Ontario Premier Calls For Unity, Then Finance Minister Revives Canadian 'Family Squabble'

Emma Paling
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Finance Minister Rod Phillips walk to the legislative chamber to deliver the fall economic statement in Toronto on Nov. 6, 2019.

TORONTO — While Ontario’s premier preached national unity in the morning, his finance minister revived an age-old Canadian debate in the afternoon. 

“After the election, this country is divided,” Premier Doug Ford said in the legislature during question period Wednesday. “It is Ontario’s spot to stand up, unite the country right across all provinces.”

About five hours later, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips was making a point  about how the federal government uses tax revenue from Ontarians to fund services in other provinces.

It is Ontario’s spot to stand up, unite the country right across all provinces. Doug Ford

“We’d like to just remind Ontarians and, frankly, remind Ottawa that ... we do as taxpayers in Ontario pay $12.9 billion … more into the federal treasury than returns,” Phillips told reporters at a press conference. 

The minister had just tabled his fall economic statement, a major budget document, which included a backgrounder calling for “fairness” in federal-provincial revenue transfers. Canada needs to “do more” to make the system work for Ontarians, “who deserve a system that is fair,” it said. 

Watch: Ontario minister unveils fiscal update. Story continues after video.


Phillips declined to say what problems Ontario has with the transfers or what exactly Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government should change. 

The federal government collects more revenue from provinces with strong economies, like Ontario and Alberta, than it does from the poorer ones. It sends billions of dollars in “equalization” payments to Quebec, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Without those transfers, the have-not provinces would have to dramatically raise taxes and cut services like health care and education, according to Trevor Tombe, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Department of Economics, who’s written extensively about equalization. 

Ontario and Alberta only contribute so much more in revenue because those provinces have the most high-income residents, Tombe told HuffPost Canada in an interview. If a high-earner moved from Alberta to Manitoba and their income stayed the same, they would still contribute the same amount in taxes.

... when politicians talk about it in a vague way, they reinforce those misperceptions and then they potentially inflame regional tensions needlessly. Trevor Tombe

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about equalization already out there,” he said. “So when politicians talk about it in a vague way, they reinforce those misperceptions and then they potentially inflame regional tensions needlessly.”

But the fight over federal transfers is Canada’s “family squabble,” Tombe said, and it’s been raging since before Confederation.

“Ontario doing that is not new. Every province does that at some point or another.”


Tombe noted that Ontario has been a net beneficiary of equalization in the past — just last year, the province received $963 million in equalization. And it wasn’t that long ago that former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty was grumbling about the “perverse” system. 

Equalization can sometimes be a political device for Canadian premiers who want to bring up other frustrations, Tombe said. 

Alberta uses equalization to vent about pipelines: Tombe

“I do think the frustration expressed by politicians in Alberta around equalization is not about the formula itself. It is using equalization as a convenient political tool to raise other issues, in particular: pipelines.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenneyhas said he’ll hold a referendum on equalization unless a new coastal pipeline is built. He’s accused the premier of Quebec of spreading inaccuracies about the system.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney address the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce in Edmonton on Oct. 29, 2019.

Quebec is a net beneficiary of equalization, Tombe said, and it’s also a province that is “uniquely vocal” in its opposition to pipelines.

“So connecting these two issues serves that political goal — of the government of Alberta at least — quite well.”

On Thursday, Ontario’s finance minister was asked if his complaints about equalization were prompted by Kenney’s comments. He didn’t say.

“We think that it’s important that Ontarians understand the contributions that our province makes,” he said. 

“But I know the premier is looking forward to talking with the other premiers and with the prime minister about making sure the federation works.”

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  • COVID-19 recovery phase put on hold after discovery of 6 new cases

    COVID-19 recovery phase put on hold after discovery of 6 new cases

    The province has halted its yellow COVID-19 recovery phase, stopping gyms, pools, yoga studios and other businesses from reopening Friday and not allowing indoor church services or gatherings up to 50 as was planned.The province was expected to move into part two of the yellow phase by the end of the week. But Premier Blaine Higgs announced Thursday that the COVID-19 committee was putting a pause on that because of a cluster of six new active cases of COVID-19 in the Campbellton region.All of the cases are linked to a medical professional in his 50s from the Campbellton Regional Hospital who contracted COVID-19 outside the province.At a news briefing Thursday, Higgs also extended the province's state of emergency, which has been in effect since the end of March, for another two weeks.Higgs said activities that now won't be allowed until next Friday include: * Outdoor public gatherings of 50 people or fewer. * Indoor religious services, including weddings and funerals, of 50 people or fewer. * Low-contact team sports. * Swimming pools, saunas and waterparks * Yoga and dance studios * Rinks and indoor recreational facilities * Pool halls and bowling alleysThe first stage of the yellow phase was announced last Friday, allowing businesses such as spas, tattoo artists, barbers and hair salons to reopen."This is a reminder that the disease is still with us and we must all remain vigilant to ensure it does not overwhelm our health-care system," Higgs said. Higgs announced Wednesday that the Campbellton region, also known as Zone 5, has returned to the more restrictive orange phase of recovery because of the new cases.Business owner 'frustrated and angry'Cara Hazelton, owner of Precision Pilates in Fredericton, said she was "absolutely frustrated and angry beyond any measure" after learning she would have to wait another week to reopen her business.Hazelton said she and thousands of other businesses in the yellow phase, have spent weeks preparing to reopen in part two of the yellow phase.She said clients have been called, appointments have been made, staff have been rehired and childcare has been arranged."All of sudden at the drop of a hat with no notice that for the second week in a row we have been shut down through no fault of our own," she said."How many times are we going to have to go through this in the next two years?"Although she feels her business is safe and can stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, she's not sure how others will survive."How many businesses that have survived the last two months will survive bouncing up and down between opening and closing?" she said."I fail to understand how this is actually going to work in the long run."   Hazelton said she's given up planning for a concrete date for her business to reopen because it takes time, costs extra money and leads to further disappointment."I can't let down my staff again," she said. "I can't let my clients down again. That's not fair."

  • Toronto store owners say they were beaten after forcibly removing customer for not wearing mask

    Toronto store owners say they were beaten after forcibly removing customer for not wearing mask

    Zhao Guang Yu's face still shows faint bruising from the night a month and a half ago when, his wife says, four men attacked him in their Toronto convenience store after they physically forced a customer out of the store when she refused to wear a mask.Zhao's wife, Xue Lin, says it's hard for her to listen to her own screams on video footage recorded that night on the surveillance camera outside their store, Levol Convenience Food Mart on Dundas Street West, just south of Kensington Market in the city's downtown.The camera captured some of the sound of the alleged attack the night of April 15, but neither the altercation with the customer nor the one with the men can be seen on camera.Xue says she tried to shield Zhao with her body as the men battered him against an ice cream freezer but that it didn't stop them.Minutes earlier, Xue says, the couple had forced a woman out of the store for refusing to wear a mask. After asking her to put on a mask several times, Xue said, she grabbed the customer and she and her husband physically forced her out of the store.The customer can be heard on the surveillance video saying she was hit for "no reason." Xue says she felt helpless during the attack. Her mind was blank, she said, as she desperately tried to protect her husband."Four guys, tall guys," she said. "Of course, we can't do anything."Toronto Police got a call about the altercation around 9:30 p.m. and say they are continuing to investigate an alleged assault against what they refer to as one staff member at the store. No arrests have been made in the case, and police would not provide a description of the suspects.Started requiring masks before lockdownZhao and Xue have insisted all their customers wear a mask since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, even before the province shut down non-essential businesses in March and imposed emergency measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. A sign posted on the store's window says customers won't be let inside without a mask and that masks can be purchased inside.Xue sees masks as critical to helping reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. Her parents live downstairs from the shop, and she says she feels a responsibility to her family and customers' health.Public health officials have encouraged people to wear masks when they can't maintain the recommended two metres of physical distance from others as a means of protecting those close by from any potential virus droplets that leave the mouth.Customer claimed she was attacked 'for no reason'Xue says most of her customers willingly wear masks or buy one for $1 in the store. But the night of the attack, Xue says, a woman refused to put her mask on despite repeated requests to wear it or leave. She was with another woman and was carrying a mask in her hand, Xue said.After asking several times, Xue said, she grabbed the woman to pull her out of the store.Xue says the customer fought back, kicking as the couple pushed her out of the store.Outdoor security footage, shown to CBC by Xue, captured a woman saying, "Don't touch me," and then daring the store owners to strike her, saying: "Hit me," as Xue screamed at her to get out (everyone involved is out of sight in the video).Outside the store, a woman's voice can be heard telling another person to call somebody. A sobbing woman later tells a man that store workers "attacked me for no reason."That's when four men, regular customers she recognized, entered the store, Xue said.To her shock, she says, they started hitting her husband.The audio captures a man yelling, "Why did you hit her?" and shouting before Xue starts shrieking. Her husband yells in apparent agony.A 'mountain' of bruisingThe men knocked store shelves down as they beat him, Xue said. Their blows knocked her husband to the floor, despite Xue hugging him to protect him.One man stomped on his face before they finally left.The next day Zhao's face was black with bruises, with one eye "like a mountain," Xue said."My husband stayed home [for] two weeks," she said.He didn't want to see a doctor at the time because the hospital seemed too dangerous because of COVID-19, Xue said. When asked about the nature of Zhao's injuries, Toronto Police spokesperson Const. Michelle Flannery said, "victim injuries is not something we normally provide."'We're not fighting people'Xue said she was crying as she and her husband talked to police, she was so worried about her husband. "I'm going to close my store," she said she thought after the attack, sleepless and devastated that night. She said she woke up with pain in her back and shoulders from the blows but decided to open up the store later that day.Weeks later, Zhao is also back to work, though he still has bruising on his face. An attack like this has never happened in the store before, which the couple opened in 2016, said Xue."We're not fighting people."Xue says she doesn't scare easily, even while working alone at night with customers who can sometimes get difficult.But after the attack, to avoid conflict, she says, they have been keeping the door to the shop locked in the evenings and only open it to people wearing a mask. 'We don't want more people [to] get the virus'Xue says she and her husband will continue to insist on masks — even if it has meant losing business during the pandemic."We don't want more people [to] get the virus," she said. "I reduce business? Fine. I need to do my way."Xue says she has noticed more people taking precautions against COVID-19 in recent weeks, though some people still argue against the store's mask policy.She says she usually tries to handle the situation herself before calling police but that there were two previous times that she had to grab people and call police when customers refused to leave. Xue says she sometimes fills simple orders for customers while they wait outside. The store also offers free gloves for customers."We don't want fighting," said Xue."If you don't like to wear a mask ... you don't need to come in. [It's] fair to other customers, fair to us."

  • Murals of Canadian doctors leading COVID-19 fight removed from Vancouver building

    Murals of Canadian doctors leading COVID-19 fight removed from Vancouver building

    Large murals featuring Canadian doctors Theresa Tam and Bonnie Henry have been stripped from a storefront in the Gastown neighbourhood of Vancouver after catching the eye of many a passerby since March.The portrait paintings were done on plywood used to board up Kimprints, a picture-framing store located in a heritage building on Powell Street. The wood was there to protect against vandals while the store was closed due to COVID-19 . Now that the shop has reopened, the boards and the artwork have been removed.Kim Briscoe, the store's owner, said the murals will be stored for safekeeping and the plan is to exhibit them again this summer in an outdoor space somewhere in the area. Painting them in the first place was Briscoe's idea."I saw all the brown boards up on the window and thought this looks horrible," said Briscoe Thursday on The Early Edition. She mulled over how to improve the look, came up with the idea to paint murals showing what was happening in the daily news and put a call out for people who could help."We could have just painted them a regular colour, but we thought what could we paint that could be interesting and good?"Artist Breece Austin said she was drawn to Canada's chief public health officer and chose to paint Tam. Emily Carr student Abi Taylor then painted B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry."Listening to those two women on the news [made] me feel secure," said Briscoe.After people saw the two initial portraits, other artists joined them to paint additional pictures of front-line health-care workers."I had an onslaught of artists that wanted to paint," said Briscoe, who happily offered up her plywood as canvas.Eventually, said Briscoe, the Gastown Business Association and the City of Vancouver found more paint and some funding for those paintings and the project expanded throughout the neighbourhood.Eric Keeping, who is the general manager at the Foot Locker on Robson Street, had had boards up on his store for about a month. Like many others downtown, they were decorated by artists. "Our boards started as just a plain white board, and ... it's kind of ugly, obviously, and if we can take an opportunity to beautify that … why not?"Business has now resumed at Kimprints, and there is no longer the need for a barricade of boards."We're back into business. This is great. Eleven to five, seven days a week," said Briscoe. "I am optimistic. I think we're going to be fine."To hear the complete interview with Kim Briscoe on The Early Edition, tap here.

  • Police across US speak out against Minneapolis custody death
    The Canadian Press

    Police across US speak out against Minneapolis custody death

    LOS ANGELES — Murder. Brutality. Reprehensible. Indefensible. Police nationwide, in unequivocal and unprecedented language, have condemned the actions of Minneapolis police in the custody death of a handcuffed black man who cried for help as an officer knelt on his neck, pinning him to the pavement for at least eight minutes.But some civil rights advocates say their denunciations are empty words without meaningful reform behind them.Authorities say George Floyd was detained Monday because he matched the description of someone who tried to pay with a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, and the 46-year-old resisted arrest. A bystander's disturbing video shows Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd's neck, even as Floyd begs for air and slowly stops talking and moving.“There is no need to see more video,” Chattanooga, Tennessee, Police Chief David Roddy tweeted Wednesday. “There no need to wait to see how ‘it plays out’. There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this ... turn it in.”The reaction from some law enforcement stands in stark contrast to their muted response or support for police after other in-custody fatalities. Sheriffs and police chiefs have strongly criticized the Minneapolis officer on social media and praised the city’s police chief for his quick dismissal of four officers at the scene. Some even called for them to be criminally charged.“I am deeply disturbed by the video of Mr. Floyd being murdered in the street with other officers there letting it go on,” Polk County, Georgia, Sheriff Johnny Moats wrote on Facebook. “I can assure everyone, me or any of my deputies will never treat anyone like that as long as I’m Sheriff. This kind of brutality is terrible and it needs to stop. All Officers involved need to be arrested and charged immediately. Praying for the family.”Typically, police call for patience and calm in the wake of a use of force. They are reluctant to weigh in on episodes involving another agency, often citing ongoing investigations or due process.“Not going hide behind ‘not being there,’" tweeted San Jose Police, California, Chief Eddie Garcia. "I’d be one of the first to condemn anyone had I seen similar happen to one of my brother/ sister officers. What I saw happen to George Floyd disturbed me and is not consistent with the goal of our mission. The act of one, impacts us all.”But Gloria Browne-Marshall, a civil rights attorney and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said she wouldn't be a “cheerleader” for a “handful” of chiefs who harshly decried the officers' behaviour.“Any minute progress is seen as miraculous because so little has been done for so long,” she said. “It’s nothing close to progress or what outrage would be taking place if it was a white man as the victim of this assault.”Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles, said she wasn't “particularly moved” by the relatively few police who voiced outrage.Abdullah said the three other officers who witnessed Chauvin's actions and did not intervene contributed to a long-standing system of police racism and oppression against people of colour.“We’ve got to remember that it was not just Officer Chauvin who was sitting on George Floyd’s neck,” she said.Abdullah and hundreds of others protested what she called Floyd's lynching on Wednesday night. Some blocked lanes of a freeway and shattered windows of California Highway Patrol cruisers.Minneapolis is bracing for more violence after days of civil unrest, with burned buildings, looted stores and angry graffiti demanding justice. The governor on Thursday called in the National Guard. On Thursday night, protesters torched a Minneapolis police station that the department was forced to abandon.The heads of the Los Angeles and Chicago departments — both of which have been rocked before by police brutality scandals — addressed Floyd's death and its potential effect on race relations between law enforcement and communities of colour.Even the New York Police Department weighed in. Eric Garner died in the city in 2014 after he was placed in a chokehold by police and uttered the same words Floyd did: “I can't breathe.”It took city officials five years to fire the officer, and no criminal or federal charges were brought."What we saw in Minnesota was deeply disturbing. It was wrong," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea wrote Thursday. “We must take a stand and address it. We must come together, condemn these actions and reinforce who we are as members of the NYPD. This is not acceptable ANYWHERE.”Before he was commissioner, Shea spearheaded the NYPD’s shift to community policing that moved away from a more confrontational style favoured by other commissioners after Garner's death.Harris County, Texas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who also spoke out online, told The Associated Press that law enforcement agencies keep promising reforms in the wake of fatalities, but they are "not delivering it on a consistent basis.”“When bad things happen in our profession, we need to be able to call it like it is,” he said. “We keep thinking that the last one will be the last one, and then another one surfaces.”Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press

  • 'Two-tiered health:' Manitoba premier wants PM to clear up rules on powwows
    The Canadian Press

    'Two-tiered health:' Manitoba premier wants PM to clear up rules on powwows

    WINNIPEG — Manitoba's premier has added his voice to provincial leaders calling on Ottawa to clear up mixed messages about Indigenous ceremonies, after a chief said his First Nation would be holding its annual powwow even if public-health orders continue to limit the size of gatherings."Now is not the time to begin to disrespect public health orders that have kept Manitobans safe — all Manitobans," Brian Pallister.Pallister said he would be bringing up the issue on a call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later Thursday. "We are not people who believe in two-tiered health," the premier added. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe criticized the federal government's approach earlier this month after RCMP were dispatched to a sun-dance ceremony. Moe said no one is exempt from provincial public health orders because no one is exempt from COVID-19.Thousands of people usually travel across the country to dance and reconnect during the powwow season. This year, most traditional gatherings have been cancelled or delayed over concerns about the novel coronavirus or due to provincial restrictions on how many people can gather.Chief Cornell McLean said that after careful consideration Lake Manitoba First Nation decided to go ahead with the community's traditional powwow next month."It is our culture," McLean said.Two months ago, Lake Manitoba was one of the first reserves in the province to restrict travel in and out of the community, about 160 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Many other First Nations followed. McLean said there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the region.He said it has been difficult for many residents as they deal with the stress of isolation, financial strain and concern over their families. Some have turned to alcohol or drugs, he said.He believes the powwow that is being organized will bring healing."It's important because we are trying to … start that healing process for our members."There have been 294 cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba. However, the number of infections has stagnated over the last few weeks. The government reported two new cases on Thursday; 14 are active.McLean and his council watched as the provincial government began to loosen restrictions this month. He said they decided to move forward with the powwow when the limit on outdoor gatherings was increased to 50 people."We will make sure that social distancing is being followed," said the chief, who added that anyone not feeling well should not attend the event running June 19-21."We won't have people standing arm in arm, that's for sure, but we will find a way to make it work for our community."The powwow is still being planned and McLean did not indicate how many people are expected to take part. Outside of community members, people from four nearby First Nations are likely to come, he said.Organizers will be watching what happens with provincial public- health orders and will decide if there needs to be a limit on attendance, but there won't be less than 100 people, McLean said.The First Nation may get criticized for holding the powwow, but McLean noted the federal government has made it clear that Indigenous ceremonies won't be stopped during the pandemic."Canada must not and will not prohibit these important practices," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said earlier this month.Any decision to cancel or postpone cultural practices remains up to community leadership, Indigenous Services spokesperson Martine Stevens said in an email. First Nations leaders and ceremonial organizers are given information on COVID-19 public health measures.Manitoba Health said Indigenous ceremonies need to follow current public health recommendations. The department said it will work with First Nations to provide public health guidance.Wab Kinew, Manitoba's NDP Opposition leader, said he believes the chief knows what is best for the community. He denounced Pallister's comments and said the only two-tiered health care that exists on reserves is the underfunding of health services for First Nations people."It's so unfortunate that we have a premier that would want to make inflammatory statements because it's counterproductive to the collaboration that would have all parties work together to stamp out COVID-19."Arlen Dumas, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said governments and First Nations need to be flexible to ensure traditions are maintained while keeping people safe."Everyone is super sensitive to the reality of what we are dealing with in the time of this pandemic," he said.Dumas said the assembly is in constant contact with the province's chief public health officer and the federal government. First Nations are being advised to remain vigilant and look out for one another.Manitoba chiefs acted quickly to keep communities safe when it was clear COVID-19 was spreading, Dumas said. They continue to do what's best for their communities now that Manitoba is taking steps to reopen,he added."We aren't going to be able to isolate ourselves forever, so how do we start living with this thing?"This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

  • Toronto police release images of men connected to death of rapper Houdini
    Global News

    Toronto police release images of men connected to death of rapper Houdini

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  • 2nd-degree murder charges pending in hit-and-run that killed 15-year-old male

    2nd-degree murder charges pending in hit-and-run that killed 15-year-old male

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  • More weapons being banned without public notice following May 1 order from Ottawa

    More weapons being banned without public notice following May 1 order from Ottawa

    Maple Ridge gun store co-owner Matt Mendel began reading rumours online in early May shortly after the prime minister announced a ban on 1,500 weapons and gun parts — even more guns were quietly being reclassified as prohibited. There was no public announcement by federal authorities. Businesses like Mendel's Wanstalls Hunting and Shooting had to find out by searching the guns they sell in the national Firearms Reference Table (FRT), available to them online.  Mendel, 32, and his staff began to check various models and sure enough some were suddenly banned — mostly shotguns.The RCMP, which manages the FTR through the Canadian Firearms Program, sent a written statement to CBC News confirming the re-classification was taking place beyond the original list of 1,500 banned items, and that so far no public notification has taken place."The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) has been working diligently to ensure that the FRT is updated to reflect all of the classification changes resulting from the Order in Council issued May 1st," read the statement, referring to Trudeau's order, adding that there are about 187,000 different items in the FRT.The changes are surprising, Mendel says.For example, the Typhoon F12, a semi-automatic shotgun, was listed as non-restricted on May 14, but then a subsequent FRT search the following day showed it as prohibited."If I wasn't a diligent business owner and constantly kept my ear to the ground with this sort of thing, I could have been selling illegal firearms to people, and people could be possessing illegal firearms without even knowing it," said Mendel.The Typhoon F12 has a striking resemblance to the AR-15 — a semi-automatic rifle which was named by Trudeau in his May 1 announcement. But Mendel says beyond the pistol grip, adjustable butt stock and general appearance, they're entirely different weapons.Including the one or two Typhoon F12 guns in his inventory, the store stands to lose $30,000 to $40,000 for a dozen firearm models that have been reclassified as prohibited, and much more over time on accessories and ammunition for these guns."As a business, we just hold on to that and we lose that money. We've paid for those firearms, and now they'll sit in my basement ... forever essentially," said Mendel.List of banned firearms to be published 'in the near future'The RCMP also said it will "publish a complete list of all the newly prohibited firearms and their variants in the near future."The RCMP spokesperson who sent the statement said businesses have the options of returning the newly banned weapons to the manufacturer, transferring them to other businesses with appropriate privileges, legally exporting them or having them deactivated.The spokesperson said people who own the banned weapons can wait for further instructions to take part in an expected buy-back program, have the weapons deactivated or legally exported.Mendel scoffed at the options presented by the RCMP, saying once they were paid for, the guns couldn't be returned to the manufacturers or distributors, deactivating them just meant taking the loss and he's still waiting to hear the details of the buy-back program.Do you have more to add to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.caFollow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

  • Graham urges older judges to retire so GOP can fill openings
    The Canadian Press

    Graham urges older judges to retire so GOP can fill openings

    WASHINGTON — Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is publicly urging federal judges in their mid-60s or older to step aside so President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans can fill the vacancies with conservative jurists.Graham’s comments, in an interview Thursday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, come as Republicans fret they may lose the Senate majority in the November elections amid the economic shutdown resulting from the coronavirus and Trump’s stumbles in addressing the crisis.Democrats have increasing hopes of gaining the minimum three seats they’ll need to capture a Senate majority, while Republicans who once banked on a robust economy and rising Trump approval ratings are showing signs of nervousness.“This is an historic opportunity,” Graham said. “We’ve put (nearly) 200 federal judges on the bench. ... If you can get four more years, I mean, it would change the judiciary for several generations. So if you’re a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status. Now would be a good time to do that, if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of centre.”Graham's committee is set to vote next week on Judge Justin Walker, a 37-year-old protege of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has been nominated to the nation’s second-most powerful court. If confirmed, Walker would take an appeals court seat being vacated by Judge Thomas Griffith, who intends to retire in September. The Judiciary Committee also is considering 49-year-old Cory Wilson, a Mississippi judge who has been nominated to a seat on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Asked by Hewitt if he can assure veteran judges that their successor “will indeed be confirmed before the election,” Graham said, "Well, if you wait, you know, (until) November the 1st, no. So do it now.''Hewitt replied: “Do it now. Loud and clear.”The interview with Graham was not the first time the issue of Republicans seeking judicial retirements has been raised publicly. Earlier this month, Chief Justice John Roberts turned down a request from the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to allow an ethics inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Griffith's retirement.A legal adviser to Roberts said the request from Judge Sri Srinivasan, the circuit’s chief judge, did not meet the standards for transferring the inquiry to another judicial circuit to pursue.Demand Justice, a progressive advocacy group, filed a complaint in March asking the appeals court to determine whether McConnell or any other lawmaker had inappropriately played a role in Griffith's decision to retire. The vacancy creates an election-year slot on the influential appeals court, where four of the nine current Supreme Court justices served, including Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh.Griffith issued a statement earlier this month saying no political pressure was put on him to leave the bench.Matthew Daly, The Associated Press

  • Mississippi mayor flouts calls to resign over Floyd comments
    The Canadian Press

    Mississippi mayor flouts calls to resign over Floyd comments

    PETAL, Miss. — A Mississippi mayor who sparked outrage when he said he “didn’t see anything unreasonable” about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody is resisting calls to resign, including from his own town's board of aldermen.“Why in the world would anyone choose to become a police officer in our society today?” Petal Mayor Hal Marx tweeted Tuesday, the day four Minneapolis police officers were fired. The 46-year-old Floyd, a black man, was handcuffed and pleading for air as a white police officer kneeled on his neck Monday.In a follow-up tweet, the Republican directly referenced the Floyd case, saying he “didn't see anything unreasonable”: "If you can say you can't breathe, you're breathing. Most likely that man died of overdose or heart attack. Video doesn't show his resistance that got him in that position. Police being crucified.”Javon Patterson, an offensive lineman with the Indianapolis Colts, and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Anthony Alford both criticized Marx on social media.“You know as a former resident of Petal ... this is truly disturbing to see,” Patterson tweeted, attaching a screenshot of a Facebook post where Marx again said, “If you can talk you can breathe.”"How could you watch this disturbing video and make such an idiotic comment. But this guy is supposed to be the leader of ‘the friendly city,'” Alford, a Petal High School alumnus, wrote on Facebook. “This is why it's important to vote people. You don't want people like Mayor Hal Marx in charge.”Marx's Twitter account no longer exists.The Petal Board of Aldermen held a special meeting Thursday, voting unanimously to ask for Marx's resignation, the Clarion Ledger reported.“Recently, Mayor Hal Marx has taken to social media and repeatedly made comments that have isolated, enraged and belittled individuals in a way that is unbecoming to our city,” Aldermen Clint Moore read from a statement.Residents also called for his resignation, and protests are planned for the coming days. As Marx addressed the meeting, audience members shouted over him.“You already have your minds made up about me,” he said.Marx, who was first elected mayor in 2009 and entertained a run for governor in 2019, told the Hattiesburg American earlier this week that his remarks were misconstrued as racist, and that he was trying to caution people “to get all the facts before they judge” the police.At Thursday's meeting, he said he and his family had received death threats and called people asking for resignation bullies.“I will never surrender to the mob mentality,” he said. In Mississippi, elected officials can only be removed form office if they've committed felonies, the Clarion Ledger reported.Myla Cox grew up in Petal, a town of a little more than 10,000 people just east of Hattiesburg. She said she's been judged at her college, Brown University, because of her hometown“Everybody looked down on me because they saw the type of people that run my city, specially you,” the newspaper quoted her as addressing Marx. “For you to come here today and say that we are bullies, and you to not hold accountability for your statements that we clearly do no agree with already shows what type of person you are.”The Associated Press

  • 'How did someone end up dying?': Family of black Toronto woman allege officers 'threw' her off balcony
    Yahoo News Canada

    'How did someone end up dying?': Family of black Toronto woman allege officers 'threw' her off balcony

    Regis Korchiniski-Paquet’s died after falling from the 24th floor of her apartment in High Park in Toronto on Wednesday, but the family insists the young woman was pushed off the balcony and did not commit suicide.  

  • PHOTOS: Swarms of locusts threaten India's crops
    Yahoo News Canada

    PHOTOS: Swarms of locusts threaten India's crops

    Desert locusts have invaded India’s Rajasthan region, threatening summer crops. Millions of locusts have been descending on the region since April, and have begun entering neighbouring states.An estimated 50,000 hectares have been engulfed by the locusts so far, a devastating amount of destruction in conjunction with the economic impact of COVID-19 on farming regions. Higher than normal temperatures have helped the locusts breed and spread at a faster rate than normal. This year’s infestation is the worst the country has seen since 1993.Local authorities have been using vehicle-mounted sprayers, pesticides and drones to combat the threat of the locusts on crops.

  • NDP mocks Alberta premier's UCP for taking COVID cash from 'sugar daddy' Trudeau
    The Canadian Press

    NDP mocks Alberta premier's UCP for taking COVID cash from 'sugar daddy' Trudeau

    EDMONTON — The Alberta Opposition says Premier Jason Kenney's United Conservatives have a new "sugar daddy" in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and should not accept a federal COVID-19 wage subsidy the party has applied for.NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips says Kenney and his colleagues need to do more for Albertans fighting to get through the pandemic and a spiralling economy."I'm sensing a theme here," Phillips told the house in question period Thursday."Worry about yourself first, even if it means making Justin Trudeau the UCP's sugar daddy, but do nothing for working people."Kenney's party recently said it was applying for the federal wage subsidy because it was the best way to pay staff in a locked-down economy that erased party fundraising opportunities.Notley's New Democrats are not taking the subsidy. She reminded Kenney his party is asking for help from a federal leader he publicly disparaged in 2018 as a dilettante and a lightweight."An empty trust fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl," said Notley. "That's the premier describing his new biggest donor: the prime minister."Notley said the wage subsidy is meant for businesses that have lost revenue due to the pandemic."They are exploiting a loophole to get their hands on federal cash, while thousands of Alberta businesses get left out in the cold," she said."Will the premier stop distracting and instead ... step up to make sure federal money can get to the struggling Alberta businesses it is meant for?"Kenney did not respond directly, but instead accused NDP of shameful behaviour for sending out fundraising letters tied to the growing COVID pandemic."Unlike the NDP, the UCP suspended partisan fundraising for weeks following the beginning of the pandemic out of respect for Albertans," said Kenney."But on March 17, the day a public health emergency was declared, the NDP sent out a begging letter trying to monetize the pandemic. Shame on them."The letter from education critic Sarah Hoffman asked for a donation and noted that "the COVID-19 outbreak reminds us of the importance of a well-funded public health-care system and a government that has the backs of everyday people."While Kenney's UCP won the provincial election in the spring of 2019, it finished the year with a $2.3-million deficit and net liabilities of $1.1 million.The NDP, the only other party with members in the Alberta legislature, recorded a surplus of almost $750,000 in 2019 with net liabilities of about $377,000.Federally, the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green party have all applied for the wage subsidy. The Bloc Quebecois has not.Under the $73-billion program, Ottawa will cover 75 per cent of wages — up to $847 a week per employee — for companies and organizations that saw revenues from January and February decline by 15 per cent in March or 30 per cent in April and May.Political parties as non-profit entities are eligible to apply.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

  • Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has lowest approval rating among premiers, poll suggests

    Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has lowest approval rating among premiers, poll suggests

    Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has the lowest approval rating of any premier in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 47 per cent of Manitobans giving his leadership a positive review, a new poll suggests.Only two premiers had approval ratings below 50 per cent during the previous quarter in the Angus Reid Institute poll, which was conducted online from May 19 to 24 and released Thursday: Pallister and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who had a 48 per cent rating.They are followed by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, who had an approval rating of 57 per cent.When asked about the poll at a news conference on Thursday morning, Pallister said Manitoba has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the country."I don't care about being popular, I care about getting results, and that's the same thing I've said since I got into politics, and I'm not likely going to change," he said."So if I have to choose between being popular or not and beating COVID, I'll choose beating COVID."New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs had the highest rating in the poll, with 80 per cent approval. Quebec Premier François Legault followed with 77 per cent approval and British Columbia Premier John Horgan with 71 per cent approval.Ontario Premier Doug Ford had an approval rating of 69 per cent, while Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe had an approval rating of 65 per cent and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil had 63 per cent approval, the poll suggests.Data on Prince Edward Island was not released because "its small population precludes drawing discrete samples over multiple waves," the poll information said.The poll was commissioned and paid for by the Angus Reid Institute. It included a representative randomized sample of 5,001 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. A comparable margin of error for a probability sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 1.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, the pollster said. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.Shachi Kurl, the Angus Reid Institute's executive director, said it's unusual to see the high approval ratings many premiers had during this period, and the jumps are likely due to how each premier is perceived to be handling the pandemic."Many Canadians, with the exception of some provinces, are looking to their premiers as beacons of leadership at this time," she said.The poll is significant because it's the first time the institute has gauged Canadians' approval of their premiers since the pandemic was declared, Kurl said.Pallister's approval rating this quarter is still four percentage points higher than it was in the previous Angus Reid Insititue poll, conducted in February. That's the second-lowest increase in premiers' approval ratings since last quarter, after Kenney's increase of one percentage point. Saskatchewan's Moe saw an increase of seven percentage points.Kurl said normally, an approval rating approaching 50 per cent is seen as relatively high. Pallister's low rating compared to other premiers could be partially due to the fact that Manitoba has had fewer COVID-19 cases than many other provinces."Because the COVID pandemic has not been as severe in Manitoba, Premier Pallister's response to it perhaps plays less of a role or a factor in how Manitobans are assessing his performance over the last three months," she said."In essence, I think leaders who have played a role that's been very front-and-centre, who've taken on a role that's been very both reassuring and directive to their people …. we see that Canadians and their constituents in their own provinces have responded to that."The premiers who saw the biggest jumps in approval ratings during this period were Ontario's Ford (38 percentage points), Nova Scotia's McNeil (35 percentage points), New Brunswick's Higgs (32 percentage points) and Newfoundland and Labrador's Ball (31 percentage points). Quebec's Legault saw a jump in approval of 19 percentage points during this period. The online survey's comparable margins of error are larger when looking at individual provinces. The margin in Manitoba is plus or minus 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20, the pollster said.In other provinces, it varies from plus or minus three per cent (in Ontario) to plus or minus 6.4 per cent (in New Brunswick).It's 3.4 per cent in Quebec, 3.9 per cent in Alberta, four per cent in British Columbia, 4.4 per cent in Saskatchewan, 5.7 per cent in Nova Scotia and 6.1 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Pregnant woman unknowingly loses baby while COVID-19 prevented ultrasound

    Pregnant woman unknowingly loses baby while COVID-19 prevented ultrasound

    A Carbonear woman is reeling after finding out she was carrying around her baby for eight weeks after it had died, a delay she says could have been prevented had it not been for inadequate health care.Linda King, 24, said a private clinic in St. John's confirmed her worst fear after multiple trips to the emergency room and a scheduled ultrasound that was cancelled due to COVID-19."I had a bump.… I had a baby bump," she told CBC News on Thursday. "This baby was still inside of me but it just wasn't alive."King said she was was delighted after her first gynecology appointment showed she was about eight weeks along with her second child.But shortly after, King said, she became stomach-sick, couldn't keep food down, and at one point, hadn't eaten for days.She went several times to the Carbonear General Hospital in early March."They gave me a prescription for anti-nausea medication and sent me on my way but they never did any blood work, or an ultrasound, or checked the baby's heartbeat," King said.Worried something was wrong, King said she tried to get in to see her gynecologist again but was met with a delay."I was asking for an appointment because I was so sick but I guess there was a long waiting list to get in. There were other people besides me and I had to wait my turn."At the 12-week mark, King was booked to have a dating ultrasound, which determines how far along in the pregnancy she is, and her expected due date.Due to COVID-19, the ultrasound was cancelled, as it was deemed non-essential. She was told to wait for a letter in the mail with a date for her 20-week anatomy scan, which is crucial in determining a baby's health."I have a doppler where you can listen to the baby's heartbeat," King said."Usually at 16 weeks-ish it can be hard to find the baby's heartbeat but I found [my son's] early so I kinda knew something wasn't right when I knew I couldn't find the baby's heartbeat."Private clinic delivers bad newsFor a small fee, King went to the Athena Clinic in St. John's, which has continued to perform ultrasounds. She was able to get in the same day she called, so she made the one-hour trip to St. John's."That's when they gave me the bad news," King said. "The baby had been gone for quite some while and I had no idea."King had suffered what's called a missed miscarriage, when the loss isn't overtly apparent. The body doesn't expel the pregnancy tissue. She was presented options for a procedure at the clinic but chose to get it done closer to home. The wait to remove the fetus was two weeks in Carbonear."I just wanted to get it over with, get it done. I didn't want to carry her around with me," she said. "Someone should have helped me and guided me along instead of sending me home."The young mother of one said her confidence in the health-care system has been shaken, and is urging the provincial government to reassess what is considered essential."It was very frustrating knowing I never got the proper health care I should have got," she said."I was pregnant, at this time I was 16 weeks, I should have at least seen the baby or had some blood work done when I went to the emergency room to figure out if everything was all right, and I didn't."Wants to see changesShe struggles with the knowledge that she could have been told eight weeks sooner that her baby was gone. After a lengthy wait, however, King was notified Thursday she would be able to see her psychiatrist in early June."There are so many sick people and pregnant women who can't get in to see their doctor and I don't think this ultrasound should have been cancelled," she said."I just want to see change in how the health-care system is treating everybody just COVID-19. Everybody should be taken seriously, especially when you think something is wrong."Under the current Alert Level 4 of the province's reopening plan, regional health authorities have begun to allow some health-care services to resume.Eastern Health did not respond to a request from CBC News for comment by the time of publication.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Governor acknowledges 'abject failure' in protest response
    The Canadian Press

    Governor acknowledges 'abject failure' in protest response

    MINNEAPOLIS — With smoke drifting over Minneapolis, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday acknowledged the “abject failure” of the response to this week's violent protests and called for swift justice for police involved in the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white officer knelt on his neck.Walz said the state would take over the response and that it’s time to show respect and dignity to those who are suffering.“Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. The fire is still smouldering in our streets. The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard,” Walz said, adding. “Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world — and the world is watching.”The governor cited a call he received from a state senator who described her district “on fire, no police, no firefighters, no social control, constituents locked in houses wondering what they were going to do. That is an abject failure that cannot happen.”His comments came the morning after protesters torched a police station that officers abandoned during a third night of violence. Livestream video showed protesters entering the building, where intentionally set fires activated smoke alarms and sprinklers. President Donald Trump threatened action, tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which prompted a warning from Twitter for “glorifying violence.”The governor faced tough questions after National Guard leader Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen blamed a lack of clarity about the Guard’s mission for a slow response. Walz said the state was in a supporting role and that it was up to city leaders to run the situation. Walz said it became apparent as the 3rd Precinct was lost that the state had to step in, which happened at 12:05 a.m. Requests from the cities for resources “never came,” he said.“You will not see that tonight, there will be no lack of leadership,” Walz said.Dozens of fires were also set in nearby St. Paul, where nearly 200 businesses were damaged or looted. Protests spread across the U.S., fueled by outrage over Floyd’s death, and years of violence against African Americans at the hands of police. Demonstrators clashed with officers in New York and blocked traffic in Columbus, Ohio, and Denver.Trump threatened to bring Minneapolis “under control,” calling the protesters “thugs” and tweeting that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The tweet drew another warning from Twitter, which said the comment violated the platform’s rules, but the company did not remove it.Trump also blasted the “total lack of leadership” in Minneapolis.A visibly tired and frustrated Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey made his first public appearance of the night early Friday at City Hall and took responsibility for evacuating the precinct, saying it had become too dangerous for officers. As Frey continued, a reporter cut across loudly with a question: “What's the plan here?”“With regard to?” Frey responded. Then he added: “There is a lot of pain and anger right now in our city. I understand that ... What we have seen over the past several hours and past couple of nights here in terms of looting is unacceptable.”He defended the city's lack of engagement with looters — only a handful of arrests across the first two nights of violence — and said, “We are doing absolutely everything that we can to keep the peace.” He said National Guard members were stationed in locations to help stem looting, including at banks, grocery stores and pharmacies.The Minnesota State Patrol arrested a CNN television crew early Friday as the journalists reported on the unrest. While live on air, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was handcuffed and led away. A producer and a photojournalist for CNN were also taken away in handcuffs.The Minnesota State Patrol said the journalists were among four people arrested as troopers were “clearing the streets and restoring order," and they were released after being confirmed to be media members. CNN said on Twitter that the arrests were “a clear violation of their First Amendment rights."Firefighters worked Friday to contain a number of blazes as National Guard troops blocked access to streets where businesses had been damaged. They marched side by side and block by block as they expanded a perimeter around a heavily damaged area.Protests first erupted Tuesday, a day after Floyd's death in a confrontation with police captured on widely seen citizen video. In the footage, Floyd can be seen pleading as officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against him. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving.Minutes after the precinct burned, the Guard tweeted that it had activated more than 500 soldiers across the metro area. By Friday morning, a couple dozen Guard members armed with assault-style rifles blocked a street near a Target store that has sustained heavy damage by looters.The Guard said a “key objective” was to make sure firefighters could respond to calls, and said in a follow-up tweet that soldiers would assist the Minneapolis Fire Department. But no move was made to put out the 3rd Precinct fire. Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said fire crews could not safely respond to blazes at the precinct station and some surrounding buildings.Elsewhere in Minneapolis, thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched through the streets calling for justice.In New York City, protesters defied New York’s coronavirus prohibition on public gatherings Thursday, clashing with police, while demonstrators blocked traffic in downtown Denver and downtown Columbus. A day earlier, demonstrators had taken to the streets in Los Angeles and Memphis.About 10 protesters went to a Florida home believed to belong to Chauvin. The Orange County Sheriff's Office tweeted Friday that Chauvin was not at the residence and has no plans to be in the area.In Louisville, Kentucky, police confirmed that at least seven people had been shot Thursday night as protesters demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home in March.In Mississippi, the mayor of the community of Petal resisted calls to resign following his remarks about Floyd's death. Hal Marx, a Republican, asked on Twitter: “Why in the world would anyone choose to become a police officer in our society today?” In a follow-up tweet, he said he “didn’t see anything unreasonable."The city on Thursday released a transcript of the 911 call that brought police to the grocery store where Floyd was arrested. The caller described someone paying with a counterfeit bill, with workers rushing outside to find the man sitting on a van. The caller described the man as “awfully drunk" and said he was "not in control of himself.”Asked by the 911 operator whether the man was “under the influence of something,” the caller said: “Something like that, yes. He is not acting right.” Police said Floyd matched the caller’s description of the suspect.State and federal authorities are investigating Floyd's death.Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck, was fired Tuesday, along with three other officers involved in the arrest.___Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski, Jeff Baenen and Doug Glass in Minneapolis, Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee, and Aaron Morrison in New York contributed to this report.Tim Sullivan And Amy Forliti, The Associated Press

  • The long-term care crisis: How B.C. controlled COVID-19 while Ontario, Quebec face disaster

    The long-term care crisis: How B.C. controlled COVID-19 while Ontario, Quebec face disaster

    As COVID-19 continues to sweep through long-term care facilities, Ontario and Quebec are struggling hard to contain outbreaks — while British Columbia and other provinces have managed to keep infections under control.Experts say that's because B.C. took swift, coordinated and decisive actions to stop the transmission of the virus, such as providing adequate protective gear and financially supporting front-line staff to restrict their movement between sites.There have been 111 deaths in long-term care facilities in B.C., including hospitals, compared to more than 2,500 in Quebec and 1,500 in Ontario.This week, the military issued separate reports on the conditions inside 30 homes in Quebec and Ontario where more than 1,600 Canadian Armed Forces members have been deployed to assist in the crisis.In five Ontario long-term care homes, the military reported incidents of neglect, aggressive treatment toward residents and cases of residents being improperly fed, left in soiled clothing or going unbathed for weeks. There were also reports of insect infestation and the smell of rotting food.The situation appears less dire in the 25 homes where the military is deployed in Quebec — yet even there the military reported improper use of protective equipment and staffing shortages.Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls military aid for long-term care homes a 'stop-gap'Pat Armstrong, a sociology professor at York University who led the 10-year international project Re-imagining Long-term Residential Care, said the military has drawn attention to deficiencies that existed long before the pandemic hit.She said one important way B.C. limited the spread of the virus was by taking over staffing — ordering that personal support workers each work in only one facility, instead of multiple locations. Wages were boosted to compensate for the loss of second jobs."They've had fewer deaths and fewer outbreaks, I think primarily because they acted so quickly and in the way they did to take over the employment of these people in long-term care. And they stopped extra people from coming into the homes. That was another factor," Armstrong said.Fewer four-bed unitsAnother factor reducing the risk in B.C.'s long-term care facilities is the fact that more nursing homes in the province have modern infrastructure with fewer four-bed units. They also provided more personal protective equipment to staff early on, Armstrong said.Officials should have made special efforts with long-term care homes because their residents have complex needs and are often in congregate living arrangements, she argued. Instead, she said, Ontario and Quebec focused on ensuring that hospital front-line workers were equipped first."We focused there and didn't pay enough attention to long-term care, even as we were being told that the elderly were particularly at risk," she said.Going forward, Armstrong said, Canada needs stronger inspection systems with tough enforcement measures to strengthen the long-term care system nationwide.Lessons learned from other countriesB.C.'s Health Minister Adrian Dix said his province took early action and a "whole of sector" approach to avert widespread transmission."Everyone understood the consequences in long-term care of this outbreak, how vulnerable people were. We knew that from what had happened in Wuhan, in Hubei province, and other places in the world, so there was a significant need to act in acute care," he said.Dix also said B.C. was lucky; Quebec's spring break happened earlier than B.C.'s, which meant the B.C. government had more time to warn international travellers against actions that could bring the virus home with them. "We need to recruit a whole new generation of care workers," he said. WATCH | What B.C. did right in long-term care homes during pandemic:"That was good luck we had a later spring break and were able to tell people not to go away and bring COVID-19 back with them," he said. "That was something we learned from the province of Quebec, just like we learned from Italy and Hubei."Going forward, Dix said long-term care will need deep changes — everything from updating infrastructure to improving human resources and recruitment practices to hire the best people to care for the elderly.'Great tragedy'Jennifer Baumbusch, a nursing professor at the University of British Columbia, said the pandemic's impact on long-term care facilities is a "great tragedy" and the consequence of decades of policy and funding neglect.She said B.C. fared better than other provinces because government and health officials acted quickly to mobilize resources to control infection and support staff.Instead of each home in B.C. being left to procure its own protective supplies, a centralized service run by the non-profit SafeCareBC has been collecting and distributing PPE. Baumbusch said that was "absolutely key" to stopping the spread of the virus; in other provinces, gaps in protective gear supplies led to higher rates of infection.Requiring staff to work at a single site also helped to limit the spread, Baumbusch said. She welcomed the province's recent announcement that legislation will make that policy permanent."By paying people a decent wage, hopefully they're able to just limit themselves to that one site and stay with that employer," she said.Long-term care facilities fall under provincial jurisdiction, but the crisis has led to calls for the federal government to step up — either by putting long-term care under the Canada Health Act or by financing infrastructure projects to update or build new homes.Ontario and Quebec adopted measures 'too late'Ontario and Quebec have asked workers to stop travelling between multiple long-term care homes and choose one location to work at. However, unions representing workers in both provinces say that voluntary measure came roughly three weeks after B.C. took action and by then the crisis was too far gone. Both provinces have also promised pay increases to workers. But CUPE said the majority of workers' paycheques haven't changed yet. CUPE's Candace Rennick represents 30,000 workers in Ontario long-term care homes and said there are only a handful of cases across Ontario where employers have opted to pay the increase in advance."It has not started flowing in the vast majority of facilities in Ontario," Rennick said. "It's a little bit frustrating that you know in one breath you come out and make this really great announcement...and here we are over a month later and people haven't seen a dollar of it. It's pretty disappointing."In Quebec the money is flowing, according to Esteben Harguindeguy with Conseiller Syndical SQEES-298, which represents 25,000 workers in public and private long-term care facilities. He said Quebec should have acted immediately like B.C. and had a more coordinated approach. "It took too long for the system to adjust," said Harguindeguy. "Some places didn't have any employees left."He said in some long-term care homes up to 10 employees at a time were testing positive with COVID-19 and told to go home and quarantine for 14 days. But due to a shortage of staff, he claims some were asked to come back to work after a week because homes were so short-staffed.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who has said more than once that Canada must do a better job of caring for the elderly — has promised that the federal government will support the provinces while respecting their jurisdiction. He has not made any specific commitments regarding the role the federal government will play in improving the system.NDP health critic Don Davies said that while the spotlight is now on Quebec and Ontario, it's important to recognize that long-term care facilities across the country are in poor condition."This is a national problem that affects all provinces and territories. If the [Canadian Forces] were in every care home in every province, I think you'd see many more examples of what we just saw in Ontario," he said."Not a single province or territory is meeting the minimum standard of 4.1 hours of hands-on care per day."While B.C. has managed to control the spread of infection, the death rates in long-term care in the province from COVID-19 are still relatively high compared to the rest of the population. The B.C. government recently had to take over three care homes because residents were not getting the care they need, he said.Davies blamed substandard care on a lack of strong, national standards, for-profit facilities pushing cost-cutting, poor working conditions and a lack of regular inspections."The outrageously low rates of inspection in Ontario and Quebec — nine out of more than 600 homes in Ontario in 2019, and less than half the homes in Quebec in last three years — breed conditions of neglect," he said.Davies is calling on governments to bring long-term care under the Canada Health Act along with hospitals. He's also calling for a targeted federal transfer tied to provinces and territories meeting care standards, working conditions and non-profit delivery.

  • Emails reveal pandemic showdown between medical officer of health and hospital CEO

    Emails reveal pandemic showdown between medical officer of health and hospital CEO

    Emails obtained by CBC News through the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act show that Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj was begging Dr. Wajid Ahmed to authorize EMS paramedics to do COVID-19 testing at nursing homes and seniors residences as cases at the homes began to ramp up.The 65 pages of emails - first obtained by The Windsor Star - contain heated exchanges between Musyj and Ahmed between March 1 and May 25.The exchanges reveal a frustrated Musyj begging Ahmed to allow Essex-Windsor EMS paramedics to conduct COVID-19 testing in nursing homes and seniors residences. This after outbreaks had been reported in the homes and deaths had occurred.Musyj at one point had swabs that he wanted to give to the health unit to pass on to paramedics to do the tests.But Ahmed was hesitant to authorize it.In heated exchanges between the two men, they disagreed over who should be tested and who should do the testing. There was a thread of emails that showed that testing was scheduled, cancelled and re-scheduled.Essex-Windsor EMS Chief Bruce Krauter was copied on the emails and weighed in, pointing out that colleagues in other cities were doing the testing and he couldn't understand why his paramedics weren't.Krauter said his paramedics were trained and ready to do the testing.Ahmed's point of view was that he was focusing on outbreaks and not swabbing asymptomatic people.He wrote that the best thing was for staff to wear PPE and that the homes can test themselves.In a May 1 email, Musyj writes about swabs sent to long term care homes."I truly do Not want to play this game. People's lives are at risk," he writesIn another email, Ahmed fires back in capital letters with "THIS IS NOT A GAME AND PLEASE TO NOT REMIND ME THAT PEOPLE[S] LIVES ARE AT RISK."There are times when Ahmed also tells Musyj that his remarks are inappropriate and that he reports to his board and not to Musyj.CBC News reached out to both Dr. Ahmed and Musyj but neither would provide comment. Bruce Krauter was also unavailable for comment as well.The email exchange can be viewed in the document below:

  • No fines for people at two large family gatherings in Saskatchewan
    The Canadian Press

    No fines for people at two large family gatherings in Saskatchewan

    REGINA — Officials in Saskatchewan say no fines have been levied against those who took part in two large family gatherings that triggered an outbreak of COVID-19 in Saskatoon.Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said up to four cases of infection have so far been tied to the 60 or so people who attended the events on different dates earlier this month.He did not disclose details of the gatherings, but health officials say close contacts are self-isolating.A public health order restricts crowd sizes to no more than 10 people, but that is to increase next month to 15 people indoors and 30 when outside.Although Shahab said those who violate the gathering order could face fines, officials decided in this case the best course of action was education."Obviously there's the possibility of issuing a ticket and fines but progressive enforcement has worked well for us in the past," Shahab said Thursday."In this case my understanding is there's an attempt to understand why some of those considerations were not thought of when the event was planned."Premier Scott Moe said people who repeatedly disregarded public health advice around the pandemic have been fined, but the first step is to educate them about transmission risks."If there's repeated not following the public health orders, most certainly we would move forward with a fine," he said."The goal of the public health orders is to have compliance with the public health orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It's not to fine anyone."Police in Saskatchewan have been receiving complaints related to COVID-19, and the province set up a phone line to report suspected violations, which has received hundreds of calls.In many cases police focused their attention on education, but some charges have been laid. In April, police in Regina fined a 23-year-old woman nearly $3,000 for not self-isolating despite being positive with COVID-19.Saskatchewan reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. A provincial state of emergency was extended for another two weeks.Officials said one new infection was in the north and the other was in the Saskatoon region.The total number of COVID-19 cases in the province sat at 639. Of those infections, 61 are considered active and 568 people have recovered. Ten people have died and four are in hospital.This report by the Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

  • Warrant issued for arrest of former PQ leader Boisclair on sex assault charges
    The Canadian Press

    Warrant issued for arrest of former PQ leader Boisclair on sex assault charges

    MONTREAL — Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair is facing charges that he used a weapon to commit a sexual assault six years ago.An arrest warrant signed by a Quebec court judge and dated May 27 says the alleged assault took place in Montreal on Jan. 8, 2014, and that a second person participated.Under the terms of the warrant Boisclair needs to present himself at a police station before appearing in court to be formally charged.The 54-year-old is facing two charges related to a single, unidentified victim. If convicted, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.Boisclair served as the leader of the PQ from November 2005 until his resignation in May 2007.He served as Quebec's delegate general in New York from 2012 to 2013, and since June 2016 he has been president of the Urban Development Institute of Quebec. The institute confirmed Thursday that he has submitted his resignation.Boisclair was elected for the first time in the Montreal riding of Gouin in 1989, when we was just 23.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • Controversial bill targeting rail blockade protesters soon to be Alberta law

    Controversial bill targeting rail blockade protesters soon to be Alberta law

    To some, it's a bill that will enforce the rule of law, protect public safety and stop protesters from harming the economy.To others, the Alberta government's Bill 1 is an affront to democratic rights, an authoritarian overreach and a threat to Indigenous Peoples' way of life.The controversial Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, Premier Jason Kenney's signature legislation to start the current session, passed third reading in the legislature on Thursday.Government house leader Jason Nixon hopes it will receive the lieutenant-governor's royal assent Friday, immediately making it law.Introduced in February, the bill allows hefty penalties against any person or company found to have blocked, damaged or entered without reason any "essential infrastructure."The list of possible sites is lengthy and includes pipelines, rail lines, highways, oil sites, telecommunications equipment, radio towers, electrical lines, dams, farms and more, on public or private land.Violators can be fined up to $25,000, sentenced to six months in jail, or both. Corporations that break the law can be fined up to $200,000. Each day they block or damage a site is considered a new offence.Kenney introduced the legislation against the backdrop of protests across Canada, in which groups blockaded rail lines, commuter train routes and roadways in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline through their territory in northern B.C."When we brought this in, it was at a time of turmoil in Canada," Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said in the legislature Thursday. "We had lawlessness across this country, where critical infrastructure was being obstructed. That is simply unacceptable. Here in the province of Alberta we expect the rule of law to be upheld."A CN Rail line in west Edmonton was the site of one such blockade in February.The blockades snarled the movement of goods and passengers across the country, prompting layoffs and concerns about the food supply.MLAs call protesters 'spoiled kids'After a nearly three-month delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the bill returned to the legislature this week for debate.United Conservative Party MLAs called the protesters "ecoterrorists" and "spoiled kids," saying some participants joined blockades because they thought it was a cool thing to do with their friends and post about on social media.Those characterizations make Alison McIntosh cringe. The Climate Justice Edmonton organizer said freezing on a winter's day while being harassed by counter-protesters isn't "fun."She said the politicians' comments are demeaning and dismissive of protesters' legitimate concerns about the environment and economic diversification."It shows a lot of disregard for people who are their constituents — the people they purport to be looking out for," said McIntosh, 28. "And it really highlights that we're not the ones they're considering when they pass legislation like Bill 1."Although it's hard to tell until pandemic public health restrictions ease, Bill 1 could substantially change grassroots protests in Alberta, McIntosh said.The organization can't afford to pay such penalties if protesters are convicted, she said."It's really troubling, but we're creative. We know that there's ways we can get our message across," she said.David Khan, leader of the Alberta Liberal party and a constitutional and Indigenous rights lawyer, said Thursday the new law could interfere with Indigenous Peoples' rights to hunt, fish or gather on traditional land. He calls the law draconian, legally dubious and a piece of political theatre designed to trivialize the tensions between oil and gas development, Indigenous rights and the environment.In addition to potentially running afoul of citizens' rights to free expression and association, Khan thinks the law could jeopardize Alberta's international reputation as an ethical and democratic source of oil.When asked for comment on Thursday, the Assembly of First Nations pointed to a statement issued in February by Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras urging the premier to withdraw the bill."Allowing the bill to pass will serve to erode individual rights, unfairly target Indigenous Peoples, and has no place in a democratic society," she said at the time.Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said the broadness of the law could allow the government to potentially shut down political demonstrations at the legislature or interfere with a strike picket line.He said the federation will launch a constitutional challenge."The UCP is trying to frame Bill 1 as a patriotic defence of our oil and gas industry," he said Thursday. "But if you're patriotic, this is actually the last piece of legislation you should be supporting because it is fundamentally undemocratic."Government says it supports legal protestThe Opposition NDP also raised concerns the bill is too far reaching. The party's legal analysis found the language is so broad, it could be interpreted to mean that just being on public land or walking down a highway or next to a rail line could be illegal, justice critic Kathleen Ganley said in the legislature Thursday.Such strict application of the law could be especially problematic given the large fines allowed, she said.Central Peace-Notley UCP MLA Todd Loewen said in the legislature her concerns were "ridiculous."The high fines are designed to help perpetrators understand the drastic economic consequences of interfering with industries, he said.Nixon said stopping protests or demonstrations is not their goal."You have a right to protest and express yourself in democracy and this government will always fight to make sure that happens," he said."You do not have a right while you're protesting to stopping trains from moving and products from getting to market, causing companies to go bankrupt, or to have to suspend or fire or layoff employees because your products can't get to market."

  • Salmon expected to begin arriving soon at Fraser River landslide: DFO
    The Canadian Press

    Salmon expected to begin arriving soon at Fraser River landslide: DFO

    VANCOUVER — Parts of a pneumatic fish pump dubbed the "salmon cannon" have arrived at the site of a massive landslide along British Columbia's Fraser River, where Fisheries and Oceans Canada expects some salmon to begin arriving soon.Six 160-metre tubes of different sizes are being suspended along the canyon wall above the river, said Gwil Roberts, director of the department's landslide response team.A fish ladder that's nearly complete would attract salmon, guiding them into a holding pond before they enter the fish pump and tube system that will take them up river from the slide, said Roberts.The pump system is leased from a Seattle-based company and includes a scanner that measures the size of the salmon in order to send them into the appropriate tube.Roberts said the largest tube is about 25 centimetres in diameter and the system is more gentle than the "salmon cannon" label suggests.A deceleration mechanism would slow the salmon down and deposit them gently upstream after the fish have travelled about eight metres per second for 20 seconds, the department said in a statement. The pump and other measures underway at the site, including a series of boulders arranged to create pools where salmon can rest, are designed to minimize the need to handle the fish, said Roberts."This reduces stress to the fish," he said, adding that transporting fish by trucks equipped with large water tanks is a last resort this year.Tens of thousands of salmon were transported by truck and helicopter after the slide was discovered late last June.Roberts said spring water levels are still too high for salmon to navigate the series of boulders and pools that make up a "nature-like fishway."The site is being prepared and the fish pump will be installed shortly to aid the salmon until water levels drop, he said.There have been no reports of salmon arriving yet, said Roberts, but Chinook and other early returning salmon are expected soon.The landslide sent 75,000 cubic metres of boulders and debris into the Fraser River north of Lillooet, creating a five-metre waterfall and a major obstacle for salmon returning to their spawning grounds.Roberts said mortality was "extremely high" last year because fish had been arriving at the base of the waterfall and trying to swim upstream for at least a month before the slide was discovered."They were battering themselves and getting stressed," he said. "This year we have the plan in place to move the salmon to ensure they can get across the slide site and we are very hopeful we will have very, very low mortality."The fish have already travelled about 375 kilometres from the mouth of the Fraser River before arriving at the slide and some continue another 600 kilometres, said Roberts.He said the ultimate goal is to establish a natural fish passage at the site."You're looking at the destruction of salmon stock if we don't do something here. If we don't help, if we do not facilitate or make fish passage happen, then you will see the disastrous effects to those stocks."Roberts said a hatchery program is also in place if need be, which means some salmon could be captured and their offspring reared before being reintroduced into the wild, depending on the arrival of different salmon species.Fisheries and Oceans Canada has pointed to warming ocean waters, habitat degradation, disease and other threats as factors that are contributing to the decline of many wild Pacific salmon stocks and species.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.Brenna Owen, The Canadian PressNote to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version based on information provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the fish travelled at 20 metres per second.

  • Oilers' McDavid, Nurse size up new playoff format ahead of potential Hawks clash

    Oilers' McDavid, Nurse size up new playoff format ahead of potential Hawks clash

    During his downtime in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Darnell Nurse tuned into the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance for a dose of inspiration.The Edmonton Oilers rearguard plans to draw on motivational lessons from Air Jordan in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks."I think that's the perfect example — to see his mindset in a lot of those games – of creating your own environment, creating your own fire," Nurse said Thursday on a virtual news conference conducted via Zoom."That's a test that everyone in this situation is going to have to go through, having the ability to create your own excitement."WATCH | Nurse remains motivated by opportunity to win Stanley Cup:There will be no crowd due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The seats, empty. The energy in the building, absent."Yeah, there's no fans there," Nurse said. "And yeah, you might be in a hub city. But there's an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. I think that should be enough motivation to get anyone going."There's a lot of challenges. There are a lot of things that aren't ideal that come along with this situation. But that's the world. The world is in that position right now. So the Stanley Cup is all the fire you should need."On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league and NHLPA agreed to a return-to-play format, which concludes the remainder of the regular season and begins a 24-team playoff plan.The new plan would see the top-4 clubs in the Eastern and Western Conference play two abbreviated round-robin tournaments to determine playoff seeding.The other eight teams in each conference would play a best-of-five 'play-in' series — No. 5 versus No. 12, No. 6 versus No. 11, No. 7 versus No. 10, and No. 8 versus No. 9 — to determine the 16 clubs left standing for the playoffs.WATCH | 2-minute recap of Bettman's press conference:If fans were allowed in the building in Edmonton, Chicago forward Patrick Kane would have no doubt experienced the wrath of the Oiler faithful given the carnage inflicted over the years.Through 43 career games against the Oilers, Kane has 56 points. And in the post-season against any club, Kane is a certified gamer with 123 points in 127 career appearances and a Conn Smythe Trophy to boot.The Chicago faithful have reason to hope for an upset — if Kane can keep up the torrid scoring pace and the rest of the Blackhawks can somehow limit the damage inflicted by Leon Draisaitl and captain Connor McDavid.Holland approves of format"I'm happy it's a best-of-five," Oilers general manager Ken Holland said. "There might be a little bit of rust in the first game or two, but over the course of a five-game series it's an opportunity to — if you get off to a sluggish start — get back in the series."If you have a bad first game, you've still got to lose two more versus how quickly a best-of-three can go."In spite of the Kane factor, the Oilers (37-25-9) will enter the series — whenever it happens — as the undeniable favourites against the Blackhawks (32-30-8).On Thursday, McDavid, who was part of the NHL/NHLPA's Return to Play Committee, and Nurse addressed the merit of the 24-team format and whether a hub city approach would provide an advantage for the hometown franchise among other topics.WATCH | McDavid, Nurse discuss polarizing return-to-play format:The Oilers led the league in power-play efficiency at a whopping 29.5 per cent, and now they have the services of a healthy Mike Green as the quarterback on the point.As for the penalty kill, they ranked second behind only San Jose at 84.4 per cent."We've had that same power play for probably two years now, and that helps a lot," McDavid said. "We've had a lot of success on specialty teams, and we'll probably need to be a little bit better five-on-five."Draisaitl a driving forceThe difference maker could well be Draisaitl, the 2019/20 Art Ross Trophy winner with 43 goals and 67 assists for 110 points in 71 appearances. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder is a beast to move off the puck and one of the best pure passers in the league.During Thursday's conference, a reporter from Germany asked McDavid how he benefits from playing with Draisaitl."He gives me nice passes, so that definitely helps me out," McDavid said. "A lot was made of us playing together or not playing together, and that gives our team a different look."After Christmas, head coach Dave Tippett assigned McDavid and Draisaitl their own lines, and the Oilers became way more challenging to defend with the scoring spread around."As a general manager, and if you're a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, we're very fortunate to have two great players who are 23 and 24 years of age and, really, probably just coming into their prime years as athletes," Holland said. "They've been versatile. Obviously, Leon can move to the left wing and we can play them together as a line."And when that happens — even minus fans in the building — the atmosphere will no doubt be electric.

  • Health

    Why was Alberta's chief medical officer not consulted in decision to end public health order, NDP asks

    Alberta's chief medical officer of health appeared to be unaware on Wednesday of the premier's intent to end the public health emergency next month.Earlier that day, Premier Jason Kenney announced in question period that his cabinet would not renew the 90-day order-in-council declared under the Public Health Act when it expires on June 15. The order was issued by Kenney and his cabinet on March 17. When CBC News asked Dr. Deena Hinshaw about what this would mean for Albertans, she said, "I haven't had the opportunity to have that conversation so I think that might be a question best addressed to the premier in terms of that particular information." Hinshaw's consent isn't required for cabinet to allow to allow the order-in-council to expire.NDP Leader Rachel Notley asked Kenney in Thursday's question period why Hinshaw wasn't consulted. "Why was this fundamentally serious public health decision made by the premier without Dr. Hinshaw's knowledge?" she asked. Kenney did not address the consultation question in his answer. Emailed questions to his communications staff about whether Hinshaw was consulted were also unanswered Instead, Kenney told the legislature that the order was declared to ensure the health care system wasn't overwhelmed by cases of COVID-19 and that those conditions no longer exist. "That was now weeks ago. We have a thousand acute beds set aside for COVID patients occupied by about 45 of those patients," Kenney responded. "We no longer require those extraordinary authorities which were the entire premise of the invocation of a public health emergency in the middle of March."Notley said the government of British Columbia extended its public health emergency by two weeks after consulting with public health officials. The premier said a final decision hasn't yet been made and that a sharp increase in cases would change the government's plans. In recent days, Kenney has faced criticism for suddenly downplaying the effect of the pandemic in Alberta by calling it an "influenza" and suggesting the public health response should focus on protecting elderly people so the province can reopen."We cannot continue indefinitely to impair the social and economic as well as the mental health and physiological health of the broader population for potentially a year through measures for an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the most elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with comorbidities," he said.

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Alberta introduces bill to change rules on charter schools, home-schooling

    The Alberta government is proposing to change the rules on charter schools and home-schooling. Bill 15 introduced Thursday would allow a group seeking to establish a new charter school to bypass the local school board and apply directly to the government. "The Choice in Education Act will protect and expand student access to the full range of schooling options while strengthening parents' rights as primary decision makers in choosing their kids' education," Premier Jason Kenney said.