When Stéphanie Chouinard and her husband, Sean, were looking to buy their first home in Toronto this year, they discussed how kids would fit into the picture — searching for a home near a French school, but also one that offered enough space. The couple had been living in a one-bedroom rental, and despite saving, recognized that some areas were out of reach. Their search narrowed in on East York, but even there, Chouinard said any “livable” houses or townhouses they saw were north of $800,000. So a federal program offering help to first-time home buyers, which capped purchase prices at around $505,000, wasn’t an option. “When we saw that program, we knew right away that this wasn’t going to be helping us at all,” said Chouinard. While their combined income was enough for a family-sized home — and high enough to also render them ineligible for the incentive — Chouinard believes the federal rules may have excluded other young families who were looking to have children in their first homes. “If you have a family or are planning to have a family in the near future, that program will very likely not be of much use to you,” she said. And though a federal economic update this week outlined changes to the program to come for Toronto in the spring, Chouinard believes families looking for something beyond a modest apartment will still be “very, very limited.” The federal program offers a shared-equity mortgage through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to reduce the amount that first-time buyers need to save for a down payment and lower monthly mortgage costs. Ottawa pays either five or 10 per cent of the price, and homeowners later pay back that same percentage of the home’s updated value. In its first year, fewer than 10,000 mortgages across Canada were approved through the program — despite a three-year goal of helping 100,000 families. Alberta and Quebec have seen the most uptake: from Feb. 1 to Sept. 1 this year, there were 712 mortgages approved and accepted in Edmonton, 378 in Calgary, and 55 in Airdrie, Alta., but just one in Vancouver, six in Victoria and 16 in Toronto. From Sept. 1, 2019 to Feb. 1, there were more than 4.5 times as many approved and accepted mortgages in Calgary than there were across the Greater Toronto Area. Montreal saw nearly seven times as many approved and accepted mortgages as the GTA in that time. The government has recognized since at least the last election that changes were likely needed for Canada’s hottest markets, and said this week they were coming in spring. Households earning up to $150,000 instead of $120,000 will soon qualify in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, and their purchases can total 4.5 times their income, instead of only four times. “It’s not going to get you a three-bedroom downtown or anything, but it’s more aligned with the Toronto housing market,” said Heather Tremain, CEO of the non-profit developer Options for Homes. She sees the changes as positive, but she urged Ottawa to dig deeper into why some may have resisted using it in its first year, including the fact it effectively requires the buyer to pay mortgage insurance, by keeping down payments below 20 per cent. Tremain believes some first-time buyers may have balked at that extra monthly cost, and pursued other options to try to reach that 20 per cent mark instead. She said she’d also heard concerns from lenders about the government sharing any home value appreciation. Paul Taylor, president and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada, echoed those concerns and added that some buyers may also struggle with the very idea of co-owning their homes. Though he believes the changes coming in the spring are a “net positive,” he also questioned whether the incentive would be as successful as the feds had projected. When asked by the Star about the first-year numbers for the program and several of the concerns in this story, a federal department of finance official reiterated in an email the rule changes planned for spring 2021. They would “make homeownership more affordable,” they wrote. Both Tremain and Ken Bowman of Meridian Credit Union backed the incremental approach that Ottawa seemed to be taking. “I don’t think frenetic change on something as important as a housing strategy is particularly inspiring,” Bowman said. Both speculated that the pandemic may have hindered uptake in 2020. But UBC professor Paul Kershaw, founder of the research and advocacy group Generation Squeeze, believes a fundamental shift is needed to address the challenges that first-time buyers face in big cities. While he believes the strategy is “well thought-out,” he urged more attention to the root causes of unaffordability. He pointed to a Generation Squeeze report last year, which found that it took a typical 25- to 34-year-old in the GTA 21 years to save up a 20 per cent payment for an average-priced home. If first-time buyers were getting older in the city, Kershaw said others may find themselves in the same situation as Chouinard. “They need to have enough space in that home so that they’re not using closets as a nursery,” he said. Diana Petramala, a senior economist with Ryerson University, said even with the updated rules, new buyers looking near downtown Toronto would be limited mostly to one-bedroom units, or older two-bedrooms. Buying a townhouse might be more possible, she said, in the outskirts — areas like Durham or Simcoe. While Chouinard and her husband were ultimately able to purchase a first home with three bedrooms within the city, it took a combined household income well above the cutoff for federal help and renting into their 30s to do so. Chouinard said a friend of hers recently left the city after nearly a decade, feeling it just wasn’t affordable; she suspects others are in the same boat. “It does eat away at the attractiveness of Toronto as a city for young professionals,” she said. Victoria Gibson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Lawyers fought the latest round of a 16-year legal battle by video conference in the province’s top court on Tuesday and Wednesday. The long-running dispute between Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) and the Saskatchewan government aims to find whether 600 flooded acres of land near Southend is a reserve. The debate centres on whether to uphold Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Dan Konkin’s 2019 decision finding the land was never properly designated as a reserve. That decision also tossed out PBCN’s claim that the flooding meant the province and SaskPower were trespassing on the land. This week, PBCN and the federal government argued it is a reserve — a finding that would throw out the lower court’s decision and help the First Nation’s legal counsel press for compensation based off the trespassing claim. “The important thing here is the ownership of (roughly) 10,000 acres of land is at stake,” said Thomas Berger, a prominent British Columbia lawyer who has long served as PBCN’s counsel on the case. The Saskatchewan government and SaskPower argued to uphold the 2019 decision, saying the reserve was never properly designated. The Ministry of Justice declined to comment on a matter before the courts. One part of the dispute centres on a surveyor’s actions almost a century ago. When the surveyor was tasked with finding Barren Lands band members at Southend in 1929, he found members of PBCN. PBCN argued he took steps to create a reserve there. A 1981 federal government cabinet order and the land’s inclusion in the 1992 Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement confirmed that designation, PBCN’s factum said. In an interview, Berger said the province’s position on its status was a reversal because “25 years later, they said, ‘we made a mistake.’ ” Saskatchewan legal counsel Mitch McAdam said that’s not necessarily the case. In a factum, he wrote that the surveyor’s “instructions were crystal clear — to survey a reserve at Southend for Barren Lands — and he carried those instructions out ‘to a T.’ ” However, McAdam said the survey was flawed and incomplete. He said the government also never confirmed it as a reserve, meaning the land passed to Saskatchewan under the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement in 1930. That brings into question who owns the land that Whitesand Dam floods as it controls Reindeer River’s flow into the nearby Island Falls hydroelectric power station. Berger says his clients are owed their “fair share” of compensation for the flooding, but that partly depends on how the court sides on the question of the land’s reserve status. “If Peter Ballantyne has no interest in the (land), in other words, the (land) is not Indian reserve land, (and) Peter Ballantyne has no claim in trespass,” the SaskPower factum noted. Berger expects to hear the top court’s decision sometime in 2021. NoneNick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
A new program that looks to connect Canada’s resort communities in an effort to tackle climate change has called on the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) to become a founding partner. “We believe our love of adventure in nature demands our participation in the fight to save and protect it,” said David Erb, executive director of Protect Our Winters Canada (POW). “We're a not-for-profit organization that's really focused on aligning the outdoor industry, which includes everyday enthusiasts like myself and, and others that might visit Blue Mountain to ski or hike, professional athletes and industry brands,” he explained during a recent deputation to TBM council. POW focuses its efforts on organizing, educating and equipping businesses, social influencers and the general population to advocate for systemic policy solutions to climate change. In recent months, POW has been approaching municipalities across Canada that rely on adventure tourism in an effort to seek out partnerships for collaboration on an inter-municipal climate awareness plan. Prior to approaching TBM, POW also invited the municipality of Whistler, the Town of Banff, the municipality of Jasper, Ville de Mont Tremblant, the University of Waterloo, interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change and Hot Planet Cool Athletes Canada, to also become founding members. “The fact that we've been identified and have been invited into this group — you'll note that we're the only Ontario municipality — so I definitely think we have to put our commitment behind this and we can't just be their name, we've got to be there in actual action as well,” said TBM Coun. Andrea Matrosovs. “So much can be learned from each other, both across Canada, and the world. I was quite impressed when I did research on POW that this isn't just Canada, but it's a worldwide network,” she continued. The program strives to assist its partner municipalities in developing a Climate Action Plan blueprint by providing projections on impacts, assessment on local and tourist related CO2 emissions and identifying strategies, best practices, technology efficiencies, and engagement strategies. “We aim to increase the resilience and future viability of Canada’s adventure tourism sector by evaluating climate-change risks, developing strategies to decarbonize ski and adventure tourism destinations, and transition resort communities on climate resilient pathways,” Erb explained. POW also plans to create a Resort Municipality Climate Coalition (RMCC), which will leverage the collective experience of Canada’s resort communities to create a forum to exchange information, ideas, successes and challenges. “The intention behind this RMCC is that we can bring together other resort municipalities from across the country, no matter what stage they're at in their climate planning, and create a community where we can really forward each other's efforts,” Erb said. The program will be based out of the University of Waterloo, and is also backed by the Climate Caucus, a non-partisan network of 250-plus elected local leaders working collectively to create and implement equitable policy, which aligns with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services science. Erb adds there is no direct cost to partner municipalities for the first year of the program, as POW is currently in the process of acquiring funding through Canadian Climate Action and Awareness Fund. In the second year of the program, POW will be asking founding partners to make a $50,000 annual contribution for two years. According to Erb, the funds can be allocated directly, indirectly or in-kind. For example, wages for staff working on climate planning or allocation of consultant fees would be considered as indirect contributions. “There's no cost to doing this. It's essentially a working committee that will come together and resource one another,” he said. “However, that would likely lead to part two, which is a commitment for in-kind matching funds. And, that can be a very flexible ask, it doesn't need to be new dollars, we just need to have the ability to point to dollars in your budget that are being allocated toward climate planning.” According to Jeffery Fletcher, manager of solid waste and environmental initiatives for TBM, the town has already begun work in some of these areas through such sub-committees, such as the sustainability advisory committee. “This is a great opportunity for the town to take advantage of some great academia and influential groups like the Climate Caucus. As well as all the other resorts that are involved. Together we can gain some real momentum,” Fletcher said. Erb adds that the threat of climate change is a stark reality for the outdoor tourism industry, pointing to the impact the climate crisis is having on the length of the winter season. “As you may know, ski operators have a magical number of 100 days. If they can operate for 100 days in a winter, that's generally their break-even point and anything above that is a surplus,” Erb said. “But, as soon as they dip below 100 days, it's really questionable if they're able to sustain their overall operations.” “A major engine of our economy is Blue Mountain Resort and the other resorts that operate in the area, not to mention the rest of the outdoor winter activities that happens here and some of our smaller tour operators. It's a big part of economic sustainability, but it's also apart of our social sustainability as well,” Matrosovs added. Following the deputation from Erb, TBM council moved a motion to join the RMCC as a founding member and also directed staff to provide a follow-up report regarding the request for a commitment to allocate in-kind matching funds to the program once federal funding is in place. “This is an important opportunity for us, whatever noise we can make will be amplified greatly by being part of an organization like this,” added TBM Deputy Mayor Rob Potter. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Nominations are open to recognize individuals in the territory who “work to strengthen the arts, culture, heritage and languages of the N.W.T.” The Minister’s Culture and Heritage Awards celebrate “outstanding leadership in the North” and raise awareness about the importance of protecting, preserving and celebrating the different cultures and unique ways of life in the territory. There are five categories: According to the GNWT's website, a Minister's Choice Award will also be handed out this year at the discretion of RJ Simpson, the minister. Awards will be given to winners virtually this year, due to COVID-19. Northerners looking to nominate a peer must submit the necessary form by January 8, 2021.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit widened 1.7% in October to $63.1 billion. The politically sensitive gap in the trade of goods with China and Mexico grew.The gap between the goods and services the United States sold and what it bought abroad rose from $62.1 billion in September, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Exports rose 2.2% to $182 billion, led by sales of aircraft engines. Imports increased 2.1% to $245.1 billion on an uptick in shipments of auto parts.The deficit in the trade of goods with China rose 9% to $26.5 billion and the gap with Mexico rose 10% to $11.8 billion.So far this year, the overall gap in the trade of goods and services with the rest of the world has risen to $536.7 billion, up 9.5% from January-October 2019.President Donald Trump, who vowed to reduce the trade deficit, has imposed tariffs on foreign steel, aluminum and on $360 billion in Chinese products. It is unclear how much of Trump's aggressive trade policies will be retained by President-elect Joe Biden.The coronavirus, however, has upended trade in services such as education and travel in which the United States runs persistent surpluses. U.S. services exports are down nearly 20% so far this year, and America's trade surplus in services dropped in October to $18.3 billion, lowest since August 2012.The U.S. ran an October deficit of $81.4 billion in the trade of goods such as autos and appliances.Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press
BERLIN — Veteran German diplomat Helga Schmid, a key behind-the-scenes negotiator of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, was named Friday as the new administrative head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Vienna-based regional security organization plays an important role in trying to resolve conflicts in Europe and on its periphery, including Ukraine. Its 57 members include Russia and the United States. A career diplomat, the 59-year-old Schmid was the German embassy's spokeswoman in Washington during the early 1990s, before taking senior roles at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin, and later moved to Brussels. She spent the last four years as the head of the EU's diplomatic service. The post of OSCE secretary general comes with a three-year term that can be renewed once. The secretary general is the administrative head of the OSCE, complementing the presidency which rotates annually among member states. A branch of the organization also conducts election monitoring missions, including during last month's U.S. presidential vote. The Associated Press
Après une longue saga, voilà que les communautés innues de Uashat mak Mani-utenam et Matimekush-Lac John ont signé une entente de réconciliation et de collaboration avec la Compagnie minière IOC. Depuis 2010, de nombreuses négociations ont eu lieu entre la minière et les deux communautés. Une poursuite judiciaire avait même été entamée contre IOC. Au cœur du litige se trouvait l’exploitation du Nitassinan (territoire ancestral traditionnel des Innus) qui a été exploité sans le consentement des Innus. L'entente qui a été ratifiée aujourd'hui prévoit notamment que l'entreprise minière fournira des paiements financiers, des avantages en matière d’emploi et des opportunités d’affaires aux communautés innues ainsi qu’une meilleure collaboration sur le plan environnemental. L’entente prévoit également que IOC présente des excuses. Les deux communautés se sont engagées à retirer les poursuites judiciaires qui avaient été intentées contre la compagnie. Cet accord a été baptisé « Ussiniun », ce qui signifie « renouveau » en langue innue. « Cette entente marque le début d’une nouvelle relation avec IOC, basée sur le respect et le partenariat. Les compensations et les retombées pour nos membres nous permettront de prendre encore plus en main le développement de notre communauté. Le respect démontré par IOC nous permettra de tourner la page sur un historique de conflits et de regarder l’avenir avec optimisme », a affirmé le Chef de Uashat mak Mani-utenam. De son côté, le président et chef de la direction de IOC, Clayton Walker, a déclaré : « Cette entente à long terme est une étape importante qui nous permet d'avancer ensemble et de construire des relations solides basées sur le respect, la confiance et les avantages mutuels. Nous nous engageons à travailler en collaboration avec les communautés de Uashat mak Mani-utenam et de Matimekush-Lac John afin de concrétiser les nombreux avantages de cette entente pour toutes les parties concernées. » L'entente qui a été acceptée en août par les deux communautés innues a par la suite été présentée aux membres de chacune des communautés. Un référendum a été effectué dans la communauté de Matimekush-Lac John pour approuver l'entente et l'option du oui l'a emportée à 83%.Vincent Berrouard, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nord-Côtier
OTTAWA — A quick look at Canada's November employment (numbers from the previous month in brackets):Unemployment rate: 8.5 per cent (8.9)Employment rate: 59.5 per cent (59.4)Participation rate: 65.1 per cent (65.2)Number unemployed: 1,735,200 (1,816,800)Number working: 18,615,600 (18,553,500)Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 17.4 per cent (18.8)Men (25 plus) unemployment rate: 7.4 per cent (7.8)Women (25 plus) unemployment rate: 6.8 per cent (6.8)This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020 and was generated automatically.The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — A year after a series of concerts in Puerto Rico that ended up being his last because of the pandemic, Daddy Yankee is bringing those performances to YouTube as a Christmas gift to his fans around the globe.“DY2K20,” the digital version of his show “Con Calma Pal’ Choli,” will be released in three parts on Yankee's YouTube channel, with the first installment out Friday. The others will drop on Dec. 14 and Dec. 21, respectively.“I wanted to give a Christmas present to all my fans during the pandemic, bring the party to their homes free of charge, bring them joy in such difficult times,” the reggaeton star told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Miami.Yankee, who has stayed mostly out of the spotlight in 2020, said that while the pandemic has hit many very hard, it has also allowed him to do something he hadn't done in three decades: Focus on his health and rest.It's something he had to gradually learn after gaining 40 pounds (almost 20 kilos) during the first months of quarantine.“Maybe because of the anxiety... I started eating and eating and eating and I put on the pounds like never before. I got to weigh 230 pounds (105 kilos) ... But I recovered my normal weight from 10 years ago. That was my focus,” said the “Despacito” and “Gasolina” singer, adding he achieved his goal by watching what he ate and exercising, a lot.“I devoted myself to my health and to something that was unknown to me, which was rest,” he said. “I started to learn how to live with calmness and to appreciate it... And I feel different, I feel in a new phase completely.”Now that he gained some balance in his life, he feels ready to reactivate his career. In addition to “DY2K20,” he has another surprise for his fans: A new music collaboration he will release in the coming days, although he wouldn't provide details yet.For now, he said he was blessed to finally share with the world the footage of a show staged at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot, which involved over 80 people who worked with “great passion, great creativity.” It was well-received, going from two scheduled dates to a full residence, with 12 sold-out shows, or 170,000 tickets.What many don't know is that a technical problem on opening night resulted in a new business opportunity: Massive concerts in the daylight hours, something never seen before on the island.After getting stuck on a platform over the stage, Yankee announced to the audience that he would give them an extra show for free, and it was a matinee. He adjusted the content to make it family friendly, and ended up doing one more that way.Another unique aspect of “Con Calma Pal’ Choli,” which featured artists like Ozuna, Wisin & Yandel and Nicky Jam, was the use of holograms to replace those who weren't there to perform live.“I wanted the artists to be gigantic, on people's faces, so the audience could feel that they were in front of them and we achieved that,” Yankee said. “It was a concert that became a residence, like if Las Vegas had moved to Puerto Rico.”___Follow Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner.Sigal Ratner-Arias, The Associated Press
While the aftermath of the American presidential election continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how exactly the shift of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden will impact Canada-U.S. relations. A former international ambassador cautions it won’t be all sunshine and lollipops ahead for the generally friendly neighbours. Derek Burney, who was born in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) served as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1989 to 1993 under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Burney is currently chancellor of Lakehead University, chairman of the Burney Investment Group, chairman of GardaWorld’s International Advisory Board, chairman of Enablence Technologies Inc., and a member of the advisory board of Paradigm Capital. He was named an Officer to the Order of Canada in 1993. Last week he gave an online address which was hosted by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, and simulcast by the chambers of Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins. Burney opened by calling the U.S. election a “cathartic” event. “The aftershocks continue to resonate. The Electoral College will meet on Dec. 14 to certify the results, and formally declare Joe Biden as president.” He then spoke of the big takeaways he had from the election. “A huge turnout amplified by massive influxes of mail-in ballots helped ultimately tip the verdict to Joe Biden, even though Trump won 10 million more votes than he received in 2016.” Burney said the 'Blue Wave' that many pollsters had predicted did not materialize. “Too many pollsters seemed more inclined to affect, rather than reflect, the mood of American voters. Biden won with a tightly disciplined, low-key campaign, banking on the fact that he was not Trump, and that the election would be a referendum on Trump, not a choice between the two candidates.” Burney lamented that foreign policy was barely mentioned by either candidate throughout the campaign. “Personalities, character and COVID concerns dominated.” Burney pointed out that regardless of the outcome the United States is in a period of deep division. “The country remains highly polarized — split right down the middle and very difficult to govern. The Democrats are jubilant, but weary. The Republicans are subdued, but not submissive.” He said the election conveyed a messy image of American democracy to the world, and that it regrettably emboldened authoritarian leaders like China's President Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to take advantage. Domestically, policy ideas from the Republicans and Democrats on matters such as taxes, immigration, health care and energy are seemingly polar opposites. “Biden will definitely bring a less abrasive tone, especially on global issues, but his ability to implement major changes on domestic issues will be circumscribed, if the Republicans hold the Senate. He will also need to consolidate consensus on policies and priorities first within his own party, which is more divided internally, than are the Republicans.” “Biden's pledge to heal and unite the nation is commendable, but maybe unrealistic.” On the positive side, Burney did remark that there was some scope for bipartisan consensus on issues like justice reform, infrastructure, and possibly healthcare. “But if the Congress remains divided, agreements will require nimble give-and-take negotiations. At least Biden and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell are both Senate veterans, and they begin with a degree of mutual respect, a spirit that was entirely lacking between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” Regarding Canada and how a new government will affect Canadian business, Burney, said Biden will be more congenial with U.S. allies. “After 47 years of service in Washington, he is no stranger to Canada, nor to our Prime Minister and other alliance leaders. That alone is good news.” However, Burney said that in reality, the Canada-U.S. relationship is “no longer special” and that Biden’s domestic policies are a mixed bag for Canada moving forward. “Those favouring more action on climate change will be pleased by his quick decision to rejoin the Paris Accord. I personally would be happier if he were also committed to ensuring more timely, and more tangible commitments by major polluters like China and India. The imbalance is startling.” He also cautioned that Western Canada could be in for more challenging times concerning the oil and gas sector if Biden’s positions come to fruition. “If he fulfils his pledge to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit, that would be devastating for our energy sector. In my view, such action would be blatantly discriminatory and should be challenged forcefully by our government, not just the pipeline companies.” The first few months of 2021 will be highly interesting for economic observers on both sides of the border as the two nations, the largest trading partners on the planet, scramble to get their economies rolling again during a global health crisis. “Because we are joined at the hip economically with the U.S., we stand to gain when their economy is robust, and conversely when the U.S. economy slumps, so does ours. That is why my fervid hope is that Joe Biden puts economy recovery first and foremost on his agenda.” Burney told the business-oriented viewers what his overall message is. “At a time of greater instability and uncertainty in the world, my most important message to you is that greater self-reliance is becoming the order of the day. As business operators, you need to be mindful of that increasing trend. Find ways to produce more of what is needed right here in Canada, and rely less on global supply chains that can easily be disrupted, as our experience with COVID, badly demonstrated.”Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
WELLINGTON COUNTY – A newly-announced mobile addictions services van in Wellington County aims to bridge healthcare gaps in rural areas of the county. Stonehenge Therapeutic Community recently got $900,000 in funding from Ontario Health to enhance their addiction services. Kristen Kerr, executive director of Stonehenge Therapeutic Community, said about a third of this is going toward a project to serve the needs of rural Wellington County residents who face substance use issues. They are expanding their Rapid Access Addiction Clinics (RAAC), where there is only one in Wellington County, with a mobile van that can address issues with transportation, a common gap in health services in the county. “These clinics offer specialized medical addiction services and that can be hard to access when you live in a rural community,” Kerr said. “Sometimes it can be quite a long geographic distance to get to a clinic that is stationary. We have four existing clinics but most of them are far from Harriston for example.” Kerr said another issue in rural areas when accessing addiction services relates to anonymity. The thought is In a smaller community, people who are using such services can be more easily identified by other residents. The van itself will act as a mobile medical clinic that is staffed with a nurse practitioner. “It will be able to go to more central or accessible locations so that folks from the rural areas can more easily access the clinic,” Kerr said. The nurse practitioner can provide medicine services, addictions counselling and referrals. Kerr said they are working out the fine details with their rural healthcare partners such as precisely where the van will go in the county and therefore couldn’t say exactly where it will be making stops. Some of the funding is also going toward enhancing supportive housing they have in Guelph for those who face substance-use issues and have some level of involvement in the justice system. Kerr said the van concept was created from feedback about barriers clients face in rural areas and they will continue to listen and learn how they can improve. “I think listening to those who need to access service and listening to the voice of people with lived experience is key to knowing what more we need to do,” Kerr said. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
The singer is perfectly at ease letting people see what he’s really going through.
Three Windsor-Essex hospitals have issued a strong warning over the current surge in COVID-19 cases — and what could happen if the trend continues.In a joint statement, they pleaded with the public to continue to do their part to prevent the spread of the virus."The scenario that our Windsor-Essex region residents have seen on TV taking place in other jurisdictions around the world, where hospital resources are stretched beyond capacity, is showing signs of occurring in our area of the province," chief executives from Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shores Healthcare said Friday.Recent COVID-19 outbreaks at Hôtel-Dieu Grace and Windsor Regional risk "significant reductions" in bed capacity, while use of beds is already above 100 per cent, they said."As hospital bed capacity deteriorates, clinical teams will have no option other than to cancel scheduled surgeries and other procedures to ensure we have bed space available for emergency and other urgent cases," they stated.There are currently 27 people in hospital with COVID-19 and seven in ICU, according to the Windsor-Essex County Public Health Unit (WECHU). "There is definitely a lot of pressure on the health-care system in the region and also across Southwestern Ontario, Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health with WECHU, said Friday.The health unit announced 65 new cases on Friday, bringing the active case total to 424.21 outbreaks in Windsor-EssexDr. Ahmed said there's also record number of outbreaks in the region — 21 across workplaces, long-term care homes and other institutions."We have never had that many outbreaks, clearly indicating that we need to do more," Dr. Ahmed said.As of the most recent data, which Dr. Ahmed presented on Friday, Windsor's seven-day average test positivity rate is 4.3 per cent -- the fourth highest in the province behind Toronto, Peel and York regions.Analysis of the presence of the virus wastewater suggests rates of infection exceed the number of known cases, Ahmed said.Not moving to lockdown Despite the rising cases, the province did not announce a lockdown for Windsor-Essex on Friday, meaning the region remains in the red "control" zone of COVID-19 restrictions in place since Monday.Dr. Ahmed said earlier on Friday that he didn't anticipate a lockdown would be announced, though earlier in the week he said the region is at risk of heightened restrictions."We would like to see the results of us in the red zone first before we move on to any criteria at this time," he said.Snapshot of the pandemic in Windsor-EssexSince the pandemic started, 3,864 cases have been diagnosed in Windsor-Essex, 3,358 of which have been resolved.Eighty-two people have lost their lives to COVID-19, including 56 death in longterm care and retirement homes.Of the 65 cases announced across the region Friday , five are close contacts of a confirmed case, two were community acquired, 58 are still under investigation. Twenty-seven people are in hospital, with seven in the intensive care unit.There are 21 outbreaks in the community, including eight at workplaces. * Three in Leamington's agriculture sector. * One in Lakeshore's health care and social assistance sector. * One in a Leamington place of worship. * One in Leamington's finance and insurance sector. * One in Windsor's manufacturing sector. * One in Kingsville's manufacturing sectorTwo community outbreaks are still active: one at Victoria Manor Supportive Living in Windsor and another at Riverplace Residence in Windsor. There are three school outbreaks: Corpus Christi Catholic Middle School - Central Park Athletics Campus, Frank W. Begley Public School and W. J. Langlois Catholic Elementary School. The latter two schools have been closed for two weeks. Officials are working on a reopening plan for both schools.There are outbreaks at six long-term care and retirement homes: * Chartwell St. Clair Beach in Tecumseh with one resident case. * Village of Aspen Lake in Tecumseh with one staff case. * Leamington Mennonite in Leamington with two staff cases. * Chartwell Royal Oak Residence in Kingsville with two staff cases. * Riverside place in Windsor with 17 resident cases and three staff cases. * Iler Lodge in Essex with 18 resident cases and three staff cases.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has renewed his vitriolic attacks on French President Emmanuel Macron, saying he hopes France will get rid of him soon. Speaking after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Macron “trouble” for France, which he said was experiencing a dangerous time under his leadership. “My wish is for France to get rid of the Macron trouble as soon as possible,” Erdogan said. Otherwise, Erdogan claimed, France would not be able to overcome the Yellow Vest protest movement against social injustice in the country. Erdogan also said France has lost its credibility as an intermediary of the Minsk group, which was created in the 1990s to encourage peaceful resolution for the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. France has sided with Armenia in that conflict, and Turkey with Azerbaijan. Erdogan’s comments come amid harsh rhetoric from both leaders. Macron tried to avoid further escalation Friday, calling for “respect” after Erdogan's attack, and deflecting a question on the spat. The French leader also told Brut, a news website, that Erdogan was in the process of limiting the liberty of the Turkish people. Relations have been tense over a host of issues, including what Erdogan characterizes as French Islamopohobia, energy disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. In October, Erdogan said Macron needed his head examined for defending caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. At the time, French authorities denounced Turkish “propaganda” against France and Paris recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations. The French presidency responded to Erdogan's comments in October with unusually strong language, saying: “Excess and rudeness are not a method” and “we are not accepting insults," and called for changes in Erdogan's “dangerous” policy. The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off the inaugural meeting of a global council on artificial intelligence by warning of the danger of unbridled digital technology, despite its potential to change the world for the better.The virtual summit marks the latest step in the slow march toward international co-operation on digital governance amid growing concerns over data privacy, built-in bias and deployment in war.Canada first set out on that path two years ago, unveiling plans with France for a standing AI forum during a meeting of G7 countries in Quebec.Since then, 13 other states have signed on to the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to guide policy development with an eye to human rights, establishing expert panels and involving government, industry and academia.Speaking ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, Trudeau said AI has the potential to combat diseases and climate change, but also to "create new challenges if left unchecked."Last month, the Liberal government tabled legislation to give Canadians more control over their information in the digital age, with potentially stiff fines for companies that flout the rules.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
Had the ATAC mining access road in the Beaver River watershed been built, it would have constituted a “breach of the honour of the Crown” and betrayed First Nations people, according to a decision document released by the Yukon government after inquiries by The Narwhal. The document provides insight into the territorial government’s Nov. 27 decision to reject the proposed all-access road by Vancouver-based ATAC Resources, a mining exploration company with gold and copper claims in the region. The document also sheds light on concerns raised by the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, on whose territory the claims are located. The rejected road was given a conditional green light by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board in 2017 but was awaiting a final decision from the Yukon government. The new route would have opened access to a 65-kilometre portion of the company’s three mineral claims that form the Rackla gold property and connected Keno City to the Tiger gold deposit, the site of a planned ATAC Resources’ open-pit gold mine. The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun was “strongly opposed” to the project going ahead, the decision document reveals. The document contains a list of concerns raised by the nation, including fears the road would have caused “significant adverse impacts” on treaty rights such as hunting, fishing and trapping in traditional territory. That list also noted concerns the road would have prevented Na-Cho Nyäk Dun citizens from adequately exercising treaty rights in “one of the few remaining wilderness areas in its traditional territory.” The road would have “fundamentally alter[ed] an untouched portion of” the nation’s territory and would have “alienated” citizens from their lands. “Approving the application would permanently impair the process of reconciliation that the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, the Yukon government and Canada have been engaged in for more than 30 years,” the document states. Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Chief Simon Mervyn did not return a request for comment. Andrew Carne, ATAC Resources’ vice-president of corporate and project development, told The Narwhal this week that the company is seeking legal counsel on the Yukon government’s decision and that, as a result, there’s little else he can state at this time. “ATAC does not agree with many material aspects of the government’s decision,” Carne said in an email to The Narwhal. In an ATAC Resources’ press release, president and CEO Graham Downs said the road’s cancellation suggests Yukon isn’t open for business. “We are extremely disappointed with and surprised by this decision,” he wrote. The Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has warned that roads such as the one ATAC Resources’ proposed can fragment wildlife habitat, interrupt migratory patterns and lead to an increase in mining activity and hunting pressure. The Beaver River watershed, northeast of Mayo, is a vast expanse of relatively intact wilderness that’s home to moose, grizzly bears and wolves. According to the Yukon government’s decision document, ATAC Resources’ plan for the road didn’t adequately consider cumulative effects on the region’s ecosystem — particularly on wildlife. Todd Powell, director of mineral resources at the Yukon Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, told The Narwhal the company did not review wildlife impacts “in a meaningful way.” “The bigger the project, the bigger the effects are. In this case, a road into an area like that was going to have fairly significant effects.” The company’s plan to mitigate effects on wildlife “simply didn’t go far enough,” he said. According to ATAC Resources’ draft management plan, mitigation efforts included building the road in the Rankin Creek valley, where fewer wildlife are present, reducing or suspending traffic during calving and rutting and making the route private to prevent hunting. The company also said it would conduct road patrols to further deter hunting. The decision document notes there were baseline data “deficiencies” that would have affected environmental monitoring efforts. In its draft management plan, ATAC noted Lebarge Environmental Services conducted eight aerial and three ground surveys of wildlife between 2010 and 2013 that noted the project area is home to species that are considered of “special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada including woodland caribou, grizzly bear, wolverine, collared pika, horned grebe, rusty blackbird, peregrine falcon and dolly varden. Threatened species that are found in the project area, according to ATAC, include the common nighthawk and the olive-sided flycatcher. Without adequate monitoring, Powell said there was little hope potential impacts could be mitigated in the future, which contributed to the Yukon government pulling the plug on the project. The Beaver River watershed is largely roadless and the ATAC road would have set a new “precedent” for mineral exploration in the territory, the document states. No roads longer than 50 kilometres have been built for operations that, like ATAC Resources’, are purely exploratory over the past decade, the document notes. “Far more typically, existing access routes and new access routes have only been upgraded or constructed once mine development and production has been authorized.” ATAC Resources is not currently operating any mines in the region and is not permitted to. The company is only permitted to conduct exploratory work until 2024, which raised questions about the need for the access road and concerns the company wouldn’t have long enough to successfully build and decommission the road as proposed. “The nearness of the expiration date doesn’t suggest that they would have a reasonable timeframe to get all of that work done,” Powell said. A sub-regional land use plan for the Beaver River watershed was recently launched by the Yukon government and the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation. Work on the plan is set to continue, regardless of the ATAC road cancellation, Powell said. “Everybody recognizes that this is a highly mineralized area with lots of potential,” he said. “The commitment remains in place to finalize [the land use plan] as soon as we can.” Randi Newton, conservation manager with CPAWS Yukon, recently told The Narwhal she hopes that the sub-regional land use plan will be replaced with a much broader plan that encapsulates the entire Beaver River watershed. CPAWS recently released a report that cautioned the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board against approving road projects before land use plans are completed. “Land use planning can take that broader view of how much development is allowable in an area, which areas should we keep remote and free of roads,” Malkolm Boothroyd, the report’s author and campaigns co-ordinator at the Yukon chapter of CPAWS, told The Narwhal in a previous interview. Powell said that while the sub-regional land use plan won’t be scrapped, it could help inform a region-wide plan in the future, so the intention now is to finish what has already been started. Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst at the Yukon Conservation Society, told The Narwhal his organization has been highlighting concerns associated with the ATAC road since its inception. While he questions why it took the Yukon government so long to cancel the project, he’s hopeful environmental protection is coming to the region through land use planning. “It does give us a chance to protect or manage a pretty large-scale landscape,” he said. “Now we can do the planning without having the road dictate certain land uses.”Julien Gignac, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Ontario’s justice system will continue to push forward and modernize beyond the rapid transformations forced by the pandemic, Attorney General Doug Downey told the Empire Club of Canada on Thursday. During the lunchtime virtual meeting, Downey talked about some of the advancements made in the province's justice system since emergency measures were enforced in March to ensure it could operate safely. “It wasn’t long before capacity was expanded to conduct 100 per cent of proceedings involving a person in custody” and advancing to remote hearings, said Downey, who is also the local MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte. “Behind the scenes, we were making targeted investments to update technology in a sector where fax machines were still an acceptable way of doing business.” The initiatives included remote court access, the new use of digital signatures and service by email, all of which are now becoming permanent staples of the system. As a result, he said, the system has become stronger by becoming more accessible and more resilient. “We really did rely on fax machines, millions of pages of paper, and technology that was just slightly better than Morse code to share information,” he said, adding that just two days ago the word 'telegram' was replaced by 'email' in a civil rule. Within months, the old paper-based system has been modernized to allow for online filing of more than 450 different documents. As a result, 95 per cent of civil proceedings are filed online and more than 70 per cent of family matters. Information about court cases are now available online, meaning people don’t have to line up at the courthouse to gain access. And a platform to power online and in-person hearings was also adopted. Last June, the changes allowed 20,000 people to log into an online Superior Court hearing to witness a judge deliver a sentence in a high-profile case. In September, the Superior Court reported 50,000 hearings had been conducted virtually. The lesson, Downey said, was to not just address yesterday’s issues, but to look at solutions for tomorrow’s sustainability and resilience and to not be afraid of change. He also suggested adopting a design for a courthouse implementing some of the customer service elements available in an airport. Or creating an app that allows the user to schedule a court appearance from a cellphone. “The pandemic showed us, in stark terms, how far behind Ontario’s justice system had fallen,” he said. “Now we know better, and we’ll do better. In this new approach, justice accelerated means justice delivered.” During a question period, he pointed to Ontario’s tribunals, which were largely shut down after the COVID-19 crisis and prevented normal interaction. Downey said he’s struck a deal with British Columbia’s attorney general to adopt its four-year-old online tribunal system for $1, provided Ontario takes care of the updates.Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off the inaugural meeting of a global council on artificial intelligence on Friday by warning of the danger of unbridled digital technology, despite its potential to change the world for the better. The virtual summit marks the latest step in the slow march toward international co-operation on digital governance.
LONDON — U.K. regulators went on the offensive Friday to beat back criticism that they rushed their authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying they rigorously analyzed data on safety and effectiveness in the shortest time possible without compromising the thoroughness of their review.The comments from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency came as the Times newspaper reported that the agency’s chief executive, Dr. June Raine, planned to give a series of radio interviews so she could speak directly to people who may be concerned about getting vaccinated.The MHRA reiterated earlier statements that the agency is conducting rolling reviews of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, allowing regulators to speed up the review process by looking at data as it becomes available. The agency gave emergency approval on Wednesday to a vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany-based BioNTech, making Britain the first Western country to authorize a vaccine against the coronavirus.The ability to act more quickly “does not mean steps and the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been bypassed,” the MHRA said. “No vaccine would be authorized for supply in the U.K. unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.”The media blitz comes amid concerns that criticism of the approval process could undermine public confidence in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, leading some individuals to shun shots. Britain plans to begin vaccinating people within the next few days, starting with nursing home residents, caregivers and people over age 80.Britain will initially receive 800,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 400,000 people, so the first shots will go to those who are most at risk of dying from COVID-19 and those who are most likely to spread the coronavirus.America’s top infectious disease expert late Thursday apologized for suggesting that U.K. authorities had rushed their authorization of the vaccine.Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had told U.S. media outlets that U.K. regulators hadn’t acted “as carefully” as the Food and Drug Administration. He later clarified to the BBC that he had meant to say that U.S. authorities do things differently than their British counterparts, not better, but didn't phrase his comments properly.“I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community at the U.K., and anyone who knows me and my relationship with that over literally decades, you know that’s the case,” Fauci told the BBC.Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the different approaches of various regulators may be one reason Britain was first to authorize the vaccine.The FDA, for example, goes back to the raw data supplied by drugmakers and reanalyzes it to verify the findings. Virtually no other regulatory agency regularly does this, said Evans, who has worked with regulators in the U.K. and the European Union.In addition, Britain decided to take advantage of EU rules that allow individual countries to allow the emergency use of new products inside their own borders in response to public health emergencies. The EU's European Medicines Agency chose a more time-consuming authorization process that will allow the vaccine to be used in all 27 member nations.While Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31, it remains bound by the bloc’s rules and regulations until the end of December under a transition agreement designed to ease the shock of Brexit.Brexit helped the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency move faster because it is no longer involved in assessing products intended for the entire bloc as are regulators in the remaining EU countries, according to Evans. MHRA therefore had more resources to devote to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and could respond more quickly when new data was submitted, he said.“Consequently, the U.K. has almost undoubtedly had greater capacity to respond to a new application for authorization of a vaccine than any other country,” Evans said.When the MHRA announced its decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, chief executive Raine said people should be confident “no corners have been cut.” British experts reviewed more than 1,000 pages of information, including raw data, on safety, quality and effectiveness before deciding to give temporary authorization for use of the vaccine, she said.But European officials reacted sourly to the U.K. decision.The European Medicines Agency, which plans to make its own decision by Dec. 29, issued a statement saying its process was “more appropriate” than Britain’s.Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder was more pointed, suggesting U.K. authorities had acted “without even sufficient basis.”“This will reduce the readiness to get vaccinated rather than increase it, because people expect a safe immunization process,” he said.In his latest comments, Fauci rejected the idea that the U.K. skipped vital steps.The FDA has to move more slowly amid the high degree of skepticism about vaccines in the U.S., Fauci said. Because of this, U.S. regulators are reviewing all of the raw data from Pfizer and BioNTech “in a way that could not possibly have been done any more quickly,” he said.It will take the FDA at least another week to complete its review, but the U.S. and Britain will ultimately end up in the same place, Fauci said.“At the end of the day, it’s going to be safe, it’s going to be effective,” he said. “The people in the U.K. are going to receive it, and they’re going to do really well, and the people in the United States are going to receive it, and we’re going to do pretty well.”___Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans contributed.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska has returned to work after recovering from COVID-19, his office said.Young's staff said the veteran Republican lawmaker was back at work in his congressional office in Washington, D.C., The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.The 87-year-old announced Nov. 12 he had tested positive for the coronavirus.In March, Young referred to the coronavirus as the “beer virus” before an audience that included older Alaskans and said the media had contributed to hysteria over COVID-19. His campaign manager told the Anchorage Daily News at the time that the virus’ impact is real and that Young was trying to urge calm.After contracting the virus, Young said he had not grasped the severity of the illness.“Very frankly, I had not felt this sick in a very long time, and I am grateful to everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers,” Young said following his release from an Anchorage hospital Nov. 16.Young is now “preparing to fight harder than ever” for Alaskans, spokesman Zack Brown said.Voters last month reelected Young, Alaska’s lone U.S. representative, to serve his 25th term in office.Young has held his seat since 1973 and is the longest-serving Republican in congressional history.For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.The Associated Press