A police officer's body camera caught the dramatic moments immediately after the Christmas Day explosion in Nashville, Tennessee. (Dec. 29)
A police officer's body camera caught the dramatic moments immediately after the Christmas Day explosion in Nashville, Tennessee. (Dec. 29)
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
Pfizer's temporary slowdown of COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Canada is forcing Quebec to make adjustments to its short-term vaccination goals, including reducing the number of doses to be administered. Pfizer is temporarily scaling back deliveries to Canada as part of plans to expand its long-term manufacturing capacity at its facility in Belgium. Last Friday, Health Minister Christian Dubé tweeted that Quebec would only receive about half of about 176,000 doses it was expecting to receive from the manufacturer within the next three weeks. In a statement released Tuesday, the Health Ministry said the province's target of providing 250,000 doses by Feb. 8, has been lowered to 225,000, but it is still promising to provide second doses within a maximum of 90 days to people who have had their first shot. The Quebec government has been criticized of late for its decision to not administer the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines within the manufacturers' prescribed time-frame — 21 and 28 days for the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines, respectively. Some long-term care residents at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Côte St-Luc have even threatened legal action, demanding that they receive their second dose as soon as possible. Health Minister Christian Dubé has insisted that spreading out first doses to as many people as possible is the right way to go. Quebec's Health Ministry says its plans to finish vaccinating people living in long-term care homes by next Monday remains unchanged, with 75 per cent of residents having already received a shot. Once that is done, much of the vaccination campaign's focus will shift to private seniors' homes, but the ministry says the 21,000 doses now set to be given out by Feb. 8 is fewer than originally planned. The province had planned to vaccinate 160,000 health-care workers by then, but that number is expected to be reduced to 127,000. The target for people living in remote regions remains the same.
MONTREAL — The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is highlighting the disconnect between the way Canadians see their role in the world and reality, according to international affairs experts. Ottawa is facing pressure to help poorer countries access COVID-19 vaccines, but it is also being pulled internally by provinces demanding their citizens be vaccinated as quickly as possible. The federal government says it will donate hundreds of millions of dollars to help developing countries vaccinate their citizens. But Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said Canada will do "whatever it takes'' to get more vaccine delivered to the country sooner — including, she said, by upping the price it is willing to pay. David Hornsby, professor of international affairs at Carleton University, said the pandemic has shed light on an inward-looking trend that has been developing in the country for decades. Over the past 25 to 30 years, Hornsby said in a recent interview, Canada has gone from having a “very broad and inclusive definition of national interest” to one that is “very narrow and very much focused and located on what is immediately relevant to Canadians.” Canada’s role in international organizations also declined over that period, he added. Canada is certainly not alone in wanting to help itself before it helps others. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, this week warned that the world is “on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure” as rich countries make deals to secure vaccine and drive up prices. While more than 39 million doses of vaccine have been administered in 49 higher-income countries, said Tedros, who goes by his first name, only one country that the WHO considers lowest income has given out any vaccine — a total of 25 doses. But on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada had made the right move by signing bilateral deals with drug makers — the exact sort of deals criticized by Tedros. "We took extra care to sign more contracts with more potential vaccine makers than most of our allies and indeed have secured more doses per person than any other country," Trudeau told reporters. Jason Nickerson, humanitarian affairs adviser for Doctors Without Borders, says he's worried wealthy countries such as Canada will vaccinate people who are at lower risk of developing serious cases of COVID-19 before people at high risk in poorer countries get their shots. "I think there's just a straight moral obligation to vaccinate people who are at a higher risk of developing the disease, developing severe complications and dying from it when we have a vaccine that could potentially prevent all of those things from happening," Nickerson said in a recent interview. Maxwell Smith, a medical ethicist at Western University and a member of Ontario’s Vaccine Distribution Task Force, said it makes sense that Canadian governments want to get vaccines as fast as they can, but Canadians, he said, also need to recognize that vaccines are a scarce global public good. "Everyone really needs it and would benefit from it,” he said in a recent interview. “That's not to say that Canada doesn't have a particular obligation to its citizens and shouldn't be trying to do what we're doing in getting as many vaccines as quickly as possible into this country. But I hope that it's being balanced against our obligations, also, to those in other countries and our obligations based in our humanity.” Federal International Development Minister Katerina Gould said she doesn't think the idea of inoculating Canadians quickly while helping other countries access vaccines is mutually exclusive. “We're going to ensure that we vaccinate our own population, but at the same time, support global multilateral efforts to vaccinate those who otherwise would not have access to a COVID-19 vaccine,” she said in an interview Monday. But Canada is facing criticism from groups that say it needs to act faster to support global efforts, especially because it has pre-purchase agreements for more doses of vaccine than any other country in the world. Anne-Catherine Bajard, a policy manager with Oxfam Canada, said Canada has made a strong commitment to COVAX, an international organization that aims to help lower-income countries access vaccines. But she'd like to see Canada start contributing to the COVAX vaccine pool immediately, rather than waiting to vaccinate all Canadians first. It's not just the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective, she said in an interview Friday. There’s also an element of self-interest. “We're not going to stop the pandemic if we do it one country at a time," she said. While the federal government has “secured access” to nearly 400 million doses, Gould said most of those doses remain hypothetical. Only two of the seven vaccines that Ottawa has the right to buy have been approved by Health Canada. “We don't actually have a closet full of hidden vaccines," she said. "These doses don't yet exist." Gould, who co-chairs a COVAX governance body, said Canada is one of the top five donors to the ACT-Accelerator, the international organization that runs COVAX. In total, the federal government said it has committed $865 million in funding to the organization in addition to any donations of surplus vaccine. While the federal government did not provide a timeline for that commitment, according to data from Gavi, the ACT-Accelerator's parent organization, Canada has committed to provide $600 million in direct funding between 2021 and 2025 and to provide $246 million to COVAX this year. And while Canada might be more inward-looking today than in generations past, Hornsby noted the country remains deeply integrated into the global economy and that many Canadians have family overseas. That means Canada can’t isolate itself from the rest of the world and only focus on vaccinating people here, he said. Finding a "happy medium" is difficult, he added. "There's going to be clear winners and clear losers." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Chief Tony Alexis wants to make it clear he does not begrudge Maskwacis the early vaccines the four First Nations received. His concern is about the process in Alberta. Alexis said three meetings last week between chiefs and staff with health officials from both the province and federal government gave no indication that any First Nation would see early arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine doses. They were informed that Elders 65 years and over on reserves would be the next to receive the vaccine. At this point, both long-term care facilities and front line health personnel on reserves had been vaccinated against the coronavirus. On Saturday, the third day of successive funerals on his First Nation, Alexis was told by one of his band members that Maskwacis had received the vaccine. He assured his community member that wasn’t the case, because it hadn’t been discussed at previous meetings. But it turned out that it was the case. “Everybody, whether you're Albertan or Canadian or some different part of the world, everyone is afraid. People are afraid and every leadership I know have been doing their best to keep things calm and try to eliminate the noise.” Alexis said “things like this create that noise. Experiences like this go back to examples like the residential schools, Sixties Scoop, leaving the Indigenous people out of that decision-making table.” A news release issued last night by Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson confirmed Maskwacis received a “limited number of doses” as they “are currently experiencing a serious rise in cases.” The combined population of the four First Nations—Louis Bull, Samson Cree, Montana and Ermineskin Cree—which comprise Maskwacis is 18,000. Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback told the media last Friday that nearly 10 per cent of the community were COVID-19 positive. More than five per cent of the population on Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation has COVID-19. Then yesterday, like everyone else, Alexis heard the announcement from Premier Jason Kenney that a cut by 20 to 80 per cent over the coming weeks in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meant a delay in vaccinating those in the next priority group, including First Nations and Métis Elders. “It’s disappointing. It’s disheartening,” said Alexis, both about the news and not being part of the discussion before the announcement was made. Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras was surprised by Kenney’s announcement. “In terms of the decisions, how things are rolling out, whose decision was it to put a hold on vaccines distribution to First Nations? We don’t know. I really don’t know. Like everybody else, I found out (Monday) morning. The First Nations are the most vulnerable population everywhere, so it doesn’t make sense to me,” said Poitras. Both Poitras and Alexis reference the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and say Health Minister Tyler Shandro needs to comply with it. NACI has “adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences” included in stage one of the COVID-19 roll out. Poitras points to Alberta Health statistics to emphasize the point: 7.1 per cent of First Nations in Alberta have been hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to 4.3 per cent of Albertans generally. After Kenney’s announcement, Poitras began a text conversation with Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller. She said Miller said he was unaware of the decision and did not know how the province had arrived at it. Poitras said she requested information from Miller on the national roll out of the vaccine. “The numbers don’t pan out. That’s the issue,” said Poitras. “If we’re not at that decision-making table, how do we know how many vaccines are being rolled out? How many are actually being distributed to who? Who are the priorities? I know they sent out a priority list, but now they’re changing that, putting First Nations on hold. Without our direct involvement how are we to know exactly what kind of decisions are being made?” Wilson said in his statement that First Nations were “particularly vulnerable.” He points out that Phase 1 will see Indigenous Elders living on reserve and Métis settlements vaccinated at 65 years of age and up while the rest of the Alberta population in that phase has to be 75 years or older. The priority list for Alberta has phase one divided into three timelines beginning in December 2020, with Phase 1B to begin in February 2021 and including First Nations and Métis Elders on reserves and settlements. Phase 2, which spans April to September, says “work to identify sequencing … is underway.” “We value the leaders’ input and measures taken to date by First Nations,” said Wilson. However, both Alexis and Poitras believe that First Nations have not had enough input. “We’ve been trying to keep the people calm. Trying to be supportive, trying to provide proper information. When you hear information coming from the general public and they know more than we do, as leaders being told we’re sitting at this important table. It’s disheartening,” said Alexis. “There needs to be a coordinated response where First Nations are involved and that we’re making these decisions together,” said Poitras. Alexis would like to see not only chiefs directly involved with Alberta politicians in the decision making, but also First Nations experts, such as Treaty 6 physicians James Makokis and Alika La Fontaine, weighing in. “There are experts that the chiefs would listen to their advice and support them at the same time. They would echo where our communities are at. Whether it’s this or anything else in government, our people need to be at those tables and a fair process needs to be put in place that we’re following. Right now what it does, it actually damages that conversation because (the communities) will look at their leadership that they're not doing enough,” said Alexis. He added that if that process isn’t solid and transparent, First Nations may be further ahead by operating on their own and advocating for themselves. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
Val-Brillant, l’école en musique La petite école primaire de Val-Brillant (95 élèves) va rejoindre un cercle très fermé : celui des établissements scolaires offrant un programme Arts-études en musique. Pour l’instant, seules neuf écoles primaires le font au Québec. Val-Brillant va donc devenir la dixième dès l’année scolaire 2021-2022, et la première dans l’Est. Il s’agit d’une progression logique pour cette école, qui proposait depuis une douzaine d’années déjà un programme de concentration en arts : des cours de musique étaient donnés sur les heures scolaires en partenariat avec le Camp musical du lac Matapédia. Mais la fermeture de ce dernier, couplée à la décision du ministère de l’Éducation de mettre fin à ce type de programmes en juin 2021, a poussé la direction de l’école à envisager un virage. « On était rendus à la croisée des chemins, explique la directrice Renée Belzile : on avait le choix de redevenir simplement une école avec un programme particulier en musique, ou de faire le grand saut vers un programme Arts-études officiel avec toutes les balises du ministère. » C’est la deuxième option qui a été retenue, en partenariat cette fois-ci avec l’École de musique du Bas-Saint-Laurent à Rimouski. Jusqu’à présent, les enfants pouvaient suivre des cours d’instruments (seuls ou en petits groupes) ou de chant choral. Bientôt, ils auront accès à de la formation auditive et des cours de musique d’ensemble. Pour obtenir la reconnaissance Arts-études, l’école doit permettre aux élèves inscrits de bénéficier d’un minimum de 20 % d’enseignement en musique par semaine durant la plage horaire scolaire. Bons pour les élèves… et les parents Selon Mme Belzile, le passage par l’école de Val-Brillant a été marquant pour de nombreux jeunes, certains étant depuis devenus enseignants de musique. Mais sans aller aussi loin, étudier la musique et devoir faire des prestations sur scène devant les amis et les parents permet d’améliorer confiance et estime de soi. « La fierté d’avoir accompli un gros projet qui sort des matières scolaires, comme par exemple une comédie musicale, ça va chercher des élèves qui ont parfois peu de valorisation au niveau des notes », ajoute la directrice tout en précisant qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un « programme élitiste » mais qu’au contraire, tout le monde est accepté. La moitié des élèves de l’école de Val-Brillant viennent déjà d’autres municipalités. Avec ce nouveau programme, Renée Belzile espère attirer de nouvelles têtes, tout en assurant que cela ne crée pas de conflit avec les autres écoles primaires du coin. « Plus on aura d’élèves, plus l’offre de cours va être diversifiée et intéressante », déclare-t-elle. Les parents y trouvent aussi leur compte, puisqu’ils n’ont pas à amener leurs rejetons à des cours de musique après les classes ou en soirée. Pas besoin non plus d’acheter un instrument sans savoir si l’enfant va apprécier en jouer, puisque l’école en prête des petits (violons, ukulélé…) qu’on peut ramener à la maison.Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
OTTAWA — Canada’s veterans ombudsman is calling on the federal government to reverse restrictions on mental-health services for veterans' families. Ombudsman Nishika Jardine’s demand is in a scathing report released today, a year after Ottawa cut off this federal funding for veterans' families, even when the family member needs treatment because of their loved one’s military service. That move followed outrage over Veterans Affairs Canada having paid for Christopher Garnier’s PTSD treatment while in prison because he was the son of a veteran, even though Garnier had been convicted of killing police officer in Halifax. Jardine’s report quotes several veterans and their family members about the harm those restrictions have done to them and their children, most of whom were receiving support before the change was made without notice. Some of those quoted also question how the government can justify the restrictions when Canadian Armed Forces commanders have repeatedly stressed how supporting military families at home contributes to successful missions abroad. Jardine says reversing the restrictions is a matter of fairness given the unique challenges facing veterans' families, including constant moves, long periods of separation and the stress of living with someone suffering from physical and mental injuries. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says all long-term care and high-risk retirement homes will receive vaccinations by Feb. 15 despite a shortage of Pfizer vaccines. As Morganne Campbell reports, the backlog is causing a delay in the province's rollout plan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left municipal councils in Queens and Lunenburg counties rethinking this year’s tax sales. The majority have either deferred them or cancelled them entirely for 2021, while others, such as the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL), was in the throes of deciding how to proceed last week. Municipalities auction off properties where taxes have been owing for several years as a means of recouping some of the outstanding payments. Typically, the municipalities hold the auctions within the first three months of a year, prior to their fiscal year-end. But as the pandemic continues to be a concern, this year will be different. The Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) has decided against having a tax sale for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which ends March 31, “due to the global health pandemic” according to a post on its web page. “I was not part of the decision. But I believe people may be feeling the repercussions of COVID-19 and perhaps people were unable to work,” explained RQM Mayor Darlene Norman. However, a tax sale has been scheduled for April 7. Heather Cook, RQM’s communications coordinator, reported that staff are preparing 60-day notices for those whose properties are scheduled for the sale. Fifty-seven properties are on RQM’s April 7 tax sale list. The value of outstanding taxes and charges is estimated at more than $170,000. All properties listed on this tax sale are in arrears of four years or more. Property owners still have time to pay off their taxes before their property is put up for sale, however. RQM normally has three tax sales per year. The dates for the next two have not been set. The Municipality of Chester (MOC) had also decided not to proceed with a tax sale during their 2020-21 fiscal year, but it has yet to commit to a timeline for an upcoming sale. According to Jennifer Webber, communications officer for MOC, council members have only discussed how they might proceed and have asked staff to investigate online bidding as a possible option. The number of eligible properties to go on the list was not available. In MODL, currently, there are 37 properties that would be included in a tax sale this fiscal year, including 16 residential properties, 17 resource properties, one commercial and three classified as forestry. Owners of 24 of the 37 properties appear not to be residents of MODL, according to a report to council on January 12 by Elana Wentzell, MODL’s director of finance. The municipality was looking to collect $123,531 in outstanding taxes. At the meeting, staff recommended that council agree to sell the properties through a tender process. However, councillors were uncertain how best to proceed. They discussed a variety of approaches including deferring the tax sale to later in the year, and taking out residential properties from the equation this year and deferring their sale until next year. Some councillors wondered about the optics of having the tax sale during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I realize that this time of year, and with everything going on, can be hard,” said Councillor Chasidy Veinotte. “I would like to be able to avoid reading on Facebook or seeing a headline in the local paper, ‘Municipal council proceeds with tax sale amid COVID-19 pandemic.” Councillor Kacy DeLong agreed. “It does seem particularly heartless in this moment of time. Where are people going to go?” she asked. In the end, it was agreed the council should seek the advice of the municipality’s solicitor. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
Rank, Book Title by Author Name, ISBN, Publisher 1. Bridgerton Collection Volume 1 by Julia Quinn - 9780063045118 - (Avon) 2. Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - 9780062424105 - (Avon) 3. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - 9780062424037 - (Avon) 4. The Scorpion’s Tail by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child - 9781538747292 - (Grand Central Publishing) 5. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn - 9780062424075 - (Avon) 6. To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn - 9780062424112 - (Avon) 7. An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn - 9780062424082 - (Avon) 8. When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn - 9780062424136 - (Avon) 9. Daylight by David Baldacci - 9781538761687 - (Grand Central Publishing) 10. The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher - 9781488076749 - (Graydon House Books) The Associated Press
As with businesses elsewhere in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has left companies in Queens County scrambling to adjust and become more lean and efficient. Strict provincial pandemic regulations motivated residents to shop local. The South Queens Chamber of Commerce is determined that they continue to do so. While at least some local businesses, such as Liverpool’s Main & Mersey Home Store and Coffee Bar and Lloyoll Prefabs in Brooklyn, are managing to pivot toward continued prosperity. Kerry Morash, the chamber’s president, suggested that most businesses in Liverpool so far have been able to ride out the pandemic. But like those elsewhere they’re looking forward to a new start. “A lot of the businesses went above and beyond the rules and regulations that had been set out by the province – sanitation, masks, everything,” he said. “Businesses were very vigilant and made consumers feel as comfortable as possible.” Morash is among others in anticipating that the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine will be a shot in the arm of local business. “Once they get started with the vaccinations, I’m hopeful things will ramp up after that and we will have a brighter 2021,” he said. Meanwhile, business owners such as Shani Beadle of Main & Mersey Home Store and Coffee Bar, on Main Street in Liverpool, are working to adjust. “We had to adapt, but we’re lucky because obviously Liverpool didn’t have a lot of cases.” As with other years, summer residents returned for the season, and other visitors from the Nova Scotia “bubble” also visited. “We had people traveling from all over Nova Scotia here. People that haven’t come to Liverpool for years were coming down because of the bubble, spending their money here. And so we had all of these people that discovered us. For us, that’s great,” said Beadle. She and her husband, Andreas, opened Main & Mersey in 2017, after they moved from London, UK. They began with the interior décor portion of the business and added a small coffee bar in 2019 with outdoor space. “I’ve been a business owner for a long time. I had a manufacturing business in the U.K., so I’m very familiar with having to adapt a business formula on a regular basis,” said Beadle. The coffee shop consists of a small bar and a large communal table. not allowing for a lot of people under normal circumstances. And government health restrictions have meant that available seating has had to be reduced even further. With the onset of winter, the owners closed off their outdoor space with corrugated plastic, so that patrons might use it on warmer days. And with the Christmas tree gone in the home décor part of the business, they were able to add another table. Lloyoll Prefabs meanwhile is also managing to ride out the COVID storm, according to its president, Jonathan Lloy. The company, which builds premium modular homes in Liverpool, has been in operation since 2010. Lloy admitted being concerned early on in the pandemic last year about what the summer and fall were going to look like. “From a sales perspective, many customers were limited in their ability to travel to Nova Scotia, which was a deterrent to start some projects,” said Lloy. But contrary to initial expectations, there was “a surprising surge in demand and we were fortunate that opportunity came our way.” The businessman indicated that the biggest adjustment through COVID-19 was working with the “market volatility, especially when it comes to commodities.” Prices for materials skyrocketed and the shortcomings of the supply chains they use were brought to the forefront. “We had to start buying materials way ahead of schedule and materials were costing a lot more and some were just unavailable,” he said. “This year we bought a fireplace from Italy and it was four months behind getting here. We regularly buy cabinet products from New York and that has been a challenge.” While the company’s usual Canadian suppliers were struggling to keep supplies in stock. However, through it all, he said, the company has become leaner and better. It was able to purchase shaping equipment this year, allowing it to secure raw wood materials and mill it in-house, alleviating some of the reliance the business had on other companies. “This also allows us to grow the business a little bit. We can now employ more people to run this equipment specifically, that don’t necessarily have the training and experience to do some of the more technical things that we do,” added Lloy. “It opens things up to who we can hire, which is important when you are from a small area like we are.” Meanwhile, the company has managed to retain its existing component of 14 staff members, and hopes to employ another six workers by the end of summer. “We took some of our slower times and did some infrastructure work on the shop, did some organizing, made some improvements and now we’re really set up for a strong year in 2021,” said Lloy. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
Division 1 and 2 students at the Swan Hills School will participate in an Earth Rangers virtual presentation on January 22, 2021. Crescent Point Energy has sponsored this presentation at no cost to the school. According to information shared by an Earth Rangers representative, the presentation will include: · Real-time broadcasting from the Earth Rangers Centre · Curriculum-linked education information appropriate for grades 1 - 6 · An integration of technology like green-screens, video segments, and multiple camera angles to create a unique and immersive virtual experience · Interactive elements like trivia and a choose-your-own-adventure format to keep students attentive and engaged · Demonstrations by our beloved Animal Ambassadors · Featured local content, including conservation work happening to restore habitat for the Western Bumblebee in Saskatchewan Earth Rangers is a conservation organization that focuses on “instilling environmental knowledge, positivity, and the confidence to take action in every child in Canada.” They offer free programming for children to participate in at school, home, and in the community. Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette
WASHINGTON — Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden's choice as Treasury secretary, said Tuesday that the incoming administration would focus on winning quick passage of its $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, rejecting Republican arguments that the measure is too big given the size of U.S. budget deficits. “More must be done,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee during her confirmation hearing. “Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later.” Democrats voiced support for the Biden proposal while Republicans questioned spending nearly $2 trillion more on top of nearly $3 trillion that Congress passed in various packages last year. Various Republicans questioned elements of the Biden proposal such as providing an additional $1,400 stimulus check to individuals earning less than $75,000. They also objected to the inclusion of such long-term Democratic goals as boosting the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., argued that this was cause the loss of jobs and was coming at a time that thousands of small businesses such as restaurants had one out of business. Yellen said that the increase in the minimum wage would help millions of frontline American workers who are risking their lives to keep their communities functioning and often working two jobs to put food on the table. “They are struggling to get by and raising the minimum wage would help these workers,” she said. Despite policy differences, Yellen, who would be the first woman to be Treasury secretary after being the first woman to be chair of the Federal Reserve, is expected to win quick Senate confirmation. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who will become chairman when Democrats take over the Senate, said it was his hope that Yellen could be confirmed by the full Senate as soon as Thursday. Biden last week unveiled a $1.9 trillion relief plan that would provide more aid to American families and businesses and more support for vaccine production and distribution as well as providing support for states and localities to avoid layoffs of teachers and first responders. Many Republicans raised the soaring budget deficits as a reason to be cautious in passing further relief. Last year, the budget deficit climbed to a record $3.1 trillion. Yellen said that she and Biden were aware of the country's rising debt burden but felt fighting the pandemic-recession was more important currently. “Right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big,” she said. “In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time.” Yellen was nominated to be chair of the Fed by Barack Obama and she stepped down in February 2018 after President Donald Trump decided not to nominate her for a second four-year term. Since leaving the Fed, Yellen has been a distinguished researcher at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank . In the financial disclosure forms filed with the committee, Yellen listed more than $7 million in speaking fees she has received from a number of top Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup since leaving the Fed. Yellen has agreed to recuse herself from Treasury matters involving certain firms that have compensated her for her talks. Yellen's Treasury nomination was supported in a letter from eight previous Treasury secretaries serving both Republican and Democratic administrations. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Ontario plans to implement a digital evidence management system for police that it says will allow officers to focus on crimes and prevention rather than pushing paper. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the cloud-based system will allow police to securely capture, store, manage and share digital evidence. "With this new system in place, more time will be given to core police work because less time will be spent administering the evidentiary paper trail," Jones said in a virtual news conference on Tuesday. Axon Public Safety Canada, which makes body cameras and Tasers, won the contract for the project, Jones said, although she declined to say how much it is going to cost. The evidence system will allow easy storage and sharing of large audio files, videos and photographs that can be securely sent to Crown attorneys and other police forces, she said. Gone will be the days of handing off USB sticks and DVDs to the courts, Jones said. The program will be made available to provincial enforcement agencies including the Ontario Provincial Police, First Nations police, and the Correctional Services Oversight and Investigations unit. Two Ontario forces, Peel Regional Police and Toronto police, already use a digital management system from Axon that will be compatible with the provincial one, Jones said. Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said the digital evidence system has reduced "tremendous amounts of administrative work" for officers. "The benefits from modernizing our digital systems include a seamless and efficient and secure exchange of files in evidence from the police service to our partners in court," Duraiappah said. Five years ago, as Toronto police began looking into the use of body-worn cameras, concerns were raised about storing evidence on the cloud while the physical servers were located elsewhere. It proved a particularly thorny issue if those servers were located in the U.S. due to that country's Patriot Act, which allows American authorities to access data that is stored in their country. Jones said the new evidence management system would be based in the province. "We have assurances and we made sure the cloud-based (system) is Ontario-based," Jones said. Vishal Dhir, a managing director of Axon, said the infrastructure used is based in Canada. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Skoflek Electric is a Merritt-based electrical company which offers both residential and commercial services. Company owner Bela Skoflek and Head Electrician Bryan Tolmie tackle electrical projects big and small in the Nicola Valley, providing quality workmanship at a price that won’t break the bank. Already a working electrician, Skoflek found himself feeling unfulfilled with the direction his life and career were taking. When he suddenly faced a huge personal hurdle, he decided it was time to make a change. “My goal in the trade was always to get to the point of having my own company,” said Skoflek. “The catalyst that actually made me follow through was getting sick. I was diagnosed with lymphoma a few years ago. At that point I re-evaluated where I was at and where I wanted to be.” Although Skoflek made a decent wage as a certified tradesman, he felt that there was more to life than punching a clock for someone else. “I was at a pretty good point in my career, had full time work with a local contractor, but still didn't feel fulfilled,” explained Skoflek. “Working long hours, making good money, but sacrificing time with my son and family. I was off work for nearly a year doing treatment and used that time to plan the company. I didn't have much money, but I had time. So, I got the extra education I needed, came up with a company logo and design, learned about bookkeeping, taxes, etc.” Skoflek beat lymphoma and was able to return to work after finishing his treatment period. It was at this time that Skoflek launched his company in Sept. 2019. “It was terrifying and exciting all at once,” said Skoflek. “It was a slow start but I had enough to make overhead. I had learned to live a bare bones lifestyle while sick. My first jobs were from friends and family who were supporting me, something I will forever be thankful for, and my focus was to provide quality work without price gouging.” Through word of mouth from satisfied clients and the use of social media marketing and advertising, Skoflek began to see requests for his services increase and his business become busier. “Word of mouth and Facebook marketing helped me start getting new clients and my mission stayed the same, quality work, reasonable rates. Everything snowballed from there, but I maintained the low overhead lifestyle,” said Skoflek. “This allowed me to pour all the income back into the company. Getting better tools and equipment to streamline work. Radio ads and better marketing to bring in more customers. Soon it became bigger than I could handle alone.” Suddenly, Skoflek Electric saw its first expansion, bringing in Bryan Tolmie to help shoulder the workload. “Bryan joined the team, and he was a perfect fit,” said Skoflek. “He had ample experience in the trade and is great with client interaction. We were very like-minded.” Both were of the same opinion that they should be a solid company providing reliable work at reasonable rates, and that family should always come first even alongside business responsibilities. “We are able to achieve this by streamlining workflow and keeping overhead low,” explained Skoflek. “The end goal of every job is to have the customer satisfied with the work performed, it has never been about money. I am able to take my son to school and pick him up every day. That's what it is all about. Going forward we want to sustain the same mindset and grow it. We want to help Merritt grow and give back to the community that fostered our company.” When it comes time to relax and blow off steam, the lifelong Merrittonian still keeps up with his favourite hobby – skateboarding. “I usually go around two times a week in the summer,” said Skoflek. “The non-competitive aspect is what drew me to it, I was never big on team sports. Skateboarding was a way to do something together with friends while everyone is doing completely independent things.” That ability to be successful and have fun independent of others has helped Skoflek build a business others have already come to trust in the less than two years since he started. If you are in need of an electrician, you can contact Skoflek Electric at 250-315-3507, or find them on Facebook at ‘Skoflek Electric’. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault is calling on the federal government to ban all non-essential flights to Canada.Legault said Tuesday he's worried that people travelling to vacation destinations will bring new variants of COVID-19 back to the province.While the premier said it may be difficult to determine which flights are essential, he said it's clear that flights to sun destinations are non-essential.His comments came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in the day urged Canadians to cancel any plans they have for an international trip in the near future. Trudeau warned the federal government could at any time, and without warning, enforce new restrictions on travellers returning to Canada.Quebec on Tuesday revised its COVID-19 vaccination schedule as a result of the expected slowdown in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments.The Health Department said it would lower its target of administering 250,000 doses by Feb. 8, to 225,000 doses, adding it expects to have received 1,203,100 doses of approved vaccine by March 29.Last week, Canada learned production of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be reduced over the next month in order for Pfizer to expand its facilities.Quebec says it will maintain its plan to deliver booster shots within 90 days of the first injection.The vaccination announcement came as public health authorities in the province reported the lowest number of new infections in a single day since early December.Quebec today reported 1,386 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 55 additional deaths linked to the virus, including 16 deaths within the preceding 24 hours.The number of hospitalizations rose by nine from the day before to 1,500, the Health Department said, while the number of people in intensive care declined by five from the previous day, to 212.Quebec has reported 245,734 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,142 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic.Health Minister Christian Dube on Monday boasted the province had met its target of vaccinating 75 per cent of long-term care residents, with the remainder expected to be inoculated by Jan. 25.Officials say people living in private seniors residences across the province are next in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic who was jailed at the weekend, on Tuesday released a video in which he and his allies alleged that an opulent palace belonged to the Russian leader, a claim the Kremlin denied. The allegations, which first surfaced in 2010 when a businessman wrote about them to then-President Dmitry Medvedev complaining of official graft, come as Navalny's supporters urge people to join nationwide protests on Saturday. Reuters reported in 2014 that the estate in southern Russia had been partly funded by taxpayer money from a $1 billion hospital project.
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.Supporters of the 45th U.S. President gathered in West Palm Beach, Fla. to greet Trump’s motorcade when it arrived in the city.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford appealed to U.S. president-elect Joe Biden today for help securing more COVID-19 vaccines for Ontario. Ford expressed frustration about a delivery slow down of the Pfizer-Biotech shot that will see Ontario receive no doses next week and thousands less over the next month. Ford appealed to Biden to share a million doses of the Pfizer shot, which is manufactured in Michigan. He also expressed frustration with Pfizer executives about the delays and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ramp up pressure on the company to deliver more of the shots to Canada. Ontario says its weekly deliveries of the Pfizer-BioTech COVID-19 vaccine will be cut by as much as 80 per cent over the next month. The federal government says shipments are expected to get back to normal levels in late February and early March. The province still expects to meet its goal of providing the first dose of the vaccine to all of its long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers by Feb. 15. That goal has already been achieved in COVID-19 hot spots including Toronto, Peel Region and York Region. A total of 224,134 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province. Ontario reported 1,913 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 46 more deaths linked to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott said that due to a technical issue at Toronto Public Health, there was likely an underreporting of cases today. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
CHARLOTTETOWN — Prince Edward Island's premier says public health orders should soon be eased across the province because of its low COVID-19 infection rate. "At a time when other jurisdictions are experiencing tightening restrictions and increased lockdowns, we are in the very fortunate and enviable situation to be looking at the days ahead to see an easing of restrictions within our borders," Dennis King told reporters Tuesday. But King said it won't be until at least mid-February before the Island re-enters the Atlantic bubble, which allows residents to travel freely between regional boundaries. "At this time, as a province, we are not comfortable moving forward with re-entering the Atlantic Bubble," King said. Health officials in Prince Edward Island reported two new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison said the new cases involved a woman in her 40s who is a contact of a previously reported case, and a woman in her 20s who recently travelled outside Atlantic Canada. She said there are now seven active reported cases on the Island. Morrison, however, said she's concerned by the situation beyond P.E.I.'s borders. "The situation in Canada remains concerning, with over 715,000 cases and 18,000 COVID-related deaths," she told reporters. "Since Jan. 1, New Brunswick reported 372 new cases, Nova Scotia 60 new cases, P.E.I. has had 12 since Jan. 1, and Newfoundland and Labrador reported six new infections. "Our friends and neighbours in New Brunswick are working hard to contain the spread of COVID-19, reporting 89 new cases in the last three days. They currently have over 300 active cases — the most since the pandemic began," she said. P.E.I. has reported 110 COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic. Indoor private gatherings are limited to members of a household plus ten people, while most businesses are still required to operate at 50 per cent capacity. The restrictions are scheduled to remain until Jan. 25. Morrison said that as of Monday, 5,910 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered on P.E.I., including 1,407 second doses. "By the end of this week, everyone living and working in long-term care and community care facilities will have received their first dose of the vaccine," she said. "They will start receiving their second dose next week." Morrison said the anticipated slowdown in the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will have very little impact on the Island. "The Pfizer slowdown means that we may not get a shipment of the product for one week, on Jan. 25. That shipment contains 975 doses. However, we will get two shipments of that same amount in the middle of February," she said. "Given the fact that we have been holding back the second dose of vaccine, and we expect the increased supply in February, we are confident that we have enough vaccine to continue with our original plan." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. — By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton. The Canadian Press
The Better Business Bureau is warning British Columbians about a scam making the rounds offering one free year of Netflix. So far, BBB has received more than 100 reports via Scam Tracker about a text message tricking consumers by offering the streaming service for free. “You receive a text message that says: “Due to the pandemic, Netflix is offering you a free year of service to help you stay at home. Click the link to sign up.” The link takes consumers to a website where they are asked to fill out personal information and add a method of payment,” reads a release from BBB. However, the website is not associated with Netflix, and those signing up are sharing their personal information with scammers, running the risk of payment fraud and identity theft. “[The scammers] said no other money would be taken out of my account again,” one victim reported. “Then, about a week later, they took $51.02, and I called and asked for a refund. They told me three days at first. Then, after three days I called back, and they told me seven to ten business days. It’s been ten business days. And now I have no refund.” To avoid being scammed, the BBB recommends consumers do their research and take precautions. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald