Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says March break will be postponed until the week of April 12th. Lecce says the decision made on the advice of top health officials will help reduce COVID-19 transmission and keep schools open.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says March break will be postponed until the week of April 12th. Lecce says the decision made on the advice of top health officials will help reduce COVID-19 transmission and keep schools open.
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months in order to boost the number of Canadians being vaccinated. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that means going from a three week interval to a full four months. "NACI recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine up to four months after the first," the committee said in a statement. Prior to this new recommendation, NACI had said that the maximum interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for the Pfizer-BioNTech product should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. Since first doses of all three vaccines have been shown to dramatically increase immunity to the disease, or to significantly reduce the illness associated with contracting COVID-19, the committee said stretching the interval would help protect more Canadians sooner. NACI said that it reviewed evidence from two clinical trials that looked at how effective the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were after a single dose. Those studies, NACI said, showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines started providing some level of protection 12 to 14 days after the first dose. By the time the second dose was administered — 19 to 42 days after the first — the first shot was shown to be 92 per cent effective. Population studies find lower protection Outside of clinical trials, NACI looked at the effectiveness of a single shot of these two vaccines in the populations of Quebec, British Columbia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. NACI said that analysis showed the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine was between 70 per cent and 80 per cent among health care workers, long-term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. "While this is somewhat lower than the efficacy demonstrated after one dose in clinical trials, it is important to note that vaccine effectiveness in a general population setting is typically lower than efficacy from the controlled setting of a clinical trial, and this is expected to be the case after series completion as well," NACI said. The committee said that published data from an AstraZeneca clinical trial indicated that delaying the second dose 12 weeks or more provided better protections against symptomatic disease compared to shorter intervals between doses. Earlier this week, before NACI changed its interval advice, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and countries around the world showed a "miraculous" protection level of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The head of Moderna's Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, said Monday that the company's own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four-week interval. "That being said, we're in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made," Gauthier said. "This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments ... can make their own decisions." Gauthier said she was not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months. 'We have to do it safely and watch carefully' Dr. David Naylor, who has been named to a federal task force charged with planning a national campaign to see how far the virus has spread, said the data have been "very encouraging." "The evidence is there for the concept of further delay," Naylor told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "We [had] trial data from earlier showing that going out from 90 days, a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. So things are triangulating." He said health officials need to pay close attention to the data coming out of other countries to determine if the protection provided by the first dose remains strong four months after it was administered. "We do it because we can cover more people with a single dose of the vaccine, spread the protection, prevent more severe disease and prevent fatalities, and the evidence is clear that that's what you can do if you spread those doses out widely. But we have to do it safely and watch carefully," Naylor told host Vassy Kapelos. Watch: The evidence is there for the 'concept of further delay' of second doses: Dr. Naylor: Storage and transport recommendations also changed Health Canada also announced today that after reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech, it would authorize changes to the way the vaccine is handled in Canada. The new rules allow the vaccine to be stored and transported in a standard freezer with a temperature of between -25 C and -15 C for up to two weeks, instead of the previous requirement that it be stored in ultra-cold conditions of -80 C to -60 C. Vials of the vaccine stored or transported at this higher temperature for no longer than two weeks remain stable and safe and can then be returned to ultra-cold freezers once, said the department.
JERUSALEM — The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor on Wednesday launched an investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, turning the tribunal’s focus toward Israeli military actions and settlement construction on lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The decision dealt an embarrassing blow to the Israeli government, which had conducted an aggressive public relations and behind-the-scenes diplomatic campaign to block the investigation. It also raised the possibility of arrest warrants being issued against Israeli officials suspected of war crimes, making it potentially risky to travel abroad. “The state of Israel is under attack this evening,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “The biased international court in the Hague made a decision that is the essence of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy.” “I promise you we will fight for the truth until we annual this scandalous decision,” he said. The decision by Fatou Bensouda, the court’s outgoing prosecutor, had been expected since the court determined last month that she had jurisdiction over the case. A preliminary probe by Bensouda in 2019 had found a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes case. In a statement, Bensouda said the investigation will look into “crimes within the jurisdiction of the court that are alleged to have been committed” since June 13, 2014. She said the investigation will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour.” That task will now be handed to Karim Khan, the British lawyer who is set to become the court's chief prosecutor in June. Wednesday's decision turns the court’s focus toward two key Israeli policies of recent years: its repeated military operations against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, highlighted by a devastating 2014 war, and its expansion of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Experts say that Israel could be especially vulnerable to prosecution for its settlement policies. Although the Palestinians do not have an independent state, they were granted nonmember observer status in the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, allowing them to join international organizations like the ICC. Since joining the court in 2015, they have pushed for a war crimes probe against Israel. Israel, which is not a member of the court, had said it does not have jurisdiction because Palestine is not a sovereign state. The Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, welcomed Wednesday’s move. “This long-awaited step serves Palestine’s vigorous effort to achieve justice and accountability as indispensable bases for peace,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said. The Palestinians chose June 2014 as the start of the investigation to coincide with the run-up to Israel’s devastating Gaza war that summer. In the fighting, over 2,200 Palestinians, including nearly 1,500 civilians, were killed by Israeli fire, according to U.N. estimates. At least 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side, according to Israeli figures. Israel has argued that it waged a war of self-defence against nonstop rocket fire against its cities. It blames Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers for the high civilian death toll because the group launched attacks from residential areas, drawing Israeli retaliation. Bensouda has also said her probe would look into the actions of Hamas, which fired rockets indiscriminately into Israel during the 2014 war. In Gaza, Hamas nonetheless welcomed the initiation of the investigation and called on Bensouda to “resist any pressure” that could scuttle the process. “This is a step forward to implement justice, punish the occupation and do justice to the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told the Associated Press. He said he was confident that the rocket attacks on Israeli cities was legitimate under international law. The ICC is meant to serve as a court of last resort when countries’ own judicial systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute war crimes. Israel does not recognize its authority, saying it has an independent, world-class judicial system. But the Palestinians, and human rights groups, say Israel is incapable of investigating itself and has a history of whitewashing military crimes. After the war, the military opened dozens of investigations into the conduct of troops. Although there were only a handful of convictions on minor charges, that could be enough for the court, which dropped a similar case against British troops in Iraq last year because U.K. authorities had investigated. In a reference to Israel’s justice system, Bensouda said the investigation will “allow for a continuing assessment of actions being taken at the domestic level in accordance with the principle of complementarity.” Experts have warned that Israel could have a harder time defending its settlement policies in in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Settlements are widely viewed as illegal based on the Geneva Convention principle that an occupying power is barred from transferring its population to territories captured in war. Population transfers are listed as a war crime in the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute. Israel annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 Mideast war, and considers the West Bank disputed territory. But its positions are not internationally recognized, and most of the world considers both areas occupied territories. Today, some 700,000 settlers live in the two areas, which the Palestinians claim, along with Gaza, for a future state. Israel says the fate of these areas should be resolved in negotiations, and that ICC involvement will push the Palestinians away from the negotiating table. Bensouda said that priorities in the investigation will be “determined in due time” based on constraints including the coronavirus pandemic, limited resources and prosecutors’ existing heavy workload. While Wednesday’s decision does not pose any immediate threat to Israel, the court has the authority to quietly issue arrest warrants for people suspected of crimes. Netanyahu was prime minister during the 2014 Gaza war and has been a strong advocate of the settlements. His defence minister, Benny Gantz, was Israel’s military commander during the war. Israeli media have said that Israel is in touch with allies who are members of the ICC to receive warnings about potential arrest warrants against its citizens. In his statement, Netanyahu said Israel was being unfairly singled out. He accused the court of “turning a blind eye to Iran, Syria and the other dictatorships that are committing real war crimes.” International human rights groups praised the decision as a step toward justice for Israeli and Palestinian victims. “The court’s crowded docket shouldn’t deter the prosecutor’s office from doggedly pursuing cases against anyone credibly implicated in such crimes,” said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “ICC member countries should stand ready to fiercely protect the court’s work from any political pressure,” she said. ____ Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed. Josef Federman And Mike Corder, The Associated Press
Buoyed by a surge in vaccine shipments, states and cities are rapidly expanding eligibility for COVID-19 shots to teachers, 55-and-over Americans and other groups as the U.S. races to beat back the virus and reopen businesses and schools. Arizona, Connecticut and Indiana have thrown open the line to the younger age bracket. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are reserving the first doses of the new one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson for teachers. And in Detroit, factory workers can get vaccinated starting this week, regardless of their age. Up to now, the vaccination campaign against the scourge that has killed over a half-million Americans has concentrated mostly on health care workers and senior citizens. Around the U.S., politicians and school administrators have been pushing hard in recent weeks to reopen classrooms to stop students from falling behind and to enable more parents to go back to work instead of supervising their children's education. But teachers have resisted returning without getting vaccinated. The U.S. has administered nearly 80 million shots in a vaccination drive now hitting its stride, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 20% of the nation's adults, or close to 52 million people, have received at least one dose, and 10% have been fully inoculated. President Joe Biden said Tuesday the U.S. expects to have enough vaccine by the end of May for all adults, two months earlier than anticipated, though it is likely to take longer than that to administer those shots. He also pushed states to get at least one shot into the arms of teachers by the end of March and said the government will provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program. In Wisconsin, teachers will get priority when the state receives its first shipment of about 48,000 doses of the J&J vaccine, health authorities said. Pennsylvania teachers will likewise be first in line when an expected 94,000 doses of the J&J formula arrive this week. Giving the vaccine to teachers and other school staff “will help protect our communities. It’s going to take burdens off our parents and families. It’s going to make our schools get back to the business of teaching our kids,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced this week that educators, school staff and child care workers can now get shots. And in Massachusetts, about 400,000 teachers, child care workers and school staff will be eligible to register for vaccinations starting March 11, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday, though he warned that it could take some time to book appointments because the supply remains limited. Tennessee will open up vaccinations Monday to an estimated 1 million people over 16 who have high-risk health conditions and those in households with medically fragile children. “This is a massive population,” Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said. “There are a lot of people who will qualify.” The rush to vaccinate comes as many states, including Texas, Michigan, Mississippi and Louisiana, move to lift mask rules or otherwise ease restrictions on people and businesses, despite repeated warnings from public health officials that the U.S. is risking another lethal wave. While deaths and newly confirmed infections have plummeted from their peaks in January, they are still running at high levels. The U.S. is averaging close to 2,000 deaths and 66,000 cases per day. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky encouraged Americans to “do the right thing” even if states lift their restrictions. “Fatigue is winning and the exact measures we have taken to stop the pandemic are now too often being flagrantly ignored,” she said. Vaccinations are seen as key to getting people back to work and revitalizing the battered economy. Cindy Estrada, a vice-president at the United Auto Workers, said there have been illnesses and deaths among factory workers, so Detroit’s decision to offer them shots “is incredibly important." "It’s going to give them some peace of mind,” she said as she bared her arm for a shot. ___ Associated Press writers Chris Gygiel in Olympia, Washington; Ed White in Detroit; Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee; and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this story. Mark Pratt And Tammy Webber, The Associated Press
