House Democrats prosecuting President Donald Trump’s impeachment wrapped up their opening arguments Thursday warning that acquitting the former president could have lasting consequences for the country. (Feb. 11)
House Democrats prosecuting President Donald Trump’s impeachment wrapped up their opening arguments Thursday warning that acquitting the former president could have lasting consequences for the country. (Feb. 11)
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
Moose Jaw police have arrested a third man they believe was involved in a serious assault and robbery last week. Last Friday, police were called to the first block of Stadacona Street W. in the southern Saskatchewan city with a report of an assault. They didn't find a victim or any suspects there, but were called to Moose Jaw's Dr. F.H. Wigmore Hospital, where they found a man who had suffered serious head injuries in an assault. Police executed a search warrant at a home on the first block of Stadacona Street W. Two people were arrested and a warrant was issued for the third. Police said that man was arrested on Thursday. He's expected to appear in court on Friday. All three accused face attempted murder and robbery charges. Moose Jaw police said the man who was assaulted has since been released from hospital and is expected to recover. They thanked the public for their help in sharing posts, providing information and submitting tips to Crime Stoppers.
Ontario’s first and only diamond mine is moving to the next phase of its closure plan with the appointment of Golder, a Canadian-owned engineering and environmental services consulting group, as the primary contractor who will oversee the remaining demolition and site rehabilitation. Victor Mine, owned by The De Beers Group, is located approximately 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat in the James Bay Lowlands. It opened in 2008 as only the second diamond mine in Canada. The open pit operation also included its own airstrip located on the property. It ceased mining operations in June 2019. De Beers reports that as of the end of 2020, approximately 65 per cent of the on-site infrastructure has been safely demolished, and around 40 per cent of the site has been rehabilitated with more than 1.2 million trees planted on the property since 2014. The De Beers Group will remain accountable for the site, and will retain responsibilities for achieving site closure objectives, keeping in line with government regulations, as well as relationships with Indigenous communities, the company stated in a release. All permits and licences remain in De Beers’ name. A small site-based oversight team will work directly with Golder personnel throughout the process, in addition to the De Beers employees who will continue to be responsible for daily environmental monitoring. Golder was chosen after what De Beers called an “extensive commercial process” which was undertaken throughout 2020. Golder’s responsibilities will include the remaining closure activities, as well as the day-to-day management of the site. They will also handle the remaining infrastructure demolition work, and site rehabilitation through 2023. “A similar model, hiring a prime contractor, was used during construction of Victor Mine, which opened ahead of schedule and on budget,” said Maxwell Morapeli, head of closure for De Beers. “Golder has a strong track record of successful closure and rehabilitation of industrial sites around the world, including working with local communities where they operate. We look forward to benefiting from their experience as we continue the responsible closure of Victor Mine.” Included in its contract with the De Beers Group is a commitment from Golder to work with local Indigenous contracting companies to provide necessary on-site services such as catering, housekeeping, and security. Heavy equipment operators and other personnel will be hired from the Attawapiskat First Nation and will be provided training and other opportunities. Golder and its sub-contractors have also hired 19 former De Beers Victor Mine employees to continue on-site work. “We are proud to have been selected to lead the responsible closure of the Victor Mine,” said Greg Herasymuik, Golder's Canadian Region president. “As we manage activities at site, we are committed to providing employment opportunities and to continue involving the local community.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
BEIJING — China is increasing its defence spending by 6.8% in 2021 as it works to maintain a robust upgrading of the armed forces despite high government debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A national budget report issued Friday said China would spend 1.355 trillion yuan ($210 billion) on defence in the coming year. That’s up from 1.3 trillion yuan ($180 billion) last year representing a 6.6% boost, the lowest percentage increase in at least two decades. The military budget has dipped during periods of slower economic growth, but has also been dropping steadily from the double-digit percentage increases over years as the increasingly powerful military matures and rapid expansion of what is already the world’s second largest defence budget is no longer required. The lavish spending increases of years past have given China the second-largest defence budget in the world behind the U.S. With 3 million troops, the world’s largest standing military has been steadily adding aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighters to its arsenal. The government says most of the spending increases go toward improving pay and other conditions for troops while observers say the budget omits much of China’s spending on weaponry, most of it developed domestically. China’s military is largely designed to maintain its threat to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, although it has also grown more assertive in the South China Sea, the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and elsewhere. The U.S., whose defence spending is estimated to run to about $934 billion between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, has complained of a lack of transparency in China's defence programs, fueling speculation that Beijing aims to supplant America as the primary military power in East Asia. The People's Liberation Army exercises a strong political role as the military branch of the ruling Communist Party. President and party leader Xi Jinping heads the government and party commissions that oversee the armed forces. In his address to Friday's opening session of the ceremonial legislature, the National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said the government would “thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the armed forces and the military strategy for the new era, (and) ensure the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces." “We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security, and development interests of our country" Li said. The Associated Press
A Brandon father is accusing the provincial government of “blatant discrimination” against his teenage son, who has Down syndrome, because Manitobans with disabilities have been left off the COVID-19 immunization priority list. Bruce Strang said he filed a formal complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission this week to pressure the province to edit its vaccination plan. “Disability rights shouldn’t be the first thing to go in a time of crisis,” Strang, a father of two, told the Free Press. “It’s unethical in my view. It’s unconscionable in my view and I can’t see how a medical professional can advocate for a plan that discriminates actively against people with disabilities.” Strang’s oldest son, Sean, 16, hasn’t been in a classroom — let alone, left his family home for any other reason — for nearly a year because of his immunocompromised status. (While Health Canada has approved Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for anyone 18 and older, Pfizer-BioNTech doses can be given to patients as young as 16.) Health-care workers, seniors and staff in long-term care facilities, adults who are 80 or older and the elderly in remote and isolated Indigenous communities make up the priority population in Manitoba. The province has started to vaccinate the general population, based solely on age. Strang said his son should not get priority over an 85-year-old who lives in a nursing home, but it doesn’t make sense that Sean can expect a vaccine at the same time a healthy teenager can. People with Down syndrome are nearly five times more at risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization and 10 times more likely to die after contracting the virus in comparison to the general population, according to a U.K. study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in autumn. The population’s unique genetics and predisposition to respiratory illnesses are believed to be contributing factors. Ready for My Shot, a countrywide campaign, is calling on all jurisdictions to clearly identify adults with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities as high priority patients, citing that research. Only the Northwest Territories has explicitly opened up vaccine appointments to adults with disabilities. “I would love to be able to offer vaccine to everybody — everyone in Manitoba, but, certainly, everybody who’s at any level of higher risk. We just don’t have that luxury until we have more supply,” said Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force, when pressed on the subject during a news conference Wednesday. Reimer said all health conditions that put people at a higher risk, including Down syndrome, will be considered as more doses become available. Mike Waddingham, an organizer with Ready for My Shot, called that reasoning — that this is a supply-linked issue — “a red herring.” “You either accept that people with Down syndrome are at higher risks and therefore should be prioritized with other people who are high risk, like elderly people or Indigenous people, or you don’t,” said Waddingham, when reached by phone in Burnaby, B.C., Thursday. Given the commission complaint process is a lengthy one, Strang suspects the immunization issue will have passed by the time his grievance is resolved; nevertheless, he said the act of filing a complaint sends an important message. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 76,438 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,168,138 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,720.79 per 100,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,614,020 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 82.94 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,842 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 37,590 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.518 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 60.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 17,794 new vaccinations administered for a total of 490,504 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 57.324 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.83 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 30,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 784,828 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 53.429 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 86.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,408 new vaccinations administered for a total of 82,579 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.97 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 116,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.79 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,493 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,090 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 71.314 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 112.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 10,948 new vaccinations administered for a total of 266,231 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.479 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 96.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 9,042 new vaccinations administered for a total of 298,851 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.238 per 1,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.61 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 18,158 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 435.12 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 96.07 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 360 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,753 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 355.136 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 57.54 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
“I want to say something to the three of you today,” Saskatchewan Justice Gerry Allbright told the grieving family members of murder victim Mark Douglas Jonson, 61. “Mark Jonson is not just a name to me. He was a person loved. I have a picture of Mark in front of me,” said Justice Allbright, adding that the victim’s daughter and two sisters brought Mark to life through their compelling victim impact statements. “He was a man who was loved. He was a man who cared about others in society and he cared about those who were down and out,” said Justice Allbright in Battlefords Court of Queen’s Bench March 4. “Without you sharing those heartfelt and true comments with me I would not nave been able to see the man behind the photograph and I’m thankful for that and I’m sorry for your loss,” said Justice Allbright. Victim impact statements were read by Jonson’s daughter Lydia Holteniuk, and his sisters Lynette Jonson and Myrnel Williams. The three appeared by phone. Myrnel said her brother Mark Jonson taught her a lot – including his difficulties - during his life. “Sometimes the best teachers are people whose pasts have been a bit flawed because they can understand the human experience.” Lydia spoke about how painful and difficult it was to have her father brutally murdered. The court heard that Jonson was a generous and kind person who would help anyone. Jonson’s family said he struggled but was overcoming the challenges in his life and still had dreams to fulfill. A judge and jury trial for Nicholas Buck was previously scheduled to run Feb. 22 to March 5, 2021, but, instead, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder March 4. In July 2019, twenty-three-year-old Buck was arrested and charged with first-degree murder for the death of Jonson. Battlefords RCMP found Jonson deceased in a home on the 1500 block of 100 Street on July 5, 2019. RCMP Major Crime Unit North and North Battleford Forensic Identification Services investigated the murder. They issued a warrant for Buck’s arrest on July 11, 2019. He was arrested two days later. Police also arrested David Keller, 28, on July 11, 2019. Keller’s judge and jury trial is scheduled for October 2021 in Battlefords Court of Queen’s Bench. North Battleford Crown Prosecutor Steven Laroque said Jonson died the night of July 2 or the early morning of July 3, 2019. Laroque said there are several aggravating circumstances including the brutal nature of the senior’s murder in his home where he had the right to feel and be safe. For mitigating factors, Laroque said Buck is young and was victimized as a youth. “Gladue applies in this case, which requires special consideration.” Laroque said Buck cooperated with the police and confessed. In addition, by pleading guilty he spared the family from going through a lengthy trial and helped move the case through the court system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Defence Brian Pfefferle reiterated the significant Gladue factors present in Buck’s situation. “He has had a difficult life and was born into tragic circumstances,” said Pfefferle, adding that Buck suffered abuse, poverty and racism. A clean-cut looking Buck appeared by CCTV from the correctional centre wearing grey prison attire. Gone were the dreadlocks in the 2019 police-issued photo. Justice Allbright asked Buck if he had anything to say before sentencing, telling Buck that he is soft-spoken and to speak as loud as he can. Buck held his head slightly down throughout the proceedings but stood up when he delivered an apology to the victim’s family. “I’m not apologizing because I have to, I’m apologizing because I’m sincerely…” Buck said as he struggled to get more words out, many which were inaudible between his audible cries. Justice Allbright acknowledged Buck’s apology before sentencing him. “Buck’s background is a troubled background. The other side is the gravity of the level of violence visited on this poor man. “I sentence you to life without eligibility for parole until you serve at least 12 years,” said Justice Allbright. “In life everyone makes mistakes, some mistakes are very tragic,” added Justice Allbright. “You know well the tragic mistake you made that day when you caused the loss of life of Mr. Jonson. “You have then made some good decisions since then, the lengthy statement to police about your involvement in this matter, you come before the court entering a plea of guilty acknowledging the terrible harm your actions have caused and you have expressed remorse to the family members. I truly hope that your life proceeds in a way that can bring some honour to the memory, in this case, to Mark Jonson. “You have had a difficult upbringing and background,” added Justice Allbright. “That should help you to go forward from here. One of the family members said sometimes the best teachers are people whose pasts have been a bit flawed because they can understand the human experience. You, Mr. Buck, will hopefully follow in that, the very wise words the family member said.” firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Funding for this bridge between upstate New York and the Ottawa-Montreal region, seen here in March 2020, was included in a major U.S. pandemic-relief bill. Then it was chopped.(Christine Muschi/Reuters) This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians. What's new As American lawmakers inched toward approving a bill with an eye-watering 13-digit price tag, it was apparently a bridge to Canada that proved a bridge too far. Funds for upkeep of an existing cross-border bridge from Massena, N.Y., to Cornwall, Ont., were included in, and have now been stripped out of, a $1.9 trillion US pandemic-relief bill that Congress could pass any day. Less than one-millionth of the bill's overall price tag had originally been set to fund operations of the half-century-old Seaway International Bridge, jointly run by the Canadian and U.S. governments. The original version of the bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives guaranteed $1.5 million for several months' funding of the span, which connects upstate New York with the Ottawa-Montreal area through Cornwall, Ont. "It's a vital, necessary access point between our two countries," Steven O'Shaughnessy, the town supervisor of Massena. That funding is gone in the latest version of the bill, which could be advanced into law any day by the U.S. Senate. If adopted, the bill would become the first major piece of legislation passed during Joe Biden's presidency and would fund a vast array of causes, from reducing child poverty to expanding access to health care to sending out $1,400 relief cheques to Americans. What's the backstory Critics called it a 'bridge to nowhere' and accused top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, a New Yorker, of pork-barrel politics. But New York Republicans wanted the bridge funding, too.(Leah Millis/Reuters) So how did one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in American history, which will affect tens of millions of lives, stumble over a bridge that ends near the Cornwall BBQ in southeastern Ontario? As fate would have it, that bridge became a symbolic talking point for critics of the bill. Republicans pointed to it as an example of how myriad items unrelated to the pandemic are being crammed into a supposed rescue package. "We have millions upon millions of dollars for this lovely bridge to get from New York into Canada," Iowa Senator Joni Ernst said earlier this week, inflating the price of the bridge upkeep. "And, folks, how is that helping us fight COVID? "This is supposed to be a COVID recovery package. And somehow I don't see my Iowa taxpayers benefiting from those porky pricey projects." Never mind that funding for the bridge has previously been supported by New York lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and the area's House lawmaker, Elise Stefanik. It became Exhibit A of the idea that this 630-page bill, which would also allot billions of dollars to expanding health coverage and decreasing child poverty, is about more than COVID. It was derided on Fox News, in its news coverage and by its hosts, as a "bridge to nowhere." But it's more complicated than that. The bridge, which has seen toll revenues drop during the pandemic, sits in the district of New York Republican lawmaker Elise Stefanik. She has previously supported additional funding for the bridge but voted against the stimulus bill that included $1.5 million US for upkeep of the span.( Republican National Convention/Handout via REUTERS) Democrats have argued that most of this bill's items are, indeed, connected to COVID-19 — including that bridge funding. The pandemic has caused a spectacular drop in cross-border traffic, with a 70 per cent plunge in toll fees collected at the bridge since last year, said a U.S. official with the binational Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. So why not just fund the bridge in a transportation bill instead of a pandemic-relief bill? Blame the joys of the American legislative process. A generation of partisan gridlock has resulted in fewer bills becoming law. So majority parties have tended to rely more often on a legislative shortcut, a process called reconciliation, which allows a bill to pass with just 51 Senate votes instead of 60. The catch with that process is it can only be used once a year, on a budget bill. Which is how you wind up with all sorts of unrelated items crammed together in what is colloquially referred to in Washington as a Christmas tree bill. In the end, under this particular tree, there was nothing left for Cornwall and Massena. What's next Democrats pulled that item, and some other items, out of the Senate bill to help silence the naysayers and ease its adoption. The bridge is now funded through the end of this month thanks to $2.5 million delivered from the Canadian government last year. But the U.S. official said the cash originally in the bill would have supplied funding from next month to September. Without it, the official said, there could be an impact on its services and its essential workers. The bridge itself is in decent physical shape after millions of dollars in renovations over the last decade. Bernadette Clement, mayor of Cornwall, said she hopes it stays that way because it not only connects families and friends and the regional economy but also supports international trade, with hundreds of commercial trucks using it each day. The Seaway International Bridge joins Cornwall, Ont., and Massena, N.Y. It is a regional link between Canadian and American communities and also a commercial trade link that sees hundreds of trucks per day.(CP) "It is extremely important to our national economies," Clement said. "The maintenance of those bridges — it's critical for us." When asked what happens after this month, a Canadian government spokesperson said the bridge's critical needs will be met — but did not immediately say whether it might require an additional cash injection from Ottawa. It wouldn't be the first time political gridlock in the U.S. left Canada with the bill for a cross-border bridge.
Pressure is mounting on the federal government to cap interest rates on payday money lenders, which can charge nearly 50 per cent interest. Advocates say it’s often the most financially vulnerable using them and the pandemic economy has made things worse.
Fairy Creek blockade activists trying to protect some of the last stands of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island have won a three-week reprieve after a judge adjourned an injunction hearing on Thursday. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Power granted a request by the blockade’s legal team for more time to assemble materials necessary for a defence against the injunction. Forestry company Teal-Jones had sought the injunction to remove the Fairy Creek blockades at various entry points to its Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46 near the community of Port Renfrew until Sept. 4. However, Power said it was in the interest of justice to allow the delay, so defendants could better prepare and the court could set aside more time to hear the matter. Additionally, Power was unconvinced a short delay would be problematic given the blockade started in August 2020, but the forestry company did not apply for the injunction until Feb. 18, 2021. “I am not persuaded that I should find urgency or prejudice to the extent that the plaintiff now alleges,” Power said. “If, as the plaintiffs argued (that) there will be a prolonged civil disobedience campaign after a court order, it is, in my view, all the more important that any order that the court makes be made (based) on a full hearing.” The blockade activists want to save pristine old-growth forest at the headwaters of Fairy Creek with yellow cedars thought to be 1,000 years old, as well as other remaining groves on near Camper Creek, Gordon River, and in the Upper Walbran Valley. Pacheedaht First Nation elder Bill Jones, one of defendants named in the injunction application, says the Fairy Creek valley falls within the nation’s traditional territory and contains bathing pools with spiritual significance that are endangered by clear-cutting. It was also in the public’s interest to adjourn the hearing, said defence lawyer Patrick Canning. Demonstrators in solidarity with the Fairy Creek blockade gathered on the Victoria courthouse steps on Thursday, and in various other communities on Vancouver Island prior to the court decision. Lawyers representing Teal-Cedar, a division of Teal-Jones, had argued that Power should grant the injunction immediately because a delay would endanger road building in the region necessary before logging could occur later in the spring and summer. Any further delays due to the blockades would threaten timber harvesting and jobs at its mills, said the company’s lawyer Dean Dalke. The elected council of the Pacheedaht Nation were also aware of and did not oppose the proposed logging activity in the region, Dalke said. The request for an adjournment by the defence was to raise issues that wouldn’t, in fact, be a defence to an illegal blockade, he added. Regardless of whether the defence arguments “would pass muster,” it was important to allot enough time to adequately hear them, Power said. A two-day injunction hearing is now scheduled to start March 25. Teal-Jones did not respond to a request for comment following the hearing decision before Canada’s National Observer’s publication deadline. Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
A Winnipeg woman is the lead plaintiff for a $750-million class-action lawsuit against the biggest bank-owned brokerage in Canada, claiming it failed to pay vacation pay to her and many other investment advisers for years. According to a statement of claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, RBC-Dominion Securities allegedly breached its legal duties by not fairly compensating many of its nearly 1,500 current advisers across the country, as well as those it previously employed. The claims have yet to be tested or proven in court. It is expected that RBC-DS will defend against the action and deny any allegations in court. Leigh Cunningham, a veteran adviser who spent 26 years at the company’s Winnipeg office and was its vice-president and director, is the lead plaintiff. Cunningham alleges she hadn’t been receiving at least six per cent vacation pay on her full income for decades. “But it’s not just about me,” she said, answering questions from the Free Press at a news conference held inside Manitoba Club Thursday. “I’m trying to help everyone else who was in the same position as me and who now could hopefully be helped with the outcome of this case. “It’s unfair that this happened and the culpability should only be on RBC for letting it get to this.” In an emailed statement Thursday, RBC Wealth Management’s director of communications Louise Armstrong said, “everyone who works at any RBC company is fairly compensated.” “The policies that apply to the employees involved in the action state that their compensation includes vacation pay and statutory holiday pay,” she said. Armstrong declined to provide further comment, adding their statements of defence have not yet been filed because the action has not been certified by court. Cunningham is being represented by a team of lawyers out of Toronto. They include Stephen Moreau, a partner at Cavalluzzo LLP; David O’Connor of Roy O’Connor LLP and Daniel Lublin of Whitten & Lublin. Cunningham’s lawyers are claiming for $750 million in general damages and $50 million in punitive damages from RBC-DS for the lawsuit. Asked where that number came from, they told the Free Press, that’s because the amount of vacation and holiday pay varies from region to region across Canada. “It’s a very hard calculation to make because we’re talking about 13 provinces and territories, who all have their own employment standards,” said Moreau, one of Cunningham’s lawyers. “So, this is the number we believe is best from what we have gathered. As we move forward, we will continue to quantify the level of damages for our case.” In Manitoba, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation with vacation pay of four per cent from their gross wages, per provincial employment standards. After one year of employment, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation and vacation pay of four per cent from their gross earnings. In five years time, vacation rises to at least three weeks, and vacation pay increases to six per cent of gross wages. For Cunningham, it’s also a “systematic problem” — stemming from the type of compensation that financial advisers receive for their work, based mostly on commissions and bonuses. “When I saw that RBC was reporting such large profits last week, I wanted people to know that it’s the advisers who make a lot of that happen,” she said. “Me, personally, I was so focused on my career and how that was going and progressing that I really didn’t even see this happening... But the onus for that shouldn’t have to be on me.” Cunningham’s lawsuit was served to RBC around December, with a notice of action made in 2019. It was not made public until Thursday. It is one of five proposed class actions launched against several banks and insurance companies since early 2019 that are seeking a cumulative $1.2 billion for vacation pay allegedly owed to current and former employees. Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers on Thursday approved a $6.6 billion plan aimed at pressuring school districts to return students to the classroom before the end of the school year. The bill does not order school districts to resume in-person instruction and it does not say parents must send their kids back to the classroom if they don’t want to. Instead, the state will dangle $2 billion before cash-strapped school boards, offering them a share of that money only if they offer in-person instruction by the end of the month. School districts have until May 15 to decide. Districts that resume in-person learning after that date won’t get any of that money. “We need to get the schools reopen. And I know it’s hard, but today we are providing powerful tools for schools to move in this direction,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who pleaded with his school district to accept the money and offer in-person instruction. Most of California's 6.1 million students throughout 1,037 public school districts have been learning from home since last March because of the pandemic. Frustrated parents and politicians have been clamouring for schools to return students to the classroom for months. But many school boards have been reluctant, facing opposition from teachers unions worried about coronavirus safety protocols and citing surveys from parents saying they are not comfortable sending their kids back to class in-person. “As a former math teacher for 13 years, we know that that’s the place we need our kids to be, but we’re afraid because you’re asking to put our own lives at risk and to put our families' lives at risk,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County. Nearly every lawmaker voted for the bill on Thursday, but many did so reluctantly, arguing it's too weak. The bill does not say how much time students should spend in the classroom, prompting fears some districts might have students return for just one day a week and still be eligible to get the money. And while the bill requires most elementary school grades to return to the classroom to get the money, it does not require all middle and high school grades to return this year. Republicans in the state Senate tried to amend the bill to say schools must offer at least three days per week of in-person learning, but Democrats in the majority rejected it. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has said he plans to sign the bill into law on Friday. Newsom faces a potential recall election later this year, fueled by anger over his handling of the fallout from the pandemic. He has travelled the state in recent weeks touting his efforts at reopening the economy, including a visit to an elementary school where he read to students as they sat behind plexiglass barriers on their desks. Scott Wilk, the Republican leader in the state Senate, said the bill was simply an effort by Democrats to give Newsom political cover so he can “get parents to believe he’s doing everything he possibly can for them.” “The truth is (this bill) doesn’t do anything to reopen our schools. ,” said Wilk, who voted for the bill along with most other Republicans. The bill has two sets of rules districts must follow to get the money. The first set applies to school districts in counties where the coronavirus is widespread. The second set of rules applies to districts in counties where the virus is not as widespread. To get the money, districts governed by the first set of rules must offer in-person learning through at least second grade by the end of March. Districts governed by the second set of rules must offer in-person learning to all elementary grades, plus at least one grade in middle and high school. However, the Newsom administration late Wednesday changed the standards that dictate which counties must follow which rules. The new standards mean most counties will have to follow the second set of rules requiring districts to offer in-person instruction for more grades. Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez criticized that decision as “a little dishonest.” Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, went further, saying he was “deeply concerned to see the goalposts already moving on this reopening plan just days after its unveiling.” “This change risks the unintended consequences of delaying return to classrooms and further eroding Californians' trust,” he said. The bill also includes $4.6 billion aimed at helping students catch up after a year of learning from home. Districts could use the money to extend the school year into the summer or they could spend it on counselling and tutoring. All districts would get this money, regardless of whether they offer in-person instruction. But the bill stated that districts must use at least 85% of that money for expenses related to in-person instruction. Adam Beam, The Associated Press
Renovations at Windsor's Assumption Church forge ahead as the first section of the building's interior gets restored. The church closed in 2014 due to safety issues and has been the subject of ongoing renovations. Five years later, it reopened its doors and welcomed back parishioners after a new roof was installed and asbestos was cleaned out. Now, officials leading the renovations said in a news release that dozens more renovations have taken place with attic work being completed and more interior work that includes the restoration of deteriorated ceiling and water damaged plaster, new stars on the ceiling and new stencils of decor work to replace the original. These are part of the church's Phase 1A. WATCH: Paul Mullins, a lawyer who is leading the restoration, gives an update The church says that the budget to complete Phase 2A renovations, which includes the east aisle ceiling and wall, is $1.65 million. The church is short $275,000. Following this will be Phase 2B and Phase 2C, which include the centre and west aisles, along with the sanctuary. Combined these phases are expected to cost around $3 million.
Elections for Hong Kong's legislature will likely be deferred for a second year to September 2022 as Beijing plans a major overhaul of the city's electoral system, a severe blow to remaining hopes of democracy in the global financial hub. The delay, which the South China Morning Post and other local media reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources, would be in line with a new effort by Beijing to ensure "patriots" are in charge of all public institutions in the former British colony. The National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, will pass the changes at its annual session which opened on Friday and will last a week.
American midfielder Johnny Cardoso scored his first senior goal for Internacionale, tying the score in the 30th minute of a 2-2 draw at Pelotas on Thursday night in Brazil's Campeonato Gaúcho, the first tier of Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul. The 19-year-old, born in Denville Township, New Jersey, scored on a snapped header from about 8 yards off a cross from Guilherme Pato following a corner kick to tie the score 1-1. Cardoso made his U.S. national team debut in November at Wales and also played against Panama later that month, both times as a second-half substitute. He was among 35 players picked Monday for the U.S. training roster ahead of Olympic qualifying in the North and Central American region. The U.S. opens against Costa Rica on March 18 at Guadalajara, Mexico. Twenty players will be on the final Olympic qualifying roster. Players must be born on Jan. 1, 1997, or later to be eligible for qualifying. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Japanese supercomputer simulations showed that wearing two masks gave limited benefit in blocking viral spread compared with one properly fitted mask. The findings in part contradict recent recommendations from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that two masks were better than one at reducing a person's exposure to the coronavirus. Researchers used the Fugaku supercomputer to model the flow of virus particles from people wearing different types and combinations of masks, according to a study released on Thursday by research giant Riken and Kobe University.
The tour of a high school for incoming Grade 9 students is an important part of the transition to the larger high school setting. After consultation with local public health officials those tours are continuing at Ecole St. Mary High School in Prince Albert. According to St. Mary Principal Mark Phaneuf, the annual tours are part of the job that reminds him that you can always see the next year and see hope. “We're back into that spot where we are bringing the Grade 8s from our school system in the afternoon for tours of our school and you see the excitement on their faces. Their eyes light up. They walk in and it is kind of wide eyed to the big high school in their opinion. But then they realize right now that one thing about St. Mary is that we are not trying to be like a small university but we are trying to be like a big elementary school to these kids,” Phaneuf said. He explained that it is about transitioning into high school for Grade 8 students. “So you see the excitement on their faces and you see some of the stress being relieved too when they are walking around the building because it doesn't seem so big anymore,” he said. The entire process has been vetted and approved through local public health including Medical Health Officer Dr. Khami Chokani. The school was able to complete tours last year before schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The protocols in place include bringing one class at a time for tours. “ In previous years we did school-wide tours with Grade 8 classes they would bring all the classes in at one time, I had a vice principal do a tour, another vice principal do a tour and I would do a tour. Now it’s kind of neat because we get to be focused on the group of kids that are with us right now,” Phaneuf said. The Grade 8 class tours started this Monday and Phaneuf expects them to run for the next two weeks to complete all of them. Phaneuf explained that another change approved by Chokani is a replacement for their traditional open house that would take place for two days beginning March 15, instead they are doing private school tours for up to two families at a time. “If families are interested and they don't attend our school system and they want to come to St. Mary or anybody really wanting to attend St. Mary next year Grade 9 through Grade 12 all they have to do is call our main office,” Phaneuf said. Last year's open house also occurred before schools closed to in person learning in March. The family school tours will also be beginning around the middle of March. The main office number is 306-953-7544 and if anyone is interested in a school tour he will personally make contact to set up the tours. “Those tours we anticipate will happen from March right through to April and possibly into May for the time to complete all of them,” He explained that it gives the advantage of being able to tour families with multiple children possibly entering the school next school year and things are a bit more informal on the tour. He clarified that these tours are for anyone wanting to attend St. Mary not necessarily in the Prince Albert Catholic School Division system. “We look forward to the opportunity to meet families. We have done the open house where we can at least meet the families and take them around the building but this will be a little more intimate and it will be an opportunity for people to maybe have a better understanding of what we are all about when they are trying to make their decision,” Phaneuf said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The White House is closely tracking an emergency patch Microsoft Corp has released, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday, after an unknown hacking group recently broke into organizations using a flaw in the company's mail server software. "We are closely tracking Microsoft’s emergency patch for previously unknown vulnerabilities in Exchange Server software and reports of potential compromises of U.S. think tanks and defense industrial base entities," Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden's national security adviser, said on Twitter.
Edmonton's mayor and city council are giving a thumbs down to the provincial government's budget, which cuts millions of dollars in infrastructure money to municipalities and post-secondary institutions. At a meeting Thursday, Mary Persson, Edmonton's chief financial officer, gave council the initial lowdown on how the cuts may impact the city's plans and economy. The provincial budget released last Thursday highlights projects that the government says will create thousands of jobs. But post-secondary institutions are expected to lose the equivalent of 750 full-time positions in 2021 and 2022, although the breakdown by school isn't available yet, Persson said. Mayor Don Iveson said cuts to colleges, universities and the public sector spell bad news for Edmonton. "It may very well be a jobs budget for Alberta, but it ain't a jobs budget for Edmonton," Iveson said Thursday after a council meeting. Coun. Ben Henderson said the forecast doesn't look good for the city. "I am really worried about the cuts to post-secondary in this city, which is very much part of what makes our city tick." The province plans to reduce the government workforce by 7.7 per cent over four years, with many of those positions in Alberta's capital city. The public sector is expected to lose more than 300 jobs next year. "I'm deeply puzzled by how this budget can be seen as a job creation budget," Henderson said during the meeting. "It does not look like that to me, sitting here in the city of Edmonton." 'It's actually just a declining staircase that continues in this budget' - Mayor Don Iveson The province says the budget will support more than 50,000 direct and 40,000 indirect jobs through to 2024. This includes new funding for 41 projects around the province totalling nearly $826 million over three years, the budget release says. The province's Treasury Board and Finance branch said municipalities will receive about 25 per cent less in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding over the next three years. Charlotte Taillon, the Treasury Board and Finance's press secretary, said Edmonton will receive $235 million in total MSI funding in 2021-22. "We recognize grant funding is an essential part of municipal capital plans and budgets," Taillon wrote in an email to CBC News. "We're asking municipalities to keep working with us as we transition to the Local Governance Fiscal Framework in 2024-25." MSI cuts Persson said that means the city faces a net loss of $30 million in 2022 in MSI funding, and $120 million in 2023-24 when the new fiscal framework replaces MSI. The cuts may limit the city's ability to renew facilities and 325 km of arterial roads, she said. "Difficult decisions will be ahead as we plan for the 2023 to 2026 capital budget cycle," Persson said. Instead, the city will likely be limited to maintaining existing projects already on the books. The city was eyeing green initiatives, affordable housing, infrastructure renewal including industrial and arterial roads, facilities and open spaces with that money, she noted. "These potential opportunities are no longer realistic with the current budget cuts," Persson said. Broken promises It's not just the United Conservative government that council blames. The province now collects more than $2 billion in education property tax, Iveson noted, a source of funding once promised to municipalities. Several years ago, the province said it would give municipalities the equivalent of what it collects in education tax, in infrastructure funding, Iveson said. "We never once got the full amount," he recalled. Iveson said when times were tough, the funding was cut. Every time the economy came back, Iveson said promises were made about funding increases that never happened. "It's actually just a declining staircase that continues in this budget of cuts to municipalities, and promises made and promises broken by successive governments." Less funding makes it difficult for the city to plan for new initiatives, retain talent and invest in areas that keep companies growing, Iveson said. City councillors directed administration on Thursday to take a historical deep dive at the years of what they call broken promises. They passed a motion to get a summary of cuts to operating and capital funding, back to the beginning of MSI in 2007. The finance branch is asked to report its findings during spring supplemental budget talks in April. @natashariebe