C earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.
President Joe Biden on Saturday said his administration would make an announcement on Saudi Arabia on Monday, following a U.S. intelligence report that found Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration has faced some criticism, notably an editorial in the Washington Post, that the president should have been tougher on the crown prince, who was not sanctioned despite being blamed for approving Khashoggi's murder.
(Submitted by Gerald McKenzie - image credit) First Nations in Saskatchewan have continued to be hit hard by COVID-19 in the first two months of 2021. According to Indigenous Services Canada, during the first seven weeks of 2021, there were 2,779 new cases in reserves in Saskatchewan — more than in any other province. By comparison, in that same time period, there were 2,290 cases on reserves in Manitoba and 2,389 in Alberta. In a Wednesday news release, Indigenous Services said it is "closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities across the country." However, there is some good news — active case counts are declining, and there has not yet been a confirmed case of any of the new coronavirus variants of concern on reserve. Vaccine deliveries are also ramping up, and as of Feb. 23, Indigenous Services reported that more than 103,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Indigenous communities throughout Canada. In Saskatchewan, as of Feb. 14, the federal department estimates that vaccine uptake in First Nations communities was at or above 75 per cent. Indigenous Services also said it is working to support the vaccine rollout for Indigenous adults living in urban areas. "ISC is working closely with [the] National Association of Friendship Centres, as well as provinces and territories, First Nation, Inuit and Métis partners, and other urban community service organizations to support planning efforts," the department said in its news release this week. "This includes working to identify barriers, challenges and opportunities for increasing vaccine uptake and ensuring the vaccine is available in culturally safe and accessible locations." According to the department, vaccine clinics for Indigenous adults are currently being planned for Saskatoon and Regina.
WASHINGTON — Federal investigators probing the death of a U.S. Capitol Police officer killed in the Jan. 6 riot have zeroed in on a suspect seen on video appearing to spray a chemical substance on the officer before he later collapsed and died, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The FBI has obtained video that shows the person spraying Brian Sicknick and other law enforcement officers during the Jan. 6 riot, the people said. But they cautioned that federal agents haven't yet identified the suspect by name and the act hasn't been directly tied to Sicknick's death. The idea that Sicknick died after being sprayed by a chemical irritant has emerged in recent weeks as a new theory in the case. Investigators initially believed that Sicknick was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, based on statements collected early in the investigation, according to one of the people and another law enforcement official briefed on the case. But as they've collected more evidence, the theory of the case has evolved and investigators now believe Sicknick may have ingested a chemical substance — possibly bear spray — during the riot that may have contributed to his death, the officials said. The people could not publicly discuss the details of an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Sicknick died after defending the Capitol against the mob that stormed the building as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win over Donald Trump. It came after Trump urged supporters on the National Mall to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. The circumstances surrounding Sicknick’s death remain unclear and a final cause of death has not yet been determined. Capitol Police have said he died after he was injured “while physically engaging with protesters” and this week, the agency’s acting chief said officials consider it a line-of-duty death. Sicknick collapsed later on, was hospitalized and died. The Justice Department opened a federal murder investigation into his death, but prosecutors are still evaluating what specific charges could be brought in the case, the people said. In a statement late Friday, Capitol Police said the medical examiner’s report on Sicknick’s death is not yet complete. “We are awaiting toxicology results and continue to work with other government agencies regarding the death investigation,” the statement said. The New York Times first reported investigators were zeroing in on one suspect in the case; CNN previously reported law enforcement had collected video evidence to identify a handful of potential suspects. The FBI has already released about 250 photos of people being sought for assaulting federal law enforcement officers during the riot. Some have already been arrested and the Justice Department said about 300 people have been charged with federal offences related to the riot. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe says Matthews won't play due to a wrist injury that he's been dealing with for much of the year. Matthews has 31 points (18 goals, 13 assists) in 20 games for the Leafs this season. Toronto (15-4-2) will get some other key pieces back in the lineup — forward Joe Thornton returns from a lower-body injury, defenceman Jake Muzzin slots back in after missing two games with a facial fracture and goalie Jack Campbell is available after dealing with a leg injury. The Leafs currently sit atop the all-Canadian North Division, but the Oilers (14-8-0) are just four points back. Saturday's game kicks off a three-game series between Edmonton and Toronto. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
Several rounds of staff reports, public comments, and consultant presentations later, Tiny council still remains at square one around an effective strategy to address short-term rental (STR) issues in the township. At the end of the day, staff were sent back to prepare a public survey and to continue drafting an STR licensing bylaw and renters code of conduct with public input. In the process' latest round, council's committee of the whole received an open deputation Friday from a resident, who had concerns around the third-party monitoring system, a presentation from the third-party service provider and another staff report. "I read through the supplier and I have concerns about the cost and the Big Brother feel," said Kim Romans, who is a year-round Tiny resident with two rental cottages on her property. "This is not a registry, this is about regulation. "We are a small township and a small number of units," she added. "People who are offering STRs should come to the table and work with council to design something that works for the people and township. We shouldn't be burdening people with over-regulating and the costs associated with them." Coun. Tony Mintoff clarified for Romans that the township's intent was always to come up with some sort of regulation around STRs in the area. "It's always been the intent to have a registration and a licensing program," he said. "As for survey of the members of the public and property owners, that's part of the plan." Council also sat through a presentation by Samantha White, account executive with Granicus - Host Compliance, whose services were giving Romans the jitters. The company, White said, focuses and specializes in helping local governments address their short-term rental related challenges. "We pull down the data from the top 60 STR platforms and match that with your assessor data to drive greater compliance using the solutions we have," White said. The five tools that Granicus offers include digital registration and tax collection, address identification, compliance and rental activity monitoring and a dedicated hotline for complainants, she explained. Steve Harvey, chief municipal law enforcement officer, said staff had brought forward Granicus as an efficiency tool. "Staff see this as a very important efficiency tool to get us up and running very quickly for 2021," he said. "It's a critical component to rolling this out. Recreating something similar to this would take a lot of time and be cost prohibitive. (Granicus costs) $36,000 a year and we're asking council to consider them as sole-source provider." In addition to the $36,000 cost for bringing on Granicus, Harvey said, staff was also proposing an additional bylaw officer at a cost of $51,000 for eight months. Some council members still had concerns if the township had the right way of approaching the issue. "What are we trying to achieve and more particularly what are we trying to achieve for the 2021 season?" said Mayor George Cornell. "I don't think we're at a point where we can start writing up our bylaw and engage Granicus. There's a whole public consultation piece here that hasn't been looked at. We haven't made any decisions yet. I would caution council not to get ahead of ourselves." That's exactly where Mintoff was coming from. "I think it's premature to be thinking about engaging a third-party consultant and hiring a staff now when we haven't even put the issue of what the program is going to look like," he said. "I do agree with the bylaw approach versus the zoning approach because it would help us administer a monetary penalty system." Instead, Mintoff said a survey is a good first step in which to begin. He also wasn't convinced if the definition of an STR should focus on any period less than 28 consecutive calendar days since the problems lie with those renting for weekends. "We should be looking at under eight days," he said, adding, "We can get our feet wet and look at the ones that are causing the most problems. "If we just say, if you're going to rent less than eight days, you have to register," said Mintoff. "That doesn't say you can't rent for 28 days." All council members agreed that engaging Granicus services at this time wasn't necessary, however, White and her colleague offered to help staff in crafting the licensing framework. Meanwhile, staff will continue with the strict enforcement policy already in place. Council is hoping to have a report back with an implementation date for the end of May. The decision was ratified at the council meeting held later the same day. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
NEW YORK — With the nation's financial system on the brink of collapse, all but three Republicans voted against the massive stimulus package designed to protect millions of Americans from financial ruin. It was early 2009, just weeks after Joe Biden was sworn in as vice-president, and the vote marked the beginning of a new era of partisan gridlock in Congress. And for beleaguered Republicans coming off a disastrous election, it was their first step back to political power. Democrats voted alone to stabilize the economy, and two years later, a Republican Party unified only by its unwavering opposition to Barack Obama's presidency seized the House majority. Now, just weeks into the Biden presidency, the GOP is gambling that history will repeat itself. Early Saturday morning, 210 House Republicans joined two Democrats in voting against a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that would send $1,400 checks to most Americans and hundreds of billions more to help open schools, revive struggling businesses and provide financial support to state and local governments. Senate Republicans are expected to oppose a similar measure in the coming weeks, arguing that the bill is not focused enough on the pandemic. But with near-unanimous Democratic support, the measure could still become law. It's far too soon to predict the political fallout from the first major legislative fight of the Biden era. But as the nation struggles to recover from the worst health and financial crises in generations, strategists in both parties agree that it's risky for Republicans to assume their 2009 playbook will lead to the same ballot-box success this time around. “I think that the Republicans’ misread here is that it is the same, or that they can just oppose it and there’s no ramifications,” said John Anzalone, the Biden campaign’s chief pollster. “It’s a different world.” Veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz said Republicans now bear the burden of clearly articulating their opposition — a task made more difficult by the distraction of former President Donald Trump's high-profile war against the Republican establishment. “The definer of the legislation wins this battle,” Luntz said. “This could end up being the most important vote of 2021.” There are reasons to believe that politics have changed since Republicans last unified against a sweeping stimulus package, not the least of which is Trump's omnipresence in the party. At the same time, the scale of the economic devastation and disruption wrought by the coronavirus pandemic dwarfs that of the 2008 financial crisis. At its peak, roughly 9 U.S. million jobs were lost in the Great Recession, compared with 22 million jobs lost to the coronavirus. A year after the pandemic began, nearly 10 million U.S. jobs remain lost, more than 20 million children are out of school, half a million Americans are dead, and roughly 100,000 businesses are feared closed forever. Polling suggests that an overwhelming majority of voters — including a significant number of Republicans — supports the Democrats' pandemic relief plan. And the business community along with state and local leaders in both parties are crying out for help. On the eve of the House vote, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt joined 31 other Republican mayors in a letter encouraging leaders in both parties to approve the package. “The major part of the bill that relates to cities is sorely needed,” Holt told The Associated Press, citing pandemic-related cuts to his city's police and fire departments. “I don’t know any blue or red state or blue or red city that doesn’t have a revenue shortfall due to COVID-19’s fallout.” In another deep-red state, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice also broke with Washington Republicans and said Congress should “go big or go home” on the new stimulus package. “We have tried to underspend and undersize what was really needed to get over the top of the mountain,” the Republican governor told reporters during a Friday coronavirus briefing. “You got a lot of people across this nation who are really hurting.” Yet no Republican in Washington voted to support the sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus package early Saturday. Moderate Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon were the only two lawmakers to cross party lines, joining 210 Republicans to vote against the legislation that ultimately passed 219-212. “The swamp is back,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said shortly before the final vote, decrying what he called extraordinary “non-COVID waste” and a “blue state bailout.” “Most states are not in financial distress,” McCarthy said. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, traditionally a Republican ally, declined to support or oppose the Republican position. Neil Bradley, the chamber's executive vice-president and chief policy officer, said there is a need for a rescue package that is “targeted, timely and temporary.” “There’s a lot to like in the plan,” Bradley told The AP. “But there's also a whole lot of elements that fail the test of targeted and timely and temporary.” The chamber, like congressional Republicans, opposes Democratic efforts to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly by 2025 from its current $7.25 floor. The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the progressive priority could not be included in the Senate version of the bill, although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is considering a provision that would penalize large companies that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour. Whether the minimum wage provision is included or not, Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the final package. While there could be political fallout from the GOP's strategy in next year's midterm elections, Republican officials privately concede they are more concerned about the intense intra-party feud pitting Trump and his loyalists against leading establishment Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. That divide is playing out this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, where Trump himself is expected to attack his party's establishment on Sunday as he returns to the public stage for the first time since leaving the White House. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, another CPAC speaker and a 2024 Republican presidential prospect, said party unity is paramount moving forward. “I think that Republicans need to recognize that what brings us together right now is the left-wing agenda of the Biden-Harris administration," Cotton told The AP. "The more that we focus on what they’re trying to accomplish in the Congress and through the president's executive actions, the more united we will be, and the more we will move public opinion in our direction.” Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political powerhouse, opposes the Democratic-backed package as well, but its president, Tim Phillips, says it’s unclear whether the GOP strategy will be enough to unite the deeply fractured Republican Party. “This feels a lot like 2009 — that united the Republican caucus and the activist base in a way that probably nothing else could have,” Phillips said. “It served them well in 2009. I wonder if that’ll happen this time.” Steve Peoples, The Associated Press
(Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit) Some Halifax restaurants are questioning the latest COVID-19 restrictions, with at least one taking dining rules a step further. On Friday, the province announced new restrictions in the Halifax area to act as a circuit-breaker as case numbers moved higher. Four new cases were reported on Saturday, bringing the total of active cases to 39. As of Saturday, restaurants and bars must stop serving food and drink by 9 p.m. and must close by 10 p.m. The rules will be in place for at least one month. But Brendan Doherty, co-owner of the Old Triangle pub in downtown Halifax, said it seems like an "empty restriction" that won't accomplish much beyond hurting businesses during an already slow season. "We do feel like something extra does need to be done at the moment, we do need to be more cautious," Doherty said. "And … there are many tools in the tool chest that could have been used. "We decided to be proactive and put our heads together and say, 'You know, what can we do given the circumstances that actually gives a chance to help the situation we're currently in?'" To go that extra step, the pub will limit the number of people allowed at a table to six, which is below the 10-person cap mandated by the province. The business will be closed on St. Patrick's Day after Doherty said the government rejected a proposal for a pandemic-era plan on how to navigate the day. The pub is also working to bring in a sick-day program, Doherty said, so staff that feel unwell and go to get a COVID-19 test will still be paid for their scheduled shift. He said the move is important because this time of the year is always rough in the service industry, even without a global pandemic. Doherty said he doesn't want staff to feel financially obligated to come to work if they're not feeling well. Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang give a COVID-19 briefing earlier this week. Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, has consistently asked Nova Scotians to stay home if they have any symptoms of the virus. On Friday, Premier Iain Rankin said it's important to keep having discussions about paid sick days for people who need time off for testing. He said the point was raised when he reached out to speak with an opposition leader, but did not specify which one. "I met with him to discuss options so that we can support our workforce," Rankin said during the COVID-19 briefing. "It is something that we'll continue to discuss moving forward." The Nova Scotia NDP proposed a bill last year that would have allowed all workers, unionized or not, to be able to accrue up to six paid sick days per year, an idea the Liberals rejected during the spring sitting at Province House. Resources available now There is a federal program, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which provides $450 after taxes per week for up to two weeks. But some critics, workers' advocates and public health professionals say the program is flawed, and is an insufficient replacement for having employers guarantee paid sick leave. Doherty said he's not a health professional and doesn't know what the ideal plan would be to address the spread of COVID-19. But he suggested that zeroing in on travellers coming into the province, and big-box stores or businesses with far more customers in close proximity, might be more effective. He added that he's heard from many other restaurant and bar owners about their disappointment with the lack of communication and collaboration with the province, which Doherty said is different from earlier in the pandemic. Obladee, a wine bar in downtown Halifax, echoed that sentiment with a social media post on Saturday. It called on the government to show its evidence to support the 9 p.m. restrictions, and pointed out that their industry was given less than 24-hours notice before the changes went into effect. "Meaningful consultation with public stakeholders improves decision making and is a matter of transparency and fairness," the post said. "These decisions have major impacts on the livelihoods of thousands of Nova Scotians. We can do better." During Friday's briefing, Strang said cutting an hour of service is an attempt to balance public health risks while ensuring bars and restaurants can stay open. Any setting where people are in close proximity for a long period of time, without masks, carries a "significant risk" of virus transmission, Strang said. He said that the restriction sends a "very strong signal" that patrons need to limit their dining and drinking habits. "The restaurants themselves are not problematic, they're doing a very good job," Strang said. "But how the public are using the restaurants, the frequency, the going to restaurants [at] different times with different groups of people — the choices people are making when they go out to dine, is problematic." MORE TOP STORIES
A Lloydminster man and a Saskatoon woman arrested by RCMP for having a stolen vehicle were allegedly in possession of weapons for a dangerous purpose. Shaylean Dillon, 23, of Saskatoon, and Leyen Meesto, 37, of Lloydminster, Sask., were arrested Feb. 23 after Lloydminster RCMP got a call at about 6 p.m. about a stolen vehicle. Police kept an eye out for the vehicle and soon spotted it at a business on 18 Street in Lloydminster. RCMP towed the vehicle for a forensic examination but wouldn’t say what prompted them to do so. Dillon has been charged with possession of property obtained by crime, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, resisting/obstructing a peace officer and driving while prohibited. Meesto was charged with possession of property obtained by crime, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, resisting/obstructing a peace officer, failing to comply with a probation order and two counts of failing to comply with conditions of a release order. Meesto was remanded into custody and appears in Lloydminster, Alta., Provincial Court on March 2. Dillon was released and appears in Lloydminster Sask., Provincial Court on March 23. The charges against Dillon and Meesto haven’t been proven in court. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The head of an economic recovery team tasked with reviewing Newfoundland and Labrador's expenses and mapping a way forward for the indebted province says the group's interim report will be delayed several weeks. Moya Greene, a St. John's-born businesswoman known for privatizing Britain's Royal Mail postal service, says the team's work has been interrupted by the province's recent lockdowns and will need up to six extra weeks. The highly anticipated report is expected to examine government spending and the way services are delivered, an undertaking that has fuelled speculation about austerity measures, public-sector layoffs and privatization. The interim report was expected to be released Sunday. But Greene says Feb. 28 was a "notional" date rather than a "time is of the essence" deadline. The economic recovery team's terms of reference says its chairperson will communicate with the province's premier on a weekly basis, but Greene says it's "not appropriate" for her to proceed with that plan since a provincial election is still unfolding. Newfoundland's general election was set to take place on Feb. 13, but a COVID-19 outbreak prompted officials to move to mail-in voting and extended the deadline for postmarked ballots to March 12. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
MILAN — The fedora Humphrey Bogart wore in “Casablanca” may have secured Borsalino’s place in fashion and cinematic history, but it will be something like the cow-print bucket hat that will help ensure its future. The storied Italian hatmaker still makes its felt hats by hand in a Piedmont region factory, using the same artisanal techniques from when the company was founded in 1857 and some of founder Giuseppe Borsalino’s original machinery. It is updating its offerings for next fall and winter, with a focus on customization and youth-trends. The new collection displayed during Milan Fashion Week takes inspiration from the Arts & Crafts design movement in mid-19th century Britain. Hat pins with leaf and floral motifs allow women to uniquely shape the hats, to take up an oversized brim, say, or to create an elegant fold in the crown. A leopard fedora can be paired with a long chain, to wear over the shoulder when going in and out of shops, while a clochard has an optional leather corset. “You cannot change a hat so much,’’ Giacomo Santucci, Borsalino’s creative curator, said. “You can change the attitude of the hat.” Unisex styles, including baseball caps, berets and bucket hats, come in updated new materials - including a spotted cow print, black patent leather and rainproof nylon. Such genderless looks are becoming an increasingly important part of the collection, Santucci said. “The hat is no longer a tool to cover yourself, but to discover yourself,’’ he told The Associated Press. The company, which relaunched three years ago, was in the process of scaling up production from 150,000 hats a year to a goal of half a million when the pandemic hit. “To be honest, it is such a small company, in a way it is very simple to react,’’ said Santucci, who is also the current president of the Italian Chamber of Buyers. “The smaller you are, the more reactive and prompt." Beyond new styles, that means getting people talking. Santucci, who was Gucci CEO during the Tom Ford era, created a new film for this season, featuring Milanese women who chose hats to match their styles, striding through the centre of the city. Last season’s film featured dancers from Alessandria, site of the original Borsalino factory, dancing through the factory floor. "My strong belief is that fashion is becoming more and more a discussion,'' Santucci said. New social media platforms like Clubhouse are giving people the chance to create a limited and select group to discuss relevant topics, which Santucci said has been key during the isolation imposed by the pandemic. He also has pursued collaborations with ready-to-wear brands, including Borsalino X Valentino. “Brands are changing. It is getting closer to entertainment, to give people the chance to engage with the brand, to understand it better. Not only to understand what was done in the past, but to really interact and to have the chance to be part of the same community,’’ Santucci said. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
The federal auditor general says in a report that the Liberal government won't meet its goal to lift all boil-water advisories for several years. Dawn Martin-Hill, chair of Indigenous studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, says there needed to be more work with Indigenous communities to build a strategic plan to ensure access to reliable, safe drinking water.
WASHINGTON — The House approved a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill that was championed by President Joe Biden, the first step in providing another dose of aid to a weary nation as the measure now moves to a tense Senate. “We have no time to waste,” Biden said at the White House after the House passage early Saturday. "We act now — decisively, quickly and boldly — we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again. People in this country have suffered far too much for too long.” The new president’s vision for infusing cash across a struggling economy to individuals, businesses, schools, states and cities battered by COVID-19 passed on a near party-line 219-212 vote. That ships the bill to the Senate, where Democrats seem bent on resuscitating their minimum wage push and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues. Democrats said that mass unemployment and the half-million American lives lost are causes to act despite nearly $4 trillion in aid already spent fighting the fallout from the disease. GOP lawmakers, they said, were out of step with a public that polling finds largely views the bill favourably. “I am a happy camper tonight," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said Friday. “This is what America needs. Republicans, you ought to be a part of this. But if you're not, we're going without you." Republicans said the bill was too expensive and said too few education dollars would be spent quickly to immediately reopen schools. They said it was laden with gifts to Democratic constituencies like labour unions and funneled money to Democratic-run states they suggested didn't need it because their budgets had bounced back. “To my colleagues who say this bill is bold, I say it's bloated," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “To those who say it's urgent, I say it's unfocused. To those who say it's popular, I say it is entirely partisan.” The overall relief bill would provide $1,400 payments to individuals, extend emergency unemployment benefits through August and increase tax credits for children and federal subsidies for health insurance. It also provides billions for schools and colleges, state and local governments, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, renters, food producers and struggling industries like airlines, restaurants, bars and concert venues. Moderate Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon were the only two lawmakers to cross party lines. That sharp partisan divide is making the fight a showdown over whom voters will reward for heaping more federal spending to combat the coronavirus and revive the economy atop the $4 trillion approved last year. The battle is also emerging as an early test of Biden's ability to hold together his party's fragile congressional majorities — just 10 votes in the House and an evenly divided 50-50 Senate. At the same time, Democrats were trying to figure out how to assuage liberals who lost their top priority in a jarring Senate setback Thursday. That chamber's nonpartisan parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, said Senate rules require that a federal minimum wage increase would have to be dropped from the COVID-19 bill, leaving the proposal on life support. The measure would gradually lift that minimum to $15 hourly by 2025, doubling the current $7.25 floor in effect since 2009. Hoping to revive the effort in some form, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is considering adding a provision to the Senate version of the COVID-19 relief bill that would penalize large companies that don't pay workers at least $15 an hour, said a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations. That was in line with ideas floated Thursday night by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a chief sponsor of the $15 plan, and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to boost taxes on corporations that don't hit certain minimum wage targets. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered encouragement, too, calling a minimum wage increase “a financial necessity for our families, a great stimulus for our economy and a moral imperative for our country.” She said the House would “absolutely" approve a final version of the relief bill because of its widespread benefits, even if it lacked progressives’ treasured goal. While Democratic leaders were eager to signal to rank-and-file progressives and liberal voters that they would not yield on the minimum wage fight, their pathway was unclear because of GOP opposition and questions over whether they had enough Democratic support. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., sidestepped a question on taxing companies that don't boost pay, saying of Senate Democrats, “I hesitate to say anything until they decide on a strategy." Progressives were demanding that the Senate press ahead anyway on the minimum wage increase, even if it meant changing that chamber's rules and eliminating the filibuster, a tactic that requires 60 votes for a bill to move forward. “We’re going to have to reform the filibuster because we have to be able to deliver,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., another high-profile progressive, also said Senate rules must be changed, telling reporters that when Democrats meet with their constituents, "We can’t tell them that this didn’t get done because of an unelected parliamentarian.” Traditionalists of both parties — including Biden, who served as a senator for 36 years — have opposed eliminating filibusters because they protect parties' interests when they are in the Senate minority. Biden said weeks ago that he didn't expect the minimum wage increase to survive the Senate's rules. Democrats narrowly hold Senate control. Pelosi, too, seemed to shy away from dismantling Senate procedures, saying, “We will seek a solution consistent with Senate rules, and we will do so soon.” The House COVID-19 bill includes the minimum wage increase, so the real battle over its fate will occur when the Senate debates its version over the next two weeks. Democrats are pushing the relief measure through Congress under special rules that will let them avoid a Senate GOP filibuster, meaning that if they are united they won't need any Republican votes. It also lets the bill move faster, a top priority for Democrats who want the bill on Biden's desk before the most recent emergency jobless benefits end on March 14. But those same Senate rules prohibit provisions with only an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. MacDonough decided that the minimum wage provision failed that test. Republicans oppose the $15 minimum wage target as an expense that would hurt businesses and cost jobs. ___ Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Kevin Freking and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
(Photo submitted by Lisa Gregoire - image credit) Community. Connection. Curling. And haven't we all been missing it. Today we celebrate Curling Day in Canada and no doubt this year, it's a little bit different. Watch and engage with CBC Sports' That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube It's almost unfathomable to consider at this time last February thousands of people across this country were taking to pebbled sheets across the land to celebrate the roaring game. There were no masks. No six-feet of separation. People were gathering together, giving each other high-fives, smiling – the good old days. Who could have ever predicted that just a week later the world would shut down and some 365 days later we'd still be in this waiting place. But today, we celebrate again. In backyards, on outdoor lakes and even on icy streets, curling fans are finding ways to take part in the game they so deeply love. Still apart. But still finding ways to connect. Because at the heart of curling, and what has always made it such a loveable game, is that connection to people and community. WATCH | That Curling Show gets you set for the final 2 days of the Scotties: All across this frozen tundra curling rinks dot the landscape – and in many of the villages, towns and cities the curling rink is the heartbeat of the community. It's a gathering place for the young and old to come together for that Tuesday Beer League or weekend bonspiel. To make shots. To miss shots. And then to head to the lounge after the game and talk about it all. This is a special sport. It's a sport that's laced with Canadian Olympic, world and national champions, who, after playing the biggest games of their careers, will join fans at the post-game party. That accessibility to the best athletes of the game is not seen in any other pro sport today. It's a game rooted in humility. It's quirky. It's quintessentially Canadian. And the people who take part in hucking chunks of granite down the ice while others clear the path with brooms, all while the rock-chucker and skip or third scream loudly, is what makes this game great. This year's Scotties has been a welcomed escape. That sweet sporting escape hundreds of thousands of people across Canada rely on this time of year – and for a while it looked like it may not happen. But inside the Calgary curling bubble the drama has once again played out. Sure, it probably hasn't been to the calibre curling fans and curlers are used to, but can you blame them? These teams hadn't been the ice for weeks and in some cases months leading to the national championship. But they're figuring it out as they go and now with just a few games left before a champion is crowned, the curling is right where we'd expect it to be. WATCH | Rachel Homan makes incredible triple raise takeout to score 2: Curling Canada is one of the few national sport organizations to take on this monumental task – to pull off an event in the midst of a pandemic. And while it wasn't a perfect process by any means in terms of selecting teams and having no playdowns, they've pulled it off without a positive case. And the curlers once again showed grace and patience and flexibility amidst this ever-changing world. The fans are the ones who have benefited from the tenacity and perseverance of Curling Canada and the top women curlers in this country. This is just the beginning too. After the Scotties it's onto the Brier. Then mixed doubles national championship. Then the men's world championship. And then two Grand Slam events. WATCH | Ben Hebert gives his predictions for the Scotties championship round: It was a long wait to get curling back. But it's been well worth the wait. The future of the sport in the country is a tad murky right now, with curling clubs having to close their doors, unsure of what might lie ahead. But the curling community always seems to find a way when it matters most. The curling community has always rallied around one another in triumph and tragedy. And there's no question the curling community will come together once again.
(Government of P.E.I. - image credit) Prince Edward Island is reintroducing some public health restrictions — including no indoor dining at restaurants —after six new cases of COVID-19 were reported Saturday. The restrictions will begin Sunday and be in effect until at least March 14, Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, said in a COVID-19 briefing Saturday. P.E.I. has had 12 cases in the past four days, and a handful of potential exposure sites have been identified. "This outbreak is likely to get worse before it gets better," Morrison said. Other "circuit-breaker" measures announced Saturday include: Takeout only at restaurants. Personal gatherings limited to household members plus 10 "consistent" people. Organized gathering limit of 50 for activities including concerts, worship services, and movie theatres Weddings and funerals limited to 50 individuals plus officiants. Not eligible for multiple gatherings. No funeral or wedding receptions. No sports games or tournaments, though practices are permitted. Gyms, museums, libraries and retail stores can operate at 50 per cent capacity. No changes to current measures for long-term care facilities. Unlicensed and licensed child-care centres can operate at 100 per cent capacity, with physical distancing. The Chief Public Health Office has asked all people aged 14-29 in the Summerside area to get tested this weekend even if they are not experiencing symptoms. People with symptoms are asked to get tested at clinics in Slemon Park or on Park Street in Charlottetown. By 3 p.m. Saturday, Morrison said close to 1,000 tests were done at the temporary clinic at Three Oaks High School. The clinic is open until 8 p.m., and will be open Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for anyone in the Summerside area aged 14-29. Callbecks Home Hardware in Summerside was identified Saturday as a possible exposure site. The new cases, five men and one woman, are all in their 20s. Five are close contacts of previous cases. Four new exposure sites were also identified on Saturday — Callbecks Home Hardware in Summerside, Pita Pit locations in Summerside and Charlottetown, and Burger King in the Summerside Walmart. Premier Dennis King said the province does not know if the new cases are variants, but the assumption is they are. He said it's not the news he wanted to deliver, but said circuit breakers have proven effective in the past. "I think it's discouraging from the perspective for all Islanders simply because we've done very, very well to date and we can see the finish line, but we do seem to be stuck in this tangled spider's web of COVID that it won't really let us firmly out of its grip." P.E.I. has had 126 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began almost a year ago. Thirteen remain active. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. The Atlantic bubble remains suspended, as well. Here is a list of possible public exposure sites on PEI. Public health officials are urging anyone who was at these locations on these dates and at these times to immediately self-isolate and get tested. Pita Pit, Summerside: Feb 19, 11 a.m.-9 pm.; Feb 21, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Feb 22, 12 noon-9 p.m.; Feb 23, 12 noon-9 p.m.; Feb 24, 2-4 p.m.; Feb 26, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Callbeck's Home Hardware, Summerside: Feb. 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (all dates) Burger King, Granville Street, Summerside: Feb 14, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Feb 17, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; Feb 18, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Feb. 20, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-5 p.m.; Feb 21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Feb 22, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Feb 23, 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Feb 24, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Feb 25, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Dominos Pizza, Summerside: Feb 17, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Feb. 18, 4-11 p.m.; Feb. 19, 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Feb 20: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Feb. 21, 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Feb 22, 4-11 p.m.; Feb 23, 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Feb 24, 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Shoppers Drug Mart, Summerside: Feb 21, 10-11 a.m. Dollarama, Summerside: Feb 20, 3-4 p.m. Superstore, Montague: Feb 24, 4:30-5:30 p.m.; Feb 25, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Tailgate Bar & Grill, Montague: Feb 25, 9:30-11:30 p.m. Iron Haven Gym, Summerside: Feb. 20, 6-8 p.m.; Feb 23, 6-8 p.m. Toys R Us, Charlottetown: Feb 23, 10 a.m.-12 noon Taste of India, Charlottetown: Feb 20, 4-10 p.m.; Feb. 21, 3-9 p.m.; Feb 22, 3-9 p.m.; Feb 23, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The Breakfast Spot, Summerside: Feb 20, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. New Brunswick reported two new cases on Saturday as the active total, 41, continues to drop. New Brunswickers can now travel and visit people in different regions after a series of changes to the orange phase took effect. Nova Scotia reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as tighter restrictions came into force to stem a recent increase in case numbers. The province has 39 active cases. Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases, as well as another death. It has 217 active cases. More from CBC News
TORONTO — There's a new multi-millionaire in Ontario. The province's Lottery and Gaming Corporation says a ticket purchased in Sudbury, Ont., is the sole winner of the $70-million Lotto Max jackpot. The Friday draw marked the sixth time that the maximum jackpot has been won in Canada and the fourth time in the province since the cap was increased in May 2019. Maxmillions tickets worth $1 million each were also sold in the Ontario communities of Simcoe County, Mississauga, North York and Woodbridge. A Maxmillions ticket worth $500,000 was sold in Ajax, Ont. The next Lotto Max jackpot is estimated at $24 million, with a draw set for Tuesday night. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
Si Le Bic est réputé pour son cachet et ses restaurants, l’histoire de ce village est intrinsèquement liée à la mer. C’est que rappelle le Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic dans sa toute nouvelle publication Le Bic, une histoire maritime, un livre d’une soixantaine de pages qui couvre 500 ans d’interactions entre les humains et les flots du Saint-Laurent dans ce coin de la province. En effet, les Premières nations qui fréquentaient la région avant l’arrivée des Européens étaient déjà des marins aguerris qui s’adonnaient à la pêche ou à la chasse au phoque. Les Mi’gmaq construisaient notamment des canots d’écorce, parfois équipés d’une voile. Plus tard, au 17e siècle, le havre du Bic s’impose comme une escale pour les bateaux européens remontant l’estuaire du Saint-Laurent vers l’important poste de traite de Tadoussac, qui en profitent pour faire du troc avec les Autochtones, chaudrons contre fourrures. Quelques colons s’installent dans la seigneurie créée en 1675 pour vivre de la pêche, mais c’est surtout les navigateurs qui seront à l’origine de l’essor du Bic, dès 1730. Ces spécialistes de la dangereuse navigation laurentienne vivent dans le village et prennent en main les bateaux venus d’Europe à partir de l’île du Bic, se rendant indispensables au commerce transatlantique. La chaloupe puis la goélette sont leurs moyens de transport de prédilection pour rejoindre les navires. L’activité est périlleuse et nombre de jeunes hommes perdront la vie dans les eaux du fleuve : 133 se noient entre 1815 et 1855. Les activités de navigation finiront par disparaître au 20e siècle, et si l’on cherche encore le bord de l’eau quand on vient au Bic, c’est avant tout pour les activités de villégiature. La construction navale y est toutefois encore présente, à travers l’atelier des chaloupiers Daniel St-Pierre et Pierre-Luc Morin. Gratuit pour les Bicois Les résidents du Bic peuvent se procurer gratuitement l’un des 1500 exemplaires du livre en présentant une preuve de résidence à la bibliothèque Émile-Gagnon. Les autres personnes intéressées par cette épopée maritime peuvent l’acheter sur le site du Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic ou à la librairie L’Alphabet de Rimouski. Il s’agit du deuxième ouvrage du comité, dix ans après le Guide des maisons traditionnelles du Bic. Le livre a demandé des années de travail et pas moins de huit personnes ont travaillé bénévolement à son élaboration, que ce soit à la recherche d’informations historiques et d’images, à la rédaction ou à la coordination. Deux ententes de développement culturel du ministère de la Culture et des Communications, la première avec la Ville de Rimouski et la seconde avec la MRC de Rimouski-Neigette, ont permis de financer ce projet. La coprésidente du Comité du patrimoine naturel et culturel du Bic, Linda Lavoie, pense que ce type d’ouvrage est un bon moyen de sensibiliser la population à l’importance du patrimoine, ici et ailleurs. Vendredi après-midi, elle allait poster un exemplaire à destination de Vancouver, signe que l’histoire du Bic, qui s’inscrit dans celle plus longue de la colonisation et du développement de ce continent, intéresse bien au-delà des frontières du Bas-Saint-Laurent. Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have been spared direct punishment after a U.S. intelligence report implicated him in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but he has not emerged unscathed. The declassified report, based on CIA intelligence, concludes that the prince approved an operation to "capture or kill" Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. President Joe Biden's decision to publish a report that his predecessor Donald Trump had set aside brings with it a broad refocusing of Washington's stance on dealing with the kingdom, on its human rights record, and on its lucrative arms purchases.
(Charles Contant/Radio-Canada - image credit) Stéphane Duchesne likes to tell the story of one particular client at his Magasin Général de Castelnau, in Montreal's Villeray Borough. The client, whose elderly father would come over for dinner, liked to indulge in a few cold ones with his meal. The son, not wanting his father to drink and then drive home, would pop into Duchesne's shop and load up on zero-alcohol beers, which contain less than 0.5 per cent alcohol. "[The father] thinks he's drinking real beer. So he can drive back to Laval, no sweat, and the son can sleep soundly," recalled Duchesne. Today's microbrew near-beer scene is far from what it used to be as recently as five or six years ago. There were only a few options, likely produced by a major brewery, and they often tasted like insipid, uninspired attempts at beer. That's not the case today. Duchesne has roughly 15 different types of zero-alcohol beer in the antique, wood-lined fridges in his shop. Quebec microbreweries are pumping out a wide range of zero-alcohol beers, ranging from stouts to IPAs to blondes. "Before it was a sugary beer, they weren't able to put the hops in it. Today a [non-alcoholic] beer without hops is almost impossible," said Duchesne. Now, he says his non-alcoholic microbrews are among his best sellers. "What's interesting nowadays is that you can purchase a non-alcoholic beer that has all the flavour and details of a craft beer and made only with four ingredients," said Sébastien Paradis, vice president of the Association des microbrasseries du Québec. "In the craft world, we pride ourselves on making beer with four ingredients, which are malt, yeast, the hops and water." The segment is gaining in popularity. More and more people are reaching for the zero beers when looking for a refreshment, thanks in part to how the microbreweries have embraced the challenge. "I've been talking to people who have drunk non-alcoholic beers for 15 or 20 years that said it was a boring thing to do. You'd almost hide your non-alcoholic beer," said Paradis. "Nowadays, it's actually pleasant to drink a non-alcoholic beer because the craft segment got interested in the category and started making beers that taste like cereals and like hops." Trend driven by consumers Like many consumer products, the craft breweries segment got interested because of consumer interest. The COVID-19 pandemic drove people toward adopting a healthy lifestyle, according to Max Coubes, a bartender and zero-alcohol drink connoisseur. He said it got people thinking more about their own wellness, and that's being reflected in more zero-alcohol beers on store shelves. "Because it's been so long, I think that people have been thinking more about taking care of themselves and what they consume," said Coubes, who believes the microbreweries are adapting to a booming market. "People just just found themselves alone at home or with their family, which drove them to reconsider their own consumption in general." WATCH | Zero-alcohol beer is beer without the buzz: The perception around zero-alcohol beers is changing too with their artsy labels and funky names such as Montreal's Sober Carpenter, Drummondville's Le BockAle and Quebec City's Bluffeuse. "If I make the parallel to 10 years ago, you'd see someone drinking a non-alcoholic beer. It often resonated with someone who had a history of alcohol problems, who could not drink alcohol," said Paradis. "Now we're seeing a consumer who is drinking alcohol, but instead of drinking alcohol five, six days a week, they're saying, 'well, I'm going to try to cut down to only three or four days a week, and on those other three or four days, I'd still like to enjoy a beer or something good'." Paradis says his association hasn't kept track of how the zero-alcohol beers have grown on the market but, based on the number of products available, he believes it's grown tenfold over the last four or five years. And while the zero-alcohol segment might not occupy a huge portion of the national market, it is growing. Sales hop up 50% Luke Chapman, of Beer Canada, a trade association representing 45 brewing companies, said sales of the zero-alcohol beer grew by 50 per cent in 2020 over the previous year. However, Chapman said they still only occupy 1.7 per cent of total beer sales in Canada. He calls it an underdeveloped segment of the market. Non-alcoholic beer sales have been gathering steam as people look to stay healthy while still enjoying a cold one (or several) at the end of a long day. "It has been identified by both big and small brewers as a potential area of growth, and particularly for those Canadians that are interested in leading a more kind of health conscious lifestyle," said Chapman. "It's not only about the alcohol, but a lot of these non-alcoholic beer products also are quite low in calories when you compare them to other products." The zero-alcohol beers do have one other advantage. Because they do not contain alcohol they are not subject to the SAQ's monopoly, and micro-breweries are allowed to ship their products by mail across Quebec and Canada. "It's definitely a good opportunity for Quebec brewers to show what they can do for the rest of the province, the country and North America," said Paradis.
(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press - image credit) New Brunswickers can now travel and visit people in different regions after a series of changes to the orange phase took effect at midnight. The province reported two new cases on Saturday as the active total continues to drop. The new cases are people in their 70s in the Edmundston region (Zone 4). There are 41 total active cases across New Brunswick, with two additional recoveries announced Saturday. One person is hospitalized and in intensive care related to the virus. Residents can now go between orange zones for non-essential trips and include people from other regions as part of their steady 10 contacts. Hospital visits are also permitted as of Saturday with public health measures in place. The change follows several instances of family members unable to see ill or dying relatives. In one situation, an 80-year-old was kicked out of the hospital for holding her husband's hand. Under the revised orange rules, compassionate travel exemptions to attend a funeral will be offered to people living outside New Brunswick. People will need approval from Public Health and must adhere to guidelines that include a five-day self-isolation and negative test upon arrival. The province announced the looser restrictions at a news conference on Friday. Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province chief medical officer of health, said a return to the less-restrictive yellow phase could be just over a week away if the decline in cases continues. She said rules will be modified due to the presence of COVID variants. "The fewer contacts each person has, the better," Russell said. "This is so very important." Public Health has updated and loosened some of the orange phase rules as of Friday. People will be asked to limit their contacts to a steady 15 under the yellow phase, which can include those living in other health zones. New Brunswick reported 1,430 total cases of COVID-19 in Saturday's update. There have been 1,362 recoveries and 26 deaths. Public Health has conducted 228,219 tests, including 827 on Friday. More vaccine arrives New Brunswick has a larger supply of COVID-19 vaccine after additional shipments arrived this week. The province received more than 11,000 doses, according to the latest numbers from the federal government. Those shipments boost the total number of doses to 46,775, including 36,075 of Pfizer-BioNTech and 10,700 of Moderna. Another 9,360 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive next week. Play to resume for N.B. teams in QMJHL The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has announced plans to resume the season for New Brunswick teams after the pandemic put their games on pause. The province's three teams will be allowed to compete against each other starting the week of March 8. A new schedule is expected to be released next week, and fans will be allowed at arenas. The league said the decision follows meetings with Public Health and government and that the situation will be re-evaluated in the coming weeks. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: A fever above 38 C. A new cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.
It's a year of change at the Canadian women's curling championship in the Calgary bubble. The field was padded to 18 teams this year for the first time. There are no spectators at the Markin MacPhail Centre due to the pandemic. The Page system was dropped in favour of a three-team playoff. Coaching benches are at opposite ends of the ice rather than beside each other. Traditional post-game handshakes are verboten with some players tapping brooms instead. Curling fans and athletes are still thrilled to have the sport back on the domestic stage after a long absence. The Scotties Tournament of Hearts — the first of six events to be held in the protected "bubble" environment — has been a success entering the final weekend. Championship pool play continues Saturday and the playoffs are set for Sunday. Many classic traditions specific to the Hearts are on hiatus for 2021. The HeartStop Lounge, a party barn with entertainment, food and drink, is obviously idle this year. The annual women's curler banquet and full-field group photo should also return in 2022. And in a change to a long-standing routine that Hearts competitors have held dear since 1981, many teams will not receive jewelry this year. Longtime event sponsor Kruger Products decided it will only award jewelry to the four teams — P.E.I., N.W.T., Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador — who were able to play provincial/territorial playdowns. The nine provincial teams who accepted invitations after the pandemic forced the cancellation of their respective association championships are out of luck. "Players/teams that were acclaimed entry into the 2021 Scotties and any alternate players that were not part of a winning provincial/territorial team are unfortunately not eligible to receive jewelry," said Kruger corporate marketing director Oliver Bukvic. "This is a very unique year, with many changes due to COVID, and we will recognize the winners who earned a berth in the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts." That's a change from last season when Nunavut — the other territorial entry in the field — received jewelry despite not playing down. Jewelry is not given out to defending champions (automatic entry) or wild-card teams (entry via ranking). Unlike the nine pandemic-affected provincial entries, Iqaluit was able to host championships this year. However, women's playdowns weren't held because the Nunavut team — which did not receive jewelry this year — was unopposed for a second straight season. Bukvic didn't comment on previous setups but said this year's plans came down to eligibility. "We look forward to next year when we'll hopefully be back to normalcy and we'll be able to recognize all of these provincial and territorial winners with their jewelry for winning their playdown," he said. First-year players who are eligible for jewelry receive a gold necklace with a four-heart pendant. A diamond is added to the pendant for each of the next four appearances. After that, a tennis bracelet is awarded with a diamond addition for every return to the Hearts. "We knew that that wasn't really on the table this year, which is fine," said Alberta vice Kate Cameron. "I think we were really excited to have this opportunity to even be here right now. "I think given the state of the world and everything we're going through and then being selected to represent Alberta, I think was something that we were really honoured to do. So I think we're just happy to be here." The jewelry is a significant perk for all teams who receive it, but particularly those who finish on the low end of the event payout structure. Teams cut after the preliminary round receive $2,500 apiece. The winning Hearts team receives $100,000 of the $300,000 total purse. Curlers who reach the podium will still receive traditional rings. The champions have rings set with a diamond, the finalists with a ruby and the third-place team with an emerald. The Hearts finalist receives $60,000 and the third-place team receives $40,000. Other championship pool teams receive $15,000 apiece. Kruger is celebrating its 40th year of Hearts sponsorship this season. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press