Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq answers some of the latest finance questions including a breakdown of work from home credits.
Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq answers some of the latest finance questions including a breakdown of work from home credits.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool’s woeful home form is developing into a full-blown crisis after Chelsea’s 1-0 victory on Thursday inflicted a fifth straight league loss at Anfield on the Premier League champions — the worst run in the club’s 128-year history. With Liverpool's title defence already over, this was billed as a battle for a Champions League place and Mason Mount’s 42nd-minute goal lifted Chelsea back into the top four. Chelsea’s previous win at Anfield, in 2014, effectively ended the title hopes of Brendan Rodgers’ side. This one was a blow to Liverpool’s chances of a top-four finish under Jurgen Klopp. Klopp’s side is four points adrift of Chelsea and with Everton and West Ham also ahead. Liverpool has now gone more than 10 hours without a goal from open play at Anfield. The hosts failed to register an effort on target until the 85th minute and Georginio Wijnaldum’s weak header was never going to beat Edouard Mendy. They have taken one point from the last 21 on offer at home since Christmas and scored just two goals, one of which was a penalty. None of Liverpool's established front three — Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino — impressed but the sight of Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer, being substituted just past the hour mark was baffling. The Egypt international certainly thought so as he sat shaking his head, having been replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Chelsea, by contrast, looked full of threat with Timo Werner — a player Liverpool was interested in but decided it could not afford last summer — a constant problem. Despite one goal in his previous 17 league outings, he caused problems with his movement, drifting out to the left then popping into the middle to give Fabinho a real headache on his return to the side. The Brazil midfielder, replacing Nat Phillips after he became the latest centre back to pick up an injury, was partnering Ozan Kabak in Liverpool’s 15th different central-defensive starting partnership in 27 league matches. Faced with a statistic like that, it is perhaps understandable why there was a lack of cohesion at the back and Werner should really have profited. He fired one early shot over and then failed to lift his effort over Alisson Becker, back in goal after the death of his father in Brazil last week. Even when Werner did beat Alisson, VAR ruled the Germany international’s arm had been offside 20 yards earlier in the build-up. Liverpool’s one chance fell to Mane but Salah’s first-time ball over the top got caught under his feet and Mane missed his shot with only Mendy to beat. Chelsea was still controlling the game and caught Liverpool on the counterattack when N’Golo Kante quickly sent a loose ball out to the left wing, from where Mount cut inside to beat Alisson having been given far too much time to pick his spot. All five of Mount’s league goals have come away from home. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel spent the first five minutes of the second half screaming at his players to press harder and play higher up the pitch but Liverpool’s players were equally vocal when Firmino’s cross hit the raised arm of Kante from close range. No penalty was awarded. Andy Robertson cleared off the line from Hakim Ziyech after Alisson parried Ben Chilwell’s shot as Chelsea continued to look more dangerous. Klopp’s attempt to change the direction of the game saw him send on Diogo Jota for his first appearance in three months, along with Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jota’s first touch was a half-chance from a deep cross but he was not sharp enough to take it. Werner, meanwhile, was doing everything but score as Alisson’s leg saved another shot as he bore down on goal. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The United Conservative Party (UCP) government released their provincial budget on February 25th, and it’s looking different than what was projected this time last year. COVID-19 created the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and it seems that temporarily increased funding to municipalities could be part of a provincial strategy to reinvigorate the market in 2021. The province’s budget looks like it will effectively lean on municipalities to create jobs now, and yet significantly decrease funding to local governments over the following years. Most municipalities function with a combination of funding from property tax, applicable federal and provincial grants, and levies when necessary. One grant that municipalities have been relying on since 2007 is called the Municipal Sustainability Initiativeli (MSI), which is received from the province to help support local infrastructure funding. This includes both capital funding, which goes towards the actual building of projects, and operational funds, which support day-to-day functions. Each year, with the announcement of the provincial budget, municipalities across Alberta find out just how much they are allotted in MSI funding for the year, and what is projected for future years. A community does not have to use all of their funds that year, but the amount is set aside for them to apply for as projects come up, and they can earmark funding for future projects or projects on the go. In 2019 it was announced that the MSI would be phased out and replaced by the Local Government Fiscal Framework Act (LGGF) in the 2021 budget. According to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), “municipalities are seeking long-term stable and predictable funding” which they hoped would be delivered by the LGFF. Some municipalities were disappointed to see the MSI extended and the LGFF decisions put off until the 2024-25 budget. According to AUMA’s preliminary findings regarding the budget, “While MSI will increase by $233 million this year, declines in the next two years mean that municipalities will lose out on approximately $414 million in funding over the next three years.” In a recent news conference, NDP Municipal Affairs critic Joe Ceci warned that last Thursday’s budget would mean “less money, less stability, less predictable long-term funding by this UCP government.” He shared “the front-loading of the MSI is certainly something to help municipalities with jobs in their communities, but it won’t provide them the predictable money over the long term”. It is likely that communities will have to cut services or raise taxes to address the reduction. The province has found other ways to support local government during these difficult times, including a recovery plan of $500 million in municipal stimulus funding, and maintaining a freeze on the education property tax. Education property tax is a provincial tax that municipal governments are mandated to collect on behalf of the provincial government, which had been expected to increase this year. The town of Cardston, along with every other municipality, is now tasked with creating their budget and five year capital plan based on the funding numbers coming down from the province. It will be interesting to see if communities attempt to spread the funding over the next few years, or if 2021 will see municipal budgets stimulating the economy through large capital projects like the proposed recreation facility. Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
Ontario’s police watchdog has found that a Peel Regional police officer acted lawfully in the November 2019 shooting of a teen police say was in the process of robbing a Mississauga bank. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) ruled that there is no reasonable grounds to believe that the officer committed a criminal offence when he shot the armed 16-year-old in the lower back. According to the SIU, the teen had demanded cash from staff at an HSBC location on Dundas Street East, and the officer confronted him while he was masked, armed with a firearm and carrying a backpack full of cash. “I am unable to reasonably conclude that the (subject officer’s) resort to lethal force fell outside the limits of legal justification,” SIU director Joseph Martino wrote. The suspect suffered significant internal injuries in the incident. According to the SIU account, the officer and three other officers were in the area shortly before 4 p.m. on Nov. 26, 2016, when a motorist alerted them to the robbery nearby inside the Chinese Centre. The SIU states the teenager, donning a hooded-jacket over his head and his face covered with a black t-shirt had walked into the bank brandishing a semi-automatic pistol. A bank employee offered up some cash and coins to the teen, who took the money and demanded more, states the SIU’s report. The officers entered the bank with their firearms drawn, prompting the teen to run toward the west wall of the bank. The subject officer fired a single shot striking the teen in the lower mid-back. Still standing after being shot, the teen dropped his firearm, then was taken to the floor and handcuffed. Police later discovered that the weapon was not loaded, “which is of no consequence,” Martino wrote. “It was an actual firearm which the subject officer would have had every reason to believe was loaded and ready to be fired in the hands of the (teenager).” Martino made special note of the fact that although the gunshot wound to the teen’s back could suggest he was facing away from the officers, he had ignored police commands to remain still and posed an immediate risk to people in the bank. The subject officer declined to interview with the SIU or authorize the release of his notes, as is his legal right. Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
One of Canada's top public health officials sought to reassure Canadians today that a recommendation from a federal vaccine advisory committee to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses is a sound one. Yesterday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months due to limited supplies. Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the advice is based on real-world data that shows doing so would lead to more people being protected from COVID-19 in a shorter time period. "This recommendation is based on clinical trial reports and emerging real-world evidence from around the world. Data shows that several weeks after being administered, first doses of vaccines provide highly effective protection against symptomatic disease, hospitalization and death," Njoo told a technical briefing today. Confusion over conflicting advice Njoo's comments appeared to be addressing the confusion created by the fact that NACI's recommendation conflicts with those issued by Health Canada when it granted regulatory approvals for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Regulatory documents provided by Health Canada upon approval of each vaccine state that the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech should be taken three weeks after the first, the second Moderna shot should come four weeks after the first, and the second AstraZeneca dose should be delivered between four and 12 weeks after the first. All of those recommendations are in line with the product monograph provided by the manufacturers. Adding to the confusion, NACI recommended on Monday against giving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people 65 and older, although Health Canada has authorized it for use in adults of all ages. But Njoo said the discrepancies can be explained by the fact that Health Canada is a regulator and NACI is an advisory body made up of medical experts. "You have likely noticed that NACI's recommendations are sometimes different, possibly broader or narrower than the conditions of vaccine use that Health Canada has authorized. As the regulator, Health Canada authorizes each vaccine for use in Canada according to factors based on clinical trial evidence, whereas NACI bases its guidance on the available and evolving evidence in a real-world context, including the availability of other vaccines," Njoo said. "What we expect is that NACI recommendations will complement — not mirror — those of Health Canada." WATCH: Njoo comments on NACI recommendation to delay second COVID-19 vaccine doses The issue burst into the open on Monday when B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Some medical experts questioned that decision. Canada's chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, said doing so without proper clinical trials amounts to a "population level experiment." Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., told the Washington Post that the science doesn't support delaying a second dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. He said there isn't enough evidence to determine how much protection is provided by one dose of those vaccines, and how long it lasts. Despite those warnings, several provinces followed Henry's lead and even more have indicated they intend to stretch the dosage interval. While it appeared to some at the time that Henry was moving faster than the science, Njoo said that NACI's experts briefed provincial medical officers of health over the weekend on the results of their analysis before releasing their recommendations publicly. NACI concluded that stretching the dosing interval to four months would allow up to 80 per cent of Canadians over the age of 16 to receive a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June, without compromising vaccine effectiveness. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. As for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Njoo said it is safe and that evidence shows it provides protection against very serious disease and death in people of all ages. He said Health Canada has a rigorous scientific review process and only approves vaccines that meet high standards for safety, efficacy and quality. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said expert advice will continue to change as more data becomes available from ongoing mass vaccination campaigns, and she urged provinces and territories to consider recommendations and evidence from both bodies when making decisions about their vaccine strategies. "The messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message and it never changed, but that's not what science does," said Sharma. Decision on Johnson and Johnson imminent At today's briefing, health officials also indicated that a regulatory decision on whether to approve Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine is expected soon. "The review of the Johnson & Johnson submission is going very well, it's progressing, and we're expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days. I would say in the next seven days or so," said Sharma. The company has said its vaccine is 66 per cent effective at preventing moderate to severe illness in a global clinical trial, and much more effective — 85 per cent — against the most serious symptoms. Canada has agreed to purchase up to 38 million doses if it is approved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for use in that country last Saturday. The approval of a fourth vaccine would give a significant boost to Canada's vaccine rollout. Johnson and Johnson's vaccine is widely seen as one of the easiest to administer because it requires only one dose and can be stored for long periods of time at regular refrigerator temperatures. Njoo said additional vaccines, coupled with the NACI recommendation on dosage intervals, could allow Canada to meet the goal of inoculating all adults who want a vaccine "several weeks" before the current target date of the end of September. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading Canada's COVID-19 vaccine logistics, said that while more vaccines would be good news, the current target remains the end of September.
The only legislature in Canada not to have sat during the pandemic may start the upcoming spring sitting a whole new way on Tuesday. The House leaders for the three parties in the Nova Scotia Legislature are seeking unanimous approval to hold a "hybrid" sitting, in which most MLAs would join the proceedings virtually, and only 12 representatives would be allowed to take their seats in the legislative chamber. The proposal has gone out in an email from the clerk of the House, James Charleton, to all 51 members of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. According to the message, obtained by CBC News, each of the three caucuses would be allowed up to three members to sit in person. The two Independent MLAs at Province House, Alana Paon and Hugh MacKay, would also be able to attend, as would Speaker Kevin Murphy. "A hybrid proceeding will minimize the number of persons in the legislative chamber to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while permitting members appearing virtually to participate as fully as they would when appearing in the chamber," wrote Charleton. 'This is going to be chaotic' Others needed in the chamber would include a clerk or deputy clerk, the sergeant-at-arms, as well as legislative pages and a member of the House of Assembly operation staff. Liberal House leader Geoff MacLellan told reporters Thursday he does not expect a hybrid House would run anywhere near as smoothly as a traditional sitting. "This is going be chaotic and very difficult to manage for everybody in terms of having, you know, people in the seats versus the virtual component. The Speaker's Office and the [Legislative] TV working and all the IT components — there's a lot to it," said MacLellan. The leader of the Official Opposition, Tim Houston, took a more optimistic view. "I think Nova Scotia would accept that in the way of the world today, the legislature should be able to operate and it should be able to operate virtually just like other areas are," said Houston. "My main concern is making sure that elected representatives have a legitimate opportunity to represent their constituents and represent their communities. "I'm optimistic that this virtual sitting will meet that standard." MLAs spent just 14 days in legislature The governing Liberals under former premier Stephen McNeil refused to allow the legislature to sit during the pandemic. Politicians spent just 14 days at Province House last year. One of those days lasted for less than five minutes — just long enough to prorogue the session. NDP House leader Claudia Chender said having a hybrid sitting would be the most "durable" of the solutions offered to make the legislature COVID-19 safe. "If we go back into some kind of lockdown situation, if there's a public health issue, there's not rationale for stopping the work of the legislature, and that work desperately needs to happen," she said. The legislature is scheduled to resume sitting on Tuesday. Without all-member approval, 15 MLAs would have to take their seats to propose debate on the matter. There would need to be 48 hours notice to debate. That would delay the work for the House until at least Thursday where the motion would be put to a vote and likely pass, given it is being put forward by all three caucuses. MORE TOP STORIES
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has found the combination of a pilot with limited experience, and deteriorating weather conditions, were the cause of an airplane crash in November 2019 that claimed the lives of seven people. The Piper PA-32-260 crashed into a field between Highway 401 and Creekford Road, in the west end of Kingston, shortly after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 while attempting an temporary stopover at Kingston airport due to weather conditions. According to the release from the TSB, the incident highlights some of the risks of flying at night under visual flight rules (VFR), particularly when weather conditions are poor and over areas with little lighting. Visual flight rules refers to flying an aircraft without the use of electronic instrumentation, as opposed to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), which is typically used to fly at night or in inclement weather and requires additional pilot training and certification. "While the aircraft departed during daylight hours, the majority of the flight was to take place during the hours of darkness," the TSB stated in the release. "As the weather deteriorated throughout the flight and the aircraft neared the Kingston Airport, Ontario, the pilot contacted the Kingston flight service station and stated his intention to land there. Shortly after, the aircraft struck terrain approximately 3.5 nautical miles north of Kingston Airport. All seven occupants were fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed." The crash took the lives of a family of five from Texas, and a Toronto area couple. The investigation found that the pilot departed Toronto/Buttonville Municipal Airport when the weather conditions for the intended flight were below the limits required for a night VFR flight. The TSB said that the flight was planned over some areas that had very little cultural lighting, leading to the pilot having little or no visual reference to the surface during portions of the flight. "Cultural lighting is concentrated lighting around areas such as towns and cities," they said. "Given the pilot’s limited flying experience, it is likely that he did not recognize the hazards associated with a night VFR flight into poor weather conditions," TSB continued. "While approaching the Kingston Airport, the pilot likely lost visual reference to the surface, became spatially disoriented, and lost control of the aircraft." Read the full report here. Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
ANKARA, Turkey — An army helicopter crashed in eastern Turkey on Thursday, killing 11 military personnel on board and injuring two others, the Defence Ministry said. News reports said a high-ranking officer was among the victims. The Cougar type helicopter crashed near the village of Cekmece, close to the town of Tatvan, in the predominantly Kurdish-populated Bitlis province. It was on its way to Tatvan from the nearby province of Bingol when authorities lost contact with it at 2:25 pm (1125 GMT), the ministry said. The victims included Lt. Gen. Osman Erbas, an army corps commander, said Devlet Bahceli, the leader of Turkey's main nationalist party, on Twitter. Pro-government Daily Sabah also reported that Erbas was killed. Nine of the victims died at the crash site, while two died of their injuries in hospital, officials said. The ministry described the crash as an accident, but it wasn't immediately known what caused it. HaberTurk television said the chopper is believed to have crashed in adverse weather conditions, including snow and fog. Cekmece resident Davut Bikec was one of the first people to reach the site. “One of (the injured personnel) was slightly beneath the helicopter but there wasn't a lot of pressure on him. I cleaned the snow from his mouth so he could breathe," Bikec told the state-run Anadolu Agency. “I asked him if he was okay and after he had recovered a little, he said: ‘I am fine.’” “I began digging into the snow; My hands got wounds and bruises. I dug, dug, dug and removed the wounded soldier,” he said. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar departed for Tatvan together with the country's chief of military staff and the land forces' commander to inspect the area, the ministry said. The location of the crash is in an area where Turkish troops have been combating militants of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. The PKK is considered to be a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. In 1997, PKK militants attacked a Turkish Cougar helicopter in northern Iraq, killing 11 Turkish soldiers. More recently, 13 military personnel were killed in 2017, when a Cougar helicopter crashed into power lines shortly after take-off from a base near Turkey's border with Iraq. __ Robert Badendieck contributed from Istanbul. Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press
LONDON — Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind a campaign to turn a former prison in the English town of Reading into an arts venue, a town spokesman said on Thursday, after the street artist confirmed that artwork that appeared on a red brick wall of the prison was of his making. The elusive artist confirmed the picture was his when he posted a video of him creating it on his Instagram account. The monochrome picture shows a man escaping using a rope made of paper from a typewriter. It appeared Monday outside Reading Prison, famous as the location where writer Oscar Wilde served two years for “gross indecency” in the 1890s. The prison closed in 2013, and campaigners want it turned into an arts venue. Britain’s Ministry of Justice, which owns the building, is due to decide mid-March on its future. In his Instagram video, Banksy is shown stealthily stenciling and spraying paint to create the artwork, titled “Create Escape.” The footage is juxtaposed with an episode of a traditional art instruction video called “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.” The campaign to turn the former prison into an arts venue has won the backing of actors including Judi Dench, Stephen Fry and Kenneth Branagh. A spokesman for Reading Borough Council said it was “thrilled that Banksy appears to have thrown his support behind the council’s desire to transform the vacant Reading Gaol into a beacon of arts, heritage and culture with this piece of artwork he has aptly called ‘Create Escape’.” “The Council is pushing the Ministry of Justice, who own the site, to make suitable arrangements to protect the image,” the authority said. The Associated Press
GATINEAU, Que. — The CRTC says that consumers with smartphone-financing plans of three years or longer will be protected by a policy that caps cancellation fees. Since 2019, Canada's major mobile phone carriers have increasingly offered plans that separate instalment payments for mobile phones from the monthly service fees. That same year, a CRTC consultation noted that if wireless service plan ended after two years, but payment plans for the new handset ended after three years, the one-year difference may be costly for Canadians who wished to switch plans or carriers. Now, the commission says its consumer protection rules, called the Wireless Code, will apply to the longer device financing plans just as it applied to subsidized mobile phones. The Wireless Code says Canadians can cancel their cell phone service contracts after two years with no cancellation fees, even if the consumer had agreed to a longer term. The Wireless Code also caps the size of early cancellation fees and gives guidelines on how much the fees should be reduced each month. The CRTC says it has requested that the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services begin separately tracking complaints about device financing plans, and that the wireless carriers will have a month to update contracts to reflect today's announcement. "We want to ensure that device financing plans are not being used to keep customers with their current provider at the end of their service contract," CRTC chief executive Ian Scott said in a statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Hinton’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is encouraging Hintonites to get outside in the spring air and visit a neighbour as part of the new Saturday Driveway initiative. For those who want to participate, all they have to do is set up some lawn chairs and maybe a propane campfire in their front yard and wait for a neighbour to come by for a visit. People can freely decide if they’d like to go walking around their neighbourhood on a Saturday afternoon or evening with a curiosity if they’ll encounter a host. “The number one goal is always going to be social connection. We recognize that we’re having less in-person conversations than we probably did prior to the pandemic. We just appreciate how important it is to talk to other people,” said Lisa Brett, FCSS community connections coordinator. Secondly, the initiative is about building neighbourhoods, Brett added. FCSS hopes this neighbourhood project will help strengthen trusting relationships between neighbours. “A lot of us don’t know our neighbours. So this is an opportunity to introduce ourselves and if we do know our neighbours then this is an opportunity to build on that,” Brett said. The Saturday Driveway initiative kicks off this Saturday, March 6, and FCSS hopes to promote it for the next three months. Brett hopes the initiative will help individuals get used to the idea of hanging out in their front yard on Saturday afternoons and evenings, being neighbourly, and respecting COVID-19 restrictions. Hinton’s FCSS reached out to St. Albert who had a similar project early in the pandemic, and they shared their positive experience and resources. Brett noted the initiative can play an important role in combating isolation that has become more prevalent the past year. “I recognize you can be isolated and not feel lonely. In other scenarios people feel lonely where they’re feeling more empty and separated and that emotion can be quite powerful,” Brett said. Positive interactions among neighbours can also help individuals feel safer in their neighbourhood and realize they can rely on a neighbour in an emergency, she added. She hopes the idea will help the community stave off loneliness, foster connection, and boost happiness in a time where everybody is pulling back due to government mandated COVID-19 restrictions. People can now gather with a group up to 10 while social distancing and wearing masks. “It’s just really about sparking an idea in people rather than telling them what to do. This might only attract certain people or certain personalities but the outcomes are unknown. It’s a hopeful project, it’s about kindness and being welcoming to all people,” Brett said. The Town offers posters to promote the initiative and also one that individuals could hang on their door or mailbox to let others know when they will be hosting a Saturday Driveway event. Hintonites can participate on their own and self-manage their driveway event. “There’s a lot of freedom and liberty involved as long as they recognize that we’re still under COVID-19 [restrictions],” Brett said. RCMP and Fire Department are aware of the project and COVID-19 restrictions were also considered when putting the concept together. A portable fire pit is permissible but if someone chooses to have a real fire, they must read the fire bylaw link on hinton.ca/fcss and adhere to its fire safety precautions. Posters to participate are available at the FCSS office to pick up or for print from the Town of Hinton website. The principle way to know if someone is hosting a Saturday Driveway is that a participant is visibly set up in their driveway or front yard welcoming neighbours to stroll by and have a chat. Being masked and remaining six feet apart must be part of the interactions. Currently, outdoor gatherings allow up to 10 people. Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice
Current promotional program fees for Hinton’s pool at the recreation centre have been reduced by 50 per cent until at least April 6, 2021. On April 6, Council will review the fees and make adjustments as they see fit. The recent increase in fees made it difficult for some families to afford using the facility, stated council during the regular council meeting on March 2. The fees were implemented by administration to make up for lost revenue due to COVID-19 restrictions only allowing one household to use the pool area at a time. “A full facility rental rate is very cost prohibitive. The daily rates are established on more than one to three occupants in the pool or other recreation facility at a time. It’s not enough to offset the cost of operating,” said CAO Emily Olsen. Administration created the promotional program to allow at least some costs to be recouped through an additional fee. Daily rates stay the same but the program offsets the costs of lifeguards on duty, administrative staff, and minimizes the losses seen with the daily rate, Olsen explained. “It was a creative response or solution to allow opening under the restrictions as best as we can to promote health and wellness in the community and allow for families and individuals to utilize the facility,” said Olsen. Reservation fees for 30 minute increments were $10 for pass holders and $20 for non pass holders. This will now be half the price. Currently, there are half hour or one hour time slots available at the pool from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm and 6:30pm to 7:30pm. To abide by provincial COVID-19 restrictions, these reservations allow one individual or one household access to the entire main pool and steam room for fitness purposes. “I appreciate the work that administration has put into opening the facility and trying to come up with an operating plan and pricing that keeps it within the 2021 budget, but we also have some unallocated MOST funds that I feel might be able to offset these additional costs,” said Coun. Tyler Waugh. Council made a direction to recoup lost revenue from the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) Program. The Town of Hinton, along with many other municipalities, received funding through MOST from the provincial government to help offset the COVID-19 related losses for 2020. A portion of the MOST funds was put into a reserve and council is set to make a decision on how to use these funds in April. Not all councilors were immediately on board with spending MOST dollars on subsidizing the pool rates as there are several other initiatives that require support from the funds. “I certainly struggle with limiting the types of people that have access to a public facility, especially one that encourages better physical and mental health. That said, I’d rather be open than closed, I like that we’re going to have an opportunity to get some data on usage and potentially more creative solutions down the road as restrictions continue to change,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson. He suggested looking at the data to discount certain time blocks at the pool that see less usage. Mayor Marcel Michaels stated that many families were priced out of using the facility, and that making a decision on lowering the rates was pressing. By lowering the rate, the pool may also see better usage, he added. Without a report or knowing the financial repercussions of lowering the rates Coun. Trevor Haas and Coun. Albert Ostashek felt it was difficult to slash the rates in half at this meeting. Olsen noted that while it will have a financial impact, it’s unclear what that impact will be. “We’re looking for a price point that can hit the economic reality of the citizens in our community and I think that’s what we’re struggling to find,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn. High rates won’t generate any usage and revenue in the facility, Maguhn added. Olsen added that Step three of Alberta’s plan to lift restrictions is also set for three weeks from now, which may change restrictions for the pool. Laura Howarth, Hinton director of community service noted that the Town offers support for families that need support. “We work with FCSS or people contact us directly. Please encourage families that you are aware of that really want to come to the rec centre but it’s not affordable, and any other time it’s not affordable either, we definitely have the opportunity and are willing and supportive of those families,” Howarth said. To reserve a spot at the pool, register online at hinton.ca/rec or contact Customer Service at 780-865-4412. Reservations have to be made one day prior to the time slot. Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice
WASHINGTON — A key Senate committee on Thursday approved the nomination of New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland to be interior secretary, clearing the way for a Senate vote that is likely to make her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Haaland's nomination, 11-9, sending it to the Senate floor. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland, who won unanimous backing from committee Democrats. Murkowski, a former chair of the committee, said she had “some real misgivings” about Haaland, because of her support for policies that Murkowski said could impede Alaska's reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. But the senator said she would place her “trust” in Haaland's word that she would work with her and other Alaskans to support the state. Her vote comes with a warning, Murkowski added: She expects Haaland “will be true to her word” to help Alaska. Haaland was not in the committee room, but Murkowski addressed her directly, saying, "I will hold you to your commitments.'' “Quite honestly,'' Murkowski added, ”we need you to be a success.'' Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Maria Cantwell of Washington state both called the committee vote historic, and both said they were disappointed at the anti-Haaland rhetoric used by several Republicans. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the panel's top Republican, and other GOP senators have repeatedly called Haaland's views “radical” and extreme. Heinrich said he voted for two interior secretaries nominated by former President Donald Trump “whose views (in support of expanded drilling and other resource extraction) may have been considered quite radical by many of my constituents.” Still, he never used that word to describe them, Heinrich said. Heinrich, who lives in Haaland's district, said she “always has an open door and an open mind” to a range of views. The committee vote follows an announcement Wednesday by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that she will support Haaland in the full Senate. Her vote, along with Murkowski's, makes Haaland’s confirmation by the Senate nearly certain. The panel's chairman, Sen. Joe Manchin, announced his support for Haaland last week. Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, said Thursday that he does not agree with Haaland on a variety of issues, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but was impressed by the strong endorsement by Alaska Rep. Don Young, a conservative Republican who is the longest-serving member of the House and has forged a strong working relationship with the liberal Haaland. As a former governor, Manchin also said he knows how important it is for a president to have his “team on board” in the Cabinet. “It is long past time to give a Native American woman a seat at the Cabinet table,'' he said. Interior oversees the nation’s public lands and waters and leads relations with nearly 600 federally recognized tribes. Barrasso, who has led opposition to Haaland, said her hostility to fracking, the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other issues made her unfit to serve in a position in which she will oversee energy development on vast swaths of federal lands, mostly in the West, as well as offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Barrasso said a moratorium imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands “is taking a sledgehammer to Western states’ economies.? The moratorium, which Haaland supports, could cost thousands of jobs in the West, Barrasso said. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
Town of Cardston Council is currently drafting a tax-exemption bylaw to “encourage redevelopment and new development of non-residential properties within the Town” (Draft Bylaw 1695). Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Shaw sheds light on Cardston’s decision in a recent interview with The Temple City Star. “Prior to 2019 the legislation was written to only allow deferral or cancelation of taxes,” he states “and only if it was equitable”. On release of Bill 7 in 2019, Kaycee Madu, who was the Minister of Municipal Affairs, stated that the new bill would “allow municipalities… to offer a wide range of property tax incentives for non-residential properties for the purposes of attracting and retaining economic development.” Shaw says that at first, there was a general feeling around the council table to be cautious and observe how the bill would be applied across the province, rather than being the first community to dive in. Lucky for them, other municipalities in the province were willing to go first, and Cardston has been able to model their draft bylaw after the Town of Edson’s. Other tax incentive bylaws initiated by municipalities in the region last year include Cardston County and the Town of Fort Macleod. Though each of the bylaws were created for a similar purpose, they look different in both the requirements of the applicants and the incentive offered by the municipality. Cardston’s draft bylaw requires that a business’s investment (addition, expansion or renovation) increase the property value by at least 25%. This differs from Fort Macleod’s bylaw which requires a minimum $50, 000 investment into the property, and also from Cardston County’s bylaw which uses a variable incentive that decreases the taxation percentage as the investment by the business into the property increases. Cardston’s draft also reflects Edson’s choice to not require an application fee, which differs from Cardston County which requires a $500 fee, and Fort Macleod which requires a $100 fee. The incentive offered by each municipality is unique. Cardston’s draft bylaw offers a reduction of taxes over the first five years. This starts with a 100% reduction in taxes for the first year, which declines by 20% with each consecutive year. Edson’s bylaw reduces taxes by 100% for the first two years, and decreases the reduction by 25% each year for three more years. Fort Macleod’s bylaw offers a 100% reduction for the first year, with the reduction decreasing by 25% for the following two years. Cardston County, however, offer the same incentive each year for four years based on the investment Any bylaw draft presented to council requires three readings before coming into effect. This means the council looks at the draft, makes any amendments they see fit, and votes with a majority in favour of the bylaw a total of three times. The first reading of the Non-residential Property Tax Incentive Bylaw in Cardston was moved by Councillor Bengry on November 10th, and passed unanimously. During this meeting council asked administration to get feedback on the draft bylaw from both the Economic Development committee and the Chamber of Commerce. The second reading was moved by Councillor Selk on February 23rd and, again, was passed unanimously. Conversation at the more recent meeting involved recommendations that had been received in discussions with a legal representative. Questions the council is still considering before passing the bylaw include whether or not the tax reduction would begin upon approval of the application, on commencement of construction, or completion of construction. Most other municipalities seem to be requiring that improvements be completed before the tax exemption begins, whereas Cardston’s lawyer advised that a business may be more motivated to initiate development if the tax exemption comes into effect when the application is approved. Shaw says that the town hopes this tax reprise will allow business owners doing new builds “to be able to focus on the financing of a new space… during those initial construction years. Also, existing businesses will be enabled to “turn over low assessment properties sitting idle into newer more modern structures, and allow them to get cash flowing before they have to face the full tax burden”. Pandemic timing could be ideal for this bylaw introduction as many businesses are focusing on renovations while their doors have to remain closed anyways. If businesses start construction now, they will have tax relief over the next five years as the economy starts to boom again and the vaccine allows for more community interaction and local spending. Council will likely debate further on the draft later in March and the bylaw could be in effect by April. So, if your business could use a facelift this spring, keep an eye out for the opportunity to get a break from your taxes and focus on the bricks and mortar. Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star
CALGARY — The move by U.S. President Joe Biden to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline in January continues to plague Canadian oil companies, with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. forced to digest a related $143-million charge on its fourth-quarter results on Thursday. If not for the blemish on its earnings in the last three months of 2020, analysts said the company would have registered a solid beat on expectations driven by strong oilsands mining production and operating cost cuts. "In 2020, we were nimble, quickly lowering our capital," said president Tim McKay told a conference call, referring to Canadian Natural's move to cut its 2020 budget to $2.68 billion last May from its original $4.05 billion in view of plunging oil prices. "With our long-life, low-decline and high-quality asset base, we still achieved record annual corporate boe (barrels of oil equivalent) production of 1.16 million boe per day, or an approximately 65,000 boe/d increase over 2019 levels." McKay said the company's production of synthetic crude from its oilsands mining and upgrading operations reached a record of 490,800 barrels per day in December due to high utilization rates and ongoing incremental production growth projects. Meanwhile, he added, 2020 operating costs fell by $2.10 to $20.46 per barrel of synthetic crude. Last month, oilsands rivals Cenovus Energy Inc. and Suncor Energy Inc. reported $100 million and $142 million charges against fourth-quarter earnings, respectively, related to their roles as Keystone XL backers. Pipeline builder TC Energy has warned it expects to take a "substantive'' charge on the Keystone XL pipeline project when it reports first-quarter results. Canadian Natural reiterated its 2021 capital budget of about $3.2 billion, which is expected to add about 61,000 boe/d of production over 2020 levels. On the call, McKay said he's confident that export capacity into the United States will continue to improve with Enbridge Inc.'s Line 3 replacement pipeline project starting up late this year and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion set to be in service by the end of 2022. Canadian Natural says it has 94,000 bpd of committed capacity on the latter. The company announced it is increasing its quarterly dividend for the 21st consecutive year by 11 per cent to 47 cents per share after resisting calls last year to lower it as oil prices fell. It also plans to buy back shares this year as a way to provide returns to shareholders. Any other excess cash will be applied to debt repayment, McKay said, adding he would "never say never" in response to a question about more acquisitions following the $111-million buyout of Painted Pony Energy Ltd. which closed in October. Canadian Natural reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $749 million or 63 cents per share on sales of $5.2 billion, up from $597 million or 50 cents per share in the year-earlier period on sales of $6.3 billion. In reports, analysts said Canadian Natural matched their expectations with production of 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the quarter, up from 1.16 million boe/d in the fourth quarter of 2019. "Of note, excluding a provision for the cancellation of Keystone XL (something other companies also recorded), cash flow per share would have been a nice beat," pointed out analyst Phil Skolnick of Eight Capital in a report to shareholders. National Bank analyst Travis Wood said the company is well-funded for its 2021 programs. "With an abundance of free cash flow, Canadian Natural has significant optionality for free cash flow allocation across debt reduction, returns to shareholders, organic growth, and opportunistic acquisitions," he said in a report. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:CNQ, TSX:CVE, TSX:SU) Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
YELLOWKNIFE — Residents of the Northwest Territories who are from Norman Wells and Fort Simpson can now self-isolate at home if they leave the territory. A previous public-health order required anyone who left N.W.T. to isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River or Inuvik. The territory's chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, says the order was changed because Norman Wells and Fort Simpson both have a wastewater surveillance program to test for COVID-19. The two communities also have adequate medical resources to support new infections. Kandola says only residents of Normal Wells and Fort Simpson will be allowed to self-isolate there. They must also submit a self-isolation plan to the territory's public-health office. There are currently two active cases of COVID-19 in the territory. The Canadian Press
BOSTON — Distance running, traditionally one of the world's most genteel sports, has been roiled by an ugly mid-pandemic squabble over who should get a shot at a coveted Boston Marathon medal. Rival camps in the running world began snapping at each other's heels this week. It began after the Boston Athletic Association, which still hopes to hold a truncated in-person edition of the planet's most prestigious footrace in October, said it will award medals to up to 70,000 athletes if they go the distance wherever they are. Practically within minutes of the BAA's announcement greatly expanding its virtual version of the race, a boisterous social media maelstrom ensued. On one side: Runners who've spent years training to qualify to run the real thing, including some who complain that mailing medals to people who run the 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometres) in Dallas or Denver will cheapen the iconic Boston experience. “A dagger through the heart to someone who has worked hard to finally earn the qualifying standard,” one runner, Mark Howard of Salisbury, North Carolina, groused on Twitter. On the other: Pretty much everyone else, including the plodding masses and runners who raise millions for charities, who counter that anything that helps the 125-year-old marathon survive the COVID-19 crisis is worthwhile. “A virtual Boston race that invites everyone is a reason to celebrate,” said Maria Arana, a marathoner and coach in Phoenix. “It in no way takes away from my personal Boston Marathon experience or anyone else’s.” The bickering seems to have caught many off-guard, if only because road racing has long had a reputation as a kind and egalitarian sport. It's one of the few disciplines where ordinary amateurs compete in real time on the same course as elite professionals, and where trash-talking is rare. As four-time Boston champion Bill Rodgers famously said: “Running is a sport where everyone gets along.” A notable exception to that gentility was the 1967 race, when race director Jock Semple ran after Kathrine Switzer — the first woman to run with an official bib number — and tried unsuccessfully to pull her off the course. It also comes as the Boston Marathon and other big-city races are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic and looking for creative ways to keep runners engaged online. The BAA put on a virtual version of the marathon last year, after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to first postpone its usual April running to September, and then cancel in-person racing altogether. But that was limited to athletes who had already qualified to race or had registered as charity runners. This time, the first 70,000 people aged 18 or older who sign up and pay a fee will be able to earn a finisher's medal simply by covering the classic distance wherever they happen to be. They don't even need to run — they can walk. “For the first time in our history, most everyone will have the opportunity to earn a Unicorn finisher’s medal,” BAA president and CEO Tom Grilk said in a statement. Grilk said the in-person race, if it comes off as scheduled on Oct. 11, will have a reduced field to help keep athletes and spectators safe. Typically the Boston field is capped at around 30,000; the BAA hasn't said how much smaller it will be this autumn. Josh Sitzer, a San Francisco runner who's qualified for the Boston Marathon three times, initially was among those who trashed the idea of giving out 70,000 medals as “a blatant money grab.” “Respect yourself and the game. Don’t do Boston unless you earn it,” he tweeted. Then he had a change of heart, tweeting: “I was wrong. It's not the same as the actual Boston Marathon, and it doesn't devalue” the experience of those who meet strict qualifying standards for a chance to line up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. It's been a bad look, acknowledges Erin Strout, who covers the sport for WomensRunning.com. “If there ever was a time to put our elitism and cynicism aside, it’s now,” she wrote in an opinion piece. “Let’s welcome each other in, cheer each other on, and seize the opportunity to bring back running bigger, better, and more inclusive than it was before.” ___ This story has been corrected to delete a reference to a $70 entry fee for the virtual marathon; organizers say they haven't yet decided on entry fees. ___ Follow AP New England editor Bill Kole on Twitter at http://twitter.com/billkole. William J. Kole, The Associated Press
Alphabet Inc's YouTube will lift its suspension on former U.S. President Donald Trump's channel when it determines the risk of real-world violence has decreased, the company's CEO, Susan Wojcicki, said on Thursday. YouTube suspended Trump's channel for violating policies against inciting violence after the assault on the U.S. Capitol by the former president's supporters in January. "The channel remains suspended due to the risk of incitement to violence," said Wojcicki, speaking in an interview with the head of the Atlantic Council think tank.
There are now seven more cases at the Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC). The cases are still contained to the same unit where the initial 14 were identified over the weekend, said Richard Dionne, president of the CNCC Local 369. The corrections officer said he could not share the total number of inmates in that wing, but noted that the area remains isolated. "I don't know the full count and I can't give it to you anyway for security reasons," said Dionne, speaking to MidlandToday. He said he was thankful that no staff cases have been identified at this time. "Hopefully, it stays that way," said Dionne. "The health unit came in the other day to offer voluntary staff testing. I don't know how many staff got tested, but none of those that did, to my knowledge, have come back positive." He said the same safety protocols are being followed with staff wearing increased PPE when interacting with inmates and those incarcerated being provided with masks if needed. "There haven't been any additional measures put into place right now," said Dionne. As for the virus possibly spreading in the air, he said, every unit functions independently in terms of ventilation. "I'm very hopeful we can contain it to the one unit and not have it spread to the entire institution," Dionne said, adding the stress level among staff remains high. "The workload has increased just based on the way that the operation changes because we're limiting day-room use and following protocol around higher use of PPE. And it's also the same for inmates, he added. "They just get more and more frustrated being locked down," Dionne said. "Increased cell time is never good for anyone. That's been put out there by a number of professionals that time locked in the cell by yourself or with one other person isn't beneficial." A request for comment from the province was not received by publication time. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com