Nova Scotia starts the expansion of its COVID-19 vaccination program at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax where 53 of the province's 65 pandemic-linked deaths occurred last spring.
Nova Scotia starts the expansion of its COVID-19 vaccination program at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax where 53 of the province's 65 pandemic-linked deaths occurred last spring.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
“There's not enough words in the English language to share how much this will impact First Nations; how much every time the land is destroyed, how much that that tears apart who we are as Niitsitapi,” said Latasha Calf Robe. The member of the Blood Tribe (Kainai Nation) and founder of the Niitsitapi Water Protectors spoke at a town hall Jan. 21 focused on the changes to the provincial coal policy brought in by Alberta’s current UCP government. A Coal Development Policy for Alberta, known also as the 1976 Coal Policy, was rescinded effective June 1, 2020 by the government. The policy protected large portions of land, like the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, from strip mining. After intense public backlash to a December 2020 coal mining auction, the UCP government, through the office of Minister for Energy Sonya Savage, cancelled 11 pending leases for coal mining. In a statement issued by the ministry Jan. 18, Savage said the “pause will provide our government with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of Albertans, as owners of mineral resources, are protected.” But participants at the town hall made it clear that they do not believe the government is looking out for their interests, and the best-case scenario is to have the coal policy reinstated completely. One of the main concerns is the potential for toxic amounts of selenium to enter the headwaters of the Old Man River, contaminating the drinking water of more than 200,000 Albertans, including the Blood Tribe. The town hall was organized by NDP Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips, the former minister of Environment and Parks and minister responsible for the Climate Change Office. She said at least 10 per cent of her constituents are members of Blackfoot Nations and will be affected by the government’s coal policy changes. In addition to concerns about selenium entering the drinking water, Phillips said the significant change in land use sets a dangerous precedent for the possibility of backroom deals on water licensing that would impact the availability of water for the Kainai Nation. She said the Grassy Mountain Mine is getting access to water in large volumes in order to operate, alleging this would only be possible by some sort of skirting of the rules when it comes to water licensing. “We are already in a very water-stressed area made only worse by the effects of climate change,” Phillips said. “Already, we see communities all across this corridor struggling with (lack of water) or even their water infrastructure… because climate change changes when you have more water and the volumes and, you know, extreme weather events and so on.” The mounting criticism over the lack of consultation with First Nations, as well as concerns over the potential environmental impacts, have resulted in stakeholders from across the province coming together to file a judicial review of the rescission of the coal policy. That is set to begin today, Jan. 26 in the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. The review argues for the policy to be restored. “These kinds of projects have zero legitimacy from seven generations beyond me, beyond us,” said Diandra Bruised Head, a member of the Blood Tribe council, at the town hall. The mayor of Lethbridge, Chris Spearman, and the former premier of Alberta, now Leader of the Opposition, Rachel Notley, both spoke out against the rescission of the coal policy. “Albertans have overwhelmingly said that the eastern slope should be devoted to watershed protection, recreation tourism, and just, of course, that the land itself should be respected for the way it has interacted with original peoples for so many years before anybody else was here,” said Notley. Mayor Spearman talked about the potential dangers to commercial and drinking water for the residents of Lethbridge and the surrounding areas. “To have this go forward and have the headwaters potentially contaminated is a huge betrayal of trust,” said Spearman. CJWE By Tsering Asha, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CJWE
The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) says it will be taking the government to court over a ministerial order signed last month that they say gives teachers less control over their pensions. The ATA said on Tuesday its provincial executive council had voted unanimously to initiate legal action, and that association lawyers are in the process of drafting a court application which will be filed once complete. On Dec. 23, 2020, Finance Minister Travis Toews signed a ministerial order allowing the government-owned Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) to reject any changes proposed by the Alberta Teachers' Retirement Fund (ATRF). That order went into effect on Jan. 1. Teachers have repeatedly expressed concerns following the passing of Bill 22, which transfers their pension investments under AIMCo's management. The pension fund lost billions last year, and some union leaders had expressed concerns the manager was making decisions to prop up oil companies. "We were never consulted on that, that move was never anything that was campaigned on … teachers are very happy with ATRF," ATA president Jason Schilling said in an interview with CBC. "So to have this moved over without consultation and then subsequently to have a ministerial order put in place, that basically gives AIMCo veto power … infuriated teachers." Toews has previously reassured teachers that the ATRF board would remain in control of pension decisions — a promise Schilling argues the recent ministerial order negates. "Teachers were betrayed by their MLAs, the minister and the premier when this imposed [investment management agreement] failed to live up to their promises made to respect the ATRF's ability to direct the investment of teacher pension dollars," says Schilling. "We will fight the order in court, but there still needs to be political accountability for the broken promises." Charlotte Taillon, press secretary for the minister, said while they're unable to comment on pending legal action, the ministerial order was necessary as a temporary measure as ATRF and AIMCo had not reached an agreement. She said the ATRF itself has said the ministerial order does not impact pension benefits, and that the government remains confident the parties will be able to reach an agreement — at which point the ministerial order will no longer be in effect. The ATRF board has made the case that under AIMCo management, the $18.9 billion pension fund would have been worth $17.5 billion — $1.3 billion less — by the end of 2019. The ATRF indicated mid-last year that its data showed it has outperformed AIMCo yearly from 2013 through 2019. AIMCo manages several provincial government funds, including the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, and the pension funds of more than 375,000 Alberta public sector workers. A deal has yet to be reached between AIMCo and ATRF. About 83,000 current and retired teachers are affected by the management, which is expected to be complete this year.
Inaya Mirza’s bully, another student in her Grade 4 classroom, is a lot quieter online. “When she was at school every day, she would be talking about this girl,” said her older sister, Maryam Mirza. “She was doing poor academically because she was so stressed.” The bullying — name-calling, rumour-spreading and gossiping — stopped when classrooms were shuttered. “Now, she’s happy,” said Maryam, 23, an early-childhood educator. “She kind of misses her friends, but, at the same time, she’s relieved that she doesn’t have to deal with the bully.” Nearly 60 per cent of public school students surveyed reported being bullied pre-COVID, according to a new report on bullying released Friday by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. Amid the pandemic, that number dropped to about 40 per cent. The report was initiated by the board after the death of 14-year-old Devan Selvey, who was stabbed outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in October 2019. Kristine Bolton, a parent to two students in the public board, said her eldest daughter, a Grade 10 student at Sir Winston Churchill, suffers from anxiety. “She didn’t feel safe all the time there with what happened with Devan,” she said. “She’s been scared.” Bolton said the 15-year-old puts a lot of pressure on herself to perform academically. “She blacks out during tests,” her mother said. “So being in the comfort of home, she’s not going through that and her marks have been really good so far.” Bolton said her kids have excelled with remote learning — each for a different reason. “Our youngest one, she’s always had a lot of struggles, unfortunately, in school,” Bolton said. Her daughter, a 12-year-old student in Grade 7, had been at a Grade 3 or 4 level for a couple of years, her mother said. Now, she is doing math between a Grade 6 and 7 level. “When the remote started last year after March break, I was able to give her that one-on-one support,” she said. “Her grades have improved.” Jennifer McTaggart, a clinical psychologist with the child and youth mental health program at McMaster Children’s Hospital, said success with remote learning “is going to vary based on the kid.” “I think there are some children who are thriving in remote learning,” she said. Self-directed learners and students who are easily distracted by may prefer to learn in a more independent environment. Remote learning might be a welcome break for students who are shy, have an anxiety disorder or suffer from bullying. But, she said, it’s “a double-edged sword.” “Getting out of the situation really does reinforce the anxiety, so our kids aren’t learning how to deal in these social situations,” she said. “There’s a temporary relief, but I also worry our children aren’t getting the benefit of learning how to work through those situations, which is important to our social development.” Sixteen-year-old Elena Kowalchuk, a Grade 11 student at Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School, is “kind of made for online learning,” her mother says. “She’s highly motivated, she’s got an excellent work ethic, she’s got really good work habits,” said Michelle Castellani, who is a high school teacher. But, despite her daughter’s success with remote learning, Castellani said she will “100 per cent” be going back to the classroom once schools reopen for in-person learning. “It’s not so much for the academics that I would send her back, it is for that little bit of a social piece,” she said. “It’s important for kids to get out of the house.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
The call is out for municipal leaders around the world to join a network using COVID-19 as an opportunity to develop more climate-resilient communities. The new program,“1000 Cities Adapt Now,” was launched Monday at the global Climate Adaptation Summit, co-convened by the government of Canada and the United Nations Environment Programme, among others. The 10-year plan was unveiled by the mayors of Miami, Paris and Rotterdam, Netherlands, alongside world-leading research organizations World Resources Institute and Global Centre on Adaptation. The goal is to encourage urban development at the municipal level that will prepare cities and residents for the coming changes in climate. “Our cities are at the forefront when it comes to tackling COVID-19, but also tackling the crisis of climate change,” said Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb. More than a dozen other centres have signed on, including: Accra, Athens, Istanbul, Jakarta, and Antwerp, Belgium. No Canadian cities have yet to join the initiative. Antwerp Mayor Bart de Wever said worrying about climate change and the end of the century is a luxury for citizens who right now are financially stable enough to not have to worry about the end of the month first. De Wever advocated for climate adaptation at the municipal level in order to protect those at the lowest socio-economic levels who will feel the impacts of climate change the most. His city is already implementing adaptation plans that include flood dykes, repurposing of parking lots for community use, and amending building codes so every new build is required to have a “green roof.” Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis said he was eager to be involved, because cities were the only level of government that could implement a bottom-up approach to tackling climate change. In Athens, this means “changing the face of the city” as green corridors and cycling infrastructure are prioritized. “We need to get ourselves ready for the day after the pandemic, because I think none of us want this pandemic to actually become an alibi or an excuse for our cities to lose valuable time,” Bakoyannis said. Former U.N. secretary-general and current co-chairman of the Global Commission on Adaptation Ban Ki-moon congratulated the mayors who have signed on for being leaders in the field of climate adaptation and preparedness. “The world is at a crossroads. COVID-19 is colliding with the existential crisis of a climate emergency, and your cities are on the front lines. But the good news is, that because of your work, cities around the world are rising to the challenge of protecting their citizens,” Moon said. He reminded conference attendees New York’s Central Park and Victoria Park in London were created in response to historical public health crises, and have since become the most iconic green spaces in the world. “If we work together, I believe we can prepare our cities for a warmer future, and create healthy living spaces where people and biodiversity can thrive.” Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The mittens worn by American Senator Bernie Sanders to the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden have garnered considerable attention online, and generated humorous images that place a hunched-against-the-cold Sanders everywhere from a scene in Forrest Gump to downtown Saint John. They also caught the attention of a New Brunswick foundation which has been making mittens for charity for the past 15 years. Katie Tower, executive director of the Pedvac Foundation in Port Elgin, said when they saw Sanders’ mittens all over the internet, they thought, “Hey those look like Pedvac mittens!” The organization decided to point out the similarity on their Facebook for anyone trying to create their own Bernie look, Tower said. The post was shared many times and retailers who carry their mittens have started calling asking for more, she said. "The great thing about our mitts is it is a social enterprise," said Tower, “We pay people in our community of Port Elgin to make them.” They aren’t, however, copying the Bernie mittens pattern. “We came up with our own pattern many years ago," Tower said. "We have revised it a bit, but the pattern in the Bernie mittens just happens to be similar enough to ours.” The teacher who originally made the mittens as a gift for Sanders spoke about using recycled or donated wool, and Pedvac mittens are also made from wool that is "second hand or donated too,” said Darcie Kingswell, coordinator of Pedvac's "Wools to Wishes". “We use a variety of different wool, different fleece,” said Kingswell, adding that it could come from a sweater or another knitted item. Buying Pedvac mittens “goes to support our programs including mental health workshops, food programs in school or free income tax preparation programs,” said Tower. Pedvac’s mittens are currently available at Starving Artist Gallery in Moncton, Wheaton's locations in the Maritimes, Happenstance in Antigonish, Threadwork in Almonte, Ont. and at the Pedvac boutique in Port Elgin, although that location is closed while Zone 1 is in red, said Kingswell. The most common similarity between these New Brunswick-made mitts and Bernie Sanders’ mitts is a lot simpler. “It looked like Bernie Sanders was just trying to stay warm," Tower said. "Ours help you do that too.” Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
After the pandemic-fuelled historic drop in global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, international energy agencies are projecting emissions will ramp up this year. On Tuesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released its short-term outlook. The report shows 2020 emissions from its energy sector fell by approximately 11 per cent, but forecasts rises in both 2021 and 2022, as the country’s economy recovers. Similarly, the International Energy Agency is projecting a rebound in electricity demand in 2021, which it projects will include an increase in the use of the most carbon-intensive energy source: coal. Climate Action Tracker, an independent international research organization, estimates emissions in Canada dropped 11 to 13 per cent during 2020, but also noted a likely 2021 rebound in its analysis. Rebounds in energy demand and emissions are a common trend during periods of financial recovery. An IEA report, released in December 2020, however, projected the COVID-19 rebound in electricity demand globally would not be as strong as it was following the 2008 financial crisis. “Despite a record drop in global emissions (in 2020), the world is far from doing enough to put (emissions) into decisive decline. The economic downturn has temporarily suppressed emissions, but low economic growth is not a low-emissions strategy — it is a strategy that would only serve to further impoverish the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “Only faster structural changes to the way we produce and consume energy can break the emissions trend for good. Governments have the capacity and the responsibility to take decisive actions to accelerate clean energy transitions and put the world on a path to reaching our climate goals, including net-zero emissions.” Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Danny Huston’s first dog was an Airedale Terrier named Sam after Humphrey Bogart’s “Maltese Falcon” character, Sam Spade. His father John Huston’s debut may have been over 20 years old by the time Danny was born, but the film that helped define the noir genre and launch both his and Bogart’s careers still factored heavily in his life from an early age. Growing up in Ireland, one of his favourite memories was when his father would bring out the projector and they’d gather around to watch his films. “The Maltese Falcon” was always a highlight. “It’s like a good book,” Huston said. “You find new things when you revisit it.” Now the film that no one believed in is celebrating its 80th anniversary. It’s returning to theatres through Fathom Events for a limited engagement on Wednesday. “It’s an important film to see if you love films and I think it stands the test of time. It’s gripping in its speed but it’s not reckless. And the lines! It had such memorable lines,” Huston said. “The dialogue in ‘Maltese Falcon’ is action, pure action.” Huston loves talking about his father, who gave him advice and unforgettable experiences along the way. When he was a teenager, his father brought him along to Morocco for the shoot of “The Man Who Would Be King” with Sean Connery and Michael Caine. And when Huston himself was thinking about directing, his father told him to treat every scene as if it’s the most important and to never feel bashful about asking family for help. John Huston reminded him that he’d even called on his own father for “The Maltese Falcon.” Walter Huston famously appears in a cameo role as the man who delivers the falcon. The film’s legend has only grown and the prop itself has become one of the most valuable pieces of movie memorabilia. “I have a falcon but it’s not real,” Huston laughed. Danny Huston never got to meet Bogart, who died a few years before he was born, but he knew that it was a great loss for his father. “They were great friends and larked about a lot, much to Katharine Hepburn’s horror. But they loved each other deeply,” he said. “The camera sees things that the naked eye doesn’t and with Bogart, the camera found an incredible nobility.” Danny Huston said that his father got to enjoy his own legacy during his long life — he died in 1987 at age 81 — but that he likely wouldn’t have believed that 80 years later the film would still be a topic of discussion. But, Huston laughed, “He would certainly be delighted.” And he has yet to name another pet after a character in his father's films, but he thinks he might start again. Next up: Wilmer. Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — A former executive with British Columbia's lottery corporation became emotional Tuesday after two days of testimony at a public inquiry into money laundering.Robert Kroeker took several moments to compose himself but his voice still cracked with emotion when he was asked to describe his experience as a focal point in B.C.'s probe into money laundering.Kroeker, who was fired as vice-president of corporate compliance in 2019, spent much of his testimony explaining what the Crown corporation knew about illegal cash circulating at casinos and what was being done to prevent it."You are not a floor manager. You are not on the business side of casinos. You are not wining and dining high rollers," said Marie Henein, Kroeker's lawyer. "That's not what you do. You've spent your life in compliance and trying to deal with money laundering and making casinos secure places in B.C."Kroeker's voice cracked as he tried to describe the impact of allegations that the lottery corporation did not act on large amounts of illegal cash at casinos."It's been devastating, not being able to respond, particularly when I was at the corporation, and especially for my team," said the former RCMP officer. "They're professionals and to see them continually attacked and maligned, it's really unfair."Former gaming investigator Larry Vander Graaf, who is also a former Mountie, told the commission last November that the B.C. Lottery Corp. did not move quickly enough to protect the integrity of gaming from organized crime more than a decade ago.Vander Graaf, the former executive director of the province's gaming policy branch, testified that large amounts of suspicious cash started to appear at B.C. casinos in 2007 and by 2010, loan sharks were circulating nearby parking lots with bags of money believed to be from proceeds of crime.Kroeker testified Tuesday he received a high-level briefing about suspicious cash activities at provincial casinos with possible links to organized crime on his first day on the job at the lottery corporation in 2015.He said he reviewed a document that concluded lottery officials appeared unwilling to address police concerns about suspicious cash and its potential connections to organized crime. The document also included the lottery corporation's concerns over the potential fallout if the information became public, he added."Certainly by this point BCLC knew there was a concern around the cash being brought into casinos being proceeds of crime," B.C. government lawyer Jacqueline Hughes asked Kroeker."Yes, for sure," said Kroeker.On Monday, Kroeker testified that Attorney General David Eby appeared uninterested in the lottery corporation's anti-money laundering efforts during a meeting in 2017 shortly after the New Democrats took power.The Ministry of Attorney General said in a statement on Monday that Eby would not comment on evidence or proceedings while the commission is underway.But in a statement on Tuesday, the ministry said "this government's actions to tackle financial crime in B.C. speaks for itself."Kroeker testified Tuesday that the money laundering issue in B.C. had become "politically charged" and was used by the two main political parties to criticize each other.The province appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen in 2019 to lead the public inquiry into money laundering after three reports outlined how hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash affected the province's real estate, luxury vehicles and gaming sectors.— By Dirk Meissner in VictoriaThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Saskatchewan’s premier and Chief Medical Health officer Tuesday both spoke publicly for the first time since a group of protestors picketed outside the chief doctor’s home over the weekend. Scott Moe explained that he has worked closely over the past 10 months with Dr. Saqib Shahab and appreciated his work. “I would say that Saskatchewan is a better place with Dr. Shahab doing what he does each and every day, Saskatchewan is a much better place with Dr. Shahab’s family doing what they do, contributing to this province each and every day,” Moe said. The premier expressed that the protest on Saturday crossed a line. “Whether it is a legal line or whether it is just a line of where we are as a society in this province and where Saskatchewan people are headed that we most certainly, and the vast majority agree, that line was crossed,” Moe said. The Regina Police Service (RPS) responded to reports of a protest at Shahab's residence on Saturday at around 2:30 p.m. According to a RPS media release, police stayed on scene until protestors left at roughly 3:30 p.m. An investigation into the protest is ongoing. Moe was not aware whether the protest against Shahab also had racial motivation. Shahab thanked the Regina Police Service and explained that he felt sorry for his neighbours and his family who did not deserve to be harassed. Weekends are workdays for Shahab. “On Saturday I kept doing my work and I couldn’t clear my snow for about three hours, Shahab joked, “ but went out and did my snow clearing afterwards when it was -30 instead of -20. Like the Premier said, protest outside the legislature if that is what you want to do instead of having a policy debate, so writing out your question in a coherent manner, that’s your choice,” Shahab said. Shahab added that he expects vigorous debate over every policy in a democracy. “Right now we are in a pandemic, it’s a long year and it is creating pressures for everyone. Even outside of a pandemic in a democracy you will debate vigorously and you express your opinion through many channels,” Shahab said nobody should be targeted because of race, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation. “I think successful countries, successful societies are inclusive and do well. You can slice it as closely as you want to find differences when you want to find differences.” He added that the public outcry after the incident also expressed his views more eloquently than he could. “I think there is a small minority, I think, social media while it is great, the internet is great to remain connected but the social media also creates a zone of toxic echo chambers and it does unfortunately perpetuate hate and I would say radicalize those that are susceptible to it,” Shahab said. Security has been offered to Shahab by the Government of Saskatchewan to ensure his and his family’s safety. Moe would not discuss the options for security publicly. Throughout the press conference Moe expressed that there is a place and a time for protest of decisions by the government and that protest was not one of them. “(Public health orders) are made most certainly on the advice of Dr. Shahab and put into action under Dr. Shahab’s signature but they are decisions that are made by the government of Saskatchewan and they are with the very capable and competent advice that is provided to us by Dr. Shahab,” Moe said. Moe said that protests can happen in front of the Legislature and he has seen them since he became elected. “The government does take note when there is a protest outside of public institutions. Those protests are protesting a government decisions. What we saw this weekend was a protest had moved from protesting a government decision to protesting a person, that is enough in this province, it needs to stop,” Moe said. Moe also said anyone who doesn't like the government's COVID policy should email him at email@example.com, or call their local MLA. -With files from Jason Kerr, Prince Albert Daily Herald. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
As the 76th anniversary on Wednesday of the liberation of Auschwitz draws closer, Bill Harvey, who survived the concentration camp, said he was shocked by displays of anti-Semitism during the U.S. Capitol riot. Some of the supporters of former President Donald Trump who broke into and ransacked the seat of Congress on Jan. 6 wore clothes bearing anti-Semitic messages, or displayed Nazi symbols. Harvey, interviewed by Zoom from his Los Angeles home on Monday, expressed concern that the lessons that should have been learned from World War Two's Nazi Holocaust are fading.
Canadians believe their politicians are lacking compassion more than any other leadership quality right now, according to a recent online poll conducted by Leger with a panel of respondents. While compassion was a quality seen as lacking for many leaders, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs had the lowest compassion rating of any Atlantic Canadian premier, earning a score of 5.7 on a 10-point scale from respondents. By comparison, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King had a compassion score of 7.8 from respondents. The poll was conducted while the province was in yellow phase, prior to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick. Higgs's compassion score is the third lowest in the country, coming out ahead of Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Albert Premier Jason Kenney. When asked by Brunswick News for his response to these polling results, Higgs said, “Well, I’m obviously disappointed that this would be the outcome [of the poll]. However, throughout this whole process I’ve tried to balance what we need to get through this, as individuals and as a province, so that at the end of COVID – which we do see, that end in sight – we actually have a province that can survive and provide employment.” Université de Moncton political scientist Donald Savoie said compassion just isn’t a part of Higgs’s brand. “The competent manager is the image he wants to project,” said Savoie, adding if your brand is fiscal prudence, it’s difficult to project compassion. Higgs’s highest score, a 7.3, was for decisiveness. He also scored a 6.9 per cent for managing the pandemic, a score which is higher than many other leaders, but lower than that of Nova Scotia or P.E.I.’s premiers. Higgs also had one of the lowest scores for collaboration; residents gave him a 6.3, the third lowest score in the country. Higgs’s compassion score is likely a result of his approaches to problems and the way he has been communicating to the public, said Mount Allison University political scientist Mario Levesque. “Higgs doesn’t appear friendly, seems more feisty and quick to temper,” said Levesque. “He’s champing at the bit. He has a very narrow agenda and doesn’t like to be pulled away from it.” By contrast, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King could be delivering similar news or restrictions, but he seems more open in his delivery, Levesque added. He noted that it may help that King is a former comedian. The public's perception of compassion is also likely influenced by the way a variety of policy files have recently been handled, which may be giving Higgs some baggage, said Levesque, citing moves to reduce rural hospital ER access and not moving forward on an official inquiry into systemic racism. Joanna Everitt, a political scientist at University of New Brunswick, said while it is clear compassion is not an adjective many associate with the premier, it doesn’t mean they aren’t satisfied with his leadership. Although his cumulative leadership score also fell below other Atlantic premiers, character traits should not be confused with performance satisfaction or willingness to vote for someone, although they can form the basis of these other assessments, said Everitt. Higgs said he is looking forward to working closely with public health, his colleagues and the other parties. He said he thinks in the end “we will measure performance on actual results, not opinions. I feel confident that at the end of the day, we're going to look back on this and say New Brunswick came through this in a way like no other province, because we've got a province left when we actually get through COVID.” A total of 3,801 online surveys were conducted through Leger’s online panel, LEO and partner panels. Interviews were conducted from Dec 4 to 20, 2020. Leadership scores offered by the study were a cumulative average on the 10-point scale calculated from the sum of scores on six attributes: trustworthiness, transparency or openness, decisiveness, good communication, compassion and collaboration. As a non-probability internet survey, a margin of error was not reported. If the data were collected through a random sample, the margin of error would be plus or minus 1.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal
NEW YORK — Jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co. is deepening its partnership with Target Corp. by launching its first-ever home collection at the discount chain. Levi's limited time only 100-item collection of denim-inspired tableware, quilts, pillows and other items will be launched on Target's website and most Target stores on Feb. 28. Target started selling low-price brand Denizen from Levi's in 2011 and then began carrying its premium Red Tab brand in 2019. It will be expanding the Red Tab brand to 500 stores by fall of this year. The move is yet another blow to department stores, which have been struggling even more during the pandemic. Target CEO Brian Cornell and Levi's CEO Chip Bergh told The Associated Press they believe the Levi products, which also include some clothing, will be collectors' items. For Target, it's the latest strategic partnership with a major brand and comes as Target extends its strong sales streak through the pandemic. The Minneapolis-based discounter signed a deal late last year with beauty chain Ulta to open more than 100 beauty shops by middle of this year. In 2019, it forged a partnership with Disney & Co to open Disney-branded shops at its stores. Cornell said that strategic partnerships “have been key to Target’s success" and has set it apart from rivals. For San Francisco-based Levi, the collaboration reflects how the company has been diversifying its label away from department stores and focusing on retailers that drive customer traffic. Bergh said that the expansion with Target has helped the brand reach a broader customer base, but he cautions that the jeans maker has no intention of going into the home business in a permanent way. “This is unexpected Levi’s stuff that they are going to find inside Target, and it’s going to surprise and delight them," Bergh said. _______ Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio Anne D'Innocenzio, The Associated Press
A former Vancouver detective openly and deliberately deceived a B.C. judge during a high-profile sex trafficking trial, the lawyer for a notorious pimp argued in court on Tuesday. Thomas Arbogast told a panel of B.C. Court of Appeal justices that James Fisher misrepresented his job as an investigator with the VPD's Counter Exploitation Unit during a hearing in the trial of violent pimp Reza Moazami. "Mr. Fisher overtly perpetrated a fraud on the court by portraying his duties as an officer with the CEU in this way," Arbogast said. During a 2013 voir dire in Moazami's trial, Fisher testified that his role with the CEU involved rescuing trafficking victims from exploitation and helping sex workers leave the industry. But, Arbogast said, "Mr Fisher did the exact opposite of that." Evidence taken from text messages and victims' statements to police suggest that Fisher was actively helping young women continue in sex work, giving them advice about pimps they might work for and even tipping off a young madam about a planned police raid on her business, the court has heard. Text messages entered into evidence also show Fisher speaking to one of the women about his idea for a phone app that would alert sex workers about bad johns, Arbogast told the court. He said while that sounds like a good idea, "having an officer from CEU initiate that type of conversation is indicative of someone who is completely unmoored from their duties." Fisher pleaded guilty in 2018 to sexual exploitation and breach of trust for kissing a 21-year-old victim in Moazami's case as well as a 17-year-old girl who'd been exploited by another pimp, Michael Bannon. But Moazami's legal team alleges that Fisher's sexual and professional misconduct was much more extensive, involving nine of 11 victims and two witnesses in the Crown's case against Moazami. Moazami is asking the appeals court to order a new trial in his case, arguing that Fisher's misconduct amounted to an abuse of process and miscarriage of justice. Arbogast said Tuesday he could only speculate about how the trial would have been affected if Fisher's misconduct was uncovered at the time but suggested a mistrial could have been declared. "We have conduct here that it is so egregious that it transgresses any concept of fair play and decency," Arbogast said. Crown counsel Matthew Scott, however, told the court it would be "indecent and unjust" to overturn Moazami's convictions. "Mr. Moazami was convicted on the basis of the complainants' evidence, not Mr. Fisher's evidence," Scott said. He argued that Moazami's legal team "has not tendered any admissible evidence at all," saying it is largely based on hearsay and most of the alleged misconduct took place after those involved had testified in Moazami's trial. Fisher's Facebook activity 'simply was not pursued' For much of Tuesday's hearing, Arbogast focused on evidence from Facebook that was not available to the defence team during Moazami's trial. He said it appears Fisher had at least two Facebook accounts — one under the name James Fisher that he described as a professional page, and another under the name Jim Fisher that he used to communicate with victims and witnesses in his cases. Text messages suggest Fisher asked at least one young woman to delete their Facebook conversations when he realized he was under investigation. And yet it appears that during that investigation, VPD officers did not look into Fisher's Facebook use. "Nothing was ever done about those accounts … It simply was not pursued by the investigators," Arbogast said. Justice John Hunter asked Arbogast if there was any evidence Fisher had used his Facebook accounts to improperly influence the testimony of victims and witnesses. Arbogast replied that his team has not been able to access records of Fisher's communications on Facebook, which has been "a source of considerable frustration" for Moazami. The Crown has said it does not have the relevant records, either. "We're saying a fair remedy is to order a new trial here so this matter can be explored appropriately," Arbogast said. "We feel like we're being put in a position with respect to Facebook of arguing with one hand behind our backs." Hearings in Moazami's appeal continue on Wednesday morning.
A group of doctors and advocates are calling on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to address what they call a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in long-term care homes by bringing the military back for support and embarking on hiring and training drives.
The Saskatchewan government is looking at the tools it has to prevent targeted protests at the homes of public servants. On Saturday, a crowd gathered outside the house of Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, protesting against public health orders implemented by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Scott Moe called the act "disturbing" and "unprecedented" in the province. "What happened this weekend is not what Saskatchewan is about," Moe said during Tuesday's provincial COVID-19 update. "That protest is moving beyond the decision of a government, and moving to protest a person." The premier says his government is looking at what laws other jurisdictions have for similar incidents, and whether or not Saskatchewan should consider them. "It's a bridge too far for me, personally. I don't know what levers the government has to address that line that has been crossed, but we're looking at tools to use to do so," Moe said. WATCH | Moe condems protest outside Saskatchewan chief medical officer's home: In the meantime, the government has offered "as much security as necessary" to Shahab and his family to ensure they are safe and comfortable. Shahab feels sorry for 'good neighbours,' family Shahab said he was made aware of the protest at his home as he was working, as he normally does on a Saturday and Sunday. "I feel grateful for the Regina Police Service and I feel sorry for my good neighbours who didn't deserve to be harassed like this, and to my family who didn't deserve to see and hear the comments," Shahab said during Tuesday's press conference. He said the protests delayed him from clearing the snow at his house for about three hours. He was able to get to it once the crowd dispersed, he said, but by that time the temperature dropped from –20 C to –30 C. Shahab says that's how it personally affected him — but philosophically, he says protests should be held in public spaces, like in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature. "In a democracy you expect vigorous debate over every policy. Right now we're in a pandemic — it's a long year and it's creating pressures for everyone," Shahab said. "And you express your opinions through many channels that are available in a democracy. But you also obey the law, and in my view there is precedence that you don't picket outside any residence." WATCH | Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer responds to protesters outside his home: Regina police continue to investigate the matter. On Monday, Regina police Chief Evan Bray told reporters that police are working alongside the Crown to determine if charges should be laid. Protests escalate Bray says the protesters that showed up to Shahab's home are the same group of people who have previously protested at the Saskatchewan Legislature. From there, they have moved to protesting in front of Shahab's office on Albert Street, and in one occurrence, followed him to his car. Dr. Shahab was escorted by security during that time. "Social media also creates its own toxic echo chambers, and it does unfortunately perpetuate hate, and does radicalize those who are susceptible to hate," Shahab said. As protests escalate, so does the support for Shahab. On Twitter, people shared their gratitude to the doctor with messages using the hashtag #IStandWithShahab. Shahab says he is appreciative of the support. "The response to this protest by the vast majority of the public was more eloquent than I can be, and it gives wind to my sails, certainly," Shahab said. "And that's what Saskatchewan is all about and Canada is all about."
Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. is ramping up deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall. Biden, calling the push a “wartime effort,” said the administration was working to buy an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. He acknowledged that states in recent weeks have been left guessing how much vaccine they will have from one week to the next. Shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites around the U.S. had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot. “This is unacceptable," Biden said. "Lives are at stake.” He promised a roughly 16% boost in deliveries to states over the next three weeks. The administration said it plans to buy another 100 million doses each from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to ensure it has enough vaccine for the long term. Even more vaccine could be available if federal scientists approve a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to seek emergency authorization in the coming weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the government plans to make about 10.1 million first and second doses available next week, up from this week’s allotment of 8.6 million. The figures represent doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It was not immediately clear how long the surge of doses could be sustained. Governors and top health officials have been increasingly raising the alarm about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much vaccine is on the way so that they can plan. Biden's team held its first virus-related call with the nation's governors on Tuesday and pledged to provide states with firm vaccine allocations three weeks ahead of delivery. Biden's announcement came a day after he grew more bullish about exceeding his vaccine pledge to deliver 100 million injections in his first 100 days in office, suggesting that a rate of 1.5 million doses per day could soon be achieved. The administration has also promised more openness and said it will hold news briefings three times a week, beginning Wednesday, about the outbreak that has killed over 420,000 Americans. “We appreciate the administration stating that it will provide states with slightly higher allocations for the next few weeks, but we are going to need much more supply," said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican. The setup inherited from the Trump administration has been marked by miscommunication and unexplained bottlenecks, with shortages reported in some places even as vaccine doses remain on the shelf. Officials in West Virginia, which has had one of the best rates of administering vaccine, said they have fewer than 11,000 first doses on hand even after this week’s shipment. “I’m screaming my head off” for more, Republican Gov. Jim Justice said. California, which has faced criticism over a slow vaccine rollout, announced Tuesday that it is centralizing its hodgepodge of county systems and streamlining appointment sign-up, notification and eligibility. Residents have been baffled by the varying rules in different counties. And in Colorado, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said that the limited supply of vaccine from the federal government is prompting the state to repurpose second doses as first doses, though he expects that people scheduled for their second shot will still be able to keep their appointments. The weekly allocation cycle for first doses begins on Monday nights, when federal officials review data on vaccine availability from manufacturers to determine how much each state can have. Allocations are based on each jurisdiction’s population of people 18 and older. States are notified on Tuesdays of their allocations through a computer network called Tiberius and other channels, after which they can specify where they want doses shipped. Deliveries start the following Monday. A similar but separate process for ordering second doses, which must be given three to four weeks after the first, begins each week on Sunday night. As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC reported that just over half of the 44 million doses distributed to states have been put in people’s arms. That is well short of the hundreds of millions of doses that experts say will need to be administered to achieve herd immunity and conquer the outbreak. The U.S. ranks fifth in the world in the number of doses administered relative to the country’s population, behind No. 1 Israel, United Arab Emirates, Britain and Bahrain, according to the University of Oxford. The reason more of the available shots in the U.S. haven’t been dispensed isn’t entirely clear. But many vaccination sites are apparently holding large quantities of vaccine in reserve to make sure people who have already gotten their first shot receive the required second one on schedule. Also, some state officials have complained of a lag between when they report their vaccination numbers to the government and when the figures are posted on the CDC website. In the New Orleans area, Ochsner Health said Monday that inadequate supply forced the cancellation last week of 21,400 first-dose appointments but that second-dose appointments aren’t affected. In North Carolina, Greensboro-based Cone Health announced it is cancelling first-dose appointments for 10,000 people and moving them to a waiting list because of supply problems. Jesse Williams, 81, of Reidsville, North Carolina, said his appointment Thursday with Cone Health was scratched, and he is waiting to hear when it might be rescheduled. The former volunteer firefighter had hoped the vaccine would enable him to resume attending church, playing golf and seeing friends. “It’s just a frustration that we were expecting to be having our shots and being a little more resilient to COVID-19,” he said. The vaccine rollout across the 27-nation European Union has also run into roadblocks and has likewise been criticized as too slow. Pfizer is delaying deliveries while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase capacity. And AstraZeneca disclosed that its initial shipment will be smaller than expected. The EU, with 450 million citizens, is demanding that the pharmaceutical companies meet their commitments on schedule. ___ Associated Press writers around the U.S. contributed to this report. ___ Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic Jonathan Drew And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Mental health and wellness supports are in place at Jasper schools, and just being at school can be a great mood booster itself. Kelly Harding, assistant superintendent with Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD), described in an email the excitement over the recent return from an extended winter break. “The division has heard from many parents their appreciation for the province's decision to return to in-school learning, noting that their children are happier and more excited about their learning when they are with their teachers and their peers at school,” Harding said in an email. GYPSD includes Jasper Elementary School and Jasper Junior/Senior High School. “The best mental health a school can offer to students is to be open,” added Marie-Claude Faucher, principal of Ecole Desrochers, via email. “Just by being at school, with friends and teachers, it makes an enormous difference!” Harding said the division has had positive feedback from parents who are accessing the division's learn-at-home option this year, because it affords those families an extra level of safety if they are not comfortable returning to in-school learning at this time. “In addition to great teaching and learning opportunities,” Harding said, “the division has extensive mental health and wellness supports - including 10 family school liaison counsellors, three BEST (Bringing Empowered Students Together) coaches and a division psychologist. Parents can access any of these supports through their principals, as well as a number of resources and links on the GYPSD website.” Faucher said there are programs at the school to combine with the positive attitudes there. “Added to the fact that they are now back at school, with big smiles, we also have programs to teach students about Growth Mindset, to help them develop resilience and perseverance,” she said. “We also teach them to be attentive and take care of each other.” Faucher noted if the school has serious concerns about a student, they reach to Alberta Health Services and/or Jasper Outreach Services. “They are really helpful,” she said. Dealing with the pandemic is done by balancing COVID protocols with the social side of life, Harding said. “While no one is excited about having to wear a mask indoors or not being able to share a hug or high-five, the measures put in place by the government are there to keep our staff, students and communities safe,” she said. “We are deeply appreciative to our staff and to our students and families for their commitment to the protocols. Teachers miss seeing their students' smiles! We look forward to when COVID is gone and we can return to normal.” Faucher added, “Causes of mental health issues are when students are cut off from relationships, when they confront the challenges associated with virtual school, when they are playing video games alone. It's not COVID measures that challenge mental health, we are all used to it now, it is part of a routine. Schools are a safe and happy place to be. “As long as we can have all the students here, the atmosphere is focused on learning, and learning is fun!” Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
VICTORIA — Health officials say more COVID-19 cases have been linked to community clusters related to social gatherings and a ski resort in British Columbia's Interior. The Interior Health authority says in a news release that 46 new cases linked to a cluster first identified Jan. 20 in the Williams Lake area have been identified. Thirteen staff at Cariboo Memorial Hospital have also tested positive, but Interior Health says the hospital is safe to visit for appointments or emergency care. A total of 314 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the region since New Year's Day and the health authority says most transmission occurred at recent social events and gatherings. Interior Health also says an additional 11 cases have been linked to a community cluster at Big White Ski Resort, bringing the total cluster of cases to 225. It says 21 cases there are active and three of those who recently tested positive live or work at the resort. "Everyone is reminded that socialization must be limited to immediate household bubbles. Please do not invite friends or extended family to your residence for a visit or gathering," Interior Health says in the statement. Provincial health officials say the number of daily cases of COVID-19 is too high and repeated calls for everyone's help to bend the curve. The province recorded 407 cases Tuesday, bringing the total number of active infections to 4,260. Among those, 313 people are hospitalized, including 71 in intensive care. An additional 14 people died in the past day and the death toll in B.C. from COVID-19 rose to 1,168. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry say in a joint statement that now is the time for anyone who has put aside public health precautions to join or rejoin efforts to stop the spread. They say it is especially critical with the presence of variant strains of COVID-19 in B.C. "For the many who have been doing your part, you may be asking 'What more can I do?'" Dix and Henry say in the joint statement. "Be the voice of support and encouragement for those who may be wavering in their resolve." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Ongoing tensions between the provinces and the federal government over the management of the COVID-19 pandemic pivoted back Tuesday to the question of whether and how border controls can be tightened to slow the spread of the virus. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians to cancel any non-essential trips they have planned abroad or even within Canada in the coming weeks, as new travel restrictions are on the way. What shape they might take remains up for discussion. "The bad choices of a few will never be allowed to put everyone else in danger," he said at a news conference outside his Rideau Cottage home in Ottawa. The premiers for Ontario and Quebec, however, suggested new measures could be implemented swiftly, including mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers, flight bans from countries where new variants of the novel coronavirus are circulating and mandatory testing upon arrival in Canada. "We aren’t the first country to require this and we won't be the last," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said during a visit to Toronto's Pearson International Airport, where a pilot project testing some incoming travellers is underway. "I can't figure out for the life of me why we aren't testing every single person that comes through this airport … and the land crossings as well. We have to lock down." On Tuesday, the global case count topped 100 million since the novel coronavirus was first detected just over a year ago. The first cases in Canada were found a year ago this week. So far, over 19,000 Canadians have died and more than 753,000 have contracted the virus. The number of cases believed to be linked specifically to travel is less than two per cent, a fact officials generally peg on a ban that's been in place for nearly a year on non-essential travel into Canada, and the associated quarantine measures. As of Jan. 7, people coming into Canada must also take a pre-arrival COVID-19 test. The Canada Border Services Agency said Tuesday that since that requirement went into effect, there's been a 33 per cent drop in international travellers arriving by air when compared to a similar time period last year. Still, dozens of flights have arrived since that date with passengers on board who later tested positive for COVID-19. In Alberta, where a pilot project to test some returning travellers at both the land border and at the Calgary airport has been underway since November, 1.15 per cent of tests have come back positive as of last week. Data released Tuesday on the Toronto program, which began this month, showed 2.26 per cent of tests so far came back positive. Wesley Lesosky, who heads a union division representing about 15,000 flight attendants at nine airlines, told the House of Commons transport committee Tuesday there should be a "serious look" at using rapid tests at airports before anyone gets on a plane. Currently, a person departing for Canada must go and get their own test, known as a PCR, within 72 hours of their departure and provide proof of a negative result. While non-essential travel into Canada is restricted, it is much more challenging to simply block Canadians or permanent residents from travelling abroad or returning. Trudeau also said Tuesday commercial flights often carry cargo, so there are concerns restrictions could affect trade. Quebec Premier Francois Legault likened the debate to this time last year, when pressure began for Trudeau to close the border due to the arrival of the pandemic in Canada. The closures didn't end up coming until mid-March — after thousands of spring break travellers from Quebec had already left, and returned, kicking off the first wave of the pandemic in that province. He said he didn't understand why it is taking so long for Trudeau to act this time around. "Each day there are travellers arriving, each day that goes by there’s an added risk," Legault said in French. "So there’s an urgency to act." The National Airlines Council, which represents the largest airlines in Canada, said Tuesday despite concerns about winter travel, international air service is down 90 per cent, and domestic service has been cut by 80 per cent. Case numbers continued to come down in much of Manitoba, but officials there also want tougher border controls, and have decided to put some in place themselves — starting Friday, all out-of-province arrivals will have to self-isolate. Premier Brian Pallister said the move was needed given the spread of COVID-19 variants and the slowing of vaccine supplies. No doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive in Canada this week, and there will be a reduction in deliveries next week too as the company retools a production facility in Europe. The slowdown has seen provinces warn of running out of vaccines, and delaying second doses or even getting first ones into the arms of some priority populations, an issue they've blamed entirely on the federal government. An independent effort by researchers in Saskatchewan to track vaccine delivery and administration in Canada estimates about 77 per cent of the 1.1 million doses received so far have been administered. During an emergency debate Tuesday night, Procurement Minister Anita Anand told the House of Commons that Pfizer has assured her it will ramp up its deliveries once its plant is upgraded and will still meet its contractual obligation to supply Canada with four million doses by the end of March. Another two million doses are scheduled from Moderna by that time. With those two vaccines alone, Anand said the country remains on track to meet the government's goal of vaccinations for every willing Canadian by the end of September. If Health Canada authorizes any of the other five vaccine candidates for which the government has contracts, she said that schedule could be accelerated. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole criticized Trudeau for suggesting earlier in the day that Canada is "in good shape" when it comes to the vaccine supply. "He thinks we're in good shape when Canadians will only receive eight per cent of the vaccines his government promised Canadians just last month," O'Toole said. "If this is what the prime minister considers good shape ... what does he consider terrible shape? Three per cent?" Green MP Elizabeth May urged opposition parties to "turn the temperature down," arguing that it's "a remarkable achievement of modern science that vaccines exist for something that we didn't even know about a year ago." Still, she asked Anand if there's a link between Pfizer's call for more favourable tax treatment from the Canadian government at the same time as it is delaying the supply of its vaccine. Anand said the only things she has discussed with Pfizer is its contractual obligations and the delivery schedule for the vaccine. "I have not discussed any other matter with the vaccine suppliers at all." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. — with files from Morgan Lowrie, Mia Rabson, Steve Lambert Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press