All eyes will be on the U.S. ambassador to the European Union when he testifies on Day 4 of public impeachment hearings on Nov. 20. So who is Gordon Sondland? Yahoo News explains.
All eyes will be on the U.S. ambassador to the European Union when he testifies on Day 4 of public impeachment hearings on Nov. 20. So who is Gordon Sondland? Yahoo News explains.
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet's battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island's air defence zone over the weekend. Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, has been on edge since the large-scale incursion by Chinese fighters and nuclear-capable bombers into the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone on Saturday and Sunday, which coincided with a U.S. carrier group entering the South China Sea. The base in the southern city of Tainan, home to F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF), frequently scrambles jets to intercept China's air force.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Easing off a stalemate, the Senate moved forward Tuesday with a power-sharing agreement in the evenly-split chamber after Republican leader Mitch McConnell backed off his demand that Senate Democrats preserve the procedural tool known as the filibuster. The stand-off between McConnell and new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had all but ground the Senate to a halt in the early days of the Democratic majority and threatened President Joe Biden's agenda. Schumer refused to meet McConnell's demands. “I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said Tuesday as he opened the chamber. “My only regret is it took so long because we have a great deal we need to accomplish.” While the crisis appeared to have resolved, for now, the debate over the filibuster — the procedural tool that requires a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation — is far from over. Progressive Democrats see the tool as an outdated relic that can be used by the minority Republican Party under McConnell to derail Biden's agenda, and they want to do away with it. They point to the way the filibuster was wielded during the 20th century to stall civil rights legislation, and warn of a repeat. Democrats control 50 votes in the split chamber, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote, and Biden's allies would typically need Republican senators to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance Democratic priorities on COVID-19 relief, immigration or other issues. Even as he dropped his demand, McConnell warned Tuesday of all the ways the Senate business could still be tied in knots if Democrats try to press on with plans to pursue changes to the filibuster. “They would guarantee themselves immediate chaos,” McConnell warned. “Destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.” Usually a routine matter, the organizing resolution for the chamber became a power play by McConnell once Democrats swept to control after the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia and the new senators took the oath of office after Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. McConnell had been holding up the organizing agreement, which divides up committee assignments and other resources, as he tried to extract a promise from Schumer of no changes to the filibuster. Schumer would not meet the Republican leader's demands, but McConnell said late Monday he had essentially accomplished his goal after two Democratic senators said they would not agree to end the filibuster. Without their votes, Schumer would be unable to change the rules. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell said in a statement. He was referring to West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema who have expressed reservations about doing away with the tool. Schumer's office said the Republican leader had no choice but to set aside his demands. “We’re glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand," said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for the Democratic leader. "We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.” But the debate over the filibuster, which has increasingly become weaponized as a tool to thwart the opposite party’s agenda, is far from over. A decade ago, then-Democratic majority leader Harry Reid ended the 60-vote threshold to confirm some judicial and executive branch nominees during the Obama administration that were being blocked by Republicans. Reid told The Associated Press recently that Biden should waste little time testing Republican’s willingness to work with him before eliminating the filibuster. He gave it three weeks. McConnell during the last administration upped the ante, and did away with the 60-vote threshold to confirm President Donald Trump's three nominees to the Supreme Court. He wanted to prevent Schumer from taking it to the next level and ending the filibuster for legislation. The details of the rest of the organizing resolution are expected to proceed largely as they did the last time the Senate was evenly divided, in 2001, with any immediate changes to the filibuster, at this stage, appearing to be off the table. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
As Braiden Bendzsak was scooting around his neighbourhood, he noticed a cat that looked oddly familiar. "I knew it was just the one from the poster," said Braiden, referencing the 'lost Hunter' posters that the cat's owner, Gina Henderson, had put up on street poles around Windsor's Little Italy neighbourhood. When 9-year-old Braiden spotted Hunter it had been 74 days since the cat went missing and he was only two blocks away from home. Braiden had kept an eye out for the cat after seeing the posters, searching for Hunter during his lunch breaks and after school. And based on the posters, Henderson was offering an $800 reward to anyone who returned the 13-year-old, green-eyed Tabby cat. "It was really tough losing him like I would break down quite often ... and say 'I can't believe I lost my boy,' like I felt so guilty," Henderson said. WATCH: Braiden talk about what he's learned from finding Hunter For the last 13 years, Hunter has been with Henderson through countless "ups and downs" and seven houses, she said, adding that during COVID-19, they had been leaning on each other's companionship all the more. "It was a really devastating Christmas just to not have him around," she said. When she got the phone call from Braiden on Friday, she was starting to give up hope and thought it was going to be another dead-end lead. "I was skeptical when he called cause you know he's nine and there's a lot of cats that look like [Hunter] so I was like 'OK, we'll go check it out,'" she said. But Braiden said he knew it was Hunter by his features. "So I tried picking it up but when I picked it up it didn't like it so it clawed onto my shoulders and hopped off, but then it ran under a porch and I knew it was going to stay there for a while," he said. After he couldn't coax the cat out, he decided to call the number on the posters. "They were so happy to find him, like so happy," Braiden said about the moment Henderson and her friend came to retrieve Hunter. "I don't know how to describe it they were just so happy to see it. They were like, 'oh my God, it's Hunter.'" 'I like doing good stuff' At first Henderson said she put out a $100 reward. But friends, family and, soon enough, community members who heard her story from social media, the posters and a newspaper ad started donating money to the reward fund. Before she knew it, she said the reward jumped to $900 and when people learned Braiden was the "hero," they kept throwing in more money. "I'm super excited that the reward went to him, like it's great," she said. In total, Braiden received $1,025. "I have to say it makes me very proud that he's such a thoughtful and caring boy for his age, he has a huge heart," said Rachelle Sylvestre, Braiden's mom. And while the reward money has its perks, including a new video game console, Braiden said he just feels good knowing he was able to help. "I feel like I did a good thing and I should have because I like doing good stuff for people and animals," he said. "What I learned was to not give up on hopes because you could really accomplish something when you put your mind to it, or in this case, heart." Hunter spent all of Monday in the vet, Henderson said, adding that he had to be on an IV for seven hours because he was so dehydrated. She said he lost so much weight that if Braiden didn't find him when he did, Hunter may never have returned home. "Braiden found him just in time," she said. "Finding him again still seems like a miracle, like it doesn't seem real ... It's just so surreal that he's in my living room again, it's crazy."
