With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
Venezuela's government is encouraging private firms to sign import and export deals with companies in Asia and the Middle East as part of an effort to limit the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter. The plan expands on President Nicolas Maduro's existing commercial relationships with allies such as Turkey and Iran, which have already been providing the cash-strapped government with food and fuel in exchange for gold.
When Stéphanie Chouinard and her husband, Sean, were looking to buy their first home in Toronto this year, they discussed how kids would fit into the picture — searching for a home near a French school, but also one that offered enough space. The couple had been living in a one-bedroom rental, and despite saving, recognized that some areas were out of reach. Their search narrowed in on East York, but even there, Chouinard said any “livable” houses or townhouses they saw were north of $800,000. So a federal program offering help to first-time home buyers, which capped purchase prices at around $505,000, wasn’t an option. “When we saw that program, we knew right away that this wasn’t going to be helping us at all,” said Chouinard. While their combined income was enough for a family-sized home — and high enough to also render them ineligible for the incentive — Chouinard believes the federal rules may have excluded other young families who were looking to have children in their first homes. “If you have a family or are planning to have a family in the near future, that program will very likely not be of much use to you,” she said. And though a federal economic update this week outlined changes to the program to come for Toronto in the spring, Chouinard believes families looking for something beyond a modest apartment will still be “very, very limited.” The federal program offers a shared-equity mortgage through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to reduce the amount that first-time buyers need to save for a down payment and lower monthly mortgage costs. Ottawa pays either five or 10 per cent of the price, and homeowners later pay back that same percentage of the home’s updated value. In its first year, fewer than 10,000 mortgages across Canada were approved through the program — despite a three-year goal of helping 100,000 families. Alberta and Quebec have seen the most uptake: from Feb. 1 to Sept. 1 this year, there were 712 mortgages approved and accepted in Edmonton, 378 in Calgary, and 55 in Airdrie, Alta., but just one in Vancouver, six in Victoria and 16 in Toronto. From Sept. 1, 2019 to Feb. 1, there were more than 4.5 times as many approved and accepted mortgages in Calgary than there were across the Greater Toronto Area. Montreal saw nearly seven times as many approved and accepted mortgages as the GTA in that time. The government has recognized since at least the last election that changes were likely needed for Canada’s hottest markets, and said this week they were coming in spring. Households earning up to $150,000 instead of $120,000 will soon qualify in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, and their purchases can total 4.5 times their income, instead of only four times. “It’s not going to get you a three-bedroom downtown or anything, but it’s more aligned with the Toronto housing market,” said Heather Tremain, CEO of the non-profit developer Options for Homes. She sees the changes as positive, but she urged Ottawa to dig deeper into why some may have resisted using it in its first year, including the fact it effectively requires the buyer to pay mortgage insurance, by keeping down payments below 20 per cent. Tremain believes some first-time buyers may have balked at that extra monthly cost, and pursued other options to try to reach that 20 per cent mark instead. She said she’d also heard concerns from lenders about the government sharing any home value appreciation. Paul Taylor, president and CEO of Mortgage Professionals Canada, echoed those concerns and added that some buyers may also struggle with the very idea of co-owning their homes. Though he believes the changes coming in the spring are a “net positive,” he also questioned whether the incentive would be as successful as the feds had projected. When asked by the Star about the first-year numbers for the program and several of the concerns in this story, a federal department of finance official reiterated in an email the rule changes planned for spring 2021. They would “make homeownership more affordable,” they wrote. Both Tremain and Ken Bowman of Meridian Credit Union backed the incremental approach that Ottawa seemed to be taking. “I don’t think frenetic change on something as important as a housing strategy is particularly inspiring,” Bowman said. Both speculated that the pandemic may have hindered uptake in 2020. But UBC professor Paul Kershaw, founder of the research and advocacy group Generation Squeeze, believes a fundamental shift is needed to address the challenges that first-time buyers face in big cities. While he believes the strategy is “well thought-out,” he urged more attention to the root causes of unaffordability. He pointed to a Generation Squeeze report last year, which found that it took a typical 25- to 34-year-old in the GTA 21 years to save up a 20 per cent payment for an average-priced home. If first-time buyers were getting older in the city, Kershaw said others may find themselves in the same situation as Chouinard. “They need to have enough space in that home so that they’re not using closets as a nursery,” he said. Diana Petramala, a senior economist with Ryerson University, said even with the updated rules, new buyers looking near downtown Toronto would be limited mostly to one-bedroom units, or older two-bedrooms. Buying a townhouse might be more possible, she said, in the outskirts — areas like Durham or Simcoe. While Chouinard and her husband were ultimately able to purchase a first home with three bedrooms within the city, it took a combined household income well above the cutoff for federal help and renting into their 30s to do so. Chouinard said a friend of hers recently left the city after nearly a decade, feeling it just wasn’t affordable; she suspects others are in the same boat. “It does eat away at the attractiveness of Toronto as a city for young professionals,” she said. Victoria Gibson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Denmark on Friday agreed on a deal with parliament to put at least 775,000 electric or hybrid cars on Danish roads by 2030 in its latest move to reach its ambitious target reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% in 2030. The government also announced a broader aim of having as many as one million low or zero-emission cars on the road by 2030, but the current deal would secure financing for the first 775,000. There are currently only around 20,000 electric cars in Denmark, a fraction of the 2.5 million cars currently on Danish roads.
Area grandmothers are tying orange ribbons on fixtures in downtown Brighton to raise awareness about gender-based violence. Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN) Northumberland is leading the orange campaign locally. Orange has been chosen by the United Nations as the colour to represent the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world by 2030. “To this end, our group (decorates) downtown Brighton with orange bows and cards, as well as mans a display at the Brighton Public Library to promote increased awareness of the impact of violence against women and girls,” GRAN Northumberland’s Betty Ann Knutson told the Brighton Independent. Sixteen days of activism against gender-based violence is an international campaign that occurs annually. The campaign runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, commencing on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and winding down on Human Rights Day. “We now have lots of orange bows on Main Street, at King Edward Park, at the municipal building/library and even at Tim Hortons,” added GRAN Sharon Graham. GRAN is described as a dynamic network of volunteers across Canada advocating at local, national and international levels. The group strives to garner Canadian and international support for measures that will significantly improve the quality of life for Africa's grandmothers as they strive to hold their families and communities together in the face of the AIDS pandemic. “Our current efforts focus on ensuring access to affordable medicines, improving access to education, ending violence against women and girls and (granting) the right to economic security and social protection,” Graham noted. GRAN Northumberland welcomes women from across the county to join in on its advocacy work. Call Graham at 613-475-2094 or e-mail email@example.com and/or visit www.grandmothersadvocacy.org for more information. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
Europe is racing to vaccinate its citizens but the UN has warned damage from the coronavirus pandemic will last for years, vaccine or no vaccine.View on euronews
This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years.Buried amidst the ongoing COVID confusion and controversy this week in Alberta came a bit of unusual news: the UCP government and NDP opposition agreed on something.It wasn't exactly a Kumbaya moment but the two battling political parties that have turned the legislature's daily question period into a form of trench warfare finally see eye-to-eye on an issue.They're both unhappy with the announcement on Monday from federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland involving much-anticipated changes to the fiscal stabilization program that provides money to provinces experiencing a significant drop in revenue year-over-year.Alberta, of course, has been experiencing chronic revenue drops year-over-year-over-year. Because of a series of bad years topped off by a COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta's revenue ride is less like a roller coaster and more like the Drop of Doom.The fiscal stabilization program wasn't designed for that kind of multi-billion-dollar collapse in revenues.In 2016, for example, the Alberta government under the NDP complained that it lost $6.5 billion in revenue because of low oil prices but only received $250 million from the stabilization program that was capped at $60 per provincial resident.After forming government in 2019, the United Conservative Party took up the fight and this year demanded $4 billion instead of the $266 million offered. Not only that, the UCP wanted the higher stabilization payments to be retroactive to 2015.On Monday, Freeland announced the cap is being hiked to $170 per capita, meaning the province is now entitled to receive $750 million this year. But the payments will not be retroactive."[I am] very disappointed that the caps weren't lifted entirely," said Finance Minister Travis Toews. "It really doesn't go far enough."For her part, NDP Leader Rachel Notley sounded like a clone of Toews: "I would continue to advocate for the removal of the cap and I would also suggest that this should be retroactive to when Alberta deserved a fair fiscal stabilization formula in the first place."But the fight to remove the cap completely has gone from difficult to impossible because of the pandemic.WATCH | Alberta politicians unhappy with federal stabilization changesThis year, every province will probably be applying for aid under the stabilization program. Ottawa, already neck-deep in pandemic debt, would be swamped with billions of new claims under a sky's-the-limit fiscal stabilization program.And, besides, premiers who had been supporting Jason Kenney's call for a capless program will likely be happy enough to receive almost triple the amount of money than was available under the old formula.Change of heartBut Kenney's disappointment with Ottawa on Monday shifted to satisfaction on Wednesday.He performed such a sudden change in direction he might need a neck brace for whiplash. But that's the kind loopy politics you get during a pandemic.On Monday, the issue was money.On Wednesday, it was a COVID-19 vaccine."We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year," said Kenney, putting the kind of faith in the federal government apparently not shared by federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole.Setting a firm timeline for a vaccine rollout is not particularly risky for Kenney. If the plan works, great. Albertans might be happy enough that Kenney sees his approval ratings start to rise after a year of steady decline. If the vaccines don't arrive on time, Kenney can blame Ottawa yet again for Alberta's problems.Of course, a third scenario is Ottawa delivers the vaccine as promised but Alberta has trouble with the logistics of getting Albertans vaccinated.To that end, Kenney has called in the military — sort of. He has appointed Paul Wynnyk, the deputy minister of municipal affairs and a former general in the Canadian Forces, to lead the province's vaccine task force.In the meantime, as Alberta continues to lead the country in COVID cases, playing in the background is a plan to call on the federal government and Red Cross to set up emergency hospitals should the virus overwhelm our health-care system.Kenney is still trying to spin a positive tale out of the distressing pandemic reality, still trusting that Albertans will take personal responsibility to flatten the curve, still insisting there is "light at the end of the tunnel."But that light might just be a Red Cross truck coming with a field hospital to house Alberta's ever growing number of pandemic patients.
Canada's economy added 62,000 jobs last month, which is better than economists had been expecting, but it's also the lowest total since the labour market recovery from COVID-19 began in May.Statistics Canada reported Friday that the jobless rate ticked down four basis points to 8.5 per cent. That's down from a peak of 13.7 per cent in May, but still well above the 5.6 per cent rate seen in February, before the pandemic.Canada lost more than a million jobs in March and another two million in April, before the job market started to recover in May. According to Statscan, more than 19.1 million Canadians aged 15 or over had some sort of job in February. Last month, that figure stood at just over 18.6 million.There are currently 1.7 million people in Canada officially categorized as unemployed, which means they would like to work but can't find any. Roughly one quarter of them — 443,000 people — have been out of work for more than half a year.Manitoba lost 18,000 jobs last month, while Ontario added 36,000 and Quebec 15,000. British Columbia added 23,000 and the Atlantic provinces added a total of 17,000.Mostly full timeWhile the overall rate of job gains is undeniably slowing, economist Royce Mendes with CIBC did see some reason for optimism in the numbers, specifically the fact that most of the new jobs were full time, which boosted the total number of hours worked by 1.2 per cent — faster than the increase seen a month earlier.But with cases spiking across Canada and more regions locking down more parts of the economy, he thinks the streak of job gains will come to an end this month. "It's likely that COVID will catch up with the Canadian economy in the December data, with a decline expected in both employment and overall economic activity," Mendes said.Leah Nord with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the job slowdown shows that the government needs to do a better jobs of testing for COVID-19 and tracing contacts, and making much broader use of rapid testing to ensure businesses stay open for the long Canadian winter ahead."The short-lived partial rebound in jobs is turning an unfortunate corner heading into a potentially protracted second wave," she said. "As we look forward, we believe there is increasing risk for a steady decline in employment over the coming months as governments and health authorities grapple with transmission mitigation."
Residents of a normally quiet Halifax street say they've had enough.For several months, an excavator has been jackhammering at rocks to clear the way for a new house to be built on Armshore Drive near the Armdale Roundabout."The noise started around the end of May and we were told in the beginning that it was only going to be about three weeks," said Adriana Dolnyckyj, whose home is about 15 metres from the work site."It's been going on for about 10 hours a day. It's just been going on and on and on and there seems like there is no end in sight."Like many people on the street, Dolnyckyj is working from home during the pandemic."It's constant pneumatic jackhammering with an excavator and it's not just the noise that irritates you but it's also the constant vibrations through our house."Adrienne Power's house sits next to the site.She's had rocks fly up against her house and land on her deck.After a recent visit from a provincial labour inspector, the contractors at the site built a fence between the properties and attached it to her house."The fence was put in about a week and a half ago," said Power, who bought her house this summer. "There was some communication on the fence but definitely not about attaching it to the side of my house."Power said she's had enough of the constant noise right outside her door.Halifax police were called on Remembrance Day when a subcontractor began jackhammering shortly after 7 a.m., two hours earlier than when they were allowed to start that day.Viking Ventures, the company that will eventually build a house on the property, say its subcontractors have abided by HRM noise bylaws except for that one day.Mike MacArthur, owner of Viking Ventures, says the amount of rock at the site was unexpected.Power and Dolnyckyj were surprised to find the company didn't need any permits to begin working on the site."We were told it's considered landscaping," said Power. "Everything that is being done here does not require any kind of building permit."Power said she has called the municipality several times to complain but the jackhammering drags on.The HRM councillor for the area has also heard the residents complaints."Until they actually start pouring their footings and foundation they don't need any permit," said Shawn Cleary, who represents Halifax West Armdale. "Site prep is considered landscaping and this is a gap in the construction and noise bylaws because really this kind of thing shouldn't be going on for as long as it has."Cleary said he plans to propose changes so residents won't have to deal with long-term noise while a home site is being prepared.Part of the problem is the excavator at the site isn't big enough to deal with the thick rock in a timely fashion.Armshore Drive is a short, dead-end street connected to Herring Cove Road by a small bridge over a brook. Bigger machines can not pass over the bridge."We just want to make sure that somebody is paying attention," said Dolnyckyj. "We understand there are extenuating circumstances and nobody could have predicted something like this but it's happening and we want to know what we can do about it so it doesn't happen to somebody else."Patience is running thin for the residents who live near the work site.The home builder said the end of the jackhammering is in sight but couldn't say when it will end.MORE TOP STORIES
MADRID — Spain’s armed forces chief has dismissed as ‘’not representative” leaked chats by retired military officers allegedly talking about shooting political adversaries and praising late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco. In a statement Friday, Air Force Gen. Miguel Villarroya Vilalta also said the remarks by the retired military members “damage the image of the Spanish Armed Forces and only confuse public opinion.’’ The messages from a private Whatsapp group were published recently by Spain’s Infolibre news website. They reportedly were posted by members of the General Air Force Academy class that started training in 1963, when Franco still ruled the country. Some of them were among dozens of retired officers who wrote King Felipe VI last month to criticize Spain’s left-wing coalition government. The letters to the monarch included some of the language used by far-right politicians and expressed discontent with the “social-communist” government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and its deals with separatist parties in parliament. The royal palace has not commented on the letter. It is not clear how many people were involved in the chats. Spain’s defence minister Thursday asked prosecutors to investigate, saying both the letters and the chats were “reprehensible.” The country’s leading conservative opposition Popular party has refrained from condemning the comments while its ally, the far-right VOX party, has said it identifies with the ex-military members. Villarroya said the Spanish armed forces did not look to the past and were “always in (the) service of the Spanish people and the constitution.” According to Infolibre, one of the WhatsApp chat participants, while discussing activists advocating for the northeastern Catalonia region’s independence from Spain, wrote: “There is no other choice but to start shooting 26 million (expletive).” Another group chat member referred to Franco, who helped lead a military rebellion that led to Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War and then became the country’s dictator, as “the Irreplaceable.” The armed forces were a backbone of Franco’s regime until the dictator died in 1975. Spain’s peaceful transition to democracy didn’t lead to a widespread purge in the military ranks as happened in other countries emerging from authoritarian regimes. In 1981, a coup d’état bid by a few members of a paramilitary police force ended when then-King Juan Carlos I, Felipe’s father, condemned the plot on national television. ____ Associated Press writer Aritz Parra contributed to this report. CiaráN Giles, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — CWB Financial Group reported its fourth-quarter profit edged down from a year ago, but the bank still beat expectations.The bank says it earned net income available to common shareholders of $63.4 million or 73 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Oct. 31, down from $67.5 million or 77 cents per diluted share a year ago.Revenue totalled $236.6 million, up from $220.9 million in the same quarter last year.Total provisions for credit losses were $19.6 million, up from $13.3 million in the same quarter last year, but down from $24.4 million in the third quarter.On an adjusted basis, CWB says it earned 75 cents per share for the quarter, down from an adjusted profit of 78 cents per share a year ago.Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of 74 cents per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:CWB)The Canadian Press
Chatham-Kent is looking to learn more about the experiences of residents who are immigrants as part of efforts to make the region more welcoming and grow the population.For the first time, the municipality is conducting an online survey to assess how welcome immigrants feel in the community.As Audrey Ansell, Chatham-Kent's manager of community attraction and promotion, explained on Windsor Morning, the project is an important one for the municipality, which has been focused on immigration for more than a decade."It's really important that we understand the experiences of immigrants in our community ... whether they arrived 45 years ago, or four years ago," she told host Tony Doucette on Friday."We want to be able to build on Chatham-Kent as Canada's first welcoming community," Ansell said, referring to a 2016 designation from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.The survey questions are based on the 17 characteristics of a welcoming community, such as access to housing, employment, transportation and opportunities for community engagement, Ansell explained. The survey also asks about experiences with discrimination."We're asking immigrant newcomers in Chatham-Kent to rate our community based on those factors," she said.According to the 2016 Census, 8,630 residents of the municipality are immigrants out of a population of just over 102,000.The 30-question survey is being offered in five languages, though speakers of additional languages who want to complete the survey can reach out to the Chatham-Kent Local Immigration Partnership. The survey is open until Dec. 28.
OTTAWA — A quick look at Canada's November employment (numbers from the previous month in brackets):Unemployment rate: 8.5 per cent (8.9)Employment rate: 59.5 per cent (59.4)Participation rate: 65.1 per cent (65.2)Number unemployed: 1,735,200 (1,816,800)Number working: 18,615,600 (18,553,500)Youth (15-24 years) unemployment rate: 17.4 per cent (18.8)Men (25 plus) unemployment rate: 7.4 per cent (7.8)Women (25 plus) unemployment rate: 6.8 per cent (6.8)This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020 and was generated automatically.The Canadian Press
Marco Arop believes it's the best he's ever felt through 600 metres of a race. But near the home stretch of a men's 800 event in August, the Canadian runner sensed his lead slipping away, felt the shoulder of American Donavan Brazier brush against his and panicked. Arop's body tightened up while Brazier, the world's top-ranked 800 runner, accelerated on the outside down the straightway at a sun-drenched Stockholm Olympic Stadium to another victory in a pandemic-shortened season. "Sometimes in a race, if you push too hard it ends up slowing you down," Arop said over the phone this week from Starkville, Miss. "No matter how comfortable I am, when I see someone pass me, I have to stay comfortable and not be too reactive. "Since my first collegiate season, there have been a lot of races when I would have a good 600 metres and the final 100 would get me. I was always told if I had a strong base [of a training program] I would be able to finish stronger." To that end, Arop has worked on improving his physical strength the past three months with Mississippi State University head track and field coach Chris Woods, with weekly 13-kilometre runs, weight training and circuits — sets of 400 to 1,000-metre runs in combination with other exercises. WATCH | Marco Arop places 2nd behind reigning 800m world champ: Arop has emphasized more volume in his workouts and a greater focus on recovery at the rest stage to prevent injury. For example, if he does repeat runs of 1,000, Arop might swim the next day for recovery and follow that with a 20 to 40-minute fartlek — a period of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. For his Saturday long runs on a grass field or gravel trail, the 22-year-old has started at a six-minute 40-second pace per mile and gradually increased his speed to clock a 6-flat pace at the halfway mark ahead of a strong finish. "Before, I'd probably start at 6:40 and go slower towards the end, finishing at around a 7:30 [pace]. I'm now able to pick up the pace," said the six-foot-four Arop, who trains six days a week and has added five pounds to his regular racing weight of 175. "My body is holding up well. I feel stronger and more fit to run faster for longer periods of time." Beating higher-ranked opponents Woods, who also coached Arop before the three-time All-American announced last December he was foregoing his NCAA eligibility to turn pro, has been encouraged by the runner's consistency in training. "I am excited to see what he is capable of doing once we start doing things more specific to his race," Woods said. "He's been in this sport for such a short time and there's several things we haven't been able to get to because we don't want to rush his growth and potentially get injured." I truly believe Marco is one of the best 800 [metre] runners on the planet and I hope we can showcase that during the [Tokyo] Olympic Games. — Chris Woods, Mississippi State University head track and field coach Still, the 15th-ranked Arop, who didn't start running seriously until he was 17 in his final year of high school in Edmonton, was able to get out strong in races in 2020, take the lead against Brazier and beat top-six runners Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich of Kenya, Amel Tuka of Bosnia and Puerto Rico's Wesley Vázquez. "They're amazing runners and to be in the same conversation as them does give me a lot of confidence going into next year," Arop said. "I'm hoping to surprise [Brazier] in the upcoming season. I do respect him as a runner and I want to give him my best shot when the time comes." Arop also shaved four seconds off many of his early 2019 performances to a personal-best 1:44.14, a time that falls below the 1:45.20 Tokyo Olympic standard and one he feels could have been lowered by "maybe" another second. WATCH | Arop sets personal-best time in Monaco: The Business Information Systems major understands he's now among the sport's elite, which includes world No. 4 and Canadian record holder Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont. Early in 2019, the Sudan-born Arop recovered from a hamstring injury and enjoyed a breakout season that featured a Pan Am gold medal and seventh-place finish in his world final debut last October in Doha, Qatar. 'The sky is truly the limit for this young man' Right now, Woods said, there isn't a ceiling to the 2018 Canadian champion's potential. "I truly believe Marco is one of the best 800 [metre] runners on the planet," he said, "and I hope we can showcase that during the Olympic Games [next summer]. Not to be cliché, but the sky truly is the limit for this young man." At the insistence of his parents and four brothers, all of whom contracted the coronavirus in September, Arop will stay in Mississippi through the Christmas holiday season to build upon the momentum of his fall training. "They know how important it is for me to have a training period through the winter [entering an Olympic year]. I went home a year ago and got the flu which put a stop to my training for about two weeks and the next month was spent regaining my fitness," he said. "It's very common for my mom to have a cold and she was the most at-risk [for COVID-19] having diabetes and high blood pressure. I'm just thankful they all came out of it fine. "It was a reflective time for me, to not take little moments for granted. It was a reminder to make sure when I talk to them to tell them how I feel and check in with them as much as I can."
A special committee struck after almost two years' worth of emails from a government account went missing is recommending the province make individual public servants responsible by law for preserving their own records.The province's Special Committee on Government Records Retention is calling on the province to implement a "duty to document" clause in the Archives & Records Act, the legislation that sets out government's responsibilities when it comes to the preservation of documents."A duty to document establishes a positive duty for public servants and officials to create a full, accurate and complete record of important business activities," the committee wrote in its final report to the legislature.Information and privacy commissioners across Canada have been pushing for duty to document legislation in the country for years, as a way to strengthen public access to government documents.In 2017, B.C. became the first province in Canada to implement such a measure.Committee chair Michele Beaton said implementing a similar measure in P.E.I. would "catapult us to being a leader in being transparent regarding government decisions."The committee is also recommending government make more records public via routine disclosure — without requiring they be requested through freedom of information legislation.Committee struck to probe missing emailsIt was as a result of freedom of information requests that the committee came into being.P.E.I.'s former privacy commissioner Karen Rose issued a scathing report in June, after learning that almost two years worth of emails belonging to Brad Mix, a senior bureaucrat with Innovation PEI, had gone missing.The emails had been subject to multiple freedom of information requests. The province didn't tell those requesting the emails — and initially did not tell the privacy commissioner — that the records no longer existed.Failing to disclose that, the commissioner concluded, put government in breach of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. She said failure to properly archive the emails was a breach of the Archives and Records Act.More 'gaps' in government email archivesAs part of its review, the committee was advised by the province's Treasury Board of five more email archives belonging to former bureaucrats and elected officials that contain one or more "gaps."Among those are two former cabinet ministers: Wes Sheridan, former minister of finance; and Allan Campbell, a cabinet minister who became Robert Ghiz's chief of staff in 2011.Both archives were among a list of email accounts P.E.I.'s auditor general asked for in 2015 as part of her investigation of e-gaming, the province's failed attempt to become a regulator for online gambling.The five archives with gaps are in addition to three email accounts the auditor general said in her 2016 report had been improperly deleted. She cited that as a contravention of the Archives and Records Act.A spokesperson for the province's Treasury Board told CBC News that a "preliminary search" of 26 email accounts was conducted in 2015, at the request of the auditor general, and the five in question "appeared to have a gap or gaps in time."However, the spokesperson said that, according to the province's IT department, "a gap does not mean a missing email or emails. A gap may be a variety of things such as a day of inactivity or a time period of inactivity."According to the information provided to the committee, the dates of those gaps were not recorded when they were first discovered in 2015. Commissioner asking for detailsMembers of the committee, when they were advised of the email gaps, decided to take no further action on the matter.But P.E.I.'s new privacy commissioner Denise Doiron has written to the province's deputy minister of finance asking about one of the gap accounts — that belonging to Sheridan.Doiron has asked for the dates of Sheridan's gaps, and noted that when her predecessor asked the department about the possibility of any further missing records while investigating Mix's emails, there was no mention of Sheridan's account."You did not mention the possibility of any gaps in Wes Sheridan's records in your response," Doiron noted in her letter.Didn't delete emails, said MixWhen called to appear before the committee in October, Mix said he "did not do anything to destroy any of my email archives. I did not do anything knowingly to cause the gap that exists in my email archive." P.E.I. is the last province in the country to use the Groupwise email system, which debuted in 1994. The province is in the process of upgrading to Microsoft 365, which is expected to make records management and retention easier.CBC News reached out to Sheridan and Campbell for reaction to the report.Campbell did not respond and Sheridan declined to comment.More from CBC P.E.I.
NEW YORK — A year after a series of concerts in Puerto Rico that ended up being his last because of the pandemic, Daddy Yankee is bringing those performances to YouTube as a Christmas gift to his fans around the globe. “DY2K20,” the digital version of his show “Con Calma Pal’ Choli,” will be released in three parts on Yankee's YouTube channel, with the first installment out Friday. The others will drop on Dec. 14 and Dec. 21, respectively. “I wanted to give a Christmas present to all my fans during the pandemic, bring the party to their homes free of charge, bring them joy in such difficult times,” the reggaeton star told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Miami. Yankee, who has stayed mostly out of the spotlight in 2020, said that while the pandemic has hit many very hard, it has also allowed him to do something he hadn't done in three decades: Focus on his health and rest. It's something he had to gradually learn after gaining 40 pounds (almost 20 kilos) during the first months of quarantine. “Maybe because of the anxiety... I started eating and eating and eating and I put on the pounds like never before. I got to weigh 230 pounds (105 kilos) ... But I recovered my normal weight from 10 years ago. That was my focus,” said the “Despacito” and “Gasolina” singer, adding he achieved his goal by watching what he ate and exercising, a lot. “I devoted myself to my health and to something that was unknown to me, which was rest,” he said. “I started to learn how to live with calmness and to appreciate it... And I feel different, I feel in a new phase completely.” Now that he gained some balance in his life, he feels ready to reactivate his career. In addition to “DY2K20,” he has another surprise for his fans: A new music collaboration he will release in the coming days, although he wouldn't provide details yet. For now, he said he was blessed to finally share with the world the footage of a show staged at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot, which involved over 80 people who worked with “great passion, great creativity.” It was well-received, going from two scheduled dates to a full residence, with 12 sold-out shows, or 170,000 tickets. What many don't know is that a technical problem on opening night resulted in a new business opportunity: Massive concerts in the daylight hours, something never seen before on the island. After getting stuck on a platform over the stage, Yankee announced to the audience that he would give them an extra show for free, and it was a matinee. He adjusted the content to make it family friendly, and ended up doing one more that way. Another unique aspect of “Con Calma Pal’ Choli,” which featured artists like Ozuna, Wisin & Yandel and Nicky Jam, was the use of holograms to replace those who weren't there to perform live. “I wanted the artists to be gigantic, on people's faces, so the audience could feel that they were in front of them and we achieved that,” Yankee said. “It was a concert that became a residence, like if Las Vegas had moved to Puerto Rico.” ___ Follow Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner. Sigal Ratner-Arias, The Associated Press
Eight new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in the province on Friday, including four in Zone 4, the Edmundston region, where a grocery store worker tested positive.Loblaw confirmed Friday that an employee at the chain's Atlantic Superstore store in Edmundston has tested positive for COVID-19.The employee's last day of work was Nov. 26.Loblaw said team members who worked closely with this individual are at home in self-isolation, monitoring for any symptoms.The store is working with New Brunswick Public Health to ensure the safety of its customers, including following cleaning and disinfection measures in the store and notifying anyone who may have been in contact with the employee, Loblaw said.The Edmundston region has had 13 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with five of those reported this week.The four new cases reported Friday in the Edmundston region include three people 19 years old or younger and an adult in their 40s.Zone 2, the Saint John region, recorded two more cases, one person in their 50s and another in their 60s.Zones 1 and 3, the Moncton and Fredericton regions, respectively, each reported a single new case. The Moncton case is someone in their 30s, and the Fredericton case is someone in their 60s.The total number of New Brunswick COVID-19 cases so far is now 528. There have been eight recoveries since Thursday, so the active case count stands at 111.There were 1,686 tests done since this time Thursday, bringing the total number of tests to 131,656. Seven people have died, and no one is in hospital.Public Health did not hold a news conference Friday.Researchers say province's north at riskResearchers at the University of New Brunswick say people living in the northern part of the province are more vulnerable to negative outcomes from COVID-19.The researchers's examined COVID-19 risk indicators that could help with community planning and recovery efforts, said Sandra Magalhaes, lead researcher at the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training at UNB."The goal really was to increase awareness of our research to be able to engage with different groups to identity what are their priorities," said Magalhaes said.The researchers made three findings: * Nearly one in every five adults in northern New Brunswick has two or more relevant health conditions that increase the risk of negative outcomes connected to COVID-19. * In Northern New Brunswick, there is a greater proportion of people who have been hospitalized because of a mental health condition in the last 10 years. * People over 65 are living alone in 20 to 22 per cent of houses, compared with about 15 per cent in the urban cores of Fredericton and Moncton.Magalhaes said that for seniors, living alone during the pandemic can lead to feelings of social isolation and a difficulty accessing essential services as physical distancing rules continue.In southern New Brunswick, such isolation was less common, although Minto, about 50 kilometres northeast of Fredericton, also has a large proportion of seniors living alone. The researchers also looked at people with existing health problems, including mental health issues."In bracing for future months, we aim to understand which groups may be more vulnerable to negative physical consequences of COVID-19 and may thus require additional resources and support in these challenging times."Magalhaes said more information should help government better allocate money to areas where the help is needed most. It will also help the two regional health authorities and community organizations plan.The second part of this report is expected to be published in early 2021.Mask exemption protocols unclear to people with disabilitiesThe chair of the Premier's Council on Disabilities says he's trying to clarify the protocols for people who have medical exemptions from mandatory mask rules.Randy Dickinson was responding Friday to concerns expressed by a Moncton mother, who has been refused entry to her local grocery store when with her 16-year-old son Jayden Moore, who has been exempted from wearing a mask.Earlier this week, Christine Roberts said Jayden got a doctor's note for an exemption because he's been diagnosed as moderate to high-functioning on the autism spectrum, with sensory processing disorder and high anxiety.Dickinson said he's had difficulty getting clear information about the mask exemption on behalf of people with disabilities and their caregivers."There's no clear protocol that I can find to let people know how they go about confirming that they qualify for the so-called exemption and more importantly, when people are out and about in the community," he said."Should there be some kind of ID card or something that they could carry in their wallet?"Dickinson said he plans to pursue the issue further with New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard.He's also calling on neighbours and family members to do what they can to support people with disabilities during the pandemic, such as by offering to deliver groceries or providing respite care.Rethinking orangeDr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health, says officials will be doing a risk assessment on Sunday for the Fredericton and Moncton regions to determine if they can be moved ahead to the less restrictive yellow phase, where four health zones are already.She wasn't clear whether an announcement would be made Sunday.Potential public exposure warnings for Saint John, MonctonPublic Health has warned of the following possible exposures to the virus in the Saint John and Moncton areas, including gyms, stores, bars, restaurants and on flights.Saint John area * Churchill's Pub on Nov. 20, at 8 Grannan St., between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Saint John. * Picaroons on Nov. 21, at 30 Canterbury St., between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Saint John. * Thandi's Restaurant on Nov. 21 between 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. 33 Canterbury St., Saint John * Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio on Nov. 19 between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., 47 Clark Rd., RothesayMoncton * GoodLife Fitness on Nov. 21 at 555 Dieppe Blvd, Dieppe, between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Flights into Moncton: * Air Canada Flight 8372 onNov. 28 from Fort McMurray to Calgary, departed 6:10 a.m * Air Canada Flight 144 onNov. 28 from Calgary to Toronto, departed at 11:15 a.m. * Air Canada Flight 8918 onNov. 28 from Toronto to Moncton, departed at 8:30 p.m. * Air Canada Flight 178 on Nov. 19 from Edmonton to Toronto, arrived at 5:58 a.m. * Air Canada Flight 404 on Nov. 19 from Toronto to Montreal, arrived at 10:16 a.m. * Air Canada Flight 8902 on Nov. 19 from Montreal to Moncton, arrived at 4:17 p.m.What to do if you have a symptomPeople concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: * A fever above 38 C. * A new cough or worsening chronic cough. * Sore throat. * Runny nose. * Headache. * New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. * Difficulty breathing.In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes.People with one of those symptoms should: * Stay at home. * Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. * Describe symptoms and travel history. * Follow instructions.
LONDON — U.K. regulators went on the offensive Friday to beat back criticism that they rushed their authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying they rigorously analyzed data on safety and effectiveness in the shortest time possible without compromising the thoroughness of their review.The comments from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency came as the Times newspaper reported that the agency’s chief executive, Dr. June Raine, planned to give a series of radio interviews so she could speak directly to people who may be concerned about getting vaccinated.The MHRA reiterated earlier statements that the agency is conducting rolling reviews of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, allowing regulators to speed up the review process by looking at data as it becomes available. The agency gave emergency approval on Wednesday to a vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany-based BioNTech, making Britain the first Western country to authorize a vaccine against the coronavirus.The ability to act more quickly “does not mean steps and the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been bypassed,” the MHRA said. “No vaccine would be authorized for supply in the U.K. unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.”The media blitz comes amid concerns that criticism of the approval process could undermine public confidence in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, leading some individuals to shun shots. Britain plans to begin vaccinating people within the next few days, starting with nursing home residents, caregivers and people over age 80.Britain will initially receive 800,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 400,000 people, so the first shots will go to those who are most at risk of dying from COVID-19 and those who are most likely to spread the coronavirus.America’s top infectious disease expert late Thursday apologized for suggesting that U.K. authorities had rushed their authorization of the vaccine.Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had told U.S. media outlets that U.K. regulators hadn’t acted “as carefully” as the Food and Drug Administration. He later clarified to the BBC that he had meant to say that U.S. authorities do things differently than their British counterparts, not better, but didn't phrase his comments properly.“I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community at the U.K., and anyone who knows me and my relationship with that over literally decades, you know that’s the case,” Fauci told the BBC.Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the different approaches of various regulators may be one reason Britain was first to authorize the vaccine.The FDA, for example, goes back to the raw data supplied by drugmakers and reanalyzes it to verify the findings. Virtually no other regulatory agency regularly does this, said Evans, who has worked with regulators in the U.K. and the European Union.In addition, Britain decided to take advantage of EU rules that allow individual countries to allow the emergency use of new products inside their own borders in response to public health emergencies. The EU's European Medicines Agency chose a more time-consuming authorization process that will allow the vaccine to be used in all 27 member nations.While Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31, it remains bound by the bloc’s rules and regulations until the end of December under a transition agreement designed to ease the shock of Brexit.Brexit helped the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency move faster because it is no longer involved in assessing products intended for the entire bloc as are regulators in the remaining EU countries, according to Evans. MHRA therefore had more resources to devote to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and could respond more quickly when new data was submitted, he said.“Consequently, the U.K. has almost undoubtedly had greater capacity to respond to a new application for authorization of a vaccine than any other country,” Evans said.When the MHRA announced its decision on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, chief executive Raine said people should be confident “no corners have been cut.” British experts reviewed more than 1,000 pages of information, including raw data, on safety, quality and effectiveness before deciding to give temporary authorization for use of the vaccine, she said.But European officials reacted sourly to the U.K. decision.The European Medicines Agency, which plans to make its own decision by Dec. 29, issued a statement saying its process was “more appropriate” than Britain’s.Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder was more pointed, suggesting U.K. authorities had acted “without even sufficient basis.”“This will reduce the readiness to get vaccinated rather than increase it, because people expect a safe immunization process,” he said.In his latest comments, Fauci rejected the idea that the U.K. skipped vital steps.The FDA has to move more slowly amid the high degree of skepticism about vaccines in the U.S., Fauci said. Because of this, U.S. regulators are reviewing all of the raw data from Pfizer and BioNTech “in a way that could not possibly have been done any more quickly,” he said.It will take the FDA at least another week to complete its review, but the U.S. and Britain will ultimately end up in the same place, Fauci said.“At the end of the day, it’s going to be safe, it’s going to be effective,” he said. “The people in the U.K. are going to receive it, and they’re going to do really well, and the people in the United States are going to receive it, and we’re going to do pretty well.”___Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans contributed.___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
OAKVILLE, Ont. — A driver has been charged in the death of a woman who was struck while walking her dog in Oakville, Ont. Halton Regional Police say the fatal collision happened Thursday afternoon. The 51-year-old and her dog were pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators determined the victim was walking her dog on a path when they were hit by the vehicle that had left the roadway. After hitting the pedestrian and her pet, police say the driver struck a stone post before the vehicle came to rest in the road. The driver, a man in his 50s from Oakville, has been arrested for impaired operation and dangerous driving causing death. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Miguel Algarín, poet, professor and a founder of New York City's beloved Nuyorican Poets Café performance space, has died. He was 79.Algarín died Monday at a Manhattan hospital from sepsis, said Daniel Gallant, executive director of the Nuyorican Poets Café.Born in Puerto Rico, Algarín and his family came to New York City when he was a child.After Algarín had returned to New York with degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania State University, he held gatherings with other poets in his apartment in the early 1970s, exploring Puerto Rican identity and other themes.Out of that was created the Nuyorican Poets Café, which by 1981 had moved to a building on Manhattan's lower east side where it remains.“Miguel was a brilliant poet, an influential professor and leader, and a supportive mentor who inspired and guided generations of artists," Gallant said.Algarín was a prolific writer, with multiple books of poetry to his name, and edited several anthologies as well.He spent years at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he taught classes on Shakespeare, creative writing and ethnic literature, and became a professor emeritus.Gallant said the cafe would have an online tribute for Algarín this month, and would do something in person as soon as conditions allow.The Associated Press
The Humboldt Special Olympics Floor Hockey Team took home the Special Olympics Canada Team of the Year Award. TSN hosted the award ceremony on Facebook Live on Dec. 3 with athletes and coaches sending in their thank you videos for the ceremony. The team has been collecting the hardware over the last two years with a bronze medal win during the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational youth games in Toronto and another bronze win at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay 2020. Floor hockey has been part of the Humboldt Special Olympics sporting list for the last 16 years. Ever since the team lost fellow teammate, Brody Hinz, in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, the team has played to honour him, said Vic Rauter, a TSN announcer, during the ceremony. “Since the loss of their friend and teammate, the Special Olympics Humboldt Broncos floor hockey team have been on a mission to honour those lost and those who were affected.” This award comes on the cusp of two provincial awards in October, another team award for the floor hockey team and a coaching award from coach Brain Reifferscheid. Reifferscheid said the award was unexpected and the coaches and players are pretty happy and proud and excited and humbled by the honour, he said. The provincial award was enough of a surprise for the team to wrap their heads around and celebrate but it was not long after before they were contacted by Special Olympics Canada about their national award. This will be the second year in a row that a Humboldt Special Olympics athlete or team has received a national award from Special Olympics Canada, with Tianna Zimmerman from Englefeld taking home Athlete of the Year during the 2019 award ceremony as well as the provincial honour that same year, just like the floor hockey team. This two year stretch at both the national and provincial level said a lot about the Special Olympics Humboldt, Reifferscheid said. “We've got a group of athletes that are very sports-minded and committed to achieving high goals. It also says something about the Special Olympics Humboldt organization, all the volunteers and coaches and all the sports. Everyone has a piece of contributing to helping athletes be successful.” On behalf of the Humboldt Special Olympics floor hockey team, they are honoured to receive this award, Reifferscheid said.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist