Ontario's Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams explains how the province's new COVID-19 framework will help residents make decisions based on their own safety assessment and their region's levels.
Ontario's Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams explains how the province's new COVID-19 framework will help residents make decisions based on their own safety assessment and their region's levels.
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
Dental services are resuming in six N.W.T. communities, the territorial government announced on Wednesday. Health facilities in Fort Providence, Sambaa K’e, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells, Fort Resolution, and Aklavik have been cleared to once again host visits from private dentists. On Wednesday, the GNWT said facilities in the six communities had met standards and been approved by the chief public health officer. Private dentistry clinics in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik had all kept services open throughout most of the pandemic, but all non-urgent dental travel to smaller communities was suspended by the federal government in March. "The remaining N.W.T. communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to resume operations when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place, and facilities are inspected and meet COVID-19 safety protocols," read a statement from the territorial government. "The necessary assessments and required work are expected to continue throughout 2021-2022. Further updates will be provided as health facilities in additional communities are confirmed to be able to accommodate visiting dentists." In communities where dental services remain unavailable, the federal ageny Indigenous Services Canada will support travel for Non-Insured Health Benefit clients to receive services elsewhere.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
South Okanagan climber and filmmaker Dave Mai has plenty of adventures and beautiful climbing photos on his social media feed, but the stories, risks, heart and heartbreak leading to those shots often go untold. To gain that perspective, Mai would have to climb higher. Mai’s second climbing film, Higher Perspective, was released online this year and explores the life behind the lens. He wanted to go beyond the surface-level sharing of social media, and ended up exploring himself as well as those who spend their career behind the camera capturing breathtaking images and daring feats. “This film was a way to dive deeper than just a social media post and share what I’m going through in my life and my hobbies. Just give a different perspective and hope someone resonates with that,” Mai said. Mai started rock climbing roughly six years ago. While shooting his previous film, Ephemera, he realized he should probably learn a bit more about ice climbing. “That first film was interesting because somehow I managed to get a really high-profile climber, Tim Emmett, to do this first ascent,” Mai said. “I remember standing at the bottom of this waterfall, like, ‘yeah I’ve never really climbed ice and I’m about to go up with this world-class ice climber.’ So that kind of sparked that I need to step my game up if I’m going to survive this game.” The film follow’s Mai’s journey as a climbing photographer and along the way he joins others who pursue the craft in both B.C. and Alberta. “At first it was going to be a film about climbing photographers, and then I realized I needed a central character to pivot around. That kind of became me. I didn’t intend it to be that way at first, but I had the most control over me so I had to kind of create myself as the central character,” Mai said. Mai met many of the climbing photographers featured in the film through Instagram. He meets and interviews climbers, photographers mountain guides and joins them on their journey to capture sometimes-tense moments and breathtaking views. “Usually you are seeing the climbers and you have no idea who is behind the lens. The climbers usually get all the glory,” Mai said with a laugh. “Not that I need any glory.” Climbing photographers often have to get ahead of their subjects, either hiking around to a good vantage point or climbing up first. Preparation and planning are as important as climbing skills. Sometimes hidden away in backcountry areas, ice walls usually require a journey before climbers even arrive, so being prepared and efficient are key during the long shoots. “It can make for some long days, so you’ve got to be pretty proficient at what you’re doing. There’s also that safety factor, so you’ve got to be with a team that you trust and have confidence in their skills,” Mai said. “A lot of these times these ice falls we are going to are a four hour hike in, in waist-deep snow, to get there.” Much of the film was shot in the Okanagan, with rock climbing scenes taking place at the Skaha Bluffs south of Penticton, Apex Mountain, the Keremeos/Hedley area and the Carmi area. “I tried to film as much in the Okanagan as possible. I also went down to Squamish to film Alex Ratson, who is a photographer down there,” Mai said. “We ended up hiring a chopper, flying to the top of Mount Habrich to do some marketing shots up there.” In the film, Mai also visits the Rocky Mountains working with Calgary-based photographer Tim Banfield. Funded by Telus STORYHIVE and CreativeBC as well with support from multiple sponsors, Mai spent roughly a year and a half working on the film. As he was just putting the final pieces together, COVID-19 struck the world. “I have mixed feelings about it. I had these big plans of putting it in big film festivals, and all the film festivals are online now. I just ended up releasing it independently online,” Mai said. Mai ended up working on the audio mix down alone in a theatre, which made for an odd experience. “I was at the Frank Venables Theatre by myself just watching this film. It felt so surreal just finalizing this film by myself,” Mai said. Putting himself as the main character at the centre of Higher Perspective was a unique experience for Mai. “It feels really vulnerable,” Mai said. “At the end of the film I come to the realization that I’m going to keep pursuing this adventure photography, climbing, filmmaking thing. It may be uncommon and some people may have things to say about it, it might be dangerous, but I’m OK with the risks to feel fulfilled and not be afraid to go chase what feels right to me, and honest.” The film started out as a reaction to the shallowness of the social media world, a world Mai hopes to brighten with the project. “There’s this weird energy in the world. Social media can be pretty ugly and I hope this film can be kind of like a shiny rock in this weird world we work in,” Mai said. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
As Vopak Development Canada’s proposed fuel storage facility and export terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C., enters its final public comment period, environmental groups say the project fails to address risks associated with marine and rail transport. If approved, the Vopak Pacific Canada facility would bring up to 240 rail cars carrying fuels like diesel, propane, methanol and gasoline through northwest B.C. every day. The fuels would be shipped on the CN rail network from sources in B.C. and Alberta to Ridley Island, an industrial site near Prince Rupert. The terminal would also bring up to 171 tankers to the Skeena River estuary annually. “Vopak brings the risk of a spill of highly toxic diesel oil and gasoline from train derailments, tanker accidents and spills at the offloading facility,” Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, told The Narwhal. “Such spills are very difficult to clean up once they enter the river or marine environment.” Retired biologist Dawn Remington with Friends of Morice-Bulkley said the project poses a risk to communities along fuel transportation routes and not enough information about how these communities will be protected has been made available to the public. “We’re going to be a corridor for hazardous petroleum products. And if this is the case, I want it to be done safely,” Remington told The Narwhal, adding her concerns aren’t about trying to stop the project. Remington said the Vopak project presents an opportunity to address the risks of rail transportation associated with several projects in the region, including another proposed fuel export facility and one that’s already under construction. Vopak recently submitted its application for an environmental assessment certificate along with its report on the project’s potential environmental impacts to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The public can now review and comment on those documents until Dec. 30. During the initial public comment period in 2018, members of the public and environmental groups asked that increased rail traffic associated with the Vopak project be included in the facility’s review. And during the First Nations consultation process, each of the six nations involved flagged increased rail traffic as an important issue that should be addressed as part of the environmental assessment. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said it would not include rail traffic in the assessment, deferring to Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible for regulating the rail network. “Concerns of potential spills from train derailments are not being assessed in the environmental assessment and are being completely ignored by CN, Vopak and the provincial and federal governments despite strong public concern,” Knox said. CN’s rail accidents have been steadily increasing, according to a 2019 Transportation Safety Board of Canada report. Last year, there were 169 accidents involving dangerous goods, like the ones that would be shipped to the Vopak facility. Eight of those accidents resulted in spills, twice as many as the previous year. In March, a train carrying coal and propane derailed near an elementary school east of Prince George, B.C., spilling coal into a creek and causing an emergency evacuation of the school. Other derailments in the region over the past few years have resulted in coal and wood pellets spilling into creeks and rivers. Remington has been working with communities along the rail corridor in northwest B.C. to formally request Transport Canada conduct a risk assessment of rail traffic in the region. Even though the potential for a rail accident resulting in an explosion or deadly spill is low, Remington worries a single event could have catastrophic effects. Propane — also referred to as liquified petroleum gas — is a highly-combustible fossil fuel captured as a by-product of fracking for natural gas. More propane travelling through the region means more risk, she said. “Risk is the probability of something happening times the severity of the consequences if it happens,” she explained. “So even if the probability is low, the consequences are enormous.” She stressed that without knowing the risks, the communities along the rail corridor aren’t equipped to deal with an emergency should one arise. “How do you evacuate this entire town if people have no idea?” The concern is shared along the transportation corridor, even in towns hundreds of kilometres from the proposed Vopak facility. In a recent public comment on the project, Jeanette Weir, from Hazelton, B.C., said the threat the export terminal poses to communities along rail lines has effectively been overlooked. “This project is completely ignoring the communities through which an enormous increase of rail transport of explosive dangerous goods is proposed. It should not be evaluated for the sole risks at the Prince Rupert storage facility because it will affect all of us living along the rail line.” In a document provided to First Nations outlining the potential effects of increased rail traffic, Vopak said the project would contribute to an incremental increase in the risks associated with rail transportation, including moose strikes, collisions and derailments. It also stressed that all regulations related to rail safety fall under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada. Public requests that the environmental impacts of marine traffic be included in the projects assessment were also denied by the Environmental Assessment Office, leading to lingering concerns the project will harm marine ecosystems. The proposed facility would include a number of holding tanks for fuel and a marine berth where tankers would be filled over 40-hour periods. Vopak would only be responsible for products during storage, unloading and loading. For nearly 50 years, a now-shuttered pulp mill near Ridley Island discharged contaminated materials into the marine environment, much of which is now sequestered in a layer of sediment on the ocean floor — including where Vopak would provide mooring for tankers. Although Vopak scrapped its initial plan to dredge up the contaminated sediment to make way for a permanent jetty, many worry the current plan to leave sediment — which contains highly toxic dioxins and furans as well as copper and arsenic — undisturbed is unrealistic. According to Luanne Roth, north coast campaigner for the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, the new plan was submitted after the initial public comment period, so any public concerns about the redesign have yet to be addressed. “Before, with the big dredge, all of that contaminated sediment would have been gone from the area,” she said. Now the issue is what happens to the sediment when tankers are mooring. “When the boats are docked, they’re docked by really powerful tugs, so there’s going to be really powerful propeller wash,” she said. The effects of propeller wash, the movement of water by ships’ engines, on the sediment have not been studied for the Vopak project, but they were when the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal was on the books for neighbouring Lelu Island. Roth said those studies estimated five centimetres of sediment would be resuspended every day. All of that toxic sediment would then be distributed by tides and currents within the surrounding marine ecosystem. Opposite Lelu Island, and within sight of the proposed Vopak project, is Flora Bank, which has been noted as a critical juvenile salmon habitat. Given the dramatic declines in Skeena salmon populations, the effects could be felt throughout the entire Skeena watershed. Roth said there may be solutions to the problem, but the absence of any mention of the effects of propeller wash in Vopak’s environmental effects evaluation is troubling, especially because the chemicals are known to have negative effects on human health, including increased risk of autism, cancer and diabetes. “There’s a tremendous amount of food gathering in the Skeena estuary, so it’s a really big concern,” she said. In an emailed statement, Vopak communications director, Stefany Cortes, told the Narwhal “the tugboat propulsion is focused higher in the water column and, therefore, is not expected to resuspend sediment during mooring.” Roth also raised concerns about the increased marine traffic and the potential for a catastrophic spill. As The Narwhal previously reported, many of Prince Rupert’s designated anchorages are situated in water that lies atop a thin layer of mud and sediment on smooth rock. In high winds — very common during fall and winter — a ship can drag its anchor and potentially end up smashing against coastal rocks. Even just one ship spilling its fuel, not to mention its cargo of fuel, would have catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem. According to a T Buck Suzuki study, between 2004 and 2017, the Prince Rupert port had three times as many anchor-dragging incidents as the Port of Vancouver despite having 86 per cent less vessels. This works out to 2,360 per cent more incidents per visit. Roth said there were 29 incidents in Prince Rupert last winter. Earlier this year, T Buck Suzuki commissioned an independent report to assess the safety risks associated with anchoring in the Prince Rupert area. Prepared by Ivan Todorov, a master mariner and former senior officer on oil tankers, the report noted a need to ensure that “loading be delayed when storm/hurricane warnings have been issued in order to limit the need for anchoring laden tankers in poor holding ground.” Todorov added that the Vopak project should be subject to a formal risk assessment of grounding and collision incidents. The Prince Rupert Port Authority, which is responsible for federal lands and waters in the area and is the coordinator of the environmental assessment for the proposed project, recently commissioned an independent navigational risk assessment. But when The Narwhal asked to review the document, the port said it would not make the report available to the public. Port communications director Monika Cȏté told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that the port authority has strict policies and procedures in place for the movement and anchorage of ships coming and going from the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, of which Vopak is part owner, and similar policies and procedures would be implemented for the proposed facility. Those procedures include port-assigned pilots and tugboat assistance. “Procedures vary depending on vessel, cargo and terminal they are going to, and what is required to mitigate navigational risk,” she wrote. “Vopak-specific procedures will be determined through a multi-agency effort that includes vessel simulation trials.” She said it is uncommon for ships to remain at anchorage once they’re loaded. “In the very rare circumstance that a loaded vessel would move to anchorage, the tug would remain in attendance with the vessel while it is at anchor,” she wrote. Roth said if the port is not able to prevent fully loaded ships from anchoring during storm events, Vopak could contractually refuse to fill a tanker if extreme weather was in the forecast. “That’s something we’d really like them to address,” she said. In the new year, Vopak Development Canada will compile all of the comments received during the public comment period and submit them to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The office will then consult with the province, the port authority, local First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and other stakeholders to resolve any outstanding issues. If no red flags are identified, the stakeholders will sign off on the project and a final decision will be made by provincial ministers. Vopak projects it will start construction in late 2021.Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
Halifax councillors want to crack down on landlords who purposely make rental units unlivable as a ploy to pressure tenants to move out of their homes. Rosanna Chilton, a renter in Halifax, said the door to her basement apartment on Joseph Howe Drive was removed on Dec. 1 for 24 hours."My roommate was there when he removed the door and ran away with it," she said. "He wanted to bully us out of here."Chilton had to miss work and make a number of calls before the door was put back. She is looking for another place to live, but has not been able to find one that she can afford.Councillors are hearing from other tenants with similar stories."I just had another note from a young woman who had her doors and windows taken off," said Coun. Pam Lovelace. "Landlords should know that Halifax will not put up with this."Councillor calls for $10K finesThe province handles landlord-tenant disputes, such as overdue rent, through the tenancy board. The municipality is responsible for health and safety standards of rental buildings."If the tenancy board has problems, that's an issue for landlords to take to the province," said Coun. Waye Mason. "But in the interim, they can't do these things that put people's lives at risk."Mason said there should be a $10,000 fine per day, per incident, and the municipality should have the ability to send in a contractor to immediately replace a door or window.HRM officials are already working on a new rental bylaw that will have occupancy standards and a rental registry. Mason is calling for new fines for health and safety violations to be included in the bylaw, which is expected to be ready by April."I think our bylaw officers need the biggest stick possible," he said. "You cannot make a unit dangerous because you have a tenant dispute."MORE TOP STORIES
Dale Woodard Lethbridge Herald The Winter Light Festival at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is ready to light it up. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that will mean a few adjustments, but the annual festival is still going forward starting Thursday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Speaking Tuesday, Michelle Day, executive director for Nikka Yuko, said things could change as the event goes on and to stay tuned for updates and check online for any other details. “We need our community support and that comes with patience and being able to be flexible,” said Day. “Working with Alberta Health Services and the City of Lethbridge, we are going to be able to continue our Winter Light Experience. We’re going to continue to monitor the guidelines as they may change. They may have new ones or they may relax them in the future. By this time, it’s going to be as much of a touch-less experience as possible. But we’re encouraging everybody in our community to show support and come out to our Winter Light Festival as it is a safe experience.” With the current guidelines, the first weekend of the Horse and Wagon rides and the first Shakespeare in the Garden performance have been cancelled. “But we’ll continue to monitor (the situation) and as we go along, we might be able to add more programming as the guidelines change, and that’s where we need the communities support and flexibility in the sense (the events) might happen after Christmas or in January,” said Day. As for the events going forward — following COVID guidelines laid out by AHS – a maximum of 100 people will be allowed in the garden per half hour, said Day. “We’re staging the entry ways and all access to the garden has to be done online,” said Day. “I know our community is used to just showing up and going to the visitors’ centre but, unfortunately, we can’t do that. We feel it’s important we work with Alberta Health Services to ensure the tracking is there.” Private events are still able to be booked, said Day. “What we’re asking our companies and our customers during their private events is no gathering-like activities, so no speeches. But we can hand out things at the door and stage entry. “We’re also making sure we have things for people to take home. We’re going to have an enhanced brochure to give everybody when they come to learn more about Japanese and Canadian winter customs.” For the kids, Nikka Yuko has teamed up with local artist Eric Dyck to provide a colouring package. “With Panasonic and their projectors, we’ve teamed up with a local anime gentleman, Keith Morgan (a local CG-Generalist and compositing artist) and he’s going to be telling a story throughout the garden (with) one-minute episodes,” said Day. “So people can space, but enjoy a story and experience along with the lights. They’ll still be leaving with some programming and some memories to take home with them.” Tickets can be purchased on the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden website events calendar (www.nikkayuko.com/events) or through the Enmax Centre. “I stress to like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/search/top?q=nikka%20yuko%20japanese%20garden) and watch our website (www.nikkayuko.com) for ongoing updates,” said Day. Day said even before the pandemic, the Winter Light Festival experience was an essential one. “I’ve had many families say it’s affordable, it’s accessible and that the community really enjoyed. I think in the summer when we opened there was much of a need for people to get outdoors in a safe place and connect to nature. We heard that, so I think this Winter Light Festival is so important to our community for both those reasons. It’s outdoors, it’s a connection to nature and it’s a safe location to go.” Day added the Garden was built and designed to promote mental health and wellness and a place to go to reflect. “We don’t lose sight that sometimes the winter months are hard. I think there is seasonal depression and winter holiday anxiety and I think sometimes people just need a place to go to walk and we are honoured to provide a safe place for people to do that.” Follow @DWoodardHerald on TwitterDale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald
People in Halifax will be able to order an Uber starting Thursday afternoon, and at least one other ride-hailing company is eyeing a launch in the city before the end of the year.Uber said in a news release that its smartphone app, which connects people looking for transportation with a driver, will go live for the Halifax region at 1 p.m. Thursday.However, the company encouraged residents to stick to public health guidelines and only use it for essential travel like getting to a doctor's appointment or pharmacy.Uber did not share any more information when asked about details by CBC, including how many drivers are active in Halifax, or how many have applied.A map of Uber's coverage area on its website shows that the urban core will be included, as well as more suburban and rural areas like Timberlea, Fall River and Eastern Passage. The company said its service area will expand as the number of drivers increases. Uber also said it's providing 2,000 free rides to front-line workers and families in need, through Partners for Care's Helping Healthcare Heroes program and Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic.Council cleared the way this fallUber's app puts the company in direct competition with members of the taxi industry, something that has sparked outcry in places like Toronto. Still, some people in Halifax have complained that the taxi industry in the municipality doesn't meet people's needs and there are often long delays in getting cabs at peak times. In September, Halifax council gave ride-hailing services like Uber the green light to operate in the municipality. They have stated they hoped to launch in the city before the end of 2020.The Canadian ride-hailing company Uride has yet to launch in Halifax, but its founder said it will be live by the end of the year.Cody Ruberto said the company has had over 700 people apply to be drivers, but could not immediately say how many had been accepted.In an email, Ruberto said he believes both Uber and Uride can operate in the same city since this is the case in many other areas. Halifax "deserves" this type of service, Ruberto said, and residents want choice. "Uride is a homegrown Canadian rideshare business, and we really care about the people here. Our goal is to provide reliable, safe affordable transportation, and we want to give back to the community any way we can," he wrote.Ruberto also noted they "rarely have price increases," which differs from Uber's model of surge pricing during busy times that he believes can turn people away."We do whatever we can to keep pricing affordable, while working to ensure reliable coverage," Ruberto said.MORE TOP STORIES
Mussel growers on P.E.I. are excited about a new project that will help them selectively breed mussels to be more resistant to climate change. The $800,000 project was created by Genome Atlantic and $300,000 of that came from the Atlantic Fisheries Fund. Tiago Hori, director of research and development at Atlantic Aqua Farms in Vernon Bridge, P.E.I., told Island Morning's Laura Chapin that growers will look at which mussels have a higher degree of resistance to warming ocean temperatures. Then they can figure out which parts of the genome cause that trait. "We think that temperature resistance can be an important trait for mussels, if indeed the climate keeps changing towards hotter temperatures," said Hori. Warm waters big challenge P.E.I. provides 80 per cent of North America's mussels, in an industry that employs around 1,500 people. The biggest challenge for Island mussel farmers right now is water temperature, Hori said, because mussels are grown in shallow estuaries, where temperatures can increase quickly. "We are concerned that if the climate keeps warming, that we're starting to reach critical temperatures that might be lethal to the mussels and could lead to large losses of product," said Hori. Kristin Tweel, the director of sector innovation for Genome Atlantic, explained that selective breeding has been used for centuries. "Genomics simply allows us to identify a lot more quickly the traits that we're most interested in breeding, without making any artificial changes at a genetic level," said Tweel. Hoping to grow the industry Along with selecting mussels for their ability to survive warmer temperatures, Hori said another goal of the project is to use genomics to improve the growth of P.E.I. mussels. "If we can reduce the growth cycle, then we can increase growth but we also can increase efficiency," said Hori. "You could stay with the same target of production, but in a reduced number of leases. And that would lead to a huge increase in efficiency and a huge decrease in costs, because now … you're having to do less with management and all of that."> You want an animal that grows fast but that retains the characteristics that are essential to that product. — Tiago Hori, Atlantic Aqua Farms Would any of this selective breeding have an impact on the next bowl of P.E.I. mussels you may order in a restaurant? Hori confirms that the taste and texture of the mussels would still be a top priority. "When you breed an animal, you don't select for a trait … in a blind way. You select it based on that trait, but taking into consideration other things, like meat yield and taste," he said. "You want an animal that grows fast but that retains the characteristics that are essential to that product." Untapped aquaculture potential Hori also pointed out that because of climate change, we'll likely be eating more and more seafood in the years to come. "If you look at some of the estimates the UN has for the consumption of seafood in the next 20 years, there will be a significant increase in the amount of seafood required to provide seafood to the human population." Shellfish, Hori said, have a much smaller risk of having a negative impact on the environment because they consume organic matter."There is a lot of untapped aquaculture potential."More from CBC P.E.I.
The largestbattery-poweredelectric bus fleet in North America is Canadian. Toronto's transit system is now running 59 electric buses from three suppliers. And Canadian pioneers such as Toronto offer lessons for other transit systems aiming to transition to greener fleets for the low-carbon economy of the future.Diesel buses are some of the noisier, more polluting vehicles on urban roads. Going electric could have big benefits.Emissions reductions are the main reason the federal government aims to add 5,000 electric buses to Canada's transit and school fleets by the end of 2024. New funding announced this week as part of the government's fall fiscal update could also give programs to electrify transit systems a boost."You are seeing huge movement towards all-electric," said Bem Case, the Toronto Transit Commission's head of vehicle programs. "I think all of the transit agencies are starting to see what we're seeing ... the broader benefits."While Vancouver has been running electric trolley buses (more than 200, in fact), many cities (including Vancouver) are now switching their diesel buses to battery-powered buses that don't require overhead wires and can run on regular bus routes.The TTC got approval from its board to buy its first 30 electric buses in November 2017. Its plan is to have a zero-emissions fleet by 2040.That's a crucial part of Toronto's plan to meet its 2050 greenhouse gas targets, which requires 100 per cent of vehicles to transition to low-carbon energy by then.But Case said the transition can't happen overnight. Finding the right busFor one thing, just finding the right bus isn't easy."There's no bus, by any manufacturer, that's been in service for the entire life of a bus, which is 12 years," Case said."And so really, until then, we don't have enough experience, nor does anyone else in the industry, have enough experience to commit to an all-electric fleet immediately."In fact, Case said, there are only three manufacturers that make suitable long-range buses — the kind needed in a city the size of Toronto.Having never bought electric buses before, the city had no specifications for what it needed in an electric bus, so it decided to try all three suppliers: Winnipeg-based New Flyer; BYD, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, but built the TTC buses at its Newmarket, Ont. facility; and California-based Proterra.They all had their strengths and weaknesses, based on their backgrounds as a traditional non-electric bus manufacturer, a battery maker and a vehicle technology and design startup, respectively."Each bus type has its own potential challenges." Case said all three manufacturers are working to resolve any issues as quickly as possible.Infrastructure installationBut the biggest challenge of all, Case said, is getting the infrastructure in place. "There's no playbook, really, for implementing charging infrastructure," he said.Each bus type needed their own chargers, in some cases using different types of current. Each type has been installed in a different garage in partnership with local utility Toronto Hydro.Buying and installing them represented about $70 million, or about half the cost of acquiring Toronto's first 60 electric buses. The $140 million project was funded by the federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.Case said it takes about three hours to charge a battery that has been fully depleted. To maximize use of the bus, it's typically put on a long route in the morning, covering 200 to 250 kilometres. Then it's partially charged and put on a shorter run in the late afternoon."That way we get as much mileage on the buses as we can."Cost and reliability?Besides the infrastructure cost of chargers, each electric bus can cost $200,000 to $500,000 more per bus than an average $750,000 diesel bus. Case acknowledges that is "significantly" more expensive, but it is offset by fuel savings over time, as electricity costs are cheaper. Because the electric buses have fewer parts than diesel buses, maintenance costs are also about 25 per cent lower and the buses are expected to be more reliable.As with many new technologies, the cost of electric buses is also falling over time.Case expects they will eventually get to the point where the total life-cycle cost of an electric and a diesel bus are comparable, and the electric bus may even save money in the long run.All-weather testing neededAs of this fall, all but one of the 60 new electric buses have been put into service. The last one is expected to hit the road in early December.Summer testing showed that air conditioning the buses reduced the battery capacity by about 15 per cent. But the TTC needs to see how much of the battery capacity is consumed by heating in winter, at least when the temperature is above 5 C. Below that, a diesel-powered heater kicks in.Once testing is complete, the TTC plans to develop specifications for its electric bus fleet and order 300 more in 2023, for delivery between 2023 and 2025.Potential benefitsEven with some diesel heating, the TTC estimates electric buses reduce fuel usage by 70 to 80 per cent. If its whole fleet were switched to electric buses, it could save $50 million to $70 million in fuel a year and 150 tonnes of greenhouse gases per bus per year, or 340,000 tonnes for the entire fleet.Other than greenhouse gases, electric buses also generate fewer emissions of other pollutants. They're also quieter, creating a more comfortable urban environment for pedestrians and cyclists.But the benefits could potentially go far beyond the local city."If the public agencies start electrifying their fleet and their service is very demanding, I think they'll demonstrate to the broader transportation industry that it is possible," Case said."And that's where you'll get the real gains for the environment."Alex Milovanoff, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Toronto's department of civil engineering, did a study that suggested electrified transit has a crucial role to play in the low-carbon economy of the future.His calculations show that 90 per cent of U.S. passenger vehicles — 300 million — would need to be electric by 2050 to reach targets under the global Paris Agreement to fight climate change.And that would put a huge strain on resources, including both the mining of metals, such as lithium and cobalt, that are used in electric vehicle batteries and the electrical grid itself.A better solution, he showed, was combining the transition to electric vehicles with a reduction in the number of private vehicles, and higher usage of transit, cycling and walking."Then that becomes a feasible picture," he said.What's needed to make the transitionBut in order to make that happen, governments need to make investments, he added.That includes subsidies for buying electric buses and building charging stations so transit agencies don't need to make fares too high. But it also includes more general improvements to the range and reliability of transit infrastructure."Electrifying the bus fleet is only efficient if we have a large public transit fleet and if we have many buses on the road and if people take them," Milovanoff said.In its fall economic update on Monday, the federal government announced $150 million over three years to speed up the installation of zero-emission vehicle infrastructure.Josipa Petrunic, CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium, a non-profit organization focused on zero-carbon mobility and transportation, said that in the past, similar funding has paid for high-powered charging systems for transit systems in B.C. and Ontario. But that's only a small part of what's needed, she said."Infrastructure Canada needs to come to the table with the cash for the buses and the whole rest of the system."She said funding is needed for: * Feasibility studies to figure out how many and what kinds of buses are needed for different routes in different transit systems. * Targets and incentives to motivate transit systems to make the switch. * Incentives to encourage Canadian procurement to build the industry in Canada. * Technology to collect and share data on the performance of electric vehicles so transit systems can make the best-possible decisions to meet the needs of their riders.Petrunic said that a positive side-effect of electrifying transit systems is that the infrastructure can support, in addition to buses, electric trucks for moving freight.So far, Petrunic said, Canada has about 120 battery electric buses on order and on the roads."It's not a lot given that we have 15,000 buses out there in the transit fleet," she said."But we should be able to get a lot further ahead if we match the city commitments to zero emissions with federal and provincial funding for jobs creating zero-emissions technologies."
Tay council wrangled with budget-item options in an attempt to bring down the proposed tax levy as much as possible, eventually settling on a 2% increase. The number is expected to go down to at least 1.4% or 1.2% once the blended tax rate from the county is shared with the municipality, said treasurer Joanne Sanders, who presented a detailed budget to council at its recent special meeting. She told councillors about items that had been taken off the list to help bring the tax rate down to 2%, including major expenses like repairs to bridges. "Granny White bridge, Rumney Road culvert and the Rosemount Road north bridge have all been removed from the capital budget," she said. "We did some more research there and no safety issues came up. The most recent bridge report still had those repairs in the one- to five-year category." These projects will be re-assessed during the 2020 bridge report, added Sanders. And with growth, comes surplus And it is this surplus, said Sanders, which is helping keep the tax rate down. "We are projecting a healthy surplus for the close of 2020," she said. "The greatest contributors are salaries and the supplementary assessments, which created additional income. There is a surplus of $349,500 left in the 2020 projected surplus. We do have funds to work with." Most of that money, Sanders said, has come from growth in the area. "Rather than $93,000 being covered by growth, we're looking at $128,000," she said. "That reduces our reliance on the reserve from $66,500 to $31,500." And with the additional bylaw summer student and administrative summer student positions also taken out of the budget, the reliance on surplus fell further to $19,600. Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle warned about relying too much on growth. "Moving forward, we need to remember the future may not be so kind to us," he said. "We're running out of inventory. Do we require that growth to balance our budget? What impact does that have year-in and year-out?" Sanders said money from supplementary assessments as a result of growth in the area doesn't show up immediately on a budget, but trickles in over a few years. But with great growth comes higher liability, and that means higher insurance costs, she said. According to the budget Sanders shared, insurance costs are estimated to increase by 20% or $84,000 for next year, adding she doesn't see a light at the end of that tunnel. "They're not saying the landscape is going to change," said Sanders. "Last year, we looked at increasing our deductible to decrease our rate, but I don't see a huge light at the end of the tunnel." Capitals projects Coun. Jeff Bumstead wasn't sure if that move would end up saving the township any money in the long run. "If we're pushing these replacements to the end of that one- to five-year suggested range, are we looking at further cost or replacement?" he asked. Rick Bingham, interim operational service general manager, agreed with the councillor's assumption. "You need to do some rehabilitation before it gets to the point you have to do a reconstruction," said Bingham. "I think there are quite a few of them that will need to be reconstructed because they haven't had any rehabilitation done over the years. "I understand the former director had engaged the consultants to do a feasibility review and they will be providing a report over the next couple weeks on how money is best spent on bridges so we can stay ahead of the game," he added. Seeing the trend of removing projects from the capital budget, Coun. Barry Norris came up with another 'money-saving' suggestion. "The dry hydrants for the rural areas; I don't support it," he said talking about the emergency preparedness list. "The fact that we have tankers and mutual aid, I still can't support that at this point in time. Council may want to weight in to defer that expenditure." Fire Chief Brian Thomas made the case for fire safety. "The dry hydrants are a water source for the fire department to use while they're fighting fires out in the rural areas," he said. "We have $10,000 down for the next three years to find locations and get agreements with property owners so that we can enter their property to access the water sources. We do have mutual-aid agreements, but we still need the water source for all those tankers. The closer the water source is the more readily available; then the firefighters will have the amounts of water they will need." Then Norris focused on the planned sidewalk for Seventh Avenue and wondered about $127,000 expenditure. "I find it tough to increase that. The next thing we're going to have to do is clear it through the winter," said Norris, who instead suggested staff should consider putting in a base and a screen top over the pathway. "If it's substantially used, I have no problems putting a top coat on," he said. "To allow $30,000 to do that, let's see how it pans out. We can deviate that to another part of the capital." That suggestion did not sit well with Coun. Sandy Talbot, who said she wasn't sure why Norris had a problem with a project she considered a 'no brainer.' "This has been on the books for two years," she said, noting the safety of children who catch a bus there is a paramount concern. "I'm not sure if you're aware there's an incline on that road on Seventh Avenue, which is like a speedway and people are going down the road at unbelievable speeds. We need this. People walk this road on a daily basis. We need to ensure the safety of our residents." And she had support from councillors Paul Raymond and Mary Warnock. "I agree with Coun. Talbot," said the latter. "They've waited long enough. Sidewalks are important in our community to make them walkable. As we're going to see in official plans that come out, making our communities age-friendly, sidewalks are going to be a priority. I don't think there's any reason to delay this any further." With that, Norris' bid to remove those two items from the list was defeated. Expenses and overtime Talbot had her own concerns over some of the items contained within the budget. "Under expenditures, there's a cost for a rental car for $7,000. What did we need that car for?" she said. Sanders said that was thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. "It was for bylaw due to physical distancing requirements," she added. "It's on the COVID-related expenses list." Talbot then said she was concerned about the amount of overtime recorded. "It's $55,000," she said. "Can you give me an explanation of that? It's a lot of money. It's almost another position." Sanders said that wasn't just in one department, but spread across various township sections. "In a lot of cases, overtime was worked due to COVID-19, additional research and setting stuff up," she said. "There was also additional time that we felt was worked because we didn't necessarily fill positions as quickly as we would have because filling positions wasn't feasible during the height of COVID-19. So you have staff doing double-duty and that's why you see a fair bit of overtime." Talbot said she would like to see overtime kept in check moving forward. "Our aim should be reducing the overtime hours," she said. "I understand (the need) with our snowplow drivers or a public works emergency. But we need to be adherent to the lowest overtime we can allow. We're responsible for the monies of this township. In turn, we need to adhere to some kind of reduction in the overtime as possible." Grants and funding requests This section will be discussed in further detail at an upcoming December meeting, still council directed staff around two moves. "We can take the YMCA out," said Mayor Ted Walker. "They're not going to take us up on the loan offer." He took a bit of a hard line around the funding request made by the Severn Sound Environmental Association. "They had a huge increase last year and this year, the increase looks rather substantial as well," he said, talking about their request of $76,070 from 2019, that increased to $108,462 for this year and has gone up further to $122,042 for next year. "I'm wondering if we've heard anything back from them about this huge increase. "I think we should wait for their response and if we don't get any, we should budget what we did last year," added Walker.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Homelessness in Hythe and the possibility of establishing a shelter in the village have become hot topics in the wake of this year’s economic downturn. The Village of Hythe is requesting feedback ahead of proposed virtual town hall to discuss the issue. “This is the first time to my knowledge that we’ve really experienced the issue, so we’re looking at options for how to deal with it,” said mayor Brian Peterson. No date has yet been set for a virtual meeting, said Leona Hanson, village chief administrative officer. Peterson said he doesn’t believe homelessness is widespread in Hythe, but it poses a great problem to those directly affected. “It’s a small-scale problem, but with large impacts to individuals,” he said. Peterson said he doesn’t believe the number of homeless residents exceeds a half dozen. There is a combination of causes of local housing instability; COVID, falling oil prices and their impact on the economy, he said. The former 7 Lakes Motel near Tags had provided long-term housing for many people and its closure earlier this year has contributed to the issue. Some of the former residents have found other accommodations, but others haven’t, Peterson said. Though rumours have been circulating on social media that the former motel will be re-purposed as a homeless shelter, nothing concrete has been received by the village, said Peterson. A number of concerned citizens have begun discussing how to address homelessness in Hythe, and the idea of re-purposing the motel has been suggested, he said. The group isn’t yet well-established and it hasn’t yet proposed a plan, Peterson said. If the former motel were to be converted into a shelter the village would need to approve that re-purposing through a development permit process, he said. Village CAO Hanson is working on a potential virtual town hall before a plan is advanced, Peterson said, adding the village isn’t considering funding a facility because it lacks the resources. Peterson said there’ve been no applications for a development permit yet, but the process has typically taken months. Homelessness is an urgent issue, but he said the process needs to ensure a good plan for a shelter is in place. “You need to do it right, and ask, ‘Is it the right place?’” Peterson said. “The shelter is a basic concept, but I need a lot more information than that.” He said he’s heard concerns from residents about having a shelter in the community, including whether the village can handle issues often associated with homelessness, mental health and addictions. “Those are valid concerns, and how do you deal with that and what resources are available?” Peterson said. “We certainly don’t have those resources available here today.” That said, some Hythe residents are already struggling with housing instability and mental health or addictions and Peterson said he’s not aware of anyone moving to Hythe to use the shelter. Other residents have expressed concerns about the rising crime they perceive would come with a shelter. Peterson said RCMP response times in Hythe are already an issue. “Adding extra stress to the system is not a good thing,” he said. Before the town hall, feedback is being accepted at 780-356-3888 or email@example.com and residents can also express interest in attending the meeting by using that email address.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
The owner of the Water Street Dinner Theatre in Saint John says he gave Public Health the names and numbers of the 120 guests and staff who were present for a Nov. 13 show, but he can't say whether that was a superspreader event. Roy Billingsley says he's aware that people are speculating that his was one of " two venues" that the chief medical officer of health has described as being the source of 80 per cent of the current active cases in the Saint John zone. "The timeline might suggest that we were involved," said Billingsley. "But I've received no confirmation of that." Billingsley said Public Health notified him on Nov. 18 about a potential public exposure at the theatre on the previous Friday evening. "I was told that myself and my staff had to isolate for 14 days," said Billingsley, who has since decided to close the venue indefinitely. He said about a dozen employees were working that night, and all were tested for the coronavirus but none tested positive.Billingsley said the business was complying with the strict protocols that were in place at the time and masks were mandatory except when customers were seated at their tables. The venue can accommodate 14 tables of 10 people each, with two metres of distance between the tables. As another precaution, customers were able to place their food orders online in advance of the show, he said.> I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines. We were playing by the rules. \- Roy Billingsley, Water Street Dinner Theatre ownerThere was an option to order drinks by texting the bartender, and diners could also order beverages in advance of the event.Those who decided to line up for drinks had to maintain the appropriate distance. "I guess I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines," Billingsley said. "We were playing by the rules. "It's unfortunate that somebody was identified as attending one of our productions having COVID-19. However, I think as long as business owners abide by the rules, anybody who lays blame is kind of foolish for doing so. We're all working within the guidelines, and I think people really need to be kind at this time."Owner not sure when dinner theatre will reopen CBC News asked Billingsley how his business has been faring since the start of the pandemic. He operates both the dinner theatre and a restaurant in the same building across from the cruise ship terminal He said the restaurant, Steamers, is a seasonal business that normally closes in November. This year he decided to close it in September. In March, Ottawa announced a ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters and later cancelled the season entirely. Billingsley said he doesn't know when he'll be able to safely open the theatre, especially since singing is part of the show. "It's been a bit of a roller-coaster," he said. "We've been very fortunate in our region that we haven't had to deal with the effects of COVID for very long … but it certainly takes a toll on you, financially and psychologically." On Nov. 20, when Dr. Jennifer Russell first mentioned the superspreader event in response to a question from CBC News, she said it involved "many" health-care workers. Billingsley said he didn't know about health-care workers attending the show but said many of the customers that night would have known each other.Russell brought up the subject again on Tuesday, without naming dates, times or locations of what she called the superspreader event. She said it occurred at two venues over the course of one evening in Saint John and was directly responsible for 60 confirmed cases in Zone 2. "Sixty people have contracted the respiratory disease from the event — 34 who attended and 26 others who were infected when they came into contact with attendees," said Russell. "This isn't about casting blame, it's really about a teaching moment."
Don’t travel over the upcoming holidays. But if you must, consider getting coronavirus tests before and after, U.S. health officials urged Wednesday.The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the best way to stay safe and protect others is to stay home.The agency also announced new guidelines that shorten recommended quarantines after close contact with someone infected with coronavirus. The agency said the risk in a shorter quarantine is small, but that the change makes following the guidance less of a hardship.The no-travel advice echoes recommendations for Thanksgiving but many Americans ignored it. With COVID-19 continuing to surge, the CDC added the testing option.“Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing , deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” the CDC's Dr. Henry Walke said during a briefing.He said any travel-related surge in cases from travel would likely be apparent about a week to 10 days after Thanksgiving.The virus has infected more than 13.5 million Americans and killed at least 270,000 since January.“The safest thing to do is to postpone holiday travel and stay home," said Dr. Cindy Friedman, another CDC official. "Travel volume was high over Thanksgiving,'' and even if small numbers were infected, that could result in ’’hundreds of thousands of new infections.”‘’Travel is a door-to-door experience that can spread virus during the journey and also into communities that travellers visit or live," she added.For those who decide to travel, COVID-19 tests should be considered one to three days before the trip and again three to five days afterward, the CDC said. The agency also recommended travellers reduce non-essential activities for a full week after they return or for 10 days if not tested afterward. And it emphasized the importance of continuing to follow precautions including masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing.The revised quarantine guidance says people who have been in contact with someone infected with the virus can resume normal activity after 10 days, or seven days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the pandemic began.The change is based on extensive modeling by CDC and others, said the agency's Dr. John Brooks..___Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press
Shoppers hoping to pick up a unique Christmas gift or two at the Victoria Park Gallery may be able to finish their shopping, after finding the Gallery closed for the past two weeks. Ruth Nicholson, a member of the Gallery, said that many of her colleagues, some of who are seniors, became very concerned as the number of COVID cases began to climb. Because the Gallery is not considered an essential service, the group opted to close for two weeks. “We are all retired and need to stay away from it,” said Nicholson. While the doors are closed to the public, there is renovation work taking place, updating the bathrooms and electrical systems. Once the work is done, members will do a thorough cleaning before reopening. “Christmas is a big season,” said Nicholson. “The plan right now is to open on the second of Dec. and stay open until Christmas Eve.” Nicholson said the Gallery may extend its hours to allow for more shopping. Once open, the Gallery, as in past months, will maintain strict cleaning procedures and follow all other recommendations from Public Health. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Leave the snow boots, parkas and glove warmers in the closet, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is coming down from the mountain and straight to your living room.Organizers on Wednesday said that this year they will premiere over 70 films on a custom online platform during the seven day event. There will also be some socially distanced screening opportunities around the country. The festival, which is normally held in Park City, Utah, has been preparing for various scenarios for months as the pandemic has raged on.Festival director Tabitha Jackson said that this model, “Gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are.”Over the course of the festival, feature films will premiere throughout the day at a dedicated time followed by a live Q&A. Ticketholders will have a three-hour window to watch. Second screenings will be available for 24 hours two days later. The rollout, organizers said, is designed to “preserve the energy of a Festival.”There will also be limited screenings at venues across the county, including Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidewalk Drive-In, Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl, Denver's Sie Film Center and Columbus, Ohio’s Gateway Film Center.“At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique -- a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed,” Jackson said.The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 through February 3, and tickets will be available for purchase for the general public beginning Jan. 7. The 2021 slate will be revealed in the coming weeks.Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
Saying federal aid promised for the tourism industry is missing key items, P.E.I. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay says he will have programs to fill some of those gaps next month.Earlier this week federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland provided an update on how the federal government plans to cope with the ongoing pandemic, and part of that was low-interest loans that operators in the tourism industry would qualify for."There's still a lot of details that we don't know yet," MacKay told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.He said he expects to hear more on the next national ministers call, but he does not expect to hear everything he would like."There's certainly some things that we've been advocating for that just aren't in this," he said."We plan to fill some of these gaps and roll them out in early January."Corryn Clemence, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said loan programs won't be enough for many operators."We certainly have quite a few of our small business operators who already have a big debt load," said Clemence."With the uncertainty of … the industry in the next 12 months there's a fear and a hesitation on taking additional debt load."Looking aheadThe 2020 tourism season saw business cut by more than half compared to 2019.There had been hopes that the opening of the Atlantic bubble might be an opportunity to salvage something of the season — New Brunswick and Nova Scotia accounted for 60 per cent of the market in 2019 — but Maritimers did not take advantage of the open border.While vaccine rollout is expected early in the new year, MacKay does not expect a full recovery in 2021. He does, however, believe the province can do a better job of marketing to the Maritimes."We know the Atlantic bubble can work," he said."We feel we can utilize that better than we did. By the time we rolled that out and got going it was July 1st. We've had numerous months now to plan for next year."P.E.I. has positioned itself as a safe destination, and that should help take advantage of any opportunities that do exist for the coming season, he said.More from CBC P.E.I.
The Nova Scotia government is spending more than $2.7 million over the next two years looking to improve the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre in Amherst, N.S.In a news release Wednesday, the province said the money will be used to "complete feasibility assessments, site investigations, schematic design and design development work for the redevelopment of the emergency department and the addition of a 12-station dialysis unit.""Our staff and physicians are challenged to provide optimal care to our patients in the current physical space," Dr. Janneke Gradstein, medical site lead with the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, said in the release. "The redevelopment of our hospital's emergency department, and expansion of dialysis services to reflect the care needs of this region, represent a needed and very appropriate investment in health care for this area."The assessments will focus on how to address the volume being seen in the emergency department, which sees more than 20,000 patients each year. It will also look to add extra privacy and accommodate more complex cases.It will also consider demand and capacity for dialysis services in the area. Currently, residents receive those services in Springhill, Truro, Moncton and Halifax."I'm pleased work is moving forward to explore modernizing the emergency department and a new dialysis unit," Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine said in the release. "These initial steps will lay the groundwork for improvements at Cumberland Regional that will better serve patients in the area."A design consultant is expected to get started on the project by spring 2021.MORE TOP STORIES
The Kincardine Theatre Guild has devised a way to bring live, local entertainment to the homes of residents who are pining for theatre and a boost for their Christmas spirit, during the pandemic. The 2020 Advent Calendar – a gift of theatre, will showcase short video clips, submitted by the public, to help bring some holiday spirit to the community. Earlier this year, the Guild was in the midst of preparing for its production of Curse of the Silver Pharaoh, when the pandemic hit and restrictions were implemented. Bringing the play to the stage was put on hold and while it had hoped to resume rehearsals and reschedule performances for later this year or early 2021, the second wave of COVID struck, and all plans have been put on indefinite hold. “We were well into rehearsals for the spring 2020 show, Curse of the Silver Pharaoh, when the Covid lockdown happened,” said Debbie Deckert, a performer and Guild board member. “We kept hoping this would be a short term thing but sadly we have had to cancel the show, but plan to put it on at a future date. The way things are now, we’ve had to cancel our 20-21 season. We’re only allowed to have three to five crew members in the theatre for maintenance work, no public access.” “Theatre can get to feel like a family and it’s really tough when we can’t be together. We’re looking at alternatives and this “Gift of Theatre” gives us an opportunity to test online performances.” The initiative, which began on Dec. 1, offers a daily clip provided by members of the public. People were invited to send in a video of a song, a dance, reading a poem, or a skit, approximately three to eight minutes in length. The daily video is available for viewing on the Guild website, www.kincardinetheatreguild.com, its YouTube page or on Facebook. The performances are free to view. In lieu of an admission payment, a donation to the Food Bank would be appreciated. “If you enjoyed this presentation, please consider making a donation to the Food Bank,” said Deckert. Deckert hopes the Guild will receive enough clips to offer a new performance every day until Dec. 24. Questions regarding the clip content or format can be directed to Jim May by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and any late submissions should be directed to Deckert at email@example.com. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent