With Jaclyn Whittal and Mia Gordon.
With Jaclyn Whittal and Mia Gordon.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
County council agreed to support a movement for improvements at long-term care (LTC) homes, though disagreed with local advocates’ desire to end for-profit homes. Council voted to write a letter of support for the Haliburton-CKL (City of Kawartha Lakes) Long-Term Care Coalition. The advocacy group is joining with others across the province to push for improvements, including amending the Canada Health Act to include LTC, guaranteeing four hours of direct care per day for residents, stronger enforcement and a culture change. Councillors spoke in favour of those ideas. But the coalition’s desire to end private LTC did not garner support and was specifically excluded in the resolution. “The first four points that you have, I think, are a bold initiative and a great start,” Coun. Brent Devolin said. “The supply going forward, will public initiatives alone be enough to look after all of us?” Coalition co-chair, Bonnie Roe, cited the Ontario Health Coalition, a province-wide organization also calling for the end to for-profit long-term care. Its May 2020 analysis found COVID-19 deaths in homes with outbreaks were higher in private (nine per cent) versus non-profit (5.25 per cent) or publicly-owned (3.62 per cent). The Canadian military also released a report about terrible conditions at homes it intervened in last May, which prompted the province to start an independent commission. Four of those homes were privately-owned. “There are some for-profits that are excellent, but generally speaking, they do not follow the standards,” Roe said. “People are asking, ‘why are there private profits attached to us as a society caring for our elders’?” co-chair, Mike Perry, said. “Why was that ever seen as a profit-making venture?” Warden Liz Danielsen said the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus has identified LTC as a priority. But she added the caucus is not yet in favour of ending private facilities. Coun. Carol Moffatt said she can attest to the challenges of eldercare and there is a drastic need for better support for health workers. “More people to do the job,” Moffatt said. “We also maybe need to be careful of what you wish for in terms of potential downloading. How do we all as a province push for the changes that are required, without it going off the cliff and then landing in the laps of municipalities for increased costs?” Perry thanked council for the support. “There’s so much common room and so much common ground for this moving forward,” he said. “That’s where we find hope in all this tragedy recently." Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre seeks to help bridge the gaps between people with its first-ever online exhibition launched Feb. 27. Titled “Connection,” the show presents submissions from its members, featuring a wide array of mediums. Besides a physical gallery still viewable at the centre under additional public protocols, it is also available on the centre’s website, with a guided virtual tour. Curator Laurie Jones said she learned about the format from the Ontario Society of Artists and it was a way to improve access. “Not everybody’s comfortable yet with being around, especially in public spaces,” Jones said. The exhibition is an annual salon show, drawing from local talent, Jones said. The pandemic prompted the move to an online addition – and the theme for the show itself. “It came up out of my own cravings for connections and missing people,” Jones said. “In many ways, we’re looking for alternate ways to connect.” Artist Rosanna Dewey’s exhibition piece depicts one of those ways. It is an oil painting entitled “Zoom Room” depicting a call on the online meeting platform. She said the show’s theme was poignant. “It’s so hard to be connected,” Dewey said. “It really made me think about what was going on and what my connections were.” She said she had some skepticism about the online concept but found it turned out appealing. “You want to be able to get up close to the artwork and you get more of a sense of the piece,” Dewey said. “But I found that people were still interested. People still needed to go and experience art, even if it was through a Zoom format.” Arts and Crafts Festival on pause But the community will miss one big way to connect with art in the summer. The Haliburton Art and Craft Festival – the gallery’s flagship event and fundraiser – is cancelled for the second straight year due to the pandemic, Jones said. She said it would be too logistically challenging to ensure safety amidst the pandemic. “We don’t want to introduce any risk to our volunteers or staff or vendors or patrons,” Jones said. “Maintaining sanitary conditions would be impossible.” Jones said the centre needs to decide early to inform artists and give them time to plan. She said there might be alternate programming, but that is being worked out. For now, the Rails End is still putting on exhibitions and bringing arts to the community. “We’re not trying to sell anything. We’re trying to provide an experience,” Jones said. “Hopefully, they feel the connection with the creative arts.” “Connection” runs until April 17 and is available at the centre itself or railsendgallery.com. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Draft French legislation that would have impinged upon the freedom to circulate images identifying police officers has been watered down by senators after violent street protests forced a government climb-down. Lawmakers involved in a re-drafting of the provision said the new wording safeguarded press freedoms while seeking to protect law enforcement agents from becoming the target of attack. "We've started from a blank page, we've completely re-written the article," Senator Marc-Philippe Daubresse from the opposition centre-right told a news conference.
There are five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, pushing the province to more than a thousand total cases since last March. Of the cases, four are in the Eastern Health region. All of the new cases in the Eastern Health region are either close contacts of previous cases or travel-related. There is a new positive case in the Western Health region, and it's related to international travel. There have been 33 new recoveries. The total number of active cases is now 121, while the total number of cases in the province in the past year is now 1,002. There are eight people in hospital. Of these patients, two are in intensive care. Meanwhile, passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 8996 that departed Halifax and arrived in St. John's on Thursday, Feb. 25 should call 811 to arrange to get a COVID-19 test. Positive case closes Trepassey Community Health Clinic One of the new cases announced on Thursday in the Eastern Health region is a health-care worker at the Trepassey Community Health Clinic. Contact tracing by Public Health officials is underway. The clinic is closed for the day, following a positive test for the virus, according to a media release from Eastern Health. Since testing positive, the person has been isolating themselves at home. Patients who have appointments at the clinic will be rebooked and anyone who requires immediate care should call either the Ferryland Health and Community Service Clinic at 709-432-2930 or the St. Mary's Health Centre at 709-525-2980. Anyone who has one symtpom of COVID-19 can complete the online self-assessment tool at www.811healthline.ca to arrange testing. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
TRURO, N.S. — A Canadian undergarment company that quickly retooled its factory last spring to make personal protective equipment is laying off 150 workers after failing to win a new federal contract. Stanfield's Ltd. of Truro, N.S., famed for its long johns and boxer shorts, switched to making medical gowns for front-line health workers at the outset of the pandemic. The company's $27.9-million federal contract was a small piece of the $1.87 billion Ottawa has spent on hospital gowns as of Dec. 31. A new request for proposals for "disposable medical isolation gowns" closed Nov. 20. But in a Facebook post, Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann says the company was not successful in their bid on the new tender for medical gowns. She says she's "terribly concerned and disappointed" to hear about the layoffs at Stanfield's as a result. Local MLA Dave Ritcey calls the loss of 150 jobs in the largely rural area "devastating." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says poor weather and visibility were factors in a fatal plane crash in northeast Kingston, Ont., in November 2019. Pilot Otabek Oblokulov, his wife and their children ages five, 10 and 14 from Houston, Texas, were killed. Oblokulov's brother-in-law Bobomurod Nabiev and his wife Sabina Usmanova from Toronto also died in the crash. The Piper PA-32 plane, better known as a Cherokee Six, was travelling Nov. 27, 2019 from Buttonville Municipal Airport in Markham, Ont., to Quebec City, said the Transportation Safety Board (TSB). The plane made contact with Kingston's flight service station — a facility that provides information to pilots — before crashing some time after 5 p.m. ET in a heavily wooded, swampy area in the city's northwest. In its report released Thursday, the TSB said the pilot gave the wrong position to his contact in Kingston about two minutes before impact. He was turning away from the airport when they last spoke, before climbing, rolling and dropping. TSB said he had only flown in Texas and it doesn't know if he checked any other weather sources than an app showing a wider look at the United States and areas along the Canadian border, which showed mixed precipitation. If he had, the TSB said he would likely have seen forecasts that would have required the use of instruments to determine the plane's altitude. There was mist and moderate to severe turbulence in the area at the time of the crash, along with a relative lack of lights on the ground. "At that point, there would be little or no visual reference to the surface during the portions of this flight. And that can be a difficult thing for a pilot who does not have an instrument rating," said Ken Webster, lead TSB investigator on the crash. The flight plan map, starting in Markham, Ont.() Oblokulov had received his private pilot certificate in 2018 and had little experience flying with instruments, according to the report. This means he was flying under visual flight rules (VFR), which relies on eyesight. "Given the pilot's limited flying experience ... it's likely they did not recognize all of the hazards associated with flying a night VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions," Webster said. "He likely became especially disoriented and lost control of the aircraft." The Transportation safety Board removed the wreckage from an area near Creekford Road and Bayridge Drive in Kingston, Ont. (Transportation Safety Board) The TSB said it has investigated five similar fatal crashes since 2013 and has recommended Transport Canada clarify its rules around flying under VFR at night. The board said Transport Canada is in the process of drafting changes to its rules and has sent reminders to pilots about the risks of those kinds of flights.
The dining room in Katie Rioux's Quebec City restaurant has been closed since the fall, and she expected her business would remain a takeout-only operation for weeks to come, if not longer. On Wednesday, though, the owner of Café Krieghoff received some unexpected good news. Premier François Legault announced he was scaling back health restrictions in several regions, allowing Rioux and countless other restaurant owners to serve customers sitting inside for the first time in five months. "Honestly, we could not have gotten better news than this," said Rioux, who also promised to do her part to ensure Quebec City does not go back to being a red zone. "As restaurant owners, we will do everything we can. I think the population is also on our side." Café Krieghoff owner Katie Rioux can't wait to serve sitting customers at her Quebec City restaurant for the first time in five months. (Radio-Canada) However, some public health experts say the Quebec government's decision to roll back restrictions to this extent is too hasty. Following March break, the Quebec City region will be joined by the Eastern Townships, Mauricie-et-Centre-du-Québec and Chaudières-Appalaches as the latest to be downgraded from red to orange zones. In these regions, gyms and show venues will be allowed to reopen, houses of worship will be able to take in as many as 100 people at a time. The government is also dropping the requirement that all primary school students must wear a medical grade mask. The nightly curfew remains, but will kick in at 9:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. "I would have preferred to wait until at least one week after the holiday week, because then we would be able to see the impact of the vacation on the increase of cases everywhere in Quebec," said Dr. Cécile Tremblay, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal. "We know that people from Montreal travel to other regions, and we won't know the result of that until two weeks from now." The race between variants and vaccines Legault's announcement came a day after Health Minister Christian Dubé and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda held a news conference of their own, during which they warned Quebecers about the growing spread of coronavirus variants. "The ocean is calm at the moment ... but underneath there are sharks," Arruda said, "and I'll tell you what those sharks are: they're the variants." The decision to remove restrictions in places outside of the greater Montreal area seems to reflect data showing that variants are gaining more ground in Montreal than elsewhere in the province. On Wednesday, Legault said spikes in cases and hospitalizations were expected in and around Montreal, and those projections played a major role in the government's most recent announcement. But Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the province is squandering a golden opportunity to deal a crushing blow to the virus. Seniors arrive for their COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press) With more and more Quebecers set to get vaccinated, Baral says the government should focus on its inoculation campaign while limiting contacts as much as possible, in an effort to keep the spread of variants under control. "For us to be loosening restrictions now, is too premature. We don't want to be reactive, we want to be proactive for once," Baral said. "At this point, it's more of a virus versus vaccine race, and we really want to make sure that we're pushing the vaccine segment to win, as opposed the variant segment." The province's latest projections for the spread COVID-19 appear to reinforce the importance of winning that race. According to the mathematical modelling published by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) on Thursday, lowering the province's collective guard could provoke a rapid spike in new infections that could reach between 3,000 and 4,000 cases per day. It also seems possible, perhaps even likely given the presence of infectious variants, that Quebec will experience a third wave. Sticking with the low-socialization and low-contact measures that were in place from January and February might not entirely prevent another peak this spring in terms of daily infections, but it could keep hospitalization numbers and fatalities low. Marc Brisson, the director of the Université Laval mathematical modelling group that conducts the INSPQ's COVID-19 forecasts, said the model doesn't account for the government's latest announcement, but does include increased inter-regional travel and social contacts from March break. "If we can accelerate vaccination ... and follow public health guidelines, then at that point our model is saying we could stay at a number of cases that would be relatively stable. However, if vaccination slows down and there's more contact, then a third wave is predicted," he said. There is some good news in the projections, however. The model supports the government's contention that there are two distinct epidemiological realities in Quebec: greater Montreal, and the rest of the province. The fact there is lower community spread outside the province's largest urban agglomeration means it's less likely the variant strains will spread. "The race is how many vulnerable people we can protect with vaccination and ... can that variant infect the most vulnerable among us?" he said. The key, Brisson concluded, is continued adherence to public health measures, which "would buy time for the vaccine to take its effect."
