WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden's pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget is quickly emerging as a political battle that could disrupt his efforts to swiftly fill out his administration.Some Republicans are expressing doubt that Neera Tanden could be confirmed by the Senate after she spent years attacking GOP lawmakers on social media — and many panned the choice.Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton claimed Tanden’s rhetoric was “Filled with hate & guided by the woke left.”Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Tanden's “combative and insulting comments" about Republican senators created “certainly a problematic path." He called her “maybe (Biden's) worst nominee so far" and “radioactive.”Potential Budget Committee Chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was less hostile, telling reporters, “Let's see what happens." Moderate Susan Collins, R-Maine, a target of Tanden's, said, “I do not know her or much about her, but I've heard she's a very prolific user of Twitter.”Such sentiment is notable considering the GOP's general reluctance to criticize President Donald Trump's broadsides on Twitter. But like all of Biden's nominees, Tanden has little margin for error as she faces confirmation in a closely divided Senate.That could be especially daunting for Tanden, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton and the president of the centre-left Center for American Progress, given her history of political combat.Biden's transition team released a litany of praise for Tanden from figures including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.Other Democrats also rushed to defend Tanden's nomination. Former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett said Tanden “grew up on welfare and lived in public housing. She experienced first hand the importance of our social programs. Her extraordinary career has been devoted to improving opportunities for working families. She is an excellent choice to lead OMB.”“Neera Tanden is smart, experienced, and qualified for the position of OMB Director,” added Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a member of the party’s progressive wing. “The American people decisively voted for change - Mitch McConnell shouldn’t block us from having a functioning government that gets to work for the people we serve.”On the Senate floor, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said it's impossible to take Republicans' criticism of Tanden seriously.“Honestly, the hypocrisy is astounding. If Republicans are concerned about criticism on Twitter, their complaints are better directed at President Trump,” Schumer said.At OMB, Tanden would be responsible for preparing Biden’s budget submission and would command several hundred budget analysts, economists and policy advisers with deep knowledge of the inner workings of the government.If Democrats should win runoff elections for Georgia’s two GOP-held Senate seats, Tanden’s job would become hugely important because the party would gain a slim majority in the chamber. That would allow them to pass special budget legislation that could roll back Trump’s tax cuts, boost the Affordable Care Act and pursue other spending goals. OMB would have a central role in such legislation.Top Democrats, Biden included, supported anti-deficit packages earlier in their careers, but the party has since changed. Biden was a force behind the establishment of the Obama deficit commission, which was created to win votes of Democratic moderates to pass an increase in the government’s borrowing cap and was chaired by former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.Tanden shares a commonly held view among Democratic lawmakers that Republicans usually profess concerns about deficits only when Democrats are in power, pointing to tax cut packages passed in the opening year of Trump’s administration and former President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut.___Taylor reported from Washington.Zeke Miller And Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
Chatham-Kent Police have charged the organizer of a weekend rally against COVID-19 restrictions that drew a crowd of more than 100 people. A 32-year-old Wallaceburg woman accused of organizing a “Freedom Group” rally in Chatham over the weekend was issued a Provincial Offences Act Summons for failing to comply with a continued section 7.0.2 order as per Ontario Regulation 364/20, of the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020, section 10.1(1). If she is convicted, the fine for the offence is at least $10,000 and up to $100,000. It could also include a sentence of up to one year in jail. According to police, the number of protesters exceeded the limit for an outdoor gathering, set at 25 people. Police said a person convicted of this offence is liable to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 and could be imprisoned for up to one year. A few days before the Chatham protest, Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn warned police would be taking a “zero-tolerance” approach to COVID-19 rule-breakers. According to Conn, Chatham-Kent citizens have had ample time to learn the health and safety measures they’re expected to follow; therefore, violations would no longer be tolerated. “During these difficult and challenging times, those jeopardizing public safety and contradicting the law will be held accountable to the courts,” said Conn. “The law is clear and requires responsible action.” “My understanding is that they did not respect the guidelines that were followed, and there are consequences for that,” said Don Shropshire, Chief Administrative Officer for Chatham-Kent. “It’s not like we’re out to try and get people. We’re trying to educate in advance and trying to get people to take reasonable precautions, so we don’t have activities that are going to encourage the spread of COVID.” Mayor Darrin Canniff said he isn’t just concerned with anti-mask protests. He said he is also concerned with any situation, such as upcoming Christmas gatherings, that could “escalate the spread of COVID.” Despite rules clearly laid out and charges having been laid, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health still can’t predict what people will do. “But there seems to be a polarized view that some people are adopting that (they’re) denying the very existence of this pandemic,” said Dr. David Colby. “I don’t really understand that way of thinking.” Charges have been laid against organizers of similar rallies that have been taking place across the province recently, including one that drew about 200 people to Victoria Park in London on the weekend. The accused is set to appear in court on Jan. 6, 2021, to answer to the charge.Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
Racism and stereotyping against Indigenous patients is widespread in B.C.’s healthcare system according to an independent investigation — which saw 86 per cent of Indigenous respondents reporting they have experienced some form of discrimination in the system. The “In Plain Sight” report, released Nov. 30, found a lack of cultural safety and hundreds of examples of prejudice and racism towards Indigenous people throughout the province’s health care system. The independent investigation was spurred on by reports of a “Price is Right” game being played in B.C. emergency rooms during which staff would guess the blood-alcohol level of patients, however, the investigation found only anecdotal evidence of such activities. “Our detailed examination of those allegations found no evidence of an organized game as originally depicted. Namely with prizes and … occurring throughout emergency rooms across British Columbia. What I did find was anecdotal and episodic evidence of multiple activities that resemble those allegations,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, lead investigator, while reporting the results of the investigation Monday. “Not as a game with that name. Not as widespread as alleged, and in places not just targeting Indigenous people and Indigenous patients.” However, Turpel-Lafond said, the review found a “much more widespread insidious problem.” “Meaning, if there had simply been a game played away from patients, as difficult as that would have been to make that finding, what I found, in fact, was at the point of care there is direct prejudice and racism touching all points of care and impacting Indigenous people in B.C.,” Turpel-Lafond said. “Now, that doesn’t mean every Indigenous person, every First Nations, Metis or Inuit person in B.C. who seeks care at the point of care will experience direct personal racism today, it just means that any Indigenous person could face it because it is that pervasive and entrenched in the system.” “We should all find that conclusion deeply troubling.” The review included input from 9,000 indigenous patients, family members, third-party witnesses, healthcare workers and responses from two online surveys. The report also received direct submissions from 600 people and included 150 interviews with staff and people working within the health-care system. “Examining all of this evidence we found pervasive, interpersonal systemic racism that adversely effects not just patient and family experiences but also long-term health outcomes for Indigenous people in B.C.,” Turpel-Lafond said. According to the report, 52 per cent of Indigenous health care workers that responded experienced some form of racial prejudice. More than one-third of the thousands of non-Indigenous health care workers surveyed in the investigation reported witnessing interpersonal racism or discrimination against patients, family and friends. “Indigenous people consistently told us, and this is confirmed by the health care workers who responded and the cases, that they are subject to negative assumptions. Negative assumptions based on prejudice, based on racism, based on beliefs that should not exist in our healthcare system,” Turpel-Lafond said. “Among the top negative assumptions that are circulating in our healthcare system today is the idea that Indigenous patients and people are less worthy, that they’re alcoholics, that they’re drug-seeking, that they’re bad parents, frequent fliers, non-complaint and incapable of adhering to treatment or medical advice.” The review also examined health-care data of approximately 185,000 First Nations and Métis patients, showing that racism limits access to medical treatment and can negatively affect the health and wellness of Indigenous people. Indigenous women are disproportionately impacted by racism in health care and that racism contributes to Indigenous people being disproportionately affected by the current public health emergencies of COVID-19 and the overdose crisis as well, the report found. A separate data report, which will offer a more in-depth look into the health system’s treatment of Indigenous people, will be released next month. The report makes 24 recommendations to address what it calls a systemic problem, including establishing three new government positions to take the lead on the issue including a B.C. Indigenous health officer, an Indigenous health representative and advocate and an associate deputy minister of Indigenous health. The review recommends that the B.C. government lead apologies for Indigenous-specific racism in the health care system, and direct and implement a comprehensive system-wide approach to addressing the problem. This includes changes in laws, policies and practices to align with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as required by B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Among other recommendations, the report calls for government to work with Indigenous organizations to improve the system’s patient complaint processes to address Indigenous-specific racism and for the development of a new approach to cultural safety and humility training for B.C. health-care workers. The report also calls for a new school of Indigenous medicine at the University of British Columbia. The investigation has shed light on the fact that racism runs so rampant in society it has become the “unspoken norm,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “We need to use this report as a stepping-stone to change. We need to implement the recommendations and, importantly, we need to raise our voices loud and clear to call out those complicit in allowing racism to endanger and, in some cases, irreparably harm Indigenous lives. You have to go to the hospital sometimes — and it has to be safe for all British Columbians including First Nations,” Phillip said. Find the full report, In Plain Sight, here: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/613/2020/11/In-Plain-Sight-Full-Report.pdf A summary version of the report is here:https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/613/2020/11/In-Plain-Sight-Summary-Report.pdfDale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
Niagara Catholic District School Board is reporting another case of COVID-19 at St. Martin Catholic Elementary School, bringing the school case count to 10. An outbreak was declared at the Smithville school on Nov. 19. Public health confirmed to Niagara Catholic that the new COVID-19 case was connected to the outbreak. The provincial database that reports on school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario on Monday identified four of the 10 cases as being infected staff and four as students. The remaining two cases were not immediately unknown as the provincial database lags behind school boards in its case reporting. Over the weekend, District School Board of Niagara announced an individual at Martha Cullimore Public School in Niagara Falls and an individual at Port Colborne High School tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, three classrooms will be closed: two at Port High and one at Martha Cullimore. “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual are being contacted and told by NRPH (Niagara Region Public Health) to stay home and self-isolate,” DSBN said a media release. The board website Monday listed six active cases at four of its schools. There are three active cases in Niagara Falls, two at Prince Philip and one at Martha Cullimore; two active cases in St Catharines, all at Eden High School; and the one in Port Colborne. The provincial database had yet to identify if the cases are staff or student. Custodians at both schools will complete a thorough cleaning as required. A public health inspector and a public health nurse will visit the schools to complete a comprehensive assessment. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Students in grades 7-12 have now moved to online classes until at least Jan. 11, and diploma exams will now be optional for the rest of the school year. Nailah Fuko, a Grade 10 student at Edmonton's W.P. Wagner School, said she found out she'd be back to learned online while scrolling through Instagram. "I came upon this post that was talking about the government saying that we were moving online," Fuko said in an interview on Edmonton AM. "And I was like, 'Oh, this is new.'" Rebecca Boroditsky, a Grade 10 student at Ross Sheppard, said she's not worried about the academic implications of going virtual. Hear the students talk about their next month online: "For the socializing portion, I'm kind of sad," she said. "I've made friends and I won't really get to talk to them anymore until January." Boroditsky said she had been enjoying the quarter system schools brought in instead of the usual two semesters. In quarters, the classes are longer and Boroditsky said she had been liking her ceramics class she's taking. "We have more time to really get into it and do lots of project things, whereas with the shorter classes ... there's less time because you have to designate time to clean up and get set up, and that eats into a good portion of the class if it's shorter," she said. Fuko said she prefers a semester setup. "I think they sped up a lot of the material and it wasn't as easy to learn," she said. One practical difference is that online learning will make it easier to physically distance. Boroditsky said that was much easier in classrooms than in hallways or at lunch. Fuko said her friends are being careful and do care about safety and what's going on with COVID-19. "I definitely think students particularly are very worried and trying to do their best with what the rules are and how to follow the rules," Fuko said.
OTTAWA — Advocates of stricter gun control are urging the Trudeau government to get on with promised reforms, saying they are months overdue. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has pledged new measures, including a buyback of recently outlawed firearms, tougher storage provisions and steps to control handguns. Heidi Rathjen, coordinator of the group PolySeSouvient, told an online news conference Monday that several months later there are no signs of progress on legislation. "We urge minister Blair to return to the gun file with force and to aim to meet his commitments without delay." The plea came days before the Dec. 6 anniversary of the shootings of 14 women at Montreal's École Polytechnique, which Rathjen witnessed as a student. The federal government outlawed a wide range of firearms by cabinet order in May, including the one used at Polytechnique, saying the guns were designed for the battlefield, not hunting or sport shooting. The ban covers some 1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style weapons, meaning they can no longer be legally used, sold or imported. The measure has met with stiff criticism from some firearms owners and the federal Conservatives, who question the value of the ban. Blair has promised to follow the move with legislative changes to further tighten restrictions on firearms. “There is more to do, and we’re committed to doing it," Blair's spokeswoman, Mary-Liz Power, said Monday. "We will introduce legislation designed to deliver on the promises that we made to Canadians in the last election." PolySeSouvient wants to see the new prohibitions on assault-style guns, brought in through regulation, embedded into law to complete the ban and render it permanent — something the Liberal government has signalled it will do. It also wants the Liberals to legislate a system of pre-authorization for guns to ensure only new models inspected and authorized by the RCMP can enter the Canadian market. Blair has said the coming legislation will create a new evergreen framework for classification of firearms to ensure federal intentions can’t be easily overridden. But also on Monday, Blair announced a three-year delay in setting regulations for "marking" guns so they can be traced to registered owners if they're seized in connection with crimes. Those rules were due to kick in Tuesday after years of previous delays. His department said that without clear record-keeping requirements for some guns, it isn't sure how to to connect markings to owners. But it said it's committed to a marking system nonetheless, if not right away. "The government will not reintroduce the long-gun registry," the announcement concluded. Eyeing the next wave of federal legislation, PolySeSouvient also wants the government to: — Limit firearm magazines to five bullets to reduce the damage a mass shooter can do; — Give police officers easier access to commercial sales record data to help detect bulk gun purchases; — Invest significant efforts and resources in strengthening the screening and monitoring of gun-licence applicants and licensed owners; — End the importation and manufacture of handguns. The Trudeau government plans to empower provinces and cities to take steps to manage the storage and use of handguns within their individual jurisdictions, given that they have different needs and concerns. PolySeSouvient has counselled the government to avoid off-loading handgun restrictions onto municipalities, saying local bans are generally ineffective, as the patchwork of local and state laws in the United States shows. According to the RCMP the number of restricted firearms — predominantly handguns — registered to individuals or businesses rose to 1,057,418 last year from 983,792 in 2018. Claire Smith and Ken Price, whose daughter survived a Toronto shooting in July 2018, pressed Monday for a ban on the private ownership of handguns. "It's been over two years since our daughter was shot," Price said during the news conference. "And from our perspective, there has been zero legislative progress on handguns and the situation keeps getting worse." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — An environmental law group has lost its bid to pause Alberta's inquiry into where critics of its oil and gas industry get their funding. Ecojustice sought an injunction in the summer to suspend the inquiry until there is a ruling on whether it is legal. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Karen Horner dismissed the application with costs on Friday. “The court’s decision, while disappointing, won’t stop Ecojustice from continuing to challenge the Kenney government’s inquiry into ‘anti-Alberta’ activities and expose it for the sham that it is," executive director Devon Page said in a statement Monday. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative government contend foreign interests have long been bankrolling campaigns against fossil fuel development. In 2019, forensic accountant Steve Allan was tapped to lead the $2.5-million inquiry. Allan's report was initially due in July, but after two extensions and a $1-million budget increase, it is now expected by Jan. 31. Energy Minister Sonya Savage must publish the final report within 90 days of receiving it. “The Government of Alberta is pleased to see the courts strike down a nuisance injunction application by Ecojustice designed to slow down the Public Inquiry into Foreign Funded Campaigns," Alberta Energy spokesman Kavi Bal said in a statement. Ecojustice filed a lawsuit last November alleging the inquiry is politically motivated, biased and outside provincial jurisdiction. "Its purpose really was to shut up opponents to Alberta oil and gas and it was something that was driven directly by the premier," Page said in an interview Monday. Ecojustice wanted Allan's work paused because if his findings were to be released before a court ruled on the lawsuit, environmental groups could suffer reputational harm in the meantime. Horner said in her decision that Ecojustice had to prove there is a serious issue to be tried, it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction isn't granted and it would suffer greater harm than its opponent if the injunction is refused. The judge ruled Ecojustice satisfied the first test but failed the other two. "Mr. Page suggests that a risk of harm exists in the 'possibility' of being called to respond to the inquiry that may have no legal foundation. However, I am not convinced that a mere 'possibility' amounts to evidence of irreparable harm that is both clear and not speculative," Horner wrote. "The allegations of improper purpose, bias, and lack of jurisdiction are issues to be examined and resolved in the upcoming judicial review."The lawsuit was scheduled to be heard in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic put in on hold. Page said December or early-February hearing dates are now being discussed. Page, who has criticized the inquiry for its lack of transparency, said he's recently heard from groups who have received letters from Allan requesting clarification on publicly available tax information. "It just makes us more confused about what's going on."One Nov. 6 letter to a group, whose name had been removed because Page did not have their permission to publicize it, requested written or oral responses by Dec. 4. "Basically it looks like (Allan is) on a fishing expedition to get the information that he's had 18 months to accumulate," said Page."So what's he been doing?"This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 30, 2020.Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
