Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says President Donald Trump would sign a proposal for COVID-19 relief funding backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a scaled-back GOP bill that has already failed twice this fall. (Dec. 2)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says President Donald Trump would sign a proposal for COVID-19 relief funding backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a scaled-back GOP bill that has already failed twice this fall. (Dec. 2)
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths of office on Wednesday using Bibles that are laden with personal meaning, writing new chapters in a long-running American tradition — and one that appears nowhere in the law. The Constitution does not require the use of a specific text for swearing-in ceremonies and specifies only the wording of the president’s oath. That wording does not include the phrase “so help me God,” but every modern president has appended it to their oaths and most have chosen symbolically significant Bibles for their inaugurations. That includes Biden, who used the same family Bible he has used twice when swearing in as vice-president and seven times as senator from Delaware. The book, several inches thick, and which his late son Beau also used when swearing in as Delaware attorney general, has been a “family heirloom” since 1893 and “every important date is in there,” Biden told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert last month. “Why is your Bible bigger than mine? Do you have more Jesus than I do?” quipped Colbert, who like Biden is a practicing Catholic. Biden’s use of his family Bible underscores the prominent role his faith has played in his personal and professional lives — and will continue to do so as he becomes the second Catholic president in U.S. history. He follows in a tradition of many other presidents who used family-owned scriptures to take their oaths, including Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Some have had their Bibles opened to personally relevant passages during their ceremonies. Bill Clinton, for example, chose Isaiah 58:12 — which urges the devout to be a “repairer of the breach” — for his second inauguration after a first term marked by political schisms with conservatives. Others took their oaths on closed Bibles, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, who in 1961 used his family’s century-old tome with a large cross on the front, similar to Biden’s. The tradition of using a Bible dates as far back as the presidency itself, with the holy book used by George Washington later appearing on exhibit at the Smithsonian on loan from the Masonic lodge that provided it in 1789. Washington’s Bible was later used for the oaths by Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. But not every president has used a Bible. Theodore Roosevelt took his 1901 oath without one after the death of William McKinley, while John Quincy Adams used a law book in 1825, according to his own account. Some have employed multiple Bibles during their ceremonies: Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump chose to use, along with others, the copy that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. Harris did the same for her vice-presidential oath, using a Bible owned by a close family friend and one that belonged to the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Harris has spoken of her admiration of Marshall, a fellow Howard University graduate and trailblazer in government as the high court’s first African American justice. “When I raise my right hand and take the oath of office tomorrow, I carry with me two heroes who’d speak up for the voiceless and help those in need,” Harris tweeted Tuesday, referring to Marshall and friend Regina Shelton, whose Bible she swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. Harris, who attended both Baptist and Hindu services as a child, worships in the Baptist faith as an adult. While U.S. lawmakers have typically used Bibles for their oaths, some have chosen alternatives that reflect their religious diversity. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2007 used a Qur’an that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, prompting objections from some Christian conservatives. Jefferson’s Qur’an made a return in 2019 at the oath for Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chose a Hebrew Bible in 2005 to reflect her Jewish faith. Newly elected Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, who is also Jewish and who swears in Wednesday, used Hebrew scripture belonging to Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, an ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, opted for the Bhagavad Gita in 2013 after becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress. And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the only member of the current Congress who identifies as “religiously unaffiliated,” took her oath on the Constitution in 2018. ___ Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Elana Schor, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the annual pace of inflation slowed in December. The agency says the consumer price index was up 0.7 per cent compared with a year earlier. That compares with a year-over-year increase of 1.0 per cent in November. Prices rose in six of the eight major components on a year-over-year basis in December. Excluding gasoline, the annual pace of inflation in December was 1.0 per cent compared 1.3 per cent in November. The average of Canada's three measures for core inflation, which are considered better gauges of underlying price pressures and closely tracked by the Bank of Canada, was 1.57 per cent for December, down from 1.67 per cent in November. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021. The Canadian Press
Last week, 345 COVID-19 vaccines were administered in local long term care homes experiencing outbreaks in Elgin and Oxford counties. The Pfizer BioNtech vaccinations were administered to residents at Extendicare in Port Stanley, PeopleCare in Tavistock, and Maple Manor in Tillsonburg. Southwestern Public Health (SPH) is on track to administer another 550 first doses this week. “This is a hopeful time in public health, and in the pandemic overall,” said SPH spokesperson Natalie Rowe. The health unit is continuing to focus on first-dose vaccinations to residents at long-term care homes. Their next focus will be on retirement home residents. Second doses of the Pfizer vaccine take place between 21 and 28 days from the initial dose. “Our timeline is to begin administering second doses during the week of February 1, pending vaccine availability,” said Ms. Rowe. Due to a limited supply of the vaccine, the initial allocation was prioritized for individuals who have not yet tested positive for COVID-19. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are expected to have a level of natural immunity upon recovery. The province of Ontario has sequenced its immunization rollout into three phases, with timelines subject to vaccine supply. Phase 1 is dedicated to high-risk community members, such as long-term care and retirement home staff, residents and caregivers, followed by hospital-based care workers, First nations, Metis, and Inuit communities. This phase is expected to last until the end of March. Phase 2 will see broader vaccination of essential workers, adults aged over 75, adults aged 60-75, at-risk populations, and eventually adults aged 16-60 through vaccination clinics. This begins in April and will last until the end of July. Phase 3 will continue mass immunization once a steady supply of vaccine is available. These will be in immunization clinics at public health and pharmacies. This starts in August. 30 Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
BEIJING — China’s Foreign Ministry described outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday as a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” The allegations of abuses against Muslim minority groups in China's Xinjiang region are “outright sensational pseudo-propositions and a malicious farce concocted by individual anti-China and anti-Communist forces represented by Pompeo,” spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing. “In our view, Pompeo’s so-called designation is a piece of wastepaper. This American politician, who is notorious for lying and deceiving, is turning himself into a doomsday clown and joke of the century with his last madness and lies of the century," Hua said. Pompeo’s announcement Tuesday doesn’t require any immediate actions, although the U.S. must take the designation into account in formulating policy toward China. China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic growth and social stability. The U.S. has previously spoken out and taken action on Xinjiang, implementing a range of sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises that fund repressive policies in the vast, resource-rich region. Last week, the Trump administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labour. Many of the Chinese officials accused of having taken part in repression are already under U.S. sanctions. The “genocide” designation means new measures will be easier to impose. Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken to ramp up pressure on China over issues from human rights and the coronavirus pandemic to Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. China has responded with its own sanctions and tough rhetoric. China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of prison-like political indoctrination camps, according to U.S. officials and human rights groups. People have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination in addition to forced labour as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority. The Associated Press reported on widespread forced birth control among the Uighurs last year, including the mass sterilization of Muslim women, even while family planning restrictions are loosened on members of China's dominant Han ethnic group. China has denied all the charges, but Uighur forced labour has been linked by reporting by the AP to various products imported to the U.S., including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors. James Leibold, a specialist in Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe in Melbourne, Australia, said international pressure appears to have had some effect on Chinese policies in Xinjiang, particularly in prompting the government to release information about the camps and possibly reducing mass detentions. “So hopefully we’ll see a continued continuity with regards to the new (Joe Biden) administration on holding China to account," Leibold said in an interview. “And hopefully the Biden administration can bring its allies along to continue to put pressure on the Chinese government," he said. ___ Associated Press journalist Dake Kang contributed to this report. The Associated Press
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron wants to take further steps to reckon with France’s colonial-era wrongs in Algeria but is not considering an official apology, his office said. A report commissioned by Macron, to be published later Wednesday, submits proposals to improve the complex relationship between the two countries, from opening up war archives to holding commemorations. Macron's office said there will be “no apologies” but that Macron intends instead to make “symbolic acts” aimed at emphasizing recognition of the harsh colonial reality and helping reconciliation between the two countries. Macron will take part in three commemoration days by next year, which will mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the eight-year war with France that resulted in the North African country gaining independence in 1962 — after 132 years of French rule. France will “pursue and broaden” the opening of its archives on the war as work is under way to allow the release of classified secret documents, Macron's office added. Amid other actions, Macron wants to honour Gisele Halimi, a French feminist who supported Algeria’s independence and denounced the use of torture by the French military during the war. He will launch the process aiming at burying her at the Pantheon monument in Paris, a resting place for some of France’s most distinguished citizens. The first French president to be born after Algerian independence, Macron promised to open a new chapter in France’s relationship with Algeria during his term, including facing the countries’ painful history. In 2018, Macron formally recognized the responsibility of the French state in the death of a dissident in Algeria in 1957, admitting for the first time the military's systematic use of torture during the war. He commissioned historian Benjamin Stora last year to assess France’s relation with the memory of Algeria’s colonization and the independence war. Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said last year that his country was awaiting an official apology for France's colonial occupation. Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office Wednesday after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Senators worked into the evening and overcame some Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member, in what's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president's administration. Haines, a former CIA deputy director, will become a core member of Biden’s security team, overseeing the agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community. She was confirmed 84-10. The new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged colleagues to turn the spirit of the new president’s call for unity into action. “President Biden, we heard you loud and clear,” Schumer said in his first speech as majority leader. “We have a lengthy agenda. And we need to get it done together.” Vice-President Kamala Harris drew applause as she entered the chamber to deliver the oath of office to the new Democratic senators — Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Alex Padilla — just hours after taking her own oath at the Capitol alongside Biden. The three Democrats join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, and Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans. Padilla was tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. To “restore the soul” of the country, Biden said in his inaugural speech, requires “unity.” Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Okla., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over Biden's proposed immigration changes. And McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. McConnell, in his first speech as the minority party leader, said the election results with narrow Democratic control of the House and Senate showed that Americans “intentionally entrusted both political parties with significant power.” The Republican leader said he looked forward working with the new president “wherever possible.” At her first White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
The arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine and stronger foreign demand is brightening the outlook for the Canadian economy in the medium term, the Bank of Canada said on Wednesday, as it held its key overnight interest rate at 0.25%. But the central bank warned the economy would contract in the first quarter of 2021 amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and lockdowns, with inflation not expected to return sustainably to target until 2023, keeping interest rates at record lows.
Le Règlement sur la récupération et la valorisation des produits par les entreprises est entré en vigueur le 5 décembre 2020. Il force les fabricants à mettre sur pied un système de récupération et de recyclage des électroménagers domestiques réfrigérants. Ce règlement, attendu depuis des années, va donner un beau coup de pouce à l’entreprise PureSphera de Bécancour, dont la survie était en cause il y a seulement 18 mois, en raison d’une carence d’appareils à recycler. «Ça va changer le paysage du recyclage des électroménagers dans les prochaines années, ce qui est évidemment souhaitable pour atteindre les plus hauts standards environnementaux et de récupération et de réemploi des vieux appareils», explique Mathieu Filion, directeur général de PureSphera. «Pour nous, l’effet à court terme est une hausse du volume au cours des prochaines semaines, mois et années, pour atteindre une opérationnalité complète de l’usine de Bécancour». Les annonces ont été retardées d’année en année depuis 2015. «Le ministère a finalement pris le taureau par les cornes pour que ça puisse se concrétiser. Ç'a été très difficile au niveau de notre planification. On est sur une bonne lancée», ajoute M. Filion. Québec va d’ailleurs injecter près de 90 M$ sur dix ans afin de faciliter la transition et la valorisation de ces appareils. Des sommes qui rendent service à PureSphera, qui peut dès maintenant récupérer des produits avec la collaboration des MRC, municipalités, magasins et écocentres de la province. L’entreprise offre un programme clé en main aux municipalités dans le cadre de son programme de récupération de réfrigérateurs, congélateurs, climatiseurs, refroidisseurs et déshumidificateurs. PureSphera compte aussi développer des marchés alternatifs de recyclage et de réparation de vieux appareils. Ce que M. Filion appelle «une nouvelle flore commerciale, financière et d’économie sociale. Les gens sont friands d’économie circulaire. Nos voisins européens sont très proactifs». PureShera a investi depuis 2008 près de 15 M$ dans ses installations de Bécancour. L’entreprise a, depuis cette date, recyclé près de 700 000 électroménagers et détourné près d’un million de tonnes de gaz à effet de serre de l’atmosphère. PureSphera estime sa capacité de traitement annuelle prochaine à 150 000 réfrigérateurs et congélateurs. Ceci ne couvre cependant pas l’ensemble des besoins de la province. Un procédé unique Ces électroménagers seront en bonne partie récupérés au Centre de Gestion Intégrée des Halocarbures (CGIH) de PureSphera, une initiative qu’elle dit unique en Amérique du Nord. «On travaille de près avec Recyc-Québec et des partenaires régionaux. On a des ententes avec des détaillants, ferrailleurs et points de dépôt». PureSphera espère devenir le meilleur recycleur accrédité au pays. «On va préparer les réfrigérateurs pour le broyage et dans une seconde étape, on va extraire les gaz réfrigérants et les introduire dans un sas, libérer les gaz qui sont dans la mousse et dans le système». L’entreprise affirme pouvoir récupérer 96% des contenus de tous les appareils qu’on lui confie. Les métaux ferreux et non ferreux, les huiles, gaz, plastiques, la vitre aussi. Les gaz sont détruits. Rappelons que certains frigos renferment des halocarbures volatiles jusque dans leurs mousses isolantes. Mal recyclé, un seul frigo rejette dans l’atmosphère autant de Co2 qu’une voiture qui roule sur 17 000 km! Certains frigos contiennent même du mercure. L’arrivée de ce nouveau règlement veut aussi dire que PureSphera va procéder à l’embauche d’une quarantaine d’employés. (Parution originale: Le Courrier Sud)Boris Chassagne, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix du Sud
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.Supporters of the 45th U.S. President gathered in West Palm Beach, Fla. to greet Trump’s motorcade when it arrived in the city.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
The chief of the Shawanaga First Nation near Parry Sound said he is confident the majority of his people will want to get vaccinated against COVID 19. However, Chief Wayne Pamajewon said he understands the reluctance of some to get the vaccine, adding that it is their prerogative. The chief said he did not have an exact date on when the vaccine would reach his territory. He said he fully understands the reasons some of his people are reluctant to get the vaccine shots, particularly in light of the troubling history of the treatment of Indigenous people in the Canadian health-care system. However, he is advising his people to take the vaccination program seriously. “I think there are a couple of leaders within my council who are a little leery of this COVID needle. I’ve been a diabetic for 37 years. A needle to me means nothing,” the chief said. “I have never pushed my people to do anything they didn’t want to do. The call is probably going to be put into their hands. I can’t make them do that. I refuse to do that. The Great Spirit will work with them on that one.” The chief said he has every reason to believe his people will continue to follow COVID-19 protocols and he is cautiously optimistic that the territory will continue to remain coronavirus-free. Chief Pamajewon said the community has only had to address one COVID case — a student who does not live on the Shawanaga First Nation but attends school there was confirmed to have had the virus last month. That youngster has since self-isolated and has been declared COVID-free. There was no transfer of the virus to his community members. “We isolated that case right away because we were notified about it. We sent all the children from that community where the child was from home because they attend our school. It’s just lucky that we cut it off at the right spot and it went nowhere,” the chief said. “All the contacts came back negative. That was great that we were able to stop it right in its tracks before it got into our community.” The chief went on to say that he and his membership will abide by the latest provincial lockdown protocols, but he wanted to make it clear he does not necessarily classify himself as an Ontarian, but a member of Turtle Island, (the Indigenous term for North America). “Maybe what could’ve happened was that (the restrictions) had been tighter and longer from the beginning. I don’t think we locked the door tight enough,” Chief Pamajewon said. “I don’t think Premier Doug Ford had any choice, especially in the hot zones. But even some of our political leaders are (travelling). You can’t tell someone to do something and you turn around and you don’t do that. What is that? To me that’s wrong.” Pamajewon said that since the pandemic began, no one on the territory has been issued a ticket for hosting large gatherings at their home. “We don’t want our people to be charged or anything like that. What we want is preventive policing. We’ve had co-operation from our people to be mindful of gathering together. I’ve even approached some of their bonfires and talked with them to remind them to be mindful of the rules in place,” Chief Pamajewon said. John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
ST. MARY’S – Rural decline may be taking the stuffing out of public finances across Nova Scotia, but the Municipality of the District of Saint Mary’s is the picture of health thanks to sound financial management, says Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald. “That’s our focus,” he told The Journal in an interview last week. “With the relatively low revenue we have to work with we need to concentrate on what is important to the residents.” MacDonald’s comments came following the release of the municipality’s 10-year budget record, which shows operating revenue and surplus in 2019-20 were 25 per cent higher and almost three times greater, respectively, than 2009-10 levels. “Over the past five years we have increased efforts to collect on outstanding tax accounts and have improved our financial indicators in that area,” he said. “We also watch our long-term debt and our debt servicing ratios to ensure that stays in a reasonable range for a municipality of our small size.” The budget report shows total operating expenditures of $3,363,913 on operating revenue of $3,455,095 for a surplus of $91,182 in 2019-20. That compared with spending of $2,735,559 on revenue of $2,771,679 for a surplus of $36,120 in 2009-10. “We’ve been picking up a little increase on residential property taxes,” MacDonald added. “Our biggest challenge on that score remains commercial.” Since the outbreak of the pandemic, St. Mary’s has experienced a modest home-buying boom as a growing number of urbanites from other parts of Canada snap up properties in the district. “We’ve seen a lot of movement since [last] March,” Marian Fraser, the municipality’s Director of Finance said in an interview last month. [There’ve been] increases in both the volume and value of deed transfer taxes to the area over the summer and fall. We don’t have exact numbers, but half-a-dozen properties or more [have been sold].” According to the budget report, residential property and resource tax rates rose by 16 per cent to 95 cents in 2019-20, from 81 cents in 2009-10 (per $100 of assessed value). The commercial tax rate increased to $2.26, from $2.12, over the same period. The costs of sewer and solid waste rose to $618,549 last year, from $363,266 a decade ago. Other budget bumps include: education ($561,724, from $522,545); policing and correction ($519,736, from $425,899); and recreation and library services ($380,742, from $142,035). The cost of general government services – which includes everything from council members’ remunerations and staff salaries and benefits to property valuation and legal services – actually declined to $730,229 in 2019-20, from $789,030 in 2009-10. Said MacDonald: “We have to focus on what the residents need and watch our spending accordingly.” Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Edmonton International Airport officials are guardedly optimistic about the expansion on February 1 of the COVID-19 international border testing pilot program. Currently the pilot is only available to eligible international travellers arriving at the Calgary airport and the Coutts land border crossing. Those participating in the program entering Canada will have to show proof of a negative test — taken within 72 hours before the flight — before being allowed to board the plane destined for the province. Once they arrive in Alberta, they're tested again and must quarantine for 48 hours. If the second test result comes back negative, they can leave quarantine as long as they remain in Alberta for the first 14 days and get a followup test a week later. "We believe this is a great program," EIA vice president Steve Maybee said. "We have to put these in place so when travel does come back and people are encouraged to travel again, that we have the right programs in place to make it safe." Currently, both the federal and provincial governments are discouraging unnecessary travel. Maybee said the EIA isn't encouraging people not to follow the advisories. "We're not suggesting or encouraging travel right now," Maybee said. "We're following along with what the government restrictions and mandates that are in place." Edmonton travel agent Lesley Paull thinks the expansion of the pilot program is a sign of better days ahead for local travellers. "I think it's just going to give people more encouragement to go," she said. "We don't have as many flights as Calgary has, so we'll probably be starting a slower process, but hopefully with testing here, that will bring us more non-stop flights back." The testing is free of charge for eligible participants and the pilot will run until 52,000 people have been tested. No international flights for six months in 2020 at EIA Based on 2020 travel numbers, it may take awhile to get to that 52,000 mark. EIA said 2.6 million people went through their airport last year, compared to 8.1 million the year before, for an overall drop of 67.7 per cent. There were no international flights at all between April and September and flights to the United States were down 78.5 per cent. There was also a 70 percent decrease in domestic flights coming in and going out of the Edmonton airport. The travel agent summed up her business in one word. "Brutal," Paull said with a laugh. But she hopes pent up demand will lead to change. "We're doing so many bookings for 2022 now, and even the end of 2021," Paull said. "I think that people are so anxious to get out of here. They're really quite sick of the whole thing."
Watching Kincardine native Sam Pearce entertain an audience is, well, magical. As early as four years-of-age, Pearce already knew that he wanted to be a magician. He credits his grandfather with providing him with the inspiration to pursue his career. Grandpa Frank Pearce, formerly of Kincardine and now living in Lucknow, loved to make people laugh, telling jokes and using sleight of hand to amaze and amuse friends and family. Pearce says “he is the reason I am doing this today.” Flashback to 2003, when a then 12-year-old Pearce was the subject of a feature article in The Kincardine Independent. Even then, he knew that he had to keep his illusions fresh and professional to keep his audience entertained. As a young man, he advertised his skills in the area, performing at birthday parties for just $20, while honing his skills and perfecting his delivery. A move to Kitchener in 2008 brought him closer to bigger opportunities, and he began to perform at awards galas, team building events and corporate conferences, acting as not only an entertainer, but as a master of ceremonies as well. His clients have included such companies as Sobeys head office, Epson and Canada Life. And in pandemic times, in order to accommodate gathering and physical distancing restrictions, Pearce has used technology to bring his services into the board rooms and living rooms of his customers. His expert team operates remotely from cities across southern Ontario and he has turned his living room into a professional television studio, where he shoots videos of his performances. Each event is customized to meet the needs of his clients, is interactive and very entertaining. “One thing I’m really proud of is the ability to broadcast with live closed captions,” said Pearce. “It’s so important to me that the events are accessible and welcoming to everyone. It was a bit tricky to develop, but we now have a solid system where we send live audio to a stenographer (working remotely in Toronto), they transcribe the event in real-time, and we sync the words with the video before broadcasting to our viewers.” His goal is to use his skills in comedy and magic to bring people together. “My goal is to connect people,” said Pearce. “…to give people a sense of community and connection from the comfort of their homes.” Examples of Pearce’s performances can be seen on his company’s website, www.canadianillusionist.com. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
Ontario reported another 2,655 cases of COVID-19 and 89 more deaths of people with the illness on Wednesday, as the government said it is expanding its workplace enforcement effort to include farming operations and essential businesses in the service sector. The new cases include 925 in Toronto, 473 in Peel Region, 226 in York Region and 179 in Windsor-Essex County, which continues to see a huge strain on its intensive care units. Other public health units that saw double- or triple-digit increases were: Niagara Region: 129 Waterloo Region: 101 Ottawa: 86 Hamilton: 75 Simcoe Muskoka: 71 Durham Region: 70 Middlesex-London: 65 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 56 Halton Region: 51 Southwestern: 20 Thunder Bay: 17 Eastern Ontario: 16 Haldimand-Norfolk: 16 Porcupine: 14 Chatham-Kent: 13 Lambton: 12 Huron-Perth: 11 (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.) The infections come as Ontario's network of labs processed 54,307 test samples for the novel coronavirus — a third straight day well below the system's capacity of more than 70,000 — and logged a test positivity rate of 4.9 per cent. The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 2,850, marking 10 consecutive days of decreases from a high of 3,555. Notably, another 3,714 cases were marked resolved in today's update. There were 26,467 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide as of yesterday evening, a figure that has trended downward since the pandemic peak of 30,632 on Jan. 11. The 89 additional deaths match the previous single-day record, which came on Jan. 7. (Public health units recorded 100 deaths on Jan. 15, however 46 of those deaths occurred "earlier in the pandemic," the Ministry of Health said at the time, and were included in that day's total due to data clean-up in the Middlesex-London Health Unit.) There were 1,598 people with COVID-19 in hospitals. Of those, 395 were being treated in intensive care, while 296 required a ventilator to breathe. Enforcement campaign to ramp up, province says Meanwhile, the province said in a news release up to 300 inspectors will be involved in a new COVID-19 enforcement blitz, that will include inspections at farming operations that rely on temporary foreign workers. The first campaign is to be held in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties, with 10 others planned so far in Toronto, Durham, Niagara, Halton, Huron Perth, Peterborough and Leeds Grenville Lanark. The announcement comes after Ministry of Labour inspectors targeted 240 big-box stores in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area over the weekend and found about 69 per cent of locations were in compliance with public health guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19. Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton said groups found 76 contraventions of the rules, the majority of which were dealt with by issuing orders to improve. Twenty-five tickets were issued, including to Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sobeys and Costco locations. Similar actions last December found about 67 per cent compliance. The most common infractions were not wearing masks, not having a safety plan and not screening people in the workplace, the province said. But the minister said after months of life in the pandemic, the compliance rates should be higher. "This is truly disappointing," he said. "These corporations must do better. Shareholders have the responsibility to keep their workers and customers safe. I want businesses to know if they won't operate safely in this emergency, you won't operate at all." Under the provincial rules, corporations can face $1,000 fines and workers can face fines of $750 for not following public health measures. Meanwhile, York Region shared a list of retailers fined over the last week for violations of Ontario's Reopening Ontario Act, among them major pharmacy and grocery locations. Ontario recently ordered people to only leave their homes for groceries, medical appointments, exercise and work that can't be completed remotely. Stores selling non-essential goods have been forced to temporarily close and operate solely through e-commerce and curbside pickups.
A Jan. 11 budget presentation made by Corporate Services Director Kale Brown to Aylmer council detailed the financial outline for 2021 and provided a five-year project plan. Mr. Brown first outlined matters that were carried forward into 2021 from the previous year, and how the panemic was affecting certain projects. There are ongoing payroll adjustments for town staff. As a result of the provincial shutdown, some EECC staff will be transferred to other Aylmer departments, such as parks. Mr. Brown said that a tender for the Clarence Street reconstruction project was currently being prepared for this year. While the project was estimated to cost $1.2-million in 2020, the project is now estimated to cost about $1.5-million. The Clarence Street reconstruction was originally scheduled for 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic. “The consequence of that is it puts projects starting to stack up on one another,” said Mr. Brown. “So department heads are having to review things that didn’t get completed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and making sure the 10-year plan is adjusted to accommodate all of them again.” “We’re basically doing 10 years’ worth of projects in 9 years.” The development charges, water, and sewer rates study will move forward in 2021. This will allow staff to prepare capital plans, which will assist with the asset management plan and future capital planning for the water and sewer assets. The application for federal-provincial funding for 25 Centre Street renovations has been submitted. The renovations will cost between $200,000 and $250,000 and combine Aylmer town hall with the attached building on Centre Street. This will allow enough space for distanced in person council meetings. The town received $553,810 in 2019 from the province in the form of a modernization grant. Mr. Brown discussed five projects using this funding scheduled to take place this year. $90,000 will go to a records management system. Mr. Brown said this will allow staff to move more digitally in terms of file retention and file tracking. “Once it is established, it actually alters the way you process information, the way you track files, and the way it’s actually searchable and retrievable files as well.” $10,000 of the grant money will be spent on a Human Resources Information System. The add-on module will track staff training, sign offs, and pandemic-related information, such as daily health screenings. A bar code will be applied to tax bills. This will require a redesign that will cost an estimated $3,700. “If you were coming to pay your taxes at town hall, you would put your tax bill stub underneath the bar code scanner and immediately it would pull up information relating to your tax roll.” A parks and recreation master plan will cost $60,000, an item that has been discussed and put forward for several years. It will provide council with direction on available options in that department. $100,000 of this grant will go towards the 25 Centre Street renovation. There are other scheduled projects using this grant money for 2022 and 2023, leaving an unallocated balance left of $27,110. The town benefit renewal in April is projected to cost the town $31,000 more than last year. There is a 1.86% increase in the assessment roll, which represents “growth and expansion that has happened, which is coming online and being taxed for the first time.” This growth should help council address other increased costs, said Mr. Brown. He reiterated the uncertainty regarding the operating conditions in 2021. “We do not have a crystal ball as to how the year will progress. Operating environments can still change and they will be volatile, at least for the first half of 2021.” Councillor Tom Charlton asked for more details about the $60,000 parks and recreation master plan. Mr. Brown clarified that the master plan is a study. It would include input from the public as to what they would like to see from the parks and recreation department. This long-range document would also lay out operations and programming options available to council. The presentation also highlighted a financial sustainability analysis from 2015 to 2019 for the town of Aylmer. The sustainability indicators are prepared by the province, using information from financial information returns, which are submitted by each municipality. Aylmer ranked “low” level of risk in every category throughout 2019 when compared to other south region lower tier municipalities. Some of the indicators include debt servicing cost as a percent of total revenues, annual surplus (deficit) as a percent of own source revenues, and total reserves and discretionary reserve funds as a percent of municipal expenses. There was one “moderate” risk ranking in the debt servicing section in 2017. “That is pretty quickly explained – that was the final retirement of the debt relating to the EECC’s construction,” said Mr. Brown. “The moral of the story is that the financial sustainability in the current financial state of the town of Aylmer has been incredibly conservative and in good financial health for a number of years.” Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Joe Biden fulfills a decades-long ambition in becoming the 46th President of the United States. A former Vice President, Senator and three-time candidate for the nation's highest office, it's been a long road to the White House.View on euronews
GUYSBOROUGH – Last week (Jan. 12) residents throughout the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) found a copy of the broadsheet publication The Epoch Times in their mailbox. It didn’t take long before social media was flooded with comments and questions about this delivery. According to media organizations in Canada and the Unites States – including CBC, NBC and the New York Times, as well as the fact-checking website Snopes – The Epoch Times is backed by Falun Gong (a religious movement founded in China in the early 1990s that has been repressed by the Chinese government) and has spread right-wing misinformation to create an anti-China, pro-Trump media presence in more than 30 countries in recent years. In May of 2020, the CBC reported that the union representing Canada Post employees in Ontario asked the federal public services minister for an interim order to stop delivery of the newspaper due to the inflammatory nature of an edition published at that time. A spokesperson for the minister stated in the CBC article, "An initial assessment of this material does not appear to meet the required criteria of the offence of wilful promotion of hatred, as established in the Criminal Code of Canada. However, further assessment is ongoing." Last week, The Journal once again questioned Canada Post’s role in the unsolicited delivery of this newspaper to MODG mailboxes. In an email, Canada Post media spokesperson Valérie Chartrand wrote, “As Canada's postal administration, Canada Post is obligated to deliver any mail that is properly prepared and paid for, unless it is considered non-mailable matter. The Courts have told Canada Post that its role is not to act as the censor of mail or to determine the extent of freedom of expression in Canada. This is an important distinction between Canada Post and private sector delivery companies. “Any views we may have about the content do not change our obligation to deliver. Any further questions about the publication should be directed to the publisher.” The Journal did attempt to contact the editor of The Epoch Times, Cindy Gu, but as of the time of publication of this newspaper, there was no response. Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway was asked for his comments on the mailout of The Epoch Times last week and he told The Journal in an email, “During this time of crisis, millions of Canadians of different backgrounds are working together, many of them putting themselves at risk on the frontlines, with the common goal of helping their fellow Canadians. It is essential that we continue in our resolve to be an open and welcoming country that brings together people from diverse backgrounds, and I know that constituents in Cape Breton-Canso share that belief. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Canadian Chinese community during this time. The COVID-19 virus does not have a nationality or an ethnicity, and we must stand together against xenophobia and racism. “I brought this situation to the attention of the office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Anita Anand. I was informed that Canada Post has a legal obligation under the Canada Post Corporation Act to accept all neighbourhood mail for delivery subject to the regulations on Non-Mailable Matter. Decisions made by Canada Post about whether to deliver or refuse delivery of neighborhood mail are subject to the Charter of Right and Freedoms. After an initial legal assessment of this material, it does not appear to meet the required criteria for prohibiting distribution. However, given the serious nature of the complaints regarding the newspaper, Minister Anand has asked her department to look into the matter further,” stated Kelloway. Social media posts indicate that residents in the MODG and across Canada – where many have recently received the Epoch Times, unsolicited, for the first time – are unimpressed. Some have commented that the paper would make a good fire starter. Most were curious and dismissed the publication’s content. The edition of The Epoch Times that was delivered to residents in the MODG last week was labelled a ‘sample issue,’ indicating an advertising campaign for potential subscribers. Anand has had complaints about this publication on her desk for at least eight months. The Journal asked for comment from her office about the issue but has, as yet, received no response. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
OTTAWA — Canada's national annual inflation rate was 0.7 per cent in December, Statistics Canada says. Here's what happened in the provinces (previous month in brackets): — Newfoundland and Labrador: 0.6 per cent (0.8) — Prince Edward Island: -0.1 per cent (-0.5) — Nova Scotia: 0.6 per cent (0.2) — New Brunswick: 0.4 per cent (-0.4) — Quebec: 0.8 per cent (0.8) — Ontario: 0.7 per cent (0.9) — Manitoba: 0.1 per cent (0.6) — Saskatchewan: 0.9 per cent (0.8) — Alberta: 0.8 per cent (1.3) — British Columbia: 0.8 per cent (1.1) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021 and was generated automatically. The Canadian Press
Representatives of the religious faiths recognized in Belgium have joined forces to urge federal authorities to increase the number of people admitted inside places of worship during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the current COVID-19 rules, such places can accommodate up to 15 people. In a letter to Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, the religious representatives argued that the number of people allowed should instead be linked to the space available. They proposed a return to the “one person per 10 square meters" rule which applied in June last year when Belgium exited the spring lockdown. “The use of this standard proved to be less restrictive for religious practice and at the same time very protective for public health,” they said in a statement on Wednesday. The letter was signed by representatives from the Roman Catholic, Protestant-Evangelical, Jewish, Anglican, Muslim and Orthodox faiths. “In these difficult and uncertain times, the need for meaning and spirituality is felt more than ever," they said. “For months now, a maximum of 15 people at a time have been able to gather in churches, mosques and synagogues in our country. Even if the life of a believer does not take place exclusively in the place of worship, many feel this measure in the long run as a drastic restriction of the latter." The government introduced the 15-person limit in December after the country’s highest court said the ban of services — with the exception of weddings and funerals in restricted company — which was introduced in October was disproportionate and impeded constitutional conditions on freedom of religion. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press