China's embassy in the Philippines has denounced the United States for "creating chaos" in Asia, after a visiting White House envoy backed countries in disputes with China and accused Beijing of using military pressure to further its interests. During a trip to Manila on Monday, national security adviser Robert O'Brien underscored the U.S. commitment to Taiwan and told the Philippines and Vietnam, countries both locked in maritime rows with China, that "we've got your back". "It shows that his visit to this region is not to promote regional peace and stability, but to create chaos in the region in order to seek selfish interests of the U.S.," the embassy said in a statement issued late Monday.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to defend the democratic island's sovereignty with the construction of a new fleet of domestically-developed submarines, a key project supported by the United States to counter neighbouring China. Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has been for years working to revamp its submarine force, some of which date back to World War Two, and is no match for China's fleet, which includes vessels capable of launching nuclear weapons. At a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new submarine fleet in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai called the move a "historic milestone" for Taiwan's defensive capabilities after overcoming "various challenges and doubts".
B.C.'s health-care workers are pleading with the public to heed health orders while bracing for difficult working conditions as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced there were another 1,933 cases of COVID-19 over the last three days and 17 more deaths.This comes just over two weeks after restrictions were initially put in place in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities, and a few days after those restrictions were extended to cover the entire province. Christine Sorensen, president of the B.C. Nurses' Union, says nurses are frustrated when they see people continue to gather in groups and not follow the guidelines because that increases transmission and puts additional pressure on the health-care system."It puts greater demands on the staff that also fairly tired, looking for a bit of a rest and a break and really not seeing anything coming in the next few months, particularly with the holiday season coming and people wanting to mix and mingle with their friends and family," Sorensen said. Dr. Kathleen Ross, the president of Doctors of B.C., says the prospect of burnout is looming closer for many front line health-care workers. "Many of us are afraid to go home for fear of infecting our loved ones and many more of us drop our clothes at the door and run to the shower before we even greet our family," said Ross. "We're adjusting to the new normal ... but of course we cannot expect that surge capacity to last forever."And both Ross and Sorensen point out it is not just front line health-care workers shouldering the burden, but additional staff like cleaning crews and maintenance workers who keep the whole health-care system operational."There are lots of unsung heroes in the system, not just in the emergency rooms where there are doctors and nurses taking care of our most acutely ill," Sorensen said. Sorensen says she worries the spike in cases could escalate to point where essential health-care workers are kept on the job even if they've been exposed."[I'm] very concerned [about that]. Nurses are dedicated and they do want to continue working, but if we get enough nurses exposed or sick, we won't have enough nurses to deliver healthcare," she said. Ross says this is a crucial moment."If everyone does their part, if we all step forward and follow the public health guidelines as they have been laid out, then we'll get there. But we have to do it all together."
Salt that crystallizes with sharp edges is the killer ingredient in the development of a reusable mask because any COVID-19 droplets that land on it would be quickly destroyed, says a researcher who is being recognized for her innovation.Ilaria Rubino, a recent PhD graduate from the department of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta, said a mostly salt and water solution that coats the first or middle layer of the mask would dissolve droplets before they can penetrate the face covering.As the liquid from the droplets evaporates, the salt crystals grow back as spiky weapons, damaging the bacteria or virus within five minutes, Rubino said."We know that after the pathogens are collected in the mask, they can survive. Our goal was to develop a technology that is able to inactivate the pathogens upon contact so that we can make the mask as effective as possible."Rubino, who collaborated with a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta to advance the project she started five years ago, was recognized Tuesday with an innovation award from Mitacs. The Canadian not-for-profit organization receives funding from the federal government, most provinces and Yukon to honour researchers from academic institutions.The reusable, non-washable mask is made of a type of polypropylene, a plastic used in surgical masks, and could be safely worn and handled multiple times without being decontaminated, Rubino said.The idea is to replace surgical masks often worn by health-care workers who must dispose of them in a few hours, she said, adding the technology could potentially be used for N-95 respirators.The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval. It could also be used to stop the spread of other infectious illnesses, such as influenza, Rubino said.Dr. Catherine Clase, an epidemiologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the "exciting" technology would have multiple benefits.Clase, who is a member of the Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials in the engineering department at McMaster, said there wasn't much research in personal protective equipment when Rubino began her work."It's going to decrease the footprint for making and distributing and then disposing of every mask," she said, adding that the mask could also address any supply issues.The Public Health Agency of Canada recently recommended homemade masks consist of at least three layers, with a middle, removable layer constructed from a non-woven, washable polypropylene fabric to improve filtration.Conor Ruzycki, an aerosol scientist in the University of Alberta's mechanical engineering department, said Rubino's innovation adds to more recent research on masks as COVID-19 cases rise and shortages of face coverings in the health-care system could again become a problem.Ruzycki, who works in a lab to evaluate infiltration efficiencies of different materials for masks and respirators, is also a member of a physician-led Alberta group Masks4Canada, which is calling for stricter pandemic measures, including a provincewide policy on mandatory masks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Miss Vickie's Canada says some of its potato chips that were part of a recall in Eastern Canada earlier this month due to possible glass contamination were inadvertently shipped west. The company says the chips were only shipped to retail customers in Alberta, Brandon, Man., and Moose Jaw, Sask, and that it's working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to co-ordinate a voluntary recall. It says 630 bags are involved, and they have very specific "guaranteed fresh" dates and "manufacturing codes." Consumers who have purchased the chips should not eat them and are urged to throw them out or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. At the beginning of November, Miss Vickie's recalled some chips sold online and in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada due to what it said was "isolated reports of the presence of a small piece of glass found at the bottom of the bag." The CFIA says on its website there have been reported injuries associated with the products. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020. The Canadian Press
Residents were given proper notice of a vote to remove Fort Simpson's liquor purchasing restrictions, according to N.W.T. finance minister Caroline Wawzonek. MLA for Nahendeh Shane Thompson – also a minister – posted to Facebook on Monday regarding concerns constituents had raised about the plebiscite held on November 12. Specifically, the post related to concerns about how much public notice was provided leading up to the vote and how to contact the official in charge of it. Residents ultimately voted overwhelmingly in favour of lifting alcohol restrictions in the community. Of 730 eligible voters, 240 cast a ballot and 175 of those were in favour of removing restrictions. The Department of Finance, which oversees liquor regulations in the N.W.T., is now in the process of implementing the result, which may take several weeks. Thompson's post relayed a message he had received from Wawzonek addressing concerns. “Based on all of the information I have received to date, I am confident in the integrity of the plebiscite held in the village of Fort Simpson,” Wawzonek's message to Thompson reads. Wawzonek states some residents who attend school away from Fort Simpson believe they did not receive adequate notice of the plebiscite. She concludes, however, that there was sufficient notice within the village, on Facebook, and through the media in the weeks and months before the vote. She adds returning officer Tammie Cazon fulfilled her duties in the Local Authorities Elections Act by providing public notice of the plebiscite, including details on how and where to vote. Wawzonek says Cazon met legislative requirements by posting public notices in five locations – the bank, the Northern store, the Unity store, the Nahanni Inn and Pandaville restaurant. “It is not the responsibility of the returning officer to locate and notify every resident of the community who may not be currently living in the community. That would be an impossible task," Wawzonek writes. "Voters bear some of the responsibility for informing themselves about how to exercise their democratic right to vote.” The final concern regards the returning officer’s email address and confusion about how to reach Cazon. Wawzonek again asserts faith in the process, saying her department confirmed with Cazon only one email address was distributed for voters to use. Proxy voting was an option in the plebiscite but, according to Wawzonek, Cazon did not receive any emails related to proxy voting. The community of Fort Simpson requested the plebiscite after a petition with more than 150 signatures from residents was turned in to the village council late last year, asking for action to try to remove the restrictions. Restrictions are set to be lifted in the coming weeks, though an exact date has not been set. Once the regulations are changed and restrictions lifted, the village is still bound to pandemic-related alcohol restrictions, which limit customers to a maximum of $200 per day at any liquor store in the territory and six mickeys (375-ml bottles) of spirits in a 24-hour period.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
An opposition lawmaker called on Tuesday for Malaysia to outlaw online hate speech, accusing authorities of downplaying the gravity of an issue highlighted by a Reuters investigation into abuse on Facebook of Rohingya refugees and undocumented migrants. Citing the Reuters report on rising xenophobia online in Malaysia in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, lawmaker Chan Foong Hin asked the Communications and Multimedia Ministry last week to state its plans to combat such hate speech.
A B.C. surgeon who called his preteen patient a "loose woman" during an appointment has been fined and reprimanded by his professional regulator.Dr. Bruce Taro Yoneda, an orthopedic surgeon based in Victoria, has admitted that he "engaged in unprofessional conduct by using sexualized language during a surgical consult," according to a public notice posted Friday by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.Yoneda also acknowledged telling the same young patient he would give her a "lube job," and admitted he did not give her a full explanation before he began questioning her about her menstrual cycle.The college's inquiry committee, which investigates complaints against doctors, "was critical of the registrant's admitted conduct and concluded that his use of inappropriate language displayed a lack of insight," the notice says.As part of a consent agreement with the college, Yoneda has been fined $7,500, received a formal reprimand and has had his registration as a doctor transferred to "conditional" status. He's also agreed to take courses in clinical communication and professionalism.
The staff tested positive last week and Maxwell was checked for the virus on Nov. 18 using a rapid test which was negative, the prosecutors said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan. Maxwell was placed in quarantine at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for 14 days, said the letter. Maxwell has not shown any symptoms of COVID-19 and will be tested again at the end of her two-week quarantine.
Grand River watershed — The Grand River Conservation Authority held an emergency board meeting this week to discuss the province’s proposed changes for conservation authorities and to plan its response. “I’m asking us to be as thoughtful as possible about what is non-negotiable going forward,” Grand River Conservation Authority Chair Helen Jowett said to open the discussion. In its summary, the staff report detailing the changes expressed the significance of the planned changes: “If enacted, some changes will significantly impact the role of a conservation authority board to establish programs and services. “As well, the proposed amendments will enable Regulations that will either limit or completely change the role of conservation authorities to protect Ontario’s environment and ensure people and property are safe from natural hazards.” The most impactful proposed change is to mandate that only municipal councillors will be allowed to sit on a conservation authority board, and that board members’ fiduciary duty must be to their individual municipalities rather than to the conservation authority, according to Samantha Lawson, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Grand River Conservation Authority. Lawson and Jowett both feel this will put individual interests of municipalities above the watershed as a whole. “We work together to look after the entire watershed because water knows no boundaries. And it works for us,” says Jowett. “We are concerned that it could undermine that watershed approach, which is very successful currently.” Other changes introduced in schedule six of Bill 229 — the Protect Support and Recover from COVID-19 Act (Budget Measures) — include: allowing the province to intervene in the conservation authority permitting process at any time and make any decisions with or without use of watershed-level science remove or limit a conservation authority’s ability to appeal decisions to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal and remove a conservation authority’s (not yet proclaimed) ability to give a stop work order in the case of harmful activity. Staff at the Grand River Conservation Authority feel the proposed changes will limit any meaningful authority, and interfere with the watershed approach. The Grand River Conservation Authority board voted to approve the report prepared by staff. A cover letter summarizing the conservation authority’s stance will be added. Together these will be sent to the Premier, Ministers of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Natural Resources, Municipal housing and Affairs and Finance, watershed MPPs, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and circulated to watershed municipalities. The entire staff report can be viewed on the conservation authority’s website.Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record
