Meteorologist Nadine Powell tells us when the snow arrives and where to watch out for the strongest winds.
Meteorologist Nadine Powell tells us when the snow arrives and where to watch out for the strongest winds.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
The top doctor for the Thunder Bay, Ont., area is recommending all schools move classes online for the next two weeks due to rising COVID-19 cases. Dr. Janet DeMille made the recommendation in a Thursday memo to school boards in the region. Lakehead Public Schools shared the memo on its website and announced classes would move online starting Monday, with further instruction from the health unit to come. The school board had called for the move to virtual school this week amid outbreaks that had already forced four schools online. The board said COVID-19 cases and exposures have led to a staffing shortage and sent hundreds of students into isolation. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the situation in Thunder Bay schools is related to rising COVID-19 transmission in the broader community. "There's actions being taken to reduce that ... at the community level which ultimately will help ensure schools can reopen and stay safe in the province," Lecce told reporters on Thursday. He said testing resources will be deployed to school communities Schools elsewhere in Ontario were dealing with cases of more infectious variants of COVID-19 on Thursday. As of Thursday, 11 schools in Toronto had detected at least one case of a more contagious COVID-19 variant. Affected individuals and cohorts have been sent home based on their risk level, according to the local public health unit. The Toronto District School Board said Earl Grey SPS, Edgewood PS and Pleasant View MS were added to the list on Thursday. A spokesman for Toronto District School Board said the public health unit has not advised schools to take any additional health and safety measures at this time. "But at the same time, they're reminding everyone of the importance of the existing health and safety measures," said Ryan Bird. "While concerning, we have received assurances from public health officials that there are no additional precautions that need to be taken." Variant cases have been found in Toronto's public and Catholic school boards, as well as two private schools. Lecce pointed to new provincial requirements that students with one COVID-19 symptom must now isolate for 10 days to illustrate the province's stronger public health measures for schools light of the new variants. "The province has stepped up the requirements, both on the system and on families, just to be absolutely vigilant that we don't see variants of concerns spreading and creating challenges for our kids, for our staff and just for the healthcare system that we're trying to protect," Lecce told reporters on Thursday. On Wednesday, public health officials dismissed students and staff from two Sudbury, Ont., schools following five confirmed cases of COVID-19. All five cases have been identified by Public Health Sudbury and Districts as variants of concern. Provincial data as of 10:30 a.m. on Thursday reported 18 schools closed due to COVID-19 and 430 schools with a reported case, representing nearly nine per cent of schools provincewide. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Denise Paglinawan and Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
(Anja Sharma/Facebook - image credit) A Calgary judge offered compassion in sentencing a man with a potentially terminal brain tumour who killed a woman by driving after his doctor told him not to. James Beagrie lost consciousness while driving in May 2017, killing Anjna Sharma, 48, a beloved wife and mother of three who was out for a walk while on a break from work. Originally charged with criminal negligence causing death, Beagrie pleaded guilty last year to dangerous driving causing death. Earlier this week, prosecutor Kane Richards proposed a 2½-year prison term with a 7½-year driving ban. Defence lawyer Allan Fay argued for two years in custody and a five-year driving prohibition. "Justice without compassion is not justice at all," said Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld in handing down a 27-month sentence with a 7½-year driving ban. Just three months before Sharma was killed, Beagrie had blacked out and crashed while driving. He also told his doctor he'd recently lost consciousness at work three or four times. Still, Beagrie got behind the wheel of his Ford F-150 on May 23, 2017. At the sentencing hearing, victim impact statements from Sharma's husband and three children were read aloud. Sharma's husband of 23 years, Suneet Sharma, said he feels "battered and bruised" and would never feel whole again without her. "My heart suffers from the deepest wound — a wound from which I will never recover." Her children — who were 12, 15 and 19 at the time of the crash — described struggling with anxiety, depression and anger, as well as missing school. Neufeld addressed Beagrie directly Thursday afternoon. "This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life just as I truly hope it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family," said the judge. "Based on what I have learned from the victim, Mrs. Sharma, I think she would agree." Beagrie's health 'precarious' Beagrie had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumour in January 2013. In February 2017, Beagrie was in a car accident in Drumheller, Alta., after he blacked out while driving. He met with his family doctor twice and was required to fill out paperwork for Alberta Transportation. Over three months, Beagrie missed the deadline to file the paperwork twice and was advised by the department on May 12 that his licence would be suspended on June 6. Although benign, the tumour hasn't been checked since 2018. But if it continued to progress, survival rates are less than 12 months, Neufeld noted in his decision. Because of Beagrie's precarious health condition, Neufeld lowered what would be a 30-month sentence to 27 months. "A sentence of 2.5 years — I hope this is not the case — may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld. "I do not accept that your life is over … I hope you will recover."
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Another mutated version of the coronavirus has popped up in New York City, and experts reacted to the the news with a mixture of caution and concern. The new variant first appeared in the New York area in late November, and has since cropped up in neighbouring states, according to researchers at the California Institute of Technology, one of two teams to share their work this week. But how problematic the variant may be isn’t known yet. Viruses are constantly mutating — or making typos in their genetic code — as they spread and make copies of themselves. “Most are not of particular concern,” said Francois Balloux, director of the University College London’s Genetics Institute. However, he added, “Noticing them early, flagging them, raising concern is useful." That's because some genetic tweaks can be worrisome, especially if they help the virus spread more easily, make it more deadly or curb the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists use genome sequencing and other research to figure out which are a potential problem. New York City health officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday sought to tamp down worries about the new variant, emphasizing that the new research is preliminary and little is known about the variant. “Some variants are just that, they’re variants.” said Dr. Jay Varma, senior health adviser to the mayor. WHAT DID THEY FIND IN NEW YORK? Two research groups — at Caltech and Columbia University in New York — released papers this week describing their findings about the new variant. Neither paper has been published or reviewed by other scientists. The Caltech researchers found that the new variant showed up in about a quarter of the 1,200 virus sequences they looked at this month. The variant has also shown up in New Jersey and Connecticut and has made “isolated appearances across the country,” said CalTech's Anthony West, a co-author of the paper. On Thursday, Columbia University researchers released their research that scrutinized about 1,100 virus samples from patients treated at the university's medical centre, dating back to November. During the second week of February, the new variant was identified in 12% of the samples, they reported. They also found patients infected with the mutated virus were more likely to be older and have been hospitalized. Both groups noted that the new variant has a mutation that could potentially weaken the effectiveness of vaccines — a mutation seen in other worrisome variants. “There is clearly something to keep an eye on,” Balloux said. HOW MANY OTHER VARIANTS ARE THERE? New variants have been showing up throughout the pandemic, but three are considered the most worrisome — they've been designated “variants of concern." They were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil but have spread to other countries. The one identified in the U.K. late last year has since been found in 45 U.S. states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The strain is concerning because it has so many mutations, nearly two dozen. Some are on the spiky protein that the virus uses to attach to and infect cells — and that current vaccines and antibody drugs target. One of the spike protein mutations is seen in the variants discovered early on in Brazil and South Africa, and, now, the new variant in New York. A variant that has been spreading in California is also getting attention. It's been found in 40% to 50% of samples examined by the Los Angeles Count Department of Public Health, according to Director Barbara Ferrer. But there isn't enough rigorous research to determine what, if any, effect its mutations might have. WHAT'S NEXT? After what many described as a slow start, the federal government in recent weeks has ramped up its genetic sequencing to look for and study virus variants to figure out which ones might be a problem. In the meantime, Ana S. Gonzalez Reiche, a virologist at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, urged caution. “Without evidence, we don’t need to alarm ourselves about every variant detected,” she said. Studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don’t work as well against a variant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions. In response, drug companies are already figuring out how to modify their vaccines. Experts say that in the meantime, public health measures like social distancing and masks will reduce opportunities for the coronavirus to continue mutating and run rampant. “Emerging of variants will occur," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told NBC on Thursday. "The trick is when they do occur, to prevent them from spreading.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marion Renault, The Associated Press
(Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press - image credit) The outbreak at Joyceville Institution in northeast Kingston, Ont., is over, the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) says. In December, CSC said the medium-security prison was dealing with a serious outbreak that saw dozens of inmates and a handful of staff infected. In an emailed update Thursday night, CSC declared the outbreak over and said all 160 Joyceville inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 have now recovered. CSC also said there are zero active cases at federal institutions in Ontario. The department also said there have not been any deaths from the illness in any of the institutions. "While the current situation is certainly a positive step for our correctional institutions, to continue protecting our staff and inmates, we will maintain the rigorous health measures we've implemented," CSC wrote in the update. CSC says it received help from the Canadian Red Cross at the beginning of the outbreak at Joyceville Institution. At the time, inmates and family members issued a press release saying some prisoners didn't have access to N95 masks and face shields, so some were using makeshift curtains to limit the spread of the virus.
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as the province's pandemic indicators continue to improve. A set of proposed changes released Thursday includes doubling capacity limits in stores and restaurants, as well as for personal services, to 50 per cent. Seating at restaurant tables would still be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services could operate at 25 per cent capacity instead of the current 10 per cent. Indoor arcades and outdoor amusement parks could reopen with capacity limits. The few facilities that would have to remain closed include theatres, concert halls and casinos. The cap on outdoor gatherings would rise to 10 people from five. And instead of households being permitted to only designate two people as visitors, the province could allow two-household bubbles so entire families could get together. "Manitoba's case numbers, test positivity rate (and) health-care-system admission rates continue to trend in the right direction, which allows us to consider reopening more services cautiously and safely," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer. The proposed changes could take effect as early as March 5 and are subject to public feedback before any final decisions are made, he said. Changes could also be phased in. Health officials reported 70 new COVID-19 cases and one death Thursday. Three cases from unspecified dates were removed due to data correction for a net increase of 67. The province's case count has dropped sharply since a severe spike in the fall when Manitoba led all the provinces in the per-capita rate of new infections. The strain on intensive care units has eased and the test positivity rate has dropped from 13 per cent to 4.3. The proposed changes could also mean big shifts for sports enthusiasts and players of video lottery terminals. VLTs would be allowed to operate again as long as they were two metres apart or separated by physical barriers. Indoor gyms and fitness facilities could offer group classes again, although with a 25 per cent capacity limit. Roussin said there is a risk in such indoor settings. "There is risk involved with all these things and we're weighing the benefit ... to having businesses open, the benefit for people (of) physical activity," he said. "It's very cautious and 25 per cent capacity, I think, gives us that ability to have people spaced out quite a bit." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responded to an auditor general report from earlier in the day that stated AG Karen Hogan was "very concerned and disheartened" that the Liberal government was unable to meet its commitment to ending all boil water advisories for Indigenous communities. Miller accepted the AG's recommendations and went over the water advisories that have been lifted, as well as the finances secured to work ahead to end all the advisories.
ALBANY, N.Y. — A former aide's allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss during years of sexual harassment have spurred calls for an investigation — and questions about who might meaningfully conduct one. Within hours of Lindsey Boylan detailing her claims about the Democratic governor in an online post Wednesday, five Republican state senators urged New York's attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate. At least one Democratic state senator also has called for an inquiry. Demands are also coming from some voices outside the state capitol, including the prominent national anti-sexual-harassment organization Time's Up and an advocacy group launched by former New York legislative employees who experienced such harassment. At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki fielded a question Thursday about Boylan’s allegations and responded that President Joe Biden has long said that anyone coming forward with sexual harassment claims should be treated with “dignity and respect” and deserves to “be heard.” Cuomo called Boylan's allegations “just not true” when she first broached them without details in December. His office issued another denial Wednesday. As the allegations prompt requests to investigate, they're also revealing the politics and complexities of potentially doing so, particularly given longstanding complaints that the state ethics commission isn't sufficiently independent. “What the state needs generally ... is a more independent office to investigate and prosecute misconduct in government,” says Alan Rothstein, a member of the board of the good-government group Citizens Union. “At the end of the day, you need a way to hold government officials accountable.” Here's a look at some possible avenues for an investigation, if one is undertaken: THE ETHICS COMMISSION New York launched the ethics agency, known as JCOPE, in 2011 after a string of corruption cases, scandals and complaints that a previous iteration was limp, unwieldy and prone to gridlock. The agency has tackled sexual harassment claims in the past, finding that former Democratic Assembly Member Vito Lopez made unwanted sexual advances on female staffers. A legislative ethics committee eventually fined him $330,000. But JCOPE has also come under criticism, including that it's too close to the governor, who appoints six of its 14 members. By law, undertaking an investigation into any governor would require a yes vote from two of his or her appointees. In 2019, JCOPE didn't open an investigation into former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco's use of state resources. Percoco is currently in federal prison, convicted of accepting more than $300,000 from companies seeking to influence Cuomo’s administration. The Republican senators seeking an investigation into Boylan's allegations called JCOPE “just another extension of the governor’s control." Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger sounded somewhat similar concerns, saying that “all credible allegations of sexual harassment” must be thoroughly and independently investigated but that JCOPE is "compromised and ineffective.” Evan Davis, former counsel to the late Gov. Mario Cuomo — the current governor's father — said a JCOPE investigation into Boylan's allegations “would just be total farce, in terms of credibility." If Andrew Cuomo's six appointees were to recuse themselves, the group could fall short of a quorum and be unable to act because there's currently a vacancy among the other eight members, Davis noted. JCOPE spokesperson Walt McClure said Thursday he couldn't comment on any matter that is or might be under investigation. THE LEGISLATURE “The only thing I can see that works now is if the Legislature were to hire an outside legal firm to do a thorough investigation,” Davis said. “That would be the only way to do this without politics.” The Legislature’s Democratic leaders called Boylan’s allegations serious and disturbing but stopped short of suggesting an investigation. Inquiries were sent to their representatives Thursday about whether they supported one. In theory, the Legislature could appoint a commission to conduct one, Rothstein said. But from the statehouse to the U.S. Capitol, such commissions can spark arguments over how much power one branch of government has to investigate another. A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR In a letter to Democratic state Attorney General Letitia James, the five Republican state senators asked for the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor. “If these allegations are true, the actions of the governor and his staff are not only grossly inappropriate — they are also potentially criminal in nature,” wrote Sens. Patricia Ritchie, Pamela Helming, Alexis Weik, Susan Serino and Daphne Jordan. Cuomo himself appointed a special prosecutor in 2018 to explore allegations that former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, abused four women during what were supposed to be romantic encounters. The special prosecutor ultimately didn't bring any charges. The attorney general's Civil Rights Bureau sometimes looks into sexual harassment complaints itself if it sees evidence of "a pattern, practice or policy of sexual harassment affecting a significant number of people.” Boylan accused Cuomo of “pervasive harassment” of female staffers. James’ office said Thursday it has received the senators' letter and is reviewing it. RIGHTS AGENCIES The state Division of Human Resources, state Labor Department and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission all can field sexual harassment complaints. But the timeframe for filing such complaints range from 180 days to a year; Boylan left her job in September 2018. New York City's Human Rights Commission has a three-year window for filing sexual harassment claims. Boylan's narrative says the unwelcome kiss happened in Cuomo's New York City office and seems to place it in 2018 but doesn't specify a date. Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, declined to be interviewed. ___ Peltz reported from New York. Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak in New York and Jonathan Lemire in Washington contributed. Marina Villeneuve And Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press
A recent Leger poll, commissioned by Postmedia, found that 9 out of 10 Canadians are interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We must do everything we can,” Dr. Shahab said, in trying to and make sure that transmissions of the variants of concern is minimalized. Two individuals in Regina who tested positive for the variant B117, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, could not be linked to any personal travel.As seen in other jurisdictions, the first cases of the new variants could all be linked to travel and then it shows up as community transmission. The presence of these variants is cause for concern, because they present as having a higher rate of transmission. Samples of tests from Regina are going to be sent off for further testing since Regina is presently seeing an uptick in cases while the rest of the province is trending downward. Dr. Shahab reiterated the importance of people staying home at the first sign of any symptoms and seek a test. More importantly perhaps, is to continue to stay home even if the test results are negative but symptoms continue. People need to not assume that they are free of the virus, a second test should be done to confirm that in cases where symptoms persist. SHA CEO, Scott Livingstone, admitted at the Thursday, February 25, 2021 press conference that the present system of contacting people is not effective. The lists that are being generated through eHealth and vital statistics are not necessarily finding all those individuals in the 70+ age group to put on the list in the first place and utilizing public health personnel to man the phones is not an effective use of manpower. The online appointment booking system and telephone call-in centre which were originally planned to be utilized once Phase 2 vaccinations began will now be utilized for those individuals 70 years of age and over and thereby reducing the stress and concern expressed by those who have not received a telephone call when there was a clinic in their vicinity. These should be up and running within roughly ten days. This will also serve as a bit of a trial run for the Phase 2 rollout. The limited amount of vaccine is also compounding the problems with the vaccine rollout. Dr. Shahab expressed the hope that once vaccine supplies become stabilized there will be a large uptake of the opportunity to be vaccinated and this will take the sharp edge off the pandemic. Those at high risk are still awaiting vaccination and therefore it remains crucial for the rest of the population to stay vigilant in mitigating the spread to protect them. It comes back again to testing. More people need to get tested sooner. Some people still appear to be waiting to get tested and this could get the province into a bad situation quickly with the variants of concern in the province. Last summer Premier Moe set a goal of 4000 COVID-19 tests being done every day, yesterday about 2100 were processed and about 3100 today. Also included in the announcements today was the distribution of 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests. Until now the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations required a laboratory license for any site collecting specimens or conducting testing. Health Minister Merriman stated earlier today that the Regulations have been amended to exempt point-of-care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites which now allows these so-called rapid tests to be used in more sites around the province. Merriman said, “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with the variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” The rapid tests will be available ambulance, fire, police, dental offices, schools, shelters, detox facilities, and group homes as well as at long-term and personal care homes and participating pharmacies. Scott Livingstone stated that since some of these may not have the capacity to use the tests on their own, the SHA and the Ministry of Health are working on a tendering process for third-party providers to deliver testing at these locations and ensure that training and support is in place to “use these testing resources to their full potential.” Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
EDMONTON — Alberta's United Conservative government tabled its budget Thursday. Here are some of the highlights: — No new taxes or tax increases. — Deficit of $18.2 billion on estimated revenues of $43.7 billion. — Spending of $57.3 billion before expenditures on COVID-19 and cancelled crude-by-rail contracts. — Spending on COVID-19 to be $1.1 billion. An extra $1.8 billion as needed. — Taxpayer-supported debt of almost $116 billion by March 2022. Annual debt interest charges almost $3 billion. — Capital spending to be $20.7 billion over three years. — Heritage Savings Trust Fund pegged to reach $16.7 billion. — Personal income tax to generate an estimated $11.6 billion. — Corporate income tax estimated to be $1.9 billion. — Cannabis tax to come in at $105 million. — Public sector compensation, excluding physicians, set at $21.5 billion. To fall to $20.8 billion by 2024. — Compensation for doctors to remain steady from $5.2 billion now to $5.3 billion by 2024. — $3.1 billion to diversify economy and expand aviation, tech, pharmaceutical and tourism sectors. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Dysart et al council expressed concerns with a Places for People proposal to turn Lakeview Motel into a new affordable housing development. City of Kawartha Lakes (CKL) housing program supervisor, Michelle Corley, presented to council Feb. 23 about the proposal to rehabilitate the motel into 15 affordable housing units, including 12 bachelor suites. As part of the CKL-Haliburton affordable housing program, Corley sought approximately $45,268 from Dysart in waived building fees and exemptions. But council delayed approval for staff to review the plan further. Mayor Andrea Roberts said they only have about $10,000 that could be used for affordable housing in the 2021 budget under economic development. “Very large contribution. We don’t have any reserves for that,” Roberts said. The proposal is part of an overarching Affordable Housing Target Program, spurring development with government incentives. Corley said the project is also contingent on a $150,000 interest-free forgivable loan from the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative. The project is separate from an affordable build Places for People is also proposing on Wallings Road municipal land, which Dysart council provided in-principal support for. Coun. John Smith said the Wallings Road project is more aligned with the municipal vision. He said he takes issue with converting the motel, given the need for summer tourism accommodations. “I struggle with, on a conceptual level, how this really advances the wellbeing of our community,” Smith said. Roberts said they cannot get into that philosophy and council’s responsibility is to examine what Dysart’s contribution should be. The Lakeview Motel went on the market in November, with its owners planning to retire. Coun. Larry Clarke said he was concerned about whether the development would provide for locals versus being taken up by people from outside the community through the housing program, which has a waiting list with both County and CKL residents. “To have it targeted for people looking for affordable housing, that are not going to be part of our economy here, to me is a concern,” Clarke said. Corley said people on the waiting list often choose communities they are familiar with, but it is not a guarantee. She further said council should keep in mind they plan to have a quarterly intake, with more projects to come. The County aims to create 750 new affordable units within the next 10 years. “We are really trying to work hard toward meeting and achieving these targets,” she said. “There’s the hope we can eventually have a plan within budgets or other planning and development policies that when it comes to affordable housing, there’s kind of a clear standard on what incentives could be offered.” Roberts said she wants to get clarification from staff around the equivalent residential unit (ERU) calculation. The development is requesting an exemption for adding seven additional ERUs, amounting to $32,900. Council voted to receive the report. Roberts asked staff to bring it back to the next committee of the whole meeting March 9. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
OTTAWA — The Canadian Judicial Council says a Quebec judge has resigned after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his appeal. Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner says Michel Girouard's decision to step down from the Quebec Superior Court "narrowly avoids his removal from office by Parliament." A 2012 complaint alleged that Girouard, while he was still a lawyer, had bought illegal drugs from a client. An inquiry committee rejected the allegations but cited contradictions and implausibilities in Girouard’s testimony. A second complaint about Girouard’s credibility during the initial proceedings led a majority of judges on the council to recommend he lose his job. The Federal Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed Girouard's attempts to overturn the recommendation, prompting his application to the Supreme Court. In a news release Thursday as chairperson of the judicial council, Wagner said Girouard's resignation "is the last chapter in a prolonged saga that has undermined expectations of access to justice and has cost Canadians millions of dollars." Wagner said Canada benefits from outstanding judges who demonstrate the highest ethical integrity but the Girouard matter shows that the disciplinary process that deals with instances of judicial misconduct must be re-examined. "In the matter of Michel Girouard, proceedings have been going on for eight years now. Throughout this entire period, Michel Girouard has continued to receive his full salary despite not sitting, and he will now receive a pension for life, all at the expense of Canadian taxpayers," said Wagner. Earlier Thursday, Justice Minister David Lametti said he would seek parliamentary approval to remove Girouard from the bench. Lametti said Thursday on Twitter that as the "lengthy process has unfolded, I have made it clear that I fully intended to act if Justice Girouard exhausted his avenues of appeal and the revocation decision was upheld. That moment has arrived." Lametti said he intended to proceed with Girouard's removal by seeking the necessary approval of the House of Commons and Senate. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A former Canadian soldier who killed three family members and himself in 2017 received sporadic mental health treatment immediately after he left the military in 2015, a fatality inquiry heard Thursday. The provincial inquiry in Nova Scotia learned the Canadian Armed Forces had arranged for therapy to continue for Lionel Desmond after he was medically discharged. But the lack of structure outside the military created new challenges for the mentally ill veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Psychologist Mathieu Murgatroyd, who worked at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, was tasked with providing the former corporal with treatment from June 2015 to October 2016. The psychologist said there were problems from the start because Desmond, then 32, often cancelled appointments or didn't show up. Plans for therapy were derailed by the fact that Desmond spent much of his time travelling between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where he was trying to re-establish a relationship with his wife, Shanna, and his young daughter, Aaliyah. "In terms of commitment and engagement, it was interfering with the therapy process," Murgatroyd testified. "We were concerned with this inconsistency." Murgatroyd said it was clear Desmond needed help. In 2011, while posted to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. That was four years after he served as a rifleman during a particularly violent tour of duty in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, mental health professionals contracted by the military told the inquiry that Desmond initially responded well to treatment, but that he suffered a relapse in May 2013 when military colleagues subjected him to racist comments about his African Nova Scotian heritage. Murgatroyd testified that Desmond appeared guarded and distant when they first met in June 2015 at the federally funded clinic, which receives referrals from the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and the RCMP. "Based on his presentation, the risk was more elevated in terms of spiralling down," Murgatroyd said. As well, he said Desmond made it clear his relationship with his wife, Shanna, was in turmoil. "There were moments when they seemed to be doing better, but for the most part, strained," he said, adding that Desmond had increased his alcohol consumption to deal with stress. Murgatroyd recalled that during their first treatment session, Desmond complained about nightmares, night sweats, daily intrusive thoughts, disturbed sleep, chronic pain and "homicidal thoughts without intent." "He hardly gets out of his house because of his paranoia," Murgatroyd noted after an early therapy session in 2015. Desmond said he had suffered a number of head injuries while serving in the military, and that he worried about a possible brain injury. The inquiry has heard the former corporal did not disclose this concern while he was in the military. Though Desmond was under Murgatroyd's care for 16 months, the psychologist said his therapeutic plan never got off the ground. "We were just putting out fires rather than working on any real intervention," he said. He said it appeared Desmond's source of psychological distress eventually shifted from his combat-related PTSD symptoms to an angry "fixation" with his wife's handling of their finances and concerns that she may be cheating on him. Murgatroyd said Desmond told him about gruesome nightmares he had that suggested his wife had been sleeping with another man, whose head was later found on the floor. The psychologist agreed when asked if Desmond's dreams were having an impact on his perception of reality. Murgatroyd said that helped explain why Desmond would later revoke his consent to allow the clinic to share information with his wife. Eventually, staff at the clinic decided therapy for Desmond wasn't an option until he was properly stabilized. They recommended he should take part in an intensive treatment program at Ste. Anne's hospital in Montreal, which has an in-patient operational stress injury clinic. By April 2016, Desmond had agreed to go to Ste. Anne's, having recognized that his relationship with his wife was deteriorating amid talk of divorce, Murgatroyd said. The following month, Desmond reached "an all-time low," Murgatroyd said, adding that his patient was distressed about the state of his finances and the idea his wife was manipulative and could not be trusted. "With things spiralling down, he was looking for help." Desmond arrived at St. Anne's on May 30, 2016, but he left less than three months into a six-month program, even though he had reported he was enjoying his stay there, Murgatroyd said. The inquiry has heard that Desmond returned home to Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., in August 2016. Evidence presented to the inquiry has shown Desmond received no therapeutic treatment for the next four months, even though Murgatroyd and Veterans Affairs Canada were making arrangements for treatment in Nova Scotia. Staff at Ste. Anne's had recommended Desmond receive an in-depth neuro-psychological assessment and more treatment, but that never happened. On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a semi-automatic rifle. Later that day, he fatally shot his 31-year-old wife, their 10-year-daughter and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before killing himself in the family's home. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax The Canadian Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan's top doctor says the presence of more contagious variants makes testing even more important to stem the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Saqib Shahab says the province needs to keep its daily cases low and people must follow public-health advice to try to prevent more infectious variants from taking over. "We need to use testing more, even more now, because of the variants of concern," he said during a briefing Thursday. The province says thousands of rapid-testing kits from Ottawa will be deployed into long-term care homes, schools, detox facilities, shelters, as well as to first responders. The province is also looking to hire a third-party provider to help any groups that may be unable to use the kits themselves. Shahab says some people have delayed getting tested and gone to work with symptoms, which has led to outbreaks. Testing will help the province's caseload decrease because tests can help break chains of transmission, he said. Cory Neudorf, a public health and epidemiology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said provinces are at a critical point in the pandemic. He said vaccine rollouts for the most vulnerable are in their early days and the risk is that variants could drive up spread before many older residents are immunized. Two weeks ago, the Saskatchewan Health Authority gave an update to physicians that included a discussion on community spread with some point-in-time modelling. A senior medical which warned that confirmed cases in the province could double to 50,000 by mid-April, if certain indicators didn't change, such as the reproductive figure for how many people one person with COVID-19 infects. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Thursday that calculation was based on an earlier case count. It said as of Feb. 20, the reproductive figure has been below one. That means case growth is less than it was when the town hall estimate was given. “It’s a slightly less possibility than it was a few weeks ago, but it’s still possible that we would be seeing a resurgence by mid-April. Whether or not it gets to 50,000 cases, I don’t know," Neudorf said. Neudorf does point out that caseloads have begun to stabilize and drop in the past few weeks in parts of the province, including around Saskatoon and in the south. The province on Thursday reported 211 new infections after only 56 on Wednesday — the lowest count in months. The total number of confirmed cases since the pandemic took hold last March sits at slightly over 28,000. Shahab said it's a positive sign that pressure on the health system has dropped. There were 165 people in hospital and 18 in intensive care Thursday. But Saskatchewan, with a population of 1.1 million, still reports having the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. It also has two cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom with no known links to travel. Shahab has said this is the third week in some time in which seven-day averages of new daily cases are below 200. He also said the province's test positivity rate is about seven per cent, down from 10. Still, health officials say more testing is needed because it's higher than five per cent. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — A judge has sentenced a man with a benign brain tumour, who lost consciousness while driving and killed a Calgary woman, to 27 months in prison. James Beagrie, 48, was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death after his truck hit Anjna Sharma, a mother of three, who had been on a walk during a work break in May 2017. Beagrie pleaded guilty last fall to a lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. Court heard he had been told by his doctor not to drive and, three months before killing Sharma, blacked out and got into a single-vehicle crash. "I would describe this offence in two words -- tragic and senseless," Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld said in his sentencing decision Thursday. "Mr. Beagrie ignored all of those warnings and drove anyway, and he will live with that for the rest of his life. It's exactly that type of behaviour that must be denounced and deterred so other lives can be saved." Neufeld said Beagrie deserved a sentence of 30 months, but he lowered it to 27 months because of the man's "precarious medical condition." "In my view, justice without compassion is not justice at all ... he is on borrowed time himself. A sentence of 2 1/2 years may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld. The Crown had asked that Beagrie serve 2 1/2 years in prison. His defence lawyer suggested two years. The judge also ordered Beagrie be banned from driving for 7 1/2 years after his release. "If you do recover, as I hope you will, you will have served your debt to society and will deserve a chance after a period of time to return to normalcy," Neufeld said. "This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life, just as I truly hope that it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family in the years to come." On Monday, Beagrie apologized in court and promised not to drive when he get out of prison, unless it's a matter of "life and limb.'' This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. -- Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
The Ontario government has issued new guidelines for commercial businesses currently in the red zone. As of Feb. 22, non-essential retail business, such as Markham’s CF Markville, has been able to resume activities while complying with existing restrictions on the number of customers admitted to commercial enterprises. Besides food court vendors, restaurants within the mall are now able to operate indoors where physical distancing measures can be met. Capacity limits for indoor dining are restricted to 10 people inside, with a limit of four people seated together at once. “We welcomed back our community of shoppers and retailers on Monday while complying with new restrictions,” said Kelly Vieira, general manager of CF Markville. For instance, active screening is now required by all visitors prior to entering the building. This means that all guests, including retailers and employees, will be required to answer screening questions like: Do you have any symptoms? Have you travelled outside Canada in the past 14 days? Has a public health unit identified you as a close contact of someone who currently has COVID-19? To support this effort, CF Markville has limited access to the centre and has staff stationed at the loading docks and at entrances #1, #2, #7 and #10, safely distanced and behind a barrier, to ask screening questions in person before permitting guests who meet the criteria for entry. Only when people answer “no” to all five questions can they get a green sign saying “You can go,” and then they can enter the mall. “You can complete the COVID screening form via our website in advance, or answer them on-site, or download the QR code posted at our four open entrances to get access to the online screening tool,” Vieira explained in an email response. Markville Shopping Centre anticipates that the new restrictions may result in additional lineups inside and outside of the property, and they advise guests to prepare for their visits accordingly. To address capacity concerns, the mall also developed a real-time capacity indicator tool on their website to encourage shoppers to visit during off-peak hours. “Our customers, employees and clients are our first priority and, knowing that health and safety is top of mind for everyone, we’ve enhanced safety measures,” Vieira emphasized. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have implemented physical distancing guidance, including traffic flow management, use of PPE and increased cleaning of high touch point surfaces.” For more information on the safety protocols and to access the COVID-19 screening form, please visit www.cfshops.com/markville.html. Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun
POUCE COUPE, B.C. — The mayor of a village in northeastern British Columbia says she is sorry for an online post that was not meant to be racist against Indigenous Peoples, but now she wants people to stop bullying her. Lorraine Michetti, who was first elected in Pouce Coupe in 2016, said through tears Thursday that she realizes people were hurt after seeing the post showing photos of garbage-strewn lawns with a caption that suggested those who want to protect their land from pipelines should clean up their own backyards. "I'm not sleeping. I'm upset that people think I'm racist," Michetti said in an interview. Michetti said she put the post on Facebook about two years ago and took it down about 10 minutes later but it was saved by someone and she believes it would resurface. Instead, the mayor said she reposted the original herself last week and that it was meant to draw attention to environmental issues though she now understands its contents were offensive to some people. She said she has issued apologies to local First Nations. "I realized that they're hurting but I never, ever, ever meant it to be racist," she said. Michetti said she is hoping to take cultural sensitivity courses, which would send a clear message to First Nations and her council that she is making efforts to come to terms with her actions, even as local residents continue criticizing her. "I'm trying. Let me prove myself. Why are people texting me and messaging me and degrading me and bullying me?" The post was taken out of context, she said. At a council meeting on Monday, the mayor also admitted she sent a Facebook post in which she suggested federal gun control laws make her feel like a Jew "waiting for my cattle car." As Coun. Ken Drover began asking her about likening herself to a Jew waiting to go to a gas chamber, Michetti cut him off. "Once they take our guns away, back when Hitler, that's what it was all about," she told council. "That is a terrible, terrible, comparison. How dare you compare yourself to a Jewish person? There is no comparison. That comparison is inexcusable," Drover said. "I realize that, Ken, but that again was taken out of context," Michetti responded. She also said she would not step down as mayor, adding: "I got emails coming out of my yingyang for me not to resign, from all over Canada." Drover resigned from his position on Wednesday. Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne called Michetti's comments a serious issue. "I want to be clear that anti-Indigenous racism and anti-Semitism require us to all come together and challenge inequities and we have no space for these actions in our communities," she said at a news conference on infrastructure spending. "We expect all elected officials to act with integrity and with respect. They must explain their choices and be accountable to their community." Osborne said the province is working to update legislation regarding municipal politicians. Pouce Coupe introduced a code of conduct in 2018, and at an emergency meeting last weekend councillors accused Michetti of violating it. Chris Leggett, the village's chief administrative officer, said the code of conduct gives Michetti two weeks to explain her actions. However, he suggested that without any provincial legislation that includes consequences, he suspects the issue will result in a "stalemate" between the mayor and the three remaining councillors. "They have stated that they would like to see her resign. But at the end of the day, it looks like it's up to the mayor to resign." — By Camille Bains in Vancouver This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2020. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said there were four remaining councillors.
VICTORIA — British Columbia isn’t at the point where public health restrictions can be lifted with concerns about the potential for the rapid spread of COVID-19, the province’s top doctor says. Dr. Bonnie Henry said she understands the desire to see restrictions lifted on rules like the limit on social gatherings, but concerns over the province’s rising rolling seven-day average of cases means the indefinite restrictions put in place earlier this month will stay. “There’s potential for rapid growth if we’re not careful,” she told a news conference. B.C. reported 395 cases of COVID-19 and 10 new deaths on Thursday. Close to 240,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. so far, including more than 68,000 people who received their second shot. As B.C. works to identify the more than 120 cases of COVID-19 variants across the province, Henry said health authorities are ramping up the screening for them. Its aim is to test 100 per cent of all positive samples to see if they are likely variants that should be sent on for further testing. Ontario and Quebec already screen all positive cases for variants. Henry expressed confidence in limiting the spread of the variant cases, even though one-quarter of the variant cases diagnosed in B.C. have not yet been traced back to their origin. "The things we do to prevent transmission works against these variants as well, which is why we all have to continue doing what we're doing," she said. The majority of COVID-19 cases are spread through workplace interactions, Henry said, but part of limiting transmission includes staying close to home during the upcoming March break. Henry also spoke of the challenges she's faced during the pandemic, including new death threats and the impact they have had on her family and co-workers. "It's one of the things that have been incredibly challenging," she said. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the threats and personal attacks directed at Henry are "completely unacceptable." "I condemn them utterly," he said. "We all have to find ways to disagree without personal attack." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press