Calgary will start being more aggressive in ensuring compliance with health orders meant to fight the ongoing pandemic. Tom Sampson, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said rules have been in place long enough to move from education to enforcement. "It's been eight months since we've been educating Albertans on the benefits of face coverings and social distancing," he said. "Given the alarming rise in these numbers, we need to start a more stringent enforcement program."Sampson said there is clarity on what's expected and clarity on the fines that can be levied. On Sunday, Alberta reported 1,608 new cases of COVID-19, and the count of active cases in Calgary sat at 5,752.Ryan Pleckaitis, the head of Calgary bylaw, said only about one-quarter of his peace officers are currently able to issue tickets, but they are working with the province to expand those numbers. Supt. Ryan Ayliffe says officers will be ticketing those who "flagrantly" violate health orders."We're now at a critical point of society with COVID-19 cases soaring," he said. "The time for education has passed."He said it might not be safe to issue tickets on the spot."For example, during a protest or event where emotions are high, in many instances tickets are issued in the hours or days after the infraction, based on evidence obtained at the time of the event," he said.The news conference follows questions over the handling of recent violations against provincial restrictions limiting crowds — including protests against health measures and Black Friday crowds at Chinook Centre. Ayliffe said "a handful" of tickets have been issued today for the weekend protests, but exact numbers were not available. Those tickets include protest leaders. "We know everyone is struggling right now, and our intent is not to punish but to protect the safety of Calgarians as we work together to this," said Ayliffe.New rules brought in by the province allow the Calgary Police Service to levy $1,000 fines against violators, but police said on the weekend they are focused on education over enforcement at this time.
HALIFAX — After a weekend that saw 24 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, health officials reported 16 more on Monday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 138.Fifteen of the latest cases were reported in the central zone, which includes Halifax.The other case is connected to the Northeast Kings Education Centre high school in Canning, N.S. The school will remain closed for the week, and students will be learning remotely. Public health is investigating to determine whether the new case is connected to one previously reported in the school.In a news release Monday, Premier Stephen McNeil said there has been strong public interest in the province's pop-up rapid testing for people without COVID-19 symptoms. "These are important pieces of our collective effort to contain the virus," McNeil said.Health officials said 628 tests were administered at the pop-up site in Dartmouth on Sunday, yielding six positive results. The individuals involved were directed to self-isolate and have been referred for a standard test.Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia Health Authority issued a public exposure notice concerning a bar and restaurant in downtown Halifax. People are asked to book a COVID-19 test if they were at the Highwayman on Barrington Street on Nov. 19 between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.Anyone who visited the Bluenose II Restaurant on Hollis Street on Nov. 23, Nov. 24, or Nov. 25 between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. is asked to do the same. New Brunswick reported six new cases on Monday after 20 cases were confirmed on the weekend. Five of the province's six new cases are in the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions, which remain under heightened public health restrictions including restricted travel and mandatory masks in public.Health officials say the remaining case is in the Bathurst area. Newfoundland and Labrador is ramping up its traveller scrutiny as health officials announced one new case of COVID-19 Monday.The province pulled out of the so-called Atlantic bubble last week, closing travel to all non-residents except those arriving for purposes deemed essential. Starting Tuesday, all essential travellers will have to submit a form and obtain a reference number to show border officials when they arrive, according to a news release Monday.Newfoundland and Labrador has 36 active cases of COVID-19, with 338 cases confirmed across the province since the onset of the pandemic.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.— Written by Sarah Smellie in St. John's, N.L.The Canadian Press
Despite a "significant outbreak" of COVID-19 at the Calgary Remand Centre, there are reports of inmates being triple-bunked, according to defence lawyers sounding the alarm on conditions at the northwest facility. During her afternoon update, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw identified 41 cases at CRC, up from just three last Tuesday.According to a report prepared last week, the CRC has capacity for 34 infected inmates.The CRC is now on total lockdown. Inmates who are mid-trial — including one murder trial — are not allowed to leave the CRC for court and even CCTV appearances have been cancelled. CRC is a secure holding facility for those awaiting trial or a bail hearing. Many, if not all, of the inmates there have not been convicted of the charges they are facing. "It's grossly negligent," said Tom Engel, an Edmonton defence lawyer and president of the Canadian Prison Law Association."It's disturbing to hear about a client triple-bunking and someone tests positive, and they just leave them in that situation. I don't know how they could think this is appropriate."Engel called it a "significant outbreak" taking place in several units. Hinshaw said AHS is working to ensure strict protocols are maintained with aggressive testing underway.Masks are just now being provided to inmates. Previously, only those leaving the facility would have access to a mask.Defence lawyer Chad Haggerty says he has a client who is triple-bunked with new protocols only allowing inmates allowed to leave their cells for 1.5 to 2 hours a day.Alberta Health Services has previously stated provincial facilities are complying with COVID-19 safety protocols but some inmates say that's not the case. "I keep hearing from prisoners that what the government and AHS are saying about compliance with COVID protocols in Alberta jails is just completely false."New transfers to the Calgary Remand Centre spend 14 days on a quarantine unit. If they develop symptoms, they're moved to an isolation unit.The director of the Calgary Remand Centre was scheduled to meet with the Health Ministry Monday afternoon.
OTTAWA — Key elements from the federal government's fiscal update, delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland Monday afternoon:A boatload of borrowing. The federal deficit is sailing toward $381.6 billion this year, but could close in on $400 billion if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks, according to the fall economic statement. A big reason for that eye-popping sum is the total cost of Ottawa's response to COVID-19, which amounts to $490.7 billion. That also means more than $8 out of every $10 in federal and provincial support comes from the capital, down from $9 out of every $10 from the July fiscal snapshot.The "Netflix tax." For the first time, Netflix and other foreign streaming giants such as Amazon and Apple TV+ will be subject to sales tax in Canada, according to the fiscal update. The government says GST/HST will apply to all companies that provide digital services — which means Netflix and Airbnb would charge sales tax on subscriptions and reservations north of the border. While the European Union moved to tax digital platforms two years ago, Freeland said Canada is prepared to act "unilaterally if necessary."Work-from-home tax break. Employees working from home with "modest expenses" in 2020 can claim up to $400, based on time spent at the dining-room desk. Canadians can make the claim "without the need to track detailed expenses," and the tax man "will generally not request" confirmation from employers, the economic statement says.Increasing fiscal-stabilization payments. Responding to a call from provinces whose finances have taken a beating, the Liberals say they will increase the maximum payment under a program designed to help provincial governments deal with temporary economic shocks. The cap will go from $60 per resident, set in 1987, to $170 per person and increase with economic growth.Support the troops. The government is also proposing to sign off on an additional $600,000 to top up the Veterans Emergency Fund that would ensure more financial support for veterans whose well-being is at risk "due to an urgent and unexpected situation."All the wage. For businesses, the government wants to bring the wage subsidy back to 75 per cent of company payroll costs and extend the business rent subsidy to mid-March. The Trudeau government had previously extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to the summer, while the adapted business-rent subsidy — revised from a less popular iteration that hinged on landlord participation — was slated only to continue through the end of the year.Clean water for Indigenous communities. The government is pledging to invest $1.5 billion in 2020-21 to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, and $114 million each year after. The Liberals have maintained a years-long pledge to lift all outstanding boil-water advisories for Indigenous residents by March 2021. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that about 95 advisories had been lifted since the party came to power in 2015, but more than 60 remained the last time figures were updated before the pandemic.A $100-billion stimulus. The government plans to spend between $70 billion and $100 billion over the next three years to stimulate the economic recovery from COVID-19. The boon amounts to between three and four per cent of GDP, and will tilt toward a "greener, more innovative" bounce-back, though the details are to be determined.Get retrofit. Ottawa is aiming to dole out $2.6 billion over seven years to help homeowners make their digs more efficient, starting in 2020-21. The cash, channelled through Natural Resources Canada, would take the form of up to 700,000 grants of $5,000 or less to help with projects that could range from energy-efficient heating to solar-panel installations. The upcoming plan, with eligibility retroactive to December 2020, fulfils a Liberal election promise from last year.Cash for families. Looking to boost temporary support for parents, the Liberals plan to provide up to $1,200 per child under six years old for low- and middle-income families that are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, starting next year. The bump marks an increase of nearly 20 per cent above the benefit's current maximum payment.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.The Canadian Press
Following a lengthy discussion at Chatham-Kent council last week, only one area rated tax charge will be eliminated in the municipality. Chatham-Kent staff recommended that all three charges be eliminated to allow for a more streamlined and simplified approach towards property tax calculations. This would have resulted in all property owners in Chatham-Kent paying equally for the three services through the base levy, regardless of how frequently the service is used in their community. According to Chatham-Kent police Chief Gary Conn, services are offered everywhere in the municipality, whether a community requires the major crime unit, critical incident response team or the drone unit. He clarified that the police service level is the same in rural areas as it is in urban areas. “It’s the same level of service,” said Conn. “It’s not dependent upon area rating. The level of service is dependent upon a totality of variables that are taken into consideration, primarily the nature of the call and the urgency. The level of service does not change whether you reside within a rural area or an urban area.” He added a police cruiser is basically an “office on wheels” that allows officers to do their work while being ready to deploy for a call in short order. However, some councillors noted they see cruisers more often in urban areas than Chatham-Kent’s rural communities. Councillors said the level of proactive policing service wasn’t the same for rural areas. Eliminating area rating for policing would have resulted in a $102.65 annual increase per $100,000 assessment for taxpayers in 16 rural areas. A flat rate would have provided $75.84 in annual savings per $100,000 assessment for taxpayers in the urban areas of Chatham, Wallaceburg, Dresden, Ridgetown, Blenheim and Tilbury. Councillor Amy Finn argued that in an urban setting, your chances of seeing a police car is 20 times greater than seeing one out in the rural areas … “Yes, if someone calls 9-1-1, you quickly send an officer as fast as you can there,” said Finn. “If there’s a suspicious vehicle (in Bothwell or Tilbury), the response time for that call is a lot different than if you see a suspicious vehicle in Chatham.” Council spent nearly an hour and a half debating the topic. In an effort to make it easier on taxpayers, Councillor Melissa Harrigan put forward an amendment that if the recommendations pass, they be phased in over three years. Councillor Harrigan said residents have told her they would like to see additional police visibility, as well as more proactive policing in these areas. “In talking to rural residents about this, a common comment that I receive back is, ‘If we’re going to pay more for police services, you have to promise that we’re going to get more’,” said Harrigan. She said council might be approaching the issue in the wrong way. “Why aren’t we looking at adding services and raising rural rates?” questions Harrigan. “Instead of just kind of finding that equilibrium between geographically rural and geographically urban.” Ultimately, council voted in favour of keeping the area rating charge in place for policing (11-7) and streetlights (10-8) and voted in favour of eliminating it for horticulture (10-8). This means the property tax burden for the municipality’s horticultural services will be evenly spread among taxpayers across Chatham-Kent. At the same time, the costs for policing and streetlights will still be determined by where a specific property is located. The votes for and against were as follows: \- Elimination of area rating for police services, resulting in the inclusion within the base levy. Voting yes were Bondy, Crew, Faas, Hall, Kirkwood-Whyte, B. McGregor and Sulman. Voting no were Authier, Ceccacci, Finn, Harrigan, Latimer, McGrail, C.McGregor, Pinsonneault, Thompson, Wright and Mayor Canniff. Motion defeated 11-7. \- Elimination of area rating for streetlights, resulting in the inclusion within the base levy. Voting yes were Bondy, Crew, Faas, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, B. McGregor and Sulman. Voting no were Authier, Ceccacci, Finn, Latimer, McGrail, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Thompson, Wright and Mayor Canniff. Motion defeated 10-8. \- Elimination of area rating for horticulture, resulting in the inclusion within the base levy. Voting yes were Bondy, Crew, Faas, Hall, Harrigan, Kirkwood-Whyte, McGrail, B. McGregor, Sulman and Mayor Canniff. Voting no were Authier, Ceccacci, Finn, Latimer, C. McGregor, Pinsonneault, Thompson and Wright. Motion carried 10-8.Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
Strathmore has moved to make its fire department more diverse and inclusive by hiring a deputy fire chief to a new recruitment position. Laurie VandeSchoot, the town’s new assistant chief of diversity, inclusion and recruiting, was introduced during the regular Strathmore town council meeting on Nov. 18. VandeSchoot is a municipal government, change management and strategic planning specialist with a 28-year career with the City of Calgary who also consults internationally and locally and instructs at Bow Valley College in Calgary. “Laurie is known for building inclusive and high-performance cultures that strengthens communities,” said Judy Unsworth, Strathmore Fire Department deputy chief, during the meeting. VandeSchoot has experience in diversity services, equity solutions, mental health, public participation, strategic planning and sustainable development, said Unsworth. Furthermore, VandeSchoot leads the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) diversity leadership program, chairs the International Fire Chiefs human relations committee, and is the national co-chair of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) national subcommittee on diversity inclusion, among other leadership roles. “Under the direction of chief (Trent) West, I am super excited about what we can do here in Strathmore,” said VandeSchoot. “I’m passionate, as you can tell, about diversity and inclusion – it’s kind of my lifeblood. When we talk about diversity, inclusion and recruitment, diversity and inclusion is our purpose, recruitment is where we start from.” Diversity is about more than numbers, she added. “It’s not just about how many people you have that are different, it’s about that sense of belonging, it’s about that sense of inclusion and how we can create a culture of openness, belonging and wellness.” The hiring of VandeSchoot highlights the importance of welcoming all people to Strathmore’s community and environment, said Strathmore town Councillor Denise Peterson. “It shows that we’re not just saying these things, that we’re actually taking action to embrace inclusion and to break down those barriers that we’ve seen.” Peterson added the position will help develop partnerships with Siksika Nation.Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
But three local ladies have taken advantage of the negative and turned it into a positive. An opportunity for retail space presented itself, and within a matter of three weeks, the entrepreneurs decided to embark on a new journey together and go into business. Fox Creek Creative is not a get rich quick business for the trio, but it enables them and others with creative minds to make extra money. Fox Creek Creative, which opened its doors November 23, is owned, and operated by Kelly Waye, Maegan Caron, and Stephanie Clair. The new store is similar to the annual Christmas Chaos event and the Sunday Afternoon Market, but the best part is, it is open year-round. Residents who have a knack for making crafts can now rent shelf or floor space at the store to sell their homemade creations. About 20 locals currently have vendor space at the store and sell handmade soaps and bombs, salts, jewelry, ornaments, crochet and knitted items, wooden signs, and much more. Before the pandemic, Waye was dreaming of opening a business for many years and started organizing the Sunday Afternoon Markets last winter at the Multiplex. After Christmas 2019, the plan was to restart the market up again for the Spring. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and the Multiplex's mandatory shutdown, Waye could no longer hold her weekly markets. The vacant store space located between the Fox Creek Registries and the Petroleum Field Lab recently became available. "I was thrilled with the concept as we could now go from our weekly market to having an actual store where we could provide a storefront to the many home-based businesses in town," stated Waye. One of our future goals is to continue expanding to allow for more products on the shelves. "Whether it is a business product or promoting services such as sewing, baking, cooking, or wood-working. We want people to know our community has a lot to offer, which helps our local economy. Another idea is to rent out the side room by the day for anyone wanting to hold craft workshops, photoshoots, or even a paint night is just a few examples of room utilization," added Waye. One of the great things about living in a small town is everyone knows everyone. So, when the opportunity came knocking as it did for Waye, she knew who to approach to partner up with for the business venture. Co-owner Stephanie Clair also had a home-based business and was in the process of starting an online Etsy business. For her, it did not take long to switch gears from going online to having a walk-in business. "Kelly called asking me to go look at retail space with her. I thought it was an awesome idea and jumped right in". Maegan Caron is the other co-owner making the trio and business complete. Vicki Winger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press
LAS VEGAS — The coronavirus pandemic’s widespread impact has reminded Las Vegas officials that they need to diversify their economy beyond tourism.There hasn't been a lack of trying but the need has been laid even more bare thanks to COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.With people afraid to enter hotels and casinos and residency shows postponed till next year, there have been wrenching job and revenue losses. Resort operators themselves have tried to broaden their offerings to all ages on casino and hotel floors. But it's not enough for some.“We've got all our money in one stock,” North Las Vegas City Manager Ryann Juden said.The region has successfully wooed many businesses and real estate developers in the last decade with tax breaks and a relatively cheap cost of living. Between 2010 and 2019, Nevada officials passed a combined $728.7 million in tax breaks for more than 180 companies setting up shop in Clark County. Southern Nevada has also become a distribution hub for online retailer Amazon, baby products maker The Honest Co. and other ventures that don't involve casinos.But there have also been ventures that fizzled. Faraday Future had proposed a 3.4 million-square-foot factory that would build up to 150,000 electric vehicles annually. Lawmakers even passed a $335 million incentive package. Faraday officials broke ground in 2016. But in 2017, the project went nowhere after reports of financial troubles. The company took over an existing facility in California instead.Some analysts say Southern Nevada still doesn't have the assets that some are looking for. Sin City's party image, underperforming schools and a shortage of doctors don't appeal to families.Bob Potts, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said a good jolt in the local economy would be some sort of industrial park south of Las Vegas near the California border.But, “you don’t build those kinds of things overnight," Potts said.The Associated Press
An independent investigation has found clear evidence of widespread racism and discrimination against Indigenous patients and staff in the B.C. health-care system.
The provincial government confirmed to the East Central Alberta (ECA) Review this week that the Minister of Municipal Affairs will make a decision on how the Village fo Morrin will be governed after two of the three elected councillors recently quit. A few weeks ago both Mayor Howard Helton and Melissa Wilton tendered their resignations; Wilton in fact resigned a few times before coming to a final decision. At the organizational meeting in October, remaining Coun. M’Liss Edwards was elected mayor. Since there’s no quorum for the village council, it was unclear to the community and media how or if regular council meetings would proceed. The ECA Review newspaper contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs Nov. 23 to find out how and if regular council meetings would proceed and how taxpayers could get information about their village government. Justin Marshall, press secretary for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, responded via email by Nov. 30. “Right now, two of the three Village of Morrin councillors have resigned leaving council with no quorum and therefore, the village is unable to conduct business or hold regular council meetings,” stated Marshall in the email. “A decision will be made in the coming weeks and Minister (Tracy) Allard is quickly reviewing the situation as local government is important to our democracy. “When the number of councillors is less than a quorum due to resignations, the Minister of Municipal Affairs may appoint an official administrator who has the powers of the council or ordering that the remaining councillors constitute a quorum. “The MGA clearly states that the meetings have to be public, press has to be allowed in the council chambers and they must to be able to record. The only time this is different is when council goes into camera.” Morrin council had a regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 18, but no information was posted on how or if the meeting would be held. The ECA Review sent a text message to Village of Morrin Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner Nov. 18 which went unanswered, this was followed by an email to Mayor Edwards the same day. Edwards responded at about 7:30 p.m. that night, half an hour after the meeting was supposed to have started. "There was no council meeting as we don’t have a designated councillor from Municipal Affairs,” stated Edwards in an email. "Maybe follow the Morrin Discussion Facebook page. Information gets posted there usually.” Several ECA Review staff members follow the social media page in question, and no information could be found about Morrin council meetings. However, it should be noted that Nov. 19 Edwards posted an explanation why the 2019 Financial Statements apparently still remain under review. During the discussion dated Nov. 19 Edwards stated, “To clarify some issues. The auditor is not only preparing the regular audit but has also been tasked with making sure all the tracking of expenses is up to date. “The old computer crashed and could no longer be upgraded. A new computer was purchased at an excellent price from a local source. "Now the auditor has made sure that the proper programs are in place and that the CAO is up to date on the software. “When we have a councillor in place appointed by Municipal Affairs we can then publish the finances of the Village and minutes, etc.” The next regular council is scheduled for Dec. 18.Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
Local businesses are frustrated and exhausted as they weather the storm in Toronto’s second lockdown since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. The province announced Nov. 20 that Toronto and Peel were going into its Lockdown/Grey level of its pandemic response framework as of Nov. 23. The regions had seen continuous spikes of cases of COVID-19 since the end of summer, and hospitalizations and ICU admittance had drastically increased. But as the lockdown aims to reduce the spread of the virus, business owners in East Toronto are asking why big box stores are still permitted to remain open. “It’s just another hammer on the head,” Skaut Design owner Inese Korbs said. Her store on Kingston Road sells home decor, furniture, and other design products. Korbs doesn’t have the staff to move her inventory online for customers as a lot of her products are vintage pieces. “It’s another full-time job,” she said. Instead Korbs relies on “virtual visits” where people can phone in via video conference and she’ll walk them through the store. She said before the lockdown, while there were fewer visitors than normal years, individuals were buying more per visit. That came to a grinding halt last week. “The most difficult part is knowing that big box stores are allowed to operate,” Korbs said. “It’s kind of like they have different rules.” Walmart and Costco are some of the bigger chains permitted to open, while Amazon still remains ever popular for online shopping. It’s difficult to compete with bigger chains as it is, let alone if you can’t even stay open, Korbs said. Lita Yiu owns and operates the clothing store Set Me Free on Queen Street East. She expressed the same frustration that Korbs did about big box stores staying open. “If you really want to control the spread, shut down big box stores,” Yiu said. “I’m happy to have one or two customers allowed in the store at a time, we don’t have the same clout as big businesses, we can’t absorb the shock.” Yiu said she and her staff are uploading their inventory on e-commerce platforms online, but between all the clothing, accessories, and gifts, it’s a lot of work. “It’s tedious, it’s time consuming, and you don’t make much money. It’s not the same as walk-in.” However, Yiu and Korbs have been overjoyed by the local community’s support of their businesses. Before the lockdown, both business owners were receiving many local customers who were eager to support their neighbourhood businesses. “People came in, they expressed condolences, supported our store,” Korbs said of the weekend before the lockdown began. “The people in this neighbourhood are very supportive, and they’re going out of their way to help us.” It’s been the case throughout the pandemic, Yiu said. From the beginning to now, local customers have supported her. “They’re amazing,” she said. “They always try to shop local, especially after the first lockdown.” Like many small businesses across Canada, Yiu and Korbs have taken advantage of the federal government COVID-19 supports for businesses. It’s helped them with expenses such as rent and wages, but nothing will recover the loss of revenue in December and the anticipated holiday shopping seasons that so many retail businesses rely on. “The vast majority of small businesses adhere to the restrictions equally if not better than large chains,” Beach Village BIA executive director Anna Sebert said. “Most of the businesses on Queen Street can make a go of it with one or two people in the store at a time.” “Just because there are some bad apples, doesn’t mean all businesses should suffer,” she added. Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford agrees the “rules around some of the closures haven’t always made sense” regarding big box stores, but warns that the virus remains a threat. “There’s no doubt about it, the lockdown is taking a toll on all of us but we have to push through. It’s the only way out of this,” he said. “We’re all seeing the news of the businesses staying open in protest and people rallying against the closures. That’s concerning as it puts us all at risk, especially gathering in the way we’ve seen.” Bradford has received calls from local businesses asking if it is possible to ease up bylaw enforcement to allow some businesses to remain open. “I can understand the way they’re feeling,” he said. “We’re all tired, we’re hurting, but we have to follow the guidelines.” Cases have been among the lowest in the city for the Beach area, an achievement Bradford applauded as the community “is looking out for each other.” He said he’s making efforts to get relief for businesses from the federal and provincial governments. “What we need to focus on is getting the full weight of financial support possible for local businesses,” he said. “We also need clearer, fairer and more evenly applied rules if and when closures continue. City council doesn’t get to make these decisions – but we can elevate the voice of the impact they’re having on our communities and main streets.” Business owners say they understand the severity of the pandemic, and agree with most public health measures, but worry about local businesses in the community – especially restaurants, bars, and cafes. “I feel horrible for the restaurants,” Korbs said. “If they all survive that would be a miracle, their hands and feet are tied.”Ali Raza, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro News
A Nova Scotia court has weighed in on another lobster dispute. This one isn't over catching lobster, but shipping them. The dispute pits two transportation companies against one another over a cargo of crustaceans that arrived, in the words of the adjudicator Raffi A. Balmanoukian "bereft of life.""These Homarus americanus who had prematurely joined the choir invisible had to be destroyed or sold 'as is' for salvage value," he said.The choice of words in his decision are familiar to anyone who has watched Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch.Longstanding relationshipThe dispute is between Flying Fresh Air Freight and Connors Transfer. The two companies have a longstanding business relationship shipping lobster and other products.At this time last year, FFAF contracted Connors to truck about 4,700 kilograms of lobster to Quebec and Ontario for eventual shipment to France, Belgium and South Korea.According to evidence at this small claims court hearing, live lobster should be shipped at temperatures between 2-4 C. But that didn't happen in this case."On arrival, all shipments save one had varying degrees of damage due to low shipping temperatures, in some cases well below that which was appropriate," Balmanoukian wrote in his decision. "It was in evidence before me that many lobsters were dead and indeed some are encrusted in ice. Select sub-freezing crate temperature readings were in evidence before me."Limitation of liabilityThe question for the adjudicator was how much Connors owed FFAF.Connors had FFAF sign a limitation of liability agreement years ago, capping the value of lost lobster at just $2 per pound.Balmanoukian found that the agreement applied in this case, so while the losses totalled $21,703.86, Connors is only on the hook for $11,175.80.In his decision, the adjudicator noted that the only trucking story with more Atlantic Canadian flavour is the "Great Moosehead Beer Heist of 2004," in which more than 50,000 cans of beer destined for the Mexican market disappeared from a truck in New Brunswick. A New Brunswick truck driver was subsequently convicted in that case.MORE TOP STORIES
The big takeaways for agriculture in Ontario’s behemoth $187 billion 2020 budget are funding for rural broadband infrastructure and the Agri-Food Prevention and Control Innovation Program. The provincial government has made available an additional $680 million across four years to bring reliable internet connectivity to rural and underserved areas of the province. “We look forward to seeing that infrastructure actually put in the ground,” said Peggy Brekveld, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s newly elected president. Over three years, the budget allots $25.5 million to the Agri-Food Prevention and Control Innovation Program. The cost-sharing funds are available for projects to mitigate disruptions to farm business from COVID-19 through technology. Brekveld said she believes the funds “will help us continue to find ways to innovate and invest in new technologies” to push back against COVID-19's effects on the sector. The budget reads that innovation funding will lead to “increased efficiencies and productivity” while supporting “resilience and long-term sustainability and growth in the agri-food sector.” Bill George, chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, also highlighted the innovation funding as the budget’s main appeal for the agri-food sector. “There’s not a lot really other than that,” he said. Only a small element of the budget, there’s also $5 million set out for Ontario’s struggling agricultural and horticultural societies. For the societies, who put on many of the province’s fall fairs (there are three in Niagara put on by agricultural societies) the funding is significant. Speaking to Niagara This Week for a November story on the funding, Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies manager, Vince Brennan, said he’s never seen anything like it before and called it the “single largest influx of dollars for our organizations.” For the 2020-21 fiscal year, a record provincial deficit of $38.5 billion is projected in the budget. Reflected as a percentage, the net debt of the deficit makes up 47 per cent of all of Ontario’s economic production or gross domestic production (GDP). Ontario’s GDP is also projected to fall 6.5 per cent during 2020. Two deficit outlook scenarios are presented, one for slow growth and another for faster. Under a fast growth projection, the provincial deficit by the 2022-23 fiscal year would decline to $21.3 billion. Under slow growth, the projection for the same period would be a decline to $33.4 billion. Currently, the 2020 budget projects the deficit to decline to $28.2 billion for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Of the total $187 billion in spending in the 2020 budget, $12.5 billion is forecasted to be spent on paying interest on government debt. There is also $2.5 billion being kept in reserve to weather any unforeseen circumstances. There was no plan presented to balance the multi-year budget, as is required by law, and the province will be seeking a pause on the requirement given the "volatile and uncertain economic situation” of the pandemic. The province plans to table a path to balance in the 2021 budget.Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week