Ontario is spending a record $187 billion in its first pandemic-era budget, which includes support for seniors living at home and electricity subsidies for businesses.
Ontario is spending a record $187 billion in its first pandemic-era budget, which includes support for seniors living at home and electricity subsidies for businesses.
Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
Former Saskatchewan music teacher convicted of sexually assaulting students will be sentenced in January 2021. Gerard Loehr, 57, was found guilty in Wynyard Provincial Court Nov. 13 on three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference. In 2019 Loehr was charged with five counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual interference related to incidents involving students in the 90s. The court heard that the victims encountered Loehr when he was a teacher in Wynyard and Foam Lake schools when he worked in the Shamrock School Division. During a trial in Wynyard court in July 2020, five former students testified. The students ranged in age from 12 to 14 at the time of the incidents. Judge Lloyd Stang found Loehr not guilty on four counts of sexual interference because the girls were 14 at the time and according to the law in the 90s, the age of consent was 14. The age has since been raised to 16 and today, the Criminal Code Section 151 charge of sexual interference now states, “Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years… is guilty.” Judge Stang also found Loehr not guilty on two counts of sexual assault because he had concerns about the reliability of the witness’ memory. One charge of sexual interference was dismissed in July. Wynyard RCMP launched an historic sexual assault investigation against Loehr in February 2019 after a woman contacted them to report an assault that occurred in the 90s. Five others later came forward to police with sexual assault allegations against Loehr. Loehr left Saskatchewan in 1996 and taught in Ottawa schools. In 2019 Ottawa Police Service charged Loehr with sexual assault and sexual interference against 11 students. Ottawa Police say Loehr taught middle school level music in the west end of Ottawa between 2000 and 2003. He also taught privately in his home. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board removed him from the classroom. His trial on those charges is scheduled in November in Ontario. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
As a kid, Delbert Good remembers that he would come home from a day of picking potatoes to find a meal made from the fruits of his family’s garden. “While I was growing up, we were pretty self-sufficient,” said Good, economic development officer for the Gitanyow Band and a lifelong resident of Gitanyow, a community northeast of Terrace, in northern B.C. Not anymore. In the past hundred years, a suite of colonial policies suppressed traditions that were essential to many Indigenous people’s access to food, including agricultural ones that were practised for generations. For Good, reawakening them could help pave a better-fed future for his community. About 17 per cent of households in northern B.C. were food insecure before the pandemic, according to the province’s Provincial Health Services Authority. The area around Gitanyow is particularly hard hit: about 27 per cent of the population in the census area is classified as low-income by Statistics Canada, with poverty the driver of food insecurity. The region is also a 15-hour drive from Vancouver, the distribution hub for roughly 78 per cent of the province’s food. That distance means that the food on grocery store shelves — particularly produce — is expensive and of low nutritional value when compared to urban centres further south. This year, the pandemic exacerbated the problem. Disruptions in global supply chains and high demand for some products emptied local grocery store shelves and highlighted a need to revitalize the community’s self-sufficiency. “In history, when they had stock market crashes and droughts and stuff like that, it never really affected the First Nations because they were used to living off the land,” Good said. That doesn’t surprise John Lutz, a professor of history at the University of Victoria who has studied Indigenous agriculture in the province. “There was an agriculture here that wasn’t immediately recognizable to Europeans,” he explained. For instance, Coast Salish people on the province’s south coast used controlled burns to maintain camas and wild potato plantations, but these well-tended clearings weren’t recognized by early Europeans as cultivated fields. As more Europeans arrived in present-day B.C., those practices started adapting to a new import: potatoes. The potato trade wasn’t limited to the north coast. Lutz said communities from southern Vancouver Island to Alaska picked up the potato trade and usually grew them in fertile and moist pockets of land scattered across their territories. That trade came to a halt in the late 1800s when the Canadian government started forcing Indigenous people onto miniscule reserves. And because the potato patches were rarely recognized as such by the white surveyors who mapped reserve boundaries, most were left out. The reserve system also made it difficult for Indigenous people provincewide to profitably practise European-style agriculture — like ranching or crop farming — because most of B.C.’s water rights had been stolen by settlers and reserves were rarely large or fertile enough for farming. While the reserve system and other federal policies made farming commercially almost inaccessible to most Indigenous people in B.C., growing food was still a widespread practice, Lutz explained. “In the early 20th century, you see a lot of extensive kitchen gardens, people who are living out of their gardens. In part, this is an economic necessity. Indigenous people in large parts of the province didn’t have much access to the cash economy,” he said. “They would take much of their food off the land in terms of hunting and their kitchen garden if they could. And, of course, like white settlers, they would preserve food for the winter. They would can their peas and preserve their vegetables and have root cellars, and so on.” That period ended in the 1950s, he said. Racist policies prevented Indigenous people from entering many industries, everything from law to hospitality. Jobs in industries that had once been key employers, like fishing and forestry, were becoming automated, a combination of policy and economics that pushed many First Nations out of the workforce. And at the same time, increasingly strict hunting and fishing regulations crafted and imposed without consultation made subsistence harvesting difficult. In addition, intergenerational trauma and loss of cultural knowledge inflicted by the federal government’s assimilationist policies — including residential and day schools — exacerbated already difficult social and economic conditions. Those factors continue to influence Indigenous people’s well-being, Lutz said, including food security. About 40 per cent of on-reserve Indigenous households in B.C. are food insecure, according to researchers at the University of Northern B.C. And Health Canada data shows that Canada-wide, about a third of off-reserve Indigenous households don’t have enough food. These are issues Good hopes next year’s community agricultural training program can help resolve — and that a similar program in the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) community of Bella Bella on B.C.’s central coast has been successfully addressing for several years. In 2017, the Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society, a Haíɫzaqv youth- and family- focused non-profit, started a community garden in the 1,400-person town, which is only accessible by sea or air. The project was a big success, said ‘Cúagilákv (Jess Housty), the organization’s executive director, especially this year: Due to the pandemic, the organization decided against making a single communal garden, and instead distributed gardening supplies to households and taught them how to grow food in “grannie gardens.” “This year, we supported over 100 households,” she said. “And in a recent community food security assessment we conducted, we learned that a third of households in Bella Bella are growing a portion of their own food and another third of households really want to start next year.” It’s a level of interest that isn’t only driven by food, she explained. Growing food is also good for mental health, particularly when people are facing uncertainty related to the pandemic or other factors out of their control. Nor is the practice new. “I really want people to understand that gardening is actually a Haíɫzaqv ancestral practice … We wanted to remind people that our people have a long history of nourishing themselves through their deep knowledge of plant systems and the climate where they live, and how all things around them interconnect,” she explained. A connection actively undermined by federal policies to assimilate Indigenous people across the country. “We had generations where that sense of connection to certain ancestral food was really deliberately attacked and that is tragic and unfortunate, but I really strongly believe that that knowledge is still in us and that we can wake it up again,” she said.Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
ESKASONI, N.S. — An Eskasoni Red Tribe boxing card has been postponed until further notice because of the recent rise in COVD-19 cases in the province. “Things can be moved around and rescheduled, but a life can’t be rescheduled, we have to look out for our safety,” said Barry Bernard, Eskasoni Red Tribe boxing owner and coach. The card was originally scheduled for Dec. 5 at the Sarah Denny Cultural Centre in Eskasoni and would have featured 14 amateur bouts with fighters from across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Because of the increase in active COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Bernard thought it best to reschedule. The card would have excluded audience members but would have been streamed on YouTube and the Eskasoni television channel. The main event fighters would have been Oromocto Boxing Club’s Josh Melvin and Eskasoni’s Israel Regalado. The 20-year-old Regalado made his boxing debut in October during the Lights Out drive-in boxing card which saw audience members watching the fights from the safety of their cars while the fights streamed on a 30-foot screen. Regalado won that fight against Crandall University boxer Jacob MacCallum. Headlining a card would have been special but Regalado understands safety comes first. “In the beginning, I was kind of sad but then when I thought about it, it was the best option we had,” said Regalado. The young man identifies as half-Aboriginal and half-Spanish and grew up in both Eskasoni and Guatemala. He spends most of his days training and says it has been his focus. He trained for an entire year before making his amateur debut and was glad to display his skills. Regalado spends most of his time training and with his girlfriend and he thinks boxing in Eskasoni helps keep people grounded. “I feel like it helps young people that don’t know what to do,” said Regalado. And he said he will keep training until the next card is scheduled. It is that drive that impresses his coaches, like Bernard. Bernard says Regalado has a strong character and work ethic and believes headlining a card will mean a lot for his future, something he hopes will happen sooner rather than later. Ideally, he’d like to have the next boxing card in January, but it all depends on the pandemic. “We have to take care of our community first,” said Bernard.Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post
The Town of Bay Roberts has awarded a tender in the amount of $316,277 to CanAm Platforms & Construction Ltd. for new ballfield lighting. There was some discussion on whether that tender price would include new dehumidifiers, as the tender was for ballfield lighting and stadium dehumidifier upgrades. “I’m 99 percent sure that’s just the ballfield lighting,” said councillor Dean Franey, who noted the Town had already awarded the dehumidifier upgrade. “I’ll have to check with the director, but I’m pretty sure councillor Franey is right,” agreed Chief Administrative Officer Nigel Black. “What happens is the project name was called Ballfield Lighting and Stadium Dehumidifier. It was all lumped into one project.” Councillor Silas Badcock raised a concern about the awarding of the tender. “This is the company that put up our building at the recreation complex, where we’re having trouble with the roof?” asked Badcock. Black confirmed it was. Badcock said it didn’t make sense to him to award the contract unless the roof was fixed first. Black replied that the company met all the requirements of the tender, which had been reviewed by Municipal Affairs and the Town’s consultant, Crosbie Engineering. “There’s no way in the world we can say, ‘Fix our roof before you get this contract?’” asked Babcock. Black said the roof is being fixed and there is no outstanding claim against the company. “There was an outstanding problem with the roof, and they’re fixing it,” said Black. Councillor Geoff Seymour asked how much interest there was in the tender, and Franey said that there were 10 bids— including one from a company from Nova Scotia. “There’s not much work out there, I’ll put it to you that way. So people are going after whatever they can get,” said Franey. Council voted to approve the tender for the ballfield lighting.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
WASHINGTON — Gripped by the accelerating viral outbreak, the U.S. economy is under pressure from persistent layoffs, diminished income and nervous consumers, whose spending is needed to drive a recovery from the pandemic.A flurry of data released Wednesday suggested that the spread of the virus is intensifying the threats to an economy still struggling to recover from the deep recession that struck in early spring.The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week for a second straight week to 778,000, evidence that many employers are still slashing jobs more than eight months after the virus hit. Before the pandemic, weekly jobless claims typically amounted to only about 225,000. Layoffs are still historically high, with many businesses unable to fully reopen and some, especially restaurants and bars, facing tightened restrictions.Consumers increased their spending last month by just 0.5%, the weakest rise since the pandemic erupted. The tepid figure suggested that on the eve of the crucial holiday shopping season, Americans remain anxious with the virus spreading and Congress failing to enact any further aid for struggling individuals, businesses, cities and states. At the same time, the government said Wednesday that income, which provides the fuel for consumer spending, fell 0.7% in October.The spike in virus cases is heightening pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a “double-dip” recession as states and cities reimpose curbs on businesses. The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, is expected to eke out a modest gain this quarter before weakening — and perhaps shrinking — early next year. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicts annual GDP growth of around 2% in the October-December quarter, with the possibility of GDP turning negative in the first quarter of 2021.Economists at JPMorgan Chase have slashed their forecast for the first quarter to a negative 1% annual GDP rate.“This winter will be grim,” they wrote in a research note.Zandi warned that until Congress agrees on a new stimulus plan to replace a now-expired multi-trillion-dollar aid package enacted in the spring, the threat to the economy will grow.“The economy is going to be very uncomfortable between now and when we get the next fiscal rescue package,” Zandi said. “If lawmakers can’t get it together, it will be very difficult for the economy to avoid going back into a recession.”Some corners of the economy still show strength, or at least resilience. Manufacturing is one. The government said Wednesday that orders for durable goods rose 1.3% in October, a sign that purchases of goods remain solid even while the economy's much larger service sector — everything from restaurants, hotels and airlines to gyms, hair salons and entertainment venues — is still struggling. But economists caution that factories, too, remain at risk from the surge in coronavirus cases, which could throttle demand in coming months.And sales of new homes remained steady in October, the latest sign that ultra-low mortgage rates and a paucity of properties for sale have spurred demand and made the housing market a rare economic bright spot.But at the heart of the economy are the job market and consumer spending, which remain especially vulnerable to the spike in virus cases. Most economists say the distribution of an effective vaccine would likely reinvigorate growth next year. Yet they warn that any sustained recovery will also hinge on whether Congress can agree soon on a sizable aid package to carry the economy through what could be a bleak winter.“With infections continuing to rise at an elevated pace and curbs on business operations widening, layoffs are likely to pick up over coming weeks,? said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.The government said he total number of people who are continuing to receive traditional state unemployment benefits dropped to 6.1 million from 6.4 million the previous week. That figure has been declining for months. It shows that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months.More Americans are collecting benefits under programs that were set up to cushion the economic pain from the pandemic. For the week of Nov. 7, the number of people collecting benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — which offers coverage to gig workers and others who don't qualify for traditional aid — rose by 466,000 to 9.1 million.And the number of people receiving aid under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program — which offers 13 weeks of federal benefits to those who have exhausted state jobless aid — rose by 132,000 to 4.5 million.The data firm Womply says that 21% of small businesses were shuttered at the start of this month, reflecting a steady increase from June’s 16% rate. Consumer spending at local businesses is down 27% this month from a year ago, marking a deterioration from a 20% year-over-year drop in October, Womply found.The heart of the problem is an untamed virus: The number of confirmed infections in the United States has shot up to more than 170,000 a day, from fewer than 35,000 in early September. The arrival of cold weather in much of the country could further worsen the health crisis.Meanwhile, another economic threat looms: The impending expiration of the two supplemental federal unemployment programs the day after Christmas could end benefits completely for 9.1 million jobless people. Congress has failed for months to agree on any new stimulus aid for jobless individuals and struggling businesses after the expiration of a multi-trillion dollar rescue package it enacted in March.The expiration of benefits will make it harder for the unemployed to make rent payments, afford food or keep up with utility bills. Most economists agree that because unemployed people tend to quickly spend their benefits, such aid is effective in boosting the economy.When the viral outbreak struck in early spring, employers slashed 22 million jobs in March and April, sending the unemployment rate rocketing to 14.7%, the highest rate since the Great Depression. Since then, the economy has regained more than 12 million jobs. Yet the nation still has about 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic erupted.All of which has left many Americans anxious and uncertain. The Conference Board, a business research group, reported Tuesday that consumer confidence weakened in November, pulled down by lowered expectations for the next six months.And the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers reported Wednesday that sentiment declined slightly this month, and remained far below where it was before the pandemic struck. With the resurgence of the virus depressing the outlook of consumers, the sentiment index fell to its lowest point since August.“Gloomier consumer expectations will weigh on spending as the holidays approach,” cautioned Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.___AP Business Writer Ken Sweet contributed to this report from Charlotte, North Carolina.Martin Crutsinger And Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press
In the face of what advocates say is a growing housing crisis that includes ballooning rent costs forcing people out of their homes, the Nova Scotia government is stepping in with a cap on increases and a ban on so-called renovictions."Too many Nova Scotians are struggling to afford a place they call home," Housing Minister Chuck Porter said Wednesday."Now is not the time for people to be worrying about keeping a roof over their heads or being forced to find a new home for their family, but unfortunately that is exactly the situation many people are in."Effective immediately, rent increases are capped at two per cent per year without exception. The change is retroactive to September 2020 and will remain in place until Feb. 1, 2022, or whenever the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted. Porter said anyone whose rent has already gone up within the defined time period would receive the difference as a future credit.Landlords will be banned from evicting tenants for the purpose of renovating their buildings. Porter said unless an eviction order has been issued by the residential tenancy board, it will not be enforceable, and that includes notices already provided.Marites Sumat was thrilled by the news."I'm so thankful," she said.Sumat recently received six months notice that the Clayton Park apartment she shares with her husband, three children and mother was going to see the monthly rent go up from $850 to $1,250, a 47 per cent increase that would have priced the family out of their home.The new cap is "a big help for renters," she said.COVID-19 has exerted a major toll on many people, said Sumat. While she's been fortunate not to have her hours reduced at work, she said the pandemic has made what was an already difficult situation for many people all the more challenging.She's still waiting to speak with her landlord, but under the rules announced today the increase scheduled for March 2021 would not be permitted.Change in tuneThe rent cap is a stark departure from previous assertions by Premier Stephen McNeil and his government that rent control is not an effective tool for combating housing challenges.For months, there have been a litany of stories about people being forced from their homes due to renovictions or rent increases as high as 90 per cent. Porter acknowledged it took time to arrive at Wednesday's announcement, but said the government was trying to find the most effective way to deal with the situation.Although he said the main problem is one of supply, the minister noted that cannot be addressed quickly."It is incumbent on us as government to enact something in the interim," said Porter.Two of the candidates vying to be the new Liberal leader and premier recently proposed forms of rent control. Porter, who has endorsed candidate Iain Rankin, said those plans had no bearing on Wednesday's announcement.Affordable housing commission struckWednesday's announcement also included the creation of the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, which is charged with making recommendations about affordable housing strategies and actions. Their first list of recommendations is due in six months.The commission includes: * Catherine Berliner, Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing (co-chair) * Ren Thomas, Dalhousie University (co-chair) * Chief Sidney Peters, Tawaak Housing Association * Karen Brodeur, Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada * Fred Deveaux, Cape Breton Community Housing Association * Jim Graham, Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia * Mike Dolter, Association of Municipal Administrators Nova Scotia * Jeremy Jackson, Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia * Alex Halef, Urban Development Institute * Gordon Laing, Southwest Properties * Kelly Denty, Halifax Regional Municipality * Michelle MacFarlane, Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services * Joy Knight, Department of Community ServicesRepresentation will also include people to be appointed from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the justice and health departments.Another measure Porter announced is $1.7 million to replace 30 beds removed from the homeless shelter system as a result of changes required by Public Health protocols for physical distancing.The minister said meetings are imminent with service providers to determine how to get as many people off the streets as soon as possible. Advocates estimate homelessness numbers in the Halifax Regional Municipality have more than doubled in the last year and Porter said the government is committed to finding ways to address the issue.Should have come soonerOfficials with the housing advocacy group ACORN issued a news release calling the government's decision "an overdue first step" that comes following prolonged lobbying."We would not have seen any movement on rent control if it were not for the tireless work of our members, tenants across Nova Scotia and activists who have been fighting for our communities for years — organizing works," said the release.NDP housing critic Lisa Roberts said her party has put forward multiple pieces of legislation in recent years intended to address the issue, none of which received support from the governing Liberals."This is good, but, frankly, it shouldn't have taken a global pandemic for us to recognize the housing crisis," she said.Roberts said she hopes the new commission spends time looking at rent control on a longer-term basis and helps bring in some kind of permanent check, be it through new legislation proposals or use of the existing Rent Control Act, which was passed in the 1990s.Industry concernsKevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, said the size of the cap is a concern because it falls "well under" the operational cost of rental buildings.He predicted it would have the biggest effect on people who rent in older buildings, which make up the majority of housing stock in Halifax and are nearing "the end of their life cycle.""It will have an impact on operations," he said. "To what degree, that will be up to each individual landlord. It may put off some repairs and maintenance, it may affect other areas of operation."Russell said he's optimistic about the affordable housing commission and what it could do. Whatever changes come must be long term, he said."We've been trying to talk [about] affordable housing with the government for over 10 years and now it takes a crisis for everybody to come to the table. I guess that's how it works."MORE TOP STORIES
"As a doctor, I see a lot of very distressed people coming into my office," he said. "The way the government and politicians talk about the virus is making people anxious and that's a big problem."View on euronews
Jennifer Heywood's mother is 94 and trying to bounce back from a recent bout with COVID-19.Her adult children are anxious to know if they will be able celebrate Christmas as a family, in person — possibly for the last time."I would like very much just to see her," Heywood said, fighting back tears. "I'm sorry. I would just like to see her."The province is expected to announce guidelines this week for holiday gatherings involving seniors living in long-term care homes.Making matters more complicated, Heywood lives in Toronto. Her bags are packed. But she's hoping the spread of COVID-19 will have stabilized enough in Quebec and Ontario to allow her to come to Montreal.Her mother contracted the virus last month at the Vigi Reine-Élizabeth in NDG, and it's taken a physical toll on her, according to Heywood.Heywood and her siblings weren't even sure their mother would make it to Christmas.Two of her siblings visit their mother regularly, but never at the same time. Heywood is hoping that will change, and bring much needed joy to the elderly patient."Christmas is a big deal to Mum," Heywood said. "She always celebrated it joyously. She always made it beautiful for us. So we've always wanted to make it beautiful for her when she's been in a hospital bed."Risk of outbreaks 'always hanging over our heads'Quebecers are being allowed two get-togethers with a maximum of 10 people in each between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27.But there's a quid pro quo.Premier François Legault has asked people to self-isolate in the week leading up to that four-day window and for a week following it. He calls it a "moral contract."Dr. Élise Boulanger, who works at CHSLD Father Dowd, says there is a need for balance when it comes to letting residents celebrate the holidays with family."There is a great proportion [of residents] that are at the end of their life, and this Christmas may be every important for them," said Boulanger. For the most part, she believes people who visit loved ones in long-term care homes are careful about not bringing the virus into the facility, but she stresses the importance of ditching large family gatherings prior to visiting a loved one. "It's always a risk, and it's happening. You still have some outbreaks that are happening in the centres, right now," said Boulanger. "It's always a concern. It feels like it's always hanging over our heads."
BERLIN — German media giant Bertelsmann said Wednesday that its Penguin Random House division is buying rival Simon & Schuster in a megadeal that would reshape the U.S. publishing industry.Penguin Random House, already the largest American publisher, will buy the New York-based Simon & Schuster, whose authors include Stephen King, Hillary Clinton and John Irving, from TV and film company ViacomCBS for $2.17 billion in cash.“Simon & Schuster strengthens Bertelsmann’s footprint globally, and (particularly) in the U.S., its second-largest market,” the Guetersloh, Germany-based company said in a statement.The purchase of Simon & Schuster would reduce the so-called Big Five of American publishing — which also includes HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan — to four.The deal, expected to close in 2021, requires approval from the U.S. Justice Department. No U.S. publisher in modern times would approach the power of the new company. ViacomCBS said Bertelsmann will pay a termination fee if the deal fails due to regulatory reasons.Agents and authors often worry that a concentration of power in publishing could mean less competition for book deals, and lower advances.The Authors Guild, a writers' organization, said Wednesday that it opposed the sale because it would hurt competition, making it more difficult for authors and agents to negotiate with publishers, and said the Justice Department should challenge it.“As an organization of writers it’s important to us that the publishing industry (thrives), and that there be multiple, robust outlets to bring the widest variety of books to audiences,” said Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America. “To the extent that efficiencies are garnered through consolidation, it is our hope that they are a catalyst to enable greater investment in authors, books, and outreach to readers.”Bertelsmann's rival News Corp., which owns HarperCollins, also slammed the deal. “Bertelsmann is not just buying a book publisher, but buying market dominance as a book behemoth,” said News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson said in a statement. “This literary leviathan would have 70% of the U.S. literary and general fiction market."Penguin Random House Chief Executive Markus Dohle told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Simon & Schuster would retain its editorial independence and that individual imprints within Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster could continue to compete with each other for book deals.Simon & Schuster’s current president and chief executive, Jonathan Karp, will continue to lead the publishing house, Bertelsmann said.Under the new company, authors would range from John Grisham and Stephen King to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Every living former or current American president, from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, will have published a book with the new company. So will first ladies such as Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.Dohle declined to say whether there would be any layoffs, saying it was too soon to speculate.The German conglomerate, which was founded in 1835 and also owns a broad portfolio of broadcast, music and online businesses, has been the sole owner of Penguin Random House since April.ViacomCBS put up Simon & Schuster, founded in 1924, for sale earlier this year as the entertainment company tries to sell off “non-core assets” to pay down debt, please shareholders with dividends and stock buybacks, and invest in streaming.ViacomCBS owns cable networks Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and Comedy Central as well as broadcast network CBS and movie studio Paramount. It is trying to navigate consumers’ shift from watching live TV on a television set to streaming shows and movies on the internet.___Italie reported from New York. Associated Press writer Tali Arbel in Phoenix contributed to this report.Frank Jordans And Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
The Goulds Lions Arena bears the Lions name, so it’s only appropriate that its warm room also bear a Lion’s name. During a short ceremony on November 19 attended by family and fellow Lions, the Lion Ron Whitten Room was unveiled. “A few months ago, one of our Lions came to me with a suggestion. He said, ‘We always honour Lions with a plaque or something, after they pass away. Why not do something for our Lions while they’re still alive?’” Goulds Lions Club President Charlie Phillips said to those gathered. So, when Phillips announced that they would be naming the warm room after Lion Ron Whitten, Whitten jokingly asked if that meant he was going to die soon. “Without Ron, I’m not sure if, or when, there would have been a Lion’s Club,” said Phillips. “It was the vision of Lion Ron when he returned from Labrador back in 1975. He had a notion of starting up the Lions Club, which, he did, in March of 1976. He is a well-respected member of our community, and also a well-respected member of our Lions Club. Ron is a strong supporter of the Lions Club and of it’s activities. I’m sure most of you, if we went around the room, could add another 10, 20, 40, maybe a hundred reasons why we should name this room after Lion Ron.” Whitten was grateful for the gesture. “I appreciate this, it’s very nice,” he said. “It’s important to help out the community where you’re from.” During the ceremony, the Goulds Lions Club also presented a $6000 cheque to the Arena Association.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter After several housekeeping items from Mayor Al Strathdee, he gave the floor to Town Treasurer Andre Morin, who began his presentation by introducing Denice Williamson, the new Deputy Treasurer for the Town of St. Marys. Williamson began her new role with the Town back on November 9th of this year and she was invited to sit in and watch the special meeting of the Council to get a feel for how the budget deliberations work and get introduced directly to members of Council themselves. Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer then gave a formal introduction to the 2021 budget deliberations. He noted that this year's budget deliberation is the first as part of the new budget schedule. Council has had more opportunities to discuss high-level aspects of the budget earlier than in previous years, which Kittmer noted has helped Town staff be better positioned to present a better version of the draft budget to Council. At the direction of Council, Town staff are using the remaining funds received by the Safe Restart program to help offset some of the increased costs, so there is less burden on the Town and its residents and businesses. An interesting comment made by the CAO, concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was the acknowledgment that the Town must find things for residents to do as pandemic fatigue continues to settle in, but that can be done safely and with proper safety measures in place. Additionally, according to Kittmer, the draft budget presented was the "worst-case scenario," meaning the Town is working under the assumption that the community will remain in some level of the pandemic state for the duration of 2021. The reason for this consideration going into the budget deliberations is so that Council can ensure it has what it needs if that worst-case scenario of remaining in some form of lockdown for the entirety of 2021 is realized.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
The response was immediate and huge after Erin Quiroga asked on Facebook if there would be a fundraiser for typhoon victims in the Philippines. Seven Filipinos in Jasper have family members in the Philippines who have been directly affected by Typhoon Rolly, hit the country from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, and Typhoon Ulysses from Nov. 11 to 12. Michael Oregines, media relations officer for the group that organized the fundraiser, said a couple of provinces in the Philippines had been hit hard. "Imagine when the rescuers were in helicopters, trying to find people in low light, and were asking people to shout or turn on their cell phone flash lights," he said. "People were sitting on their roofs, trying to be safe." As soon as notice of a fundraising bottle drive posted on Facebook group Jasper Buy, Sell & Trade, organizers started getting responses from people straight away that they had bottles at businesses and addresses that could be picked up. Clara Adriano led the bottle drive with Kathleen Bautista and Daren De Guzman, treasurer. And the fundraising didn’t stop there. Organizers asked Filipino families to donate $10 apiece per household. But when they went to collect the money, those donations ranged from $10 to $200, and were not only from the Filipinos. "Everybody supports the cause - the full community," Adriano said. Lito and Kathleen Bautista sold homemade Filipino food and money was donated to the fundraiser. Chowie Ismaili, a staff member at the Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge, and her Filipino colleagues donated prizes for a raffle draw with proceeds from the raffle being donated to the fundraising effort. Rodelita Rabago is also donating 100 per cent of her profits from selling breads and pastries from a bakery in Edmonton. Frank Marcojos, group leader of the Tim Hortons Jasper Family, collected a total of $1,100 within the group. Adriano said Marcojos' family was helped by a Filipino fundraiser in 2013. "He said that he will always be thankful for that," Adriano noted. "And this is the reason why we do what we do. His message keeps us motivated." So far, the group has raised $8,035: $2,100 from the bottle drive and $5,935 from monetary donations, the raffle, food sales and bread sales. The group will continue to raise funds into the first week of December. Some of the money raised will go to the local families whose family members in the Philippines were affected by the typhoons. The rest will go to organizers in the Philippines to provide clean water, food, blankets, and personal hygiene items. "There are many who lost their homes," Oregines said, "so they need basic essentials." Once a connection has been set up between Jasper and organizers in the Philippines, the community will be updated about how the donations were applied. "We're emotional about the support," Adriano said. "This is how the Filipinos have been every time there has been a typhoon in the Philippines. We just come together. "It's the same with our beautiful town and all the Jasperites. "We are truly thankful for the trust and support that our small community has given to us. Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude and joy."Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
