Three dogs walk down a wooded trail in Conception Bay, NL but would rather be carried.
Three dogs walk down a wooded trail in Conception Bay, NL but would rather be carried.
LONDON — Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it was launching an investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had made a bullying allegation against the Duchess of Sussex. The Times of London reported allegations that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated.” It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, then the communications secretary to Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. He now works for Harry’s elder brother, Prince William. The palace said it was “clearly very concerned” about the allegations. It said in a statement that the palace human resources team “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article” and would seek to speak to current and former staff. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace,” it said. American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year. In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California, and are expecting a second child. The bullying allegations were reported four days before the scheduled broadcast of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, which is anticipated to draw a huge audience. It also comes less than two weeks after the palace announced that the couple’s split from official duties would be final. A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.” In a 30-second clip released by CBS Wednesday night, Winfrey asks Meghan how she feels about the palace “hearing you speak your truth today?” “I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Markle says. “And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there's been a lot that's been lost already.” The Associated Press
THUNDER BAY — The provincial government’s decision to close two youth detention facilities in northwestern Ontario has been described as “horrific” by the Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Earlier this week, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services announced Jack McGuire Centre and JJ Kelso Centre would no longer be operational by April 30. Several youth facilities across the province including in the northwest have been significantly underused due to a reduction of youth being admitted into custody since 2004, the ministry said. Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the decision to close the facilities and transfer the youth elsewhere will have a major impact on not only the youth but their families as well. Youth currently residing at these facilities were transferred to the remaining facilities in the northern region, the ministry said. “It means no service at all for our young people and families that need these types of supports,” Fiddler said in an interview on Wednesday, March 3. “It means that they will be even more displaced, they will be even more far away from their families and communities,” he said, adding having facilities in both Kenora and Thunder Bay gave families at least some opportunity to interact with their kids. The decision to close the facilities comes from recommendations made by the auditor general, the ministry said in an emailed statement to Tbnewswatch this week. Fiddler said the decision was sudden and abrupt. “I think everyone from my understanding was blindsided by this,” he said. “They were given one hour notice and [the youth were] shackled along with a few of their belongings and then taken to a plane and flown to a southern location. It’s just horrific.” Most of the youth have either been transferred to Sault Ste. Marie or to facilities in southern Ontario such as Ottawa and Toronto, Fiddler said. There was also no communication to the families of the youth in custody of the transfers. “I don’t know how anyone can treat a person like that to send them far away without informing families, without properly creating a transition plan to ensure support for young people and letting them know that this is happening,” Fiddler said. “It was very sudden and I can’t imagine the trauma.” A letter was sent to the Ford government on behalf of NAN Grand Council Treaty #3 expressing their concern on the closures. “They were given such a short notice that they didn’t have time to say their goodbyes," he said. Fiddler said it will be almost impossible for families to travel to see their children, most of whom are from remote fly-in communities. Dr. Ben Stride-Darnley, president of the board of volunteer directors for the William W. Creighton Youth Centre, said they are appalled and shocked at the province’s decision to close their facilities. “There was no involvement from us, no chance to negotiate, no chance to collaborate and no chance to ensure that resources are maintained locally,” Stride-Darnley said on March 3 in an interview. The president says the board has been aware of the relatively low numbers of youth in custody and had come together with community partners to put together a proposal to convert some or all of their spaces into secure treatment. “With redirection away from incarceration it then becomes inevitable that we have low numbers,” he said. “Having said that keeping youth closer to their own communities is key to transition and key to recuperation and rehabilitation.” He adds that youth in custody in the northwest are some of the most vulnerable in Ontario. “We would take youth from anywhere north of Wawa to Hudson Bay to the Manitoba border,” he said. “Sending them further afield makes visitation very difficult, even within our own catchment it is difficult because of distances to Kenora and Thunder Bay.” Youth in custody at these facilities were informed on Monday morning they would be transported to other facilities later that same afternoon, Stride-Darnley said. “At the same time were informed, we were not allowed to tell them where they were going, we were not allowed to tell their parents or their guardian that they were moving despite requests by both myself and the executive director to the ministry,” he said. Stride-Darnley explained how William W. Creighton Youth Services is known for how they build relationships for youth who are incarcerated. “We work with them to build up their well-being, their self-esteem, their mental health issues, address other health issues and make sure they are attending and achieving in school and trying to build them up so they don’t become a part of a cycle of youth criminal justice or adult justice issues,” Stride-Darnley said. “So there were tears by the youths having to be shackled and having to be transferred and not knowing where they were going and that to me is a detrimental experience and I would also argue is a racist experience. It is very similar to the Sixties Scoop and residential schools in that at nowhere at no point where their needs or concerns really addressed by the ministry,” he said. Indigenous youth account for 90 per cent of youth in incarceration systems across Ontario, according to Stride-Darnley. “It is integral to the well-being of youth especially in the justice system that they are close as possible to their home communities and being a 1,000 to 1,500 kilometres away is not conducive to rehabilitation,” he said. “None of the money being saved is being relocated to the northwest it is all going to the central coffer and there has been no redirection to other community programming at this point. That is a cost-saving, not a human-based decision which is unfortunate.” The ministry says the closure of youth facilities across the province will allow the government to re-invest nearly $40 million into other programs. “We need to look at the long term and how we can support these children into adulthood and how we need to look at the longer-term solutions rather than just shutting down facilities like we are seeing this week,” Fiddler said. He hopes the provincial government will be open to having discussions on how to support youth in custody and their families going forward. There will be 50 jobs losses in both Kenora and Thunder Bay as a result of the facilities closing. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is again being accused of discrimination in how it treats migrant farm workers. Haldimand-Norfolk is already infamous in farming circles as the only jurisdiction to put a cap on how many offshore workers can quarantine together in a bunkhouse, a controversial policy upheld after a lengthy court battle last year. Now medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai has decreed that newly arrived farm workers self-isolating in hotels cannot leave their rooms. While federal rules allow “limited and monitored outdoor time” for returning Canadian travellers staying at isolation hotels, the latest directive from the health unit confines migrant workers to their rooms for their entire 14-day quarantine. “I think any time people are treated differently than a Canadian, that’s discrimination,” said Leanne Arnal, a farm worker advocate and member of the Norfolk Seasonal Agricultural Workers Community Committee. “If we were to lock a dog in a room for 14 days — I don’t care how nice the room is — you’re going to have the police there. You’re going to have a community of upset people. So why are we keeping the farm workers in there for 14 days? Even criminals can go outside and get a fresh air break.” Nesathurai defended the new restriction as necessary to contain the more contagious variants of COVID-19. “This past summer, an outbreak among Haldimand-Norfolk’s migrant worker community led to hundreds of infected individuals, multiple hospitalizations, and a death. The Haldimand-Norfolk experience shows that some workers arrive in Canada carrying COVID-19, and this can have deadly consequences,” he said. “The risk is not theoretical. We’re trying to keep as many people safe as possible, given the resources that we have.” Nesathurai said the policy also protects other hotel guests and staff, and farm workers can take smoke breaks or get fresh air on their balcony, “if available.” Not every room has a balcony, Arnal noted, adding that all workers are tested for COVID-19 before leaving their home countries. Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp said she was “perplexed” by the new rule. “As chair of the board of health, I have consistently supported Dr. Nesathurai, even when there were rules I didn’t agree with. He’s a medical professional and I am not,” Chopp said. “However, when I see rules that now are not treating the migrant workers the same as Canadians, I do start to question that, when Canadians themselves are entitled to be able to get some fresh air while they’re in quarantine.” Kevin Daniel from Trinidad and Tobago, who works at a farm in Simcoe, said he “strongly believes” the new rule discriminates against migrant workers, who cannot protest the conditions set out by the health unit due to their precarious employment status. “What they tell us to do, we have to comply with it,” he said. Daniel will be spared another quarantine because he remained in Simcoe over the winter after being unable to fly home thanks to border restrictions. But he said he is still feeling the debilitating mental effects of spending two weeks in a hotel room after a COVID-19 outbreak at his farm last November. “It was very terrible, the experience I had being locked up those 14 days,” said Daniel, who said he continues to suffer from insomnia. “I experienced it in the quarantine, and when I came out, I would be up until 3, 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s a consistent problem that I have,” he said. Daniel said allowing workers daily outdoor exercise would not alleviate the anxiety of quarantine, but it would help. Arnal helped Daniel’s employer manage that quarantine. She proposed having workers use a dedicated stairwell to safely spend time outdoors in a secluded yard. “(Nesathurai) said ‘absolutely not,’ with no reason for it,” Arnal said. “Using the variants as an excuse right now — what was his excuse in November, when there were no variants?” Nesathurai contends the health unit does not have enough staff to monitor workers’ outdoor breaks, but Chopp said the farmers themselves would pay for supervision. According to Nesathurai, the health unit has asked Ottawa “numerous times” to take over the migrant worker self-isolation program, most recently in a March 1 letter in which he warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that federal inaction would “likely contribute to more workers becoming infected.” Arnal sees this rule as the latest in a string of questionable health unit decisions — such as issuing ID cards she considered “racial profiling” — that demonize farm workers, who she said spend most of the year in Canada and make an incalculable contribution to the national food supply and local economy. “They are not a risk, they are at risk, just like the rest of us,” she said. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
A promotional photo and video shoot was produced at McGeachie Trails in Limerick Township on Feb. 27 to highlight the trails’ suitability for various winter sports for residents and tourists alike, and to promote economic development. The photo and video materials, focusing on cross country skiing and snowshoeing, were produced by Hastings Destination Trails Inc. with a grant from the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization, in cooperation with Hastings County. It is set to be used to promote McGeachie Trails after the pandemic has subsided, likely for the 2021/2022 winter season. According to HDTI’s Cathy Trimble, the organization had received a $2,500 digital marketing grant from the OHTO recently, and decided to do a photo and video shoot to market McGeachie Trails as a winter tourist destination for the 2021/2022 winter season. Luisa Sorrentino is the marketing coordinator for economic development and tourism with Hastings County, and emphasizes that the photos and video will not be used to publicize McGeachie Trails this year, due to COVID-19, but will be used to do so next year for the 2021/2022 winter season. “So, we are not promoting the area this time during COVID-19. We are all local within Hastings County. We’re wearing masks and we’re doing everything according to protocol,” she says. While there was an uptick in local tourism to the area in 2020, with some businesses seeing a 30 per cent increase in revenues, Sorrentino wants to prepare for when the pandemic is behind us and tourism from other parts of Ontario, Canada and the world can start to resume. “We’ve been busy helping businesses survive and pivot during COVID-19, and also to be ready with services when [COVID-19] ends and tourists come back to the area,” she says. To that end, HDTI and Hastings County highlighted the trails’ suitability to use for cross country skiing and for snowshoeing. They had Clive Emery, the owner and operator of Trips and Trails Adventure Outfitting (tripsandtrails.ca), and an avid skier and sportsman, to teach a handful of people how to cross-country ski on the trails and take them on a short journey for the video. Trimble confirmed that Emery was there that morning teaching skiing fundamentals and that the photo and video shoot went well. “He was the instructor and supported us with equipment for the event. They [his students] were novice cross country skiers and they really enjoyed themselves. Clive just showed them the ropes and they went for a short ski,” she says. Bernie Hogan was also there that afternoon to teach a small group of people how to snowshoe for the afternoon’s video segment and to take them on a brief snowshoeing excursion. They were the Card family; Meredith, Shayne and son Maxwell, and Rick Cassidy and Mary Ann Pierce. An award-winning long-distance runner and snowshoe racer, Hogan is also the athlete ambassador for northern Ontario with Snowshoe Canada (snowshoecanada.ca/contact). He works at CP Rail as a track maintenance technician. He’s been snowshoeing since he was a kid, but took up snowshoe racing a few years ago to keep his conditioning for running in place over the winter. Racing snowshoes are smaller and lighter than traditional snowshoes. “I started getting injured running in the snow, so I was looking for a different kind of sport and found it with snowshoe racing,” he says. Hogan has seen more people on snowshoes this winter than he did last year, and says it’s even hard to buy snowshoes at all as they’re selling out. Grooming the trails that day was Don Stoneman, a retired editor and journalist, director of Canoe Kayak Ontario and an avid canoeist. He used his specialized extra wide track snowmobile and its grooming attachment. “It was a bit of a challenge as the snow was so wet, so I just packed it down with the snowmobile. I’ll track it when it gets a bit colder,” he says. The cross-country skiing and snowshoeing were captured for posterity that day by local photographer Emily Musclow (emilymaeannphotography.com) and local videographer Erica Tripp (ericasorensonmedia.ca). Tripp, who recently moved back to Gilmour from British Columbia, captured the action along the trail with her digital video camera and her gimbal, which is a camera mount that uses three motors within the mount to compensate for unwanted movements and keep the camera steady. “The weather was pretty interesting this morning. It was a bit of a challenge shooting with the snow, but we made it work,” she says. Overall, the photo and video shoot went great that day and Trimble and Sorrentino were happy with the results. “The idea is for people, not during COVID-19 but next year, to come up here as tourists or even if they buy a place up here,” says Sorrentino. “They want to be able to have opportunities to go out and live an active lifestyle and try new experiences, something they’ve never done before, like snowshoeing or skiing.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
Rideau Lakes Township has approved a one-per-cent property tax rate increase for 2021. At the township council's regular meeting earlier this week, members agreed in a 7-2 vote for the local tax rate increase, down from the 2.5-per-cent increase that was presented in December. The one-per-cent tax increase translates into an additional $12 per year in property taxes on the average home, assessed at $250,000. This in turn measures out to an increase of $113,000 in revenue for the township. The township ended 2020 with an estimated surplus of just over $1 million. Township administrators say this is attributed to the impact of COVID-19 delaying some projects and stronger-than-forecasted revenue. Many on council gave kudos to the township staff for configuring a budget for this year that increases property taxes by only one per cent while still increasing reserves and decreasing the debt level. "I'm really happy with the budget that the staff presented," said South Crosby Coun. Claire Smith during Monday's meeting, adding that in a way she feels the budget is more the staff's than council's due to the strains virtual meetings have on discussions and debates. Only Mayor Arie Hoogenboom and South Elmsley Coun. Jeff Banks voted against the budget. Banks said he would have preferred no increase in the property tax, with Hoogenboom agreeing. "I received a lot of calls, a lot of people are struggling with the COVID," said Hoogenboom. Despite the mayor voting against the budget on the "principle" of the matter, he also said he will respect the will of council and ensure it works best for the township. "The township's fiscal future is bright," said Hoogenboom. "The 2021 budget continues our commitment to prudent spending and progressive rural governance." In a municipal services committee meeting last week, council had a lively discussion on what budget proposal to bring to the regular council. Four options were presented by staff, two each offered either a zero- or one-per-cent property tax increase. At the committee meeting, Hoogenboom and Banks were joined by Couns. Cathy Livingston and Bob Lavoie in voting no on the eventual budget option. Both Livingston and Lavoie ultimately voted yes on the budget in the regular council meeting Monday. All other councillors – Carolyn Bresee, Joan Delaney, Marcia Maxwell, Ron Pollard and Smith – said in the meetings they were happy with the budget brought forward by staff and voted for it in both committee and council. According to a release by the township, the budget includes revenue and expenses of $18.6 million. A total of $2.9 million is being invested towards roads. Plum Hollow Road, which runs from County Road 5 to Healey Road at the Elizabethtown-Kitley Township line, has been designated for a full roadbed reconstruction. The schedule of maintenance stone application to gravel roads has been altered to have the program run at a two- and three-year cycle rather than a three- and five-year cycle. Major investments in buildings include revamping the Ronald E. Holman Municipal Complex. The building formerly housed the Rideau Lakes detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police before it moved to the former Rideau Centennial Public School in Portland. Along with renovating the former police space into a library, work on a new outdoor recreation area will begin this year. Other community halls and parks in the township will be receiving a combined $600,000 in investments, of which half is coming from revenue sources like grants, donations and parkland reserves. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
CALGARY — As the Calgary Flames try to snap out of their malaise, the return of their star goalie appears imminent. Sidelined five games with lower-body injury, Jacob Markstrom put in a full practice Wednesday with the Flames. "He's close," Flames head coach Geoff Ward said. "Right now he's going through hurdles to get clearance from our medical staff. "He should be ready to go moving forward here based on sort of what we saw, but we'll leave that decision up to the medical people ultimately." Markstrom was pulled midway through a 7-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 20 to open a six-game road trip. A 2-3-1 swing, including a pair of losses to the division cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators, dropped the Flames below the .500 mark (10-11-1) heading into Thursday's rematch at home against the Sens. Markstrom was Calgary's best player the first quarter of the season with an 8-4-1 record, a .924 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average. The coveted free agent signed a six-year, US$36-million contract with the Flames in October after seven seasons in the Vancouver Canucks organization. In his seventh straight start, and 14th of Calgary's first 16 games of the season, the six-foot-six Swede twice collided hard with Canucks players while coming out his crease to challenge them Feb. 17. Three days later in Edmonton, Markstrom was replaced by David Rittich after giving up five goals to the Oilers on 15 shots. Whether he returns Thursday against Ottawa, or in the weekend's back-to-back games against the Oilers and Senators respectively, Markstrom is hungry to help restore his team's confidence. "Stop the puck. That's my top and only priority," Markstrom said. "It sucks not being out there to battle with the team. You want to be out there for the good times, but also, when we're not playing our best and guys are battling, you want to be out there with them and get us out of this little slump." Veteran forward Derek Ryan also skated Wednesday and appears ready to return to the lineup after missing 12 games with a broken finger. "Things are a little heavy around here," Ryan said. "Guys are gripping the sticks, and it's just not the happiest place right now. "So I was trying to bring a little positivity today in practice and then when I get in the lineup, it's more of that, the energy, positivity." The Flames are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and scored one goal or less in seven of them. Calgary sits three points back of fourth-place Montreal with the halfway point of the pandemic-shortened season looming March 13 when the Canadiens come to Calgary. "We've got some guys coming back from injury, which is a positive thing for us," Ward said. "There's no panic in our situation. We understand exactly where we're at. But we also understand the only people who can get us out of this is ourselves. "We need to come together collectively, we need to do the things that we need to do to, to make positive plays, we need to look after what's important on a daily basis, and we'll start to go the other way again." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Five Black Muslim women, all Somali-Canadians wearing hijabs, have been attacked or threatened in Edmonton in the last 10 weeks. The city's Al-Rashid Mosque began offering Muslim women self-defence lessons following the attacks. The classes are full. Trent Daley is a member of Edmonton's Anti-Racism Advisory Committee. He says someone approaches him or his network on a weekly basis about an assault. Most victims are Black and Muslim women. "There's been a notable marked increase (in assaults) following the pandemic. It's so pervasive right now," Daley says. "It's full of racial epithets, full of disgusting language targeting them based off the scarf that they wear and the identity they presumed that this person has. It's dehumanizing." Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. Cheryl Voordenhout with the Edmonton Police Service says it received 60 reports of hate crimes last year. So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women. On Dec. 8, a mother and daughter were violently attacked in the Southgate mall parking lot. A week later, near the same mall, another woman was subject to racial slurs as someone tried to hit her head with a shopping bag. In February, a man made racial comments and became aggressive toward a woman at the University of Alberta transit centre. The same day, a man came up behind a woman walking in a popular neighbourhood, pushed her to the ground and made threats to kill her and tear off her burqa. The latest attack happened Feb. 17. The National Council of Canadian Muslims said a man approached a Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab at the Century Park transit station, swore at her and threatened to kill her. Political leaders, including Premier Jason Kenney, have spoken out against the attacks. But the CEO of the national Muslims council says condemnation is not enough and government leaders at the local and provincial level need to take action. "Anti-Black racism is a real problem in Alberta," says Mustafa Farooq. "Black-Muslim women tend to face greater challenges than almost anyone else, because racism and gendered Islamophobia are real problems. "We can look, for example, at street harassment bylaws. We can look at ways in which anti-racism initiatives are being funded. We can look at hate crime units and their advocacy in dealing with these challenges." "So much can be done immediately, but it's not happening." Daley added that recent rallies and marches in Edmonton and Calgary in opposition to COVID-19 measures are examples of how the pandemic has exacerbated racism in Alberta. Some participants were seen carrying tiki torches, which many say are a symbol used by white supremacists. Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said the police service is doubling down in its effort to work with the Somali community to address racially motivated assaults. "We've got to listen to what they need and then we've got to figure out how we can ... actually get some of the changes that they need," he said at a news conference Tuesday. McFee also alluded to the suspects in the assaults possibly having mental-health issues. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This story has been edited. An interview subject was removed from the original version because of concerns raised about her safety.
The top public health officials in Southwestern Ontario pulled in hundreds of thousands in overtime pay last year for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. At least two of the region’s medical officers of health received more than $100,000 each in overtime, including Middlesex-London’s top public health doctor, Chris Mackie, and Haldimand-Norfolk’s Shanker Nesathurai. The overtime pay is part of a provincial program to compensate local health units for extraordinary expenses incurred relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was one of the initiatives set up by the province to recognize some of the frontline healthcare workers,” said London city councillor Maureen Cassidy, who chairs the Middlesex-London board of health. “They’ve asked us to keep a tally of all the overtime hours and the dollars for every one of our employees who have worked overtime directly related to the COVID-19 response," she said. Between March 22 and Nov. 14 of last year, the health unit had 47 staff log overtime ranging from 44 to 716 hours. The global pandemic was declared in mid-March. Mackie, the London area's medical officer of health, logged 611 overtime hours during that period, earning a payout of $100,072. His base salary in 2019 was $300,000. “That reflects the leader of an organization that has gone from five days a week, 8:30 to 4:30, to seven days a week, 8:30 until some days, 10 at night,” Cassidy said about the overtime pay. The total staff overtime spending at the Middlesex-London Health Unit was $730,000. Cassidy said public health staff are making “incredible sacrifices” in their personal lives while battling the pandemic. As Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer of health, Nesathurai logged 1,100 overtime hours, worth $160,000, on top of a base salary of $240,000. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Oxford and Elgin counties, received just more than $62,000 in overtime pay “for hours worked over and above the regular schedule as well as unused vacation,” according to Larry Martin, Southwestern Public Health’s board chairperson. “The Ministry of Health has provided provincial health units with clear guidelines for allowable COVID-19 expenditures eligible for reimbursement,” Martin said in a statement. “(Lock’s) employment contract . . . allows for overtime payments in specific circumstances – such as those that have unfolded over the course of what is now a year-long pandemic response.” Lock’s salary in 2019 was $288,000. The base salaries of medical officers of health are paid by local health boards based on member municipalities' professional salary scale and benefits policies. Whether an individual medical officer of health is eligible for overtime pay, and how they're compensated, depends on each board’s contract and municipal policies. In Ontario, overtime is paid at 1.5 times the regular pay rate. Most managers and supervisors, usually paid a salary rather than by the hour, aren't typically paid overtime. “In September 2020, public health units were provided with an opportunity to request additional one-time funding from the ministry for COVID-19 extraordinary costs incurred,” Anna Miller, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said in an email. “Examples of eligible COVID-19 extraordinary costs included overtime for staff if local board of health policies related to overtime allowed for this.” Meanwhile, Lambton’s medical officer of health, Sudit Ranade, did not receive any overtime pay as the County of Lambton’s overtime policy sees employees take time off in lieu. Shari Sterling, executive assistant for Lambton County’s public health services, said Ranade has “some banked hours” but did not specify how many. Lambton submitted $848,429 to the province for reimbursement for COVID-19 extraordinary costs, including staff salaries, accommodation, supplies, equipment and communications. Health units in Huron-Perth, Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex and Grey-Bruce did not immediately respond to Free Press requests about overtime expenses during the pandemic for medical officers of health and other staff. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation slammed the overtime pay. “Ontarians hand over nearly half – 45 per cent – of their household income to governments every year in taxes, yet we're still a province struggling with hallway healthcare and chronic problems in long-term care,” said Jasmine Moulton, the federation’s Ontario director. “Then you see governments handing out six-figure top-ups and seven-figure severances to top health officials, and you start to see where the problem truly lies." Moulton said 355,300 Ontarians lost their jobs last year amid the pandemic. “This story is further proof that we're not all in this together." email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
The owner of a Calgary cafe has started a letter-writing campaign aimed at convincing city council to reverse a decision that will result in the eatery being evicted from a historic building in Eau Claire. The city, however, says its decision is irreversible — and has been in the works for a long time. The 1886 Buffalo Cafe has been running out of the historic Eau Claire Lumber Company building for about 40 years. Next month, however, the city will not be renewing its lease, in order to undertake some long-anticipated area refurbishment. City councillors said the cafe owners were given notice in 2017 that the city would need to move the building to do some major flood work, and as part of the redevelopment that was happening in Eau Claire. But owner Joanna McLeod told CBC News she feels the city led her astray with confusing communications that made her think they'd be able to stay in the building longer. It prompted her to start a letter-writing campaign and petition in the hopes of saving the cafe. "I just think there's a lot of missing information for the city's aspect," she said. "We've been the best tenants for 40 years … and we would really just love to stay in that building." 'Timeline of assurance' McLeod said they were in negotiations with the city to renew its lease in 2018. At the time, they were on a month-to-month lease, she said, because of the developments that were planned for Eau Claire. The cafe owners were told the revitalization of the area would have the cafe moved closer to the river, and in the same building. In February 2020, McLeod said, she was offered a five-year lease by the city that went unsigned after a realtor told her the language wasn't typical for a commercial lease, and the cafe owners wanted a few details changed before they committed. According to the city, the lease was rescinded in November 2020, after the tenant failed to sign and the city received confirmation of $8.6 million in funding from the province to proceed with the Eau Claire Plaza reconstruction project. But McLeod said there are documents and emails that showed a "timeline of assurances given to us by the city, and kind of leading us down a path of security with them." The owners were blindsided, she said, when they were eventually given notice by a leasing agent that they had 90 days to vacate the premises. And thinking they were going to be staying in the building, McLeod said they invested money into the place. "Had we known that it was a possibility that we wouldn't be able to continue business out of that building … we would have chosen to do business a little differently," McLeod said. Development plans not a secret, councillor says If the decision isn't reversed by the city, McLeod said, she is hoping they will be compensated for the business decisions they made "under bad faith." However, Coun. Druh Farrell told the CBC that while she is very sympathetic with the owners, they have known for a very long time that these developments were in the works. "It's not a secret, and the information has been shared with council, and we've been working on this for a number of years," said Farrell, who represents Ward 7. Significant changes are coming to the area, including essential flood work, that will be very disruptive — but there is a commitment to restore the building and put it in a new designated location, Farrell said. It will be available again in 2023. "There will be no reversing this decision," Farrell said. Still, McLeod is hoping the city might budge. "We're imploring them to change their mind. It's a building that's not only close to our hearts, it's a building that's close to many hearts," McLeod said. "It's just such an iconic piece of Calgary."
P.E.I.'s new Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers received a dressing down in the provincial legislature Wednesday, apologizing for remarks he made the day before where he dismissed the financial toll the pandemic has taken on young Islanders, referring to accounts of "precarious employment" among young people as "employment opportunities." Those comments came during debate on a motion introduced by the Green Party to recognize the contributions of Island youth in the province's fight against COVID-19, and to acknowledge those same youth have borne much of the "economic risks and harms related to COVID-19, as a result of inadequate wages, inconsistent paid sick leave, precarious employment and challenges obtaining gainful employment." "I have to say that, I think what we need from our elected officials is we need people who are going to support the youth, and not encourage them to be victims," Trivers said Tuesday in response to the motion. "On Prince Edward Island, I personally don't see a lot of precarious employment out there, I see a lot of employment opportunities." Trivers went on to describe growing up on a farm, working for no wages. "I wasn't making money doing that, but that was very gainful employment," he said. "Those were the type of experiences that made me the person I am today, and they made me appreciate every dollar I've earned." On Wednesday Trivers offered a short apology, saying the comments he made were "misinformed." But the Official Opposition was not satisfied with that apology. "Yesterday, the Minister of Social Development and Housing told us that he doesn't understand what precarious unemployment is and that he doesn't believe it exists in PEI," said Hannah Bell, the opposition social development critic during question period. MLA Hannah Bell, official opposition critic for social development and housing, says Islanders need to know that all cabinet ministers support the message of equality and inclusion. (Laura Meader/CBC) "He described low-wage precarious work, even unpaid work, as an opportunity for character building. He also said that we should stop pointing out the problems with precarious or low paying work, lest we make our youth victims." Bell had previously delivered a written statement to the house, describing constituents she said were struggling to work multiple low-paid jobs, raise children, pay tuition fees and make the rent. "This is what precarious employment looks like. It is unstable, poorly paid, unreliable, with few if any worker rights," said Bell. "While this may not be the experience of members of this house, it is the experience of thousands of Islanders." Asked by Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker whether he supported his minister's statements, Premier Dennis King said, "I don't support that statement at all. I think we're here to help Islanders, that's our job, and if we're not here to help Islanders, none of us should be in here." Minister should show 'empathy' "The Department of Social Development and Housing is a place where many marginalized Islanders seek support," said Bevan-Baker. "Do you think it's important for the cabinet minister in that portfolio to have a deep understanding of, and an empathy for the people that their department serves?" he asked the premier. The Greens also brought up previous comments Trivers has made on housing. At a committee meeting in January, before Trivers was housing minister, he said Islanders receiving rental support from the province living in substandard housing "have the freedom to choose to make their own decision about whether they stay there or not." At a meeting in October he calculated that two people earning minimum wage could buy a home, accessing a provincial funding program to make the down payment, and afford mortgage payments of $1,200 per month. "It may not be right in Charlottetown, maybe people will have to travel," he said. In question period Wednesday, Bell said anyone who was "precariously employed … can't actually qualify for a traditional mortgage." Minister hasn't shared 'life experiences' "These are very serious issues," Trivers said in the legislature Wednesday. "We're all learning, we're all growing and the comments I made yesterday, when I say they were uninformed, it's simply because I haven't shared the life experiences of people who were impacted in that way in many cases and I will freely admit that." At one point during the session Trivers committed to creating a rental registry to track rental rates on P.E.I., something the Opposition has been asking for. After question period, Bell said the point of questioning Trivers about his comments was to get him to acknowledge there are problems with issues like wages, employment and sick leave benefits. "Premier King needs to have his cabinet ministers on board" with the vision of equality and economic security delivered in last week's throne speech, Bell said. "Trivers' comments show a pretty huge gap. It makes it hard for Islanders to know what to believe, and who to trust."
The Duchess of Cornwall said the royal family is keeping its fingers crossed.
Pembroke-- Concerns about a lack of housing for seniors and the needs of the homeless population have Renfrew County council looking at options for developing a strategy looking at new housing opportunities and solutions. The wait list for County of Renfrew housing units continues to be substantial with 964 applicants representing seniors, adults and families. As well, since the COVID-19 pandemic began 153 homeless people in the county, where the population is slightly over 100,000, have been provided with some form of assistance. “Right now, 33 of them are in hotels across our county,” Warden Debbie Robinson noted at Renfrew County council last Wednesday. “These aren’t numbers. These are people. “Are these invisible victims of the pandemic we haven’t identified yet or are we seeing the growth in a housing crisis?” she questioned. Her comments came following a presentation on a Seniors Housing Strategy presented by Ken Foulds and Scott Robertson of Re/fact Consulting. They had been hired by the county last year to do a study. “The real intent was to address senior housing and needs,” Mr. Foulds said. The consultants were looking at solutions including “outside brick-and-mortar opportunities” in the report, he said. The concern about housing for seniors is great in the county. He pointed out 20 per cent of the population is seniors. “Over the next 20 years that segment will grow to 30 per cent,” he added. All seniors are not alike and this was reflected in the presentation. He said while some are independent, others are moderately independent and the final group is heavily reliant on assistance. While the independent senior needs community supports, later it becomes more community care and finally long-term care. Mr. Roberts said the consultants did a questionnaire, had focus groups and a community round table among other initiatives to come to their findings. He said there were several findings including the fact seniors have a desire to maintain independence. “There is a lack of appropriate housing,” he added, as well as pointing out there is a demand for both housing and long-term care needs. Another area of concern is expanding services to rural areas and affordability for seniors is an issue. Five strategy directions were presented. The first was expanding suitable housing options. “Pursue greater housing flexibility with local municipalities in the Official Plan,” Mr. Foulds said. Zoning and approval practices can help in this, he said. As well, the county has a 10-year housing and homelessness plan and this can be built upon. The second strategy was improving support to enable seniors to age in place appropriately. “Maximize programs that exist out there,” he said. Expanding paramedicine initiatives would be a positive move. “One third of those on the wait list for long-term care are not considered in the severe category and could be helped to age in place,” he said. The third strategy was to increase the supply of higher-level care facilities. He said expanding care campus type options and creating slack for respite care are options as well. The fourth strategy was creating the right environment to identify and facilitate housing options. “The county can be a catalyst for development,” he said. “Continue to engage the private sector to get them involved.” The final strategy was improving seniors’ access to care and support. Mr. Foulds said having a community round table and facilitating information sharing were good steps. County councillors received the complete report on the strategy. “It has been very proactive for the county to take a leadership role in developing this strategy,” he said. “It is very forward thinking.” Warden Robinson said dealing with seniors housing it will be important to work with other groups in the county. “Facilitating the implementation involving many other groups will be essential for us,” she said. “We have this magnificent report and now we need to share it.” The reality of the aging population was not lost on her or the members of county council, she said. “There are more than 30 per cent seniors staring at you right now,” she said. It will also be important to look at the diverse needs of seniors, including the aging-at-home strategy. “The folks on the wait list that could stay at home, age at home with the right supports,” she said. Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue said it is good to look at different ways of addressing the housing needs for seniors. “Bricks and mortar long-term care is not going to be a viable way of meeting the needs of this particular demographic,” he said. “New beds won’t meet the need.” Having this report shows the county what is possible, he added. Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon asked what the consequence would be of doing nothing about the senior housing crunch. Mr. Foulds said one result was out migration. “When people can’t get the housing and supports they need, they leave,” he said. Warden Robinson said the status quo is not an option. “Doing nothing we are just welcoming a crisis to happen,” she said. The issue of homelessness in the county has made her realize the precarious situation many people live in, she added. Knowing there are 33 people being housed in hotels across the county because they are homeless is a reminder of the crisis. “That also includes people over 65,” she pointed out. North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose asked what can be done in planning policy to assist in the seniors housing crunch. “Are there specific planning policies which will encourage development to allow for more senior housing?” he asked. Mr. Foulds said ideas like allowing granny suites or second suites is a start. “Allowing an Abbey Field home – a congregate living arrangement,” he said, adding smaller lot single homes and more town houses are other ideas. As part of the Community Services report, Warden Robinson later pointed out a full report will be coming to the county about the homeless issue and showing who the people are who are homeless. “We need to have a really close look at what is happening in our communities as far as housing is concerned,” she said. “I can’t imagine where we can find homes for these folks,” she added. The report also showed there are 129 senior applicants looking for county housing, 417 adults and 418 individuals who are part of a family unit. Most seniors and adults are looking for a one-bedroom unit. Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
At the Feb. 22 Limerick Township council meeting, council discussed the impending update of the township website to make it more accessible. Victoria Tisdale, the clerk and treasurer, informed council that they had gotten two quotes for the work; one from Upnorthwebs and another from Floating Point. At Tisdale’s recommendation, council decided to go with the less expensive quote from Upnorthwebs in the amount of $6,000. The township put out a tender and received two quotes to update and make their website more accessible. Upnorthwebs put in a bid for $6,000, while Floating Point put in a bid for $8,200. This cost includes the initial work to update the site and for one year of service and maintenance. Upnorthwebs is a creative studio owned and operated by Katherine Houlding north of Belleville. They have worked with a variety of municipalities over the past 15 years on their websites and their digital presence, including Faraday Township, Wollaston Township and the Tudor and Cashel Township. Floating Point is a creative agency with 25 years experience designing websites and internet presences for a variety of clients including Hastings Highlands, Mohawk College and the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada. Tisdale recommended to council that they go with Upnorthwebs, since the quote was less expensive, and because they are already working on the township’s website providing service and maintenance. “They service all the surrounding community. I’ve spoken with her [Houlding] and she’s got a plan. If council approves and decides to go ahead with that plan, we can have it implemented by next month,” she says. Council subsequently voted to accept Tisdale’s recommendation for Upnorthwebs to continue working on their website. Houlding confirmed that she had received confirmation of the acceptance of her bid, and that Upnorthwebs has been designing and maintaining the Limerick Township website since 2002. “It has gone through many enhancements over the years,” she says. “I look forward to continuing our relationship with Limerick Township and providing them with quality website design services. Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
A full zoning bylaw change to accommodate and encourage more affordable housing in town may not be the quickest road to the goal. Midland's affordable housing task force arrived at this conclusion at its recent meeting. The group was looking at the overall official plan and zoning bylaw review process in hopes it would provide opportunities to attract more developers by easing regulations and creating a more inviting environment. "The reality is a lot of our housing development is going to come from other sources than ourselves," said Gord McKay, chair of the committee. "We have to prepare the landscape, the regulation and planning mechanisms, so they can reasonably go forward with affordable housing." The document prepared by the town's former planner identifies some areas where changes could be made, including the current planning and zoning of the Town of Midland. But it's not easy to go through a zoning bylaw review, acknowledged McKay, who asked Mayor Stewart Strathearn where the town was in the process. "We're currently seriously constrained in the planning area, and apparently, it's going to be exacerbated shortly," said Strathearn. "Friday, when we have the HR committee review as to what the immediate future looks like in terms of resources we can access to move things that need immediate attention." The retention of the consultant to do the review is going to be contingent upon putting a planning resource in plan to manage it," he added. In addition, Strathearn said, the county is moving into its municipal comprehensive review. "There's a lot happening right now," he said, adding he agreed with committee member Ted Phelps, who had suggested the committee would be better off with a site-specific zoning, rather than relying on a comprehensive zoning review. "We've identified two properties which will require some sort of zoning change," said Strathearn. "We should focus on those and we can move that ball down the court and in the workshops and other conversations put some emphasis on particular things. We can expand the conversation once we've gotten council's buy-in on some of the other stuff." McKay said a couple ideas that could be included in the new zoning bylaw, whenever that comes forward, may help promote more affordable housing in the area. "The one that's always intrigued me the most is shared accommodation housing," he said. "While we're permitted, we don't encourage it in any fashion. If any group in the public is going to pick up and do something in the affordable housing area, that's probably the mechanism they will employ. "Secondary units is another one that's reasonably well-established," added McKay. Strathearn had a word of caution around it all. "We're realizing that there are inconsistencies at the provincial level with respect to employment lands, rural designation and natural heritage," he said. "There are fundamental conflicts between the three that are really going to contain primary settlement areas to grow and retain their character. We're examining that through the municipal comprehensive review at county." The committee will also be launching a communications campaign to reach out to the community to invite feedback around housing and what the town can do to improve affordable housing in the area. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Sherbrooke — Avec le passage d’une grande partie du Québec au palier orange, les salles à manger de nombreuses cabanes à sucre obtiennent le feu vert pour ouvrir. Même si de nombreux Québécois attendaient cette nouvelle, bon nombre d’entre elles risquent de demeurer fermées par peur de voir leur situation s’empirer. C’est notamment le cas du Chalet des Érables, à Cookshire-Eaton. La propriétaire, Joannie Paquette, confie avoir le sommeil difficile depuis janvier. « Je ne m’attendais vraiment pas à ça aujourd’hui, commentait-elle mercredi à la suite du point de presse de François Legault. Je pense que c’est la décision la plus difficile que j’aurai à prendre de toute ma carrière. Mais si je suis entièrement transparente, je dirais que je ne pense pas rouvrir. » Son entreprise a investi temps et argent dans une formule de repas prêt à emporter, notamment en se joignant à l’offensive provinciale Ma cabane à la maison, mais c’est la sécurité qui pesé le plus lourd dans la balance pour l’acéricultrice. « Je compte sur de la famille et des amis pour m’aider dans mon entreprise. Je me verrais très mal les mettre à risque dans une salle à manger alors que je ne peux même pas les recevoir chez moi. » Et si quelqu’un devait tomber malade, toutes les opérations seraient paralysées, poursuit-elle. Ce qui signifierait une perte des revenus liés aux boîtes pour emporter. « Ça ne vaut pas le risque », dit-elle. Stéphanie Laurin, présidente de l’Association des salles de réception et érablières commerciales du Québec, était elle aussi sous le choc, mercredi soir. « On nous a fermé sans préavis l’an dernier, et là on nous rouvre sans préavis, s’indigne l’acéricultrice. Ce n’est vraiment pas merveilleux, en toute honnêteté. » Dans les zones déjà au palier orange, seulement quelques cabanes ont choisi d’ouvrir quand même, témoigne-t-elle. Nombreux sont ceux qui ont opté pour les boîtes à emporter, comme une majorité des érablières commerciales à travers le Québec. « Quand ça fait un an qu’on est fermé, rouvrir pour quelques semaines et peut-être devoir refermer dans deux semaines, ce n’est pas un risque à prendre. Ce serait le début de la fin, parce que c’est beaucoup d’investissement ouvrir les salles à manger. Tout le monde s’est adapté pour faire des repas pour emporter. Ils utilisent leurs salles à manger comme zone de préparation de commandes. Mais là, il faudrait tout défaire ce qu’ils ont fait pour réinstaller des tables. Je ne suis pas certaine que les cabanes à sucre voudront rouvrir. Il aurait fallu savoir en janvier qu’on allait pouvoir rouvrir début mars. Là on se serait préparés. Mais ce n’est pas ce qui a été dit. » Pas si facile donc de tout changer, une semaine après avoir lancé Ma cabane à la maison. Cette campagne, regroupant 70 cabanes à sucre, permet aux Québécois de réserver leur boîte gourmande du temps des sucres tout en soutenant leur cabane locale. Les boîtes peuvent être réservées au macabanealamaison.ca et être récupérées directement à la cabane ou bien dans une des épiceries Metro participantes. La plateforme a déjà connu 1 million de visites et 23 000 commandes, se réjouit Mme Laurin. Intérêt à ouvrir France Demers, copropriétaire de l’érablière Magolait, à Magog, a toujours de nombreuses interrogations. « C’est une bonne et une mauvaise nouvelle en même temps », dit-elle, incertaine des aménagements qu’elle devra faire et du nombre de personnes qu’elle pourra recevoir. Celle-ci aimerait rouvrir dès le week-end du 12 mars, mais se montre très déçue des conditions imposées, soit les mêmes qu’en restauration : un maximum de deux adultes par table (avec leurs enfants), la réservation obligatoire, la tenue d’un registre des clients et l’exigence d’une preuve de résidence dans une zone du même palier. « Deux adultes par table, ça ne fonctionne pas vraiment bien avec le modèle d’affaires d’une cabane à sucre, ce sont de grandes tablées, de grandes salles... » laisse tomber Stéphanie Laurin. « J’ai l’habitude d’avoir des groupes de collègues, des groupes d’amis... c’est certain que je ne pourrais pas avoir ça du tout. Il ne nous reste déjà que sept fins de semaine, avec des toutes petites familles ici et là... On va annoncer notre ouverture, et on verra comment ça ira. Mais ça va être compliqué. » Même si le gouvernement a annoncé il y a deux semaines que la période d’ouverture autorisée pour les cabanes à sucre serait prolongée, Mme Demers croit que l’exercice n’en vaut pas la chandelle. « Les gens auront passé à autre chose. Début mai, il fait beau et chaud, ils ont plus envie d’aller marcher en ville et de prendre un cornet de crème glacée », dit-elle. Ni Mme Demers ni Mme Laurin n’ont eu vent de quelconque consigne sanitaire concernant la tire sur la neige. Les propriétaires devront certainement se montrer créatifs pour éviter que cette activité ne soit source de contagion. Jasmine Rondeau, Initiative de journalisme local, La Tribune
Although Alek Minassian was found guilty of all counts in the Yonge Street van attack, the judge has set a Canadian precedent by considering autism a “mental disorder” under the Criminal Code. Kamil Karamali reports.
Wall Street slumped on Thursday and global stock markets declined after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell repeated his pledge to keep credit flowing until Americans are back to work, rebutting investors who have openly doubted he can stick to that promise once the pandemic passes. Benchmarket U.S. Treasury yields rose toward last week's highs as Powell spoke, and the dollar hit a three-month high. With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out and the government fiscal taps open "there is good reason to think we will make more progress soon" toward the Fed's goals of maximum employment and 2% sustained inflation, Powell told a Wall Street Journal forum.
Calabogie – Calabogie – A long-time Conservative, who spent several years as a volunteer on the local Tory riding association and is proud to be a card-carrying member of the federal Conservative Party of Canada, said the time has come for MP Cheryl Gallant to resign due to her inappropriate statements in a video, among them being that Liberals want to normalize sexual activity with children. “That statement is inexcusable,” Bill Beacham told the Leader. “She painted all Liberals with the same brush and although she said her statement was taken out of context, the damage was done. It gives me no pleasure in calling for Cheryl Gallant to resign.” Although no longer directly involved in the local association due to health reasons, he is immensely proud of the various roles he performed as a volunteer and said local Conservatives should be proud they helped Mrs. Gallant win seven consecutive elections. Whether it was serving as financial officer for the riding association or emptying garbage cans after a political event or delivering turkeys to raise funds, he said he holds no malice towards her nor does he have an axe to grind. “I have nothing against her and I have worked alongside her over the years, but I think I speak for many when I say her time has passed and instead of leading by example, she is promoting conspiracy theories. She has been elected or re-elected seven times and has represented Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke for over 20 years in Parliament. She is currently the longest serving woman in the Conservative caucus." Mr. Beacham said Mrs. Gallant enjoys tremendous support in the riding and one would hope that after 20 years as a politician she would have earned the title of “elder statesman”. “Unfortunately Mrs. Gallant continues to make hyper political statements that contributes to the current polarization and divisiveness in Canada,” he said. “It is not helpful, in my opinion, to the Conservative Party of Canada.” Mr. Beacham admits he struggled when coming to his decision to publicly call on her to resign, while at the same time calling on Conservative leader Erin O’Toole to address the matter. He understands Mr. O’Toole likely has bigger “fish to fry”, but he said at the very least he should allow a nomination process well before any future election. In his opinion an open and fair nomination meeting should take place to not only present a new candidate for an upcoming election, but it will allow fresh ideas to be introduced among the local membership. “I am disappointed with Mrs. Gallant’s recent controversy and at the same time I am also disappointed by the inaction of Mr. O’Toole,” he said. “I have written letters to both of them and I have yet to receive any reply. I even called Mrs. Gallant’s office out of respect for her and asked her to contact me so that she can explain her actions to see if there is any rationale behind her series of allegations against the Liberals and her continued promotion of baseless conspiracy theories. I have yet to hear back from her and it is for that reason I decided to publicly call for her resignation.” Perhaps what disappoints him most is the forum where she made the statements. The video, which was posted by Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell on her YouTube page, was made earlier this year when she was interacting in a virtual meeting with members of the Queen’s University Conservative Club based in Kingston. While talking to the students she made several other outrageous claims including that Liberals are "radicals" who want all illicit drugs to be legal. She also promoted a conspiracy theory that "cultural Marxists" have taken over every university administration and are silencing free speech on campuses. She also claimed the ‘elites’ call the university takeover as part of a great reset or build back better or green new deal. She said the names change but the goal remains the same and that means more power for the powerful and less freedom for everyone else. Up until the last month, Mrs. Gallant has remained relatively quiet and has rarely spoken in a public forum since the 2019 federal election. Over the years, she has made several outlandish statements that have drawn national media attention and caused embarrassment for her fellow caucus members and the various leaders of her party. On more than one occasion she has been forced by the Leader’s Office to issue public apologies, sometimes on the floor of the House of Commons. When asked why she has suddenly resumed her habit of getting national attention for controversial statements, Mr. Beacham could only guess at the reason. “In my opinion, I think she actually believes these wild conspiracy theories,” he said. “That in itself should be a good sign that it is time for her to step aside. Even if she issued an apology today for her actions, it is too late for that. “She is not some rookie making a first-time mistake. She knows better. Instead of using her experience to help promote the values of the Conservative Party, especially to impressionable university students, she is only adding to the divisiveness of today’s politics. I find no joy in calling for the current MP to resign.” Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
South Algonquin Township just completed the public consultation survey phase for its Community Safety and Well Being Plan, which is due to be submitted to the provincial government by July 1. Coordinated by Dr. Meara Sullivan, the survey found that employment, COVID-19, healthcare and affordable housing were residents’ biggest concerns. On the plus side, 95 per cent of respondents felt safe within their respective communities. In a media release from Dr. Sullivan on Feb. 23, the results of the community consultation survey in South Algonquin were made public. The municipal councils of the townships of Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan, Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, Madawaska Valley and South Algonquin decided to work collaboratively with Dr. Sullivan to come up with a CSWB plan, and Dr. Sullivan also administered surveys to those municipalities for their input. The survey ran from Oct. 5 to Nov. 30, 2020. Available in hardcopy and online through Survey Monkey, 305 local residents from all the townships participated. Eighty-one people participated from South Algonquin, or 7.4 per cent of its population of 1,096. Dr. Sullivan is a community and restorative justice specialist with over 20 years experience in her field. Her experience led her to be hired by the seven municipalities of North Hastings in 2019 to help them to come up with their own CSWB programs. This tenure helping the municipalities in North Hastings led her to be hired by South Algonquin, Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan, Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, and Madawaska Valley, as well as her teaching experience in Community, Safety and Well-Being at Loyalist College. Within South Algonquin, survey respondents had an average age of 55 to 64 years, 75 per cent were female, 92 per cent were white/Caucasian, 75 per cent had a post secondary education, 68 per cent were permanent residents, 90 per cent lived in a home they owned, and 9 per cent said they experienced home insecurity or homelessness in the past year. The good news was that 95 per cent of respondents always or often felt safe in their community, while a strong sense of community and sense of belonging was felt by 57 per cent. While employment at 33 per cent, COVID-19 at 27 per cent, affordable housing at 23 per cent, and healthcare access at 18 per cent were listed as the greatest concerns and the services needed in the area, the greatest community strengths were hailed as nature at 73 per cent, peace/quiet at 60 per cent, small town/rural life at 56 per cent and peace/quiet. It wasn’t a surprise that 75 per cent of respondents reported that COVID-19 had brought higher levels of stress, and 47 per cent reported that the ongoing pandemic had greatly impacted their work and family life. Dr. Sullivan completed the data analysis and the final report, and says that the results give significant insights into the views of the 305 local area residents. “The sample is comprised of individuals who volunteered to participate and is not intended to represent the overall population. However, every resident has a unique voice and each is equally important,” she says. Now in its final phase, the CSWB planning information will be compiled into a regional plan. The final plan will be sent to the Solicitor General and shared with the community by July 1. Dr. Sullivan says that their information gathering process has finished, which included a local service providers’ survey, the community consultation survey, meetings with local agencies and advisors, attendance at round tables on physical and mental health, collecting statistical and previous reports data, and one on one discussions with community members. “In order to be responsive to the immediate needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to be flexible in our planning. At this point, in order to meet the deadline, set by the province, I am compiling all the available information into the final plan,” she says. “I will be reaching out to our advisors throughout this process to ensure the final plan meets the needs of the individuals that are at the greatest risk.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
More people visited Kelowna and stayed overnight in 2020 than the year before, but that has not translated into more revenue for hotels and other businesses in the region, according to Tourism Kelowna. Tourism Kelowna's latest data indicates nearly 1.9 million overnight visitors stayed in the city last year — five per cent more than in 2019 — but the hotel occupancy rate for the year was down 24 per cent. The data also shows incoming travellers were up 25 per cent year-over-year in June since the B.C. government started encouraging within-province travel, but dropped nine per cent year-over-year in December after the government banned non-essential travel across regions and provinces in November due to the escalating daily COVID-19 cases. "Those numbers actually align with the different stages of the health restrictions," Lisanne Ballantyne, president and CEO of Tourism Kelowna, told Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South. Tourism Kelowna believes many travellers stayed at short-term rentals instead of hotels. The organization painted a bleak picture of the state of local businesses in a report presented to city council on Monday — 65 per cent of businesses it surveyed reported a winter revenue plunge of more than 20 per cent, compared to the same period a year earlier. The survey also found 76 per cent of businesses are expecting a drop in revenue this spring. Ballantyne says hotels and other businesses are slated to earn less due to public health protocols. "If you're a restaurant and you're adhering … to all of the health and safety precautions, you've automatically knocked out close to 50 per cent of your seating capacity," she said. "The same things are happening in other tourism businesses as well." Tourism Kelowna's report says because tourists have spent less in the Central Okanagan city, the organization has set its budget for this year at $2.7 million, a whopping drop from the $4.7 million budget it had for 2020, pre-COVID. Change of strategy Ballantyne says with various travel restrictions still in place, Tourism Kelowna will have to change its marketing strategy to focus on travellers from within the region. "We traditionally market externally, of course, trying to bring people in, but we're finding now we're having to change some of our tactics to talk more to a regional audience, to keep the money at least circulating here in the province," she said. Ballantyne also says her organization encourages local tourism businesses to join the B.C. Small and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant Program announced in late December, because over 70 per cent of them haven't applied for the money. Tap the link below to hear Lisanne Ballantyne's interview on Daybreak South: