Ontario officials are considering following Quebec’s lead and imposing a curfew to try and reduce COVID-19 cases, but some experts say it shouldn't be the first priority for leaders in trying to control the pandemic.
Ontario officials are considering following Quebec’s lead and imposing a curfew to try and reduce COVID-19 cases, but some experts say it shouldn't be the first priority for leaders in trying to control the pandemic.
WASHINGTON — Troops in riot gear lined the sidewalks, but there were no crowds. Armored vehicles and concrete barriers blocked empty streets. Miles of fencing cordoned off many of the nation's most familiar landmarks. Joe Biden was safely sworn in as president in a Washington on edge, two weeks after rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol. Law enforcement officials contended not only with the potential for outside threats but also with rising concerns about an insider attack. Officials monitored members of far-right extremist and militia groups, increasingly concerned about the risk they could stream into Washington and spark violent confrontations, a law enforcement official said. There were a few scattered arrests but no major protests or serious disruptions in the city during Biden's inauguration ceremony. As Biden put it in his address: “Here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen, not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.” After the deadly attack that killed five on Jan. 6, the Secret Service stepped up security for the inauguration early, essentially locking down the nation's capital. More than 25,000 troops and police were called to duty. The National Mall was closed. Checkpoints were set up at intersections. In the hours before the event, federal agents monitored “concerning online chatter,” which included an array of threats against elected officials and discussions about ways to infiltrate the inauguration, the official said. In right-wing online chat groups, believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory expressed disappointment that top Democrats were not arrested for sex trafficking and that Trump did not seize a second term. Twelve National Guard members were removed from the security operation a day earlier after vetting by the FBI, including two who had made extremist statements in posts or texts about Wednesday's event. Pentagon officials would not give details on the statements. The FBI vetted all 25,000 members in an extraordinary security effort in part over the presence of some ex-military in the riot. Two other U.S. officials told The Associated Press that all 12 were found to have ties with right-wing militia groups or to have posted extremist views online. The officials, a senior intelligence official and an Army official briefed on the matter, did not say which fringe groups the Guard members belonged to or what unit they served in. The officials told the AP they had all been removed because of “security liabilities.” The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, confirmed that Guard members had been removed and sent home, but said only two cases were related to inappropriate comments or texts related to the inauguration. He said the other 10 cases were for issues that may involve previous criminal behaviour or activities but were not directly related to the inaugural event. The FBI also warned law enforcement officials about the possibility that members of right-wing fringe groups could pose as National Guard troops, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the matter. Investigators in Washington were particularly worried that members of right-wing extremist groups and militias, like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, would descend on Washington to spark violence, the law enforcement officials said. Some of the groups are known to recruit former military personnel, to train extensively and to have frequented anti-government and political protests. In addition to the thousands of National Guard troops, hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies around the country were also brought into Washington. The increased security is likely to remain in the nation's capital for at least a few more days. ___ Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Washington and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report. Ben Fox, Colleen Long And Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Thirty-five homeowners in the small B.C. community of Old Fort — just south of Fort St. John — are suing the province and BC Hydro after two landslides they claim were caused by Site C dam construction rendered their properties worthless. On Monday, the group filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court saying the excavation activities carried out by BC Hydro on the $10-billion dam project have destabilized the soil that supports their properties. The first landslide, which happened in September 2018, damaged the only road that provides access in and out of Old Fort and put the entire community under evacuation for a month. Another landslide damaged the same road in June 2020. The homeowners also accuse Deasan Holdings of causing soil instability with mining activities near Old Fort. Malcom MacPherson, lawyer for the plaintiffs, says the families involved cannot sell, mortgage or insure their homes because there is no property value. He says they support industrial development but don't feel they should pay for it with their homes' worth. "They shouldn't be de facto subsidizing the broader wealth creation, which is good for the whole province," he said. "It's not fair that they have to unreasonably bear that burden." In October, the B.C. government posted a report saying despite geotechnical assessments, the root cause of the slide in 2018 remains "inconclusive." The report doesn't address the slide in 2020. In 2018, BC Hydro said there was no evidence the slide was related to the Site C project. Last week, Premier John Horgan said Site C dam construction would continue while his office awaits geotechnical reports written by experts from outside B.C. The lawsuit names the province and the Peace River Regional District for approving the construction work of BC Hydro and Deasan Holdings. They are also suing the City of Fort St. John for operating a sewage lagoon they claim has led to soil instability in the Peace River community. None of the five defendants has responded in court. CBC News has contacted the City of Fort St. John, the Peace River Regional District and BC Hydro. The municipality didn't respond, and the other two parties declined to comment.
South Korea's LG Electronics said on Wednesday it was considering all options for its loss-making mobile division, which analysts said could include shutting its smartphone business or selling off parts of the unit. LG said in a statement that 23 consecutive quarters of losses in its mobile business had totalled around 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) amid stiff competition. "In the global market, competition in the mobile business including smartphones has gotten fiercer," LG said in the clearest sign yet that it could be considering a winding down of the troubled business.
More than 100 British musicians, from Ed Sheeran, Sting and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters to classical stars like conductor Simon Rattle, have said tours of Europe by British artists are in danger because of Brexit. In a letter to The Times newspaper published on Wednesday, the musicians said the government had "shamefully" broken a promise to negotiate a deal allowing musicians to perform in the European Union without the need for visas or work permits. "The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be: everyone on a European music tour will now need costly work permits and a mountain of paperwork for their equipment," they wrote.
RCMP are investigating after a 25-year-old man died suddenly at a business in Brooks, Alta., on Tuesday. In a news release, police said officers responded to the business at around 11 a.m. The major crimes unit is investigating, and an autopsy is scheduled in Calgary later this week. While the investigation is ongoing, police said the incident is believed to be isolated and it's not believed there is any risk to the public. Brooks is located about 160 kilometres southeast of Calgary.
Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday, offering a message of unity and restoration to a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans. Standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the building, Biden called for a return to civic decency in an inaugural address marking the end of Trump's tempestuous four-year term. The themes of Biden's 21-minute speech mirrored those he had put at the center of his presidential campaign, when he portrayed himself as an empathetic alternative to the divisive Trump, a Republican.
The United States swore in its 46th President on Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended their inauguration in Washington, D.C. with a slew of distinguished guests, but few onlookers as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a need for social distancing.Several past presidents were in attendance, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr., however the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, did not attend. Trump flew to his golf club in Florida earlier in the day. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence did attend the ceremony with his wife.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Tuesday's Games NHL Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 3 (OT) New Jersey 4 N.Y. Rangers 3 Philadelphia 3 Buffalo 0 Florida 5 Chicago 4 (OT) Pittsburgh 5 Washington 4 (OT) Detroit 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Colorado 3 Los Angeles 2 Dallas at Tampa Bay — postponed Carolina at Nashville — postponed --- NBA Denver 119 Oklahoma City 101 Utah 118 New Orleans 102 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alphabet Inc's Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team and has locked the corporate account linked to that person after finding that thousands of files were retrieved from its server and shared with external accounts, the company said on Wednesday. Axios, which first reported the latest investigation around a member of Google's AI team, said Margaret Mitchell had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Timnit Gebru, a former employee in the AI team who was fired. Gebru, who is Black, was a top AI ethics researcher at Google and was fired in December.
New York-listed Best Inc, a Chinese logistics firm backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is considering a sale as part of a strategic review, six people with knowledge of the matter said. With the endorsement of Alibaba, its biggest shareholder, Best has tapped financial advisers to explore options as its shares have been underperforming and are worth a fifth of its IPO price in 2018, two of the people involved in the discussions said. Billionaire Jack Ma's Alibaba, which owns 33% of the firm, as well as Best founder and CEO Johnny Chou, who has a 11% stake on a fully diluted basis, could both end up selling their stakes, five of the people said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls for an inquiry into his government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday as the country's death toll neared 100,000 and his chief scientist said hospitals were looking like war zones. There have been calls for a public inquiry from some doctors and bereaved families into the management of the crisis. As hospital admissions soared, the government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said there was enormous pressure on the National Health Service with doctors and nurses battling to give people sufficient care.
WASHINGTON — For more than two centuries, the top ranks of American power have been dominated by men — almost all of them white. That ends on Wednesday. Kamala Harris will become the first female vice-president — and the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the role. Her rise is historic in any context, another moment when a stubborn boundary will fall away, expanding the idea of what's possible in American politics. But it's particularly meaningful because Harris will be taking office at a moment of deep consequence, with Americans grappling over the role of institutional racism and confronting a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated Black and brown communities. Those close to Harris say she'll bring an important — and often missing — perspective in the debates on how to overcome the many hurdles facing the incoming administration. “In many folks' lifetimes, we experienced a segregated United States," said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime Harris friend and mentee. “You will now have a Black woman who will walk into the White House not as a guest but as a second in command of the free world." Harris — the child of immigrants, a stepmother of two and the wife of a Jewish man — “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen and heard." Harris, 56, moves into the vice presidency just four years after she first went to Washington as a senator from California, where she'd previously served as attorney general and as San Francisco's district attorney. She had expected to work with a White House run by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump's victory quickly scrambled the nation's capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars. Her swearing-in comes almost two years to the day after Harris launched her own presidential bid on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019. Her campaign fizzled before primary voting began, but Harris' rise continued when Joe Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, the elder son of Joe Biden and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer. The inauguration activities will include nods to her history-making role and her personal story. She'll be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first woman of colour to serve on the high court. She'll use two Bibles, one that belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, a longtime family friend who helped raise Harris during her childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. The drumline from Harris' alma mater, Howard University, will join the presidential escort. She'll address the nation late Wednesday in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War and two weeks after a largely white mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the election results. “We’re turning the page off a really dark period in our history,” said Long Beach, California, Mayor Robert Garcia, a Harris ally. As Democrats celebrate the end to Trump's presidency, Garcia said he hopes the significance of swearing in the nation's first female vice-president isn't overlooked. “That is a huge historical moment that should also be uplifted,” he said. Harris has often reflected on her rise through politics by recalling the lessons of her mother, who taught her to take on a larger cause and push through adversity. “I was raised to not hear ‘no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, the possibilities are immense. Whatever you want to do, you can do,'" she recalled during a “CBS Sunday Morning” interview that aired Sunday. “No, I was raised to understand many people will tell you, ‘It is impossible,’ but don’t listen.'" While Biden is the main focus of Wednesday's inaugural events, Harris' swearing-in will hold more symbolic weight than that of any vice-president in modern times. She will expand the definition of who gets to hold power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All." People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn about what it means to graduate from a historically Black college and university rather than an Ivy League school. They will have to understand Harris' traditions, like the Hindu celebration of Diwali, Jones said. “Folks are going to have to adapt to her rather than her adapting to them,” Jones said. Her election to the vice presidency should be just the beginning of putting Black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role Black women played in organizing and turning out voters in the November election. “We will all learn what happens to the kind of capacities and insights of Black women in politics when those capacities and insights are permitted to lead,” Jones said. Kathleen Ronayne And Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
The City of Edmonton will look at ways to make sure infill developments are done with minimal damage to surrounding properties. Council's urban planning committee agreed to the motion Tuesday. Coun. Ben Henderson expressed frustration that some residents are still victims of bad builders, with projects damaging their fences, landscaping, sidewalks, and interior and exterior of the house. The obligation is on the builder to rectify damages but that doesn't always happen, he noted. "We've been at this for a decade," Henderson said about infill projects and the need to enforce good building practices. "We've always said we don't have those powers and I think it's pretty clear we do. And I think we have to start using them." Historically, the city has left property owners to deal with builders to resolve issues. "It's just not fair to expect the neighbour to take responsibility," Henderson said. "Then to say that they have to go to their insurance company or go to a lawyer in order to deal with a problem I think we have the tools to deal with." The committee passed a motion to address the challenges. It directs city staff to explore the option of adding inspectors to assess excavations. That could mean adjusting the budget in the spring if more positions are added. They'll also look at more tools with more teeth to ensure developers comply with building and safety codes. That could include more fines, stop-work orders and beefing up compliance certificates. A compliance certificate is a report confirming that all buildings and structures on the property meet zoning bylaw regulations and have the appropriate development permits. Bev Esslinger, chair of the committee, said new housing in mature neighbourhoods is a major component to prepare for the growing population. "If we're going to build a city for two million people, infill's going to happen in many places, we need to make sure we get it right." Stephanie McCabe, deputy manager of urban form and corporate strategic development, said the majority heed the proper channels. "We have a number of good builders out there who are following the process." McCabe noted that the city would need more resources to inspect all excavations and that could add to the process for builders that are already heeding the regulations. Properties damaged The committee passed the motion after hearing from several members of the Residential Infill Working Group, which did a survey in 2020. Results show 79 per cent of respondents — 175 people in 41 mature neighbourhoods — said infill projects damaged or impacted their properties. The majority of cases were related to demolition and excavation, the survey shows. Those included vibrations to their home, excavated soil or debris spilling onto their property, excavations not being entirely enclosed by secure fencing and excavations on or beyond the property line. Diane Dennis, a member of the working group, presented the survey results to the committee Tuesday. "Only 14 per cent of our survey respondents were satisfied with the resolution of the issues," Dennis said. "Neighbours spent time, money and emotional energy on attempts to fix damage and other problems created by the construction activity." Bev Zubot, also a member of the working group, urged councillors to reevaluate their enforcement methods. "The survey obviously shows that damage to neighbours' property is common, but it doesn't have to be that way," Zubot suggested. "The public needs enforcement to prevent and mitigate excavation failures. Complaints down The city also posted its annual infill compliance report for 2019. Overall complaints from residents were down 22 per cent. The number went from 1240 in 2018 to 963 in 2019. Total complaints were registered from residents via 311, transferred from other city departments and from councillors' inquiries. Total tickets given in relation to infill were up three per cent. The report shows that development compliance officers, development permit inspectors and peace officers gave out 455 tickets for violations on infill properties, up from 442 from 2018. Henderson and the committee asked for results from the motion by early next year. "We have to step up," Henderson said. "This has been the problem all the way along. We are going to lose the big picture game because we're unprepared to make the bad players play well." @natashariebe
The City of Toronto has closed its new COVID-19 immunization clinic downtown after it was told to do so by the Ontario government due to a shortage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. In a news release on Tuesday, the city said it was ordered to "pause" the clinic, located at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, when appointments on Tuesday came to an end at 8 p.m. The clinic has now shut its doors. The province had originally directed the city to close the clinic on Friday. It opened on Monday and was in operation only two days. The city said the closure follows a federal announcement on Tuesday that Canada has COVID-19 vaccine supply shortages. "Everyone is disappointed at the vaccine supply chain issues. The City looks forward to re-establishing vaccine clinics once supply becomes available," Alex Burke, city spokesperson, said in an email on Tuesday. Burke said the clinic administered the Moderna vaccine and the province is reallocating the Moderna supply. Earlier this week, the city said the clinic had been established with the aim of vaccinating up to 250 people a day. It was not open to the public, but was set up to provide vaccinations for select health-care workers "directly involved in the front-line response to COVID-19." Those workers included shelter, harm-reduction and Streets to Homes staff who work with some of Toronto's most vulnerable residents. All appointments made for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week have now been cancelled. In an email later on Tuesday, the city said eight health-care workers, who were not supposed to get vaccinated as part of an initial group of workers, did get doses because they registered. "It was confirmed today that eight health-care workers outside that group received vaccine. We took immediate measures to course correct and everyone vaccinated today met the criteria," the city said. The city noted that the federal government is responsible for securing the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, while the provincial government is responsible for distributing them and identifying which groups get them first under its framework. As for the city, it is responsible for supporting the administration of the vaccine in keeping with provincial priority lists and scheduling. "The City's Immunization Task Force is continuing to plan for city-wide immunization clinic roll-out and will continue to work with the province to determine next steps once vaccine supply is re-established," the city said. When the city opened the clinic on Monday, it lit the Toronto sign in pink, the colour of the bandaids that are emblematic of the city's immunization campaign. Toronto residents told to be patient Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, told reporters on Monday that vaccination plans often don't roll out smoothly, but she urged Toronto residents to be patient and optimistic. "While we want the flow of vaccine to be swift, uninterrupted and high volume, the fact of the matter is this is the first time a vaccination campaign on this scale has ever been designed and implemented — and the whole world needs their share of vaccines," she said. "Public health has years of experience in the delivery of mass vaccination programs. And from experience, I can tell you that even with the best plans there are bumps in the road." De Villa noted that the province has decided it's best to reallocate the available supply of vaccine to ensure it is administered to residents in long-term care facilities and high-risk retirement homes and to deliver second doses to people who have received their first dose. "My understanding is that deliveries of Pfizer vaccine are expected to catch up through February and March," she added. Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to resume this month Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics for the federal government, said Canadians should expect only 50 per cent of the promised Pfizer-BioNTech doses the government was promised for the remainder of January. Fortin said Canada will get only 82 per cent of the vaccine doses it expected this week, and no deliveries at all from Pfizer-BioNTech next week, before shipments resume in the last week of January.
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Saskatchewan is not implementing new restrictions to tame the spread of COVID-19, but businesses that don't comply with public health orders could soon be facing closures. Premier Scott Moe says it is time to take action against those breaking the law. "We don't need to punish all of those that are following the public health orders, but to those establishments and even all those people who are flagrantly operating outside of what the public health orders are, they do need to be punished," Moe said during the province's COVID-19 update on Tuesday. His comments came days after a video circulated on social media of young adults dancing, singing and mingling with patrons from other tables at the Tap Brewhouse in Regina. Some weren't wearing masks. The premier called the video concerning, especially when he has a petition sitting on his desk with 10,000 signatures from adults asking the province to allow their kids to play sports. "At the very same time we have these parents asking for their children to participate in a sport like hockey, we see a video of a number of adults that are selfishly and drunkenly dancing around a restaurant or bar right here in Regina," Moe said. He said he's asked public health if there are other options, in addition to fines, that could include "closing these bad actors indefinitely to ensure that we are having compliance in our communities." That would allow the opportunity for the businesses that are following public health orders to stay open and operate safely, he said. "Enough is enough," Moe said in regards to people breaking orders. "We have kids in community after community in this province that are making the sacrifice. It's time as adults we start making the same sacrifice." No more restrictions at this time Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said if the public universally follows public health orders, Saskatchewan should see cases start to drop next week. "We continue to be stuck in this 300 [new cases a day] range," Shahab said during Tuesday's press conference. "We want to be heading below 250, 200, below 150 cases." The province reported 309 new cases, and six more deaths from COVID-19, on Tuesday. Moe and Shahab have said repeatedly that if cases continue to trend upwards, new restrictions will be implemented — but that likely won't happen until after Jan. 29, when the province's current health order is set to expire. Shahab says he has been meeting regularly with the provincial Minister of Health Paul Merriman to determine what measures would be implemented next. Eye on hospitalizations While the government didn't provide a threshold of what would trigger more enforcement, both the premier and Shahab said they are watching the rate of hospitalizations. As of Tuesday, 207 people with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Saskatchewan, 31 of whom are in intensive care. "That has been the limiting factor that your hospitals just can't keep up, and you have to make a decision of who gets treatment and who doesn't. That's a point of no return when you have to bring down the hammer to save the health system," Shahab said. "We may not be there yet, but that hammer is a very blunt instrument. It causes many unintended consequences. It's not the preferred instrument but when the health-care system is on the brink of collapse, then unfortunately those desperate measures have to be taken as well."
REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday he won't shut down all restaurants and bars because a few are flouting COVID-19 rules. Instead, he said, he has asked public-health officials to look at more enforcement measures beyond handing out fines, such as forcing rule breakers to close "indefinitely." "I don't believe that we need new measures put in place to bend the COVID curve here in Saskatchewan. What we need is everyone to follow the measures that are in place," Moe said at a news briefing Tuesday. "Enough is enough." For months, Moe has rejected calls to return the province to an economywide shutdown in the face of rising COVID-19 cases. He has opted to allow retail businesses, restaurants and bars to stay open, but with reduced capacity, and a prohibition on activities like dancing and mingling between tables. But that was exactly the behaviour on display in a recent video circulating online that shows young people partying at a bar in Regina. "The question I ask myself is do we need to punish all of the restaurants, many that are adhering to the public-health orders that are in place, because there are these few that are not?" said Moe. "I would say no we don't." The premier contrasted the bar footage to a petition sitting on his desk that he said has been signed by thousands of families who want the province to allow kids to play competitive hockey. All team sports outside of practices for athletes 18 and younger have been banned because health officials cited recreational sports as leading to infections in some schools and workplaces. "At the very same time as we have these adults asking for their children to participate in a sport like hockey, we see a video of a number of adults that are selfishly and drunkenly dancing," Moe said. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, announced another 309 new infections and said the province's daily case average remains stuck at about 300. Six more residents were also reported to have died from the virus, while 207 were in hospital, 31 of them in intensive care. Even with a stubborn caseload — which has made Saskatchewan the jurisdiction with the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada —Shahab said it's promising that the test positivity rate sits at 10 per cent, down from about 12 per cent. Still, he warned that more people are ending up in hospital and intensive care because of the virus. And it's when this pressure builds up on health-care systems, he says, that leaders have no choice but to bring down the strictest possible measures to avoid widespread collapse. "We may not be there yet," Shahab said. He added that said many of the province's outbreaks are tied to people not following public-health rules in places like bars, at funerals and outside. No more than 30 people are allowed to gather for weddings and funerals. The current health order, which is set to expire next Friday, also prohibits households from having guests over and caps outdoor get-togethers to 10. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2020 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Stop. Stabilize. Then move — but in a vastly different direction. President-elect Joe Biden is pledging a new path for the nation after Donald Trump’s four years in office. That starts with confronting a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans and extends to sweeping plans on health care, education, immigration and more. The 78-year-old Democrat has pledged immediate executive actions that would reverse Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and rescind the outgoing president's ban on immigration from certain Muslim nations. His first legislative priority is a $1.9 trillion pandemic response package, but there are plans to send an immigration overhaul to Capitol Hill out of the gate, as well. He's also pledged an aggressive outreach to American allies around the world who had strained relationships with Trump. And though one key initiative has been overshadowed as the pandemic has worsened, Biden hasn't backed away from his call to expand the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a public option, a government-insurance plan to compete alongside private insurers. It's an unapologetically liberal program reflecting Biden's argument that the federal government exists to help solve big problems. Persuading enough voters and members of Congress to go along will test another core Biden belief: that he can unify the country into a governing consensus. What a Biden presidency could look like: ECONOMY, TAXES AND THE DEBT Biden argues the economy cannot fully recover until the coronavirus is contained. He argues that his $1.9 trillion response plan is necessary to avoid extended recession. Among other provisions, it would send Americans $1,400 relief checks, extend more generous unemployment benefits and moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and boost businesses. Biden also wants expanded child tax credits, child care assistance and a $15-an-hour minimum wage — a provision sure to draw fierce Republican opposition. Biden acknowledges his call for deficit spending but says higher deficits in the near term will prevent damage that would not only harm individuals but also weaken the economy in ways that would be even worse for the national balance sheet. He also calls his plan a down payment on his pledge to address wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans. He plans a second major economic package later in 2021; that's when he'd likely ask Congress to consider his promised tax overhauls to roll back parts of the 2017 GOP tax rewrite benefiting corporations and the wealthy. Biden wants a corporate income tax rate of 28% — lower than before but higher than now — and broad income and payroll tax increases for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. That would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years, money Biden would want steered toward his infrastructure, health care and energy programs. Before Biden proposed his pandemic relief bill, an analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that Biden’s campaign proposals would increase the national debt by about $5.6 trillion over 10 years, though that would be a significantly slower rate of increase than what occurred under Trump. The national debt now stands at more than $25 trillion. ___ CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC Biden promises a more robust national coronavirus vaccination system. Ditching Trump’s strategy of putting most of the pandemic response on governors’ desks, Biden says he’ll marshal the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to distribute vaccines while using the nation's network of private pharmacies. As he said as a candidate, Biden plans to invoke the Defence Production Act, aimed at the private sector, to increase vaccine supplies and related materials. The wartime law allows a president to direct the manufacture of critical goods. Much of Biden’s plans depend on Congress approving financing, such as $130 billion to help schools reopen safely. Beyond legislation, Biden will require masks on all federal property, urge governors and mayors to use their authority to impose mask mandates and ask Americans for 100 days of mask-wearing in an effort to curb the virus. Biden also promises to deviate from Trump by putting science and medical advisers front and centre to project a consistent message. Meanwhile, Biden will immediately have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization. The incoming White House has tried to manage expectations. Biden said several times in recent weeks that the pandemic would likely get worse before any changes in policy and public health practices show up in COVID-19 statistics. ___ HEALTH CARE Biden wants to build on President Barack Obama's signature health care law through a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans. He'd also increase premium subsidies many people already use. Biden's approach could get a kick-start in the pandemic response bill by expanding subsidies for consumers using existing ACA exchanges. The big prize, a “public option,” remains a heavy lift in a closely divided Congress. Biden has not detailed when he'd ask Congress to consider the matter. Biden estimates his public option would cost about $750 billion over 10 years. It still stops short of progressives' call for a government-run system to replace private insurance altogether. The administration also must await a Supreme Court decision on the latest case challenging the 2010 health care law known as “Obamacare.” On prescription drugs, Biden supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for government programs and private payers. He'd prohibit drug companies from raising prices faster than inflation for people covered by Medicare and other federal programs; and he'd cap initial prices for “specialty drugs” to treat serious illnesses. Biden would limit annual out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare enrollees, a change Trump sought unsuccessfully in Congress. And Biden also wants to allow importation of prescription drugs, subject to safety checks. ___ IMMIGRATION Biden plans to immediately reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allowed people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain as legal residents. He's also planning an Inauguration Day executive order rolling back Trump’s ban on certain Muslim immigrants and has pledged to rescind Trump's limits on asylum slots. Additionally, Biden will send Congress, out of the gate, a complex immigration bill offering an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. As a candidate, Biden called Trump's hard-line policies on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and promised to “undo the damage” while maintaining border enforcement. Notably, the outline of Biden's immigration bill doesn't deal much, if at all, with border enforcement. But his opening manoeuvr sets a flank with plenty of room to negotiate with Republicans. Biden also pledged to end the Trump's “public charge rule,” which would deny visas or permanent residency to people who use public-aid programs. Biden has called for a 100-day freeze on deportations while considering long-term policies. Still, Biden would eventually restore an Obama-era policy of prioritizing removal of immigrants who have come to the U.S. illegally and have been convicted of crimes or pose a national security threat. Biden has said he would halt all funding for construction of new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. ___ FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY Biden's establishment credentials are most starkly different from Trump in the area of foreign policy. Biden mocked Trump's “America First” brand as “America alone” and promises to restore a more traditional post-World War II order. He supports a strategy of fighting extremist militants abroad with U.S. special forces and airstrikes instead of planeloads of U.S. troops. That's a break from his support earlier in his political career for more sweeping U.S. military interventions, most notably the 2003 Iraq invasion. Biden has since called his Iraq vote in the Senate a mistake. He was careful as a candidate never to rule out the use of force, but now leans directly into diplomacy to try to achieve solutions through alliances and global institutions. Biden calls for increasing the Navy’s presence in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia. He joins Trump in wanting to end the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but thinks the U.S. should keep a small force in place to counter militant violence. Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken is Biden's longest-serving foreign policy adviser and holds essentially the same worldview. Both are strong supporters of NATO. Biden and Blinken warn that Moscow is chipping away at the foundation of Western democracy by trying to weaken NATO, divide the European Union and undermine the U.S. electoral system. Biden believes Trump's abandonment of bilateral and international treaties such as the Iran nuclear deal have led other nations to doubt Washington’s word. Biden wants to invite all democratic nations to a summit during his first year to discuss how to fight corruption, thwart authoritarianism and support human rights. He claims “ironclad” support for Israel but wants to curb annexation and has backed a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. He says he'd keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after Trump moved it from Tel Aviv. On North Korea, Biden criticized Trump for engaging directly with Kim Jong Un, saying it gave legitimacy to the authoritarian leader without curbing his nuclear program. Biden also wants to see the U.S. close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Obama pushed the same and never got it done. ___ ENVIRONMENT Beyond immediately rejoining the Paris climate agreement, Biden has proposed a $2 trillion push to slow global warming by throttling back the burning of fossil fuels, aiming to make the nation’s power plants, vehicles, mass transport systems and buildings more fuel efficient and less dependent on oil, gas and coal. Parts of his program could be included in the second sweeping legislative package Biden plans after the initial emergency pandemic legislation. Biden says his administration would ban new permits for oil and gas production on federal lands, though he says he does not support a fracking ban. Biden’s public health and environmental platform also calls for reversing the Trump administration’s slowdown of enforcement against polluters, which in several categories has fallen to the lowest point in decades. That would include establishing a climate and environmental justice division within the Justice Department. Biden says he would support climate lawsuits targeting fossil fuel-related industries. ___ EDUCATION Biden has proposed tripling the federal Title I program for low-income public schools, with a requirement that schools provide competitive pay and benefits to teachers. He wants to ban federal money for for-profit charter schools and provide new dollars to public charters only if they serve needy students. He opposes voucher programs, in which public money is used to pay for private-school education. He also wants to restore federal rules, rolled back under Trump, that denied federal money to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debts and unable to find jobs. Biden supports making two years of community college free, with public four-year colleges free for families with incomes below $125,000. His proposed student loan overhaul would not require repayment for people who make less than $25,000 a year and would limit payments to 5% of discretionary income for others. Among the measures in his COVID-19 response plan, Biden calls for extending current freezes on student loan payments and debt accrual. Long term, Biden proposes a $70 billion increase in funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and other schools that serve underrepresented students. ___ ABORTION Biden supports abortion rights and has said he would nominate federal judges who back the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. He's also said he'd support a federal statute legalizing abortion if the Supreme Court's conservative majority strikes down Roe. Biden committed to rescinding Trump’s family planning rule, which prompted many clinics to leave the federal Title X program providing birth control and medical care for low-income women. In a personal reversal, Biden now supports repeal of the Hyde Amendment, opening the way for federal programs, including his prospective public option, to pay for abortions. ___ SOCIAL SECURITY Biden's proposals would expand benefits, raise taxes for upper-income people and add some years of solvency. He would revamp Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment by linking it to an inflation index tied more directly to older Americans' expenses. He would increase minimum benefits for lower-income retirees, addressing financial hardship among the elderly. Biden wants to raise Social Security taxes by applying the payroll tax to earnings above $400,000. The 12.4% tax, split between an employee and employer, now applies only to the first $137,700 of a worker's wages. The tax increase would pay for Biden’s proposed benefit expansions and extend the life of program’s trust fund by five years, to 2040, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute. ___ GUNS Biden led efforts as a senator to establish the background check system now in use when people buy guns from a federal licensed dealer. He also helped pass a 10-year ban on a group of semi-automatic guns, or “assault weapons,” during the Clinton presidency. Biden has promised to seek another ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Owners would have to register existing assault weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He would also support a program to buy back assault weapons. Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one and would require background checks for all gun sales with limited exceptions, such as gifts between family members. Biden would also support prohibiting all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits and gun parts. As with his public option plan for health insurance, it's not clear how Biden will prioritize gun legislation, and the prospects of getting major changes through the Senate are slim, at best. ___ VETERANS Biden says he'd work with Congress to improve health services for women, the military’s fastest-growing subgroup, such as by placing at least one full-time women’s primary care physician at each Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical centre. He promises to provide $300 million to better understand the impact of traumatic brain injury and toxic exposures, hire more VA staff to cut down on office wait times for veterans at risk of suicide and continue the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to stem homelessness. ___ TRADE Biden has joined a growing bipartisan embrace of “fair trade” abroad — a twist on decades of “free trade” talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. That, and some of his policy pitches, can make Biden seem almost protectionist, but he's well shy of Trump's approach. Biden, like Trump, accuses China of violating international trade rules by subsidizing its companies and stealing U.S. intellectual property. Still, Biden doesn’t think Trump’s tariffs worked. He wants to join with allies to form a bulwark against Beijing. Biden wants to juice U.S. manufacturing with $400 billion of federal government purchases (including pandemic supplies) from domestic companies over a four-year period. He wants $300 billion for U.S. technology firms’ research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before any new international trade deals. He pledges tough negotiations with China, the world’s other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the U.S., is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice-president. ___ TRUMP Biden won't escape Trump's shadow completely, given the many investigations and potential legal exposures facing the outgoing president. Biden said as a candidate that he wouldn't pardon Trump or his associates and that he'd leave federal investigations up to “an independent Justice Department.” Notably, some of Trump's legal exposure comes from state cases in New York. Biden will have no authority over any of those matters. ___ Associated Press writers Will Weissert, Kevin Freking, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ben Fox, Deb Riechmann, Collin Binkley and Hope Yen contributed to this report. Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
The B.C. government should tighten restrictions on travel from other Canadian provinces to curb the spread of COVID-19, a global health expert said Tuesday. The province announced last Thursday it was investigating the legality of such a move. Kelley Lee, the director of global health studies at Simon Fraser University, says she is working with researchers from across Canada, the United States and Hong Kong to document travel restrictions adopted by governments around the world. The researchers use genomic sequencing to see how the virus is spread. Lee says travel restrictions, when they're quickly implemented, are effective at containing highly infectious diseases, like COVID-19. "It's really important when an outbreak like COVID-19 occurs that you act early," she told Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South. "The countries that did that very quickly were more effective." Over the past several weeks, health officials have identified coronavirus variants in B.C. that were first seen in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Lee says this is why immediate action is required. "There's a short time window really to prevent more of those imported cases from coming into the province," she said. "We really cannot afford to have those new strains of the virus establishing themselves in the community." On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she is recommending against non-essential travel, but there is no public health order prohibiting it. Lee says while no jurisdiction can completely shut its borders to essential travellers, it's important to have systems in place to monitor them. "What we can do is [to] make sure that those travellers are travelling in a way that is safe for the rest of the population, that there may be an argument to vaccinate them," she said. Last year, In the early stages of the pandemic, a number of provinces set up checkpoints on their boundaries to restrict traffic. Tap the link below to hear Kelley Lee's interview on Daybreak South:
New South Algonquin Business Association chair Gabriela Hairabedian and outgoing chair Evelyn Lesage made a presentation to South Algonquin Township council on Jan. 13 about the township’s plans for a wayfinding map for visitors. They had some issues with the current draft map and wanted to suggest changes to make it more informative and visually attractive to tourists. They wanted to ensure they had more input on the map as it progresses to completion and also asked council to implement a policy to ensure there’s a feedback process into future economic development projects. The wayfinding map stems from South Algonquin Township’s rebranding initiative, which is being paid for by the Main Street Revitalization funding procured from the Association of Municipalities Ontario. Since the purpose of the revitalization grant was to invest in small businesses and the map itself was proposed by SABA as part of the grant proposal, Harabedian believes that SABA’s input is essential. The township has been working with Placemaking Design since December 2019 on their rebranding efforts, which includes the map. Unavoidably, COVID-19 has slowed this process over the course of 2020, but the initiative is slowly but surely coming to fruition. Hairabedian began the presentation by suggesting that the proposed wayfinding map should cater more toward long-term tourists versus day-trippers. She says that SABA has found that most tourists come from about three hours away and stay longer periods versus those who just come for the day, or day-trippers. While they don’t have any firm data on this, they estimate that less than five to 10 per cent of visitors are day-trippers. “If they have access to a visual map with attractive pictures and where to find those attractions, tourists will consider staying longer in our township and contribute to our economy, instead of going to the park, staying for only one night or having a quick lunch and going home,” she says. On that basis, SABA wanted to request some changes to the draft wayfinding map. These changes were; to remove all businesses and places where tourists would likely not want to go, like the township office and local daycare centres, to focus on natural features like trails, waterfalls and fishing spots, where tourists would more likely want to visit, to have QR Code links on the map to other helpful sources like the township website and trail maps, and to add a scale to the map so people can determine the distance between featured attractions. Hairebedian felt these changes would make the map less cluttered and it would not go out of date as quickly. Finally, she asked council if they could implement a policy that builds a feedback process into future economic development projects. “These decisions affect businesses most of all. We want to be involved and we’d really appreciate if you could do that. Thank you very much,” she says. Mayor Jane Dumas thanked Hairebedian, and said it was a fantastic presentation. “It was very visually pleasing. The work that you and your committee have done is excellent,” she says. She then asked council if they needed any clarification from Hairebedian on the presentation. Councillor Bongo Bongo thought everything had been pretty clear, but was a little surprised to see SABA’s request that all businesses be removed from the map. “But at the same time, I suppose that is one way to really level the playing field and have it very fair towards all businesses. At the end of the day, I really hope this map is well designed and a lot of thought goes into it,” he says. Holly Hayes, the clerk and treasurer of South Algonquin Township, also requested some clarification and asked Hairebedian if she meant that she wanted no private industry like hotels or gas stations on the map. Hairebedian replied that was exactly what she had meant, and that SABA was suggesting just a map to show attractions like beaches, fishing spots and features of that nature. “People can google things like hotels, gas stations, the LCBO easily enough if they need them. It’s nice to have a unique map, something that’s not anywhere to be found. We don’t want to bring confusion either, we don’t want people all over the place. It’s a way to guide them and take them where we want them to go,” she says. As a final suggestion, Hairebedian suggested that since Maynooth and Bancroft appear on the draft map, that they also include Barry’s Bay and Ottawa, so people get a clearer sense of where everything is. Dumas brought up the point that while they appreciated SABA’s suggestions, that council wants to ensure that the final wayfinding map caters to the needs of all South Algonquin businesses and not just to SABA members. She said that she intended to take the presentation back and have a discussion about it at the next economic development meeting on Jan. 20. Hairebedian expressed interest in SABA attending this meeting and Dumas said that she would confirm and let her know soon. “You’ve given us a great deal of food for thought through your committee and we appreciate it very much.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times