The Trump administration plans to tighten sanctions on Tehran during its final months in power, the top U.S. envoy on Iran said on Wednesday, as he urged President-elect Joe Biden to use the leverage to press for a deal that reduces the regional and nuclear threats posed by the Islamic republic. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams, praising Biden's National Security Adviser and nominee for Secretary of State as "terrific people", cautioned against repeating what he saw as former President Barack Obama's mistakes in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — With police brutality continuing to devastate Black families and the coronavirus ravishing Black America disproportionately, the world was driven to the significance of this year’s Juneteenth more than ever before. And Beyoncé knew she wanted to release a song on that momentous day — so she dropped “Black Parade,” an anthemic jam where she proudly sings about her heritage, hometown and returning to her African roots. Months later, the song — and others focused on protesting, police brutality and the overall Black experience — are taking centre stage at the 2021 Grammy Awards. Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” scored nominations for two of the top awards: song of the year and record of the year. The track will also compete for best R&B song and best R&B performance. “There could have been a different approach as far as releasing the record and capitalizing off of timings of other things, but we really wanted to get it out during a time where we could all remember the feeling and the energy,” Derek Dixie, a longtime collaborator of Beyoncé’s who co-wrote the song with the pop star, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s not always about the money and about catching streaming numbers and things like that. Sometimes it’s just about what it is — which was making our people proud.” “Black Parade” helped Beyoncé land nine nominations, making her the overall top Grammy contender. Dixie earned three Grammy nominations for co-writing and co-producing the song. For song of the year, “Black Parade” will compete with H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” the R&B singer’s track about police brutality. Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” a protest song he created in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, scored nominations for best rap song and best rap performance. Proceeds from the song will support the Black Lives Matter movement, Breonna Taylor’s attorney, the Bail Project and the National Association of Black Journalists. Anderson .Paak also released a song on Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free — and it’s competing for two awards. “Lockdown” is nominated for best rap performance and best music video.. Country singer Mickey Guyton wrote the track “Black Like Me” a year ago but released it this year because she felt it was extremely relevant. Now, it’s nominated for best country solo performance, giving the performer her first-ever Grammy nomination. “It’s been so hard in the country music community and trying to get country music to even support my music and for me to get a Grammy (nomination), it just goes to show that writing your truth is just the way to go,” Guyton told the AP on Tuesday. “And not only writing your truth, but really bringing your brothers and sisters up with you.” But Guyton admits that everyone’s response to her song wasn’t warm. It features the lyrics, “If you think we live in the land of the free/You should try to be Black like me." “I released it and I did get people that were very angry. There were even radio stations that people were like, ‘Get this (expletive) off of my radio station,’” she said. “I would get people writing me messages like, ‘Well, if you don’t like it here then leave.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, it’s just as much my country as it is yours.’” Guyton added that some “radio stations were scared to play (‘Black Like Me’) because they were (angering) their listeners because their listeners didn’t want to hear that.” “But I wasn’t writing that song for them, I was writing that song got the people that understand this exact walk that I’m walking," she continued. “It’s for them." Apart from “Black Parade,” Beyoncé also earned nominations for her film honouring Black art and Black history, “Black Is King,” as well as her ode to dark- and brown-skinned women, “Brown Skin Girl.” Dixie, who has worked as Beyoncé’s music director and has produced, engineered and arranged songs for the singer, said he’s grateful he’s working with an artist who boldly speaks about Black pride in her music. “It’s just good to see that she’s willing to put that type of energy out and not necessarily be thinking about: ‘What’s going to guarantee me a No. 1? What’s going to guarantee me this?' It’s a part of our conversation, it’s a part of the process, but when it’s necessary to put that art out there, to put that energy out there, she’s usually ... leading the pack in that regard,” Dixie said. “So I’m grateful to be associated with her on that path.” Guyton added that it’s comforting to see some many Black musicians reflect the current times in their music, and she’s grateful to the Grammys for acknowledging those kinds of songs. “It’s so important because so often Black people, and Black women especially, are getting overlooked and constantly get overlooked and you’re constantly just trying to get people to remember that you’re there,” she said. “It feels like we’re seen and I don’t think we’ve always felt seen.” “I use this scenario of going into any grocery store — if you go to any grocery store ... and you look for hair products for someone who is ethnic and ... you see an entire aisle full of every and any hair product you can possibly think for someone that is not Black. But whenever it comes to finding hair products for a Black person, we’re designated a shelf. And today, it doesn't feel like we’re designated a shelf.” The 2021 Grammy Awards will air live on Jan. 31. Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Toymaker Spin Master Corp. has announced a deal to develop toys and games based on the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies.The company says it has signed a global licensing agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products for the Wizarding World franchise.Financial terms of the deal were not immediately available.Spin Master says it will develop Wizarding World products inspired by the popular books and movies including dolls, figures and accessories, playsets, vehicles and games.The toys are expected to launch on shelves in the fall of next year.Last month, Spin Master — which includes Paw Patrol, Hatchimals and Gund among its brands — signed a deal to buy Rubik's Brand Ltd, the owner of the Rubik's Cube, for US$50 million.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:TOY)The Canadian Press
After 13 years as the host of CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Mike Finnerty has decided it is time to move on. His last show will be Friday, Nov. 27.Here, he explains the reasons behind his departure — and answers some rapid-fire questions that are normally reserved for special in-studio guests.Why are you leaving Daybreak?It is time. I've hosted Daybreak for a total of 13 years, including over the last, eventful decade 2010-2020. That's a lot of time! This is not my chair — it's been my great privilege to keep it warm, but I want to make way for a new voice, another style, a fresh perspective on the city for 2021.Looking back on the job, what did being Daybreak's host mean to you? How did you approach the job every day?I've had a front row-seat as so much has changed in Montreal. The revolt over corruption in the city. The big changes at city hall from Tremblay to Applebaum to Coderre to Plante. The massive student protests. The struggle to come to terms with our modern identity, to make the city a fairer place for all its citizens. The rise in the high-tech sector, the explosion of terrasse culture and now our pulling together in the pandemic.I've met and spoken to SO many Montrealers about all that and more. I'm incredibly fortunate, and incredibly grateful for the opportunity.Most of all, I will never forget the thrill of turning the microphone on every weekday, rain, snow or shine, and saying good morning to Montrealers.What's next for you?This Christmas, you'll find me at Borough Market selling cheese in my second home, London. I need some time to turn the page, and I get a lot of joy from a product that has a history that reaches back through the centuries. I am in awe of the mysteries of fermentation, all the incredible tastes, smells and varieties of cheese.I want to learn more, meet more farmers and cheesemakers. It is a hands-on, physical job, but also one that's really close to people. So I'll don the cheesemonger's apron and see where the next chapter takes me.What's the definitive Montreal food?All the foods! But a sunny day on the terrasse at a Montreal bistro with a platter of nibbly things (cheese included!) is heaven.Favourite interviews or guests?Ellen Gabriel.What are your strategies for waking up early and napping?How can you not love the quiet, intense beauty of the pre-dawn morning? And regarding napping, I cannot be brief on that topic.Something you noticed change in 10 years?Montreal's dynamism ... it faded. It's back.Something that didn't change at all?Sometimes I'll walk down a Montreal back alleyway and see the same young people you might have seen 30 years ago, laughing, playing, hanging out.Favourite Montreal neighbourhood to hang out in?I love Little Italy and the Jean-Talon Market.Cheese recommendations?Go to a cheese shop — ask the cheesemonger: "What's really popping today?" Cheeses are living things. You may have a favourite, but it may not be a great batch. A good cheesemonger will know what will knock your socks off on a given day.Prediction for the next 10 years?Montreal rising and rising.Tune in to 88.5 FM in Montreal Friday morning for Mike Finnerty's final broadcast as host of Daybreak.
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
A new national survey by Women's Shelters Canada offers a glimpse into the experiences of front-line workers and women fleeing violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, with reports of clients facing more violence that is also increasing in severity. The Shelter Voices survey says 52 per cent of 266 participating shelters reported seeing clients who were experiencing either somewhat or much more severe violence, as public health measures aimed at fighting COVID-19 increase social isolation, while job losses fuel tension over financial insecurity in many households. Violence "was also happening more frequently, or abusers who hadn't used violence in the past were suddenly using violence," said Krys Maki, the research and policy manager for Women's Shelters Canada. The survey also found 37 per cent of shelters reported changes in the type of violence clients faced, including increased physical attacks resulting in broken bones, strangulation and stabbings. Shelters and transition houses that did not report changes in the rates or type of violence were often located in communities that had seen fewer cases of COVID-19, the report notes. The data show public health restrictions have a "huge impact on women and children who are living with their abusers," said Maki. The survey says 59 per cent of shelters reported a decrease in calls for help between March and May, when people were asked to stay home, and businesses, workplaces and schools shut their doors. From June to October, "as soon as things started up again, we see a huge increase in crisis calls and requests for admittance," said Maki. The survey includes responses from shelters and transition houses in rural and urban areas in every province and territory. Just over half of the shelters in population centres with 1,000 to 29,999 residents reported increases in crisis calls between June and October, said Maki, compared with 70 per cent of shelters in urban centres with populations between 100,000 and just under a million. Women in smaller communities may be more hesitant to reach out for help, said Maki, "because everybody knows everyone, and everyone knows where the shelter is, too." While the survey shows women are facing more severe violence at home, at the same time, 71 per cent of shelters reported reducing their capacity in order to maintain physical distancing and other public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. It was more common that shelters in large population centres had to cut their capacity. To continue serving women remotely, 82 per cent of shelters and transition houses reported purchasing new technology, such as tablets, phones and laptops, although limited cell service and internet connectivity pose challenges in rural and remote areas. For many shelters, financial difficulties increased throughout the pandemic, as 38 per cent reported raising significantly less money compared with last year. The shelters were mostly appreciative of the federal government's emergency funding in response to COVID-19, with some reporting it kept them open, while others said they had to lay off staff because the money didn't go far enough. The federal government announced last month it would double the initial amount it was providing to gender-based violence services in response to the pandemic for a total of $100 million, some of which has been distributed through Women's Shelters Canada. The survey found more than three quarters of the shelters faced staffing challenges during the pandemic. That's not surprising, the report notes, since women make up the majority of shelter workers and have been trying to balance paid work with childcare and other family responsibilities during lockdown periods. The release of the survey results on Wednesday coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Canadian Centre for Women's Empowerment is also working to have Nov. 26 recognized each year to raise awareness about economic abuse. So far, the cities of Ottawa, Brampton, Parry Sound and Kingston have signed on in Ontario, while Victoria and Comox, B.C., will also mark the day. There is little data about economic abuse in Canada, said Meseret Haileyesus, who founded the centre, although the shelter survey showed clients were subject to increasing coercion and control tactics, including limited access to money. A survivor's debt load, credit rating, and their ability to access housing and educational opportunities may be affected for years, long after they've left an abusive relationship, Haileyesus said. The centre is working with MP Anita Vandenbeld on a petition urging lawmakers to expand the strategy to end gender-based violence to include economic abuse. It also wants Statistics Canada to begin collecting data and studying economic abuse. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
Aylmer Mayor Mary French announced that she is not the sole decision-maker for town COVID-19-related actions, in response to the brief avalanche of messages received as a result of the state of emergency declaration, and closure of the East Elgin Community Complex, ahead of the Nov. 7 “freedom” rally. The Emergency Control Group (ECG), comprised of the mayor, administrator, staff, emergency and community services repesentatives, works together to make decisions regarding the pandemic. “In this group, my role is the same as it is at council in that I am one of many voices at the table,” said Mayor French, near the conclusion of the Nov. 16 virtual council meeting. “More specifically, actions of the town in response to COVID-19 are never undertaken specifically at my request, but instead are the result of collaborative decision-making processes.” Anyone with questions about the ECG decision-making process can contact Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Reynaert or Emergency Services Director Sam Taylor, she said. Mayor French also thanked the community, council and staff for the “ongoing support that has been received in relation to recent events.”Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
With the holiday season just weeks away and health officials urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel, there's a push from a number of Windsor groups to encourage people to shop and celebrate locally for the holidays — an initiative that helps local businesses that may be struggling because of COVID-19.Sisters, Rachel and Lauren Vollmer, noticed the "devastating effects" the pandemic has had on small businesses and took it upon themselves to curate gift boxes made of items from small local retailers.They started their venture, Local Provisions, in October and noticed a growth in interested buyers. They've partnered with Downtown Windsor BIA to distribute gifts to corporations looking to buy for their staff, but they've also sold their gift boxes to those looking to buy for their family and friends."I feel like there's no wrong way to shop small. It's just making sure that you support your community. You can do that, you know, in your neighborhood or the town," Lauren said. "Sometimes supporting local business isn't always, you know, to making a purchase ... it could be sharing things on social media."The Vollmers have different themed gift boxes and offer free delivery within the Windsor-Essex area.One of the local entrepreneurs they're partnered with is Craig Marentette, the owner of Red Lantern Coffee Co. in Kingsville, who already has nine bags of coffee going in his first order with Local Provisions."It's pretty great," he said. "Kingsville, you know, is a small town. There's a lot going on here ... but not as big of a market as Windsor. So it's nice to be part of that."Windsorites want to support local businessesSome Windsorites seem to be on board with the idea of supporting the local community."I'll support small businesses more than big business," Dragan Susic said.Hannah Westfall agrees, "I like to support smaller businesses in this time just because they don't get the money.""I try to support the smaller businesses. They're the ones that are hurting the most," Ron Durocher said. "Wal-Mart and Costco, they've been open and people have been going in, but the small stores have really been struggling."Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island is also encouraging people to stay-cation and shop within the region through their events and gift guides, which highlight local virtual events, holiday light maps showcasing houses with light displays and places to shop.Jason Toner, the director of marketing communications, said the gift guide is a big feature this year and it's been getting a lot of engagement online."Last year, it was an eight page guide. This year, it's a 24-page guide that features 175+ either artisans or small businesses to support. And it goes more beyond just gift giving, it goes about where to buy your local produce, where to buy a pre-made meals, experiences that you can give, a winery guide, a brewery guide, distilleries and ways to support small either in person or virtually," he said."We were able to offer it as a free marketing program to all these small businesses. And we know they need the support this year. So, we're really helping amplify that message for them and hope that it helps all of them in turn."These initiatives keep in line with what health officials are urging Canadians to do: keep within your own household and stay close to home."Christmas is not going to be having any kind of large group interactions," Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said. "Even with family, you've got to really think twice. Avoid non-essential travel. Keep to your current household contacts as much as possible."Skip Amazon, buy local, says VollmersThe Vollmer sisters think it's important to support local businesses which have been significantly impacted by COVID-19."There's just so many great small vendors in your area, [you] just might not know about them," said Rachel. "So, I think just even doing a bit of research and finding them, you'll realize that they have a lot of amazing products. A lot of them are handmade. A lot of them use materials that are even from Windsor. So it's all very local. And I think just keeping the money in your own economies is beneficial to everyone, ultimately.""I think if you can afford to do it, try and skip Amazon and buy from your local stores so that they can stick around," she said.Toner echoes the same sentiment."Keeping those dollars local are important ... and showing that support for your neighbours and friends. Half the time you can start up a relationship with that person that you're buying from to grow and repeat business. And I really think it helps people learn what Essex County is all about."
Big Brothers and Sisters Kincardine and District have launched two innovative ways to fundraise this year, and replace some of the revenue lost due to events cancelled because of the pandemic. The Festival of Wreaths campaign invited local businesses to create a holiday wreath, register it with Big Brothers and Sisters and display it prominently in their own office window. The sky was the limit when creating the wreath, and businesses were encouraged to decorate with chocolate, gift certificates, decorations and anything else that struck their fancy. The entire collection can be viewed at https://kincardine.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/festival-of-wreaths-submissions/and a link is available that will direct the public to the businesses who have created a wreath. Approximately 26 wreaths have been submitted, from businesses including Sleepers Bed Gallery, Mackenzie and McCreath Funeral Home, Victoria Park Gallery and Snobelen Farms. Wreaths created by businesses in Ripley are currently on display at Grey Matter Beer Company and The Cooperators. Each wreath has been donated to BBBS, and they will be auctioned off, with funds directed to the organization. The online auction runs from Nov. 26-30. These keepsakes will be available for pick up just in time to deck your own halls. The more wreaths that sell, the more money BBBS will have to support their programs. “This is a very important fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kincardine & District in a critical time of need,” said executive director Yolanda Ritsema. “All proceeds help sustain our core programs in the community. Each participating business will receive a tax deductible receipt for the cost of their wreath.” The agency has also kicked off its holiday giving and recruitment campaign, giving the public the opportunity to give the gift of mentorship. The initiative hopes to raise $5,000 and recruit 10 new big brothers or sisters for its mentorship program. BBBS is very excited to announce that it has partnered with EPCOR this year, who will match donations, dollar for dollar, to a maximum of $5,000. All funds raised remain in this community. The money will be used to ignite the potential of little brothers and sisters and have a positive impact on their emotional competence. It will be used to increase their educational engagement and employment readiness and empower their good mental health and well-being. “This challenging time has changed the landscape of how vital community organizations fundraise and operate,” said Susannah Robinson, EPCOR vice president, Ontario operations. “We are excited to match the generous donations for the Holiday Giving program that will enable Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kincardine & District to continue to invest in our youth and help set them up for success.” Big Brothers Big Sisters is Canada’s leading child and youth mentoring organization and the Kincardine agency is proud to be a part of this movement. It offers life-changing relationships to inspire and empower youth, with the goal of helping youth reach their potential. Besides matches between mentors and mentees, it offers a range of programs serving you who want a mentor. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
The estate car had the words “Stop Globalisation Politics” written in white on its right side and “You damn killers of children and old people” on the other.View on euronews
The P.E.I. government's spending priorities were put under the microscope Tuesday with both opposition parties focusing on the millions of dollars that were not spent in last year's capital budget.Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said the province underspent on mental health and public housing while spending millions of dollars more on paving."Only about a quarter of the funds that were designated for housing actually got spent, but let's look at all the shiny new asphalt. It's not just this year, premier, it's last year as well," Bevan-Baker said from the floor of the provincial legislature. "To the premier, what do you have to say to the people who have nowhere to sleep tonight, the 750 people who are currently on the government housing wait list. What about the people who are in crisis tonight struggling to access the mental health services that they so desperately need? How will paving help them?"'Record investments'According to capital budget, the province planned to spend $17.5-million on housing. It spent $9.5 millionThe province had planned to spend $12-million on the mental health campus. It spent $2.7-million.Premier Dennis King defended his government's record on both the mental health and public housing files. "I believe that we've been making record investments in these areas, when you look at housing, the incredible rate in which construction is taking place, and if there is an underspend in that area, it's simply because the province doesn't have the ability to do any more," said King."That's not the government of Prince Edward Island, that's the industry in general. The construction industry is humming at a level, it's overheated… Our money is there. If fixing these important issues were just about money, I'd have them fixed this morning." Opposition MLA Hannah Bell said the province needs to build 10 times more public housing units than what is planned. That would be 1,000 units over the next five years. The province plans to open 100 public housing units over the next year.The province has already awarded the design work for 10 units in Morell and 10 units in Georgetown. It is planning another 48 public housing units in the Charlottetown area and 32 in the Summerside area.'Do appreciate the concern' Bell said at the rate the province is going, the province will build less than half of what they are promising. "Given that there are 750 Islanders on the wait list for public housing, why are you planning for around 50 additional units?" Bell asked during question period.Social Development and Housing Minister Ernie Hudson said he had hoped the province would have more public housing built by now. He said the global pandemic and the Island's red hot housing markets delayed the province's plans to build more housing."I certainly do appreciate the concern that the Opposition has stated with regards to the 100 builds that were announced in last year's capital budget," said Hudson."I'll be honest, a year ago I would have anticipated that we would have been further along with these."More from CBC P.E.I.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission said it arrested the country's fisheries minister on Wednesday amid an investigation into exports of lobster larvae.Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo was arrested upon arrival at the Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport from a working visit to the United States, the deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission, Nurul Ghufron, told Kompas TV.“The arrest is related to lobster seed exports,” Ghufron said without elaborating in comments aired on the station.He said investigators were still questioning Prabowo and another announcement would be made later Wednesday.Prabowo earlier this year rolled back a ban on lobster larvae exports put in place by his predecessor. That decision sparked criticism from his predecessor and activists over sustainability concerns.President Joko Widodo said he respected the decision of the anti-corruption commission, known in Indonesia as the KPK, to arrest Prabowo.“I believe the KPK works in a transparent, open and professional manner,” Widodo told reporters. “The government consistently supports corruption eradication efforts."If Prabowo is charged with a crime it could further tarnish Widodo's credibility when it comes to fighting corruption. Two previous members of Widodo's Cabinet have already been sentenced to prison terms in corruption cases.Former Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham was sentenced to five years in prison for involvement in a bribery case related to a coal-fired power plant project on Sumatra island, while former Youth and Sport Minister Imam Nahrawi was sentenced to seven years after he was found guilty of personally using a National Sports Committee grant.Prabowo is the deputy chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, formerly a rival to Widodo's party. He joined the Cabinet in October 2019 as part of of an alliance forged after Widodo's election to a second term.Widodo campaigned in part on a pledge to run a clean government in a country that ranked 85th out of 180 countries in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International.The Associated Press
THE LATEST: * 738 new cases of COVID-19 were announced on Wednesday, along with 13 more deaths. * There are now 29,086 confirmed cases in the province to date. * 294 patients are in hospital with COVID-19, including 61 in intensive care. * 371 people have now died of the disease. * Masks are mandatory for everyone in indoor public spaces and retail environments. * Anyone who does not comply could face a $230 fine. * Health officials ordered dance studios, yoga studios, gymnastics centres and other spaces offering group indoor fitness to suspend activities. * An outbreak at the Burnaby Hospital is tied to 55 cases and five deaths. * Social gatherings with anyone outside your household remain prohibited everywhere in B.C. * Indoor and outdoor community and social events are suspended. * British Columbians are advised to avoid unnecessary travel.British Columbia added another 738 cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the province continued to urge everyone to pause social interactions and said there could be fines for those who don't wear masks.The Fraser Health region continued to drive the spike in new infections with 443 or 60 per cent of Wednesday's new cases.There are currently 294 people in hospital, up from 209 a week ago. Of that number, 61 are in intensive care, the same as Tuesday.The death toll now stands at 371. Across the province, there are now 7,616 active cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.Public health is monitoring 10,270 people in B.C. who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure, which is 13 fewer than Tuesday.There are currently 52 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and five in hospitals.Data glitch changes week of resultsOn Wednesday, Provincial Health Minister Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a data correction for results from Fraser Health over the past week due to an data glitch.Daily numbers from Fraser Health changed from Nov. 16 to Nov. 24. On Tuesday, 678 cases were originally announced for the region. The accurate number is 432.Overall the corrected data presented by the government on Wednesday still showed the province's COVID-19 curve trending up, but at a slower rate that originally reported.Health officials are imploring British Columbians to abide by the latest provincial health orders and keep their social interactions as minimal as possible as the province battles this second wave of COVID-19.'A sign of respect'Dix and Henry both spoke to new $230 fines for people who fail to abide by new mandatory mask rules. Henry said Wednesday that she "has no time" for people who are aggressive or rude about refusing to wear a mask, or those who spread conspiracy theories about COVID-19."I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill or is a sign of lack of freedom," Henry said."To me, it's about a sign of respect for our fellow people who are suffering through this with us."Social gatherings remain restricted to household members only. Restrictions around group fitness classes were tightened on Tuesday with dance studios, yoga studios, gymnastics centres and other group indoor fitness activity being temporarily suspended.The latest public health orders will remain in effect until at least Dec. 7.After an outbreak at the Burnaby Hospital, 55 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 and five people have died, Fraser Health confirmed.The health authority is also investigating 40 cases involving staff to determine whether they are connected to the outbreak.The hospital is not accepting new admissions with the exception of the intensive care, maternity and community palliative care units. READ MORE:What's happening elsewhere in CanadaThere have now been more than 347,000 cases of COVID-19 in Canada.A vaccine is expected to become available in the coming year, but Canada has not yet specified how it will be distributed, aside from a promise to work with provinces and territories to buy cold storage. The federal government has procured 358 million doses of vaccine from seven companies, an insurance policy of sorts in case some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness. * Shortness of breath. * Loss of taste or smell. * Headache.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.What should I do if I feel sick?Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911.What can I do to protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. * Keep your distance from people who are sick. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Brendon Crane of Lorne Valley, along with a number of area residents, said they appreciate the province’s decision to restrict travel off and onto the Island. On Monday, Premier Dennis King announced border restrictions on all non-essential travel for a minimum of two weeks. Those travelling would be required to isolate for 14 days upon their return to PEI. “I believe in the science of the health care professionals,” Mr Crane said. “If Heather Morrison says this is what we need to do as a preventative measure then I think we should do it." “We’ve had no hospitalizations so we’ve been very fortunate and if we can take preventative measures, that is way better than trying to fix a problem after the fact.” Mr Crane said he was recently speaking with a veteran who put his life on the line for the safety of others. “When you put it into perspective, if you might be saving lives, wearing a mask and taking precautions is likely worth it.” Mr Crane’s daughter lives in Nova Scotia and if the restrictions extend they may not be able to visit this Christmas. This hasn’t changed his opinion in favour of the measures PEI is taking. Kenny MacLennan of Caledonia said he appreciates how Islanders can continue to go about business within the province, unlike in other areas of the country. “It’s good. Lock ‘er down if we need to,” he said. Duane Wilson lives part-time in Lower Montague and part-time in Fredericton. He just moved to PEI this past Friday and family members were set to join him here for Christmas as they do every year. Mr Wilson said if the restrictions continue they may have to change their plans but he is still in favour of the decision to fortify preventative measures on the Island. “Cases have been rising in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I think it’s important there are limitations.” Shelley LaVie, Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Souris, said local events such as the town’s annual Christmas Parade will go ahead as planned. “Some family members (of locals) might not be able to make it but overall it shouldn’t be affected.” Ms LaVie thinks Islanders are fortunate to be able to continue with a variety of activities and festivities that could be restricted in the event of an outbreak.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
Council members in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., have passed a resolution asking stores to make masks mandatory.The resolution, passed Monday night, encourages retailers to make face masks a requirement in local stores and to support those that can't wear a mask due to a disability or "undue hardship."The resolution says that personal preference "is not a valid reason to not wear a mask." Mayor Sean Whelly stressed that the resolution is a recommendation, not a bylaw, meaning that it is not mandatory for businesses to put this policy in place.Whelly said it's been difficult for customers to maintain physical distancing in stores because it's the place where so many people interact. If there's one thing his council needs to tackle right now, it's the mask issue, Whelly said."We want people to recognize that it's for their own good, and get them to voluntarily adopt mask usage," he said.The only place in the community where masks are mandatory right now is the liquor store, Whelly said. That's because the N.W.T. Liquor and Cannabis Commission made masks mandatory at all liquor stores in the territory last month.At that spot, Whelly said people can be seen leaving the store with their masks on and then passing that used mask to the next person waiting in line. Whelly said mask usage elsewhere in the community is low, and he believes it's because residents think the strong border measures and isolation centres elsewhere in the territory will keep them from being exposed to the virus. "There's a false sense of security," he said. "If one person happened to get it here, it would quickly spread just like in Nunavut." This is doubly important to residents as Fort Simpson's ice road gets ready to open during the winter, he continued. The community is cut off from all-seasons roads at the moment, lessening the risk of COVID-19. But as soon as the road opens, Whelly said residents will have to be prepared. "We know there's going to be a lot of people travelling here, and from here to Yellowknife and all over," he said. "If there's any outbreaks over there, [there are] more chances that we can see something develop here over the Christmas holidays." The next step, Whelly said, is to use some of the village's COVID-19 money to supply local stores with masks that they can provide to customers if they do not have them. Whelly said Fort Simpson has already given out hundreds of cloth masks to people in the community, but he thinks providing them to stores directly might help increase mask usage. Whelly said both stores in the community, the Northern Store and Unity, are willing to work with the village on this new mask policy.
The Bridgetown Litter Patrol, better known as Stubbert siblings Katie, Haes and Addison, have expanded their enterprises from treasure hunting and picking up litter on the beach to form what they call Beachcomber Crafts. The youngsters have turned their beach and outdoor gem finds into Christmas ornaments, art and crafts. They hope to sell the items to raise money for Hope for Wildlife. Hope for Wildlife is a charitable wildlife rehabilitation and education organization located in Seaforth, Nova Scotia. They have rescued, rehabilitated, and released more than 50,000 injured and orphaned wild animals representing more than 250 species since 1997. The organization is totally volunteer run. Hope Swinimer is at the helm of the organization and even has her own show Hope For Wildlife/TV. “I want to be just like Hope,” said Addison who is 11-years-old and passionate about animals. She has been watching Ms Swinimer’s show for the past two years. “I’m really trying to teach the kids to think about giving rather than receiving this Christmas season,” Denise Metcalf, the kid’s mom, said. “I was thinking, what are we already doing? What can we work with? I have a crafty mind so I thought let’s do crafts.” For the past few years when the family visited the beach Haes’s favourite activity has been picking up litter and treasure in his toy dump truck. This got all the kids cleaning and combing the beach for other treasures too. The family tends to take home pinecones, leaves and treasures from walks in the woods and other time spent outdoors. “We had all this material,” Ms Metcalf said pointing to a bucket of oldman’s beard tree bark and seashells. The kids decided they would get to work making ornaments. “The next step is selling the crafts,” Ms Metcalf said. To avoid the possibility of spreading COVID-19 to immunocompromised family members they can’t sell their creations at a craft fair this year. So Ms Metcalf and the Beachcomber Crafts crew are asking anyone interested in buying an ornament to call them at 902-3261385 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds will go to Hope for Wildlife.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
Mayor Charlie Clark says he's concerned about new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatoon and is looking to see what the city can do to slow the spread.Clark sent out a series of Twitter posts Tuesday night stating that he had been speaking with a wide range of groups, including medical personnel and the business sector. Clark promised to make a Saskatoon-specific plan to slow down the spread of the virus.In an interview, Clark said the plan will work alongside provincial restrictions and will focus on filling gaps in the current system."What we can do is work in a co-ordinated way between our local leadership, whether it's in the faith communities and agricultural communities and the business community, with our EMO, with our police to have the most co-ordinated approach we can," said Clark."We have make sure that we've got all of the right pieces working together when it comes to contact tracing and being able to track and understand where the virus is in our community."Clark said the city does not plan on creating its own restrictions or closures and will continue to follow the province's recommendations.At a city committee meeting on Monday, Clark and city manager Jeff Jorgenson both said the city was limited in its powers regarding COVID-19 restrictions and felt it was best to follow the province's lead on the matter.Clark said the new plan will focus on measures including an increased effort to make sure everyone is following the rules."People want to see that there's co-ordinated enforcement," he said. "We have situations where we have businesses or private gatherings that are undermining the sacrifices that so many people are making to follow the guidelines."Clark said the plan will also include means to combat misinformation about COVID-19 and make sure businesses and other groups like churches have the resources to follow the guidelines."We need to identify how we can best work together to address this very urgent issue in our community, and avoid a large scale lockdown," he said.Clark said discussions are still underway and the plan is not finished. He said he hoped the plan would be ready to roll out by the end of the week.At the committee meeting on Monday, councillors asked administration to draft a report that looks at what role the city could play in limiting the spread of COVID-19.The provincial government is expected to release further COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday afternoon.What's yours? CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.
Ontarians across the province should only celebrate the upcoming holiday season with people inside their own household, Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday."Doing so is critical if you live in a lockdown region," Ford said. "If you live alone you can join one other household. Please don't have big holiday parties."A provincial news release also states that anyone "living away from home, including those studying at colleges and universities, should consider doing a self-quarantine, or reducing close contact with others, 10 to 14 days before returning home for the holidays."Health Minister Christine Elliott said she knows how difficult the last several months have been for people."The holiday season will need to be a little different in order to protect our loved ones and our communities," she said.Ford and Elliott also suggested virtual gatherings as an alternative."To keep your loved ones safe, traditions will have to be adjusted," Ford said.WATCH | Premier gives direction on holiday season:The announcement comes as Ontario reported another 1,373 cases of COVID-19 and 35 more deaths linked to the illness on Wednesday.The new cases include 445 in Toronto (which the city later updated to 481), 415 in Peel Region and 136 in York Region and drop the seven-day average to 1,389.Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in today's report were: * Waterloo Region: 61 * Hamilton: 49 * Windsor-Essex: 48 * Simcoe Muskoka: 30 * Halton Region: 30 * Durham Region: 26 * Ottawa: 23 * Niagara Region: 17 * Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 13 * Thunder Bay: 13[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.]There were also 162 school-related cases, including 138 students and 24 staff members. There are 688 publicly-funded schools in Ontario, or about 14.6 per cent, with at least one reported instance of COVID-19. Four schools are closed due to outbreaks.The new cases come as Ford's government is under fire for its pandemic response. A new report from the province's Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that the response was hampered by "delays and confusion in decision-making."Meanwhile, Ontario's labs processed 36,076 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a provincewide test positivity rate of 4.7 per cent.There are currently 12,779 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, 138 fewer than yesterday. The number of people with the illness in Ontario hospitals fell 11 to 523. Those being treated in intensive care stayed unchanged at 159, while 15 more patients were put on ventilators.The 35 additional deaths reported today include 29 people aged 70 and over who contracted the virus in an outbreak, most likely long-term care settings. Ontario's official death toll now sits at 3,554.Scathing AG report on pandemic responseThe province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was slower and more reactive than that of other provinces, Lysyk concluded in her report. She said outdated provincial emergency plans played a role in slowing down the provincial response in the winter and spring, as did systemic issues such as a lack of laboratory surge capacity and old IT systems.Lysyk also pointed to an increasingly cumbersome command structure, and one that was not led by public health expertise despite the creation and expansion of a provincial health command table that she says now involves more than 500 people.As well, she found the province's chief medical officer of health did not fully exercise his powers in responding to the pandemic, or issue directives to local health officials to ensure a consistent approach across regions.The auditor general also raised concerns that lab testing, case management and contact tracing were not being conducted in a timely enough manner to limit the spread of the virus, noting that between January and August, all but one public health unit failed to meet the target of reporting test results within a day 60 per cent of the time.The findings are part of a special report released today that examines Ontario's emergency management in the context of the pandemic, and its outbreak planning and decision-making, among other things.In the report, Lysyk said many of the issues her office identified would have been avoidable if the province had acted on key lessons from the 2003 SARS outbreak before or during the health crisis.Ford responded to the report Wednesday, saying that he had "serious problems" with it."This does nothing but undermine this entire health team," Ford said, adding that he "won't stand for this."Ford also directly criticized Lysyk herself, accusing her of sitting in her office and throwing "hand grenades" at the government's health officials."Stick with looking for value for money. Stick with the job we hired you for … stick with the number crunching," Ford said.COVID-19 and the holidaysToronto and Peel Region are currently under the grey or lockdown level in the province's tiered COVID-19 alert system, with those restrictions set to stay in place at least until the week of Christmas.Public health measures under the lockdown level include a ban on indoor gatherings except with those in the same household, as well as closing down restaurants for all but takeout and delivery.The province's chief medical officer of health said earlier this week it seemed unlikely the situation would improve in those regions enough over 28 days to warrant moving them to the red alert level, which is one level lower. Previously, Dr. David Williams was derided for his suggestion that the entire province could be in the green zone by Christmas. Five other regions — Hamilton, Durham, Halton, York and Waterloo — are currently classified as red zones, which caps social gatherings at five people indoors and 25 outdoors.Ontario's most recent modelling showed the province is on track to see up to 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December, though those projections are expected to be updated Thursday.
The cross-country ski community in New Brunswick says it's seeing a huge surge in interest in the sport this fall. "I think for a lot of people they're looking at it as a sport they can do in the winter to get through the winter and enjoy the winter, otherwise it's going to be an awfully long one," said John Ball, past president of the Wostawea Ski Club in Fredericton. Wostawea had 250 people sign up for membership in the first four hours of registration."Nothing like that has ever happened before," said Ball. Ball says all ski lessons for youth and adults are already full. "We raised (the limit) a little bit to allow people who had kids in the program to come back. But otherwise, we've now hit our limit with that."He said the club is adjusting its programs in light of COVID- there will be no indoor hot chocolate gatherings after youth skiing and lessons will be physically distanced. At the ski shop Radical Edge, co-owner Brian McKeown said he ordered twice as much cross-country ski gear than he normally would for a season."We're still burning through and are very, very low on stock," he said.McKeown said customers from across the country have been buying gear from the shop's online store. "B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, like, you name it, we've been doing orders almost on a daily basis, going all over the place."But, he said, most people coming into the store are first time skiers looking for an outdoor activity that's fun — and safe. "We've seen a lot of snowbirds that are not going down to Florida this winter and as a result are buying cross-country skis because, again, it's a great thing for them to get out and enjoy the winter."Ball says the club has seen steady growth in recent years, but he attributes the surge this year to the pandemic."I think it will really help with COVID. I think people are realising it is something that they can do that's fun. It's an all ages sport so they can do it. … Because we have to put up with this pandemic while we all wait for a vaccine and just struggle through it. It's a way to enjoy winter."