Participants both in favour of and opposed to the proposed Grassy Mountain mine squared off Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 during the scheduled presentation and cross-examination period. The hearing topics focused on the project’s purpose, visual esthetics, alternative road access and the potential socioeconomic effects the mine could have on the region. In Benga’s beginning statement, vice-president of external relations Gary Houston said the mine would spike the local economy, encouraging local business, the service industry and tourism in the area. “Benga considers [that] economic development, recreation and tourism are compatible and mutually supportive in the community and the region,” he said. Providing Crowsnest Pass with an established industry, Mr. Houston continued, would help draw more hotels and restaurants, which in turn would attract more tourists to the region to the point the municipality could rival a destination like Fernie. Heather Davis, owner of Uplift Adventures, challenged such an assertion because the environmental and socioeconomic assessment sections of Benga’s application were missing consultation with the outdoor recreation industry. “It appears that the consultant who prepared the report left a gap regarding what is going on in the community,” she said. “A cost-benefit analysis should include the assessment of outdoor recreation, lifestyle and tourism prior to the mine approval.” Ms. Davis said the mine’s approval would limit access to recreational opportunities, which would not only deter people from coming to the area but would also drive away people who live there. Gavin Fitch, representing the Livingstone Landowners Group, said Benga’s claim that the mine would help tourism ignored the fact travel destinations always have a destination worth going to. Amenities like hotels and restaurants, he said, come second. “How, then, is removing the top of one of the local mountains going to contribute to attracting or drawing more tourists?” he asked. Money talks In terms of improving the local economy, Mr. Houston said Benga’s “hire local” policy would ensure the two-year construction phase would provide meaningful employment for nearby residents, as well as establish some 400 good-paying, permanent positions once the mine was operational. The total socioeconomic benefit of the mine, however, was called into question. Though Mr. Houston said in Benga’s opening statements that some 500 jobs would be created during construction, it was later corrected that at its peak the construction phase would require only 190 workers. Overall, an average of 120 workers would be employed while construction is occurring. The estimate of $1.7 billion in provincial and federal royalties and taxes over the mine’s 25-year lifespan — two for construction and 23 for operations — was also based on an assumed average price of US $140 per tonne of metallurgical coal. Coal prices, Benga acknowledged, can regularly fluctuate above $300 or below $100, though the process is a complicated one to predict since prices are established directly between individual steelmakers and coal mines. The risk to the multibillion-dollar agrifood industry downstream from the mine, which was recently reported at $2.2 billion in 2020 for Lethbridge County alone, has raised questions as to whether any purported benefit from the mine is worth the economic risk. With more and more countries investing in green energy to combat climate change, Mr. Fitch said, the economic viability outlook was overly optimistic since global coal use is estimated to decrease. Alternative methods of producing steel without metallurgical coal, like hydrogen-field forges or electric-arc furnaces, could also hamper the mine’s profitability on world markets. Opponents of the proposed mine also said the mine’s development contradicted Canada’s international commitments to limiting gas emissions. Gas emissions as part of the project’s mining operations, however, are regarded by proponents as negligible. “I believe the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project are in the order of 0.05 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions, so that seems like a small number to me,” said Mr. Houston. He also added that figure would be applicable only once the mine reached peak production during its 19th year. As well, decreasing coal demand worldwide only really applies to thermal coal, or coal used to produce electricity, said Benga’s Mike Yuill. “For Canadian export hard-coking coal, the outlook is still very robust,” he said. While using electricity in arc-flash furnaces is growing, Mr. Yuill added that the process requires recycling old steel. For many countries in southeastern Asia just starting to develop, little amounts of steel exist to be recycled, necessitating the need for metallurgical coal. Using hydrogen instead of coal is still in its preliminary stages and is not expected to be used widely during the Grassy Mountain mine’s lifespan. Property problems The mine’s land use, as well as its effect on nearby properties, was also discussed. Since the mine is located on an existing mine that closed in the 1960s, Benga argued that it’s reclamation efforts would improve the area since the previous mining company did not complete any land reclamation. The company also clarified concerns about private properties being located within the mine’s boundary; the boundary was purposefully drawn larger than what operational needs actually required to facilitate appropriate environmental study. No properties exist within the mine footprint, where mining would occur. For Fran Gilmar, who has owned property in the area for 60 years, the distance properties were from the mining footprint was irrelevant since mining activity would destroy the area’s source of fresh water, particularly Gold Creek. “I've drank it for 58 years, and it's, it's beautiful water. It's the last of the last,” she said. “You know, you do not find water like that anywhere.” In addition to water pollution, residents also said the resulting air and noise pollution would significantly devalue their properties. While acknowledging values would decrease if a catastrophic accident occurred, Brian Gettel, a professional appraiser who testified at the hearing, said property losses would only really be affected by the dust produced at the mine. He estimated the additional air pollution would result in 10 per cent or less loss in property value, though mining activity would more negatively affect the higher-end housing, which typically involves people from the city owning a second house in an alpine area. “Put simply, second homes in a mountain area are not necessarily the greatest thing if it's a mining community,” Mr. Gettel said. To mitigate property losses in the Grassy Mountain area, Benga had engaged nearby landowners throughout the proposal and application period, Mr. Houston said. A voluntary buy-back program had been established, with Benga offering to pay owners double what their property was worth, based on individual negotiations. The average starting point for such negotiations, Mr. Houston continued, was $800,000. Describing $800,000 as double the average property price, however, was a disputed figure. “From my perspective, $400,000 is a rare instance, and that is the absolute lowest value I've seen,” said Mr. Gettel. In their communications with Benga, Norm and Tyler Watmough, who own property immediately adjacent to the proposed mine, said negotiations were more like an ultimatum. The initial offer the family received was for $750,000, even though they knew two of their neighbours’ land had been bought by Benga for $1.1 million and $1.3 million. When the family declined the initial offer, Benga offered $800,000, claiming it was 60 per cent premium over the highest appraised property in the region. The Watmoughs again refused the offer. “We felt that they were bullying us and trying to force us out at a price that was below market value,” Tyler said. The difference in pricing, Mr. Houston said, was the result of Benga determining what land was necessary for it to own in order to operate the mine. Land within the mine footprint, then, would be a higher priority for purchase. Landowners in the area also are concerned they will be cut off from Grassy Mountain Road, the most direct access to their properties. Though Benga has suggested alternative roads exist, locals say the routes amount to little more than quad trails or are accessible only parts of the year with four-by-four trucks. The issue stems from an agreement property owners formerly had with the gas company Devon Canada Corp. The agreement granted residents permission to access Grassy Mountain Road, even though it went through private property. Richard Secord, legal counsel for the affected landowners, said Benga did not do its due diligence in ensuring residents could still use the road. “You didn't determine or bother in your public consultation to find out whether [the agreement] was real [and] that they had a similar access to the Grassy Mountain Road,” he said. In Benga’s defense, Mr. Houston responded that no landowners had approached the company about the issue until the hearing. “I don't know that the onus is on Benga to ask [if] there any secret agreements that we don't know about,” he said. “The lines of communication have been open for five years. The fact that we have intended to close the Grassy Mountain Road has been documented in writing at least [since] 2015 and through several other communications.” When Martin Ignasiak, Benga’s legal counsel, asked landowners Larry and Ed Donkersgoed why they did not discuss the issue with the mining company, they replied that they just assumed Benga would know. Benga’s understanding of the agreement was that residents could maintain the road at their own expense, though Mr. Houston said the company was under the impression it really only included clearing snow. He also said the agreement only formally acknowledged Devon was not liable for residents using the road and gave the gas company power to terminate the agreement with 120 days written notice. Evidence of the agreement brought before the hearing was also a little suspect, Mr. Houston said, since a letter indicating the agreement was written and signed by a former Devon employee. The letter didn’t have an official letterhead and only described a verbal agreement rather than laying out terms and conditions. Accessing the hearing The public hearing for the joint review panel continues throughout November. Live and recorded proceedings of the hearing are available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/GMtnHearing, with transcripts and submitted documents accessible at https://bit.ly/AllDocx.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
NEW YORK — “No New ‘Movies’ Till Influenza Ends” blared a New York Times headline on Oct. 10, 1918, while the deadly second wave of the Spanish Flu was unfolding.A century later, during another pandemic, movies — quotes no longer necessary — are again facing a critical juncture. But it’s not because new films haven’t been coming out. By streaming service, video-on-demand, virtual theatre or actual theatre, a steady diet of films have been released under COVID-19 every week. The Times has reviewed more than 460 new movies since mid-March.Yet until recently — with only a few exceptions — those haven’t been the big-budget spectacles Hollywood runs on. Eight months into the pandemic, that’s changing. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. experimented with the $200 million “Mulan” as a premium buy on its fast-growing streaming service, Disney+ — where the Pixar film “Soul” will also go on Dec. 25. WarnerMedia last week announced that “Wonder Woman 1984” — a movie that might have made $1 billion at the box office in a normal summer — will land in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously next month.Much remains uncertain about how the movie business will survive the pandemic. But it’s increasingly clear that Hollywood won’t be the same afterward. Just as the Spanish Flu, which weeded out smaller companies and contributed to the formation of the studio system, COVID-19 is remaking Hollywood, accelerating a digital makeover and potentially reordering an industry that was already in flux.“I don’t think the genie will ever be back in the bottle,” says veteran producer Peter Guber, president of Mandalay Entertainment and former chief of Sony Pictures. “It will be a new studio system. Instead of MGM and Fox, they’re going to be Disney and Disney+, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock.”Many of the pivots in 2020 can be chalked up to the unusual circumstances. But several studios are making more long-term realignments around streaming. WarnerMedia, the AT&T conglomerate that owns Warner Bros. (founded in 1923), is now run by Jason Kilar, best known as the former chief executive of Hulu. Last month, Disney chief executive Bob Chapek, the Robert Iger heir, announced a reorganization to emphasize streaming and “accelerate our direct-to-consumer business.”Universal Pictures, owned by Comcast, has pushed aggressively into video-on-demand. Its first major foray, “Trolls,” kicked up a feud with theatre owners. But as the pandemic wore on, Universal hatched unprecedented deals with AMC and Cinemark, the largest and third-largest chains, respectively, to dramatically shorten the traditional theatrical window (usually about three months) to just 17 days. After that time, Universal can move releases that don’t reach certain box-office thresholds to digital rental.While the nation’s second largest theatre chain, Regal Cinemas, has resisted such deals, there’s widespread acknowledgement that the days of 90-day theatrical runs are over. It’s something the studios have long sought for the potential benefit of covering both platforms with one marketing campaign. Many see the pandemic as accelerating a decades-long trend.“Windows are clearly changing,” says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount Pictures. “All this stuff that's going on now in the business was going to happen, the evolution is just happening faster than it would have. What would have taken three to five years is going to be done in a year, maybe a year and a half.”That condensed period of rapid change is happening at the same time as a land rush for streaming market share, as Disney+, HBO Max, Apple and Peacock wrestle for a piece of the home viewing audience dominated by Netflix and Amazon. With theme parks struggling and worldwide box office down tens of billions, streaming is a bright spot for media companies, and the pandemic may offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lure subscribers. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul” are essentially very expensive advertisements for those streaming services.Each studio, depending on their corporate ownership and streaming positioning, is taking a different approach. Paramount, like Sony Pictures, doesn’t have a streaming service to offload films to. Both have held back their tentpole releases while selling more midsized films to streamers. For Paramount, “A Quiet Place: Part II,” “Top Gun Maverick” and “Mission: Impossible 7” are waiting for 2021 while “The Trial of the Chicago 7” fetched a reported $56 million from Netflix and Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America 2” went to Amazon Prime Video for a reported $125 million.HBO Max has had a bumpier rollout than Disney+, so “Wonder Woman 1984” is an especially critical gambit for WarnerMedia following the audacious release of “Tenet.” As the first tentpole to test theatres reopened with safety protocols and reduced capacities, it has made about $350 million worldwide -- a lot considering everything but far less than originally hoped for. Credit Suisse analyst Douglas Mitchelson called the “Wonder Woman” plans — which include rolling theatrical runs in China, Europe and elsewhere — “a grand experiment that could have-lasting implications if successful.”Director Patty Jenkins acknowledged the simultaneous release was a kind of sacrifice, not just to HBO Max but to families stuck at home. “At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else,” Jenkins wrote on Twitter.It can be easy to cheer such moves, even if their financial performance remain cloudy (no studio has been transparent about its viewership numbers or digital grosses) and their long-term viability uncertain. Can you replicate $1 billion in box office in new subscriptions? And for how long will the one-time bounce of a new movie (unlike a series staggered over weeks or months) drive subscribers once streaming services are closer to tapping as many homes as they can?“The whole thing is more complicated than people want it to be,” says Ira Deutchman, the veteran independent film producer and Columbia University professor. “The way movies are made and distributed, certainly at the studio level, has been really in need of change and hopefully this will bring it on. But when people hear that, it’s like: The pandemic is the straw that broke the camel’s back and now theatrical is dead. I personally feel that’s garbage.”Deutchman considers the idea that people, after a year of quarantines and lockdowns, won’t want to leave their living room “ludicrous.” But he does imagine continued mergers and acquisitions, and “a new equilibrium” for distributors and theatre owners.So what could that mean on the other side of COVID, if moviegoers are once again comfortable sitting in packed theatres on opening weekend? It will almost certainly mean the months-long runs of films like “Titanic” or “Get Out” are a thing of the past. It could mean variable pricing on different nights. It could mean an even greater division between the franchise films of the multiplex and the boutique art house, with everything in between going straight to streaming.But after decades of slow but steady decline in attendance, most think movie theatres will have to innovate in a way other than raising ticket prices.“The outlook is pretty dire in terms of being a major theatrical exhibitor,” says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. He imagines shortened windows will mean few films — even the Marvel releases — ascending to $1 billion in worldwide box office. He can see some studios, like Disney, operating their own theatres as “mini-theme parks” with merchandising stuffing the lobbies.In the meantime, theatres are hoping for much-needed relief from Congress. With the virus surging, about 40% of U.S. theatres are open; in New York and Los Angeles, they’ve stayed shut since March. Chains have taken on loans to stay afloat and avert bankruptcy. Cineworld, owner of Regal Cinemas (currently entirely closed) on Monday announced a deal for a $450 million rescue loan.It will be a very different holiday season — usually the most lucrative corridor in theatres — for the movie business. How different 2021 and beyond will be remains to be seen. Some things, though, may never change.“If you’re going to be in this business, no matter what you do or where it plays, whether it’s streaming or in cinemas, you’re going to make hits and you’re going to make flops," says Guber. "The idea is to make more hits than flops.”___Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAPJake Coyle, The Associated Press
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Following Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer's overall summary of the draft budget and some of its key elements, it was Town Treasurer Andre Morin's turn to speak more specifically on the high-level aspects of the 2021 draft capital budget. It is important to note that this is still a draft budget, meaning the budget is not finalized yet. With that in mind, this will give you a glimpse at how the 2021 budget is beginning to take shape. Morin began his presentation by noting that it's expected that revenues across the board will be down in 2021, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. These revenues that are expected to decrease include the largest, fees and charges, as well as ice rentals, rents and leases, and sales. Morin also pointed out that the carry-over from the 2020 Safe Restart funding the Town has yet to spend is about $250,000, which will help cover the extra costs and lost revenues. The draft capital budget also reflects several increases in expenses for the Town. The first that Morin touched on was an increased investment in the community safety and policing plan, as well as parks patrol. The expense increase for those areas is approximately $45,000. Most of the other increases proposed in the budget are spread over other departments within the municipality and are fairly standard and routine. The Town is seeing an increase in debenture payments in 2021, but not as large of an increase as they likely expected. The net increase of about $68,000 is largely due to an increase in debenture payments related to the fire hall, but there is also a debenture payment related to wastewater services that is coming off the books. The materials and services line of the budget did reflect a large increase of $140,000, however, that is largely due to its reflection of additional costs brought on by the pandemic. Lastly, an increase in salary and wages is also included in the budget, and the Council asked Town staff to report back later on the implications of a 1.5 percent increase in salary and wages. Morin then touched on the tax increase for St. Marys residents, which, thanks in no small part to the Town's handling of the pandemic, is not going to be as substantial as other municipalities. The net tax levy, according to Morin, will result in the average St. Marys resident paying approximately 0.82 percent more in taxes. Morin also said that the Town is projecting a 0.97 percent increase for the average municipal dwelling, as well as increases of between 2-2.5 percent for water and wastewater services. No increase is predicted for garbage and recycling wheelie bin services.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Police have laid charges after once again attending Adamson Barbecue on Wednesday, a restaurant in Etobicoke that had been ordered to close after defying public health rules and allowing in-person dining despite a provincial lockdown order. Toronto Police Superintendant Dom Sinopoli said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that owner Adam Skelly and the restaurant face nine charges, including violating indoor dining rules, holding an illegal gathering and operating a business without a licence. Four of the charges were laid on Tuesday. When asked what police will do if Skelly decides to open again Thursday, Sinopoli said "tomorrow is another day" and they will take enforcement actions based on what happens.The restaurant closed around 1 p.m. after serving crowds of customers Wednesday morning. Skelly decided to close down after discussions with police, said Sinopoli.He said police are currently in discussions with "partners" about what their enforcement powers are when dealing with businesses that violate health orders. He did not elaborate on who those partners are.Protesters not chargedNo one who rallied outside the restaurant was charged or fined, he added.Crowds outside the establishment were told to leave Wednesday afternoon, though many also left as it began raining. Earlier Wednesday morning, more than a dozen officers arrived at the restaurant located on Queen Elizabeth Boulevard. Skelly was seen without a mask speaking with law enforcement indoors.A crowd of customers was gathered to eat inside the establishment as officers were present. As the doors opened at 11 a.m., cars came by the restaurant to honk in support and a rally of at least 100 people formed outside the establishment to protest current lockdown orders. One day after Monday's lockdown came into effect for Toronto and Peel region, Skelly vowed in an Instagram post that his establishment would remain open despite new health measures that prohibit in-person dining at restaurants for at least 28-days.The new rules were ushered in as the vast majority of the province's increase in COVID-19 cases stem from the regions covered by the lockdown.Coun. Mark Grimes told reporters at the scene Wednesday that Skelly has been charged for breaking public health orders on both Tuesday and Wednesday.Grimes said he's asking for a maximum fine of $100,000 to be laid.On Tuesday, Adamson Barbecue served a packed dining room of patrons who were pictured eating indoors and outdoors on benches, many without masks.The unabashed flouting of the rules resulted in Dr. Eileen de Villa , the city's medical officer of health, to order the business to close Tuesday evening. When that order came in, Skelly was already closing up shop.An illustration was posted to the restaurant's Instagram page Tuesday night of Skelly standing on a police vehicle with the caption, "Etobicoke. 11 a.m. to sold out. Dine-in." Skelly opened again Wednesday despite the city's order.City, police 'not satisfied' with initial enforcement response, Tory saysInsp. Tim Crone had told reporters Tuesday that due to the "sheer number of people" inside the restaurant, police didn't have the ability to go inside and remove anyone. Later Staff Supt. Mark Barkley acknowledged at the scene that it was a mistake not to act sooner. At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor John Tory said that he was updated about the restaurant Tuesday and that he and police were "not satisfied" with law enforcement's initial response when the owner defied the lockdown. When reporters asked about his involvement in that response, he emphasized that it would be inappropriate for a politician to direct law enforcement and it's up to police to determine charges and enforce the law.However, he did say that he'd throw the book at business owners like Skelly, who choose to violate public health orders. Placing concrete blocks in front of the restaurant would be something he'd consider — but he again said he will not direct police. Barkley, who spoke on the phone at the news conference, said the response to the barbecue restaurant was a "complex situation" and police had to ensure they handled it in accordance with the law.He did concede that after reviewing the response there were "other opportunities" that officers could have pursued at the time. Barkley confirmed that charges were laid against the business. Ford calls owner 'irresponsible' and tells him to shut downDuring a news conference Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said he was not going to " start pounding on a small business owner when the guy's holding on by his fingernails." But he emphasized that guidelines have to be followed.But on Wednesday, he took a sterner tone toward Skelly and any other businesses that are considering defying public health orders."You need to shut down. You're putting people's lives in jeopardy," he said, in response to a question about the barbecue restaurant openings again for the second day in a row. "This guy is just totally ignoring public health officials. That's how this spreads.""People are dying, because of COVID-19. And he just wants to say 'forget it' and have everyone down there? It's absolutely irresponsible and ridiculous," he said. His statements came as reporters asked questions about why larger department stores like Walmart were allowed to remain open, while small businesses sometimes selling similar goods had to shutter. Spectacle outside eatery a 'distraction': restaurant ownerToronto restaurateur Nathan Hynes said he's concerned the opening of Skelly's eatery and the response from officials has distracted from real concerns small business owners have as they enter the first week of the new lockdown.The new rent subsidy from the federal government paid directly to tenants is coming too late, said Hynes, who owns The Auld Spot Pub on Danforth Avenue. "The support hasn't been good enough. And the big businesses kind of act on a different playing field," he said, adding that the province allowing big players like Walmart to remain open has been a blow.Hynes said he continues to owe fixed costs to banks and insurance companies that he cannot pay.He said he firmly disagrees with Skelly's decision to reopen, but added the sporadic approach by different levels of government in providing support for businesses has been a concern throughout the pandemic. "My creditors are knocking on my door looking for money that I can't pay them because I'm forced to close," he said."I don't want a sideshow like this to overwhelm ... the reality of the situation and distract from a real kind of change happening here."
Crowsnest Pass councillors engaged in a lengthy discussion concerning rent rates for municipal facilities during the Nov. 17 council meeting. In 2018, a standard annual fee for renting the MDM Community Centre was set for all new and existing leases. That rate was set for $6.61 per square foot for 2020. In order to level the playing field throughout the municipality, council determined during its Jan. 14, 2020 governance and priorities committee meeting to apply the $6.61 rate as an annual fee to all organizations renting municipal facilities. Administration was directed to contact each affected group before standardizing the rates, and a five-year time frame for groups to work up to the $6.61 rate was established. Mayor Blair Painter brought the issue back for council’s discussion after the Crowsnest Pass Pistol Club contacted him with concerns over the expected increase to its rental rates for the Elks Hall in Blairmore. The club is currently negotiating a new lease with the municipality. The club’s rental rate was set at $1.70 per square foot for 2017, 2018 and 2019. To reach the standard $6.61 rate within the established time frame, the pistol club would be required to increase its annual rate payment by $1,800 a year to an annual rental fee that would amount to about $13,000. “I think it was our intention that we all agreed that we needed to come up with an even playing field for everybody, but I don’t think we need to go to today’s standard commercial rates for renting in the Crowsnest Pass,” Mayor Painter said. “These are not groups that are commercial. They’re not selling goods, they’re not making a profit.” Expecting the pistol club to reach the standardized rate within five years was unreasonable, he continued, and would put additional stress on the club’s finances since it wasn't able to collect any revenue from its annual guns show. Though the club’s reserves will cover costs this year, long-term operations with the increased rent would require doubling its $100 membership fee. Not all of council, however, was overly concerned with the prospect of pistol club members facing increased dues. “In order for my children to play hockey, I pay $400 a child to use the facility in the municipality that is subsidized by the taxpayer,” Coun. Lisa Sygutek said. “It’s not really fair for kids’ families to be paying $400 to play a sport and then a group of adult people paying $100. I have a bit of a problem with that.” She suggested the pistol club could take a page out of the minor hockey association’s play book and apply for casino shifts or fundraise in other ways. Expecting the club to jump from about $3,000 a year in rent to $13,000, she continued, was also an issue. “I also have a problem with the fact that we’re going to throw it down and say you gotta pay $13,000. That’s a big number,” she said. As such, Coun. Sygutek said the pistol club could come before council to ask for assistance in addition to whatever fundraising efforts it secured on its own. Such an arrangement, said manager of community services Trent Smith, had always been part of the intention behind the rental rate, and the five-year time frame was meant to be a flexible target to aim for. “Administration in no means was trying to shove a five-year lease down their throat,” he said. “If they needed to come to council and ask for 10 years, we would happily sit down and ask council and decide that.” As part of those discussions, Mr. Smith continued, the topic of fundraising was brought up, as well as looking at what financial options other small-town gun clubs pursued. “At no time was administration saying, ‘Hey, you must.’ We were saying, ‘Hey, if this doesn't work, we’ll come back and talk to council. And then communication went dead,” said Mr. Smith. Though certainly a jump from the pistol club’s $1.70 rate, Coun. Dean Ward said the $6.61 amount was agreed upon earlier in the year by council because about half of the community groups were paying rental fees near $6 a square foot. The pistol group’s rent, he added, had also been largely unchanged for close to 20 years. “If we cut these rates, we’re going to have to come up with $30,000 from somewhere else,” said Coun. Ward. “I have no problem phasing somebody in over time, but these groups are all earning, they’re all begging for money, they’re all working hard … selling vegetables, selling chocolates, to pay their bills. “It’s a sad situation when nine groups are paying one rate and one group is paying 20 per cent of that rate.” Beyond the pistol club’s concerns, Coun. Dave Filipuzzi expressed concern that the current rent arrangement would add financial strain to community groups already grappling with fallout from the pandemic. “If we continue to stress these groups out, we won’t have them. I think it’s fairly important we find a way to solve this problem; it’s good to accommodate these groups to stay a part of our community and be part of our community. I don’t want to lose these groups, any one of them,” he said. Expecting every group to conform to one amount, added Coun. Doreen Glavin, was also unfair. “Different groups have different resources in order for them to run and operate, and it isn't fair to say we’re going to standardize,” she said. “I think it comes down to what each group ... has for resources themselves in order to operate or pay for leases.” Backtracking on the $6.61 rate to accommodate groups, Coun. Sygutek responded, was the right way to respond. “We accepted that, we agreed with it. We can’t go back now and say, ‘Hey, you know, we made a mistake,’ and go to every one of those groups and lower their rent. I don’t think that’s an option,” said Coun. Sygutek. “But I do think it’s an option for them to come to us and ask for funding help.” Council eventually accepted two motions: the first directed administration to reach out to the Crowsnest Pass Pistol Club and see what options could be arranged for the $6.61 rate to be eventually met, and the second directed administration to notify the other nine groups paying the rate to approach council for assistance if they are facing financial hardships. The second motion, said Coun. Marlene Anctil, was especially important. “There are a lot of groups that we don’t know the positions they’re in right now who are struggling, so let’s notify every group and see what comes back to us,” she said.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
While the Humboldt chapter of Junior Chamber International (JCI) has been disbanded for over a year, the service club’s impact on the city is still noticeable. Rob Muench, Larry Jorgenson, Roger Korte and Amanda Klitch were all members of the service organization. The club ran in the city from 1958 until 2019 and promoted leadership, volunteering, and community event planning for members ages 18 to 40. Many long-serving members of the club over the years made their mark by becoming city councillors and mayors and this still stands as four of the current council are former members of the organization. For Larry Jorgenson, going from the club to the council was a natural move, he said. It was a young person’s club, he said, so once a member hits 40, they are asked to step away. “You spend that time from when you're 20 years old to when you get to be 40 years old basically training to become a leader. Where else can a leader go but take the next step to the city council or to some other organization?” Having JCI members on council has been a tradition since the club’s founding, said Rob Muench, a former mayor and returning city councillor, considering the similarities of both organizations in improving the community. As part of the JCIs, members learn about Robert's Rules of Order, discussing concerns, and making decisions that are good for the community. The same goes for what happens around the council table. “It is part of [the JCI] mandate to make the world a better place and to build leaders. It starts out with 18-year-old people that want to get involved in the community and over the years it certainly has supplied a number of councillors to the City of Humboldt.” Being an international organization, JCIs have chapters all over the world so there are still opportunities for people to remain involved with the organization. While it would be nice to have the chapter back in Humboldt, Jorgenson said the club was not sustainable. “The club has been struggling to find volunteers and new members, and they just couldn't sustain themselves anymore… We'd love to have a chapter back in Humboldt but the people that were on it we're getting burned out, and they just weren't able to revitalize the clubs moving forward.” For more information, visit the Junior Chamber International website at jci.cc or the JCI Humboldt Facebook page, www.facebook.com/jcihumboldt.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist