Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton
Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
CASPER, Wyo. — The U.S. government has approved routes for a system of pipelines that would move carbon dioxide across Wyoming in what could be by far the largest such network in North America, if it is developed. The greenhouse gas would be captured from coal-fired power plants, keeping it out of the atmosphere where it causes global warming. The captured gas would instead be pumped underground to add pressure to and boost production from oil fields. In all, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management designated 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres) of federal land for pipeline development through the Wyoming Pipeline Corridor Initiative, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed the plans last Friday, days before leaving office with the rest of President Donald Trump's administration. The approval allows companies to begin submitting pipeline construction proposals. Wyoming officials including Republican Gov. Mark Gordon have promoted carbon capture as a way to boost the state's struggling coal mining industry. Utilities nationwide have been turning away from coal-fired electricity in favour of cheaper and cleaner natural gas and renewable energy. “The ability to have a CO2 delivery system, as made possible by the pipeline corridor initiative, helps make CO2 commercially viable,” Gordon said in a statement Wednesday. Whether a large system of carbon capture for oil production is technically and economically feasible remains to be seen. One of two such systems in North America, the Petra Nova facility in Texas, has been offline since global oil prices plummeted last year. The Petra Nova system moves carbon dioxide 80 miles (130 kilometres) from a power plant to an oil field in southeastern Texas. In southeastern Saskatchewan, Canada, near the U.S. border, the Boundary Dam carbon dioxide system connects a power plant with an oil field 40 miles (65 kilometres) away. Energy markets drive development of carbon capture projects for oil development, said Matt Fry, state of Wyoming project manager for the pipeline initiative. “We’re just helping to incentivize and provide some sort of a bridge for folks to help them move forward. Hopefully, this and future federal incentives will help get the ball rolling, and we’ll get some projects on the ground,” Fry said. Environmental groups including the Western Watersheds Project have criticized the pipeline corridor plan, saying the pipelines would cross habitat of sage grouse — brown, chicken-sized birds that spend most of their time on the ground. Sage grouse numbers have dwindled substantially over the past century and much of their habitat in Wyoming carries development restrictions. The Associated Press
The Canadian government anticipates that at least 95 per cent of the Canadian population will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the third quarter of the year, between July and September.
NEW YORK — A New York judge on Thursday denied the National Rifle Association’s bid to throw out a state lawsuit that seeks to put the powerful gun advocacy group out of business. Judge Joel Cohen’s ruling will allow New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit to move ahead in state court in Manhattan, rather than dismissing it on technical grounds or moving it to federal court, as the NRA’s lawyers desired. James’ lawsuit, filed last August, seeks the NRA’s dissolution under state non-profit law over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for trips, no-show contracts and other expenditures. James is the state’s chief law enforcement officer and has regulatory power over non-profit organizations incorporated in the state, such as the NRA, Cohen said. “It would be inappropriate to find that the attorney couldn’t pursue her claims in state court just because one of the defendants wants to proceed in federal court,” Cohen said at a hearing held by video because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cohen also rejected the NRA’s arguments that James’ lawsuit was improperly filed in Manhattan and should’ve been filed in Albany, where the NRA’s incorporation paperwork lists an address. The NRA’s arguments for dismissing the case did not involve the merits of the case. The NRA has been incorporated in New York since 1871, though it is headquartered in Virginia and last week filed for bankruptcy protection in Texas in a bid to reincorporate in that state. The NRA, in announcing its bankruptcy filing last Friday, said it wanted to break free of a “corrupt political and regulatory environment in New York” and that it saw Texas as friendlier to its interests. The NRA’s lawyers said at a bankruptcy court hearing on Wednesday in Dallas that they wouldn’t use the Chapter 11 proceedings to halt the lawsuit. After Thursday’s ruling, they said they were ready to go ahead with the case, including a meeting with lawyers from James’ office on Friday and another hearing in March. In a letter to Cohen in advance of Thursday’s heading, NRA lawyer Sarah Rogers said the organization had no position on seeking to stay the case through bankruptcy, but that it reserved right to seek such orders from bankruptcy court in the future. Normally, a bankruptcy filing would halt all pending litigation. James’ office contends that its lawsuit is covered by an exemption involving a state’s regulatory powers and cannot be stopped by bankruptcy. Assistant New York Attorney General James Sheehan said he hoped to bring the case to trial by early 2022. In seeking to dismiss or move the state’s lawsuit to federal court, Rogers argued that many of its misspending and self-dealing allegations were also contained in pending lawsuits in federal court — a slate of cases she described as a “tangled nest of litigation.” Part of Rogers’ argument for moving the state lawsuit to federal court involved an error in the state’s original filing that she said altered the timeline of when it was filed. James’s office filed its lawsuit on Aug. 6, but later had to amend the complaint to include a part that was left. That same day, the NRA filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging James’ actions were motivated by hostility toward its political advocacy, including her comments in 2018 that the NRA is a “terrorist organization.” Rogers contended that because of the filing glitch James’ lawsuit should be considered a counterclaim to the NRA’s lawsuit and handled alongside of it in federal court. Cohen rejected that, saying Rogers was placing “far too much weight on a non-substantive error that was quickly fixed.” “The attorney general filed first,” he said. ___ Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press
While schools are closed, the province has seen an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among teens and tweens, and one Kemptville doctor is sounding the alarm. According to provincial data pulled by Dr. Suzanne Rutherford, lead doctor at the Kemptville COVID-19 assessment centre, the positivity rate among children nine to 13 was 5.5 per cent on Dec. 20, but that number jumped to 17.6 per cent by Jan. 6; among 14-to-17-year-olds it was 6.66 per cent on Dec. 20 and had more than doubled to 15.13 per cent by Jan. 6. "In Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, we had an increase in the number of teens who developed COVID-19 (along with older age groups) linked to family dinners and parties over the December and January holiday period," confirmed Susan Healey, spokeswoman for the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. Rutherford said she started to see an increase among teens and tweens at the Kemtpville assessment centre over the holidays. "While school was out we should have been seeing the rate dropping, which is not what’s happening," said Rutherford, who has teenagers of her own. "What I'm seeing in Kemptville is kids coming in for testing because they've had direct contact." As Rutherford points out, teenagers and children generally understand that there is a pandemic going on and most of them want to help. "They just need more reminders and it has to come from the parents, and I know that just having one friend over may seem safe, but it might not be and that's how this virus spreads," said Rutherford. There are a number of ways parents can help children and teens make the right choices, according to the health unit. These include having an open dialogue about why the rules are in place and the risks of close contact, including spreading the virus to loved ones and the health consequences, how they will have to undergo 14 days of isolation if they are deemed a "close contact" of someone who tests positive, and their social responsibility, said Healey. "This spike among teens and tweens means that as parents we're making choices that are increasing the exposure rate," said Rutherford. She said she appreciates the mental health toll that this pandemic and the lockdowns are having on both children and adults. Her suggestion is to take the health unit's advice and spend more time on outdoor activities where it's easier to maintain social distancing. She also points out that children today are so plugged into the virtual world that there are lots of opportunities for them to stay connected in healthy ways online. "The message I'm trying to get out is we need to get this virus under control so kids can go back to school, so there will be jobs for them in the summer, and we need a health care system that isn't overwhelmed so if a child has an accident they can be admitted quickly or if a parent is diagnosed with cancer they'll get the treatment they need," said Rutherford. It's all the small decisions that families make that can help turn the tide on this pandemic, added Rutherford. "So no, I'm not going to pick up your friend on the way to the outdoor rink; they can meet you there," said Rutherford. She explains a car is a petri dish – it's too tight and confined a space with little air circulation to be a safe environment. Other effective strategies, Healey said, could be asking for teens to help in finding ways to connect virtually with your friends and theirs, or getting a head start on making plans for fun ways to connect later this year when restrictions are lifted and the vaccine is widespread. "Parents can encourage teens to be leaders and role models for their peer group – the more people who follow the rules, the easier it is to do so without feeling left out," said Healey. Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa asked the U.S. House on Thursday to dismiss an election contest filed by her Democratic challenger that argues the six-vote race was wrongly decided. Miller-Meeks argued in a legal motion that the Democratic-controlled chamber should not consider Rita Hart's appeal because Hart did not contest the outcome under Iowa law. Longstanding House precedent in prior cases calls for contestants to take that step first, her lawyer Alan Ostergren argued. "Rita Hart should have raised her claims before a neutral panel of Iowa judges rather than before a political process controlled by her own party,” Ostergren said. After a recount, Iowa's canvassing board certified Miller-Meeks as the vote winner in Iowa's 2nd District with a tally of 196,964 to 196,958 — the closest congressional race nationwide in decades. Hart declined to challenge the result under Iowa law, saying it did not allow enough time to conduct additional recount proceedings. The law would have required a panel of judges to rule on challenges within days. Instead, Hart filed a contest in December directly to the House under a 1969 law that spells out how congressional candidates can challenge elections that they believe were marred by serious irregularities. Hart's attorneys claim they have identified 22 votes that were wrongly excluded due to errors, including 18 for Hart that would change the outcome if counted. They also want the House to examine thousands of ballots marked by machines as undervotes and overvotes that weren't visually inspected during the recount. Miller-Meeks' filing agreed that Iowa law would have required a quick legal review but said that “was no excuse” for Hart's decision to skip it altogether. The 22 ballots that Hart claims were wrongly rejected involve interpretations of state law that should have been decided by Iowa judges, the filing said. Additional votes for Miller-Meeks may also have been rejected “in the ordinary course of election administration,” it said. Taking the extreme step of overturning a state-certified election would lead to a “parade of contests” in which losing candidates from the House majority's party will ask for intervention after close races, Ostergren warned. The House decided earlier this month to provisionally swear in Miller-Meeks, pending the outcome of Hart's challenge. The two candidates had been competing to replace seven-term Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in the southeastern Iowa district that has trended Republican in recent years. The House Administration Committee will determine how to proceed, including whether to investigate or dismiss the case. A spokesman said it would closely review the filings from both campaigns, as required by law. Hart said that she was disappointed by Miller-Meeks' motion, saying at least 22 voters would be disenfranchised without additional proceedings. “It is crucial to me that this bipartisan review by the U.S. House is fair, and I hope our leaders will move swiftly to address this contest and ensure all votes are counted," she said. The Associated Press
For 17-year-old Ethan Turpin, a high school student and aspiring welder, co-op has been a pandemic saving grace. “He came home with a sense of confidence, of achievement, and things that he wouldn't be able to get anywhere else because he's not allowed to go anywhere,” said Linda Stenhouse, his grandmother. Ethan is enrolled in a co-operative education program at Waterdown District High School, completing his placement at Flamboro Technical Services, a fabrication and millwrighting company. Stenhouse said he has been invited back for another term. “He went from failing grades and ended up being an honour student,” she said. “We likened it to the fact that he was in the co-op program.” The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) says about half of its students are able to continue with co-op placements — both in person and virtual — amid a provincewide stay-at-home order announced by the Ontario government on Jan. 12. The board has been offering in-person co-op placements since Oct. 21, “after a pause to ensure that student safety was considered, and appropriate protocols were in place,” HWDSB spokesperson Shawn McKillop said in an email to The Spectator. In cases where an in-person placement is not possible, staff will determine whether or not the student can continue virtually or present “alternate learning opportunities” in order to meet curriculum expectations. “There are some community placements that have been unable to place a student given the recent provincial state of emergency stay-at-home order,” he said. “Horse-crazy” Meghan Wahl said she found out last week she would not be going back to her placement at Halton Equine Veterinary Services, where she cleaned stalls, filled water buckets and observed procedures. “That was kind of hard because Meg had to say bye to everyone, like, then,” her mother, Nicolle Wahl, said. Meghan was given the “green light” to begin a co-op placement at the horse vet in October. “It was the vet part, the technical, hands-on seeing treatments and stuff, that was really interesting,” she said. Her mother said masking and physical distancing — where possible — were required at the vet clinic. “The fact that it was in a medical setting was the reason why both my husband and I felt comfortable with sending Meg,” she said. “That definitely made us feel reassured that she was in a safe environment.” Abbie Boyko’s son, a grade 12 student with the HWDSB, landed a part-time job at his co-op placement, the auto department at the Canadian Tire on Barton Street, before his placement ended when the province further tightened restrictions. “It's very disappointing because it's a great opportunity for students,” Boyko said. “He's just lucky that he did well in his co-op that they've hired him on.” She said co-op is valuable for high school students, particularly those who are graduating. “Not every child is going to go on to college or university, they're going to be out in the (workforce),” she said. Students in the Catholic board, which paused in-person co-ops after winter break to “do some consulting,” were offered the option to go back to in-person placements last week after feedback from co-op teachers. “They felt it was very important to continue with that provision, should the parents and the students still want it,” said Sandie Pizzuti, superintendent of education for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB). The board has added more requirements, including face shields, a revised consent form, repeated COVID-19 training and additional workplace evaluation. The board expects to have approximately 730 students in co-op this school year — about two-thirds of last year’s enrolment. Pizzuti said she understands the concerns some families may have over the decision to return to in-person placements. “But what we needed to do was listen to what our co-op teachers were telling us based on student voice and student input," she said. “And we felt that for those who really wanted to get back to their workplace — and in the case where we felt their workplace was very, very safe — that we would still provide the opportunity because we want them to have a very meaningful, relevant experience.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
The Nottawasaga Foundation presented a cheque for $10,500 to the local Food Banks of Alliston, Tottenham, and Angus on Monday, January 11. Each food bank received $3,500, which will be used to restock their shelves following the busy Christmas holidays as well as provide additional support for their efforts throughout the year. To date, the Foundation has given a total of $321,00 to the three Food Banks. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is drafting legislation around the sale of used police vehicles and equipment, after a man driving a replica RCMP cruiser killed 22 people last April. Justice Minister Mark Furey told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday the legislation will regulate how police vehicles are decommissioned, which will include, he said, ensuring they are stripped of equipment and decals. "We are certainly aware of the previous circumstances and the most recent circumstances," Furey said. The minister made the comments a day after the Mounties said a 23-year-old suspect from Antigonish, N.S., may have driven a vehicle that looked like an unmarked police car and pulled over drivers. The vehicle in question, a white 2013 Ford Taurus, is similar to the car Gabriel Wortman used during his 13-hour, deadly rampage in northern and central Nova Scotia on April 18-19, 2020. Furey noted that under current law it's illegal to impersonate a police officer. "When it comes to police articles and decommissioned police vehicles there is certainly some work to do to fine-tune that legislation and the ability to mitigate and prevent, as best we can, access to this equipment that is used to mock-up police vehicles." he said. Furey said there are no plans to ban the sale of decommissioned police vehicles despite calls by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives to prohibit those sales. He said RCMP and municipal police services have been consulted and are in support of the government's draft legislation. Furey is recommending the Liberal government table a bill during the next sitting of the legislature. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit says it is ready to start rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and expects to get its first shipment in early February. Medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Gemmill, addressed media Jan. 20 and said the unit submitted its rollout plan to the Ministry of Health earlier this week. Gemmill said although the date could change, the province has told the health unit to expect its first vaccines in early February. Vaccines will initially be directed to long-term care homes. “We are ready to go as soon as we get a vaccine available, with a focus on the residents, the staff and the essential caregivers in long-term care,” he said. Gemmill noted the region has relatively fewer cases, so it is a lower priority to receive the vaccine. But he added staff will be ready as soon as it does arrive. “The speed with which the general population will be protected will be determined by one factor only, and that is the supply of the vaccine,” he said. “We are going to have all hands-on deck.” Meanwhile, the district’s COVID cases are going down thanks to the Dec. 26 lockdown, according to Gemmill. There were only four new cases Jan. 20 – including zero in Haliburton – down from the 10-15 daily case average in the two weeks previous. “Our cases, at least for the last couple of days, have been diminishing. I hope that trend continues and I thank people for doing the things that need to be in place to make that happen.” However, the district saw a spike in cases the next day, with 40 new cases Jan. 21, including two in Haliburton. 35 of the cases were in Kawartha Lakes, which the health unit said was due to an outbreak at a long-term care come there. Snowmobile trails staying open The district is not planning to follow the lead of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit in closing Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club (OFSC) trails. “I have received many complaints about people travelling from other districts to use the local snowmobile trails, thus putting our district at risk of COVID-19,” their medical officer of health, Dr. Jim Chirico, said. “The OFSC recommends that snowmobilers avoid trailering and travelling to destinations that are outside their health unit region to snowmobile, but people have not taken the direction seriously.” Their closure is effective Jan. 21. Gemmill said he does not intend to close local trails, but people need to follow the stay-at-home orders. “I have no problem with people going out for recreation,” Gemmill said. “But do keep within the spirit of the regulations so we don’t have transmission.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
She resigned just hours after senior officials received the results of an independent probe into reports of verbal abuse and bullying by Payette. Richard Wagner, chief justice of the Supreme Court, will temporarily take over her duties until she is replaced. Payette, 57, took office in October 2017 for a five-year term on Trudeau's recommendation.
The elephants are counted using a computer algorithm trained to identify the creatures against a variety of backdrops.View on euronews
Chatham-Kent approved it’s list 2021 to-do list and longer-term investments for its capital budget at Monday night’s council meeting. Around $6.3 million was earmarked for the 2021 capital budget. On the list of stuff getting done this year is a plan to introduce traffic calming strategies throughout Chatham-Kent’s streets in an attempt to reduce speeding. The costs will amount to $300,000 put aside for 2021. Traffic calming strategies could include items such as speed bumps, raised intersections or narrowing roads. “One of the issues we have within Chatham-Kent is speeding. So often we call upon our police to ensure there's compliance - it’s very effective to have officers issue compliance, but the real solution, the long-term solution, is to design in speed reduction and you do that through what we term traffic calming,” Thomas Kelly said. Kelly said the municipality received a number of complaints regarding three-way and four-way stops installed throughout Chatham-Kent which has proved not to be an effective strategy. He explained that roads such as King Street where parking is available on both sides and the street is narrow, are the ideal design to reduce speeding. A report on specific traffic strategies and the locations will be issued to council at a future date. Also on the list are plans to upgrade cemeteries throughout Chatham-Kent, after starting to save for the project in 2018. Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham, as well as the Blenheim, Dresden and Wallaceburg cemeteries, will all get upgrades and paved roadways for vehicles. Kelly said the upgrades should hopefully last for 30-40 years. The most costly work to be done this year will be Grand Avenue East upgrades set to cost $1.5 million from the budget and a grand total of $7 million. Chatham-Kent is also closer to it’s $24.8 million goal for the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF) which was announced in 2019. The project involves reinforcing shorelines on the Thames River, Sydenham River and McGregor Creek. The 6th Street Dam will also be replaced in order to reduce potential flooding and ice jams from the nearby rivers. More than $3.5 million sitting in the capital reserve fund was transferred to the DMAF projects. The municipality has 10 years to come up with its target in order to receive a $16.6 million contribution from the federal government. In 2020, the municipality managed to save $16.4 million, resulting in a current municipal shortfall of $8.5 million. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
TORONTO — As Ontario struggles to beat back a dire wave of COVID-19, workplace spread has been singled out by public health experts, mayors and top health officials as a major source of infections. Experts and workers say government measures so far haven’t directly targeted the issue, but fairly simple practices would help track and reduce infections. Epidemiologist Colin Furness at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health said there should be clear consequences for employers that don't take proper precautions at this point in the pandemic. “We know from contact tracing data and outbreak investigations what some of the most risky environments are. We should be coming down on them like a ton of bricks,” Furness said. Hundreds of people have been infected in recent outbreaks linked to workplaces, including at least 121 workers at a Canada Post facility whose cases were reported this week and more than 140 people at a Cargill-owned meat processing facility in Guelph, Ont., last month. Hundreds of migrant workers tested positive on Ontario farms last summer, and more than 5,000 long-term care staff have been infected to date. But observers said there isn’t consistency when it comes to penalties for employers, or even naming workplaces where outbreaks happen. Traditionally, workplaces have been challenging for public health because harsh enforcement might mean future issues are covered up, Furness said. There are some signs of change, however, led by Toronto Public Health. The health unit said this month it would name employers with significant outbreaks and enforce reporting of cases among workers, a move Furness called “revolutionary.” Putting pressure on employers is also important to make sure other measures are effective, Furness said, including paid sick leave, which has become a prominent political issue in Ontario. Mayors from province’s largest cities have been calling for months for accessible, universal paid sick leave so workers don't come to work sick over fear of losing income – an argument supported nearly universally by public health experts. Janice Mills, who has a job in auto manufacturing, said sick leave is the biggest issue at the Glencoe, Ont, plant where she works with about 50 other people per shift. Workers can apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit introduced to support people missing work over a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure, but they’re only eligible if they miss 50 per cent of the work week. That's an issue for hourly workers at Mills' plant, she said, because if someone falls ill on Thursday or Friday, they can’t make use of the benefit until the following week. “That's very difficult for people to wrap their heads around,” Mills said. Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said Ontario isn’t looking to implement its own sick leave policy because there are still millions of dollars available through the federal benefit. He said the program is sufficient, but workers may not know about it, and he’s asking federal ministers to ensure there isn’t a delay in getting money out to people. “I feel strongly that we shouldn't duplicate this program,” he said in an interview. Furness said sick leave is important, but it doesn’t guarantee workers won’t face repercussions for accessing it – so employers should be held accountable if people are pressured into working while sick. Tim Sly, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Ryerson University, pointed to regular asymptomatic testing as another key measure that would help assess workplace spread. He noted other regions have made use of rapid tests to find the virus among people who may not know they're infected, but Ontario has until recently been reluctant to introduce the practice. “Why we've delayed it so often, I have not a clue," he said. "It costs so little, it's easy to do, and if you repeat it, you're getting up to really good standards of screening.” Some industries in Ontario, such as film and television production, are already regularly testing employees for COVID-19, and the government plans to ramp up asymptomatic testing in the coming months by sending rapid tests to hard-hit sectors like farms, manufacturing and long-term care. McNaughton said an asymptomatic testing pilot has already begun on construction sites in the Greater Toronto Area, and he said there will be "huge emphasis" on testing workers going forward. He also pointed to the government’s recent “inspection blitz” of big-box stores, which is expanding to more industries. Most fines have been relatively small, at less than $1,000 per infraction, but McNaughton said some larger investigations are underway, and employers should be aware of the potential for fines up to $1.5 million. “I hope my message was clear to every big corporation out there, every shareholder, that if they're not having a safe work environment for their workers, and for customers, I won't hesitate to shut them down,” he said. Meanwhile, frontline workers say appreciation for their work isn't often reflected in the province's official pandemic response. Brittany Nisbett, who works at a group home for disabled adults in the Niagara Region, said new restrictions announced this month haven’t changed anything in her working life – in fact, she said new limits on store hours have made it harder to complete errands during time off. She said it’s been an emotionally taxing year, especially when co-workers and clients have tested positive for the disease, but one silver living has been growing public acknowledgment of the work she does. She’d like to see that reflected with a permanent wage increase, paid sick days and more staff for support. “If you’re going to call us heroes, then I think that we need to be treated like heroes,” Nisbett said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
Richmond city council will consider banning the use of rodenticides on city-owned property when it meets Monday. The item comes to council following discussion at a July 2020 general purposes committee meeting. According to provincial guidelines, anticoagulant rodenticides are permitted when all pesticide-free methods have been deemed unsuccessful at managing infestations. However, if used improperly, they can enter the food chain and poison non-target animals including insects, birds, squirrels and raccoons, as well as larger animals like coyotes, bobcats and raptors that might eat the contaminated rodents. Affected animals do not die right away, but become lethargic and/or erratic which allows for easier predation and may go on to contaminate other animals that eat the contaminated animals. As well, improper disposal of anticoagulants can contaminate local soil, surface and groundwater conditions. The proposed ban would last for one year, after which point there would be a staff report on its effectiveness. Staff are also recommending writing a letter to B.C.’s Ministry of Environment requesting a review on policies allowing for the retail sale of rodenticides. The plan is estimated to cost $97,000, but some of that funding can be taken from the funds previously allocated to Vancouver Coastal Health, which has overseen the city’s rodent control service but will cease to operate its contract after March 31. Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
Digit Murphy has delivered the famous Herb Brooks speech to the Toronto Six. The NWHL expansion team's head coach invoked the words of the late Miracle on Ice coach in a social-media video. But if the Six lift the Isobel Cup in Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., the women will have beaten odds as the U.S. men's team did in upsetting the Soviet Union for Olympic hockey gold in the same building in 1980. The Six play their first NWHL games in Lake Placid starting Saturday. COVID-19 restrictions in Toronto limited the Six to fewer team practices than their more established American competition, Murphy said. "We've had maybe six or seven practices together," Murphy told The Canadian Press. "We're a brand new franchise doing everything during COVID. We don't even know what the other teams look like. We have no idea how fast they are. "If we win, this is definitely going to be Miracle 2.0. We're preparing for the real miracle and the Canadians win." The Six kick off the NWHL's compressed season against the Metropolitan Riveters in the first game of Saturday's tripleheader. The Six, Riveters, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps play each other in a round robin, followed by a playoff round to determine Isobel Cup semifinalists. The semifinals Feb. 4 and championship game Feb. 5 will be broadcast on NBCSN. The WNBA and National Women's Soccer League kept professional female athletes competing in 2020 despite the global pandemic by running competition hubs with certain restrictions to avoid the spread of the virus. The NWHL, which pays annual salaries reportedly up to $15,000, didn't crown a 2020 champion in its fifth season because of the pandemic. The sixth season will consist of 24 games over 14 days with no spectators in Lake Placid. The players will be tested daily among other COVID-19 precautions. "I think a lot of people are looking at us to see how we navigate this," said Six defender Emma Greco of Burlington, Ont. "We have a lot of eyes on us. It's really important for us to compete in the bubble especially because the finals and the semifinals are going to be on NBC Sports, which is a huge deal. "If we can pull this off, professionally, safely, it will send a big message to everyone about women's ice hockey." Six forward Emma Woods of Burford, Ont., will play her first games since February, 2020, when she was a member of Sweden's Leksand IF club. "It's been a while," Woods said. "We're all extremely grateful to have the opportunity to even be on the ice right now. Most teams aren't aside from the pros. "It's a great thing for women's hockey. We all want to grow the game. I think the bubble is kind of putting us on that platform and giving us the chance to do that." A two-week tournament plus the required 14-day quarantine upon return to Canada is a significant time commitment for Six players. Players under contract will be paid their full salaries despite the condensed schedule and players who opt out will also be paid their salary, the NWHL has said. The Six travelled by bus to Lake Placid on Thursday. The majority of the roster is Canadian NCAA Division 1 alumni with some who also played in the defunct Canadian Women's Hockey League. Most of Canada's national team players are affiliated with the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association and currently attending a camp in Calgary. The PWHPA has yet to schedule games or tournaments involving Canadians this season. A PWHPA all-star team of Americans, including 11 from the 2018 Olympic team, capped a two-week tournament against men's junior teams in Tampa, Fla., this week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has moved quickly to remove a number of senior officials aligned with former President Donald Trump from the Voice of America and the agency that oversees all U.S.-funded international broadcasting. The actions address fears that the U.S. Agency for Global Media was being turned into a pro-Trump propaganda outlet. The agency announced Thursday that VOA’s director and his deputy had been removed from their positions and that the head of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting had resigned. The moves come just a day after President Joe Biden was sworn in and demanded the resignation of Trump’s hand-picked CEO of USAGM, Michael Pack. The agency said in a statement that VOA director Robert Reilly had been fired just weeks after having taken the job. He had been harshly criticized just last week for demoting a VOA White House correspondent who tried to ask former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a question after a town hall event. Two agency officials familiar with the matter said Reilly and his deputy, Elizabeth Robbins, were escorted from VOA's headquarters by security guards. The officials were not authorized to discuss personnel matters and spoke on condition of anonymity. In addition, Jeffrey Shapiro, who was just recently appointed to run Cuba-focused broadcasters Radio and TV Marti, resigned at the request of the new administration, they said. Pack, who appointed all three of those terminated on Thursday, resigned just hours after Biden was inaugurated. Soon after his resignation, the Biden White House announced that a veteran VOA journalist, Kelu Chao, would head USAGM on an interim basis. Pack created a furor when he took over the agency last year and fired the boards of all the outlets under his control along with the leadership of the individual broadcast networks. The actions were criticized as threatening the broadcasters’ prized editorial independence. The moves raised fears that Pack, a conservative filmmaker and former associate of Trump’s onetime political strategist Steve Bannon, intended to turn venerable U.S. media outlets into pro-Trump propaganda machines. His further actions did little to ease those concerns. Indeed, just on Tuesday he appointed new conservative members to the boards of Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. Biden had been expected to make major changes to the agency’s structure and management, and Pack’s early departure signalled that those would be coming sooner rather than later. Though many presidential appointees resign when a new administration comes in, Pack was not required to do so. His three-year position was created by Congress and was not limited by the length of a particular administration. VOA was founded during World War II and its congressional charter requires it to present independent news and information to international audiences. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Sarah Stoodley figures she's already lost half a day of campaigning going back and forth with police about some of the disturbing emails she's received. Stoodley, a Liberal, is running in the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election to reclaim her seat in the St. John's district of Mount Scio. Before the election was called late last week, she was a cabinet minister responsible for three portfolios. "Since I (was elected), I get lots of emails saying they wish I had cancer, they wish I weren't alive," she said in an interview Thursday. "Now I'm navigating that as a candidate, and that kind of stuff seeps into my candidate email." She used to be able work with the security team at the House of Assembly when disturbing emails landed in her inbox. But now that the legislature has been dissolved ahead of the Feb. 13 vote, she doesn't have that protection — but Stoodley still wants to make sure her volunteers are safe. Stoodley said she warns volunteers against knocking on doors of people who have sent her abusive emails. "I know certain addresses where people live, so I've alerted my volunteers, like, 'Do not knock on these people's homes,'" she said. Politicians get all kinds of correspondence, ranging from angry and demanding to outright unhinged, she said. But women seem to get it worse, she added. "Some of the male colleagues said they've never gotten anything anywhere near that level of, I guess, hatred." Stoodley said she doesn't feel threatened, but "it's always playing in the back of your mind." On the Progressive Conservative team, Kristina Ennis says she gets questions about her age. "I'm a younger candidate, I'm 30 years old," she said. "But the comment that gets me is just immediately asking, 'Are you even old enough to run in this election?' That always comes from men," she said. "Calling my age into question is definitely rooted in some ideas of sexism that people have," she said in an interview Thursday. Ennis said she doesn't think men her age in the same position would be getting those kinds of questions. She has more than a decade of experience in the oil and gas industry, most recently as a research and development analyst with ExxonMobil. Working in a male-dominated environment, Ennis said she grew a thick skin and learned to speak up for herself without apologizing. "That's been coming in handy," she said, about the campaign trail. Like Stoodley, Ennis said the best way people can support women and diverse candidates is to call out the abuse. If it's happening online, respond to it, and be clear about why it's wrong, Ennis said. Gillian Pearson, co-chair of Equal Voice NL, a group working to encourage women and gender diverse people to enter politics, says she agrees with Stoodley and Ennis. Pearson, a former candidate with the provincial Progressive Conservatives, said the vitriol politicians face, online or otherwise, is disproportionately aimed at women. "The criticism tends to be more personal, more cutting," she said in an interview Monday. "It can involve their appearance. And sometimes their personal qualifications, or positions on things, that might not necessarily be challenged with a male candidate." As of Thursday afternoon, 37 of the 114 nominated candidates were women and at least one was non-binary. That's the highest number of women to run in a Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election, according to Pearson's tally. The numbers matter, but what's most important is getting the women elected, Pearson said. "Are parties running these amazing women in districts that they have a reasonable shot a securing?" she asked. "That's something we'll have to discuss as time goes on." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press
NASHVILLE — Country star Dolly Parton said her brother Randy Parton, who sang and performed with her, as well as at her Dollywood theme park, has died. He was 67. Parton, who turned 75 this week, said in a statement released on Thursday that her brother died of cancer. They were among 12 children in the Parton family, raised in Sevierville, Tennessee. “We are a family of faith and we believe that he is safe with God and that he is joined by members of the family that have gone on before and have welcomed him with joy and open arms,” Parton said in a statement. Randy Parton sang, played guitar and bass in his sister's band, and had hosted his own show at the Tennessee theme park since the opening in 1986. He also released music on his own. Parton said her duet with him on “Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle To You" would “always be a highlight of my own career.” His last recording was a song with Dolly and his daughter Heidi called “You Are My Christmas” that was on Parton's most recent Christmas album. “He shined on it just like he’s shining in heaven now,” Parton said. The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is easing some of its COVID-19 restrictions in southern and central areas as case numbers continue to slowly drop. Starting Saturday, non-essential retail stores will be allowed to reopen at 25 per cent capacity. Since November, they have been limited to delivery or curbside pickup service. Hair salons, barber shops and some personal health services such as reflexology can restart as well. A ban on social visits inside private homes is being eased. Households will be allowed to designate two people who will be allowed to visit indoors. Up to five people can visit outdoors. "Our collective progress in reducing the spread of COVID means we can undertake these very careful, very cautious reopenings at this point," Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said Thursday. The changes will last three weeks, at which time more openings could be considered, Roussin said. The changes are not being made in the northern health region, where outbreaks in isolated communities have caused a spike in case numbers in recent weeks. Health officials reported 196 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday and five more deaths. More than half the new cases were northern residents. The Retail Council of Canada welcomed the news that some restrictions would be eased. "We're relieved by today's announcement that follows over two months of very severe restrictions that have left retailers limping along using curbside delivery where possible," council spokesman John Graham said. While non-essential stores can reopen, some other businesses, including gyms, bars and nail salons, must remain closed. Restaurants will continue to be limited to takeout and delivery. With the demand for intensive care unit beds still running above pre-pandemic capacity, Roussin said special care must be taken when it comes to places where people gather. "Venues that have prolonged, indoor contact — crowded places, enclosed spaces — those are where a lot of the risk (of virus transmission) lies," Roussin said. Premier Brian Pallister has left the door open to providing more supports for businesses as the closures and capacity limits continue, although did not provide specifics. Pallister said he is trusting Manitobans to follow the rules, and made special mention of household visits. "We don't have enough enforcement people to check every household," Pallister said. "We're asking you to follow the rules because that's how we'll keep each other safe." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press