Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration at the news that Canada will not receive any new doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, though the general overseeing Ontario's vaccine rollout plan remains hopeful the distribution delay won't impede plans to immunize the general population by early August. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ford called the news that Canada will receive no new Pfizer vaccines next week "troubling" and "a massive concern." "Until vaccines are more widely available, please stay home, stay safe and save lives," he said. The news comes as the province recorded another 1,913 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with officials cautioning that Toronto Public Health — which consistently logs the most new infections each day — is "likely underreporting" its number of cases. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the artificially low total of 550 new cases reported by the city was due to a "technical issue," but did not provide any further details. For reference, over the three previous days, Toronto Public Health logged 815, 1035 and 903 cases, respectively. Other public health units that saw double- or triple-digit increases were: Peel Region: 346 York Region: 235 Durham Region: 82 Windsor-Essex: 81 Waterloo Region: 79 Middlesex-London: 73 Halton Region: 71 Hamilton: 63 Niagara Region: 52 Simcoe Muskoka: 48 Ottawa: 41 Huron-Perth: 37 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 31 Lambton: 28 Southwestern: 22 Eastern Ontario: 14 Chatham-Kent: 13 (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.) Over 200,000 Ontarians vaccinated so far At a technical briefing for media Tuesday morning, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force offered a rough breakdown of which groups received a first dose of vaccine: About 83,000 long-term care residents, staff and caregivers. About 25,000 retirement home residents, staff and caregivers. More than 99,000 health-care workers in other sectors. With the more than 200,000 vaccines administered, Ontario has completed the first round of immunization at all long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex — the four regions with the highest transmission rates of the virus. The first round of immunizations has also been administered at all long-term care homes in Ottawa, Durham and Simcoe-Muskoka. Still, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton cautioned, "The rise of community spread during the second wave is posing a serious threat to our long-term care homes." The province aims to finish vaccinating those at all remaining long-term care homes by Feb. 15. At Tuesday's technical briefing, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force also addressed how the province is responding to Pfizer's announcement last week that it was slowing down production of its vaccine, resulting in delivery delays for Canada. WATCH | An exasperated Premier Ford appeals to incoming U.S. president for vaccines: The impact in Ontario will vary week to week, officials said, with an 80 per cent reduction in the number of doses that were originally expected the week of Jan. 25; 55 per cent the week of Feb. 1; and 45 per cent the week of Feb. 8. In turn, the province will reallocate its available doses of the Moderna vaccine to more regions, while also extending the interval between doses of the Pfizer vaccine in some situations to ensure that everyone who has had a first shot will have access to their second. Residents and staff at long-term care and high-risk retirement homes who have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will receive a second dose in 21 to 27 days, the province says. All others who receive the Pfizer vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 42 days after the first. For those who receive the Moderna vaccine, the 28-day schedule will remain in place. As for whether the province still expects to immunize the general population of Ontario by late July or early August, General Rick Hillier said that will come down to whether there are any further hiccups with vaccine availability, but that he remains optimistic. Toronto to halt operations at mass vaccination clinic Following the announcement of the delay, the province asked the City of Toronto late Tuesday to immediately stop operating a "proof-of-concept" mass vaccination clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The clinic, which began operating only on Monday, had aimed to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that was entirely dependent upon vaccine supply. People scheduled to receive the shot at the clinic over the next three days have had those appointments cancelled, Toronto Public Health said in a statement. "The City's Immunization Task Force is continuing to plan for city-wide immunization clinic roll-out and will continue to work with the province to determine next steps once vaccine supply is re-established," the city said. Just over 34,000 new tests processed Meanwhile, Ontario's network of labs processed just 34,531 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 6.8 per cent. Testing levels often fall over weekends, but there is capacity in the system for more than 70,000 tests daily. The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 2,893, the lowest it has been since Jan. 4 this year. For the seventh time in eight days, the numbers of cases reported resolved outpaced new infections. There are currently about 27,615 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said there were 1,626 patients in hospitals with COVID-19. Of those, 400 were being treated in intensive care, the most at any point during the pandemic, and 292 required a ventilator to breathe. Notably, a daily report generated by Critical Care Services Ontario and shared internally with hospitals puts the current number of ICU patients with COVID-19 at 418, with 303 still on ventilators. Public health units also recorded 46 additional deaths of people with the illness, bringing the official toll to 5,479. Twenty-nine of the further deaths were residents of long-term care. A total of 254, or just over 40 per cent, of long-term care facilities in Ontario were dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. The province said it administered another 14346 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, and that 224,134 people have been given a first dose. A total of 25,609 people in Ontario have gotten both shots.
Alberta First Nations leaders say they are frustrated with the way the province is handling COVID-19 vaccine distribution after the government paused the rollout of first doses until supply is restocked. "The province continues to make unilateral decisions on First Nations health with questionable First Nation involvement. How many times must it be said that sovereign First Nations must be involved in the decisions that affect them?" Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras said Monday. Poitras released a statement after Premier Jason Kenney announced that Alberta is expected to run out of vaccine doses by late Monday or early Tuesday, citing shortages of the Pfizer vaccine announced last week. Kenney said Monday that means there is a pause on booking new first dose appointments, and that the expansion of the vaccination program to all Albertans over 75 and Indigenous people over 65 is being pushed back. Both those groups are included in the National Advisory Committee on Immunization's (NACI) guidelines that outline which groups of Canadians should be prioritized for phase one vaccinations. Poitras said First Nations in Alberta are at a "breaking point" with COVID-19 as cases have climbed even as provincial case numbers have fallen. She said that the province needs to do a better job of consulting and communicating with them. "There was some hope that access to a vaccine would help us. However, given recent decisions of the provincial government, which lacked meaningful First Nations involvement, trust and commitment to partnership continues to be in question," she said. The Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre posts weekly data on how First Nations are affected by COVID-19. As of Jan. 13, 2,066 of the 12,838 active cases in Alberta were among First Nations people living both on and off reserve. First Nations people accounted for 127 of the 820 people hospitalized, and 33 of the 137 ICU patients. On that day, 66 of the 1,368 people who have died of COVID-19 were First Nations. According to data published by Statistics Canada in 2016, Indigenous people, including First Nations, make up just 6.5 per cent of Alberta's population. Chief Tony Alexis of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation said he's also disappointed in disparities between what he says he and other chiefs were told during their regular meetings with provincial officials, and what's been happening. "It was disappointing and upsetting at the same time to know that people are hearing about this, and at the chiefs' table we're not hearing what is happening," he said in an interview Monday. Alexis said after having almost zero cases in November and low numbers in early December, his community is now experiencing a spike with 54 active cases. Over the course of the pandemic, he said six people from his nation have been hospitalized, and that three have died. "We need to get the vaccine to communities faster. We need to get it to our nations, we need to get it to our people and have that available for everyone," he said. In a statement Monday, Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said the province is working closely with the federal government on a vaccine distribution plan for First Nation communities. "Vaccine doses have been provided to staff and residents at six First Nation congregate living facilities on-reserve as part of the roll-out of vaccine doses to continuing care facilities around the province," he said "The four First Nations at Maskwacis are currently experiencing a serious rise in cases. Recognizing this, a limited number of doses were provided to Maskwacis Health Services on an emergency basis to help manage a large COVID-19 outbreak and support those in critical need." McMillan said as soon as more vaccine becomes available, phase 1B will begin and will include everyone over 65 living in First Nations communities or on Métis settlements, and all Albertans over the age of 75, including Métis and First Nations who don't live in settlements or on-reserve. In a statement Monday night, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said that the government has prioritized the vaccine rollout. "I have spoken to many First Nations chiefs to assure them that we want to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible," he said. "Unfortunately, due to delays caused by the vaccine manufacturer and a lack of supply from the federal government, the rollout to First Nations communities has been delayed. "We renew our call on the federal government to speed up the process of providing vaccines. Canada is now receiving less vaccines than other countries. This is not acceptable." 'We deserve health' Dr. Lana Potts, medical director of the Piikani Nation and a primary care physician in Siksika in southern Alberta, called the Monday announcement a blow, especially after months of efforts to advocate and plan for vaccine rollout in Indigenous communities across the province, "Again we are left behind and not a priority," Potts said, adding that it's frustrating because there has been extensive advocacy and planning by many committees and levels of leadership to prepare for rollout. "First Nations peoples' health is often put in the back, we often do get the leftovers. And in this case we get nothing," she said. She said there needs to be clear information, set dates and plans for staffing, and said the government must ensure First Nations are at the table when these types of decisions are being made. "First Nations people, because we do have the worst health statistics across this country, need to be priorities to get health equity. We deserve health like everyone else," she said.
TORONTO — Few things have lifted Rojhan Paydar’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic quite like a Netflix watch party. Isolated inside her home, the Toronto resident is too often short on social opportunities and long on streaming options. So like many people, she’s recreated the experience of watching Netflix with friends through an unofficial web browser application called Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party. It’s been an opportunity for Paydar to gather with pals on a virtual couch while they gasp over the twists of true crime series, “Unsolved Mysteries." Even more often, she's used the app with her boyfriend for date nights watching the dysfunction unfold on “Tiger King" and other bingeable series. “Sometimes we’d eat dinner and set up our webcams to see each other,” she said. “Knowing he was there and we were doing something in real-time — it felt really good and made me less lonely." Not long ago, viewing party technology was a tool reserved for unique situations: a long-distance couple or fans of a niche TV series searching for like-minded people. But a year into the pandemic, weekly rituals have evolved, and online watch parties have proven many of us are desperate for some semblance of connection. As the winter months stretch on, and strict stay-at-home orders grip large parts of the country, observers say the watch party, and apps that help make it happen, are due for a second wave of popularity. “I think we may have seen a cultural shift,” suggested Daniel Keyes, associate professor of cultural studies at the University of British Columbia. “The pandemic and the fact we had to self-isolate totally accelerated it. It made it more mainstream.” For younger generations raised on YouTube and Twitch, watch parties are already part of the zeitgeist. Everyone else, including streaming giants themselves, seem to be playing cultural catchup. Last year, as the pandemic wore on, Amazon Prime Video introduced group chat elements into the laptop version of its platform. Disney Plus took a more restrained approach with a feature that allows up to seven people to sync their screens, but only communicate through emojis. Other streamers, such as Netflix and Crave, have so far chosen not to launch social elements on their platforms. That move could be strategic as the companies observe a sea change in how some viewers consume television, suggested Carmi Levy, director at technology advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group. "It's almost as if the snow globe has been shaken and companies like Netflix are waiting for everything to settle down before they decide where to place their bets," he said. "Social TV is a thing and it isn't going anywhere. It's very much like remote work: considered the exception before the pandemic, but now the rule." Levy said the entertainment industry couldn't have predicted how quickly the change took hold with casual viewers. For years, upstart tech companies launched second-screen watch party innovations, and most of them failed miserably. That's left the door open for the latest generation of alternatives to capitalize on filling the void, among them TwoStream, a paid monthly watch party option, and Syncplay, which is free. One of the most ambitious newcomers is Scener, a venture-funded operation out of Seattle that currently supports the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, Vimeo and horror platform Shudder. In a few clicks, viewers can react to a show through their webcam or type out thoughts on their keyboard. Co-founder Joe Braidwood said replicating the in-person experience, in particular, “the laughter, the screams and the horror,” was a goal of his company long before the pandemic. But it wasn’t always easy getting others to see the value. “Two years ago I would talk to investors about social TV and they would laugh at me,” he recalled over a Zoom chat. “They told me, ‘People don't want social experiences when they're watching television.’ But all you need to do is look on Twitter.” Even before the pandemic, he said, people were engaging over social media platforms about their favourite shows. Now, since everyone's holed up in their homes, Scener's growth has been exponential. Cumulative weekly minutes of programming watched grew nearly 42,000 per cent from March 2020 to January 2021 (57,785 minutes versus 24.2 million minutes), according to data provided by the company. “People who haven't hung out with their best friend while watching ‘The Flight Attendant’ or shared a family Christmas while watching an old classic movie on Scener, they just don't know what this feels like,” he added. “There's this real texture to it... it's warm engagement with people that you care about.” Hoovie, a Vancouver-based virtual watch party service, aims to bridge the gap between art house cinema outings and the comfort of a living room chat. Hosts can dive into the company’s independent film catalogue and book ticketed showings for small groups, typically in the range of 10 to 20 people. After the movie, they’re encouraged to engage in a webcam conversation on the platform that’s inspired by the film’s themes. Co-founder Fiona Rayher describes Hoovie as a platform meant to evoke those experiences outside the cinema where groups of people – sometimes strangers – would passionately discuss what they’d just watched and maybe head to a nearby restaurant for drinks. "You’d meet new people and you’d stay connected," she said. "It was all serendipitous." Hoovie plans to debut a "book club for movies" early this year that'll build on connecting movie fans. Every month, subscribers will gather for online screenings that include a post-film conversation with members, filmmakers and critics. Each film will be rounded out with a wine pairing sent by mail. Selling nostalgia for the pre-pandemic days may sound appealing in lockdown, but the question remains on how attractive watch parties will be once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available. It's a question Paydar said she thinks about often as she logs onto a watch party for another episode of "Unsolved Mysteries." "Whenever someone asks, 'If COVID ended right now, where would you go?' the first thing I say is, 'I'd like to go to a movie theatre,'" she said. "There's something about being in a physical theatre and going with a group of friends...Those end-of-the-night goodbyes, getting late-night eats with my friends.. (we're) creating memories I get to hold on to forever," she said. "I don't think that can be replaced." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
RCMP in northern Cape Breton are still searching for a man wanted on multiple warrants who ran into the woods in Meat Cove, N.S., with a gun. An emergency alert was issued around 1:30 p.m. Monday warning residents in the small community that Perry MacKinnon was on the loose. People were advised to stay indoors and wait for updates from police. RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mark Skinner said Tuesday morning a "significant number" of RCMP resources are being used to look for MacKinnon, who is still believed to be in the Meat Cove area. Officers searched throughout the night, both on foot and using a helicopter equipped with thermal imaging cameras. Skinner could not say how many officers are on the ground looking for MacKinnon, or what type of gun MacKinnon has with him. Residents are still being asked to stay inside and await updates from RCMP. Skinner said since Meat Cove is a small community, officers would be able to go door to door to alert people if needed. If residents see MacKinnon, they should call 911 and not approach him, police say. Skinner said officers were approaching a house to arrest MacKinnon when he ran out from behind the building into the woods. Police have not specified the reason for the arrest warrant. MORE TOP STORIES
CENTRE WELLINGTON – Centre Wellington council has approved allocating slots revenue toward two arts and culture groups’ capital projects. Based on Centre Wellington policy, five per cent of OLG payments received in the previous year can be put towards arts, culture and heritage purposes. A report by Dan Wilson estimates approximately $46,000 in eligible funds from 2020 OLG revenue. With casino closures, Centre Wellington saw a $2 million decline in OLG funds in 2020. At Monday afternoon’s council meeting, councillors were presented with an option to give funding to the Elora Centre for the Arts (ECTA) and the Fergus Scottish Festival, or to retain the funding and allocate it in 2022. Councillors spoke in favour of allocating funding towards the two groups who had delegated at a December budget meeting with asks for funding. The ECTA requested $20,000 to help with ongoing maintenance that has been identified through a building audit. Some repairs noted in a ECTA presentation included: The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games requested $50,000 for infrastructure projects at the CW Sportsplex. A letter to council said the festival is looking to improve fibre communications infrastructure, pavement improvements and campground upgrades at the sportsplex. The two requests couldn’t be fully met but council approved a suggestion from councillor Ian MacRae’s of $17,000 to ECTA and $29,000 to the Fergus Scottish Festival. Council approved this recommendation in a 6-1 vote with councillor Kirk McElwain against. McElwain said he felt the ECTA made a reasonable ask and wanted to fulfill their request. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
LONDON — Norway’s appearance record holder, Hege Riise, will temporarily take over as coach of the England women’s national soccer team following Phil Neville's departure. Riise will lead England's February camp but the team is still without opposition to play due to the travel complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Riise is stepping up having already been due to work as an assistant coach at England alongside former Canada player Rhian Wilkinson until Sarina Wiegman takes charge of the 2019 World Cup semifinalists in September. But Neville's earlier than expected exit to return to men's soccer to coach Inter Miami has left a void with England until Wiegman leaves her job with the Netherlands after the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. The English Football Association, which organizes the British women's Olympic team, also needs a coach for Tokyo having planned to give the role to Neville. Riise was the 1995 world player of the year, winning the World Cup, European Championship and Olympics as she scored 58 times in 188 appearances for Norway. She was nominated for FIFA's coach of the year award in 2019 after winning six successive Norwegian titles with LSK Kvinner. “I’m excited about the opportunity I’ve been given to work with England Women," she said. "This is a proud and ambitious team that I look forward to working with and I am confident of making a positive impact when I meet up with the squad in February.” She was an assistant coach with the United States during the team's run to the 2011 Women's World Cup final and Olympic glory in 2012. “Hege has done really well and she has had a fantastic career as both a coach and a player,” said compatriot Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Manchester United manager. “They’ve got a very good coach there and a very good human being.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is trying to persuade U.S. president-elect Joe Biden not to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline after he is sworn in as president on Wednesday. Trudeau says he has made the case to Biden in the past about the pipeline’s importance and will do so again in the coming days.