WASHINGTON — Janet Yellen is in line for another top economic policy job — just in time to confront yet another crisis.Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's apparent choice for treasury secretary, served on the Federal Reserve's policymaking committee during the 2008-2009 financial crisis that nearly toppled the banking system.She became Fed chair in 2014 when the economy was still recovering from the devastating Great Recession. In the late 1990s, she was President Bill Clinton's top economic adviser during the Asian financial crisis.And now, according to a person familiar with Biden's transition plans, she has been chosen to lead Treasury with the economy in the grip of a surging viral epidemic. The spike in virus cases is intensifying pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a “double-dip” recession as states and cities reimpose restrictions on businesses.Yet many longtime observers of the U.S. economy see Yellen as ideally suited for the role.“She is extraordinarily talented,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at auditing firm Grant Thornton. “She is the right person at this challenging time. She has worked every crisis."If confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its nearly 232 years. She would inherit an economy with still-high unemployment, escalating threats to small businesses and signs that consumers are retrenching as the worsening pandemic restricts or discourages spending.Most economists say that the distribution of an effective vaccine will likely reinvigorate growth next year. Yet they warn that any sustained recovery will also hinge on whether Congress can agree soon on a sizable aid package to carry the economy through what Biden has said will be a “dark winter” with the pandemic still out of control.Negotiations on additional government spending, though, have been stuck in Congress for months.Yellen has favoured further stimulus, including more money for state and local governments, which she has said need “substantial support” to avoid further job cuts. Rescue aid for states has been a major sticking point in congressional negotiations.Nathan Sheets, chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income and a former senior Fed and Treasury official, said that Yellen could effectively use the “bully pulpit” during what are likely to be difficult negotiations with Senate Republicans."Yellen," Sheets said, “has a unique ability ... to communicate about economics and economic policies in terms that resonate with individuals.”She will also have the opportunity to work with Fed Chair Jerome Powell, with whom Yellen enjoys a close relationship after having worked together at the Fed, to restart several emergency lending programs. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that the programs will expire, as scheduled, at the end of this year — a decision that critics warn will unnecessarily hamstring the Fed.Powell objected to the Treasury's move, though he agreed to return money that Congress had authorized to backstop the lending.The most likely credit programs to be renewed, economists say, would be one that supported states and cities and a second, the Main Street Lending program, that targeted small and mid-sized businesses.Neither program has made very many loans. But just the understanding that those backstops existed lent confidence to the financial markets. Economists say Yellen could allow Powell to offer more generous terms to increase the programs' use.The 74-year-old Yellen, long a path-breaking figure in the male-dominated economics field, was the first woman to serve as Fed chair, from 2014 to 2018.“She is an icon,” said Stephanie Aaronson, a vice-president at the Brookings Institution and a former top economist at the Fed. “Having a female chair meant a lot to a lot of people.”Yellen was known as a highly prepared, sometimes demanding but down-to-earth manager who was popular with the Fed's staff.“I have never met anyone who has worked for or with Janet who has an unkind word to say about her," said Claudia Sahm, a former Fed economist. "She is the kind of person who uplifts her staff.”Under Yellen's tenure, the central bank began a seminal shift of its policy focus away from fighting inflation, which has been quiescent for decades, to trying to maximize employment, the second of its two mandates. That process culminated this summer when Powell announced that the Fed planned to keep rates ultra-low for a time even after inflation has topped the central bank's 2% annual target level, rather than raising rates pre-emptively.As Fed chair, Yellen won praise for her attention to disadvantaged groups, including the long-term unemployed, at a time when financial inequalities were widening across the economy. She made numerous visits to employment training centres to spotlight the need for training programs to equip people for good jobs.During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, transcripts of the Fed's meetings show that Yellen was more prescient than most other Fed officials about the potential for a deep recession and weak recovery afterward.Yellen is well-known on Capitol Hill after years of testifying as Fed chair to Senate committees about the economy and interest rate policy. During those years, she frequently clashed with Republican lawmakers who accused her of keeping rates too low for too long after the 2008 financial crisis. Some of them charged that Yellen and her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, had elevated the risk of runaway inflation and asset bubbles that could destabilize financial markets.None of those fears came to pass. On the contrary, under Bernanke and Yellen — and later, under Powell — the Fed's more difficult challenge became raising inflation merely to the Fed's annual 2% target level. It has yet to do so consistently.Yellen, a Democrat, had served only one four-year term as Fed chair when President Donald Trump decided to replace her with Powell, a Republican, despite Yellen’s desire to serve another term. That move broke a four-decade tradition of presidents allowing Fed chairs to serve at least two terms even if they had first been nominated by a president of the opposing party.After leaving the Fed, Yellen became a distinguished fellow in residence at the liberal Brookings Institution in Washington, signalling her continuing interest in financial policymaking.When she stepped down from the Fed in early 2018, Shawn Sebastian, co-director of the Fed-Up coalition, a collection of progressive groups, called Yellen's departure “a loss for working people across the country." He hailed her efforts to take on “economic inequality, racial disparities in the economy, the role of women in the workplace and the need for more diversity at the Fed.”Yet some progressives have also criticized Yellen for the Fed's December 2015 decision to raise its benchmark rate from near zero, where it had been pegged since late 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis. That rate hike, which caused a sharp increase in the value of the dollar, contributed to a slowdown in U.S. economic growth in 2016 and is now seen by many economists as having been premature.Yellen is married to George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize-winning economist whom she met in a Fed cafeteria in 1977. They have one son, Robert, who is an economics professor.___AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.Christopher Rugaber And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