WASHINGTON — A key Senate committee on Thursday approved the nomination of New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland to be interior secretary, clearing the way for a Senate vote that is likely to make her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Haaland's nomination, 11-9, sending it to the Senate floor. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland, who won unanimous backing from committee Democrats. Murkowski, a former chair of the committee, said she had “some real misgivings” about Haaland, because of her support for policies that Murkowski said could impede Alaska's reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. But the senator said she would place her “trust” in Haaland's word that she would work with her and other Alaskans to support the state. Her vote comes with a warning, Murkowski added: She expects Haaland “will be true to her word” to help Alaska. Haaland was not in the committee room, but Murkowski addressed her directly, saying, "I will hold you to your commitments.'' “Quite honestly,'' Murkowski added, ”we need you to be a success.'' Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Maria Cantwell of Washington state both called the committee vote historic, and both said they were disappointed at the anti-Haaland rhetoric used by several Republicans. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the panel's top Republican, and other GOP senators have repeatedly called Haaland's views “radical” and extreme. Heinrich said two interior secretaries nominated by former President Donald Trump could be called “radical” for their support of expanded drilling and other resource extraction, but he never used that word to describe them. Under the leadership of Cantwell and Murkowski, the energy panel has been bipartisan and productive in recent years, Heinrich said, adding that he hopes that tradition continues. The committee vote follows an announcement Wednesday by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that she will support Haaland in the full Senate. Her vote, along with Murkowski's, makes Haaland’s confirmation by the Senate nearly certain. The panel's chairman, Sen. Joe Manchin, announced his support for Haaland last week. Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, said Thursday that he does not agree with Haaland on a variety of issues, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but was impressed by the strong endorsement by Alaska Rep. Don Young, a conservative Republican who is the longest-serving member of the House and has forged a strong working relationship with the liberal Haaland. As a former governor, Manchin also said he knows how important it is for a president to have his “team on board” in the Cabinet. “It is long past time to give a Native American woman a seat at the Cabinet table,'' he said. Interior oversees the nation’s public lands and waters and leads relations with nearly 600 federally recognized tribes. Barrasso, who has led opposition to Haaland, said her hostility to fracking, the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other issues made her unfit to serve in a position in which she will oversee energy development on vast swaths of federal lands, mostly in the West, as well as offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Barrasso said a moratorium imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands “is taking a sledgehammer to Western states’ economies.? The moratorium, which Haaland supports, could cost thousands of jobs in West, Barrasso said. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Health Canada says it won't require new clinical trial data from vaccine makers on booster shots being developed to target new variants of COVID-19. Instead, the regulator will rely more heavily on lab tests on blood samples, which can show how many antibodies develop following vaccination. Those antibodies are a good indicator of how well the human body will fight off an infection. The decision should help the regulator authorize the boosters for use in Canada much quicker and is in line with the process used to approve new flu vaccines each year. At least three variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating in Canada and are believed to spread more easily and possibly cause more serious illness. Having vaccines adjusted to target those new strains is a critical part of managing the COVID-19 pandemic. But Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said there won't be corners cut on safety in evaluating new boosters. "They still need to demonstrate that the vaccine that comes out is still safe, effective and high quality," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press earlier this week. Canada has authorized three vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca, and all are working on various boosters against variants. The documents supporting Thursday's decision note that demanding full clinical trials, as was the case for authorizing the original vaccines, would create a serious delay. "This may also be problematic from a public health perspective since delay in updating a vaccine, where needed, bears the risk that the virus is evolving even further, potentially making a new vaccine version outdated at the time of approval again," the document says. Coronaviruses don't mutate as quickly as flu viruses, but do change as they spread among people and the more they spread, the more they change. "So a virus is not going to mutate as much when it can't replicate," Sharma said. The existing vaccines have shown reduced effectiveness against the variants of concern, though Sharma cautions the vaccines are still useful even against the variants. The vaccines Canada has authorized are performing well in countries like the United Kingdom and Israel, where the B.1.1.7 variant is now dominant. That variant is thus far the most common of the three variants of concern in Canada, accounting for more than 90 per cent of about 1,430 variant cases confirmed so far. Many provinces are now screening all confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the variants of concern, and as many as 10 per cent of all confirmed cases are fully sequenced to look for any mutations to the original virus. The B.1.351 variant that first arose in South Africa is the most concerning to date in its potential to evade existing vaccines. As of Wednesday, there were 103 confirmed cases of it in Canada. South Africa stopped using AstraZeneca's vaccine altogether after lab tests suggested it wouldn't be very effective against mild illness for B.1.351, which is dominant in that country. That decision has contributed to growing concerns that AstraZeneca's vaccine is less desirable but Sharma said the details aren't that simple. "Now, if you look at severe disease, or more severe cases, it actually looked like it was still quite protective," she said. "But in a country where that is your dominant circulating stream, and in a country where they had potentially had access to another vaccine shortly, they made the decision that maybe they weren't going to go ahead with that," she said. If B.1.351 becomes a dominant strain here, and current vaccines don't show effectiveness against it, they'll be pulled, Sharma said. "We wouldn't leave a vaccine on the market if we think that it wouldn't be effective for the overall population." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Last December, Afghan media worker Shahnaz Mohmand rushed to comfort her female colleagues as they reeled in shock after fellow employee Malala Maiwand was shot dead in the eastern city of Jalalabad. "Don't lose yourself, you have to be strong," she said as she hugged Nadia Momand, the 21-year-old producer recalled. Now the same newsroom is mourning Shahnaz.
OTTAWA — Unifor president Jerry Dias says Air Canada continues to promise refunds for passengers whose flights were cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline has made the pledge repeatedly during negotiations with the federal government over an aid package for the battered sector, said Dias, who noted talks are ongoing. "I spoke to the CEO of Air Canada last night. So I know that this commitment has been made for quite a while." Air Canada took issue with Dias's take, saying no such conversation took place within the past week or beyond. The airline said that discussions are ongoing, but no deal has been reached. The Finance Department did not respond immediately to questions about the refund commitment. Then-chief executive Calin Rovinescu said in November the airline would not hesitate to reimburse customers stuck with unused tickets if the conditions of a federal bailout were reasonable. After a halting start nearly four months ago, talks ramped up over the past month, reaching a pace that he called a negotiation. Any deal would include a resolution on passenger refunds, a plan for returning service to regional markets and financial support for the aerospace sector, Rovinescu said last month. Air Canada says there are no updates since then, with no agreement yet in place. Dias said only about 4,000 of the union's 15,000 aviation workers remain fully employed a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, lending urgency to discussions in Ottawa. “We can’t get more urgent than now," he said. "Frankly, getting a little frustrated hearing that it’s imminent, just around the corner. Like, it’s been a year — I’ve grown two beards since hearing this." Ottawa has put reimbursement of travellers on the table as a key demand in exchange for financial relief for airlines, on top of asking carriers to maintain regional routes. Air Canada posted a staggering $1.16 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2020, a result that caps what Rovinescu called the bleakest year in aviation history. "While there is no assurance at this stage that we will arrive at a definitive agreement on sector support, I am more optimistic on this front for the first time," Rovinescu said on a conference call with analysts Feb. 12, three days before he passed Air Canada's controls to new CEO Michael Rousseau. Unifor and two pilot unions are calling for federal loans totalling $7 billion at one per cent interest over 10 years. Unifor is also asking Ottawa to waive a fuel tax for Canadian carriers and suspend additional landing and gate fees on passenger and cargo flights. Air Canada, Rouge, WestJet, Swoop and Sunwing agreed in January to suspend service to Mexico and the Caribbean at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help fight viral spread. The moves resulted in the temporary layoffs of thousands of airline workers. Last month Air Canada announced it will temporarily lay off 1,500 unionized employees and an unspecified number of management staff as it cut 17 more routes to the U.S. and international destinations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:AC) The Canadian Press
