‘The Germ Guy’ Jason Tetro shares the best ways to keep both your hands and high-touch surfaces clean during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘The Germ Guy’ Jason Tetro shares the best ways to keep both your hands and high-touch surfaces clean during the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday a resolution to a bitter dispute with Qatar seemed "within reach" after Kuwait announced progress towards ending a row that Washington says hampers a united Gulf front against Iran. The United States and Kuwait have worked to end the dispute, during which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a diplomatic, trade and travel embargo on Qatar since mid-2017.
Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
CALGARY — One child asks for a coat for her dog in case her family gets evicted. Another girl hopes Santa can bring her pet medication he needs. Another wishes for enough dog food.A charity that provides subsidized pet care, including food hampers and medical treatment, for low-income residents is receiving Christmas letters from children asking for help for their furry friends.Parachutes for Pets in Calgary has delivered 2,000 pet food hampers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. But demand, especially during the second wave of the pandemic, is taking its toll on both the organization and those receiving help."Instead of Santa I wanted to write to you guys. My dog Badger is really cute and my best friend. He needs pills or he gets really, really sick. Could you bring me his pills for my Santa gift? I've been really good and so has he," reads a letter signed Hanna and Badger.The organization says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week that normally would have gone to Santa."My Christmas wish this year is a coat for my dog Max. Mom says we can't pay rent after this month and I want Max to be warm if we have to stay in our car," wrote Kaylee."I have a warm coat and I think one would be good for him to stay warm. Please tell Santa this is my only wish. Merry Christmas."Melissa David, who founded the charity, said the messages from the kids are heartbreaking."Instead of writing to Santa, they've written to us. Their Christmas wish is either for their dog to get medication and their dog to get food, so they don't have to share their meal with them."David said the charity referred Kaylee's mom, who was at risk of being evicted, with an agency to deal with her rent arrears.She said the charity made it through the first wave of the pandemic, but the resurgence of COVID-19 in the last months has resulted in demands coming at a "fast and furious rate.""This second wave is going to cripple us. The amount of additional homeless with pets and domestic violence incidents involving pets is astronomical," David said.People are still donating food items, she said, but there's also a need for cash, which is in short supply."This (pandemic) in addition to everyday challenges that are still here, such as cancer and illness, is really making it difficult for people to keep their pets at a time they can't afford mentally to lose them."David said she is reaching out in desperation since there are limits on what help the charity can arrange."We were passed over for most COVID grants because animals were not considered essential."There are also messages asking for help from physically abused women who are afraid to leave their pets behind."They want to take their pet with them. They're at the lowest of lows and they don't leave with anything but the clothes on their back. And if that pet stays, statistics are 80 per cent that it will be tortured or killed or used as some sort of revenge by the abuser."The head of the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter said crisis calls between April and September were up nearly 65 per cent compared with the year before.Shelter CEO Kim Ruse confirms many women stay where they are for fear of their pets being harmed. "Not having a place for pets to go often stops women from leaving abusive and dangerous situations," Ruse said. "Many are unaware that there are options for keeping pets safe while finding safety for themselves and their children."She said the agency does have pet-friendly rooms to accommodate small animals."Allowing pets in the shelter will help provide emotional and healing support for women and their children during their stay."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020\-- Follow @BillGraveland on TwitterBill Graveland, The Canadian Press
MADRID — Spain's Supreme Court has revoked a less restrictive prison status awarded to nine Catalan political figures previously sentenced to jail for their part in a secession attempt in Catalonia. The status would have allowed them almost daily release. The court said Friday that such a measure was “premature” given that none of the nine had served half their sentence and most not even a quarter of it. The sentences ranged between nine and 13 years. The nine were convicted in 2019 of sedition and misuse of public funds following the failed independence bid two years earlier. After they were transferred to prisons in the northeastern region, the pro-independence Catalan regional government granted them third-grade status last July. meaning they could leave prison during the day to carry out certain activities. The July measure was quickly suspended following appeals by prosecutors. The new court ruling comes as the leftist Spanish government is considering possible pardons and a reform of the sedition law that would favour the nine. The nine include the former vice-president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, and five ex-regional cabinet members. Former regional president Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium and is still sought by Spanish authorities. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the secession push in Catalonia was Spain’s most serious crisis in decades. Polls have long shown the wealthy region’s 7.5 million inhabitants are roughly evenly divided over independence. Spain’s constitution says the country is indivisible. The Associated Press
When Bob Murphy began his search for an affordable housing unit in Toronto, he said the process felt something like blindly throwing darts at a map.As a person with a disability on a fixed income, Murphy's options for an affordable unit within the Toronto Community Housing system were even further limited."You're just basically looking at an address on a map and just picking five choices you would possibly want," he said of the process.Three years later, he says there's been no movement on his application, and a total lack of communication about the status of his search.Murphy says he's now resigned to quietly languishing on Toronto's massive waiting list for affordable housing, which numbers 79,768 according to the city's latest count."I call it the never, ever housing list," said Murphy, who also volunteers with the advocacy group ACORN Canada. "I don't plan on anything ever developing from this list."Frustrating experiences like Murphy's are now driving a push to transform the city's outdated affordable housing application system, which has been described as an inconvenient relic from a pre-digital age."It's a barrier to entry," said Mark Richardson, an affordable housing activist behind the grassroots organization HousingNowTO. He's critical of the current system's reliance on physical documentation and the need for applicants to frequently update their files."I think it's a cumbersome system for people who are looking for housing," said Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, who is also the chair of the city's planning and housing committee.All eyes on NYCImprovements to Toronto's affordable housing application process could make the system easier to access, more responsive, and ultimately more capable of matching applicants with suitable housing, say those calling for change.Those advocates can now point to New York City, which in June rolled out a similarly ambitious makeover of its affordable housing application system to early positive reviews.Prospective tenants in New York can now access and update their applications on a smartphone, and the streamlined system is said to be more effective at matching tenants to possible homes."I think it would make a major difference and possibly create a little bit more hope," said Murphy of New York's revamped system.Richardson said a more sophisticated and intuitive system could also remove a burden on applicants to apply for various lotteries when new units become available. Rather than applying for a handful of buildings like Murphy has done, an improved system could match tenants with any building with an availability."You're not waiting to see some sign up on the side of the building, or the sign in a lobby of a building saying some units are becoming available," Richardson said.Change coming early next year, city saysBailão calls the updated system in New York "a great example" and said Toronto's social housing application process will take cues from it for its next update."It is an excellent system and that's what I'm hoping we're going to be able to roll out in Toronto," she said.She said that could happen as soon as the first quarter of 2021 for subsidized units in the Toronto Community Housing network. The same system would later be used for other forms of affordable housing, including below-market-rate units, Bailão said.A recent pilot project that tested an enhanced application system created the equivalent of 200 new units by more efficiently matching tenants to homes, she added.Despite possible improvements to the application process, Toronto will still have to grapple with a demand for affordable housing that still vastly exceeds the current supply of units.The city's HousingTO plan has a target of 40,000 new affordable housing units by 2030, which covers about half the applicants currently on the city's waiting list.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Paula and Anthony Hunter spun off their catering service into a restaurant serving Italian food with a “touch of soul” right before the coronavirus hit. Soon, both Louisville businesses slammed to a halt, and the couple relied on federal relief to help stay afloat.They improvised to keep income flowing in, navigating a maze of food delivery mobile apps and prepping boxed lunches for health care workers toiling long hours at local hospitals.Now, hit with a recent statewide order closing restaurants to indoor dining until mid-December, the couple is hoping for another round of federal aid to hang on until a vaccine arrives.“Just a few more months, you know, get us through this,” said Paula Hunter, who owns the Black Italian restaurant along with her husband.Kentucky's senior senator, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is at the centre of congressional negotiations on another relief package. Kentucky voters didn’t punish McConnell for the long-stalemated talks, awarding him a lopsided victory as he secured a seventh term in last month’s election. He spent the campaign boasting about the money he delivered for the Bluegrass State in the massive federal relief package passed early in the pandemic.While reports of hardship are growing in Kentucky, much of the political pressure there is focused not on McConnell but on the state’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear.Beshear is under fire from business owners and state GOP leaders who think the virus-related restrictions he’s imposed on daily life in Kentucky have gone too far. Emboldened by gains they made in the November elections, GOP legislative leaders are expected to push to rein in Beshear’s authority to take emergency measures when the legislature convenes next year.Beshear says he's focused on saving lives but Congress must do its part and pass more aid.“We need people to not be Democrats or Republicans but to be human beings and do the right thing," the governor said in an interview. “People out there are dying, People out there are hurting. This is the time to invest in our people and in their safety.”With COVID-19 surging across the country, a group of Senate centrists has offered a $908 billion federal relief package aimed at breaking the monthslong logjam. McConnell hasn’t budged so far from a $550 billion plan that failed twice this fall but said Thursday that “compromise is within reach” as bipartisan talks gained momentum in the Senate.“There is no reason why we should not deliver another major pandemic relief package to help the American people through what seems poised to be the last chapters of this battle,” McConnell said in a Senate speech this week.In his home state, anxiety is rising along with deaths, infections and hospitalizations.In a region already reeling from the decline of coal mining, eastern Kentucky pastor Chris Bartley has heard an unprecedented chorus of pleas for help from people whose lives have been shattered by the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19.“You hear the desperation in the phone calls: ‘I have to pay my rent today. I’ve done everything I can do. I’ve offered to rake leaves or mow grass or anything I can do.’ They’ve lost their job or the stimulus has run out,” said Bartley, associate pastor at a Methodist church in Pikeville, Kentucky.Along with prayers for divine guidance, Bartley hopes to see more relief from Congress.Beshear, meanwhile, delivers daily doses of grim news of the state's virus cases and deaths and presses for another economic lifeline for struggling businesses, the unemployed, and state and local governments.“We saw the first round of CARES Act funding really flow through our economy in a positive manner," he said. “People needed the dollars. They spent the dollars. We saw businesses lifted up by those dollars. We were able to use funds to help people stay in their homes with an eviction-relief fund. Pay their utility bills so they didn’t end up in debt."Beshear has carefully avoided calling out McConnell or President Donald Trump as the impasse drags on. Republicans dominated federal and state elections last month in Kentucky.The governor has fought his own battles as his restrictions on businesses, gatherings and schools have drawn opposition from GOP lawmakers, business operators and the state's Republican attorney general.Kentucky's Supreme Court last month upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related mandates, but Beshear is now embroiled in another legal fight over his recent virus-related suspension of in-person classes at religious schools.Some restaurant operators vow to reopen their dining rooms to 50% capacity later this month, regardless of whether Beshear chooses to extend his current order closing restaurants and bars to indoor dining until Dec. 13. Beshear said Wednesday he doesn't expect to extend the order. The governor set aside $40 million in federal aid to help bars and restaurants reeling from the restrictions, but many say it will cover only a small portion of the revenue they're losing.Publicly, Beshear shrugs off the pushback from his detractors.“I’m willing to take whatever blame some people want to heap out there," he said. “If it means that their relatives are still around for Christmas this year and Christmas next year, I’ll take it.”Meanwhile, Beshear this week announced the release of an additional $50 million in federal relief funding to reimburse hard-hit city and county governments for coronavirus-related expenses.Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones welcomed the influx of money but warned that without another federal relief package, the hardships will intensify for city and county governments faced with increasing demands from constituents amid shrinking tax revenues.He's hoping any new federal package includes another round of Paycheck Protection Program subsidies for struggling businesses and an extension of supplemental federal unemployment programs.“There’s no question if there’s not an extension of the unemployment benefits and another round of PPP funding, it will have a catastrophic impact on local revenues,” Jones said.Bartley sees the damage being inflicted on families firsthand.“I'm dealing with more mental health issues than I ever have in 20 years," he said.At his church's food pantry, demand fell after Congress passed the massive aid bill months ago, but now more and more people are showing up for bags of groceries.“It’s almost as much as we can do to keep up again," Bartley said.Congress, he added, needs to “get past all of the politics” and provide more aid to those in need.“I don’t know a whole lot about the political scheme of all this, but it seems like we’ve got to do something for the betterment of our country," Bartley said. “I don’t know how or what that could be. But it feels like something has to happen, or it’s like the dam is going to break.”___Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.Bruce Schreiner And Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, The Associated Press
Premier Blaine Higgs' concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten the long-term financial support New Brunswick receives from Ottawa has turned out to be prophetic, a new report by a national think-tank shows.Ben Eisen and Milagros Palacios of the Fraser Institute released a study Thursday suggesting contractions in the economy caused by the pandemic and other forces are flattening economic differences across the country and hastening the creation of new have-not provinces. The new order would dilute the federal government's critical $21 billion equalization program – New Brunswick's most important source of support. "It's a fundamentally transformative change," Eisen said in an interview."Where there used to be a big gap between the so-called haves and have-nots, I'm not even sure that bifurcation makes sense any more."Five have-not provinces are currently eligible for money under the program's formula, including Manitoba, Quebec and all three Maritime provinces.As Canada's poorest province, New Brunswick is receiving a record $2.2 billion in equalization funding this year, 10.7 per cent of the entire federal funding pool. The amount to New Brunswick has grown by $502 million in the last four years, an amount boosted in part when Ontario stopped receiving money two years ago. But as quickly as equalization payments can escalate for poor provinces when national economic disparities are growing, they can also recede, either by a poor province getting richer or rich provinces getting poorer. Eisen said economic data has been revealing a steady "convergence" between rich and poor provinces for several years that has accelerated during the pandemic, moving some like Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario close to requalifying for equalization money. He claimed changes are so dramatic it is not out of the question that Alberta will become a have-not province in this decade, a development with major implications for provinces currently in the equalization pool."There's a set amount of equalization dollars. If a new province becomes eligible for equalization payments, what's left for the other provinces that were receiving them before goes down," said Eisen."If you think of everyone eating a pizza and one more person comes and sits down, that's obviously less for the people who were there before. Equalization is no different." Tombe is an associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary and one of Canada's leading experts on equalization.He calls research behind the new study "top notch," but says it is difficult to predict what will happen in the near term."Forecasting these days is tricky, to say the least," Tombe said in a message Thursday.Equalization is based on three-year rolling averages of economic activity and works from a formula completely in the hands of the federal government, which can change the formula as it wishes. The formula also has protections built in to shield the poorest of provinces and, according to Tombe, that means equalization cuts are less of a threat to New Brunswick than to Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba."Those (with economies) furthest from the national average will tend to gain relative to those closer to it," Tombe said. "Hence Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick aren't as likely to be adversely affected." Higgs has been expressing concern since last spring about the federal government's ability to sustain funding of the equalization program and the effect Alberta's economic troubles might have on how the formula works.> Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'we won't worry about that today.' Well, for me, I'm very worried about it. \- Premier Blaine Higgs"I'm very concerned about next year and our transfer payments, because I don't know what's left in the federal government," he said in May."Given the projections of the hole being dug federally, it's like, 'well, we won't worry about that today. We'll worry about that tomorrow or the next day,' or maybe someone believes they'll never have to worry about it. Well, for me, I'm very worried about it and very concerned."Eisen believes it's likely more provinces will qualify for equalization, and that provinces in the program should prepare for what that could mean."It's important to recognize this is a development that could very well affect the budgets of Maritime provinces," he said.
The City of Amsterdam has asked an expert on Sinterklaas how to the modernise the tradition.View on euronews
CALGARY — It seems like a no-brainer to use clean-burning hydrogen to offset the environmental negatives of natural gas for warming homes, but pilot projects to do just that starting next year illustrate nothing is simple about this trendy new energy source.As companies consider ways to commercialize hydrogen as a cleaner alternative fuel and projects advance in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and Markham, Ont., most observers concede it will take time and government support to overcome its cost competitiveness issues and lack of infrastructure."All hydrogen is not created equal," says Tahra Jutt, director of the clean economy program for B.C. with environmental think tank The Pembina Institute and co-author of a hydrogen primer published in July.“If you blend the lowest carbon hydrogen, you're going to get a much better outcome in terms of climate benefit."Hydrogen has many advantages as an energy source. When it burns it leaves only water behind — no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. It can be used for high-energy-intensity applications such as trucking, shipping and steelmaking. It can be compressed for energy storage and transportation. It's non-toxic and dissipates quickly when released.But there are disadvantages, too. Its low ignition temperature and nearly invisible flame when burning pose potential safety issues. Concentrated hydrogen can damage metal, requiring enhanced protection for pipelines. The act of creating hydrogen requires energy, whether to tear apart water molecules with the electrolysis method or breaking down natural gas molecules through thermal processes which themselves create greenhouse gases."The economics in our view for blue and green (hydrogen) are challenged right now but support will increase, costs are bound to come down, so (it's) another good opportunity for us to capitalize on our infrastructure," said Al Monaco, CEO of pipeline company Enbridge Inc., on a recent conference call, echoing the cautious stance taken by many industry leaders.Almost all of the hydrogen created in Canada today is considered "grey," created by burning fossil fuel and then used in industrial processes such as refining petroleum or producing fertilizer. Pembina estimates it costs between 91 cents and $1.42 per kilogram to make.If the carbon dioxide and other pollutants from making grey hydrogen are captured and stored, it becomes "blue" hydrogen, but the cost jumps to between $1.34 and $1.85 per kilogram."Green" hydrogen is separated from water using only renewable electricity and, while it is the most environmentally benign, it is also the most expensive at between $3 and $5 per kilogram, according to Pembina.Utility subsidiaries of Enbridge and Atco Ltd. are embarking on plans to inject hydrogen into the natural gas stream leading to home furnaces and water heaters in Markham and Fort Saskatchewan. Electricity can’t be stored as is, but at Enbridge’s power-to-gas facility in Markham it is used to create hydrogen from water that can be stored until eventually being turned back into electricity with Enbridge's 2.5-megawatt hydrogen fuel cell when needed.Markham's hydrogen is considered green because it is made with intermittent renewable electricity. The facility opened in 2018 after investments of $4.5 million by an Enbridge partnership and $4 million by the federal government. Its operation is supported by a three-year contract from Ontario’s electric system operator to supply surplus renewable power.The system works to level out energy availability but when more hydrogen is created than can be stored, it has to be vented, says Cynthia Hansen, president of gas distribution and storage for Enbridge.A partial solution is to blend the surplus at about two per cent into the local natural gas stream to reduce its overall GHG emissions, a $5.2-million project (with $221,000 from the federal government) expected to begin for about 3,600 customers starting next summer.Atco, meanwhile, is building a $6-million hydrogen blending project backed by $2.8 million in Alberta provincial grants and expected to be operational in early 2022. It is to deliver about five per cent hydrogen in the gas stream to about 5,000 homes in Fort Saskatchewan, a small city just northeast of Edmonton, with the hydrogen coming from an unnamed local supplier."When it starts up it will be grey and then it will transition to blue as the supply in the area builds out,” said Jason Sharpe, Atco's general manager of natural gas, estimating it will take two to three years for blue hydrogen to become available.The Fort Saskatchewan area, with its refineries and petrochemical facilities, is ground zero for carbon capture and storage in Alberta.Shell Canada's Quest project, opened in 2015, has injected more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide into underground storage from its oilsands upgrader.The recently completed Alberta Carbon Trunk Line is a pipeline system designed to collect CO2 from industrial sites in the region and take it to mature oilfields where its permanent storage also results in enhanced oil recovery.The global market for hydrogen could easily triple from current levels of about $200 billion per year by 2050 as countries adopt its use as a decarbonization strategy, according to GLJ, a prominent Calgary energy resource consulting firm.Canada is well-positioned to become an exporter into this growing market because of its current and potential production, GLJ said.Pembina's Jutt, however, says hydrogen usage should be targeted. While it may make sense to use it for home heating in some regions, that application doesn't necessarily make sense in B.C., where energy from renewable hydroelectric sources is potentially more environmentally friendly.Much is riding on promised federal and provincial government regulatory, strategic and financial commitments to hydrogen, as well as other alternative fuels that can help Canada meet its goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, she added."Businesses will do what's right for them from an economic perspective but I think everyone's looking to government for signals that it's good to invest in these things — hydrogen being one of many fuels that we'll need to reach our 2050 goals."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:ENB, TSX:ACO)Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Public Health Sudbury & Districts decreased on Thursday as no new cases were reported, and one case was declared resolved. There are now seven active cases of COVID-19 in the region. According to the health unit’s weekly summary, five new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last seven days and 11 were resolved. Of the new cases, two were close contacts of a confirmed case and two were travel related. The investigation into the exposure category of the 5th case remains ongoing. All five cases were in Greater Sudbury. Public Health's territory also takes in Espanola, Manitoulin Island and the District of Sudbury. “By end of day on December 2, contact tracing information was available for all 5 of the new cases," Public Health said in its weekly report. "Through our investigation, we identified 30 people who had high-risk close contacts with these cases. That is an average of 6 high-risk close contacts per case, which is consistent with last week. “Public Health follows up directly and regularly with every high-risk close contact to monitor them for symptoms, ensure they are self-isolating, and make recommendations for testing according to provincial guidance.” The seven-day incidence rate was 2.5 per 100,000 compared to 9.1 in the previous week. The percent positivity was 0.3 per cent compared to 0.5 per cent last week. Public Health Sudbury and Districts remains in the Yellow-Protect category of the provincial COVID-19 response framework. While Sudbury didn't report any new cases, the same can't be said for the rest of Ontario. Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 14 new deaths due to the virus. In her message to the community, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe reminded the public about staying safe as the holiday season approaches, and to treat everyone with kindness. “For some of us, the upcoming winter holidays are a time to celebrate and connect with friends and loved ones. For many, the holidays also can be stressful – and this year, especially so. Remember, you are not alone. Reach out to friends, loved ones, or connect with local agencies and resources,” she said. “Treat yourself with kindness and respect and offer the same to others who may need support. This pandemic is not a forever-thing, but the lives we touch can be. Share a smile (behind the mask), practice patience, and lend a hand when it is least expected.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. email@example.com Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Three Ottawa-area conservation authorities fear major changes proposed by the Ontario government could cost them their voice in development decisions, particularly when it comes to environmentally fragile watersheds.The province began its review of the role of Ontario's 36 conservation authorities a year and a half ago, but the "sweeping" proposals tucked inside an omnibus budget bill tabled Nov. 5 still "shocked" the general manager of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA).> It is much worse and it goes much further than we ever would have anticipated. \- Sommer Casgrain-Robertson, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority"It is much worse and it goes much further than we ever would have anticipated," said Sommer Casgrain-Robertson. "These changes are so numerous and so significant that it really goes to the heart of what conservation authorities do and how we function."While the legislation would affect their budgets, mandates and boards of directors, Casgrain-Robertson's biggest concern relates to a conservation authority's diminished role in cases where there are concerns about flooding, soil erosion or altering waterways.The changes aim to "streamline" the development permit process, allowing the minister to decide on permit applications and even override a conservation authority's decision. The bill also allows for appeals to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.Casgrain-Robertson said RVCA staff make local decisions based on science, and she fears development permit applications in watersheds could now become politicized."We are not an impediment to development," Casgrain-Robertson said, noting the RVCA approves upward of 95 per cent of development permits and cut wait times by half last year.Government aiming for more accountabilityThe Rideau Valley, Mississippi Valley and South Nation conservation authorities have joined counterparts across Ontario in calling on the government to withdraw the proposals for more work.But Ontario's minister of the environment, conservation and parks said a minister's power to take part in the permit process "will be rarely used, if at all," and wouldn't "step outside of the science".Fixes were needed because the appeal process wasn't working, Jeff Yurek told CBC Sudbury earlier this week."What we heard through our consultation was that conservation authorities throughout the entire province were lacking in accountability, transparency and consistency," he said. The changes to Bill 226 worry Ottawa city council, too, because the boards of conservation authorities would be made up solely of municipal councillors, rather than a mix of councillors and residents with expertise, ostensibly to provide better oversight over the spending of tax dollars.City staff said if the changes go through, nearly every council member would need to take a seat on the board of a conservation authority, and take on the workload associated with it.The Association of Municipalities of Ontario also told the government it had a "growing number of serious concerns," especially "at a time when the public is very concerned about climate change and increased flooding and storm events."Ontario's standing committee on finance and economic affairs held a hearing on Bill 226 earlier this week, and is expected to consider amendments in the coming days.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in reshuffled his cabinet on Friday as his approval rating sank to a record low amid a backlash over housing policies, rising coronavirus cases, and a scandal involving the justice ministry and top prosecutors. Moon nominated new ministers of interior, health, land and housing, and gender as he sought to refresh his administration, with roughly two years of his presidency to run. Limited to a single term, and holding a small parliamentary majority, there is no obvious risk to Moon's presidency, but the drop in ratings, a resurgence of coronavirus cases and nagging domestic controversies could make it harder for him to fulfil his agenda.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison has confirmed that all COVID-19 test results have come back negative for the close contacts of a positive case at Charlottetown Rural High School. The number of men in jobs on P.E.I. in November was virtually the same as it was in January, but working women have made no progress in returning to pre-pandemic levels since the summer.An annual free Christmas dinner in Souris has received the green light from public health to do a takeout version Dec. 25. Island comedian Sandy Gillis shared how keeping people laughing has been keeping up his own spirits during the pandemic. P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21.Several P.E.I. appliance stores are dealing with a shortage of products to sell because COVID-19 is affecting the manufacturers of fridges, stoves, washers and dryers.One additional COVID-19 case was confirmed in P.E.I. Thursday, a man in his 20s who is a rotational worker and recently travelled to the Island from outside the Atlantic region. P.E.I. currently has five active cases, and there have been 73 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Nova Scotia reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 Friday. The province currently has 117 active cases. New Brunswick reported eight new cases Friday and is dealing with 111 active cases.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
Clearwater Seafoods is dropping Marine Stewardship Council certification for its Canadian offshore lobster fishery, calling it "a voluntary decision driven by business considerations."The blue MSC eco-label tells consumers the seafood they are buying is sustainably caught and has been a point of pride for North America's biggest shellfish producer.Clearwater's offshore lobster fishery off southern Nova Scotia was the first fishery on the Eastern Seaboard to receive MSC certification in 2010.The current five-year certification expires at the end of the month."Clearwater is confident in the ability of this fishery to meet the MSC standard today, but has chosen not to initiate recertification at this time given the internal resources required to support recertification," Clearwater vice-president Christine Penney said in an email statement to CBC News.Maintaining certification has become more onerous recently for the fishery.Two years ago, Clearwater was convicted of a gross violation when it was caught illegally storing thousands of lobster traps on the ocean floor even after it had been repeatedly warned by Canadian authorities to stop the practice because it was a conservation risk. The traps were left on the bottom with escape hatches open, but continued to catch and kill lobsters.The conviction triggered a Marine Stewardship Council audit and new conditions were imposed to demonstrate compliance."The question comes to mind whether they're unable to show that evidence and therefore they wouldn't pass the certification," said Shannon Arnold, an environmentalist with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax."And so by just walking away from it, they're not forced to show that to the consumers that they're actually fishing within the law."Clearwater defends lobster fisheryClearwater said the fishery was always and remains sustainable."While Clearwater has chosen not to enter into recertification of the offshore fishery MSC program at the end of 2020, the sustainability measures that were in place for 10 years of successful certification continue to be in effect," said Penney."The offshore lobster fishery remains sustainable. The fishery has not been suspended or failed, and it maintains its current certificate until December 2020."The Marine Stewardship Council declined to directly comment on Clearwater's decision to drop its lobster certification."Clearwater is a long-standing partner of the MSC, and its other MSC-certified fisheries in Canada and globally remain in our voluntary program," spokesperson Vianna Murday said in a statement.Other core Canadian species are staying with the council.They include offshore scallops, snow crab, arctic surf clam, cold water shrimp and lobster harvested in the Maritimes by an inshore fleet independent of the company.Clearwater said an internal tracing system will allow it to separate lobster it buys from the inshore and the 720 tonnes it harvests under its offshore licences."This fishery accounts for a small portion of Clearwater lobster volumes, and the use of the eco-label is very limited on products from this fishery," Penney said.Partnership buying companyClearwater is in the process of being sold. If approved by shareholders, the new owner of the company will be a partnership between Premium Brands of British Columbia and a coalition of Mi'kmaw First Nations led in part by the Membertou band in Cape Breton.Membertou had previously bought two of the eight offshore licences held by Clearwater. No one from the band was available for comment.Clearwater management and the company lobster boat, the Randell Dominaux based in Shelburne, N.S., will continue to run the coveted offshore lobster fishery.Offshore lobster fisheryClearwater has enjoyed exclusive rights to Lobster Fishing Area 41, which starts 80 kilometres from shore and runs to the 200-mile limit, extending from Georges Bank to the Laurentian Channel between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.The company fishes entirely off southern Nova Scotia. Unlike every other lobster fishery, there is no season and Clearwater has been awarded a quota of 720 tonnes, which it has said represents about 15 per cent of all lobster it sells.For environmentalists like Arnold, the loss of Marine Stewardship Council certification is a blow."That transparency from the MSC process, that extra layer, is what really allowed us to dig in and see what was happening with this fishery in the offshore and how they were fishing outside the legal boundaries," she said. "So we're concerned that we're losing that level of oversight."MORE TOP STORIES
Health-care workers feel muzzled and alone: Study Colleen Romaniuk Health-care workers in Ontario are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, but according to a new study, they are feeling “sacrificed” and “violated” by their employers and the provincial government. Researchers affiliated with the University of Windsor in collaboration with CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union co-authored a report titled “Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19.” Health-care workers represent 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the province, according to the study, a number that is much higher than the global rate of 14 per cent. Due to fear of reprisal, those on the frontlines are extremely hesitant to speak out – but those who participated in the study told a story of “dismal” working conditions and “unrelenting” stress. “Health-care workers in Ontario are suffering from much higher rates of COVID-19 infection than the general public,” said Dr. James Brophy, one of the lead authors of the new study. “While we are all facing COVID-fatigue and worry, health-care workers are suffering disproportionately from serious psychological distress. They are burning out from overwork, fear and anxiety.” Led by Dr. Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith, the study examines in-depth, anonymous interviews conducted with 10 health-care workers who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout Ontario. The respondents, who work in facilities that range from small northern-rural to large urban, were contacted by phone in April and May. Frontline workers, including PSWs, RNs, RPNs, and custodial and clerical staff, all reported feeling unprotected and unsupported in their place of work. “We have lost about 100 staff who have either taken a leave of absence because of fear or have taken a leave to go work other jobs. We have a few who have taken early retirement,” said a participant in the study. “When I leave this interview, I’m heading into work and I’m going to work 44 out of the next 60 hours. I’ve prepared enough food for six meals and they’re in two shopping bags right now. That’s what it’s doing to me.” Some interviewees reported going home to cry after their shifts, sleeping in separate bedrooms away from their spouses, and experiencing increased social isolation because they fear infecting their family and friends. “The words on the page cannot convey the level of emotion we heard in the voices of healthcare workers we interviewed,” said Brophy. “We did not expect to hear the degree of anger and desperation that came out. The stories they told us were tinged with anger, frustration and fear.” There are a number of factors that contribute to the distress of health-care workers in the province, including inadequate protection against the virus, government failings, and barriers to exercising their agency. The study suggests that the provincial government, for example, has not applied the “precautionary principle” identified by the SARS Commission in 2006 which stipulates that, when in doubt, policies should err on the side of caution. “An ongoing debate that has direct impact on health-care workers’ safety is whether or not the virus can be transmitted through airborne particles,” said the study. “The evidence has grown that SARS-CoV-2 can indeed become aerosolized through coughing, sneezing, or even just breathing.” These tiny, aerosolized particles can breach surgical masks, according to Brophy. Researchers have recommended the use of N95 masks or powered air-purifying respirators for more adequate protection. Surgical masks are still considered safe for use in a health-care setting under most circumstances, although the health-care workers that participated in the study expressed some skepticism. “I had an infected patient on one of my shifts. I had my own N95 mask and I had my own goggles, and I had my own hair cover and I made sure I double gloved,” said an interviewee. “I put the cheap level two mask over top of my N95.” The study suggests that the government’s policy was probably “supply-based rather than science-based.” Another contributing factor is the health-care workers’ lack of recourse when it comes to addressing these challenges. Employers generally don’t allow their workers to speak publicly about their experiences at work, and, according to reports, the Ministry of Labour has been unhelpful. “All the frontline workers fear reprisal. We are told, ‘You can’t talk to the media. You have to send your manager to talk to them. We have corporate relations. You can’t be outside holding signs',” said one individual. “It’s just a travesty and these issues need to be said and people need to know what’s really going on.” Another said that they were “disheartened” by the Ministry of Labour during the pandemic. “They’ve totally taken the employers’ side and not the workers. There is no consultation with any frontline worker,” they said. “The ministry is not showing up to calls. They’re doing a lot of phone calls, but it’s not how they should be working. They still need to be out there on the frontlines. They should use PPE and come out to the hospital if we’re saying it’s not safe.” Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospitals Union and co-author of the study, explained that health-care workers have a limited right to refuse unsafe work. “They can’t refuse if it would result in a danger to a patient or resident,” said Hurley. “The evidence shows that in every case when the Ministry of Labour was called in, they did not support the workers.” To address these issues, the study recommends increasing staffing levels, adequate PPE and protective administrative and engineering controls, increased mental health supports, and reinvestment into a “weakened public health-care system.” There also needs to be a chance in workplace culture so that health-care workers concerns will be heard, respected, and addressed. “Health-care workers' health and wellbeing is essentially being sacrificed. We all need to pay attention to their pleas during this frightening time,” said Dr. Margaret Keith. “Not only does their wellbeing matter, but we also need to realize if they are not being kept safe, they can’t properly care for their patients or residents.” The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SudburyStar Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
Plexiglass and masks have become a part of everyday life on P.E.I., but for people with hearing loss, those safety barriers create another obstacle to communication."That's making it very difficult for a lot of people to actually comprehend what is being said — some people can't hear," said Daria Valkenburg, co-president of Hear P.E.I. "I basically limit where I go. So for businesses that don't have a system where I can hear out there, unless I have to go, I don't go. So basically that's what it's done is it's limited me."To help those with hearing loss, Access PEI has installed speech transfer systems in Charlottetown and Summerside.Two stations are set up with the device in Charlottetown. There is a microphone on either side of the station, with speakers on the customer-facing side providing extra volume when needed. There's also a function that allows certain hearing-aid users to connect directly."It also has a telecoil, which means that the person speaking has their voice going instantly into the hearing aid or the cochlear implant, meaning that it is completely accessible," said Valkenburg. "There is such a clarity of sound that it's unbelievable."With that method, all the background noise is eliminated, only delivering the audio coming out of the microphone — handy for busy, noisy places like Access PEI, said Valkenburg. The booths that are equipped with this new technology are marked by a universal hearing loop symbol.For those who don't have a hearing aid with telecoil, people can get a hearing loop device that allows users to dial into the frequency and hear it through headphones.'Seemed like a natural fit'The pilot project came about after Access PEI reached out to Hear P.E.I. to see what it could be doing to better serve that community. "It just seemed like a natural fit for us in an attempt to make our sites more accessible, to create a more inviting experience," said Mark Arsenault, director of Access PEI. "They don't have to speak loudly, you know, from a privacy perspective.… It's just your own voice level and their own voice level. So, nobody shouting or anything like that." While it is just a pilot project right now, Arsenault said he'd like it expanded across the Island."Then we'll look at it from there and see whether or not we need it in every stall or is it just one or two per site, so that we can make sure that we can serve that part of the population perfectly well."More from CBC P.E.I.
JERUSALEM — The Israeli government on Thursday urged its citizens to avoid travel to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing threats of Iranian attacks. Iran has been threatening to attack Israeli targets since its chief nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was assassinated last Friday near Tehran. It accuses Israel, which has been suspected in previous killings of Iranian nuclear scientists, of being behind the shooting. Israel has not commented on the killing. But Fakhrizadeh has long been on Israel's radar screen, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying at a 2018 news conference about Iran's nuclear program: “Remember that name.” Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons — a charge Iran denies. In recent months, Israel has signed agreements establishing diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab states of the UAE and Bahrain — its first normalization deals with Arab countries in a quarter century. The agreements, brokered by the Trump administration, have generated widespread excitement in Israel, and thousands of Israeli tourists are scheduled to travel to the UAE for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah this month. That may change following Thursday's warning. “In light of the threats heard recently by Iranian officials and in light of the involvement in the past of Iranian officials in terror attacks in various countries, there is a concern that Iran will try to act in this way against Israeli targets,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s National Security Council. It also advised against travel to Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Kurdish area of Iraq and Africa. Israel's military is well prepared to deal with the threats of Iranian troops and their proxies in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Israeli media say the government also has beefed up security at embassies around the world. But protecting Israeli travellers, conspicuous and spread out at countless hotels, restaurants and tourist sites, represents a different type of challenge. “This is going to be a nightmare, and I really hope that both governments, UAE and Israel, are co-ordinating and doing the best they can to safeguard those Israelis,” said Yoel Guzansky, a former Israeli counterterrorism official who is now a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “I’m really worried that that something might happen, and especially now because of the context of Fakhrizadeh, because Iran is really looking for revenge,” he added. He spoke before the travel advisory was issued. The Israel Airports Authority estimates that about 25,000 Israelis will fly to the UAE this month on the five airlines now plying the route between Tel Aviv and the Gulf state’s airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Celebrities, entrepreneurs and tourists already have been flocking to Dubai. With the coronavirus appearing to be under control in the UAE, it is one of the few quarantine-free travel options for Israelis during the coming Hanukkah holiday vacation, adding to its appeal. At a time when few people are travelling, Israeli visitors speaking Hebrew could be extra conspicuous. Israel this week also signed a tourism agreement with Bahrain. Amsalem Tours, an Israeli travel agency, said that there was “very serious” demand for travel packages to Dubai but did not provide specific figures. Iran and its proxies have targeted Israeli tourists and Jewish communities in the past. Agents of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group bombed a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, killing six and wounding dozens. That year, Israel also accused Iran of being behind attacks targeting Israeli diplomats in Thailand and India. Iran and Hezbollah also bombed the Israeli Embassy and Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, claiming the lives of scores of civilians. Concerns for the safety of Israelis in Dubai also is not without precedent. In 2000, an Israeli ex-colonel was kidnapped by Iranian proxy Hezbollah and held captive in Lebanon until he was released in a prisoner exchange in 2004. Today, Dubai, famous for its glittering shopping malls, ultra-modern skyscrapers and nightlife, is a crossroads for travellers from around the world, including many nations that do not have relations with Israel. Iran maintains a major presence in Dubai, due to historical and current trade ties, and Dubai is believed to be a major station for Iranian intelligence services. The family of a California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile says he was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai just a few months ago. In a possible sign of Emirati security concerns, travel agencies in countries across the Middle East and Africa say the UAE has temporarily halted issuing new visas to their citizens. With tens of thousands of Iranians working or doing business in the UAE, Iran is also among the countries facing the visa restrictions. Israel had already had a travel warning in place advising citizens against nonessential travel to the UAE. Similar “basic concrete threat” advisories are in place for visiting other Arab states with which Israel has peace treaties. But the language of Thursday's warning was especially tough. The UAE, for its part, is known for its strict security. Dubai, home to 3.3 million people in 2019, with just over 3 million of them foreigners, has published major crime statistics that are among some of the lowest in the world. Before Israelis began arriving, Dubai held a highly publicized drill of a police SWAT team storming a replica metro car in October and suggested facial-recognition technology could be implemented at stations along its driverless track. Experts already believe the UAE has one of the highest per capita concentrations of surveillance cameras in the world, a system that’s only grown amid the coronavirus pandemic. And despite the recent tensions, Iran may be hesitant to strike on Emirati soil, wanting to maintain its economic interests there. The UAE meanwhile has gone out of its way to say it wants to de-escalate tensions in the region despite its own suspicions over Iranian behaviour. It called the killing of Fakhrizadeh a “heinous assassination.” In an interview before Thursday's advisory was issued, Pavel Israelsky, co-founder of Salam Dubai, said the boom in his UAE-based Israeli tour operator’s bookings was “significant” ahead of the Hanukkah holiday. While a handful of Israeli clients cancelled over security concerns, he said, “I can say that the UAE is one of the most secure places in the world in terms of the resources they invest in security.” “I don’t think there’s cause for worry,” Israelsky said. “Today, no place is really safe.” ___ Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed reporting. Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
Record high water levels in the Northwest Territories led to record amounts of trace metals and hydrocarbons in watersheds over the summer, but the territory's environment department says that aren't expecting to see much of an impact on local wildlife.The findings were presented to a standing committee of MLAs on Thursday, during a presentation on transboundary water agreements.Deputy minister Dr. Erin Kelly delivered the presentation, saying turbidity reached historic highs in July, exceeding Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guidelines for the protection of aquatic life.However, she said, the dissolved concentrations of those metals were much lower, and turbidity levels returned to regular levels starting in August. "The concentrations of metals in the Slave and Hay rivers this July should not have had any chemical-related impacts on aquatic organisms or fish," she said, adding that the dissolved concentrations of those metals were well below Health Canada guidelines for safe drinking water.The concentration of hydrocarbons in the water, which the government attributed partially to oil sands development downstream, were also much higher than usual in July, but dropped back to regular levels in subsequent months.Deh Cho MLA Ron Bonnetrouge, who chaired the meeting, questioned the long-term impacts of contaminants flowing downstream from oil sands development, saying that meeting guidelines now may not portend a sustainable future."I take it you guys are just saying, 'well, it's dissolved into the water. It's dissipated somewhere.' I kind of have a hard time fathoming such a scenario," he said. "Because many times, you're also stating that they're within guidelines. Just saying that alone — within guidelines — does tell me that there is something in that water coming from the tar sands."In her response, Kelly said that they are tracking long-term trends related to hydrocarbons, and that dissolved metal concentrations are the indicators the department most concerns itself with, due to their direct impacts on bugs and fish. "From our perspective, we've looked at this and what we see is there's this one peak, and then it's gone down from there. And from a health perspective, we're not concerned for the bugs and fish, and we're not concerned with the levels in the water."Monitoring restored at 12 of 18 sitesKelly also said water monitoring activities had resumed at 12 of 18 priority sites in Alberta. Monitoring at the sites was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension of monitoring activities — done without the territory's knowledge — led MLAs to question the effectiveness of the territory's transboundary water agreement with Alberta, which it has had since 2015."Water monitoring was suspended during the highest levels ever recorded, and the Alberta government didn't bother to inform us," Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly said. "What sort of lessons do we take away from this, and how do we improve the implementation of these agreements?"Shane Thompson, the minister of Environment and Natural Resources, said that while the government has learned lessons from the ordeal, the transboundary agreements the government has with southern provinces are "world class.""Unfortunately, we weren't informed. But as soon as we were informed, we reached out to both the provincial minister and federal minister to have these open and frank discussions ... we were on it right away," he said.Kelly said that the incident has led to the government changing how it communicates with Alberta. The province put an assistant deputy minister on the bilateral management committee, and is meeting with N.W.T. representatives quarterly.Testing underway for Great Slave Lake plumeThe environment department reported in its presentation that water levels in Great Slave Lake are the highest they've ever been, reaching record highs for every month beginning in July 2020. Though the government wasn't able to pinpoint the exact reason for the high levels, it attributed them to very high precipitation in watersheds that flow into the lake, starting in September 2019. Kelly said the analysis suggested the flooding of B.C.'s Bennett Dam, which took place this summer, did not have a significant impact on the levels.Territorial government officials are working with researchers from the federal, Alberta, and B.C. governments to further examine the factors contributing to the high levels, she said.Kelly said that the government also took samples of a larger than normal plume in Great Slave Lake after hearing concerns from residents, and that results from that sampling are expected to be available in the next few weeks.WATCH | Take an aerial look of the Great Slave Lake plume, as seen in August 2020:As for what's next, officials say they aren't sure at this point, and that rain and snowfall in northern B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan and the southern N.W.T. will be the biggest factors. "It's not just an average high water year," said Kelly. "It's unprecedented. It's very hard to predict what happens next when we have no data on what's happened previously."
Both the mayor of Charlottetown and the president of the Federation of Prince Edward Island Municipalities want time to consult their constituents about the possibility of lowering the provincial voting age.Green MLA Karla Bernard introduced a private member's bill to the P.E.I. Legislature last month to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. Mayor Philip Brown said the city should be consulted. "The changes will not only affect the Election Act for the province, but also the Municipal Government Act," Brown said."There is a duty to consult here, and I think that has to be taken into account."The bill had its second reading in the legislature on Nov. 26 and has gone to committee. Brown expressed concern with the part of the bill stating that even if the voting age is lowered to 16, the age when someone could run as a candidate would still be 18. "If we're trying to encourage young people or the youth to be involved, well, you know what? If you can vote, you can also run as a candidate," said Brown. "It's like getting your car licence at 16, but you're not going to be allowed to drive until you're 18." On Monday, Charlottetown council passed a motion to send the proposed voting age amendments to the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities to gauge its feedback. Federation wants discussion "Before anything like this happens, I believe the federation should be consulted, and we haven't been so far," said Bruce MacDougall, the organization's president and a Summerside councillor."It's a very important topic and I believe all our municipalities should have a say in it."MacDougall said he could reach out to each of the 59 municipalities in the federation to ask for opinions on the issue, but he would rather bring it up at the federation's AGM, which he said is "not for a while now." "I think there should be some real good discussion around this and I believe our AGM is our best option."In the meantime, MacDougall said the federation will be sending a letter to the leaders of the provincial Progressive Conservative, Green and Liberal parties to let them know where the organization stands on the issue. More from CBC P.E.I.
Organigram now says cooling towers atop its cannabis production plant in Moncton caused a legionnaires' disease outbreak in the city last year that sent 15 people to hospital."Organigram deeply regrets the impact of this incident on members of our community and their families last year," the company said in a statement Thursday. The company did not provide an interview.Richard Melanson also wants an apology. Melanson is among 16 people who became ill and spent a week in hospital because of the severe form of pneumonia. Last fall, he voiced frustration the province had kept the source of the outbreak secret."I don't know if I'll ever get an apology," Melanson said this week. "I really, really hope I do. It would mean a lot to me."Public Health revealed the outbreak on Aug. 1 and announced it was over on Sept. 12. At the time, the province refused to release where the outbreak originated. CBC News filed several right to information requests to learn more about the outbreak's source. The last batch was released last week, and for the first time the company's name was not blacked out. "I suspected that it was them, but I just didn't want to point a finger or say 'you're guilty,'" Melanson said. "I'm just glad I'm alive, I'm glad it didn't kill anybody in our group."Legionnaires' disease is caused by inhaling water droplets containing legionella bacteria. Outbreaks are often traced to cooling towers. The mechanical system can be part of a large building's cooling system. Heat is dissipated by spraying water in the towers. But the combination of the heat and water can be a breeding ground for legionella bacteria if the system isn't properly maintained. Mist from the towers can carry the bacteria for kilometres into the surrounding environment. There's no indication Organigram's products were affected.In October last year, CBC reported Organigram had told its staff about "elevated bacteria counts" in a new cooling tower system. However, the company had refused to publicly acknowledge its role. "Organigram is commenting on this incident in co-ordination with information recently released by Public Health," the company said Thursday. "Previously, consistent with directives in the public interest issued by Public Health, Organigram has not provided any comment."The company says testing since the outbreak has found bacteria levels in the system that are "within acceptable limits."Chris Boyd said outbreaks caused by cooling towers are largely preventable. Boyd worked for New York City's health department and was part of its response to the largest legionella outbreak in the city's history.He's now general manager of building water health for NSF International, a product testing, inspection and certification organization based in Ann Arbour, Michigan.Boyd was involved in a report urging creation of cooling tower registries and posting of test results as a way to track and prevent outbreaks.The province of Quebec implemented a registry after repeated outbreaks in Quebec City. Vancouver passed a bylaw last year to create a registry. Hamilton, Ont. has a registry. The City of Moncton last year called for the New Brunswick government to implement a registry. Isabelle LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Moncton, said the city isn't considering its own bylaw because it believes the issue is a provincial responsibility. A spokesperson for the province has said a report by Public Health about how the outbreak was handled will include a recommendation for such a registry. It's not clear when that report will be complete or whether the province will act on the recommendation. Emails released by the New Brunswick government to CBC show health officials exchanged information with Boyd, who offered to help the province as it considered a cooling tower registry. Boyd says he last heard from the province this fall.He said there has largely been an inconsistent approach to tackling the issue. "What is holding Public Health back from being more proactive and focusing on the preventive ability rather than the emergency response approach, which is the most common approach in North America?"New Brunswick's Health Department did not provide an interview.WATCH | Richard Melanson speaks in 2019 about the outbreakMelanson said he believes the province should quickly implement a cooling tower registry."That would prevent this maybe from taking place again here," Melanson said. "You know, instead of you interviewing somebody in another couple of years and somebody else in another couple of years, this might put an end to it."Melanson and others who became ill retained Halifax law firm Wagners, which specializes in class-action lawsuits. So far, nothing has been filed in court. Melanson said he had lingering health effects and spent time off work because of the illness. He said he's doing better today, but still gets tired faster than he did before he had legionnaires' disease. He said he spent this summer trying to enjoy life as much as possible. He occasionally talks with others who had legionnaires' disease"I think we're all thankful that we're all here still and we might not all be doing as good as we did before, but we're still alive," Melanson said.