et un taux d'infection de 173 cas par 100 000 habitants y ont été dénombrés sur cette même période. *** Prendre note que tel qu’indiqué sur le site Web du CISSS de Laval, ces données par secteur incluent l’ensemble des cas des citoyens testés positifs à la COVID-19, qu’ils résident dans des milieux fermés ou ailleurs dans la communauté. Les milieux fermés incluent des milieux de vie comme les centres d’hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD), les résidences privées pour aînés (RPA), les ressources intermédiaires (RI), ainsi que les centres correctionnels. Les données présentées sont calculées en fonction du lieu de résidence. Le CISSS tarde à déterminer le foyer de 71 cas jusqu’ici.Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
The pandemic hasn't seemed to have hurt bank profits, yet thanks to consumer spending on credit, experts warn a wave of insolvencies and bankruptcies may still be coming once the post-pandemic recovery is underway.
OTTAWA — Provinces are criticizing the federal Liberals for failing to signal more help for health-care systems and strained provincial coffers in its new spending plans, setting up a potential showdown next week between the prime minister and premiers.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet Dec. 10 with the country's premiers, who have been demanding a meeting since September to talk about the annual federal transfer payments to provinces and territories for health care.The fiscal update released Monday, which proposed some $25 billion in new spending to top up and expand existing programs and create new, targeted support for hard-hit industries, did not detail a bump in health-care spending beyond increases planned before the COVID-19 pandemic.Federal health transfers to provinces will rise to $43.1 billion next year from $41.9 billion this year, as part of a prearranged three per cent annual increase.Provinces say the proposal still falls well short of what is needed to properly fund their systems, not including the added costs associated with COVID-19.They want the federal government to boost its share of health-care funding by an extra $28 billion this year with annual increases of $4 billion thereafter. "The primary objective of the premiers to to see a structural change in how health care is funded," Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said Tuesday in an interview. "And I think they're going to be successful because it is the No. 1 thing that Canadians are interested in right now, in the middle of a global pandemic, is making sure we have stable, long-term health-care funding."The Liberals argue they've sent plenty to the provinces for pandemic-related measures, totalling $24 billion to support health-care systems across the country.On Tuesday, Trudeau said he planned to hear out the provinces about their needs during and after the pandemic, but wouldn't commit to added spending.His Liberal government's fall economic statement must first survive a confidence vote in the House of Commons. Failure to gather the necessary support would mean the minority government falls, which could plunge the country into a federal election."I am reasonably confident that none of the opposition parties wants an election right now. We certainly don't want one," Trudeau told reporters outside his Ottawa residence."We want to get these supports out to Canadians. And there are certainly things in this fall economic statement that every party should be able to support in terms of helping Canadians."Spending to date is putting the federal deficit on track to reach $381.6 billion this year, but the government's math says it could close in on $400 billion if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks.Pandemic-related spending has sent total federal transfers this year to $99.7 billion. Next year, the amount falls to $82.1 billion, near where it was before the pandemic, based on figures in the fall economic statement.Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the Liberals' spending binge pre-pandemic has blown the margin now to increase transfers to lower levels of government."There's not a lot of room left for other commitments because of (Trudeau's) irresponsible and insatiable appetite for spending other people's money," Poilievre said.Rebekah Young, Scotiabank's director of fiscal and provincial economics, wrote in an analysis that one-off transfers to provinces were necessary under the circumstances, but there should be a structural shift in the long term to make the country's finances sustainable."And the discussion should be broader than expenditure-shifting, as provinces have been reluctant to take up revenue capacity given up at the federal level in recent years," she wrote.The Liberals are proposing extra help through a revised fiscal stabilization program that sends money to provinces facing a year-over-year decline in non-resource revenues.The economic statement looks to lift funding capped now at $60 per resident up to $170.Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said his province expects to receive $750 million under the new limits, which falls well short of what Alberta could use. He said he was disappointed the Liberals didn't eliminate the cap as provinces have asked."We're going to continue to seek support from other provinces and we're disappointed in what I would call is really not even a half measure," he told reporters at the provincial legislature.Newfoundland and Labrador's Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said the province still wouldn't qualify for help through the stabilization fund this year despite a 45 per cent drop in offshore oil revenues.She added the increase in the cap is unlikely to be a big benefit.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.— With files from Shawn Jeffords in Toronto, and Dean Bennett in EdmontonJordan Press, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Alberta Health projections released by the Opposition NDP predict COVID-19 hospitalization rates could soar to 775 by mid-December and the number of intensive care patients could reach 161.NDP Leader Rachel Notley says the numbers suggest the United Conservative government waited too long to act then introduced ineffective half measures to combat the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.“Our province is reporting the highest rate of COVID in the country,” Notley told Premier Jason Kenney during question period Tuesday. “The models showed you a second wave was coming. Why did you not prepare?”Kenney’s government has in recent weeks declined to provide internal projections on potential COVID-19 effects on hospital and intensive care wards, although Kenney said this week those numbers may be provided in the coming days.The latest numbers were leaked to the NDP.Alberta has seen new daily case counts above 1,000 for almost two weeks, putting a significant strain on the health system.There are a total of 173 intensive care beds in Alberta. On Tuesday, there were 97 COVID-19 ICU patients, part of a total 479 in hospitals.Alberta Health Services, the front-line operational arm of Alberta Health, is now rearranging and reassigning space, staff and patients to create another 250 ICU beds. AHS spokesman Kerry Williamson, in an email, said Calgary exceeded maximum ICU capacity Monday but had space because 10 new beds were added. Edmonton was at 95 per cent ICU capacity but had 18 spaces available because 20 new beds were added.On top of that, 20 acute-care hospitals, including the major ones in Calgary and Edmonton, are dealing with COVID outbreaks of their own.To stem the surge, Kenney announced new health restrictions last week aimed at reducing community spread while keeping businesses and the economy as open as possible.No gatherings are allowed in people’s home beyond those who already live there. Restaurants and bars can stay open under tight restrictions: only six people at a table and they all must be from the same home.The province will review the new rules around mid-December and may intensify or add to them if the skyrocketing spread continues.The NDP and some physicians say the new rules, while aimed at balancing health and the economy, will ultimately fail both and that a short, sharp lockdown of the economy is the way to go.Alberta is also facing the challenge of tracking spread while not knowing where most of the recent cases came from. As of Monday, there were 16,454 active cases. Of those, it’s not known where more than 80 per cent of them contracted the virus. The contact tracing program has been triaged twice in recent weeks to focus on recent and high-priority cases, such as children and health-care workers.Kenney reiterated that Alberta has 800 contact tracers but is working to hire 400 more while moving more part-time tracers to full-time status.“Alberta Health Services is pulling out the stops and has been for weeks to add capacity,” Kenney told the house.“We made it clear to them from Day One that budget is not an issue, that we are giving them maximum resources to surge in hiring and training, and bringing people on board."Notley criticized Kenney for not moving faster during the summer to hire more contact tracers. She noted Alberta lags behind other comparable provinces.“B.C. has 26 contact tracers per 100,000 (people). Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 30. Ontario, 27. Alberta, 18,” said Notley.“Contact tracing is strained across the country, that is true, but only in this province is it broken.”The NDP said that for Alberta’s population of about four million, 1,300 contact tracers are required.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. says sales of cars and trucks fell in November as COVID-19 restrictions returned.The consultancy says 128,351 cars and trucks were sold last month, down 10.4 per cent from a year ago. DesRosiers says the November decline marks a pull back from strong performances in September and October.DesRosiers managing partner Andrew King says the auto market is still relatively strong compared with this spring, after sales fell nearly 75 per cent from their year-ago levels in April.But the consultants say auto sales are still set to be down about 20 per cent this year compared with 2019, between spring's lockdowns and new COVID-19 restrictions.DesRosiers now estimates that 2020 auto sales will total slightly more than 1.5 million for the full year.“It was always apparent that the recovery in the market was never going to be a straight line," said King in a statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Alek Minassian was "saturated in horrific material" online where he conceived the idea to use a van as a weapon to get a high "kill count" score, his murder trial heard Tuesday. Dr. Alexander Westphal, a psychiatrist who is testifying for the defence, said Minassian was obsessed with various abhorrent online sites, including one that glorified mass murderers listed in order by how many people they killed. "I don't doubt that in the absence of this sort of thing that this would not have happened," Westphal said. Westphal is expected to say Minassian is not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018, due to autism spectrum disorder. "Autism alters perception and understanding of the world enough to be something that is really, really important when you’re discussing culpability," Westphal said. Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. He has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack, leaving his state of mind at the time the sole issue at the judge-alone trial. Westphal, who specializes in autism, met with the 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., on several occasions for a total of 15 hours. The psychiatrist said Minassian feels no emotion over what he did. "It's as abstract as killing people in a video game, which is such a horrific concept, but that really is how I feel he was thinking about this," Westphal said. "He still doesn't have any emotional connection with what he did." Westphal said Minassian told him multiple reasons why he committed the attack, but nothing really explains the motivation. Minassian has said he was motivated by his hatred towards women for years of rejection as part of the convoluted world of so-called "incels", or involuntary celibates, of like-minded men who believe they are on the bottom rung of society. "I don't really see incels as an explanation," Westphal said. Westphal said Minassian's social isolation was a factor, as was his anxiety toward starting a new job. But Minassian was drawn to the notoriety of mass murderers and their "kill counts," Westphal said. The concept of death is abstract to Minassian, Westphal said, and he talked about the lives lost as "converting life status to death status." When the psychiatrist asked what Minassian knew about death, the 28-year-old said "death is irreversible." "The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that he didn't understand or didn’t have the slightest insight into the horror or devastation that he was inflicting," Westphal said. He said Minassian has a complete lack of empathy and cannot understand how other people feel. Minassian told Westphal, and several other assessors, he was bullied in school. At one point, Westphal asked Minassian if he understood that others would think of him as a bully because of the attack. "He appeared both shocked and dismayed by the statement and in a way almost like it was an outrageous suggestion," Westphal said. "I'm not a bully," Minassian responded, according to Westphal. "I hate bullies, how could anyone think that?" Westphal has said Minassian lacks empathy due to his autism spectrum disorder. He said Minasisan does not feel remorse or regret, but is also not experiencing sadism or taking any joy from retelling the attack. "When he describes this stuff, he's describing it completely flat in the same way you or I would describe going shopping and the order of things we purchased when we went shopping," he said. "It's completely devoid of any emotional context whatsoever and any sense of the impact this had on other lives." Court has heard that more than 90 per cent of people found not criminally responsible in Canada experienced psychosis. "Overall, it was our impression that despite the fact he was not psychotic, his autistic way of thinking was severely distorted in a way similar to psychosis," Westphal said. "There is support in the literature that autistic ways of thinking may distort reality as substantially as psychotic ways of thinking." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
SASKATOON — Community associations in Saskatoon are being urged to take away nets at outdoor rinks to avoid groups from playing hockey. The provincial government and public-health officials recently suspended all team sports until Dec. 17 in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. In a letter to community associations dated Nov. 30, the city says it sought clarification from the province about how the restriction applied to outdoor rinks. The city's letter says it was told that the ban on team sports applies to both indoor and outdoor rinks. It cites the province's public-health order that says organized or pickup hockey games during public skating times are not allowed and asks that hockey nets be removed.As a result, the city is strongly recommending that its community associations not leave out hockey nets that could be used while rinks are unsupervised. "These are recommendations and guidelines to protect the community and to try to address the spread of COVID," said Andrew Roberts, the city's director of recreational and community development. "We realize it's not a normal winter and that there (are) some sacrifices being made."Roberts noted that the public-health order is in place for three weeks and that the city's recommendation around outdoor hockey nets isn't mandatory. Even though team sports are prohibited, the province says athletes 18 and younger can still practise in groups of eight but must take precautions such as wearing masks. The Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association says on its website it checked with the city and nets will remain in place for practices. Health officials reported 181 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and said 123 people were in hospital. The Ministry of Health has said team sports were suspended for three weeks because the activities were leading to COVID-19 cases in schools and workplaces. Recently, health officials warned that nine players and one coach on a teenage hockey team tested positive for COVID-19, and other teams were self-isolating. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.— By Stephanie Taylor in ReginaThe Canadian Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Republican state lawmaker from Pennsylvania revealed Monday that he has COVID-19, confirming the positive test five days after he went to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump and went maskless at a packed public meeting to discuss efforts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.State Sen. Doug Mastriano first revealed the diagnosis in a Facebook live video Monday night, one day after The Associated Press reported that Mastriano was informed of the positive test while at a West Wing meeting with Trump.On Tuesday, conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck asked Mastriano about his diagnosis.“I'm feeling fantastic,” Mastriano said, then changed the topic.Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker who attended Wednesday's public meeting in Gettysburg with Mastriano, Sen. Judy Ward, revealed that she also has tested positive. The public meeting was held, despite state Department of Health and internal Senate pandemic directives limiting gatherings.The AP learned of the White House test results from a person with direct knowledge of the meeting. Mastriano insisted on Facebook that the report was inaccurate, but did not say how in a 15-minute video in which he confirmed he had tested positive and described his symptoms as “pretty mild.”He did not say where or when he got tested and did not discuss the White House meeting. Neither Mastriano nor his spokesperson have returned messages seeking comment over the past several days.Mastriano, who has led rallies against mask-wearing and other pandemic mitigation efforts, said in the video that after interacting with large numbers of people this year, “finally eight months in, and 20,000 people in, I do get it.”Mastriano said he wanted to “dispel any rumours and get to the bottom of it,” and suggested he contracted the virus in a “basement suite that lacked air circulation” where two other people in the room later tested positive.He did not say when that occurred, or whether it was before the Gettysburg event, but also complained that, before going on camera, he allowed a makeup artist there to use the same brushes on him as others before him.“I knew right there, you know, stop her, don’t let her put those brushes on your face, just walk away,” he said. “And I didn’t.”He said he has not had a fever, and expected his quarantine “will be ending here pretty quick, actually.”The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that people who tested positive not be around other people for 10 days after symptoms first appeared, if the person has gone 24 hours without fever and other symptoms are improving.Mastriano's White House trip followed the hours-long meeting in a Gettysburg hotel, which was held at Mastriano’s request and where few people wore masks.At the meeting, the state Senate Republican Policy Committee listened to Trump — calling in by telephone — and Trump’s lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, repeat baseless claims that Biden's victory in Pennsylvania was gained fraudulently and urge them to overturn it.No state or county election official or prosecutor in Pennsylvania has cited evidence of widespread election fraud in the state, and Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Department of Justice has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.Republicans convened the Gettysburg meeting amid rising coronavirus infections in Pennsylvania that state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine warned Monday have strained the state’s hospitals and intensive care units.Blair County Sen. Judy Ward, who sat with a mask on a few feet away from Mastriano at the public meeting, announced in a Facebook post Monday that she also had tested positive for the virus. Ward said she believes she became infected at a Thanksgiving gathering. She has not returned messages seeking comment.It is not clear how state Senate Republican leaders, who have remained silent about the matter, have responded internally to a potential outbreak stemming from that meeting.Mastriano said contact tracing has been performed, but provided no details, and a Senate GOP spokesperson would only say the “Senate continues to adhere to the COVID-19 mitigation policy which was adopted in the spring.”Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, criticized the meeting as irresponsible.“The spread of this virus is something that we have to really take seriously and we should not be subjecting our staff and others to exposure,” Costa said.A spokesperson for the state Department of Health declined to say whether the agency was conducting contact tracing as a result of the Gettysburg event.__Follow Mark Scolforo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/houseofbuddy and Marc Levy at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.Mark Scolforo And Marc Levy, The Associated Press
Visitor parking is about to get tougher in Tiny Township. After a slew of parking-related complaints received this summer when visitors flocked to the area, staff sat down to come up with a parking strategy to be implemented next year. The result is an extended permit parking season and increased parking fines. "Currently, it's necessary to display one between May 15 and Sept. 15," said Steve Harvey, chief municipal law enforcement officer. "But as council has seen over the last few years with nicer weather over the fall, this year, we extended the season to Oct. 5. Staff is suggesting the parking permit season be extended by a month at each end, April 15 to Oct. 15." As for parking fines, he said, currently, a no-parking ticket is $50 if paid on time and $60 with penalty. "These are costs equal to a full-day parking," Harvey said. "We're recommending increasing it $75 and $90." A third part of the strategy is around the township's parking boundaries, he said. "During this summer, we received a lot of communications from residents on the eastern shoreline that were affected by day trippers that were using the little parks and walkways to beaches," Harvey said talking about Corrie Hamelin Park on Champlain Road and Peek-a-boo Trail at Tee Pee Point Park. In his report, he outlined five options for council to consider. Staff is suggesting targeted permit parking program at a specific parking lot, converting targeted open parking to permit parking, converting open parking along the eastern shoreline to permit parking or converting open parking across the township to permit parking. Council could also choose to take no action and see how it goes in 2021, said Harvey, adding staff recommended the second option be adopted with a clause that staff report back on the feasibility. Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma and Coun. Tony Mintoff both supported the option recommended by staff and suggested removing the need for staff to report back on the parking boundaries option. "We can adapt and increase the plan if we find ourselves in a similar position next summer," said Walma. Tiny sells 175 'non-resident' permits on a first-come, first-serve basis with a non-resident being defined as a resident of the Town of Midland, the Town of Penetanguishene, the Township of Tay and the Township of Springwater. Permits cost $100.00 and are not transferable. The decision will be ratified at a future council meeting.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Multiple B.C. First Nations continue to demand the provincial government release the location of COVID-19 cases near their communities. The Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tsilhqot’in National Government said despite being engaged in government-to-government negotiations, there has been no result. Public health emergencies, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, “do not impact all populations in the same way” noted a recent report by Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, which discovered widespread systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in B.C’s health-care system. “First Nations people are significantly more likely to experience an overdose event or death, and more likely to contract COVID-19, than non-Indigenous people in B.C.,” the report stated in one of its 11 key findings. Specific challenges reported to the review included lack of access to data, lack of resourcing for prevention and security, and lack of integration of First Nations in the supply chain for personal protective equipment and other necessary emergency supplies, the report added. The First Nations leaders said while they feel vindicated by Turpel Lafond’s report, the report’s recommendations must be immediately implemented and address COVID-19 information sharing. They have been requesting the location of coronavirus cases near their communities, if the case involves a person who has travelled to their territories within the last 14 days and the name of positive members to be used for culturally-safe contact tracing since May. Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Judith Sayers said the health ministry’s ongoing refusal to share the information is based on stereotypes of First Nations governments that receive and work with confidential information every day. “It’s insulting to suggest that we can’t be trusted with this information,” she said in a Dec. 1 release. A complaint by the First Nations was filed in September 2020 with the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner, which has opened a file into the matter.Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune
TORONTO — The cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies like Netflix will go up under a taxation plan the government wants to put in place next year, experts said Tuesday.Ottawa said in its fiscal update released Monday it will require multinationals to collect GST or HST on digital products and services, which it said would add up to $1.2 billion over five years.Sometimes labelled a "Netflix tax," the measure would also apply to other services such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video or the Spotify audio streaming service, as well as digital products such as software applications. The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales, so it's only fair that foreign multinationals should do the same. KPMG tax partner Joe Micallef said it's likely Canadians will end up paying the taxes collected for the government by foreign multinationals."Right now, the way in which they're delivering their services, they're not responsible for the collection," Micallef said."And so, effectively, it would mean that these charges would be appearing on (their) invoices."A regular monthly subscription for a streaming service that delivers video or music would be a simple calculation, with the tax rate applied to the purchase price.But Micallef said it is be more difficult to estimate how much additional tax individual consumers, or businesses, will pay for other types of digital purchases, he said.Something like gaming software might cost little or nothing itself, but offer the option for subsequent charges to add features that make the experience better."How many times? How many transactions? It adds up," Micallef said.Dwayne Winseck, a media industry researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, also expects companies will add the price of the tax to the total sale price. "I mean, this is really not a very substantial amount, when we're talking about corporate finances," said Winseck, who is a professor of journalism and communication.He said that the term "Netflix tax" has become highly politicized and is often used as "code" for levelling the playing field between U.S.-based digital media companies and traditional Canadian broadcasters."And if the idea is to create a level playing field between those two services, then that by all means that makes great sense," Winseck said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.David Paddon, The Canadian Press