County of Haliburton council decided not to up its 15 per cent corporate emissions reduction target despite staff presenting options for higher goals. It targets a 15 per cent reduction in emissions from 2018 levels by 2030. But McKay presented other options such as increasing that figure to 30 per cent to align with federal and provincial targets, or 45 per cent to follow the best science and help further limit global warming. McKay provided examples of similar municipalities aiming for different goals, from Sault Ste. Marie at 10 per cent to the District of Muskoka targeting a 50 per cent reduction by 2030. “We are seeing unprecedented levels of action by all levels of government, shifting from incremental action toward transformative action,” McKay said. “Experts are warning us this is the critical decade to maintain a livable climate … A 45 per cent reduction is one that is based in science. "Cutting our emissions essentially in half would require bold leadership but we would not be alone in this endeavour.” Councillors expressed concerns about upping the target. Deputy warden Patrick Kennedy said the County faces pressure with more people moving to the area permanently. “Fifteen (per cent) is still an admirable goal to achieve with what’s coming,” Kennedy said. Coun. Carol Moffatt said the municipalities passed budgets and she would want more information on financial implications before approving a higher target. “I would like a multi-year rough projection of what it’s going to do to our budget so we can plan and prepare for it adequately, as opposed to taking a leap of faith for the good of the world,” Moffatt said. “We need to do both.” Environment Haliburton! vice-president Terry Moore said he was upset by how the conversation played out. “The financial budget, they’re not going to matter much when we don’t have a climate that’s conducive to civilization,” Moore said. He said there is not enough of a community movement on the issue versus a place like Muskoka. He lamented the County’s approach to finish a corporate plan before beginning consultations for a separate community plan. “There is nowhere near enough pressure. Council’s not going to lead on this,” Moore said. Warden Liz Danielsen said council will look for more information from McKay as she continues her work. “We’re all recognizing it is a moving landscape,” Danielsen said. “Just because we’re not making a change today, does not mean we won’t do that down the road, and even not too long from now.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
RALEIGH, N.C. — A Trump may be on the ballot next year — but not Donald Trump. The former president's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is eyeing the North Carolina Senate seat being vacated by Republican Richard Burr. While many in the state are skeptical she will move forward, an entrance into the race would set up a crucial test of whether Donald Trump's popularity among Republicans, which remains massive more than a month after leaving office, can translate to others. The answer to that question has implications that extend far beyond Lara Trump's political future. If Donald Trump can prove that he can help other Republicans win office, his self-appointed status as leader of the party would be validated. Losses, however, would remind Republicans of his vulnerabilities. For now, Republicans say the only thing that is certain is that Lara Trump would easily dispatch rivals in a GOP primary. “If Lara were to get in the race, I think she would command widespread and immediate attention across the state,” said Michael Whatley, chairman of the North Carolina GOP, who has said his goal going forward is “making sure that we keep all of the Trump voters that came in during the last election and convert them into reliable Republican voters.” Donald Trump fancies himself as a kingmaker in GOP politics, but his record is mixed. Under his leadership, Republicans lost control of the House in 2018. When he was on the ballot again last year, Republicans mounted a strong performance in congressional races, coming much closer than expected to retaking the House. But the GOP lost two Georgia Senate seats — and the majority — in January despite a last minute campaign push from Trump. The 38-year-old Lara Trump is married to the former president's son, Eric. A former television producer, she has never held public office and declined to comment for this story. While many in North Carolina privately doubt Lara Trump will ultimately seek the Senate seat, she's being encouraged by South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who has warned the party against abandoning the former president. She is still considering a run for the Senate seat, according to two people who have spoken with her recently and requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. While she would need to move her young family to the state, the Wilmington, North Carolina native, is deeply familiar with the state and its voters after campaigning there extensively in 2016 and 2020, according to one of the people. She was a key surrogate for her father-in-law and named her second child Carolina. She also likes the idea of being the next Trump to run for something, even as a test to her father-in-law mounting a comeback in 2024, the other said. The former president's daughter, Ivanka, recently said she wouldn't challenge Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and his son, Donald Trump, Jr., is believed to be uninterested in seeking office himself. For Trump loyalists, there would be a certain satisfaction in a family member succeeding Burr, who was one of just seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict the former president in an impeachment trial for inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. “Stay tuned,” she said last week in an interview on Fox News Channel, adding that she was keeping the option “open.” If she opted for a run, Lara Trump would have to contend with a rapidly changing state. While Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in North Carolina last year, his margin — 1.3 percentage points — shrank in half from 2016. That's driven by a politically active Black population and an influx of voters into areas like Charlotte and the Raleigh suburbs. Earning their votes will be crucial given doubts that anyone besides the former president will be able to turn out the waves of largely rural, new voters Trump attracted both in 2016 and 2020. “Without Trump on the ballot, Republicans have a turnout issue they have to address. However, without Trump on the ballot, Democrats have a turnout issue they have to address,” said Paul Shumaker, a longtime Republican consultant in the state, referring to the energy Trump inspired on the left. So far, the Senate race has just one declared GOP candidate: Mark Walker, a former congressman and pastor. He represents the bind Republicans in North Carolina find themselves in. In an interview, Walker was eager to note he met with Trump “many times” in the Oval Office and recounted how the former president encouraged him to run in 2019 when he was mulling a campaign for Sen. Thom Tillis’s seat. He insisted Donald Trump remains a powerful force in politics. “I don’t think that’s any question at this point, if you pay attention to the political lens, that the Republican political party goes through Donald Trump in terms of his influence on the party as whole,” Walker said. Still, Walker noted the need for Republicans to attract a broader swath of voters beyond Trump's core base. “We want President Trump’s support. We want Mitch McConnell’s support. We want Democrats to support us because we have a message that resonates,” he said. “I truly believe that there’s a space to be able to do both, to be that conservative champion but also be that bridge-builder.” Walker’s team tried to secure a meeting with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, over the weekend while Walker was visiting the state for the Conservative Political Action Conference, where both men spoke. But the two men didn't connect. Trump’s team has been “tapping the breaks a little bit” on rolling out endorsements as they work to develop a framework for choosing candidates, a spokesman said. ___ Colvin reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report from New York. Jill Colvin And Bryan Anderson, The Associated Press
Ottawa has come up with a simpler way to claim expenses for that spare room or corner that became a makeshift office last spring when pandemic lockdowns went into effect across the country. In addition to the detailed method for claiming home office costs, the federal government announced a new temporary flat rate method last year with the specific aim of making taxes a little easier in these trying times. Experts say the new flat rate method is quick and easy, but using the detailed method may yield a better outcome, depending on your circumstances and it is worth checking out both ways to make sure you're getting the best deal. Edward Rajaratnam, executive director at EY Canada, said the detailed method may be better for renters than homeowners because of their ability to claim a portion of their rent, which could increase the size of their deduction beyond the $400 cap placed on the flat rate option. However, he said, the temporary flat rate method is simpler as the name would imply. "The beauty of this is it is a flat rate, it is $2 a day up to a maximum of $400 and the second beauty of that is that you actually do not need to maintain receipts," he said. "Everybody who has been working from home, they have been busy with work, so just imagine them trying to find receipts." You don't get to count days off, vacation days, sick leave days or other leaves of absence, so you might not reach the 200 days needed to max out the flat rate claim of $400. However, they don't have to be full days of work to qualify. Even if you only worked part of the day, you can claim the $2 for that day. While the flat rate method is easy, Gerry Vittoratos, national tax specialist at UFile, says you still should ask your employer to complete the Canada Revenue Agency form that allows you to use the detailed method if it turns out to yield you a better return. "You might get more if you go with the detailed method, don't prevent yourself from claiming that," Vittoratos said, noting that CRA has simplified the forms this year to make it easier for companies to provide them for employees. "Do the comparison between the two and see which one is better for you. It might turn out the detailed method is a lot better." To qualify under both methods you need to have worked more than 50 per cent of the time from home for a period of at least four consecutive weeks in 2020. Unlike the flat rate method, The detailed method requires a thorough accounting of actual expenses which need to be supported by receipts. But, unlike the flat rate method your total deduction is not capped at $400, so you could end up saving more. Eligible expenses include things like office supplies but also a share of expenses such as utilities, home internet access fees, maintenance and minor repairs. Renters can claim a potion of their rent, but homeowners cannot claim mortgage payments. You cannot claim expenses for which you were reimbursed by your employer. If you're using the detailed method and looking to claim some of your utilities or rent, you'll need to figure out how much of your home was used for work. If you had a spare room that became your designated office, the proportion that you can claim is the same as the proportion that space takes up in your house. So if your spare bedroom turned office makes up 10 per cent of the square footage of your home, then you get to claim 10 per cent of expenses like utilities for the time you spend working at home. But the calculation becomes more complicated if you were using your kitchen table or dining room, spaces that also served another purpose in your home in addition to a workspace as you can only claim for the time the space was used for work. Vittoratos says if you're considering using the detailed method it is important to know how big your home is and what proportion was used for work, as your accountant will need it to figure out what is best for you. "Have all the information in front of you. Make sure that everything is in order so you get the maximum return possible," he said. Rajaratnam noted that the flat rate deduction is per individual. So if you live with someone and you both worked from home you could both make a flat rate claim. "If you and your spouse are both working from home ... both of you can claim $400 each and you do not need to show expenses, as long as you have been working from home," he said. However, he says, everybody needs to consider their own circumstances to figure out what is best for their tax return. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Craig Wong, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will review a decision to order a new trial for an Alberta man convicted of murder. Russell Steven Tessier was charged with first-degree murder in 2015, eight years after Allan Gerald Berdahl's body was found in a ditch near Carstairs. Berdahl died from gunshot wounds to the head, and there were tire tracks, footprints and two cigarette butts near the scene. Tessier was convicted in 2018 but Alberta's Court of Appeal later ordered a new trial. The appeal court said the trial judge made legal errors concerning the voluntariness of statements Tessier made to police. As usual, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for agreeing to hear the case. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Thursday repeated his pledge to keep credit loose and flowing until Americans are back to work, rebutting investors who have openly doubted he can stick to that promise once the pandemic passes and the economy surges on its own. With 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. "I want to be clear about this," Powell said in anchoring the Fed's promise to keep its near zero interest rates and monthly bondbuying intact.
Many people have turned to outdoor activities to stay active during the pandemic, and according to cycling industry insiders, that's made it a challenging year to keep up with demand. Bike shops in Calgary are experiencing surging sales and low inventory, with some estimated delivery dates being pushed into 2022. Jeremy Cobb, who has been biking most of his life and struggling to order bike parts this year, said it's a bit exasperating as an avid cyclist, but not surprising. "It's been frustrating," he said. "[But] I think people are trying to be safe, and trying to find things to do as a family and outdoors." No seasonal sales slowdown Scott Clarke, the sales manager of Ridley's Cycle in Kensington, said this winter has been the busiest he has seen in what is usually a seasonal industry. In a typical year, students come to work at the bike shop in the summer before heading back to school in the fall; a few seasonal layoffs usually follow, he said. Scott Clarke, left, the sales manager of Ridley's Cycle, said this winter has been the busiest he has ever seen. Bow Cycle has one of the largest inventories of bikes in Calgary, and owner John Franzky, right, said they're running low. (Terri Trembath/CBC) But this year, there was no sales slowdown in August, and Ridley's Cycle actually did some hiring in the fall to keep up. "Right now, it's get what you can, for us. Get in stock what you can, and keep stock levels high," he said. "Bike companies are producing more than they ever have, demand is up over what they're producing, so things are pumping through much, much quicker. So, we're getting to the point where we're having a lot of bikes pre-sold." A new challenge to manage It's not only Ridley's Cycle that is struggling to keep stock levels high. Bow Cycle has one of the largest inventories of bikes in Calgary, and owner John Franzky said they're running low. "On the business side, it's kind of exciting to have those challenges at work, so it's a new challenge to manage," Franzky said. "The hard part is, [at] Bow Cycle, we're not used to saying no to people." The demand that has left the store low on just about everything has been a blessing and a curse, Franzky said. "You can't really compare a year like this. And let's be honest, hopefully we don't have to compare another year like this," Franzky said. "But what it's done in the outdoor business, the boom it's been seeing, bicycle industry included — it's pretty unreal."
American attitudes toward China have soured significantly in the past three years, with 70% of those surveyed for a report published on Thursday saying Washington should stand up to Beijing over its human rights record even if it damages economic ties. Nearly 9 in 10 respondents to a Pew Research Center survey of more than 2,500 Americans conducted in February said they saw China, the world's second largest economy, as a competitor or enemy rather than a partner, the U.S.-based center said. "Americans want more focus on human rights – even at the expense of economic ties – in bilateral relations with China," the report said.