Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said he's returning to Canada from his St. Barts vacation after news broke that he travelled to the island during the COVID-19 pandemic in mid December.
Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said he's returning to Canada from his St. Barts vacation after news broke that he travelled to the island during the COVID-19 pandemic in mid December.
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A Newfoundland and Labrador ferry company has confirmed a second case of COVID-19 among the crew of one of its vessels that travels to Nova Scotia. The company and provincial health officials reported the second infection today and said the affected person is isolating. Authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador say the employee is a man in his 60s. Marine Atlantic reported the first infection among the crew of the MV Blue Puttees on Wednesday. The Newfoundland and Labrador company suspended service along the vessel's route between North Sydney, N.S., and Port au Basques, N.L. The company said today the Blue Puttees is still out commission and the MV Atlantic Vision will pick up its route. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick is at a "tipping point" as health officials try to control the spread of COVID-19, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Thursday. Officials are giving time to see if present health orders are working, she said, adding that they won't hesitate to move the province into another tight lockdown if necessary. "We know that once the doubling time shortens to the point where you're doubling every day, that's exponential growth and we definitely don't want to see that," Russell said. "We definitely are at a tipping point." Russell said the number of new infections in the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton zones appear stable after officials moved those regions to the red pandemic-alert level. The Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi zones will remain at the orange level, she said, adding that her biggest concern is the Edmundston region, which shares a border with Quebec. "The situation in (Edmundston) remains gravely concerning," Russell said. "The outbreak has spread into workplaces and adult residential facilities, which is deeply worrying." Health officials reported 32 new cases Thursday, bringing the province's active reported case count to 324. Of the new cases, 19 were identified in the Edmundston area. New Brunswick's case rate is about 132 cases per 100,000 people. Premier Blaine Higgs said the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton zones could move back to the orange level sooner rather than later. "If we continue to focus on protecting each other, we could move these zones to orange in a mater of days, not weeks or months," he said. University of Toronto professor Dr. David Fisman said New Brunswick's current situation is similar to where Manitoba was last fall, right before cases rose sharply after months of relatively few infections. “I have been suggesting to people that New Brunswick is on a knife edge right now and can go either way,” Fisman said in an email Thursday. Manitoba, which once had some of the lowest infection rates in the country, quickly became a cautionary tale as cases rose by several hundred each day by mid-November. Fisman said certain factors have preceded big waves in places that previously had a low case count, including the spread of COVID-19 in schools, meat-packing facilities, long-term care homes and among highly mobile young people. Dalhousie University immunology professor David Kelvin said reducing viral transmission among the young is key to controlling the virus, because cases in youth are often asymptomatic. Kelvin said in an email Thursday that strategies such as pop-up rapid testing may help identify hot spots among young people. He added, however, that more research may be needed to see what lies behind the New Brunswick case increases in order to project where trend is headed. “It could be New Brunswick is in the early stages and will continue on the exponential increase in cases,” he said, though there is also the possibility the numbers have plateaued as social events from the holiday season have subsided, he added. Fisman said he found the province's interventions "lagging," adding that shifting between various pandemic-alert levels isn't ideal when faced with a sharp increase in cases. "I think when you are hanging on to de facto COVID-free status, it is worth pulling out the stops and having a short, hard lockdown … the whole enchilada," Fisman said. "It is significant short-term pain, but as Manitoba showed, the cost of allowing things to spiral is far more painful." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. — By Danielle Edwards in Halifax and with files from Michael Tutton. — — — This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba's auditor general says the provincial government is not retrieving the vast majority of overpayments it makes to doctors. Tyson Shtykalo examined fees that physicians across the province were paid for patient examinations, surgeries and other services over a five-year period. In a report released Thursday, Shtykalo said the Health Department's own auditing branch found $1 million in overbillings submitted by doctors, but only about $11,000 was collected — just over one per cent. The government seems to focus more on educating doctors to avoid future overbillings than retrieving the money, he said. The report says the fee-for-service system is complicated and some mistakes are to be expected when there are billions of dollars in payments over a five-year period. But the Health Department has the authority to withhold future payments as a way to collect money it is owed by physicians. "The (Health Services Insurance Act) provides the department with the authority to offset overpayments against future claims from the physician." Even when the province goes after an overpayment, reimbursements are negotiated, the report says. "We were told that the department starts by asking for 80 per cent of the amount owing and the physician suggests a much smaller amount. Eventually, an agreement is reached, resulting in a repayment lower than the original overbilled amount." The group that represents the province's doctors said it is committed to accurate billing. "The auditor general's report confirms the vast majority of physician billings — over 99.9 per cent — have not been found to be inaccurate or overbilled. Only an average of about $200,000 per year out of almost $1 billion in annual physician services has been flagged as potentially overbilled," Doctors Manitoba said in a written statement. The group also questioned one part of Shtykalo's findings. It said the $1-million figure for overbillings would include suspected cases that were later followed up and deemed correct. "While it's totally legitimate for provincial auditors to flag billing submissions as a potential overpayment, it's important to note that in many cases physicians provide additional documentation that backs up their billing submission and the matter is resolved." Shtykalo confirmed his figures refer to cases as they are initially flagged by Health Department auditors. His report makes six recommendations, including retrieving all overpayments, improving training for health department auditors, and doing more reviews of payments to physicians. The Health Department said it agrees with the recommendations. Many of the issues are addressed in a bill currently before the legislature, it said. "Legislative amendments contemplated in Bill 10 are fundamentally aligned with the recommendations made by the (auditor general's office) in its report," the department said in a written response that accompanies Shtykalo's report. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021 The Canadian Press
U.S. regulators have approved the first long-acting drug combo for HIV, monthly shots that can replace the daily pills now used to control infection with the AIDS virus. Thursday’s approval of the two-shot combo called Cabenuva is expected to make it easier for people to stay on track with their HIV medicines and to do so with more privacy. It’s a huge change from not long ago, when patients had to take multiple pills several times a day, carefully timed around meals. “That will enhance quality of life” to need treatment just once a month, said Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who has no ties to the drug's makers. “People don’t want those daily reminders that they’re HIV infected.” Cabenuva combines rilpivirine, sold as Edurant by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit, and a new drug — cabotegravir, from ViiV Healthcare. They’re packaged together and given as separate shots once a month. Dosing every two months also is being tested. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Cabenuva for use in adults who have had their disease well controlled by conventional HIV medicines and who have not shown signs of viral resistance to the two drugs in Cabenuva. The agency also approved a pill version of cabotegravir to be taken with rilpivarine for a month before switching to the shots to be sure the drugs are well tolerated. ViiV said the shot combo would cost $5,940 for an initial, higher dose and $3,960 per month afterward. The company said that is “within the range” of what one-a-day pill combos cost now. How much a patient pays depends on insurance, income and other things. Studies found that patients greatly preferred the shots. “Even people who are taking one pill once a day just reported improvement in their quality of life to switch to an injection,” said Dr. Judith Currier, an HIV specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles. She consults for ViiV and wrote a commentary accompanying one study of the drug in the New England Journal of Medicine. Deeks said long-acting shots also give hope of reaching groups that have a hard time sticking to treatment, including people with mental illness or substance abuse problems. “There’s a great unmet need” that the shots may fill, he said. Separately, ViiV plans to seek approval for cabotegravir for HIV prevention. Two recent studies found that cabotegravir shots every two months were better than daily Truvada pills for keeping uninfected people from catching the virus from an infected sex partner. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press
Researchers at Ruhr University use designer protein brain injections to regenerate spinal nerves which allow paralyzed mice to walk again.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Julia Letlow, the widow of Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, described herself as “both full of grief while also having hope for the future" as she registered Thursday to compete for the congressional seat her husband was unable to fill because of his death from COVID-19 complications. After filing her paperwork for the March 20 election, Julia Letlow faced reporters at the same podium where she stood with her husband six months earlier when he signed up for his bid to represent northeast and central Louisiana. This time, she stood alone. She pledged to continue Luke Letlow's vision for the 5th District, defended her own accomplishments and talked of the respect for public service she shared with her husband and wanted to pass along to their two young children. “We don’t always get to choose what happens to us. But we do get to choose how to respond. Today, I choose to continue to move forward. Today, I choose hope,” said Julia Letlow, 39, a Republican who lives in the small town of Start in Richland Parish. Her husband died Dec. 29 at the age of 41, only weeks after winning a runoff election for the congressional seat and days before he was scheduled to be sworn into office. Julia Letlow said she knows the issues of the poverty-plagued district from travelling with her husband during the campaign and because of Luke Letlow's tenure as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a Republican who stepped down after three terms and endorsed Luke Letlow for the job. Abraham now is supporting Julia Letlow for the seat in the special election. “I wouldn’t have done this without his blessing,” Julia Letlow said of Abraham. Julia Letlow has never run for office “besides sixth-grade president" but said she often had conversations with her husband about the possibility. She dismissed suggestions she was riding her husband's political coattails or trying to capitalize off sympathy to get the congressional job, saying she has her own experience to qualify her for the position. “While Luke and I were a dynamo team and I miss him every day, still you’re your own individual person with your own qualifications and accomplishments in life, and I feel like I am very well qualified to run for this 5th Congressional District seat,” Julia Letlow told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. “Look at my qualifications. Take a look at my bio. Make your decision there.” She has a career in higher education, with a Ph.D. in communication. She's on leave from her job with the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where she works as top assistant to the president for external affairs and community outreach. Six other contenders so far are vying for the congressional seat on the March ballot, including two who ran last fall. One of them, Allen Guillory, an Opelousas Republican, said Wednesday he’s worried about Julia Letlow’s two young children. Guillory said if Julia Letlow wins the congressional seat, “those kids could lose two parents.” Julia Letlow responded that she's running because of 3-year-old Jeremiah and 1-year-old Jacqueline. “I hope to illustrate for them the power of fortitude, resilience and perseverance," she said. Her campaign platform remains similar to her husband's priorities, with a focus on job development, expanded access to broadband internet and support for agriculture industries. She said she intends a bipartisan approach, “while staying true to my conservative ideals and values that I hold dear.” Asked if she thought President Joe Biden was properly elected to the office, Julia Letlow paused. Then, she said she believes Biden “is the legitimate U.S. president." When pressed, she said she does not have the continuing concerns that some Republicans have cited about fraud. She noted those allegations were litigated in many court cases, where no widespread voter fraud was found. “I have faith in our election cycle, I do,” she said. “I have faith in our democracy.” The sprawling 5th District covers all or part of 24 parishes, including the cities of Alexandria and Monroe. It's one of two congressional seats on the March ballot. Voters also will fill the New Orleans-based 2nd District seat, which is open after Democrat Cedric Richmond left the position to work for President Joe Biden’s administration. The signup period for both races wraps up Friday. ___ Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte. Melinda Deslatte, The Associated Press
The provincial and federal governments have announced new funding today to support essential air carriers that serve remote First Nation communities in Northern Ontario. The funding will ensure communities have access to essential supplies, services and goods. Canada will be investing $11.1 million, while the province has earmarked $14.2 million to operate remote airports in 2020-21, including an additional $4 million this year to ensure safe operations during the pandemic. Today’s announcement includes Fort Albany First Nation, Kashechewan First Nation, Peawanuck and Attawapiskat First Nation. Across Canada, there are 140 communities with airports that were considered remote when the federal government announced the funding program last August. Out of 34 remote communities in Northern Ontario, 28 don’t have all-year-round access and rely on air carriers for essential services and goods. “While we continue to work together to limit the spread of COVID-19, we must also ensure remote communities continue to have the air connectivity they need for essential goods and services, travel and business," Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said in a statement. "This agreement with the Government of Ontario will allow for reliable air services to keep remote communities in Ontario connected to the rest of the country." The Ministry of Transportation owns and operates 29 airports, 27 of which support remote First Nation communities, according to the press release. Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com
BRUSSELS — The European Union used a video summit of its 27 leaders Thursday to call on Russia to immediately release opposition leader Alexei Navalny and make sure that his rights are fully respected. Navalny was arrested last Sunday at a Moscow airport as he tried to enter the country from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin. EU summit host Charles Michel said the leaders “expect Russia to urgently proceed with the independent and transparent investigation into the attack on his life." Michel also insisted that Moscow “fully co-operate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to ensure an impartial international investigation" is carried out into the attack. Russia came under renewed pressure after Navalny's arrest to explain the nerve agent attack on the opposition figure s the annual meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog. Police on Thursday also took into custody two top associates of Navalny ahead of planned protests against his detention. The Associated Press
President Joe Biden's executive order could be fatal to the Keystone XL pipeline. The Canadian oil sector now has no choice but to innovate to survive.
Interior Health is ordering a review for “lessons learned” from the outbreak at McKinney Place long-term care in Oliver, after 17 residents died in just over a month. The focus of the review will be around multi-bed units in long-term care facilities, according to Carl Meadows, South Okanagan executive director of clinical operations for Interior Health. “With McKinney, I’ve requested a review for lessons learned,” Meadows told the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District Board while giving an update on COVID-19 in the South Okanagan at their Jan. 21 meeting. A total of 55 residents tested positive at the facility out of the 59 who lived there at the beginning of the outbreak in December, 2020. Interior Health has previously stated the spread of COVID-19 at the facility was partially due to a lack of single-bed rooms to isolate residents who have tested positive. McKinney Place is an older facility which does have more congregation areas and has fewer private rooms than some newer long-term care facilities, which may have contributed to the spread, Interior Health officials previously stated. “There’s going to be more awareness around these four-bed long term care units and how to do something about them in the near future because it was very difficult to cordon off or cohort infected patients with four-bed units,” Meadows said. In the South Okanagan, including Penticton and Summerland, COVID-19 case numbers are down, but so are the number of tests, Meadows said. “Our COVID numbers in the community are dropping but we have had obviously some significant events at places that have been made public so it has been a very long few months, we’re still in an incident command structure in the South Okanagan,” Meadows said. “Our numbers are going down, what we don’t know is our testing numbers are also down, so we don’t know if people are getting tested and of course now we’ve got the Pfizer vaccine that has been delayed and Moderna.” Right now, Interior Health’s primary focus is on the vaccination of long-term care and assisted living staff and residents with priority vaccinations for emergency/intensive care staff and COVID units in Penticton, Meadows said. “(COVID-19) has tested our health system like we’ve never experienced and McKinney was the latest example where it was very challenging. But I can assure you our teams are nothing short of amazing, you’re in very good hands in the South Okanagan,” Meadows said. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
Les Noirs au Brésil ont connu une hausse de leur représentation politique lors des dernières élections. Mais le paysage politique n’est pas aussi diversifié que les statistiques ne le laissent croire.
Digit Murphy has delivered the famous Herb Brooks speech to the Toronto Six. The NWHL expansion team's head coach invoked the words of the late Miracle on Ice coach in a social-media video. But if the Six lift the Isobel Cup in Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., the women will have beaten odds as the U.S. men's team did in upsetting the Soviet Union for Olympic hockey gold in the same building in 1980. The Six play their first NWHL games in Lake Placid starting Saturday. COVID-19 restrictions in Toronto limited the Six to fewer team practices than their more established American competition, Murphy said. "We've had maybe six or seven practices together," Murphy told The Canadian Press. "We're a brand new franchise doing everything during COVID. We don't even know what the other teams look like. We have no idea how fast they are. "If we win, this is definitely going to be Miracle 2.0. We're preparing for the real miracle and the Canadians win." The Six kick off the NWHL's compressed season against the Metropolitan Riveters in the first game of Saturday's tripleheader. The Six, Riveters, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps play each other in a round robin, followed by a playoff round to determine Isobel Cup semifinalists. The semifinals Feb. 4 and championship game Feb. 5 will be broadcast on NBCSN. The WNBA and National Women's Soccer League kept professional female athletes competing in 2020 despite the global pandemic by running competition hubs with certain restrictions to avoid the spread of the virus. The NWHL, which pays annual salaries reportedly up to $15,000, didn't crown a 2020 champion in its fifth season because of the pandemic. The sixth season will consist of 24 games over 14 days with no spectators in Lake Placid. The players will be tested daily among other COVID-19 precautions. "I think a lot of people are looking at us to see how we navigate this," said Six defender Emma Greco of Burlington, Ont. "We have a lot of eyes on us. It's really important for us to compete in the bubble especially because the finals and the semifinals are going to be on NBC Sports, which is a huge deal. "If we can pull this off, professionally, safely, it will send a big message to everyone about women's ice hockey." Six forward Emma Woods of Burford, Ont., will play her first games since February, 2020, when she was a member of Sweden's Leksand IF club. "It's been a while," Woods said. "We're all extremely grateful to have the opportunity to even be on the ice right now. Most teams aren't aside from the pros. "It's a great thing for women's hockey. We all want to grow the game. I think the bubble is kind of putting us on that platform and giving us the chance to do that." A two-week tournament plus the required 14-day quarantine upon return to Canada is a significant time commitment for Six players. Players under contract will be paid their full salaries despite the condensed schedule and players who opt out will also be paid their salary, the NWHL has said. The Six travelled by bus to Lake Placid on Thursday. The majority of the roster is Canadian NCAA Division 1 alumni with some who also played in the defunct Canadian Women's Hockey League. Most of Canada's national team players are affiliated with the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association and currently attending a camp in Calgary. The PWHPA has yet to schedule games or tournaments involving Canadians this season. A PWHPA all-star team of Americans, including 11 from the 2018 Olympic team, capped a two-week tournament against men's junior teams in Tampa, Fla., this week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
The OPP is enforcing a new stay-at-home order and dispersing larger gatherings, but said it is not targeting individuals. The province introduced a new stay-at-home order Jan. 14, demanding people only leave for essential trips such as work, purchasing goods, exercise, caring for animals or others, or moving. The province also said law enforcement would be empowered to issue fines under the order. OPP spokesperson Const. Iryna Nebogatova said the attention the order has received has brought more complaints, which drive enforcement. She added gatherings - limited to five people outdoors - are the main source of the complaints. “I do understand the stay-at-home order under the emergency management and Civil Protection Act, Reopening Ontario Act are quite confusing,” Nebogatova said. “What we are focusing on here would be the large gatherings, the gatherings whether they’re indoor or outdoor. “The individuals are not the focus of this enforcement,” she added. In a press release Jan. 15, OPP said it could levy fines of $750 for failing to comply with the order and/or $1,000 for preventing others from complying. However, the press release added that officers will not arbitrarily stop an individual or vehicle to check compliance with the orders. “Individuals are not expected to provide proof of essential work,” OPP said. “Officers can ask an individual to identify themselves if they have reasonable grounds to believe the individual is violating an act.” The province said bylaw enforcement can also issue fines under the order, but Dysart et al bylaw officer Robert Mascia said he is redirecting complaints to OPP. “If the OPP require assistance in enforcement measures, the municipality’s bylaw department will gladly help,” Mascia said. Cottagers being allowed County resident Donna Pugh said she called police on a cottager neighbour who visited their secondary residence this past weekend. But Pugh said OPP indicated that it is allowed – and they were not going to attend to address someone travelling to a secondary residence. “Our premier of the province has strongly told us all to stay home,” Pugh said. “Then to see our County booming with people who don’t live here all the time, when they’re asked to stay home, I just find that really frustrating.” The order states someone can travel to another residence if they intend to be there for less than 24 hours and are attending for an essential purpose; or if they intend to reside there for at least 14 days. Nebogatova did not directly address cottager enforcement when asked but said there are exemptions for people to leave their homes under the order that should be respected. “We are requesting that the members of the public voluntarily comply with the new stay-at-home order to limit their mobility outside their homes except for essential reasons,” she said. Pugh said despite the province’s words, the enforcement is not going far enough. “The whole thing doesn’t have many teeth,” she said. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Members of the P.E.I. Certified Organic Producers Co-operative put forward a detailed plan Thursday to increase and manage irrigation on Island farms. Appearing before the province's Standing Committee on Natural Resources, the group said P.E.I.'s ongoing moratorium on new high-capacity wells for irrigation — implemented in 2002 — hasn't achieved the goal of safeguarding the province's fresh water supply. And the group's research co-ordinator Karen Murchison said the ongoing debate around whether to lift the moratorium has "really distracted I think from the bigger conversation that we really need to be having about how we value, protect and manage our very precious resource, which is water on this Island." The group's presentation comes more than three years after MLAs passed new legislation, the Water Act, meant to manage the province's water supply. But that legislation still has not been enacted by government, pending another draft of regulations as the province looks for a way to provide the irrigation that farmers say they require, while at the same time satisfying those who worry that allowing more water for agriculture could leave streams or household wells without enough. Urgent need for water cited Until now, the case put forward on behalf of producers has primarily been voiced by some of the biggest players tied to P.E.I.'s potato industry, including the P.E.I. Potato Board and processor Cavendish Farms. The last few years, it seems like the heat and the wind have turned up even more. - Matt Ramsay Just like those other industry players, organic farmers described an urgent need to allow farmers access to more water to grow their crops. Matt Ramsay, whose farm includes traditional and organic production, said rainfall in 18 of the last 20 years has been below the level needed to produce an optimal crop on P.E.I. "The last few years, it seems like the heat and the wind have turned up even more," Ramsay said. "We need to consider at what point we can't reverse the effects of this… Once farms go under, there's no coming back. And we are at a point where the rainfall we've been seeing is not enough to at least stabilize crop yields." The co-op's plan proposes making drinking water the top priority for water usage on P.E.I., with water for food production the second priority. That would make farmers a higher priority than other industrial users of water, such as golf courses and car washes. Proponents of the agriculture industry have frequently pointed out the moratorium doesn't include wells to supply those other industrial users. The co-op is urging government develop a specific management plan for water used in agriculture, though. Representatives suggest that plan should require farmers to follow certain management practices around tillage and crop rotations to maximize water retention before they are allowed to irrigate. Their water usage would be metered, and the co-op suggested there be a discussion around requiring farmers to pay for the water. The group also said water levels would have to be closely monitored throughout the growing season in every watershed, with the ability to turn off irrigation taps if levels drop too far. "I do think there's going to be a lot of situations where we're just not going to be able to meet everyone's water demands, because we'll start seeing those upstream ecosystems suffer," said Ramsay. Moratorium has failed, group says Co-op chair Brian MacKay said the moratorium isn't serving to protect the water supply because the agriculture industry has found a work-around, with some farmers installing multiple low-capacity wells and using those to fill holding ponds. The net result to our groundwater? It's a wild west right now. - Brian MacKay "The net result to our groundwater? It's a wild west right now," said MacKay, noting that even more holding ponds and wells are being dug in his area for next season. "The moratorium has not restricted water. It's restricted the deepwater well, and that's all." Government officials have said they're working on a second draft of water extraction regulations after the first draft was presented in July 2019, but the target date to deliver the regulations has been pushed back numerous times. The King government has also said it needs the new regulations in place before the Water Act can be proclaimed into law. It is required to present the regulations to committee 90 days before they're adopted by cabinet. Committee chair Cory Deagle said he didn't know when the regulations might be put forward, and there was no immediate response from the Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change on a request for a timeline. While waiting, the committee has been providing further recommendations on the Water Act. In November, it recommended that the government immediately proclaim the legislation, and expand the moratorium to include all new high-capacity wells except those for residential use. More from CBC P.E.I.
A yet-to-be identified variant of COVID-19 found in a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home is extremely concerning because it appears to be spreading more quickly among residents, public health officials said Thursday. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said the unusually rapid spread of the virus at Roberta Place earlier this month prompted officials to start testing for a variant strain. Fifty-five people at the nursing home became ill within 48 hours of the first COVID-19 case being identified, said Dr. Colin Lee, the unit's associate medical officer of health. As of Wednesday evening, the health unit reported that 122 residents and 69 staff had been infected, and 19 residents had died. The variant was identified in six cases and further results are expected in the coming days, the unit said. "The problem is that this spreads so quickly to so many people that ultimately you're going to have a higher chance of more people severely ill and (more) deaths," Lee said. There's a "very high probability" that the variant detected at the home is one of three known COVID-19 variants – strains from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, said Lee. Public health officials will be carrying out more testing at the home and will be trying to immunize as many residents and staff at the facility as possible, he said. An earlier immunization effort saw only 21 residents vaccinated as most others were already infected with COVID-19, he said. "We went in there on Saturday and immunized as many as we could," he said. The health unit is trying to reach all close contacts of those infected as quickly as possible so they can self-isolate if needed, said Lee. "One of our primary goals right now is to prevent the spread further, as it gets into households and other hospitals," Lee said. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical of health, said public health officials will also be stepping up infection prevention and control at the home. Yaffe said the source of infection is still hard to determine as the outbreak at the home is still under investigation. "At this point, we know a mutation is in there. The 501 mutation that’s associated with increased transmissibility ... We don’t know which mutant it is, or which variant of concern," she said. “So it’s hard to say right now how widespread it is because we don’t even know exactly what it is.” Last week, the Canadian Red Cross was deployed to Roberta Place to help with the growing outbreak. Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital, along with other local organizations, has also been asked to help manage it. The Ministry of Long-Term Care said Thursday that it was working with its health partners to ensure staffing levels at the home were sufficient. “This development underscores the need for everyone to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our long-term care homes, especially as we find more evidence of new variants in our communities,” said spokeswoman Krystle Caputo. The nursing home's website says it can accommodate 137 residents. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has proposed to Russia a five-year extension of a nuclear arms treaty that is otherwise set to expire in February, the White House said Thursday. Biden proposed the extension even as he asked the intelligence community to look closely into Russia's cyberattacks, its alleged interference in the 2020 election and other actions, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. Russia has said for some time that it would welcome an extension of the New START treaty, which limits the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons. The Trump administration made a late bid to extend the treaty, but its conditions were rejected by Russia. U.S. allies, particularly in Europe, are sure to applaud Biden’s proposal, which also provides an early signal of his intent to pursue arms control, Psaki noted that a five-year extension is permitted by the treaty and it “makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial as it is at this time.” She called the treaty, which is the last remaining arms control pact between Washington and Moscow since the Trump administration withdrew from two others, “an anchor of strategic stability between our two countries.” Despite the extension proposal, Psaki said Biden was committed to holding Russia “to account for its reckless and adversarial actions,” such as its alleged involvement in the Solar Winds hacking event, 2020 election interference, the chemical poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the widely reported allegations that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan was to convey the extension proposal to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, on Thursday afternoon, according to one official familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic conversations. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg earlier Thursday called on the United States and Russia to extend the treaty and to later broaden it. “We should not end up in a situation with no limitation on nuclear warheads, and New START will expire within days,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels. The treaty expires on Feb. 5. Stoltenberg underlined that “an extension of the New START is not the end, it’s the beginning of our efforts to further strengthen arms control.” The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads. Obama won Senate ratification of the treaty with a commitment to move ahead with a vast and enormously expensive recapitalization of the U.S. nuclear force. That program, which some Democrats in Congress call excessive, is likely to be further scrutinized by the Biden administration. At a projected cost exceeding $1 trillion over the next several decades, the plan is to replace each of the three “legs” of the U.S. nuclear triad — ballistic missile submarines, nuclear-capable bomber aircraft and land-based nuclear missiles. President Donald Trump had been highly critical of New START, asserting that it put the United States at a disadvantage. His administration waited until last year to engage Russia in substantive talks on the treaty's future. Trump insisted that China be added to the treaty, but Beijing rejected the idea out of hand. Trump's lead negotiator on New START discussions with the Russians, Marshall S. Billingslea, wrote on Twitter on Thursday that Biden would be making a mistake by quickly agreeing to a five-year extension. “Hope this is not true,” he wrote, referring to news reports of Thursday's proposal. “If so, shows stunning lack of negotiating skill. Took just 24 hours for Biden team to squander most significant leverage we have over Russia.” Robert Soofer, who was the Trump administration's top nuclear policy official at the Pentagon, said in an interview that he sees the Biden decision to accept a five-year extension as a lost opportunity. “The Russians are likely to pocket this extension and walk away from the table,” Soofer said, rather than accede to a longstanding U.S. request that they negotiate limits on other categories of nuclear weapons, such as tactical weapons. Some U.S. officials have been leery of renewing New START without getting a Russian commitment to negotiate limits on new types of strategic weapons, including Moscow's nuclear-capable Avangard hypersonic long-range missile. Biden, who indicated during the campaign that he favoured extending New START, is not proposing any alterations, the U.S. official said. Thus it appeared likely that Moscow would be amenable to an extension. The proposal was reported first by The Washington Post. Matthew Lee And Robert Burns, The Associated Press
Can COVID-19 vaccines be mixed and matched? Health officials say both doses should be of the same vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines rolling out in the United States, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world so far require two shots given a few weeks apart. In the U.S. where Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being distributed, health officials say the vaccines are not interchangeable. In England where shots by Pfizer and AstraZeneca are available, officials also say the doses should be consistent. But in the rare event that the same kind isn’t available or if it's not known what was given for the first shot, English officials say it’s OK to give whichever vaccine is available for the second shot. Since the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines focus on the spike protein that coats the coronavirus, they say a mismatched dose is better than partial protection. But without any studies, vaccine doses should not be mixed, said Naor Bar-Zeev, a vaccine expert at Johns Hopkins University. If people do happen to get a different vaccine for their second shot by accident, Bar-Zeev said it is likely “to work fine and likely to be well tolerated," but evidence is needed to be sure. ___ The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org. Read previous Viral Questions: Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve had the virus? If I’ve already had the coronavirus, can I get it again? How quickly do I need a second vaccine shot? The Associated Press
County council debated the future of its shoreline bylaw and will hold another special meeting to address an increasingly fraught debate over the legislation. Council decided to schedule a special meeting Jan. 27 to examine the bylaw and its upcoming public consultation, which will include both an online survey and a public meeting in February or March. Councillors weighed whether the document – which would restrict development within 30 metes of the shoreline – should be slowed in the wake of increased outcry. Warden Liz Danielsen lamented the spread of misinformation and council receiving some vitriol. “Disappointed to see the number of people who are willing to cast aspersions about us and our work,” she said. “About the thought that this is being sprung upon them and we’re doing this under the cloak of secrecy. This is a topic that’s been under discussion for 2.5 years and longer. “It is unfortunate that people feel they need to start calling us names and giving members of council a difficult time … The raft of emails we have received in the last couple of weeks, I believe are reactive of the misinformation.” She said they must find a way to combat the misinformation. She indirectly referenced the Haliburton County Home Builders Association (HCHBA) estimating a $750,000 cost to enforce the law and advertising that. However, that figure is inaccurate. The County’s current 2021 draft budget features $115,000 towards enforcement, including $88,000 for a new officer to assist the one already on staff. The HCHBA and others have also pushed to delay the changes until after the pandemic is over to allow for an in-person public meeting. But Coun. Brent Devolin said he opposed that because the pandemic could linger for the rest of the term. “For us to delay it because of COVID … I don’t think (the bylaw) will be dealt with in this term of council and I think that would truly be a mistake,” he said. However, deputy warden Patrick Kennedy said they should hit a pause button on the document and it is not yet good enough to move forward. “I’m not in anybody’s back pocket on this. I am as much in love with the water as anybody at this table or in this County,” he said. “I don’t feel this bylaw is at that stage yet, to the point it can be taken out to the public for comment. I fully endorse a step back … I feel like we have lost the public trust on both sides of the issue.” Kennedy suggested an external consultation group or committee examine the document, but Coun. Carol Moffatt pushed back on that. “Ultimately, it’s our job as the people who are elected to listen to the public,” Moffatt said. “Our problem right now is, I think, all the noise that’s out there. We can’t address the misinformation without a competing information campaign, and we can’t do that without dedicated resources.” She added council needed to provide input into what is going out to the public and what questions will be asked. Danielsen said people should be more specific about what parts of the bylaw should be addressed, which she said it not being seen in messages lately. “We’re hearing a lot from all angles and we need to work hard to try and get it right.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Calgary police are urging vigilance after more than a dozen women were assaulted while walking alone in the last three months. Investigators are looking into the possibility that one man has assaulted at least 15 women since November. The groping incidents take place both in daylight and at night, according to police, who say the attacker flees immediately after. CPS is asking women to call 911 immediately if they have been targeted so that police have a better chance at finding the offender. "Officers will be dispatched to the area to help locate the suspect in a timely manner," said police in a written statement. Multiple attacks in 5 communities Communities where the assaults took place include downtown, Mission, Thorncliffe, Huntington Hills and Hillhurst. The most recent attack was on Tuesday in Thorncliffe. The method of attack has been similar. While walking alone, women have been approached from behind by a man who then groped them. In some incidents, the attacker seems to have waited for opportunities when the victims were distracted, either by an electronic device, or, as police explain, "during moments when their situational awareness was lowered, such as looking in a bag." Investigators haven't yet determined if all of the incidents are connected to one person, or if there are multiple assailants involved. Police have offered the following safety tips: Walk with others or in well-populated areas. Stay in well-lit areas with clear visibility. Be aware of your surroundings — limit the use of devices that would distract. Limit the number of belongings that you are carrying in your arms to reduce vulnerability. If you are attacked: Make noise to attract attention. Do not try to hold on to your possessions or valuables. Pay attention to the physical attributes of your attacker and what they are wearing. Call 911 immediately.