WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Memorial University will delay the beginning of its virtual winter 2021 semester, while the College of the North Atlantic is pushing on with its plan to bring 50 per cent of students back to the classroom in January.In a news release issued Wednesday, MUN says the beginning of the winter semester will be pushed back five days, with online classes set to begin Jan. 11.The move will affect the St. John's and Grenfell campuses along with the Marine Institute, except for Marine Institute diploma of technology and technical certificate students who face a different academic schedule.The new date also doesn't apply to medical, nursing or engineering students, who will return on Jan. 6.Provost Mark Abrahams said he hopes the delay will help reduce stress for students and give teachers more time to prepare for the upcoming semester."I know that right now many of you are exhausted and feeling strain," Abrahams wrote. "I heard concerns during our employee town hall in late November, and received comments along the same vein from students."'The right direction'The delay to the start of the winter semester is being welcomed by some students, including Jasper Pritchard. "I think it's a good step in the right direction," he told CBC News on Wednesday. He says the year so far has been a struggle, noting it's been a big adjustment moving to online learning and he isn't doing as well as he had hoped academically. But, if there is a bright spot, Pritchard said it's been most of the professors. "The profs have been super helpful … and as much as they've been struggling, they've been very open and honest with us, and I think when we have had struggles most of my profs have been really, really forthcoming with trying to help us out," he said. The announcement marks the second time the school has delayed a return as a result of the pandemic, as the school altered the plan to bring some non-academic staff back to campus last month due to rising COVID-19 cases.In an email to CBC News, MUN says that delay will continue through the holiday break with a decision pending in the new year. The plan to keep students learning online during the winter semester will also continue, with the school hoping to bring some students back to campus in the spring semester.CNA welcoming half of students backMeanwhile, the College of the North Atlantic is starting 2021 with a very different plan — and will welcome back over half its student body for in-person learning this winter, barring changes to public health orders.According to an email to CBC News, the school's academic learning plan will see about 50 per cent of students on campus in the next semester, including programs in the schools of engineering technology, health sciences and industrial trades.40 per cent of students will remain online, with seven per cent of students receiving a combination of in-person and online classes.As part of the return to in-person classes, a mask or face shield will be required on all campuses with COVID-19 screening protocols at all entrances. Access to facilities will be limited, with use of buildings by outside groups not permitted for the time being.Campuses with residences will be limited to single occupancy with enhanced cleaning and visitor restrictions in place."As long as conditions permit, we look forward to welcoming more of our students back to our campuses in the new year and will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Community Services and Chief Medical Officer of Health to ensure our procedures are as up to date as possible when it comes to public health guidelines," CNA spokesperson Michelle Barry wrote.While CNA is moving ahead with bringing students back to campus, MUN says it is not considering the idea as the two schools can't be compared in terms of campus density."It is not feasible at this time for us to bring more than 50 [per cent] of our students to our campuses," the school said in an email.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Líídlįį Kúę High School in Fort Simpson has reported a case of chickenpox among its students. The school’s principal, Marty Leach, used Facebook to inform families a letter had been issued by the village health centre's nurse in charge regarding the case. Chickenpox is a highly infectious viral illness which has symptoms like an itchy blister rash and mild fever. It can develop two to three weeks after contact with an infected individual and can spread five days before the rash appears. Pregnant women, newborn infants, and people with weakened immune systems who haven’t been vaccinated, nor had chickenpox or shingles in the past, should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible if they are exposed. “Please contact the Fort Simpson Health Centre if your child has not had the chickenpox disease or vaccine,” the letter reads. Chickenpox can be deadly for people with health issues and newborns. Those who may need to see a physician regarding chickenpox should call first to ensure they do not come into contact with others, especially vulnerable people. People who have or think they may have chickenpox should avoid public areas for at least five days after the first signs of the disease appear. Infected individuals should not go out in public until the last marks have scabbed over. Clothes should be washed or disinfected if they have come into contact with chickenpox or any discharge from the throat or nose. The Fort Simpson Health Centre and nurse on call can be reached at (867) 695-7000.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
As Vopak Development Canada’s proposed fuel storage facility and export terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C., enters its final public comment period, environmental groups say the project fails to address risks associated with marine and rail transport. If approved, the Vopak Pacific Canada facility would bring up to 240 rail cars carrying fuels like diesel, propane, methanol and gasoline through northwest B.C. every day. The fuels would be shipped on the CN rail network from sources in B.C. and Alberta to Ridley Island, an industrial site near Prince Rupert. The terminal would also bring up to 171 tankers to the Skeena River estuary annually. “Vopak brings the risk of a spill of highly toxic diesel oil and gasoline from train derailments, tanker accidents and spills at the offloading facility,” Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, told The Narwhal. “Such spills are very difficult to clean up once they enter the river or marine environment.” Retired biologist Dawn Remington with Friends of Morice-Bulkley said the project poses a risk to communities along fuel transportation routes and not enough information about how these communities will be protected has been made available to the public. “We’re going to be a corridor for hazardous petroleum products. And if this is the case, I want it to be done safely,” Remington told The Narwhal, adding her concerns aren’t about trying to stop the project. Remington said the Vopak project presents an opportunity to address the risks of rail transportation associated with several projects in the region, including another proposed fuel export facility and one that’s already under construction. Vopak recently submitted its application for an environmental assessment certificate along with its report on the project’s potential environmental impacts to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The public can now review and comment on those documents until Dec. 30. During the initial public comment period in 2018, members of the public and environmental groups asked that increased rail traffic associated with the Vopak project be included in the facility’s review. And during the First Nations consultation process, each of the six nations involved flagged increased rail traffic as an important issue that should be addressed as part of the environmental assessment. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said it would not include rail traffic in the assessment, deferring to Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible for regulating the rail network. “Concerns of potential spills from train derailments are not being assessed in the environmental assessment and are being completely ignored by CN, Vopak and the provincial and federal governments despite strong public concern,” Knox said. CN’s rail accidents have been steadily increasing, according to a 2019 Transportation Safety Board of Canada report. Last year, there were 169 accidents involving dangerous goods, like the ones that would be shipped to the Vopak facility. Eight of those accidents resulted in spills, twice as many as the previous year. In March, a train carrying coal and propane derailed near an elementary school east of Prince George, B.C., spilling coal into a creek and causing an emergency evacuation of the school. Other derailments in the region over the past few years have resulted in coal and wood pellets spilling into creeks and rivers. Remington has been working with communities along the rail corridor in northwest B.C. to formally request Transport Canada conduct a risk assessment of rail traffic in the region. Even though the potential for a rail accident resulting in an explosion or deadly spill is low, Remington worries a single event could have catastrophic effects. Propane — also referred to as liquified petroleum gas — is a highly-combustible fossil fuel captured as a by-product of fracking for natural gas. More propane travelling through the region means more risk, she said. “Risk is the probability of something happening times the severity of the consequences if it happens,” she explained. “So even if the probability is low, the consequences are enormous.” She stressed that without knowing the risks, the communities along the rail corridor aren’t equipped to deal with an emergency should one arise. “How do you evacuate this entire town if people have no idea?” The concern is shared along the transportation corridor, even in towns hundreds of kilometres from the proposed Vopak facility. In a recent public comment on the project, Jeanette Weir, from Hazelton, B.C., said the threat the export terminal poses to communities along rail lines has effectively been overlooked. “This project is completely ignoring the communities through which an enormous increase of rail transport of explosive dangerous goods is proposed. It should not be evaluated for the sole risks at the Prince Rupert storage facility because it will affect all of us living along the rail line.” In a document provided to First Nations outlining the potential effects of increased rail traffic, Vopak said the project would contribute to an incremental increase in the risks associated with rail transportation, including moose strikes, collisions and derailments. It also stressed that all regulations related to rail safety fall under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada. Public requests that the environmental impacts of marine traffic be included in the projects assessment were also denied by the Environmental Assessment Office, leading to lingering concerns the project will harm marine ecosystems. The proposed facility would include a number of holding tanks for fuel and a marine berth where tankers would be filled over 40-hour periods. Vopak would only be responsible for products during storage, unloading and loading. For nearly 50 years, a now-shuttered pulp mill near Ridley Island discharged contaminated materials into the marine environment, much of which is now sequestered in a layer of sediment on the ocean floor — including where Vopak would provide mooring for tankers. Although Vopak scrapped its initial plan to dredge up the contaminated sediment to make way for a permanent jetty, many worry the current plan to leave sediment — which contains highly toxic dioxins and furans as well as copper and arsenic — undisturbed is unrealistic. According to Luanne Roth, north coast campaigner for the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, the new plan was submitted after the initial public comment period, so any public concerns about the redesign have yet to be addressed. “Before, with the big dredge, all of that contaminated sediment would have been gone from the area,” she said. Now the issue is what happens to the sediment when tankers are mooring. “When the boats are docked, they’re docked by really powerful tugs, so there’s going to be really powerful propeller wash,” she said. The effects of propeller wash, the movement of water by ships’ engines, on the sediment have not been studied for the Vopak project, but they were when the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal was on the books for neighbouring Lelu Island. Roth said those studies estimated five centimetres of sediment would be resuspended every day. All of that toxic sediment would then be distributed by tides and currents within the surrounding marine ecosystem. Opposite Lelu Island, and within sight of the proposed Vopak project, is Flora Bank, which has been noted as a critical juvenile salmon habitat. Given the dramatic declines in Skeena salmon populations, the effects could be felt throughout the entire Skeena watershed. Roth said there may be solutions to the problem, but the absence of any mention of the effects of propeller wash in Vopak’s environmental effects evaluation is troubling, especially because the chemicals are known to have negative effects on human health, including increased risk of autism, cancer and diabetes. “There’s a tremendous amount of food gathering in the Skeena estuary, so it’s a really big concern,” she said. In an emailed statement, Vopak communications director, Stefany Cortes, told the Narwhal “the tugboat propulsion is focused higher in the water column and, therefore, is not expected to resuspend sediment during mooring.” Roth also raised concerns about the increased marine traffic and the potential for a catastrophic spill. As The Narwhal previously reported, many of Prince Rupert’s designated anchorages are situated in water that lies atop a thin layer of mud and sediment on smooth rock. In high winds — very common during fall and winter — a ship can drag its anchor and potentially end up smashing against coastal rocks. Even just one ship spilling its fuel, not to mention its cargo of fuel, would have catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem. According to a T Buck Suzuki study, between 2004 and 2017, the Prince Rupert port had three times as many anchor-dragging incidents as the Port of Vancouver despite having 86 per cent less vessels. This works out to 2,360 per cent more incidents per visit. Roth said there were 29 incidents in Prince Rupert last winter. Earlier this year, T Buck Suzuki commissioned an independent report to assess the safety risks associated with anchoring in the Prince Rupert area. Prepared by Ivan Todorov, a master mariner and former senior officer on oil tankers, the report noted a need to ensure that “loading be delayed when storm/hurricane warnings have been issued in order to limit the need for anchoring laden tankers in poor holding ground.” Todorov added that the Vopak project should be subject to a formal risk assessment of grounding and collision incidents. The Prince Rupert Port Authority, which is responsible for federal lands and waters in the area and is the coordinator of the environmental assessment for the proposed project, recently commissioned an independent navigational risk assessment. But when The Narwhal asked to review the document, the port said it would not make the report available to the public. Port communications director Monika Cȏté told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that the port authority has strict policies and procedures in place for the movement and anchorage of ships coming and going from the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, of which Vopak is part owner, and similar policies and procedures would be implemented for the proposed facility. Those procedures include port-assigned pilots and tugboat assistance. “Procedures vary depending on vessel, cargo and terminal they are going to, and what is required to mitigate navigational risk,” she wrote. “Vopak-specific procedures will be determined through a multi-agency effort that includes vessel simulation trials.” She said it is uncommon for ships to remain at anchorage once they’re loaded. “In the very rare circumstance that a loaded vessel would move to anchorage, the tug would remain in attendance with the vessel while it is at anchor,” she wrote. Roth said if the port is not able to prevent fully loaded ships from anchoring during storm events, Vopak could contractually refuse to fill a tanker if extreme weather was in the forecast. “That’s something we’d really like them to address,” she said. In the new year, Vopak Development Canada will compile all of the comments received during the public comment period and submit them to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The office will then consult with the province, the port authority, local First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and other stakeholders to resolve any outstanding issues. If no red flags are identified, the stakeholders will sign off on the project and a final decision will be made by provincial ministers. Vopak projects it will start construction in late 2021.Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
BRUSSELS — The European Union is grasping the imminent arrival of the Biden administration as a key moment to reset relations with the United States after four years of trans-Atlantic acrimony. With a series of initiatives, the 27 nation bloc is seeking to rekindle the spirit of co-operation that has long defined global diplomacy. But the EU but also acknowledges that future relations will have to adapt to a multi-polar world where China is an ever bigger player. EU partners are seeking a change from Trump’s go-it-alone credo and back a multilateral approach to better deal with global crises. The EU has already invited President-elect Joe Biden to visit Brussels at the earliest opportunity next year.Raf Casert, The Associated Press
Food blogger Rebecca Coleman has seen a sharp uptick in the number of restaurant businesses approaching her over the last month, and she says it’s all because of TikTok. “These restaurants that are reaching out to me, they have websites, they have Instagram, but very few of them have TikTok,” Coleman says. TikTok is still a new enough social media platform that businesses haven’t yet fully embraced it, she says, but influencers have. “And they’re taking full advantage of that,” says Coleman, who is an Instagram and TikTok food blogger and a full-time instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, where she teaches social media marketing for business. The pandemic led to the shutdown of businesses as well as widespread layoffs affecting the food and beverage industry as a whole. According to a Restaurants Canada survey, Canada’s April food service sales were the lowest in more than two decades. However, when restaurants reopened for business, owners began to turn to influencers to help attract new customers both for in-house and takeout dining. “I think that the potential is limitless,” says Sophia Hu, a Vancouver digital creator who goes by the username sopheats on TikTok and Instagram and has more than 21,000 followers combined. “As more restaurants see the power, the impact and the reach of social media as a new way, new-age marketing, they're going to be using food bloggers and content creators all the time.” Hu says restaurants will favour influencer marketing over conventional methods because it’s more personable, engaging and authentic. “We are real people and we actually love food. We go to the restaurants and we try it. I engage (with) my audience like they're my friends. And I'm just sharing genuinely what I love,” she says. Content creator Ceci, who has around 10,000 followers on TikTok and Instagram and goes by the username purplechives, says restaurants in Vancouver have adapted well to this style of marketing. After the initial lockdown was lifted and restaurants shifted to a takeout program, she saw they needed help with promotion. Restaurants tried to lure influencers by sending them food packages to taste and review, she explains. “I think the ones that were able to cultivate a good relationship with influencers have been able to do quite well,” she says. In provinces like B.C., where restaurants remain open to in-house dining, restaurateurs have invited influencers and food bloggers to visit, which sends a message they are open for business and operating safely. Influencer marketing is also a relatively low-cost option for business owners with funding constraints. While many food bloggers don’t get paid for their promotions and reviews, they do get to taste the food for free and make content for their audience. For Coleman, who goes by the username findbex on TikTok, it is also an opportunity to build her brand. Promotional videos are an opportunity for content creators to raise awareness around issues and businesses they want to support, she says. To keep her reviews fair, Ceci is upfront with restaurants when they invite her in to talk about their food. “I'm going to write what I think about your food. If I don't like it, I just post about it,” she says. “But I do usually give them feedback, first, if it's really bad.” Although all three content creators began their journey on Instagram, their audiences are now shifting to TikTok. “There’s a place for everything on TikTok,” says Coleman, who has almost 40,000 followers on TikTok and around 4,300 on Instagram. What has made the platform so popular in the past few months? Both Coleman and Ceci attribute TikTok’s wider reach to its share feature. “If I'm on TikTok, and I see a video, and I like that, I can share that video to my Instagram Stories effortlessly,” Coleman says. The application allows users, including restaurants, to send videos across platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, email, Snapchat and Messenger. It also allows them to save the video and react to it by making duets. Hu transitioned to TikTok when she realized she could repurpose content she had already secured for her Instagram and use it to engage in a different way. “It's fast and it's also casual,” she says, adding that unlike Instagram, TikTok does not require high-definition photos or footage. Priya Bhat / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverPriya Bhat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
April McCormack was always passionate about health, urging people to get vaccines and never missing a chance to belly dance, disco or waltz at the care centre where she spent her final year.When the vegan senior was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, she fought it hard. So, her family held out hope she'd beat COVID-19.But the 74-year-old died on Nov. 26, just eight days after first feeling fatigued, two weeks into an outbreak at the Belvedere Care Centre where she lived."We had some glimmer of hope because my mother was a fighter," said McCormack's eldest daughter, September Stokes.She's sharing her mother's story so people realize that COVID-19 is real and refusing to wear a mask or take precautions can have a devastating effect on others."She loved to zoom around with her walker to Bruno Mar's 'Uptown Funk.' It was her favourite," said Stokes.When she first heard that her mother had tested positive for COVID-19 she said she was "terrified."She says her mother never left the centre where she lived in Coquitlam for the past year-and-a-half."COVID was in there. She knew it. It spread through there really fast," said Stokes.McCormack was diabetic and had an autoimmune disease but you'd never know it, her family said. She ate a plant-based diet for 15 years and loved exercise.After testing postive for COVID Nov. 20, Stokes said her mother went from "happy and smiling" to unable to breathe in days."It hit really fast," said Stokes."[COVID-19] is real and it's not something you can just say I'm young I'll get over it. You don't know what impact you are going to have."Stokes said her step father Rob McCormack had cared for her mother at their 20-year home in Port Moody after the diagnosis of Parkinson's 11 years ago.But the Parkinson's symptoms became unmanageable, so she moved to a care home."When COVID first started we were like, we need to get her out of there. Care homes are being hit the worst."More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in B.C. have been linked to long-term care homes. As of Sept. 10, 2020, there have been 156 deaths related to B.C. care facilities, according to public health data collected by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.Stokes praises the centre where her mother lived for its efforts to prevent the virus spreading. She said her family trusted that her mother was safe and could not provide the intense 24-hour care she needed, as her Parkinson's progressed.Her family says she seemed to thrive there, sending them videos of herself dancing or in her favourite hat.Family only saw McCormack through a window or via video chat. Caregivers wore full protective gear. But she became ill, first feeling fatigue on Nov. 18. By Nov. 22, family were trying to help get her to eat, and she was admitted to hospital on the 23rd. Three days later, she was gone."After everything she fought through — it's shocking how fast it happened," said Stokes.She said her mother had four children and three grandchildren who dubbed her "Gaga.""She was fiercely independent, tough as nails, sweet as honey, and she loved our family more than anything," reads her obituary, where her husband described their 34 years of marriage as an "adventure."
Libraries across the County of Grande Prairie and other enhanced-status areas of the province have been limited to 25 per cent capacity under provincial COVID restrictions since Friday. The three-week measures have resulted in event cancellations, but local libraries are continuing regular services. “There’s no social gatherings at this point,” said Sheryl Pelletier, Shannon Municipal Library director in Sexsmith. “Socially-distanced rhymes,” an in-person family activity program, was cancelled a few weeks ago, Pelletier added. With Shannon Municipal Library having a capacity of 40 people, the restrictions set a limit of six people plus three staff in the library at a time, she said. She said in previous years the library has drawn in approximately 30 people at a time, as families gathered for movie nights. The library has curbside pickup but patrons can also come into the library as long as they’re wearing masks, Pelletier said. Meanwhile, Beaverlodge Public Library is largely unaffected by the new restrictions, but the annual artisan fair has been cancelled. “We’ve had a mask policy in place, people sanitizing and entrance by doorbell,” said library manager Tracy Deets. Before the restrictions, patrons largely preferred curbside pickups, so the 25-per cent capacity limit isn’t a problem, she said. The limited capacity means the library could accommodate approximately 30 people, which the library rarely sees at a single time, Deets said. Conversely, the artisan fair attracts an average of 250 people, she said. The fair is a one-day event rather than a regular market and as such had to be cancelled this year, Deets said. The library planned to have the artisan fair this Saturday. While the vendors won’t be at the library for a single event, Deets said the library is planning to have their goods on display and available for purchase over several days, up to Dec. 9. As well, the library will still be open Saturday, but as a regular service day, she said. The library also has a North Pole Postal Depot at the front desk where children who wrote to Santa can pick up their replies. Elmworth Community Library is allowing only two individuals or one cohort in at a time to satisfy protocols, said Michelle Gillis, library co-ordinator. “We continue to offer and encourage curbside pickup and private appointments,” Gillis said. Hythe Public Library is open and can accommodate eight patrons at a time, with visitors asked to wear masks, according to the library. Meanwhile, Wembley Public Library is generally closed to visitors and focusing on delivery and pick-ups, said library manager Anna Underwood.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and New Brunswick reported six as the stream of cases from ongoing outbreaks continued in both provinces.Health officials in Nova Scotia said 16 of the cases identified were in Halifax, including one at St. Margaret's Bay Elementary school that was reported late Tuesday. The other case was in the province's northern health zone and was related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.The province's total number of active cases is 127.In New Brunswick, health officials reported six new cases of COVID-19. The Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Edmundston regions each had one case, while there were two in the Bathurst region. There are now 119 active cases in the province.During an online news conference Wednesday, Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill said St. Margaret's Bay Elementary was closed for cleaning and would remain closed on Thursday because of a scheduled professional development day.He said a decision on reopening would be made later this week."That is yet to be determined because the investigation hasn't been completed," he said.Churchill also said it was likely that students at two schools in Cole Harbour that were closed after cases were identified last week would return to classes on Monday.The minister, who announced a further $14.3 million in funding to help support schools during the pandemic, was asked his thoughts on the fact there have only been five cases identified to date in the school system.He credited good guidance from the provincial public health department and said Nova Scotians have followed that advice."I think our teachers, principals, support staff, our cleaners, our students should be proud," Churchill told reporters. "It seems at this point that the majority of people are doing their part to make a difference and protect people from the virus."Still, he said talks were ongoing about the possibility of extending the upcoming Christmas break if needed.The money announced for schools on Wednesday is from a federal fund announced in August, and Churchill said it would go toward a range of programs and initiatives to help keep schools safe. He said $3.8 million would be used to boost school water supplies through the purchase of 950 touch-free water-filling stations, while $2.7 million would be used to ensure maintenance and inspections of school ventilation systems."This is above and beyond the (ventilation) assessments that have been done and the regular assessments," he said. "If any issues crop up, this funding will allow us to deploy resources very quickly to deal with any maintenance issues."Another $1.5 million would be used to purchase additional personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer for students and staff, while $4.1 million would go toward new online math and literacy programs. Money would also go toward school food programs, including $500,000 to meet increased demand for the existing school healthy eating program, and $1 million to support an emergency food fund that can be accessed if at-home learning is needed.The announcement followed one last month that will see $21.5 million in federal relief money used to purchase 32,000 new computers for students and to upgrade servers and Wi-Fi systems in schools.Meanwhile, one new case of COVID-19 was reported by Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, bringing its number of active cases to 30. Health officials said the case was related to travel and involved a man between 20 and 39 years old in the eastern part of the province.In Prince Edward Island, the government announced that those with lower incomes can now get free face masks at all food bank locations across the province. The province said it had collaborated with the P.E.I. Association of Food Banks to distribute three-ply, non-medical reusable masksSince Nov. 20, non-medical masks or face coverings have been mandatory in all public spaces on the Island.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Ontario’s Ministry of Education says the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) will not lose nearly $15.2 million due to a student enrolment decline as anticipated, reducing fears of a budget deficit that all but assured cuts to future student programming. Last week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced a “stabilization fund” for schools facing budget shortfalls due to low student enrolment — something the HWDSB has advocated for in recent weeks. The funding is “to help alleviate some of the impacts of unexpected enrolment declines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic” and would “provide flexibility for school boards to address a range of unanticipated funding issues,” the province said. Though the province did not initially indicate how much of the funding shortfall it would cover, ministry spokesperson Caitlin Clark told The Spectator on Monday that the board would receive the funding it had lost due to enrolment decline. The HWDSB announced in late October that it would lose a whopping $15.2 million from the province’s Grants for Student Needs (GSN) program because it was short 1,756 students from what it had projected last spring. The shortfall was the primary contributor to a budget deficit that board staff have said could amount to $18 million by the end of the year. With the province agreeing to cover the lost $15.2 million, the board will now face a more manageable deficit of roughly $2.8 million. “This funding will positively contribute to the reduction of our budget deficit and mitigate the financial impact of the unexpected enrolment decrease we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HWDSB chair Alex Johnstone in a statement. “Staff will review these measures and share revised financial statements with trustees.” Early in November, in response to the initial funding shortfall, the HWDSB moved to surplus teachers and curb spending across the board in an effort to reduce its deficit by the end of the fiscal year. A report present at the board’s finance committee suggested the board could find savings by reducing teaching staff, self-contained classes, part-time educational assistants, school budgets, funding for governance and more. The board has not indicated if any of these cuts will be reinstated now that the province has agreed to foot the shortfall. Either way, the board will also be tasked with eliminating the remaining deficit in order to balance the budget by the end of the year — a task that is mandated by the province. Running a school board budget deficit is illegal, according to the Ontario Education Act, though Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has relaxed the rules during the pandemic to allow school boards to run marginal deficits. The ministry said in October that it would accept budget deficits that comprise no more than two per cent of a board’s entire budget, which for the HWDSB is roughly $11.2 million. With an $18-million deficit, the board would exceed the two per cent threshold by approximately $6.8 million, but with a $2.8 million deficit the board would be well within the province’s limit. Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Leave the snow boots, parkas and glove warmers in the closet, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is coming down from the mountain and straight to your living room. Organizers on Wednesday said that this year they will premiere over 70 films on a custom online platform during the seven day event. There will also be some socially distanced screening opportunities around the country. The festival, which is normally held in Park City, Utah, has been preparing for various scenarios for months as the pandemic has raged on. Festival director Tabitha Jackson said that this model, “Gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are.” Over the course of the festival, feature films will premiere throughout the day at a dedicated time followed by a live Q&A. Ticketholders will have a three-hour window to watch. Second screenings will be available for 24 hours two days later. The rollout, organizers said, is designed to “preserve the energy of a Festival.” There will also be limited screenings at venues across the county, including Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidewalk Drive-In, Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl, Denver's Sie Film Center and Columbus, Ohio’s Gateway Film Center. “At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique -- a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed,” Jackson said. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 through February 3, and tickets will be available for purchase for the general public beginning Jan. 7. The 2021 slate will be revealed in the coming weeks. Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
More small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a provincial grant under a recently extended program. Applications for the small and medium enterprise (SME) relaunch grant were due last week but a second round of applications will now be available until March 31, according to the Alberta government. “A lot of our small- and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of (the grant),” said Larry Gibson, Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce chairperson. Gibson said the chamber has heard from approximately a half-dozen businesses that have applied since the program was introduced in June, including a couple near Clairmont. The SME relaunch grant benefits businesses, co-operatives and non-profits that have experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic. The SME grant is for 15 per cent of the business’ pre-COVID monthly revenue, or a maximum of $5,000, said Justin Brattinga, Jobs, Economy and Innovation department press secretary. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t go far these days, but it is a helpful program when you’re looking at added expenses,” Gibson said. “Most of the (local businesses) are using the grant to offset some of the extra costs, in plexiglass shields, the masks and sanitization.” Gibson said Grande Prairie-area businesses that have shown interest in the grant represent a variety of sectors, including retail, small manufacturing organizations and the restaurant and hospitality industries. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 500 employees and be affected by provincial restrictions, or have revenue losses of 40 per cent, according to the Alberta government. Initially, the SME grant required the business to have revenue losses of 50 per cent, a threshold lowered to 40 per cent retroactively to March, Brattinga said. The lowered threshold will enable thousands of more businesses across the province to benefit, he said. The chamber observed many small- and medium-sized businesses experience losses in the range of 40 and 50 per cent between April and May, Gibson said. The new funding is available to businesses in enhanced-status areas of the province, such as the city and county of Grande Prairie and the municipalities within the county.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s plan for COVID-19 vaccine approval and distribution in Question Period Wednesday, while facing questions from Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole over the failed vaccine collaboration with China’s CanSino Biologics. He said although the deal with CanSino fell through the government secured “the broadest range” of vaccine potentials.
Two jurors were dismissed Wednesday afternoon at the second-degree murder trial of Justin Breau. After lengthy legal discussions Wednesday morning, Mr. Justice Thomas Christie told the jury mid-afternoon about his decision to excuse the two. He asked the 11 remaining jurors not to speculate on the reason. The details of the legal process is protected by a publication ban.The judge also told jurors that he would complete his final instructions Thursday morning before turning the case over to them for deliberation. Originally, 14 jurors were selected, but one was dismissed on the first day of the trial, leaving 13 jurors who listened to 22 witnesses over eight days. One of them was going to be randomly selected and dismissed before deliberations began, because the law sets a maximum of 12 jurors. But after Wednesday's dismissals, that's no longer necessary. Under the law, a minimum of 10 jurors is required. Breau, 37, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Mark Shatford. During the trial, Breau admitted shooting 42-year-old Shatford on Nov. 17 of last year, but said he acted in self-defence. The jury heard that a drug deal had been set up via text messages between Breau and Shatford and his fiancée . A scuffle ensued inside the apartment before continuing outside. Both Crown and defence agree that Breau grabbed a shotgun from the vehicle he borrowed from a friend and shot Shatford in the abdomen. Despite several surgeries, Shatford died of his injuries a month later.
The number of continuing care facilities in Alberta with COVID-19 outbreaks of two or more cases has more than tripled in three weeks, causing advocates to sound the alarm.In three weeks, the total number of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta care homes has shot to 123 from 40.As of Wednesday morning, 351 residents of long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites have died of COVID in the province since the pandemic began, according to the government.That's 64 per cent of the 551 reported COVID deaths in Alberta."It's very challenging and quite frankly it's a situation in our province of our own making," said Mike Conroy, CEO of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, which runs a number of Calgary care homes.At one of them, Clifton Manor in southeast Calgary, an ongoing outbreak has led to 74 COVID-19 cases and three deaths.For months, Conroy has been calling for dedicated contact tracing and testing at Alberta continuing care facilities.The care homes that he's in charge of conduct asymptomatic testing every three days during an outbreak.And as recently as last week, Conroy had to wait three days for a batch of swab results — eight of which came back positive."My expectation, and I've been trying to secure a commitment, is that we should get those results in 24 hours, because it's information … the sooner we have the results, the sooner we can take action," he said.Staffing shortages more dire than in springStaffing is another major challenge for care homes as they battle through the second wave, said Lorraine Venturato, a nursing professor at the University of Calgary. "It's kind of coming in like a tsunami and there hasn't been as much attention being focused on continuing care as there was in the first wave and yet the situation is probably more dire now," she said.Venturato said continuing care centres may need to look to other industries — perhaps recruiting laid-off restaurant workers — for help with non-medical jobs."Meals need to be delivered to rooms if a site's in lockdown, so they may need extra people in the kitchen, extra people for delivery, extra people for cleaning," she said.20 hospitals also battle outbreaksCurrently, 20 Alberta hospitals are also now battling COVID-19 outbreaks.According to information published by Alberta Health Services, there are more than 190 COVID cases connected to active hospital outbreaks right now, and at least 20 deaths have been linked to the outbreaks.Hospitals across the province are working to dedicate 2,200 beds for COVID patients, as they did last spring, Premier Jason Kenney said in the legislature on Monday. At Tuesday afternoon's provincial update, Alberta reported 1,307 new cases, with a provincial positivity rate of 8.4 per cent. Alberta has reported more than 1,000 cases a day for nearly two weeks, and ICU and hospital numbers continue to hit record highs.The total number of active cases was 16,628, an increase of 174 from the day before.Conroy adds to calls for 'circuit-breaker' style lockdownFor his part, Conroy says the province's restrictions aren't working and he thinks it's time for a so-called "circuit-breaker" style lockdown.A circuit breaker lockdown is a short period of more stringent restrictions with a defined end point where non-essential services are shut down in order to reduce spread, allowing the system to catch up to the number of cases.Kenney's UCP have fielded repeated calls from doctors and others for a circuit-breaker lockdown in past weeks.Among them, the Alberta government has received letters from groups of hundreds of physicians and three major health-care unions in the province urging the government to institute a "circuit-breaker" targeted lockdown.The retiring head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, Tom Sampson, also called for up to a 28-day "circuit breaker" lockdown, adding it should happen now to salvage the holiday season.
OTTAWA, Kan. — The federal government is expected to introduce a bill Thursday aimed at ensuring the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.The bill is expected to echo a private member's bill passed by the House of Commons two years ago, during the last Parliament.That bill, introduced by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash, stalled in the Senate, where Conservative senators argued it could have unintended legal and economic consequences.It died when Parliament was dissolved for last fall's election.In the Liberal platform, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to reintroduce it as a government bill.Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the bill is of "immense real and symbolic value" to Indigenous people in Canada.It will set out a number of principles "as to what inherent rights Indigenous Peoples have and the federal government's corresponding responsibility, which will be difficult … to implement changes into their laws," Miller told a news conference Wednesday."Those principles are a guiding light into what is expected of us as human beings," he said.Once passed, Miller predicted there will be "an immense amount of work" to be done to harmonize federal laws with those principles.In particular, it will necessitate a lot of work to "get out from under the Indian Act and move towards self-determination."The UN's General Assembly passed the declaration in 2007. Canada initially voted against it but eventually endorsed it in 2010.The declaration affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination and to their language, culture and traditional lands. It also sets "minimum standards for the survival and well-being" of Indigenous Peoples.It also spells out the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples on anything that infringes on their lands or rights.That provision proved particularly controversial among Conservative senators during debate on Saganash's bill. They expressed concern that it would mean giving Indigenous people a veto over natural resource developments.At the time, Justice Department officials assured senators that Saganash's bill would do nothing to alter Canada's legal framework. They said it would simply reinforce a long-standing principle that international standards can be used to interpret domestic laws.Saganash's bill consisted of just six clauses, one of which asserted that it would not diminish or extinguish existing constitutional or treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples.Among other things, Conservative senators wanted to amend that to specify that nothing in the bill would have the effect of increasing or expanding such rights.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Midland Coun. Bill Gordon has found his way onto the 'wall of shame' --- again. This time, the elected official is being brought to the stand for inappropriate decorum, messaging that amounts to abuse, bullying or intimidation, and interfering in the operations of the town, thereby, undermining staff's capability in the field, an integrity commissioner's report found "This is just proving my whole weaponization of the code of conduct argument," Gordon said, adding he wasn't shocked by the move. "They didn't speak to me about any of this. "I'm not arguing any of these things didn't happen. I take full responsibility for it. But taken without context, anything can be found to be insulting and inflammatory." The three complainants this time are Deputy Mayor Mike Ross and councillors Jim Downer and Jon Main. However, in the integrity commissioner's report, which will be discussed at next week's council meeting, only an exchange between Main and Gordon has been mentioned. The report says that in the email exchange with Main, Gordon said, "Please don’t mistake my assertiveness for aggression. I have little to no personal respect for many of you or a couple of our senior team. I come by that honestly and have the bills to prove it. "I have to work with you and have managed to keep most of my contempt for many of you at bay preferring to simply ignore the public attacks on my integrity and carry on with my work despite everything that’s gone on this term." In a second exchange between the two, Gordon calls Main a 'snowflake.' The report says, in a Facebook direct message, Gordon said, "That is far from bullying Jon. Don’t be such a snowflake. The truth may not be a defence in the CoC [Code of Conduct] – which is absurd – but I will do politics my way just as you do it your way. "We are polar opposites it seems. That is actually quite healthy for democracy. As for decorum I think I toe that line with grace and dignity considering the despicable way you treat me. I have no respect for most of you as a result. Should not be a shock to you." Moreover, Gordon has also been accused of interfering with the operational aspects of the town staff's responsibility by asserting 'influence' on a developer responsible for clean up on Taylor Drive. The report details that, on Aug. 28, 2020, the developer emailed Gordon that following their discussion and for the developer to avoid a notice of motion, the developer would undertake grass cutting on the town parkette as a courtesy to the town and Taylor Drive clients/homeowners. Further, the developer also promised, relocation of masonry materials and reduction in the slope of stockpiled sand. In the report, Gordon defends his intervention with the developer as simply availing himself of the process. He denies that he engaged in any threats or intimidation, but merely pointed out that the town might be compelled to draw on the letter of credit to rectify performance issues. In a conversation with MidlandToday, Gordon said he wasn't willing to divulge his entire defence. "I don't want to give a statement because it gives them 'yeah, but...' arguments," he said. "The reason I don't want to do that in this case is because they didn't recommend any monetary sanctions, which I'm kind of shocked about. What I suspect to happen is that the three complainants, especially Jon Main, will be argue for monetary sanctions. I want to let that happen organically." Addressing the snowflake comment, Gordon said, it was during a private Twitter back and forth that occurred in March. "(Main) sat on it all this time and decided to advance it now," he said. "Basically, they were just collecting evidence." Gordon adds that if he had been approached about the issue 'like adults' there would definitely not have been this conflict. "I can only speak for Jon, because I never said this to Mike Ross or Jim Downer," he said. "If he'd contacted me or even during that interaction we had, I would have apologized and told him what I'd actually been meaning to say instead of the word snowflake." Gordon said he uses the word snowflake because it's a quicker way of spelling out someone who is indecisive or can't handle pressure and make decisions. As for interfering with the operational side of the corporation of the Town of Midland, he said, at its core, that's what people expect from their councillors. "They can come to them with whatever their tale of woe is...if they're having an issue with a lack of performance by the town," said Gordon. "Your elected official doesn't have a lot of influence. The only influence, which I promised during my Zoom chat, is that I would bring it forward to council as a notice of motion." And this is where it gets sticky, he added. "I didn't reach out to the developer," said Gordon. "The developer watched my Zoom meeting and called me to say if we do these things, would you bring the notice of motion to council. And why would I, if they were doing what was being asked?" He said he welcomed the integrity commissioner's report and findings and looked forward to speaking to council. "For me, the real tell is which councillors will argue that simply scolding me publicly and putting me on the wall of shame is not enough and they want to see their pound of flesh," Gordon said.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com