Mayim Bialik has had a long and successful career — "Blossom," "Big Bang Theory" and now "Call Me Kat," to name a few — yet she views guest-hosting "Jeopardy!" as the most “iconic” thing she'll ever do.
Mayim Bialik has had a long and successful career — "Blossom," "Big Bang Theory" and now "Call Me Kat," to name a few — yet she views guest-hosting "Jeopardy!" as the most “iconic” thing she'll ever do.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
As far as pioneer settlements go, the village of Perm embodied the rugged de-termination of early settlers in the area. When Hugh Gallaugher arrived in Canada in 1832 with his wife and eventually seven children from their native Ireland, they first landed in Mono Mills. From there they travelled to an area that is now County Road 17 and 5 Line, just west of Mansfield. At the time, there were no roads or even trails leading into the area. There was just virgin land and trees. Mr. Gallaugher and his family cleared the land and built a shelter.Following the Gallaughers’ arrival, more soon followed and by the mid 1850s, the group had bonded to create a small village. Settlers arrived by wagon, carting all their worldly possessions with them and they found land and created their first homes in the new territory which were generally primitive but practical log cab-ins. The Gallaughers were involved in lo-cal politics and administration. Paul Gallaugher served as the first Reeve of Mulmur Township in 1851. Other Gallaughers also held public posts over the years. By 1857, the village completed build-ing a town hall, with the first council meeting being held on May 26, 1858. Over time more buildings were constructed as the town grew.A Methodist Church was built in 1872. Hugh Gallaugher donated $500, a sizable contribution at the time, to get con-struction started. A cemetery was later established at the church. An Orange Lodge was chartered, one of many in the area, that reflected the Irish heritage of many early settlers. Mr. Gallaugher opened a general store in 1868 and added a post office in 1872.Supporting businesses included a blacksmith shop, a shingle mill, and a sawmill. The original school house was a crudely built log structure, but it served its purpose and doubled as a church at times. The school house was replaced by a frame structure in 1884. That building lasted until 1935 when it was destroyed in a fire. The area became busy enough to re-quire a second school house, known as the Lower Perm School.Despite an enterprising start, the village never topped more than 50 resi-dents. The post office closed in 1915 follow-ing the arrival of rural mail delivery. By the time the 20th century rolled around, the village had all but disap-peared, as residents moved to other locations. Buildings were torn down and land re-claimed for other purposes. The church remained until 1925, when it was demolished. These days the only reminder of the town is the cemetery, a memorial stone for the church and the Lower Perm School, which is now a private home. While the village may no longer exist, the remnants of the town are an example of the determination and pioneering spirit of the early settlers in the region. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
China will increase its annual research and development spending by more than 7% every year over the next five years, the government wrote on Friday in its work report from the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress. The government will increase expenditure on basic research by 10.6% in 2021, the report added. The ramp-up highlights the country's commitment to advancing in the tech sector, as the country increasingly clashes with the United States and other countries over technology policy.
VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the "geopolitical winds swirling around" Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng's legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. "With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians," Frater said Thursday. He made the comments in response to claims from Meng's legal team that Trump's words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings. Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would "certainly intervene" if he thought it was necessary. Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny. Her lawyers allege Trump's comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings. It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May. "Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it," Frater told the judge. "We're confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion." On Wednesday, Meng's team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China. Huawei's success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an "existential threat" to the United States and Meng's case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to "debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei," her lawyer Richard Peck said. Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a "threat to the security of the U.S.," Peck said. "This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today," he said. Frater, representing Canada's attorney general, sought to redirect the judge's attention Thursday. There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng's argument doesn't pass it, he said. The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused's right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn't a "powerless" person. Someone with "the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual," Frater said. Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng's celebrity makes her a "higher value target" for interference, adding that a person's resources shouldn't affect how they are treated by the court. Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump's failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. "This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there's been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it," Frater said. The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. "They've had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
The Stevenson Memorial Hospital Foun-dation and the Gibson Centre are partnering to create an “Idol style’ music competition to showcase local artists’ talent. The competition, dubbed Raise Your Voice will raise funds for community health care and the arts in Simcoe County and the surrounding area. A portion of the proceeds will support critical needs at SMH and the Arts and Cultural Programming at the Gibson Centre.Amateur performers from Simcoe County and surrounding area are encouraged to compete in the music competition. The top three artists selected through public voting will perform at the Raise Your Voice virtual concert on June 3, 2021. A first-place winner will be chosen. The final winner will take home a grand prize valued at over $1,000. The judges for the final competition will include three well-known artists. Marshall Dane, Male Artist of the Year at the CMAO Awards, for five years in a row, will be joined by blues vocalist Erin McCallum, and up and coming singer/songwriter Sophia Fracassi, to make the final decision. All three will also be headlining performances at the virtual concert. Tickets for Raise Your Voice – Virtual Concert will go on sale on March 15, 2021. You can enjoy a full line-up of local musicians and the grand finale of the competition from the comfort of your home. The competition will accept submissions from artists from February 11 through to March 14, 2021. Tickets will be available on March 15. The final virtual concert and competition grand finale will take place on June 3.Some funds raised will go toward the SMH Foundation’s Because of You, We Can campaign. This is the most significant fundraiser the in the Foundation’s history. Of the $43 million goal, $30 million rep-resents the community share of the hospital’s redevelopment project which includes doubling the square footage of the hospital and tripling the amount of parking space. A revitalized emergency department, re-freshed out-patient rooms, birthing suites, and laboratory space are also included in the plans. You can learn more about the Raise Your Voice competition by visiting them on-line at www.raiseyourvoiceconcert.ca. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
Avalanche Canada, Parks Canada and Alberta Parks have issued a joint avalanche warning for a large portion of Alberta’s mountain parks. As Jackie Wilson reports, recent warm weather has created the dangerous conditions.
The deadline for community grants ended on March 1, and the Town is now considering those applications that were received. Community Grants assist organizations who provide beneficial, core ser-vices to the community that are not provided by the Town.Funds supplied will include requests for initial start-up funding, equipment, material, and supplies purchases, and to offset Town-established user fees. Applications are also taken in this category if a group is requesting a fee waiver to rent Town space, rent Town equipment or supplies (IE: tables and chairs) or use in-kind services. The maximum eligible grant amount is $2,000.The Community Events Grant as-sists organizations who deliver commu-nity celebrations, festivals, and special events that Council considers to be core services to the community. This does not include fundraising events, events which raise funds for an-other organization, or events hosted by the private sector or individuals. The maximum eligible grant in this category is $2,000.The Community Arts, Culture and Tourism Grants support organizations promoting opportunities in artistic expression and cultural endeavours for people of all ages through education and participation. It includes tourism and development activities as well as the operation of a significant cultural facilities providing core services to the community. The maximum eligible grant in this category is $25,000.Once grant applications are received, they are considered by the Grant Review committee in March and April of this year. The applications will go through a second review. Council will approve grant application recommendations during the first council meeting in May. Applicants are encouraged to read over the applications carefully to ensure eligibility and to make sure the applica-tion is submitted accurately. The Community Grant Program poli-cy will give preference to not-for-profit organizations that demonstrate community support, efficient use of resources, sound business practices and develop volunteer knowledge, skills, and self-reliance. The purpose of the Community Fund Program is in keeping with the Town’s strategic objective to preserve the heritage and promote the provision of a diversity of cultural activities, and active and passive recreational opportunities. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Thursday was the first day Londoners 80 and older living in the community could get the COVID-19 vaccine. The shots — coming nearly one year since Ontario first announced COVID-19 lockdowns — mark a milestone in the battle against the pandemic. Here’s what some Londoners had to say after getting their first dose: “I feel secure,” he said after the jab. “I was most concerned about my wife,” who got her first dose just hours before. While it’s good news, Loubert knows life won’t be back to normal soon. “My biggest thing is following the health rules . . . Until everyone is vaccinated, we’re not safe.” “I’m relieved . . . I’d been trying for two days to get through” to book an appointment, she said. “I’m glad to get the process started. They’re doing a fantastic job.” “We’ve spent three mornings trying to book,” Maureen said, with the couple finally booking last-minute slots Thursday morning. “We’re really, really pleased. We need it.” As for Gary, how he's feeling was summed up in one word: “good.” “I’m glad. I’m so glad. And to get it so early.” “I was lucky. I saw a couple of blanks this morning (in the booking) and jumped in.” As for after the shot, Friesen said he was "feeling OK." But it's still a mystery what life will look like once he's fully vaccinated. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll have to see what they say.” “I’m relieved. It was a long time coming,” she said. She doesn't expect life to change too much, even after she gets the second dose. “I’ll still keep my mask on and follow the rules.” “I’m delighted, relieved, excited,” he said. Henderson is eagerly awaiting the rest of the world to get inoculated so he can return to one of his favourite pastimes: travel. Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Ninety-year-old Warisó:se Myrtle Bush was the first elder living at home in Kahnawake, Que., to receive a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community began its mass vaccination campaign this week. "If they're worried about it and are afraid it's going to hurt or anything, well, you can tell them it's not going to hurt at all," Bush told CBC News. "It's better for us. I wasn't feeling bad, but I'm feeling even better now that I got it. I think we should all get it so that we don't make anyone else sick." The vaccination site, which is located at the Mohawk Bingo hall, is being run by the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre and Kahnawake's COVID-19 task force. It's only open to Kahnawake residents and members. Both Bush and her daughter Jenny Kjono said the process went smoothly. "I think it's great. She's setting an example and she's very positive about it. She's been very positive throughout this whole pandemic," said Kjono. Lisa Westaway, executive director of the hospital, said 102 elders and immunocompromised members were vaccinated Thursday, with 150 more scheduled to receive shots on Friday and Saturday. "It really hit me today when we were speaking with some of the elders of the fact that they haven't left their homes in a year," she said. "It's kind of anxiety-provoking to leave their homes and go into such a public place where there are going to be many people, so we also wanted to create an environment where, even though it's safe for everybody, we wanted to give them an opportunity to feel even safer." Residents in long-term care and at the Turtle Bay Elders Lodge received their shots earlier this year, as did the majority of health-care workers in the community. A hundred and two elders and immunocompromised community members received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 4 in Kahnawake, Que.(Submitted by Jenny Kjono) Kahnawake is expecting a shipment of around 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday and will resume vaccinating community members 70 years and older on Tuesday, followed by the rest of the community within the next three weeks. "This is the best I've felt in about a year," said Lloyd Phillips, commissioner of public safety at the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and member of the community's COVID-19 task force. "It's an exciting time and a major turning point in the community. This is what we need to get done, to vaccinate our entire community to start looking toward returning back to a normal life."
Baldy Mountain Resort is again speaking out against snowmobilers who use the ski hill as their own personal playground after an incident occurred while WorkSafe BC was conducting an inspection on the mountain. WorkSafe BC was on site following the death of a 70-year-old employee on Feb. 26 and during that inspection on Feb. 28 “snowmobilers came over the top of the hill and ripped down Burn Baby Burn right in front of them,” Baldy resort stated in a Facebook post Thursday. Motorized recreational vehicles using the mountain has been a longstanding issue at Mount Baldy. “It’s been an issue since Baldy re-opened. In the past two years we’ve been pushing the point of non-authorized, motorized vehicles are not permitted on the foot trails or on the hill,” said Caroline Sherrer, operations manager at Baldy. Not only does the unauthorized use of motor vehicles wreck the trails, keeping the Snowcat busy and unable to groom other trails, snowmobilers on the mountain are a safety issue, Sherrer said. “It’s also a danger. There are people out there walking, doing snowshoeing at moonlight at night. Sometimes you can’t hear these snowmobiles when they are in the trees and they come around a corner,” Sherrer said. Signs posted at all access points on the mountain make it clear motorized vehicles are not allowed, and barriers erected at Baldy entry points have been taken down in the past. “We had our investigators up here and (the snowmobilers) literally didn’t go down the Baldy trail they cut across and went up another trail right in front of the investigators. There are signs posted in every access point, they’ve been torn down. Barriers have been destroyed and we have to rebuild them. It’s destructive, it’s trespassing and it’s vandalism, plain and simple,” Sherrer said. “We don’t want someone to get hurt. That’s the reason we have been so adamant about this. We just don’t want to see a tragedy on the hill again.” Sherrer said there is an ongoing discussion in local snowmobiling groups that believe recreational vehicles have the right to access the land. “They feel they have a right to be on the hill because it’s ‘Crown land,’ but this is a recreational area that we have boundary access to, and we are the ones who are liable and responsible for this area,” Sherrer said. “We have spoken to the RCMP about it. They’re willing to come up, but need proof. Unfortunately, we don’t always get that proof or if we get proof it’s not clear enough prove who it is.” There are incidents of snowmobilers using the mountain three or four times a month during the ski season, Sherrer said, noting the latest incident, which occurred in front of WorkSafe BC inspectors was “especially egregious.” “It’s regularly. Would I say every week? No. But I would say probably at least three or four times a month. This week alone was twice,” Sherrer said. “This is a huge safety issue for us.” Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska state senator sought an apology Thursday from Gov. Mike Dunleavy for a scathing letter in which he accused her of misrepresenting the state's COVID-19 response and said his administration would no longer participate in hearings she leads. Sen. Lora Reinbold during a news conference called the reaction by Dunleavy, a fellow Republican, “outlandish” and said the Feb. 18 letter was an “attempt to intimidate those who question him and his administration and to silence those with opposing views.” Jeff Turner, a Dunleavy spokesperson, listened to the news conference, held in a Capitol corridor. In an email later, he said Dunleavy “will not be retracting his letter” to Reinbold. Dunleavy has been working from home while recovering from COVID-19. Several bills that are key parts of Dunleavy's legislative agenda, including proposed constitutional amendments and a proposed change to the yearly oil-wealth check residents receive, are in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Reinbold chairs. The committee also has been designated to hold a confirmation hearing for Dunleavy's attorney general nominee, Treg Taylor. Reinbold did not say whether she might seek to compel testimony from the administration. But she said she will not meet with Dunleavy "until he withdraws the letter and issues a formal apology. That is my first step, and that is what I'm hoping for.” Senate President Peter Micciche, who leads a majority Republican caucus, said he hopes Reinbold and Dunleavy resolve the dispute. “We’re all grown-ups here and the public expects us to be professional and get our work done on time,” he said in a statement, adding later: "However this works out between those two individuals, the Senate’s business is going to get done in a legal and timely manner – including hearings on the governor’s appointees.” Micciche has said he expects Senate committees to take a balanced approach. Reinbold, who has held hearings highlighting views of those who question the usefulness of masks and criticize the effects of government emergency orders, said Thursday she has brought a “diversity of thought” to the committee that has gone against the Dunleavy administration's “fear-mongering” COVID-19 message. Reinbold and other lawmakers saw Dunleavy as overstepping in issuing pandemic-related disaster declarations when the Legislature was not in session. But she also has taken aim at health restrictions imposed by local governments and the Legislature, such as mask requirements, and raised concerns with COVID-19 vaccines. She was appointed in November, when Dunleavy used the state's emergency alert network to warn of rising case counts, ask Alaskans to consider celebrating the holidays differently and said he would require masks at state work sites. He also urged groups to meet remotely and encouraged people to use online ordering or curbside pickup. Dunleavy at the time said hospitalizations and sick health care workers were reaching “untenable levels.” In a social media post, Reinbold said Dunleavy “wants us to dramatically change our lives, in other words, basically to help frontline workers, that have supposedly been gearing up to take care of patients all year. Things aren’t adding up.” She said Thursday some of the information she had requested from the administration included data on hospital capacity. The state health department has long posted online data on available hospital beds and hospitalizations related to COVID-19. The department last fall, including around Thanksgiving, was reporting weekly highs in hospitalizations. “The bottom line is, we as Alaskans want to know why the disaster was extended over the Thanksgiving" holiday, she said, adding that seeing the data on hospital capacity that played a role in a disaster declaration around that time was important. “We need to be able to ask the tough questions.” Dunleavy, in his letter, said Reinbold had made “many superfluous inquiries" and that her “baseless, deleterious, and self-serving demands on government resources amounts to an abuse of public services and will no longer be endured.” The state's last disaster declaration expired in mid-February. Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press
Restaurants on P.E.I. reopened their dining areas on Thursday after being restricted to takeout only during heightened pandemic restrictions. For the staff at Maid Marian's Diner in Charlottetown the past few days have been rather dizzying. "It's kind of like a ride at the exhibition," said co-owner Stephanie Drake. "You get on the ride for a while and then you get off the ride for a while, then back on the ride. That's the only way to explain it." The restaurant was open, then limited to takeout over the weekend for the third time since the pandemic first arrived on the Island nearly a year ago. Customers at Maid Marian's Diner in Charlottetown sit at the counter seperated from staff by a clear plastic barrier.(Stephanie Drake) The province announced Saturday afternoon a stop to in-room dining for two weeks starting Sunday as part of its circuit breaker measures to try to stop a sudden jump in cases. Some restaurants shut down completely while others like Maid Marian's turned to takeout only and planned to stay that way for two weeks or more. At a pandemic briefing on Wednesday, Premier Dennis King announced restaurants could reopen Thursday with some stricter measures to remain in place. The tweak in the circuit breaker rules includes a limit of 50 patrons in a restaurant, no more than six at a table and the establishment must close by 10 p.m. Stephanie Drake, co-owner at Maid Marian's, says they are happy to be open but will close right back up again if required by public health officials.(Steve Bruce/CBC) There is some concern among restaurant owners that customers may be slower to come back as several Island restaurants are among the possible exposure sites from the recent clusters of cases. "I think people are very nervous including myself, very nervous to go out to other places," said Cindy MacDonald, owner of Smitty's Family Restaurant and Little Christo's Pizzeria in Charlottetown — which were not recent exposure sites. "There's certain restaurants that I feel comfortable and those are my go-to if I'm going out but otherwise, people are staying home and doing the takeout and I don't blame them." Cindy MacDonald, owner of Smitty's Family Restaurant and Little Christo's, says Island customers have been very supportive during the changes in public health measures.(Steve Bruce/CBC) MacDonald said her staff are following all the rules and doing everything they can to limit the risk. No widespread community transmission Public health officials said during the Wednesday briefing that they are confident there is not widespread community transmission of COVID-19 on P.E.I. after testing more than 11,000 Islanders in the last few days. Customers are back for in-restaurant dining but table size is restricted to six people.(Steve Bruce/CBC) For restaurant owners like MacDonald, she said she hopes it stays that way and the province can avoid any more sudden shutdowns. "Right now, this is the third time, we're still here," MacDonald said. "But if it continues and restaurants are being shut down as they are, I'm not sure what the outcome is, really. After 41 years of business — it is very scary." Both business owners said they are ready to close back up immediately if required by the Chief Public Health Office. More from CBC News
Alberta's cross-country ski community has come through to finance trail grooming in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary after the UCP government cut funding for maintaining trails last year. Nordiq Alberta, the provincial sports body for cross-country skiing and a non-profit organization, announced that with three weeks left in its grooming pilot program, users have raised approximately $270,000 after expenses through voluntary parking pass sales. It exceed its goal of raising $200,000 through a pilot project to pay the costs of the trail grooming. On top of that, the organization has raised thousands in donations to support track setting. "The pilot was set out in part to inform us and to inform the government as to the ability and the willingness of the recreational ski community to help pay for ski trail grooming," said program lead Ken Hewitt. "The pilot proved, I think, beyond the doubt, that the ski community is prepared to pay for having groomed trails." The project came about after Premier Jason Kenney's UCP government announced in February 2020 that it would be making a number of changes to Alberta provincial parks, including stopping the grooming and setting of cross-country ski trails in Kananaksis Country. Though the government was to continue grooming at the Canmore Nordic Centre and track setting in the West Bragg Creek area, it planned to end trail setting and grooming in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area. The trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park are some of the most popular in the province with Alberta Parks estimating 100,000 site visits in the winter, representing about 40,000 vehicles. News of the cuts concerned the cross-country ski community, who said not grooming these trails would take a bite out of trail availability in the area. Under a pilot project arranged with the province, Nordiq Alberta asked people to voluntarily pay for parking if they were using the trails at Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area in Kananaskis Country. The passes were $10 a day, or $50 for a season. People could book online and print their passes to leave on the dash of their vehicles. Lots were patrolled by volunteer crews who would ensure people knew about the voluntary program and leave brochures on vehicles without passing asking them to consider paying retroactively and why. Meanwhile, the government continued to groom the trails with the same staff and equipment that it used for decades. Here's how the pilot program fared: Volunteers sold 5,200 season passes. Skiers bought 2,500 day passes. The program garnered $270,000 in net sales. Donors provided $22,000. The program got off the ground quickly. Hewitt said there were more than 150 volunteers assisting. Some drove in from nearby Canmore or Calgary, while others came to help from as far as Edmonton and Medicine Hat. The program now guarantees tracks will be set and groomed for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, with an estimated $60,000 left over for future grooming. Future of paid parking pass pilot unclear But it's unclear what the next steps are, Hewitt told CBC. "We're all optimistic that ski trail grooming will be sustained in next year and going forward," said Hewitt, adding the decision on how to proceed is in the government's hands. He said continuing the program as it stands, and depending on volunteers year after year, may not be sustainable. "You can only go back to the well so many times," Hewitt said. Although the future is unclear, Nordiq Alberta does plan to do what it can and ensure trail setting continues in Alberta. There are rumours in the cross-country ski community that a park fee system that operates similar to how National Parks charge for daily or yearly access could be brought forward, Hewitt said. "I don't know if that's a reality or just just a dream," he added. In a statement, Environment and Parks thanked Nordiq Alberta for its partnership and said any additional funds raised will be held in trust by Nordiq Alberta and used to support ski programs and projects in the future. "We will evaluate the pilot grooming operations program following the close of the season and discuss future plans with Nordiq," wrote Environment and Parks press secretary Jess Sinclair.
HONOLULU — The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled a tsunami watch Thursday for Hawaii that was issued after a huge earthquake occurred in a remote area between New Zealand and Tonga. The agency previously cancelled a tsunami warning it had issued for American Samoa. The magnitude 8.1 quake struck the Kermadec Islands region. It forced thousands of people to evacuate in New Zealand but did not appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure. In American Samoa, officials rang village church bells and police in marked vehicles and fire trucks used loudspeakers to spread word of the threat because the territory's regular outdoor warning system has been out of commission since last year. Repairs have been on hold because flights to American Samoa were suspended amid the pandemic and technicians have been unable to make the trip. Residents weren't taking any chances after a tsunami in 2009 killed 34 people in American Samoa and caused major damage. The Kermadec Islands quake was the largest in a series of tremors that hit the region over several hours, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3. The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers on Thursday approved a $6.6 billion plan aimed at pressuring school districts to return students to the classroom before the end of the school year. The bill does not order school districts to resume in-person instruction and it does not say parents must send their kids back to the classroom if they don’t want to. Instead, the state will dangle $2 billion before cash-strapped school boards, offering them a share of that money only if they offer in-person instruction by the end of the month. School districts have until May 15 to decide. Districts that resume in-person learning after that date won’t get any of that money. “We need to get the schools reopen. And I know it’s hard, but today we are providing powerful tools for schools to move in this direction,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who pleaded with his school district to accept the money and offer in-person instruction. Most of California's 6.1 million students throughout 1,037 public school districts have been learning from home since last March because of the pandemic. Frustrated parents and politicians have been clamouring for schools to return students to the classroom for months. But many school boards have been reluctant, facing opposition from teachers unions worried about coronavirus safety protocols and citing surveys from parents saying they are not comfortable sending their kids back to class in-person. “As a former math teacher for 13 years, we know that that’s the place we need our kids to be, but we’re afraid because you’re asking to put our own lives at risk and to put our families' lives at risk,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County. Nearly every lawmaker voted for the bill on Thursday, but many did so reluctantly, arguing it's too weak. The bill does not say how much time students should spend in the classroom, prompting fears some districts might have students return for just one day a week and still be eligible to get the money. And while the bill requires most elementary school grades to return to the classroom to get the money, it does not require all middle and high school grades to return this year. Republicans in the state Senate tried to amend the bill to say schools must offer at least three days per week of in-person learning, but Democrats in the majority rejected it. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has said he plans to sign the bill into law on Friday. Newsom faces a potential recall election later this year, fueled by anger over his handling of the fallout from the pandemic. He has travelled the state in recent weeks touting his efforts at reopening the economy, including a visit to an elementary school where he read to students as they sat behind plexiglass barriers on their desks. Scott Wilk, the Republican leader in the state Senate, said the bill was simply an effort by Democrats to give Newsom political cover so he can “get parents to believe he’s doing everything he possibly can for them.” “The truth is (this bill) doesn’t do anything to reopen our schools. ,” said Wilk, who voted for the bill along with most other Republicans. The bill has two sets of rules districts must follow to get the money. The first set applies to school districts in counties where the coronavirus is widespread. The second set of rules applies to districts in counties where the virus is not as widespread. To get the money, districts governed by the first set of rules must offer in-person learning through at least second grade by the end of March. Districts governed by the second set of rules must offer in-person learning to all elementary grades, plus at least one grade in middle and high school. However, the Newsom administration late Wednesday changed the standards that dictate which counties must follow which rules. The new standards mean most counties will have to follow the second set of rules requiring districts to offer in-person instruction for more grades. Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez criticized that decision as “a little dishonest.” Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, went further, saying he was “deeply concerned to see the goalposts already moving on this reopening plan just days after its unveiling.” “This change risks the unintended consequences of delaying return to classrooms and further eroding Californians' trust,” he said. The bill also includes $4.6 billion aimed at helping students catch up after a year of learning from home. Districts could use the money to extend the school year into the summer or they could spend it on counselling and tutoring. All districts would get this money, regardless of whether they offer in-person instruction. But the bill stated that districts must use at least 85% of that money for expenses related to in-person instruction. Adam Beam, The Associated Press
BEIJING — China is increasing its defence spending by 6.8% in 2021 as it works to maintain a robust upgrading of the armed forces despite high government debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A national budget report issued Friday said China would spend 1.355 trillion yuan ($210 billion) on defence in the coming year. That’s up from 1.3 trillion yuan ($180 billion) last year representing a 6.6% boost, the lowest percentage increase in at least two decades. The military budget has dipped during periods of slower economic growth, but has also been dropping steadily from the double-digit percentage increases over years as the increasingly powerful military matures and rapid expansion of what is already the world’s second largest defence budget is no longer required. The lavish spending increases of years past have given China the second-largest defence budget in the world behind the U.S. With 3 million troops, the world’s largest standing military has been steadily adding aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighters to its arsenal. The government says most of the spending increases go toward improving pay and other conditions for troops while observers say the budget omits much of China’s spending on weaponry, most of it developed domestically. China’s military is largely designed to maintain its threat to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, although it has also grown more assertive in the South China Sea, the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and elsewhere. The U.S., whose defence spending is estimated to run to about $934 billion between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, has complained of a lack of transparency in China's defence programs, fueling speculation that Beijing aims to supplant America as the primary military power in East Asia. The People's Liberation Army exercises a strong political role as the military branch of the ruling Communist Party. President and party leader Xi Jinping heads the government and party commissions that oversee the armed forces. In his address to Friday's opening session of the ceremonial legislature, the National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said the government would “thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the armed forces and the military strategy for the new era, (and) ensure the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces." “We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security, and development interests of our country" Li said. The Associated Press
Despite a closure for public access, all is not lost for the 150-year-old Springfield House and Escott Hall. Following a committee of the whole meeting Monday evening, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands and the Friends of the Springfield House Complex both say they are comfortable with where the issue is currently regarding the two buildings in the township. Last Thursday, the township released a long-awaited report that cited structural issues in its recommendation that council close public access to the two buildings located on County Road 2. The report also recommended that council direct staff to initiate the process for the consideration of declaring the two buildings surplus, a move that would allow the township to place the buildings on the market. However, township officials stressed they are a long way from placing the two buildings up for sale and it is not the goal of the township to sell the historical buildings. "We recognize the significance of the properties," said Stephen Donachey, the township's chief administrative officer. "This isn't going to be a consultation period that is very abbreviated… we want a fulsome discussion with the public." Most on council said it is not their preference to have the buildings put up for sale, but that time is of the essence to get something done with them due to their condition. Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke said the issue is at a critical period due to the condition of the buildings. "The conditions of the buildings are what they are today because everybody has sort of pushed this around and pushed it to the side," she said. Robert Burtch, chairman of the Friends of the Springfield House Complex committee, gave a presentation Monday before councillors discussed the matter. He says he is happy with the outcome of the meeting and thinks that the current mood of council is in favour of at least one of the buildings being saved. "We have to focus on what we can do now and if we've got the goodwill of the council with us, that's all we care about right now and we need to act on it," said Burtch. During his presentation, Burtch suggested to council that a historical engineer assess the buildings to get an accurate dollar figure on potential restoration costs. Smith-Gatcke said she is on board with having a more updated and historical assessment of the buildings. Along with the option to begin consideration of the buildings being surplus, the other two options presented to the committee were to repair the two buildings or close them for demolition. Nobody on the committee considered levelling the buildings, due in part to their historical nature. Springfield House was built in 1871 and is one of the oldest still-intact buildings in the township. Following restoration in the 1980s, the house served as the township public library until 2016. Both buildings have been given historical designations, which do limit potential outcomes and options for the township. Another limiting issue is the archives. The Escott Hall serves as the home for the archives of the township. Due to the nature of belongings in the archives, the space they can be kept in is limited. Further, the process for moving the archives would require experts and would not come cheap, said Burtch. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
OTTAWA — With a federal budget in the offing, premiers are stepping up the pressure on Ottawa to immediately boost health-care funding by at least $28 billion a year.They held a virtual news conference Thursday to reiterate their demand for a big increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.Starting this year, they want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.During a virtual first ministers' meeting in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers he recognizes the need for the federal government to eventually shoulder a bigger share of health-care costs. But he said that must wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent the federal deficit on track to exceed an unprecedented $381 billion as Ottawa doles out emergency aid, including at least $1 billion for vaccines and $25 billion in direct funding to the provinces to, among other things, bolster their health systems.Quebec Premier Francois Legault, chair of the premiers' council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are "non-recurring." He pointed to studies that suggest the federal government could quickly eliminate its deficit, and even return to surplus, once the pandemic is over while provinces would be mired in debt.The premiers argued they need stable, predictable, long-term funding for their health systems, which were already under strain before the pandemic hit and will be even more stressed once it's over and they must deal with the backlog of delayed surgeries, tests and other procedures.Manitoba's Brian Pallister said wait times have been a problem for decades and are destined to get worse as Canada's population ages. But he said the pandemic has made "a bad situation much, much worse.""The post-pandemic pileup is coming and it's real and its impact on Canadians and their families and their friends is real too," he warned. "The time is now to address this issue and to address it together."Pallister accused Trudeau of ignoring the problem of wait-times and the real life-threatening impact on people. Five years ago, he said he told Trudeau a true story about a woman with a lump in her breast who had waited for tests and referral to a specialist, only to be told in the end that it was "too bad we couldn't have caught this sooner.""He looked across the table at me and said, 'I'm not your banker,'" Pallister said."We don't need a banker. We need a partner."Trudeau has offered to give provinces immediate funding for long-term care homes, provided they agree to some national standards. Long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of deaths from COVID-19.But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa's latest offer would provide just $2,500 per person in long-term care — a drop in the bucket compared to the $76,000 it costs his province each year for every long-term care resident."The math doesn't work," he said.Legault ruled out conditional transfers for long-term care altogether as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. He said each province and territory has its own health-care priorities and their "jurisdiction must absolutely be respected."When universal health care was adopted in Canada, British Columbia's John Horgan said the cost was originally shared 50-50 between Ottawa and the provinces. The steadily declining federal share has led to ever more challenges in delivering health care, exacerbated now by the pandemic."Our public health-care system is at risk," Horgan warned."COVID has brought (the challenge) into graphic light. It's stark, it's profound and we need to take action."Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said Canadians deserve a well-funded health system "that is supported by both levels, both orders of government in this nation, not one that is propped up by almost entirely by the provinces and territories."Trudeau's minority Liberal government is poised to table a budget this spring, which could theoretically result in the defeat of his government should opposition parties vote against the budget. Legault said premiers have already talked to opposition parties to solicit their support for their health funding demand. He said the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the demand, while the Conservatives agree in principle with the need to increase the health transfer but have not specifically agreed to the $28-billion figure.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Just when you thought it was safe – the Ontario gov-ernment and the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit has issued another lock-down to the region that became effective on Monday, March 1. Calling it an “emergency brake,” the lockdown was imposed locally as well as in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. The decisions were made “in consultation with the local medical officers of health and are based on the trends in public health indicators and local context and conditions,” according to a state-ment issued by the Province. “While we continue to see the number of cases and other public health indicators lowering in many re-gions across the province, the recent modelling shows us that we must be nimble and put in place additional measures to protect Ontarians and stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “With COVID-19 variants continu-ing to spread in our communities, it is critically important that everyone continues strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures to help contain the virus and maintain the prog-ress we have made to date.” The statement went on to say “variants of concern continuing to spread, the number of patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care may rise once again if public health measures are not relaxed carefully and gradually. The actions of everyone over the coming weeks will be critical to maintaining the progress communities have made across the province to date.” Local medical officers of health continue to have the ability to issue Section 22 orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and municipalities may enact by-laws to target spe-cific transmission risks in the community. “Quickly implementing stronger measures to inter-rupt transmission of CO-VID-19 is a key component of the government’s plan to safely and gradually return public health regions to the Framework,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Due to data and local context and conditions in the Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay Districts, it was necessary to tighten public health measures in these regions to ensure the health and safety of the region at large and stop the spread of the virus.” To help stop the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard health system capacity, ev-eryone is strongly urged to continue staying at home and limit trips outside their household and between other regions for essential reasons only Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times