« Les programmes d’aide étaient destinés aux organisations victimes de la pandémie et les partis politiques ne le sont pas », a plaidé le chef du parti, Yves-François Blanchet, qui promet de présenter un amendement au projet de loi C-9. « Ils n’auraient jamais dû mettre la main dans un sac qui était destiné à soutenir les entreprises. Je m’étonne de cette incohérence qui est à la limite immorale », a dénoncé M. Blanchet, brandissant des chiffres pour étayer ses arguments. Selon le chef du Bloc québécois, les libéraux avaient touché près de 850 000 dollars de la Subvention salariale d’urgence (SSU) alors que ces fonds étaient « destinés selon les mots mêmes du premier ministre à des organisations en difficultés. » Yves-François Blanchet a noté que le parti libéral avait levé des financements de l’ordre de 8 millions de dollars depuis le début de l’année financière et ne s’était pas engagé à rembourser les fonds perçus de façon « totalement injustifiable. » Il a reconnu que le Parti conservateur avait cessé de percevoir la SSU après avoir reçu environ 700 000 dollars qu’il a promis de rembourser. Son chef, Erin O’toole, a tenu sa promesse de renoncer à ce programme d’aide à son arrivée aux affaires. Les conservateurs auraient cependant indiqué qu’ils allaient rembourser ces fonds si les néodémocrates et les libéraux concédaient à le faire. Le NPD serait à 400 000 dollars reçus selon le Bloc qui a constaté pour le déplorer qu’il continuait à passer à la caisse malgré les financements engrangés pendant la crise. « Ça doit être inclus dans la loi, il faut que ce soit établi expressément et nommément », a plaidé Yves-François Blanchet. Il a prévu que la mesure ne pourrait pas être rétroactive, mais qu’elle serait davantage utile pour la pandémie dont on ne connaît pas la suite. « Il est important que les partis politiques s’engagent à rembourser cet argent » a-t-il plaidé au sujet de cette subvention que le Bloc n’a jamais ni demandée ni perçue. L’amendement sera présenté ce vendredi en Chambre alors qu’elle devrait adopter le projet de loi C-9 en troisième lecture. Ce texte qui vise à donner un accès direct à l’aide aux loyers pour les entreprises et les commerces durement frappés par la deuxième vague de Covid-19 prolonge la SSU jusqu’en juin 2021. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
CALGARY — Suncor Energy Inc. says it has agreed to become the operator of the Syncrude project by the end of 2021, as long as each of the joint venture's owners grants formal approval.Suncor owns a 58.74 per cent stake in the Syncrude Joint Venture, a position it has increased from 12 per cent in 2016.Other Syncrude stakeholders who must approve the agreement are Imperial Oil Resources Ltd., CNOOC Oil Sands Canada and Sinopec Oil Sands Partnership.Suncor chief executive Mark Little says the transition will help Syncrude better compete on cost per barrel.Little says the deal could yield $300 million a year in synergies, noting Syncrude and Suncor have families employed by both operations after years of close ties between neighbouring energy projects.Suncor's statement says that Syncrude and Suncor also stand to gain from the bi-directional pipelines connecting Suncor’s Base Plant and Syncrude’s operations, which are now complete and being commissioned.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.The Canadian Press
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic it was impossible to escape public health messaging by local, provincial and federal officials. The three practices hammered home by the hour were to socially distance (a minimum of two metres), wash hands regularly and, eventually, don a face mask whenever in contact with others. The messaging wasn’t simplistic, it was important. Public attitudes and behaviours needed to be shaped to fight a deadly virus spreading rapidly into every corner of our planet. But, in a display of hypocrisy, while these same officials told all of us how to behave, many either refused or at least willfully ignored much of the epidemiology and science of virology that medical experts began to share with them. For the first few weeks there was not a clear understanding of testing and contact tracing, the two tools public health authorities could directly deploy to control viral spread, if governments cooperated. In jurisdictions around the world where they did, the virus was effectively confronted, and in places like South Korea, a hyper focus on testing and tracing almost immediately eradicated the novel coronavirus. In places like the U.S. it was an opposite story, and a country with about 4 percent of the world’s population quickly accounted for 20-25 percent of global COVID-19 cases. Canada, was somewhere in the middle, and Ontario was somewhere in the middle of the country, in terms of testing and tracing levels per capita. But in Peel, and Brampton specifically, it was another story entirely. Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott repeatedly claimed they were taking their cues from public health experts, but new data released by the Province show that viral literacy beyond distancing, masking and handwashing did not sink in with the two people who wield more power than anyone else in the fight of our lifetime. They were responsible for a strategy to guide Ontario through its COVID-19 storm and keep residents of Peel safe. The key to any strategy was testing. "We've got to be able to test widely in the community for asymptomatic spreaders of the infection," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told the CBC, warning Canada was at a tipping point in its response to the virus. “If you just test people who are symptomatic, you're going to miss a very large contingent of the spread of infection in the community." But in Brampton, from the beginning of the pandemic, both asymptomatic and symptomatic testing fell far short of any meaningful outcome. The testing levels were so low, they were effectively useless. While Toronto was provided with 17 assessment centres and Mississauga received 3, Brampton, with a population of 650,000, was given 1, inside Peel Memorial, where between 150 and 300 tests were being done daily around the start of the pandemic. There were no drive-through testing sites, unlike in other jurisdictions, such as Etobicoke, where the same healthcare system, William Osler, that runs Brampton’s hospitals, was resourced to run two screening sites, including one where residents could drive up in their cars and be tested without getting out. In Brampton, at Osler’s lone screening facility, long lines became a feature immediately in the spring, and it was clear the city, because of certain employment and demographic patterns, was going to be a major problem. But additional resources for testing in the city were ignored by the same leaders on TV every day telling us to distance, wear masks and wash our hands. At its most basic level, testing allows officials and other experts to understand where the virus is spreading and where it is not. Testing data informs reopening policy, the protection of long-term care and acts as a trigger for lockdowns, as well as the signal for any loosening of restrictions. No part of the viral response is easy. The virus that causes the COVID-19 disease is aggressively contagious, jumping from one person to another through close contact or in situations where airflow is limited. To compound the issue, an incubation period of up to two weeks means testing data offers a snapshot of the past and must be manipulated to understand the future. In Ontario, new data released by the Province suggests efforts to expand testing since the first wave of the pandemic have focused on Ontario as a whole and not problem areas, particularly Peel. Analysis by The Pointer of several key moments between May and November reveals a rigid strategy that increased testing evenly across Ontario, instead of zeroing in on hotspots. Peel Region, where the virus is once more sweeping through already vulnerable communities, offers evidence of this. Despite positivity rates consistently above (and regularly double) the provincial average, Peel has received marginally less testing than Ontario overall. Few targeted efforts have been made to proportionally increase tests in the region based on need and a constantly worsening pandemic in certain areas of the region (outside a brief period between late July and mid-August, Brampton has not seen any relief from high daily infection numbers since the end of March). Now, with a test positivity rate above 15 percent, and daily infections averaging almost 300 cases, Brampton has become the symbol of neglect. To put into perspective the disconnect between the data and what officials did with it, consider these comments from mid-October. “Three per cent is worrisome,” Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said at the time, when the overall test positivity in the province reached 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, Brampton was approaching double digits, and public health officials, along with our political leaders including Ford and Elliott, knew it. An analysis of the failure to use available data and create responsible testing capacity in Peel was done by The Pointer. It focuses on four key dates. The first, in May, represents the highest point of the first wave outside of April, for which testing data is not available. The second, at the beginning of August, marks one of Ontario’s lowest infection periods and the day after Peel entered the most liberal restrictions since the start of the pandemic. A third date in late October was selected to coincide with the day Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, finally acknowledged a second wave had begun in the region, more than a month after his provincial and federal counterparts declared a second wave had arrived and two months after it had already hit Brampton. The final data point analyzes the most recently published figures. Two key metrics are included in the analysis: the seven-day average of percent positivity and the seven-day average of tests per 100,000 residents. The percent positivity, or percentage of tests that show a person is infected, is used to measure if an area is testing enough, while tests per 100,000 offer the opportunity to compare screening levels between regions and across Ontario as a whole. On May 24, Peel’s seven day average for percent positivity was 10.3 percent. By comparison, neighbouring Toronto recorded a test positivity of 8.9 percent. In Peel, 62 tests were administered per 100,000 residents, with 75 in Toronto. Overall, Ontario had a positivity rate of 5.3 percent and completed 61 tests per 100,000 across the province. Despite double the rate of test positivity in Ontario, Peel was getting the same amount of testing done per capita. It was the first sign that the hotspot was being ignored. In May, the pandemic response was well underway, but Ontario was already on the backfoot. The government had mandated an emergency shutdown in March and was scrambling to protect hospitals, while losing its battle in long-term care. It was still grappling with a testing strategy: reacting to crisis points and failing to plan forward. As restrictions played their part and cases began to fall, Ontario looked at reopening. In June, Peel Region entered Stage 2 of the Province’s old reopening framework and, by August 1, indoor dining, gyms and bars were all open under Stage 3. Over the summer, with lower rates of infection, leaders were provided with a golden opportunity to create a more responsive testing strategy than the one scraped together between February and June. There was a moment to breathe, evaluate and assess before the inevitable second wave, which epidemiologists around the world had made clear was on its way. By August, the Ontario viral picture was vastly improved, although Peel rates (driven by daily case numbers in Brampton that were four to six times higher than Mississauga) remained well above the province’s overall. On August 1, Peel’s positivity rate of one percent (brought down by Mississauga and Caledon) was double the Ontario figure of 0.5 percent. In Toronto it sat at 0.4 percent. Despite this, Peel recorded 124 tests per 100,000 residents compared to 158 in Toronto and 167 for Ontario as a whole. Peel’s rate represented a 100 percent increase over May, well below a 174 percent increase for Ontario as a whole. But instead of increasing testing in Peel, relative to screening levels across Ontario as a whole and compared to areas such as Toronto where screening capacity was expanded by a higher rate compared to its heavy hit neighbour to the west, screening here did not reflect the indicators that showed Peel was in trouble. This pattern suggests a relatively inflexible testing strategy, ignoring historical and point in time test positivity rates. Instead of learning from Peel’s first wave and earmarking extra resources to keep the region under control, testing was increased across the board, despite data that clearly showed Peel was being hit much harder than other regions. In both May and August, Peel Region had a positivity rate twice that of the province as a whole, but was resourced for similar or lower testing levels than the average. Using testing to get a general survey of the viral landscape is important, but zeroing in on specific problem areas is the key, according to epidemiologists. Identifying areas like Peel as a hotspot without creating more testing and contact tracing to control viral spread can be pointless. “The best way to [increase testing] is to make sure that people in counties with high positivity rates have access to testing and are proactively getting tested when they need it,” Dr. Charissa Fotinos, Washington State’s COVID-19 testing leader, explained in September. “Right now, this is not happening enough, and we need it to drastically increase if we are going to stop COVID-19 from spreading rapidly, especially in disproportionately impacted communities and among our essential workers.” By the summer, it was well known that demographics in parts of Peel, particularly in Mississauga’s Malton area and a number of neighbourhoods in Brampton, were more susceptible to viral spread, because of higher levels of employment in essential-work sectors such as food services and certain manufacturing industries, along with more dense living conditions and lower income levels which are correlated to factors such as a reliance on public transit. But instead of using all these known indicators and the other data being provided, to increase testing levels dramatically, above any other part of the province, which should have been done, testing in Peel, particularly in Brampton, remained far below where it should have been to keep communities safe. A high positivity rate tends to signal a lack of testing and an increase in tracked and untracked viral spread. In Ontario, including thresholds established by Peel Public Health, 2.5 to 3 percent test positivity indicates viral spread is not being controlled. New York City recently closed many of its public schools because the test positivity for the city as a whole reached 3 percent. At the same time, Brampton’s was over 15 percent. Rates exceeding these benchmarks mean testing levels have fallen far short of the numbers needed to allow contact tracing to catch infections in the community before people transmit the virus widely out in public, allowing spread to take place relatively unchecked. Portable and flexible resources should be available to blitz these areas until the infection is brought under control. To recycle an overused metaphor: significant, portable testing resources would act as air support to dump water on the heart of a forest wildfire. “A high percent positive means that more testing should probably be done—and it suggests that it is not a good time to relax restrictions aimed at reducing coronavirus transmission,” David Dowdy and Gypsyamber D’Souza from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health explained in an August article on test positivity. Between August 1, when a semblance of normality returned, and October 26, when Loh finally proclaimed a second wave in Peel, the COVID-19 picture went from decent to dire. In less than three months, Peel’s positivity rate jumped to 7.1 percent on October 26, far outpacing either Peel Public Health or the Ontario targets for keeping the virus under control. Tests did increase to 181 per 100,000, an uptick of 45 percent. But by comparison, Toronto, with a test positivity of 4.6 percent, completed 214 tests per 100,000 on the same day near the end of October, an increase of 35 percent from its August levels. Ontario as a whole (with a test positivity of 2.9 percent at the time) increased its average 25 percent to 210 tests per 100,000. Both Toronto and Ontario remained well above Peel’s testing per capita, despite the region’s dangerous positivity rate, which was three times higher than the rest of the province. Despite Ford calling Brampton “broken” on September 4 and Elliott repeatedly claiming the city would get more testing if it needed it, both of them ignored their own responsibility, and the data that was staring them in the face. In early November, Loh demonstrated an understanding of the importance of ramping up testing for areas with high positivity. “Either we’re not testing [enough] or we’re seeing … a true rise in cases, or both,” he said on November 4 to Mississauga councillors, with Peel’s positivity rate already twice as high as the next worst part of the province. “Until we actually finally get a little more data, especially with our testing levels continuing to be brought up, we’re going to have to just assume that it’s both. We’re not testing enough and we’re seeing a genuine rise in cases.” What he did not explain, was that the “genuine” rise of cases was largely due to inadequate testing and the crucial contact tracing that can only be done effectively with proper testing levels to show tracers where to look for viral spread. Other officials, particularly Elliott, have shown a lack of understanding of the dire reality in Peel. On September 14, The Pointer asked her why Brampton had operated with just one full testing centre for the entire pandemic (Osler has since opened its Cold and Flu Clinic at Memorial providing another option for residents wishing to get tested) and how she would improve the situation. “If we find that there is a need for another testing centre in Brampton, of course, we will take a look at that, because we want people to go and get tested and distance from the testing facility shouldn’t be a problem that hinders them from doing that,” she said. Provincial data for the day she spoke show Peel Region had a test positivity rate of 2.1 percent compared to a provincial rate of 0.9 percent, and, using population per municipality, Brampton’s would have likely been closer to 4 percent. In Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, 155 people were tested for every 100,000 residents, 22 percent below the provincial rate of 199, despite Peel having more than double the test positivity rate compared to Ontario overall. It seemed incomprehensible that Elliott would not have known Brampton desperately needed much more testing. After promising to look into the issue, and in the face of her own data, nothing changed. At an October 28 press conference, The Pointer again asked Elliott about Brampton’s testing resources as the city continued its status as Ontario’s hotspot. "We will look into what is happening in Brampton,” Elliott said. When she spoke, 44 days after she had last offered a similar answer, the picture in Peel had worsened significantly. The region’s positivity rate had increased 238 percent to 7.1 percent (Brampton’s rate was likely above 9 percent). Ontario had a rate of 2.9 percent. Testing in Peel had increased 15 percent to 178 tests per 100,000 residents. Still, Ontario as a whole was tested more thoroughly, with 208 tests per 100,000. Elliott’s carbon copy answers, twinned with Peel’s skyrocketing positivity rate, illustrate a rigid approach to testing. The data portrays a paralyzed government unable to move and adapt to a rapidly spreading virus. While Brampton recorded as many as six times more daily cases of infection over long periods between August and late October compared to Mississauga, it maintained three official assessment centres as Brampton suffered with just one lone testing facility. For a community as diverse as Peel, with significant visible minority populations and thousands of essential workers, this rigidity is punishing. “When scarcity does not permit mass testing, equitable allocation needs to take into consideration the risk of infection and from infection, including risks to economic well being,” University of Michigan experts Ryan Huerto, Susan Dorr Goold and Duane Newton wrote in June. “Those most at risk for worse health outcomes, and those with precarious financial stability, need to be prioritized.” In Peel, these considerations have not been taken into account. Recycling one more military analogy helps to drive this reality home. In a battle with the virus, Peel is Ontario’s weakest line of defence; it is the front the province is most vulnerable on. Without new munitions, reinforcements and a targeted game plan to shore up ranks, the virus will continue to break through the region and spread elsewhere. On November 9, Peel’s positivity rate sat at 10.6 percent, Toronto was at 5.8 percent and Ontario at 3.9. Yet, as has been the story of the pandemic so far, Peel was only able to test 194 residents per 100,000, compared to 217 in Toronto and 211 across Ontario. The failure to properly resource Peel, and Brampton in particular, has been one of the great tragedies of this deadly pandemic, and the Province’s own data proves it. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
On Sunday evening the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) identified a positive COVID-19 case in three individuals at Ecole St. Mary High School in Prince Albert. In a news release by the Prince Albert Catholic School Division on Sunday evening the division explained that communication has been shared with the specific classroom/cohort, as well as the school community. These cases have not been school acquired according to the division. There had been several cases reported in October at St. Mary. The SHA is proceeding with their assessment of the situation, and all individuals deemed to be close contacts are being notified. “The classrooms/cohorts impacted by this case, barring any other cases, are required to Self-Isolate until midnight on Dec. 1 and these classrooms/cohorts will be move to remote learning until the isolation period is complete,” the division said in a release. These specific classrooms/cohorts are advised to contact 811Healthline for advice. “École St. Mary High School will resume classes Nov. 23 for all other students and staff that are not deemed to be close contacts. Public Health officials are advising all students and staff to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms daily and not to enter the school if ill.” No further information was made available citing privacy concerns. “Our thoughts and prayers are with this member of our school community, and we hope they are doing well.” They emphasized that everyone has a shared responsibility to decrease the risk of COVID-19 entering schools. “Thank you to everyone for continuing to be diligent in performing daily health screening, staying home if ill, calling HealthLine 811 if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, practicing proper hand hygiene, maintaining physical distancing as much as possible, wearing a mask when appropriate and doing everything we can to keep each other safe,” the release stated.Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The Canadian Coast Guard says it has completed its cleanup of a diesel spill caused by a collision between two vessels in the harbour at Parksville, B.C.According to the Coast Guard, a barge carrying a fuel truck struck a fishing boat in the French Creek Harbour on Monday at around 11:50 a.m.The collision caused the tank of the fuel truck to rupture, leaking diesel into the harbour. Although initial estimates suggested that 300-500 litres had been spilled, the Coast Guard said Monday evening that the final estimate is 188 litres.The Coast Guard says it deployed absorbent pads to soak up the fuel, and spoke with the barge's owner on the next steps in the cleanup. The barge's crew was able to plug the leak and pump most of the remaining fuel into the barge's tanks.By 7:45 p.m. PT, a Coast Guard spokesperson said "all recoverable product" had been removed from the water and the surface sheen should dissipate shortly.Canadian law states that the owner of any barge or vessel responsible for a spill is responsible for all costs of the cleanup.
The Town of Gananoque is considering introducing development charges in the near future. Development charges (DCs) are an additional fee charged to developers, usually on a flat rate per lot system, at the time that a building permit is issued. Before considering development charges, the town had to conduct a full development charge study comparing DCs in neighbouring municipalities, the impact on development within Gananoque, and the amount that could be charged based on population growth, as well as the town’s asset management needs, saod Mayor Ted Lojko. "Development charges are a discretionary mechanism to recover capital costs," said Peter Simcisko fo consulting firm Watson and Associates, addressing council on Nov. 20. In order to consider implementing development charges, a study is required by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, explained Lojko. "Development charges are an increasingly common tax issued by municipalities. They propose a trade-off between affordability and municipal revenue," said Evan Veenstra, of Riverton Homes in Gananoque. Development charges vary depending on municipal asset management plans and growth projections. According to Lojko, municipalities are being encouraged by the province to look at how best to attract development but also how best to ensure that the residents of the municipality do not continually pay for various infrastructure required when condos and subdivisions are being planned. Yet developers say development charges are simply passed on to the consumer or taxpayer. "As home values increase, home assessments for taxation purposes also increase. Through implementing development charges, a municipality can collect new revenue, along with additional revenue through increased residential taxation," said Veenstra. At this time, developers in Gananoque are already required to install all infrastructure that will serve their developments. "A developer is responsible for the installation of infrastructure such as water and sewer, roads, sidewalks, streetlights etc., which is undertaken through the subdivision approval process. A municipality will assume the infrastructure upon inspections and the completion of the subdivision. This is outlined in a subdivision agreement," said Brenda Guy, the town's manager of planning and development. According to Guy, DCs are intended to address growth-related costs such as the need to purchase a new snowplow or an expansion to the water and wastewater system. "Development charges are applied over and above the engineering, plumbing and building permits required, but municipalities already gain new taxes from the new residents in subdivisions, and they gain new water and wastewater ratepayers who were not on the books before," said Joe Gallipeau, a developer out of Smiths Falls. Most municipalities in the immediate area already impose DCs on new developments, including North Grenville, Kingston, Brockville, Rideau Lakes and Prescott. Meanwhile, councils can retain the option of waiving DCs to provide an incentive to encourage certain types of development. "Development charges could be seen by some individuals as a deterrent but council has the option of waiving development charges for certain sectors to provide an incentive to encourage some types of development, for example: Industrial development. Several municipalities have also waived development charges to encourage affordable housing and/or seniors' housing," said Lojko. The province has also introduced community benefit charges on new developments, which are separate from DCs. Community benefit charges can provide funding for community projects and assets such as parks and parking lots that are needed to service the increase in population. However, according to Lojko, community benefits charges are not part of the current study in Gananoque. There are still numerous steps that have to be completed before DCs can come into effect – a process that can take up to a year, according to Lojko. "Once consultation with the community, with the community members of the planning advisory committee, as well as various stakeholders are completed, Gananoque town council will then determine if and when they wish to implement the development charge bylaw," said Lojko. Council will likely make a decision in 2021 on whether to adopt a development charges bylaw. At this time, Council has requested that staff move to the public process, which will start soon, explained Guy. "Put to good use, this increased revenue (from DCs) can lead to incredible improvements throughout the community. We are very confident in the new home market in Gananoque, and are entirely committed to our community. If development charges are implemented in Gananoque, we will view them as an opportunity to continue supporting a community that has been incredibly supportive of us," said Veenstra.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative, Brockville Recorder and Times
High school students defy pandemic, discover joys of voice acting while making animated film version of 'Romeo & Juliet' after original plans to stage a traditional performance this fall were scuttled by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis (Nov. 24)
At the regular Esterhazy town council meeting on Wednesday, more concerns regarding the West sign corridor were brought to the council’s attention. At an earlier council meeting a motion was passed to go forward with 4x8 signs for the West sign corridor—it was previously only 8x8 signs on the corridor. Without having a firm plan in place for the sign corridor since 2017, the council wanted to ensure as many signs as possible fit on the corridor. There are over 20 names on the sign corridor waiting list and the best way to give more businesses an opportunity was to move from 8x8 signs to 4x8 signs. No business with a sign up on the West sign corridor is under contract, but the town plans to provide them with the opportunity to update their signs to fit the new mandated size. One of the previous sign owners isn’t happy with the decision because they’ve kept their sign up to date and put money into it and doesn’t think it’s fair they’ll have to change their sign. Both councillors Tenille Flick and Vern Petracek understood the frustration of the sign owner because they don’t believe it’s fair to force someone to change their sign when they’ve been keeping it up to date and following the previous rules. “We made a decision and we have to stick to our guns,” said Councillor Randy Bot. “If we don’t change the signs then we won’t have sign space for the new plan,” said Councillor Maggie Rowland. “We can’t change the plan for one sign.” Economic Development Director Tammy MacDonald says that nothing has been approved by the town since 2017 so any work done was never brought to the town’s attention. MacDonald felt that all the signs should be the same size and abide by the same rules and with this plan the town will own the signs which will allow them to enforce their own policies. “The person never approached the town about renewing their contract,” said Mayor Grant Forster. “To make it work for everyone else we have to hold firm on this.” The council will not be making any changes to the sign corridor motion already passed and will be moving forward with their plan. “We’re still going forward with it,” said Acting Administrator Mike Thorley. “What happened was before 2017 there were one-year contracts put in place for the sign corridor. The town at that time gave a bunch of specifications for those signs. Some of the people—there were eight spots—abided by it and some didn’t, but this is one of the people who abided by it well. “They spent money and made sure the sign was there, but nothing was ever followed through with us after in terms of renewing the contract. Now that we’re changing it, this business is upset with the changes. This new plan has been worked on since 2017 to make these changes so we can have a nice sign corridor with more signs.” Sign corridor tender awarded The council passed a motion to award Timco Construction the tender for the West sign corridor. Timco Construction will be constructing and installing the posts for the signs. The construction and installation work will cost $625 per unit with up to 32 units to be installed for a total of $20,000 plus any applicable tax. The West sign corridor was budgeted in the 2020 budget and the council agrees in the coming years they’ll make the cost back with the new larger sign corridor and consistent contracts between the town and businesses with signs. Arena kitchen to remain closed With no response to previous tenders put out for the Dana Antal Arena kitchen, the council has decided to look into setting up a vending machine. The council looked at two options prior to the vending machine decision, to hire someone to run the kitchen or ask for volunteers. Given the circumstances with Covid-19 this year, council believes neither option seems plausible. The addition of a vending machine offers food with low maintenance and no health risks for those serving or buying food. The council says this is a short-term solution and will continue to look for volunteers in the future. “The vending machine is a good Covid-19 specific solution for the time being,” said Acting Administrator Mike Thorley. “We’re going to look at the information necessary to put a vending machine in and talk to the contractor out of Yorkton to see if we can get a one-year deal with them or up until March or April of next year. There’s nobody looking for this type of work right now and I think we’re better off to just have vending machines so there’s availability for something in the building.” NoneRob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator
A B.C. man convicted of an online hate crime is facing strict new rules on his public expression after breaching his sentencing conditions.Arthur Topham, who ran a publication from his rural home near the central Interior city of Quesnel, was convicted in 2015 of communicating online statements that wilfully promoted hatred against Jewish people.As part of his sentence, Topham was forbidden from publishing or publicly posting information about "persons of Jewish religion or ethnic origin." But In October, a provincial court judge ruled Topham had breached that condition by creating new posts throughout 2018. Late last week, the judge sentenced Topham to a 30-day conditional sentence and three years probation for the breach, placing strict new conditions on Topham's public posts.For the next three years, Topham is forbidden from publishing or printing publicly any reference to or information about the Talmud, Zionism, Israel, and the Jewish religion, ethnicity or people.Topham is also forbidden from publicly posting the names of people he knows to be of Jewish origin. According to court documents, he will still be allowed to publicly name his wife and her family, but not to mention their ethnicity or origin. During his original trial, Topham told the court his wife is Jewish.In addition to the terms of his three-year probation, Topham will serve a 30-day conditional sentence, with a nightly curfew and a requirement to remain in B.C. He's also prohibited from having weapons, liquor, or alcohol."Justice has been served," said Ran Ukashi, National Director with B'nai Brith, a Jewish advocacy group that's been closely following the case."It serves as a deterrent for others, to realize there are consequences, there's a price to pay," said Ukashi."There are limits to … free speech and promoting hatred against identifiable groups is not on," he said."This person has been given opportunity after opportunity to not behave this way."A retired teacher now in his 70s, Topham was first charged in 2012. A website he produced featured frequent posts with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and demonized Jewish people, according to evidence at his trial.At his original trial in 2015, Topham's lawyer argued the posts were political satire, did not incite violence, and included materials that could easily be ordered on Amazon.Topham's case was the first hate crime prosecution in B.C. in almost a decade.It drew support from the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, which champions free speech, as well as from self-proclaimed "white nationalists," who attended Topham's jury trial in the Quesnel courthouse, 700 km northeast of Vancouver. Paul Fromm helped to fund Topham's defence and covered his trial through video blogs from Quesnel. Monika Schaefer, who served jail time in Germany for Holocaust denial, also attended court.