Those surprised at U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s intention to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit might want to take a look at the incoming administration’s plans for environmental justice. In addition to Biden openly vowing to cancel the controversial project if he won office, the pipeline has faced stiff opposition from some U.S. tribes. Ignoring these Indigenous groups in the context of fossil fuel development would seem to go against Biden’s “climate crisis strategy,” specifically designed to support tribes as well as states and territories. Experts say if Biden follows through with his intention to kill Keystone XL, it should be seen in this broader context, as the incoming U.S. administration gets set to put Biden’s overarching “plan to secure environmental justice and equitable economic opportunity” into motion. “Climate justice is the idea that, rather than just looking at climate change as just an environmental or physical issue, it recognizes there are so many aspects to it that are also related to justice,” said Lindsey Bacigal, director of communications at Indigenous Climate Action, in an interview. “Capitalism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, anti-migrant sentiment, Islamophobia, anti-Indigenous sentiment, racism — all these things really help to uphold climate change, rather than work to fix it,” she said. “Rather than looking at these systems of power that have got us to where we are right now, how is it that we can work from the grassroots up, rather than from the top down?” Bacigal said ending Keystone XL would be “far from the only fight — it’s definitely a step in the right direction, but we’re far away from climate justice yet.” Environmental justice addresses the fact that in many parts of the world, the places where pollution is generated, toxic chemicals are processed or garbage is dumped tend to be near marginalized or low-income communities. Often, these communities have no power over the fact that they are exposed to threats to their health or safety. Environmental justice seeks to ensure that no community should be forced to endure this kind of exposure just because of its particular demographic makeup. The Biden campaign pivoted towards this approach after the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated “how profoundly the energy and environmental policy decisions of the past have failed communities of colour,” it stated in its plan. The administration intends to direct 40 per cent of clean energy spending towards “disadvantaged communities” to address the idea that “communities of colour and low-income communities have faced disproportionate harm from climate change and environmental contaminants for decades.” The plan says the administration will use a “climate and economic justice screening tool” to identify which communities are disadvantaged or “threatened by the cumulative impacts of the multiple stresses of climate change, economic and racial inequality, and multi-source environmental pollution.” The president-elect’s team has picked Cecilia Martinez, for example, the co-founder and executive director of the Minneapolis-based Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy, to be senior director for environmental justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Also joining the team is Stefanie Feldman, who was national policy director for the campaign, worked on Biden’s climate plan and will now serve as deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser to the director of the Domestic Policy Council. Feldman is credited with securing support from environmental justice advocates during the presidential race. Tim Gray, executive director at Environmental Defence, also said he thought a decision to cancel Keystone XL should be seen in the context of environmental justice, and he expected to see more action on that front from the administration. Gray noted that Biden had nominated North Carolina environmental regulator Michael Regan to run the Environmental Protection Agency following a campaign by dozens of advocates to block the candidacy of Mary Nichols, who chaired the California Air Resources Board, over concerns she did not adhere to recommendations from environmental justice bodies. “Many urban areas and non-urban areas in the U.S., where a lot of fossil fuel manufacturing is occurring … a lot of those are disproportionately impacting marginalized communities,” said Gray. “I think you’ll see a lot more attention on that from the Biden administration, for sure.” Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Carl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
The Township of McMurrich/Monteith is still apprehensive about the one-fifth funding model used to calculate the financial contribution towards a regional fire training program. At its Jan. 12 council meeting, the discussion got heated once again, with councillors raising concerns about Burk’s Falls, Ryerson and Armour’s funding. Here is the discussion encompassed in quotes by council: “I have some grave concerns about what I’m reading in the newspaper regarding the (funding formula) and I believe I have voiced that,” said Coun. Alfred Bielke. “I have some further concerns about what has transpired — the number is quoted as $95,000 in this document here — the cost of the RTO agreement was $95,000 when in fact the numbers in that agreement come down to 92,900. Divided by five, it isn’t the number we were quoted in December.” “The tri-county has always had a cost-sharing model of 50-25-25 (per cent) but in the last couple of years, Armour wanted it one-third, one-third, one-third. It’s the very same discussion we are having right now,” said Coun. Lynn Zemnicky. “(This current agreement) buys us three more years to come up with a solid argument on paper saying, ‘look, this is what it’s costing everyone — we don’t care that you have your own cost-sharing agreement. If you’re going to have seven votes, seven municipalities then that’s how it should be split,” said McMurrich/Monteith Reeve, Angela Friesen. “I’m not saying I agree with this process, but I just don’t want our fire department and our residents to suffer because we make a decision here tonight that doesn’t give our people the protection they need,” said Coun. Dan O’Halloran. “I totally agree that that this thing needs to be looked at in the next three years and hammered out … I think we need to get this on the table, get this thing passed and then sit into negotiations to get this straightened out so we don’t have these discussions anymore.” “… I think you also have a responsibility financially and I resent subsidizing someone larger than ourselves,” said Zemnicky. “It’s always been a couple of townships pushing for the one-fifth and if you look at the numbers it relieves them quite a bit.” McMurrich/Monteith decided to defer its decision on the regional fire training program until its next meeting. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Chatham-Kent restaurant owners may find it easier to construct permanent patios after council adopted changes that allow owners to use up more parking space. Live music will also be allowed. A formal public notice, in accordance with the Planning Act, was sent out last month. No deputations were submitted by residents at Monday night’s council meeting, and the proposed amendments passed unanimously without discussion. “Some business owners have noted that they may like to invest in constructing a permanent patio in future on their own property, but they are constrained in doing so because of current regulations in the Zoning By-law. Specifically, in several cases the only option to construct a permanent patio would be to use some existing parking spaces,” a report to council read. The original bylaw was initially implemented to aid restaurant and bar owners who were incurring significant financial losses due to the COVID-19 indoor dining restrictions. At the time municipal staff helped the business owners establish temporary patios on private property and on the municipal right-of-way. Under the new bylaw, 15 per cent of the existing or required parking spaces may be used to construct an outdoor patio. Owners must maintain accessible parking spaces. The use of musical instruments and mechanical or electrical music equipment is now permitted so long as it is in accordance with the municipality’s noise bylaw. Previously this was not allowed. Dancing, theatrical performances, audiovisual presentations, music concerts, and shows still remain prohibited. “The hospitality sector at-large is negatively affected by continued COVID-19 related public health measures,” the report stated. “To support the efforts of these businesses through the pandemic and beyond, the municipality can use land-use planning tools such as zoning bylaw amendments to support and revitalize these important businesses throughout Chatham-Kent.” Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
NEW YORK — Stevie Wonder, whose advocacy helped make the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, is urging the incoming Biden administration to form a national commission on equality. Wonder released a video message Monday in the form of an open letter to King, who was assassinated in 1968 and whose birthday was made a federal holiday late in 1983. Wonder met King when he was a teenager and later wrote the tribute song “Happy Birthday," which urged that the government formally establish a Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and his birthday celebrated on the third Monday in January. “For 36 years, we’ve had a national holiday honouring your birthday and principles, and you would not believe the lack of progress. It makes me physically sick,” Wonder said in his message. “It is time for all to take the only stand. We can not be afraid to confront a lie and a liar. Those in leadership who won’t or don’t acknowledge the truth should be held accountable. Dr. King, these times require courage, as they did when you lived and paid the ultimate price.” The Associated Press
The chief of staff at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare says it's nearly impossible to keep COVID-19 out of hospitals, given the levels of the virus in the community, but it's not for lack of trying. "We really are giving it our best shot but we are fighting a very infectious virus right now," Dr. Andrea Steen, chief of staff at HDGH, said on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning Tuesday. Hôtel-Dieu Grace is facing a new outbreak, just over a week after a major outbreak with 61 cases was declared resolved. The latest outbreak, on 3N in the Dr. Y. Emara Centre for Healthy Aging and Mobility, involves five people — three patients and two staff. There are currently three other hospital outbreaks at Windsor Regional Hospital, and the Hôtel-Dieu Grace Crisis and Mental Wellness Centre was also recently under outbreak. Steen said all patients on the floor currently in outbreak have been tested, and will be tested again in the coming days. Staff will be tested for the virus on Tuesday and Wednesday. She said that while it can be difficult to pinpoint the source of outbreaks, they reflect the high number of cases in the region. "When you see the numbers that we have in the community, you can understand where patients either coming into the hospital, or staff or even visitors can be carrying the virus, unbeknownst to them," she said. There is some evidence, however, that cases in the region are beginning to plateau. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit said last Friday that a few key indicators, including case rates, saw small weekly declines. And on Monday, the health unit reported 35 just cases, though it was unclear whether there could be another explanation for the dramatic decrease from the usual case counts. Steen said the new numbers are encouraging, though she'd like to see more days of declines before getting "excited." She hopes the lower numbers reflect the measures people are taking to protect themselves and their families from the virus. "We're seeing evidence that people are doing what's being asked of them by public health and I'm hoping that will translate into these lower numbers," she said.
“Before She Disappeared,” by Lisa Gardner (Dutton) Frankie Elkin is a nomad. Owning only what she can carry, she wanders from town to town hunting for missing people whom the police have been unable to find. She is neither a police officer nor a private detective. She has no training for this work and asks nothing in return for it. But in the ten years or so since it became her obsession, she has become good at it. So far, she has found 10 missing people. Sadly, none of them were found alive. As Lisa Gardner’s “Before She Disappeared” opens, Frankie is hoping to break that string of bad luck in the largely Haitian neighbourhood of Mattapan in Boston. There,16-year-old Angelique Lovelie Badeau has been missing for 11 months, never making it home after school one day. Frankie, who can’t afford to eat unless she works, talks her way into a bartending job in the neighbourhood and introduces herself to the missing girl’s family and the Boston detective working the case. None of them are pleased to see her, but Frankie’s unflinching honesty and her ability to ask questions that open new avenues of investigation gradually win them over. Sometimes working alone and sometimes with the detective, she gradually uncovers a tangle of fake I.D. forgers, street-level drug dealers, counterfeit cash passers and human traffickers who may or may not have something to do with the girl’s disappearance. Still worse, mid-way into the investigation the missing girl’s best friend also goes missing. This book, the bestselling author’s first stand-alone novel in 20-years, is a sharply-written, tension-filled yarn full of twists readers are unlikely to see coming. The most compelling element, however, is the character of Frankie, a recovering alcoholic whose obsession with the missing is a penance of sorts for the burden of guilt and grief she carries over a past trauma that took the life of a man she loves. ___ Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.” Bruce Desilva, The Associated Press
Setting money goals in 2020 was likely an exercise in futility. Maybe you’d been saving for a trip abroad, but the pandemic kept you at home. Or you wanted to save up for a down payment on a house, then the recession left you out of a job. The pandemic made achieving yearlong goals a challenge for many last year. In fact, 29% of Americans with financial goals for 2020 said COVID-19 forced them to put some of those aspirations on hold until 2021, according to a NerdWallet survey conducted online in late fall by The Harris Poll among over 1,700 U.S. adults with 2020 financial goals. Although the pandemic is still part of our daily lives, the new year offers an opportunity to craft fresh money goals — and perhaps the trials of last year can help you clarify your financial ambitions. KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR PRIORITIES Before you set your goals, think about your current financial situation and your priorities for the new year. “Take an inventory of where you are and more importantly who you are,” says Jordan Awoye, an equitable advisor based in Long Island, New York. First, dig into the state of your finances, including your income, monthly expenses and emergency fund. Understand where you are right now to get an idea of where you could be in a year’s time. Then think about your personal priorities and values — and how they may have shifted as a result of the pandemic — to pinpoint what you want from your finances. Maybe you want to get back to a baseline of where you were in early 2020, before a year of financial challenges. Or maybe you want to use the money you saved while staying at home to put a down payment on a house. “Start with an understanding of the why behind your goal,” says Kristen Holt, CEO of the non-profit credit counselling agency GreenPath Financial Wellness. “A great goal is ‘I want to get out of debt,’ but go deeper and ask why. Will you be able to sleep better? Will you be able to enjoy life more? Get clear on your why, because that can be motivation to stick to your goal.” CRAFT SMART(R) GOALS With the foundation of your priorities and motivation settled, it’s time to establish the framework to build your financial future. That means crafting your goals in a way that makes them easier to achieve. The SMART template for goal-setting can help: — SPECIFIC: Make your goals as specific as possible. If you want to curb your spending, for example, pin down how much you spend on unnecessary items each month. Then set an exact dollar limit for such spending. — MEASURABLE: Choose a way to track your progress. If you’re paying down debt, think about using a debt tracker. Or if you want to save a certain dollar amount, consider visualizing your goal in a savings progress chart that you’ll colour in as you go. — ATTAINABLE: Your goals need to be something you can accomplish within a year. If you’re paying off $10,000 in credit card debt, for example, find what you can realistically pay monthly, multiply that by 12 and use that amount as your goal. — RELEVANT: Choose goals that are meaningful to your personal values. Similar to finding your “why,” choosing relevant goals helps ensure that your 2021 financial plan is connected to your life goals. If you want to retire early, think about upping contributions to a retirement account so you’re on track to accomplish that multi-year goal. — TIME-LIMITED: Setting a deadline can keep the pressure on. And think about breaking up your overarching goal into smaller pieces that you’ll achieve on a monthly basis. Hitting monthly goals can provide a steady feed of accomplishments, which can keep you motivated. Take the SMART acronym a step further by tacking on an “R” for “reward.” Plan rewards for yourself as you make progress. The more enjoyment you get out of the process, the more likely you are to keep working at it. Say you want to reduce debt. For each $100 you pay off, find a way to treat yourself, maybe by making a nice dinner or having a DIY spa day at home. TACTICS TO BOOST YOUR PROGRESS Finally, here are a few simple tips to build momentum: — AUTOMATE: Taking a “set it and forget it” approach can make accomplishing your ambitions easier. For savings goals, try direct depositing a portion of your income into a high-yield savings account. And for debt payoff, set up automatic payments for an amount above the minimum due to ensure you’re making progress. — CUT YOUR INTEREST RATE: If less of your payment goes to interest, more of it goes to debt payoff. You may be able to reduce your rate by refinancing your mortgage, student loan or car loan. If you have credit card debt, see whether you can qualify for a debt consolidation loan or a balance transfer credit card with a 0% APR promotional period. _______________________________ This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sean Pyles is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @SeanPyles. RELATED LINK: NerdWallet: Money goals in flux under pressure of pandemic http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-pandemic-money-goals Sean Pyles Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top migration official on Tuesday criticized Bosnian authorities for failing to properly care for hundreds of migrants living in sub-zero temperatures on its territory, warning the Balkans country of its obligations if it hopes to join the EU. Bosnia has faced sharp criticism for leaving around 1,000 people without shelter after a fire gutted the makeshift Lipa refugee camp near the northwest border with EU-member Croatia just before Christmas. The authorities at first said they would move the migrants to another location, but finally set up military tents at the site instead after locals elsewhere protested. “Bosnia-Herzegovina must show it’s capable of managing migration. It must take responsibility, address the humanitarian situation,” Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told EU lawmakers. “As a country with a perspective of EU accession, we expect Bosnia-Herzegovina to work on sustainable, long-term solutions, to set up facilities evenly distributed across the full territory of the country,” Johansson said. She said she would visit the area in February. The problem is not new. Bosnia has been widely criticized in recent years for mishandling the arrival of thousands of people, many fleeing war and poverty. The politically unstable and impoverished Balkan country is still recovering from its own war in the 1990s. Divided into two feuding entities, Bosnia lacks a unified policy on migrants. The Serb-run part of the country has refused to accept any, and the overburdened northwestern region has complained it has been abandoned despite help from international organizations. Migrants come to Bosnia with the aim of reaching Croatia before moving on into Western Europe. Many have complained about being pushed back, which is illegal under international refugee law, and violence at the hands of Croatia’s police. Johansson said thanks to EU help, around 900 people at the site in Bosnia now have shelter in weather-proof tents, with access to heating and food supplies. “Thanks to our action, the situation has improved, but only from grave to serious. Stopping immediate risk to life is the beginning, not the end, of ensuring acceptable, dignified living conditions,” she said. The Lipa camp was only ever set up as a temporary measure to cope with the impact of the coronavirus over the summer. Bosnian central authorities wanted to move some migrants to a nearby facility at Bira, but local authorities blocked the move as protests erupted. “Winter has a long way to run and I must admit that it is frustrating to have to set up tents and temporary shelters when we have an empty, fully equipped and winterized facility just 30 kilometres (19 miles) down the road,” Johansson said. ___ Jovana Gec in Belgrade contributed to this report. Lorne Cook, The Associated Press
The Spanish soccer federation suspended Lionel Messi for two matches on Tuesday after he hit an opponent in an incident away from the ball in the Spanish Super Cup final. The Barcelona forward was facing a suspension of up to 12 matches for swinging his arm at an Athletic Bilbao player at the end of the team's 3-2 loss on Sunday. The federation’s competition committee did not deem the incident to be severe and applied a less severe penalty against the player. After passing the ball out to the left flank, Messi swung his right arm at the head of Athletic forward Asier Villalibre as they ran toward the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and after a video review, Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances for Barcelona. Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with “excessive force” while the ball was not near him. Messi will miss Barcelona's match against third-division club Cornellà in the Copa del Rey and against Elche in the Spanish league. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
THE LATEST: As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 465 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths. There are currently 4,331 active cases of the coronavirus in B.C. 329 people are in hospital, with 70 in the ICU. 92,369 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. There are no new health-care facility outbreaks. B.C. health officials confirmed 465 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and said 12 more people had died of the disease. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 329 people, 70 of whom are in intensive care. A total of 1,090 people in B.C. have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. B.C. recorded no new outbreaks in health-care facilities. The outbreak at The Emerald at Elim Village, a long-term care facility in Surrey, has been declared over. For the first time since a second round of restrictions was implemented in November, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry offered a glimmer of hope that B.C.'s COVID-19 case count could be tipping in the right direction. Henry said in a Monday afternoon news conference that outbreaks are slowing in B.C. and the province is at a "tipping point" she feels positive about. "Clearly the things we are doing in our community are working," Henry said Monday, while acknowledging that outbreaks continue in essential workplaces and long-term care homes. She said that if B.C.'s case count continues to trend downwards, there is a possibility some restrictions could be lifted by the Family Day weekend in mid-February. B.C.'s current health restrictions are in effect until at least Feb. 5 at midnight. The current orders include a ban on gatherings with people outside of one's immediate household. But Henry said that while B.C.'s numbers continue to decrease, the risk of transmission remains high in all areas of the province, and that outbreaks in Interior Health and Northern Health are of concern. B.C. 'prepared' for vaccine delays Henry said the province will soon finish vaccinating all residents of long-term care homes in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions, and is on track to complete vaccinations in all long-term care homes by end of next week depending on when doses arrive. She said visits to long-term care homes could possibly resume by late March, or once two incubation periods have passed since a long-term care home outbreak has ended. The federal government on Friday announced Pfizer is temporarily reducing shipments of its vaccine in order to expand manufacturing capacity at a facility in Belgium. The move means there will be fewer shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech coming to Canada until at least March. Henry said on Monday that the delay is a "setback" and will temporarily slow the province's delivery of the vaccine to at-risk people. But she said the province is working to ensure the highest number of people are immunized. Henry added that the province will be providing more first doses of the vaccine in March than originally planned, with second doses being pushed to later in March when supply increases. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 9 p.m. PT on Monday, Canada had reported 712,816 cases of COVID-19, and 18,120 total deaths. A total of 73,919 cases are considered active. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Tiny Township residents can expect a 1% blended tax rate increase for this year. The decision was forwarded to the next meeting after hours of deliberation at Monday's budget meeting. Where a majority easily agreed on the option, one council member expressed some concerns. A blended tax rate is achieved after incorporating the county and education tax rates. "I’m not comfortable with 1%," said Coun. Tony Mintoff, adding he also wasn't comfortable sacrificing important projects to find the $400,000 to keep the township's tax rate increase at zero per cent. "Based on that, I will reluctantly agree to a 1% blended rate increase." Council approved $70,000 in salary for a full-time human resource person. Staff pointed out that there may yet be savings in this line item once recommendations from the North Simcoe services operations review comes forward in March. Further, even if the township hires an independent HR staff member, the $70,000 annual salary will not be realized in full for this year. Then council found $30,000 in savings by directing staff to take out the extra ask for arena use from the Town of Penetanguishene. "It’s my understanding the recreation master plan had created the recommendation that fulsome discussion be held with all three municipalities that provide arena facilities to us," said Mintoff. "Given the fact that hasn’t happened yet, my recommendation would be to remove the $30,000 that was asked by Penetang, subject to the discussions to take place in 2021." Agreeing with staff, council decided to delay the purchase of a vehicle for the parks department, instead moving the $70,000 to reserve funds. At the end of the day, staff was sent back to find efficiencies in departments or seek out projects that could be delayed to make up for the $8,500 in funding gap that still remains if the tax rate is to be set at 1%. Other budget approvals include a 6% increase in funds to be moved to the municipal infrastructure reserves. As well, council approved a 1% cost of living increase for staff wages, despite Mintoff's suggestion to the contrary so the township could show solidarity with residents who had suffered through the pandemic. "This has been a very difficult year financially for a lot of our residents," he said. "The majority that live in the private sector world and those who live on retirement income. I’m pleased we were able to maintain full employment for our staff, so I think it would be inappropriate and insensitive of us to consider any kind of increase in wages. My recommendation would be to remove this salary increase from the budget." Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma disagreed with his peer. "I can 100% justify the cost," he said. "When you look at municipal employees as a whole, there’s very little you can do in terms of incentives. There are no bonuses and there’s no additional time off you can get. I know there’s been a CPP increase this year. If we’re going to take a look at our retirees being affected, we have to back it up with quantitative evidence as well. "If a statement needs to be made in terms of leadership, then I’d be in favour of council taking no increase," added Walma. "The savings can be donated to a local charity. Or the council could take the 1% increase and donate it back to the municipality into the bursary program." Other council members agreed with his suggestion. And so did Mintoff. "I have no issue with council taking zero per cent increase," he said. "Speaking about council’s initiative to raise our rate of pay for staff from 50th percentile to the 55th percentile, how much did that bumping up of salaries cost? "I believe it was several hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t want my comments to be misconstrued that we don’t value our staff, but I believe we pay them above a comparative group. I don’t want staff watching to think they don’t deserve fair recognition and compensation for what they do." Staff will now bring back a third and possibly final draft of the 2021 budget at a meeting next month. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
The organization that represents Manitoba's Métis community is partnering with a local private bioinformation services firm to open a COVID-19 testing site exclusively for Métis people in Winnipeg and the surrounding area. Meanwhile, St. Boniface-St. Vital MP Dan Vandal, who is minister for northern affairs, has written to Premier Brian Pallister, asking that the Manitoba Metis Federation be included in Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccination task force and in vaccine distribution. The Manitoba Metis Federation opened a testing site Monday with the help of Winnipeg-based Intrinsic Analytics, which will be collecting and processing the test samples, the MMF said in news release. "The COVID-19 pandemic has been a long journey, and with the number of vaccines being earmarked for the Manitoba Métis community still up in the air, we are unsure when the light is coming at the end of the tunnel," MMF president David Chartrand said in the news release. "By offering this alternative, our Métis citizens can now get their test results done faster and return to work and running errands to support their family quicker." In an interview Tuesday, Chartrand said that part of the motivation for opening up the site was that the federation has been unable to get information from the province on how many Métis people in Manitoba have tested positive for COVID-19. "We do know one thing for sure — they're not asking the question if they're Métis or not not. And so that that tells us the province knows there's … [no information] about our state of COVID," he said. "It doesn't know how many families have it. We know the families that do have it and we know some of them that have passed away. We don't know all of them." Site 'redundant': province All symptomatic people will be tested curbside in their vehicle at the MMF's testing site, while asymptomatic people will be tested indoors, the federation's news release says. It does not say where the testing site is. Test results will be processed within 24 hours of the swab, it says. People must book an appointment to get tested by calling 1-833-390-1041 toll-free, the release says. A provincial spokesperson said the MMF is welcome to offer the service, but called the site "redundant," given that the current wait period for results from provincial sites is about 22 hours. The province is concerned about how the testing data from the MMF site will be connected to the public system to allow for contact tracing, the spokesperson said. "It is important to follow up with positive cases so they are able to get the appropriate care and information on how to reduce the spread of the virus. This kind of followup is a key component of COVID-19 testing," the spokesperson said in an email. Chartrand said that Manitoba Metis Federation will definitely share information from its testing site about positive cases. MP pushes MMF vaccination role In a letter to the premier, Vandal said that MMF's "full and active participation" in vaccine distribution plans is needed to ensure the needs of Manitoba Métis people are adequately met. "While there have been no large outbreaks in any Métis villages in Manitoba to date, I am sure you know and can appreciate that Manitoba Métis are at higher risk of serious complications with COVID-19 and that an outbreak amongst vulnerable Métis citizens or elders would be devastating," Vandal wrote. Health Minister Heather Stefanson met with Frances Chartrand, the MMF's minister of health and wellness, on Tuesday. "I thought it was a good meeting," Chartrand said. "I hope that this meeting is the start of a conversation that will lead to an actual plan towards vaccinating our Métis citizens in Manitoba." Chartrand says the MMF wants to work with the province. "We're going to find out how we can work on ensuring that the vaccine rollout goes to the Méis citizens, whether you live in Churchill, Camperville or Winnipeg," she said. David Chartrand said that because there is a large Métis population in Manitoba, and many suffer from chronic illnesses, they deserve to be part of discussions about vaccine rollout. A provincial spokesperson said that from the start of the pandemic, the government has engaged regularly with Indigenous leadership as part of Manitoba's ongoing response to COVID-19. "As this work to protect Manitobans continues, so will our engagement with indigenous groups, including the MMF," they said. Eleven more COVID-19 deaths and 111 new cases announced in Manitoba on Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths in Manitoba to 783. As of Monday, there were 3,108 known active cases in Manitoba, and nearly half of those cases — 1,469 — are in the northern health region. Public health officials say, however, that the number of known active cases is inflated due to a backlog in data entry.
OTTAWA — Nearly half of Canadians who plan to make an early return to concerts, theatres and other mass cultural experiences say it’ll take a vaccination before they feel comfortable to do so, according to a new survey.A report commissioned by the charitable organization Business/Arts, which links the businesses and arts communities, and conducted by Nanos Research, found respondents highlighted the vaccine as an essential step in their return, more so than a previous survey last summer.Forty-six per cent of those polled in November said that while they plan to attend indoor events within five months of reopening, they would still want a vaccine first.That’s an increase from the 28 per cent of eventgoers who said so in a survey conducted by the organization last July.Respondents who answered on the prospects of returning to mass outdoor events felt similarly, with 44 per cent saying they’d want a vaccine first, versus 15 per cent in July.The survey, conducted in partnership with the National Arts Centre, highlighted that safety and exposure to COVID-19 remain the key obstacles for a return to normalcy in the arts community, while people not respecting health measures was also mentioned.About one in 10 respondents said they do not currently have any obstacles to attending an in-person cultural event.The survey polled 1,096 Canadian adults by phone and online between Nov. 26 and Nov. 29, 2020. According to the polling industry's generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press