New York City's mayor says snowy and icy weather across much of the nation has significantly delayed shipments of COVID-19 vaccine. Bill de Blasio says the delays are forcing the city to "hold back appointments." (Feb. 17)
New York City's mayor says snowy and icy weather across much of the nation has significantly delayed shipments of COVID-19 vaccine. Bill de Blasio says the delays are forcing the city to "hold back appointments." (Feb. 17)
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.
Japanese supercomputer simulations showed that wearing two masks gave limited benefit in blocking viral spread compared with one properly fitted mask. The findings in part contradict recent recommendations from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that two masks were better than one at reducing a person's exposure to the coronavirus. Researchers used the Fugaku supercomputer to model the flow of virus particles from people wearing different types and combinations of masks, according to a study released on Thursday by research giant Riken and Kobe University.
An independent inquiry into the workplace culture of Australia's Parliament launched after several rape allegations involving staff members of the ruling Liberal party will report its findings by November, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said on Friday. Three female employees of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Liberal party last month said they had been raped by the same man in 2019 and 2020. So far, one of the alleged victims has lodged a complaint with police after first going public with her accusation, without naming the man.
Pressure is mounting on the federal government to cap interest rates on payday money lenders, which can charge nearly 50 per cent interest. Advocates say it’s often the most financially vulnerable using them and the pandemic economy has made things worse.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will begin sending 40% of all vaccine doses to the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in the state to try to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus and get the state’s economy open more quickly, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday in the latest shake-up to the state's rules. The doses will be spread among 400 ZIP codes where there are about 8 million people eligible for shots, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's health and human services secretary. Many of the neighbourhoods are in Los Angeles County and the central valley, which have had among the highest rates of infection. The areas are considered most vulnerable based on metrics such as household income, education level and access to health care. Newsom said that not only is this the right thing to do, it's critical to opening up more of the state's economy. “It is a race against the variants. It's a race against exhaustion. It's a race to safely, thoughtfully open our economy, mindful that it has to be an economy that doesn't leave people behind, that is truly inclusive,” Newsom, a Democrat, said at a news conference. He also encouraged people to wear two masks. The announcement is the latest change in an evolving approach to getting nearly 40 million residents vaccinated, adding to ongoing confusion among people clamouring for shots. The move to ease reopening also comes days after several Republican-led states lifted COVID-19 restrictions as the U.S. now has three vaccines available. Tying reopening to vaccination equity metrics was cheered by representatives of the legislative Black and Latino caucuses, as well as social justice and equity groups. Latinos make up roughly half of cases and deaths in California even though they are 39% of the population. Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, said the dedicated vaccine hasn't come soon enough given the disparate numbers of deaths and the lack of access to vaccines in the hardest-hit communities. “They are living day-to-day, so they have to go and work in order to survive and they don’t have the luxury to take half a day to go where the vaccine sites are,” he said. The current standards for who can get a vaccine won't change. Right now that's people 65 and over, farmworkers and grocery clerks, educators and emergency service workers. Transit workers, flight attendants and hardware store clerks are among those clamouring to be added to the priority access list. “I wouldn’t say it’s not fair, but it should be thought out a little bit more," said Lee Snyder, assistant manager at Brownies Ace Hardware in San Francisco. Setting aside 40% of vaccine supply essentially means that hard-hit ZIP codes will be administering double what they are currently, Ghaly said. Data show that of shots given, only about 17% were administered in vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Double that amount was going to those in the top quarter of what California deems the healthiest communities, Ghaly said. Newsom has called equity the state’s “North Star.” Yet community health clinics that serve low-income and vulnerable Californians say they haven’t been getting enough doses and are hopeful that will change. Ghaly said Thursday that the administration will work with communities to make sure the vaccine gets to those patients, not to day-trippers from wealthier ZIP codes who have the time and tech savvy to schedule appointments online. Newsom said addressing the problem is like playing “whack-a-mole.” The health centres want to protect appointments for patients and others from underserved communities “to ensure those people we are targeting are coming, not the vaccine seekers" from wealthier neighbourhoods, said Andie Martinez Patterson, vice-president of government affairs at the California Primary Care Association. She said a recent South Los Angeles clinic recently found its appointments had been booked by people from Beverly Hills. Ghaly said that people with certain disabilities or underlying health conditions who will be eligible in mid-March will not be left out, as many live in some of the disadvantaged areas. He said he expects all communities to receive at least as many doses of vaccine as they are receiving now. As more doses are administered in the targeted neighbourhoods, the state will make it easier for counties to move through tiers that dictate business and school reopenings. Right now, counties can move from the most restrictive purple tier to the lower red tier based on metrics including the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per day over a period of several weeks. The strict standard for that rate will be lowered, allowing businesses such as restaurants and gyms to reopen indoors at limited capacity. While race and ethnicity are not explicit factors in designating vaccinations, the 400 vulnerable ZIP codes overlap heavily with neighbourhoods with higher populations of Blacks, Latinos and Asian and Pacific Islanders, officials said. ___ Har reported from San Francisco. ___ Associated Press writer Amy Taxin in Orange County contributed to the story. Janie Har And Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press
When the opportunity to open up his own FreschCo franchise came around, Eric Nugent jumped at the chance. After all, the born-and-raised Winnipegger has done everything possible to climb up the corporate ladder from one grocery store to the next, in many ways, for nearly a decade. “But back when I first started that minimum-wage supermarket job in high school, I never thought I’d even stick around — let alone own my own store,” Nugent said. “I couldn’t be happier and prouder about being able to achieve this after all of that.” Today, Nugent will open the doors for the first time to a new FreshCo store at Kimberly Avenue and Henderson Highway. He’s already hired more than 90 staff members to make this possible, and he’s set up partnerships with several local businesses — including Perfect Pierogies, Natural Bakery, City Bread, Winkler Meats and Jimel’s Bakery — to feature their products at the new location. Getting any of that done during COVID-19, however, wasn’t easy. “The pandemic completely changed everything about the way we set any of this up, or how we went about it,” he said. “Especially when it came to hiring, it’s weird not being able to see the people in-person that you’re recruiting… everything was online for the sake of making things safe.” Still, Nugent thinks it’s an advantage that his supermarket is opening up after proper pandemic protocols — sanitization stations, arrows to allow physical distancing in aisles, plexiglass barriers and deep daily cleaning among others — have already been established by other stores. “We’re almost a year into this crisis now,” he said, “but that means we don’t have to do that kind of adapting that other grocers had to do when they had no idea how to navigate this. “And to me what’s most exciting is that it’s a discount store, which is especially the perfect fit for the Winnipeg market.” Sobeys Inc., the company that owns the FreschCo brand, seems to agree. In June, 2020, the grocery store chain announced it would be converting several current and former Safeways in Winnipeg into FreshCos. And across Western Canada, back in 2017, Sobeys’ parent conglomerate Empire Company Limited, said it was on its way to converting at least 25 per cent of its Safeway and Sobeys stores to FreshCos due to underperformance. A Sobeys spokesperson confirmed Thursday that, apart from Nugent’s franchise, three other FreschCos are coming to the city in the next few months. One of them will open next week at Niakwa Village on Alpine Avenue. Two others (on Sargent Avenue at Sherbrook Street, and Pembina Highway at McGillvray Boulevard, respectively) do not have a set date yet. Two FreshCos are already open, one on McPhillips Street at Jefferson Avenue, and the other on Regent Avenue at Lagimodiere Boulevard. Sylvain Charlebois, a leading food distribution and supply management expert, said the writing has been on the wall for premium stores like Safeway for quite some time. “The pandemic just accelerated this,” he said. “The market is shifting from a socio-economic perspective and I think you’re going to see more companies trading down their premium stores for a while because of the trends customers are setting, who are getting used to seeing discounts.” “To me, it’s all about what the consumer wants,” said Nugent. “Right now, more than ever, we’re all trying to save up on money. And I’m proud to own a FreshCo franchise because it’s that hard-discounts supermarket which is what my community wants.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
The latest numbers 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 death). 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 death). 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
CALGARY — Alberta's police watchdog is investigating the shooting death of a woman by Calgary police at a hotel. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) says Calgary Police Service officers responded Wednesday afternoon to a report of a distressed woman with a gun who was threatening to harm herself. Police say they attempted to speak with the 20-year-old woman and she appeared in a doorway, went inside a room, and came back out. ASIRT says video from body-worn cameras shows that when the woman returned, she was armed with what appeared to be a black handgun. Two police officers fatally shot the woman and tactical unit officers found a replica handgun pellet pistol nearby. No other information about the shooting at the Nuvo Hotel was released Thursday. ASIRT is called in to investigate when police are involved in anything that results in serious injury or death, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Jake Virtanen scored twice, propelling the Vancouver Canucks to a much-needed 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday. Bo Horvat also scored for Vancouver (10-15-2), burying a snap shot midway through the third period to give his side some breathing room. Pierre Engvall had the lone goal for the Leafs (18-5-2) with Ilya Mikheyev notching an assist. Thatcher Demko stood tall in the Canucks net, stopping 32 shots. The Leafs got 24 saves from Michael Hutchinson. Toronto was coming off a three-game sweep of the Oilers, including a 6-1 win in Edmonton on Wednesday. Thursday’s result snapped a four-game win streak that saw the Leafs outscore their opposition 15-2. The Canucks were playing without star centre Elias Pettersson, who left morning skate with an upper-body injury Thursday and is considered day-to-day. Auston Matthews nearly clawed out a second goal for the Leafs with less than two minutes left on the clock, but Demko stretched out across the net for an eye-popping last-second save. While the Canucks have struggled with holding leads this season, they appeared determined Thursday to not let another game slip away. The squad started the third period with aggression, controlling the puck and peppering Hutchinson with shots. Horvat got one past the Toronto netminder 7:56 into the frame, collecting a crisp pass from defenceman Alex Edler and instantly launching a blast from the top hash marks. Horvat's 10th goal of the season put Vancouver up 3-1. Midway through the second, Toronto's Justin Holl was called for tripping, leading to a big power play for the Canucks. Despite the man advantage, Demko was forced to make his most impressive save of the night when Alexander Kerfoot and Mikheyev got a short-handed 2-on-1. Kerfoot sliced a last-second pass to Mikheyev in front of the net and Demko deftly slid across the crease, stacking his pads to make the stop. At the other end of the ice, Virtanen took a sharp-angle shot that snuck into the space between Hutchinson's left shoulder and the crossbar to put Vancouver up 2-1. It was the 24-year-old winger's second goal of the night and his third of the season. He opened the scoring 2:59 into Thursday's game. Virtanen muscled his way into Toronto's zone with speed and chipped a backhanded shot on net. Hutchinson seemed to get a piece of the puck before it popped up and over the goal line to give the Canucks the early lead. Engvall responded for the Leafs 17:15 into the period, sending a wrist shot from low in the slot over Demko's shoulder to knot the score at 1-1 heading into intermission. The Leafs and Canucks will battle again Saturday in Vancouver. NOTES: Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes played his 100th NHL game. He has 79 points (10 goals, 69 assists) across his career. … Marc Michaelis played his first NHL game. The 25-year-old left-winger signed with Vancouver as a free agent in March 2020 after playing four years at Minnesota State University, Mankato. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
Ontario’s first and only diamond mine is moving to the next phase of its closure plan with the appointment of Golder, a Canadian-owned engineering and environmental services consulting group, as the primary contractor who will oversee the remaining demolition and site rehabilitation. Victor Mine, owned by The De Beers Group, is located approximately 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat in the James Bay Lowlands. It opened in 2008 as only the second diamond mine in Canada. The open pit operation also included its own airstrip located on the property. It ceased mining operations in June 2019. De Beers reports that as of the end of 2020, approximately 65 per cent of the on-site infrastructure has been safely demolished, and around 40 per cent of the site has been rehabilitated with more than 1.2 million trees planted on the property since 2014. The De Beers Group will remain accountable for the site, and will retain responsibilities for achieving site closure objectives, keeping in line with government regulations, as well as relationships with Indigenous communities, the company stated in a release. All permits and licences remain in De Beers’ name. A small site-based oversight team will work directly with Golder personnel throughout the process, in addition to the De Beers employees who will continue to be responsible for daily environmental monitoring. Golder was chosen after what De Beers called an “extensive commercial process” which was undertaken throughout 2020. Golder’s responsibilities will include the remaining closure activities, as well as the day-to-day management of the site. They will also handle the remaining infrastructure demolition work, and site rehabilitation through 2023. “A similar model, hiring a prime contractor, was used during construction of Victor Mine, which opened ahead of schedule and on budget,” said Maxwell Morapeli, head of closure for De Beers. “Golder has a strong track record of successful closure and rehabilitation of industrial sites around the world, including working with local communities where they operate. We look forward to benefiting from their experience as we continue the responsible closure of Victor Mine.” Included in its contract with the De Beers Group is a commitment from Golder to work with local Indigenous contracting companies to provide necessary on-site services such as catering, housekeeping, and security. Heavy equipment operators and other personnel will be hired from the Attawapiskat First Nation and will be provided training and other opportunities. Golder and its sub-contractors have also hired 19 former De Beers Victor Mine employees to continue on-site work. “We are proud to have been selected to lead the responsible closure of the Victor Mine,” said Greg Herasymuik, Golder's Canadian Region president. “As we manage activities at site, we are committed to providing employment opportunities and to continue involving the local community.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
BEIJING — China is increasing its defence spending by 6.8% in 2021 as it works to maintain a robust upgrading of the armed forces despite high government debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A national budget report issued Friday said China would spend 1.355 trillion yuan ($210 billion) on defence in the coming year. That’s up from 1.3 trillion yuan ($180 billion) last year representing a 6.6% boost, the lowest percentage increase in at least two decades. The military budget has dipped during periods of slower economic growth, but has also been dropping steadily from the double-digit percentage increases over years as the increasingly powerful military matures and rapid expansion of what is already the world’s second largest defence budget is no longer required. The lavish spending increases of years past have given China the second-largest defence budget in the world behind the U.S. With 3 million troops, the world’s largest standing military has been steadily adding aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighters to its arsenal. The government says most of the spending increases go toward improving pay and other conditions for troops while observers say the budget omits much of China’s spending on weaponry, most of it developed domestically. China’s military is largely designed to maintain its threat to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, although it has also grown more assertive in the South China Sea, the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and elsewhere. The U.S., whose defence spending is estimated to run to about $934 billion between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, has complained of a lack of transparency in China's defence programs, fueling speculation that Beijing aims to supplant America as the primary military power in East Asia. The People's Liberation Army exercises a strong political role as the military branch of the ruling Communist Party. President and party leader Xi Jinping heads the government and party commissions that oversee the armed forces. In his address to Friday's opening session of the ceremonial legislature, the National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said the government would “thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the armed forces and the military strategy for the new era, (and) ensure the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces." “We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security, and development interests of our country" Li said. The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has faced political pressure and angry constituents over her state’s mask order during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the 76-year-old governor of the deeply red state has resisted calls to drop the requirement as Republican governors across the South either shunned mask mandates altogether or lifted them in late winter. “Maybe they don’t have access to the same information I have. We want to be abundantly clear and abundantly safe before we drop the mask mandate,” Ivey said when asked about fellow Republicans — including the Alabama Senate and the lieutenant governor — who urged her to end the order. Ivey issued Alabama’s mask order in July and announced on Thursday that she would extend it five more weeks until April 9. “We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer,” Ivey said at a Thursday news conference. GOP governors from Texas to South Carolina have resisted, or ended, statewide mask orders. Florida, South Carolina and Georgia never had a statewide order. Ivey’s announcement came days after Mississippi and Texas dropped their mandates, decisions President Joe Biden called “Neanderthal thinking.” Mississippi's governor took issue with the criticism. “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them,” Gov. Tate Reeves responded on Twitter. On social media, Ivey’s decision drew a mix of rage and gratitude. “Meemaw you gotta go.... I ain’t wearing it and whoever runs against you in 2022 has got my vote,” one person tweeted at Ivey using the phrase for a Southern grandmother. Another thanked her and wrote, “you are the only Southern governor doing the right thing.” A few questioned if a five-week extension was long enough. In extending the order, Ivey threaded a political needle — following medical advice while letting people know a firm end date is in sight. The governor said wearing a mask will be a personal responsibility after the order expires. “Let me be abundantly clear: After April 9, I will not keep the mask order in effect,” she said. Early in the pandemic, the governor closed dine-in restaurants, beaches and nonessential businesses — all orders that have been lifted. Alabama’s State Health Officer Scott Harris said he presented the governor with information and options, but she made the final decision. “I really appreciate her being willing to do that. I understand it’s a very difficult decision for her. I think the science on masks is very clear that they prevent disease,” Harris said. Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease specialist who contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and now treats patients with the illness, said Ivey deserves credit for standing up to calls to lift the order from fellow Republicans. “I think it was a bold step forward considering the pressure she was under,” he said. But rather than setting a firm deadline for the requirement to expire, Saag said, it would be better to see where both caseloads and vaccinations totals are next month and then make a decision. Comparing Alabama’s hospitalization trend with those from states that are lifting mask orders could be illuminating, he said. “My only plea at this point is to keep an open mind, to watch the data,” Saag said. “Keep an eye on where Alabama is as compared to where Mississippi and Texas are.” Ivey, known for her folksy demeanour, in December made a tongue-in-cheek quip about the heaping doses of criticism she has received from some over masks. “Y’all, I’m not trying to be Governor Mee-Maw as some on social media have called me. I’m just trying to urge you to use the common sense the good Lord gave each of us to be smart and considerate of others,” she said. Kim Chandler, The Associated Press
A community organizer and grandmother who was killed in a crash with a suspected drunk driver in North Vancouver earlier this week is being remembered for her fearless advocacy and gentle heart. Marcelina Perdido Agulay, 65, died in hospital after a head-on crash late Tuesday night that left her husband in critical condition. The driver of the other vehicle had crossed the centre line, and investigators believe alcohol was a factor in the collision. Agulay lived in Burnaby with her husband, and the couple had one son and two grandchildren, according to family and friends. She was active in her union and politics, and volunteered with Migrante B.C., which advocates for the rights of Filipino migrants. "She was a really quiet, gentle soul," Leila Lolua, president of the NDP Burnaby South riding association, told CBC News. "She would never be loud, she'd never be forceful, but she was a force — always with a smile. What made her special to me was she didn't just talk, she actually did the work." Agulay's longtime friend Beth Dollaga, a founding member of Migrante B.C., said she met Agulay in church in 1996 on her very first Sunday in Canada. They became "sisters in faith" and then close friends. Agulay had earned a university degree in agriculture back home in the Philippines, but left in search of employment as a domestic worker, first in Hong Kong and then eventually in Canada. After settling in B.C., she went back to school to become an early childhood educator, and volunteered with Migrante B.C.'s temporary foreign worker outreach program. "She's able to immediately connect with these workers," Dollaga remembered. "She has a gentle spirit of listening." Dollaga said Agulay and her husband, Manong Leo, loved cooking and sharing signature Ilocano dishes from the northern Philippines with their friends and family. Though Agulay was retired, she continued door-knocking for political campaigns and worked at the Burnaby Citizens Association. Premier John Horgan described her as "a tireless advocate for working people" in a tweet on Wednesday night. "She made our communities and our world better. She will be forever missed and forever loved," NDP MLA Mable Elmore said. Agulay's family says her love extended far beyond them to her community and its newest arrivals — a legacy they intend to uphold in her honour.
Thursday's Games NHL N.Y. Islanders 5 Buffalo 2 Winnipeg 4 Montreal 3 (OT) Philadelphia 4 Pittsburgh 3 N.Y. Rangers 6 New Jersey 1 Carolina 5 Detroit 2 Tampa Bay 3 Chicago 2 (OT) Florida 5 Nashville 4 Columbus 3 Dallas 2 Calgary 7 Ottawa 3 Vancouver 3 Toronto 1 --- AHL Providence 4 Bridgeport 1 --- NBA Boston 132 Toronto 125 Washington 119 L.A. Clippers 117 New York 114 Detroit 104 Denver 113 Indiana 103 Milwaukee 112 Memphis 111 Miami 103 New Orleans 93 Oklahoma City 107 San Antonio 102 Phoenix 120 Golden State 98 Portland 123 Sacramento 119 --- MLB Spring Training Baltimore 6 Boston 3 Detroit 8 Toronto 2 Tampa Bay 5 Minnesota 2 Pittsburgh 6 Atlanta 1 Philadelphia 15 N.Y. Yankees 0 N.Y. Mets 8 Washington 4 Texas 5 San Diego 3 San Francisco 3 Chicago White Sox 1 Colorado 9 Seattle 9 Cleveland 5 Milwaukee 1 Arizona 9 L.A. Angels 2 Houston 14 St. Louis 0 Kansas City 5 Cincinnati 3 Chicago Cubs 7 L.A. Dodgers 0 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
A Winnipeg woman is the lead plaintiff for a $750-million class-action lawsuit against the biggest bank-owned brokerage in Canada, claiming it failed to pay vacation pay to her and many other investment advisers for years. According to a statement of claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, RBC-Dominion Securities allegedly breached its legal duties by not fairly compensating many of its nearly 1,500 current advisers across the country, as well as those it previously employed. The claims have yet to be tested or proven in court. It is expected that RBC-DS will defend against the action and deny any allegations in court. Leigh Cunningham, a veteran adviser who spent 26 years at the company’s Winnipeg office and was its vice-president and director, is the lead plaintiff. Cunningham alleges she hadn’t been receiving at least six per cent vacation pay on her full income for decades. “But it’s not just about me,” she said, answering questions from the Free Press at a news conference held inside Manitoba Club Thursday. “I’m trying to help everyone else who was in the same position as me and who now could hopefully be helped with the outcome of this case. “It’s unfair that this happened and the culpability should only be on RBC for letting it get to this.” In an emailed statement Thursday, RBC Wealth Management’s director of communications Louise Armstrong said, “everyone who works at any RBC company is fairly compensated.” “The policies that apply to the employees involved in the action state that their compensation includes vacation pay and statutory holiday pay,” she said. Armstrong declined to provide further comment, adding their statements of defence have not yet been filed because the action has not been certified by court. Cunningham is being represented by a team of lawyers out of Toronto. They include Stephen Moreau, a partner at Cavalluzzo LLP; David O’Connor of Roy O’Connor LLP and Daniel Lublin of Whitten & Lublin. Cunningham’s lawyers are claiming for $750 million in general damages and $50 million in punitive damages from RBC-DS for the lawsuit. Asked where that number came from, they told the Free Press, that’s because the amount of vacation and holiday pay varies from region to region across Canada. “It’s a very hard calculation to make because we’re talking about 13 provinces and territories, who all have their own employment standards,” said Moreau, one of Cunningham’s lawyers. “So, this is the number we believe is best from what we have gathered. As we move forward, we will continue to quantify the level of damages for our case.” In Manitoba, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation with vacation pay of four per cent from their gross wages, per provincial employment standards. After one year of employment, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation and vacation pay of four per cent from their gross earnings. In five years time, vacation rises to at least three weeks, and vacation pay increases to six per cent of gross wages. For Cunningham, it’s also a “systematic problem” — stemming from the type of compensation that financial advisers receive for their work, based mostly on commissions and bonuses. “When I saw that RBC was reporting such large profits last week, I wanted people to know that it’s the advisers who make a lot of that happen,” she said. “Me, personally, I was so focused on my career and how that was going and progressing that I really didn’t even see this happening... But the onus for that shouldn’t have to be on me.” Cunningham’s lawsuit was served to RBC around December, with a notice of action made in 2019. It was not made public until Thursday. It is one of five proposed class actions launched against several banks and insurance companies since early 2019 that are seeking a cumulative $1.2 billion for vacation pay allegedly owed to current and former employees. Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
WASHINGTON — Worried about continuing threats, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police has appealed to congressional leaders to use their influence to keep National Guard troops at the Capitol, two months after the law enforcement breakdowns of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. Yogananda Pittman told the leaders Thursday in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that the board that oversees her department has so far declined to extend an emergency declaration required by the Pentagon to keep Guardsmen who have assisted Capitol officers since the riot. Pittman said she needed the leaders' assistance with the three-member Capitol Police Board, which reports to them. She said the board has sent her a list of actions it wants her to implement, though she said it was unclear whether the points were orders or just recommendations. The letter underscored the confusion over how best to secure the Capitol after a dismal lack of protection in January and biting criticism for law enforcement's handling of the invasion. And it came came as authorities spent the day on high alert, primed for a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the building again, two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors in an insurrection meant to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory. The list in the letter to lawmakers included a partial removal of the imposing fence encircling the Capitol grounds starting Monday and a drawdown of the Guard to 900 troops from the current 5,200 remaining in Washington. Police want to keep the fence indefinitely. In her letter, Pittman said she would ask for a drawdown of the deployment “based on the threat environment and physical and operational security capabilities.” Earlier Thursday, The Associated Press reported the Pentagon was reviewing a Capitol Police request to keep up to 2,200 Guardsmen at the Capitol another 60 days. A statement from the police said Pittman had formally made the recommendation to the Pentagon. A similar dispute had erupted between the Capitol Police and its board before Jan. 6 and even as rioters were storming the building. The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the House and Senate sergeants at arms and the architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force. Steven Sund, the now-former Capitol Police chief, has testified to Congress that he wanted to request the Guard two days before the invasion following reports that white supremacist and far-right groups would target the building to disrupt the certification of Biden's election victory over outgoing President Donald Trump. Paul Irving, who served on the Capitol Police Board as House sergeant-at-arms, denied that Sund asked him to call the Guard. Sund has testified that he asked repeatedly for the Guard to be called as rioters stormed the building, breaking police lines and running over officers unequipped to hold them off. He ultimately called the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard just before 2 p.m., who in turn testified that the request for help was delayed by the Defence Department. The request was not approved until after 5 p.m., as hundreds of rioters marauded through the building and left without being arrested. Five people died in the riot, including a Capitol Police officer and a Trump supporter shot by police. On Thursday, despite the warnings of new trouble, there were no signs of disturbance at the heavily secured building. Nor was there evidence of any large group heading to Washington. The most recent threat appeared to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory, mainly promoted by supporters of QAnon, that former Trump would rise again to power on March 4 and that thousands would come to Washington to try to remove Democrats from office. March 4 was the original presidential inauguration day until 1933, when it was moved to Jan. 20. But Trump was miles away in Florida. In Washington, on one of the warmest days in weeks, the National Mall was almost deserted, save for joggers, journalists, and a handful of tourists trying to take photos of the Capitol dome through the fencing. Online chatter identified by authorities included discussions among members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group, concerning possible plots against the Capitol on Thursday, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Members of the Three Percenters were among the extremists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. But federal agents found no significant increases in the number of hotel rooms being rented in Washington, or in flights to the area, car rental reservations or buses being chartered. Online chatter about the day on extremist sites was declining. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, was briefed by law enforcement about the possible threat and said lawmakers were braced for whatever might come. “We have the razor wire, we have the National Guard. We didn’t have that January 6. So I feel very confident in the security,” he said. But those measures aren't permanent. Some states have threatened to pull their Guardsmen amid reports that some troops had been made to take rest breaks in parking garages or served spoiled food. Other Guardsmen have said they have been given good meals with accommodations for those on vegan or halal diets. In Michigan, which sent 1,000 troops, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she did “not have any intention of agreeing to an extension of this deployment.” Meanwhile, Trump continues to promote lies that the election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud, even though such claims have been rejected by judges and Trump's former attorney general. He repeatedly told those lies on social media and in a charged speech on Jan. 6 in which he implored thousands of supporters to “fight like hell.” Many of those supporters eventually walked to the Capitol grounds and overran officers to breach the building. Trump was impeached by the House on a c harge of incitement of insurrection but was acquitted by the Senate. So far, about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the riot. Trump's election rhetoric continues to be echoed by many national and local Republicans posting online messages about voter fraud and questioning the legitimacy of Biden's victory. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited “a years-long trend of false narratives fueling violence.” “On the specifics of today’s threats, the FBI and DHS have warned that the threat of domestic violent extremism, particularly racially motivated and anti-government extremists, did not begin or end on January 6 and we have been vigilant day in and day out,” she said Thursday. ___ Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Alan Fram, Mary Clare Jalonick, Colleen Long, and Lisa Mascaro in Washington, and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report. Lolita C. Baldor, Lisa Mascaro And Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press
Australian broadcaster SBS said on Friday it would suspend its broadcasts of news bulletins from Chinese state television news services CGTN and CCTV after receiving a human rights complaint. An SBS spokesman told Reuters that programmes from CCTV and CGTN would not air on Saturday and that SBS was reviewing a complaint from a human rights organisation. "Given the serious concerns it raises, and the complexity of the material involved, we have made the decision to suspend the broadcast of the overseas-sourced CGTN and CCTV news bulletins while we undertake an assessment of these services," SBS said in a statement.
As the provincial government works to update its vaccine rollout with new guidelines announced Thursday all but ensuring speedier immunization, Ontarians with serious health conditions want more details on when they'll get vaccinated. "Basically, where do we fit? Where do people like me fit within the plan?" asked Claudio Leiva. Leiva underwent a kidney transplant eight years ago, which means he has to take drugs to suppress his immune system so his body won't reject the transplanted organ. That, in turn, leaves him vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, which has forced his family to live under an even stricter lockdown than the rest of the population for the past year to keep him safe. On the rare occasions that they do need to leave the house, they say every outing brings another level of stress. "For the next 14 days after the visit to the store, we're like, 'What's happening? Am I going to get sick? Do I have a little cough?'" Leiva said. To mitigate the risk of getting COVID-19, the family switched their five-year-old son Nico to a special school that's completely outdoors. On Wednesday, Ontario received new guidelines from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) saying that the interval between shots for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be extended to 16 weeks. The move will allow more people to get a first dose more quickly, and people like Leiva want to know when their turn is coming. A new timeline is on the way: ministry of health For its part, British Columbia has detailed the health conditions that make someone vulnerable, with transplant recipients at the top of the list. Ontario has not yet assessed its vulnerable populations to this degree, though under the current timeline, vaccinations for people with chronic conditions is slated to begin in April. The province says this is likely to be sped up as vaccine supply ramps up. The new guidelines on time between doses for some vaccines prompted Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott to announce Thursday that a new timeline is on the way. "We know people are anxious and we're anxious to let them know when they can receive a vaccine," she said. More transparency is key, says bioethicist Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, says more transparency on these tough decisions is key. He says it's not just people with health conditions looking for more answers. "I've actually heard from a couple of physicians who have asked me, saying, 'I want to advocate for my patients because they clearly have vulnerabilities' ... So, even within the health-care system, there seems to be a lack of clarity as to how one moves forward with that." Bowman also believes the vaccine rollout could have been triaged better, saying leaving so many people to the end of the list was a "grave mistake." "We're approaching the second week of March and we still have both medically vulnerable people and people who are 80-plus who have not received vaccines." While vaccinating first responders and front-line health-care workers is important, Bowman says it consumed so many vaccine doses, and he wonders whether it was the right thing to do. "I think we have to target the people that are most likely going to run into trouble with COVID-19, and that's age and other vulnerabilities." 'Please don't forget people like us' Leiva and his wife, Karen, say the wait has been too long. "I only have two goals for the year," Karen said. "One is to get my son back in school and the other is to go to a grocery store, just go to a grocery store and not feel the way that we feel." As the 46-year-old waits for his vaccine, taking immuno-suppressants regularly, his loved ones say they will continue to wait for answers from the government regarding their place in the queue. "Please don't forget people like us ... I feel like we're going to be overlooked," Karen said.
Walter Gretzky, the ultimate Canadian hockey dad who taught and nurtured the Great One, has died. He was 82.The father of Wayne Gretzky became a name himself, a constant in Wayne's world. As Wayne's star ascended, Walter remained a blue-collar symbol of a devoted hockey parent in a country filled with them.Wayne Gretzky confirmed his father's death on Thursday night with a social media post."It's with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my dad," said Wayne. "He bravely battled Parkinson's and other health issues these last few years, but he never let it get him down."For me, he was the reason I fell in love with the game of hockey. He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life."The two were also often intertwined, their father-son story used in commercials from Tim Hortons to Coca-Cola. And following in the footsteps of Alexander Graham Bell, they made Brantford, Ont., famous.Walter was celebrated for far more than just fathering a superstar, however. His down-to-earth, no-airs approach to life and devotion to his family struck a chord with Canadians."Sometimes, I swear to you, I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming," Walter wrote in his 2001 autobiography "Walter Gretzky. On Family, Hockey and Healing.""Wayne says the same thing."Walter's celebrity status increased after making a remarkable recovery from a stroke suffered in 1991. His autobiography and a 2005 made-for-TV movie told the story.Walter Gretzky was the son of immigrants — a Polish mother and Russian father — who started a vegetable farm in 1932 in Canning, Ont., just outside Brantford, on the Nith River, where Wayne learned to skate when he was two. They bought it for $600.Walter's father Tony, whose parents had emigrated to the U.S., came to Canada from Chicago to enlist during the First World War with his name switching to Gretzky from Gretsky because he did not know how to write in English. Walter's mother Mary came to Canada by herself in 1921 as an 18-year-old.Walter's parents met in Toronto in the 1930s. He was the fifth of seven children.He played minor hockey in Paris, Ont., then junior B for four years in Woodstock. He went on to play some senior hockey but said he wasn't good enough to play pro.Walter met Phyllis, his wife to be, at a wiener roast at the family farm. She was 15 at the time. Three years later, they got married.Wayne was the first born in 1961, followed by Kim, Keith, Glen and Brent. Keith and Brent also played professional hockey.The same year as Wayne was born, Walter fractured his skull in a work accident as a Bell lineman. He spent some time in a coma and was off work for 18 months. Left deaf in his right ear, he was eventually transferred to another Bell department and became an installer/repairman.The winter when Wayne was four, his father turned the backyard of their Brantford home into a rink which young Wayne called The Wally Coliseum. From the time he was a tot, Wayne wanted to do nothing but play hockey.Walter decided to make his own rink to avoid having to freeze standing outdoors at some outdoor rink elsewhere — or sit in his car with the engine running to get some heat — while Wayne skated. Gas was too expensive, he said."It truly, truly was self-preservation," he explained.Walter fed his eldest child’s obsession, recruiting bigger kids for Wayne to practise against in the backyard rink, and finding him a spot on a team of 10-year-olds when he was six."You knew he was good at his age at what he was doing," Walter said in a 2016 interview. "But to say that one day he'd do what he did, you couldn't say that. Nobody could."Wayne recalled crying after that first year of organized hockey when he didn’t get a trophy at the year-end banquet."Wayne, keep practising and one day you're gonna have so many trophies we’re not going to have room for them all," his dad said.Walter preached an old fashioned ethic — hard work pays off.After a bad game when he was 11, Wayne got a chewing out from his dad: "People are going to judge you on how you perform every night. Never forget that."The NHL star recalls getting a similar earful when he was 21, during the 1983 Stanley Cup playoffs."I don’t know where I’d be without him, but I know it wouldn't be in the NHL," Wayne said in his autobiography."I just think I told him to play good," said Walter.At times, hockey got in the way. Walter recalled missing the 1972 birth of Brent, their youngest, because Wayne was playing at a big minor tournament south of the border."Phyllis remembers that when I walked into her room in the maternity ward, the first thing I said to her was 'We won, we won!'" he wrote. "She looked at me like I was crazy and said 'It's a boy, Walter.' I guess I have to admit that sometimes I took my devotion as a hockey dad a little too far!"But of course, I welcomed my brand new son with open arms — another budding hockey player, after all."Walter drove one old blue Chevy station wagon after another — calling each the Blue Goose — until it clocked about 200,000 kilometres or fell apart. He called it a "reliable car for a family of seven."Wayne bought his father a blue Cadillac for his parents' 25th wedding anniversary."My hero as a kid was a man with constant headaches, ulcers and ringing in his ears," Wayne wrote. "He stays in the same house driving the same car — teaching kids the same way he always has, believing in the same things he always had."I've sometimes said that everything I have I owe to hockey, but I guess that's not true. Everything I have I owe to them (his parents).""On Family, Hockey and Healing" was reproduced in paperback when the movie came out. In the introduction, Walter answered a question: What’s it like being Wayne Gretzky’s dad?‘"I say that mostly it’s been fantastic beyond my wildest dreams,’" he wrote. ‘"It's given me the chance to travel widely, meet amazing people and do things that I never would have had the opportunity to do otherwise."‘I love to tell stories, and believe me, these experiences have given me some good ones! It's all been a great adventure, and I've been happy to share it with my family and friends."But he said there was another side."It's a privilege but also a responsibility that has to be handled carefully," he wrote. "Living so close to the spotlight, you can be a magnet for some pretty strange things, and we've certainly seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly," he wrote.That was demonstrated in 2020 after some of Wayne's memorabilia was stolen from his father's home, which was packed with souvenirs and other mementoes.Police eventually recovered several items including game-used sticks, hockey gloves, pants, jerseys and the NHL's Player of the Year award from the 1983-84 season. The estimated value of the recovered property was believed more than US$500,000.Arrests were made in the case.Walter travelled afar, including Europe, to watch his sons play hockey, and was a regular visitor to Phoenix after Wayne took over as head coach of the Coyotes in 2005.He recalled being on a bullet train during the 1998 Nagano Olympics. In a good mood, he stated dancing around the car singing "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." When he took off his cap at the behest of a friend, a Japanese woman put some money in it.And while being Wayne's father opened doors, he stayed true to himself.In Paris to see a horse owned by Wayne and Bruce McNall run, he and a longtime friend, Charlie Henry, were stunned by the huge rooms they were booked into at the Ritz-Carlton. The two opted to stay in one room, cancelling the other.He was a much sought-after speaker by groups organizing sports awards dinners, and he worked tirelessly as national spokesman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2007.In 2010, Walter carried the Olympic torch on the last day of the Olympic relay in the leadup to the opening ceremonies in Vancouver, where Wayne lit the Olympic flame.He was 53 when he suffered his stroke, just a few months into retirement after 34 years at Bell. He wasn’t expected to live through the night. But he did, and it changed his life.He lost much of his memory and it took time to get snippets of it back."Those were dark times," he wrote about the early days after the stroke, "and I wouldn't want to go back there for anything in the world. It's an awful thing not to know who or where you are, to feel confused and hopeless and not know whether you are ever going to be able to do all the things your used to to."Hockey helped his recovery as he started working with kids in the Brantford Minor Hockey Association. The four- and five-year-olds used to call him Wally.In his remaining years, he was more outgoing and carefree. After one game when his minor hockey team was downcast, he invited everyone to his home to see Wayne’s memorabilia. There were 61 of them. He also became an avid golfer.He'd been a hyper chain-smoker before the stroke. He gave that up, while devoting more of his time to worthwhile causes.‘"I really don’t like to sit still for too long," he said. "I'm most comfortable when I'm active."Walter is also survived by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.Phyllis died of lung cancer in 2005. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press