Meteorologist Mark Robinson was in Burlington, Ontario watching as the snow band target the area.
Meteorologist Mark Robinson was in Burlington, Ontario watching as the snow band target the area.
WASHINGTON — A conference dedicated to the future of the conservative movement turned into an ode to Donald Trump as speakers declared their fealty to the former president and attendees posed for selfies with a golden statue of his likeness. As the Republican Party grapples with deep divisions over the extent to which it should embrace Trump after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress, those gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday made clear they are not ready to move on from the former president — or from his baseless charges that the November election was rigged against him. “Donald J. Trump ain’t going anywhere,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of several potential 2024 presidential contenders who spoke at the event, being held this year in Orlando to bypass COVID-19 restrictions. Trump on Sunday will be making his first post-presidential appearance at the conference, and aides say he will use the speech to reassert his power. The program underscored the split raging within the GOP, as many establishment voices argue the party must move on from Trump to win back the suburban voters who abandoned them in November, putting President Joe Biden in the White House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and others worry Trump will undermine the party’s political future if he and his conspiracy theories continue to dominate Republican politics. But at the conference, speakers continued to fan disinformation and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, with panels dedicated to amplifying false claims of mass voter fraud that have been dismissed by the courts, state election officials and Trump’s own administration. Indeed, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., another potential 2024 hopeful, drew among the loudest applause and a standing ovation when he bragged about challenging the election certification on Jan. 6 despite the storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters trying to halt the process. “I thought it was an important stand to take," he said. Others argued the party would lose if it turned its back on Trump and alienated the working-class voters drawn to his populist message. “We cannot — we will not — go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who outlined a new Trumpian GOP agenda focused on restrictive immigration policies, opposition to China and limiting military engagement. “We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be,” echoed Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the fundraising committee tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate. “If we do, we will lose the working base that President Trump so animated. We’re going to lose elections across the country, and ultimately we’re going to lose our nation." Scott is dismissing pressure on him to “mediate between warring factions on the right” or “mediate the war of words between the party leaders." He has refused to take sides in the bitter ongoing fight between Trump and McConnell, who blamed Trump for inciting the deadly Capitol riot but ultimately voted to acquit him at his impeachment trial earlier this month. “I’m not going to mediate anything," he said, criticizing those who “prefer to fan the flames of a civil war on our side” as “foolish” and “ridiculous." But in speeches throughout the day, the GOP turmoil was front and centre. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., lit into Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who has faced tremendous backlash for her vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. And as the program was wrapping up, Trump issued a statement endorsing Max Miller, a former staffer who has now launched a campaign challenging Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, another Republican who voted in favour of impeachment. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News Channel host and Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, offered a pointed message to those who stand in opposition to the former president, who will not arrive at the conference until Sunday but was present in spirit in the form of a large golden statue erected in a merchandise show booth, where attendees could pose for pictures with it. “We bid a farewell to the weak-kneed, the spineless and the cowards that are posing in D.C. pretending that they’re working for the people,” she said. “Let’s send them a pink slip straight from CPAC.” Trump Jr., who labeled the conference “TPAC” in honour of his father, hyped the return of his father and the “Make America Great Again” platform to the spotlight. “I imagine it will not be what we call a ‘low-energy’ speech," he said. “And I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party.” Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
(Leanne King Photography - image credit) Members of Saskatchewan's horse-racing community are devastated after the cancellation of the 2021 season at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon. They say more could have been done to save the season and that the cancellation could cause long-term damage to the sport in Saskatchewan. Horse-racing at Marquis Downs, a racetrack operated by Prairieland Park, was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. Earlier this week, the organization announced the 2021 season would be cancelled as well. The news is a heavy blow for many in the industry. Some claim Prairieland Park has been keeping them in the dark about plans for the season after a deal to lease the facility to Pan Am Horse Racing Inc. for 2021 was unsuccessful. "It seems to me that they haven't put forward the effort that one would expect from an organization that is in the business of running horse-racing and promoting agriculture," said Nicole Hein, an apprentice jockey and one of the only female jockeys in the province. Hein is spearheading a grassroots effort to raise awareness of the short- and long-term effects the cancellation will have on the horse-racing industry in Saskatchewan. She said many in the community are upset, as there's been "silence for months'' from Prairieland Park, leaving many who depend on the racetrack in limbo. Hein was one of the organizers of a small demonstration at City Hall on Friday aimed at making more people aware of the situation. She said organizers feel their voice has not been heard and that Prairieland Park needs to do more to support the sport. "They just sat silent for months and then made this decision," she said. A small group of people gathered at Saskatoon's City Hall this week to raise awareness of the cancellation of the 2021 horse-racing season at Marquis Downs. Mark Reiger, CEO of Prairieland Park, said the organization was still making efforts to run races in 2021 until three days before the cancellation. He said the pandemic hit Prairieland Park hard and presented issues for a potential 2021 season. He pointed to both recruitment of international jockeys — a process with extensive COVID-19 protocols — and a lack of agreement with the Saskatchewan's Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association (HPBA) representing owners and trainers as factors. "The fact is, the horsemen haven't agreed to 20 days of racing, which is a problem in itself. If they refuse to race, then we have no horses, so we're done," he said. "The bigger issue is the jockey situation. If we had an agreement with the horsemen and we could get jockeys in, we might consider this." Prairieland Park put forward an offer to run 20 days of races, but the HPBA wanted to see a 24-day season to ensure the costs of running are covered. Regier said the issue comes down to finances. "We invest large amounts of money to make it operate and there's limits as to what we can do," he said. "With the shutdown of our whole operations here, Prairieland could be losing as much as $3 million this year. So that poses a big challenge for us too. How many days are enough? What are we supposed to do? We try our best here to make it work, but there are limitations as to what we can do." He said Prairieland not having applied for permits as usual a "non-issue," saying they could have been acquired quickly if needed. We try our best here to make it work, but there are limitations as to what we can do. - Mark Reiger, CEO of Prairieland PArk Sport will suffer from cancelled seasons Eddie Esquirol, President of the Saskatchewan HPBA, said owners and trainers countered with the 24-day season because cash streams from gate admission and concessions would likely be off the table due to COVID, so they would be relying on revenue from wagering and race takes alone. "Keep in mind the care of the animals, the care of the horses, is 365 days a year," he said. He said some racetracks have had success broadcasting their globally via simulcast, which allows people in international markets to bet on live races even if physical attendance is limited. While you can wager on horse racing at Marquis Down through a smartphone app, the software is based out of Ontario, meaning some money made from Saskatchewan betters won't stay in the province, Esquirol said. He said Prairieland Park needs to invest in a global simulcast, and the marketing and planning required to make it successful. He also said he's "at a loss" as to why Prairieland Park leadership won't join the HPBA's efforts to lobby the provincial government for funding, which he said could be one avenue to saving the struggling industry. He's not sure Saskatchewan's horse-racing industry will be able to survive without provincial intervention. "There's 500 people that are affected directly and there's another 500 plus that are affected indirectly," he said. "So for Prairieland not to conduct horse racing in Saskatoon for the summer of 2021, you have many people that are either going to be forced to relocate to our neighbouring provinces or find some other form of employment in Saskatoon." Praireland has no interest in further lobbying efforts Reiger said Prairieland has invested millions in the sport of horse-racing over the years and is not interested in asking the province for money alongside the HPBA. Although Prairieland supported a petition lobbying the province for funding in the summer, he said it has no interest in continuing lobbying efforts. "That's their initiative, it's in front of the table and we'll let them talk to the government," he said, noting there wouldn't be thoroughbred racing in the province at all if not for Marquis Downs. Asked about criticisms that Prairieland isn't doing enough, he said, "that's their opinion and I appreciate that." On Friday, CBC reached out to Prairieland Park with follow up questions about the 2021 horse-racing season, including questions about a global simulcast, but a response was not received by deadline. Marquis Downs is the premier horse-racing track in Saskatchewan. A news release from Prairieland Park said its revenue is derived from "trade shows, banquets, agricultural exhibitions, and the Exhibition itself," all of which have been unable to open due to COVID-19. "The effect of that has been a significant reduction in revenues. To help maintain its strong balance sheet, Prairieland Park has been forced to make many difficult decisions over the last year," the statement said. "The primary commitment is opening operations when safe to do so." Kristy Rempel, marketing manager with Praireland Park, told CKOM that the park understands the cancellation of the 2021 season "does effectively end horse-racing in the province." Esquirol said he's reached out to the province in hopes of meeting to discuss further options. He said he's yet to get a response. Hein, who wants to see horse-racing grow and thrive in Saskatoon, said leaders at Prairieland need to do their part to make sure the sport survives. "Everybody needs to pull up their bootstraps and get to work and not hide behind a desk and just decide the fate of an entire industry from your chair," she said.
(Submitted by Kayel Lewis - image credit) A P.E.I. woman has a new side-hustle with a few different missions: to keep pets warm, to make a little extra money and to upcycle old sweaters that might otherwise be thrown away. Kayel Lewis of Rice Point started altering vintage human sweaters for her dog last winter and enjoyed it so much, she turned it into a small business and Hand-Me-Down Hound was born. "I've always been a bit of a thrifty person and I couldn't find other jackets and sweaters [for him], so I bought a sweater and turned it into a dog sweater," Lewis said. "I think for the most part people just think it's cute to see a dog in clothing!" Lewis's dog Exi is an integral part of the story: she adopted Exi from Spain last year through an agency called Extraordinary Galgos and Podencos. Exi in the very first sweater his human Kayel Lewis made him. Galgos and podencos are ancient breeds of Spanish hunting dogs and like racing greyhounds in the U.S., many are often seen by their owners as having outlived their usefulness so are given up for adoption or abandoned on the streets. Extraordinary Galgos and Podencos is one of several agencies that now help rehome the dogs, which like greyhounds can make excellent pets. Also like greyhounds or whippets, the dogs are very sleek, without much hair to keep them warm in colder climates. "It started cause I wanted him to be warm!" she said with a laugh. Great excuse to go thrifting Lewis is a lifelong thrift-store enthusiast, sewer and crafter, so the idea of repurposing vintage sweaters was natural for her. Louis the pug shows off his new duds from Hand-Me-Down Hound. "I kind of realized it was a niche thing that people seemed to really like, and I really like finding sweaters — so it gave me an excuse to buy sweaters that I've found. It's kind of just a satisfying thing for me." She moved from British Columbia and said she appreciates the abundance of beautiful handmade sweaters she has been able to find in P.E.I. thrift stores. Lewis said she is excited to make sweaters for all animals people consider pets, including goats, pigs and chickens too. This podenco looks cosy in her new sweater, which Lewis called the Oh My Heart. She will alter sweaters customers already have, or they can choose from her collection of vintage sweaters she has thrifted. She has made about 20 so far, and is excited to grow her business. The one-of-a-kind creations cost $35 to $50, less if customers provide their own sweaters. "I'm just starting, and I'm more excited just to get sweaters out there than to try to make a big profit," Lewis said. She sells on Facebook and on the online maker marketplace Etsy, but said she'd prefer to keep most of her sales local, since it is more sustainable not to ship and "because it would be fun to see the dogs wearing the sweaters — it feels good," she said. 'He's very proud' Exi loves wearing his sweaters, she said. Seeing the dogs in sweaters 'is pretty entertaining!' says Lewis. Here, Silver models a sweater with rosebuds. "He kind of struts around, it's very cute, he's very proud," she said. Lewis has a day job on an organic farm and said she's enjoying growing Hand-Me-Down Hound as a side job, for now. For the month of February, she donated 10 per cent of her sales to Extraordinary Galgos and Podencos, and plans to make donating to her favourite causes part of her business model. More from CBC P.E.I.
Thousands of Russians, as well as some western diplomats, have marked the sixth anniversary of the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.View on euronews
The Village of South River discussed several topics at its Feb. 22 council meeting, including the annual water report, South River’s arena status and the District of Parry Sound Social Services Board being more involved in health and well-being. Here are key quotes from the council meeting. On the 2020 annual water report “People have concerns and rightly so; they have a right to be concerned about the security of their water, but we certainly have taken all the steps to make sure that security is there and it’s good for us to have a reminder for them,” said Coun. Bill O’Hallarn. “On our water page, both this report and the next one that we’re about to accept will be on the website (Feb. 23) and the past years are there,” said clerk-administrator Don McArthur. On the South River Arena “As we all know, we decided to remove the ice and that work will go on. We’ll move forward all the maintenance once they get the ice out that would have normally taken place in May and June — we can begin in March and see how far that takes us,” said McArthur. “We’re hopeful that the (Investing in Canadian Infrastructure Program) COVID-19 grant may be announced before the end of March and maybe we can enhance some of that work. For right now, the plan is to put the ice back in mid-June to be ready for hockey opportunity camp … so the arena update is that the season came to an end unfortunately,” said McArthur. On the District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board “That’s something we always wanted to do, was to have the District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board more involved with health and well-being,” said Coun. Teri Brandt. “The DSSAB is an active member of the build in Powassan for the new Noah building and you can see the building is going ahead and they’re very optimistic there’s going to be 50 units and lots of subsidized units,” said Brandt. The Village of South River’s next council meeting is on March 8. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
(Zach Goudie/CBC - image credit) A mining company hoping to strike it rich on the Eastern Shore says it now believes there is double the amount of gold it initially thought was on its property near Goldboro, N.S. Anaconda Mining originally estimated there were 1.4-million ounces of gold at its site about 250 kilometres east of Halifax. But after exploration, drilling and testing last year, the Toronto-based company now believes there are closer to 2.75-million ounces of gold. "I've been in this industry 35 years, and it's been my dream to develop something like this," said Kevin Bullock, the company's president and CEO. "I'm just ecstatic. You know, people look for these their lifetime and never find them. So I'm really happy about that." Bullock said he believes the gold deposit at Goldboro is the second-largest undeveloped deposit in Atlantic Canada, second only to Marathon Gold's Valentine Gold project in Newfoundland and Labrador. Focus shifting to open-pit mining The findings have prompted Anaconda to modify its plans for the proposed mine. The plan had always been to extract gold through both open-pit surface mining as well as underground mining. The company still plans to use both methods, but now plans more open-pit mining. Open-pit mining tends to be faster and less expensive. It also means more ore is crushed and processed, producing more waste dumps and tailings, the material left over after ore is processed. Bullock said the amount of ore that will be processed will quadruple from previous estimates. The shift to more open-pit mining will increase the physical footprint of the mining operations due to the amount of tailings and waste dumps, but Bullock couldn't yet say by how much. He expects the period of open-pit mining to last for at least eight or nine years before underground mining begins. Bullock said if the mine is approved, he hopes to see construction begin by the end of 2022. The project would create a "tremendous" number of jobs through both the construction and operations phases, Bullock said. Anaconda is now expecting to be able to produce about 100,000 ounces a year, a figure Bullock estimates is relatively on par with the activities of the province's active mine, Atlantic Gold's Touquoy mine in Moose River. Environmental approval Anaconda submitted its original plans for Goldboro to the province for environmental approval in August 2018. But the environment minister at the time, Margaret Miller, said the company's submission didn't contain enough information. She asked Anaconda to write a new, more extensive report on the environmental implications of the project, and gave a one-year deadline. Three days before that deadline, in September 2019, Anaconda withdrew its proposal from the environmental assessment process because it was changing its plans for the mine. Bullock said the mine would operate in compliance with all provincial environmental policies. "So, waters frequented by fish, we will stay away from. We will ensure that everything is done to the standard that anything emitted to the environment will not have anything in it that's deleterious." Bullock acknowledged that since the Goldboro area was mined as far back as the late 1900s — long before any environmental regulations were in place — there are historical tailings that "have some nasties in them." He said the company would hope to help the government clean up those sites. MORE TOP STORIES
The “Trump-made-me-do-it” defence is already looking like a longshot. Facing damning evidence in the deadly Capitol siege last month — including social media posts flaunting their actions — rioters are arguing in court they were following then-President Donald Trump's instructions on Jan. 6. But the legal strategy has already been shot down by at least one judge and experts believe the argument is not likely to get anyone off the hook for the insurrection where five people died, including a police officer. “This purported defence, if recognized, would undermine the rule of law because then, just like a king or a dictator, the president could dictate what’s illegal and what isn’t in this country," U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said recently in ordering pretrial detention of William Chrestman, a suspected member of the Kansas City-area chapter of the Proud Boys. “And that is not how we operate here.” Chrestman’s attorneys argued in court papers that Trump gave the mob “explicit permission and encouragement” to do what they did, providing those who obeyed him with “a viable defence against criminal liability.” “It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement. Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did,” Chrestman’s lawyers wrote. Trump was acquitted of inciting the insurrection during his second impeachment trial, where Democrats made some of the same arguments defence attorneys are making in criminal court. Some Republican lawmakers have said the better place for the accusations against Trump is in court, too. Meanwhile, prosecutors have brought charges against more than 250 people so far in the attack, including conspiracy, assault, civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding. Authorities have suggested that rare sedition charges could be coming against some. Hundreds of Trump supporters were photographed and videotaped storming the Capitol and scores posted selfies inside the building on social media, so they can’t exactly argue in court they weren’t there. Blaming Trump may be the best defence they have. “What’s the better argument when you’re on videotape prancing around the Capitol with a coat rack in your hand?” said Sam Shamansky, who’s representing Dustin Thompson, an Ohio man accused of stealing a coat rack during the riot. Shamansky said his client would never have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 if Trump hadn’t “summoned him there.” Trump, he added, engaged in a “devious yet effective plot to brainwash” supporters into believing the election was stolen, putting them in the position where they “felt the the need to defend their country at the request of the commander in chief.” “I think it fits perfectly,” he said of the defence. “The more nuanced question is: Who is going to buy it? What kind of jury panel do you need to understand that?” While experts say blaming Trump may not get their clients off the hook, it may help at sentencing when they ask the judge for leniency. “It could likely be considered a mitigating factor that this person genuinely believed they were simply following the instructions of the leader of the United States,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan who's now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. It could also bolster any potential cases against the former president, experts say. “That defence is dead on arrival,” said Bradley Simon, a New York City white-collar criminal defence attorney and former federal prosecutor. “But I do think that these statements by defendants saying that they were led on by Trump causes a problem for him if the Justice Department or the attorney general in D.C. were to start looking at charges against him for incitement of the insurrection.” While the legal bar is high for prosecuting Trump in the Capitol siege, the former president is already facing a lawsuit from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson that accuses him of conspiring with extremist groups to prevent Congress from certifying the election results. And more lawsuits could come. Trump spread baseless claims about the election for weeks and addressed thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House before the Capitol riot, telling them that they had gathered in Washington "to save our democracy." Later, Trump said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” A lawyer for Jacob Chansley, the shirtless man who wore face paint and a hat with horns inside the Capitol, attached a highlighted transcript of the Trump's speech before the riot to a court filing seeking Chansley's release from custody. The defence lawyer, Albert Watkins, said the federal government is sending a “disturbingly chilling message” that Americans will be prosecuted “if they do that which the President asks them to do.” Defence lawyers have employed other strategies without better success. In one case, the judge called a defence attorney’s portrayal of the riots as mere trespassing or civil disobedience both “unpersuasive and detached from reality.” In another, a judge rejected a man’s claim that he was “duped” into joining the anti-government Oath Keepers group and participating in the attack on the Capitol. Other defendants linked to militant groups also have tried to shift blame to Trump in seeking their pretrial release from jail. An attorney for Jessica Watkins said the Oath Keepers member believed local militias would be called into action if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to stay in office. Watkins disavowed the Oath Keepers during a court hearing on Friday, saying she has been “appalled” by fellow members of the far-right militia. “However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government, but to support what she believed to be the lawful government,” her lawyer wrote. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Dominic Pezzola, another suspected Proud Boy, said he “acted out of the delusional belief that he was a ‘patriot’ protecting his country." Defence attorney Jonathan Zucker described Pezzola as “one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President's deception.” “Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence," he wrote. “Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege." Michael Kunzelman And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. By the time that dose is injected, it has travelled to at least six different cities in four countries, across the Atlantic Ocean twice, and monitored by a 24-hour watchtower in Iceland every step of the way. A marvel of both science and supply-chain heroics takes the vaccine from the factory floor to the arms of grateful patients all over the world. "It's really very complex," said Germain Morin, Pfizer's vice-president in charge of global supply chains for the company's rare-disease medications and vaccines. The messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines being made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, as well as Moderna, are a novel technology that before COVID-19 had never been approved for widespread use in humans. While DNA is the large and complex molecule that stores all of genetic coding that makes us who we are, RNA carries individual pieces of that code out into the body with the instructions on how to carry out the body's work. In the case of mRNA vaccines, they are carrying the genetic code for part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which teaches our bodies to mount a defence against the virus. A year ago, the materials for these vaccines were being made for research purposes only, enough for maybe a few hundred doses at a time. Now Pfizer expects to pump out two billion doses by the end of this year. It has made scaling up the manufacturing process a herculean feat, said Morin. There are 25 different suppliers involved, spanning 19 different countries. Some of them, said Morin, were making milligrams of liquid at the start. Then they were asked to make kilograms of it, and finally hundreds of kilograms. The 475,000 doses Canada received last week began their lives before Christmas. Morin said it used to take four months to make a single dose of the vaccine, which is officially called BNT162b2. Morin said the process has recently been streamlined to half that time. Every dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is born in a Pfizer lab in Chesterfield, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. That's where small DNA molecules called plasmids are made with the beginnings of the code for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. It takes about two weeks, followed by a quality assurance process. Every step of production has quality checks and rechecks, from the bags and boxes used to store and transport the vaccine components to the temperature in the lab and the protective clothing worn by any workers. Then comes the first major chill, as the plasmids are put in bags and frozen to that famous ultralow temperature Pfizer's product needs: -80C. From Missouri, the plasmids are shipped to two labs, one a Pfizer facility in Andover, Mass., and another a BioNTech facility in Germany, where they are used to make the mRNA. A single batch of mRNA takes about four days to make, in a high-tech process with numerous enzymes and chemicals. The mRNA is then frozen again and shipped off for finishing. In the U.S. that happens in Kalamazoo, Mich., and for Canada's doses, currently made in Europe, they go to Puurs, Belgium, Pfizer's biggest plant in the world. Messenger RNA is not a very stable product and will disintegrate quickly if not protected, so every bit of mRNA is encased in a tiny amount of fat called a lipid nanoparticle. "Imagine a very, very small egg, so a very small eggshell of lipids that would protect the mRNA," said Morin. "This is part of the magic of making this vaccine as well." Over the course of three or four more days the mRNA gets its lipid coating, and is filled into vials containing enough vaccine for six doses. The vials are then packed into boxes, and immediately put into "those famous freezers" which turn the lipid-coated mRNA molecules into mini blocks of ultracold ice. "This was, by the way, one of the challenges," said Morin. "You can imagine that those freezers are not very common in the world. Laboratories buying them would typically buy them one or two at a time. We went to the suppliers and the first time we've asked for 650 of them in one shot, and then we went for more after that." The vials stay in those freezers for two to three weeks, while every lot is tested with more than 40 different quality-control measures. Then come the thermal shipping boxes Pfizer and BioNTech developed for this vaccine. Each vial is packed into a tray about the size of a pizza box with 195 vials total. Five trays are packaged together into the special box, which is filled with dry ice, and sealed. Every box contains a tracking unit to know its location and internal temperature at all times. A control site in Iceland monitors the boxes, which are all uniquely labelled. If any box records a problem between Belgium and the delivery site, it will be investigated and most likely discarded. Morin said at first there were many concerns about the complexity of the freezer requirements but the supply chain has been so successful that only one per cent of the product around the world has been lost because of temperature concerns. Pfizer contracted with UPS to deliver the boxes. Those are picked up by UPS in Belgium, and sent through Germany and Kentucky on their way to Canada. UPS delivers the batches to dozens of delivery sites in each province, where provincial health officials take over possession and prepare to inject them into arms. Moderna hasn't released as many details about its manufacturing process, but has said the vaccine is largely produced for Canada in Switzerland, sent to Spain to be mixed with a diluent and filled into vials, and then shipped to a warehouse in Belgium. Canada has hired FedEx and Innomar Strategies to manage the shipping and distribution of Moderna's and all other vaccines except Pfizer-BioNTech's. Guy Payette, the president of Innomar, said they too use specially designed boxes. Moderna's vaccine doesn't have to be frozen as deeply but does have to be kept at about -20C. The other vaccines Canada is likely to get will mostly need to be kept at about 6 C. Payette said each box is also labelled and tracked with a GPS and thermal sensor. The shipments arrive at Innomar's warehouse, where workers repackage them to match the quantities being sent to each province. He said except for one spot in northern British Columbia, the trackers have worked beautifully. Where they did not, due to the altitude, boxes are equipped with a second device with data that can be downloaded later. He said so far, the temperature has been fine and all products delivered successfully. Those involved in the vaccine process have expressed awe at the speed with which everything turned around. Moderna's vaccine was in clinical trials less than two months after the SARS-CoV-2 virus was fully sequenced. Pfizer and BioNTech signed a partnership agreement in March 2020, and 266 days later the vaccine was approved in the United Kingdom. More than 50 countries have since followed suit and more than 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine have now been distributed. It's a pace of development the company has never seen in its 173-year history. "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, not even close," said Morin. He said most products take three to five years to get this far. "We're very proud," he said. "Every new market that we launch is a celebration." He said when the first Canadian was vaccinated on Dec. 14, "I had goosebumps." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 67,201 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,774,599 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,682.409 per 100,000. There were 398,071 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,441,670 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.68 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,827 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 20,285 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.739 per 1,000. There were 7,020 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 33,820 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,485 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 12,176 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.758 per 1,000. There were 1,670 new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.75 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,987 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 32,019 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.81 per 1,000. There were 14,700 new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.66 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were 11,760 new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 13,464 new vaccinations administered for a total of 400,540 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 46.81 per 1,000. There were 28,500 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 537,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.47 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 21,805 new vaccinations administered for a total of 643,765 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.826 per 1,000. There were 220,030 new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.27 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 71,469 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 51.902 per 1,000. There were 6,100 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 108,460 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 4,015 new vaccinations administered for a total of 69,451 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.899 per 1,000. There were 15,210 new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 93.09 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 11,728 new vaccinations administered for a total of 207,300 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.092 per 1,000. There were 69,090 new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.39 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,490 new vaccinations administered for a total of 252,373 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.18 per 1,000. There were 15,491 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 323,340 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 15,174 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 363.615 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 80.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 19 new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,276 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 187.884 per 1,000. There were 8,500 new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP Photo - image credit) Vaccine deliveries are ramping up and provinces and territories are starting to unveil more of their vaccine rollout plans. Each province has a phased plan for vaccine deployment which indicates when the various priority groups can expect to receive the shots. Here's what we know so far about who's getting the shots and when. British Columbia B.C. is still in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout, which covers residents and staff of long-term care facilities, health care workers who may provide care for COVID-19 patients and remote and isolated Indigenous communities. The subsequent phase is expected to run through March and includes seniors 80 and over, Indigenous seniors 65 and over, hospital staff and medical specialists, vulnerable populations living and working in congregated settings and staff providing in-home support to seniors. B.C. is planning to announce the details of Phase 2 of the immunization program on Monday. Immunization clinics overseen by local health authorities are being organized in 172 communities in school gymnasiums, arenas, convention centres and community halls. B.C. said it would start reaching out to those in line for vaccines in Phase 2 to tell them how to pre-register for immunization appointments. A truck carrying COVID-19 vaccine crosses the Canada-U.S. border into B.C. on Monday, Dec. 12, 2020. People will be notified by postcard, email, text or phone call, through specialty clinics, independent living homes, home care services and family physician offices. Pre-registration for vaccinations opens in March. People can pre-register, online or by phone, two to four weeks before they are eligible. Eligibility is based on the current phase of the vaccination program and the recipient's age. Those contacted for vaccination appointments are pre-screened for eligibility before they choose a location, date and time to receive the shot. Mass clinics for the general population are scheduled to start on April 6, beginning with the 75-79 age group. The B.C. government website says it is developing a registration and record system and a process to register for vaccine access and receive a formal record of immunization. For more information about B.C.'s vaccination plan, go here. Alberta As of Feb. 24, seniors 75 and over (born in 1946 or earlier) and seniors 65 and over living in First Nations and Métis communities were eligible for vaccination. The Alberta government estimates there are about 230,000 seniors in these two groups. Starting the first week of March, select pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer will be offering the vaccine. By the end of the week about 100 pharmacies will provide shots. A list of participating pharmacies can be found here. Staff at participating pharmacies will contact people who are eligible for the shots. Given the anticipated vaccine delivery schedule, Alberta Health Services says it expects it will be vaccinating people in this first phase over most of March. Allan Pasutto, 86, of Penhold, Alberta gets the COVID-19 vaccine in Red Deer. Phase 2 is expected to begin in April. Vaccinations in this phase will be offered to anyone aged 50 to 74 years, anyone with underlying health conditions, First Nations and Métis people aged 35 and older, residents and staff in congregate living settings and eligible caregivers. The Alberta government says that, as supply increases, it will accelerate vaccinations on the model of its annual flu campaign by using Alberta Health Services staff, community pharmacies and family physicians. The province was able to administer 1.3 million flu shots in six weeks last fall — an average of over 30,000 shots per day. Starting February 24, Alberta started using an online booking tool www.ahs.ca/covidvaccine. Those eligible for vaccination also can call the province's 811 Health Link number for information. Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said appointments are now available seven days a week from 8:20 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. at 58 sites around the province, and the hours will be extended as more vaccines arrive. No walk-ins are allowed. Seniors who can't find transportation to their appointments can call 211 — the government's information line for programs and services — for help. For more information about Alberta's vaccination plan, go here. Saskatchewan Saskatchewan's Phase 1 is still underway, focusing on health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care homes, residents 70 years and older and residents in remote and northern regions over the age of 50. People eligible for vaccination in Phase 1 are being contacted directly by phone or mail. Phase 2 is expected to begin in April and will cover the general population, starting with people aged 60-69 and working down in 10 year increments. Phase 2 will also cover individuals considered to be extremely vulnerable to infection, and staff and residents of group homes and emergency shelters. Doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine are loaded onto a plane for delivery to Southend and Wollaston in Saskatchewan. The province said it expects that when Phase 2 begins, the Saskatchewan Health Authority will be operating 226 vaccine clinics in 181 communities across the province. Those clinics will include mass vaccination sites, drive-through locations and mobile vaccination clinics. More sites will be added through pharmacies and doctors' offices. A mass vaccination clinic will open in April at the International Trade Centre at Evraz Place in Regina. Appointments will be needed. People will be asked to register for vaccination through an online platform or by phone. For more information about Saskatchewan's vaccination plan, go here. Manitoba Manitoba's immunization teams are now vaccinating all residents age 92 and older (born on or before December 31, 1928) and First Nations people 72 and older (born on or before December 31, 1948). Vaccinations are also available to individuals working in laboratories handling COVID-19 specimens, in immunization clinics and testing sites and in isolation accommodation facilities. The vaccine is being offered now to those working in congregate living facilities who were born on or before Dec. 31, 1960, and people working in licensed personal care homes. A COVID-19 vaccine dose is administered in Thompson, Manitoba. Health care staff who work for acute care facilities and emergency response services (ERS), home care workers, correctional facility staff, dental office staff and those who work in facilities providing services insured by Manitoba Health and Seniors Care (such as family medical practices and outpatient surgical units) are eligible for the vaccine. So are community services workers, staff at homeless shelters and family violence shelters and those who provide disability services and child and family services. The next eligible group includes health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of shared living facilities and essential workers. It's not known yet when Manitobans in this group will receive their shots. Manitoba has set up a Vaccine Queue Calculator to allow Manitobans to estimate when they'll receive their vaccines. The province expects to open two new "supersites" for large-scale vaccinations in Selkirk and the Morden-Wrinkler area the week of March 12, bringing the number of such sites to six. (Three are in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson, with a fourth facility at the airport outside Thompson.) The province says it plans to expand to 13 supersites throughout Manitoba in April. It has hired 1,212 staffers to help with the vaccination effort. More than 400 medical clinics and pharmacies have applied to be a part of the immunization campaign. Manitobans with questions about the vaccination plan and their position in the queue can go to this website or call a toll-free number: 1-844-626-8222. Manitoba's booking portal is still in the testing phase. Ontario Ontario's vaccination rollout is in Phase 1, which covers staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, and highest-priority health care workers. In March, Phase 1 is expected to expand to adults 80 years of age and older, staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings, high-priority health care workers, all Indigenous adults and adult recipients of chronic home care. Vaccines have been delivered to Ontario's 34 public health units in Ontario and the pace of the rollout could vary depending on the region. Nicole Laplante, centre, receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Embrun, Ont., Jan. 13, 2021. Phase 2 is set to begin in April. This phase will add more vaccination sites, including municipally run locations, hospital sites, mobile vaccination locations, pharmacies, clinics, community-run health centres and aboriginal health centres. In August, the province is to move to Phase 3 and make vaccines available to everyone who wants to be immunized. The Ontario government's online portal for mass vaccination pre-registration and appointment booking is set to launch on March 15. For those without access to the internet, the province will establish a customer service desk to register and book appointments. Neighbourhood mobile clinics are being planned by local public health units. For more information about Ontario's vaccination plan, go here. Quebec On the island of Montreal, vaccinations are now available to people 80 and older. To make an appointment, go to this website or call 514-644-4545. The rest of Quebec will start vaccinating anyone 85 years of age or older next week. Anyone born before 1936 can start making an appointment for their first dose on February 25, by phone (1-877-644-4545) or online. Quebec has posted a document describing the procedure here. Once more vaccines arrive, Quebec plans to expand inoculations to include seniors 70 and up and those with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. The province has started to prepare by securing mass vaccination sites, such as the Olympic Stadium. Quebec Premier François Legault and Health Minister Christian Dubé watch a woman register for her COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Montreal's Olympic Stadium It has set up mass vaccination sites already in major urban centres in anticipation of an increase in the vaccine supply. One of them — the Palais des congress de Montreal, in the heart of downtown — is set up to vaccinate up to 2,000 people per day. For more information about Quebec's vaccination plan, go here. New Brunswick Phase 1 is underway, covering long-term care residents and staff, front line health care staff, First Nations adults 16+ and individuals 85 and over. Clinics are being held this week and next at 321 licensed long-term care homes and those vaccinations are expected to be completed by March 14. Residents and staff are being contacted directly by their employers to register for vaccination. Others in Phase 1 are being contacted directly to book appointments. For individuals aged 85 or older living in the community, details on clinic locations and registration process will be announced in the coming weeks. A box containing 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 arrives at the Miramichi Regional Hospital. Phase 2 starts in April and will include residents in other communal settings, health care workers providing direct patient care (such as pharmacists and dentists), firefighters, police officers, home support workers for seniors, people 70 and over, people with complex medical conditions, volunteers at long-term care homes, people 40 and over with three or more chronic conditions and truckers or workers who cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly. The N.B. government's website says that details about who can register for vaccination and when will be announced in the coming weeks. Clinic locations are also being finalized. The province is asking residents to wait for those details instead of tying up resources by calling the provincial tele-care number or their local health practitioners. Prince Edward Island P.E.I.'s vaccination effort is in its first phase, which will continue throughout March. Public health nurses had been delivering the vaccines; trained pharmacists were approved recently to administer the doses as well. Those getting vaccinations in this phase are residents and staff of long term care homes, health care workers in direct contact with patients who face an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors 80 and older, adults 18 and older living in Indigenous communities, residents and staff of shared living facilities (such as group homes, shelters and correctional facilities) and truck drivers and other workers who routinely travel out of the province. Starting February 22, vaccine clinics in P.E.I. will start giving doses to seniors aged 80 and older. You can find a list of clinics here. The province says other population groups will be told when they can be vaccinated as the rollout continues. The province expects to have four clinics in operation starting in March — in O'Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown and Montague. Vaccinations in P.E.I. are by appointment only. When their turns come up, Islanders can book their appointments by calling 1-844-975-3303 or by filling out a form available through this government website. For more information about Prince Edward Island's vaccination plan, go here. Nova Scotia Nova Scotia's vaccination effort is in Phase 1. That covers those who work directly with patients in hospitals or care homes, people who live and work in long term care homes and people who live and work in adult residential care centres and regional rehabilitation centres. There's no word yet on when the next phase of the vaccine rollout will begin. When it does, it will include: anyone who works in a hospital (and might come into contact with patients); doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists; people who live in correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign worker housing; people who are required to travel regularly for work (such as truck drivers); people responsible for food security (such as workers in large food processing plants); those aged 75 to 79 and those 80 and older. Alvena Poole, 83, receives her vaccine from Allison Milley, a nurse at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, on Feb. 22, 2021. N.S. Public Health is holding prototype clinics before deploying vaccines across the province. The first prototype clinic — for seniors 80 years and older — opened at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax starting the week of Feb. 22. More clinics will open in the coming weeks: in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro on March 8; in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth on March 15, and in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth on March 22. The province also is planning to set up clinics in pharmacies as well. Those at the head of the queue will receive letters from the province explaining how to schedule a vaccination appointment. Once contacted, appointments can then be booked online or by calling 1-833-797-7772 the week before the clinic opens. For more information about Nova Scotia's vaccination plan, go here. Newfoundland & Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador is in Phase 1 of its immunization plan. Doses in this first phase are earmarked for congregate living settings for seniors, health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, people 85 and older and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities. It's not known yet when the next phase of the province's vaccination plan will begin. That phase will cover health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of all other congregate living settings and essential workers. These categories are still being defined by the province and its health department says details of future phases are still being finalized. Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald smiles at St. John's public health nurse Ellen Foley-Vick after giving her the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in St. John's, Nfld., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. For more information about Newfoundland & Labrador's vaccination plan, go here. Yukon Priority groups in Yukon have received their first doses and, in some cases, their second doses as well. As of Feb. 19, high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents and staff had received their second doses. Those living in remote rural communities and people aged 65 and older are to start getting their second doses beginning the week of Feb. 22. Over the past few weeks, every community outside Whitehorse has been visited by one of two mobile vaccine clinic teams (named 'Balto' and 'Togo') delivering first doses to all residents 18 and over. In Whitehorse, a mass clinic will open on March 1 that will deliver up to 800 immunizations a day — both first and second doses. All Whitehorse residents 18 years of age and older can now book appointments for their first shots. Those living in Whitehorse must book appointments online or by calling 1-877-374-0425. In rural Yukon, where internet access may be an issue, appointments are recommended but walk-ins are also welcome. For more information about Yukon's vaccination plan, go here. Northwest Territories All NWT long-term care residents have received first and second doses. The NWT COVID-19 vaccine strategy says the general population can expect access to the vaccine in late March or early April. The original NWT strategy said there would be enough doses to immunize 75 per cent of eligible residents 18 years of age and older should by the end of March. That target date has now been put off to the end of April. "This generous initial allocation from the federal government recognizes the territories' limited health care system capacities and the vulnerabilities of remote Indigenous communities," says the strategy document. The vaccine schedule and booking tool are now online and will be updated as more doses are delivered. Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, territorial medical director, receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Stanton Territorial Hospital on Jan. 10. Those living in larger centres are expected to call or book online for their vaccinations. In smaller communities, dates and locations for vaccination clinics will be advertised and residents will be asked to show up. Multiple small mobile vaccine units are travelling to 33 communities to help local health care staff administer doses. For more information on NWT's vaccination plan, go here. Nunavut Nunavut says it expects to have 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18 vaccinated by the end of March. Nunavut is only using the Moderna vaccine right now and has been staging vaccine clinics in two or three communities at a time. Starting March 1, the next round of clinics to administer the first dose will be held in five communities. Starting around March 5 and March 6, nine locations will start holding clinics for the second dose of the vaccine. In Iqaluit, vaccinations are by appointment only and are being directed toward elders 60 or older, those living in community shelters, front line health workers, Medivac flight crews, residents and staff of group homes and Iqaluit's Akaausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Centre, and residents and staff of correctional facilities. The next phase in Iqaluit is expected to begin March 1 and will be for people age 45 and over. Nunavut relays COVID-19 information through public service announcements on TV, social media, community radio and the government's website. The website shows the locations of clinics, their times of operation and contact information.
(Shutterstock - image credit) A member of Parliament from Nova Scotia wants food products in Canada labelled so consumers can clearly see their impact on the environment. Jaime Battiste's private member's motion calling for a green grading system passed in the House of Commons this week. "My hope and my dream is that within, you know, the next few years, we'll be able to pick up two products at the local Walmart and Costco and we'll be able to make a choice of two products based on not only their cost, but on what the impact is on our environment," Battiste, the MP for Sydney-Victoria, told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday. Even though we're in the middle of a pandemic, the next crisis is climate change, Battiste said. The House standing committee on environment and sustainable development will now study what food labels could look like under a green grading system, among other things. Battiste said he imagines the information being displayed in a similar way to nutritional information, with products getting a grade such as A, B or C. "When we're looking at environment labelling, we're not looking at our personal health, but our environmental health," he said, "which I think is interconnected in a lot of ways." Battiste said some restaurants already include information about carbon footprint on their menus. He'd like the labels to be on Canadian-made food products as well as those from other countries, but said that will be looked at further in the study. The committee will talk with farmers, environmentalists and industry experts, he said. The grading system would take into consideration things like greenhouse gas emissions, the waste created, water used and distance travelled. The committee will also have to determine if the grading is voluntary or if companies that don't comply should face fines, Battiste said. "I think we have to hear from the experts and hear from the industries and hear from the farmers and hear from everyone before you can really make judgments like that," he said. As far as he knows, no other country has created a similar green labelling system. Jaime Battiste, the MP for Sydney-Victoria, put forward a private member's motion that was passed by the House on Feb. 24. "There are so many different labels on so many different foods, but if we had one consistent one that was used across Canada, kind of like a nutritional facts, it's pretty consistent," he said. "This is the opportunity that we have to make a difference in our day-to-day lives to ensure that we're doing our best to protect our planet." Not all MPs have the chance to put forward a private member's bill. Battiste said he was thrilled when his bill, which is called M-35 Environment Grading Label, passed this week. "I don't know if I'll ever get this opportunity again and I wanted to be able to look [my son] in the eyes when he's older and said when I had an opportunity to make a difference, I did what I could to make sure that the future generations and the next seven generations had had a fighting chance," he said. MORE TOP STORIES
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. There are 861,472 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 861,472 confirmed cases (30,516 active, 809,041 resolved, 21,915 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 3,252 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 80.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,886 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,984. There were 50 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 339 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 48. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.66 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,205,347 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 977 confirmed cases (290 active, 682 resolved, five deaths). There were four new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 55.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 114 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 16. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 0.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 194,501 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 121 confirmed cases (seven active, 114 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 4.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been six new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 100,524 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,634 confirmed cases (35 active, 1,534 resolved, 65 deaths). There were 10 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 3.57 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 323,312 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,428 confirmed cases (42 active, 1,360 resolved, 26 deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 5.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 234,746 tests completed. _ Quebec: 286,145 confirmed cases (7,888 active, 267,885 resolved, 10,372 deaths). There were 815 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 91.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,458 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 780. There were 11 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 94 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 120.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,220,844 tests completed. _ Ontario: 298,569 confirmed cases (10,294 active, 281,331 resolved, 6,944 deaths). There were 1,258 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 69.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,798 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,114. There were 28 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 124 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,726,049 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 31,721 confirmed cases (1,197 active, 29,635 resolved, 889 deaths). There were 64 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 86.79 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 486 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 69. There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 526,985 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 28,344 confirmed cases (1,510 active, 26,454 resolved, 380 deaths). There were 153 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 128.11 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,099 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 157. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.18 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 567,399 tests completed. _ Alberta: 132,788 confirmed cases (4,505 active, 126,406 resolved, 1,877 deaths). There were 356 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 101.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,433 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 348. There were three new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 42.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,378,626 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 79,262 confirmed cases (4,719 active, 73,188 resolved, 1,355 deaths). There were 589 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 91.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,427 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 490. There were seven new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,901,202 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,126 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (three active, 39 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 6.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,388 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 356 confirmed cases (26 active, 329 resolved, one deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 66.07 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 24 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,569 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 26, 2021. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
(wutzkohphoto/Shutterstock - image credit) Heads up, Canadians: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is going to be a tax season like no other. If you collected COVID-19-related benefit payments last year, you might end up owing more money than in previous years. However, if you spent part of 2020 working from home, you could wind up with a bigger tax refund than usual. Here's what you need to know about filing your taxes this season, including important deadlines. Has the deadline been extended? Despite this being a more complex tax season, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has not extended the tax filing deadline. The due date is still April 30 for most Canadians, and June 15 for self-employed people. To avoid interest charges, Canadians need to pay any taxes owed by April 30. However, not everyone has to comply with that rule this year. Those who had a total taxable income of $75,000 or less and received one or more of the COVID-19 benefits listed below don't have to pay their taxes until April 30, 2022. Eligible benefits: Canada emergency response benefit (CERB). Canada emergency student benefit (CESB). Canada recovery benefit (CRB). Canada recovery caregiving benefit (CRCB). Canada recovery sickness benefit (CRSB). Employment Insurance benefits. Similar provincial emergency benefits. Qualifying Canadians "will have that full year after the filing deadline of April 30th " to pay any tax debt without facing interest charges, said Francesco Sorbara, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue. Those who qualify for the payment deferral still need to file their taxes on time — or they'll face a late-filing penalty. Will I owe taxes on my government benefits? The benefits listed above are considered taxable income, so the federal government introduced the tax-payment deferral to help out the many Canadians who will have to pay taxes on their benefit payments. "[Many] lost jobs and collected benefits, and they may have some amounts owing," said Sorbara. "We're giving some flexibility there." WATCH | CRA prepares for a complicated tax season: The government didn't withhold any taxes on CERB and CESB benefit payments Canadians received in 2020. It did withhold a 10 per cent tax for people who received CRB, CRCB and CRSB benefits, but tax expert Jamie Golombek said many of those individuals will still owe the government money, as most Canadians' income is taxed at a much higher rate than 10 per cent. "For many people, [10 per cent is] not going to be enough, particularly for those who had other sources of income throughout the year," said Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC. "You may actually find out for the first time ever in your life that you actually owe some taxes." Working from home? Claim your cash Due to the pandemic, many Canadians worked from home for part of 2020, which means they may be eligible for a home office expenses tax deduction. To qualify, you must have worked from home more than 50 per cent of the time for at least four consecutive weeks last year. There are two options for Canadians claiming home office expenses. The first is the detailed method, which involves calculating what percentage of your household costs — such as hydro, rent and internet — can be applied to your home office space. Also, you're required to save all relevant receipts. If that sounds like too much work, don't fret. To simplify the process for people who worked from home for the first time in 2020, the CRA has introduced a new, temporary flat rate method. It allows employees to claim a tax deduction of $2 for each day they worked from home, up to a maximum of $400. "We've kept it simple. They can file it without filing any documentation, any forms," said Sorbara. Software designer Pat Suwalski is seen working from his desk at home in Nepean, Ont. Software developer Pat Suwalski of Nepean, Ont., has been mainly working from home since April 2020. He filed his taxes on Wednesday using the flat rate method and said it took him just minutes to calculate his deduction. "I'm a pretty honest guy, so I took a calendar and I started counting [work] days," he said. Suwalski counted 188 work-from-home days last year. Multiply that by $2 a day and he's set to get a tax credit of $376. "I'll take it," he said. "It's great that they made [the process] simpler." Which method should you choose if you worked from home this year? Golombek said the flat rate method may be the best option if you're a homeowner, because it's easier and chances are you'll come out ahead. That's because mortgage payments — typically a homeowner's biggest monthly bill — can't be claimed as a home office expense. "Our experience is that homeowners, typically speaking, don't have enough expenses … to beat the $2-a-day method," Golombek said. While homeowners can't claim their mortgage payments, renters can claim a portion of their rent based on the size of their home office space compared to their entire home. As a result, Golombek says they may reap bigger rewards by choosing the detailed method. "Depending on [what] percentage of their home they're using, [renters] typically would probably come out ahead on the detailed method." Digital tax credit Golombek also points out one of the new wrinkles this tax season, which is that the government is offering a tax break to people who subscribed to digital news services in 2020. Canadians can claim up to $500 for subscriptions to qualifying Canadian media, such as newspapers, magazines, websites and podcasts, that don't have a broadcast licence and offer primarily original news content. "I call it a bit of a fun new credit," Golombek said. The CRA told CBC News it will post a list of eligible subscriptions on its website in March and that it will only include organizations that wish to have the information publicly posted. If you still have questions about your taxes, you can call the CRA tax information line at 1-800-959-8281. The agency said it has beefed up resources at its call centre, as it anticipates higher than normal call volumes this tax season.
Iran on Saturday condemned U.S. air strikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria, and denied responsibility for rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq that prompted Friday's strikes. Washington said its strikes on positions of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group along the Iraq border were in response to the rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq.
The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Sinai Health in Toronto, said deaths that have been recorded as a result of COVID-19 only reflect those who were tested for it. "But there are going to be people who died in excess of what we normally expected, who might have been infected and never got a test and went on to die." The underlying cause of death in 92 per cent of 9,500 fatalities was recorded on medical certificates as COVID-19 in a November study by Statistics Canada. In the remaining eight per cent of cases, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other chronic conditions were most commonly found to be the underlying cause of death. Stall said while the 92 per cent figure is higher than what he expected it to be, he thinks the actual number is likely to be even larger. "I think this also speaks to the confusion people have of how to actually classify a cause of death," he said, adding those who die are rarely tested to determine if they had COVID-19. He said the better indicator of the pandemic's death toll will be excess mortality, when more deaths than were expected are recorded during a specific time period. Dr. Roger Wong, a clinical professor of geriatric medicine, said the accurate recording of deaths from COVID-19 is a challenge around the globe. The World Health Organization and medical regulatory bodies in Canada have provided guidelines on how to record COVID-19 related deaths. Wong said an incomplete or inaccurate record of mortality data can have public health implications. Scientists and researchers will get a better understanding of COVID-19 in people with long-standing health conditions by recording as many details as possible in death certificates, said Wong, who is also a vice-dean in the University of British Columbia's faculty of medicine. "It has implications, not only for COVID-19 deaths, but implications for all deaths," Wong said. He said the first line of a death certificate states the immediate reason a patient died, while the second and subsequent lines record health conditions leading to the cause of the fatality. "The immediate cause of death may not capture the underlying cause of death," he said. In patients who die from COVID-19, they could have also suffered from acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia because the virus affects the lungs, he said, giving an example. In those cases, the first line would list respiratory syndrome as the cause of death, and the second and third lines would say what led to it, which could be pneumonia and COVID-19 respectively, Wong said. It is important to note what caused the pneumonia, he said, adding in a number of cases it could be COVID-19. Long-standing illnesses or comorbidities, such as diabetes, heart or kidney disease, also complicate how deaths are recorded, Wong said, as those patients are at higher risk of infection. "COVID-19 should be recorded as an underlying cause of death, not so much as a concurrent health condition that happened to be there," Wong explained. Stall used cardiopulmonary arrest as another example of fatalities that don't always list COVID-19 as a factor. "Well, everyone dies of cardiopulmonary arrest, because everyone dies when their heart stops beating and the lungs stop breathing. That's not a cause of death. That's the mechanism of death," Stall said. "The cause of death is COVID-19, and ultimately all events lead to cardiopulmonary arrest but that's a common example that I'll sometimes see as a cause of death when it certainly is not the cause." There needs to be better education and "a bit more" quality control in how deaths are recorded, he said. "It's not something we learn a ton about in medical school or something that's given a lot of attention and consideration by individuals who are often in a rush to do it so the body can be released to the morgue or funeral home." The StatCan study said international guidelines are followed to record COVID-19 as the cause of death where the disease "caused, or is assumed to have caused, or contributed to death." Stall said accurately recording deaths helps stamp out misinformation about the pandemic as well as gauging how the country has been affected by it. "We are looking at the picture and the complete scope of what COVID-19 has done to our population in our country," Stall said. "And in order to look after the living, you need to count the dead." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021 Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding through Quebec's Cote-Nord region, the Magpie river has long been a culturally significant spot for the Innu of Ekuanitshit. Now the river, a majestic, world-renowned whitewater rafting destination, has been granted legal personhood status in a bid to protect it from future threats, such as hydro development. Its new status means the body of water could theoretically sue the government. On Feb. 16, the regional municipality of Minganie and the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit adopted separate but similar resolutions granting the river nine legal rights, including the right to flow, to maintain its biodiversity and the right to take legal action. One of the resolutions says the river can be represented by "guardians" appointed by the regional municipality and the Innu, with "the duty to act on behalf of the rights and interests of the river and ensure the protection of its fundamental rights." It notes the river's biodiversity, importance to the Innu and potential as a tourism destination as reasons why the body of water needs special protection. Pier-Olivier Boudreault, with the Quebec branch of the environmental charity Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, says the move is rooted in the belief that the river is a living entity that deserves rights. "The idea is that the river is living, that it has an existence that doesn’t depend on humans," he said in a recent interview. "It's not a simple resource for humans; it becomes an entity that has a right to live, to evolve naturally, to have its natural cycles." Boudreault says the new designation for the Magpie is the first time a river has been granted legal status in Canada. Similar efforts have been successful in countries like New Zealand, India and Ecuador. David Boyd, an environmental lawyer and United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, says the idea of granting rights to a river isn't as far-fetched as it seems. "In our legal system, we declare lots of things to have legal personhood, like municipalities and corporations," he said. He said the "environmental personhood" movement is a response to the belief that successive governments around the world have failed to adequately protect the environment, as well as to the growing recognition of Indigenous Peoples' rights and their legal concepts. While this is new in Canada, he said the resolution "could have quite a bit of strength" because of the constitutional protection of Indigenous rights. "In theory, you could have a lawsuit brought on behalf of the river to prevent a hydroelectric project from taking place," he said. Uapukun Mestokosho, a member of the Innu community who has been involved in the Magpie river conservation effort, said the river is an important part of the traditional territory of the Innu of Ekuanitshit. For some, spending time on the river is a way to reconnect to traditional land-based practices that were partially abandoned because of the trauma suffered by Indigenous people from colonial violence, including the residential school system. "People are suffering a lot, with intergenerational traumas linked to the past," said Mestokosho, who described occupying the territory as "a form of healing." Mestokosho said her ancestors have always protected the Magpie, known as the Muteshekau-shipu, and that the recognition of the river's rights will allow them to protect it for future generations. She and Boudreault agree the biggest threat to the Magpie is likely to come from the province's hydro utility, which has raised the possibility of damming the fast-flowing river. Hydro-Quebec insists it has no plans for the Magpie in the "short or even medium term" and that no plans are "even foreseeable" in the next decade. "But in the long term, we do not know what Quebec’s future energy needs will be," spokesman Francis Labbe wrote in an email. "Right now, we do not consider it responsible, in terms of Quebec’s energy security, to permanently renounce to the potential of this river." Any future project would have to meet several criteria, including social acceptability, he noted. Boudreault says the Innu, members of the regional government and other environmental activists haven't given up on lobbying the Quebec government to grant the river official protected status. He said he thinks the province has been reluctant to commit to the idea, mostly because of the river's potential for hydroelectric power. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Gunmen in Nigeria on Saturday released 27 teenage boys who were kidnapped from their school last week in the north-central state of Niger, while security forces continued to search for more than 300 schoolgirls abducted in a nearby state. Schools have become targets for mass kidnappings for ransom in northern Nigeria by armed groups. On Feb. 17, 27 students, three staff and 12 members of their families were abducted by an armed gang that stormed the Government Science secondary school in the Kagara district of Niger state, overwhelming the school's security detail.
India's conglomerate Reliance Industries has partnered with Facebook Inc, Google and fintech player Infibeam to set up a national digital payment network, Economic Times newspaper reported on Saturday, citing unnamed sources. Last year, India's central bank invited companies to forge new umbrella entities (NUEs) to create a payments network that would rival the system operated by the National Payments Council of India (NPCI), as it seeks to reduce concentration risks in the space.
(© Disney/Chelsea Klette - image credit) A Saskatoon artist is joining the elite ranks of those who bring the magic of Disney to life. Denyse Klette is the first Canadian to be signed by Collectors Editions as an officially published creator of Disney fine art. "It's magical," Klette said. "My mom and dad had Sunday nights as a special evening where … they'd make us hamburgers and French fries and we'd watch The Wonderful World of Disney. So I absolutely grew up on this." Denyse Klette is a painter and sculptor based on an acerage outside of Saskatoon, Sask. The Collectors Editions is not a Disney Corporation, but it's the only independent company in the world with rights to produce and publish Disney fine art. "They have a small group of artists from around the world that they've selected and we get to design and create Disney art," Klette said. "The originals are sold in different Disney galleries and also they have reproductions done." The painter and sculptor lives on an acreage just outside of Saskatoon and has a style that combines her mediums. Klette paints an image, then sculpts around the edges to give it a 3D aspect. Denyse Klette's work combines painting with sculpture work around the edges. Klette said she is allowed to base pieces on almost any of Disney's animated works. She first produces a full-colour concept drawing on her iPad then uploads it to the Collectors Edition team. The team sends it to the Walt Disney Company, which then reviews it and makes any corrections on proportions or colours. Disney then sends it back to the Collectors Edition, which gives her the go ahead. So far she has created artwork inspired by Beauty and the Beast, Moana, Tangled, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Frozen, The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch and Mulan. Denyse Klette is authorized to produce work based on animated characters from Disney. She paints the picture then adds sculpted frames for a unique piece of art. Her work is mainly on display at the Disney art gallery at the Epcot Centre in Florida, but she's allowed to sell in Canada through her website. Her originals or reproductions can also be found at galleries authorized by Collector's Editions. "It's so much fun. I get to walk into my studio and paint Mickey Mouse," Klette said. "I still do like my non-Disney, but to do Disney art, it's such a magical and close-to-the-heart experience." Klette said she has an extensive library of Disney books that she collected over the course of almost 40 years. "It really is a dream come true." Noka Aldoroty, the director of Disney fine art at Collectors Editions, said in a statement that Walt Disney's ability to inspire others to create was his greatest talent. "It amazes me that even to this day his legacy is still inspiring artists to invent new ways of reimagining and interpreting Disney stories through their own creative lens," Aldoroty said. "We saw in Denyse a truly unique point-of-view artistically, and we could not be more excited to share her talents with Disney fans and art collectors around the world." One of Denyse Klette's pieces is a Moana-inspired painting with a custom-sculpted frame. Klette's work can be found in hotels, resorts, private collections, home decor products, bags, puzzles and more. She also signed a book deal in 2016 with Macmillan Publishers for a whimsical series of adult colouring books distributed worldwide. Klette is currently working on pieces inspired by Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations and Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
(Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit) Space is being cleared in at least one long-term care home in St. John's to make way for a dedicated COVID-19 unit, while front-line staff await word on when more of them will be receiving vaccinations, says the union representing the province's nurses. Some residents at Pleasantview Towers have been moved in an effort to prepare for long-term care residents who may develop symptoms of the virus and require a dedicated unit for care, says Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Union of Newfoundland and Labrador. "They did this last year. There were no admissions to that unit. However, they've still got to be prepared and have staff ready in case needed," Coffey said. "Hopefully we will not need to open that unit to patients, but we have to be prepared. We do not want to be caught like Ontario and Quebec when it comes to our vulnerable population." Our members are tired. They're stressed. They've been on the front lines now for over a year, and there's no end in sight yet. - Yvette Coffey Prior to the outbreak of coronavirus variant B117 earlier this month, centred mainly in the metro St. John's region, the COVID-19 pandemic was generally under control, Coffey said. But with hundreds of cases and, as of Saturday, 10 people in hospital — six in intensive care — Coffey said being prepared for a possible influx of residents requiring extra care is essential. "We've all watched across the country and we all know that if COVID gets into our long-term care facilities, it's going to be very challenging for us, so, you know, they're doing what they can to ensure safety and continuity of care for our patients and residents," Coffey said. That could include redistributing where nurses are assigned to work, Coffey said. In an email Saturday, Eastern Health told CBC News the unit at Pleasantview Towers will have 28 beds, with some residents being temporarily relocated to Chancellor Park to create space for the unit. The health authority said the plans were made in consultation with residents and their families and there is no timeline right now for the residents' return. Eastern Health staff are working to prepare the unit at Pleasantview Towers and a date for the opening of the unit will be confirmed "in the near future." Each individual long-term care facility also has its own plan for how to isolate residents, if necessary, the health authority said. At the start of the pandemic last year RNUNL and other health sector unions signed a "good neighbour agreement" with the province and the four regional health authorities that would allow them to move staff around as needed. There were already regulations under the registered nurses' collective agreement that allows them to be reassigned to where the health authority feels they're most needed, Coffey said, but the good neighbour agreement expands on it. Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Union of Newfoundland and Labrador, says the union wants nurses who are being reassigned to any area that was identified in the Phase 1 group to be vaccinated before going to those areas. One of the places where Coffey said members are being deployed is to long-term care. "Staffing levels have reached a point in some areas that we can't provide the services without deploying nurses there, and one of those areas is long-term care, and … critical care as well," Coffey said. "In order to provide services, what the regional health authorities have first done is ask for volunteers … with the skill set and experience in the areas that they need to deploy to. If there are no volunteers, they have looked at the people who have previous experience in those areas, and that's who they are redeploying first." Eastern Health CEO David Diamond said the health authority had been short staffed in long-term care even before the pandemic, and staffing has been an ongoing challenge. Vaccines only 1 part of protection One of the concerns about reassigning staff is where things stand with COVID-19 vaccine rollout for front-line workers. Phase 1 of Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccination plan identified vulnerable populations, including long-term care residents and Indigenous communities, as well as front-line workers who would be the most likely to be exposed. The province released its plans for Phases 2 and 3 of vaccine rollout Friday afternoon, identifying who will be able to sign up, and when they're expected to get vaccinated. But those timelines will rely on supply of the vaccine, while also prioritizing people 70 years and older in the pre-registration plans. Front-line health care workers not immunized in Phase 1 will be covered under Phase 2, with inoculations happening some time between April and June. That could mean some of the registered nurses now being assigned to work in COVID-19 units like the one being established in Pleasantview Towers may not be vaccinated yet, Coffey said. However, vaccines is only one part of protection for registered nurses, Coffey said. Pleasant View Towers, which opened in 2014, has 460 long-term care beds. "The vaccine keeps our workforce from being sick, but it doesn't prevent transmission of the virus. Our registered nurses have to use their judgment and wear the appropriate PPE — that is their best line of defence with COVID-19." The reason vaccines haven't been distributed more widely, Coffey said, is simple: "We don't have vaccine." Vaccine supply has been a challenge across Canada, and since the supply is distributed to the provinces from the federal government, that means there isn't any vaccine to be administered. Coffey said she was told as of Thursday that it's expected everyone identified in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout in this province would have received their inoculations by March 5. "We have pushed that those who are being reassigned, especially to COVID units and long-term care or all areas that were identified in the Phase 1 group, that they be vaccinated prior to going to those areas," Coffey said. Judy O'Keefe, Eastern Health's vice-president of clinical services, said priority has been given to any staff member who would work in the ICU, emergency, case rooms and COVID-19 units, as well as community-based high-risk staff. "The last couple of weeks, for sure, our greatest concern has been the seniors' population in congregate living," O'Keefe said Friday afternoon. "We've been vaccinating people as we have vaccine." Public health nurse Betty Sampson prepares the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be administered in Makkovik in January. O'Keefe said Eastern Health thinks that all staff identified in that Phase 1 category should be fully vaccinated with their second doses by the end of March. As the pandemic drags on, Coffey said, union members are feeling the strain, and ask that members of the public do their best to adhere to health guidelines. "Our members are tired. They're stressed. They've been on the front lines now for over a year, and there's no end in sight yet," Coffey said. "We do ask the public, we plead with the public, to please follow public health guidelines, because the less people we have coming into our hospitals and acute care, the less pressure there is on the system." Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador