Listen to this guy's epic tribute to the great Rance Allen. So funny!
Listen to this guy's epic tribute to the great Rance Allen. So funny!
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the possibility of involving other countries in efforts to maintain a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire on Nov. 10 that halted six weeks of clashes in the mountain enclave, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the enclave under the ceasefire deal, which locked in Azeri advances.
A forgiving grading system is the solution students at the University of Manitoba want to address the challenges of learning on a virtual campus this year. Student senators, backed by the undergraduate and graduate students unions at the U of M, have penned a proposal to school administration to temporarily introduce an alternative grading process, similar to the one put in place in the spring amidst initial COVID-19 disruptions. The group wants pupils to have the option to either choose a pass-or-fail or accept a letter grade that is excluded from their grade point average calculation for a maximum of one course per term in 2020-21. Students would still be able to accept all their grades, as usual. The intent is to “add a little bit of flexibility in this inflexible time,” said Rubel Talukder of the Student Senate Caucus. Students are feeling the stresses of online learning, a fast-approaching finals season, and the possibility of scholarships being affected by grades, in addition to the lockdown measures, which have affected many part-time jobs, said Talukder, also vice-president academic at the U of M graduate students association. Last week, Brandon University announced the extension of its pass-or-fail grading option for students in both upcoming fall and winter examination seasons, citing continued COVID-19 challenges. “Professors are really doing their best, I find. (Online learning) is just new to everybody and students are being disadvantaged in the present moment,” said Kristin Smith, who heads the caucus with Talukder, and serves as vice-president advocacy at the undergraduate students union at U of M. Students have reported concerns about course delivery, online assessment and monitoring practices, and an increase in workloads throughout the fall term, she said. Of particular bother is the use of proctoring software that blocks a student’s ability to flip through exam questions and answer them in whatever order they choose during a test. Also on the Student Senate Caucus proposal: a request to encourage instructors to be compassionate amid the pandemic, and allow students who feel unsafe doing in-person coursework to temporarily halt those activities and claim an incomplete grade until the work can be finished. A spokesperson for the University of Manitoba said in a statement Tuesday the proposal is under review. The U of M’s COVID-19 recovery academic team met Tuesday to discuss the matter. It is expected to report back to the school’s pandemic steering committee for further discussion.Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The Yukon government has announced that it will extend its wage top-up program for low-income essential workers until Feb. 15, 2021, in a Tuesday afternoon press release.The program, which was announced in May, was originally supposed to run between Mar. 15 and Oct. 3. Employees using the program must not have received the federal government's Canada Recovery Benefit during the same period of time."To date more than 100 businesses have received more than $1.2 million in funding, benefiting more than 1,300 employees," the release states.The program provides essential workers making less than $20 per hour with a wage top-up of up to $4 per hour for 16 weeks. The release states that essential workers who received the benefit during the initial period, will be eligible to apply again for the second round.Minister of Economic Development Ranj Pillai is quoted in the release as encouraging employers to apply for the program."Yukon workers providing essential services have continued to come to work despite the stresses and risk of interacting with the public, and we thank them for supporting all Yukoners through these challenging times," Pillai said.NDP Leader Kate White welcomed the announcement on Tuesday. She also said it's important that essential workers are able to make a living wage all the time, not just during a pandemic."These workers are doing essential work now, and they were doing it before, and they'll do it after," White said. "I think this program should run until we have a vaccine, and then we can talk about living wages."
Tudor and Cashel Township has a new Finance and Asset Management Committee. During their council meeting on Oct. 6, a motion was brought forth by Councillor Bob Bridger and seconded by Councillor Roy Reeds to direct Nancy Carrol, the clerk and treasurer, to draft a procedural bylaw to create this committee, and in another motion, also brought forth by Bridger and Reeds, directed Carrol to advertise for volunteers to participate in this new committee. Council sees the move as a cost saving measure, which would also draw upon the financial acumen of some of its residents to move forward with its financial and asset management plans. Carrol foresees the first meeting to take place in January 2021. On Oct. 6, during their council meeting, council directed Carrol to draft a procedural bylaw for the creation of a Finance and Asset Management Committee. They also directed Carrol to advertise for volunteers to participate in this new committee. At their next council meeting on Nov. 3, a bylaw to establish the new committee and the procedures governing the committee proceedings were passed with motion 2020-293, brought forward by Reeds and seconded by Bridger. Mayor Libby Clarke says that council felt that having an asset management and financial committee would save money for the township. “Considering we pay approximately $30,000 to have an asset management study done for the township and the firm that does it uses information gathered and provided to them by the township. Because the township has this information first hand, it was felt that if we had an asset management committee this could be done internally and along with other obvious benefits it would definitely be a cost saving factor,” she says. Clarke stresses that council wants to ensure that they have the finances to continue to provide the services that they provide now to their ratepayers and that these services will continue into the future. Carrol explains that finance management and asset management are two processes that are quite connected. She says that the province approved a regulation on municipal asset management planning in late 2017 that set timeframes for adapting the municipalities asset management plan to meet these regulations, and that the township continues to meet them. “The council understands the benefits of a strong asset management and financial plan and they realize that they need to use their asset management plan to ensure that they have the finances to continue to provide the level of services that they do at this time going into the future. Council recognizes that there areratepayers that have a strong background in this field and that their input and assistance through the formation of a committee may help develop the policies and procedures that will guide council in their decision making in the future,” she says. Councillor Noreen Reilly sees the new committee as a value to taxpayers, as it can maintain and update the plan and identify and include all township assets and make it their own. “The township also has a modest surplus that has been built over the last decade. We have buildings, bridges and roads that need investment sooner rather than later and the committee will be key in identifying, prioritizing and presenting the findings to council. One expectation we have for the committee is designating the surplus into categories such as capital, operations, infrastructure, etc.,” she says. Reilly feels that with a township-built Asset Management Plan and a working committee of surplus allocation, the township will remain in good financial health. “I often resist the formation of new committees until it is proven that taxpayers will benefit. I believe this committee will do just that,” she says. Bridger is cautiously optimistic about the new committee, and feels that if it is composed of the right people, it will provide council with options on how best to use township resources to maintain and grow their assets going into the future. “I believe the major impetus in the formation of this committee was due to the growing unrest from a great number of people on how the township spends the tax dollars we receive from our residents,” he says. He mentions two people who have come to council and asked these questions about how their tax dollars are being spent, Pat Schad on Steenburg Lake and Dave Hederson on Jordan Lake. He also mentions that he is friends with both Schad and Hederson. Specifically, he says that Schad’s concerns are with the amount of taxes collected from the residents of South Steenburg Lake Road and what they feel are the lack of services provided in return. Hederson, a retired CFO with McDonald’s Canada, also has those concerns as well as questions about the amount of money Tudor and Cashel has in its reserves and what it is for. Going forward, Bridger would like the township to explore what it would take to encourage people to become full time residents of Tudor and Cashel, to spend their money locally, and perhaps spend some of the township’s reserves to upgrade services to encourage that future growth. “These are just a few of the issues I would hope that this committee could help give council some learned direction going forward, especially if it’s composed of people with a greater knowledge of financial matters than our current council has,” he says. Carrol says that she will be advertising through social media and the township newsletter to assemble the new committee, and she foresees the first meeting being held in January. “If things go very smoothly, we may be able to have an introductory meeting in December, but it would be more so to allow members the opportunity to meet each other and give some input as to where they would like to begin. There have been members of the community reaching out with an interest in the committee and I find this very exciting and hopeful,” she says. “I can see this being a very beneficial committee, with members that are working together for the municipality as a whole.”Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
Older students will be sent home from school at the end of the month, indoor social gatherings are banned and businesses will face restrictions after COVID-19 cases have surged in Alberta. On Tuesday afternoon, Premier Jason Kenney introduced “bold and targeted new measures to protect lives and livelihoods,” which bans indoor social gatherings, ends in-person learning at the end of the month for kids in Grades 7 to 12 and places limits on some businesses. Kenney declared a state of public emergency. On Nov. 30 all students from Grades 7 to 12 will be learning online from home for the rest of 2021. They'll return to in-person classes Jan. 11, after the winter break. Diploma exams are optional for rest of the school year – students and families can choose to write an exam or receive an exemption for the April, June and August 2021 exams. Younger students and early childhood services will stay in schools until Dec. 18. Between Dec. 18 and Jan. 11, aside from the time they spend on their winter break, they will do at-home learning. “These steps are not being taken lightly,” Kenney said. “These are the minimum restrictions needed now to minimize the damage to the healthcare system.” Indoor social gatherings are now banned across Alberta, a rule that will stay in place until further notice. Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people. Funerals and weddings will be restricted to 10 people with no receptions. “Social gatherings are the biggest problem,” Kenney said. “(Social gatherings are) the key reason why COVID-19 is winning.” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said breaking the rules can result in up to $1,000 for a ticket offence and $100,000 through the courts. Alberta peace officers will be able to deliver fines to anyone violating the limits. The Alberta emergency alert system will send out a notice to all Albertans through their cell phones to ensure all residents know of these changes. All places of worship across the province will need to cap their attendance to one-third of their fire code capacity with everyone inside wearing a mask, sitting with their cohort and social distancing. Kenney said while almost all places of worship are following the current rules around COVID-19, a select few have been not complying, resulting in outbreaks. The premier said most have worked hard to limit the spread and recognizes these institutions are vital part of peoples emotion, mental and spiritual health. These new rules will be in place for three weeks. Many businesses will now be either closed for in-person shopping, open with restricted capacity or open by appointment only. Banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, concert venues, non-approved/licenced markets and community centres are closed. Children's play places, indoor playgrounds and all levels of sport (professional, semi-professional, junior, collegiate/universities and amateur) are also banned from in-person activities. Sports leagues may apply for exemptions. Kenney said while many are following the rules, there have been nine outbreaks traced back to amateur hockey games in the province. Most retail businesses may remain open with capacity limited to 25 per cent of the occupancy set under the Alberta Fire Code, including retail stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, clothing stores, computer and technology stores, hardware, automotive, farmers markets and outdoor seasonal markets. Some entertainment services fall under the 25 per cent threshold as well, like movie theatres, museums, libraries, casinos, indoor entertainment centres, indoor fitness, recreation sports and physical activity centres, including dance and yoga studios, martial arts, gymnastics and private or public swimming pools. Other businesses open by appointment only are not permitted to offer walk-in services. Appointments should be limited to one-on-one services. These businesses include personal services such as hair salons and barbershops, esthetics, manicure, pedicure, body waxing and make-up, piercing and tattoo services; wellness services including acupuncture, massage and reflexology; professional services such as lawyers, mediators, accountants and photographers; private one-on-one lessons (no private group lessons permitted); hotels, motels, hunting and fishing lodges. Bars and restaurants can continue in-person dining but must comply with guidelines and those seated at tables together must be part of same household. Masks are now mandatory inside all workplaces Edmonton, Calgary and their surrounding areas. The premier said much of the COVID-19 spread is happening inside workplaces. A full list of public health measures can be found on Alberta's website. On Tuesday, Alberta reported an additional 1,115 cases of COVID-19. That's lower than the past few days, but Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that was because there were fewer tests, some 13,500, with a provincial positivity rate of 8.3 per cent. Sixteen deaths were announced on Tuesday from COVID-19, and over the past two weeks 103 people died from the virus. There are currently 348 hospitalizations with 66 people in ICU. The province has lost 492 residents in total to COVID-19. The average age of death is 82 years. There are currently 13,349 active cases in the province, the most in the country, with the bulk of them being in the Edmonton (6,128 cases) zone. The premier said continuing care cases have quadrupled since Oct. 1. “My heart goes out to their loved ones and all those grieving."Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
VICTORIA — British Columbia health officials are reporting a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases, while they order a pause indoor physical activities. B.C. recorded 941 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 10 deaths.There are 7,732 active COVID-19 cases in B.C., and 284 people are in hospital. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix say in a joint statement that residents need to support B.C.'s health-care workers by slowing the spread of COVID-19. The latest peak in numbers comes as health officials ordered dance studios, yoga studios and other indoor physical activity spaces to suspend operations as new guidance is developed.Henry and Dix urged the public to think of COVID-19 patients and the effect the virus is having on their family members.Earlier Tuesday, the Fraser Health Authority announced that 55 patients and 40 staff at Burnaby General Hospital had tested positive for COVID-19 and most patient admissions to the hospital would be suspended.The health authority also announced five deaths due to the virus.Patients in the intensive care unit, maternity, and community palliative care will still be admitted.The health authority says a fire in the hospital's emergency room last week contributed to the outbreak, as patients were moved to areas of the hospital they normally would not be.Also on Tuesday, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth extended the province's state of emergency until Dec. 8 and laid out enforcement measures for wearing masks in B.C.People 12 years and older are required to wear masks in indoor settings, ranging from malls to public transportation, and failure to do so can result in a $230 fine.People who cannot wear a mask, or who cannot put on or remove a mask without the assistance of others, are exempt from the new order.The detailed guidelines come as the union representing British Columbia teachers called on parents to support a "culture" of wearing masks as it continues to push for a mandatory mask policy in schools.Teri Mooring, the head of the BC Teachers' Federation, said in an open letter to parents that the union is looking for help in implementing and following mask-wearing protocols.The federation has repeatedly called on provincial health officials to make masks mandatory in schools.Mooring said some schools have already taken the step to make mask wearing normal and expected and it helps everyone to make schools feel safer. Henry has said that schools have specific COVID-19 safety plans and are exempt from the new mandatory mask requirements set out last week. Henry told a news conference Monday that students are in schools with a group of people they see day-to-day, unlike businesses where people interact with others they don't know, necessitating wearing a mask.She said she supports mask wearing in common areas and among adults at schools.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reassure Canadians on Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccines will start to arrive in the coming months even as he acknowledged that other nations are likely to start inoculating their citizens first."One of the things to remember is Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines," Trudeau said during his regular COVID-19 news conference outside his home in Ottawa."We used to have it decades ago, but we no longer have it. Countries like the United States, Germany and the U.K. do have domestic pharmaceutical facilities, which is why they're obviously going to prioritize helping their citizens first."At the same time, Trudeau underscored the importance of getting inoculations to Canadians.“We know we're not going to get through this pandemic without a vaccine," he said.The federal government has signed orders for millions of doses from a variety of foreign pharmaceutical companies in recent months, he said, and Canada has been pushing the international community to ensure equal access for all.“The very first vaccines that roll off an assembly line in a given country are likely to be given to citizens of that particular country,” he said.“But shortly afterwards, they will start honouring and delivering on the contracts that they signed with other countries, including with Canada. We've secured millions of doses of the vaccines of the various vaccine candidates around the world.”The expectation is that doses will start to arrive in Canada in the first few months of 2021, he added.At the same time, Trudeau said, "we've begun to invest once again in ensuring that Canada will have domestic vaccine production capacity because we never want to be caught short again, without the ability to support Canadians directly.”The federal government announced in August that it was contributing $120 million over two years to build a biomanufacturing facility in Montreal that includes the National Research Council.Ottawa previously committed $23 million to Saskatoon’s VIDO-InterVac operations in March and pledged $175 million to Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics in May to boost its research and production capabilities.Trudeau said it will take time for Canada’s own vaccine-production capability to get up to speed. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner blasted the Liberals later Tuesday for not moving faster on that front. She also called on the government to provide a timeline for when Canadians can start to see vaccines in the country."Because until we have that information, there's no certainty for Canadians and I think that's leading to a lot of mental health issues, it's leading to business closures," she said.During a separate news conference, Public Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada has signed contracts for more doses per capita than any country in the world and that efforts are now underway to prepare for their arrival in the next few months.That involves buying 126 freezers, including 26 ultracold ones, to hold millions of doses of vaccines. Ottawa is also seeking private bidders to run the logistics and considering what role the military could play.Health Canada has started work on approving three vaccines, Anand added, and deliveries won’t start until a vaccine candidate gets that green light.The number of new COVID-19 cases across the country continued to grow, with more than 1,000 each in Ontario and Quebec along with nearly 60 new deaths.Alberta brought in new restriction Tuesday as it also announced more than 1,000 new cases of its own and 16 deaths.Under the new rules, indoor private social events are illegal. Students in Grades 7 through 12 will transition next week to at-home learning and the school holiday break will be extended from Dec. 18 to Jan. 11.But Premier Jason Kenney opted to keep business, including retail and clothing stores open, with 25 per cent capacity. Casinos will be allowed to run their slot machines at 25 per cent capacity and churches will still be allowed to hold services with one-third their normal audience. Restaurants can still offer in-person dining. To justify avoiding a stricter lockdown, Kenney used the example of a Venezuelan refugee who he said had sunk all her money into her small food stand and broke down in tears as she told him she would be ruined if forced to close."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 such as that," Kenney said."For some, perhaps, it is a little bit too easy to say just flick a switch. Shut them down."In neighbouring Saskatchewan, another 175 new cases were reported and 471 in Manitoba, where chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin warned the provincial health-care system is being pushed close to capacity.The Manitoba government also reported it had issued one ticket — with more expected — in connection with a Sunday church service in a rural area near Steinbach, southeast of Winnipeg, that allegedly violated a ban on public gatherings. There were 37 new cases were reported in Nova Scotia, with new restrictions set to come into effect in Halifax. Five new cases were reported in New Brunswick and two in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yukon was also adopting mandatory mask orders despite no new cases being reported. “There are more regions of the country with high infection rates,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday.“And it is clear that COVID-19 knows no bounds. Communities, jurisdictions and whole regions that were little, if at all, impacted in the past (are) now seeing community spread. Some areas are experiencing very high rates of infection for the first time.”Meanwhile, the Ontario government said it would start distributing rapid tests for COVID-19, adding that the new tools are already being used in some hospitals and long-term care homes.Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province would continue to deploy the 98,000 ID Now tests and 1.2 million Panbio tests it has received from the federal government in the coming weeks.The Quebec government clarified its plan for the Christmas holidays Tuesday, saying citizens can attend only two events in a four-day window.Premier Francois Legault's government initially announced it would permit gatherings of a maximum of 10 people for four days between Dec. 24 and 27, and asked Quebecers to voluntarily quarantine themselves for a week before and after in exchange.On Tuesday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister decided to weigh in on Quebec's plan, which he called "dangerous.""I don’t want to get into quarterbacking other provinces. There are premiers there doing their absolute best, except to say this: I think it’s dangerous what the Quebec premier has decided to announce on Christmas," Pallister said. In response, Legault said the number of new cases per million residents is currently lower in Quebec than Manitoba.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.—With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg, John Chidley-Hill and Paola Loriggio in Toronto, and Morgan Lowrie in Montreal.Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
Volker Gerdts, a leading vaccine researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, says Canada should focus on manufacturing vaccines domestically to better prepare for future events.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:21 p.m. EST on Nov. 24, 2020:There are 341,503 confirmed cases in Canada._ Quebec: 134,330 confirmed (including 6,887 deaths, 116,624 resolved) _ Ontario: 106,510 confirmed (including 3,519 deaths, 90,074 resolved) _ Alberta: 49,536 confirmed (including 492 deaths, 35,695 resolved) _ British Columbia: 27,407 confirmed (including 348 deaths, 19,069 resolved) _ Manitoba: 14,558 confirmed (including 248 deaths, 5,633 resolved) _ Saskatchewan: 6,883 confirmed (including 37 deaths, 3,919 resolved) _ Nova Scotia: 1,227 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,075 resolved) _ New Brunswick: 450 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 350 resolved) _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 323 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 295 resolved) _ Nunavut: 144 confirmed (including 2 resolved) _ Prince Edward Island: 69 confirmed (including 64 resolved) _ Yukon: 38 confirmed (including 1 death, 24 resolved) _ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed (including 13 resolved) _ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved) _ Total: 341,503 (0 presumptive, 341,503 confirmed including 11,608 deaths, 272,850 resolved)This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said New Brunswick has had 451 cases.
Despite the federal government’s commitment to exceed its 2030 climate targets, British Columbians say it’s not doing enough to tackle the climate crisis. A new survey found that 41 per cent of British Columbians think the federal government is not paying enough attention to the environment. And when asked about 10 specific environmental issues, at least three in five British Columbians said they are personally concerned about five of them: the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs; air pollution; the pollution of drinking water; climate change and the contamination of soil and water by toxic waste. “The federal government absolutely needs to do more,” Nikki Skuce, director of Smithers-based Northern Confluence, told The Narwhal. “British Columbians really care about water, particularly those of us who live close to some of these freshwater systems in places where salmon are an integral part of the culture and communities.” Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., the company that conducted the survey, said a key takeaway from the poll is how climate change is becoming a more front-of-mind issue, with 63 per cent of British Columbians saying it’s a personal concern. “We usually see the problems that can have an immediate impact in our lives getting a higher rating,” he said, adding that issues that are perceived as not affecting us yet, such as deforestation and overfishing, typically get a lower rating. “But now we have global warming at a level that is similar to what we see for pollution.” Around 65 per cent of respondents said they were personally concerned about the pollution of rivers, lakes, reservoirs and drinking water, and 60 per cent said they were concerned about the contamination of soil and water by toxic waste. In northern B.C., where many of the province’s industrial projects take place, those numbers were even higher, with at least 80 per cent of people saying they’re concerned about water pollution and toxic waste. “When you live near it, you want to protect it,” Skuce said. “We need to do a better job of taking care of our rivers and lakes and creeks because they really are the veins that travel through this region.” It’s no surprise that British Columbians — and particularly northern British Columbians — care about water and the effects of industrial contamination. In 2014, B.C. made international headlines when the tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine in the central interior broke and spilled 24 million cubic metres of contaminated waste into the surrounding water systems. Since the disaster, the provincial government has done little to improve the laws and regulations to prevent similar disasters. Skuce said the federal government’s role in protecting water lies in legislation and policies that guide provincial decisions on resource extraction and development. Last year, the federal government modernized its Fisheries Act to strengthen protection of fish habitat and support restoration work, including rebuilding depleted fish populations. This follows a previous commitment to protect Pacific salmon through the wild salmon policy, which was developed in 2005 to address declining salmon populations. But according to Skuce, the federal government has yet to fully implement the policy and subpopulations of species like sockeye are on the brink of extinction throughout the province. “As somebody who works on salmon conservation, I think it’s really important that the federal government actually steps up and implements the Fisheries Act that it updated last year and follows through on a bunch of its commitments to restore and protect habitat,” she said. “And within that, there’s the outstanding commitment to implement the wild salmon policy.” Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said the Fisheries Act can help address the concerns of British Columbians reflected in the survey, but it has to actually be followed. “We need both levels of government to step up and, at the very minimum, fully implement the laws and policies that they already have on the books.” He also said the BC NDP’s commitment to develop a water security strategy, which would protect watersheds throughout the province, will require collaboration and buy-in from the federal government. “It’s really important that the prime minister and Premier Horgan support that work.” Skuce agreed and added that protecting water from pollution also requires legal reforms at both the provincial and federal levels. Despite federal mandates to protect salmon habitat, for example, provincial laws permit mining activity in salmon watersheds. “There’s a need to enforce our existing laws and close some loopholes on some of them,” said Skuce. The poll was conducted just after last month’s provincial election and respondents were asked how they voted. Nearly three-quarters of voters who supported the BC Greens or the BC NDP said climate change was a personal concern, but for BC Liberal voters, it was about half. “If you take a couple of Liberal party voters, one of them is going to say, ‘Oh, I don’t care about global warming.’ That’s pretty shocking,” Canseco said. He found that divide particularly interesting because it was the Liberal government that created the provincial carbon tax in 2008. “It’s been 12 years that we’ve had the tax and now you have the BC Liberal voter becoming decidedly less environmentally friendly,” he said. “It’s definitely something that is troublesome. I think they’ve been moving too far to the side of industry in many ways and forgetting that this is about the future of the planet as a whole.” More than a third of British Columbians surveyed believe the introduction of the carbon tax has made people more mindful of their carbon consumption and led them to change their behaviour, a proportion that rose to more than half of respondents from northern B.C. Almost two-thirds of British Columbians said the tax has not negatively impacted their finances. For Skuce, government action on climate change means more than implementing carbon taxes and protecting watersheds. “We need to stop subsidizing pipelines and fossil fuels at both the federal and provincial level,” she said. When asked how they felt about the provincial government, 35 per cent of British Columbians said they thought the province was not focusing as much it should on environmental issues and 38 per cent said their municipal governments also weren’t doing enough. “British Columbians perceive their municipal and provincial governments in a more positive light than Ottawa, especially with all of the commitments that have been announced,” Canseco said, referring to the NDP election promises to strengthen environmental protections in B.C. “We’ll have to wait and see if they get a better rating in the future, and also if the B.C. government keeps this seemingly high rating now that the Greens are no longer as influential in their policies.” Hill and Skuce said given British Columbians’ concerns about water pollution, the NDP’s promise to create a water security strategy likely contributed to the public perception that the province is doing more than the federal government to protect the environment. But both conservationists said this perception may be somewhat skewed in part due to a lack of education. Skuce called it “jurisdictional illiteracy.” “For instance, the federal government has committed to increasing protected areas of land and water to 30 per cent by 2030, and the Government of British Columbia has been reluctant to support that,” she said, pointing out that the province failed to meet its 2020 targets of protecting 17 per cent of land and 10 per cent of marine areas. Similarly, the federal government has clearly defined legislation on species at risk, but as The Narwhal reported last year, B.C. still hasn’t enacted provincial legislation to protect threatened and endangered species like caribou. Hill said governments at all levels need to step up and start working harder, collaboratively, to address the concerns of the public. “Even though water licensing and specific on-the-ground management of water falls to provincial and local governments, the federal government approves things that affect water like pipelines and hydropower projects and they have a lot of regulatory authority as well,” he said. Skuce said one of the ways the federal government could strengthen its commitment to protect the environment is by updating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which regulates the use of toxic substances and is meant to prevent pollution and protect the environment and human health. The act was legislated in 1999 and has had minor amendments over the years. Early this year, the environmental watchdog Ecojustice called on the Trudeau government to overhaul the act to reflect current science and “reduce our exposure to pollution and toxic chemicals.” Skuce said the act could provide the federal government with the “tools to help protect our watersheds through environmental and climate action.” Hill said the federal government made significant commitments to environmental protection last year in its mandate letter to the minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, which promised to create a new Canada Water Agency, strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and introduce new greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs. Earlier this month, the Trudeau government introduced a bill to support its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The legislation would require the minister of environment to set five-year emissions reduction targets starting in 2030, along with a plan for meeting those targets. Hill said that in addition to these recent commitments, governments already have the means to strengthen environmental protection. “The premier and the prime minister [need] to give their cabinet ministers and their staff a clear mandate and adequate resources to actually do their jobs and implement the laws that are already on the books,” he said. “Whether it’s mining or fracking or clear-cut logging or extraction of water for various purposes, there’s a whole lot of room for improvement. And people are right to expect that the government will do better.”Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
OTTAWA — Consumer rights advocates are criticizing the latest statement on airline refunds from the country's transport regulator, saying it contradicts federal and provincial rules to the detriment of customers.The Canadian Transportation Agency updated its statement on vouchers last week, writing that "the law does not require airlines to include refund provisions" in their passenger contracts — known as tariffs — for flights cancelled due to reasons beyond carriers' control, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.The CTA website post tops up its initial statement on travel credit from March, which suggested refunds are mandatory only if the tariff provides for it in certain cases.However, passenger rights advocates say both statements go against federal and provincial law and legal precedent.An airline's terms of carriage must clearly lay out its policy on matters including "refunds for services purchased but not used ... either as a result of the client’s unwillingness or inability to continue or the air carrier’s inability to provide the service for any reason," according to regulations under the Canada Transportation Act.The same terms and conditions must be "just and reasonable," the Air Transportation Regulations state. In at least four decisions going back to 2004, the CTA has cited the phrase in upholding passengers' right to reimbursement following flight cancellation.A 2013 decision concerning Porter Airlines found that “it is unreasonable for Porter to refuse to refund the fare paid by a passenger because of its cancellation of a flight, even if the cause is an event beyond Porter’s control.""The refund has to be addressed in the tariff. And the tariff has to be just and reasonable," said Gabor Lukacs, founder of the Air Passenger Rights group.Provincial laws also go against the regulator's statement, said Elyse Thériault, a lawyer for Quebec-based advocacy group Option consommateurs."For us, it's nonsense, especially in Quebec. Because the rules in the Civil Code that are speaking about force majeure — act of God — say that if a merchant cannot deliver the service because of a force majeure, then he must give a refund."Provincial law applies to companies regardless of whether they are provincially or federally regulated, Thériault said, citing Supreme Court of Canada precedent."And I’m pretty confident that no province in their contract law and in their consumer protection laws allow a business to take your money without giving you any service."Passenger protection regulations rolled out last year stipulate that, in the event of a cancellation that is within the carrier’s control, airlines must “refund the unused portion of the ticket” if alternate travel arrangements do not suit the customer’s needs.If a flight is cancelled for reasons outside an airline’s control, however, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) only require alternate arrangements, not a refund — though tariffs at multiple airlines when the pandemic hit spelled out passengers’ right to a refund as an alternative."If the CTA is given the necessary authority, we will move quickly to make changes to the APPR to fix this gap in the framework. In the meantime, we encourage airlines to adopt policies providing for refunds if flights are disrupted for reasons outside their control and rebooking options do not meet a passenger's needs," the CTA said in an email."The CTA does not apply provincial law."As for case law, the agency said its past decisions "may have limited relevance in the face of new circumstances," including last year's passenger rights charter.Lukacs argued the new batch of regulations does not nullify older ones that, when paired with previous CTA decisions, amount to a refund requirement.Most Canadian airlines continue to offer travel vouchers rather than reimbursement for flights they cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with WestJet a notable exception since October.Transport Minister Marc Garneau said earlier this month that an aid package now in the works for commercial carriers will hinge on them offering refunds to passengers whose trips were nixed — a long-standing demand by advocates and opposition parties.The pandemic has devastated airlines and the broader tourism industry, with travel restrictions and collapsing demand prompting tens of thousands of airline layoffs and billions of dollars in losses.But customers say they too are in need of funds they believe they are owed.The CTA says it has received more than 10,000 complaints since March. Meanwhile Air Canada garnered more refund complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation than any American carrier in August, the latest month for which statistics are available.Passengers have also filed a handful of proposed class-action lawsuits and three petitions with more than 109,000 signatures that call for customer reimbursement.The CTA said in March that airlines have the right to issue travel credit instead of a refund for cancelled trips in the "current context," though it later clarified that the online statement was "not a binding decision" and that reimbursements depend in part on the contract between airline and passenger. "The statement was issued in extraordinary circumstances and addressed the risk that passengers would be left with nothing in the event of flight cancellations outside of the airline's control," the CTA said Tuesday.It added that complaints remain an avenue for travellers, though as of several weeks ago none of the 10,000-plus filed to the CTA had been handled due to an earlier backlog.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
Health officials at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Cote-Saint-Luc refute a nurse's assertion that staff are made to travel between hot and cold zones, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to 45 at the residence. They say they have added several precautions since the first wave, including employees whose sole purpose is to make sure protocols are being followed and personal protective equipment is worn and discarded properly. "Staff stay in the same unit," said Jennifer Clarke, site coordinator at Maimonides."It could be that a staff member was asked to move to a hot zone because maybe we need extra support there, but then they do not return to the regular care unit."Monday, a nurse at Maimonides told CBC a colleague had been forced to work in one of the regular units after having worked in the centre's hot zone on the seventh floor. The nurse, whom CBC agreed not to name, said the home is short-staffed and workers are questioning the quality of the personal protective equipment (PPE) they are provided, as seven staff members tested positive on one floor. "The morale is low. We are burned out. We are tired. At night, there is one nurse and one patient attendant for 70 patients," she said. Clarke agreed staff are tired, but that there are no serious staff shortages at the centre. She said the Quebec government program to train thousands of patient attendants benefited the centre, as 70 new patient attendants were sent to work there."The staff are feeling the burden of the pandemic. In the first wave, we were running on adrenaline. But heading into the second wave, you can feel it — they're feeling discouraged."Four Maimonides residents have died since the outbreak began more than a week ago at the centre. Clarke said the outbreak has been traced to a resident who was infected by their caregiver. The centre holds a testing clinic three days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., where staff and caregivers are encouraged to regularly get tested. Clarke says the centre cannot legally force them to be tested, but that testing becomes mandatory once an outbreak is declared. The centre considers one positive case sufficient to declare an outbreak "because we know that once we have one case, it can very easily spread," she said.Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, the president of the health board overseeing Maimonides, CIUSSS West Central Montreal, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, reassuring residents and their families that staff were not transferred from hot to cold zones. "To those who are ill and to their loved ones, I would like to express my deepest concern, as well as my assurances that everything possible is being done to support the residents' recovery," Rosenberg wrote. "It is also worth noting that representatives of the Public Health Department visited Maimonides on Friday. Although their official report has not been released yet, they have already spoken to us and given their approval for the measures we have put in place."
Ottawa is taking the first steps toward creating a national flood insurance program for high-risk residential properties. The federal government this week announced the creation of an interdisciplinary task force on flood insurance and relocation that will begin work in January, considering what form a national low-cost insurance program would take. It will be comprised of representatives from all three levels of government, as well as members from the insurance industry. The task force will work alongside a steering committee that will consider the needs of Indigenous communities and how the needs of people living on reserves might differ. “Flooding in Canada has devastating effects for thousands of Canadians each year. Our government is making investments to reduce the impact of climate-related disasters to foster a more resilient Canada,” Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said. Overland flood insurance is excluded by most home insurance plans in Canada, and when it is offered, it is often expensive. Increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as flooding, comes along with a changing climate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a national flood insurance program as part of the Liberals’ climate strategy in the 2019 election campaign. The Insurance Bureau of Canada — an industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers — has been calling for years on the federal government to create a national flood program. “More Canadians are exposed to flooding than to any other climate-related peril. Through this task force, insurers will work with governments across the country to ensure every Canadian has access to affordable flood insurance,” said Don Forgeron, IBC president and chief executive officer. The insurance industry is feeling the weight of mounting claims. In 2018, “insured catastrophic losses” were pegged at $2 billion — 60 per cent higher than in 2017. “But unlike the 1998 Quebec ice storm, the 2013 Calgary floods or the 2016 Fort McMurray, Alta. wildfire, no single event in 2018 caused the high amount paid out for losses. Instead, Canadians and their insurers experienced significant losses from a host of smaller severe weather events from coast to coast to coast,” the 2019 industry report reads. The IBC estimates 10 per cent of Canada’s 10.9 million homes are at high risk for flooding. The association has also called on provincial and municipal governments to immediately amend bylaws and land-use planning that allows for people to construct new buildings on flood plains. The task force will report its findings in spring 2022.Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):7:38 p.m.British Columbia is reporting 941 new cases of COVID-19 today, along with 10 deaths.Health officials say there are 7,732 active cases along with 248 hospitalizations.Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are reiterating their plea for residents to avoid social gatherings.The province is also asking indoor physical activity sites, such as yoga studios and gymnastics centres, to suspend operations as health officials work to establish new guidelines.\---7:37 p.m.Alberta is bringing in tougher COVID-19 restrictions that include limits on social gatherings and less face-to-face class time for students.Premier Jason Kenney says there are to be no indoor gatherings, but people who live alone can have up to two personal contacts.He says students in Grades 7 through 12 will transition next week to at-home learning and the school holiday break will be extended from Dec. 18 to Jan. 11.Banquet halls, conference centres and concert venues must also close.Kenney adds that anyone who can work from home should do so and masks will be mandatory in workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and surrounding areas.The measures will be in effect for three weeks and re-evaluated after that.The province reported 1,115 new cases on Tuesday and 16 more deaths.\---3:10 p.m.New Brunswick has revised the number of new COVID-19 cases it is reporting today.It now says it has five new cases, three in the Saint John region and two in the Moncton region.\---3 p.m.Saskatchewan is reporting 175 new cases of COVID-19 for a seven-day average of 209.Health officials say 105 people are in hospital, with 20 receiving intensive care.Opposition leader Ryan Meili says because of the rising spread of the virus, Premier Scott Moe should convene a task force to develop a more co-ordinated approach to handling the pandemic.Moe had been scheduled to provide an update Tuesday afternoon, but it was postponed until Wednesday.His office says further public health measures are being developed which will be announced tomorrow.\---2:20 p.m.Nova Scotia is reporting 37 new cases of COVID-19 today, for a total of 87 active access across the province.Premier Stephen McNeil said during an update the majority of cases were identified in the Greater Halifax Area.The province is also announcing new restrictions in the Halifax Regional Municipality starting this Thursday at midnight.The new restrictions include the closure of in-person dining for restaurants in the HRM as well as the closure of public libraries, museums and First Nation gaming establishments.\---1:42 p.m.Manitoba health officials have announced 471 new COVID-19 cases and 12 additional deaths. Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says the health-care system is near its capacity and the numbers must come down. He is urging people to stay home as much as possible.\---1:40 p.m.New Brunswick is reporting five new cases of COVID-19, most involving people under 30.Three of the new cases are in the Saint John region, including two people under 20 and one person in their 30s.The other two cases are in the Moncton region and both are people in their 20s.New Brunswick now has 93 active infections, with 450 cases confirmed since the onset of the pandemic.\---1:10 p.m.Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada is working on an "end-to-end" chain for handling new COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they're delivered to Canada.That includes buying 126 freezers, including 26 ultra-cold ones, to hold millions of doses of vaccines that need to be kept at extraordinarily low temperatures.The government is also seeking private bidders to run the logistics, and determining whether the military has a role to play.Anand says storing and transporting vaccines safely is a top priority, especially when they have short shelf lives.Government officials say manufacturers of promising vaccine candidates are emphatic that their products not go to waste, which also means deliveries won't start until Health Canada has approved them for use.\---1 p.m.Yukon is imposing a mandatory mask order, effective Dec. 1, as it tries to control the spread of COVID-19.Premier Sandy Silver says the order will cover everyone using public indoor spaces, although children younger than two and people with certain medical conditions will be exempt.The territory has had no new cases of the virus since announcing Monday that it had reached 38 total cases, with 14 considered active.The territory's chief medical health officer has told residents to prepare to see more cases in the coming weeks, although he says there is no plan for any sort of lockdown restricting movement within Yukon.\---12:45 p.m.Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting two new cases of COVID-19.One is a woman in her 60s in the eastern region who is a close contact of a previously known case.The other is a woman over 70, also in the eastern region, who is connected to a cluster of cases in the town of Grand Bank on the Burin Peninsula.Health officials are also warning rotational workers of an outbreak at the LNG Canada project site in Kitimat, B.C.Newfoundland and Labrador has 24 active cases of COVID-19, with 323 cases confirmed since the onset of the pandemic.\---12:35 p.m.Dr. Theresa Tam says wrestling COVID-19 back under control depends heavily on individual Canadians restricting their activities.Canada's chief public health officer says the country is facing outbreaks in places that didn't have them during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.And after the current second wave hit younger adults first, more and more cases are being reported in older, more vulnerable people.The Public Health Agency of Canada says on an average day in the past week, more than 2,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 70 people died.Tam says we know more now about the virus that causes the illness, and especially how it spreads, but Canadians have to put that knowledge to use by running only essential errands and restricting their social interactions to their own households.\---11:55 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is acknowledging countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany could have some of their citizens vaccinated against COVID-19 before Canadians can get their own shots.He says that's because those countries have their own vaccine-production facilities and Canada doesn't.Rebuilding that capacity will take years, but Trudeau says the federal government has started the work.He says having pre-bought an array of vaccine candidates from foreign manufacturers will help get Canadians effective doses as soon as possible.But he adds it's premature to start circling dates on calendars for when the first doses will arrive.\---11:45 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government has bought 26,000 doses of a treatment for COVID-19 from pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.At a news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau didn't name the drug but said it had been co-developed with Vancouver's AbCellera Biologics.The two companies announced last March they were co-operating on developing a treatment using antibodies from a patient who had already had the illness.Trudeau says the government has an option to buy thousands more doses.He says vaccines against COVID-19 are on the way but until they're widely available, Canadians need to do everything they can to avoid catching the novel coronavirus.\---11:40 a.m.The Manitoba government says it has issued one ticket and more are expected in connection with a church service on Sunday for allegedly violating the province's ban on public gatherings.The RCMP say they attended the church, in a rural area near Steinbach, and found more than 100 people inside.The government also says 16 tickets have been issued to people who attended an anti-mask rally in Steinbach earlier this month, and more are expected.\---11:15 a.m.The Ontario government is reporting 1,009 new cases of COVID-19 today but a technical issue means the figure is an underestimate. Health Minister Christine Elliott says the issue also means Monday's case numbers were an overestimate. Today's figures include 497 new cases in Toronto, 175 in Peel Region and 118 in York Region. The province also reported 14 new deaths related to the virus.\---11:10 a.m.Quebec is reporting 45 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 and 1,124 new infections.Health officials said today nine of the 45 deaths occurred in the past 24 hours.Hospitalizations jumped by 21, to 655, and 96 people were in intensive care, a drop of two.The province has reported a total of 134,330 cases and 6,887 deaths since the pandemic began.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. In previous versions, it was reported that hospitalizations in Quebec increased to 665 and that New Brunswick had six new COVID-19 cases.
As part of IndigiNews’ ongoing look into Indigenous reproductive healthcare access, we are speaking to people about their birth experiences. As the snow started to fall, marking the beginning of the winter solstice, Estella Carmona was on her way to the hospital to give birth to her first daughter, Katiyana. The all-encompassing birthing process would turn into a life-changing spiritual experience that showed Carmona her “true connection to spirit,” she says. Carmona sees her daughter Katiyana, who’s turning seven on Dec. 21, as her greatest teacher. “I knew that I was bringing in sacred life,” says Carmona who is of Sechelt, Stó:lō and Mexican descent, reflecting on the day her daughter was born. Carmona is a member of shíshálh First Nation, which is located along the Sunshine Coast in Sechelt, B.C., and comes from a strong line of matriarchs. She says it’s the strong cultural teachings from the smokehouse that pulled her through two complicated birth experiences. “It showed the strength of spirit,” she says. “I was raised by my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mom, and [strong moral teachings are] something that we live, we breathe.” She credits her great-grandmother who was a fluent speaker in her language for instilling these teachings in the family. Carmona was living in Stó:lō Territory in 2013 when she was pregnant with her first daughter. Before Katiyana was born owls and hawks started visiting her, she explains. For many Indigenous people, the connection between birds as a kind of messenger is a part of cultural teachings passed down. “An owl started visiting me throughout my pregnancy. They’ve never come into my life beforehand,” says Carmona. “I had four owls visit me and two owls came the night before she was born.” During the delivery, Carmona explains how her cultural teachings helped assist in the birth. “I did tap into sacred energy, our breath, and prayer,” she says. Carmona used a birthing tub at the hospital during her labour. “Having been surrounded by water, she came into this world in a very peaceful way,” she says. However, after her daughter was delivered Carmona says she lost a lot of blood but was not given a blood transfusion. She left the experience wishing she had known her rights. “If I knew my rights, I would have demanded a blood transfusion,” she says. “They took my blood count after she was delivered. They took my blood count the next morning. And they’re like, well, it’s already increasing. So we don’t think you need one.” After suffering from extreme fatigue for six months, navigating being a new mother, working, and being in school, she didn’t realize the severity of the situation until years later. After requesting to see her medical records she says, “I realized this is how women die in childbirth.” Carmona believes a higher power is what pulled her through this experience. “When I say spirit saved my life, I believe that Katiyana chose me as her mother. She chose her father. And those owls visited me throughout,” she says, “it was spirit all the way.” As they left the hospital, she remembers seeing a hawk on the side of the road. “Her spirit is the owl spirit,” Carmona says smiling. “There’s no question about it, she sees truth.” In 2015, Carmona was pregnant with her second child, a daughter named Ivy. Still living in Stó:lō Territory, she returned to give birth at a local hospital. This time, she says, the delivery was excruciating and there were complications with baby Ivy being delivered. According to her medical records, baby Ivy was born face up, blue and limp with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. While Carmona says her mother and mother-in-law knew what was happening, she was unaware of the severity of the situation. “I did not know the severity of the situation being like you just delivered a baby,” she says. The medical records show that baby Ivy was not breathing when she was born, and Carmona says they called a “code pink” signalling an emergency. “She’s a miracle that she survived,” says Carmona. “My belief in the Creator, my belief in the teaching saved us a hundred percent. We had people watching over us.” Reflecting on the experience, Carmona once again wishes she was given more information in the moment. “There was no, how long was she out of breath for, what’s her cognitive ability kind of thing. Like, your daughter could have died,” she says. “It was, she can sit up in her car seat. You’re fine, go home.” For other expecting parents Carmona says that due to the lack of cultural safety, systemic racism and stereotyping of Indigenous women, it’s important to “trust your intuition.” “Whether it’s the doctor, a white midwife, the stereotyping that you receive, whether it’s in the doctor’s appointments, leading up or in the delivering room, having multiple Indigenous family members there, there’s a lot of racism that happens in these experiences,” she says. Many Indigenous Peoples who access the healthcare system in Canada feel the impacts of systemic racism. On June 19, 2020, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was appointed by Health Minister Adrian Dix to lead an investigation into Indigenous-specific racism in the B.C. health care system. “If I could say anything to a woman who would be giving birth or in this process, trust your intuition, pray for protection and guidance,” says Carmona. With two healthy young girls, now one of the most important things for Carmona is that her kids are raised traditionally so that they too are equipped to navigate the world. “I can say that practicing our cultural teachings benefits new mothers and their babies, that little plant, that little seed,” says Carmona, “Every thought, every feeling that we think our baby experiences and my daughters are very cultural beings.” Our series on reproductive health access is made possible in part with funding from First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Thunderbird Partnership Foundation. Their support does not imply endorsement of or influence over the content produced. Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
Gone are the days of — at least, temporarily — the hallways at Hampstead School smelling of scrambled eggs in the morning. Owing to new public health restrictions, the thrice-weekly hot breakfast program at the Winnipeg school has been replaced by morning meal packs given out by teacher volunteers who wear masks and gloves. “Now, it’s dry cereal and some apple slices. It’s not anything glamorous, but everyone’s eating — and that’s how I know there’s a need,” said Katie Patteson, who oversees the alternating-day breakfast and snack programs at the K-Grade 5 school in East Elmwood. Breakfast, lunch and snack programs have had to adjust their menus for 2020-21 owing to COVID-19 precautions that have restricted visitors from entering schools and altered food-handling procedures. Instead of serving sit-down spreads prepared by volunteers from local churches, Hampstead hands out jam sandwiches on whole wheat bread, granola bars, muffins, cheese strings, and yogurt, among other items. If not pre-packaged, the food has to be individually wrapped and distributed to students in individual lunch bags stored in buckets the school purchased for classrooms this year. The inability to lean on student and community volunteers to prepare fresh meals, as well as a spike in COVID-19-related costs, have proven to be huge challenges for healthy meal programs, said Clara Birnie, a program dietitian with the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba. At Hampstead, the administration estimates new costs will result in the school’s program costs “at least” doubling from the $2,500 price tag in 2019-20. That is, in part, because of increased demand. Forty-five students participated in the early breakfast at Hampstead last year. In late September, the number of students accessing it more than doubled to 106 — although, the figure has since dropped to 75 because many families have switched to remote instruction in recent weeks. Patteson’s best guess for the spike is a combination of the ability of students to participate during regular school hours, instead of only before school for a sit-down meal, and the financial impact COVID-19 has had on families. The council is a key funder for nearly 300 schools, including Hampstead, in the province. The council, which is staffed by three dietitians who work with schools, funds food programs that feed approximately 34,000 students every year. “This year is the first year, in the history of the council, that we haven’t been able to provide grants to new applicants,” Birnie said, adding the pandemic has put breakfast programs into the spotlight and had underscored their value. The council applied for additional provincial funding in the summer, but chairwoman Wendy Bloomfield said she has yet to receive a response. “We’re hoping that they see the need as getting desperate,” said Bloomfield, a school trustee in Seine River, noting funding has remained stagnant since 2014. Private donors, food banks and the Manitoba Association of Parent Councils have contributed to programs to keep them going this fall; a combination of support is what Patteson said is helping Hampstead feed students and keeping them focused on learning. “We’re going to get through this,” she added. “We’ve bobbed and weaved through COVID as we’ve needed to and we’ve provided breakfast in a safe way.”Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
TORONTO — Justin Bieber emerged as the top Canadian nominee at this year's Grammys, but the singer says he's confused over why his latest album "Changes" wasn't acknowledged as an R&B project. The Stratford, Ont.-raised superstar turned to Instagram on Tuesday with a message that, in part, said he was "flattered" by his four nominations, while he questioned the Recording Academy's decision to box him into pop music categories. "From the chords to the melodies to the vocal style all the way down to the hip hop drums that were chosen it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!" he wrote. But his fifth studio release wasn't recognized as such, and while it's unclear who submitted it for nominations, the recording picked up only pop praise, pushing him ahead of multi-faceted Canadian music producer Kaytranada, who trailed closely behind with three nods. Bieber grabbed a best pop vocal album nod, while his single "Intentions," with rapper Quavo, was recognized in the pop duo performance category. The hit "Yummy" is competing as best pop solo performance. Aside from his pop prospects, Bieber found his name under best country duo or group performance for his single "10,000 Hours" with Nashville act Dan + Shay. Being shut out of the R&B categories is a setback for Bieber, who many critics suggest is trying to shed his image as a teen pop star and mature into a soulful adult vocalist. His Grammys lead was nearly matched by Kaytranada. The Montreal producer made waves as a contender for best new artist where he'll compete against heavyweights that include Texas rapper Megan Thee Stallion and Los Angeles singer Doja Cat. Kaytranada, born Louis Celestin, is also up for best dance/electronic album for "Bubba," and best dance recording for "10%," featuring Kali Uchis. The first-time Grammy nominee was joined by fellow Polaris Music Prize winner Lido Pimienta who also scored her first Grammy nod with the album “Miss Colombia” in the best Latin rock or alternative category. Reached at her Toronto art studio Tuesday, Pimienta said the nomination was unexpected. "I don't really pay attention to awards but it's still, of course, a great honour," she added. "I might not care about it that much, but because I love my family, and people who love me care about it so much and they're so proud of me, I have to be happy, you know? And I am so grateful." Toronto rap star Drake pulled in three nominations. He has two for "Laugh Now, Cry Later" — best rap song and best melodic rap performance — and another for the music video of "Life is Good," a track he made with rapper Future. Producer Frank Dukes, who grew up in Toronto, shares two nods with Post Malone for his work on "Hollywood's Bleeding," up for album of the year, and the single "Circles," under record of the year. Among the biggest upsets was the total absence of Toronto singer the Weeknd from the nominations. His inescapable 2020 album "After Hours" and its No. 1 single "Blinding Lights" were considered front-runners by awards prognosticators. Late Tuesday, the artist born Abel Tesfaye addressed the snub on Twitter by addressing organizers and their largely secret voting process: "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency..." Other Canadians sharing the Grammy spotlight include singer-songwriter Jonathan Saxe, who performs under the name JP Saxe. He locked his first song of the year nomination with co-writer and duet partner Julia Michaels on their sombre "If the World Was Ending." Sam Ellis, a native of Cambridge, Ont., marked his own landmark Grammy moment as songwriter on "More Heart Than Mine," nominated for best country song. Leonard Cohen landed a fourth career nomination for his posthumous 2019 album "Thanks For the Dance" in the folk album category, while Rufus Wainwright added a second Grammy nod to his illustrious career, this year for "Follow the Rules" under traditional pop vocal album. Nasri Atweh, best known as the vocalist for reggae-pop fusion act "Magic!", was among the songwriters nominated for best R&B song with "Slow Down," performed by Skip Marley and H.E.R. British Columbia house music producer Jayda G, who started her professional pursuits as a science student in Vancouver, will compete for dance recording with her track "Both of Us." "Weird Al" Yankovic's longtime guitarist Jim West said being named in the new age category for the second consecutive year was enough to convince him to scrap plans of spending the day in line at the Los Angeles Department of Motor Vehicles. Renewing his driver's licence could wait, he decided, since he wanted to savour the moment for his album "More Guitar Stories." But West, who grew up in Toronto and Ottawa, wondered how different the Grammys might look compared to last year when fellow nominees could celebrate together. "One thing I think I'm gonna miss is going to the parties," he said. "I don't think anybody's going to be up for anything like that." French-Canadian actress Audrey Brisson shares a nomination with the U.K. cast of "Amelie," a musical based on the 2001 romantic comedy that's recognized in the best musical theater album category. Sound engineer Shawn Everett secured three separate nominations in the best engineered album, non-classical, category. He's being recognized for Devon Gilfillian's "Black Hole Rainbow," Brittany Howard's "Jaime," and Beck's "Hyperspace." Several other famed Canadians didn't get nominations themselves but were involved in recognized projects. A reading by "Jeopardy!" contestant Ken Jennings of the late Alex Trebek's memoir "The Answer Is...Reflections on My Life" is competing for spoken word album, while Ottawa native Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" production is up for musical theater album, a prize for the vocalists. And Niagara Falls, Ont.-raised producer Deadmau5, born Joel Zimmerman, saw a rework of his track "Imaginary Friends" by Morgan Page land a spot in the remix category. The 63rd Grammy Awards air Jan. 31. on CBS and Citytv. —With files from Cassandra Szklarski. This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 24, 2020. David Friend, The Canadian Press
The Limerick Friends’ Club hosted another takeout dinner to raise money for a worthwhile local cause. The dinner was held Nov. 14 at the Limerick Community Centre, and people came to pick up their meals from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. According to Jo-Anne Carrol, they served over 60 people, down from the number of patrons who came to the takeout dinner back in September, but not bad either, considering the ongoing pandemic. Proceeds from the dinner went towards the Coe Hill Food Bank, to help out with their Christmas baskets. Even though they weren’t able to attend the dinner on Saturday, Councillor Ingo Weise and his wife Bonnie, who is a member of the Friends’ Club, helped set things up the day before. He acknowledged the impact that the Limerick Friends Club has had in raising money for worthy causes in years past, and how difficult it has been this year with COVID-19. “The Friends’ Club has most recently donated money to Wollaston Township for Halloween candy because the children couldn’t go door to door. These dinners have also provided an important social function in the community where people could get out and meet their neighbours. The roast beef dinner on Nov. 14 was held as a take-out so the social aspect will be missing although the volunteers themselves were finally able to get back together. The township of Limerick gratefully acknowledges the important service the Friends Club and all our volunteers provide to our community.” Dawn Lockhart, the chair of the Limerick Friends’ Club was busy in the kitchen on the evening of Nov. 14, but described the menu when she came out to deliver a few dinners to patron Lawrence Hiltz. “There’s roast beef, mashed potatoes, vegetables, a little bit of horseradish in there too, nice fresh homemade bread, coleslaw and gravy,” she says. “We also have a delicious triple layer cake for dessert and when that runs out, we have four different types of pie; apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb and cherry.” Jo-Anne Carrol was also helping out in the kitchen, and described the volunteers’ routine getting everything together. “We started yesterday peeling potatoes and things like that, and then the meat was cooked at 8 a.m. this morning. Then we came back at noon to do the rest. We’re getting to be a well-oiled machine. Our first one [the takeout dinner back in September] was a little delayed, but this one worked out really well. It’s a real learning curve,” she says. The price for this takeaway dinner was $15 for adults, $7 for children aged six years to 12 years, and kids under five years old ate for free. Sharon Boomhour was outside the community centre collecting money for the dinners and accepting donations. All told, they ended up raising around $850. Diane Percy explained that they intended to donate the money in the form of gift cards to the Coe Hill Food Bank’s Christmas baskets. “They put them in the baskets and we’ll be giving them a bunch of gift cards for that. And then we’ll also be donating some money to the seniors’ program for the lunches they serve down in Tudor and Cashel,” she says. The people coming by to pick up their meals seemed to be pleased that they were happening, even if it was takeaway versus an indoor dining experience. Nicolette Mitchell came by to pick up a couple of meals. “I think it’s great. I used to come for all the dinners so I try to make it for these,” she says. Geraldine Woodbank agreed with that sentiment. “Oh, yeah! If you want good cooks, you come here,” she says. Margaret Park comes by for all the dinners, as she lives just up the road from the community centre. “I kind of miss it where everyone’s inside because you get to see people and catch up,” she says. Lucy Leftman also came by and said she used to come for these dinners all the time, though not as much as she used to. “This is kind of nice, the fact that they’ve figured out a way to work around the whole thing [COVID-19],” she says.Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
EDMONTON — Finance Minister Travis Toews says COVID-19 will affect Alberta’s economy for the next couple of years and perhaps beyond, but projections are encouraging.“COVID-19 has created an environment of uncertainty, not just here in Alberta but around the world,” Toews said Tuesday as he announced updated numbers for his current budget.“I can’t say whether the worst days are behind us in this pandemic. (But) I’m hopeful when I see signs of economic recovery out there. We’re doing all we can to position Alberta for recovery.”Toews said the revised budget deficit this year will be $21.3 billion. That’s $2.8 billion less than projected at the first update in August, but still exponentially larger than the $6.8-billion deficit announced when Toews first presented the budget in February.Since then, Toews said Alberta’s economy has been hit by the “triple black swan”: the COVID-19 pandemic, the drop in oil prices due to an international price war, and a global economic contraction.But he said the updated revenue forecast for the current budget is $41.4 billion, almost $3 billion higher than last quarter due to improved forecasts for resource and gaming revenues, investment income and federal transfers.Expenses are pegged at $62.7 billion, up $5.4 billion due to compensation and health-care initiatives responding to the COVID-19 crisis.Taxpayer-supported debt is pegged to hit $97.4 billion by the spring and $125 billion by 2023.Total spending to fight COVID-19 and for pandemic recovery efforts is forecast to be $4.8 billion this year and an estimated $1.8 billion for the two years after that.Revenue from non-renewable resources is forecast at $1.7 billion, down $3.4 billion.Toews said there are encouraging signs, but it will be a long path to full recovery. Real GDP, a measure of a jurisdictions’ total economic output, is expected to fall to 8.1 per cent rather than the expected 8.8 per cent this year and won’t recover to 2014 levels until 2023.Real GDP is expected to grow 4.4 per cent in 2021.Elsewhere, the province reported that the agriculture sector is reaping the rewards of strong crop conditions overall and the forestry sector is seeing higher prices for lumber.Refined petroleum exports are rising. The food manufacturing sector has seen sales rise 5.5 per cent through September. In the labour sector, employment has gained back 72 per cent of the 360,900 jobs lost earlier this year during the first COVID wave. However, employment is still expected to shrink by seven per cent in 2020 and won’t get back to 2019 levels until 2022.Toews said recalibrating Alberta’s finances in the long term will be tied to three “anchors”: keeping spending under control and comparable to other provinces, keeping the net-debt-to-GDP ratio to no more than 30 per cent, and devising a post-pandemic timeline to get the budget out of the red.“Economic recovery and efficient delivery of government services are both critically important for fiscal recovery,” said Toews. “As we continue to face the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to do everything we can to protect Albertans while also managing our finances responsibly.”Opposition NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips dismissed Toews’ update as an overly optimistic forecast given the province is still dealing with a renewed wave of COVID-19.“Simply put, the UCP can’t be trusted to manage the province’s finances or the economy,” said Phillips.“The first wave of COVID-19 was on our doorstep, but the UCP acted like everything was fine."Now in the midst of a second wave, we see the outcome of this government’s poor planning. We have an out-of-control pandemic, an absent premier and one of the slowest economic recoveries in Canada.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The ivy and tropical plants spread across a living wall in the lobby of a landmark Alberta government building are being cut down earlier than planned because of a bug infestation. The United Conservative government had intended to remove the 223-square-metre plant installation in the Edmonton Federal Building's lobby next year to save the annual $70,000 maintenance cost. But the acting press secretary for Infrastructure Minister Tricia Velthuizen says a bug infestation was discovered recently, so it was decided to order the wall's immediate removal. About half of the greenery was torn down Monday, exposing the metal space which used to collect the fresh air generated by the plants to send through the rest of the building. Velthuizen said the living wall — which Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio said he thought was cool when he visited Edmonton — was something nice that the province can no longer afford. She said the wall will eventually be replaced with art from the provincial collection as part of upgrades to the building's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Velthuizen did not say when the new system will be in place or how much it will cost. The Edmonton Federal Building is just northeast of Alberta’s legislature. It was originally built by Canadian government to house its main federal offices in Western Canada. It underwent extensive renovations and, in 2015, more than 600 government staff and members of the legislature moved in. The building made headlines years ago when a tony penthouse apartment was added to the renovation design for then-premier Alison Redford and her daughter. The suite became known as the "Sky Palace" in the ensuing controversy. The company Nedlaw Living Walls Inc. installed the plants in 2014 and was hired to maintain the installation. Spokesman Adam Holder said the wall was built as part of building's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system and provided fresh air. He said he was disappointed to hear the decision to remove it and suggested maintenance costs could easily have been trimmed if the UCP government had asked. "Before they rip the wall out, it would have been of paramount importance for them to know that they literally could have cut their $70,000 year maintenance bill by three-quarters," Holder said. "It was extremely healthy, (and) if they were able to do quarterly maintenance on it (instead of monthly), that's where I get my 75 per cent from." Holder added the UCP government may face more costs than it expected ripping out the wall. "This is going to cost almost seven figures for them to not only rip it out, (but also to) redesign the space and re-engineer the air-handling system. This was literally connected to a lot of ductwork throughout the entire building, not to mention the rooftop units, and the actual air extraction system was designed with this wall," he said. "So now it has to be recalibrated. And you may be in a situation where you have to buy new equipment, or re-engineer old equipment. It's certainly not just a matter of, you know, kind of ripping out a floor lamp and that's the end of it." Jim Hole, son of former lieutenant-governor Lois Hole and the operator of a well-known greenhouse just north of Edmonton, said he understands why some people would be upset about the wall's removal. "The downside is, of course, you lose the beautiful esthetics. You lose that nice humidity that comes from the plants. You do lose some filtration of air that may be a bit stale and some of the pollutants that occur indoors," Hole said. Everybody, including Alberta's political leaders, should be around plants on a regular basis to become healthier mentally and emotionally, he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press