Dark stormy clouds and lightning flashes during severe thunderstorms.
Dark stormy clouds and lightning flashes during severe thunderstorms.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
The Trump administration plans to tighten sanctions on Tehran during its final months in power, the top U.S. envoy on Iran said on Wednesday, as he urged President-elect Joe Biden to use the leverage to press for a deal that reduces the regional and nuclear threats posed by the Islamic republic. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams, praising Biden's National Security Adviser and nominee for Secretary of State as "terrific people", cautioned against repeating what he saw as former President Barack Obama's mistakes in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal.
Dreams of a “green” Christmas were dashed on Nov. 20, as the provincial government, during its daily press conference, confirmed that several regions within Ontario would be moving into a more restrictive tier, or zone, of the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. Grey Bruce was announced as one of the areas moving from green – prevent, to yellow – protect, as of Monday, Nov. 23 at 12:01 a.m. The Grey Bruce Public Health confirmed the implementation of strengthened health measures in an email on Sat. Nov. 21. There are five levels within the framework, prevent (green), protect (yellow), restrict (orange), control (red) and lockdown (grey). Assignments to each level last a minimum of 28 days, or two incubation periods, before being reassessed on a weekly basis. However, movement to a more restrictive zone will be considered sooner if there are rapidly worsening trends. If Grey Bruce numbers decrease within the 28-day period, the region could return to green just before the Christmas holidays. Restrictions include, but are not limited to: Limits for functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, barbeques or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, or parks are 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Limits for organized public events and gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities are 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Limits for religious services, weddings and funerals are 30% capacity indoors and 100 people outdoors. Restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments will be required that patrons be seated with a two-metre minimum or impermeable barrier required between tables. Up to six people may be seated together. Dancing, singing and performing music is permitted, with restrictions. Karaoke is permitted, with restrictions (including no private rooms). Contact information must be provided by all seated patrons. No buffet style service is permitted. Line-ups and patrons congregating outside venues managed by venue must separate by a two-metre distance and face covering is required. Face coverings are required except when eating or drinking only. Personal protective equipment, including eye protection, is required when a worker must come within two-metres of another person who is not wearing a face covering. Night clubs only permitted to operate as restaurant or bar. Establishments must be closed from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. Liquor may be sold or served only between 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. No consumption of liquor is permitted between 12 a.m. to 9 a.m. The volume of music must be limited to allow for normal conversation. A safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request. In retail settings, fitting rooms must be limited to non-adjacent stalls. Line-ups and patrons congregating outside venues managed by venue must have a two-metre distance between patrons and face covering is required. Retailers should limit volume of music to be low enough that a normal conversation is possible. For malls, a safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request. A full list of protect event restrictions is available at www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-openyellow. News of the change from green to yellow really came as no surprise. The health unit, in its daily situation reports listing cases in the community, had been asking the public to continue to practice the three Ws – washing hands frequently, watch your distance (ideally two metres apart) and wear your face mask correctly, in order to control the spread of COVID. Other tips included avoiding crowds, arrange for outdoor activities instead of indoor activities, staying home if sick and avoiding close contact (unprotected and within six feet) with people from outside a household. People have also been asked to avoid travel to areas with higher transmission and minimize all non-essential travel. As of Nov. 18, there were 42 active cases of COVID in Grey Bruce, and close to 200 active high risk contacts in the counties. Less than a week later, the number of active cases had risen to 53 cases (Nov. 23) and 284 high risk contacts were associated with active cases. Ian Reich, public health manager for the Grey Bruce Health Unit, says the jump in numbers is a direct result of people not following basic practices. Groups have been coming together at many different locations and not adhering to basic public health recommendations, including personal distancing, face covering and staying home when sick. He said many cases are a result of the entire family testing positive, with multiple cases within one household. “Some people say we are done with the virus” said Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce medical officer of health. “The truth of the matter, the virus is not done with us. The virus is not going to stop, until we stop it. It is critical that we stay focused on preventing the spread of the virus, and work together to protect the most vulnerable of us.”Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
GUYSBOROUGH – “One complaint is too many complaints,” when it comes to ambulance delays putting patients at risk, MODG warden Vernon Pitts told media on Wednesday, Nov. 18 after the regular monthly meeting of council. Pitts was referring to a matter deputy warden Janet Peitzsche brought to council that afternoon; a constituent in her district waited seven hours for an EHS transfer from Canso to Antigonish, during which time the patient's appendix ruptured. And this was only the most recent complaint council had heard about EHS service in the municipality. Council has been in discussion with EHS about the lack of service in the municipality in the past and a motion was passed at Wednesday’s meeting to invite EHS to another meeting to discuss the issue. “We want some answers,” said Pitts. “There’s a disconnect here. They’re telling us one thing but in actuality other things are happening. We want to get this straightened out sooner rather than later.” And if things didn’t improve, Pitts said, “Our next step will be approaching the minister because ultimately the province is the one responsible for it. They pay for the service—we pay for the service through our tax rates—but the province in essence, they deal the money out. They’re supposed to get a service that they pay for and we want the service.” Another blow was dealt to health care in the municipality last week. Council was notified during Wednesday’s meeting that a doctor who had been slated to begin practice in the village had decided against a move to Guysborough. The physician shortage situation continues. In other business, council discussed the garbage pick-up service the MODG provides to the Town of Mulgrave. A letter was recently sent from the MODG to Mulgrave informing the town that garbage and recycling collection would move to a biweekly service. Prior to this notification, Mulgrave has had weekly pick-up of both waste streams. Pitts said of the change, “It’s not a cut in service, it is a service that all our residents (MODG) receive today…MODG is not making any money at this; it’s at a cost to us. That’s what Mulgrave is paying. They certainty have the option and the right to go out and look for garbage collection elsewhere.” Pitts explained that the weekly service Mulgrave has enjoyed was part of an accommodation given to the town when MODG took up garbage collection during the dissolution talks. “What happened is, this was first instituted when we were looking at the dissolution of Mulgrave…and it was a service to our neighbour.” Going forward, Pitts said, the MODG would have a contract with Mulgrave for waste collection; there currently isn’t one. Mulgrave has the option to put waste collection out to tender. If they chose that route, the MODG would put in a bid, Pitts said. The MODG will provide waste collection until Mulgrave tells them otherwise. Pitts said, “I don’t foresee MODG leaving them standing high and dry. They’re our neighbours, our friends.” Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
A new national survey by Women's Shelters Canada offers a glimpse into the experiences of front-line workers and women fleeing violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, with reports of clients facing more violence that is also increasing in severity. The Shelter Voices survey says 52 per cent of 266 participating shelters reported seeing clients who were experiencing either somewhat or much more severe violence, as public health measures aimed at fighting COVID-19 increase social isolation, while job losses fuel tension over financial insecurity in many households. Violence "was also happening more frequently, or abusers who hadn't used violence in the past were suddenly using violence," said Krys Maki, the research and policy manager for Women's Shelters Canada. The survey also found 37 per cent of shelters reported changes in the type of violence clients faced, including increased physical attacks resulting in broken bones, strangulation and stabbings. Shelters and transition houses that did not report changes in the rates or type of violence were often located in communities that had seen fewer cases of COVID-19, the report notes. The data show public health restrictions have a "huge impact on women and children who are living with their abusers," said Maki. The survey says 59 per cent of shelters reported a decrease in calls for help between March and May, when people were asked to stay home, and businesses, workplaces and schools shut their doors. From June to October, "as soon as things started up again, we see a huge increase in crisis calls and requests for admittance," said Maki. The survey includes responses from shelters and transition houses in rural and urban areas in every province and territory. Just over half of the shelters in population centres with 1,000 to 29,999 residents reported increases in crisis calls between June and October, said Maki, compared with 70 per cent of shelters in urban centres with populations between 100,000 and just under a million. Women in smaller communities may be more hesitant to reach out for help, said Maki, "because everybody knows everyone, and everyone knows where the shelter is, too." While the survey shows women are facing more severe violence at home, at the same time, 71 per cent of shelters reported reducing their capacity in order to maintain physical distancing and other public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. It was more common that shelters in large population centres had to cut their capacity. To continue serving women remotely, 82 per cent of shelters and transition houses reported purchasing new technology, such as tablets, phones and laptops, although limited cell service and internet connectivity pose challenges in rural and remote areas. For many shelters, financial difficulties increased throughout the pandemic, as 38 per cent reported raising significantly less money compared with last year. The shelters were mostly appreciative of the federal government's emergency funding in response to COVID-19, with some reporting it kept them open, while others said they had to lay off staff because the money didn't go far enough. The federal government announced last month it would double the initial amount it was providing to gender-based violence services in response to the pandemic for a total of $100 million, some of which has been distributed through Women's Shelters Canada. The survey found more than three quarters of the shelters faced staffing challenges during the pandemic. That's not surprising, the report notes, since women make up the majority of shelter workers and have been trying to balance paid work with childcare and other family responsibilities during lockdown periods. The release of the survey results on Wednesday coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Canadian Centre for Women's Empowerment is also working to have Nov. 26 recognized each year to raise awareness about economic abuse. So far, the cities of Ottawa, Brampton, Parry Sound and Kingston have signed on in Ontario, while Victoria and Comox, B.C., will also mark the day. There is little data about economic abuse in Canada, said Meseret Haileyesus, who founded the centre, although the shelter survey showed clients were subject to increasing coercion and control tactics, including limited access to money. A survivor's debt load, credit rating, and their ability to access housing and educational opportunities may be affected for years, long after they've left an abusive relationship, Haileyesus said. The centre is working with MP Anita Vandenbeld on a petition urging lawmakers to expand the strategy to end gender-based violence to include economic abuse. It also wants Statistics Canada to begin collecting data and studying economic abuse. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
The estate car had the words “Stop Globalisation Politics” written in white on its right side and “You damn killers of children and old people” on the other.View on euronews
A Christmas tree grower on P.E.I. is advising Islanders to get their trees early due to a shortage in the province.Mike Kelly, who owns Kelly's Christmas Tree Farm in Fort Augustus, said the number of Christmas trees are down this year because of the drought this summer and a harmful frost in June 2018. Kelly said he's had calls from sellers looking for more trees, but said he doesn't grow enough to supply them. He said there's been at least a 50 per cent increase in the number of people coming out to tag a tree to cut later. He expects all his trees will be sold out by the second week in December. "I think a lot of people do feel somewhat cooped up here over the last eight months or so, with COVID, of course," he said in an interview with Island Morning host Laura Chapin.'Family outings'"But I do notice that over the last few weeks and people coming out, a lot of families, and there's no question that's my biggest driving force, the different families coming out to get some family outings, I guess."The shortage also means for the first time in decades, the Summerside Y's Men are having to cut, wrap and haul dozens of Christmas trees to have enough for their annual fundraiser. The Y's Men raise money each year selling Christmas trees at Kool Breeze Farms. Y's Men 80 trees shortJanet-Rose Hurst, a member with the group, said normally they get between 200 and 250 trees but they've only been able to obtain a maximum of 150 from their commercial tree growers."The growers had a bad year growing their trees so we've seen a reduction in the amount of trees we can get from the commercial growers," she said."So this year we are going to have to go out and actually cut the trees ourselves."The group found a tree lot in Stratford that has allowed them to cut about 80 trees to meet their demand.More from CBC P.E.I.
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
In an effort to redouble efforts to fight against COVID-19, Bruce Power has launched Be a Light: Beating COVID-19 Together, on Nov. 19. The company has committed $1 million to battle the pandemic and work with public health, county and municipal governments, chambers of commerce, hospitals, local MPs and MPPs, and community organizations within Grey, Bruce and Huron counties. “We are committed to contributing in any way we can to the challenge ahead of us here in the coming weeks,” said James Scongack, executive vice-president corporate affairs and operational services at Bruce Power. Bruce Power has been in constant contact with public health, county wardens, the province, federal MPs, and it is “very clear that COVID fatigue is settling in, in everyone’s lives,” said Scongack. As case numbers continue to rise in Grey Bruce and Huron, Bruce Power is “committed to doing whatever they can to make a positive contribution working in unity with the medical officers of health, our elected officials across the board.” The program is focused on how to beat COVID-19, from what Scongack describes as a “glass half full” perspective. He said there is light at the end of the tunnel and each action carried out, directed at defeating COVID, makes the light a little brighter. The initiative is focused on five main areas. The first area, public awareness, involves engaging community newspapers, radio stations, television and social media to reinforce the message from the health unit on how to stop COVID. This information will become even more critical as winter and the holidays approach. Bruce Power has committed $200,000 to this area, which will begin immediately. The second area, providing protection, will provide thermal monitoring equipment in higher risk or high traffic areas. Scongack describes these monitors as an additional tool in the toolbox and notes that use of this new equipment, in areas of high traffic, prompts members of the public to pause and remember to follow other preventative measures. To date, Bruce Power has provided more than $2 million in PPE, $300,000 of which has been distributed in Bruce, Grey and Huron counties. $150,000 will be directed to this area. The third area of focus is a buy local campaign. Businesses have already faced many challenges because of the restrictions because of the pandemic, and these challenges will only continue to grow as case numbers climb. Bruce Power is making a $50,000 investment to further leverage the Grey-Bruce-Huron Strong platform (www.gbhstrong.com). The fourth area focuses on mental and physical health. Scongack says approximately 30 to 35 per cent of the $1 million will be directed to this part of the program. The company will support local organizations which promote mental and physical health activities and programs through the duration of the campaign. By Nov. 27, an announcement will be made detailing how approximately $50,000 will be spent to create COVID-safe, outdoor community events to take place this winter. Money will also be invested in improving trails and recreation in the area. The final area of focus is lending a helping hand. Bruce Power has reached out to food banks, long-term care facilities and community organizations to support these organizations and individuals during this period of time. Approximately $250,000 will be directed to helping those who need assistance, and money spent in this area should be used to support the local economy. Scongack says time and action is of the essence to respond to the urgent situation Ontario and our communities face. The program is being implemented immediately and said they have “two weeks to hit this hard with a hammer.” Bruce Power hosted a COVID-19 information live event with Dr. Ian Arra of Grey Bruce Health Unit on Nov. 25 at 6:30 p.m. The public was invited to attend, and those not able to view can watch the recorded version at https://www.brucepower.com/events/. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Milan's La Scala will broadcast a music and dance gala from its empty auditorium next month after it was forced to abandon its traditional December opening with an opera for the first time since World War Two due to the pandemic. Its usual new season opening, a highlight of Italy's cultural calendar, will be replaced on Dec. 7 by a show of arias and duets, starring opera and ballet stars from across the world, including tenor Placido Domingo. "I hope ... to tell the world that we are in a difficult moment but still able to create the emotion of opera," Artistic Director Dominique Meyer said during a webcast press conference.
RCMP say they have made a significant drug and weapons bust in North Battleford after carrying out two search warrants on Saturday.The first was executed at about 4:00 a.m. CST on the 1800 block of St. Laurent Drive, according to a news release.Officers found several items, including a gun, ammunition, brass knuckles, a knife, about three grams of crystal meth and $500 in cash.Two men — aged 27 and 44-years old — are facing a combined 13 charges, including unauthorized possession of a firearm and careless storage of a firearm. They are both set to appear in court on Wednesday.An 18-year-old woman is also facing charges related to an outstanding warrant. She has been released and her next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 1.Cocaine and loaded gunThe second search warrant was carried out shortly after on the 10000 block of Scott Drive.At that residence, police say they found about 4.4 kilograms of cocaine in vacuum sealed bags, approximately 350 grams of marijuana, a gun with two loaded magazines and more than $25,000 in cash.Two people — both 22-years-old — are facing several charges, including possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine and possession of a restricted firearm with ammunition.They have both been released and are scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 29.
The province's child and youth advocate says absenteeism was already an issue for children across Newfoundland and Labrador — even before anxiety started to swirl this week about a cluster of COVID-19 cases on Newfoundland's west coast.Jackie Lake Kavanagh says it's vital to keep gathering information about why kids are missing school. Elwood Elementary School in Deer Lake is reopening Wednesday, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD), after it had shut its doors Monday and Tuesday, following a student testing positive for COVID-19. However, it appears assurances from public health are not convincing all parents and caregivers to send their kids to school. CBC News has learned that only 10 out of 280 students showed up for school on Tuesday at Xavier Junior High, while roughly 10 out of 230 showed up for school at Elwood Regional High School. That information comes one day after the district's CEO Tony Stack admitted that attendance at Elwood Elementary, before the closure was announced, was "very low.""I would imagine it was apprehension within the community — understandably so — so the attendance rates were very low, less than 25 per cent," he said at a media conference Monday. Absenteeism 'significant problem': reportBut Lake Kavanagh's concern about kids missing class began long before schools closed province-wide in March.In January 2019, the office of the Child and Youth Advocate released a report that said about 10 per cent — or 6,600 — of the province's children missed a month or more of school on average, a "significant problem," said Lake Kavanagh, with some children missing more than that.Her department released a series of recommendations which she knows the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District had been working on, but Lake Kavanagh said she's worried chronic absenteeism might fall off the map."We're in the middle of COVID, [and] a lot of resources are focused on some of the very practical issues around student safety, keeping schools open, and a lot of the other issues that have arisen around that, and so my concern is that this does not drop off the radar — this is critically important," she told CBC's Anthony Germain in an interview Tuesday. "Children have an absolute fundamental right to a good-quality education, and they have to be in school."The absenteeism rate in September 2019 was around 6.2 per cent, Lake Kavanagh said. This year, that number was around nine per cent."In some ways I'm a little bit surprised, perhaps, that it wasn't higher than that compared to last year's numbers, especially in light of the issue with school bussing," she said, referring to the school board's plan to cut the number of seats available on school buses by 6,000.That decision was a particular worry for her, especially after three months at home in the spring."I was really, really concerned about that, because if we're starting the school year with children not able to get to school, can't even get to the front doorsteps of the school, that's a big problem," she said."When they become disconnected, it becomes harder to reconnect again."'This is so much more complex'Lake Kavanagh cites global research that shows that 75 per cent of students chronically absent in Grade 6 will not go on to finish high school, for example.It's a problem without a straightforward solution, she said."Oftentimes, absenteeism is looked at as not a big issue ... it's competing with some really big loud issues in the school system," she said.> To point at schools or the school system and say, 'Tag, you're it,' it's lost from the beginning. \- Jackie Lake Kavanagh"A lot of people tend to look at it as, that's a school problem, teachers need to do a better job and administrators need to do a better job of getting students in their desks every morning. But we know that this is so much more complex."If a child has significant mental or physical health issues that haven't been addressed, for example, "that's a barrier," she said. So, too, is a parent struggling with a diagnosis, disability or addiction."Home can be chaotic for children. There can be family violence, there can be all kinds of issues around school itself [so] that maybe it doesn't feel like it's a safe place … there's all kinds of really complex issues," she said."We can't point a finger at the schools, although the schools are critically important in being a part of the solution. These children's lives are often much more complex than that, and we have to look at holistic solutions to see, 'how do we take down some of those barriers in this province for children?' she said."It's not as simple as just getting them to show up."In the COVID-19 era, Lake Kavanagh said a heightened sense of worry, as well as the speed of misinformation spread, can also be an issue prompting parents to keep kids out of classes more than necessary."Once rumours start circulating, once social media lights up — whether it's accurate information or not — people will often act on that," she said."So if people are acting without good information and it may not be accurate, they're keeping their children home from school. Those are concerns as well, especially if there's no basis for those kinds of decisions."Lake Kavanagh said chronic absenteeism will need involvement from multiple government departments and the NLESD."There really needs to be a team effort, and to point at schools or the school system and say, 'Tag, you're it,' it's lost from the beginning," she said. "A much more holistic response is needed."Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years. Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health emergency on Tuesday, with more COVID-related restrictions, but his underlying message remains the same to Albertans: please take personal responsibility or I'll be forced to take drastic action. And this time, I really mean it! Kenney continues to play the role of exasperated parent in the driver's seat telling the mischievous kids in the back seat to stop misbehaving or by golly he's pulling the car over. In, um, three weeks. That's how long he's giving Albertans to obey his latest restrictions or face "stricter measures." Those restrictions are not the temporary, targeted lockdown being advocated by doctors, 341 of whom wrote a third letter to Kenney this week saying, among other things, "The continued rise in COVID-19 infections in Alberta is alarming. We are not on the brink of a health-care system disaster — we are already in it." But Kenney is opposed to a lockdown, preferring instead to issue a list of new restrictions that apply to some but not others. For example, you must wear a mask in indoor workplaces in Calgary and Edmonton regions but not in rural Alberta. Worshippers can still gather together with some restrictions, but not high school students, whose in-class learning will end Nov. 30 and not resume until Jan. 11. In-home gatherings illegal Kenney has declared in-home social gatherings to be illegal, with scofflaws facing a $1,000 fine. He was unclear on how the government will enforce the law, other than trusting police officers to notice if there are more than the usual number of cars parked along a street, indicating someone on the block is having a party. Also, you can't play darts or billiards in a pub, but you can have a drink with friends as long as they are either part of your household bubble or there aren't more than two of them. Again, this is not a blanket restriction for the whole province but for those in the "enhanced" areas of the province. You have to consult a map on the province's website to figure out where those areas are. While other provinces have shut down casinos, Alberta is only shutting down table games while leaving electronic games open. I guess if you want to hold a social gathering, do it in a casino. The restrictions are so confusing, you literally need to print out a list of the new rules and a COVID map of "enhanced" areas of the province to figure out if any of the new rules apply to you, your workplace or your local retail outlets. WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces new COVID-19 restrictions for Alberta Kenney's reluctance to follow other provinces into lockdowns is not surprising. Just a few weeks ago, he took a swipe at other areas of Canada that had imposed strong restrictions to flatten the COVID curve. "We've seen other jurisdictions implement sweeping lockdowns, indiscriminately violating people's rights and destroying livelihoods," said Kenney in early November. "Nobody wants that to happen here in Alberta." And just a few days ago, he said he would not let Alberta become a "police state." Invoking a province-wide mandatory mask rule, as every other province has done, is not exactly turning the rest of Canada into a "police state." Mandatory mask rules have demonstrated how other provinces are applying temporary sweeping restrictions to reduce COVID cases and save lives. But not in Alberta, even though last weekend the province had the highest daily case count in the country. That's including Ontario, which has more than three times Alberta's population. Boxed into a corner Kenney's previous libertarian comments have boxed him into a corner. If he invokes the same restrictions we're seeing in other provinces he, too, will be, by his own words, "indiscriminately violating people's rights and destroying livelihoods." That's why he says he's bringing in the "minimum" requirements to fight COVID. He meant that in terms of the Charter of Rights, where it requires a "minimal impairment" of people's fundamental rights to achieve a policy goal. However, when doctors call for a lockdown, they are not talking about denying people freedoms indefinitely, just long enough to flatten the curve and give everyone a chance to exercise the right to stay healthy and alive. "We're not going to let political pressure or ideological approaches to cause indiscriminate damage to peoples' lives and livelihoods," said Kenney on Tuesday, even as his new restrictions seem to be based in his own ideological, hands-off, trust-people-to-take-personal-responsibility approach to public policy. But you've got to hand it to Kenney for managing to sneak in a few subtle swipes at the doctors who are calling for a temporary lockdown. "I would ask people who have the certainty of a paycheque, particularly a government paycheque, to think for a moment about those individuals whose entire life savings are tied up in businesses," he said. But the doctors who are calling for a lockdown are warning us if we don't help ramp down the number of COVID cases now, everyone will be much worse off in the days to come and the government will be forced to apply massive restrictions in the future. I suppose that's what Kenney is saying, too, in his own way. And, by golly, this time he means it. This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.
GUYSBOROUGH – This past week brought unwelcome news on the COVID-19 front: Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Strang says there is community spread of the virus and some HRM schools have been closed due to positive COVID-19 cases. As the second wave of the pandemic hits the shores of Nova Scotia, PC Leader Tim Houston is on the road speaking to municipal governments and stakeholder groups about his and the PC Party’s vision for the future and how they would handle the current crisis. He spoke to The Journalduring his visit to Guysborough last Friday. For starters, Houston is critical of the government’s response to school cases. The initial reaction of the government to last week’s school cases was to announce that close contacts would be tested and asked to self-isolate for 14 days. By Friday, the schools involved were facing a complete closure for two weeks. Houston points to this as a failure of leadership and communication on the part of the government. “I think the key is information and setting expectations,” Houston said. “As recently as Tuesday when media was asking government and leadership, what can they expect around schools, can they expect school closures, the answer was ‘We’re a long ways away from that.’ Turned out we were only a couple of days away from it and it is not clear to people what the criteria the government is looking at.” With cases on the rise and additional restrictions put in place in the Halifax area, Houston is in favour of colour-coded zones such as that used in New Brunswick. “That gives people some information…some sense of the risk that is happening around them. In the absence of that we’re solely relying on understanding a decision after it has been made without information as to why it was made.” Houston believes that more testing is the key to containing the virus without locking down the economy. “I am a big advocate for testing, testing, testing and more testing – making sure we have the capacity that when public health identifies that someone has been in close contact with someone or is at a higher risk because of some situation, [we can] test those people. The timing of the test is critical but maybe we can test them twice. It is all designed to take some pressure off the mental health of Nova Scotians and reduce anxiety.” When asked about the price tag of such a rigorous testing regime, Houston said, “This is a time in our province when we are going to have to have deficits for the next few years. We have to invest in people, we have to invest in infrastructure. There are a lot of investments that have not been made over the last few years just for the sake of balancing the budget and our communities are less because of that. This is not the time to do that. The cost to the economy of just locking down or having everyone isolate is significant as well.” The health and well-being of Nova Scotians who live in long-term care facilities has been a major issue during the pandemic. “We know that isolation is a big drain on people’s mental and physical health,” said Houston. “We know that family members and loved ones are a big part of the care giving team…We need to be conscious of the virus – there is a lot of technology that can help; help share information with family members…More than anything it will give family members peace of mind. “Let’s look to technology. Now more than ever we have more technology that helps people stay connected. It’s not the same as a hug but it is a lot better than not having any information at all,” he said. While the second wave of the pandemic is top of mind, there are other longstanding issues that require attention from government, such as physician recruitment and EHS service in rural areas. Of physician shortages, Houston said the health care system needs to modernize to match the needs of today, which are increasingly the issues faced by an older population dealing with chronic, not acute conditions. Part of that modernization plan would be the provision of more virtual doctor’s appointments when and where possible. But that hinges on the availability of reliable high-speed Internet; something rural areas often do without. Houston said, “Access to proper high-speed Internet would be the biggest economic development initiative since the railways…I am completely focused on making sure that everyone has access to cell service and high-speed Internet.” In regard to poor EHS service, Houston said he’d like to see a separation of patient transfer service between hospitals and emergency calls. And he calls for the government to release the Fitch report, an ambulance system review delivered to the government in Oct. 2019, stating, “I’d like to see what recommendations the experts made about how to improve service.” Next month MLAs will return to the legislature for one day, Dec. 18, when the government will prorogue the fall session. Houston said of that decision, “The number of days we’ve sat this year, which will be 14…that will be the lowest number of days that any legislature in Canada has sat probably since confederation and it will be the lowest by half. And when you put that into context of what has happened this year, and the changes we’ve had to our lives, to our economy, to our provincial budget; it’s very remarkable. “This is the latest example of the lack of respect for the democratic process that we’ve seen from the government for seven years. They’ve systematically reduced the ability to be held accountable. They’ve reduced the effectiveness of committees, they’ve reduced the access of media, access of opposition. All of these things make for less democracy and in the long term it is bad for the people because the best decisions are made when people making the decisions know they will be scrutinized,” he said. In light of his disappointment in the course followed by the Liberal government, Houston told The Journal that it will be the PC Party’s practice to let people know where they stand on the issues of the day. He said they’ve been putting out thoughtful, detailed, researched plans, adding, “we won’t criticize without putting a solution forward.” Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Prince Edward Island has one new case of COVID-19 and three potential exposure sites in Charlottetown.P.E.I.'s Department of Justice and Public Safety says it is dealing with a spike in people seeking approval to come to the Island.This year's Victorian Christmas Market in downtown Charlottetown is being cancelled due to COVID-19. Performances at the Confederation Centre of the Arts will look different this holiday season.A new group on P.E.I. is helping to make sure Islanders have reusable masks, by linking up mask donors with agencies and groups in a position to receive and distribute them. Health-care facilities are taking some extra precautions during the next two weeks while the Atlantic bubble is suspended.As Island businesses gear up for the holidays, news of the Atlantic bubble closing has left some hoping it will be a chance to attract and retain more local customers. There are two active COVID-19 cases in the province. P.E.I. has seen a total of 70 cases, with no deaths and no hospitalizations.Also in the newsFurther resourcesMore from CBC P.E.I.
The cross-country ski community in New Brunswick says it's seeing a huge surge in interest in the sport this fall. "I think for a lot of people they're looking at it as a sport they can do in the winter to get through the winter and enjoy the winter, otherwise it's going to be an awfully long one," said John Ball, past president of the Wostawea Ski Club in Fredericton. Wostawea had 250 people sign up for membership in the first four hours of registration."Nothing like that has ever happened before," said Ball. Ball says all ski lessons for youth and adults are already full. "We raised (the limit) a little bit to allow people who had kids in the program to come back. But otherwise, we've now hit our limit with that."He said the club is adjusting its programs in light of COVID- there will be no indoor hot chocolate gatherings after youth skiing and lessons will be physically distanced. At the ski shop Radical Edge, co-owner Brian McKeown said he ordered twice as much cross-country ski gear than he normally would for a season."We're still burning through and are very, very low on stock," he said.McKeown said customers from across the country have been buying gear from the shop's online store. "B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, like, you name it, we've been doing orders almost on a daily basis, going all over the place."But, he said, most people coming into the store are first time skiers looking for an outdoor activity that's fun — and safe. "We've seen a lot of snowbirds that are not going down to Florida this winter and as a result are buying cross-country skis because, again, it's a great thing for them to get out and enjoy the winter."Ball says the club has seen steady growth in recent years, but he attributes the surge this year to the pandemic."I think it will really help with COVID. I think people are realising it is something that they can do that's fun. It's an all ages sport so they can do it. … Because we have to put up with this pandemic while we all wait for a vaccine and just struggle through it. It's a way to enjoy winter."
A Northwest Territories judge is now considering a decision that may have implications for the way temporary housing programs are run.The case was initiated by the Northwest Territories YWCA. It's appealing a rental office decision that found it improperly evicted a tenant in its transitional housing program and ordered it to pay him $420 in compensation.The money is not the issue. The YWCA is appealing because the rental officer found that the Residential Tenancies Act — which governs all landlord-tenant relations — applies to its transitional housing programs. The rental officer said the YWCA had failed to provide the notice of the eviction required under the Act and failed to get a rental office order authorizing the eviction.The case began when a client in the YWCA's housing program complained to the rental office after he was evicted from his unit in the Simpson House Apartments in Yellowknife. The YWCA leased the unit from Northview Properties. The building is now owned by the Northview Canadian High Yield Residential Fund.The man was notified he was being evicted in September 2019, days after he had a heated argument with his ex-spouse. Other residents overheard her threaten to burn down the building. They reported the threat to Northview.The YWCA says that was the last straw after several complaints from other tenants about loud parties, damage and late night knocks on the man's ground floor apartment window.Just a few days before there had been a fire at another Northview building, the Crestview Manor Apartments. A year earlier, a fire had destroyed the YWCA's Rockhill apartment building.A few days after notifying the man he was being evicted, Northview changed the locks on the apartment unit. It also terminated its lease with the YWCA. Despite the new locks, the man kept returning to his unit until early October, when he was escorted out by the RCMP.In court documents the YWCA says in a previous decision involving the Centre for Northern Families' eviction of a tenant, a rental officer had recognized the Residential Tenancies Act does not apply to transitional housing programs.The YWCA said it needs the flexibility to act fast to ensure the safety and security of its housing clients.The man is arguing that exemptions to Act only apply to programs that involve some kind of service, such as counselling, in addition to housing. They say the transitional housing program is strictly about accommodation.The lawyers were in court to argue their case on Tuesday. Justice Karan Shaner said she will give her decision in writing, but did not say when.
After 13 years as the host of CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Mike Finnerty has decided it is time to move on. His last show will be Friday, Nov. 27.Here, he explains the reasons behind his departure — and answers some rapid-fire questions that are normally reserved for special in-studio guests.Why are you leaving Daybreak?It is time. I've hosted Daybreak for a total of 13 years, including over the last, eventful decade 2010-2020. That's a lot of time! This is not my chair — it's been my great privilege to keep it warm, but I want to make way for a new voice, another style, a fresh perspective on the city for 2021.Looking back on the job, what did being Daybreak's host mean to you? How did you approach the job every day?I've had a front row-seat as so much has changed in Montreal. The revolt over corruption in the city. The big changes at city hall from Tremblay to Applebaum to Coderre to Plante. The massive student protests. The struggle to come to terms with our modern identity, to make the city a fairer place for all its citizens. The rise in the high-tech sector, the explosion of terrasse culture and now our pulling together in the pandemic.I've met and spoken to SO many Montrealers about all that and more. I'm incredibly fortunate, and incredibly grateful for the opportunity.Most of all, I will never forget the thrill of turning the microphone on every weekday, rain, snow or shine, and saying good morning to Montrealers.What's next for you?This Christmas, you'll find me at Borough Market selling cheese in my second home, London. I need some time to turn the page, and I get a lot of joy from a product that has a history that reaches back through the centuries. I am in awe of the mysteries of fermentation, all the incredible tastes, smells and varieties of cheese.I want to learn more, meet more farmers and cheesemakers. It is a hands-on, physical job, but also one that's really close to people. So I'll don the cheesemonger's apron and see where the next chapter takes me.What's the definitive Montreal food?All the foods! But a sunny day on the terrasse at a Montreal bistro with a platter of nibbly things (cheese included!) is heaven.Favourite interviews or guests?Ellen Gabriel.What are your strategies for waking up early and napping?How can you not love the quiet, intense beauty of the pre-dawn morning? And regarding napping, I cannot be brief on that topic.Something you noticed change in 10 years?Montreal's dynamism ... it faded. It's back.Something that didn't change at all?Sometimes I'll walk down a Montreal back alleyway and see the same young people you might have seen 30 years ago, laughing, playing, hanging out.Favourite Montreal neighbourhood to hang out in?I love Little Italy and the Jean-Talon Market.Cheese recommendations?Go to a cheese shop — ask the cheesemonger: "What's really popping today?" Cheeses are living things. You may have a favourite, but it may not be a great batch. A good cheesemonger will know what will knock your socks off on a given day.Prediction for the next 10 years?Montreal rising and rising.Tune in to 88.5 FM in Montreal Friday morning for Mike Finnerty's final broadcast as host of Daybreak.
MONTREAL — CAE Inc. has signed a deal with Textron to buy TRU Simulation + Training Canada Inc. for US$40 million.The company says the acquisition of expands its installed base of commercial flight simulators and customers.CAE says TRU Canada also brings with it a backlog of simulator orders, full-flight simulator assets and provides access to a number of airline customers.The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.Textron says the deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2020 or early 2021.The agreement follows an announcement earlier this month that CAE has signed a deal to buy Amsterdam-based Flight Simulation Company B.V. for C$108 million.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:CAE)The Canadian Press
Ontarians across the province should only celebrate the upcoming holiday season with people inside their own household, Premier Doug Ford announced Wednesday."Doing so is critical if you live in a lockdown region," Ford said. "If you live alone you can join one other household. Please don't have big holiday parties."A provincial news release also states that anyone "living away from home, including those studying at colleges and universities, should consider doing a self-quarantine, or reducing close contact with others, 10 to 14 days before returning home for the holidays."Health Minister Christine Elliott said she knows how difficult the last several months have been for people."The holiday season will need to be a little different in order to protect our loved ones and our communities," she said.Ford and Elliott also suggested virtual gatherings as an alternative."To keep your loved ones safe, traditions will have to be adjusted," Ford said.WATCH | Premier gives direction on holiday season:The announcement comes as Ontario reported another 1,373 cases of COVID-19 and 35 more deaths linked to the illness on Wednesday.The new cases include 445 in Toronto (which the city later updated to 481), 415 in Peel Region and 136 in York Region and drop the seven-day average to 1,389.Other public health units that saw double-digit increases in today's report were: * Waterloo Region: 61 * Hamilton: 49 * Windsor-Essex: 48 * Simcoe Muskoka: 30 * Halton Region: 30 * Durham Region: 26 * Ottawa: 23 * Niagara Region: 17 * Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 13 * Thunder Bay: 13[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.]There were also 162 school-related cases, including 138 students and 24 staff members. There are 688 publicly-funded schools in Ontario, or about 14.6 per cent, with at least one reported instance of COVID-19. Four schools are closed due to outbreaks.The new cases come as Ford's government is under fire for its pandemic response. A new report from the province's Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that the response was hampered by "delays and confusion in decision-making."Meanwhile, Ontario's labs processed 36,076 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a provincewide test positivity rate of 4.7 per cent.There are currently 12,779 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, 138 fewer than yesterday. The number of people with the illness in Ontario hospitals fell 11 to 523. Those being treated in intensive care stayed unchanged at 159, while 15 more patients were put on ventilators.The 35 additional deaths reported today include 29 people aged 70 and over who contracted the virus in an outbreak, most likely long-term care settings. Ontario's official death toll now sits at 3,554.Scathing AG report on pandemic responseThe province's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was slower and more reactive than that of other provinces, Lysyk concluded in her report. She said outdated provincial emergency plans played a role in slowing down the provincial response in the winter and spring, as did systemic issues such as a lack of laboratory surge capacity and old IT systems.Lysyk also pointed to an increasingly cumbersome command structure, and one that was not led by public health expertise despite the creation and expansion of a provincial health command table that she says now involves more than 500 people.As well, she found the province's chief medical officer of health did not fully exercise his powers in responding to the pandemic, or issue directives to local health officials to ensure a consistent approach across regions.The auditor general also raised concerns that lab testing, case management and contact tracing were not being conducted in a timely enough manner to limit the spread of the virus, noting that between January and August, all but one public health unit failed to meet the target of reporting test results within a day 60 per cent of the time.The findings are part of a special report released today that examines Ontario's emergency management in the context of the pandemic, and its outbreak planning and decision-making, among other things.In the report, Lysyk said many of the issues her office identified would have been avoidable if the province had acted on key lessons from the 2003 SARS outbreak before or during the health crisis.Ford responded to the report Wednesday, saying that he had "serious problems" with it."This does nothing but undermine this entire health team," Ford said, adding that he "won't stand for this."Ford also directly criticized Lysyk herself, accusing her of sitting in her office and throwing "hand grenades" at the government's health officials."Stick with looking for value for money. Stick with the job we hired you for … stick with the number crunching," Ford said.COVID-19 and the holidaysToronto and Peel Region are currently under the grey or lockdown level in the province's tiered COVID-19 alert system, with those restrictions set to stay in place at least until the week of Christmas.Public health measures under the lockdown level include a ban on indoor gatherings except with those in the same household, as well as closing down restaurants for all but takeout and delivery.The province's chief medical officer of health said earlier this week it seemed unlikely the situation would improve in those regions enough over 28 days to warrant moving them to the red alert level, which is one level lower. Previously, Dr. David Williams was derided for his suggestion that the entire province could be in the green zone by Christmas. Five other regions — Hamilton, Durham, Halton, York and Waterloo — are currently classified as red zones, which caps social gatherings at five people indoors and 25 outdoors.Ontario's most recent modelling showed the province is on track to see up to 6,500 new daily cases of COVID-19 by mid-December, though those projections are expected to be updated Thursday.