At least 60 seniors have died during a COVID-19 outbreak at Tendercare Living Centre in Toronto as families call for government accountability. Morganne Campbell has the details.
At least 60 seniors have died during a COVID-19 outbreak at Tendercare Living Centre in Toronto as families call for government accountability. Morganne Campbell has the details.
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
The Township of Seguin and the other six municipalities that make up west Parry Sound have signed off on a letter, dated Dec. 1, to Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks. The letter states that they would like the ministry to reconsider the transition of the blue box from 2025 to 2024. What exactly is the blue box transition program? The Blue Box Transition program is being legislated by the Province of Ontario and means the responsibility of collecting and processing recyclable products will be on the manufacturers who make the items. What that means is the duty of recycling is being shifted to the manufacturers who produce the material rather than society. Will this effect how I put out my recycling? The government says there shouldn’t be any change of service. You may have to go to a different location to drop off your recycling, if rural, or you may have a new company that picks up your curbside blue box materials. When is this supposed to come into effect? For the municipalities that make up west Parry Sound — Parry Sound, Archipelago, Seguin, McKellar, McDougall, Carling and Whitestone — the change is supposed to come into effect in 2025; however, all seven municipalities have signed a letter to Minister Jeff Yurek requesting the transition take place in 2024. Why? The District of Muskoka is transitioning in 2024 and, currently, the west Parry Sound municipalities process blue box materials in Bracebridge. They are concerned about issues that may happen if the transition happens at a different time than Muskoka. Another concern is the fact the Greater Toronto Area is transitioning in 2023 and the expanded list of recyclables there will differ from what is offered in west Parry Sound for a time. Residents who migrate north for the summer may expect to recycle the same list of items, which may cause contamination in waste systems. Will this transition raise my taxes? Once the producers and manufacturers take over the recycling process, it’s going to save the taxpayers; however, prices for products may go up to pay for the manufacturers’ cost of processing the recycling. The Township of Seguin said at its Jan. 11 council meeting that the mayors from the seven municipalities would follow up on the letter once a response was received. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
OTTAWA — Activist Velma Morgan says several Black organizations were denied federal funding through a program designed to help such groups build capacity — after the department told them their leadership was not sufficiently Black.The chair of Operation Black Vote tells The Canadian Press her group received an email from Employment and Social Development Canada this week saying their application did not show "the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black."The department sent a second email the next day, saying their applications were not approved because it did not receive "the information required to move forward."Morgan says her not-for-profit, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more Black people elected at all levels of government is one of at least five Black organizations that didn't get the funding.Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen says the initial letter his department sent to unsuccessful applicants was "completely unacceptable" and that he demanded a retraction as soon as he saw it.In a thread on Twitter, Hussen says he discussed with his department's officials to how such a mistake could have happened and implemented measures to make sure it does not happen again. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2020———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
The McKellar Firefighter Association wants to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by volunteering to flood private skating rinks for McKellar residents. At McKellar's Jan. 12 council meeting, Coun. Don Carmichael commented that it was acting fire chief Ron Harrison’s idea. “We have very little public ice available,” said Carmichael. “And now (with) further restrictions of only five people can be together on an ice surface at any point in time, we have two options. One would be to flood public grounds which we would be responsible for or we can flood private grounds which is the responsibility of the homeowner.” In a report submitted to council, Ron Harrison wrote to request the use of the apparatus and equipment to assist in the initial flooding of at-home rinks to provide an opportunity for ratepayers to have additional activities to do at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. “This is a fantastic initiative brought forth that will help the ratepayers of McKellar (by) staying home and skating,” Harrison said. “This will also pose benefit in the reduction of pressure on our municipal rink and reduce the use of the lake ice which can be unpredictable.” According to Carmichael, the fire department would be using the secondary tanker and portable pumps and said the initiative could be used as a training opportunity for the firefighters as well. “It would be another training opportunity to be doing this in freezing conditions which we don’t normally do unless in the event of a real fire,” he said. “So, this is a winter training opportunity in addition to providing a service to our private landowners.” But could it affect fire department response times? Coun. Marco Ancinelli, who is also a firefighter for McKellar, said that it wouldn’t as the fire department wouldn’t be using the main equipment. “It’s a different animal all together when you’re fighting a fire in the summertime or in the winter time so I think it’s great practice,” said Ancinelli. However, David Moore, a McKellar ratepayer, questioned the cost the township could incur with usage of the machinery that has been paid for by ratepayers. “Taking expensive township equipment onto private property seems to have insurance claim written all over it,” said Moore. “Should a malfunction or breakage occur, is there enough available equipment to contend with the next fire call?” But Carmichael said during the meeting that township staff had contacted the insurance carrier who provided suggestions on what landowners should be doing. For a ratepayer to have the fire department provide the initial flooding of their private rink, they must reach out to the township and request to have their rink flooded. Ratepayers will have to provide a site plan, sign a waiver and follow a checklist. The procedure also includes a visit from the fire department to ensure it can be done safely. While some ratepayers expressed their concerns online, Coun. Mike Kekkonen said that he thinks council has covered the due diligence aspect with any liability concerns. “With that, I feel comfortable with the firefighters giving their time,” said Kekkonen. “Some people might say that there’s a cost but then again if a child or a family gets a skating rink and have an enjoyable winter, that’s priceless.” Council voted unanimously in favour of the resolution approving the fire department to utilize the apparatus at the discretion of the acting fire chief to provide a free service to McKellar residents to flood ice rinks on private property. The fire department volunteer staff will not be paid an hourly rate nor accumulate points for this activity. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
BOSTON — A major memorial honouring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King is moving forward in Boston, where they met and studied in the 1950s. King Boston, the privately funded organization co-ordinating the estimated $9.5 million project, said this week that fabrication of a roughly 22-foot-high bronze sculpture depicting four arms embracing is expected to begin in March after years of planning. When unveiled late next year, “The Embrace” will be one of the country’s largest new memorials dedicated to racial equity, the organization says. It will be installed on Boston Common near the site of a 1965 rally and march led by MLK, who would have turned 92 on Friday. Imari Paris Jeffries, King Boston's executive director, said organizers hope their broader effort serves as a model for how public monuments can spark positive action in the wake of the national reckoning on racism sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. Besides the King memorial, the organization is also raising money to build an economic justice centre in Roxbury, a historically Black neighbourhood in Boston where MLK preached. It also plans to launch an annual gathering exploring issues of race and equity. “It's not only how symbols and monuments represent this commitment to equity and inclusion," Jeffries said. "It's also about how research, data and policy work to find new solutions, and how we use the arts and humanities to ground us.” Dr. Vicki Crawford, director of the MLK collection at Morehouse College, the civil right’s leader’s alma mater in Atlanta, Georgia, said the Boston project also stands out because it honours the sizeable contributions of Coretta Scott King alongside her husband. She founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and led the successful push to make his birthday a national holiday after his assassination in 1968. “She hasn’t received adequate recognition for institutionalizing his philosophy of nonviolence,” Crawford said. “He could not have done it without her by his side.” Other recent monuments to MLK include a bronze statue on Georgia Capitol grounds, dedicated in 2017, and the towering granite likeness off the National Mall that opened in 2011. King Boston was launched in 2017 to address what organizers viewed as a glaring deficiency, considering MLK spent some of his formative years in Boston. The Georgia native earned a doctorate in theology from Boston University and was assistant minister at the city’s Twelfth Baptist Church. The memorial effort was later broadened to honour Coretta Scott King, who earned a degree in music education from the New England Conservatory. It has been further expanded to also recognize Boston civil rights leaders during the 1960s, whose names will be memorialized in the surrounding plaza. Like other racial justice efforts, Jeffries said King Boston has been bolstered by civic activism following Floyd's killing. The organization collected roughly $8 million of the total $12 million it has raised to date in roughly eight months last year, he said. The project also comes as Boston, which was scarred by violent protests over efforts to desegregate its public schools in the 1970s, is enjoying something of a “Black Renaissance,” Jeffries said. The city of almost 700,000 residents, roughly a quarter of them Black, now has its first Black police commissioner and is also home to the state's first Black female district attorney and the state’s first Black congresswoman. Soon, New England’s largest city will also have its first Black and first female mayor. “It seems with every passing day this piece becomes so necessary,” said Hank Willis Thomas, the Brooklyn artist who designed the Boston memorial. “I never imagined how prescient this would be.” Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A partnership with the Trump administration has reduced disparities in Alaska Native access to COVID-19 testing, treatment and protective equipment, tribal health care leaders said. The administration’s coronavirus initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments, Alaska Public Media reported Thursday. Operation Warp Speed, as the initiative is known, designated vaccine doses for tribes in the same manner as for the Department of Defence, Veterans Health Administration and Bureau of Prisons. The federal government distributed more than 35,000 doses to Alaska tribes, in addition to 78,000 doses to Alaska’s state government. More than 250,000 doses were dedicated to tribes nationwide through the Indian Health Service. “It’s something to celebrate,” Alaska Native Health Board CEO Verné Boerner. “When you embrace tribes and tribal sovereignty, you can bring so much more to the state.” Tribal shipments have afforded broad vaccine access for rural and Indigenous Alaskans and expanded availability of doses beyond older people. Providers acknowledge part of their ability to offer expanded access is because about a third of health care workers and older residents have declined to immediately take vaccines. While tribal providers are vaccinating Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, state and Native leaders said there is a legal basis for separate shipments because of longstanding recognition of tribes as sovereign governments. Officials said the decision also is appropriate from a scientific and medical standpoint because of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Alaska Native people and the dynamics in many rural communities that make the virus difficult to control. Factors include crowded, multi-generational homes, lack of running water and sewer and distance from advanced medical care. “It’s never been about equal distribution of the vaccine. It’s about equitable distribution,” said Dr. Ellen Hodges, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. chief of staff. “The congregate living settings that exist in most of our villages are a setup for the virus to just spread like wildfire, and there’s no defence against that.” For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press
With snowmobiles in high demand, there may be a lot of newcomers to the winter sport, which is why safety on the trails is always important. Out alone on the pristine waterfront in the McKellar area, Morely Haskim has volunteered with the Dun Ahmic Snowriders for over 30 years. He suggests that people educate themselves first by going online to mto.gov.on.ca where there is a snowmobile safety category or the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s website where there are six courses someone can take online. “As far as anybody starting out, there’s the obvious things such as wearing proper gear: helmet, snowmobile suit and boots,” said Haskim. “And usually try to snowmobile with somebody else — don’t go alone.” Another important tool for snowmobiling safety is making sure to check the trails on the interactive trail map provided by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Club’s website. “Do your own homework before you get out there,” said Haskin. “You’re in control of your own destination even though the clubs are doing the best they can to make sure all the trails are safe and open.” Safety on the trails is important because it can be life threatening and Haskim advised that snowmobilers shouldn’t be speeding. “We have a lot of families out there now with their young kids on the machine with them and if they meet a bunch of people racing it may not end up being the best situation,” he said. The speed limit on most trails is 50 km/hour. While there are risks that come with snowmobiling, Haskim says his favourite thing about it is volunteering on the trails. “I used to be a real snowmobiler,” he said with a laugh. “I would go out in big groups back years ago and have pretty much snowmobiled everywhere around our area but eventually I phased out of personally snowmobiling.” Now, he tries to get out two times a week to groom, stake or inspect trails. “I report our trail conditions to our district who then puts the condition of the trails on the interactive trail guide.” Out along the Hwy. 522 corridor, Matthew Wagenaar, who manages the popular snowmobiling Instagram page The Daily Doo with his friends, rides the Argyle Riders trails. “The place I stay is right off the C105D trail,” Wagenaar said. “A large portion of that trail is crown land. So, early in the winter season, myself and a few friends go up and try to clean up the trail by cutting up trees and getting them off the trail.” When it comes to snowmobile safety, Wagenaar said that the most important thing he would say to newcomers is to know your machine. “Snowmobiles don’t behave like most other off-road vehicles,” he said. “Get familiar with the sled by riding but riding with added caution.” However, the biggest risk, according to Wagenaar, who does a lot of backcountry riding as well, is riding over open water. “(You) could go through the ice but that can be easily taken care of by waiting until you have over eight inches of ice and also knowing where the open water is,” he said. But, echoing Haskim in McKellar, the good times are worth it. “The best part is the time spent in nature with friends — the awesome part about Port Loring is it truly is God’s country up there,” he said. “There’s nothing like waking up and seeing a fresh couple of inches of snow on the sled, heading out at dawn and watching the snow-covered trees get hit by the first sun rays.” “Though safety is important at work and at play,” he said. “We all have someone we want to go home to.” Story behind the story: With snowmobile sales through the roof and snowmobile clubs anticipating new riders on the trail, our reporter wanted to find out the best safety tips for new and seasoned sledders. So, she reached out to local club volunteers and trail enthusiasts to find out what the best practices for snowmobiling the Parry Sound and Almaguin trails were. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative., Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
South River and Machar residents should have a better idea over the next few weeks what will happen to the ice at their arena in the wake of the province's 28-day stay-at-home order. South River council will discuss the issue at its Jan. 25 meeting. South River clerk-administrator Don McArthur says the municipality developed COVID-19 protocols for the arena's four user groups that were working prior to the latest lockdown. The arena was used by the Junior A Spartans, boys' minor hockey, girls' minor hockey and figure skating. The protocols were explained to the users last fall and McArthur says when the arena opened in October, everything “worked wonderfully. “We really felt comfortable with the protocols and with the cooperation of the groups where they took on a lot of the responsibilities,” McArthur says. “They looked after their own contact tracing and what we did was buy disinfectant and sanitized the equipment.” This approach worked well, he says, and the municipality didn't have to put any extra staff at the arena. It would have been a different story had council opened the arena to public skating. “If we allowed public skating, protocols like who's coming and going would have to have been done by us,” McArthur says. “So the staffing level would have gone up considerably in order to police and look after all that information flow.” That would have become too expensive for the municipality, he says. The protocols the municipality has in place are good and “everyone feels confident that we can operate safely. “But we don't have that option (to operate) under the lockdown,” McArthur says. The South River-Machar Community Centre and Arena has been closed since Dec. 21. Assuming there's a reopening in the near future, the user groups will operate under the same protocols in place prior to Dec. 21. McArthur says staff and council are looking at various scenarios depending on when the latest lockdown ends. In the best-case scenario, the lockdown could be lifted earlier in the North, in which case “if we're delayed only two to four weeks then maybe we can add that time and run the season a little later into March or to the end of March. “Council's challenge is we don't know if or when we'll get a green light,” McArthur says. “So at what point does it become too late or no longer economically feasible for us and the user groups?” This is now a waiting game and it's not easy as options are weighed. “The big cost, beyond wages, at the arena is maintaining the ice,” he says. “If there isn't going to be anyone using it and no revenue coming in, then how long do we maintain that ice for?” McArthur adds the arena isn't only used for winter activities. It's also used for a hockey opportunity camp during the summer. In fact, the arena is at its busiest during the eight to 10 weeks of the hockey camp. The facility is only without ice from mid April to mid June. When the lockdowns first started last March, McArthur says the hockey camp “was one of the first (activities) to take a direct hit.” With the arena in shutdown mode, staff were able to carry out considerable maintenance at the site that normally would not be achievable. But with the arena down for the entire summer, it meant no revenue to the municipality. McArthur says 2020 saw the arena lose about $40,000 over and above its normal expenses. McArthur says the province's safe restart agreement helped offset part of the arena loss and council is grateful for that. Council also was able to offset the remainder of the loss by reducing the number of capital projects it had scheduled for 2020. One of those projects involved a compressor rebuild at the arena. So, while the village will still have a balanced budget for 2020, it comes at a cost because it now has to delay some of the scheduled capital projects into the future, McArthur says. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
Max Meighen admits to being one of the more fortunate small business owners around. The Avling Kitchen and Brewery he opened in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood back in July 2019 has spent more of its young life in COVID-19 lockdown than out of it, but is still making decent income from takeout beer sales and some limited food options. The “whole animal” kitchen already had a butcher on-site to prepare its typical weekly order of a side of beef and a pig, who was quickly put to work selling cuts of meat and sausages out of the same retail store its customers already frequented to buy bottles and cans of Avling's beer before the lockdowns came. A bookkeeper has made it easier to navigate various government relief packages, including the federal wage subsidy that meant they could hire for two specific roles in September, one for a retail manager and another in communications, to respond to the changed circumstances. Apart from a brief opening in the summer, the pub has effectively been closed since March, but with nine months of interruptions, it still made around 60 per cent of the sales he’d expected in 2020, Meighen said. That's not to say the pandemic and the response to it has not brought pain and frustration to the young business owner. The restaurant has had to lay off around 35 mostly full-time kitchen and service staff, while two kitchen workers from the original team provide takeout service and donations to two local community groups. But Meighen has the latitude to hunker down and plan for better days ahead. “We want to represent a post-pandemic possibility,” he told Canada's National Observer. “Not playing catch-up, but trying our best to be leading the way.” After using marigolds planted in the rooftop garden to control pests, make oil infusions for the kitchen and adding them to an upcoming all-Ontario grain beer, Meighen is hoping to find funding for a project to add wastewater treatment or aquaculture to build out an even more circular urban agricultural ecosystem. He has also worked out a deal with his pig farmer to use barley and wheat planted in his fallow fields for another experimental brew, and wonders about whether his own spent grain could go back to the farm. “For my own sanity, maintaining my own optimism, looking forward to these projects and continuing to develop them is important,” Meighen said. “I’m trying to focus more on the possibilities of the future rather than the grim reality of the present.” Meighen says that while nothing could have prepared a restaurant owner for the last year, he has learned that governments can, when they want to, provide much more support for individuals and businesses, and he's hoping the country's political leaders are also looking ahead. “The real question for me is to what degree they take advantage of the months and year following the pandemic to initiate a rebound or a rebuild in a way that I hope looks towards greater equity, a more complete integration of green policy,” he said of the federal Liberal government that has bankrolled most emergency pandemic relief efforts. That could mean heavy funding and policy efforts to help Alberta’s oil and gas workers thrive in a less carbon-intensive world, for example, as the pandemic accelerates problematic trends “people could ignore at their own peril up until February of 2020, but now are completely here to stay,” Meighen said. Unlike many small businesses along the strip of Queen Street East from the railway bridge and Jimmy Simpson Park to Greenwood Avenue, Avling pays a mortgage rather than rent. Meighen said the bank had expected business-as-usual terms after an initial six-month deferral of payment (but not interest). “They were not as understanding as I would have liked nor expected,” he said, noting major lenders talk about being there to support small business. Meighen says Avling's beer sales bumped higher in the early days of the pandemic as customers prepared for some extended time at home, “but as things dragged on and it became apparent that it wasn't just an enforced vacation, a short temporary hiatus, but something much more long term, all of our sales pulled back.” The brief respite of the summer's looser rules and the city's CafeTO program, which made more sidewalk space available for dining, did help get weekly sales to around 85 per cent of typical, with Avling's 40-seat pavement patio replacing an inside space that used to regularly serve 100 people. About a third of Leslieville storefronts are either restaurants, cafés or bars, and the head of the area's BIA (business improvement area) Dominic Cobran credits CafeTO with keeping many of those hospitality businesses afloat through the summer. “It really was a lifeline for the participating restaurants,” he said of the program, which made extra pavement space available for al fresco dining and “helped them out to the point where it could take them through when they closed indoor dining” in October. “It took them through a very difficult period into an even more difficult period,” Cobran said, referring to the tighter restrictions introduced this winter.Alastair Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
WASHINGTON — Chuck Schumer is used to drinking from a firehose. But the incoming Senate majority leader has never taken on such a torrent of challenges, with the opening days of both the Biden administration and Democratic control of the Senate coming at the very moment an impeachment trial gets underway. A 38-year veteran of Congress who first came to the Senate during President Bill Clinton's impeachment, Schumer is a 70-year-old bundle of energy with one overriding mandate: Help Joe Biden become a successful president. To do so, he’ll have to leverage the narrowest possible majority — a 50-50 Senate with the incoming vice-president, Kamala Harris, delivering the tiebreaking vote. It's a tough assignment. It's far easier, though often unsatisfying, to be a minority leader equipped with the tools of obstruction than it is to be a majority leader armed mostly with persuasion. But the goodwill Schumer enjoys with key members, and his careful management of the party's constituencies, could help ease the way. “Chuck Schumer has done a remarkable job as our caucus leader the last four years holding our caucus together," said a beaming Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., as he entered the Senate chamber during last Wednesday's Electoral College count, speaking just before a mob of violent supporters of President Donald Trump assaulted the Capitol and the situation turned dire. It was the day after the twin Georgia runoff elections unexpectedly delivered control to Democrats. Then Schumer appeared. “What did I just give a quote about? Our capable majority leader!" Coons said. “Again!" a jubilant Schumer exclaimed. “More adjectives! More adjectives!" Less than an hour later, Schumer was in peril — on the Senate floor — under the protection of a Capitol Police officer with a submachine gun standing between him and GOP leader Mitch McConnell as the mob breached the building. The ransacking of the Capitol has brought impeachment to the Senate's door again and set Republicans on their heels. And it's put a spotlight on whether the polarized, diminished chamber can process Biden's agenda. Take the installation of Biden's Cabinet. The Senate has traditionally tried to confirm a batch of the most important nominees on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, and the days thereafter. But to do so requires the co-operation of the entire Senate. Democrats slow-walked many of Trump's Cabinet picks four years ago after a crushing election loss, but there's a palpable sense that Republicans may be more co-operative now, at least when confirming national security nominees and picks like Janet Yellen to run the Treasury Department. Schumer seeks — and is used to operating in — the spotlight, whether he’s helping run the unwieldy, increasingly divided Senate, micromanaging his beloved Democratic caucus or crisscrossing New York. Any of these is a full-time job. And they don’t always point him in the same direction. For instance, Biden is preaching bipartisanship, and Schumer wants to help, but tensions are inevitable with ardent progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an ambitious Bronx Democrat whom Schumer allies are watching closely as he runs for a fifth term in 2022. Schumer was a force in Biden's decision to “go big” on Thursday with a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus bill that was bigger than earlier Biden drafts. Progressives hailed the measure. Meanwhile, the prospect of an impeachment trial in the opening days of Biden's term adds a huge degree of uncertainty. Senate rules are unforgiving, but Schumer and McConnell are hoping to establish a dual-track process to confirm nominations even as the trial unfolds. McConnell and Schumer have a tortured, tense relationship after years of bruising political battles and fights over Supreme Court nominees. They rarely talk spontaneously and have no hesitation in slinging barbs that earlier generations of leaders managed to avoid. But Biden and McConnell are long-standing friends, and the Kentucky Republican — pondering a “guilty" vote in Trump's second impeachment trial and still absorbing the disastrous Senate losses in Georgia — appears inclined to help Biden as best he can. The events of the past week, as damaging and unsettling as they were for the country, seem likely to assist Biden and Schumer. What is more, Democratic control of the chamber comes with filibuster-proof treatment of Biden's nominees, with only a simple majority needed, though Republicans could easily force delays. McConnell and his Republican caucus want to “reasonably co-operate on the national security nominations,” said Hazen Marshall, a former McConnell policy aide. “His view has traditionally been that presidents deserve their staff, unless their staff are crazy or criminals." But GOP senators are sure to drag their feet on less urgent Cabinet posts given the experience under Trump, when even former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., had to endure delays. But with the economy slipping and the public appalled by the melee in Washington, GOP resistance to Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package or his slate of Cabinet picks may not be as resolute. “There's a lot to do, but Democrats are on the right side of all of it," said former Schumer strategist and confidant Matt House. “These are good problems to have." Amid the dizzying pace, Schumer also tends to New York. A Brooklyn native, Schumer makes a visit to each of the state's 62 counties every year. And his spur-of-the-moment visits to local events like high school graduations and, more recently, unannounced drop-ins on community Zoom calls are the stuff of legend. Last Thursday, little more than 24 hours after the Capitol riot, Schumer hopped on a call with a community board in Sunnyside, Queens. He spent the opening minutes thanking board members. “You guys and gals do a great job — I know what it’s like," Schumer said, according to the Sunnyside Post. “When things go bad you hear about it; when things are great you hear nothing.” And after Trump's impeachment Wednesday, Schumer heaped praise on local New York media members in a call with publishers and broadcasters thanking him for steering stimulus dollars to struggling news outlets, according to an account by the Syracuse Post Standard. But he had to jump. “Pelosi has called me and Biden, so I won’t be able to be on for too long," Schumer said. Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
During a COVID-19 modelling update on Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the rise in case numbers is largely due to Canadians gathering during the holidays. She added that measures must be “further intensified,” in order to help stop the spread.
SILVER SPRING, Md. — U.S. industrial production rose 1.6% in December, a third straight monthly gain, but remains below its pre-pandemic level. The December gain in industrial output followed a 0.5% increase in November and a 1% increase in October, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. Even with those gains, industrial output is still about 3.3% below its level in February before the pandemic hit. Manufacturing increased 0.9%, its eighth straight monthly gain, even as production of motor vehicles and parts declined 1.6%. That follows a string of gains for the auto sector, including last month's strong 5% increase. Without the drag in the auto sector last month, manufacturing posted gains of 1.1%. Mining production rose 1.6%, while utilities' output rose 6.2% as a rebound in December demand followed a 4.2% decline in November due to unseasonably warm weather. U.S. industry operated at 74.5% of capacity in December, still below the pre-pandemic rate of 76.9% in February. While December’s topline numbers were better than economists had expected, there is concern that rising coronavirus infections and a rocky vaccination campaign could further hamstring an already uneven recovery for the U.S. economy. On Thursday night, President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan that would speed up vaccines and deal financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout. Oren Klachkin, an economist with Oxford Economics, said a financial relief package would provide a much-needed immediate boost for the economy, but added that in the long-term, “vaccine roll outs will shift consumer spending more towards services, softening consumer goods demand and weighing on industrial activity.” The Institute for Supply Management reported Tuesday that American factories grew in December at the fastest pace in more than two years. The manufacturing sector has weathered the pandemic better than the battered services sector, but continues to face virus-related headwinds such as factory shutdowns needed to sanitize facilities and difficulties in hiring new workers as the virus surges again. Matt Ott, The Associated Press
MILAN — Italy’s fashion chamber is opening on Friday the first Milan Fashion Week that won't have VIPS populating runway front rows, as the reality of Italy's persistent resurgence of the coronavirus has forced an all-virtual format for presenting menswear previews. The National Fashion Chamber maintained a live element during the July and September fashion weeks in Milan. But after planning to stage live shows with guests during this round, Fendi, Etro and outdoor brand Kway announced their events will be livestreamed from behind closed doors. Dolce & Gabbana cancelled its runway show entirely, citing restrictions in place due to COVID-19. The other 36 participating fashion houses on the pared-down calendar -- including Zegna and Prada -- will all have digital-only presentations. “We did everything to preserve some runway shows, but the anti-COVID norms in this moment don’t allow us to have guests, and therefore, the runway shows will be closed-door,” fashion chamber president Carlo Capasa said. The organizers of Paris Fashion Week plan to hold audience-free men’s and haute couture shows later this month. Prospects for Milan's February shows of mostly womenswear previews remain unclear; the Italian government on Friday announced a new round of virus-control restrictions through Feb. 15 that extend a ban on travelling between regions. Capasa acknowledged that closed-door shows deprive fashion of some of its energy. But the pandemic, which has all but shut down global travel and closed retail stores for long periods , has made fashion houses quickly update their digital communication strategies and e-commerce platforms, he said. There is some evidence the investments are paying off, with one-quarter of online luxury sales last year to consumers who went high-end for the first-time, Capasa said. The Italian fashion chamber found that 45 million people streamed Milan Fashion Week shows in September, a number that Capasa said was beyond his wildest dreams a year ago. Still, the fashion industry is in dire financial straits. The Italian industry recorded a 25% drop in revenues to 50.5 billion euros ($61.2 billion) in 2020 compared with 2019, with exports down 22% to nearly 43 billion euros ($52.1 billion). A more drastic decline was avoided thanks to so-called “revenge shopping” in China, with eager consumers returning to luxury shopping as soon as lockdowns expired, and moves toward e-commerce and a bump in global luxury sales in October, Capasa said. In Europe, where governments have ordered new lockdowns, the market remained weakest. Capasa said the industry, one of the biggest generators of Italy's gross domestic product, is seeking a share of the government’s recovery funds to help improve innovation and to keep small artisanal businesses from failing. He said he hopes to see a gradual return to normality in fashion show calendars and travel this summer, as vaccines reduce the threat of the coronavirus. “For now, we need to do the best we can, in the moment we are living,’’ Capasa said. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
Tanya Bogatin's once pristine home is no longer quite so organized, and she's waiting a little longer between loads of laundry, but it's no skin off her back. Her priorities have shifted now that she'll be helping her two young kids attend classes from their home in Vaughan, Ont., for another month. "Things are gonna fall to the backburner," she said. "I tell my kids, don't stress about it ... relax, relax. We're happy, we're safe, we're healthy." With online learning extended until late January across southern Ontario, and for even longer in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham and Windsor-Essex, parents like Bogatin are finding a litany of strategies to manage all their responsibilities. She said she briefly panicked when she found out her kids would be learning remotely until at least Feb. 10, but then she came up with a game plan. Each morning, she and her kids get up at around 8:20 a.m., with half an hour to spare before classes begin. Once classes start, her son -- who is in Grade 4 -- stations himself in the dining room, and her daughter -- in Grade 2 -- sets up her laptop at the desk in the toy room. Bogatin sits on the stairs between them, listening in case they call for help. At recess, she said, she bundles them up in winter gear and sends them out to play in the backyard. Right after classes end, they get to work on homework. Bogatin works part-time, and as of this week she's able to do that from home. "I'm very, very lucky that I have a very flexible job," she said, noting that she's mostly able to set her own schedule, and will sometimes retreat into her bedroom for online meetings. Her days are busy, she said, but they're "good busy." Parents are making it work, said Rachel Huot with the Ontario Parent Action Network, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy. "It's extremely challenging to try and support children learning remotely," she said. "Your kids are not meant to learn sitting in front of a computer screen for six hours a day." Parents who have to juggle supervising kids and working -- either in or out of the home -- are stretched even thinner, she said. "Then there's the fact that we're watching the government fail us day after day. And there's no clear end in sight," she said. Huot echoed calls from teachers' unions that are requesting broader testing of asymptomatic students, smaller class sizes and better ventilation systems in schools so that kids can safely return to the classroom. A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said student safety is the government's top priority. "We know that parents want their children back in class and we firmly agree, and our commitment to deliver on that is to further enhance our safety protocols and provincewide targeted surveillance testing to ensure our students can safely go back to class," she said. The government has cited rising COVID-19 positivity rates amongst children as well as soaring daily infections for its decision to have students learn virtually for longer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Ontario crept toward 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, the latest line in the shifting sand. Before the weekend, Premier Doug Ford teased modelling projections he said were so shocking, “You’ll fall off your chair”. Despite the dire warning, no further information was shared with the Province. Instead, over the weekend, reporters from the Queen’s Park Press Gallery suggested a curfew was being considered, similar to the rules in Quebec. By Monday, it appeared to be off the table again. The first two days of the week dragged by with a sense of doom hanging over Ontario as the lack of clarity from the ruling PCs turned into a running provincial joke. On Tuesday, Ford’s 1 p.m. presser was delayed by half-an-hour, only adding to the tension. Finally, he walked up to the microphone and began to speak. Unusually, there was no preamble. Ford launched straight into the news: a second state of emergency and the introduction of a stay-at-home order, planned to come into play on Thursday. More confusion ensued. And the jokes kept rolling. Almost immediately, social media was flooded. Journalists, members of the public and local politicians struggled to grasp exactly what was being announced. Weren’t people meant to be staying home under the grey lockdown anyway? Weren’t non-essential businesses already closed? What was the difference between a stay-at-home-order and being told to stay at home? “There is no confusion,” the Premier insisted at his Wednesday press conference. “The message is simple: stay home.” It’s the same directive Peel residents have been under since November 23. The restrictions have failed to reduce the case counts in the region, and few understand how the latest order will change things. Reducing business operating times for non-essential shops by one hour seems like lip service at this point. Ford says he “hates” closing anything down, despite claiming for months that he will do anything it takes to keep Ontarians safe. The one obvious thing Ford could do to address the “fall-off-your-chair” reality staring at besieged hospitals, is another thing he’s unwilling to do. “"I've never been in favour of a curfew," he said Tuesday. "The last thing I've ever believed in ever is having a curfew." The one area of clarity came from Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. She did not lay out new rules or detail how exactly the measures would be enforced, but made it apparent that authorities are placing an increased emphasis on policing. “The Government of Ontario cannot determine what is essential for every person in this province, each with their own unique circumstances and regional considerations,” a list of answers to frequently asked questions issued by Ford’s office Wednesday admits. The document also says essential work, trips and items cannot be defined. Around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, five hours before it was due to come into force and after the interviews featured in this story were conducted, the Province released its official order, stating 29 acceptable reasons to be outside the home while the rules are in place. They include travelling to an airport, obtaining services from a financial institution or selling and buying a house. According to the Province, going for groceries or to the pharmacy, outdoor exercise and work that can’t be completed at home are all acceptable reasons to leave the home. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said at her Wednesday press conference that things like walking the dog or playing basketball with fewer than five members of your household are also allowed. “A police officer or other provincial offences officer who has reasonable and probable grounds that an individual has committed an offence … may require the individual’s correct name,” the new rules state. Questions remain around how these rules will be communicated and enforced after they were sent to police and bylaw officers so late. With 29 different reasons to avoid any violation, and so much interpretation, it seems unlikely the public will be able to easily remember the list or necessarily know how to demonstrate they’re adhering to it. Despite this, police and bylaw are being empowered to crack down. Asked at a Wednesday press conference for details on how the rules would be applied, Solicitor General Jones referenced gatherings and their enforcement, but did not provide a fulsome response. "If you are not at your place of residence and you need to be fined or ticketed, [police] have an obligation to ask for your name, date of birth and address,” she said. In Mississauga and Brampton, the vagaries of the new rules and delay in releasing the specifics are causing concern for some. The Peel Regional Police has a well-documented history of discrimination and, toward the end of 2020, vowed to end its systemic problems with racism. Under former chief Jennifer Evans, the force spent considerable time aggressively defending its use of street checks, while the rest of the province, including the previous Liberal government, quickly moved away from the destructive practice. It involved the random stopping and documenting of residents, and was shown to disproportionately target Peel’s Black community at more than three times the rate compared to white residents. In a slip of the tongue during her comments on Tuesday, Jones articulated this fear. “They will be subject to fines and persecution,” she said of rule-breakers, presumably intending to say “prosecution” instead. “In the case of discretion … we know that discretion will turn to compulsion when it comes to Black bodies,” Kola Iluyomade, a leader of local equity group Advocacy Peel, told The Pointer. Iluyomade played a key role in forcing change at the Peel District School Board in 2020 after years of anti-Black racism and has also been vocal in his criticism of the Peel Regional Police. “Obviously, not being able to have a definition is very problematic because should you need to fight [a fine] in court or something like that, the word discretion itself is what the police will use against you. The data shows that that’s what’s going to happen.” Stephen Warner, press secretary to Jones, said the Solicitor General’s office has “confidence in our law enforcement personnel to take the necessary enforcement actions”. Concerns about systemic issues of racism within policing and how it may impact COVID-19 orders were not addressed. It’s also unclear how bylaw officers are going to apply the rules, with concerns that white residents will receive informal privileges, while others will be heavily surveilled. The behaviour of many politicians, such as former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips, and Ford himself, are held up as examples of the entitlement some have. Despite knowing Phillips had left the country in mid-December for a vacation in the Caribbean, neither did anything about the blatant violation of their own government’s directives until after the trip was exposed. But now, residents are being threatened with police action for violating essentially the same rules. “Serious questions: I choose to work from school. What am I supposed to say/show to a police officer who stops me? Are teachers essential workers or not?” Jason Bradshaw, a high school science teacher in Peel, wrote on Twitter. “As a side note, I’m not trying to play ‘the race card’ here, but as a Black man, I do consider what steps I need to take to ensure that any potential interactions I have with police officers have positive outcomes,” he added in a second tweet. Sam Rogers, in charge of Mississauga’s bylaw officers, said the Peel Regional Police would take the lead on enforcement. “Still a lot of questions to be answered on our end,” he said, speaking at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday with the orders due to come into place less than eight hours later. “We’ve got very, very good at short notice changes throughout this pandemic and I am very confident, regardless of the regulations that do come out, our staff will be ready to implement a reasonable and balanced enforcement approach.” Asked how it would ensure an equitable application of the rules, Peel police highlighted the need to stay at home and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Peel Police, Mississauga bylaw nor Brampton bylaw did not suggest any equity or bias training to ensure their officers apply vague rules without over-policing Black and other racialized residents. “Enforcement will be an option when responding to calls relating to the order, and/or public gatherings; however every call for service will be evaluated individually and the appropriate action will be taken for each,” Constable Sarah Patten, a member of the Peel Police communications team, told The Pointer in an email. Crombie placed emphasis on staying home, telling residents to avoid any trips or errands that could reasonably be put off or done online. “We don’t want to see any scenario that people are stopped unnecessarily as we had with the street check program whether that be by bylaw – what will their role be? Or by Peel Police – what will their role be?” she articulated at her Wednesday press conference, saying she hoped clarity would be coming from the Province within hours of her address. “That hopefully will all be explained in the regulations which we will receive later.” As they have throughout the pandemic, bylaw enforcement officers will play a key role in plans to enforce the new stay-at-home-order. Staff have the power to write tickets for individuals breaking the rules and disperse crowds. “We have a very diverse, multicultural community within the City of Brampton,” Paul Morrison, the City’s bylaw head, said at a Wednesday morning press conference. “We police ensuring that all the citizens’ rights are maintained and, when it comes to race, we’ll understand as best we can culture and race when it impacts on enforcement.” He did not address measures in place to ensure bias-free enforcement. “The laws are changing so quickly and so often in terms of emergency protocols, I know Brampton bylaw always attempts, on first brush, always to educate and to make sure that the communities know what the new provisions are,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown added. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
A coroner's inquest has been scheduled to examine the events that led Bathurst police to fatally shoot Michel Vienneau six years ago. Chief Coroner Jérôme Ouellette will preside over the inquest scheduled from April 27 to May 7 at a venue in Beresford, near Bathurst, according to a news release issued Friday. A jury will hear the evidence, presented publicly during the formal court proceeding, about what led to the 51-year-old Tracadie businessman's death on Jan. 12, 2015. The jury can issue recommendations meant to prevent similar deaths in the future. An inquest doesn't make findings regarding legal responsibility. Vienneau was killed at the Bathurst train station after returning from a weekend trip to Montreal to watch a hockey game with his fiancée, Annick Basque. The couple had stepped off the train and Vienneau had started to drive away from the station when officers surveilling him attempted to intercept him. Two anonymous tips submitted through Crime Stoppers had said Vienneau was trafficking drugs on the train, and indicated his car was parked at the train station. Constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger were among six undercover officers who rushed to the station based on anonymous Crime Stoppers tips. Vdeo recreation of the shooting based on witness testimony When Vienneau began to drive away from the station, Boudreau and Bulger moved to stop him. They got out of an unmarked police car in plainclothes and drew their pistols. Evidence heard at a discipline hearing for the officers held in 2019 indicated that Vienneau drove his Chevrolet Cruze into the police car and kept driving toward Bulger. Bulger testified he was hit by Vienneau's car and pinned against a snowbank. Boudreau, who testified he feared for his partner's life, then fired four times at Vienneau. Vienneau died of a gunshot wound to the left side of his chest. An RCMP investigation into the shooting determined the tips were false and there was no evidence Vienneau was trafficking drugs. Documents obtained by CBC News showed Nova Scotia RCMP, which investigated the officers' actions, considered a probe of the false tips. However, RCMP last year confirmed that they don't know the identity of the person who submitted the tips. Criminal charges against the officers were dropped after a preliminary inquiry. A separate investigation under the New Brunswick Police Act alleged the officers: didn't properly use and carry a firearm, abused their authority by using unnecessary force, failed to follow police policies and procedures and acted in a discreditable manner. An arbitrator ruled in late 2019 that Boudreau and Bulger did not violate the code of conduct and could keep their jobs. The decision followed testimony from 13 witnesses over 11 days in Bathurst in fall 2019. The New Brunswick government had previously said an inquest would be held, though it had to take place after the criminal and discipline proceedings. However, while the appeal period ended a year ago, it was followed by the COVID-19 pandemic that the province said affected scheduling the inquest. The inquest will take place at Danny's Events Centre in Beresford "to ensure compliance with physical distancing requirements due to COVID-19," a news release says.
WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.3% in December led by a the biggest jump in energy costs since June. The Labor Department reported Friday that the gain in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach consumers, followed a modest 0.1% gain in November and matched the 0.3% rise in October. The December increase reflected a 5.5% surge in energy costs, the biggest gain since a 9.6% jump in June. That offset a 0.1% drop in food costs, the first decline since August. Over the past 12 months, inflation at the wholesale level has risen a modest 0.8%. The government reported Wednesday that consumer inflation was also well-behaved last year, rising just 1.4% over the past 12 months. These low inflation reading are giving the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels in an effort to help lift the economy out of a pandemic-induced recession. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
Two-year-old Yesmin Anayeli Perez died this week of illnesses linked to malnutrition, the third small child to die from similar causes in an impoverished mountain village in eastern Guatemala within weeks, residents and health officials said. Residents of the indigenous Mayan village, La Palmilla, and other parts of a region known as the Dry Corridor sunk deeper into poverty last year when economic damage wrought by droughts and two devastating hurricanes was compounded by the coronavirus lockdown. The situation in La Palmilla is a stark example of the depth of the crisis in Central America, where governments are hoping for a rapid restoration of U.S. aid under incoming president Joe Biden to stem a new migration wave.
SaskPower says the rural areas of the province still without power from this week's storm should see their lights back on by Friday afternoon. Wide swaths of the province have been without electricity in the wake of the blizzard and high winds this week. Areas still without power Friday morning include southwest of Elrose, including Beechy, Saskatchewan Landing, White Bear, Lucky Lake and areas south of Weyburn. SaskPower said power has been restored to areas near Glenavon and for customers east of that community with power lines down. Saskpower spokesperson Scott McGregor said the areas still without power suffered major damage to the power infrastructure. "That's really what's keeping the power off, is that some larger transmission lines have been damaged and we're just working on getting those fixed," McGregor said. That will be good news for Natalie Braun and other residents of Beechy, who have been without power since Wednesday afternoon. "I don't know what our wind got to, but our visibility was zero [Wednesday] late afternoon and went on into the evening," Braun said. "I mean, it was crazy." Braun said they have a generator that has helped them cook meals and stay warm, though even it wouldn't work at the height of the storm. The generator was plugged in at the back of the house and she said the night of the storm the snow and wind kept freezing up the generator. Braun said others in the community who don't have generators are still in the dark and cold. "We have gotten quite accustomed to having power outages," she said, adding that's many people have generators. "But there's definitely a lot without. And it's yeah, it's been a long go. Thankfully, it's not freezing freezing cold." She said community organizations have arranged to drop off hot meals to some elderly residents and that the community hall, which has a generator, is open to residents to come warm up. "It's amazing how a small community can really come together," Braun said. "Yesterday we witnessed a lot of people just going out of their way, checking in on the elderly people in our community. And it just is pretty amazing how everybody, especially in these circumstances and obviously going through this in a pandemic there, it takes it to a whole new level." McGregor said a transmission line went down in the Beechy area. "We're still working in that area and [power] should be up around noon, maybe two o'clock at the latest," he said. "I know that it's been it's been out for a long time over two nights ... and we appreciate everyone's patience while we all get through this." More than 100 communities have had power outages because of the storm and roughly 78,000 people were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. McGregor said high winds and blowing snow continued to hamper crews trying to restore power to some communities. Since the storm began, SaskPower recorded more than 780 outages affecting more than 100,000 customers. McGregor said there could be a few people that remain without power if more problems arise. "We're still taking inventory of a lot of the damage out there," he said. McGregor said it's like clearing a major highway after a snowstorm. "You have the highway reopened, but then you have to deal with the side streets. Same with a transmission line being damaged and then re-energise," he said. "They can repair the transmission lines, but then once that is energized, then other problems coming off of that at the distribution level become evident and then we can work on those.." Braun said while the power outage has been stress for the adults, her two children, aged six and three, have been having a blast. "Our street was impassable yesterday so they were loving seeing all the commotion around. And they love all the snow," she said. Coincidentally the kids got a pair of head lamps in the mail a few days ago and are putting them to good use. "We don't run our generators through the night so in the mornings, they're hiding under the blankets with the head lamps on."