As much as the environment for oil has improved, there is still massive uncertainty. And that creates a lot of risk for dividend investors.
The company, whose Chief Executive Officer Michael Saylor is one of the most vocal proponents of bitcoin, bought the cryptocurrency in cash at an average price of about $52,765 each. MicroStrategy, the world's largest publicly traded business intelligence company, spent last year steadily amassing bitcoin after making its first investment in August. Bitcoin's price has recently scaled record highs as major firms, such as BNY Mellon, asset manager BlackRock Inc and credit card giant Mastercard Inc, backed certain cryptocurrencies, with Tesla Inc investing $1.5 billion in bitcoin.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault plans to name a minister to spearhead the fight against racism. Environment Minister Benoit Charette is set to add the role to his current tasks today. The announcement is to be made by Legault as part of a small cabinet shuffle, The Canadian Press has learned. Among the recommendations last December from a task force that looked at racism in the province was the appointment of a minister to implement its anti-racism action plan. The 25 recommendations outlined in the final report aim to tackle racial profiling and discrimination faced by minorities and Indigenous people in the province. The Legault government said in December it hoped that most of those recommendations would be implemented within two years. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
Barry Martin had hoped to spend his golden years messing around with some wood. When the 65-year-old, originally from Lewisporte, and his wife moved back to Newfoundland in 2020, he had his sights set on using retirement as a way to progress his woodworking hobby. To that end, Martin purchased a home just off the Bay d’Espoir Highway — about 15 kilometres from the Trans-Canada Highway — that would help him accomplish those goals. The home needed some work and to help with that, he bought a portable Frontier sawmill to help. That mill was going to help with some smaller wood-working projects as well. “I purchased a home that was not quite finished, there were lots of trees on my property so I decided to purchase a small portable sawmill to finish my home and to be able to afford to pursue my recreation of woodworking,” Martin wrote in an email to SaltWire Network. That was fine until he ran into a problem. He applied for a licence to operate the mill at the back of his property, but it was denied. Martin thought this was peculiar because one of his neighbours has a similar mill on their property, as do many others in his area. The mill he bought is 12 feet long and four feet wide. “(The department) rejected my application here because they said I was living on a recreational property, so I couldn’t have one,” he told SaltWire during a follow-up interview. “Who is to determine what my recreation is?” Martin asked if it’d be possible to have a licence for as long as it took for him to finish his home. That was also denied. Martin said he was advised by a representative with the forestry department that he could purchase a piece of Crown Land at the back of his property and he would be granted a licence. However, that application was turned down as well. He was told that he could not have his mill within 300 metres, almost 1,000 feet, of any property in his region. “It seems like they can make rules whenever they want and however, they want,” said Martin. “My neighbour can have one, he is only 100 feet from me, but I can’t have one.” One of his neighbours recently had their licence renewed. He was also told the dust and noise created by his mill would be too much in the area. Martin lives adjacent to the Newfoundland Trailway and doesn’t believe his sawmill creates as much dust and noise as the recreational vehicles that use the railbed. “When I set up the sawmill, I just tried it out and my neighbour said he couldn’t hear it,” said Martin. “It is silliness what (the provincial government) is saying because of the noise and dust.” Martin has reached out to Elvis Loveless, the minister of fisheries, forestry and agriculture, the Office of the Premier and others in government hoping to find a resolution to his problem. The provincial government declined to comment on a specific application but did detail information regarding the application process. “Sawmill licences are issued under Section 79 of the Forestry Act. Any applicant wishing to operate a sawmill on Crown Land must first secure the appropriate title,” a spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture wrote in an email. “The operation of a sawmill within a Cottage Development Area is considered to be in conflict with the intent of a recreation cottage area. “In such a circumstance, the Crown Lands Division would consider an application for an alternate location outside the cottage area.” Moving the mill and setting it up on another parcel of land away from his property doesn’t appeal to Martin. He fears having it vandalized or stolen. Not being able to finish his home is causing problems for his family. Condensation builds up in his home and there is water dropping down from a light fixture. “I was denied the opportunity to do that when other people can do that,” said Martin. “Why am I being treated so differently?” Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
La saison de chasse 2020 est marquée par une baisse importante du nombre de cerfs de Virginie abattus sur l’île d’Anticosti, montrent les données récentes du ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP). En 2019, 6652 cerfs avaient été récoltés sur l’île vis-à-vis 4570 bêtes lors de la dernière saison, ce qui représente une diminution de 30 %. La pandémie a durement affecté cette chasse : moins de Québécois ont acheté un permis (2682 permis versus 3237) et encore moins de chasseurs de l’extérieur s’en sont procuré un. En 2020, seulement 43 permis ont été vendus à des non-résidents comparé à 574 l’année d’avant. Ailleurs en Côte-Nord, les statistiques de chasse à l’orignal pour 2020 sont similaires à celles de 2019. Précisément 654 orignaux ont été abattus dans la zone 19, qui va de Baie-Comeau à Blanc-Salon en montant jusqu'à Fermont, soit 431 mâles, 179 femelles adultes et 44 veaux. Avec 5549 permis vendus, ce nombre se situe près de la moyenne des cinq années précédentes. Les restrictions de déplacement en raison de la pandémie ont causé une diminution de 80 % du nombre de permis pour les non-résidents. Seulement quatre permis ont été vendus à des chasseurs de l’extérieur alors que le MFFP en dénombrait 21 l’année précédente. Avec 59 bêtes abattues, la zone 19 a enregistré sa plus importante récolte d’ours noirs. La majorité des ours, soit 43, a été récoltée au printemps. Le bilan 2020 de la chasse au gros gibier et au cerf de Virginie est basé sur les données disponibles en date du 25 janvier 2021. Laurence Dami-Houle, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
King-Vaughan MPP Stephen Lecce makes no apologies for his work as Minister of Education. In fact, he’s driven by doing “what’s right,” not what’s popular. And, he’s continually governed by the health and welfare of Ontario’s students, teachers and residents. Every step of the way during the pandemic, provincial officials have had to stop, pivot and drive change. Changes and innovations were vital to an admittedly tired education system that needs modernization. Lecce and the Province have been key movers to online learning and technology long before COVID-19. But since the pandemic’s arrival, education in this province has changed dramatically. And Lecce maintains it’s all for the best. In fact, Ontario has become the national leader in its synchronous online system, led by live teachers. The minister pointed out that almost all bureaucracies are traditionally adverse to change. And yet, all levels of government – from Ottawa to the municipal level – have had to adapt, evolve and find efficiencies. The push for online learning over the past year has accelerated Ontario’s game plan, with largely strong, positive results. Lecce said we owe it to our children to ensure our education system is aligned with the job market, both now and in the future. Boosting the curriculum with technology-related courses and options will only strengthen the resolve of future leaders. No other province currently offers the breadth of online learning opportunities as Ontario. Lecce said his ministry stood up and updated the curriculum, including math, at a time when it wasn’t necessarily a priority for everyone. Career development is also important for today’s students. Lecce and the ministry want to position Ontario as a global leader, making our kids THE global leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Life skills and experiential learning are other mandates included in today’s curriculum. “The Ministry won’t be put on hold (by the pandemic),” he said. “Kids deserve a modern, relevant education and curriculum. I learned we have to do what’s right, not what’s easy.” His job, his mission, is to give students and educators the tools they need to make this happen. He pointed out the Province recently earmarked $1 billion for new schools, including one in King-Vaughan. Lecce and his ministry are constantly under attack by unions and educators. But it’s important to note that while the ministry mandates the changes and improvements, it’s the school boards themselves that carry them out. The Province recently provided $18 million in additional funding to the York Region boards of education. That’s a significant contribution, he pointed out. The Province has upped funding across the board, since the beginning of the pandemic, and the money has been put to good use. He said at this point, more than 95% of Ontario schools have improved ventilation systems, hepa filters, etc. But Lecce doesn’t point any fingers, noting the pandemic has actually improved networks and partnerships. Lecce said he speaks regularly with his colleagues and several medical officers of health, to be kept abreast of the situation, which tends to change weekly. Politicians and civil servants have all learned the value of accessibility and visibility. While the Provincial government has always been accessible, Lecce said a stronger presence by elected officials has provided a greater level of guidance and leadership. From health officials to ministry spokespeople, everyone has had to step up, he said. Lecce pointed out remarkably, the provincial PCs have worked extremely well with the federal Liberal government, as well as Liberal MPs, through the pandemic. “It’s the leadership we all need,” he said. The fact that kids are back in school is a “great service” and he’s adamant that he will do everything in his power to keep schools open. Mental health professionals and medical officers all supported getting kids back in school. Having students return to school and moving York to the red zone is being done cautiously. “I will continue to act quickly, to ensure the safety of children and staff,” he said. The layers in place, which include stepped up in-school monitoring, anti-congregation measures, etc. are working. Further, the Province is making sure that educators will have priority in getting the vaccine in the second phase, expected to start soon. The pandemic has actually brought these partners closer together, Lecce admits, particularly in the health care sector. These connections will continue in the post-pandemic society. It may also lead to a less apprehensive approach and a more cooperative one. Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel
Dr Michael Gardam, PEI’s Chief Operations Officer (COO), is new on the Health PEI block but he brings more than 20 years of experience improving health care systems with him. Now he intends to assist PEI in the same way. “I realize in any role like this I’m going to have to prove myself and show I actually mean what I say,” Dr Gardam said. “All of the consulting work I’ve done around the world has been about empowering local groups to come up with their own local solutions. So I should be the least scary COO ever in PEI.” Dr Gardam has worked in Ireland, Sweden, New Zealand, New York and all across Canada with consistent success helping to improve health systems’ quality of care and safety. “I was warned that people would see any changes to the organizational structure as trying to centralize to Charlottetown. That’s exactly not what I am doing,” he said. “I come with the rural focus of how do we make these communities where it’s hard to recruit and so on, as strong as possible?” He said breaking down silos east and west as well as between mental health and the rest of the health care system will help create smooth, well-integrated and collaborative plans. This could improve the quality of care patients receive. “Now all of the different groups, long-term care, acute care, mental health and addictions, we’re all at the same table. So we can sit together and work through how a plan is going to impact everybody else and how it can fit together.” He said having services such as mental health and addictions trapped in their own silo is outdated. “It’s something you would see in the ‘50s, not now,” he said. “Part of the challenge was we had mental health coming with proposals on its own but those proposals impact and rely on other parts of the system. Or you’d have the east versus west, versus central disconnects.” Dr Gardam hopes the new and relatively standard organizational structure will assist in pulling leadership together to create smoother planning. He said it will not be at the loss of regional leadership’s authority and power to develop and follow through with plans, well tailored to address local needs. In some ways, PEI reminds Dr Gardam of Ireland. “What would work in Dublin definitely was not going to work in Cork. And what worked in Cork was definitely not going to work in Limerick. So we set standards that everybody was going to work on, then it was up to them to figure out how they were going to get there.” This is the leadership style Dr Gardam brings to the Island. The analogy Dr Gardam uses is to imagine a map of PEI and you have to drive from Souris to Tignish. Some of the roads will be mandatory, those are the standards, but otherwise it doesn’t matter what roads you take as long as you get where you are going. In all of this he says his job will be to move boulders out of the way to empower plans and decisions that are best for each region. Paul Young, administrator of hospitals services west of Charlottetown is optimistic about the changes. “There is a lot of excitement across the organization right now, it’s literally palpable. People are excited about the new organization and how that will come together so we can look at better coordination and integration of services,” he said. The changes are a tremendous advancement from his perspective and help from an all-star perspective like Dr Gardam’s adds to his optimism. “A big part of this is support. After speaking with Dr Gardam there seems to be an additional emphasis of the idea that we want to build off what you guys are doing well and give you the room to grow and expand services and try new things,” Mr Young said. Dr Gardam said, health care systems don’t change on a dime and it will take hundreds of small changes before the system will start to improve. “I’m looking forward to two years from now or five years from now and saying, hey what works better?” Dr Gardam has a 2-year contract with Health PEI. Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
Les villes de Dunham et de Sutton pourront profiter d’une subvention de 13 800 $ remise à chacune pour mettre à jour leur plan d’action Municipalité amie des aînés (MADA). Dunham a adopté sa première politique Familles et Aînés en 2017, tandis que Sutton a une telle politique depuis 2012. Les sommes ont été consenties à la suite d’un appel de projets dans le cadre du programme de soutien de la démarche. L’argent et le programme servent à favoriser l’émergence d’environnements bâtis et sociaux propices au vieillissement actif. «C’est une bonne chose, se réjouit le maire de Dunham, Pierre Janecek. Ça va être bien pour la population vieillissante. C’est très apprécié.» Depuis 2017, la municipalité a lancé un club de marche pour les 50 ans et plus. Avant la pandémie, entre 15 et 20 personnes y participaient. Des ateliers d’initiation à l’informatique ont également été organisés, de même que différents ateliers et conférences à la bibliothèque. Dunham a aussi travaillé sa règlementation afin de permettre les maisons bigénérationnelles dans son cœur villageois. Aussitôt qu’il sera possible de se rassembler, la Municipalité prévoit consulter sa population pour la mise à jour de la politique et du plan d’action. Le maire de Sutton, Michel Lafrance, remercie la ministre responsable des Aînés et des Proches aidants, Marguerite Blais, de croire en leur projet. «Notre projet démontre que la Ville a une vraie préoccupation pour la qualité et les saines habitudes de vie des aînés et des proches aidants», dit-il. Sutton prévoit faire une présentation publique des résultats du dernier plan d’action 2017-2020. «Les projets soutenus dans le cadre de ce programme témoignent de l’engagement des villes de Dunham et de Sutton à promouvoir le mieux-être des aînés de leurs municipalités, et nous pouvons en être fiers, commente par communiqué Isabelle Charest, députée caquiste de Brome-Missisquoi. De telles initiatives sont à la fois rassembleuses et porteuses pour nos communautés et elles auront un effet positif considérable sur la qualité de vie des personnes âgées, favorisant par le fait même leur épanouissement, et ce, de manière durable.» Cynthia Laflamme, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix de l'Est
A new senior facility to serve residents of Kneehill County has been an ongoing discussion between the Town of Trochu, Trochu Housing Corporation (THC), and Kneehill County, and council voted whether to support backing the town and THC borrowing $20 million to build the facility during the Tuesday, February 9 regular council meeting. The new facility, which would replace the ageing St. Mary’s Health Care Centre, was first brought before Kneehill County council as a request by THC to help borrow $25 million required to build the capital project; Kneehill County council requested the town and THC return to a future meeting with additional information and a business plan. “This is a shovel-ready project that both federal and provincial governments are looking at enhancing senior’s care,” Councillor Wade Christie said during the meeting. He added, “If we don’t take this opportunity on a shovel-ready project, someone else will, and I believe the grant money will be available if we get our ducks in a row.” The project is estimated to cost $32 million and would provide residents of Kneehill County with long-term care and Designated Supportive Living (DSL) 4 and 4D, the highest levels of support including dementia. A portion of the project would be funded through grant funding, life-lease sales, and capital financing; however, a remaining amount would require the town to borrow funds. The Town of Trochu is unable to obtain these funds on its own and has requested Kneehill County to support them in securing these funds. Council had concerns regarding the risk to Kneehill County if they supported the project. However, Trochu Mayor Barry Kletke and THC representative Sam Smalldon ensured there would be “no money going to the county or from the county.” Following a question and discussion period, Councillor Kenneth King motioned to support backing THC and the Town of Trochu--with several conditions included. One of the conditions is the pre-sale of 90 per cent of life-lease units prior to starting construction, with financial backing from the county available for three years once all intermunicipal agreements have been signed. The motion was carried with a vote of six in favour and one opposed. Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Drumheller Mail
ROME — Italy on Wednesday pressed the United Nations for answers about the attack on a U.N. food aid convoy in Congo that left a young ambassador and his paramilitary police bodyguard dead. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told lawmakers in Rome that Italy has asked both the U.N. and the U.N. World Food Program to open an investigation into the security arrangements for convoy, which was attacked two days earlier. The minister said Italy also will spare no effort to determine the truth behind the killing of Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci. A WFP Congolese driver, Moustapha Milambo, was also killed in the attack. “We have formally asked the WFP and the U.N. to open an inquest that clarifies what happened, the motivations for the security arrangements employed and who was responsible for these decisions,” Di Maio said. The trip was undertaken at the U.N.’s invitation, according to Di Maio. The two Italians had “entrusted themselves to the protocol of the United Nations,” which flew them on a U.N. plane from Kinshasha to Goma, 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) away, Di Maio said. The Italian embassy in Kinshasha, Di Maio noted, has two armoured vehicles at the ambassador's disposal for moving around the city and the country. But for Monday's mission, to visit a WFP school food project in Rutshuri in eastern Congo, Attanasio was travelling in U.N. vehicles. Only hours earlier, Di Maio, flanked by Premier Mario Draghi, met the arrival of the bodies of the two Italians at a Rome military airport. Autopsies are scheduled for Wednesday and a state funeral for both men was set for Thursday in Rome. A special team of Carabinieri investigators, dispatched by Rome prosecutors, arrived Tuesday in Congo on what Di Maio said would likely be multiple missions to determine what happened. Attanasio, 43, who leaves a widow involved in volunteer projects in Congo and three young children, "was in love with his profession, with Africa and his family,'' Di Maio said. He noted that the Carabiniere was nearing the end of his security detail in Congo and was soon due back in Rome. The World Food Program, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for its efforts to feed refugees and other malnourished people worldwide, is headquartered in Rome. "For this reason, I immediately asked WFP in Rome and the United Nations, involving directing the Secretary General (Antonio) Guterres, to supply a detailed report on the attack on the convoy,'' Di Maio said. WFP has said the road had been previously cleared for travel without security escorts. U.N. security officials based in Congo usually determine road safety. On Tuesday, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York that the U.N. had launched an internal review concerning the “security around the incident.” Di Maio said the attackers numbered six, had light arms and apparently spread obstacles on the road and fired shots in the air to stop the convoy. “The noise of the shooting alerted soldiers of the Congolese Armed Forces and the rangers of Virunga park, less than a kilometre (half-mile) away, headed to the place of the incident.” Di Maio quoted the local governor as saying that to force the victims to go into the bush, they killed the WFP driver. When the ranger patrol arrived, Di Maio said, citing the Congolese interior minister’s account, the attackers “fired upon the Carabiniere, killing him, and at the ambassador, gravely wounding him.? Attanasio died of his wounds shortly afterward. Italy will reinforce its commitments to aid Africa, Di Maio said, calling that the “best way to honour the memory? of the two slain Italians. "A policy that puts Africa at the centre of Italian diplomatic, European and international attention, this is the commitment Luca believed in and in which we believe in,'' the foreign minister said. Frances D'Emilio, The Associated Press
A legal report and recommendations about shoreline flooding in Brighton will be before council in April. With Lake Ontario reaching unprecedented levels in 2017 and 2019 that caused flooding and erosion along local shores and wetlands, Brighton retained the law firm of Baker McKenzie to determine the viability of the municipality pursuing a civil claim for losses relating to Lake Ontario shoreline flooding. Brighton’s legal counsel provided a full report, including various recommendations to council in the fall of 2020. An updated report and recommendations will be considered by council in April. “Council remains committed to working with our federal partners to seek relief for Lake Ontario shoreline flooding,” said Brighton Mayor Brian Ostrander. “We look forward to receiving further advice on this matter and we will continue to advocate for a better lake level management plan that protects the shores of our community,” he added. In January 2020, the mayor and council hosted an educational event regarding Lake Ontario water levels, water management policy and emergency flood preparedness. The event featured formal presentations from invited speakers, as well as an open forum for the public to ask questions and speak about their experiences. Earlier, in December 2019, Brighton adopted a new service level policy related to municipal response to shoreline flooding, details of which are outlined in the High-Water Event Service Guide. The Lower Trent Conservation Authority commissioned the completion of the Lake Ontario Shoreline Management Plan. This plan identifies the flood-prone properties along the shoreline of Brighton. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
If you have a craving for a sweet treat, consider ordering cupcakes this week, as Cupcakes to the Rescue raises money for animal shelters across the province. The cupcakes, available in any quantity can be ordered in advance and are available in chocolate, vanilla, lemon, cherry, carrot, golden and rainbow chip, with buttercream or cream cheese icing (on the carrot cupcakes). A donation of $25 per dozen is suggested but people are asked to give what they can. The purchase of cupcakes helps give a surrendered, rescued or abused animal a second chance at a new life. Many animals who have found a temporary home in shelters are in need of medical attention and some are in need of emergency surgery. All animals leaving the rescues are spayed or neutered before going to their forever homes. Adoptive parents are screened to ensure the placement is as successful as possible. All money raised will be split between Allies for Alley Catz and Adopt-a-Pet Rescue in Lucknow. This year, the event runs from Feb. 22-26. Cupcakes can be ordered by contacting Debbie Emmerton at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 519-395-4567. Arrangements for pickup or drop off can be made when placing orders. Because of the pandemic, the delivery person will be wearing a mask and ask that the person accepting the order wears one as well. Payment can be made by e-transfer to email@example.com. And for those with empty beer cans, bottles, wine or alcohol bottles piling up, consider donating them to the Lucknow rescue. Empties can be dropped off under the carport at 301 Alice Street in Kincardine. Or, return your own bottles and donate to the rescue via e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org. All money raised supports the medical and day-to-day care of animals taken in by the shelter. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Brighton’s Applefest committee is hopeful it can host a smaller event this year to mark the bounty of the fall harvest at the height of the season. For about 45 years, on the last full weekend of September, Main Street has played host to a sprawling street festival and celebratory parade. Applefest typically draws a crowd of 10,000 or more from near and far to Brighton, doubling the town’s population in one weekend. Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the street fair, parade and other events were cancelled. Activities took a virtual spin and included an apple-themed decorating contest for homes and storefronts. Brighton Deputy Mayor Laura Vink said the Applefest committee, which met Feb. 17, is optimistic about hosting a small event this fall. “At this point, we are pretty sure that we will not be able to host a full-fledged Applefest this year,” Vink, who chairs the Applefest committee, told the Brighton Independent. “We are hoping to do a smaller, Brighton-influenced event this year.” While Applefest typically draws vendors from various parts of Ontario, this year “keeping everything very local” will be a priority, she said. Applefest will probably be a one-day event on Saturday, Sept. 25. “This year we will most likely just focus on the Saturday, but things are still up in the air. Time will tell,” Vink noted. “We've agreed to meet again in April as we feel we will then be able to better gauge where we are at as far as COVID and make some more informed decisions.” Most Applefest activities are typically centred around Main Street and the nearby King Edward Park. Events include barbecues, a children's village, a car show, arts and crafts shows and dinners. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
British finance minister Rishi Sunak will next week promise yet more spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances. Sunak, who is due to announce a new budget plan on March 3, has already racked up more than 280 billion pounds ($397 billion) in coronavirus spending and tax cuts, pushing Britain's borrowing to a peacetime record. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to lift England's current lockdown entirely only in late June so Sunak is expected to rely heavily on the debt markets again.
(Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit) If you live in the middle of Vancouver and your first child is entering kindergarten, it's the sort of situation talked about in hushed, knowing tones. "I heard about it through parents talking, but you don't really know what it's all about until you go through it yourself," said Debbie Lee, who lives in the city's Fairview neighbourhood. "I knew it was difficult. Like, I heard it was difficult to get in. But, you know, you don't think that that would happen to you? No one thinks — you just always hope that you're not going to be the one." Lee was speaking about the lottery for children to get into kindergarten at the school nearest to their home. Number of young families increasing In the past few decades, the number of young families living in the core of Vancouver has drastically increased, while the number of new schools has increased much more slowly. As a result, eight of the nine elementary schools between Macdonald Street, Main Street and 16th Avenue had more applications than spaces this year, requiring a lottery with results announced last week. In the rest of the city, just six of 80 elementary schools have a waiting list. Lee's son is number 14 on the wait-list for False Creek Elementary School. He also didn't get into any of the nearby French immersion schools, and the closest school available is more than two kilometres away. Suddenly, staying in the middle of Vancouver is an open question. "I have a daughter as well," said Lee. "And I don't want my son to switch schools multiple times because of the situation. So I'll need to think about what our long-term plans are as a family." Crosstown Elementary School, opened in 2017, has helped alleviate some of the pressure of more young families in the area — but the absence of a school in nearby Olympic Village has been a big problem. Long-term problem In a statement, the Vancouver School Board said more than 300 students are wait-listed for 14 schools across the city (up from 269 in the 2019-2020 school year), but added that the number is expected to change as families finalize their plans for September. Board Chair Carmen Cho said she understands it's not an ideal situation. "It's a very frustrating experience for families, and I certainly understand that, and that's why the district is working very hard to ensure we accommodate in-catchment students," she said. Cho said the school board looks to maximize instruction space within any building to increase the seat count, and limit cross-boundary students. In addition, a new school planned for Coal Harbour and another promised for Olympic Village will alleviate the wait-list in the long-term. But one school board trustee argues they could be more creative in the short-term, given how large the problem is. "In other situations we have talked about and found creative solutions," said Barb Parrot. "It's so burdensome and causes amazing stress on parents. And that's not fair." Many do get in As for parents who have been through the process, they can offer one piece of advice. "Just be patient. But expect that you may have to take your child to another school," said Stacy Buckland. At this time last year, her five-year-old son Spencer was deep on the wait-list for nearby General Gordon elementary. Two days before the school year began, she got the call that her son had been accepted. Buckland said the email threads between parents, conversations in Facebook groups, and being in regular contact with the school were helpful in alleviating stress about the situation and figuring out the odds of a happy conclusion. But even though she was ultimately successful, she still wonders why the system has to be so difficult for young families who move to neighbourhoods geared for them in so many ways — except guaranteed school spots. "In hindsight, I would look before we moved into the neighbourhood," she said. "It's a major problem." The full list of schools in Vancouver with a wait-list: Emily Carr, Edith Cavell, Crosstown, Elsie Roy, False Creek, Sanford Fleming, Simon Fraser, General Gordon, Henry Hudson, Dr. A.R. Lord, Lord Nelson, Norma Rose Point, Lord Roberts and Roberts Annex.
It’s been more than a decade in the making and The Boardwalk on the Thames is finally ready to receive its first tenants. On March 1, the multi-million dollar apartment complex in downtown Chatham will partially open its doors to new residents. “It is very exciting and we are very happy. We’ve been waiting for this day for so many years and finally we are here,” said Victor Boutin, Everlast Group Ltd. owner. The project first received municipal approval in 2011 and construction has been underway since the spring of 2013. Since then there have been many setbacks. Boutin said he went through four different painters and has redone the electrical and mechanical work to “get a building of very high quality.” The building is currently 80 per cent complete according to Boutin who is content with the near-finished product. “We got exactly the way we wanted and didn’t cut any corners,” he said. Boutin said part of the reason the project experienced many setbacks was the lack of local expertise in high-rise buildings. “It’s been up and down because we had problems with contractors. It’s very hard to get good contractors on high rises because they don’t have the technology or capacity to do those kinds of projects.” The apartment complex includes one-bedroom units to two-bedroom units with two bathrooms. Rental prices range between $2,000 and to just below $3,500. Tenants may be able to view Tecumseh Park, the Thames River or historic buildings in downtown Chatham depending on their apartment. “I think Chatham-Kent deserved a building like this,” he said. “I came here 10 years ago and loved the area. It’s a very nice location for people looking to retire and young professionals.” Boutin and his wife will also be moving into a suite in the 88-unit building. Forty-four units are currently ready for move-in with the rest expecting to be completed in June. There is already a waiting list for viewings, according to Boutin. There are two retail spaces also available for lease, which Boutin hopes will be filled with young entrepreneurs. Boutin believes Chatham-Kent’s downtown business area will see a renewal in the coming years, which he said is very good for investors. “Now is the right time to do it, in a few years everything will double in price so people should invest in Chatham,” he said. “My vision is that Chatham-Kent will have a nice future.” Boutin said he plans to continue his investments in Chatham-Kent. After the Boardwalk, he plans to finish the last two phases in the redevelopment of the old YMCA building, which is being retrofitted for student housing. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
After weeks of closure, the Bruce Public Library and the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre in Southampton have announced both facilities will open for in-person service at the beginning of March. All 17 branches of the library will open on Mar. 1 for regular in-person service. Curbside pickup will still be available to residents who prefer to not enter the building. In keeping with public health regulations, library patrons will be required to wear a face covering and observe the two-metre social distancing recommendations while in the branch. Computers will be available for use, by appointment. The library has launched the grab and go bag, for patrons looking for new reads in a variety of genres. Library staff will pre-bundle a number of fiction reads, including fantasy, thrillers, diversity, and award winning books that can be preordered and picked up by patrons. The library is also making provincial park day passes available on a loanable basis. The vehicle day passes are valid at any Ontario Provincial Park, including in this area, Inverhuron Provincial Park in Tiverton, MacGregor Provincial Park in Port Elgin and Sauble Falls Provincial Park in Sauble Beach. Everyone within the vehicle will receive free admission. The Library suggests contacting the park in advance to ensure its hours of operation and to make a reservation, if necessary. Passes can be reserved in the library’s online catalogue or by contacting the local branch. “Bruce County Public Library continues to find new ways to meet the needs of our communities,” said Brooke McLean, director of library services. “Our grab-and-go bags provide a convenient way to borrow a bundle of books in a socially distant society, and the park passes make it more affordable to spend time in nature at one of our beautiful provincial parks. We appreciate the support of Ontario Parks in providing these passes.” Residents that do not have a library card can visit www.getacard.brucecounty.on.ca, to access the online registration form. The day after Bruce County library branches open, the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre will welcome back visitors. On Mar. 2, the museum will open its doors, keeping the safety of staff and visitors top-of-mind. Protocols set by the province and public health will be strictly followed. It asks that patrons continue to follow the three w’s during visits, including wearing a mask, washing hands and keeping a two-metre distance. As some visitors may not feel comfortable visiting in-person, virtual activities and online programs, will be available. The Museum will be open from Tuesday through Saturday, and close for an hour each day between noon and 1 p.m. to sanitize and clean. As it opens to the public, the museum has announced a number of new displays. “We are very excited to be welcoming back our visitors and members to the Museum again to explore Bruce County history,” said marketing coordinator Stephanie Crilly. “We have new exhibitions that are ready to be discovered.” Trailblazers, created by The Canadian Centre for Gender + Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), recognizes the lives and work of 12 remarkable individuals who have acted as a voice for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and advocated for equal rights and freedoms in Canada. It is also offering a new permanent exhibit, entitled Earth’s Climate in the Balance. The digital exhibition will answer many questions concerning climate change. The winter programming, including Virtual Adventure Talks and Museum in a Box, are available. Visit www.brucemuseum.ca to learn more about all programs, and to purchase tickets. The rebooted education centre was launched in January 2021. Educators now have the options of taking their classes on virtual field trips and can find resources in one easy-to-navigate place on the museum website. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit) The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Kirk Muller. The team announced that Dominique Ducharme will serve as interim head coach and Alex Burrows has joined the coaching staff. Luke Richardson and Stéphane Waite retain their respective duties within the coaching group. Julien ends his tenure with the Canadiens with a record of 129-123-35. In his four years with the team, Montreal missed the playoffs twice and lost in the first round the other two years. The Canadiens were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team post-season last year and then upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round. They then lost in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. "I would like to sincerely thank Claude and Kirk for their contributions to our team over the past five years during which we worked together. I have great respect for these two men whom I hold in high regard," general manager Marc Bergevin wrote in a press release. WATCH | Habs lose 2nd straight game to Senators: "In Dominique Ducharme, we see a very promising coach who will bring new life and new energy to our group. We feel that our team can achieve high standards and the time had come for a change." Ducharme joined the Canadiens coaching staff in April 2018 after 10 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He won the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2012-13 and has twice been Canada's head coach at the world junior championship, winning silver in 2017 and gold in 2018. Bergevin and Ducharme addressed the media Wednesday afternoon in Winnipeg. "It's not fun. It's a tough part of my job. To walk into these two men's room this morning, it was not easy," Bergevin said. In a pandemic-shortened 56-game season, Bergevin said he didn't want to wait to make a change behind the bench. "The hard thing to watch is the swing from being a really good hockey team that was playing with pace, was engaged, playing to our identity, which is speed, then going to the other side to a team that's looking for anything," he said. WATCH | Bergevin asserts confidence in Ducharme: "We're chasing our tail, we're chasing the puck, we're not in sync. And that was frustrating for me. "If the message is the same and they're acting differently, then change needs to be made." Bergevin said he wanted to give Julien and Muller an "honest try" to fix things over the squad's recent six-day break. "After that week off, I thought we would really come out flying, refocused, re-energized and back in sync. And I didn't see that," he said. Putting Ducharme in charge gives the players a "different voice," Bergevin said. The Canadiens also promoted Alex Burrows to assistant coach. Burrows, formerly a winger for the Senators and Vancouver Canucks, has been a member of the coaching staff for the Habs' AHL affiliate in Laval, Que., the past two seasons. 'A new model of coach' Ducharme will "100 per cent" remain at the helm for the rest of the season, Bergevin said. "Quarantine or no quarantine, [Ducharme] was my guy from the time I made my decision," the GM said. "The reason why, he's a new model of coach, a young coach that came a long way, had success at the junior level, had success at the world junior level. I feel that a new voice is what the team needs." Ducharme, who will make his debut when Montreal plays Thursday in Winnipeg, said he wants the Canadiens to spend less time in their zone, create more turnovers and give more support to the player who has the puck. Taking on the role of head coach is much like sitting down to take an exam when you know you've studied hard, he said. "I feel comfortable, I feel ready. I'm confident in the group, I'm confident in the guys I'm working with. And I'm ready to go," said the 47-year-old native of Joliette, Que. Still, being appointed to the position came with a range of emotions. "I'm losing two colleagues and two great people. To see them leave, obviously, it's a mixed feelings," Ducharme said. "But I'm proud to be here. It's been a long road for me. I didn't take the highway, I went the side road, but I'm proud of that. And I think it made me grow as a coach. And today I'm ready for it." Julien returned to the Habs for his second go-round as head coach midway through the 2016-17 season. He previously lead the team from January 2003 through January 2006. After being dismissed by Montreal in 2006, he joined the New Jersey Devils for a brief stint, then went on to coach the Bruins from 2007 until 2017, winning a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011. Julien, 60, had to leave the team during the first round of the playoffs last year in Toronto when he had a stent installed in a coronary artery. Muller took over the head coaching duties and the Habs extended the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers to six games before bowing out. The Habs were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the 24-team post-season last year and then upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round. This season, a tightly contested all-Canadian North Division has heightened the stakes for the seven teams north of the border, said Calgary Flames coach Geoff Ward. "I think really what we're starting to see is that the emotion of the Canadian division is starting to come to the front," he said. "And because of that, the rivalries are ramping up a bit and with the division being so tight, it can sway perspective very easily one way or the other." Ward said he owes Julien "a lot" and sent him a text Wednesday morning when he heard the news. "He'll bounce back, if he wants to and when he wants to. He's a great coach. And somebody else now will benefit from what happened today," he said.
For the first time, U.S. President Joe Biden has publically called on China to release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians detained in December 2018. "Human beings are not bartering chips," Biden said.
BANGKOK — Three Cabinet ministers in Thailand were forced to leave their posts Wednesday after a court found them guilty of sedition for taking part in sometimes-violent protests in 2013-2014 against the government then in power. The Criminal Court in Bangkok found Digital Economy Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam guilty along with about two dozen other defendants in a case that was launched in 2018. The verdicts can be appealed to a higher court but under the law the Cabinet ministers must relinquish their jobs immediately. Another prominent person convicted Wednesday was Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister who helped found the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, which led the demonstrations against the elected government of then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Instability caused by the street protests led to the Thai army staging a coup in 2014 and keeping power until 2019. Suthep and the Cabinet ministers each received prison sentences ranging from five to about seven years. The Associated Press
President Joe Biden proposed multiple “free college” measures while on the campaign trail. Do any of them have a real shot? Some experts think so. “The issue is bipartisan in its appeal, economically effective and supported by the leadership in today’s Congress and administration — that’s (a) pretty good triple play,” says Morley Winograd, president of The Campaign for Free College Tuition. Others are skeptical now is the time to move forward on free college. “I have a really hard time seeing any sort of four-year free college program passing at this point,” says Douglas Webber, associate professor of economics at Temple University. The first glimpse of a formal proposal will most likely be in Biden’s upcoming budget, experts say. Here’s what to look for. TUITION-FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE IS MOST LIKELY “Free college” really means free tuition. Students would still have to pay for room and board, along with other costs of attendance such as transportation, books and supplies. The average cost for room and board is $11,386 at a four-year school and $7,636 at a two-year school, according to federal data. President Biden’s free college proposals include: —Four years tuition-free at public colleges for those whose family income is under $125,000. —Two years of free tuition for low- and middle-income students attending minority-serving institutions. —Tuition-free public community colleges. That last one is the easiest sell, experts say. “We’ve seen how much free community college has become more popular,” says Wesley Whistle, senior advisor for policy and strategy with the Education Policy program at New America, a public policy think-tank . “It became a drum and you hear it and that helps it pick up over time.” The primary blocker for any tuition-free program is the cost, experts say, as any such program would likely be funded through a federal-state partnership. Community college is the cheaper bill to foot: The cost to fund tuition at public two-year schools is around $8.8 billion compared with about $72.5 billion at four-year public schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. HOW ‘FREE’ COLLEGE MIGHT WORK There’s already a blueprint for tuition-free programs: Currently 15 states have a program in place, while several others have extensive scholarship programs. Some cities do, too. Most state programs, such as Tennessee Promise and the Excelsior Scholarship in New York, which both offer four years of tuition-free public college, are last-dollar. That means students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and accept all need-based federal and state aid before the tuition-free benefit kicks in. Most experts say a federally enacted program would likely be first-dollar, covering tuition costs before any other aid is applied. That could increase the per-student impact of scholarships and state funding, says Edward Conroy, associate director of institutional transformation for the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. “If we get a federal program that says we’re going to make tuition free and you can still receive any state or federal grants on top of that, that would be a robust program,” Conroy says. In that case, additional aid could go toward paying for additional expenses. PELL GRANT EXPANSION MAY BE EASIER There’s another path toward tuition-free college, though it doesn’t have “free” in the name: the Pell Grant. The Pell Grant program provides students who have demonstrated need with free aid; for 2021-22, it’s up to $6,495. Though the Pell was meant to cover most college costs, it hasn’t kept up — the average tuition and fees at four-year public schools is $9,212, according to the most recent federal data. Most experts say doubling the maximum Pell Grant would effectively create free tuition and in some cases cover additional expenses. Biden has called for this, along with expanding eligibility to cover more middle-income students. Robert Kelchen, associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, says expanded Pell would be easier to pass than tuition-free college since the grant program already exists. Free college proposals are simultaneously blasted for not being generous enough and being too generous to students without demonstrated need, experts say. These criticisms make it more difficult to attain approval among both lawmakers and the public. Expanding the existing Pell Grant program could work to provide free tuition, but it lacks the appeal of a new and “free” program. “From a messaging perspective, saying the Pell (Grant amount) is going up by, say, $2,000 might not have the same impact on students as ‘Your tuition is covered,’” Kelchen says. HOW STUDENTS CAN CUT COSTS Tuition-free college policy could take a long time to pass through Congress — if it can at all — so students and parents may not see this benefit for many months or years. But there are a few existing strategies for getting a degree at a lower cost: —Find out if your state already has a tuition-free program. —Consider a public college unless a private school offers you more aid. —Attend a two-year school, then make a plan to transfer credits and complete a four-year degree. —Compare college cost, graduation rates and typical student loan payments using the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. —Submit the FAFSA and accept all need-based federal and state aid. —Find scholarships using search tools. The U.S. Department of Labor has one. —If your family’s finances have changed, request a professional judgment to appeal your aid award. ________________________________ This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Anna Helhoski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski. RELATED LINKS: NerdWallet: States with Free College Programs http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-free-college U.S. Department of Labor: CareerOneStop Scholarship Finder https://www.careeronestop.org/Toolkit/Training/find-scholarships.aspx U.S. Department of Education: College Scorecard https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/ Anna Helhoski Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press