A giant mass of rubbish that clogged a dam has finally been cleaned up in Bulgaria. Nearly 600 tonnes of garbage and debris were removed from the Iskar river near the capital Sofia.View on euronews
A trauma and orthopedic surgeon has been splitting his time between work in three New Brunswick hospitals and his home and family in P.E.I. And he's got dozens of COVID-19 test results to show for it. The Charlottetown Islanders hockey team resumes play this weekend in Cape Breton, but Dr. Heather Morrison says players and staff must self-isolate when they return to P.E.I., just like everyone else. A 24-year-old P.E.I. woman from the Summerside area has been fined for not following the province's COVID-19 self-isolation rules. Marco Polo Land in Cavendish has been named large campground of the year by a national camping and RV council after adapting to a season disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Founders Hall in Charlottetown wants to develop its outdoor space to create a place where people can gather more safely during the pandemic. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases reported on P.E.I. remains 110, with six still active. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. New Brunswick reported 10 new cases Tuesday, bringing its number of active cases to 339. Nova Scotia had one new case, with 11 active. Also in the news Further resources Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
OTTAWA — In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press interviewed a group of leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology and asked them what should be done to reduce the harms the next time a germ with similar destructive potential emerges. Here are the five most important lessons they offered. Socio-economic and health inequities have made some people more vulnerable COVID-19 has exposed fault lines in the Canadian society by showing how long-standing inequities contributed to higher rates of infections and mortality, said Steffanie Strathdee, a Toronto-born epidemiologist at the University of California in San Diego. "The people who are, by and large, getting COVID are people who are poor, or of-colour, or living in poor socio-economic conditions," Strathdee said. In an analysis of COVID-19 deaths between March and July, Statistics Canada found that death rates because of the virus were double in Canadian neighbourhoods where more than 25 per cent of the people are members of visible minorities compared to neighbourhoods where minorities are less than one per cent of the people. Strathdee said people in many areas in Canada have limited health services. "In my sister and mother's region of Stouffville (a suburb of Toronto), it's very, very difficult to get a doctor," she said. "What we need to do is invest in our public health and health care infrastructure, because this isn't going to be the last pandemic we see." University of British Columbia professor Erica Frank, a doctor and population-health expert, said almost all those who have died because of COVID-19 had pre-existing risk factors, including age. "Not paying enough attention to reduction of chronic-disease risk has greatly increased the cohort of susceptible people to COVID," she said. She said there is a need to spend money on public health systems and on social determinants of health, such as housing, to decrease sickness and death. Canada's division of health-care responsibilities is inefficient The disconnect between federal and provincial or territorial actions to fight the pandemic is getting in the way of an effective response, said Donald Sheppard. He's the chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and a member of Canada's COVID-19 therapeutics task force. For instance, Sheppard said, after Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody treatment was approved by Health Canada, bought by the federal government and greenlit by the federal therapeutics task force, British Columbia health authorities decided to reject the federal approval of the medication. He said there many more examples, including the handling of long-term care homes. "Quebec is screaming they want money but they're refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long-term care," he said. He said there have been poor communication and a lot of territorialism since the beginning of the pandemic. "There should be a time when it's all hands on deck and we don't play games," he said. "That didn't happen. We saw these fragmentations between the provinces and the feds leading to, frankly, people dying." Centralized decision-making in health care stifles innovation Sheppard said the Canadian health care system can't be nimble because federal and provincial governments have seized control of decisions on how to handle the pandemic. "During a new disease like a pandemic, when we're learning about things, the people on the ground actually are learning a lot faster than the people sitting in Ottawa, Quebec City or Toronto," he said. He said Canadian businesses and universities have been struggling to get approval for testing strategies that use rapid tests to reopen safely. "The way that the ministries of health are set up, they actually make it incredibly difficult to set those type of things up, because they hold on to all the power with a stranglehold." Sheppard said there's no process private entities can use to launch innovative testing programs. "The dogma from the ministries of health are simple: What we're doing is right. There is no other better way to do anything ... therefore we will not help anybody do anything different than what we're doing. And anything other than that is a threat to our authority," he said. "That's the mentality, and it's just killed innovation in the health-care setting." Lack of coordination stymied research The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crucial research is to inform health decisions, said François Lamontagne, a clinician-scientist at the University of Sherbrooke. He said Canadian scientists have played prominent roles scientifically during the pandemic but recruiting patients to participate in clinical trials has been a challenge due to lack of coordination. "There have been a lot of studies launched. A lot of those studies overlapped," he said. He said having too many studies at the same time has resulted in shortages of suitable patients who are willing to be subjects in clinical trials. "This, essentially, dilutes all of the studies and you end up enrolling very few people in too many studies." Lamontagne said the United Kingdom has been the locomotive of the world in enrolling patients in clinical trials because research is an integral part of the country's national health system. "It's not something that happens in a silo. It's part of the (National Health Service)," he said. "This led them to build the infrastructure ... And then there's an effort to co-ordinate and prioritize studies so they do one study and they do it well and they get the answers very quickly." He said creating better research infrastructure and coordination should be a priority for Canada. "This is a criticism directed at me as well. I am part of 'us' — researchers. We have to get our act together and there has to be an effort of coordination." Lamontagne said health research in Canada is largely funded by the federal government whereas health care is a provincial jurisdiction and both levels need to co-operate. "The stakes are so important for not only how we respond to pandemics now and in the future, but also for the sustainability of a public health-care system," he said. Good messaging and communication matter Strathdee said good science communication with the public is important to address misinformation regarding the novel coronaviruses and its vaccines. "We need for people to understand that science and medicine don't have all the answers all the time, that we're learning just like everybody else," she said. Strathdee said guidelines will be updated as more data become available and that's what happened when more data showed that face masks reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission. She said government officials should be trained in health literacy. John Brownstein, a Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist, said minority communities, including Indigenous communities, tend to have more mistrust in vaccines and for good historical reasons. "We got to figure out how to improve communication and improve confidence," he said. Strathdee said it's critical for politicians and public health officials to be honest with the public by "making people aware that, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, and that they need to stay the course." She also said people need to understand that if segments of the population are left behind in vaccination, like prisoners and homeless people, that will put everyone at risk. She said Canada did a good job in detecting COVID-19 cases because it was hit hard by SARS. "We have to make sure that we don't unlearn those lessons going forward and that we build upon what we've learned from COVID and prepare for the next pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020 ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — These suspects weren't exactly in hiding. “THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot. In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends' willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down. “Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.” In the last few weeks, the FBI has received over 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said. “They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building. A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more." Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.” In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said. Even defence attorneys have acknowledged that the evidence poses a problem for them. “I’m not a magician,” said an attorney for the man seen in a photo carrying Pelosi's lectern. “We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside a federal building or inside the Capitol with government property,” he told reporters. Police at the Capitol planned only for a free-speech demonstration and were overwhelmed by the mob that broke through and roamed the halls of the Capitol for hours as lawmakers were sent into hiding. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump was impeached after the riot on a charge of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” Opening arguments will begin the week of Feb. 8. He is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. Unlike criminal cases, impeachment trials do not have specific evidence rules so anything said and done that day can be used. And several of the people charged have said in interviews with reporters or federal agents that they were simply listening to the president when they marched to the Capitol. ___ Richer reported from Boston. Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals are eyeing changes to the law governing public service hiring to help make federal departments and agencies more diverse. They also plan to do further research on the makeup of the federal public service and will try to hire more senior leaders with varied backgrounds. Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos and his parliamentary secretary, Greg Fergus, are spelling out the priorities today to foster greater diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the public service. The government says while there has been some progress for Black Canadians, Indigenous Peoples and others who face racial discrimination in the workplace, too many public servants continue to face obstacles. The Treasury Board Secretariat has begun discussions about the framework for recruitment in the public service and is specifically looking at "possible amendments" to the Public Service Employment Act. The act is intended to ensure federal hiring is fair, transparent and representative. The move would complement a review of the Employment Equity Act planned by Labour Minister Filomena Tassi. The government recently released data that provides more detail about the composition of the public service. Duclos and Fergus say the annual public service employee survey will help the government identify more precisely where gaps remain and what is needed to improve representation. The government plans to increase diversity through promotion and recruitment, including introduction of the Mentorship Plus Program to allow departments to offer mentoring and sponsorship opportunities to high-potential employees who might currently face barriers. The government says although progress will take time, the public service can be a model of inclusion for employers across the country and around the world. "In time, we will build a public service that is the true reflection of our pluralism and diversity," Duclos said in a statement. Just last week, Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart issued a call to action on anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the public service, setting out federal expectations for current leaders. The government has also launched the Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, supported by a budget of $12 million, to create an ongoing discussion about change. "There is much to do before all public servants can feel they truly belong in a public service that values inclusiveness and differences," Fergus said. "Outlining these key areas of focus is a key step in taking concrete action." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
With shops boarded up and riot police out in force, it was relatively calm in Dutch cities on Tuesday night after three days of violence during which nearly 500 people were detained. In several cities, including the capital Amsterdam, some businesses closed early and emergency ordinances were in place to give law enforcement greater powers to respond to the rioting, which was prompted by a nighttime curfew to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday when the 9 p.m. curfew went into effect, rowdy crowds of youths gathered in Amsterdam and Hilversum, but were broken up without incident.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality's elected representatives have not met in the civic centre's council chamber since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, and it's unclear when that will change. They were scheduled to meet in person today, but the recently renovated chamber was unable to overcome public health restrictions. Mayor Amanda McDougall said she was more than disappointed when Nova Scotia's chief public health officer and the Emergency Management Office rejected the municipality's plan to meet at city hall. "I was a little angry. I won't lie," she said. "It's hard when you see staff do such a tremendous job of planning and looking at chambers. We've also put some financial investment into the council chambers as well, so you want to be able to use that." Council met in person recently at the Centre 200 arena, where councillors were able to spread out at a safe distance. For the most part, however, CBRM council meetings have been online since last year. John MacKinnon, deputy chief administrative officer, said staff have been working hard to get councillors back inside the civic centre. "We looked at the possibility of being able to have them in different locations within the council chamber, but because of the horseshoe shape of the council chamber, it was almost impossible to be able to create a setup that would provide enough social distancing to allow it to happen," he said. Staff recently installed plastic shields between seats and thought that would work. But according to the rules, public meetings cannot exceed 10 people — even with distancing — despite low numbers of new infections in the province. "We used our own staff to do the installation and I think we did a pretty darn good job so hopefully, once things get lifted a little, [meetings] will be in the council chamber," said MacKinnon. As of Monday, there were 15 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. No new cases were announced Monday. MacKinnon said the renovations, which cost about $2,000, will likely help whenever restrictions on gathering limits ease. For now, council will simply go back to meeting online until restrictions are lifted, said McDougall. "We can do our jobs and do our jobs well from anywhere, but being in this room, it's a significant part of that title of being a councillor and making decisions for the community," she said. "Being eager to get back into council chambers is for me a personal thing, and I know for the new councillors as well, they're eager to get in here and actually be able to use the technology instead of using pens and paper ... but we'll get here soon enough." MORE TOP STORIES
OTTAWA — A new report on billions of dollars the federal government has sent to provinces to help safely reopen the economy suggests much of the money is sitting unused.Today's report also suggests that federal efforts to stretch the financial impact of those dollars is falling short as many provinces have bucked cost-matching requests.The analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says six out of 10 provinces haven't spent all the money the federal government has sent their way, including for things like personal protective equipment.Author David Macdonald says some of the money may yet be spent, but notes the longer it remains unspent, the less likely it ever will be spent.Macdonald's analysis is based on a review of provincial and federal spending announcements, reconciling duplications, as well as provincial spending documents. Federal and provincial governments are allocating hundreds of billions in direct spending and liquidity support to help workers, families, front-line workers and businesses make it through the pandemic. The federal treasury has managed the lion's share of COVID-19 spending — accounting for about $8 in every $10 of aid, according to the federal Finance Department's math. "They are the ones spending the money, they're the ones creating the funds and to a large degree setting the agenda of where they would like those funds to go," Macdonald said.Included in the spending is $24 billion the federal Liberals sent to provinces in the fall under the "safe restart" agreement that was supposed to help make it safer for daycares, schools and businesses to reopen.The report notes that money is sitting idle from a fund aimed at topping up the wages of workers deemed essential like those in long-term care facilities and grocery stores. Provincial governments were supposed to chip in for part of the top-up.Macdonald says six out of 10 provinces haven't used the money available to them, with Alberta leaving the most on the table by far at almost $336 million.He also says some return-to-class money hasn't been spent, particularly in Quebec.Other provinces like Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick appear to have ignored a federal request to match funding to cash-strapped municipalities, Macdonald says.There is no immediate explanation for why, but Macdonald says it was possible that the federal government decided to give smaller provinces a break on the cost-matching requirements to ease the strain on their own finances. He notes that larger provinces did pony up matching dollars.Combined, the underspending and lack of cost-matching raise questions for the government about its plan to spend between $70 billion and $100 billion over three years to prod an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.Macdonald says the stimulus bump from the planned spending could be diminished if provinces don't spend money sent to them, or don't match funding when asked.That may require the Liberals to put tight rules on forthcoming spending, he says."If provinces aren't willing to go along, there may well be provinces that would be left out of, say, new federal spending on child care and new federal spending on long-term care if they're unwilling to go along with federal priorities or federal standards," he said."Otherwise, the provinces are clearly going to call the federal bluff."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Critics are asking why Alberta Environment has been sitting on years worth of data about pollution from coal mines while the government considers a dramatic expansion of the industry. "It raises some important questions about our ability to trust what's going on," said New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt. "The fact (Alberta Environment) hasn't reported publicly is extremely concerning." On Monday, The Canadian Press reported on analysis of coal mine contamination in the Gregg and McLeod Rivers and Luscar Creek near Jasper, Alta., dating back to the 1990s. It found toxic levels of selenium many times over the amount considered safe for aquatic life. The Gregg and Luscar Creek mines closed in the early 2000s. Selenium levels from both declined, at best, only gradually over more than 15 years of remediation. In the case of the Cheviot mine on the McLeod River, levels gradually grew between 2005 and 2017. The operation closed last June. The data also shows the provincial government knew about the levels for at least 15 years and did not report anything after 2006. The information was available in raw form, but Schmidt said it isn't enough to simply collect information. "There are numbers and then there are the numbers that the stories tell. That's the piece that's missing." The New Democrats were in power for four of those years. Schmidt said sitting on the information is worse now because Alberta is going through a wrenching debate over the present government's plans to expand the industry by opening up the Rocky Mountains to open-pit, mountaintop coal mines -- an option that did not exist under the NDP. "This data's relevance is more important now," he said. Alberta Environment has pointed out that the raw data has always been public. Spokesman John Muir promised the province would soon release its own report on water downstream of coal mines. Lack of action shows that monitoring often promised by industry and government as new projects are considered isn't enough, said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "On those rivers we're seeing that monitoring hasn't been enough to actually control selenium. We just continue to promise monitoring. We didn't see action to bring those selenium numbers down." A 2006 provincial report found that selenium was already harming fish. As well, a 2005 published study co-authored by provincial scientists found rainbow trout were suffering facial and skeletal deformities from selenium. The province has recently sold about 1.4 million hectares of coal exploration leases. Hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of new roads have already been permitted on previously unmined mountainsides. One new coal mine, Benga Mining's Grassy Mountain project in the Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta, is before a joint federal-provincial review. The information on the old coal mines shows what's at issue for new ones, said Morrison. "Those stakes are really high. (Selenium release) has been happening other places and they have not been able to get the selenium under control." Benga says a new method should allow the mine to treat 99 per cent of its selenium. As well, the mine has been designed to minimize contact between water and selenium-bearing rocks, the company says. Morrison said that treatment is still unproven. She said if its efficiency falls to even 90 per cent, selenium levels in nearby streams will cross thresholds safe for aquatic life. Morrison said her group produced expert testimony at the Benga hearings suggesting the company doesn't have a convincing long-term plan for controlling selenium long into the future. "We have not seen that technology work at the scale that we'll need it to or with the amount of selenium we're likely to see." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 -- Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
Uganda's opposition leader Bobi Wine accused security forces on Tuesday of humiliating him, his family and staff as he was freed from house arrest in place since a disputed Jan. 14 election that he lost to long-serving President Yoweri Museveni. Having for years denounced corruption and nepotism in his songs, Wine rode a wave of youth disillusionment to challenge Museveni's 34-year rule at the ballot box.
In the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan, a bright pink artificial tree stands out against the muted browns and greens. Through a trail camera, Jeff Meldrum watches as bears pull at the tree. Whitetail deer giving it a smell as they walk by. "I've just sort of always been interested in the animals of the forest. They're kind of mysterious," Meldrum said. "I thought it would be interesting to document how the animals are reacting to the sculptures." The pink tree is part of an ongoing project by Meldrum called Art for Animals. Meldrum has now self-published a book showcasing his project with a humorous take. The project started off simply, Meldrum said. In 2017, he had some friends that wanted to move a sculpture they were holding onto. Meldrum said he has some property outside of Choiceland in northern Saskatchewan and suggested they take it up there. "From there I started building my own sculptures as well and getting a little bit more in tune with the technology and the sort of grew from there," Meldrum said. The Regina-based artist said he likes to see what the animals can get up to when isn't at his northern property. "I think that they do a lot more when I'm not around, I think my presence at least sort of inhibits their actions," he said. "Maybe in a way, it kind of allows them to explore and play a little bit more." Meldrum said to people concerned about him disturbing natural habitats that it's naive to think animals aren't being disrupted by humans and his land is a type of safe haven, especially for bears. "I don't hurt bears and if they're coming to my property, they're possibly staying away from areas where people are hunting them," he said. Meldrum said he was surprised to see the bears appreciate the sculptures so much. They seem to have a sense of play, especially with a sculpture that was a rigid yellow tree, he said. "The veracity in which they destroyed that was pretty surprising. It went from being this like, quite beautiful sculpture … to existing in shambles in about 20 minutes," he said. He said the bears also critique his work in a way, by showing what they're interested in and not interested in. Meldrum wanted to use his book to address the good and bad of the contemporary art world. "Using a satirical voice in the book made it easy to make fun of things, make fun of myself, and make fun of different ideas within the art world," he said. Meldrum said he printed 100 copies for friends and family and they sold out right away. He then printed more and sold them at the Penny University Bookstore and Mortise and Tenon in Regina. "I hope that people learn not to take themselves so seriously and just to recognize that animals are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for," Meldrum said. "It's less about elevating animals to the status of humans, and it's more about trying to diminish our viewpoint of ourselves." Sometimes humans put themselves on a pedestal compared to animals, Meldrum said. He hopes people look at the animals on their own, rather than comparing them to people. Meldrum said he intends to create more sculptures for the animals and hopes to share his work in a gallery one day.
Family members of an Ontario man diagnosed with schizophrenia say his doctors didn't do "their due diligence" when they failed to admit him to a hospital after he called a crisis line the day before stabbing his mother and setting her house on fire with her inside. Joel Vassell called the crisis line at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ont., in the early hours of Dec. 10, 2019, and asked to be admitted because he believed he was being poisoned and said he'd been experiencing paranoid thoughts. Vassell had been under the care of the Ontario Review Board (ORB) since he was found not criminally responsible (NCR) in 2015 for an assault on his mother and attempted murder of his grandmother. The ORB oversees individuals who have been found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible for an offence because of a mental disorder. At the time of the crisis call, Vassell had community privileges — which meant he was living on his own in a small apartment in Richmond Hill, Ont., where outpatient services followed up with him about once a week. He was also required to return to Ontario Shores once a month to see his psychiatrist. Later that same morning, Vassell was assessed by his psychiatrist, Dr. Derek Pallandi, at Ontario Shores, east of Toronto. Pallandi chose not to admit Vassell to hospital. The next day, Vassell's mother, 61-year-old Yvonne Bachelor, was stabbed, and her townhouse in northwest Toronto was set on fire while she was trapped inside. Vassell, who was charged with first-degree murder and arson, told a crisis worker afterward that he hadn't taken his medication for two days. He was found not criminally responsible for Bachelor's death on Jan. 5. Details of Bachelor's murder and events leading up to that day, including Vassell's interaction with Ontario Shores, are contained in an agreed statement of facts submitted to the judge who heard the case in Ontario's Superior Court of Justice. 'This could have been prevented': family Vassell, who is now 25, is currently being held in a correctional facility awaiting a placement decision and an initial hearing by the ORB on the new NCR finding in the coming weeks. While research into NCR outcomes in Canada has concluded that those found not criminally responsible for a serious violent crime are some of the people least likely to reoffend, that fact is of little comfort to Vassell's extended family. They believe Vassell's doctors "didn't do their jobs," and it cost Bachelor her life. "I really, truly believe that this could have been prevented if they had kept him in custody and did their due diligence with him to see what's going on, to make sure that he's taking his medication," said one of Vassell's relatives. CBC News is not naming the relative because the family fears for its safety given Vassell's three attacks on family members to date. WATCH | Vassell's relative says keeping him in custody would have prevented murder: The relative says Vassell's doctors took a urine sample when he was assessed on Dec. 10, 2019, but he was released before the results came back showing low levels of medication in his system. "The consequence of this was somebody's life," the relative said. "We cannot get her life back. We have to live with that the rest of our lives." Mother's death a 'tragedy,' says review board CBC News reached out to Pallandi, the psychiatrist who assessed Vassell, for this story but did not receive a response. In a statement, a lawyer for the ORB told CBC News that "a tragedy occurred with the death of Mr. Vassell's mother" and that the board can't speak for the hospital or clinicians. "Like the ORB, treatment providers must weigh multiple factors in arriving at any decision to enlarge or restrict liberty," Joe Wright said. "Every individual presents with positive and negative risk factors. The decisions that clinicians and the board make must be made on the evidence, case law and the structured clinical discretion of experts." Ontario Shores said in a statement to CBC News that the hospital can't comment on specific patients because of privacy considerations. "Ontario Shores extends our deepest sympathies to the victim's family," spokesperson Andrea Marshall said. "The treatment of people living with serious mental illness who have come into contact with the law is a complex and often misunderstood area of the province's mental health care system." 'Significant threat' to public safety a key issue In the Criminal Code, anyone found NCR after committing a crime must be discharged absolutely unless they are a "significant threat to the safety of the public." In practical terms, that means a person who is found NCR can be put on a detention order and remain under the care of the ORB if they're a significant threat or they can receive a conditional or absolute discharge into the community. Vassell was still under an ORB detention order when he killed Bachelor in 2019. But the board had been increasing his community privileges incrementally since 2017. In August 2018, Vassell moved out of Ontario Shores and transitioned into an apartment in the community with help from forensic outpatient services. Shortly after, he started attending a college program. The ORB's mandatory annual review order of Vassell's case in 2018, called a disposition, said he'd been fully compliant when it came to taking his medication and hadn't shown any signs of psychosis since he was discharged from the hospital. However, in the ORB's review order in November 2019, the board refused to grant Vassell a conditional discharge because it said he continued to pose too great of a threat to public safety. Part of the reasoning given by the ORB was that Vassell continued to reject his schizophrenia diagnosis and was "ambivalent" to the benefits of his medication. "Without the oversight of a clinical team provided by a disposition, Mr. Vassell is likely to become non-compliant with medication," the ORB said. "In that state, Mr. Vassell would experience personal and paranoid beliefs that relate to individuals close to him in his life, and he would be at real risk of acting on those beliefs for self-protection or retribution." Another factor was that in October 2019, Vassell's psychiatrist had agreed to reduce the dosage of his medication, and the board still wasn't sure how Vassell would respond to the change. Two months after the change in dosage and a month after the review order, Vassell killed his mother. He told a crisis worker that he set the house on fire because he was "tired of the abuse" from Bachelor and that he wanted to "free her soul," according to the agreed statement of facts. More violent cases have low recidivism rates: study Despite the media attention given to cases such as Vassell's, a study on NCR outcomes in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in 2015, shows that cases such as his are outliers. The National Trajectory Project looked at the outcomes of 1,800 people found NCR across Canada's three most populous provinces. "Those who committed more serious forms of violence, which could include sexual crimes or homicide, were actually less likely to reoffend," said Dr. Michael Seto, who worked on the study. That group had the lowest recidivism rates in the study, with just six per cent committing a new offence of any kind within three years. Seto, forensic research director at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, said part of the reason for that is people with more serious offences are typically in the review board system longer and can be kept under conditions even when they start living in the community again. Overall, the study found that Quebec had roughly double the recidivism rate for people found NCR compared with Ontario and B.C., and Ontario kept people in the review board system for the longest amount of time on average. "Ontario is more conservative than Quebec or British Columbia in terms of how people move from detention order, where they're in hospital, to conditional discharge to absolute discharge," Seto told CBC News. Family members are the most common victims of crimes committed by people found NCR, according to the study. Vassell's relative said they are still worried for the safety of Vassell's surviving family members. "He knows where everybody lives in the family," the relative said. "If he ever gets out, then we would have to move to have some type of sanity in our day-to-day lives without looking over our shoulders." Vassell's relative is also calling for a coroner's inquest into Bachelor's death, so that something like this doesn't happen again. For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
When St. John's hip hop artist Winnie Churchill finished creating his first album, titled I, he always knew what the next progression is his music would be. "Us was always in the plans as we worked on Itwo years prior," Churchill told CBC Radio's Weekend AM. "Us was always a thought process that we were in.… It was supposed to be influenced by everything else. The world, how the world felt in times like COVID … or how me and a group of my friends felt." Churchill spent time in Toronto before arriving in the province, bringing a genre-crossing sound that incorporates acoustic guitar, hip-hop beats and spoken word. His family came to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago, allowing him to see the similarities between the islands. "The island cultures are very similar," he said. "We eat from the water, we love to have fun, and it's a very close-knit island, for sure. Exactly the same." A growing influence Churchill said his newest album's title carries a couple of different levels of significance: the idea that his work couldn't be done without a growing production team, and the personal growth that came from I to Us. "You come into this world and you have this mind of your own, and this imagination. That's what I was about, completely from my own mind," he said. "But at some point when you're growing up, you start to feel everything else. You start to feel for the world, or for your friends or your loved one. "You start to gain these relationships that you no longer have control of … your imagination starts to broaden. Us just had to be influenced by all these new things that I was learning growing up, and all these ways that I felt. And I'm sure a lot of other people feel too." The idea of expressing feelings is shown throughout the album, highlighted by 14 Days & Counting, written just days into the pandemic. "There was this moment where nobody knew what was gonna happen. Everyone was being sent home from work," he said. "Me and my girlfriend, we didn't know if we were going to see each other for a little bit of time due to where we were living.… It was a time when it was very scary. "It was the only way that we could get those words out. How does the world feel together? How do we all feel?" LISTEN | Winnie Churchill talks about his new recording with Paula Gale: Do you have a new album of music that Weekend AM should know about for First Listen? Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell us about it. You can hear First Listen on Sundays on Weekend AM from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. (5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in Labrador) on CBC Radio One. For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
TORONTO — The pandemic has its prints all over Canada's winter TV season. While some shows affected by lockdowns last March were able to resume production in the summer and air in the fall, many were held up by restrictions, a lack of COVID-19 insurance, and the development of expensive health and safety protocols with officials and unions. The result is a January and February slate packed with new programming shot over the past few months with much testing, distancing, sanitization and personal protective equipment. The Canadian Press spoke with talent behind some Canadian shows about production challenges, and how positive cases were dealt with on set. "KIM'S CONVENIENCE" ON SHOOTING UNDER DURESS Star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays patriarch Appa on the family sitcom, says the pandemic pushed the start of production on the new season in Toronto from last May to September. Writers modified some storylines and used fewer guest actors, while the whole team was "fastidious" about their COVID protocols. Away from the set, everyone limited their contact to those in their immediate household, realizing that "like dominoes, if one goes, everything sort of goes." "Mission accomplished," Lee says. "We shot season five under duress, the worst circumstances, but we didn't have one case, knock on wood." Simu Liu, who plays Appa's son Jung, was in Australia shooting Marvel's upcoming film "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" when the pandemic hit and couldn't get back to Toronto to shoot "Kim's Convenience" until near the end of production. The protocols made the shooting process "very piecemeal" and put pressure on the cast to "nail a scene and move on" so they could stay on schedule, Lee says. "Otherwise, it's like a big train wreck: one delay at the beginning makes it a mess at the end. So that was really difficult to do." Lee cites a host of other challenges, including the safety risk of acting without a mask, and not being able to communicate as well while wearing PPE during rehearsals. But he was happy to be working and it all made him "appreciate that much more the professionalism and the quality of the crews." "Every step of the way, I felt safe," Lee says. "Personally, I felt safer on set than anywhere else outside of my home." (Fifth season debuted Jan. 19 on CBC) --- "CORONER" ON INTIMATE SCENES Masks are already a common sight on this show about a coroner in Toronto, but even more so in the new season as it's set during the COVID-19 pandemic. Showrunner Morwyn Brebner says when the pandemic hit, they'd already done a month's worth of writing but realized they would have to "reinvent the season" to address the new reality. "A few of us were really concerned: 'Will we not have a problem with COVID by the time we start to air it? Will it feel a little bit like old news?' Ha! Were we wrong," adds lead director/executive producer Adrienne Mitchell. The writing team penned the new scripts together via video conferencing, limiting the amount of stand-ins and background performers on set. Shooting began in the fall with protocols including daily temperature checks and weekly COVID testing. Departments worked different shifts to limit the amount of people in spaces, which made shooting more time-consuming. Filming took place outside where possible. Actors not in the key cast were distanced from the stars when shooting scenes indoors. With so much separation on set, scenes of intimacy "felt really significant," says Brebner. Eye acting and body movement become more important in scenes where the characters wore masks. "You start to shoot a little looser so you can see body language, because body language adds a lot of information," Mitchell says. While the production had "a few issues" with COVID-19 cases, "they weren't on set and they were easily contact-traced," says Mitchell, noting they didn't have to shut down. "We have had no community spread, and what we had was very little." (Third season debuts Feb. 3 on CBC) --- "HEARTLAND" ON CHANGING THE SCRIPT Star Amber Marshall says the storylines for the new season of the Alberta-shot family ranch story were already written depicting spring and summer vistas when the pandemic hit. When filming was pushed from last April to September, writers had to alter scripts to reflect the fall and winter seasons that would be seen onscreen instead. "There were a lot of things that sprung up on us, even throughout shooting, such as we had certain actors written into certain stories and then they weren't able to travel (to set)," Marshall says. "So of course there this mad scramble of, 'How are we going to continue this story without that character here?'" The "Heartland" set inherently allows for distancing, since many scenes are filmed outdoors. For indoor shoots, each department was put into a certain "zone" that would only work with each other. Producer Tom Cox says COVID didn't ever reach the set. (14th season debuted Jan. 10 on CBC) --- "PRETTY HARD CASES" ON WORKING WITH A SKELETON CREW Catherine Lang, COVID supervisor for the new buddy-cop series in Toronto, says she and the producers pored over scripts to try to minimize risky contact between actors. They also checked with the cast on whether they were comfortable in various scenarios, and held daily morning safety meetings with the whole team. The crew and the cast were "very onside" with their COVID protocols, "because nobody wanted to shut down." "We had debriefs with our department heads just last week, and everyone said that they actually felt safer at work than they did out in public," says Lang. "We had no incident of anyone contracting COVID-19 in our workplace," she adds, noting there were two positive cases that were contracted outside production, caught through testing and had no community spread. Stars Adrienne C. Moore and Meredith MacNeill say the hardest thing was not being able to see people's faces while putting together a brand-new show, especially crew members, whom they view as their collaborators. Moore says she tried to have special moments with the crew and express her gratitude to them, while everyone worked as a team. "In those morning meetings, if there was a problem, if somebody was afraid of something or wanted to do something, no one was afraid to talk about it," says MacNeill. (Debuts Feb. 3, on CBC) --- "PRIVATE EYES" ON DEALING WITH POSITIVE CASES Producer Alex Jordan says the pandemic interrupted the prep period for season 4 of the private-detective show in March and they couldn't start production until August. Filming took place in studio for the first couple of weeks to ensure protocols were solid before shooting outside, which was limited to as many single locations as possible and with fewer background performers. Each department was podded together and had their own bathrooms. Town hall meetings took place in a parking lot. "Our COVID team grew from a handful to a small army," Jordan says, rhyming off a long list of team members specifically dedicated to the protocols, including two medics. The stars and crew who worked directly with actors were known as "the red zone" and tested for COVID more frequently. "Through the testing we caught five positives, but we had no community spread and none reached the floor (of production)," Jordan says, noting they suspected two of the positive cases were a result of viral shedding from people who'd had COVID a while ago and had been cleared by government to return to work. Insurance-wise, "Private Eyes" was considered an "at-risk production," meaning if the show had to shut down, all of those costs would have been on production company eOne. "Entertainment One was very nervous, I was stressed out for the entire shoot until the very last day," Jordan says. "It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done." But they "had zero shutdowns" during the whole production, he adds. "It was nail-biting but we did it." (Fourth season airing on Global) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte went to the presidential palace Tuesday to offer his resignation after a key coalition ally pulled his party’s support over Conte’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Conte is hoping to get President Sergio Mattarella’s support to form a new coalition government that can steer the country as it battles the pandemic and an economic recession and creates a spending plan for the 209 billion euros ($254 billion) Italy is getting in European Union recovery funds. Conte met with his Cabinet early Tuesday and headed to the presidential palace at around noon. A government statement said Conte had opened the Cabinet meeting by telling ministers that he would resign. Conte’s coalition government was thrown into turmoil earlier this month when a junior party headed by ex-Premier Matteo Renzi yanked its support. Conte won confidence votes in parliament last week, but fell short of an absolute majority in the Senate, forcing him to take the gamble of resignation. Mattarella, Italy's largely ceremonial head of state, can ask Conte to try to form a broader coalition government, appoint a largely technical government to steer the country through the pandemic or dissolve parliament and call an election two years early. The current coalition of the 5-Star Movement, Democratic Party and smaller Leu party are all hoping for a third Conte government. Conte's first government starting in 2018 was a 5-Star alliance with the right-wing League party led by Matteo Salvini that lasted 15 months. His second, with the Democrats, lasted 16 months. Salvini and centre-right opposition parties are clamouring for an early election, hoping to capitalize on polls prior to the government crisis that showed high approval ratings for the League and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party led by Giorgia Meloni. Salvini has blasted the “palace games and buying and selling of senators” of recent days as Conte has tried to find new coalition allies, claiming that Conte is incapable of leading Italy through the crisis. “Let’s use these weeks to give the word back to the people and we’ll have five years of a serious and legitimate parliament and government not chosen in palaces but chosen by Italians,” Salvini said Monday. Democratic leader Nicola Zingaretti says an early election is the last thing the country needs. He tweeted Monday: “With Conte for a new clearly European-centric government supported by an ample parliamentary base that will guarantee credibility and stability to confront the challenges Italy has ahead." Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
The city of Saint John is hoping to jump-start its economy by offering an hour of free on-street parking to motivate people to shop local. David Dobbelsteyn, Saint John's manager of population growth, presented the parking subsidy plan to city council Monday evening. Dobbelsteyn said loss of tourism because of COVID-19, and the regular winter pedestrian decline, caused foot traffic to decrease by 50 per cent, which in turn has had a big impact on local businesses. "Think about if you're a restaurant and you're used to having a lot of folks for lunch, and local businesses are having their staff work remotely, which is a safe thing to do, but it means that those businesses are struggling even more," he said. Councillors voted unanimously to approve a proposal to spend up to $35,000 to subsidize the first-hour of parking until the end of March. The approval coincided with the province's decision to return Saint John to the orange phase at midnight Tuesday night. The Saint John has been in the more restrictive red phase for the past week. The pilot will be run through the HotSpot parking app, which will count the first hour for free automatically. Dobbelsteyn said he hopes that more people will use HotSpot, which will help people find parking easier and avoid tickets. "We anticipate approximately $30,000 will be returned to the city as parking revenue," he said. Uptown Saint John is in charge of running and marketing the program. Nancy Tissington, the executive director of Uptown Saint John, said the organization has run a similar program after a hard-hitting snowstorm in 2015, and on Black Friday and Valentine's Day. She said during all those days, the app has shown an uptick in people using it. "There has been quite a struggle here," she said. "And January, February and March is typically a hard time of the year. It's even more so now. We're pretty excited about the fact that orange is coming back." She said uptown Saint John can have this program up and running in five to seven days. The parking program will be financed through the Municipal Economic and Community Recovery Program, which was set up as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.