These adorable ponies have some fun in the snow in Quesnel, BC.
These adorable ponies have some fun in the snow in Quesnel, BC.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool’s woeful home form is developing into a full-blown crisis after Chelsea’s 1-0 victory on Thursday inflicted a fifth straight league loss at Anfield on the Premier League champions — the worst run in the club’s 128-year history. With Liverpool's title defence already over, this was billed as a battle for a Champions League place and Mason Mount’s 42nd-minute goal lifted Chelsea back into the top four. Chelsea’s previous win at Anfield, in 2014, effectively ended the title hopes of Brendan Rodgers’ side. This one was a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a top-four finish under Jurgen Klopp. Klopp’s side is four points adrift of Chelsea and with Everton and West Ham also ahead. Liverpool has now gone more than 10 hours without a goal from open play at Anfield. The hosts failed to register an effort on target until the 85th minute and Georginio Wijnaldum’s weak header was never going to beat Edouard Mendy. They have taken one point from the last 21 on offer at home since Christmas and scored just two goals, one of which was a penalty. None of Liverpool's established front three — Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino — impressed but the sight of Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer, being substituted just past the hour mark was baffling. The Egypt international certainly thought so as he sat shaking his head, having been replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Chelsea, by contrast, looked full of threat with Timo Werner — a player Liverpool was interested in but decided it could not afford last summer — a constant problem. Despite one goal in his previous 17 league outings, he caused problems with his movement, drifting out to the left then popping into the middle to give Fabinho a real headache on his return to the side. The Brazil midfielder, replacing Nat Phillips after he became the latest centre back to pick up an injury, was partnering Ozan Kabak in Liverpool’s 15th different central-defensive starting partnership in 27 league matches. Faced with a statistic like that, it is perhaps understandable why there was a lack of cohesion at the back and Werner should really have profited. He fired one early shot over and then failed to lift his effort over Alisson Becker, back in goal after the death of his father in Brazil last week. Even when Werner did beat Alisson, VAR ruled the Germany international’s arm had been offside 20 yards earlier in the build-up. Liverpool’s one chance fell to Mane but Salah’s first-time ball over the top got caught under his feet and Mane missed his shot with only Mendy to beat. Chelsea was still controlling the game and caught Liverpool on the counterattack when N’Golo Kante quickly sent a loose ball out to the left wing, from where Mount cut inside to beat Alisson having been given far too much time to pick his spot. All five of Mount’s league goals have come away from home. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel spent the first five minutes of the second half screaming at his players to press harder and play higher up the pitch but Liverpool’s players were equally vocal when Firmino’s cross hit the raised arm of Kante from close range. No penalty was awarded. Andy Robertson cleared off the line from Hakim Ziyech after Alisson parried Ben Chilwell’s shot as Chelsea continued to look more dangerous. Klopp’s attempt to change the direction of the game saw him send on Diogo Jota for his first appearance in three months, along with Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jota’s first touch was a half-chance from a deep cross but he was not sharp enough to take it. Werner, meanwhile, was doing everything but score as Alisson’s leg saved another shot as he bore down on goal. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting five new COVID-19 cases today, four of which are in the eastern health region that includes St. John's. Health officials say the four cases in the eastern region involve people between the ages of 40 and 69; three involve close contacts of prior cases while the fourth is related to domestic travel. Officials say the fifth case is located in the western health region, involves a person between the ages of 20 and 39 and is related to international travel. Eight people are in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care. Officials say they are still investigating the source of an infection involving a health-care worker at a hospital in the rural town of St. Anthony, located on the Northern Peninsula. Newfoundland and Labrador has 121 active reported COVID-19 infections. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Vancouver's parks board is taking action to control the increasing numbers of messy and aggressive Canada geese. A statement from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation says it is developing a management plan to reduce the number of geese in city parks, beaches and on the seawall. The board is particularly concerned about humans feeding the birds, saying it brings flocks of geese to high-traffic areas such as Stanley Park and the beaches of English Bay and Sunset Beach. A key part of the management plan asks residents to identify Canada goose nests on private property so they can be removed or the eggs can be addled, and left in the nest so adults continue to brood, rather than lay again. The board estimates Vancouver's population of more than 3,500 Canada geese grows every year because the habitat is ideal and the birds have no natural predators. Several Okanagan cities are asking permission to cull growing flocks of Canada geese that foul area beaches and parks, but Vancouver's board says egg addling, a measure supported by the SPCA, is its only control measure. In addition to calling for public help in identifying nests, which can be on roofs, balconies or in tall, topped trees, the park board is urging people not to feed Canada geese. “Supplemental feeding by humans can also contribute to geese being able to lay more than one clutch of eight eggs per season; meaning that if one clutch does not hatch, they can replace it," the statement says. "In nature, without food from humans, this wouldn’t happen." Canada geese have inefficient digestive systems and the parks board says the birds produce more excrement for their size than most other species. The park board says it hopes to step up egg addling, saying wildlife specialists believe the practice must be tripled in order to cut Vancouver's goose populations. A web page has been created on the City of Vancouver website to report the location of nests so they can be removed or the eggs can be addled. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
One of Canada's top public health officials sought to reassure Canadians today that a recommendation from a federal vaccine advisory committee to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses is a sound one. Yesterday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months due to limited supplies. Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the advice is based on real-world data that shows doing so would lead to more people being protected from COVID-19 in a shorter time period. "This recommendation is based on clinical trial reports and emerging real-world evidence from around the world. Data shows that several weeks after being administered, first doses of vaccines provide highly effective protection against symptomatic disease, hospitalization and death," Njoo told a technical briefing today. Confusion over conflicting advice Njoo's comments appeared to be addressing the confusion created by the fact that NACI's recommendation conflicts with those issued by Health Canada when it granted regulatory approvals for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Regulatory documents provided by Health Canada upon approval of each vaccine state that the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech should be taken three weeks after the first, the second Moderna shot should come four weeks after the first, and the second AstraZeneca dose should be delivered between four and 12 weeks after the first. All of those recommendations are in line with the product monograph provided by the manufacturers. Adding to the confusion, NACI recommended on Monday against giving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people 65 and older, although Health Canada has authorized it for use in adults of all ages. But Njoo said the discrepancies can be explained by the fact that Health Canada is a regulator and NACI is an advisory body made up of medical experts. "You have likely noticed that NACI's recommendations are sometimes different, possibly broader or narrower than the conditions of vaccine use that Health Canada has authorized. As the regulator, Health Canada authorizes each vaccine for use in Canada according to factors based on clinical trial evidence, whereas NACI bases its guidance on the available and evolving evidence in a real-world context, including the availability of other vaccines," Njoo said. "What we expect is that NACI recommendations will complement — not mirror — those of Health Canada." WATCH: Njoo comments on NACI recommendation to delay second COVID-19 vaccine doses The issue burst into the open on Monday when B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Some medical experts questioned that decision. Canada's chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, said doing so without proper clinical trials amounts to a "population level experiment." Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., told the Washington Post that the science doesn't support delaying a second dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. He said there isn't enough evidence to determine how much protection is provided by one dose of those vaccines, and how long it lasts. Despite those warnings, several provinces followed Henry's lead and even more have indicated they intend to stretch the dosage interval. While it appeared to some at the time that Henry was moving faster than the science, Njoo said that NACI's experts briefed provincial medical officers of health over the weekend on the results of their analysis before releasing their recommendations publicly. NACI concluded that stretching the dosing interval to four months would allow up to 80 per cent of Canadians over the age of 16 to receive a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June, without compromising vaccine effectiveness. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. As for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Njoo said it is safe and that evidence shows it provides protection against very serious disease and death in people of all ages. He said Health Canada has a rigorous scientific review process and only approves vaccines that meet high standards for safety, efficacy and quality. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said expert advice will continue to change as more data becomes available from ongoing mass vaccination campaigns, and she urged provinces and territories to consider recommendations and evidence from both bodies when making decisions about their vaccine strategies. "The messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message and it never changed, but that's not what science does," said Sharma. Decision on Johnson and Johnson imminent At today's briefing, health officials also indicated that a regulatory decision on whether to approve Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine is expected soon. "The review of the Johnson & Johnson submission is going very well, it's progressing, and we're expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days. I would say in the next seven days or so," said Sharma. The company has said its vaccine is 66 per cent effective at preventing moderate to severe illness in a global clinical trial, and much more effective — 85 per cent — against the most serious symptoms. Canada has agreed to purchase up to 38 million doses if it is approved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for use in that country last Saturday. The approval of a fourth vaccine would give a significant boost to Canada's vaccine rollout. Johnson and Johnson's vaccine is widely seen as one of the easiest to administer because it requires only one dose and can be stored for long periods of time at regular refrigerator temperatures. Njoo said additional vaccines, coupled with the NACI recommendation on dosage intervals, could allow Canada to meet the goal of inoculating all adults who want a vaccine "several weeks" before the current target date of the end of September. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading Canada's COVID-19 vaccine logistics, said that while more vaccines would be good news, the current target remains the end of September.
Ontario’s police watchdog has found that a Peel Regional police officer acted lawfully in the November 2019 shooting of a teen police say was in the process of robbing a Mississauga bank. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) ruled that there is no reasonable grounds to believe that the officer committed a criminal offence when he shot the armed 16-year-old in the lower back. According to the SIU, the teen had demanded cash from staff at an HSBC location on Dundas Street East, and the officer confronted him while he was masked, armed with a firearm and carrying a backpack full of cash. “I am unable to reasonably conclude that the (subject officer’s) resort to lethal force fell outside the limits of legal justification,” SIU director Joseph Martino wrote. The suspect suffered significant internal injuries in the incident. According to the SIU account, the officer and three other officers were in the area shortly before 4 p.m. on Nov. 26, 2016, when a motorist alerted them to the robbery nearby inside the Chinese Centre. The SIU states the teenager, donning a hooded-jacket over his head and his face covered with a black t-shirt had walked into the bank brandishing a semi-automatic pistol. A bank employee offered up some cash and coins to the teen, who took the money and demanded more, states the SIU’s report. The officers entered the bank with their firearms drawn, prompting the teen to run toward the west wall of the bank. The subject officer fired a single shot striking the teen in the lower mid-back. Still standing after being shot, the teen dropped his firearm, then was taken to the floor and handcuffed. Police later discovered that the weapon was not loaded, “which is of no consequence,” Martino wrote. “It was an actual firearm which the subject officer would have had every reason to believe was loaded and ready to be fired in the hands of the (teenager).” Martino made special note of the fact that although the gunshot wound to the teen’s back could suggest he was facing away from the officers, he had ignored police commands to remain still and posed an immediate risk to people in the bank. The subject officer declined to interview with the SIU or authorize the release of his notes, as is his legal right. Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are setting aside some of the billions of dollars planned in short-term transit spending to help municipalities further green their bus fleets. The hope is that the $2.75 billion in traditional grant money will dovetail with the $1.5 billion an infrastructure-financing agency is supposed to invest toward the same cause. Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna says the grant money is supposed to help cover the upfront cost of purchasing electric buses to replace the diesel-powered ones rumbling through Canadian streets. She says federal funding has helped cities buy 300 buses and the government hopes the funding will help them add 5,000 zero-emission buses over the next five years. But she acknowledged there are added costs that need to be addressed, including having charging stations on transit routes and in existing depots. The Liberals are hoping cities then turn to the Canada Infrastructure Bank to finance the cost of the remaining work. The bank's chief executive, Ehren Cory, says the energy savings expected from not having to buy diesel could, for instance, be used to pay off a low-interest loan from his agency. "It's quite a from-the-ground-up reinvestment and the savings will pay for a lot of that, but not for all of it," he said, via video link. "That's why the combination of a grant from the government, a subsidy, combined with a loan against savings together will allow us to get the most done, allow us to make wholesale change quickly and do so at minimal impact to taxpayers." Garth Frizzell, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, welcomed the funding as a way to speed up work in cities to replace diesel buses. "We are already putting more electric vehicles on our streets, and this major funding to electrify transit systems across the country will reduce GHG emissions, boost local economies, and help meet Canada’s climate goals," he said in a statement. McKenna made the same connections multiple times during an event Thursday in Ottawa, where she stood near the city's mayor, Jim Watson, with Cory and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne joining by videoconference. Joanna Kyriazis, senior policy adviser at Clean Energy Canada, noted that the investments could help the country's six electric-bus manufacturers scale up to compete internationally. “As Canada develops its battery supply chain — from raw metal and mineral resources to our North-America-leading battery recycling companies — we must build the market for electric vehicles and their batteries at home," she said in a statement. The Liberals are promising billions in permanent transit funding as part of a post-pandemic recovery, including $3 billion annually in a transit fund starting in five years. Cities have seen transit ridership plummet through the pandemic as chunks of the labour force work remotely. Demand for single-family homes well outside urban cores suggests some workers are expecting remote work to become a more regular fixture of their post-pandemic work lives. McKenna said her thinking about public transit hasn't been changed by that shift, saying her only thought is that Canada needs more and better systems. It's up to cities and transit agencies to set routes and priorities, she said. "The reality is many of our essential workers have no other option than to take public transit. And I think we've recognized how important it is for people to be able to get around in a safe way," McKenna said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
After several false starts, Marble Mountain is open for the season — an unusual one that is not only late starting but also sternly warns ski enthusiasts on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula to stay away. People took to the slopes Thursday, with many remarking the conditions were great. "I'm so excited I barely slept last night," said Marble Mountain operations manager Richard Wells. "We have world-class skiing right now.… It puts a smile on your face." Wells says there about 15 centimetres of fresh snow fell within the last 24 hours, on top of the 90 centimetres that fell in recent days. There are many changes, however. Visitors need to wear masks at the base of the mountain and while waiting in line for the lifts. The day lodge is open for bathroom facilities only and people have to wear masks inside. Rental and repair service is suspended, and so is food and beverage. People are urged to bring their own lunch and leave it in their car. Getting to the top of the hill follows this motto: "Live Together = Ride Together," according to the rules listed by Marble Mountain on its Twitter account. Joey Pearce and Dustin Parsons, both from Pasadena, said Day 1 has been a smashing success. "There's so much fresh snow it's unbelievable," said Pearce. "It feels safe. I'm happy that the hill is open and I'm happy that the situation is the way that it is." Joey Pearce and Dustin Parsons of Pasadena say Day 1 of the Marble Mountain ski season has been epic.(Colleen Connors/CBC) Parsons agrees. "I don't know if there will be another day like this all year," he said. Please, stay away if you're from the Avalon Another major difference is that Wells is imploring people who live on the Avalon Peninsula, which remains in Alert Level 5, to stay away for now. "Perhaps now is not the best time to travel to Marble Mountain. We welcome you when the time is right, but it has to be safe to do so, and I think most of us can agree that right now it is not safe to do so and we would, please, highly recommend, keep the rest of us safe and respect what the public health has put in place here," Wells told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning ahead of Thursday's opening. Several passes that were purchased ended up being refunded because they were bought by people on the Avalon. Richard Wells, Marble Mountain operations manager, is ecstatic the ski season is finally underway. (Colleen Connors/CBC) Marble Mountain is able to tell a customer's location once a pass is bought with a credit card. Wells is imploring people to not break the rules. "Don't be the reason we lose our season," he said. No walk-up ski passes are being sold, and there is an outdoor ticket window so people don't have to congregate inside to get their pass. As for White Hills in Clarenville, the board of directors will decide on March 12 if the resort will open. That's the day Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health is expected to announce whether the Avalon will move out of Alert Level 5. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
YELLOWKNIFE — Residents of the Northwest Territories who are from Norman Wells and Fort Simpson can now self-isolate at home if they leave the territory. A previous public-health order required anyone who left N.W.T. to isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River or Inuvik. The territory's chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, says the order was changed because Norman Wells and Fort Simpson both have a wastewater surveillance program to test for COVID-19. The two communities also have adequate medical resources to support new infections. Kandola says only residents of Normal Wells and Fort Simpson will be allowed to self-isolate there. They must also submit a self-isolation plan to the territory's public-health office. There are currently two active cases of COVID-19 in the territory. The Canadian Press
Health experts are concerned the general public may be focusing on the wrong figures when analyzing the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. And they worry that will lead to unnecessary hesitancy at a time when Canada's inoculation rollout needs to ramp up. The recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and the shot by Johnson & Johnson that could be next in line for authorization, showed 62 and 72 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID-19 infections in their respective clinical trials. Compared to the 95 per cent effectiveness of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, it seems like a glaring difference. But experts stress that when it comes to preventing COVID hospitalization or death, data from trials showed all four vaccines were perfect. "Those are the outcomes that Canadians ought to be focused on, because that's really what we care about preventing," said Charles Weijer, a bioethicist at Western University. Weijer says he understands why the public is gravitating towards those figures, since we're used to efficacy in terms of treatments for disease. A cancer treatment that's 95 per cent effective would be preferable to one that's 60 or 70 per cent, he said, but vaccines and other public health interventions need to be analyzed differently. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Mississauga, Ont., says efficacy in a trial is calculated by comparing the number of people who got COVID after receiving a vaccine to the number of those who got it after being given a placebo. Many of those who did become infected after getting a vaccine in the trials experienced mild illness, according to the data, which Chakrabarti says isn't a big concern. Getting hung up on the wrong figures can be problematic, he adds, if it leads to a perception that the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are inferior. "When you look at deaths and hospitalization, it doesn't matter if it was Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna, it was freaking amazing" Chakrabarti said. "Thousands of participants in the treatment arm of the trials, and not a single person died, not a single person was hospitalized." Chakrabarti says the timing of the trials may have impacted efficacy, with Pfizer and Moderna testing its product when the COVID burden was relatively lower in parts of the world. Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, meanwhile, had their trials later when circulation was increasing, and more transmissible variants were spreading at a rapid pace. While that could mean the efficacy of mRNA vaccines in preventing infection is lower than 95 per cent, Chakrabarti says it doesn't change the zero hospitalizations and deaths shown in their trials. Those will be the key numbers going forward, he says. While case numbers may continue to increase through Canada's vaccine rollout, restrictions could lift as deaths and hospitalizations drop. "Right now we have three tools that prevent death and hospitalization that can help us get out of this situation," Chakrabarti said. "So my message is just get whichever vaccine you can get first." Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said this week that it didn't recommend the AstraZeneca jab for those over the age of 65, arguing the trials didn't offer enough efficacy evidence in that age group. Health Canada said days earlier that real-world data suggests the shot is effective in older populations. France and Germany, which didn't initially recommend AstraZeneca for seniors, have since reversed that decision. Weijer says while the messaging with AstraZeneca may have taken a step back this week, there's opportunity moving forward to present other vaccines in terms of the metrics that matter most. Weijer says the ease of a single-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson's could be "hugely important" for Canada's vaccine rollout. But people need to be willing to take it. "If individuals are thinking, 'Well, I'm gonna hold out for a vaccine that I perceive to be better,' that's a mistake," Weijer said. "The key is getting all of us vaccinated as quickly as possible." Chakrabarti anticipates some will dismiss the AstraZeneca jab, adding that those responsible for administering the vaccine need to set up Plan Bs to make sure doses aren't wasted. While he's concerned the "well has been poisoned" around AstraZeneca, Chakrabarti says it's up to public health messaging experts to reverse that going forward. "If we put these vaccines on a level playing field and look at the same important metrics, they are all performing the same," he said. "That's what the messaging should be." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — Premier Iain Rankin says Nova Scotia should have enough COVID-19 vaccine to give all residents at least one shot by the end of June. Rankin told reporters today following his first cabinet meeting as premier that his estimate is based on new federal government guidelines about increasing the interval between first and second doses of vaccine. He says he will likely have more details about the province's plan at Friday's COVID-19 briefing. The province is to get 13,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine next week, which will complement Nova Scotia's vaccine supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health officials are also announcing that restrictions on restaurant operating hours and sporting events will be lifted in Halifax and its surrounding regions on Friday morning. Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today, all in the Halifax area. Two involve contacts of previously reported cases and the third is under investigation. The province has 29 active reported cases of the disease. Residents of long-term care homes in the Halifax area are still limited to receiving visits from two designated caregivers. Officials say the restrictions for long-term care residents will remain in place in the region until March 27. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador's chief electoral officer is defending a decision to hand-deliver some special ballot kits to people in his St. John's neighbourhood. Bruce Chaulk says he doesn't see any problem delivering ballots to about six people, including Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie and Liberal Finance Minister Siobhan Coady. He says he noticed the addresses were on his way home and didn't go out of his way. Elections NL moved to special mail-in ballots after cancelling in-person voting on Feb. 12, following a surge in COVID-19 cases in the capital region. Memorial University of Newfoundland political science professor Amanda Bittner says the optics are bad. She says some rural residents fear they may not be able to deliver their ballots on time while Chaulk is hand-delivering ballots to people who live in his upper-middle-class neighbourhood. Ballots must be postmarked by March 12, and Chaulk says some people are hand-delivering theirs to Elections NL to make sure they are received on time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Hinton’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is encouraging Hintonites to get outside in the spring air and visit a neighbour as part of the new Saturday Driveway initiative. For those who want to participate, all they have to do is set up some lawn chairs and maybe a propane campfire in their front yard and wait for a neighbour to come by for a visit. People can freely decide if they’d like to go walking around their neighbourhood on a Saturday afternoon or evening with a curiosity if they’ll encounter a host. “The number one goal is always going to be social connection. We recognize that we’re having less in-person conversations than we probably did prior to the pandemic. We just appreciate how important it is to talk to other people,” said Lisa Brett, FCSS community connections coordinator. Secondly, the initiative is about building neighbourhoods, Brett added. FCSS hopes this neighbourhood project will help strengthen trusting relationships between neighbours. “A lot of us don’t know our neighbours. So this is an opportunity to introduce ourselves and if we do know our neighbours then this is an opportunity to build on that,” Brett said. The Saturday Driveway initiative kicks off this Saturday, March 6, and FCSS hopes to promote it for the next three months. Brett hopes the initiative will help individuals get used to the idea of hanging out in their front yard on Saturday afternoons and evenings, being neighbourly, and respecting COVID-19 restrictions. Hinton’s FCSS reached out to St. Albert who had a similar project early in the pandemic, and they shared their positive experience and resources. Brett noted the initiative can play an important role in combating isolation that has become more prevalent the past year. “I recognize you can be isolated and not feel lonely. In other scenarios people feel lonely where they’re feeling more empty and separated and that emotion can be quite powerful,” Brett said. Positive interactions among neighbours can also help individuals feel safer in their neighbourhood and realize they can rely on a neighbour in an emergency, she added. She hopes the idea will help the community stave off loneliness, foster connection, and boost happiness in a time where everybody is pulling back due to government mandated COVID-19 restrictions. People can now gather with a group up to 10 while social distancing and wearing masks. “It’s just really about sparking an idea in people rather than telling them what to do. This might only attract certain people or certain personalities but the outcomes are unknown. It’s a hopeful project, it’s about kindness and being welcoming to all people,” Brett said. The Town offers posters to promote the initiative and also one that individuals could hang on their door or mailbox to let others know when they will be hosting a Saturday Driveway event. Hintonites can participate on their own and self-manage their driveway event. “There’s a lot of freedom and liberty involved as long as they recognize that we’re still under COVID-19 [restrictions],” Brett said. RCMP and Fire Department are aware of the project and COVID-19 restrictions were also considered when putting the concept together. A portable fire pit is permissible but if someone chooses to have a real fire, they must read the fire bylaw link on hinton.ca/fcss and adhere to its fire safety precautions. Posters to participate are available at the FCSS office to pick up or for print from the Town of Hinton website. The principle way to know if someone is hosting a Saturday Driveway is that a participant is visibly set up in their driveway or front yard welcoming neighbours to stroll by and have a chat. Being masked and remaining six feet apart must be part of the interactions. Currently, outdoor gatherings allow up to 10 people. Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice
Town of Cardston Council is currently drafting a tax-exemption bylaw to “encourage redevelopment and new development of non-residential properties within the Town” (Draft Bylaw 1695). Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Shaw sheds light on Cardston’s decision in a recent interview with The Temple City Star. “Prior to 2019 the legislation was written to only allow deferral or cancelation of taxes,” he states “and only if it was equitable”. On release of Bill 7 in 2019, Kaycee Madu, who was the Minister of Municipal Affairs, stated that the new bill would “allow municipalities… to offer a wide range of property tax incentives for non-residential properties for the purposes of attracting and retaining economic development.” Shaw says that at first, there was a general feeling around the council table to be cautious and observe how the bill would be applied across the province, rather than being the first community to dive in. Lucky for them, other municipalities in the province were willing to go first, and Cardston has been able to model their draft bylaw after the Town of Edson’s. Other tax incentive bylaws initiated by municipalities in the region last year include Cardston County and the Town of Fort Macleod. Though each of the bylaws were created for a similar purpose, they look different in both the requirements of the applicants and the incentive offered by the municipality. Cardston’s draft bylaw requires that a business’s investment (addition, expansion or renovation) increase the property value by at least 25%. This differs from Fort Macleod’s bylaw which requires a minimum $50, 000 investment into the property, and also from Cardston County’s bylaw which uses a variable incentive that decreases the taxation percentage as the investment by the business into the property increases. Cardston’s draft also reflects Edson’s choice to not require an application fee, which differs from Cardston County which requires a $500 fee, and Fort Macleod which requires a $100 fee. The incentive offered by each municipality is unique. Cardston’s draft bylaw offers a reduction of taxes over the first five years. This starts with a 100% reduction in taxes for the first year, which declines by 20% with each consecutive year. Edson’s bylaw reduces taxes by 100% for the first two years, and decreases the reduction by 25% each year for three more years. Fort Macleod’s bylaw offers a 100% reduction for the first year, with the reduction decreasing by 25% for the following two years. Cardston County, however, offer the same incentive each year for four years based on the investment Any bylaw draft presented to council requires three readings before coming into effect. This means the council looks at the draft, makes any amendments they see fit, and votes with a majority in favour of the bylaw a total of three times. The first reading of the Non-residential Property Tax Incentive Bylaw in Cardston was moved by Councillor Bengry on November 10th, and passed unanimously. During this meeting council asked administration to get feedback on the draft bylaw from both the Economic Development committee and the Chamber of Commerce. The second reading was moved by Councillor Selk on February 23rd and, again, was passed unanimously. Conversation at the more recent meeting involved recommendations that had been received in discussions with a legal representative. Questions the council is still considering before passing the bylaw include whether or not the tax reduction would begin upon approval of the application, on commencement of construction, or completion of construction. Most other municipalities seem to be requiring that improvements be completed before the tax exemption begins, whereas Cardston’s lawyer advised that a business may be more motivated to initiate development if the tax exemption comes into effect when the application is approved. Shaw says that the town hopes this tax reprise will allow business owners doing new builds “to be able to focus on the financing of a new space… during those initial construction years. Also, existing businesses will be enabled to “turn over low assessment properties sitting idle into newer more modern structures, and allow them to get cash flowing before they have to face the full tax burden”. Pandemic timing could be ideal for this bylaw introduction as many businesses are focusing on renovations while their doors have to remain closed anyways. If businesses start construction now, they will have tax relief over the next five years as the economy starts to boom again and the vaccine allows for more community interaction and local spending. Council will likely debate further on the draft later in March and the bylaw could be in effect by April. So, if your business could use a facelift this spring, keep an eye out for the opportunity to get a break from your taxes and focus on the bricks and mortar. Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
An animal tranquillizer called xylazine has been linked to several drug-related deaths in Saskatchewan over the past three weeks. It's a new phenomenon in the province. The provincial coroners office says four deaths since Feb. 14 have seen high levels of xylazine in combination with other drugs such as fentanyl, acetyle fentanyl and methamphetamine. "This is a fatal combination," chief coroner Clive Weighill said in a news release. "Anyone who uses street drugs like these is at a much higher risk of overdose, especially when they are combining drugs like these together." Also concerning is that naloxone, a common emergency treatment for opioid overdoses, is not effective on xylazine, the release said. Naloxone may reverse the effects of opioids that are present along with xylazine, however. Xylazine is typically used by veterinarians to sedate large animals. Its effects include central nervous system depression, blurred vision, disorientation, dizziness and drowsiness. So far this year, there have been 10 confirmed and 65 suspected overdose deaths in Saskatchewan.
CALGARY — The move by U.S. President Joe Biden to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline in January continues to plague Canadian oil companies, with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. forced to digest a related $143-million charge on its fourth-quarter results on Thursday. If not for the blemish on its earnings in the last three months of 2020, analysts said the company would have registered a solid beat on expectations driven by strong oilsands mining production and operating cost cuts. "In 2020, we were nimble, quickly lowering our capital," said president Tim McKay told a conference call, referring to Canadian Natural's move to cut its 2020 budget to $2.68 billion last May from its original $4.05 billion in view of plunging oil prices. "With our long-life, low-decline and high-quality asset base, we still achieved record annual corporate boe (barrels of oil equivalent) production of 1.16 million boe per day, or an approximately 65,000 boe/d increase over 2019 levels." McKay said the company's production of synthetic crude from its oilsands mining and upgrading operations reached a record of 490,800 barrels per day in December due to high utilization rates and ongoing incremental production growth projects. Meanwhile, he added, 2020 operating costs fell by $2.10 to $20.46 per barrel of synthetic crude. Last month, oilsands rivals Cenovus Energy Inc. and Suncor Energy Inc. reported $100 million and $142 million charges against fourth-quarter earnings, respectively, related to their roles as Keystone XL backers. Pipeline builder TC Energy has warned it expects to take a "substantive'' charge on the Keystone XL pipeline project when it reports first-quarter results. Canadian Natural reiterated its 2021 capital budget of about $3.2 billion, which is expected to add about 61,000 boe/d of production over 2020 levels. On the call, McKay said he's confident that export capacity into the United States will continue to improve with Enbridge Inc.'s Line 3 replacement pipeline project starting up late this year and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion set to be in service by the end of 2022. Canadian Natural says it has 94,000 bpd of committed capacity on the latter. The company announced it is increasing its quarterly dividend for the 21st consecutive year by 11 per cent to 47 cents per share after resisting calls last year to lower it as oil prices fell. It also plans to buy back shares this year as a way to provide returns to shareholders. Any other excess cash will be applied to debt repayment, McKay said, adding he would "never say never" in response to a question about more acquisitions following the $111-million buyout of Painted Pony Energy Ltd. which closed in October. Canadian Natural reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $749 million or 63 cents per share on sales of $5.2 billion, up from $597 million or 50 cents per share in the year-earlier period on sales of $6.3 billion. In reports, analysts said Canadian Natural matched their expectations with production of 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the quarter, up from 1.16 million boe/d in the fourth quarter of 2019. "Of note, excluding a provision for the cancellation of Keystone XL (something other companies also recorded), cash flow per share would have been a nice beat," pointed out analyst Phil Skolnick of Eight Capital in a report to shareholders. National Bank analyst Travis Wood said the company is well-funded for its 2021 programs. "With an abundance of free cash flow, Canadian Natural has significant optionality for free cash flow allocation across debt reduction, returns to shareholders, organic growth, and opportunistic acquisitions," he said in a report. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:CNQ, TSX:CVE, TSX:SU) Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
GATINEAU, Que. — The CRTC says that consumers with smartphone-financing plans of three years or longer will be protected by a policy that caps cancellation fees. Since 2019, Canada's major mobile phone carriers have increasingly offered plans that separate instalment payments for mobile phones from the monthly service fees. That same year, a CRTC consultation noted that if wireless service plan ended after two years, but payment plans for the new handset ended after three years, the one-year difference may be costly for Canadians who wished to switch plans or carriers. Now, the commission says its consumer protection rules, called the Wireless Code, will apply to the longer device financing plans just as it applied to subsidized mobile phones. The Wireless Code says Canadians can cancel their cell phone service contracts after two years with no cancellation fees, even if the consumer had agreed to a longer term. The Wireless Code also caps the size of early cancellation fees and gives guidelines on how much the fees should be reduced each month. The CRTC says it has requested that the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services begin separately tracking complaints about device financing plans, and that the wireless carriers will have a month to update contracts to reflect today's announcement. "We want to ensure that device financing plans are not being used to keep customers with their current provider at the end of their service contract," CRTC chief executive Ian Scott said in a statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — Jean Andrade, an 88-year-old who lives alone, has been waiting for her COVID-19 vaccine since she became eligible under state guidelines nearly a month ago. She assumed her caseworker would contact her about getting one, especially after she spent nearly two days stuck in an electric recliner during a recent power outage. It was only after she saw a TV news report about competition for the limited supply of shots in Portland, Oregon, that she realized no one was scheduling her dose. A grocery delivery service for homebound older people eventually provided a flyer with vaccine information, and Andrade asked a helper who comes by for four hours a week to try to snag her an appointment. “I thought it would be a priority when you’re 88 years old and that someone would inform me," said Andrade, who has lived in the same house for 40 years and has no family members able to assist her. “You ask anybody else who's 88, 89, and don’t have anybody to help them, ask them what to do. Well, I’ve still got my brain, thank God. But I am very angry.” Older adults have top priority in COVID-19 immunization drives the world over right now, and hundreds of thousands of them are spending hours online, enlisting their children’s help and travelling hours to far-flung pharmacies in a desperate bid to secure a COVID-19 vaccine. But an untold number like Andrade are getting left behind, unseen, because they are too overwhelmed, too frail or too poor to fend for themselves. The urgency of reaching this vulnerable population before the nation's focus turns elsewhere is growing as more Americans in other age and priority groups become eligible for vaccines. With the clock ticking and many states extending shots to people as young as 55, nonprofits, churches and advocacy groups are scrambling to find isolated elders and get them inoculated before they have to compete with an even bigger pool — and are potentially forgotten about as vaccination campaigns move on. An extreme imbalance between vaccine supply and demand in almost every part of the United States makes securing a shot a gamble. In Oregon, Andrade is vying with as many as 750,000 residents age 65 and older, and demand is so high that appointments for the weekly allotment of doses in Portland are snapped up in less than an hour. On Monday, the city's inundated vaccine information call line shut down by 9 a.m., and online booking sites have crashed. Amid such frenzy, the vaccine rollout here and elsewhere has strongly favoured healthier seniors with resources “who are able to jump in their car at a moment’s notice and drive two hours” while more vulnerable older adults are overlooked, said James Stowe, the director of aging and adult services for an association of city and county governments in the bistate Kansas City area. "Why weren’t they the thrust of our efforts, the very core of what we wanted to do? Why didn’t it include this group from the very outset?” he said of the most vulnerable seniors. Some of the older adults who have not received vaccines yet are so disconnected they don't even know they are eligible. Others realize they qualify, but without internet service and often email accounts, they don't know how to make an appointment and can't get to one anyway — so they haven't tried. Still others have debilitating health issues that make leaving home an insurmountable task, or they are so terrified of exposure to COVID-19 that they'd rather go unvaccinated than risk venturing out in public to get a shot. In Kansas City, Missouri, 75-year-old Pat Brown knows she needs the vaccine because her asthma and diabetes put her at higher risk of serious COVID-19 complications. But Brown hasn’t attempted to schedule an appointment and didn’t even know if they were being offered in her area yet; she says she is too overwhelmed. “I don’t have no car, and it’s hard for me to get around places. I just don’t like to go to clinics and have to wait because you have to wait so long,” Brown said, adding that she is in constant pain because of spinal arthritis. “I couldn’t do it. My back would give out...and I don’t have the money to take a cab.” The pandemic has also closed senior centres, libraries and churches — all places where older Americans might remain visible in their communities and get information about the vaccine. And some public health departments at first relied on mass emails and text messages to alert residents they were eligible, thereby missing huge chunks of the senior population. “Do you think everyone has internet access? Do you really think everyone has email?” Denise LaBuda, spokeswoman for the Council on Aging of Central Oregon, said. “We just don’t know where they all are. They have to raise their hand — and how do they raise their hand?” To counter access disparities, the Biden administration said Wednesday that it will partner with health insurance companies to help vulnerable older people get vaccinated for COVID-19. The goal is to get 2 million of the most at-risk seniors vaccinated soon, White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt said. Slavitt says insurers will use their networks to contact Medicare recipients with information about COVID-19 vaccines, answer questions, find and schedule appointments for first and second doses and co-ordinate transportation. The focus will be on reaching people in medically underserved areas. Non-profits, churches and advocates for older people have already spent weeks figuring out how to reach disadvantaged Americans over age 65 through a patchwork and grassroots effort that varies widely by location. Some are partnering with charities like Meals on Wheels to distribute vaccine information or grocery-delivery programs like the one which alerted Andrade. Others are mining library card rosters, senior centre membership lists and voter registration databases to find disconnected older people. Reaching out through organizations and faith groups that marginalized older Americans already trust is key, said Margaret Scharle, who developed a vaccine outreach toolkit for her Roman Catholic parish in Oregon. The “low-tech” approach, which other charities started using, relies on door-knocking, paper brochures and scripted phone calls to communicate with residents over 65. “Once you’ve been blocked so many times in trying to make an appointment, you might give up. So we are working as hard as we can to penetrate the most marginalized communities, to activate networks that are already existing,” said Scharle, who after the initial contact offers assistance with scheduling appointments and transportation. In Georgetown, South Carolina, a rural community where many of the 10,000 residents are the descendants of slaves, the local NAACP chapter is using its rolls from a November get-out-the-vote drive to get the oldest citizens out for the vaccine. Chapter president Marvin Neal said they are trying to reach 2,700 people to let them know they are eligible for a shot and to offer help booking appointments. Many of those individuals don’t have internet service or transportation, or suffer from medical issues like dementia, he said. “Some are not even aware that the vaccine is even in their community, that’s the challenge,” Neal said. “It’s like they’re just throwing up their hands in the air and hoping somebody steps in. Because all the ones I have talked to want the vaccine. I haven’t had one yet that didn’t say, ‘Sign me up.’” Outreach workers are also identifying holes in the system that prevent the most vulnerable seniors from accessing shots. For example, a dial-a-ride service in a rural part of Oregon doesn't take passengers beyond their town limits, meaning they can't get to their county's mass vaccination site. In the same region, only the largest city has a public bus system. Such obstacles underscore what outreach workers say is a huge demand for mobile vaccine clinics. Some local governments and non-profit organizations are partnering with paramedics and volunteer groups that specialize in disaster response to inoculate the hardest-to-reach seniors. In South Carolina, pharmacist Raymond Paschal purchased a van and a $3,000 refrigerator to start a mobile clinic for underserved areas, but his independent pharmacy in Georgetown can't get ahold of any vaccine. “There’s a lot of people falling through the cracks,” Paschal said. “These older people who have still not received their vaccine, they’re going to have all this younger generation they have to compete with. So we’ve got to get to these older people first.” ____ Hollingsworth reported from Kansas City, Missouri. Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press reporter Sara Cline in Portland, Oregon contributed to this report. Gillian Flaccus, Heather Hollingsworth And Russ Bynum, The Associated Press
A large parking lot that's become a canvas for graffiti in Halifax's North End is being converted into a pair of low-rise buildings that will provide 57 affordable apartment units. But it will take two years or longer before people can move in, according to the housing co-op that acquired the land from the federal government through a national housing initiative. The project will be constructed in an underutilized parking lot on Maitland Street near Portland Place, and it's expected that ground breaking will begin in early 2022 with occupancy about 12 to 18 months later, said Karen Brodeur, president of Compass Nova Scotia Co-operative Homes. She participated in a virtual news conference with Halifax MP Andy Fillmore on Thursday. Dubbed the North-End Neighbourhood Development, the property is located behind a bakery, a restaurant and a pub on Gottingen Street, and across the street from townhouses. The project will build two six-storey apartment buildings with one-, two- and three-bedroom units. "This will mean that the development is accessible to a huge range of household types, something that we desperately need in the HRM," said Brodeur. The parking lot is a popular spot for graffiti artists.(Dave Laughlin/CBC) The federal government is providing Compass with $1.5 million in funding through the National Housing Strategy Federal Lands Initiative to purchase the property, while the Nova Scotia government is committing $3 million toward the development. The city also provided rebates on some fees to help move the project forward. Fillmore praised the project for turning the usually empty parking lot that's "kind of a blight" in the neighbourhood into homes. Jim Graham, executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, welcomed the announcement, but said it's not a silver bullet to fix the city's affordable housing crunch. "Every little bit helps, it's just a shame that things take as long as they do," he said, citing the challenges of navigating federal, provincial and municipal agencies to make affordable housing proposals a reality. He added the 57 units will barely make a dent in the demand for affordable housing. Graham said some European cities have achieved a balanced housing market in which 12 to 15 per cent or more of rentals are non-profit compared to market-priced units. In Halifax, non-profit rentals are running at about two per cent of the overall rental housing stock, he said. Graham is the executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia. The non-profit's website says 'decent, affordable and sustainable housing is a basic human right and the first step toward personal, social, economic and cultural well-being and empowerment.'(Jim Graham) "It's very small. So there's a long hill to climb here," said Graham. He said the city's affordable housing supply is low because successive provincial governments haven't built a public housing project since the 90s. This project is being developed under a housing co-operative model, in which residents are members of the co-op and vote on decisions. Brodeur said Compass wishes to draw upon the co-operative's values of "sustainability, inclusion and collaboration" from the project's construction right through to occupancy. She said individual housing charges have not been determined, but Compass is "committed to maintaining average rents at 75 per cent of the median market rent for the area and time." Currently, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in north-end Halifax is $1,100, a two-bedroom is $1,195 and a three-bedroom is $1,200. Under its lands initiative, Ottawa will spend $200 million over 10 years to offload surplus federal properties at discounted or no-cost rates to encourage development of affordable, sustainable, accessible and socially inclusive housing. The parking lot is surrounded by a new development and townhouses.(Dave Laughlin/CBC) MORE TOP STORIES