Kyle Lowry is one of most competitive performers in the NBA but Magic fans are offside in thinking the Raptors veteran is a dirty player.
Kyle Lowry is one of most competitive performers in the NBA but Magic fans are offside in thinking the Raptors veteran is a dirty player.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
China will increase its annual research and development spending by more than 7% every year over the next five years, the government wrote on Friday in its work report from the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress. The government will increase expenditure on basic research by 10.6% in 2021, the report added. The ramp-up highlights the country's commitment to advancing in the tech sector, as the country increasingly clashes with the United States and other countries over technology policy.
“I want to say something to the three of you today,” Saskatchewan Justice Gerry Allbright told the grieving family members of murder victim Mark Douglas Jonson, 61. “Mark Jonson is not just a name to me. He was a person loved. I have a picture of Mark in front of me,” said Justice Allbright, adding that the victim’s daughter and two sisters brought Mark to life through their compelling victim impact statements. “He was a man who was loved. He was a man who cared about others in society and he cared about those who were down and out,” said Justice Allbright in Battlefords Court of Queen’s Bench March 4. “Without you sharing those heartfelt and true comments with me I would not nave been able to see the man behind the photograph and I’m thankful for that and I’m sorry for your loss,” said Justice Allbright. Victim impact statements were read by Jonson’s daughter Lydia Holteniuk, and his sisters Lynette Jonson and Myrnel Williams. The three appeared by phone. Myrnel said her brother Mark Jonson taught her a lot – including his difficulties - during his life. “Sometimes the best teachers are people whose pasts have been a bit flawed because they can understand the human experience.” Lydia spoke about how painful and difficult it was to have her father brutally murdered. The court heard that Jonson was a generous and kind person who would help anyone. Jonson’s family said he struggled but was overcoming the challenges in his life and still had dreams to fulfill. A judge and jury trial for Nicholas Buck was previously scheduled to run Feb. 22 to March 5, 2021, but, instead, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder March 4. In July 2019, twenty-three-year-old Buck was arrested and charged with first-degree murder for the death of Jonson. Battlefords RCMP found Jonson deceased in a home on the 1500 block of 100 Street on July 5, 2019. RCMP Major Crime Unit North and North Battleford Forensic Identification Services investigated the murder. They issued a warrant for Buck’s arrest on July 11, 2019. He was arrested two days later. Police also arrested David Keller, 28, on July 11, 2019. Keller’s judge and jury trial is scheduled for October 2021 in Battlefords Court of Queen’s Bench. North Battleford Crown Prosecutor Steven Laroque said Jonson died the night of July 2 or the early morning of July 3, 2019. Laroque said there are several aggravating circumstances including the brutal nature of the senior’s murder in his home where he had the right to feel and be safe. For mitigating factors, Laroque said Buck is young and was victimized as a youth. “Gladue applies in this case, which requires special consideration.” Laroque said Buck cooperated with the police and confessed. In addition, by pleading guilty he spared the family from going through a lengthy trial and helped move the case through the court system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Defence Brian Pfefferle reiterated the significant Gladue factors present in Buck’s situation. “He has had a difficult life and was born into tragic circumstances,” said Pfefferle, adding that Buck suffered abuse, poverty and racism. A clean-cut looking Buck appeared by CCTV from the correctional centre wearing grey prison attire. Gone were the dreadlocks in the 2019 police-issued photo. Justice Allbright asked Buck if he had anything to say before sentencing, telling Buck that he is soft-spoken and to speak as loud as he can. Buck held his head slightly down throughout the proceedings but stood up when he delivered an apology to the victim’s family. “I’m not apologizing because I have to, I’m apologizing because I’m sincerely…” Buck said as he struggled to get more words out, many which were inaudible between his audible cries. Justice Allbright acknowledged Buck’s apology before sentencing him. “Buck’s background is a troubled background. The other side is the gravity of the level of violence visited on this poor man. “I sentence you to life without eligibility for parole until you serve at least 12 years,” said Justice Allbright. “In life everyone makes mistakes, some mistakes are very tragic,” added Justice Allbright. “You know well the tragic mistake you made that day when you caused the loss of life of Mr. Jonson. “You have then made some good decisions since then, the lengthy statement to police about your involvement in this matter, you come before the court entering a plea of guilty acknowledging the terrible harm your actions have caused and you have expressed remorse to the family members. I truly hope that your life proceeds in a way that can bring some honour to the memory, in this case, to Mark Jonson. “You have had a difficult upbringing and background,” added Justice Allbright. “That should help you to go forward from here. One of the family members said sometimes the best teachers are people whose pasts have been a bit flawed because they can understand the human experience. You, Mr. Buck, will hopefully follow in that, the very wise words the family member said.” firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
With restrictions still in place for large gatherings of people, the Tottenham & Beeton District Chamber of Commerce is making the best of the current situation by moving some of their events to a virtual format. By going on-line, the TBDCC can still keep people connected while promoting the local business com-munity. VIRTUAL HOME SHOW & ARTISAN MARKET The TBDCC’s annual Spring Home Show which usually takes place in March, will be going on-line. Since restrictions regarding gatherings will likely still be in place, it is not practical to plan an indoor show. Instead, the Board of Directors decided to move to a virtual format this year. Local businesses and vendors will still be able to showcase their prod-ucts and services, just in a different format. The good side of this means more businesses will be able to participate and members of the public don’t have to commit to a specific day to attend the show. Businesses and services will also be showcased for a longer period of time. Launch date for the virtual Home Show and Artisan Market is April 17.Registration information will be available on the TBDSS website. TBDCC ONLINE LEARNING SERIES The TBDCC is presenting an op-portunity for local businesses to share their expertise and promote their products and services. This gives members and non-mem-bers the opportunity to take part in workshops on a variety of different subjects. The first workshop will take place on Friday, March 12, at 1:00 p.m. and will feature Devin Merkac, from 92.1 myFM radio. He will discuss the benefits of radio advertising. Also featured over the next few weeks will be investment basics, with Horan & Associates, Wills & Power of Attorney with lawyer Jerry Switzer, Understanding real estate listing agreements with Peter Barbati of First Choice Realty, thriving after COVID with Tonia Salvaterra of DinoLand, Gypsy Moth Control with Meadowood Tree Services, and PLUS Lifestyle workshops on topics like photography and wellness. Fees are $20.00 for non TBDCC members and free for members. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Efforts to ban the application of the death penalty to some people with severe mental illnesses ran into resistance Thursday, but the bill mustered just enough votes to be sent to the Kentucky Senate. The measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-4 vote, leaving it potentially one step away from being sent to the governor. But that final hurdle could be a formidable one in the full Senate after the bill won 75-16 House passage this week. Republicans control both chambers. Afterward, the committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, said the bill’s prospects appeared to have become “dimmer.” Westerfield, who supports the bill, put its chances of passing the Senate at “50-50,” adding: “I’m not as confident as I once was.” The measure would block use of the death penalty for people who, at the time of the offence, have a documented history of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or delusional disorder. “This is not, despite all the rhetoric we’ve been hearing, going to do away with the death penalty," said Republican Rep. Chad McCoy, the bill's lead sponsor. "It is a very, very narrow bill.” The bill reflects a long-running goal of mental health advocates in Kentucky. The measure drew opposition from prosecutors at the committee hearing Thursday. Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron objected to the bill's reference to a person's documented history of disorders. He said it's too “loose a term” that would cause more legal disputes in cases that already consume considerable time. The bill's critics worry that a decades-old diagnosis could prevent that person from being held accountable for a heinous crime later in life. Disorders listed in the bill are seen frequently in criminal cases, and defence attorneys could try to have the proposal applied to existing death row cases if it becomes law, Cohron said. “The odds of this not being challenged and litigated retroactively is zero,” he said. Kentucky hasn't carried out an execution since 2008 and currently has 26 inmates on death row. McCoy said the bill applies only to future cases where the death penalty might be considered. “I don’t think we could be more clear on the retroactivity,” McCoy told the committee. Defendants with a history of having the disorders listed in the bill would still face severe punishment if the bill becomes law, he said. “This is not a decision of whether somebody’s not going to be tried or not going to be punished,” McCoy said. “They’re still going to get life in prison without parole.” ___ The legislation is House Bill 148. Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
BEIJING — China is increasing its defence spending by 6.8% in 2021 as it works to maintain a robust upgrading of the armed forces despite high government debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A national budget report issued Friday said China would spend 1.355 trillion yuan ($210 billion) on defence in the coming year. That’s up from 1.3 trillion yuan ($180 billion) last year representing a 6.6% boost, the lowest percentage increase in at least two decades. The military budget has dipped during periods of slower economic growth, but has also been dropping steadily from the double-digit percentage increases over years as the increasingly powerful military matures and rapid expansion of what is already the world’s second largest defence budget is no longer required. The lavish spending increases of years past have given China the second-largest defence budget in the world behind the U.S. With 3 million troops, the world’s largest standing military has been steadily adding aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighters to its arsenal. The government says most of the spending increases go toward improving pay and other conditions for troops while observers say the budget omits much of China’s spending on weaponry, most of it developed domestically. China’s military is largely designed to maintain its threat to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, although it has also grown more assertive in the South China Sea, the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and elsewhere. The U.S., whose defence spending is estimated to run to about $934 billion between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, has complained of a lack of transparency in China's defence programs, fueling speculation that Beijing aims to supplant America as the primary military power in East Asia. The People's Liberation Army exercises a strong political role as the military branch of the ruling Communist Party. President and party leader Xi Jinping heads the government and party commissions that oversee the armed forces. In his address to Friday's opening session of the ceremonial legislature, the National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said the government would “thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the armed forces and the military strategy for the new era, (and) ensure the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces." “We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security, and development interests of our country" Li said. The Associated Press
A Calgary man has been found guilty of murdering two men, both of whom he shot "at point blank range" as they sat, unsuspecting, in the front seats of an SUV, a Calgary judge has ruled. Christopher Naidu was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the April 2018 deaths of fellow drug dealers Joshua Brendan Bamfo, 25, and Mahad Abdiraham Ainanshe, 23. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jim Eamon found Naidu planned the killing of the two victims and "shot them at point blank range to their heads and neck area." "There's no reasonable possibility that Mr. Naidu happened to have his loaded gun at a meet-up with his business partners and used it on impulse," said Eamon in delivering his decision. After Eamon convicted Naidu, the killer sat in the prisoner's box shaking his head. During the trial, the judge heard that the three men sold drugs together, sharing a cellphone containing a client list of about 100 names and numbers. Naidu was supposed to have the phone every Friday and Saturday but one of the victims had recently kept the phone on the killer's assigned days. The Crown said in its opening statement that Bamfo and Ainanshe "were killed for the list," said prosecutor Todd Buziak on Day 1 of the trial last month. Victims 'not expecting a threat of violence' On April 20, 2018, just after 3 p.m., police were called to the northwest neighbourhood of Evanston after neighbours reported hearing gunshots. The two victims were found dead in a Nissan SUV. Bamfo's legs were up, casually resting on the dashboard of the vehicle, suggesting he had no idea what Naidu was planning. "[They were] not expecting a threat of violence, rather it was a meet-up," said Eamon. Following a 14-month investigation, Naidu was arrested and charged. A date for sentencing will be set next week. Naidu faces a life sentence with no chance of parole for between 25 and 50 years. Prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will seek consecutive parole ineligibility periods.
EDMONTON — Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations and the province hopes to hit a major milestone before July. “We now expect to offer all Albertans aged 18 and over a first dose of vaccine by the end of June,” Tyler Shandro said Thursday. But he noted that this goal depends on vaccine shipments from the federal government arriving on time. Earlier shipments this year did not come as expected. "We will keep pushing the federal government to actually deliver the vaccines that they have promised, and we’ll keep expanding our roll out to get doses into arms as fast as possible,” Shandro said. So far, Alberta has delivered 266,000 doses of vaccine. About 176,000 Albertans have been vaccinated, including 90,000 fully immunized with the recommended two doses. Shandro said residents aged 65 to 74, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis aged 50-plus, can begin booking March 15. The province had originally not expected to begin this stage of vaccination until April. Shandro said Alberta can now begin to accelerate the shots for two reasons: a new vaccine and a change in the vaccine regimen. Last week Health Canada approved a third vaccine, from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Shandro said the first 58,000 doses will be available starting March 10, but there is a caveat. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or NACI, has said while AstraZeneca is just as effective as the other vaccines, due to incomplete data it recommends it not be given to those over 64. Shandro said for that reason, the AstraZeneca vaccine will for now be offered to adults aged 50 to 64 who don’t have a severe chronic illness. The vaccination ramp-up is also due to a recommendation this week by the NACI that the wait for a second dose can be safely extended from the original six-week time limit to as long as four months. The NACI says evidence shows a first dose is 80 per cent effective for months. British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan will implement the delay in order to get more people inoculated quicker. Canada has already been using vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Alberta’s economy has been on a modified lockdown since cases spiked dangerously high in December. Retail shops and faith services are open at 15 per cent capacity, but indoor gatherings are banned, and outdoor get-togethers are capped at 10 people. From a high of 900-plus people in hospital with COVID two months ago, there were 245 as of Thursday, including 47 in intensive care. There have been 1,911 deaths. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, reported 331 new cases for a total active caseload of 4,613. Alberta has recorded 541 cases of variant COVID strains, which can spread far faster and have the potential to swamp a health system if left unchecked. This week, the province reported a variant case at Churchill Manor, a south Edmonton seniors centre. The facility saw one case spread to 27 cases within days. The daughter of one of the Churchill Manor residents, at a news conference with the Opposition NDP, said she fears for the safety of her 94-year-old father. Rose Zinnick said her father got his COVID-19 inoculation Monday, the same day he was told he tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Zinnick said Churchill Manor recently began allowing visitors and gatherings. She said her father told her people were sitting four to a table in the dining hall. “Now it’s two weeks later and there’s an outbreak, and many residents, including my dad, have COVID. I’m so angry and frustrated and disappointed,” said Zinnick. The Manor did not return a request for comment. Alberta Health Services, in an email, said the manor is an independent residence not contracted to AHS, but that it is now involved to ensure residents and staff are protected. The NDP also showed pictures depicting a mouse infestation in the facility. AHS confirmed the infestation and said it is ensuring pest control is brought in. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
That’s it for hockey this year. After a short-lived time on the ice, minor hockey is throwing in the towel – and they have no choice. The TNT Tornados have announced the season is over. The decision to cancel the rest of the season comes after the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit decided the region needs to go back into lockdown mode. The kids were back on the ice on February 20, when the region went into a Red Alert situation. Teams were able to practice and do training drills with restrictions. Those restrictions included limiting the ice to ten people and having no contact during practice. Parents were not allowed into the arena to watch practices.No dressing rooms were available, so players had to arrive dressed for the ice with the exception of helmets and skates. The move back to a lockdown situation on March 1, means arenas will again be off lim-its. The TNT executive had no choice but to finally just cancel everything. Previously, they said they had hoped to continue playing through to the end of April with hopes that a move to a Yellow or Orange alert would allow more kids to participate and be on the ice. The on again, off again situation when it comes to lockdowns in the region has crippled most sports with many activities not tak-ing place at all this year. There is a lot of doubt whether spring and summer sports will even be allowed this year. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Thursday was the first day Londoners 80 and older living in the community could get the COVID-19 vaccine. The shots — coming nearly one year since Ontario first announced COVID-19 lockdowns — mark a milestone in the battle against the pandemic. Here’s what some Londoners had to say after getting their first dose: “I feel secure,” he said after the jab. “I was most concerned about my wife,” who got her first dose just hours before. While it’s good news, Loubert knows life won’t be back to normal soon. “My biggest thing is following the health rules . . . Until everyone is vaccinated, we’re not safe.” “I’m relieved . . . I’d been trying for two days to get through” to book an appointment, she said. “I’m glad to get the process started. They’re doing a fantastic job.” “We’ve spent three mornings trying to book,” Maureen said, with the couple finally booking last-minute slots Thursday morning. “We’re really, really pleased. We need it.” As for Gary, how he's feeling was summed up in one word: “good.” “I’m glad. I’m so glad. And to get it so early.” “I was lucky. I saw a couple of blanks this morning (in the booking) and jumped in.” As for after the shot, Friesen said he was "feeling OK." But it's still a mystery what life will look like once he's fully vaccinated. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll have to see what they say.” “I’m relieved. It was a long time coming,” she said. She doesn't expect life to change too much, even after she gets the second dose. “I’ll still keep my mask on and follow the rules.” “I’m delighted, relieved, excited,” he said. Henderson is eagerly awaiting the rest of the world to get inoculated so he can return to one of his favourite pastimes: travel. Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Edmonton's mayor and city council are giving a thumbs down to the provincial government's budget, which cuts millions of dollars in infrastructure money to municipalities and post-secondary institutions. At a meeting Thursday, Mary Persson, Edmonton's chief financial officer, gave council the initial lowdown on how the cuts may impact the city's plans and economy. The provincial budget released last Thursday highlights projects that the government says will create thousands of jobs. But post-secondary institutions are expected to lose the equivalent of 750 full-time positions in 2021 and 2022, although the breakdown by school isn't available yet, Persson said. Mayor Don Iveson said cuts to colleges, universities and the public sector spell bad news for Edmonton. "It may very well be a jobs budget for Alberta, but it ain't a jobs budget for Edmonton," Iveson said Thursday after a council meeting. Coun. Ben Henderson said the forecast doesn't look good for the city. "I am really worried about the cuts to post-secondary in this city, which is very much part of what makes our city tick." The province plans to reduce the government workforce by 7.7 per cent over four years, with many of those positions in Alberta's capital city. The public sector is expected to lose more than 300 jobs next year. "I'm deeply puzzled by how this budget can be seen as a job creation budget," Henderson said during the meeting. "It does not look like that to me, sitting here in the city of Edmonton." 'It's actually just a declining staircase that continues in this budget' - Mayor Don Iveson The province says the budget will support more than 50,000 direct and 40,000 indirect jobs through to 2024. This includes new funding for 41 projects around the province totalling nearly $826 million over three years, the budget release says. The province's Treasury Board and Finance branch said municipalities will receive about 25 per cent less in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding over the next three years. Charlotte Taillon, the Treasury Board and Finance's press secretary, said Edmonton will receive $235 million in total MSI funding in 2021-22. "We recognize grant funding is an essential part of municipal capital plans and budgets," Taillon wrote in an email to CBC News. "We're asking municipalities to keep working with us as we transition to the Local Governance Fiscal Framework in 2024-25." MSI cuts Persson said that means the city faces a net loss of $30 million in 2022 in MSI funding, and $120 million in 2023-24 when the new fiscal framework replaces MSI. The cuts may limit the city's ability to renew facilities and 325 km of arterial roads, she said. "Difficult decisions will be ahead as we plan for the 2023 to 2026 capital budget cycle," Persson said. Instead, the city will likely be limited to maintaining existing projects already on the books. The city was eyeing green initiatives, affordable housing, infrastructure renewal including industrial and arterial roads, facilities and open spaces with that money, she noted. "These potential opportunities are no longer realistic with the current budget cuts," Persson said. Broken promises It's not just the United Conservative government that council blames. The province now collects more than $2 billion in education property tax, Iveson noted, a source of funding once promised to municipalities. Several years ago, the province said it would give municipalities the equivalent of what it collects in education tax, in infrastructure funding, Iveson said. "We never once got the full amount," he recalled. Iveson said when times were tough, the funding was cut. Every time the economy came back, Iveson said promises were made about funding increases that never happened. "It's actually just a declining staircase that continues in this budget of cuts to municipalities, and promises made and promises broken by successive governments." Less funding makes it difficult for the city to plan for new initiatives, retain talent and invest in areas that keep companies growing, Iveson said. City councillors directed administration on Thursday to take a historical deep dive at the years of what they call broken promises. They passed a motion to get a summary of cuts to operating and capital funding, back to the beginning of MSI in 2007. The finance branch is asked to report its findings during spring supplemental budget talks in April. @natashariebe
Pressure is mounting on the federal government to cap interest rates on payday money lenders, which can charge nearly 50 per cent interest. Advocates say it’s often the most financially vulnerable using them and the pandemic economy has made things worse.
Ontario’s first and only diamond mine is moving to the next phase of its closure plan with the appointment of Golder, a Canadian-owned engineering and environmental services consulting group, as the primary contractor who will oversee the remaining demolition and site rehabilitation. Victor Mine, owned by The De Beers Group, is located approximately 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat in the James Bay Lowlands. It opened in 2008 as only the second diamond mine in Canada. The open pit operation also included its own airstrip located on the property. It ceased mining operations in June 2019. De Beers reports that as of the end of 2020, approximately 65 per cent of the on-site infrastructure has been safely demolished, and around 40 per cent of the site has been rehabilitated with more than 1.2 million trees planted on the property since 2014. The De Beers Group will remain accountable for the site, and will retain responsibilities for achieving site closure objectives, keeping in line with government regulations, as well as relationships with Indigenous communities, the company stated in a release. All permits and licences remain in De Beers’ name. A small site-based oversight team will work directly with Golder personnel throughout the process, in addition to the De Beers employees who will continue to be responsible for daily environmental monitoring. Golder was chosen after what De Beers called an “extensive commercial process” which was undertaken throughout 2020. Golder’s responsibilities will include the remaining closure activities, as well as the day-to-day management of the site. They will also handle the remaining infrastructure demolition work, and site rehabilitation through 2023. “A similar model, hiring a prime contractor, was used during construction of Victor Mine, which opened ahead of schedule and on budget,” said Maxwell Morapeli, head of closure for De Beers. “Golder has a strong track record of successful closure and rehabilitation of industrial sites around the world, including working with local communities where they operate. We look forward to benefiting from their experience as we continue the responsible closure of Victor Mine.” Included in its contract with the De Beers Group is a commitment from Golder to work with local Indigenous contracting companies to provide necessary on-site services such as catering, housekeeping, and security. Heavy equipment operators and other personnel will be hired from the Attawapiskat First Nation and will be provided training and other opportunities. Golder and its sub-contractors have also hired 19 former De Beers Victor Mine employees to continue on-site work. “We are proud to have been selected to lead the responsible closure of the Victor Mine,” said Greg Herasymuik, Golder's Canadian Region president. “As we manage activities at site, we are committed to providing employment opportunities and to continue involving the local community.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
Another step was taken in a roof replacement project as an engineering firm has been selected for the Ecole St. Mary High School roof plan at the Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education meeting on Monday. The board selected Prakash Consulting of Prince Albert to oversee the engineering side of the replacement. Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen outlined the steps in the process before the board unanimously chose the firm. “We are commencing planning for replacement of sections of the Ecole St. Mary High School roof. The first step in the process was to solicit submissions from qualified engineering firms to provide project management and engineering services for that project. As a result of that process we did receive three submissions and evaluated those submissions,” McEwen told the board during Monday's meeting. McEwen explained that the project was approved as part of the three year Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) plan under three separate parts. Division administration sent out a request for estimates from firms in Prince Albert for engineering and project management for the project. Three firms submitted for the roof replacement and after evaluating the submissions Prakash was selected by administration for engineering and project management. The evaluation was made after applying board policy regarding purchasing of goods and services. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Mark Nichols is taking mandatory Curling Canada isolation in stride ahead of the Brier. He's lapping it up, actually. On his second day of quarantine, he walked 5K in his Calgary hotel room. "12 steps from wall to door," he counted. "That's a lot of laps." It took the Olympian an hour, pacing past his bed, through the room's seating area, and back —something to keep moving while Team Gushue looks to win its fourth Brier in five years. "It's tough at times," Nichols said when asked how isolation will affect his mental game, adding he feels ready. "We've been preparing for this for a long time, whether it's visualization or meditation or anything like that," he said. "This team has done a lot to kind of get to this place. We're ready for it." 'We're ready for it' The Brier takes place from March 5 to March 14, but Team Gushue — the defending champions, playing as Team Canada — plans to bunker down for the curling season. There's mixed doubles, two grand slam events, and the world championships for whoever wins the Brier. Team Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue, left to right, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker hold the Brier Tankard trophy after defeating Team Alberta in the 2020 Brier curling final.(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) "It could be 55 days in this hotel and out on Day 56 if everything goes as planned." Nichols said, adding that with the required safety protocols, if the team were to win worlds, it wouldn't make sense to leave the hotel between tournaments. Curling Canada mandates two weeks of relative isolation for curlers and coaches in their home province before flying out to an event. For the last three days, people aren't allowed to leave their homes or have contact with their families. Teams have to test negative for COVID-19 four times: before arriving in the host city, upon arrival, the following day and, again, either two or three days after that. Participants have a check-in every day to disclose any symptoms. They're restricted to their individual hotel rooms and they're not allowed visitors. Teams each have a car. They're only permitted to drive to the rink and back. It's a minute-long drive and stopping anywhere other than the arena isn't allowed. Keeping up the 5K But once they're on the ice, Nichols said, the game will feel much the same. They're used to downtime between matches and hanging out in hotel rooms. This season will just be an extreme version of that, with more time spent doing hotel room laps. "If that's the worst thing that happens here, I have to walk 5K back and forth, and we're still winning, then that's a good thing to do," Nichols said. "If it distracts me from what's going on around, then that's a good thing." Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
A Winnipeg woman is the lead plaintiff for a $750-million class-action lawsuit against the biggest bank-owned brokerage in Canada, claiming it failed to pay vacation pay to her and many other investment advisers for years. According to a statement of claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, RBC-Dominion Securities allegedly breached its legal duties by not fairly compensating many of its nearly 1,500 current advisers across the country, as well as those it previously employed. The claims have yet to be tested or proven in court. It is expected that RBC-DS will defend against the action and deny any allegations in court. Leigh Cunningham, a veteran adviser who spent 26 years at the company’s Winnipeg office and was its vice-president and director, is the lead plaintiff. Cunningham alleges she hadn’t been receiving at least six per cent vacation pay on her full income for decades. “But it’s not just about me,” she said, answering questions from the Free Press at a news conference held inside Manitoba Club Thursday. “I’m trying to help everyone else who was in the same position as me and who now could hopefully be helped with the outcome of this case. “It’s unfair that this happened and the culpability should only be on RBC for letting it get to this.” In an emailed statement Thursday, RBC Wealth Management’s director of communications Louise Armstrong said, “everyone who works at any RBC company is fairly compensated.” “The policies that apply to the employees involved in the action state that their compensation includes vacation pay and statutory holiday pay,” she said. Armstrong declined to provide further comment, adding their statements of defence have not yet been filed because the action has not been certified by court. Cunningham is being represented by a team of lawyers out of Toronto. They include Stephen Moreau, a partner at Cavalluzzo LLP; David O’Connor of Roy O’Connor LLP and Daniel Lublin of Whitten & Lublin. Cunningham’s lawyers are claiming for $750 million in general damages and $50 million in punitive damages from RBC-DS for the lawsuit. Asked where that number came from, they told the Free Press, that’s because the amount of vacation and holiday pay varies from region to region across Canada. “It’s a very hard calculation to make because we’re talking about 13 provinces and territories, who all have their own employment standards,” said Moreau, one of Cunningham’s lawyers. “So, this is the number we believe is best from what we have gathered. As we move forward, we will continue to quantify the level of damages for our case.” In Manitoba, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation with vacation pay of four per cent from their gross wages, per provincial employment standards. After one year of employment, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation and vacation pay of four per cent from their gross earnings. In five years time, vacation rises to at least three weeks, and vacation pay increases to six per cent of gross wages. For Cunningham, it’s also a “systematic problem” — stemming from the type of compensation that financial advisers receive for their work, based mostly on commissions and bonuses. “When I saw that RBC was reporting such large profits last week, I wanted people to know that it’s the advisers who make a lot of that happen,” she said. “Me, personally, I was so focused on my career and how that was going and progressing that I really didn’t even see this happening... But the onus for that shouldn’t have to be on me.” Cunningham’s lawsuit was served to RBC around December, with a notice of action made in 2019. It was not made public until Thursday. It is one of five proposed class actions launched against several banks and insurance companies since early 2019 that are seeking a cumulative $1.2 billion for vacation pay allegedly owed to current and former employees. Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
WASHINGTON — Worried about continuing threats, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police appealed to congressional leaders Thursday to use their influence to keep National Guard troops at the Capitol, two months after the law enforcement breakdowns of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. Yogananda Pittman told the leaders in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that the board that oversees her department has so far declined to extend an emergency declaration required by the Pentagon to keep Guardsmen who have assisted Capitol officers since the riot. Pittman said she needed the leaders' assistance with the three-member Capitol Police Board, which reports to them. She said the board has sent her a list of actions it wants her to implement, though she said it was unclear whether the points were orders or just recommendations. The letter underscored the confusion over how best to secure the Capitol after a dismal lack of protection in January and biting criticism for law enforcement's handling of the invasion. And it came came as authorities spent the day on high alert, primed for a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the building again, two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors in an insurrection meant to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. The list in the letter to lawmakers included a partial removal of the imposing fence encircling the Capitol grounds starting Monday and a drawdown of the Guard to 900 troops from the current 5,200 remaining in Washington. Police want to keep the fence indefinitely. In her letter, Pittman said she would ask for a drawdown of the deployment “based on the threat environment and physical and operational security capabilities.” Earlier Thursday, The Associated Press reported the Pentagon was reviewing a Capitol Police request to keep up to 2,200 Guardsmen at the Capitol another 60 days. A statement from the police said Pittman had formally made the recommendation to the Pentagon. A similar dispute had erupted between the Capitol Police and its board before Jan. 6 and even as rioters were storming the building. The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the House and Senate sergeants at arms and the architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force. Steven Sund, the now-former Capitol Police chief, has testified to Congress that he wanted to request the Guard two days before the invasion following reports that white supremacist and far-right groups would target the building to disrupt the certification of Biden's election victory over outgoing President Donald Trump. Paul Irving, who served on the Capitol Police Board as House sergeant-at-arms, denied that Sund asked him to call the Guard. Sund has testified that he asked repeatedly for the Guard to be called as rioters stormed the building, breaking police lines and running over officers unequipped to hold them off. He ultimately called the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard just before 2 p.m., who in turn testified that the request for help was delayed by the Defence Department. The request was not approved until after 5 p.m., as hundreds of rioters marauded through the building and left without being arrested. Five people died in the riot, including a Capitol Police officer and a Trump supporter shot by police. On Thursday, despite the warnings of new trouble, there were no signs of disturbance at the heavily secured building. Nor was there evidence of any large group heading to Washington. The most recent threat appeared to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that former Trump would rise again to power on March 4 and that thousands would come to Washington to try to remove Democrats from office. March 4 was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20. But Trump was miles away in Florida. In Washington, on one of the warmest days in weeks, the National Mall was almost deserted, save for joggers, journalists, and a handful of tourists trying to take photos of the Capitol dome through the fencing. Online chatter identified by authorities included discussions among members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group, concerning possible plots against the Capitol on Thursday, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Members of the Three Percenters were among the extremists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. But federal agents found no significant increases in the number of hotel rooms being rented in Washington, or in flights to the area, car rental reservations or buses being chartered. Online chatter about the day on extremist sites was declining. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, was briefed by law enforcement about the possible threat and said lawmakers were braced for whatever might come. “We have the razor wire, we have the National Guard. We didn’t have that January 6. So I feel very confident in the security,” he said. But those measures aren't permanent. Some states have threatened to pull their Guardsmen amid reports that some troops had been made to take rest breaks in parking garages or served spoiled food. Other Guardsmen have said they have been given good meals with accommodations for those on vegan or halal diets. In Michigan, which sent 1,000 troops, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she did “not have any intention of agreeing to an extension of this deployment.” Meanwhile, Trump continues to promote lies that the election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud, even though such claims have been rejected by judges and Trump's former attorney general. He repeatedly told those lies on social media and in a charged speech on Jan. 6 in which he implored thousands of supporters to “fight like hell.” Many of those supporters eventually walked to the Capitol grounds and overran officers to breach the building. Trump was impeached by the House on a c harge of incitement of insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate. So far, about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot. Trump's election rhetoric continues to be echoed by many national and local Republicans posting online messages about voter fraud and questioning the legitimacy of Biden's victory. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited “a years-long trend of false narratives fueling violence.” “On the specifics of today’s threats, the FBI and DHS have warned that the threat of domestic violent extremism, particularly racially motivated and anti-government extremists, did not begin or end on January 6 and we have been vigilant day in and day out,” she said Thursday. ___ Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Alan Fram, Mary Clare Jalonick, Colleen Long, and Lisa Mascaro in Washington, and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report. Lolita C. Baldor, Lisa Mascaro And Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press
Alberta's cross-country ski community has come through to finance trail grooming in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary after the United Conservative Party government cut funding for maintaining trails last year. Nordiq Alberta, the provincial sports body for cross-country skiing and a non-profit organization, announced that with three weeks left in its grooming pilot program, users have raised approximately $270,000 after expenses through voluntary parking pass sales. It exceed its goal of raising $200,000 through a pilot project to pay the costs of the trail grooming. On top of that, the organization has raised thousands in donations to support track setting. "The pilot was set out in part to inform us and to inform the government as to the ability and the willingness of the recreational ski community to help pay for ski trail grooming," said program lead Ken Hewitt. "The pilot proved, I think, beyond the doubt, that the ski community is prepared to pay for having groomed trails." The project came about after Premier Jason Kenney's UCP government announced in February 2020 that it would be making a number of changes to Alberta provincial parks, including stopping the grooming and setting of cross-country ski trails in Kananaksis Country. Though the government was to continue grooming at the Canmore Nordic Centre and track setting in the West Bragg Creek area, it planned to end trail setting and grooming in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area. The trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park are some of the most popular in the province with Alberta Parks estimating 100,000 site visits in the winter, representing about 40,000 vehicles. News of the cuts concerned the cross-country ski community, who said not grooming these trails would take a bite out of trail availability in the area. Under a pilot project arranged with the province, Nordiq Alberta asked people to voluntarily pay for parking if they were using the trails at Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area in Kananaskis Country. The passes were $10 a day, or $50 for a season. People could book online and print their passes to leave on the dash of their vehicles. Lots were patrolled by volunteer crews who would ensure people knew about the voluntary program and leave brochures on vehicles without passing asking them to consider paying retroactively and why. Meanwhile, the government continued to groom the trails with the same staff and equipment that it used for decades. Here's how the pilot program fared: Volunteers sold 5,200 season passes. Skiers bought 2,500 day passes. The program garnered $270,000 in net sales. Donors provided $22,000. The program got off the ground quickly. Hewitt said there were more than 150 volunteers assisting. Some drove in from nearby Canmore or Calgary, while others came to help from as far as Edmonton and Medicine Hat. The program now guarantees tracks will be set and groomed for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, with an estimated $60,000 left over for future grooming. Future of paid parking pass pilot unclear But it's unclear what the next steps are, Hewitt told CBC. "We're all optimistic that ski trail grooming will be sustained in next year and going forward," said Hewitt, adding the decision on how to proceed is in the government's hands. He said continuing the program as it stands, and depending on volunteers year after year, may not be sustainable. "You can only go back to the well so many times," Hewitt said. Although the future is unclear, Nordiq Alberta does plan to do what it can and ensure trail setting continues in Alberta. There are rumours in the cross-country ski community that a park fee system that operates similar to how National Parks charge for daily or yearly access could be brought forward, Hewitt said. "I don't know if that's a reality or just just a dream," he added. In a statement, Environment and Parks thanked Nordiq Alberta for its partnership and said any additional funds raised will be held in trust by Nordiq Alberta and used to support ski programs and projects in the future. "We will evaluate the pilot grooming operations program following the close of the season and discuss future plans with Nordiq," wrote Environment and Parks press secretary Jess Sinclair.
Inside, Kazuyoshi Sasaki carefully dials his late wife Miwako's cellphone number, bending his large frame and cradling the handset. He explains how he searched for her for days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami a decade ago, visiting evacuation centres and makeshift morgues, returning at night to the rubble of their home. Sasaki's wife was one of nearly 20,000 people in northeastern Japan killed by the disaster that struck on March 11, 2011.