Nova Scotia will receive its first 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine next week, the province announced Wednesday. The vaccine is the third approved for use in Canada. The other two are the Pfizer-BioNtech and the Moderna vaccines. In a news release, the province said the launch of the new doses will be handled by Doctors Nova Scotia and the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia. "We are pleased that conversations with Doctors Nova Scotia and the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia have resulted in a commitment from them to develop a plan by next week to distribute this vaccine to Nova Scotians," said Premier Iain Rankin in the release. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is given on a two-dose schedule. Since the shipment must be used by April 2, the province said all 13,000 doses will be administered as first doses to Nova Scotians age 50 to 64 starting the week of March 15 on a first come, first served basis. That will happen at 26 locations across the province, but those locations have yet to be announced. When asked for further details, the province said more information will be available in the coming days. Does not require ultra-cold storage Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which require cold to ultra-cold storage, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine can be stored between 2 and 8 C, similar to a flu vaccine. While the other two vaccines are more than 90 per cent effective against COVID-19, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is 62 per cent effective, based on clinical trials. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the higher efficacy vaccines be offered first to those who are most at-risk for COVID-19. It recommends offering the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people between the ages 18 to 64. On Tuesday, the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said his team was still trying to figure out how Nova Scotia might use the vaccine, given its limitations. All provinces have to notify the federal government by Thursday whether they want to accept a shipment of AstraZeneca-Oxford, and Strang said at the time he had not yet decided how to advise the premier to respond. That prompted Opposition leader Tim Houston to issue a statement that day criticizing the government's hesitation, saying "the need is too great for a province with the slowest rate of vaccinations in the country." Following Wednesday's announcement, the Progressive Conservative leader issued another statement saying he was "glad to see that the new Premier has listened to concerned Nova Scotians and chosen to accept these 13,000 doses of vaccine." "I hope that by the time future vaccines are approved by Health Canada, Premier Rankin will have a plan in place to be flexible and vaccinate more Nova Scotians," Houston said in the statement. MORE TOP STORIES
FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick government has ordered a review of mental health crisis care following the suicide of a teenager who waited eight hours at a hospital emergency room without being helped. Health Minister Dorothy Shepard says she has asked Norm Bosse, the province's child, youth and seniors' advocate, to conduct a review, although the terms have not been set. Lexi Daken, 16, took her own life on Feb. 24, less than a week after seeking help at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton. Shephard says the regional health authority has also been asked to identify possible improvements and report back by the end of the month. Green Leader David Coon was seeking a public inquiry into the care Lexi received and says urgent action is needed. Chris Daken, Lexi's father, says he hopes her death is not in vain and that it prompts government to make changes that will help others in the future. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Toronto police say a man who was in a position of authority with the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program has been charged with sexual assault. The force says the man was with the cadet program in Toronto in November 2019 and allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl. They say the 27-year-old man surrendered to police on Feb. 24 and is no longer in his position of authority. Police say the man faces charges that include sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a young person. He is scheduled to appear in court on April 12. Police say there may be other alleged victims. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Waterous Energy Fund says it has prevailed in its takeover of private junior oilsands producer Osum Oil Sands Corp. It says a total of 45.7 million Osum shares, about 34 per cent of the outstanding total and more than 50 per cent of the shares the fund didn't already own, were deposited to its offer of $3 per share by the expiry date. The fund says it intends to buy the remaining shares within four months. Osum leaders reversed their strong opposition to the Waterous deal last month after the initial offer of $2.40 per share was increased by 25 per cent. Waterous, a Calgary investment firm established in 2017 and headed by CEO Adam Waterous, said it bought 45 per cent of the outstanding shares last July from Osum's three largest shareholders. It says five of Osum's directors and four executive officers, including CEO Steve Spence, have voluntarily resigned. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
SNC-Lavalin told the city in January that its work on extending the Trillium Line was almost four months behind schedule, which — if not rectified — means the rail expansion likely wouldn't be complete until early 2023, CBC News has learned. This week, senior managers with the city's rail office have indicated that the contractor on the $1.6-billion Trillium Line project has been experiencing schedule "challenges" and "pressures," adding that the city is working with the company to try to fix the issues. But neither Michael Morgan, the city's rail director, nor John Manconi, the city's general manager of transportation, have publicly described the scope of SNC-Lavalin's reported delays, despite knowing about them since January. In a 500-plus page schedule update report to the city dated Jan. 15, 2021, SNC-Lavalin stated that "the analysis indicates 116 days of delay" to the scheduled substantial completion date. Construction is ongoing at the Carleton University Trillium Line station. The contractor told the city in January that it was 116 days behind schedule, which could push the rail system reopening into 2023.(City of Ottawa) According to the city's contract with TransitNEXT, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, the Trillium Line is supposed to reach substantial completion on Aug. 10, 2022. The city would still require more time before opening the system to the public, but it was always expected that the the Trillium Line, which serves Carleton University, would be operating in time for the start of the school year. Based solely on the contractor's current predictions, the rail line wouldn't be open until the start of 2023. The Trillium Line project is not officially delayed at this point. No LRT2 update for months Until this week, there has not been an official update on the O-Train extension program in almost four months. The last report was the third-quarter update that was released electronically in November 2020. An update to the December meeting of council's finance and economic development committee was withdrawn. Nor was there any update to the committee at its next meeting in February, although the city's rail office would have been in receipt of SNC-Lavalin's updated schedule. The first update of the LRT situation was Monday of this week. In a memo to councillors, Morgan wrote: "The Trillium Line team has indicated schedule impacts which are now under review. The City is working with TransitNEXT to confirm whether the delays will be fully realized and to confirm if the delays can be reasonably mitigated. The handover of the system is still scheduled for 2022." Ottawa rail construction director Michael Morgan, shown here in a 2019 photo, told councillors late Tuesday that the city is doing its own analysis of the Trillium Line schedule.(CBC) In the same memo, Morgan indicated that the East-West Connectors — the consortium building extending the Confederation Line — has had "schedule pressures," but that they have been "resolved." According to the contract, the scheduled substantial completion date for the eastern extension of the Confederation Line is Nov. 26, 2024 and for the western extension, May 25, 2025. Late-night FEDco report It wasn't until Tuesday at almost 10 p.m. that Morgan gave councillors an in-person update on the LRT Phase 2 progress. It followed an 11-hour joint-meeting of the finance and community and protective services committees. The first item at the FEDco meeting — chaired by Mayor Jim Watson — was an in-camera session to hear an update on the city's ongoing legal dispute with the contractor of the first phase of the Confederation Line. WATCH | Rail director says SNC-Lavalin previously disclosed delays: Morgan told councillors that the city doesn't just accept SNC-Lavalin's timeline, and has its own scheduling experts studying the projections. The city's believes the project could be behind as little as 40 days but, said Morgan, that analysis has "many qualifications and assumptions." He said he'd provide an update to the construction schedule in a month or two. Mayor Watson asked whether the section between Bayview to South Keys stations could operate before the entire line was open if the Trillium Line was delayed for "legitimate reasons." "We haven't contemplated it at this point," said Morgan, adding his team would look into the possibility. In a statement emailed to CBC, a spokesperson for SNC-Lavalin said the Trillium Line expansion project was deemed an essential service during the pandemic. "The impacts related to manufacturing and the supply chain have been significant for our project as well as construction projects across the province," they said. The company will try to mitigate schedule delays wherever it can, according to the email.
OTTAWA — A Conservative MP has joined the chorus of voices calling for an end to COVID-19 lockdowns in Ontario. Ontario MP David Sweet said Wednesday the pandemic-related restrictions are causing huge psychological and economic damage, and take an "incoherent" approach to truly protecting people from COVID-19. He pointed to people being ticketed for outdoor activities, despite limited evidence transmission occurs outside; small businesses being forced to close while big box stores remain open; and what he said is a broken bargain with businesses that if they adopted sufficient COVID-19 mitigation measures they could operate but yet they keep getting shut down. He called for more transparency in how the restrictions are devised, and suggested that COVID-19 infection and death rates be accompanied by data that provides context as to how many other life-threatening illnesses, like cancer, are being discovered at the same time. "The priority of government efforts should focus on the protection of the vulnerable in long-term care facilities, congregate settings and establishing income supplementation programs for those with pre-existing conditions that prevent them from engaging in regular work while we await the full rollout of vaccines," he said. Sweet is the latest Canadian politician to break ranks with the broadly united front elected officials have presented on the need for sweeping restrictions on schools, recreation, businesses and travel to slow the spread of COVID-19. He appeared Wednesday alongside Ontario MPP Roman Baber, who was kicked out of Ontario Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative caucus earlier this year for opposing lockdowns, calling them "deadlier than COVID." But Sweet is unlikely to face a similar penalty. He was first elected in 2006 in a riding near Hamilton, Ont., and had already said he wouldn't run again. He'd already been removed from his job as chair of the House of Commons ethics committee earlier this year after he was cleared by Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole to travel to the U.S. for essential reasons but then stayed on for an unauthorized vacation. O'Toole said Wednesday Sweet's position is not the party line. "After a year of the pandemic, people are frustrated and tired. Frustration is understandable but it should not lead to counterproductive behaviour," he said in a statement. "My view and the view of the (Conservative Party of Canada) is that we respect the work being done by our premiers and health officials throughout this crisis." That's not to say Conservatives are 100 per cent on side with the full scope of COVID-19 restrictions. In the wake of new border measures announced in January and that went into effect in late February, two Conservative MPs penned angry letters to the prime minister calling the mandatory quarantines draconian and an overreach. And in recent days, Conservative MPs have raised serious concerns with how those new measures, which include a mandatory hotel quarantine, are working. They've highlighted safety issues, pointing to reports of a man in a quarantine hotel sexually assaulting a woman also staying there, and of a quarantine officer doing checks on people in quarantine, demanding money from a woman and then sexually assaulting her. Sweet wouldn't speak to the extent to which his concerns about the Ontario-specific lockdown restrictions are shared among his fellow MPs. "My experience in politics has been you should stay on message and stay with the party line," he said. "But when I see the consequences of the actions of not only this government but other provincial governments as well, I think it's incumbent upon me after being elected by the citizens of the riding I represent as well as swearing oath to the Queen, that I do the right thing and speak out about the great damage that this is causing many, many Ontarians." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
Friends and family from near and far have come together to help a Goulds farming family following a devastating barn fire that claimed as many as 70 cattle last week. “It was surreal,” said Heather Penney-Stanley, a lifelong family friend currently residing in Florida. Penney-Stanley is one half of a duo who banded together to start a social media fundraising campaign to help farmer Michael Dinn and his family. “Jill O’Reilly-Kavanagh and I were really good friends with Michelle (Michael’s sister), we all grew up together,” said Penney-Stanley. “So, we said, ‘We need to do something, lets start a fundraiser.’ So, Jill started the Facebook page, and it was just meant to be for our high school friends, but it took off. I guess you could say it went viral. Everybody wanted to help, we started letting more people into the group, and the word spread.” Soon, they created a GoFundMe page as another avenue to collect funds. As of Thursday, the group had received about $30,000 in email transfers, plus $2,000 raised through the GoFundMe. But folks have been finding other ways to help too. “One lady wants to do a Tupperware party, and she plans to donate her profits,” said Penney-Stanley. “I had another lady reach out, she’s a local artist, and she donated a painting, and we’re going to auction that off. We even had a local rescue (group) offer to donate barn cats, if and when the time came for them to need barn cats.” Penney-Stanley said a couple of thousand dollars raised amongst friends would have been counted as a success. “We didn’t really have a goal set,” said Penney-Stanley. “But we didn’t expect it to blow up like this. It’s incredible. It just shows what I’ve always thought; that Newfoundlanders are the kindest people on the planet. It restores your faith in humanity to see how people have come together to support the Dinn family. They are the kindest, most giving family, so it’s nice to see how the community has come together to support them, how the farming community has come forward to show their support, businesses have donated, people have been donating money, and they want to help in other ways. It’s incredible.” Dinn was involved in the 4H program and would often have children from the 4H club over on the farm. For Agriculture Canada’s Open Farm Day, he would open the farm for the community to show off the livestock and what was involved in the day-to-day operations. “They’ve been devastated,” said Penney-Stanley. “They have a lot to process and figure out moving forward. But everybody is hoping that Michael will rebuild, and his family, and his friends and the community are behind him 100 per cent.” Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
Un projet de location d’espaces commerciaux se dessine dans l’ancienne usine d’Agropur de Chambord. Des promoteurs du Lac-Saint-Jean ont déposé une offre afin d’acquérir le complexe fermé depuis une vingtaine d’années. L’usine désaffectée, fermée depuis 2002 et située en bordure de la route 169 dans la petite municipalité jeannoise, serait convertie en espaces locatifs commerciaux qui pourraient accueillir différents types d’entreprises. Le projet prendrait une forme semblable à celui du Complexe BC de Saint-Prime, a expliqué en entrevue le maire de Chambord, Luc Chiasson. Des entrepreneurs y ont transformé l’ancienne usine des Industries Tanguay en condominium d’affaires, après avoir acquis le bâtiment en 2015. Les élus de Chambord ont adopté, lundi soir, lors de la séance du conseil municipal, une modification réglementaire au schéma d’aménagement de la MRC du Domaine-du-Roy afin de permettre divers usages commerciaux demandés par le groupe de promoteurs privés intéressés par le terrain zoné industriel. « On a décidé d’aller de l’avant là-dessus, puisque ça peut prendre quand même plusieurs mois, a indiqué le maire Chiasson, au sujet des étapes administratives liées à de telles modifications. Et dans le cas, par exemple, où le projet n’irait pas de l’avant, ça rouvre plusieurs possibilités pour d’autres personnes. » Le site pourrait être utilisé pour des commerces reliés à l’automobile, à la vente ou encore à la location d’équipements, peut-on lire dans la résolution qui vise à offrir un « éventail de possibilités locatives ». La vente de machinerie lourde, de matériaux de construction, des bureaux de vente de chalets préfabriqués et de maisons, l’offre de services agricoles ou animaliers, de services de construction, de transport par camion, d’entreposage et d’entretien, de services routiers ou encore du commerce de gros seraient également permis dans les installations, parmi les nombreuses possibilités d’usages ajoutées. Les promoteurs préfèrent demeurer discrets et ne pas prendre la parole publiquement en attente des développements du projet, a-t-on indiqué au Quotidien. Une promesse d’achat et d’autres acheteurs potentiels Une autre étape du projet pourrait être franchie prochainement, alors qu’une promesse d’achat a été acceptée par le propriétaire de l’ancienne usine d’Agropur, Bélanger Métal, une entreprise qui oeuvrait dans la récupération de métaux à Trois-Rivières. Cette offre est toutefois conditionnelle, notamment, aux résultats de tests de contamination des sols, dont l’analyse est en cours, a précisé le courtier immobilier Rémi Leclerc, qui est en charge du dossier. Il a espoir qu’une transaction pourra être conclue d’ici juin. « Ils sont avancés, ils ont vérifié pour le financement », a-t-il indiqué, en parlant des promoteurs au cœur du projet, qui sont des membres d’une même famille. L’ancienne usine suscite de l’intérêt depuis sa mise en vente, il y a un an et demi. Une dizaine de visites ont eu lieu, dont de promoteurs de l’extérieur de la région. D’autres acheteurs potentiels sont également prêts à aller de l’avant si la présente promesse d’achat tombe à l’eau, mentionne M. Leclerc. Vols et vandalisme sur le site Cet intérêt est lié au bas prix du complexe, qui intrigue plusieurs acheteurs. Le site industriel désaffecté est à vendre au coût de 399 000 $, sous l’évaluation municipale de 463 500 $. Un prix qui s’explique par l’état du bâtiment. « C’est sûr que c’est une usine qui vaut 15 ou 20 M$, mais là, il n’y a rien dedans, laisse tomber Rémi Leclerc. L’électrique ; tout est arraché. Il n’y a plus rien, tout est cassé, tout est fini. » Des vols et du vandalisme ont défiguré l’intérieur du complexe industriel, au cours des dernières années, a expliqué le courtier immobilier, depuis que Bélanger Métal a cessé d’utiliser les lieux pour ses activités de traitement des métaux. Bélanger Métal a d’ailleurs cessé ses opérations dans le domaine à Trois-Rivières en 2019, en vendant ses actifs à AIM. Son président, Guy Bélanger, est aujourd’hui à la retraite. La Sûreté du Québec confirme de son côté que des dossiers pour des introductions par effraction, vols de cuivre et méfaits ont été ouverts dans les dernières années dans ce secteur industriel à Chambord. Plusieurs projets depuis 20 ans Le maire de Chambord, Luc Chiasson, espère que cette fois-ci sera la bonne, alors que les projets se sont succédé, depuis une vingtaine d’années, pour le site, sans jamais se concrétiser et donner un second souffle à l’ancienne usine d’Agropur. « On a eu en décembre notre cadeau de Noël avec la réouverture de Norbord, c’est sûr que si on avait une autre réouverture de ce côté-là, ça serait vraiment une très belle nouvelle », a souligné celui qui compte d’ailleurs solliciter un deuxième mandat lors des élections municipales à l’automne. Myriam Gauthier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will not allow his players to travel to international matches this month if they have to quarantine on their return. Under current coronavirus guidelines, arrivals from countries that Britain regards as high risk are subject to 10 days of hotel confinement. Portugal and all of South America are on the so-called “red list” so it would apply to Liverpool’s Brazil internationals — Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and Fabinho — and Portugal forward Diogo Jota. FIFA has given clubs dispensation during the pandemic to prevent players who may be affected by the regulations from joining up with their countries, and Klopp intends to do so. “I think all the clubs agree that with the same problems, we cannot just let the boys go and then sort the situation when they come back by placing our players in a 10-day quarantine in a hotel. It is just not possible,” Klopp said. “I understand the needs of the different FAs but this is a time where we cannot make everyone happy and we have to admit the players are paid by the clubs so it means we have to be first priority.” Klopp said Liverpool will “wait until the last second” to make a decision. “We just deal with what other people decided so we got kind of used to it,” he said, “but I think everyone agrees we cannot let the players go and play for their country and come back and quarantine for 10 days in a hotel. That is not how we can do it.” Brazil is in first place in South American qualifying for the 2022 World Cup after winning its opening four games, and is scheduled to play against Colombia on March 26 and at home to Argentina four days later Portugal has a home game against Azerbaijan and away matches against Serbia and Luxembourg. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80 The Associated Press
The Fort Nelson First Nation and the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality are voicing their support for a proposed wood pellet facility after a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report criticized the project, which involves cutting down vast tracts of forest and turning them into pellets for export overseas. Most wood pellets are made with waste materials like branches and trees that can’t be used to produce lumber, combined with milling byproducts such as wood chips and sawdust. But Peak Renewables doesn’t have access to byproducts and plans to log whole trees for pellets, which would be shipped overseas and burned to produce heat and electricity. The report said the plan would not do enough to support Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, but those communities disagree. Last year, the First Nation signed an equity agreement with Peak Renewables to ensure it has a say in logging activities and plant operations. “Without talking to us, conclusive statements about Fort Nelson First Nation’s forestry projects have been made by groups that are far removed from our territory,” Chief Sharleen Gale said in a Feb. 23 news release. “These statements totally fail to take into account the livelihoods of our people and our extensive land stewardship work.” The Narwhal requested an interview with the Fort Nelson First Nation but did not receive a response prior to publication. Northern Rockies Mayor Gary Foster told The Narwhal the majority of community members welcome the proposed pellet plant, which will create jobs and economic stimulation in a town that has suffered over a decade of recession. “There’s always going to be a few people in any community that are going to be opposed,” he said in an interview. “And we have a few of those. But honestly, I would be shocked if it was more than five per cent of the population.” As The Narwhal recently reported, the province is currently considering a proposal from Canfor to transfer its logging licence to Peak Renewables, which would give the pellet company logging rights to over 500,000 cubic metres of wood per year. The public has until March 3 to comment on the proposal. Fort Nelson residents have been struggling since 2008, when the city’s two mills shut down. The ensuing recession saw people lose their homes and businesses. For the past 13 years, the region has had very little commercial forestry activity. There have long been calls for more jobs in the region. According to Peak Renewables, the proposed project would create 60 jobs at the plant, 300 logging jobs and 150 secondary jobs in related industries like maintenance and equipment supply. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report said the plant would only employ around 50 people and compared that to the 600 people who were employed between the two Fort Nelson mills. Foster told The Narwhal an apples-to-apples comparison is misleading, as mills are increasingly turning to automation, which means fewer jobs are created. “If those same mills existed here today, they would not be employing anywhere near the number of people they had employed then,” he said. As part of its plans to build the pellet facility, Peak Renewables bought the pair of closed mills from Canfor for around $10 million last year. Ben Parfitt, resource policy analyst for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and author of the report, said he is worried the project will lead to unsustainable logging and won’t provide the economic stimulus needed. “From a jobs perspective and from a forest health perspective, this is not going to take the region in the direction that I think it wants to go with, which is to ensure that there is a maximum number of jobs at the local level that help to stimulate the local economy and that they have good healthy forests now and in the future to work with,” said Parfitt, who is also a freelance contributor to The Narwhal. In a news release circulated with the report, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Conservation North and Stand.Earth called on the province to delay its decision and consider other uses for the forest that could create more jobs while using less wood. But the Fort Nelson First Nation said the licence transfer and proposed pellet plant align with its long-term goals to stimulate the economy and rebuild the local forest industry. “Our partnership allows us to own these opportunities, to create sustainable jobs and to chart a sustainable course for future generations,” Gale said in the statement. “The partnership is committed to both existing and future local value-added opportunities. This is reconciliation in action.” The nation and the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality also manage B.C.’s largest community forest, which was set up in 2019 and includes a licence to log over 200,000 cubic metres per year. In her statement, Gale called out critics for ignoring the benefits the pellet plant would bring to the region. “Public statements by people far removed from our community and the project have wholly failed to mention the project’s strong commitment to the development of both existing and future local value-added businesses, including Fort Nelson First Nation forestry tenures and the Fort Nelson First Nation community forest partnership with the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.” Parfitt emphatically agreed that the Fort Nelson First Nation should control decisions made on its territory. He said his recommendation is for the province to hand over management of the entire Fort Nelson timber supply area to the Indigenous community and its local partners. The nation could then proceed with supporting Peak’s pellet plant or pursue other options. The province has never done this before and Fort Nelson’s harvestable forest is the second-largest in B.C. The timber supply area spans nearly one million hectares, which is about twice the size of P.E.I., from which over 2.5 million cubic metres of trees can be harvested every year. “There is nothing stopping the provincial government from turning the entire TSA over to the First Nation and to the non-Indigenous community in the region in order for them to have a substantial building block for figuring out what a new forest industry in the region could look like.” But Gale said its choice to partner with the pellet company and support the licence transfer is an inherent right. “Since Canada forced us onto reserves and claimed our land for themselves, we have been told how we should live in our own territory. We unquestionably hold the best knowledge of our territory and an unalienable right to self-determination and to freely pursue our economic, social and cultural development in our lands.” Foster said the biggest barrier to rebuilding a forest-based economy in Fort Nelson is the nature of the forests themselves. “We have valuable conifer in amongst not very valuable aspens,” he said. “In order to get at that conifer, you have to remove the aspen and you have to find a place for it — you can’t ship it down the rail line because it doesn’t have much value.” He said this is where Peak Renewables comes in. The company would log both trees, using the lowest-value and waste material for its pellet production. “Once you free up that conifer, then you’ve got a wood of sufficient value that you can ship out or manufacture into higher-value commodities,” Foster said. Peak Renewables told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that it would make sure trees that can be used for other purposes won’t be ground up for pellets. “We expect that the younger, high-quality aspen will go into either veneer or furniture stock, with any remaining material (branches and tree tops) being used for pellet production.” Peak Renewables added it would support local operations whenever possible. “[Spruce] will firstly go to the small independents in Fort Nelson and surrounding area, and then to other mills to support jobs in northern B.C. It just makes financial sense to try to use the logs as close as possible to where they are harvested.” Foster said without a facility like Peak’s proposed pellet plant, it wouldn’t be economically feasible to log the high-quality wood. “This is a first step and it’s a very important first step.” The proposed logging licence transfer has other critics. In a Feb. 22 article for Canadian Biomass, Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, said buyers of B.C. pellets are concerned about the proposal and logging intact forests to produce pellets won’t be well-received in the marketplace. “To put it bluntly, there is no market for pellets from the logging of vast forests for the sole purpose of pellet production,” he wrote. “WPAC does not support wood pellet manufacturing proposals that are predicated on the large-scale harvesting of forests for the sole purpose of pellet production.” Gary Fiege, president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada Union, which represents forestry workers, told The Narwhal there are better options. He said the aspen could be logged for oriented strand board, or OSB, adding that a mill to manufacture this product in nearby Fort St. John recently announced it was reopening after shutting down in 2019. OSB, which is similar to plywood, is widely used in construction and known for its structural strength. Fiege said if the aspen were used to produce OSB, it would not only provide more direct jobs at a mill, it would also stimulate the local and regional economy. But after 13 years with no proposal to restart the mills, locals are ready for an alternative. “The Fort Nelson First Nations and the Northern Rockies have been very clear [we will] make sure that our forests are sustainable, that we don’t over-log this area,” Foster said. “I’m very optimistic that as this takes hold, we will see more and more value-added [manufacturing] come into the community.” Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Madeline experiences her first encounter with a battery-powered Dachshund toy dog. Priceless!
LONDON — Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday strongly denied being part of a plot against her predecessor, as she testified under oath in a political saga that is threatening both her leadership and her push for an independent Scotland. Sturgeon defended the way her government handled sexual assault claims against former First Minister Alex Salmond, saying the #MeToo movement had made it clear that abuse allegations about powerful people must not be “ignored or swept under the carpet.” Sturgeon testified for more than seven hours to a committee of lawmakers probing a political and personal feud that is wracking Scotland’s pro-independence movement and the governing Scottish National Party. Its antagonists are Salmond and Sturgeon, two former allies and friends who have dominated Scottish politics for decades. Salmond was tried and acquitted last year on sexual assault charges, and claims the allegations made by several women were part of a conspiracy to wreck his political career. He accuses Sturgeon of lying about when she learned of the allegations and breaking the code of conduct for government ministers. He alleges her administration undermined democratic principles and the rule of law by allowing the distinctions between government, party and civil service to become blurred. Scotland’s highest civil court ruled in 2019 that the way the Scottish government had handled the misconduct allegations was unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias,” and awarded Salmond 500,000 pounds ($695,000) in expenses. Sturgeon told a Scottish Parliament inquiry into the handling of the complaints that no one had “acted with malice or as part of a plot against Alex Salmond.” “A number of women made serious complaints about Alex Salmond’s behaviour,” she said. “The government, despite the mistakes it undoubtedly made, tried to do the right thing. As first minister I refused to follow the age-old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants.” The opposition Scottish Conservatives have demanded Sturgeon resign, but she insisted she acted properly. Sturgeon defended not reporting to civil servants a meeting and a call with Salmond in 2018 about the complaints, saying it was because she did not want to influence the investigation. She denied leaking the complainants’ names, and said she refused Salmond's request to intervene on his behalf because that would have been “a heinous, egregious breach of my position.” Salmond, who led the SNP for two decades, built the separatist party into a major political force and took Scotland to the brink of independence by holding a 2014 referendum. He stepped down as first minister after the “remain” side won, and Sturgeon, his friend and deputy, replaced him. In 2019, Salmond was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape after allegations by nine women who had worked with him as first minister or for the party. Salmond called the charges “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose,” and was acquitted after a trial in March 2020. Salmond has called the last few years a “nightmare.” Sturgeon expressed sympathy for her former friend, but said she had searched in vain for “any sign at all that he recognized how difficult this has been for others, too.” “That he was acquitted by a jury of criminal conduct is beyond question,” she said. “But I know just from what he told me, that his behaviour was not always appropriate." Yet she said Salmond had not spoken “a single word of regret.” Sturgeon said she had “revered” Salmond as a mentor for decades. "I’ve learned things about Alex Salmond over the past few years that have made me rethink," she said. “Many of us, including me, feel deeply let down by him. And that’s a matter of deep personal pain and regret for me.” The political drama in Edinburgh could have major implications for the future of Scotland and the U.K. Scotland's 2014 independence referendum was billed at the time as a once-in-a-generation decision. But the SNP says Brexit has fundamentally changed the situation by dragging Scotland out of the European Union against its will. A majority of Scottish voters backed “remain” in the U.K.’s 2016 EU membership referendum. The U.K. as a whole voted narrowly to leave the bloc. A Scottish Parliament election is due in May, and the SNP leads in opinion polls. Sturgeon says if she wins a majority, she will push for a new independence referendum and challenge British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the courts if his government refuses to agree. John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the damaging saga could hurt the SNP’s electoral prospects. “(The possibility) is that sufficient people, as they see the drama on the accusations played out between Mr. Salmond and Ms. Sturgeon, that some say ‘Well hang on, is this really a country that can govern itself, or at least is this a party that I want us to take us on the road to independence?’” he said. Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
SHERBROOKE – It’s taken eight months and a million dollars, but Historic Sherbrooke Village has managed to paint the town red … and green … and brown … and, indeed, every restoration colour the living museum can conjure to bring tourists back in a post-pandemic world. Frankly, with visitation and revenue from visitation down by 80 per cent in 2020, compared with the previous year’s season, it’s not a moment too soon, notes Executive Director Stephen Flemming: “Visitor volume was very low in 2020, with all of our events, learning programs and public activities halted due to Covid-19. Still, he says, “It was a great year for site improvement and for this we owe a world of gratitude to all levels of government, our staff and our contractors, who assisted in this major undertaking. This 50th anniversary project is being completed on time and on budget and has fulfilled all objectives.” Last June, the Village received $1 million from the provincial government to renovate its world-renowned heritage properties by the end of the fiscal year, March 31, 2021. Since then, the grant – part of a province-wide, $228 million community stimulus package designed to offset the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – has been used to repair and upgrade many of the living museum’s roughly 90 vintage structures, and complete work on a new community park. “I couldn’t be more pleased to see that they’ve succeeded during these very difficult times,” says Lloyd Hines, MLA for Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie and Minister of Transportation and Active Transit (formerly Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal), who represented the province at the announcement ceremony in June. “That wonderful facility was in urgent need of some major capital upgrades for sure, but I knew all along that they had great management.” Perhaps, but it was no walk in the historic park, either. Completed – or very near to completed – projects include: new roofs for Cool House, McMillan House, the nature centre, maintenance storage shed, courthouse, telephone office, boat shop, guide office and shed, the jailhouse, and Exhibit Centre, which also received major bathroom upgrades with accessibility components and outside work. The tearoom was fitted for a new roof, front and sides. St. James Church underwent a full renovation, receiving a new bell tower roof, front window replacements and glass, and an exterior paint job. The woodworking shop sported new windows and doors. Add to this: new LED street lights, 12 heat pumps throughout the Village, re-topped chimney flues, an expanded courthouse bathroom, and a new wheelchair-accessible park replete with gazebo. “Something like this does not come along every day,” says Rodney MacDougall, director of maintenance and restoration at the Village. “There were many challenges along the way … where you are put in charge of organizing a million-dollar budget, and making a village beautiful again. [But] I would absolutely do it again.” So would, it’s fair to say, Mark MacIsaac, who owns and operates MacIsaac Construction, the local construction firm contracted to manage much of the roofing. “It was great to see the historic architecture,” he says. “How well they did stuff back then … The quality of the work was amazing.” Says Lynn Hayne, the Village’s event manager: “Funding from the Canadian Heritage, COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Culture and Heritage and direction from Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal allowed us to add an extra week of work for much of the Village staff and purchase cabinets and window coverings to preserve displays and protect the provincial heritage collection against sun damage and fading. In addition, it covered the purchase of electronics to catalogue and record collection items.” According to Flemming, all stimulus funds were spent in Nova Scotia, “with the vast majority spent close to home. This project created jobs and extended seasons for crews and created a major economic stimulus in our community at a time when it was dearly needed. Sherbrooke Village is ready and able to help with recovery from impacts of Covid-19 on tourism along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia.” Prior to the outbreak, Historic Sherbrooke Village was one of the province’s must-see destinations, attracting an average of 25,000 visitors a year from across Canada and the world. Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
FREDERICTON — Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today. They involve two people in their 20s in the Fredericton region and both cases are travel-related, as well as a person in their 50s in the Miramichi region which is under investigation. Officials have identified a list of locations in Miramichi where there may have been public exposure, and a mass testing clinic will be held to determine if there has been any further spread in the area. The clinics will be held tomorrow and Friday at the gymnasium of the Dr. Losier Middle School. There are now 37 active cases in the province and three people are hospitalized, including two in intensive care. There have been 28 COVID-19-related deaths in the province since the onset of the pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Jasper is another step closer to seeing the Connaught Drive Affordable Apartments become reality following a decision by municipal council at their March 2 regular meeting. Council approved installation of utility services to the GC, GB and GA parcels in 2021 in conjunction with the construction of a 40-unit apartment building, a modular construction containing 32 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom suites. The project represents the first phase for lands identified to host new affordable housing in the community. Council also directed administration to develop the borrowing bylaws required to fund Connaught site utility services, to a maximum of $3.647 million and present them at a future regular council meeting. Administration will also allocate $350,250 in the 2021 budget for upfront project costs for the Connaught Drive Affordable Apartments, subject to approval of a Rapid Housing Initiative grant applied for by the Jasper Community Housing Corporation. At the start of council’s discussion, Coun. Bert Journault said he was opposed to spending the money to extend the services to parcel GA, noting that it was unfair to saddle the taxpayer with the costs. “But I certainly support the proposal for the development of that area,” Journault said. “That’s a late property. It will provide our community with a lot of houses.” Deputy mayor Helen Kelleher-Empey noted all the work should be done simultaneously as the area had many residents and two hotels. “I know it’s a lot of money up front but if we’re going to tear up the west end of Connaught I think we should do the work all at once,” Kelleher-Empey said. “Let’s do the work. Let’s get it done and safe (for) the residents and the businesses on that end of town, to not be doing this piece by piece. Do it at once. It saves money in the end.” Coun. Paul Butler agreed with Journeault initially, while Coun. Jenna McGrath pointed out that administration said parcel GA is important for technical reasons. Chief administrative officer Bill Given said the recommendation is built on the requirement to reduce and eliminate the risk of water stagnation via a dead ending, which would make installing utilities for just sites GB and GC more challenging and costly if not impossible. He also noted an additional challenge is about firefighting capacity. “In order to maintain the appropriate volume of water required for fire flows for the hydrants and for high density housing, as is likely on GB and GC parcels, we need to have a high volume of water coming into the sites,” Given said. “This is not about encouraging or supporting development on GA. It is about maintaining appropriate fire flows.” A table showed that servicing just parcel GC would total about $1,840,434, while servicing all three sites at the same time would cost an additional $1,806,666 for a total of $3,647,100. In contrast, if a phased approach is taken, additional incremental costs of $211,100 would be required. By servicing all three parcels at once, $211,000 would be saved and there would be support for private sector interest in near term development on parcel GB. As well, disruption would be minimized to Connaught Drive. The annual debt servicing costs on a $1.8-million debenture over a 25-year term are about $97,500 and about $195,000 on a $3.6-million debenture over a 25-year term. Wastewater Treatment Plant Council directed administration to enter into contract negotiation with Aquatera Utilities Inc. for a 10-year operating contract of the Jasper Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Since Jan. 27, 2020, the WWTP has been operated by a contracted service provider (EPCOR) under a one-year service agreement. The agreement was extended until June 30, 2021 to complete the RFP process and ensure an orderly transition. A standard services agreement (SSA) was included in the RFP to help proponents refine their services proposals while mitigating the risk of misunderstanding and disagreement during final contract negotiation. “This is a substantial contract,” said Mayor Richard Ireland. The SSA contract will be negotiated and ratified by council and utility rates will need to be adjusted annually. Administration doesn’t anticipate an increase of utility rates for the 2021 year. Canada Healthy Communities Initiative Council carried a motion to approve the submission of an application to the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative for up to $250,000 for improvements to public spaces within the townsite. The improvements include a streetscape plan, sidewalk improvements, planters, benches, wayfinding improvements and a patio grant. Applications must be submitted by March 9. Review committees will start meeting to make decisions on March 10 and all applicants will receive results by April 30. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy's office and a political blogger have agreed to settle a lawsuit over access to Dunleavy's news conferences. Under terms of the agreement, the governor's office agreed to pay $65,000 in attorneys' fees and costs. Jeff Landfield, who owns The Alaska Landmine website, said his attorneys will receive the full amount. Landfield sued in December, alleging he was improperly excluded from Dunleavy media events. Settlement terms were disclosed Tuesday along with a filing by state attorneys seeking to dismiss the case, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The dismissal request also was signed by an attorney for Landfield. Under the agreement, Landfield would get “the same access” at gubernatorial press conferences as other members of the media. There was no admission of liability or wrongdoing, and Dunleavy's office and Landfield will work to "issue a joint public statement regarding the amicable nature of this settlement.” U.S. District Court Judge Joshua Kindred in January granted an injunction requiring Dunleavy to invite Landfield to news conferences. The state appealed, but the settlement would render that moot. The parties have asked Kindred to sign off on the dismissal request. Dunleavy's press office in a tweet said the matter had been "settled to the mutual satisfaction of both parties. We are happy to say this amicable settlement will put this dispute behind us.” The Associated Press