With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Codiac RCMP are releasing little information about an incident that happened in the Mountain Road area early Wednesday morning.Sgt. Mathieu Roy says police were called to the area near Oakland Avenue at about 7:45 in the morning, when a man showed up at a gas station."The individual showed up at the Petro gas station on Mountain Road and he had been injured. That's why we arrived and started our investigation." Roy said.Roy said the 39-year-old man is in hospital being treated for serious but non-life threatening injuries to his upper body."The information we gathered from the victim and from the scene led us to an address not far away on Oakland Avenue. Two people were arrested at that residence, a 26-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman," Roy said.A large police presence was seen in the area, and the RCMP New Brunswick tweeted that Oakland, Salter and Atkinson Avenues and Lorne and Argyle Streets had been closed to traffic due to a police operation in the area.An hour later the police tweeted arrests had been made and the streets were reopened to traffic.Sgt. Roy would not comment on whether any weapons were involved or the extent of the man's injuries.He said it's still early in the investigation, so he can't say if charges will be laid.Police are expected to remain on the scene at Oakland Avenue until Wednesday night, or Thursday morning.He said there is no danger to the public.
New York plans to prioritize nursing home residents and staff when it begins distributing the first doses of coronavirus vaccine, hopefully later this month. (Dec. 2)
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
As Alberta rolls out COVID-19 vaccines in three phases next year, most members of the public will likely have to wait until summer for their shots, Premier Jason Kenney says.Paul Wynnyk, a deputy minister in the municipal affairs department, has been appointed to lead Alberta's vaccine task force, which will be a multi-disciplinary team drawn from across the public service, Kenney said at a news conference Wednesday.Phase 1 of the vaccine roll out will happen in the first three months of 2021, he said, when it's anticipated that vaccines will been given to about 435,000 people, a little more than 10 per cent of the population.Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses to be fully effective, with three to six weeks between doses, which means vaccinating 435,000 people would require 870,000 doses."Not all of this will arrive at once," Kenney said. "We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year."Phase 1 will focus entirely on the province most at-risk populations, he said, which includes residents of long-term care homes and designated supported-living facilities, staff who work in those facilities, on-reserve First Nations people, and other health-care workers.Each dose 'represents an Albertan'Wynnyk served as an officer in the Canadian Forces for more than 38 years, rising to command of the Canadian Army, before joining Alberta's public service."I look forward to the challenge ahead, and I want to be very clear that I do not look at these vaccines simply as objects to deliver or a work task to complete," he said at the news conference."Each and every dose of vaccine represents an Albertan who needs to be protected, and is vital to protecting not just their health but their livelihoods as well. My commitment to Albertans is that we will do everything within our control to ensure no Albertan has to wait any longer than absolutely necessary."WATCH | Kenney and Hinshaw discuss vaccinesPhase 2 of the roll out will run from April to June, with the goal by the end of the period to have 30 per cent of the population immunized, Kenney said."By the summer, we plan to begin Phase 3, where vaccine will be offered to all Albertans. And that means it will be months before vaccine is available to the general population. This is the unfortunate reality that Canadians across the country face, and people around the world."The risk of hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths will decline significantly once the most vulnerable people are vaccinated, he said."I know people are getting tired and frustrated, but this is evidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we can see this critical juncture, when we will get past the terrible damage that COVID-19 has caused for our society."So my message to Albertans today is this: We are ready for the vaccine, and we have a plan to get it out to you as quickly and safely as possible."Latest case numbersThe province reported 1,685 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 10 more deaths.The total number of active cases in the province reached 17,144, an increase of 516 from the day before.A total of 561 people have now died from the disease since the start of the pandemic.On Wednesday, Alberta hospitals were treating 504 patients with the illness, including 97 in ICU beds.The province has now surpassed 61,000 total cases, meaning about one in every 73 Albertans has so far contracted the disease."Around the world, there has been great progress on the development of COVID-19 vaccines," Premier Jason Kenney said at a news conference on Wednesday. "We know that effective vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will be ready for distribution here in Canada within weeks."While the province cannot control when those vaccines arrive in Alberta, it will be ready to roll them out as quickly as possible, Kenney said.Vaccine will not be mandatoryQuick and effective distribution of the vaccine will be essential to the province's economic recovery, Kenney said, and will be a matter of life and death for many Albertans and their families."Before I continue, I want to be clear, Alberta's government will not make any mandatory vaccination," the premier said. "Some think that this is controversial but we don't live in a country where government can inject you with something against your will.The government will soon amend the Public Health Act to remove the power of mandatory inoculation that has been on the books since 1910, Kenney said."But we need as many Albertans as possible to get vaccinated. And let me be clear about that I will certainly choose to receive this vaccine when it's my turn, and I strongly urge others to do so."Alberta prepared for vaccine distributionAlberta is well-prepared to receive, distribute and administer vaccines as soon as they arrive, Kenney said.Alberta Health Services has 13 vaccine depots throughout the province, all of which can receive and distribute the Moderna vaccine, which needs to be stored and transported at -20 C.Another 17 facilities in the province are also able to handle vaccine storage, meaning there are a total of 30 depots across Alberta."The Pfizer vaccine, on the other hand, requires ultra-cold transportation and freezing, at 80 degrees below zero Celsius," Kenney said."Currently, three of our 13 vaccine depots can receive and store the Pfizer vaccine, and AHS is working to expand that capacity as we speak, ordering additional freezers and related equipment."Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, attended the news conference with Kenney and Wynnyk."We must continue to work together over the coming months to keep our numbers down, until enough Albertans have received their full series of vaccine to keep COVID under control," Hinshaw said."The actions each of us take right now are vital in slowing spread and bending the curve, as we are each others' vaccine until the vaccine arrives."The regional breakdown of active cases on Wednesday was: * Edmonton zone: 7,857 * Calgary zone: 6,331 * Central zone: 1,226 * North zone: 967 * South zone: 663 * Unknown: 100 Albertans need to prepare themselves for smaller Christmas celebrations, top doctor says
JERUSALEM — Israel took a major step toward plunging into its fourth national election in under two years on Wednesday as lawmakers — supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner — passed a preliminary proposal to dissolve parliament. The 61-54 vote came just seven months after the coalition took office following three inconclusive elections in just over a year. Netanyahu's Likud party and Defence Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White said they were seeking national unity to confront the coronavirus crisis. But since then, the rivals have been locked in infighting. The vote gave only preliminary approval to ending the alliance and forcing a new election early next year. The legislation now heads to a committee before parliament as a whole takes up final approval, perhaps as soon as next week. In the meantime, Gantz and Netanyahu are expected to continue negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to preserve their troubled alliance. By joining the opposition in Wednesday's vote, Gantz’s party voiced its dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own personal interests ahead of those of the country. Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges, and Gantz accuses the prime minister of hindering key governmental work, including the passage of a national budget, in hopes of stalling or overturning the legal proceedings against him. Gantz and other critics believe Netanyahu is ultimately hoping to see a friendlier parliament elected next year that will give him immunity from prosecution. Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sponsored the bill to trigger new elections, accused the government of gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. He said the one thing all citizens share is “the feeling that they lost control over their lives.” The government still has not yet passed a budget for 2020, a result of the deep divisions produced by its power-sharing agreement. The lack of budget has caused severe hardships and cutbacks for Israelis at a time when unemployment is estimated at over 20% because of the pandemic. In a nationally broadcast news conference Wednesday evening, Netanyahu delivered a mixed message, calling on Gantz to remain in the government but also sounding very much like a politician on the campaign trail. Netanyahu began his address by claiming credit for leading the battle against the coronavirus, forging diplomatic agreements with Gulf Arab countries and protecting Israel against its enemies in the region. He derisively referred to Gantz's party as “an opposition within the coalition" and skirted around questions about passing the budget or honouring the rotation agreement with Gantz. “In dramatic times like these, we don’t need to go to elections. The people of Israel want unity, not ballots. It wants vaccines, and not campaign ads,” he said. "The only way we can defeat corona is defeating it together. We need to put politics aside.” Gantz, meanwhile, released a video blaming Netanyahu for the political paralysis and economic damage resulting from the pandemic. “We all know the truth. You know the truth,” Gantz said in the video. “If there was no trial, there would be a budget. If there was no trial, there would be a functioning government. There would be unity.” Israel has gone through two nationwide lockdowns since March, and officials are already warning that rising infections could result in a return to strict restrictions that were only recently lifted. If a budget for 2020 isn’t passed by Dec. 23, Israeli law stipulates an automatic dissolution of parliament and new elections three months later in late March. Under the coalition deal, Netanyahu is to serve as prime minister until November 2021, with the job rotating to Gantz for 18 months after that. The only way Netanyahu can hold onto his seat and get out of that agreement is if a budget doesn’t pass and new elections are held. There were no indications that either side is interested in preserving their partnership for the long run. Instead, the battle is expected to be over when the election will be held. Although Gantz's party has plummeted in opinion polls, he appears to have concluded that elections are inevitable and the sooner they are held, the better. By pushing for an election early next year, he seems to be banking that Netanyahu will be punished by voters for a still-raging pandemic, a struggling economy and the resumption of his corruption trial. Starting in February, Netanyahu's corruption trial is scheduled to kick into high gear, with a string of witnesses testifying against him. The prime minister expected to be a frequent visitor to the courtroom. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is expected to try to drag out budget talks to delay elections until the summer in hopes that a vaccine will arrive and the economy will begin to recover. If he can put together a hardline coalition at that time, he might finally be positioned to push through an immunity bill or appoint new judicial officials to freeze or overturn his case. “Over the last two years, the only question you need to ask is not what is best for the country and not what is best for this or that party, but what is in the best interest of Benjamin Netanyahu," Gayil Tashir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, told reporters. She said it looks like Netanyahu thinks it is his best interest to hold an election next summer. One wild card in any Israeli election will be the administration of President-elect Joe Biden. Netanyahu has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump after clashing with President Barack Obama for the previous eight years. Israeli officials fear that Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, will return to the policies of that era, especially renewing possible diplomatic engagement with archenemy Iran. Tashir said this would be a “big issue” in the next Israeli campaign. “Netanyahu is going to put forward an argument which says 'I’m the only Israeli leader who can actually stand up against a Biden administration,'" she said. Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
TORONTO — A hospital in midtown Toronto is offering a "virtual emergency room" so patients can see a doctor without risking exposure to COVID-19.Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre says the service is available for anyone over the age of 16 with a valid Ontario health card.The hospital says patients will connect with the doctor via secure video on the same day, on a first-come, first-served basis.Virtual 15-minute appointments are available Monday to Friday, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the online booking system opening at noon every weekday.Sunnybrook says that the service is intended for non-life threatening injuries or sickness.Examples of symptoms or conditions that the hospital says the online system is designed for include bites and stings, rashes, frostbite or sprains and minor injuries.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says November home sales were down from October — but still well above the same time last year, as the market catches up to the effects of COVID-19.The board says real estate agents sold 3,064 homes last month, down 16.9 per cent from October, but up 22.7 per cent from November 2019.The board's report says the benchmark price of a Vancouver home hit $1,044,000, up 5.8 per cent from November 2019.Vancouver is a seller's market, board chairwoman Colette Gerber said, as demand for detached houses and townhomes is pushing prices higher while the rate of new listings lags. Although the number of homes listed for sale in November rose 36.2 per cent year-over-year to 4,068, new listings were down 27 per cent from October. That left the sales-to-active listings ratio — a closely watched figure in the industry — at 27.6 per cent, still above the 20 per cent level where prices tend to rise.Meanwhile, November sales passed 3,000 for the first time since 2015, marking the second-best November in the past decade.“The supply of homes for sale are a critical factor in understanding home price trends," Gerber said in the report.The Vancouver area has seen near-record home sales since the summer, said Gerber, after COVID-19 restrictions tamped down on the usual home buying season, which tends to peak in spring and slow down by winter.The was a surge of sales in the far reaches of the metro area, such as the Sunshine Coast, Gulf Islands and Squamish, as homebuyers looked toward less dense neighbourhoods amid work-from-home arrangements and physical distancing policies, according to Gerber. The Sunshine Coast, in particular, saw home sales jump 82.8 per cent.The trend of buyers seeking space was also apparent in the type of homes sold. Detached home sales were up 28.6 per cent during the month, with prices up 9.4 per cent from a year ago. More than 40 per cent more attached homes were sold this November than last, and prices for properties such as townhomes were up 5.6 per cent from November 2019.Apartment sales growth was slower, up 12.2 per cent, as apartment prices rose 3.4 per cent from last year.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
South Peace communities are considering re-opening discussions to establish a regional handi-bus service. Wembley mayor Chris Turnmire sent out letters to councils in neighbouring municipalities inquiring about the interest in returning to the project, which was put on hold two years ago. “The focus was to identify opportunities to improve mobility options primarily for seniors and disabled residents to attend to basic needs, including medical and dental appointments,” Turnmire said. In 2017 Wembley applied to the Alberta Community Partnership program and won a grant of $67,500 to study the feasibility of a regional service. The town partnered with Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, Hythe and the city and county of Grande Prairie in the project, Turnmire said. Wembley and its partners then contracted Watt Consulting Group to conduct the study. Turnmire said $61,324 was spent on the study and the remainder was refunded to the Alberta government. In 2018 municipal councils decided to put the project on hold due to the launch of the County Connector, he said. The county-based transit service had space for wheelchairs but ended in August due to low ridership. “A regional handi-bus service would have a different focus,” Turnmire said. “This isn’t a money-making project; this is a service to individuals who may not have access to transportation to get to appointments or other places they need to go. “I suspect it’s going to have a cost attached to it, that each municipality would have to look at and (determine) what the proportional share would be.” In early November South Peace mayors and CAOs attended an intermunicipal meeting and the leaders discussed possibly renewing handi-bus talks, he said. None of the mayors rejected the idea outright and due to Wembley’s lead in the project two years ago, it was decided Turnmire would write a letter to all councils, he said. Early work completed In April 2018 Watt Consulting Group held an open house in Beaverlodge discussing plans for a regional handi-bus. The draft policy presented in 2018 called for a round trip running two days per week. Under the program, the bus would travel along the western and northern corridors connecting the city to each town and village, along with Clairmont, La Glace and Valhalla. Plans may change If the councils decide to re-open the possibility of a regional handi-bus, Turnmire said some of the 2018 plans for the service may change. The councils would establish a working group, with each appointing a councillor or staff member to re-examine the study, he said. Turnmire said with council meetings slowing down during December, he doesn’t expect the working group would be established until after the new year. Some of the municipalities have existing handi-bus services, and Turnmire said the working group would also have to consider how to avoid duplication of service and keep things efficient. COVID-19 poses another question as to how service will be affected if the health crisis is still ongoing, Turnmire added. During a recent regular meeting last week Sexsmith council approved Coun. Jonathan Siggelkow’s motion to express interest in the project. At Beaverlodge council’s last meeting Coun. Terry Dueck expressed interest in representing the town in the group. Mayor Gary Rycroft said joining the working group would allow for an exploration of various considerations. Coun. Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus’ motion to express interest was carried.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Wearing a mask in public indoor places is now mandatory in Yukon, and people in the territory are adjusting to the new public health measure.Matthew Hitchcock, store manager at Coast Mountain Sports, said that all their employees were given masks and many customers were prepared and following the new rules on Tuesday. "It's that assurity you have that everyone's on the same page. Everyone's trying," he said. "I think it makes everyone feel a little bit safer."The mask mandate was announced last month and came into effect on Tuesday, as case counts of COVID-19 have risen sharply in the past few weeks.It's applicable to all people in Yukon over the age of five in indoor public spaces, unless they are able to provide an exemption.Hitchcock said customers were very positive about wearing masks, and that there was a real sense of community with everyone wearing one."I think that everyone's of the understanding now that it's for the safety of everyone, and I think everyone's on the same page. It's been working well," Hitchcock said.Those who had forgotten their masks were able to pick up a disposable one at the entrance of the store.Maryann Etzel was out shopping on Monday, and said she felt more comfortable being out and about with others wearing masks."I feel a lot safer like I can go into the stores and not worry about people coughing and stuff, now they have masks."Etzel said she thinks the rules should have been put in place a long time ago, to keep Yukoners safe in public spaces.'Incredibly impressed with level of uptake'Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, said at Tuesday's news conference that he had already seen more public acceptance toward masks within the first day they were made mandatory."I am incredibly impressed with the level of uptake in the population. And just walking through downtown [Monday] I was noticing, even outside, the degree of uptake of mask use was astounding," Hanley said.Hanley said people may need time to adjust, but he expects an increase in uptake, with the goal of having "as close to 100 per cent of the population wearing masks as possible."Graeme Tennant has already been wearing a mask while working at the library, and he said he has gotten used to it. He suspects others in the territory will adapt quickly as well."You get used to it and you go with it. "Everyone knows why it's being done and I have personally not encountered anyone who's really aggressive about it," he said. However, one thing Tennant is still getting used to is guessing people's facial expressions."It's kind of hard to judge when you just see people's eyes … are they smiling, are they sticking their tongue out at me with that mask on? I don't know!"
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020 There’s bound to be a lot of pouting because Santa Claus isn’t coming to town this year. COVID-19 restrictions have forced the Barrie Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Barrie to cancel the popular annual parade, which was slated for Nov. 21. The organizations have also cancelled the annual Tree Lighting Celebration. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce hopes to maintain the history of the parade, which has been a focal point of the holiday season since the Second World War. “Our team has been working on an online format that will keep Santa in your hearts and minds this Christmas season,” said Paul Markle, the chamber’s interim executive director. There will still be lots to do this Christmas season in downtown Barrie. Visitors will be able to explore the new Dunlop streetscape while checking out all that’s planned for Noella in the City, including the Rotary Festival of Trees in Meridian Place and Heritage Park, festive window displays in downtown businesses, the Noella Tree & Wreath Lot, in support of Hospice Simcoe, and the well-known Holly Days. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
The prospect of another rainy evening has led to one more delay for Santa's convoy through Charlottetown neighbourhoods. Wednesday night's cancellation means the short procession will have its schedule stretch into Sunday. Here's the current plan for when neighbourhoods will be visited by the "Santa Claus Comes to Town" tour, starting at around 5:30 p.m.: * Thursday: East Royalty, Hillsborough Park, and Sherwood-Parkdale (between Brackley Point and St. Peters roads). * Friday: Winsloe and West Royalty. * Saturday: Sherwood-Parkdale (between Mount Edward and Brackley Point roads) and the city centre (north of Euston Street, east of Spring Park Road, and south of Kirkwood Drive-Allen Street). * Sunday: City centre (north of Brighton Road-Euston Street, west of University Avenue, and south of Capital Drive).City staff organized the convoy to replace the traditional Christmas parade, lessening the roadside crowds and thus the chances that COVID-19 might be passed along. Drivers have been told to expect minor delays if they find themselves behind Santa's convoy for the next several evenings. The procession will be on the streets for about two hours, and on Monday night the vehicles were accompanied by lots of sirens from city emergency equipment.As well, the city is asking people not to park on the street in their neighbourhood on the evening the tour is scheduled to pass by.More from CBC P.E.I.
Tay council wrangled with budget-item options in an attempt to bring down the proposed tax levy as much as possible, eventually settling on a 2% increase. The number is expected to go down to at least 1.4% or 1.2% once the blended tax rate from the county is shared with the municipality, said treasurer Joanne Sanders, who presented a detailed budget to council at its recent special meeting. She told councillors about items that had been taken off the list to help bring the tax rate down to 2%, including major expenses like repairs to bridges. "Granny White bridge, Rumney Road culvert and the Rosemount Road north bridge have all been removed from the capital budget," she said. "We did some more research there and no safety issues came up. The most recent bridge report still had those repairs in the one- to five-year category." These projects will be re-assessed during the 2020 bridge report, added Sanders. And with growth, comes surplus And it is this surplus, said Sanders, which is helping keep the tax rate down. "We are projecting a healthy surplus for the close of 2020," she said. "The greatest contributors are salaries and the supplementary assessments, which created additional income. There is a surplus of $349,500 left in the 2020 projected surplus. We do have funds to work with." Most of that money, Sanders said, has come from growth in the area. "Rather than $93,000 being covered by growth, we're looking at $128,000," she said. "That reduces our reliance on the reserve from $66,500 to $31,500." And with the additional bylaw summer student and administrative summer student positions also taken out of the budget, the reliance on surplus fell further to $19,600. Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle warned about relying too much on growth. "Moving forward, we need to remember the future may not be so kind to us," he said. "We're running out of inventory. Do we require that growth to balance our budget? What impact does that have year-in and year-out?" Sanders said money from supplementary assessments as a result of growth in the area doesn't show up immediately on a budget, but trickles in over a few years. But with great growth comes higher liability, and that means higher insurance costs, she said. According to the budget Sanders shared, insurance costs are estimated to increase by 20% or $84,000 for next year, adding she doesn't see a light at the end of that tunnel. "They're not saying the landscape is going to change," said Sanders. "Last year, we looked at increasing our deductible to decrease our rate, but I don't see a huge light at the end of the tunnel." Capitals projects Coun. Jeff Bumstead wasn't sure if that move would end up saving the township any money in the long run. "If we're pushing these replacements to the end of that one- to five-year suggested range, are we looking at further cost or replacement?" he asked. Rick Bingham, interim operational service general manager, agreed with the councillor's assumption. "You need to do some rehabilitation before it gets to the point you have to do a reconstruction," said Bingham. "I think there are quite a few of them that will need to be reconstructed because they haven't had any rehabilitation done over the years. "I understand the former director had engaged the consultants to do a feasibility review and they will be providing a report over the next couple weeks on how money is best spent on bridges so we can stay ahead of the game," he added. Seeing the trend of removing projects from the capital budget, Coun. Barry Norris came up with another 'money-saving' suggestion. "The dry hydrants for the rural areas; I don't support it," he said talking about the emergency preparedness list. "The fact that we have tankers and mutual aid, I still can't support that at this point in time. Council may want to weight in to defer that expenditure." Fire Chief Brian Thomas made the case for fire safety. "The dry hydrants are a water source for the fire department to use while they're fighting fires out in the rural areas," he said. "We have $10,000 down for the next three years to find locations and get agreements with property owners so that we can enter their property to access the water sources. We do have mutual-aid agreements, but we still need the water source for all those tankers. The closer the water source is the more readily available; then the firefighters will have the amounts of water they will need." Then Norris focused on the planned sidewalk for Seventh Avenue and wondered about $127,000 expenditure. "I find it tough to increase that. The next thing we're going to have to do is clear it through the winter," said Norris, who instead suggested staff should consider putting in a base and a screen top over the pathway. "If it's substantially used, I have no problems putting a top coat on," he said. "To allow $30,000 to do that, let's see how it pans out. We can deviate that to another part of the capital." That suggestion did not sit well with Coun. Sandy Talbot, who said she wasn't sure why Norris had a problem with a project she considered a 'no brainer.' "This has been on the books for two years," she said, noting the safety of children who catch a bus there is a paramount concern. "I'm not sure if you're aware there's an incline on that road on Seventh Avenue, which is like a speedway and people are going down the road at unbelievable speeds. We need this. People walk this road on a daily basis. We need to ensure the safety of our residents." And she had support from councillors Paul Raymond and Mary Warnock. "I agree with Coun. Talbot," said the latter. "They've waited long enough. Sidewalks are important in our community to make them walkable. As we're going to see in official plans that come out, making our communities age-friendly, sidewalks are going to be a priority. I don't think there's any reason to delay this any further." With that, Norris' bid to remove those two items from the list was defeated. Expenses and overtime Talbot had her own concerns over some of the items contained within the budget. "Under expenditures, there's a cost for a rental car for $7,000. What did we need that car for?" she said. Sanders said that was thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. "It was for bylaw due to physical distancing requirements," she added. "It's on the COVID-related expenses list." Talbot then said she was concerned about the amount of overtime recorded. "It's $55,000," she said. "Can you give me an explanation of that? It's a lot of money. It's almost another position." Sanders said that wasn't just in one department, but spread across various township sections. "In a lot of cases, overtime was worked due to COVID-19, additional research and setting stuff up," she said. "There was also additional time that we felt was worked because we didn't necessarily fill positions as quickly as we would have because filling positions wasn't feasible during the height of COVID-19. So you have staff doing double-duty and that's why you see a fair bit of overtime." Talbot said she would like to see overtime kept in check moving forward. "Our aim should be reducing the overtime hours," she said. "I understand (the need) with our snowplow drivers or a public works emergency. But we need to be adherent to the lowest overtime we can allow. We're responsible for the monies of this township. In turn, we need to adhere to some kind of reduction in the overtime as possible." Grants and funding requests This section will be discussed in further detail at an upcoming December meeting, still council directed staff around two moves. "We can take the YMCA out," said Mayor Ted Walker. "They're not going to take us up on the loan offer." He took a bit of a hard line around the funding request made by the Severn Sound Environmental Association. "They had a huge increase last year and this year, the increase looks rather substantial as well," he said, talking about their request of $76,070 from 2019, that increased to $108,462 for this year and has gone up further to $122,042 for next year. "I'm wondering if we've heard anything back from them about this huge increase. "I think we should wait for their response and if we don't get any, we should budget what we did last year," added Walker.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
MONTREAL — Refugee advocates are criticizing Canada's decision to resume deportations before the country irons out the details of a program to grant permanent residency to asylum-seekers who have been working in the health-care system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frantz Andre, who advocates on behalf of asylum seekers, says the decision has heightened the feelings of insecurity among the essential workers dubbed "guardian angels" by Quebec Premier Francois Legault. The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed it resumed deportations as of Nov. 30, after halting most removals in March due to the pandemic. The agency clarified that it would not be deporting people who are likely to qualify for permanent residency under a federal program announced in August to grant a path to residency for people working in the health-care sector or in long-term care or assisted living facilities. "The CBSA would like to clarify that the agency will not be removing those who may be eligible to qualify for permanent residency under the guardian angels public policy," the agency wrote in an email Tuesday. Advocates estimate that hundreds of asylum-seekers have been working in long-term care homes in Quebec, which bore the brunt of the first wave of COVID-19 this spring. Andre notes that the final details of the program have yet to be made public, leading many of the so-called guardian angels to fear they may yet be deported. "So, we’re starting (deportations) three weeks before Christmas, when the program and the details of this special program for the asylum-seekers or orderlies cannot be announced," he said. "I call this criminal. This is not right." Andre said the initial elation over the announcement of the program has faded, leaving many asylum-seekers feeling fearful and unsure if they'll qualify. He says some workers who could have been eligible have given up and decided to return home; others have contemplated suicide. Wilner Cayo, the president of a group that advocates for asylum-seekers and visible minorities, notes that even asylum-seekers working in long-term care — the exact group targeted by the program — are not sure they'll qualify because there are other criteria to meet, including having been issued a work permit and having a certain amount of experience and hours worked. He said the uncertainty is causing people "enormous anxiety." "When they take such a long time and the rules are not clear, we don’t know what to expect," he said in a phone interview. Quebec has a large degree of control over immigration criteria for the province, and it will select the applicants who qualify under the federal program and wish to reside in Quebec. In an email, a spokesperson for the Quebec Immigration Department said the program is expected to come into effect over the winter, and the details of how it will apply in Quebec will be announced "shortly." Cayo said the program also does not address the situation of other essential workers, including security guards and cleaning staff in care homes, truck drivers and those working in food production. "These people sacrificed for Quebec, sacrificed for Canada," he said. "When many people were staying home, these people went out to work." Their contribution has shown they are not a burden to Canada, but a gift, he added. Andre believes the deportation order should be suspended until it becomes clear who exactly is eligible for the guardian angels program. But in his opinion, all the asylum-seekers who have been in the country since the pandemic began deserve to stay. "I think they all have contributed economically, to saving lives, and Canada is better thanks to these people," he said. In its email, the CBSA defended its decision to deport, noting that the "timely removal of failed claimants plays a critical role in supporting the integrity of Canada’s asylum system." Removals to some regions remain suspended, including the Gaza Strip, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq. The agency also said the volume of deportations is expected to be reduced for some time, and that claimants will continue to have access to all the appeals and recourses available under the law. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020 Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Newly-elected Yorkton, Sask., Mayor Mitch Hipplsey says Manitobans are still welcome in his city and there isn't much he could do to stop them if he wanted to.Both provinces are reporting high numbers of COVID-19 cases and health officials are asking people to avoid non-essential interprovincial travel.Yorkton is about 80 kilometres away from the Manitoba border, so Hipplsey said it's been very common to see Manitoba licence plates in that city since long before the pandemic started.Hipplsey said Manitobans are not only essential to the local economy, but between 12 and 15 per cent of patients at Yorkton's hospital are from that province. Not to mention the municipal government doesn't have any legal authority to stop Manitobans from coming there, Hippsley said."Interprovincial travel is not our rules [or] our protocol," he said, noting he has been in close contact with Premier Scott Moe."We hope that our provincial leaders will look after that for us, but it's not our legislation to control that."Hipplsey said he has heard concerns from some residents.He said he sympathizes with those concerns, but there isn't much the city can do aside from ensuring everyone is abiding by COVID-19 protocols like wearing a mask in indoor public places, physical distancing, regular hand washing and staying home when sick."We cannot stop people from doing what they're going to do. We can only ask that they be responsible."No interprovincial travel unless 'absolutely necessary'Moe said on Monday people should not travel interprovincially unless it's "absolutely necessary.""I know businesses and maybe [chambers of commerce] are hungry for business, but I would ask them as an organization and the individuals, whether they be in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, to follow the public health advice … that does not mean going for groceries in a neighbouring province," Moe told reporters."Let's make a little bit of an effort so that we can bend these numbers down and preserve all of the opportunities that we have in our province."The Yorkton Chamber of Commerce declined an interview request.Editorial in Man. newspaperThe Brandon Sun recently published an editorial criticizing Hipplsey's welcoming stance on Manitobans coming to Yorkton.It was in response to a CTV Regina story that featured the mayor saying Manitoba shoppers are always welcomed and encouraged.The editorial says inviting people from Manitoba to shop in Yorkton given the current pandemic circumstances puts people in Saskatchewan at a greater risk since there are considerably more active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba."Communities in Manitoba have come here on a daily basis to get their essential needs, COVID or non-COVID," Hippsley told CBC News in response.He also reiterated that many Manitobans come to Yorkton for reasons other than shopping, like going to the hospital."Until the provincial governments get involved and stop people at the border, we've got no control over that."
Dentists travelling within the Northwest Territories to provide services are now back in operation in some communities as the territorial government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, gave dental teams the green light to travel."Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness. I am pleased with the collaborative work across Government to resume these services," said Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services in a news release issued on Wednesday.All non-urgent services were suspended in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.Then, in mid-June, the Northwest Territories government relaxed guidelines to allow dentists to resume services "pending appropriate steps" — but some dentists said strict rules still prevented them from travelling into smaller communities to provide services.The following communities can start services, as their facilities "have met facility infrastructure dental care standards" and were given approval by the Chief Public Health Officer: * Fort Providence, N.W.T. * Sambaa K'e, N.W.T. * Fort Simpson, N.W.T. * Norman Wells, N.W.T. * Fort Resolution, N.W.T. * Aklavik, N.W.T.As well, visiting private dentists will now also be able to resume in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River, the release says.The rest of the communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to be back in operation "when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet COIVID-19 safety protocols," the release says.The government says the "necessary assessments" and required work is expected to continue throughout the coming year and that more updates will be given as more facilities in other communities are confirmed.The territory faced criticism after suspending services with many people saying it deepened the disparity in health care between larger centres and communities.The territory has been working with Indigenous Services Canada to resume the service.For now, Indigenous Services Canada will cover travel for people in communities to receive dental care until further notice, the release says.
Shares of the U.S. data analytics firm, known for its work with the Central Intelligence Agency and other government agencies, tumbled as much as 17.6% to $21.15 in heavy volumes. Investors have exchanged $3.9 billion worth of the shares per day on average in the past five days, making Palantir Wall Street's 11th most traded company over the period, according to Refinitiv data. Short bets reached a record 8.2% of Palantir's float on Wednesday, according to data analytics firm S3 Partners.
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020 Recycling company Geep is in a legal battle with Apple Inc. over the tech giant’s claim that the Barrie-based company allegedly stole and resold nearly 100,000 iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches it was supposed to destroy. According to a report in the Financial Post, Apple has filed a lawsuit demanding $31 million in damages and any proceeds from the resale of goods. In September 2019, Geep Canada merged with the Shift Group of Companies to form Quantum Lifecycle Partners, which has a large recycling plant on John Street in Barrie. Quantum is not named in the lawsuit. The Financial Post also reports that Geep has denied all wrongdoing and filed a third-party suit claiming employees stole the Apple devices without its knowledge. Apple’s lawsuit claims 11,766 pounds of Apple devices left Geep’s premises without being destroyed. These allegedly misappropriated devices were then subsequently sold at a significantly higher price than other recycled materials, the lawsuit claims. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Quantum Lifecycle Partners (formerly Geep) has no comment because the case is before the courts. Apple hired Geep in 2014 to destroy its old products and ensure they didn’t end up in landfills. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance