Parents Rebecca Ackerman and Benn Brisland talk about designing the t-shirt mocking Doug Ford government’s latest announcements on COVID-19.
Parents Rebecca Ackerman and Benn Brisland talk about designing the t-shirt mocking Doug Ford government’s latest announcements on COVID-19.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
OTTAWA — Unifor president Jerry Dias says Air Canada continues to promise refunds for passengers whose flights were cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline has made the pledge repeatedly during negotiations with the federal government over an aid package for the battered sector, said Dias, who noted talks are ongoing. "I spoke to the CEO of Air Canada last night. So I know that this commitment has been made for quite a while." Air Canada took issue with Dias's take, saying no such conversation took place within the past week or beyond. The airline said that discussions are ongoing, but no deal has been reached. The Finance Department did not respond immediately to questions about the refund commitment. Then-chief executive Calin Rovinescu said in November the airline would not hesitate to reimburse customers stuck with unused tickets if the conditions of a federal bailout were reasonable. After a halting start nearly four months ago, talks ramped up over the past month, reaching a pace that he called a negotiation. Any deal would include a resolution on passenger refunds, a plan for returning service to regional markets and financial support for the aerospace sector, Rovinescu said last month. Air Canada says there are no updates since then, with no agreement yet in place. Dias said only about 4,000 of the union's 15,000 aviation workers remain fully employed a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, lending urgency to discussions in Ottawa. “We can’t get more urgent than now," he said. "Frankly, getting a little frustrated hearing that it’s imminent, just around the corner. Like, it’s been a year — I’ve grown two beards since hearing this." Ottawa has put reimbursement of travellers on the table as a key demand in exchange for financial relief for airlines, on top of asking carriers to maintain regional routes. Air Canada posted a staggering $1.16 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2020, a result that caps what Rovinescu called the bleakest year in aviation history. "While there is no assurance at this stage that we will arrive at a definitive agreement on sector support, I am more optimistic on this front for the first time," Rovinescu said on a conference call with analysts Feb. 12, three days before he passed Air Canada's controls to new CEO Michael Rousseau. Unifor and two pilot unions are calling for federal loans totalling $7 billion at one per cent interest over 10 years. Unifor is also asking Ottawa to waive a fuel tax for Canadian carriers and suspend additional landing and gate fees on passenger and cargo flights. Air Canada, Rouge, WestJet, Swoop and Sunwing agreed in January to suspend service to Mexico and the Caribbean at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help fight viral spread. The moves resulted in the temporary layoffs of thousands of airline workers. Last month Air Canada announced it will temporarily lay off 1,500 unionized employees and an unspecified number of management staff as it cut 17 more routes to the U.S. and international destinations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:AC) The Canadian Press
DETROIT — General Motors says it's looking for a site to build a second U.S. battery factory with joint venture partner LG Chem of Korea. The companies hope to have a decision on a site in the first half of the year, spokesman Dan Flores said Thursday. Flores would not say where the company is looking, but it's likely to be near GM's Spring Hill, Tennessee, factory complex, which is one of three sites the company has designated to build electric vehicles. A joint venture between GM and LG Chem currently is building a $2 billion battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio, near Cleveland, that will employ about 1,000 people. The site is fairly close to GM's two other designated electric vehicle plants, one in Detroit and the other north of the city in Orion Township, Michigan. GM is likely to need far more battery capacity if it's able to deliver on a goal of converting all of its new passenger vehicles from internal combustion engines to electricity by 2035. LG Chem now has a battery cell plant in Holland, Michigan, that supplies power to the Chevrolet Bolt hatchback and the new Bolt electric SUV. Industry analysts have said that automakers face a global shortage of batteries as the industry moves away from gasoline powered vehicles. Most of the world's batteries are built in China and other countries. The Wall Street Journal first reported that GM and LG Chem are pursuing a site in Tennessee to build a new battery plant. GM's venture is risky, at least based on U.S. electric vehicle sales. Last year full battery electric vehicles accounted for only 2% of the U.S. market of 14.6 million in new vehicle sales. But automakers are set to roll out 22 new electric models this year and are baking on wider consumer acceptance. The consulting firm LMC Automotive predicts that U.S. battery powered vehicle sales will hit over 1 million per year starting in 2023, reaching over 4 million by 2030. Tom Krisher, The Associated Press
Heart inflammation is uncommon in pro athletes who’ve had mostly mild COVID-19 and most don’t need to be sidelined, a study conducted by major professional sports leagues suggests. The results are not definitive, outside experts say, and more independent research is needed. But the study published Thursday in JAMA Cardiology is the largest to examine the potential problem. The coronavirus can cause inflammation in many organs, including the heart. The research involved professional athletes who play football, hockey, soccer, baseball and men's and women's basketball. All tested positive for COVID-19 before October and were given guideline-recommended heart tests, nearly 800 total. None had severe COVID-19 and 40% had few or no symptoms — what might be expected from a group of healthy elite athletes with an average age of 25. Severe COVID-19 is more common in older people and those with chronic health conditions. Almost 4% had abnormal results on heart tests done after they recovered but subsequent MRI exams found heart inflammation in less than 1% of the athletes. These five athletes all had COVID-19 symptoms. Whether their heart problems were caused by the virus is unknown although the researchers think that is likely. They were sidelined for about three months and returned to play without any problems, said Dr. Mathew Martinez of Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. He's the study’s lead author and team cardiologist for football's New York Jets. Two previous smaller studies in college athletes recovering from the virus suggested heart inflammation might be more common. The question is of key interest to athletes, who put extra stress on their hearts during play, and undetected heart inflammation has been linked with sudden death. Whether mild COVID-19 can cause heart damage ‘’is the million-dollar question,’’ said Dr. Richard Kovacs, co-founder of the American College of Cardiology’s Sports & Exercise Council. And whether severe COVID-19 symptoms increase the chances of having fleeting or long-lasting heart damage ‘’is part of the puzzle,’’ he said. Kovacs said the study has several weaknesses. Testing was done at centres affiliated or selected by each team, and results were interpreted by team-affiliated cardiologists, increasing the chances of bias. More rigorous research would have had standardized testing done at a central location and more objective specialists interpret the results, he said. Also, many of the athletes had no previous imaging exams to compare the results with, so there is no way to know for certain if abnormalities found during the study were related to the virus. ’’There is clearly more work to do but I think it is very helpful additional evidence,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, president-elect of the American Heart Association. Dr. Dial Hewlett, a member of a COVID-19 task force at the National Medical Association, which represents Black physicians, said the study ‘’is extremely timely.’’ Hewlett is a deputy health commissioner for New York's Westchester County and advises high schools and colleges on when to allow young athletes to return to play after COVID-19 infections. ‘’I’m grateful that we are starting to get some data to help guide us in some of our decisions,’’ Hewlett said. ___ Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will review a decision to order a new trial for an Alberta man convicted of murder. Russell Steven Tessier was charged with first-degree murder in 2015, eight years after Allan Gerald Berdahl's body was found in a ditch near Carstairs. Berdahl died from gunshot wounds to the head, and there were tire tracks, footprints and two cigarette butts near the scene. Tessier was convicted in 2018 but Alberta's Court of Appeal later ordered a new trial. The appeal court said the trial judge made legal errors concerning the voluntariness of statements Tessier made to police. As usual, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for agreeing to hear the case. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
LATCHFORD – Latchford Mayor George Lefebvre has let his frustration be known when it comes to the current situation surrounding insurance for municipalities. Municipal insurance rates have been on the rise and the matter has been a growing concern across the province. One specific area that Lefebvre says he has an issue with is the fact that the legal system allows municipalities to be sued for accidents that occur on major highways, which he feels shouldn’t have any bearing on the municipalities. Lefebvre says those frivolous lawsuits alone are enough to help drive up the rates when the insurance companies are forced to defend the municipalities. A highway accident is “something that has absolutely no bearing (on us) whatsoever,” he said at Latchford council’s regular meeting on February 18. “We all know, we’ve seen a number of these accidents recently. Two of them have occurred in Temagami on Highway 11 and they’re suing the Town of Latchford. It’s just absolutely ridiculous. Some people on an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), crossing the railroad track and caught trespassing on the pipeline and trespassing on the tracks, flipped the ATV and sued the Town of Latchford. Now where the hell is the justice in that?” The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the province’s Attorney General have been looking into the matter of rising municipal insurance costs for the past couple of years, but actions were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One municipality reported seeing their premium increase from $120,000 to $225,000. Englehart was among the lowest, seeing their insurance rate go up eight to nine per cent this year while the Municipality of Charlton and Dack saw an increase of 36 per cent. Latchford clerk-treasurer Jaime Allen told The Speaker in an email message that the town’s rate increased by 13.5 per cent. “We had to change our provider several years ago to attempt to control the increases, so (we) fully appreciate and support the effort by the other municipalities,” said Lefebvre later in an email interview. Back at their regular meeting on January 21, Latchford council passed a resolution to support Charlton-Dack’s resolution that stands up against rising municipal insurance rates. Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
Highlands East plans to work alongside the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) in its consultation to dispose of the provincial Crown Reserve on Centre Lake. Council passed a resolution March 2 to take part in the ministry’s process. It comes as the province considers two applications for development at Centre Lake that seek to use its 200-foot Crown reserve, including a 60-suite resort called Granite Shores. Planner Chris Jones said the MNRF will want municipal input – and whether council supports the Crown land disposition. “If council is ultimately going to be tasked with rendering some decision of support or non-support,” Jones said. “Take the bull by the horns and as far as a consultation process, create an opportunity for people and stakeholders to provide comments directly to the municipality.” The motion indicates consultation will include notice by direct mail to landowners within two kilometres of Centre Lake, Cardiff shoreline associations and Indigenous groups. The municipality will also notify local trail and recreational organizations such as the Paudash Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club by direct mail or email. In addition, the municipality is proposing a virtual open house as a special meeting to provide an opportunity for public comment. There will be further notification in local print media and on the municipal website. “Pick a date and schedule a special meeting of council for the sole purpose of allowing for public input,” Jones said. “That becomes the salient aspect of this disposition that council can use to inform themselves.” Granite Shores launched its own website in February detailing its project and soliciting feedback, but it is separate from any government consultation to come. “We aim to provide all the information on this exciting development in Haliburton Highlands in an open and transparent fashion,” the development said on its website. No timeline has yet been set for the meeting or the MNRF’s consultation process. Regional planner Pauline Capelle said it is difficult to predict but could be posted for input in the coming months. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Ontario Premier Doug Ford regularly refers to his local MPPs as “champions”. Introducing riding representatives at his now discontinued daily briefings, Ford heaped praise on the work local Progressive Conservatives do for their communities. In Mississauga and Brampton, a recent vote at Queen’s Park has left municipal officials and constituents wondering why Ford’s MPPs don’t listen to those they’re supposed to “champion”. On Monday, PC MPPs in Brampton and Mississauga voted with their party to strike down an NDP Bill to give workers in Ontario permanent and pandemic-specific paid sick days. The vote was a direct contraction of requests made by the cities the MPPs are elected to represent. Paid sick days are something the Official Opposition has been pushing for months. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and his Mississauga counterpart Bonnie Crombie have also been making the demand continually, with workplace transmission in Peel Region a major barrier to bringing the pandemic under control. It’s a major reason why Peel, unlike most of Ontario, remains under a stay-at-home-order. Dr. Lawrence Loh, the Region’s medical officer of health, the man tasked with managing pandemic response in Ontario’s hardest hit area, has vocally backed the calls. Research completed by Peel Public Health illustrates the impact of not having paid sick days in the region. Workplaces, many of which remain open in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga, have been a major source of the novel coronavirus transmission in Peel. Between August and January, 66 percent of all confirmed community outbreaks in the region took place in workplaces. In August, workplace transmission was the most common likely source of infection that resulted in spread within households. The threat is especially pervasive in Peel because of the number of essential jobs the area hosts and due to the large percentage of residents who work in these sectors, including those who have to commute outside the region. A series of major highways, Toronto Pearson Airport and large corridors of industrial zoning have created an ideal nexus in Peel for viral infection and spread. Essential workers makeup a significant portion of the population. According to the 2016 census, manufacturing employed more Peel residents than any other sector, including jobs that are deemed essential to keep supply chains running. Roughly 90,000 Peel residents worked in the manufacturing sector. Other job categories dominated by essential workers are common in Peel. In 2016, there were 69,920 residents working in transportation and warehousing; 59,270 in healthcare and social assistance; 44,755 in construction; and 42,205 in accommodation and food services. “This pandemic has highlighted the fact that lack of access to paid sick days is a health hazard,” Peel Public Health wrote in the briefing that accompanied its research into workplace cases. Between August and January, a total of 1,993 people who later tested positive for COVID-19 reported going to work for one or more days after their symptoms began to show. The figure represents roughly 25 percent of all cases through the period, meaning one in four went to work infectious. Discussing the data, Loh has pointed out this is probably an underestimate. Despite reassurances from health officials collecting the data, it is likely some chose not to admit to authority figures they went to work while infected. Of all the data collected by Peel Public Health, one statistic stands out. Eighty individuals reported to work between August and January after their positive result had been reported to public health and they were confirmed to have the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Armed with these statistics, Peel’s mayors and medical officer of health have been begging for paid sick days. With the GTHA Mayors providing ample media attention to voice the reality for hundreds of thousands of their constituents, they had hoped to be heard by now. But they have been ignored and even the region’s local, governing MPPs have tuned out. The Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, tabled by the NDP and struck down with the help of seven Peel based PC MPPs Monday, would have offered workers 14 paid sick days during the pandemic. It also suggested seven paid days after the pandemic is over. “If Peel’s Conservative MPPs hadn’t helped the Ford government block the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act, workers in Brampton and Mississauga could have had paid sick days when they woke up today,” NDP Deputy Leader and Brampton Centre MPP, Sara Singh, said. “Instead, people in Peel are returning to jobs in health care and food processing without that support, doing essential work while the government turns its back on them, again.” The Pointer reached out to all seven PC MPPs to ask them to justify their vote and if they listened to Loh’s advice as the local medical expert. Staff members at the offices of Mississauga—Lakeshore MPP Rudy Cuzzetto, Mississauga—Malton MPP Deepak Anand, Mississauga Centre MPP Natalia Kusendova and Mississauga—Streetsville MPP Nina Tangri answered phone calls confirming they had received questions, but did not provide responses. The remaining MPPs, Associate Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria (Brampton South) Amarjot Sandhu (Brampton West) and Sheref Sabawy (Mississauga—Erin Mills) did not answer messages left by email and voicemail. Kaleed Rasheed (Mississauga East—Cooksville) did not vote. “I’m very disappointed in our Mississauga provincial members of parliament,” Crombie said at a Wednesday press conference. “They know how important sick days are. This should not come down to ideological differences — we need to do the right thing.” It’s not the first time questions have been raised about Peel’s MPPs. In 2018, Sarkaria and Sandhu felt the wrath of their community after they skipped a vote pushing to bring a third hospital to Brampton. The Progressive Conservatives’ official party line on introducing paid sick days is that they duplicate a benefit being offered by the federal government, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). Communications staff for the PC government have blanketed social media with the position, saying paid sick days already exist and that the NDP is muddying the waters. But the experts in Peel take issue with the idea CRSB solves the issue. Peel Public Health says the benefit’s usefulness is “limited” by duration, delayed release of funds and “lack of linguistic cultural support for applicants”. “Eligibility criteria further limit the ability of programs such as CRSB and Employment Insurance to address COVID-19 transmission in the workplace,” Peel Public Health wrote in its research. “The whole COVID-19 thing is a jigsaw puzzle, but this is one really big piece that continues to be missing in my estimation,” Loh said at Mississauga’s weekly press conference, referring to the need for paid sick days. In the legislature, the message is being ignored by the ruling PCs. Despite recently posting screenshots of a virtual briefing with Loh, the region’s MPPs have not acted on his advice. “Local leaders like Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, and Peel Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh recognize that paid sick days are a vital public health measure to keep workers safe in Brampton’s essential workplaces,” Singh said in the legislature Wednesday. “But this government ignores them again and again, refusing to take action to stop this virus, keep workers safe and end the cycle of lockdowns.” Email: email@example.com 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
Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins says it was a "failure" on his part that he was unaware of any incidents of sexual harassment by former pitching coach Mickey Callaway during their time together with the Cleveland Baseball Team. Atkins told reporters in a video conference Thursday that it was "heartbreaking" that the proper channels were not in place in Cleveland for those facing harassment to seek support. His comments come after a report published Tuesday by The Athletic that said several former Cleveland employees had come forward in the last month to say the team's front office was aware of Callaway's behaviour. Atkins joined Cleveland's front office in 2001, and was promoted to director of player development five years later. Callaway was with Cleveland from 2010-17 — serving as the pitching coach for five years — before he was hired as manager of the New York Mets. He has been suspended as the Los Angeles Angels pitching coach, pending the outcome of Major League Baseball's investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
A Prince County man opted to go to trial on disturbance and weapons charges. Adam Joseph Pitre, 43, pleaded not guilty in Summerside provincial court recently to charges of causing a disturbance and possession of a weapon - a knife - for a dangerous purpose. The charges stem from an incident on Sept. 13. Pitre then failed to appear in court on Nov. 18 resulting in a third charge, to which he also pleaded not guilty. A trial is scheduled for April 30. A Prince County man was high on methamphetamines when officers pulled him over back in June. Colin Alexander McAssey, 24, pleaded guilty in Summerside provincial court recently to possession of illegal drugs and driving while impaired. In Rosebank on June 10, RCMP saw a pickup truck driving on the shoulder of the road for several kilometres. Officers pulled the vehicle over and found McAsssey at the wheel, he was shaking and sweating. The officer asked if he was on any medications and McAssey said he wasn’t. McAssey passed a roadside screening test for alcohol and officers asked him to perform a field sobriety test, which he failed. He was then arrested for impaired driving. While under caution, he told officers he had consumed methamphetamine. Officers seized three grams of crystal meth as well as pills and paraphernalia at the scene. A blood test was sent to the national lab and came back positive for methamphetamines. McAssey had no previous record and hasn’t used drugs since the incident back in June. For driving impaired, Judge Krista MacKay sentenced McAssey to three days in custody and a $1,500 fine. For possession of meth, he was sentenced to one day, to be served concurrently as well as $100 in victim surcharges. McAssey must also pay $450 in victim surcharges and will be under a driving prohibition for 12 months. A Wellington woman told Summerside provincial court recently that she drove drunk because there were no taxis to get her home. Annik Vaillancourt, 36, pleaded guilty to failing to provide a breath sample after police arrested her for impaired operation of a vehicle. At 1:25 a.m. on Dec. 5, police on patrol in New Annan saw a vehicle travelling very slowly in a 90 km/hr zone. The vehicle weaved into the shoulder and then across the centre line several times. Officers then pulled over the vehicle and found Vaillancourt at the wheel. She appeared intoxicated and the officer could smell alcohol. Vaillancourt, who is a francophone, became resistant when officers tried to get a breath sample, saying she didn’t understand what was going on. Officers tried to find someone to communicate with her in French, and got someone on the phone from New Brunswick, but Vaillancourt continued to resist providing a sample. Police kept her in custody overnight. Judge Krista MacKay sentenced her to one day in custody which was served the night of the offence. Vaillancourt was also fined $2,000. She’ll be prohibited from driving for 12 months and must pay $600 in victim surcharges. A Charlottetown man under a driving prohibition was fined after officers discovered him behind the wheel. Derrick Kasirye, 24, pleaded guilty in Summerside provincial court recently to driving while prohibited. On Nov. 21, Kasirye drove into the checkpoint at the Confederation Bridge. He had no identification on him, but officers were able to determine who he was and that he was under a driving ban from Oct. 13. Judge Krista Mackay fined Kasirye $1,000 and handed down a further one-year driving prohibition. He must also pay $300 in victim surcharges. Alison Jenkins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Journal-Pioneer
SAN FRANCISCO — Financial technology company Square, Inc. said Thursday that it has reached an agreement to acquire majority ownership of Tidal, the music streaming service partly owned by Jay-Z. Under the deal, Square will pay $297 million in cash and stock for Tidal, Jay-Z will be named to Square's board of directors, and he and other artists who currently own shares in Tidal will remain stakeholders. Tidal will operate as a distinct entity alongside the point-of-sale hardware and software offerings of San Francisco-based Square, the payments company founded by CEO Jack Dorsey, who is also co-founder and chief executive of Twitter. Tidal has presented itself as the artist-friendly alternative to other music streamers, and Square says it will take that phenomenon further for musicians just as it has for businesses with its financial systems. “It comes down to one simple idea: finding new ways for artists to support their work,” Dorsey said in the statement announcing the deal. . Jay-Z said in the statement that the “partnership will be a game-changer for many.” I look forward to all this new chapter has to offer!" The Associated Press
An afternoon traffic stop on Keith Ave. in Terrace led to the seizure of substances which police suspect are methamphetamine and purple fentanyl, according to an RCMP media release. On March 2, 2021, police received a report from a member of the public of a potentially impaired driver. RCMP located the vehicle on Keith Ave. and conducted a traffic stop. A roadside screening of the driver led police to believe the driver was impaired by drugs, and police observed the passenger trying to hide bags of a white substance between their legs. RCMP arrested the passenger for possessing a controlled substance and failure to comply with an undertaking. The vehicle was impounded and the driver was given a driving prohibition and several violation tickets. A search incidental to arrest turned up gloves, which contained suspected methamphetamine and purple fentanyl. The matter has been forwarded to court. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
WASHINGTON — House Democrats passed sweeping voting and ethics legislation over unanimous Republican opposition, advancing to the Senate what would be the largest overhaul of the U.S. election law in at least a generation. House Resolution 1, which touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process, was approved Wednesday night on a near party-line 220-210 vote. It would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously bankroll political causes. The bill is a powerful counterweight to voting rights restrictions advancing in Republican-controlled statehouses across the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s repeated false claims of a stolen 2020 election. Yet it faces an uncertain fate in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it has little chance of passing without changes to procedural rules that currently allow Republicans to block it. The stakes in the outcome are monumental, cutting to the foundational idea that one person equals one vote, and carrying with it the potential to shape election outcomes for years to come. It also offers a test of how hard President Joe Biden and his party are willing to fight for their priorities, as well as those of their voters. This bill “will put a stop at the voter suppression that we’re seeing debated right now,” said Rep. Nikema Williams, a new congresswoman who represents the Georgia district that deceased voting rights champion John Lewis held for years. “This bill is the ‘Good Trouble’ he fought for his entire life.” In a statement, Biden said he looked forward to refining the measure and hoped to sign it into law, calling it “landmark legislation" that is much needed “to repair and strengthen our democracy.” To Republicans, however, it would give license to unwanted federal interference in states' authority to conduct their own elections — ultimately benefiting Democrats through higher turnout, most notably among minorities. “Democrats want to use their razor-thin majority not to pass bills to earn voters’ trust, but to ensure they don’t lose more seats in the next election,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said from the House floor Tuesday. The measure has been a priority for Democrats since they won their House majority in 2018. But it has taken on added urgency in the wake of Trump’s false claims, which incited the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol in January. Courts and even Trump's last attorney general, William Barr, found his claims about the election to be without merit. But, spurred on by those lies, state lawmakers across the U.S. have filed more than 200 bills in 43 states that would limit ballot access, according to a tally kept by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. In Iowa, the legislature voted to cut absentee and in-person early voting, while preventing local elections officials from setting up additional locations to make early voting easier. In Georgia, the House on Monday voted for legislation requiring identification to vote by mail that would also allow counties to cancel early in-person voting on Sundays, when many Black voters cast ballots after church. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court appeared ready to uphold voting restrictions in Arizona, which could make it harder to challenge state election laws in the future. When asked why proponents sought to uphold the Arizona laws, which limit who can turn in absentee ballots and enable ballots to be thrown out if they are cast in the wrong precinct, a lawyer for the state's Republican Party was stunningly clear. “Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats,” said attorney Michael Carvin. “Politics is a zero-sum game." Battle lines are quickly being drawn by outside groups who plan to spend millions of dollars on advertising and outreach campaigns. Republicans “are not even being coy about it. They are saying the ‘quiet parts’ out loud,” said Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, a left-leaning group that aims to curtail the influence of corporate money in politics. Her organization has launched a $10 million effort supporting the bill. “For them, this isn’t about protecting our democracy or protecting our elections. This is about pure partisan political gain.” Conservatives, meanwhile, are mobilizing a $5 million pressure campaign, urging moderate Senate Democrats to oppose rule changes needed to pass the measure. “H.R. 1 is not about making elections better,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump administration Homeland Security official who is leading the effort. "It’s about the opposite. It’s intended to dirty up elections.” So what's actually in the bill? H.R. 1 would require states to automatically register eligible voters, as well as offer same-day registration. It would limit states' ability to purge registered voters from their rolls and restore former felons' voting rights. Among dozens of other provisions, it would also require states to offer 15 days of early voting and allow no-excuse absentee balloting. On the cusp of a once-in-a-decade redrawing of congressional district boundaries, typically a fiercely partisan affair, the bill would mandate that nonpartisan commissions handle the process instead of state legislatures. Many Republican opponents in Congress have focused on narrower aspects, like the creation of a public financing system for congressional campaigns that would be funded through fines and settlement proceeds raised from corporate bad actors. They've also attacked an effort to revamp the federal government's toothless elections cop. That agency, the Federal Election Commission, has been gripped by partisan deadlock for years, allowing campaign finance law violators to go mostly unchecked. Another section that's been a focus of Republican ire would force the disclosure of donors to “dark money” political groups, which are a magnet for wealthy interests looking to influence the political process while remaining anonymous. Still, the biggest obstacles lie ahead in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. On some legislation, it takes only 51 votes to pass, with Vice-President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. On a deeply divisive bill like this one, they would need 60 votes under the Senate’s rules to overcome a Republican filibuster — a tally they are unlikely to reach. Some Democrats have discussed options like lowering the threshold to break a filibuster, or creating a workaround that would allow priority legislation, including a separate John Lewis Voting Rights bill, to be exempt. Biden has been cool to filibuster reforms and Democratic congressional aides say the conversations are fluid but underway. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not committed to a time frame but vowed “to figure out the best way to get big, bold action on a whole lot of fronts.” He said: “We’re not going to be the legislative graveyard. ... People are going to be forced to vote on them, yes or no, on a whole lot of very important and serious issues.” ___ AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report. Brian Slodysko, The Associated Press
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
De retour en zone orange, le centre d’artistes Espace F de Matane présente depuis le 11 février et jusqu’au 20 mars l’installation sonore Quand un arbre tombe, on l’entend ; quand la forêt pousse, pas un bruit, réalisée en 2018 par Caroline Gagné. Ce proverbe africain rappelle que si les événements les plus bruyants retiennent notre attention, l’essentiel se construit dans la durée et la discrétion.À l’écoute de petites choses perçues dans l’indifférence Vivant et travaillant à Québec et à Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, l’artiste en arts visuels et médiatiques convie les visiteurs de l’exposition à l’écoute de ces petites choses perçues dans l’indifférence. « Tel un archet mué par le vent, souligne-t-elle, le bruit d’une branche d’arbre frôlant un escalier de métal est l’élément déclencheur de cette installation sonore. Dans celle-ci, des formes d’aluminium rappelant ce contexte vibrent aux sons de petits haut-parleurs placés sous leur surface plane. » Active depuis plus de 20 ans Active dans son milieu depuis plus de 20 ans, Caroline Gagné compte à son actif plusieurs expositions individuelles et collectives ainsi que des participations à des événements internationaux. Romain Pelletier, Initiative de journalisme local, Monmatane.com
County council agreed to support a movement for improvements at long-term care (LTC) homes, though disagreed with local advocates’ desire to end for-profit homes. Council voted to write a letter of support for the Haliburton-CKL (City of Kawartha Lakes) Long-Term Care Coalition. The advocacy group is joining with others across the province to push for improvements, including amending the Canada Health Act to include LTC, guaranteeing four hours of direct care per day for residents, stronger enforcement and a culture change. Councillors spoke in favour of those ideas. But the coalition’s desire to end private LTC did not garner support and was specifically excluded in the resolution. “The first four points that you have, I think, are a bold initiative and a great start,” Coun. Brent Devolin said. “The supply going forward, will public initiatives alone be enough to look after all of us?” Coalition co-chair, Bonnie Roe, cited the Ontario Health Coalition, a province-wide organization also calling for the end to for-profit long-term care. Its May 2020 analysis found COVID-19 deaths in homes with outbreaks were higher in private (nine per cent) versus non-profit (5.25 per cent) or publicly-owned (3.62 per cent). The Canadian military also released a report about terrible conditions at homes it intervened in last May, which prompted the province to start an independent commission. Four of those homes were privately-owned. “There are some for-profits that are excellent, but generally speaking, they do not follow the standards,” Roe said. “People are asking, ‘why are there private profits attached to us as a society caring for our elders’?” co-chair, Mike Perry, said. “Why was that ever seen as a profit-making venture?” Warden Liz Danielsen said the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus has identified LTC as a priority. But she added the caucus is not yet in favour of ending private facilities. Coun. Carol Moffatt said she can attest to the challenges of eldercare and there is a drastic need for better support for health workers. “More people to do the job,” Moffatt said. “We also maybe need to be careful of what you wish for in terms of potential downloading. How do we all as a province push for the changes that are required, without it going off the cliff and then landing in the laps of municipalities for increased costs?” Perry thanked council for the support. “There’s so much common room and so much common ground for this moving forward,” he said. “That’s where we find hope in all this tragedy recently." Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Many people have turned to outdoor activities to stay active during the pandemic, and according to cycling industry insiders, that's made it a challenging year to keep up with demand. Bike shops in Calgary are experiencing surging sales and low inventory, with some estimated delivery dates being pushed into 2022. Jeremy Cobb, who has been biking most of his life and struggling to order bike parts this year, said it's a bit exasperating as an avid cyclist, but not surprising. "It's been frustrating," he said. "[But] I think people are trying to be safe, and trying to find things to do as a family and outdoors." No seasonal sales slowdown Scott Clarke, the sales manager of Ridley's Cycle in Kensington, said this winter has been the busiest he has seen in what is usually a seasonal industry. In a typical year, students come to work at the bike shop in the summer before heading back to school in the fall; a few seasonal layoffs usually follow, he said. Scott Clarke, left, the sales manager of Ridley's Cycle, said this winter has been the busiest he has ever seen. Bow Cycle has one of the largest inventories of bikes in Calgary, and owner John Franzky, right, said they're running low. (Terri Trembath/CBC) But this year, there was no sales slowdown in August, and Ridley's Cycle actually did some hiring in the fall to keep up. "Right now, it's get what you can, for us. Get in stock what you can, and keep stock levels high," he said. "Bike companies are producing more than they ever have, demand is up over what they're producing, so things are pumping through much, much quicker. So, we're getting to the point where we're having a lot of bikes pre-sold." A new challenge to manage It's not only Ridley's Cycle that is struggling to keep stock levels high. Bow Cycle has one of the largest inventories of bikes in Calgary, and owner John Franzky said they're running low. "On the business side, it's kind of exciting to have those challenges at work, so it's a new challenge to manage," Franzky said. "The hard part is, [at] Bow Cycle, we're not used to saying no to people." The demand that has left the store low on just about everything has been a blessing and a curse, Franzky said. "You can't really compare a year like this. And let's be honest, hopefully we don't have to compare another year like this," Franzky said. "But what it's done in the outdoor business, the boom it's been seeing, bicycle industry included — it's pretty unreal."
The Walker family is grateful for the outpouring of community support after a fire ravaged one of their dairy barns last week. “We’re so overwhelmed by what everyone did for us,” said John G Walker. “It was really cool that everyone was able to pull together.” Firefighters, neighbours and local businesses rallied to help the family in their time of need. “It’s hard to name them all, because there were so many people that contributed, donated, and sent food,” he said. A fire destroyed a large portion of the main barn at Walker Farms in Summers Corners on Wednesday, Feb. 17, just before 5 p.m. Damages are estimated at $3-million. “The volunteer firefighters really stepped up,” said Mr. Walker. “They did a phenomenal job.” He noted, “No one getting hurt was the number one thing.” Firefighters from Malahide, Bayham, Central Elgin and Aylmer managed to save the back portion, which otherwise would have resulted in an additional $2-million loss. The fire took about seven hours to bring under control. While the family is thankful for what was saved, and that no people were injured, they were upset at the loss of livestock: an estimated 78 cows were lost as a result of the fire. “It’s obviously emotional a little bit. You never want to lose anything - the livestock are part of our lifestyle, our livelihood,” said Mr. Walker. “You can always build new buildings, but losing livestock always sucks.” Another 875 cows were saved, quickly herded out of the barn and into a nearby penned pasture by Walker Farms staff and firefighters. Some of those displaced cows were sent to another Walker dairy farm on Talbot Line, while others will stay at Skipwell Farms, a nearby 1,800-acre, 420-head dairy farm. They are currently being closely monitored for any health issues from smoke they may have inhaled, but Mr. Walker noted they have dealt quite well in the aftermath. Gerald Schipper, who runs Skipwell Farms, said the 80 cows have adjusted well to their new surroundings since taking them in. “The neat thing about cows is that they’re like humans,” said Mr. Schipper. “If you go by yourself to a strange place it can be intimidating, but if you go with 10 friends together it’s a lot easier.” Skipwell Farms uses a very similar milking system and layout as the Walkers, making the transition that much easier. “The Walker family have helped out a lot of dairy producers in our province, including ourselves,” said Mr. Schipper. When firefighters responded on Feb. 17, night was sinking in, and temperatures were dropping with it, starting at -8°C and getting colder. Workers brought hot food and coffee from local restaurants including Aylmer Sub, Domino’s Pizza, Tim Horton’s and KFC to help firefighters during the physically exhausting, several hour fight in the frigid temperatures. All refused offers of payment. The Walkers were also provided with lunches and suppers in the days that followed. The Walker Dairy office, milking parlour, milk house, former sales arena, and storage area were lost to the fire. Live auctions have been hosted monthly in the sales arena since the 1960s. Mr. Walker said the fire did not impact the sales side of the operation. “With COVID-19, we haven’t been running our live auctions, we went online,” he said. “We don’t need to physically have the live auction part.” The family has insurance for such emergencies and they plan to rebuild a similar structure with the possibility of some changes, said Mr. Walker. Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Thursday repeated his pledge to keep credit loose and flowing until Americans are back to work, rebutting investors who have openly doubted he can stick to that promise once the pandemic passes and the economy surges on its own. With vaccines rolling out and the government fiscal taps open "there is good reason to think we will make more progress soon" toward the Fed's goals of maximum employment and 2% sustained inflation, Powell told a Wall Street Journal forum. "I want to be clear about this," Powell said in anchoring the Fed's promise to keep its near zero interest rates and monthly bondbuying intact.
County of Haliburton council decided not to up its 15 per cent corporate emissions reduction target despite staff presenting options for higher goals. It targets a 15 per cent reduction in emissions from 2018 levels by 2030. But McKay presented other options such as increasing that figure to 30 per cent to align with federal and provincial targets, or 45 per cent to follow the best science and help further limit global warming. McKay provided examples of similar municipalities aiming for different goals, from Sault Ste. Marie at 10 per cent to the District of Muskoka targeting a 50 per cent reduction by 2030. “We are seeing unprecedented levels of action by all levels of government, shifting from incremental action toward transformative action,” McKay said. “Experts are warning us this is the critical decade to maintain a livable climate … A 45 per cent reduction is one that is based in science. "Cutting our emissions essentially in half would require bold leadership but we would not be alone in this endeavour.” Councillors expressed concerns about upping the target. Deputy warden Patrick Kennedy said the County faces pressure with more people moving to the area permanently. “Fifteen (per cent) is still an admirable goal to achieve with what’s coming,” Kennedy said. Coun. Carol Moffatt said the municipalities passed budgets and she would want more information on financial implications before approving a higher target. “I would like a multi-year rough projection of what it’s going to do to our budget so we can plan and prepare for it adequately, as opposed to taking a leap of faith for the good of the world,” Moffatt said. “We need to do both.” Environment Haliburton! vice-president Terry Moore said he was upset by how the conversation played out. “The financial budget, they’re not going to matter much when we don’t have a climate that’s conducive to civilization,” Moore said. He said there is not enough of a community movement on the issue versus a place like Muskoka. He lamented the County’s approach to finish a corporate plan before beginning consultations for a separate community plan. “There is nowhere near enough pressure. Council’s not going to lead on this,” Moore said. Warden Liz Danielsen said council will look for more information from McKay as she continues her work. “We’re all recognizing it is a moving landscape,” Danielsen said. “Just because we’re not making a change today, does not mean we won’t do that down the road, and even not too long from now.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander