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.
MONTREAL — A Universite de Montreal education professor has been charged with a sexual offence involving an 11-year-old child. Police in Longueuil, Que., south of Montreal, said Thierry Karsenti, 52, was arrested Feb. 23. He faces a single charge of sexual interference and is due in court on Friday. Karsenti, who is also the Canada Research Chair on information and communication technologies in education, allegedly committed the offence in 2015, according to a release issued by police. Police said Karsenti also goes by the name "Thomas." They said there could be other victims from a period between 2015 and 2017 and want people who may have information to come forward. Karsenti has been suspended indefinitely from his role at the university, according to Universite de Montreal spokeswoman Genevieve O'Mera. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
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
A Calgary man has been found guilty of murdering two men, both of whom he shot "at point blank range" as they sat, unsuspecting, in the front seats of an SUV, a Calgary judge has ruled. Christopher Naidu was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the April 2018 deaths of fellow drug dealers Joshua Brendan Bamfo, 25, and Mahad Abdiraham Ainanshe, 23. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jim Eamon found Naidu planned the killing of the two victims and "shot them at point blank range to their heads and neck area." "There's no reasonable possibility that Mr. Naidu happened to have his loaded gun at a meet-up with his business partners and used it on impulse," said Eamon in delivering his decision. After Eamon convicted Naidu, the killer sat in the prisoner's box shaking his head. During the trial, the judge heard that the three men sold drugs together, sharing a cellphone containing a client list of about 100 names and numbers. Naidu was supposed to have the phone every Friday and Saturday but one of the victims had recently kept the phone on the killer's assigned days. The Crown said in its opening statement that Bamfo and Ainanshe "were killed for the list," said prosecutor Todd Buziak on Day 1 of the trial last month. Victims 'not expecting a threat of violence' On April 20, 2018, just after 3 p.m., police were called to the northwest neighbourhood of Evanston after neighbours reported hearing gunshots. The two victims were found dead in a Nissan SUV. Bamfo's legs were up, casually resting on the dashboard of the vehicle, suggesting he had no idea what Naidu was planning. "[They were] not expecting a threat of violence, rather it was a meet-up," said Eamon. Following a 14-month investigation, Naidu was arrested and charged. A date for sentencing will be set next week. Naidu faces a life sentence with no chance of parole for between 25 and 50 years. Prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will seek consecutive parole ineligibility periods.
The deadline for community grants ended on March 1, and the Town is now considering those applications that were received. Community Grants assist organizations who provide beneficial, core ser-vices to the community that are not provided by the Town.Funds supplied will include requests for initial start-up funding, equipment, material, and supplies purchases, and to offset Town-established user fees. Applications are also taken in this category if a group is requesting a fee waiver to rent Town space, rent Town equipment or supplies (IE: tables and chairs) or use in-kind services. The maximum eligible grant amount is $2,000.The Community Events Grant as-sists organizations who deliver commu-nity celebrations, festivals, and special events that Council considers to be core services to the community. This does not include fundraising events, events which raise funds for an-other organization, or events hosted by the private sector or individuals. The maximum eligible grant in this category is $2,000.The Community Arts, Culture and Tourism Grants support organizations promoting opportunities in artistic expression and cultural endeavours for people of all ages through education and participation. It includes tourism and development activities as well as the operation of a significant cultural facilities providing core services to the community. The maximum eligible grant in this category is $25,000.Once grant applications are received, they are considered by the Grant Review committee in March and April of this year. The applications will go through a second review. Council will approve grant application recommendations during the first council meeting in May. Applicants are encouraged to read over the applications carefully to ensure eligibility and to make sure the applica-tion is submitted accurately. The Community Grant Program poli-cy will give preference to not-for-profit organizations that demonstrate community support, efficient use of resources, sound business practices and develop volunteer knowledge, skills, and self-reliance. The purpose of the Community Fund Program is in keeping with the Town’s strategic objective to preserve the heritage and promote the provision of a diversity of cultural activities, and active and passive recreational opportunities. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
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.
OTTAWA — With a federal budget in the offing, premiers are stepping up the pressure on Ottawa to immediately boost health-care funding by at least $28 billion a year.They held a virtual news conference Thursday to reiterate their demand for a big increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.Starting this year, they want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.During a virtual first ministers' meeting in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers he recognizes the need for the federal government to eventually shoulder a bigger share of health-care costs. But he said that must wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent the federal deficit on track to exceed an unprecedented $381 billion as Ottawa doles out emergency aid, including at least $1 billion for vaccines and $25 billion in direct funding to the provinces to, among other things, bolster their health systems.Quebec Premier Francois Legault, chair of the premiers' council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are "non-recurring." He pointed to studies that suggest the federal government could quickly eliminate its deficit, and even return to surplus, once the pandemic is over while provinces would be mired in debt.The premiers argued they need stable, predictable, long-term funding for their health systems, which were already under strain before the pandemic hit and will be even more stressed once it's over and they must deal with the backlog of delayed surgeries, tests and other procedures.Manitoba's Brian Pallister said wait times have been a problem for decades and are destined to get worse as Canada's population ages. But he said the pandemic has made "a bad situation much, much worse.""The post-pandemic pileup is coming and it's real and its impact on Canadians and their families and their friends is real too," he warned. "The time is now to address this issue and to address it together."Pallister accused Trudeau of ignoring the problem of wait-times and the real life-threatening impact on people. Five years ago, he said he told Trudeau a true story about a woman with a lump in her breast who had waited for tests and referral to a specialist, only to be told in the end that it was "too bad we couldn't have caught this sooner.""He looked across the table at me and said, 'I'm not your banker,'" Pallister said."We don't need a banker. We need a partner."Trudeau has offered to give provinces immediate funding for long-term care homes, provided they agree to some national standards. Long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of deaths from COVID-19.But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa's latest offer would provide just $2,500 per person in long-term care — a drop in the bucket compared to the $76,000 it costs his province each year for every long-term care resident."The math doesn't work," he said.Legault ruled out conditional transfers for long-term care altogether as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. He said each province and territory has its own health-care priorities and their "jurisdiction must absolutely be respected."When universal health care was adopted in Canada, British Columbia's John Horgan said the cost was originally shared 50-50 between Ottawa and the provinces. The steadily declining federal share has led to ever more challenges in delivering health care, exacerbated now by the pandemic."Our public health-care system is at risk," Horgan warned."COVID has brought (the challenge) into graphic light. It's stark, it's profound and we need to take action."Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said Canadians deserve a well-funded health system "that is supported by both levels, both orders of government in this nation, not one that is propped up by almost entirely by the provinces and territories."Trudeau's minority Liberal government is poised to table a budget this spring, which could theoretically result in the defeat of his government should opposition parties vote against the budget. Legault said premiers have already talked to opposition parties to solicit their support for their health funding demand. He said the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the demand, while the Conservatives agree in principle with the need to increase the health transfer but have not specifically agreed to the $28-billion figure.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — House Democrats passed the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide, avoiding a potential clash with moderates in their own party who were wary of reigniting the “defund the police” debate they say hurt them during last fall's election. Approved 220-212 late Wednesday, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is named for the man whose killing by police in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked demonstrations nationwide. It would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement while creating national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability, and was first approved last summer only to stall in the then-Republican controlled Senate. The bill is supported by President Joe Biden. “My city is not an outlier, but rather an example of the inequalities our country has struggled with for centuries,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who represents the Minneapolis area near where Floyd died. Floyd’s family watched the emotional debate from a nearby House office building and said “defunding the police” is not what the legislation is about. “We just want to be treated equal. We just want to deescalate situations,” said Brandon Williams, Floyd’s nephew. “We want to feel safe when we encounter law enforcement. We’re not asking for anything extra. We’re not asking for anything that we don’t feel is right.” Democrats hustled to pass the bill a second time, hoping to combat police brutality and institutional racism after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans following interactions with law enforcement — images of which were sometimes jarringly captured on video. But the debate over legislation turned into a political liability for Democrats as Republicans seized on calls by some activists and progressives to “defund the police” to argue that supporters were intent on slashing police force budgets. Though this bill doesn't do that, moderate Democrats said the charge helped drive Democratic defeats in swing districts around the country last November. “No one ran on ‘defund the police,’ but all you have to do is make that a political weapon,” said Teas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar. Republicans quickly revived the “defund the police” criticisms before the vote. “Our law enforcement officers need more funding not less,” Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis. Still, even the House’s more centrist lawmakers, some representing more conservative districts, ultimately backed the bill. “Black Americans have endured generations of systemic racism and discrimination for too long, and this has been painfully evident in their treatment by law enforcement,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, who chairs the moderate New Democrat Coalition. That endorsement came despite the bill’s prohibitions on so-called qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement from certain lawsuits and is one of the main provisions that will likely need to be negotiated in any compromise with the Senate. Another possible point of contention is provisions easing standards for prosecution of law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing. Police unions and other law enforcement groups have argued that, without legal protections, fear of lawsuits will stop people from becoming police officers — even though the measure permits suits only against law enforcement agencies, rather than all public employees. California Rep. Karen Bass, who authored the bill, understands the challenge some House members face in supporting it. “My colleagues, several of them, I do not make light of the difficulty they had getting reelected because of the lie around defunding the police,” Bass said. She called provisions limiting qualified immunity as well as those changing standards for prosecution “the only measures that hold police accountable — that will actually decrease the number of times we have to see people killed on videotape.” Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci released a statement on behalf of the Floyd family saying the House was “responding to the mandate issued by thousands of Americans who took to the streets last summer to raise their voices for change.” “This represents a major step forward to reform the relationship between police officers and communities of colour and impose accountability on law enforcement officers whose conscious decisions preserve the life or cause the death of Americans, including so many people of colour,” Crump and Romanucci said. “Now we urge the Senate to follow suit.” That may be a taller order. Even though Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, it seems unlikely the bill could pass the Senate without substantial changes to win GOP support. Bass acknowledged the challenges Democrats faced last November — and may likely see again — when former President Donald Trump's reelection campaign and other leading Republicans crowded the airwaves with images of cities around the country burning. But she said those attacks, like much of the opposition to the bill, are built on racism, promoting fears about how “the scary Black people are going to attack you if you try to rein in the police.” “That's as old as apple pie in our history,” she said. “So do you not act because of that?” Still, Bass conceded that changes are likely to come if the measure is to win the minimum 60 votes it will need to advance in the Senate, which is now split 50-50. She said she'd been in contact with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, and was confident he would help deliver some GOP support. Scott said this week that the legislation's sticking points were qualified immunity and prosecutorial standards and that in both areas, “We have to protect individual officers.” “That's a red line for me,” Scott said, adding, “Hopefully we'll come up with something that actually works.” ___ Lisa Mascaro contributed. Will Weissert And Padmananda Rama, The Associated Press
by Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter (ANNews) - Colby Delorme, chair of the Calgary-based Influence Mentoring Society, announced recently that actors Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively have donated $250k to the society. A collaborative organization, Influence is a new initiative aimed at building capacity, talent, and career opportunities for Indigenous students by facilitating a mentor-protégé relationship. “This project exemplifies the spirit of reconciliation whereby Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who believe that providing mentoring opportunities for post-secondary, Indigenous youth, adapt a two-way mentoring model, and in doing so work together to build stronger relationships while improving cross-cultural understanding and appreciation,” said Delorme in a press release. “Further, Article 14 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People affirms this importance, stating that ’Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.’ The acting couple said that they were happy to support the program, "We are so happy to support the Influence Mentoring program that will help Indigenous youth in Canada, who are trying to successfully complete their post-secondary pursuits and enter the job market for the first time," Reynolds said. "All too often, diverse groups are left behind in the things we take for granted. This program aims to rectify that imbalance." The pair are well known for contributing generously to philanthropic endeavours in Canada. They donated $1 million to food non-profits Feeding America and Food Banks Canada at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. They similarly donated $200,000 to an institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia to help promote Indigenous women's leadership in June 2020, and in November donated $250,000 to each Covenant House Toronto and Vancouver. Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
Gananoque and the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands are again asking local businesses for their business chronicles. The fourth edition of the project aims to showcase local businesses through social media, websites and investment campaigns. Any business, whether home-based, just starting out or well established, is welcomed to apply, said Amanda Trafford, business development co-ordinator for the town of Gananoque. "What we are doing is using the businesses to tell the story of our communities," she said. The chronicles are funded by the Rural Economic Development (RED) program through the provincial ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Along with having the businesses advertised on social media, the information and website catalogue is also used to attract new businesses to the area. "Like every other community we are trying to attract new business," said Trafford. "By using our businesses, we can tell the story of why it’s good to do business here." Trafford said the chronicles are another way to showcase a positive quality of life for a business despite being in a rural setting. Terri Dawson, the owner of the Green Gecko shop in Lyndhurst, said she also took away that the chronicle is about showing off the community. "You're not always trying to push advertising," said Dawson. "What you're trying to say is look at this great business community we have here. "You could be a part of this too." The businesses involved will also receive a free professional photograph for their use in promoting the business, something Dawson said was greatly welcomed. "I really appreciated that I was given a print-quality copy of the photo because I've used it in other promotion of my business," she said. "Most businesses are not budgeting for a professional photo of you taken so it's a real bonus." Dawson, who was a part of the first round of business chronicles, said she found the process simple and straightforward. "Because you're the one filling out the information… you make sure that you are highlighting the things you really feel are important," said Dawson, whose store sells items "from down the road and around the world." McKenna Modler, project coordinator for RED, said that over 30 businesses have been chronicled in the first three editions, dating back to 2018. Each business is found on either the town or township's chronicles webpage, depending on the location of the business. Modler said if a business is interested in joining the chronicles, the owners can email her at email@example.com or visit either the town or township versions of the chronicles webpage. The deadline is March 31. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
The Town of New Tecumseth has hired a new Director of Ad-ministration Services and Clerk. Pamela Fettes will take over the position effective March 22, 2021. She will fill the vacancy created when the former clerk retired at the end of 2020. Ms. Fettes’ previous experience includes the past eight years with Clearview Township as the Director of Legislative Services and Municipal Clerk. “We are excited to welcome Pamela to the Town of New Te-cumseth,” said Mayor Rick Milne. "Her experience, expertise and knowledge of Simcoe County and our growing community will be an asset to the Town. Council and staff are looking forward to her leadership in the important role of Director of Administration Se-vices and Clerk as we continue to move the Town’s administration forward.” Under the Corporate Services division, as the Director of Admin-istration Services and Clerk, Ms. Fettes will lead the Town’s admin-istrative services which includes customer service, the Municipal Bylaw Enforcement area, licenses and permits, the preparation and circulation of Council documents, records management, requests for information under the Mu-nicipal Freedom of information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the conduct and administration of municipal elections. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Avalanche Canada, Parks Canada and Alberta Parks have issued a joint avalanche warning for a large portion of Alberta’s mountain parks. As Jackie Wilson reports, recent warm weather has created the dangerous conditions.
OTTAWA — The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern): 6:55 p.m. Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations. Tyler Shandro says those aged 65 to 74, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis people aged 50-plus, can begin booking on March 15. The province has been able to accelerate vaccinations due to a third one being approved by Health Canada, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Shandro says the first 58,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will available starting March 10. --- 5:50 p.m. Alberta is reporting 331 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths due to the illness. The province says 33 more cases of variants have been detected, bringing that total in Alberta to 541. There are 245 people in hospital with COVID-19, and 47 of them are in intensive care. --- 5:35 p.m. British Columbia's provincial health officer says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be distributed to first responders and essential workers in the province. Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C.'s immunization committee should have the distribution plan in the next few weeks, and until then, the vaccine that arrives will be used in hot spots where COVID-19 infections have flared. The province has another 564 cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths, for a total of 1,376 people. Henry says another 46 cases of variants of concern have been uncovered, bringing the total cases of variants that originated either in the United Kingdom or South Africa to 246. --- 3:50 p.m. Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. Health officials say the case involves a man in his 60s who is a close contact of a previously reported infection. They say the man initially tested negative but was tested again after developing symptoms. P.E.I. has 23 active reported cases of COVID-19. --- 3:25 p.m. Health officials in Saskatchewan say there are another 169 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths. There are 146 people in hospital, with 20 people in intensive care. The province says its seven-day average of new daily cases sits at 148. National data shows Saskatchewan leads the country with the highest rate of active cases per capita. --- 3:15 p.m. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his province will be delaying the second dose of vaccines to speed up immunizations against COVID-19. He says people will get their second shot four months after the first, which falls in line with a recommendation from Canada's national immunization committee. Saskatchewan health officials are expected to speak at a COVID-19 briefing this afternoon. Earlier in the week, Moe said delaying the second doses for up to four months would mean every adult in the province could be immunized at least once by June. --- 2:35 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today. Health officials say three new cases are in the Edmundston region, and that the Moncton and Miramichi regions each have one new case. There are 36 active known infections in the province and three patients are hospitalized with the disease, including two in intensive care. A recently reported presumptive case of a variant in the Miramichi region has been confirmed by Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory as the B.1.1.7 mutation. --- 1:45 p.m. Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines will be distributed in some Ontario pharmacies starting next week. Health Minister Christine Elliott says most doses of that vaccine will go to pharmacies in a pilot project. The Ontario Pharmacists Association's CEO says the pilot will begin at 380 sites in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex. Ontario has said it will prioritize people between the ages of 60 and 64 for the AstraZeneca doses. --- 1:35 p.m. Manitoba is reporting 51 news COVID-19 cases and two deaths. Northern regions continue to be hardest hit. High case numbers in Mathias Colomb Cree Nation have prompted the chief and council to ban public gatherings and require people to stay home except for shopping, medical care and work in essential services. --- 1:30 p.m. Alberta's Opposition NDP is calling for an immediate public inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak at the Olymel pork processing plant in Red Deer. It also wants today's planned reopening of the plant put on hold. The plant was shut down in mid-February, after an outbreak that has caused three deaths and infected more than 500 employees. The company says Alberta Health has given it a green light to start a gradual reopening with slaughter operations today. Cutting room operations can resume tomorrow. --- 1 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting five new COVID-19 cases today. Health officials say four new cases are in the eastern health region, which includes St. John’s, involving people between the ages of 40 and 69. Three involve close contacts of prior cases while the fourth is related to domestic travel. The fifth case is located in the western health region, involves a person between the ages of 20 and 39 and is related to international travel. Eight people are in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care. --- 12:45 p.m. Nunavut is reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 today. All the new cases are in Arviat, a community of about 2,800 and the only place in Nunavut with active cases. Arviat has been under a strict lockdown since November, with all schools and non-essential businesses closed. The community's hamlet council also ordered a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. to curb the spread. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says contact tracing is ongoing in the community. There are 14 active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, all in Arviat. --- 12:30 p.m. Health Canada says a decision on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be announced in the "next few days." The word came today from Dr. Marc Berthiaume, director of the regulator's bureau of medical sciences. Once approved, the J&J product would become the fourth vaccine available for use in Canada. It was approved last weekend in the United States. --- 12:15 p.m. Canada's deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says nearly 400,000 people were vaccinated in Canada in the last seven days. He says that's the most in a single week since immunizations began on Dec. 14. Njoo says more than two million doses have been administered now, with about four per cent of Canadians getting one dose and almost 1.5 per cent now vaccinated with two doses. --- 12:05 p.m. Nova Scotia is lifting some of the restrictions in place in Halifax and surrounding communities as COVID-19 cases decline in the region. Officials say rules that came into effect on Feb. 27 limiting restaurant hours, prohibiting sports events and discouraging non-essential travel in and out of the area will end on Friday at 8 a.m. Rules for residents of long-term care homes remain unchanged, but those living in care facilities may only have visits from their two designated caregivers. Officials say the restrictions for long-term care residents will remain in place in the Halifax Regional Municipality and neighbouring areas until March 27. --- 11:15 a.m. Quebec is reporting 707 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including four in the past 24 hours. Health officials say hospitalizations rose by eight, to 626, and 115 people were in intensive care, a drop of five. The province says it administered 16,619 doses of vaccine yesterday, for a total of 490,504. Quebec has reported a total of 290,377 COVID-19 infections and 10,445 deaths linked to the virus. It has 7,379 active reported cases. --- 10:50 a.m. Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19. Health officials say all three cases were identified in the health region that includes Halifax. Two cases involve contacts of previously reported infections while the third is under investigation. Nova Scotia has 29 active reported cases of COVID-19. --- 10:40 a.m. Ontario is reporting 994 new cases of COVID-19. Health Minister Christine Elliott says that 298 of those new cases are in Toronto, 171 are in Peel and 64 are in York Region. There were 10 more deaths in Ontario since the last daily update and more than 30,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The lawyer for a pastor accused of holding Sunday services that ignored COVID-19 rules says his client should be released from jail and be free to lead worshippers until his trial. James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for more than two weeks and is appealing his bail conditions. Queen's Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn is to make a decision Friday. Coates is charged with violating Alberta's Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence. The judge noted that Coates did not want the publication ban that is normally imposed on bail hearings. Coates's lawyer, James Kitchen, told the judge that his client can't follow a bail condition that forbids holding church services, because that would violate the pastor's conscience by disobeying God. "Imposing upon a pastor the condition of his release that he not pastor ... that is an embarrassment to the courts," Kitchen told Michalyshyn. "This is a matter of deep, deep personal conscience and personal beliefs. He is compelled to obey the God he loves, he believes, as are his congregants." Kitchen said it should be determined whether Coates's charter rights are being violated before he is jailed. "We are putting the cart before the horse, doing things backwards," he said. If the pastor does not agree to bail conditions, he could remain in jail for two months until his trial begins in May, Kitchen added. The public health prosecutor, who asked the court to be addressed only by her title because she is concerned for her safety, argued that the pastor's release is a danger to the public. "The one condition that was imposed is directly related to the behaviours that come under the prohibition of the Public Health Act orders," she said. The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing. More than 50 people were gathered outside an Edmonton courthouse with their family and children to pray for Coates during the hearing today. They held a banner that read #freejamescoates. GraceLife Church has continued to hold services, even though Coates is in jail. Many gathered again on the weekend as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation. "Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,'' the Mounties said in a news release. "The Parkland RCMP remain engaged in continued consultations with several partner agencies to determine the most productive course of action in relation to the church.'' Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates had been addressing the province's health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Friday: SPAIN Valencia hosts Villarreal in a regional derby amid speculation about the possible sale of the struggling club. Villarreal coach Unai Emery once had Valencia regularly in the top four of the Spanish league when he managed the side almost a decade ago. But owner Peter Lim sold off the team’s top talent last summer, and now there are rumours he could be listening to offers for a buyer. Emery’s Villarreal is in seventh place and with hopes of securing a Europa League berth despite a poor run of seven consecutive rounds without a victory. In 14th place, Valencia’s main concern is staying out of the relegation battle. GERMANY Schalke's fifth coach this season takes charge of the struggling former title contender in a game which is vital to avoiding relegation. Dimitrios Grammozis has never coached in a top-division game before as last-place Schalke faces Mainz, the team one place above. Schalke is already nine points from safety with one league win all season and crushing debt. It fired coach Christian Gross after last week's 5-1 loss to Stuttgart before appointing Grammozis. Mainz has two wins from its last four Bundesliga games and can escape the relegation zone with a win, overtaking Arminia Bielefeld and big-spending Hertha Berlin. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. There are 878,391 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 878,391 confirmed cases (29,903 active, 826,337 resolved, 22,151 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,832 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 78.68 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,063 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,866. There were 47 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 286 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 41. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,763,481 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,002 confirmed cases (125 active, 871 resolved, six deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 23.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,101 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 138 confirmed cases (23 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Thursday. The rate of active cases is 14.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 18 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 109,360 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,649 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,555 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 350,135 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,443 confirmed cases (37 active, 1,378 resolved, 28 deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 4.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 239,229 tests completed. _ Quebec: 290,377 confirmed cases (7,379 active, 272,553 resolved, 10,445 deaths). There were 707 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 86.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,047 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 721. There were 20 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 84 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 304,757 confirmed cases (10,309 active, 287,424 resolved, 7,024 deaths). There were 994 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 69.97 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,446 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,064. There were 10 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 108 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 15. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,017,094 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,051 confirmed cases (1,143 active, 30,005 resolved, 903 deaths). There were 51 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 82.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 394 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 56. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 536,934 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,220 confirmed cases (1,422 active, 27,407 resolved, 391 deaths). There were 161 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 120.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,029 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 147. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.17 per 100,000 people. There have been 581,914 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,785 confirmed cases (4,613 active, 128,261 resolved, 1,911 deaths). There were 331 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 104.32 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,353 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 336. There were nine new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 37 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.22 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,425,265 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 82,473 confirmed cases (4,808 active, 76,289 resolved, 1,376 deaths). There were 564 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 93.4 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,691 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 527. There were four new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.73 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,950,778 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,187 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,743 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 369 confirmed cases (14 active, 354 resolved, one deaths). There were 10 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 35.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,755 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska state senator sought an apology Thursday from Gov. Mike Dunleavy for a scathing letter in which he accused her of misrepresenting the state's COVID-19 response and said his administration would no longer participate in hearings she leads. Sen. Lora Reinbold during a news conference called the reaction by Dunleavy, a fellow Republican, “outlandish” and said the Feb. 18 letter was an “attempt to intimidate those who question him and his administration and to silence those with opposing views.” Jeff Turner, a Dunleavy spokesperson, listened to the news conference, held in a Capitol corridor. In an email later, he said Dunleavy “will not be retracting his letter” to Reinbold. Dunleavy has been working from home while recovering from COVID-19. Several bills that are key parts of Dunleavy's legislative agenda, including proposed constitutional amendments and a proposed change to the yearly oil-wealth check residents receive, are in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Reinbold chairs. The committee also has been designated to hold a confirmation hearing for Dunleavy's attorney general nominee, Treg Taylor. Reinbold did not say whether she might seek to compel testimony from the administration. But she said she will not meet with Dunleavy "until he withdraws the letter and issues a formal apology. That is my first step, and that is what I'm hoping for.” Senate President Peter Micciche, who leads a majority Republican caucus, said he hopes Reinbold and Dunleavy resolve the dispute. “We’re all grown-ups here and the public expects us to be professional and get our work done on time,” he said in a statement, adding later: "However this works out between those two individuals, the Senate’s business is going to get done in a legal and timely manner – including hearings on the governor’s appointees.” Micciche has said he expects Senate committees to take a balanced approach. Reinbold, who has held hearings highlighting views of those who question the usefulness of masks and criticize the effects of government emergency orders, said Thursday she has brought a “diversity of thought” to the committee that has gone against the Dunleavy administration's “fear-mongering” COVID-19 message. Reinbold and other lawmakers saw Dunleavy as overstepping in issuing pandemic-related disaster declarations when the Legislature was not in session. But she also has taken aim at health restrictions imposed by local governments and the Legislature, such as mask requirements, and raised concerns with COVID-19 vaccines. She was appointed in November, when Dunleavy used the state's emergency alert network to warn of rising case counts, ask Alaskans to consider celebrating the holidays differently and said he would require masks at state work sites. He also urged groups to meet remotely and encouraged people to use online ordering or curbside pickup. Dunleavy at the time said hospitalizations and sick health care workers were reaching “untenable levels.” In a social media post, Reinbold said Dunleavy “wants us to dramatically change our lives, in other words, basically to help frontline workers, that have supposedly been gearing up to take care of patients all year. Things aren’t adding up.” She said Thursday some of the information she had requested from the administration included data on hospital capacity. The state health department has long posted online data on available hospital beds and hospitalizations related to COVID-19. The department last fall, including around Thanksgiving, was reporting weekly highs in hospitalizations. “The bottom line is, we as Alaskans want to know why the disaster was extended over the Thanksgiving" holiday, she said, adding that seeing the data on hospital capacity that played a role in a disaster declaration around that time was important. “We need to be able to ask the tough questions.” Dunleavy, in his letter, said Reinbold had made “many superfluous inquiries" and that her “baseless, deleterious, and self-serving demands on government resources amounts to an abuse of public services and will no longer be endured.” The state's last disaster declaration expired in mid-February. Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press
Two St. Clair College students living in a residence at the main Windsor campus have tested positive for COVID-19. In a news release Thursday, the school said that the students had direct contact with each other and were not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. The affected students have been contacted by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and told to self-isolate. The college said it and the health unit will continue to monitor the situation. The risk is considered low at this time, but the college said the health unit is investigating the cases and assessing the level of risk at the residence. All students living in the residence have been asked to self-monitor for symptoms and isolate immediately if any arise. More from CBC Windsor
Premiers say federal COVID-19 vaccine procurement delays have left them no choice but to stretch out the time between doses, as pharmacies in some parts of Ontario were preparing to start giving shots next week. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that he had asked chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw some time ago to take a serious look into allowing a four-month gap between shots after seeing "tremendous" results in the United Kingdom and Israel. He said an outbreak driven by a new, more transmissible COVID-19 variant started at a seniors' home in Edmonton on Monday just as residents were supposed to be receiving their vaccines. "They should have been vaccinated weeks ago, like they were in similar settings in the United States, Israel, the U.K. and many, many other countries," he said following a virtual premiers' meeting. "This is extremely frustrating and I think we have no choice but to expand the interval to get more people covered." Alberta announced Thursday that it is extending the timeline for second doses to four months. It said nearly half a million more people in the province will become eligible for shots in the next two weeks as more supplies become available. That includes 437,000 doses for anyone between 65 and 74 and Indigenous people over 50 starting the week of March 15. Another 58,500 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be made available to Albertans without chronic health conditions between 50 and 64 starting March 10. Alberta reported 331 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths due to the illness on Thursday. British Columbia, which reported another 564 cases and four deaths in its latest update, will be distributing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to first responders and essential workers, said health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Henry announced Monday that B.C. would be allowing up to four months between doses. Several other provinces followed suit after a national panel of vaccine experts recommended Wednesday that such an extension would be appropriate if supplies are limited. Labels of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines call for a three or four-week gap between doses. Research has shown one dose is 70 to 80 per cent effective for up to two months, but it's unclear how long protection lasts beyond that. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Thursday his province is moving to the four-month interval because the federal government has done a "disappointing job at best" in quickly getting vaccines to provinces. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister added: "Let's face it: this strategy has become necessary as a consequence of an absence of vaccines." On Thursday, Saskatchewan reported 169 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths. Manitoba had 51 new infections and two deaths. A Health Canada official said that a decision on Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine could come "within days," making it the fourth to be approved. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Ottawa's vaccine rollout, told a media briefing that nearly three million doses have been distributed to the provinces and territories so far. "In April, we're anticipating a steep increase in vaccine availability," he said. That includes 23 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines between April and June and at least 1.5 million of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by mid-May. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said many of the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses the province receives will go to pharmacies for a pilot program beginning next week. The Ontario Pharmacists Association said about 380 pharmacies in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex will be doling out shots initially. A similar program in Alberta began with pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary this week. Ontario recorded 994 new infections and linked 10 more deaths to the virus on Thursday. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia is easing public-health restrictions in and around Halifax. Health officials in the Atlantic province said rules that came into effect last week limiting restaurant hours, prohibiting sports events and discouraging non-essential travel will end Friday morning in the capital region. Nova Scotia reported three new cases Thursday and 29 active ones. Quebec said it had 707 new cases, along with 20 additional deaths. It is easing restrictions in Quebec City and four other regions starting Monday, but keeping them in place in the Montreal area due to concern over variants. New modelling suggests the variant first identified in the U.K. is likely to become the dominant strain the province by mid-April. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
The head of Canada's largest private sector union says air passengers who couldn't use their tickets because of the pandemic will get refunds. Jerry Dias said Air Canada has already agreed to the refunds, which has been a sore point among consumers starting in March when travellers were forced to stay home. As Sean O'Shea reports, Dias says refunds are a condition for an airline aid package.