The e-commerce titan isn't sharing any of its cash with shareholders today. Is it time to make a change?
NASHVILLE — As their state faced one of its toughest months of the pandemic, Tennesseans watched Gov. Bill Lee’s rare primetime address to see whether new public restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus might be coming. It was late December, and the state’s hospitals were bursting at the seams with virus patients. Spiraling caseloads placed Tennessee among the worst states in the nation per capita, medical experts were warning that the health care system could not survive another coronavirus spike, and Lee had been affected personally -- his wife had the virus and the governor himself was in quarantine. If ever there was a juncture to change course, the speech seemed like the time and place. But as he stood before the camera, the businessman-turned-politician declined to implement recommendations from the experts, instead announcing a soft limit on public gatherings while stressing once again that stopping the spread of COVID-19 was a matter of personal responsibility. Lee’s decision to stick to his approach has dismayed critics who say the state's situation would not be so dire if he had placed more faith in the government’s role in keeping people safe -- criticism he pushes back against as he keeps businesses open. The first term governor’s response has largely been in step with Republican governors in other states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, which along with Tennessee have ranked among the worst in the country as case numbers, deaths and hospitalizations increase while the governors rebuff calls for new restrictions. As of Friday, Johns Hopkins University researchers reported 1,236 new confirmed cases per 100,000 people in Tennessee over the past two weeks, which ranks eighth in the country. One in every 187 people in Tennessee tested positive in the past week. “We don’t have to be here. We don’t have to continue this trend. We can do something about it,” Dr. Diana Sepehri-Harvey, a Franklin primary care physician told reporters in a video conference Tuesday. Lee, whose office declined a request for an interview for this article, has rejected claims he hasn’t done enough, countering that he aggressively pushed for more expansive COVID-19 testing throughout the state during the early stages of the pandemic and arguing that sweeping mask requirements have become too political to become effective. He says decisions about masks are best left to local jurisdictions, some of which have imposed them in Tennessee, particularly in more populated areas. According to the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, about 69% of Tennesseans — but fewer than 30 of 95 counties — are under a face mask requirement. Those researchers found that counties that don’t require wearing masks in public are averaging COVID-19 death rates double or more compared with those that instituted mandates. Dr. Donna Perlin, a Nashville-based pediatric emergency medicine physician, sees mask-wearing and other precautions as basic government safety measures. “Just as we have requirements to stop at red lights, or for children to wear seatbelts, or bans on smoking at schools, so too must we require masks, because the refusal to wear masks is endangering our children and their families,” she wrote in a recent editorial. Despite the criticism, Lee hasn’t wavered from his vow never to close down restaurants, bars and retail stores after Tennessee became one of the first states in the country to lift businesses restrictions last year. He also has long advocated for schools to continue in-person learning and has sent school districts protective equipment for teachers and staffers. The governor is quick to point out the state’s swift COVID-19 vaccine rollout, praising Tennessee for being among the country’s leaders in distributing the immunizations. “In addition to creating a strong infrastructure for distribution, we’re currently one of the top states in the nation for total doses administered, vaccinating more than 150,000 Tennesseans in just two weeks,” Lee said in a statement earlier this month, omitting that the state’s initial goal to vaccinate 200,000 residents got delayed because of shipping issues. The CDC reports that 3.7% of Tennessee’s population has been vaccinated, with more than 251,000 shots administered to date — making it among the top 10 states for administration rates. But community leaders and Democratic lawmakers have tried in vain to appeal to the governor in their campaign for a mask mandate and other public health regulations. “What we are doing now is NOT working!” Democratic state Sen. Raumesh Akbari tweeted. “We need a mask mandate, increased testing and contact tracing, and need to consider some business closures. Our hospitals are at the brink! We must act to save lives!” Some have even appealed to Lee's Christian faith, which he regularly touted on the campaign trail and references while governing. “Wearing a mask is loving your neighbour, and taking care of yourself as a Temple of the Holy Spirit,” the Rev. Jo Ann Barker recently wrote to Lee, speaking for the nonpartisan Southern Christian Coalition. “A statewide mask mandate is caring for the community God gives you to care for. If that isn’t important to you, Governor Lee, then what is?” ___ Associated Press writers Jonathan Mattise and Travis Loller contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. Kimberlee Kruesi, The Associated Press
PERTH COUNTY – In the fallout of the recent issues at Perth County council, many residents were curious how the local political scene is organized. The short answer is much like a relationship status on social media – it’s complicated. Even in North Perth, which is wedged between Huron and Wellington counties, the distribution of municipal responsibilities differs from our neighbouring communities across those county lines. North Perth Mayor Todd Kasenberg said the Perth County powers are very minimalist. He feels that the division of power between the upper and lower tiers of municipal government seems to have been predicated on the idea that the less responsibility the county has, the better. The Municipal Act is a consolidated statute governing the extent of powers and duties, internal organization and structure of municipalities in Ontario, but the act gives leeway for the distribution of responsibilities of the upper and lower tiers of local government. Municipalities are governed by councils which make decisions about financing and services. In Ontario, the head of a lower-tier council is called the mayor or the reeve and the members of council may be called councillors or aldermen. The way councillors are elected differs from municipality to municipality. Municipal councillors may be elected at large or by ward. The Municipality of North Perth is comprised of three wards: Elma, Listowel and Wallace Wards. Voters in each ward can choose only among the candidates who are running for election in that ward. For example, if a municipality has eight council members and four wards, two councillors will be elected from each ward. Each voter chooses two candidates from among the candidates running in that ward. In each ward, the two candidates with the highest number of votes will serve on council. In a municipality where the councillors are elected at large, all councillors represent the entire municipality. In an election, the voters choose among all candidates who are running in the election. The head of council is always elected at large by all of the voters in the municipality. The county council is composed of designated elected members from the lower-tier municipalities. The composition of Perth County council is determined by a Restructuring Order that came into force on Jan. 1, 1998; North Perth and Perth East each have three representatives and West Perth and Perth South have two representatives each. Each December, county council itself selects its head, who is called warden, from among its members. Depending on its size and its history, a local municipality may be called a city, a town, a township or a village. They are also referred to as lower-tier municipalities when there is another level of municipal government like a county or region involved in providing services to residents. There are several separated towns and cities in Ontario and although they are geographically part of a county, they do not form part of the county. Local examples of this are the City of Stratford and the Town of St. Marys. These are single-tier municipalities. A county or regional government is a federation of the local municipalities within its boundaries and they are referred to as upper-tier municipalities. Since the 1990s the provincial government has been encouraging municipal governments to amalgamate with a view that the municipal government provides services most cost-effectively and efficiently. Some local governments joined together voluntarily to achieve sustainable services and municipal infrastructure. In other cases, the province had facilitated amalgamations of municipalities through restructuring commissions and special advisors. Progressive Conservatives under the leadership of Mike Harris in the 1990s implemented changes in responsibilities of local government which led to a massive wave of municipal mergers. The most important changes saw some counties and regional municipalities merge with their constituent local municipalities. As a result, the number of municipalities was reduced by more than 40 per cent between 1996 and 2004, from 815 to 445. In January of 2009, that number went to 444. Consolidation of municipal service management has resulted in the creation of 47 Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs) across the whole province. In southern Ontario, the CMSM area is frequently aligned along the upper-tier boundary and includes a separated town or city if one exists within its geographic boundary. The service manager can be either the upper tier or the separated municipality. Under municipal leadership, CMSMs are implementing a more integrated system of social and community health services for delivery of Ontario Works, child care and social housing. When looking at services provided to residents, it is important to understand how municipal governments relate to the other orders of government in Canada – the provincial and federal governments. Although North Perth CAO Kriss Snell said municipal staff are happy to point residents to the proper level of government to get the help they need, there are many duties a municipal government is too small and localized to service. Separating the duties of the provincial and federal government from the shared duties of the municipal tiers will give citizens an idea of what their local government cannot help them with. The federal government has the big powers “to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Canada” except for subjects where the provinces are given exclusive powers. Among the many exclusive powers of the federal government are citizenship, criminal law, copyright, employment insurance, foreign policy, money and banking, national defence, regulation of trade and commerce and the postal service. According to the Constitution Act, 1867, everything not mentioned as belonging to the provincial governments comes under the power of the federal government. The provincial government has the power to enact or amend laws and programs related to the administration of justice, education, hospitals, natural resources and environment, property and civil rights in Ontario and social services. The province directly funds or transfers money to institutions to ensure the delivery of these responsibilities; provincial highways, culture and tourism, prisons and post-secondary education. The provincial legislature also has power over all municipal institutions in the province so the powers of municipal governments are determined by the provincial government. Municipal governments in Ontario are responsible for providing many of the services within their local boundaries that residents rely on daily such as airports, paramedic services, animal control and bylaw enforcement, arts and culture, child care, economic development, fire services, garbage collection and recycling, libraries, long-term care and senior housing, maintenance of local roads, parks and recreation, public transit, community planning, police services, property assessment, provincial offences administration, public health, sidewalks, snow removal, social services and housing, storm sewers, tax collection and water and sewage. However, there is some leeway in the way these duties are divided up between the upper and lower tiers of municipal government. “You can look at Oxford, at Wellington, at Huron and you’ll see that those counties have more power and they do more because the lower tiers have consented to upload some of that stuff,” said Kasenberg. “I think that’s because over history those lower-tier governments just felt they didn’t have the resources and it made more sense to have a centralized function and do this efficiently for three or four of them.” Looking at the model of upper-tier municipal government in midwestern Ontario, Kasenberg said Perth County is the leanest of all. “There has been a longstanding reluctance to give the county any significant authority or power over things that are lower-tier matters,” he said. Municipal governments in Ontario spend billions each year to provide the public services that meet these important needs of Ontario residents. Most of the money for financing these services comes from the property taxes paid by residents and businesses. Additional funding comes from user fees or non-tax revenue such as parking fines. Property taxes are calculated by multiplying the assessed value of a property by a tax rate which is made up of two parts; the municipal tax rate, which is set by the upper and lower-tier municipal governments, and the education tax rate, which is set by the provincial government. A municipality can set different tax rates for different classes of property. The main classes include residential, multi-residential, commercial and industrial. The services the County of Perth is responsible for are economic development and tourism, emergency management, paramedic services, provincial offences court, prosecution services, administration and collection of fines, archives services, county planning, county roads, bridges, traffic signals and controls and tax policy. Several services are paid proportionately by the county but delivered by local partners such as social services, delivered by the City of Stratford, health services, delivered but Perth District Health Unit, seniors services, delivered by Spruce Lodge Homes for the Aged, and cultural services, delivered by the Stratford Perth Museum Board. North Perth and the other lower-tier governments across the county provide animal control and bylaw enforcement, municipal elections, fire services, libraries, policing, licensing, local roads including sidewalks, planning and zoning, parks and recreation and property tax administration. So, dear resident of North Perth, this may not have been the most exciting thing you’ve read today, but perhaps it will clear up what local level of government you need to contact when satisfying your municipal needs. Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner
For the last four years, the Dr. Hugh Twomey Health Care Centre in Botwood has been without 24-hour emergency services. Just prior to the 2019 provincial election, then-premier Dwight Ball pledged to bring those services back to the hospital in the fall of 2020 once a protective care unit was finished. According to Exploits MHA Pleaman Forsey, the time has come for the Liberal government to come through on its promises. “We are left with a commitment from the Liberal minister of health to review the service after the long-term care facility was finished in Botwood,” Forsey said in a prepared statement this week. “That’s not good enough.” The provincial government stripped the hospital of the service in 2016 in a move by Central Health to reduce its operating budget. An analysis completed by the Department of Health in 2018 indicated patient data supported the decision. Forsey recently sent an email to Central Health about the issue and was told the new health unit is expected to be in use by the end of this month. “This creates added stress to the residents of the Exploits district,” Forsey said of not having 24-hour emergency services. The provincial government's department of health and community services said in a statement the work on the protective unit was nearing completion and the matter of returning to 24-hour service will be looked at when it is done. "Following the completion of construction, the demand and the staffing will be examined to see whether or not there is a need to change the way emergency services are provided to the people in Botwood," wrote a spokesperson for the department. On several occasions since Ball pledged the return of 24-hour emergency services, the Botwood council has written to Gander MHA John Haggie, the minister of health and community services, regarding the status of emergency services at the hospital. Botwood Mayor Scott Sceviour said responses the town has received have not indicated if or when any announcement will be made about the return of regular emergency services. At the time, the town was caught off guard by the decision to alter the emergency services at the hospital. It was expected to help save money, but the mayor says little money has been saved by the decision. “There was no justification for it,” he said. “It was a surprise to all of us.” Now that the area MHA has brought the issue to the forefront again, Sceviour said the town will write to Premier Andrew Furey about the commitments of his predecessor and bring him up to speed on the situation. Botwood is scheduled to have a council meeting this week, where the issue will be on the agenda. “We are going to hold this government to the promise,” said Sceviour. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
MANILA, Philippines — Coronavirus infections in the Philippines have surged past 500,000 in a new bleak milestone with the government facing criticism for failing to immediately launch a vaccination program amid a global scramble for COVID-19 vaccines. The Department of Health reported 1,895 new infections Sunday, bringing confirmed coronavirus cases in the country to 500,577, the second highest in Southeast Asia. There have been at least 9,895 deaths. The Philippines has been negotiating with seven Western and Chinese companies to secure 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine but the effort has been fraught with uncertainties and confusion. About 50,000 doses from China-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd. may arrive later next month followed by much larger shipments, according to the government, but concerns have been raised over its efficacy. President Rodrigo Duterte says securing the vaccines has been difficult because wealthy nations have secured massive doses for their citizens first. Duterte’s elite guards have acknowledged they have been inoculated with a still-unauthorized COVID-19 vaccine partly to ensure that they would not infect the 75-year-old president. Duterte’s spokesman and other officials have denied the president himself was vaccinated. A flurry of criticism has followed the illegal vaccinations, but few details have been released, including which vaccine was used and how the guards obtained it. Some senators moved to investigate, but Duterte ordered his guards not to appear before the Senate. In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed Monday to get the pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympics this summer with ample coronavirus protection. In a speech opening a new parliament session, Suga said his government will revise laws to make anti-virus measures enforceable with penalties and compensation. Early in the pandemic, Japan was able to keep its virus caseload manageable with non-binding requests for businesses to close or operate with social distancing and for people to stay home. But recent weeks have seen several highs in new cases per day, in part blamed on eased attitudes toward the anti-virus measures, and doubts are growing as more-contagious variants spread while people wait for vaccines and the Olympics draw closer. The health ministry also reported Monday that three people who have no record of recent overseas travel had tested positive for the new, more easily transmitted coronavirus variant first reported in Britain, suggesting that it is making its way in Japan. Suga said his government aims to start vaccinations as early as late February. Japan has confirmed more than 330,000 infections and 4,500 deaths from COVID-19, numbers that have surged recently though they are still far smaller than many other countries of its size. — A Chinese province grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases is reinstating tight restrictions on weddings, funerals and other family gatherings, threatening violators with criminal charges. The notice from the high court in Hebei province did not give specifics, but said all types of social gatherings were now being regulated to prevent further spread of the virus. Hebei has had one of China’s most serious outbreaks in months that comes amid measures to curb the further spread during February’s Lunar New Year holiday. Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale. Hebei recorded another 54 cases over the previous 24 hours, the National Health Commission said on Monday, while the northern province of Jilin reported 30 cases and Heilongjiang further north reported seven. Beijing had two new cases and most buildings and housing compounds now require proof of a negative coronavirus test for entry. — Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has unveiled a new 15 billion ringgit ($3.7 billion) stimulus to bolster consumption, with the economy expected to reel from a second coronavirus lockdown and an emergency declaration. Muhyiddin obtained royal consent last week to declare a coronavirus emergency, slammed by critics as a desperate bid to cling to power amid defections from his ruling coalition. The emergency, expected to last until Aug. 1, doesn’t involve any curfew or military intervention but suspends Parliament, halts any election and gives Muhyiddin’s government absolute power, including in introducing new laws. It came at the same time as millions in Kuala Lumpur and several high-risk states were placed under a two-week lockdown to halt a surge in coronavirus cases. Muhyiddin on Monday acknowledged concerns over the emergency but repeated that it was only aimed at curbing the coronavirus. He said the economic impact from the lockdown will be manageable because more activities are being allowed this time. He said the stimulus will provide more funds to battle the pandemic and support livelihoods and businesses. A businessman has filed a lawsuit challenging the emergency declaration and the opposition plans to appeal to the king to rescind his support. Malaysia has recorded more than 158,000 coronavirus cases, including 601 deaths. — Nepal’s health ministry says the country's first cases of the new, more infectious coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom have been confirmed in three people who arrived from the U.K. The ministry said Monday that samples from six people who arrived in Nepal last week were sent to a laboratory in Hong Kong with the help of the World Health Organization. Three of the people — two men and a woman — tested positive for the new variant, it said. Two have recovered and one is still sick, the ministry said. Nepal has recorded 267,322 coronavirus cases, including 1,959 deaths. The Associated Press
BLYTH – North Huron, Central Huron, Morris-Turnberry, and Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh will share the cost of a new pumper truck, at a price tag of $604,500, plus tax. Fire Chief Marty Bedard said in an email, “We currently have $536,753 in reserves. I included an extra $100,000 in the 2021 budget to cover the shortfall.” Council authorized a request for proposals (RFP) in October after deferring the decision from 2020 to have enough funds available. Bedard presented a report to council on Dec. 21 outlining the RFP results and the decision to choose the custom-made ResQTech Systems (Rosenbauer) Pumper. Seven dealers submitted a total of 10 proposals, with prices ranging from $564,600 to $791,306.96. The chosen proposal included most of the items requested in the RFP for the new pumper, comparing the lower cost vehicles as missing several items listed in the RFP. The cost far exceeds the ResQTech proposal when the missing items are added. The remainder of the proposals were well over the budget amount, and many were missing items listed in the RFP. The Fire Chief must obtain a financial commitment from Central Huron, Morris-Turnberry, and Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh to pay their share before the purchase is finalized. “I am currently in discussion with the agreement partners to get approval to go ahead with the truck purchase,” said Bedard. The matter will be presented to municipal councils again for final approval once they reach an agreement. Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times
Timo Werner was the headline signing in Chelsea’s $300 million off-season spending spree, a player whose pace and composure in front of goal would supposedly help transform the team into a Premier League title contender. So how has it got to the point where, four months into his time in London, the Germany international has endured his longest scoring drought in nearly five years, is no closer to finding his best role in the team, and was the third and final striker called upon by manager Frank Lampard in a desperate bid to break the deadlock in Chelsea’s most recent game? Werner’s brief appearance as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Fulham on Saturday was a snapshot into the problems of a player who looks bereft of confidence midway through his first season in English soccer. With Chelsea toiling at 0-0 against opponents down to 10 men at Craven Cottage, Werner was finally sent on as a substitute in the 75th minute. By then, Lampard, who started Olivier Giroud as the sole striker, had already brought on another striker in Tammy Abraham. Werner played like someone with one goal to his name in the last two months for club and country, particularly when he was played through on goal deep in injury time and handed the perfect chance to add a second goal for Chelsea. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Werner opened up his body and sent his finish wide. His body language, after that miss and moments later after the final whistle, spoke of an unhappy player, and he was consoled by Lampard as the teams left the field. “Being hard on himself isn't a problem. I hope he feels my support,” Lampard said. “The only way through a patch where things aren't quite going for you is to train and train, keep your attitude right, stay positive.” That must be hard for Werner. Since Nov. 14, the only goal he has scored in all competitions for Chelsea was a tap-in against fourth-division club Morecambe in a third-round match in the FA Cup. That came on Jan. 10 and ended his longest scoring drought — 13 games — since the end of the 2015-16 season, his final weeks at Stuttgart before he joined Leipzig. In four seasons at Leipzig, he never went more than five games without scoring and netted 35 times for club and country in the 2019-20 campaign, his last at the club. While Werner chiefly operated as a sole striker at Leipzig with the license to drift out wide or to drop into the No. 10 position, he has mostly been used on the left wing since his move to Chelsea for $68 million as Lampard dealt with injury issues to his wide midfielders. He has looked lost out wide in some matches, unable to use his pace against opponents often set up in a deep block against Chelsea. It’s no surprise that Werner’s best display of the season was at home against Southampton, when Werner played as a central striker and made the most of the high line to score two well-taken individual goals and set up another for Kai Havertz, another German who has struggled since his off-season switch to Chelsea. It was presumed Chelsea’s ideal front three this season would be Werner up front, flanked by wingers Hakim Ziyech — another of the new signings — and Christian Pulisic, but Lampard has rarely had that luxury. Even when he did, like in the 3-1 loss to Manchester City this month, it didn’t work out well. Lampard suggested recently that Werner, who has only four goals in the Premier League so far, may not have had as many games as he’d like as the sole striker because he didn’t press enough from the front. “It’s normal for Timo and others who came in the forward areas for us to take some time to get used to what my idea is, what their teammates’ idea is, because we haven’t had working time on the pitch,” Lampard said. Yet Werner said in his introductory media conference in September that he’d had a lot of conversations with Lampard — and been sent videos from the coach — about Chelsea’s style of play, and that he joined with the feeling that “the system he wants to play will fit me very well.” That doesn’t appear to be the case. And, when Chelsea heads to Leicester for a Premier League game on Tuesday, it's not obvious whether Werner will be starting on the left, up front, or if he'll be back on the bench. “When you're a top player, as Timo has shown he is, all eyes are on and it becomes magnified," Lampard said. "But the basics are the same and my job is to tell him that." ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80 Steve Douglas, The Associated Press
Calgary, Regina, Houston – One of the first acts of Donald Trump as president of the United States was to invite TransCanada, now TC Energy, to resubmit its Keystone XL pipeline application, and to then approve it. Now, it is looking like one of the first acts of President-elect Joe Biden, after his inauguration, may be to kill it, and revoke the Presidential Permit for the pipeline to cross the international border. Numerous media stories the evening of Jan. 17, including CBC, Reuters and CTV, reported that Biden may cancel the Presidential Permit as early as his first day in office. Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20. The 830,0000 barrel per day pipeline is supposed to run from Hardisty, Alberta, past Shaunavon, to Steele City, Nebraska, eventually connecting to oil hub of Cushing, Oklahoma. The southern portion of the pipeline, which runs from Cushing to the U.S. Gulf Coast, was completed under the Obama administration. Up to 15 per cent of the pipeline’s capacity had been designated for North Dakota oil production. Current maps don’t show the lateral pipeline to North Dakota, but the specs for a recently completed Canadian pumping station list it at 700,000 barrels per day capacity, which would leave room for that American oil to be added downstream. Ironically, the most contentious portion of the pipeline – the international crossing which required a Presidential Permit, was one of the first things completed when construction got underway in 2020. That 2.2 kilometre long-section of pipeline crossed the border in May, 2020, in the RM of Val Marie, southeast of Shaunavon. Usually the border crossing is the ceremonial last weld, not the first, on such pipelines. The reason the pipeline was not completed within the four years of the Trump administration was due to multiple court delays, several from one particular judge in Montana. In one of those rulings in November, 2018, U.S. Federal Court Judge Brian Morris said the greenhouse gas emissions of the Enbridge Alberta Clipper pipeline, which ran on a different route and was owned and operated by a completely different company, should have been considered in the Keystone XL evaluation. But he did not mention anything about the recently completed and operational Dakota Access Pipeline, which handles North Dakota oil. As a result, the Keystone XL pipeline, which had been cancelled by the Barrack Obama/Joe Biden administration in 2015, is not anywhere near completion. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney bet heavily on the project – figuratively and literally, with Alberta investing $1.5 billion into it to get construction going in 2020. The announcement at the time noted, “This investment includes $1.5 billion in equity investment in 2020, followed by a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021.” Construction work has already taken place within Alberta, including 145 kilometres of pipe already put in the ground, and the recent completion of the Bindloss Pump Station. Construction was supposed to get going through southwest Saskatchewan this year to the American border. Kenney posted on Facebook the evening of Jan. 17, “I am deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden may repeal the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing next week. “Doing so would kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-US relationship, and undermine US national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports in the future. “In 2019, the United States imported 9.14 million barrels per day of petroleum, 3.7 million of which came from Canada. The rest comes from countries, like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, none of whom share the commitment of Canada and the United States to environmental stewardship, combatting climate change, or North American energy security. “As President-elect Biden’s green jobs plan acknowledges, Americans will consume millions of barrels of oil per day for years to come. It is in perfect keeping with his plan that the United States energy needs should be met by a country that takes the challenges of climate change seriously. “The Keystone XL pipeline also represents tens of thousands of good paying jobs that the American economy needs right now. That is why major American labour unions who supported President-elect Biden’s campaign strongly back the project, as do First Nations who have signed partnership agreements, and all state governments along the pipeline route. “As the Government of Canada has said, building Keystone XL is ‘top of the agenda’ with the incoming Biden administration. Prime Minister Trudeau raised the issue with President-elect Biden on their November 9, 2020 telephone meeting, agreeing “to engage on key issues, including … energy cooperation such as Keystone XL. “We renew our call on the incoming administration to show respect for Canada as the United States’ most important trading partner and strategic ally by keeping that commitment to engage, and to allow Canada to make the case for strengthening cooperation on energy, the environment, and the economy through this project. “Should the incoming US Administration abrogate the Keystone XL permit, Alberta will work with TC Energy to use all legal avenues available to protect its interest in the project.” Premier Scott Moe posted on Facebook the evening of Jan. 17, “It’s very disappointing to hear reports that President-elect Biden is planning to shut down the Keystone Pipeline expansion on his first day in office. “Construction of this project should be a top priority for Canadian-U.S. economic relations. It is critical to North American energy security, will have a tremendous employment impact north and south of the border and has garnered significant indigenous support. Environmentally, Keystone will reach net-zero emissions when it first turns on, and will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. “While I am urging the prime minister to leverage his relationship with Mr. Biden, Saskatchewan will continue exercising our contacts in Washington D.C. to advocate for the continuation of this project that clearly benefits both of our nations.” TC Energy responds with green announcement In an 11th hour move, TC Energy put out a press release from Houston on a Sunday evening, stating on Jan. 17, “Keystone XL commits to become the first pipeline to be fully powered by renewable energy.” “The company will achieve net zero emissions across the project operations when it is placed into service in 2023 and has committed the operations will be fully powered by renewable energy sources no later than 2030. This announcement comes after an extensive period of study and analysis, and as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, thoughtfully finding innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while providing communities with reliable energy needed today. “Since it was initially proposed more than 10 years ago, the Keystone XL project has evolved with the needs of North America, our communities and the environment,” said Richard Prior, president of Keystone XL. “We are confident that Keystone XL is not only the safest and most reliable method to transport oil to markets, but the initiatives announced today also ensures it will have the lowest environmental impact of an oil pipeline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Canada and the United States are among the most environmentally responsible countries in the world with some of the strictest standards for fossil fuel production.” The release added, “As part of its continued commitment to working with union labor in the U.S. and Canada, Keystone XL has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) to work together on the construction of TC Energy owned or sourced renewable energy projects.” Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
THE LATEST: There have been 1,330 new cases of COVID-19 and 31 deaths in B.C. in the past three days. The Sunday-to-Monday jump of 301 new cases is the lowest level of one-day growth since Nov. 3. Active cases are at their lowest since Nov. 7. There are currently 4,326 active cases in B.C. 343 people are in hospital, with 68 in the ICU. 13 of the new cases are associated with temporary farm workers who have come to B.C. for work. An outbreak at McKinney Place, which was the deadliest outbreak in Interior Health, has been declared over. 87,346 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine. The deputy provincial health officer says B.C. is "prepared" to adjust its vaccine rollout in case of shipping delays. Officials say consistency with existing public health measures like handwashing and physical distancing will help ward off new variants of the coronavirus. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says outbreaks are slowing in B.C. and the province is at a "tipping point" that she feels positive about. "Clearly the things we are doing in our community are working," Henry said Monday, acknowledging that outbreaks continue in essential workplaces and long-term care homes. B.C.'s curve has started to bend down again following a bump after the holidays, but health officials are warning British Columbians to keep following public health measures as they watch for two confirmed coronavirus variants in the province. Henry said that while B.C.'s numbers continue to slowly trend in the right direction, the risk of transmission remains high in all areas of the province. B.C. 'prepared' for vaccine delays The federal government on Friday announced Pfizer is temporarily reducing shipments of its vaccine in order to expand manufacturing capacity at a facility in Belgium. The move means there will be fewer shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech coming to Canada until at least March. Henry and Dix said they were disappointed to hear about the delay. On Monday, Deputy Provincial Health Officer Reka Gustafson said the change will mean a drop in vaccinations in B.C., but added the news was not surprising. "This will mean that, for a brief period of time, we will be able to administer fewer doses of the vaccine because we will have fewer doses of vaccine, but we are also assured that this temporary slowdown is to ensure there is increased production as those weeks pass," Gustafson told CBC's The Early Edition. "It's something we planned for. In a worldwide vaccination campaign, we expect fluctuations in supply and we are prepared to change our vaccination campaign to respond." A total of 75,914 people have been vaccinated in B.C. so far. For those people who are awaiting their second dose of the vaccine after already receiving their first, Gustafson said the plan "is still to provide the second dose within 35 days." B.C. monitoring new variants Public health officials are also monitoring new variants of the novel coronavirus, including those first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Gustafson suspects variants have been playing a role in B.C.'s pandemic for some time. "Variants of this virus have likely emerged throughout the pandemic and are probably a big part of the story of why some areas have very big outbreaks while other areas have smaller outbreaks," Gustafson said. "The variants are what we expect. We are going to be detecting them more as our capacity to do genomic sequences throughout the world expands." Gustafson said it's key that the public sticks to existing health measures such as handwashing and physical distancing. "From an individual's perspective, really, there is at this time no indication that the things we do to prevent transmission of this virus don't work [with variants] ... there is no indication people need to do anything different," she said. "I would suggest doing what we're doing right now and doing it consistently." Weekend fines issued On Saturday, Kelowna RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the organizer of a protest in the city's downtown area. Police did not name the organizer but said it was the third time that person organized a large gathering of people who oppose measures meant to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Also on Saturday, organizers of a planned rally in Surrey in support of farmers in India said the event was unfairly shut down before it could begin. Surrey RCMP said they moved to shut down the protest upon hearing that it would feature a stage and food vendors, which raised concerns about people leaving their vehicles and congregating. B.C.'s current health restrictions are in effect until at least Feb. 5 at midnight. The current orders include a ban on gatherings with people outside of one's immediate household. Tourism industry angst B.C.'s tourism industry said that implementing an inter-provincial travel plan would decimate what's left of the sector's operators, as B.C. Premier John Horgan seeks legal advice on the feasibility of a travel ban between provinces. The B.C. Hotel Association is urging the government to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19. It said that an inter-provincial, non-essential travel ban goes against Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If put in place, the association said it would further cripple a sector that is "barely hanging on by a thread." A non-essential travel advisory remains in place in B.C., including travel into and out of B.C., and between regions. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 5 p.m. PT on Sunday, Canada had reported 708,609 cases of COVID-19, with 75,280 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,014. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Abandoned houses and properties are found everywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are houses with chipped paint, boats laid on the shore for the last time and old barns that have been beaten down by the elements. Sometimes, families just left these places and never came back. Other properties fall into disrepair because owners aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Regardless of how they were left, these objects are living history and lend themselves to the story of the people who lived there. Photographer Cory Babstock has documented many of the abandoned structures and objects in his home of Clarenville and the surrounding area. He even produced a small book made up of images of houses left behind, called "Unsettled." “It is important to me. … I’m all about preserving what I can for my kids so that they know we didn’t always live in these bungalows, clumped together in orderly fashion,” he said. That idea of preserving history is part of the reason Babstock takes such pride in photographing the buildings and objects that are left behind. The photos he takes are a historical record of the people and the places where they lived. Last fall, what was left of the Mary Ruth, a sailing vessel built in 1918, had disappeared from its usual spot in Southport. An old home in Open Hall-Red Cliffe that Babstock had photographed frequently has blown down in recent years. Someday, others will be lost to time and there won’t be any record they were ever there. “There is a whole other story, and somebody has to document them," said Babstock. “Sometimes families aren’t able to.” Joe Woods started the Abandoned and Historic Newfoundland and Labrador Facebook group in 2016. He did so to showcase the many such structures across the province to a wide audience. It allowed photographers and those interested in those buildings to interact while sharing their experiences and their work. The group has about 20,000 members and there are several posts daily. “I love finding new places to explore, and Newfoundland and Labrador is endless with them,” Woods said in a social media conversation. In the group, there are pictures of ancient graveyards, abandoned barns, empty storefronts and the skeletons of wooden boats. Often, the interactions inspire others to seek out the images they find in the group, while adding their own. When a new picture is posted, the comment section will sometimes spiral into a cross-section of a person’s connection to the object in the photo, people marvelling at the photo and others who seek to add that object to their photo bucket list. After a quick scroll through the comments, it becomes swiftly evident that these callbacks to an earlier time strike a nerve with people. “One day photographs will be all we have to remember they even stood one time,” said Woods. “It's second chances to admire the beauty and architecture.” The abandoned places Babstock walks don’t always feel like they’re supposed to. Those homes hit your senses differently as you try to picture how families lived a life that was so different from your own, he says, and stepping through their doors pulls you somewhere else. “Every one of these places has a different feel to them,” said Babstock. “Some places resonate with sadness.” He recalled an abandoned home he entered — Babstock always gets permission first — where he found a bed that was left behind. It still had some dressing and a pillow laid on top of it. The floor of another home had long collapsed when he found it. Babstock found a table in the home with dishes still set on it. The dishes appeared to have been left behind in a hurry, he said. “There is a different weight to (the place),” said Babstock. Life has kept west coast photographer Jaimie Maloney from chasing life through a camera lens recently, but that hasn’t diminished her love for photographing and exploring old buildings. When her schedule did allow her to explore the west coast, she found herself drawn to the older structures she found there. “I find it draws me in because it wants to tell me a story,” said Maloney. “I go looking at them and feel the energy and think of various people living there and what they may have done. “It's like the building is talking to you and wants you to share it and pass the information along. It’s almost like being a detective.” Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A petition to recall the chair of the Anchorage Assembly for failing to cancel an August meeting because of pandemic emergency regulations is scheduled be put to district voters on the April ballot. The petition to recall chair Felix Rivera was certified by the city clerk Friday, Anchorage Daily News reported. The petition included the required 2,735 signatures of voters from Anchorage’s District 4, the clerk’s office said in a letter to sponsor Russell Biggs. The required number is 25% of the votes cast for the seat in the April 2020 election during which Rivera was elected. The decision on the recall petition can be appealed to Alaska Superior Court, the letter said. The certified petition is expected to be presented to the Anchorage Assembly at its Jan. 26 meeting. The next regular election is April 6, which is within the 75-day window required to hold a recall vote following the assembly’s receipt of the petition. The petition claims Rivera failed to perform his duties as chair when he did not halt an August assembly meeting after another member said the gathering may have exceeded capacity restrictions under a pandemic emergency order. Rivera maintains the recall is “frivolous” and said he believes the attempt will die in court. “I remain confident that it’s not even going to get on the ballot, but we will see,” Rivera said. A group supporting Rivera plans to file a lawsuit against the Municipality of Anchorage and Municipal Clerk Barbara Jones for approving the petition. The recall effort has support among a group of residents upset with the assembly’s recent actions involving pandemic management — including its backing of the acting mayor’s emergency orders and a vote to approve purchases of buildings for homeless and treatment services. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
SUDBURY, Ont. — A class has been sent home from a Sudbury, Ont., elementary school following a confirmed case of COVID-19. Parents of a senior kindergarten/Grade 1 class at St. David's Catholic elementary school were told their children should stay home. Director of Education Joanne Benard says in a letter issued to parents on Sunday that the person with the confirmed case of the novel coronavirus is self-isolating. She says public health officials will notify the parents of anyone considered a close contact. Benard also says all students in the class should self-isolate until Jan. 29 and get tested for the virus as soon as possible. She says "it's understandable that this situation may make caregivers anxious" and says parents of children in other classes should notify the school if they choose to keep their youngsters at home. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
Global News correspondent Mike Le Couteur is following the developments around U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit on his first day in office.
President Donald Trump never hid how he felt. For more than four years, Trump, a Republican, cultivated a political base by sharing his thoughts and emotions - pride, happiness, indignation, rage - on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis, creating an omnipresence of sorts that completely dominated the news cycle. Like no U.S. president has done before, he made himself the center of attention, the star of a literal reality show that was his administration, always with an eye for the camera, a flair for the dramatic, an instinct for the outrageous.
Contrairement à d’autres secteurs de l’économie, l’industrie du bois tire bien son épingle du jeu en cette ère de pandémie, si ce n’est de la complexité introduite dans la gestion du travail. Selon le directeur général du développement corporatif chez Chantiers Chibougamau, Frédéric Verreault, on a construit des maisons en Amérique du Nord en 2020 à peu près autant qu’en 2019. Pour ce qui est du secteur des pâtes et papiers, M. Verreault souligne que l’usine de Lebel-sur-Quévillon produit de la pâte kraft essentielle à des produits d’emballage alimentaire, à des papiers tissus pour les masqueset jusqu’au papier de toilette. Le président de Barrette-Chapais, Benoît Barrette, abonde dans le même sens. « Les gens investissent dans leur demeure parce qu’ils sont obligés de passer du temps chez eux. Le bois s’inscrit dans les investissements qu’ils font. À notre usine, nous faisons de la clôture, des fermes de toit et des solives de plancher. Ce sonttous des produits très en demande. » Pas de mises à pied « Dans le secteur du bois d’œuvre, les commandes ont augmenté », observe M. Barrette. Notammentpour les sommiers de lit, pour lesquels sa compagnie fabrique des composantes. Plusieurs usines ont fermé au début de la COVID,mais ensuite les commandes sont reparties à la hausse. En définitive, le nombre d’employés reste sensiblement la même chez ces joueurs majeurs de l’industrie, hormis au bureau de Montréal de Chantiers Chibougamau, responsable notamment du développement technique des produits et de l’interface avec le marché. Ce bureau est fermé depuis la mi-mars même si de nouveaux employésont été engagés il y a deux mois. Chez Barrette, on cherche même à embaucher trois employés, entre autres pour les opérations de chariot-élévateur. « On a diminué des heures de production à différents temps de la pandémie, dit Benoît Barrette, mais on a été en mesure de tenir le cap. » Combler le retard Une des grandes difficultés introduites par la pandémie est que certains fabricants de matériaux de la chained’approvisionnement ont suspendu leurs activités pendant parfois jusqu’àsix semaines. Des compagnies comme Barrette Chapais et Chantiers Chibougamau ont donc eu moins de temps pour fabriquer et livrer leurs matériaux de construction. « Il y a un chaos sur plusieurs fronts [...], de dire Frédéric Verreault. Nous sommes sous pression pour livrer au marché. On nepeut pas lever le pied, mais on s’adapte. » À cet arrêt temporaire de fabrication s’ajoutentla raréfaction de certains matériaux et l’augmentation de leur prix, par exemple pour les panneaux de particules OSB.« On doit tous faire preuve de compréhension, de résilience et d’adaptabilité dans les circonstances, analyse M. Verreault. À Chibougamau et Landrienne, nous répondons à des besoins très concrets. Les matériaux qu’on fabrique aujourd’hui vont servir à construire des maisons dans quelques semaines [...] pour des gens qui doivent libérer leur appartement ou leur maison à une date déjà convenue. Si on ne livre pas, plein de gens vont se ramasser à la rue […]. » Selon M. Verreault, tout indique que 2021-2022 sera très occupé pour récupérer les constructions qui ont pu être reportées. Vigilance Alors que la scierie Résolu de Girardville a dû temporairement cesser ses activités en raison d’une éclosion de COVID, chez Chantiers Chibougamau et Barrette Chapais, on touche… du bois. Et on reste vigilants. « Ça [la pandémie] a rajouté des complexités opérationnelles, explique Benoît Barrette, avec les masques, la distanciation. Il a fallu mettre en place différences structures dans nos horaires de travail, […] changer des habitudes dansle cadre de nos interactions. Il y a eu beaucoup de choses mises en place,mais les gens se sont bien adaptés et ça va très bien opérationnellement. […] Nous sommes privilégiés d’être dans un secteur d’activitésoù on a pu continuer à travailler. » Même constat chez Chantiers Chibougamau où, précise Frédéric Verreault, « les humains demeurent fondamentaux. Depuis mars, la firme a travaillé en étroite collaboration avec la santé publique régionale, qui l’a aidée à combiner sa capacité de production et la sécurité des employés. » « Quand j’ai parlé au médecin-chef [...],le 12 mars, je nepouvais pas penser qu’il serait à ce point critique et essentiel au maintien sécuritaire de nos activités », concède le directeur. «Le livre d’instructions n’existait pas. Avec l’automne, nous sommes passésd’un niveau élevé à extrême dans les mesures obligatoires. […] Nous multiplions les actions. » Des escouades de contrôle Depuis l’automne, l’entreprise a instauré des escouades de contrôle dans ses usines et des mesures disciplinaires sanctionnent les employés et sous-traitants qui ne respectent pas lesrèglements. « Les modes d’activités totalement transformés et adaptés, complexifiés sur tous les fronts, analyse Frédéric Verreault, mais on fonctionne à un niveau qui demeure élevé. On a le privilège de maintenir nos activités, mais ça vient avec des responsabilités qu’il faut accepter. »Denis Lord, Initiative de journalisme local, La Sentinelle
It was easy as one, two, three. On Thursday, the same day Ontario entered a province-wide stay-at-home order, leaving the country couldn’t have been easier. Just pick up the phone or log into the Air Canada website. Find a sunny destination outside the country. And voila, a flight from Pearson International Airport to Miami could be booked without a hitch. That’s exactly what The Pointer attempted Thursday despite Ontario’s local travel restrictions in place until at least February 11. How could that be? Why are residents allowed to travel to Florida, or many other overseas destinations, but they can’t visit their own family just a few blocks away? Most would assume, with a pandemic raging and daily case counts continually reaching new highs, that driving to the airport during a province-wide stay-home order would be hard and barriers in place would make booking travel difficult. This is not the case. Airports, like stores, have increased their COVID-19 protocols, but have not put steps in place to discourage travel. Much of the travel industry including airlines like Air Canada is still operating as if the pandemic is under control, requiring mask wearing, testing and quarantining but encouraging residents to still go on vacation. Questions about symptoms, plenty of hand sanitizer and the odd thermometer have been put into the mix, yet Ontario airports, including Pearson in Mississauga, aren’t subject to anything you wouldn’t see at the grocery store. On Wednesday evening, when the Province finally unveiled the details of its stay-at-home order, this was made clear. Nestled among the list of essential reasons to leave the house — exercise, groceries and medical trips — was another option: travel to an airport. During the lockdown it is not the place of police or bylaw officers in Ontario to ask where exactly someone’s eventual destination from an airport will be. As a result, a trip from the quiet streets of Peel, to the airport then into the sky and, eventually, onto a beach, remains firmly within the rules. “There are currently no legal barriers to getting on a plane to the U.S. from Pearson, nor have there been since the start of the pandemic,” Ambarish Chandra, associate professor of economic analysis and policy at the University of Toronto, who lists COVID-19 border closures in Canada among his areas of expertise, told The Pointer. “It's not clear that the Province has the power to curtail Canadians' right to foreign travel without suspending their Charter rights.” Over the holiday season, plenty of politicians took advantage of the loophole. Kamal Khera (Liberal MP Brampton West) and Rod Phillips, the former PC finance minister, were among those caught out and publicly criticized. One of the questions raised when politicians across the country were caught flying abroad during the holiday season was the issue of entitlement. While those who can afford such luxuries are still able to get on a plane, many suffering financially because of the pandemic or even before, can't even plan a local trip because of the stay-home order. It creates a two-tier reality, critics have said, and many wealthier Canadians have simply paid to avoid the recommendations while putting others at risk. While the trips demonstrated poor decision making and a selfish attitude toward the rules, the same holidays can still be booked by everyday Ontarians. Public health agencies are begging people not to, but the rules do not actually prohibit it. Booking a flight on the Air Canada website, for example, you would be hard pressed to find evidence of the pandemic that has claimed more than 5,400 lives in Ontario alone. A small, green bar across the top of the website offers answers to the question, “Where can I travel right now?” but otherwise things look the same. On Thursday, The Pointer searched for flights from Toronto Pearson Airport to Miami on Friday, January 22 through Air Canada to understand the process. In the various stages of booking the flight, reminders about flexible tickets and changes to the in-flight meal system were the only hints of the public health crisis playing out across the world. Travel to the United States from January 26 will require a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours, while the same rules apply to those travelling or returning to Canada, along with a mandatory 14 day quarantine. These rules do not stop travel or prescribe essential reasons, but do add an additional step to the process. “Other than our regular requirements (i.e. travel documents in order) we do not have any restrictions,” Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for Air Canada told The Pointer, referencing the fact federal or provincial governments may have a different response. They didn’t. “The Province does not have the legal authority to prohibit international travel,” Ivana Yelich, director of media relations for Premier Doug Ford, told The Pointer. Yelich referenced numerous comments by Ford supporting increased border restrictions for those entering Canada. “International travel is solely the responsibility of the federal government.” “The Premier’s message is simple, stay home,” she added, when asked if Ford supported additional restrictions on outgoing travel. “We are asking Ontarians to avoid all non-essential travel at this time. Any restrictions on outgoing or incoming travel is the responsibility of the federal government.” The federal government did not return a request for comment in time for publication. The Pointer also phoned Air Canada’s booking call centre to specifically ask if there were any barriers or advisories against travelling out of Peel Region, or anywhere else in Ontario, to sit on a beach in Miami. The airline’s booking line, which also handles other customer support, was clogged, with a wait time of 56 minutes on Thursday afternoon, hours after the stay-at-home order came into effect. Eventually, an agent explained the U.S. and Canadian rules around receiving a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of flying, but said that was “basically the only requirement”. There was no advice offered against travelling or about the dangers of spreading COVID-19 through discretionary trips. “I'd be surprised if the federal government were to institute any ban on foreign travel either.” Chandra said. “The best they can do is discourage foreign travel which is already happening, both from explicit recommendations and from the need to quarantine for two weeks upon return.” In short, there is nothing to stop international travel by Canadians as COVID-19 fatigue and the dragging winter test people’s patience. Like so many of the COVID-19 protocols governing residents in Peel, it is about appealing to people’s better nature and commitment to flattening the curve. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Public health and elected officials are asking people to stay home and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. “With the Provincial Stay at Home Order in effect, it is crucial that residents not leave their homes for anything other than the essentials, like groceries, medical appointments or exercise,” Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health, told The Pointer. “This means cancelling or postponing all non-essential activities or going virtual where possible. I know this is frustrating and it’s been a long year and we have all sacrificed a lot. With the arrival of [the] vaccine in Peel, let’s keep pushing and beat COVID-19 together.” Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Should councillors be talking to the media independently? That was the second time in a week the matter had come up before a North Simcoe council, after it had been discussed at the Penetanguishene council Wednesday night. This time, it was Tay Township's deputy mayor that was asking if it was best for the mayor or chief administrative officer to respond to media requests when representing the municipality. Once again, the media request was a yearend survey sent out to all council members by MidlandToday's Community Editor Andrew Philips. "He didn't email it to council; he emailed it to all of us," said Coun. Jeff Bumstead. "I could see all the recipients. The way I took it is that they were looking for a specific response from all of council. I didn't see any harm in the questions. I didn't see anything specific that was going against the township. It was just the general feel of how I felt as a councillor." He then talked about a MidlandToday reporter reaching out to him for a story he had brought to council's attention (poppy masks being made by a local resident). "She had reached out and I asked the mayor about it," said Bumstead. "She was just looking for an opinion from me on a specific topic. The advice I got was that media is asking a question there's no problem is answering it." "If we want to clamp down and direct media to the mayor and CAO, I don't have a problem with it," he added. "If it's not okay for individual councillors to answer behalf of the township, then we can have it in the code of conduct." Fellow Coun. Paul Raymond also talked about what the integrity commissioner had outlined in the code of conduct policy. "We do have a right to an opinion as long as we make it clear it is our opinion and not the township and council as a whole," he said. "That is when the CAO or mayor come in. It's very important we take great measures to make sure that distinction is made. "As far as the other social media, I'm sure there will be other questions there," added Raymond. "We are allowed to be approached for our opinion but our opinion only." Coun. Mary Warnock said she had sought clarification on the survey, asking if it was to be based on personal opinions or a council view. "I did want to clarify that before I answered it," she said. "If it's a message coming from council or township as a whole, it should come from the CAO or mayor. You want your message to have some control and precision." CAO Lindsay Barron agreed that the councillors had raised some good points about distinguishing between an independent opinion and a township stance. "A clear distinction is if he/she is responding as an individual member of council or on behalf of the township," she said. "In the second case, it should be coming from the mayor or myself." Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle said maybe the next time a reporter reaches out to an individual councillor, he/she can seek direction from the CAO. "I would suggest we should contact the CAO to find out if we can speak to it individually," he said. That didn't sit well with Raymond. "I don't go to the CAO for permission on anything, with all due respect to the CAO," he said. "We are allowed to be individuals. If we're going to go on an endeavour like this, we give a heads-up to the CAO and mayor. If they feel it's not beneficial to the community on the whole, they can let us know. We all want betterment for the township and we all have different ideas of how that can be accomplished." The conversation then turned toward answering questions posed by residents. "A lot of times we get emails from customers/residents, what do we think as council is best direction?" said LaChapelle. Coun. Sandy Talbot shared her process around that. "What I always do is if I get an email, I will forward it to a staff member," she said. "It's worked for me for all these years and that's best practice when it comes to residential inquiries." Raymond said each situation is unique. "There's a lot of different types of communications from residents, sometimes it's a question, sometimes they're in a situation where they're at odds with staff," he said. "They approach us as councillors to try and intervene to get the two parties talking. I think that, also, is our role. At the end of the day, we're the bridge between residents and staff and the services they provide." Barron said she hoped residents would reach out to staff before taking matters to their councillor. "Often times, I get involved when the councillor gets involved," she said. "I'd like to see my position as facilitator before council intervenes. If the resident wants to talk to you after, by all means. As far as being copied on the response, I'd really like to see where we get to a point where a councillor forwards it to staff and lets staff handle it." Raymond said when residents reach out to him, it's after they've reached a dead-end with staff. "When the two parties get talking to each other, I will back out and just need to know it's been resolved," he said, adding he didn't think it was pertinent for councillors to get into the weeds of matters. "When I do talk to residents, they're not aware of the structure of staff," added Raymond. "If we had an opportunity to simplify that structure, to let them know which way to go, maybe that would simplify it." Then councillors discussed behaviour on social media. "It has to do with Facebook use so we don't get ourselves in a situation," said LaChapelle. Mayor Ted Walker said he would definitely like directions around that incorporated in the municipal code of conduct. "I have seen some instances where the line has been crossed," he said without mentioning specifics. "The unfortunate part of that is that those that don't use Facebook don't have a chance to give their opinion or correct any errors. I think discussions of that nature need to be held here and not on Facebook." All councillors agreed that the communications specialist should help prepare some do's and don't's for council surrounding social media use. "All they are is a tool to facilitate you," said Raymond. "We already have standards, a code of conduct, that as councillors we're supposed to follow wherever we are. It's easy when you're on social media to get dragged into a fight. You have to know when to stop." Daryl O'Shea, general manager, corporate services manager of technology services, indicated such an endeavour was already underway and would soon be brought to council's attention. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Facebook Inc said on Monday it had started the process of appointing a legal entity as a local representative in Turkey in compliance with a new social media law which critics have said will muzzle dissent. The company said its decision did not change its community standards, which outline what is and what is not allowed on Facebook, nor its process for reviewing government requests. "We will withdraw the representative if we face pressure on either," the company said in a statement, adding that it remains committed to maintaining free expression and other human rights in Turkey.
Calling an emergency responder. Accessing an affordable housing unit. Children learning inside school buildings, not portables. Patients receiving care in a hospital room, not a hallway. The services delivered in cities are the heartbeat of safe and comfortable communities, ones that attract residents, jobs, and investment opportunities for municipal and regional development. Municipalities own 60 percent of Canada’s infrastructure, according to StatsCan, and bear the corresponding duty to maintain its state of good repair with limited resources. Peel’s cities rely on funding from higher levels of government to provide key services to residents, including local children’s aid societies, healthcare, schools, and social services. A tacit feature of funding to Peel is – no matter the party colours at Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill – the hyper-growth region is not getting its “fair share” of public dollars, despite the equal contribution of local income taxpayers. During the pandemic, the latest examples from Ottawa and Queen’s Park include the federal government’s initial decision to give Toronto $14 million for COVID-19 isolation centres and none to Peel, before local efforts to point out the higher infection rates in the region forced the feds to allocate $6.5 million to Peel. Queen’s Park, meanwhile, despite socio-economic conditions that drove higher case counts in Peel, gave Toronto 17 provincial testing centres, but funded only 4 in Peel, which advocates said was one of the reasons the viral spread was not properly contained in the hard hit region. “What the pandemic has done is put more of a spotlight on how we’re chronically underfunded,” said Regional Councillor Martin Medeiros, of Brampton. “The leader of any political party needs the 905 to win a majority, and we’ve delivered…But when it comes to getting love, we don’t get the love. Why is that?” Local leaders have struggled to glean an answer to this for more than three decades. But what was once a booming battle cry to put pressure on upper levels of government – most recently via a campaign called the Peel Fair Share Task Force – has been reduced like a diminuendo to a restless hum. Nine months shy of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2019, Brampton councillors began making some noise through demands for increased funding to address its healthcare emergency. They highlighted the dangerous lack of hospital beds in the city, which has less than half the per capita number of Ontario overall. The city receives $1,000 less in funding for healthcare, per person, about half the provincial average. These inequities have been magnified during the pandemic. The region has had the highest infection rates in the province, and residents were put at increased risk because of the chronic failure of healthcare funding, which has left local hospitals particularly vulnerable to capacity issues. Prior to the pandemic, the three full-service hospitals in Mississauga and Brampton were already among the worst in Ontario for performance, with average wait times to be admitted between two-and-a-half and three times higher than the provincial target of 8 hours. As part of its 2020 budget asks, the City launched a “Fair Deal for Brampton” campaign for immediate funding to expand Peel Memorial hospital’s urgent care capabilities, fund the second phase of its build, and create a third healthcare facility. A city of about 650,000 residents, Brampton currently has only one full-service hospital, Brampton Civic, operated by the William Osler Health System. More than one-third of Brampton’s population has at least one chronic condition, and the City says it is projected to have the highest rate of dementia between 2015 and 2025. According to a 2014 study by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in collaboration with Peel Public Health, the region was headed for a rate of one in six people having diabetes by 2025, largely due to the significant South Asian-Canadian population, which suffers much higher rates of the disease than the general population. At the time, it was one in ten, as reported by Peel’s former medical officer of health in 2018. According to the City’s pre-pandemic data, the emergency department at Brampton Civic was equipped for 90,000 visits a year, but received about 130,000, while Peel Memorial is funded for 10,000 visits a year and received 75,000. Patient-loads have skyrocketed over the course of the pandemic. As of January 15, Osler’s system was treating 109 COVID-19 patients, where about nine weeks ago, patient transfers were triggered around the time when it was treating just 64 people. In October, Premier Doug Ford announced funding to support the addition of 766 beds for 32 hospitals in the province, including 46 at Etobicoke General Hospital, which is also in the Osler system, and 41 beds in Brampton, which has about 60 percent more residents than Etobicoke. The smaller community was also given two testing facilities through Osler during the first half of the pandemic, among the total of 17 in Toronto, while Brampton only had one. The apparent differential treatment between funding the two hospitals under Osler’s management is a snapshot of the issues facing Brampton as it seeks its fair share from the province, Councillor Medeiros said. “They gave [funding] to Etobicoke without any ties. Notwithstanding, it’s the Premier’s riding,” Medeiros said. “Yet, when the City of Brampton is looking for more investment in healthcare, and we're looking to complete the second phase of Peel Memorial Hospital, they say that there’s provincial legislation requirements that we give 20 to 30 percent as a contribution.” A lack of commensurate allocation by the Province and federal governments has also affected Peel’s $1-billion Housing Master Plan, which has not yet been fully funded. The plan seeks to create 280 emergency shelter beds and another 5,300 affordable housing units by 2034. As previously reported by The Pointer, the federal government’s commitment of $276.5 million is on top of the Region’s $333.5 million, which has been criticized by Peel social services staff as being “significantly and disproportionately high.” Regional Councillor Annette Groves, of Caledon, said that local taxes and development charges are not sufficient to support the wealth of services offered by Peel. “I don't think it has anything to do with the current government. I think that it’s been such a long, outstanding battle,” Groves told The Pointer. “The Province has given us some funding to help with the pandemic, and so has the federal government, but again, it’s still not enough because we’re so far behind in terms of, for example, affordable housing.” Both Queen’s Park and Ottawa are guilty of a form of hypocrisy. The federal government sets immigration targets for the whole country, 401,000 for 2021 and growing to 421,000 in 2023. But it does not establish a funding formula for those municipalities that willingly accommodate newcomers. Brampton, over the past two decades, has welcomed more immigrants per capita than any other large city in Canada, but the federal government does little to provide adequate services and infrastructure for the hyper-growth community that openly supports the country’s immigration policies through its growth planning. Queen’s Park, meanwhile, relies desperately on Peel to accommodate the province’s largest share of population growth, but continues to ignore the funding needs it creates through provincial growth legislation, known as the Places To Grow Act. While Mississauga and Brampton rapidly expand, schools, for example, are not brought on line fast enough by the Province, forcing the use of portables, which have become a common feature in Peel’s education landscape. GO services are also glaringly under-funded, as more and more commuters move into the region without proper transportation infrastructure. The list of inadequate funding commitments for Peel grows every year. On top of education and healthcare, affordable housing, transportation, public health, settlement support, legal aid, children’s aid and almost every other funding area are all under-funded in Peel. For example, despite skyrocketing demand, Mississauga’s legal aid clinic receives far less funding per capita than Toronto. In 2019 the co-executive director of the city’s legal aid clinic, Douglas Kwan, said it receives the second lowest funding per capita of all legal aid clinics in Ontario: the lowest – Brampton. Led by Mississauga Councillor Carolyn Parrish, Peel revived efforts in its Fair Share for Peel coalition about four years ago to address its municipalities receiving less than half of the per capita rate of others in Ontario. In the fall of 2017, the Region organized a $90,000 conference with neighbouring municipalities, called the Summit 4 Fair Funding, to encourage a dialogue surrounding funding needs ahead of the 2018 provincial election. According to the Brampton Guardian, the summit was later cancelled after staff were not able to obtain transparent formulas as to how funding transfers were calculated from the provincial and federal governments. The effort followed years of pressure, culminating in an earlier effort in 2011 to assess underfunding and service delivery obstacles including those for seniors, people with disabilities, and victims of violence and abuse. As Peel braces for what February brings during the pandemic, the Region’s Governance Committee continues to advocate for government dollars. After almost a year of neglect, which contributed to Peel’s designation as a COVID-19 hot spot, and its placement in the current lockdown on November 23, the Ontario Ministry of Health recently agreed to a one-time funding disbursement of $14-million to Peel Public Health, to “support extraordinary costs associated with monitoring, detecting, and containing COVID-19 in the province.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
The McKellar council says it supports the upgrade of unassumed roads within the township. Here are five quotes that capture the discussion from the Jan. 12 council meeting: 1. “This is simply formalizing the process that we did last year, and of course, the word unassumed roads means municipally owned unassumed roads — these are not private roads,” said Coun. Don Carmichael. “We’ve already done Bailey’s (subdivision) and Craigmoore is scheduled for the spring.” 2. “Somebody argued, ‘Why should the municipality put any money on these roads?’ Well, it is the betterment of the township overall in the long run,” said Coun. Morely Haskim. “Somebody argued, ‘It doesn’t affect the vast majority,’ but it does, if you have a subdivision like that and all of a sudden they’re selling as a township-owned, maintained year-round road those properties are going to sell for more than a road that is not maintained by the municipality.” 3. “The resolution seemed a little bit too open-ended, I just thought that maybe it should be more specific regarding which roads that this focusing is going to be on … some type of report from the public works superintendent in regard to what this entails,” said Coun. Mike Kekkonen. 4. “As they get approval by the owners, we have a staff agreement/contract ready, then they can start to be moved forward. There’s not that many but it’s going to take time to get them all,” said McKellar’s Mayor Peter Hopkins. “So there’s a timeline, an open-ended one, to get the agreements in place.” 5. “This is supplementary to the roads policy we approved … it’s a policy that talks about the fact that we have legal liability on municipally owned roads even if we don’t assume it — that’s been clearly demonstrated in the courts so that’s part of the reason why we’re actually interested in doing this,” said Carmichael. According to a report submitted to council, featured in the Dec. 8, 2020 agenda package, the 2020 approved capital budget for the Bailey’s subdivision project was $83,360. The report given by Greg Gostick, road superintendent, states that the total cost for the project, excluding municipal staff time, was $76,867.31 and the cost of staff time to complete the project $14,824.91, bringing the total cost to $91,692.22. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
C’est, sous la présidence d’honneur de monsieur Jean Dion, fondateur du Groupe Dion, que se tient la vingt-quatrième campagne de financement de la Ressource pour personnes handicapées Abitibi-Témiscamingue/Nord-du-Québec. Depuis le début de la campagne, qui porte le thème « Ensemble, cultivons la bienveillance », les organisateurs suivent de près l’évolution des mesures sanitaires et les ordonnances du gouvernement afin de s’y conformer. « Dans les faits, depuis le tout début de la préparation du 24e Téléthon, nous travaillions déjà avec les règles de la santé publique édictés en mars dernier. Ces règles nous apportent un surplus de travail considérable. Mais le Téléthon est nécessaire et c’est pourquoi nous tenons à le réaliser » nous fais savoir le directeur général de la Ressource pour les personnes handicapées en Abitibi-Témiscamingue / Nord du Québec, monsieur Rémy Mailloux. Des artistes régionaux De la programmation au déroulement des activités ainsi que l’engagement du personnel, tout était pensé afin d’accomplir la mission dans les règles de l’art du contexte de la COVID-19. « Nous avons dû repenser complètement le déroulement du Téléthon. Nous nous sommes penchés sur chacune des actions posées durant les 6 heures du Téléthon et cela pour chacun des bénévoles qui le rendent possible » nous explique le directeur général de la Ressource pour les personnes handicapées « Les bénévoles et les artistes sont limités à un nombre minimal. 98 % de la programmation artistique fait appel à des artistes régionaux. Le band musical est presque entièrement composé de musicien régional à l’exception du directeur musical » a-t-il ajouté. Le guide de la CNESST respecté Des nouvelles mesures vont être mises en place à la suite des nouvelles ordonnances des autorités sanitaires et gouvernementales. « Ces règles nous obligent à repenser à toutes nos façons de faire. Il faut respecter la distanciation. Nous devons déplacer chacun des zones de travail et d’accueil que nous avions l’habitude d’aménager à l’intérieur du Théatre du cuivre. Depuis le début de la préparation de ce Téléthon nous travaillons selon le guide de la CNESST et nous avons fait un plan d’action afin de n’oublier aucune mesure à respecter » souligne Rémy Mailloux. Une émission télévisée ! Le Téléthon qui se tiendra sans public, son équipe continue de travailler en étroite collaboration avec les autorités de la santé publique. « Nous travaillons en étroite collaboration avec la santé publique dans le souci d’assurer la sécurité des artisans du Téléthon. Le Téléthon se tiendra sans public. Ça sera traité comme une émission télévisée. Durant le déroulement, toutes les personnes impliquées, les artistes par exemple devront porter le masque pour se rendre sur les lieux de leurs prestations » a déclaré le directeur général de la Ressource pour les personnes handicapées en Abitibi-Témiscamingue / Nord du Québec. Des objectifs déterminés Plusieurs objectifs sont fixés pour cette édition et les membres de la Ressources continuent de développer ses approches et repenser des nouveaux concepts afin d’accomplir sa mission auprès de sa communauté. « Nos objectifs sont de produire le Téléthon malgré toutes les restrictions en place et d’atteindre sinon dépasser le montant espéré soit 450 000 $ » souhaite Rémy Mailloux. « Les membres de la Ressources ont des besoins réels et légitimes. La Ressource veut continuer à répondre aux demandes qui lui sont adressé afin de contribuer au bien-être de ses membres » a-t-il conclu. Moulay Hicham Mouatadid, Initiative de journalisme local, Reflet Témiscamien (Le)