Weather Network meteorologist Kevin MacKay has the National forecast for January 15.
Weather Network meteorologist Kevin MacKay has the National forecast for January 15.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — A special prosecutor says there may have been a miscarriage of justice when a babysitter was convicted of criminal negligence causing death in the drowning of a toddler in Cranbrook, B.C. Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge in the death of 19-month-old Iyanna Teeple, who was found unconscious and not breathing in a bathtub while under her care. The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. The service says in a statement Thursday that Sandford has completed her review and provided a written report, in which she says there is a strong case to be made that Bouvette did not receive disclosure of significant and relevant materials. The statement says Sandford concluded that as a result of that non-disclosure, Bouvette's charter rights may have been breached and her conviction may represent a miscarriage of justice. It says Sandford found a review by the B.C. Court of Appeal is desirable in order to determine whether a miscarriage of justice occurred, and she directed the prosecution service to provide Bouvette with copies of all materials collected in her investigation. The prosecution service says the Crown will not oppose Bouvette if she applies to the Appeal Court for a time extension to file an appeal of her conviction, nor if she applies to file fresh evidence based on any materials not previously disclosed to her. It says Sandford will continue as special prosecutor on the matter and has already taken steps to begin implementing her conclusions and recommendations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Christian Siriano opened his second show of the pandemic Thursday with two ladies in bed, models who emerged flawless in black one-pieces, then dressed for all to see before hitting the runway. It was a dreamy, colour-saturated show during a tough time for fashion inspiration, Siriano said. He created an alternate reality inspired by a recent jaunt to Aspen, Colorado, to visit family for the first time in a year. While most designers have gone fully digital during an expanded New York Fashion Week that has stretched the traditional calendar, Siriano remains committed to the runway. “If you take this away, and the glamour, then it's like I'm just at the office talking about money all day, and that's not what I want,” he told The Associated Press after the fall-winter show attended by about 75 in-person guests. “I wouldn't want to do this job if I couldn't have this world.” In this world, shared on Instagram Live, there were looks for hidden parties and cocktail hours in the Colorado mountains, and silky evening dresses in fuchsia and chartreuse. There were cutouts, and ruffles and lace for ombre and peekaboo impact. And there was Siriano muse Coca Rocha camping it up for the cameras in a voluminous black gown with a plunging neckline — after she woke up to start the show. Siriano included two thrifted pieces he previously designed and found on the site thredUP, including a black fringe coat he made about seven years ago. He was pleasantly surprised it held up, both esthetically and through its well-worn years. The other look was a plunging silk crepe dress in fuchsia washed many times. “You shouldn't do that because it's silk, but it looked so cool. It looked worn but new. Hopefully it will show people we can do this in fashion,” Siriano said of the growing reuse movement. He partnered with thredUP after creating the universal logo for thrift, in the shape of a coat hanger. As for his newly created clothes, there was an “homage to the lodge” in plaid lames and cashmeres, melting into sunset-drenched oranges and pinks inspired by his Colorado vacation. He threw in some creams in a snakeskin print and bright winter whites, including a white jacket worn with loose fuchsia trousers for day. Siriano carried his check lame print from a trouser set to a strapless cocktail gown to a loose, long-sleeve top with a plunge. There were psychedelic swirls of orange and brown in a pantsuit and an evening dress with a high slit. What if, heaven forbid, he's forced to design a third collection in a pandemic come the September show cycle, trying to wrangle staff working remotely while sourcing materials. “Honestly, I don't know," Siriano said, "because I love doing this but it's very hard to do in a pandemic. The logistics are a challenge, but we're just going to move on and hope for the best.” Leanne Italie, The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as the province's pandemic indicators continue to improve. A set of proposed changes released Thursday includes doubling capacity limits in stores and restaurants, as well as for personal services, to 50 per cent. Seating at restaurant tables would still be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services could operate at 25 per cent capacity instead of the current 10 per cent. Indoor arcades and outdoor amusement parks could reopen with capacity limits. The few facilities that would have to remain closed include theatres, concert halls and casinos. The cap on outdoor gatherings would rise to 10 people from five. And instead of households being permitted to only designate two people as visitors, the province could allow two-household bubbles so entire families could get together. "Manitoba's case numbers, test positivity rate (and) health-care-system admission rates continue to trend in the right direction, which allows us to consider reopening more services cautiously and safely," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer. The proposed changes could take effect as early as March 5 and are subject to public feedback before any final decisions are made, he said. Changes could also be phased in. Health officials reported 70 new COVID-19 cases and one death Thursday. Three cases from unspecified dates were removed due to data correction for a net increase of 67. The province's case count has dropped sharply since a severe spike in the fall when Manitoba led all the provinces in the per-capita rate of new infections. The strain on intensive care units has eased and the test positivity rate has dropped from 13 per cent to 4.3. The proposed changes could also mean big shifts for sports enthusiasts and players of video lottery terminals. VLTs would be allowed to operate again as long as they were two metres apart or separated by physical barriers. Indoor gyms and fitness facilities could offer group classes again, although with a 25 per cent capacity limit. Roussin said there is a risk in such indoor settings. "There is risk involved with all these things and we're weighing the benefit ... to having businesses open, the benefit for people (of) physical activity," he said. "It's very cautious and 25 per cent capacity, I think, gives us that ability to have people spaced out quite a bit." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
After pivoting the popular Pig Out festival due to the pandemic in 2020, Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country is bringing back the new Pig Out Trails format to keep the event safe and fun as it marks 10 years in the community. On May 28 and 29, Pig Out Trails returns as attendees cruise down a curated trial of wine tasting experiences guided by some of the region’s most established winemakers in outdoor settings. The event’s format is again designed to be flexible in order to accommodate the fast-changing nature of the pandemic health and safety regulations. “Flexible” has been the key word for event organizers recently. Last year, the event was moved from May to October, and the team at Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country put together a modified event with groups in separate pods, touring and tasting outdoors at different venues. While the weather was briefly uncooperative last year, the response to the new format from attendees was very positive “I had emails in my inbox in November asking what we were doing for Pig Out for 2021 and what the format was going to be like,” said Jennifer Busmann, executive director of Oliver and Osoyoos Wine Country. Many guests at 2020’s Pig Out Trails were happy to simply be attending an event at all in a year that didn’t see many. “It was really heartwarming for all those Pig Out attendees who came in October. Just due to the restrictions and the numbers and how we safely move people through our region and what we were permitted to do. We had about 540 guests total attend in these small little groups. They were so thankful and so excited that it just gave you a little pep in your step to see that,” Busmann said. Oliver and Osoyoos Wine Country will be using the work they accomplished to create a safe event in 2020 as a foundation for this year’s Pig Out event. Working with the local health authority, developing health and safety plans, contact tracing, keeping guests spaced out and outdoors are all foundational building blocks for putting on events as case numbers and public health restrictions are liable to change at any moment. “We’re a really small team of people that put all of this together. So we’re using that framework as a basis, which was really a lot of work to put together and understand all of the pieces, all of the changes and all of the regulatory bodies,” Busmann said. “We’re using that as a foundation to build and brainstorm and put all of our pieces together. Then we really just have to wait and bend and flex and see what happens within the province.” On Saturday, May 29, 2021 Pig Out Trails attendees will board a dedicated bus adhering to recommended safety protocols including mandatory face masks and hand sanitizer, before heading to the first of four winery stops. The event’s “Escape the Pen” theme will be interpreted in different and unique ways at each of the 40 wineries that feature along 10 different trails, as they create outdoor tasting experiences, aimed at showcasing their wines as well as educating guests in farming and grape growing practices and the art of winemaking. Each stop will also feature a delicious dish prepared by Oliver Eats Ltd., visiting guest chefs, or from select onsite restaurant partners including Terrafina at Hester Creek Estate Winery, Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, the culinary team at Phantom Creek Estates and Masala Bistro at Kismet Estate Winery. A popular addition to last year’s Pig Out Trails, Vancouver’s Paella Guys, will return in 2021 as well. On Friday May 28, two iconic wineries, one on the Black Sage Road Bench and one on the Golden Mile Bench will host “guest chef dinners,” small, outdoor, multi-course feasts prepared by the Paella Guys alongside other notable local and guest chefs and paired with a range of wines from vineyards nearby. Tickets for the Pig Out Trails ($99 per person plus tax) and the Pig Out Guest Chef Dinner ($129 per person plus tax and gratuity) are now available on the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country website: www.oliverosoyoos.com. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
EDMONTON — Alberta’s COVID-19-era budget made a hard landing Thursday with an $18.2-billion deficit but also a promise that good times will return. Finance Minister Travis Toews said a continued vaccine rollout and more businesses opening up should put Alberta on track to start its rebound in the back half of this year. “Alberta’s economy is now expected to reach pre-COVID levels by 2022, one year earlier than expected,” Toews told a news conference prior to introducing the 2021-22 budget in the legislature. “(But) Albertans continue to face one of the most difficult times in our history. We’re ensuring that we’re resourcing our health-care response adequately to meet the pandemic challenge (and) we’re positioning the economy for growth and a rebound.” For now, the eye-popping deficits continue — $20.2 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31 and $18.2 billion forecast for the coming fiscal year. Toews and Premier Jason Kenney have called Alberta’s economic bludgeoning a rare “triple black swan” caused by the pandemic, the resulting global recession and an oil-price war that further depressed prices. The medium-term outlook is for more red ink. Alberta is on track to carry $98 billion in tax-supported debt this year, rising to more than $132 billion by 2024. The province's debt a decade ago was $5.1 billion. Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion. The budget delivered on promises to avoid tax increases in a province that has the lowest per-capita tax regime in Canada — and is the only one with no retail sales tax. The fiscal plan calls for $57 billion in spending, along with a minimum $1.1 billion to fight COVID-19 and another $1.8 billion in pandemic spending if needed. That's on top of $5.8 billion in COVID-19 spending last year. The health budget is to rise by about $1 billion to $21.4 billion. Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the budget fails on multiple fronts. “It’s a little bit of a deer in the headlights budget. It’s like they didn’t know what to do.” The NDP leader said much of Kenney’s “so-called economic recovery plan” has no overarching strategy and consists of reannouncements of old policies or money from the federal government. “(The plan) amounts to a couple hundred million dollars at best. This, out of a budget that includes almost $40 billion in expenses." Notley suggested the budget continues to undermine services across the board — either through direct reductions or by failing to fund for population growth and inflation. “Albertans will pay for Jason Kenney’s mistakes in many, many ways but ultimately the greatest cost is going to be that of lost opportunity." Non-renewable resource revenues, the traditional foundation of Alberta’s economy, are expected to bring in $2.9 billion, about half of what they were before the pandemic. Oil prices have rebounded in recent weeks to above US$60 a barrel for the benchmark West Texas Intermediate, but Toews said the province can’t count on or budget for renewed boom times. “We’re focused on what we can manage … and we’re looking to ensure that we’re delivering government services most efficiently.” Toews said the United Conservative government remains committed to reducing public-sector, per-capita spending to match that in comparable provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario. Indicators suggest the overall fiscal future, while not rosy, is brighter. Real gross domestic product, or GDP, is expected to rise 4.8 per cent this year after a 7.8 per cent decline in 2020. Alberta’s unemployment rate, estimated at 11.4 per cent last year, is expected to slowly decline to 7.3 per cent by 2023, close to its pre-pandemic level. The Alberta wing of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the high debt projections are worrisome, but more concerning is the lack of a plan to keep small- and medium-sized businesses solvent during the COVID crisis. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
(CBC - image credit) A second worker from the Olymel meatpacking plant in Red Deer has died after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. Henry De Leon, 50, worked at the plant for 15 years. His family told CBC News he died from COVID-19 on Wednesday night, after three weeks on a ventilator in an Edmonton hospital. A father of two adult children and grandfather of three, De Leon tested positive on Jan. 28, his family said and the company confirmed. He was hospitalized first in Red Deer, then transferred to Edmonton, where he died. His death has not yet been linked to the known outbreak at the plant, which ceased operations earlier this month in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The city of Red Deer hit a new record for COVID-19 cases this week, with 574 active cases as of Wednesday. Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak at the plant on Nov. 17. A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the department has only been notified of one death linked to that outbreak, the Jan. 28 death of Darwin Doloque, 35. "If a second death is reported to Alberta Health, we will publicly report it," spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement. He was always happy De Leon's daughter described him as "the happiest and most caring guy," and said he was "the best dad we could ever ask for." Like Doloque and many other employees at Olymel, De Leon immigrated to Canada. He came from the Dominican Republic, and his friend and former neighbour, Patricia Marcado, said he dreamed of returning there in retirement. Marcado said his friend was full of joy and love for his family. "He was a very happy guy," she said. "He cooked, he cleaned. He did everything for his wife. He was the best husband ever, the best dad ever." Patricia Salazar worked with Le Deon for 15 years and spent lunch breaks with him at the same table with other friends — some Canadian, some from El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. De Leon's wife, who also works at Olymel, would often join them. "We always sit together at the same table with his wife and other friends," Salazar said. "He was very, very happy all the time." She recalled De Leon showing off photos of his grandchildren, and said De Leon and his wife were "all the time together, wherever they go, in the plant or outside."
The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) is in the process of applying for a federal grant that may assist the municipality in creating additional parking lots near trailheads. “We discussed the trailhead parking and webcams and we felt it would be a good project to apply for this,” said Ruth Prince, director of finance and IT services for TBM. TBM will be applying for the Healthy Communities Grant Initiative, a $31 million investment from the federal government that was established to assist municipalities in transforming public spaces in response to COVID-19. Canadian municipalities are able to apply for grant funds, ranging from $5,000 to $250,000, under three streams – safe and vibrant public spaces, improved mobility and digital solutions. “We're going to apply for $250,000, which is the full amount, the maximum amount that we can apply for,” Prince added. TBM is looking to acquire the grant funds to help create additional parking near outdoor recreational areas, an ongoing problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. “Lack of parking at these areas pre-dates the onset of COVID-19 and staff anticipate that this capacity issue will continue into the future,” said Prince in a staff report to council. Town staff have identified four potential trailhead locations that require upgrades to parking: The grant application will look to specifically address the three town-owned properties at Pretty River Provincial Park and Loree Forest. According to Prince, a detailed budget has not been created for these projects. “However, as a benchmark the town budgeted $103,000 to extend the Metcalfe Rock parking lot and feel that the $250,000 would allow for some good improvements to the three locations,” Prince stated. In addition to creating new parking areas, the town is also looking to install webcams, which would allow individuals to check how busy the parking lots are before leaving the house. The deadline to apply is March 9 and application results are expected to be received by the end of April. If TBM receives the funding, the correlating projects must be completed by June 30. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
(Doug Husby/CBC - image credit) A B.C.'s babysitter's conviction in the 2011 death of a toddler may have been the result of a miscarriage of justice, according to a special prosecutor appointed by the province. Tammy Bouvette's Charter rights may have been breached by the non-disclosure of documents rejecting a medical examiner's conclusion that the injuries to 19-month-old Iyanna Teeple were intentional, Vancouver defence lawyer Marilyn Sandford has found. "There is a strong case to be made that Ms. Bouvette did not receive disclosure of significant, relevant materials," a news release from the B.C. Prosecution Service states. "Her conviction may, accordingly, represent a miscarriage of justice." Sandford has recommended that the case undergo an appeal to determine what happened. Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder in the toddler's death, but pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in order to avoid an automatic life sentence and was sentenced to a year in prison with credit for time served in 2013. The charges stem from May 2011, when Bouvette was caring for Iyanna in a Cranbrook home. She found the little girl unresponsive in a bathtub and called 911. Iyanna was airlifted to Calgary for treatment, but she could not be saved. Iyanna was found face down in a bathtub on May 26, 2011, while being babysat by Bouvette, who was 28 at the time. Last year, a retired B.C. Mountie told CBC's The Fifth Estate that investigators originally considered the death a tragic accident. Bouvette told police that she had left the child to attend to a spill in another room. But medical examiner Dr. Evan Matshes told prosecutors there was "no benign" explanation for some of the injuries on the toddler's body and identified bruising that was "typical of child abuse," according to court documents obtained by CBC. 'Unreasonable' conclusions about injuries An investigation by The Fifth Estate found that three forensic pathologists were later asked to review the autopsy in response to concerns about some of Matshes's other findings. The panel of medical experts stated in their report that the comments Matshes made to the prosecutor about "intentional injuries" on the body and prior abuse were "unreasonable." Bouvette's lawyer, Jesse Gelber, has said he never received a copy of that review. By law, prosecutors must provide defence counsel with all relevant documents in a criminal case. In an interview last year, Bouvette told CBC that the conviction has had a profound effect on her life, and she cannot forgive anyone responsible for withholding potentially exonerating material. "I am not a baby-killer.… People just look at me differently like I was some type of monster and I'm not," she said. "I'm a loving person and a loving mom." Sandford was appointed to review the case in January 2020 in response to CBC's inquiries about the apparent lack of disclosure in the case. She has now recommended that Bouvette's legal team be provided with all of the evidence uncovered during her investigation. The prosecution service says that if Bouvette applies to the B.C. Court of Appeal for an extension to file an appeal and the right to file fresh evidence, the Crown will not oppose those applications.
Environment Haliburton! (EH) attracted hundreds of people Feb. 9 for a discussion on blue-green algae blooms. Dr. Elizabeth Favot, an assistant lake stewardship coordinator with the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, spoke to blooms and her research into how they form. The discussion also featured additional commentary from ecosystem management professor, Barb Elliot, and environmental scientist Dr. Norman Yan. Approximately 300 people registered for the session. Favot said blooms can be caused by several factors, including nutrient runoff such as phosphorus reaching lakes, shifting lake levels and climate change. She said more research is needed to account for some lakes experiencing blooms without many changes in nutrient levels. “Nutrients are of course critically important to support blooms, but in terms of the drivers or triggers, they are not always the entire story,” Favot said. The presentation comes after the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks confirmed blue-green algae blooms in six Haliburton lakes last fall, though none showed toxin levels above the drinking water standard. However, Favot said a precautious approach is normally used to assume they are producing toxins given some uncertainty around what conditions lead to toxins. The presentation highlighted every aspect of blue-green algae, more technically known as cyanobacteria. Favot discussed how blooms are becoming increasingly common in Ontario and how they can create toxins that are potentially deadly if consumed. Favot said although nutrient runoff is a significant factor, there are other reasons for the increase, such as climate change causing temperature and conditional changes in lakes which can help blue-green algae thrive. Her doctorate examined the causes of blooms in the approximately 26 per cent of lakes globally with a low phosphorus concentration. “Even if nutrients have not increased, blooms can still occur in a modern climate,” Favot said. “Climate change is lowering critical nutrient thresholds for blue-green algae blooms to occur.” But Favot said from a management perspective, people should utilize terrestrial plants to filter nutrient runoff. “What we can do to mitigate them is relatively straightforward,” Favot said. “We need to keep nutrient concentrations in lakes as natural as possible.” Elliott agreed. Speaking to a question about the importance of natural shorelines, Elliott compared them to a Jenga game, and how taking away natural parts from shorelines repeatedly can make them unstable. “I liken it to death by a thousand cuts,” Elliott said. “When we make those changes, it just creates the potential for there to be more impacts because of that activity. We have to try to keep it as natural as we can.” Although about 300 people registered, only 100 people watched live due to technical issues with Zoom, the online platform used. “It is a shame there was a wrinkle in our Zoom plans,” EH! President Susan Hay said. “I’m sorry for those who joined late because you couldn’t get in earlier.” The full presentation is available on the EH Youtube channel. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
EDMONTON — Alberta's United Conservative government tabled its budget Thursday. Here are some of the highlights: — No new taxes or tax increases. — Deficit of $18.2 billion on estimated revenues of $43.7 billion. — Spending of $57.3 billion before expenditures on COVID-19 and cancelled crude-by-rail contracts. — Spending on COVID-19 to be $1.1 billion. An extra $1.8 billion as needed. — Taxpayer-supported debt of almost $116 billion by March 2022. Annual debt interest charges almost $3 billion. — Capital spending to be $20.7 billion over three years. — Heritage Savings Trust Fund pegged to reach $16.7 billion. — Personal income tax to generate an estimated $11.6 billion. — Corporate income tax estimated to be $1.9 billion. — Cannabis tax to come in at $105 million. — Public sector compensation, excluding physicians, set at $21.5 billion. To fall to $20.8 billion by 2024. — Compensation for doctors to remain steady from $5.2 billion now to $5.3 billion by 2024. — $3.1 billion to diversify economy and expand aviation, tech, pharmaceutical and tourism sectors. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers pressed the acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Thursday to explain why the force wasn't prepared to fend off a violent mob of insurrectionists even though officials had compiled specific, compelling intelligence that extremists were likely to attack Congress and try to halt the certification of Donald Trump's election loss. Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman conceded there were multiple levels of failures that allowed hundreds of pro-Trump rioters to storm their way into the U.S. Capitol, overwhelming outnumbered officers and breaking through doors and windows. However, she denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the Jan. 6 insurrection. Three days before the riot, Capitol Police distributed an internal document warning that armed extremists were poised for violence and could invade Congress because they saw it as the last chance to overturn the election results, Pittman said. Her testimony drove home a seeming disconnect between the intelligence and the preparation. Lawmakers, who were witnesses and potential victims last month as well as investigators now, are trying to get answers to why this symbol of American democracy was overrun so quickly by a mob whose plans were online and known. Reports aside, the assault was much bigger than expected, Pittman said. “Although we knew the likelihood for violence by extremists, no credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack the U.S. Capitol, nor did the intelligence received from the FBI or any other law enforcement partner indicate such a threat,” she said. Later, under questioning by the House subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Tim Ryan, Pittman said that while there may have been thousands of people heading to the Capitol from a pro-Trump rally, about 800 people actually made their way into the building. Pittman's testimony provided the clearest and most detailed picture so far that Capitol Police were so concerned by the intelligence that they took extraordinary measures, including giving assault-style rifles to agents guarding congressional leaders and having other officers waiting with evacuation vehicles for top lawmakers to flee the Capitol, if needed. On Jan. 6, however, as the invaders wielded metal pipes, planks of wood, stun guns and bear spray, the vastly outnumbered rank-and-file officers inside the building were left to fend for themselves without proper communication or strong guidance from supervisors. The officers weren't sure when they could use deadly force, had failed to properly lock down the building and could be heard making frantic radio calls for backup as they were shoved to the ground and beaten by rioters, with some left bloodied. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer and a woman that police shot. While Pittman said in her testimony that sergeants and lieutenants were supposed to pass on intelligence to the department’s rank and file, many officers have said they were given little or no information or training for what they would face. Four officers told The Associated Press shortly after the riot that they heard nothing from then-Chief Steven Sund, Pittman, or other top commanders as the building was breached. And officers were left in many cases to improvise or try to save colleagues facing peril. One officer said the department did not hold planning meetings with rank-and-file officers prior to Jan. 6 as it does with routine events like holiday concerts. The officer and others who spoke to AP were not authorized by the department to speak publicly and were granted anonymity. Thursday's hearing highlighted specific intelligence failures. Lawmakers focused not only on the Capitol Police force's own advance assessment of threats but on why senior department officials never reviewed a report from the FBI that warned about concerning online posts foreshadowing a “war” at the Capitol. That warning made its way to investigators within the police force and to the department's intelligence unit but was never forwarded up the chain of command, Pittman said. Even if it had reached the top officials, Pittman argued, Capitol Police wouldn't have done anything differently. Before she was named acting police chief — Sund, the former chief, resigned after the riot — Pittman was the assistant chief in charge of intelligence operations. “We do not believe that based on the information in that document, we would have changed our posture, per se," Pittman said. “The information that was shared was very similar to what U.S. Capitol Police already had, in terms of the militia groups, the white supremacist groups, as well as the extremists that were going to participate in acts of violence and potentially be armed on the campus.” Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, said the internal report that the protests would be focused on the Capitol, and then the FBI memo firming that up “should have elevated the response, and it didn’t.” “And that’s where, you know, leaders get paid for judgment. And that was some bad judgment,” Ryan said. “And they also get paid to have nerve, and courage, to make the tough decisions when those tough decisions needed to be made.” The panel’s top Republican, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, said the top Capitol Police officials “either failed to take seriously the intelligence received or the intelligence failed to reach the right people.” The issue was also raised of whether police were hampered by a reluctance by higher-ups to call for National Guard troops to help. The police force is overseen by a separate body — the Capitol Police Board — which includes the sergeants at arms of both houses. Sund said at a separate hearing on Tuesday that then-House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving was concerned about the “optics” of the guard defending the Capitol, a contention Irving denied. In her testimony, Pittman denied that race played a role in the failure to heed warning signs. Images of white rioters moving unimpeded through the Capitol evoked comparisons to the far more heavy-handed response of law enforcement to Black Lives Matter protests and other marches and rallies. Pittman noted that she became the department’s first Black chief when she replaced Sund. Pittman is not only facing pressure from congressional leaders, but also faces internal criticism from her own officers, particularly after the Capitol Police union recently issued a vote of no confidence against her. Ryan stopped short of saying Pittman should be fired but said there are “some real questions about the decision making that was made.” He said there are “a lot of concerns” among Republicans and Democrats on the committee about her leadership and noted the lack of trust on her force. ___ Merchant reported from Houston. Michael Balsamo, Mary Clare Jalonick And Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A former Canadian soldier who killed three family members and himself in 2017 received sporadic mental health treatment immediately after he left the military in 2015, a fatality inquiry heard Thursday. The provincial inquiry in Nova Scotia learned the Canadian Armed Forces had arranged for therapy to continue for Lionel Desmond after he was medically discharged. But the lack of structure outside the military created new challenges for the mentally ill veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Psychologist Mathieu Murgatroyd, who worked at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, was tasked with providing the former corporal with treatment from June 2015 to October 2016. The psychologist said there were problems from the start because Desmond, then 32, often cancelled appointments or didn't show up. Plans for therapy were derailed by the fact that Desmond spent much of his time travelling between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where he was trying to re-establish a relationship with his wife, Shanna, and his young daughter, Aaliyah. "In terms of commitment and engagement, it was interfering with the therapy process," Murgatroyd testified. "We were concerned with this inconsistency." Murgatroyd said it was clear Desmond needed help. In 2011, while posted to Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick, Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. That was four years after he served as a rifleman during a particularly violent tour of duty in Afghanistan. Earlier this week, mental health professionals contracted by the military told the inquiry that Desmond initially responded well to treatment, but that he suffered a relapse in May 2013 when military colleagues subjected him to racist comments about his African Nova Scotian heritage. Murgatroyd testified that Desmond appeared guarded and distant when they first met in June 2015 at the federally funded clinic, which receives referrals from the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and the RCMP. "Based on his presentation, the risk was more elevated in terms of spiralling down," Murgatroyd said. As well, he said Desmond made it clear his relationship with his wife, Shanna, was in turmoil. "There were moments when they seemed to be doing better, but for the most part, strained," he said, adding that Desmond had increased his alcohol consumption to deal with stress. Murgatroyd recalled that during their first treatment session, Desmond complained about nightmares, night sweats, daily intrusive thoughts, disturbed sleep, chronic pain and "homicidal thoughts without intent." "He hardly gets out of his house because of his paranoia," Murgatroyd noted after an early therapy session in 2015. Desmond said he had suffered a number of head injuries while serving in the military, and that he worried about a possible brain injury. The inquiry has heard the former corporal did not disclose this concern while he was in the military. Though Desmond was under Murgatroyd's care for 16 months, the psychologist said his therapeutic plan never got off the ground. "We were just putting out fires rather than working on any real intervention," he said. He said it appeared Desmond's source of psychological distress eventually shifted from his combat-related PTSD symptoms to an angry "fixation" with his wife's handling of their finances and concerns that she may be cheating on him. Murgatroyd said Desmond told him about gruesome nightmares he had that suggested his wife had been sleeping with another man, whose head was later found on the floor. The psychologist agreed when asked if Desmond's dreams were having an impact on his perception of reality. Murgatroyd said that helped explain why Desmond would later revoke his consent to allow the clinic to share information with his wife. Eventually, staff at the clinic decided therapy for Desmond wasn't an option until he was properly stabilized. They recommended he should take part in an intensive treatment program at Ste. Anne's hospital in Montreal, which has an in-patient operational stress injury clinic. By April 2016, Desmond had agreed to go to Ste. Anne's, having recognized that his relationship with his wife was deteriorating amid talk of divorce, Murgatroyd said. The following month, Desmond reached "an all-time low," Murgatroyd said, adding that his patient was distressed about the state of his finances and the idea his wife was manipulative and could not be trusted. "With things spiralling down, he was looking for help." Desmond arrived at St. Anne's on May 30, 2016, but he left less than three months into a six-month program, even though he had reported he was enjoying his stay there, Murgatroyd said. The inquiry has heard that Desmond returned home to Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., in August 2016. Evidence presented to the inquiry has shown Desmond received no therapeutic treatment for the next four months, even though Murgatroyd and Veterans Affairs Canada were making arrangements for treatment in Nova Scotia. Staff at Ste. Anne's had recommended Desmond receive an in-depth neuro-psychological assessment and more treatment, but that never happened. On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a semi-automatic rifle. Later that day, he fatally shot his 31-year-old wife, their 10-year-daughter and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before killing himself in the family's home. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax The Canadian Press
CALGARY — A judge has sentenced a man with a benign brain tumour, who lost consciousness while driving and killed a Calgary woman, to 27 months in prison. James Beagrie, 48, was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death after his truck hit Anjna Sharma, a mother of three, who had been on a walk during a work break in May 2017. Beagrie pleaded guilty last fall to a lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. Court heard he had been told by his doctor not to drive and, three months before killing Sharma, blacked out and got into a single-vehicle crash. "I would describe this offence in two words -- tragic and senseless," Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld said in his sentencing decision Thursday. "Mr. Beagrie ignored all of those warnings and drove anyway, and he will live with that for the rest of his life. It's exactly that type of behaviour that must be denounced and deterred so other lives can be saved." Neufeld said Beagrie deserved a sentence of 30 months, but he lowered it to 27 months because of the man's "precarious medical condition." "In my view, justice without compassion is not justice at all ... he is on borrowed time himself. A sentence of 2 1/2 years may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld. The Crown had asked that Beagrie serve 2 1/2 years in prison. His defence lawyer suggested two years. The judge also ordered Beagrie be banned from driving for 7 1/2 years after his release. "If you do recover, as I hope you will, you will have served your debt to society and will deserve a chance after a period of time to return to normalcy," Neufeld said. "This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life, just as I truly hope that it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family in the years to come." On Monday, Beagrie apologized in court and promised not to drive when he get out of prison, unless it's a matter of "life and limb.'' This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. -- Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
MEXICO CITY — The number of monarch butterflies that showed up at their winter resting grounds in central Mexico decreased by about 26% this year, and four times as many trees were lost to illegal logging, drought and other causes, making 2020 a bad year for the butterflies. The government commission for natural protected areas said the butterflies’ population covered only 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres) in 2020, compared to 2.8 hectares (6.9 acres) the previous year and about one-third of the 6.05 hectares (14.95 acres) detected in 2018. Because the monarchs cluster so densely in pine and fir trees, it is easier to count them by area rather than by individuals. Gloria Tavera, the regional director of Mexico's Commission for National Protected Areas, blamed the drop on “extreme climate conditions,” the loss of milkweed habitat in the United States and Canada on which butterflies depend, and deforestation in the butterflies' wintering grounds in Mexico. Illegal logging in the monarchs wintering rounds rose to almost 13.4 hectares (33 acres), a huge increase from the 0.43 hectare (1 acre) lost to logging last year. Jorge Rickards of the WWF environmental group acknowledged the lost trees were a blow, but said “the logging is very localized” in three or four of the mountain communities that make up the butterfly reserve. In addition, wind storms, drought and the felling of trees that had fallen victim to pine beetles or disease, caused the loss of another 6.9 hectares (17 acres) in the reserve, bringing the total forest loss in 2020 to 20.65 hectares (51 acres). That compares to an overall loss of about 5 hectares (12.3 acres) from all causes the previous year. Tavera said the drought was affecting the butterflies themselves, as well as the pine and fir trees where the clump together for warmth. “The severe drought we are experiencing is having effects,” Tavera said. “All the forests in the reserve are under water stress, the forests are dry.” “The butterflies are looking for water on the lower slopes, near the houses,” she noted. Tavera also expressed concern about the sever winter storms in Texas, which the butterflies will have to cross — and feed and lay their eggs — on their way back to their northern summer homes in coming months. “This is a cause for worry,” Tavera said, referring to whether the monarchs will find enough food and habitat after the winter freeze. It was also a bad year for the mountain farming communities that depend for part of their income on tourists who visit the reserves. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, visits fell from around 490,000 last year, to just 80,000 in the 2020-2021 season. Environmentalist and writer Homero Aridjis, who grew up around the reserve, said the decline in butterflies and rise in logging was not surprising, given the reduction in Mexican government funding for protected natural areas and environmental work. “While the reserves were closed to tourism during practically the whole (winter) season, the way was open for loggers, with no control,” Aridjis said. “The question is, can the monarch migration survive this environmental negligence?” The U.S. group Center for Food Safety called for the monarchs to be granted endangered species protection, noting “the minimum population threshold needed to be out of the danger zone of extinction is six hectares.” It was unclear whether the drop in tourism income contributed to the increased logging. Rickards said there has long been pressure on the area's forests from people who want to open land for planting crops. Felipe Martínez Meza, director of the butterfly reserve, said there have been attempts to plant orchards of avocados — hugely profitable crop for farmers in the area — in the buffer zones around the reserve. The high mountain peaks where the butterflies clump in trees are probably a bit above the altitude where avocado trees like to grow, Martinez Meza said. But the buffer zones provide protection and support for the higher areas, and he said more must be done to combat the change in land use. Frequently, illegal logging is carried out by outsiders or organized gangs, and not by the farm communities that technically own the land. Millions of monarchs migrate from the U.S. and Canada each year to forests west of Mexico’s capital. The butterflies hit a low of just 0.67 hectares (1.66 acres) in 2013-2014. Loss of habitat, especially the milkweed where the monarchs lay their eggs, pesticide and herbicide use, as well climate change, all pose threats to the species’ migration. While there was plenty of bad news for the butterflies — very few showed up to some historic wintering sites like Sierra Chincua — there was the welcome news that a new wintering site was discovered nearby, in a mountaintop near the Lagunas de Zempoala protected area, near Mexico City. Tavera said the wintering site had always been there, but was so difficult to reach that it wasn't discovered until earlier this month. Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press
TORONTO — Major stock indexes in Canada and the U.S. closed lower Thursday as inflation fears swirled and the Canadian loonie rose over 80 cents US before falling back to earth. Rising bond yields triggered a broad sell-off on Wall Street that erased the market's gains for the week and handed the Nasdaq composite its biggest loss in nearly four months. In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index closed down 260.99 points at 18,223.54 as nine of 11 sectors wound up in the red. "There's a general risk-off trade on today where profits are being taken and it relates back to the spike we saw this morning in bond yields," said Scott Guitard, senior vice-president and portfolio manager at Fiduciary Trust Canada, in an interview Thursday afternoon. "I think it caught a lot of people off guard. It was a fairly significant move." The 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield moved higher than the dividend yield for some of the major indexes in the United States, he said, adding the much-watched measure is a trigger for some investors to rotate out of stocks and into bonds. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 559.85 points at 31,402.01. The S&P 500 index was down 96.09 points at 3,829.34, while the Nasdaq composite was down 478.54 points at 13,119.43. Bond yields have been rising this month, reflecting growing confidence among investors that the economy is on the path to recovery, but also concern that inflation is headed higher. And every tick up in bond yields recently has corresponded with a tick down in stock prices. The Canadian dollar rose to 79.81 cents US, compared with 79.69 cents US on Wednesday, after touching on a three-year high just over 80 cents US earlier Thursday. The dollar's strength comes indirectly from inflation fears as higher prices for oil are a symptom of higher inflation, leading to speculation that the Bank of Canada might move to raise interest rates ahead of the United States, Guitard said. The April crude oil contract rose 31 cents to US$63.53 per barrel on Thursday and the April natural gas contract was down two cents at US$2.78 per mmBTU. A rout in technology companies delivered a 3.5 per cent slide for the Nasdaq on Thursday, the biggest loss for the tech-heavy index since last October, while the information technology sector in Toronto fell 2.09 per cent, led by Sierra Wireless with a seven per cent drop. After huge gains last year as more people worked from home because of the COVID-19 lockdowns, technology is losing popularity with the rollout of vaccines and prospects for a return to a more normal work environment, Guitard said. "I also think there's some of that 'good news is bad news' going on in the market where we did see strong data in the U.S., both jobless claims and durable good orders, were good numbers versus expectations, but then that rolls into higher yields again, putting downward pressure on stocks," he said. After a strong showing on markets earlier this week, Guitard said some of Thursday's weakness could be from profit-taking. The financial sector was down 1.29 per cent, for instance, despite all of the big Canadian banks reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings results — only CIBC, with a minuscule 0.14 per cent gain, came out ahead on Thursday. The April gold contract was down US$22.50 at US$1,775.40 an ounce and the May copper contract was down four cents at US$4.26 a pound. — with files from The Associated Press This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X, TSX:SW, TSX:CM) Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — A former aide's allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo subjected her to an unwanted kiss during years of sexual harassment have spurred calls for an investigation — and questions about who might meaningfully conduct one. Within hours of Lindsey Boylan detailing her claims about the Democratic governor in an online post Wednesday, five Republican state senators urged New York's attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate. At least one Democratic state senator also has called for an inquiry. Demands are also coming from some voices outside the state capitol, including the prominent national anti-sexual-harassment organization Time's Up and an advocacy group launched by former New York legislative employees who experienced such harassment. At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki fielded a question Thursday about Boylan’s allegations and responded that President Joe Biden has long said that anyone coming forward with sexual harassment claims should be treated with “dignity and respect” and deserves to “be heard.” Cuomo called Boylan's allegations “just not true” when she first broached them without details in December. His office issued another denial Wednesday. As the allegations prompt requests to investigate, they're also revealing the politics and complexities of potentially doing so, particularly given longstanding complaints that the state ethics commission isn't sufficiently independent. “What the state needs generally ... is a more independent office to investigate and prosecute misconduct in government,” says Alan Rothstein, a member of the board of the good-government group Citizens Union. “At the end of the day, you need a way to hold government officials accountable.” Here's a look at some possible avenues for an investigation, if one is undertaken: THE ETHICS COMMISSION New York launched the ethics agency, known as JCOPE, in 2011 after a string of corruption cases, scandals and complaints that a previous iteration was limp, unwieldy and prone to gridlock. The agency has tackled sexual harassment claims in the past, finding that former Democratic Assembly Member Vito Lopez made unwanted sexual advances on female staffers. A legislative ethics committee eventually fined him $330,000. But JCOPE has also come under criticism, including that it's too close to the governor, who appoints six of its 14 members. By law, undertaking an investigation into any governor would require a yes vote from two of his or her appointees. In 2019, JCOPE didn't open an investigation into former top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco's use of state resources. Percoco is currently in federal prison, convicted of accepting more than $300,000 from companies seeking to influence Cuomo’s administration. The Republican senators seeking an investigation into Boylan's allegations called JCOPE “just another extension of the governor’s control." Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger sounded somewhat similar concerns, saying that “all credible allegations of sexual harassment” must be thoroughly and independently investigated but that JCOPE is "compromised and ineffective.” Evan Davis, former counsel to the late Gov. Mario Cuomo — the current governor's father — said a JCOPE investigation into Boylan's allegations “would just be total farce, in terms of credibility." If Andrew Cuomo's six appointees were to recuse themselves, the group could fall short of a quorum and be unable to act because there's currently a vacancy among the other eight members, Davis noted. JCOPE spokesperson Walt McClure said Thursday he couldn't comment on any matter that is or might be under investigation. THE LEGISLATURE “The only thing I can see that works now is if the Legislature were to hire an outside legal firm to do a thorough investigation,” Davis said. “That would be the only way to do this without politics.” The Legislature’s Democratic leaders called Boylan’s allegations serious and disturbing but stopped short of suggesting an investigation. Inquiries were sent to their representatives Thursday about whether they supported one. In theory, the Legislature could appoint a commission to conduct one, Rothstein said. But from the statehouse to the U.S. Capitol, such commissions can spark arguments over how much power one branch of government has to investigate another. A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR In a letter to Democratic state Attorney General Letitia James, the five Republican state senators asked for the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor. “If these allegations are true, the actions of the governor and his staff are not only grossly inappropriate — they are also potentially criminal in nature,” wrote Sens. Patricia Ritchie, Pamela Helming, Alexis Weik, Susan Serino and Daphne Jordan. Cuomo himself appointed a special prosecutor in 2018 to explore allegations that former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, abused four women during what were supposed to be romantic encounters. The special prosecutor ultimately didn't bring any charges. The attorney general's Civil Rights Bureau sometimes looks into sexual harassment complaints itself if it sees evidence of "a pattern, practice or policy of sexual harassment affecting a significant number of people.” Boylan accused Cuomo of “pervasive harassment” of female staffers. James’ office said Thursday it has received the senators' letter and is reviewing it. RIGHTS AGENCIES The state Division of Human Resources, state Labor Department and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission all can field sexual harassment complaints. But the timeframe for filing such complaints range from 180 days to a year; Boylan left her job in September 2018. New York City's Human Rights Commission has a three-year window for filing sexual harassment claims. Boylan's narrative says the unwelcome kiss happened in Cuomo's New York City office and seems to place it in 2018 but doesn't specify a date. Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, declined to be interviewed. ___ Peltz reported from New York. Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak in New York and Jonathan Lemire in Washington contributed. Marina Villeneuve And Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press
The Manitoba government is lookig at loosening many of its public health orders as its COVID-19 numbers improve. The province is seeking public feedback on a series of changes.
Seniors in Canada's two largest provinces are facing significantly different timelines for vaccinations, as increasing spread of COVID-19 variants causes concern for health officials across the country. Quebecers 85 years and older were able to register for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Thursday, while seniors in Ontario must wait weeks to book in that province. "We're very happy with what we've seen with the vaccinations," Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said. He added that there were some minor technical issues, but close to 100,000 people had signed up for appointments the first day. Some doses were already being administered in Laval, just north of Montreal. Inoculations for the greater Montreal area are to begin Monday. Ontario’s vaccine distribution committee, blaming a lack of supply for the delay, has said seniors there won’t be able to book appointments until March 15. Provinces are moving forward with their vaccine distribution plans as federal officials assure the disruptions that have plagued supply lines have been rectified. Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist with the University of Toronto, said he is concerned that seniors' access to vaccinations will vary wildly based on the province where they live. He said the pandemic, particularly vaccination distribution, is putting a spotlight on issues with the country's fractured health-care system. "What’s becoming very, very clear is that the interventions are highly variable from province to province," Bowman said. While all regions are under immense pressure, Bowman said Ontario's delayed rollout should have been avoided. "People's lives will be damaged or even lost because of these delays." There's also worry that differing strategies across the country could leave people confused about when they are able to get a vaccine, he added. In Saskatchewan, health officials reversed earlier advice to people 70 and older to wait to be contacted for vaccinations, after reports some were confused by the process. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said it will launch a tool to book vaccinations online once more doses become available. Also, the first day Albertans could book vaccine appointments left many frustrated when the government's online portal crashed Wednesday after more than 150,000 people tried to get access to it at about the same time. The next day, because of long lineups at vaccination clinics in the province, officials issued a plea for people to wait in their cars. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is in charge of the federal vaccine distribution program, said he understands that provinces may not have a lot of confidence in dose deliveries after a disappointing performance this month. But supply is already ramping back up, he said. The largest number of doses yet was delivered this week — 643,000 across the country. "Provinces are now in a position to fully deploy their immunization plans," Fortin said. More than 40 per cent of seniors over 80 have now received one dose of the vaccine. About 5.5 per cent have received a second dose. But Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, cautioned it is not time for people to let their guard down. "COVID-19 remains a serious threat.” Increasing spread of more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus in Quebec prompted officials there to require primary school students in red pandemic-alert zones, including the greater Montreal area, to wear masks starting March 8. The B.1.1.7 variant — first detected in the United Kingdom — has become a significant issue in Montreal, where there is still widespread community transmission. The variant is making up eight to 10 per cent of new cases. Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal's public health director, said 40 per cent of cases linked to variants in the city have involved children. Hospitalizations, however, are declining provincewide. Health authorities are reporting 858 new infections and 16 more deaths. Ontario's science advisory group predicted Thursday that the more contagious variants will likely make up 40 per cent of new cases in the province by mid-March. Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the group, compared the weeks ahead to a "minefield" and urged vigilance of public-health orders. The group said vaccinating high-risk communities and seniors will drive down hospitalizations and deaths. Elsewhere, Alberta reported 32 more variant cases and British Columbia had nine. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said the province is ramping up screening for variants. "We need to keep cases low and slow," she said. Across Canada, there has been a total of 20,945 new cases over the past seven days. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. — With files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal and Stephanie Taylor in Regina Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
On Thursday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responded to an auditor general report from earlier in the day that stated AG Karen Hogan was "very concerned and disheartened" that the Liberal government was unable to meet its commitment to ending all boil water advisories for Indigenous communities. Miller accepted the AG's recommendations and went over the water advisories that have been lifted, as well as the finances secured to work ahead to end all the advisories.