A historic meeting between Israel's prime minister and Saudi Arabia's crown prince has sent a strong signal to allies and enemies alike that the two countries remain deeply committed to containing their common foe Iran. Last Sunday's covert meeting in the Saudi city of Neom, confirmed by Israeli officials but publicly denied by Riyadh, conveyed a coordinated message to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden that Washington's main allies in the region are closing ranks. It was the first publicly confirmed visit to Saudi Arabia by an Israeli leader and a meeting that was unthinkable until recently as the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said an independence referendum that could wrench apart the United Kingdom after Brexit should take place in the earlier part of the devolved parliament's next term, which begins next year. If there was another referendum and if Scots voted out, it would mark the biggest shock to the United Kingdom since Irish independence a century ago - just as London grapples with the impact of Brexit. The pro-independence Scottish National Party leader said she anticipates that a vote will take place "in the earlier part" of the next Scottish parliament, which begins next year.
Excerpts from letters sent to Santa that have been received by his sorting office in France:___“Father Christmas, if the coronavirus allows it, would it be possible to drop in on the night of the 24th ... We'll put out a cake for you and carrots for the reindeer” — The Theron family.___“I hope that you are well. I also hope the elves and you aren't infected” — Lina, age 9.___“I want this epidemic to stop, so I can see my family without fear” — Eglantine.___“I want to meet you but we can't because there is the virus" — William.___“I didn't put many toys on my list. I understand that this year is difficult with the virus ... P.S. I broke my arm” — Louis, age 9.___“I'm going to turn 6. I won't be able to celebrate my birthday because of the sick people” — Leana.___“Even with the sickness, I hope to see you, because I want to give you a hug and a kiss ... I would like a brother and a little sister. I have a fish and a frog" — Rosay.___“It's been many years since I have written to you. In lockdown, I decided to pick up my pen again ... Father Christmas, for me, an independent student, this has been a tough year ...” Alexis, 22.___“Don't forget your lockdown pass and your mask, so you aren't fined” — Carole, age 54.The Associated Press
FORGET the gymnasium — driveways, sidewalks and parking lots are becoming popular alternatives for phys-ed students keen to both work out and volunteer to shovel snow in their communities this season. With Manitoba public health officials promoting outdoor learning as much as possible to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 amid the pandemic, teachers are finding creative ways to keep students active outside no matter the season. Tim Morison was clearing his driveway in Starbuck earlier this year, when he realized he was participating in a perfect phys-ed lesson. Not only is shovelling an intense physical activity, he said, but also an opportunity to both learn how specific muscles work (in this case, biceps, triceps, quads, hamstrings and calves, among others) and the importance of community involvement. “I’ve always been a firm believer that we take care of the community; community comes first,” said Morison, who teaches phys-ed at Starbuck School in the Red River Valley School Division. “And trying to teach these kids how… doing something for someone else can cheer them up — especially during this time, when everything’s so negative with COVID.” Morison recruited his students to deliver flyers to houses and businesses around Starbuck (located 30 kilometres west of Winnipeg) to inform residents the school’s phys-ed students planned to help clear snow in town throughout the winter. On such days, the phys-ed teacher said he plans to take each of his classes out to walk around with shovels to clear as many driveways as possible during the school day. “Now, we’re just waiting for snow,” Morison said, adding the first significant snowfall of the season occurred during an in-service school day last week. He put out a request to families anyway and more than 10 students showed up to clear snow, even though they had the day off. In the Manitoba capital, the phys-ed department at Maples Collegiate has a similar idea. The Winnipeg high school put out a call to families asking if anyone within walking distance from the facility was interested in having students clear snow during school hours. “We are hoping to help clear the snow of homes of seniors, those living with a disability/illness, or those that can use the extra help,” states the notice. Less than 24 hours after it was sent, phys-ed teacher Matt Medwick said at least seven people had signed up for the volunteer service. “This is just one more thing that might really help people feel better in general, on both ends,” Medwick said. Maples teachers have been incorporating activities such as mindfulness and yoga to improve students’ mental health this term. Research shows learning in natural environments is beneficial to students’ stress levels, overall well-being, and helps them focus when they return to a classroom setting. “When teachers conduct that kind of a lesson, they’ll see a major increase in interest and motivation, when kids are allowed to explore questions they have,” said Mike Link, assistant professor of education at the University of Winnipeg, who researches the link between outdoor education and student well-being. Link said the pivot to outdoor lessons during the pandemic will likely affect how much time educators spend outside in the future, given they have now experienced first-hand the positives of teaching outdoors. Starbuck principal Dale Fust said the school will continue to promote outdoor phys-ed in the future, given how successful Morison’s snow-shovelling idea and overall programming has been this fall. Morison — who was booted from the school’s gymnasium when it was converted into two classrooms — has created a winter survival unit. He’s teaching students how to build a shelter, start a fire, boil water, and diagnose frostbite and hypothermia. “We’re reaching the kids who don’t necessarily succeed in a traditional phys-ed environment — the traditional volleyball, sports kind of thing,” said Fust, who oversees the K-8 school of approximately 170. The buy-in from kids has been phenomenal, Morison said. “I’m going to carry on with this for the rest of my career.”Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 11 p.m. EST on Nov. 26, 2020:There are 353,100 confirmed cases in Canada._ Quebec: 136,894 confirmed (including 6,947 deaths, 118,491 resolved) _ Ontario: 109,361 confirmed (including 3,575 deaths, 92,915 resolved) _ Alberta: 51,878 confirmed (including 510 deaths, 37,316 resolved) _ British Columbia: 29,973 confirmed (including 384 deaths, 19,998 resolved) _ Manitoba: 15,288 confirmed (including 266 deaths, 6,177 resolved) _ Saskatchewan: 7,362 confirmed (including 40 deaths, 4,176 resolved) _ Nova Scotia: 1,257 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,078 resolved) _ New Brunswick: 465 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 353 resolved) _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 327 confirmed (including 4 deaths, 295 resolved) _ Nunavut: 155 confirmed (including 5 resolved) _ Prince Edward Island: 70 confirmed (including 68 resolved) _ Yukon: 42 confirmed (including 1 death, 29 resolved) _ Northwest Territories: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved) _ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved) _ Total: 353,100 (0 presumptive, 353,100 confirmed including 11,799 deaths, 280,929 resolved)This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2020.The Canadian Press
Germany will extend its restrictions until early January, Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday evening.View on euronews
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's political slogan is "medemer" - or "coming together". Now Ethiopian unity faces its severest test yet: since Nov. 4, the military has been battling a group that once dominated the national government - the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in the northern Tigray region. The TPLF frames the conflict as a battle for the rights of Ethiopia's 10 regions against a premier bent on centralising power.
Construction jobs numbers are down provincially since the beginning of the pandemic, but that doesn’t reflect the reality in the north, where major resource development projects and steady activity in residential, non-residential, and road-building, have kept the industry strong, said a B.C. business analyst. “As much as there's a bunch of bad news around from this virus, the resiliency of the northern communities and northern economies… is the hidden bit of good news in this whole pandemic circumstance we find ourselves in,” said Ken Peacock, chief economist for the Business Council of BC. Many industries are doing okay in 2020, and some – the resource industries, along with, resource and non-resource manufacturing – have shown employment growth, said Peacock. Productivity dropped in the construction sector under COVID-19, but not by much, said Northern Regional Construction Association CEO Scott Bone, who estimated companies lost about 20 per cent productivity due to public health protocols. “Traveling to a worksite, we used to be able to throw four people in a crew cab and drive,” said Bone. “You can't do that anymore.” Now, it’s two people per truck, resulting in more vehicles, more fuel, more unplanned costs for the contractor and owner. Despite the many operational cost increases under COVID-19, construction has carried on. Contractors, legally bound to get work completed on deadline, are resilient and adaptable, said Bone. “They're very quick to adapt to things that come at them very quickly,” said Bone. “We saw that when COVID hit them.” The pandemic hasn’t caused significant construction site shutdowns that Bone knows of, and none are in sight. There are $120 billion worth of capital investments in B.C. in industrial and commercial projects ongoing or planned for construction or tendering this year or the next, said Bone. About $65 billion of that is in the north, namely, the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the LNG Canada facility, and BC Hydro’s Site C Dam. “All three of those projects are now ramping up,” said Bone. “We're seeing a good uptake in the opportunities for the construction industry as a result.’ The investment is so massive, procurement of goods and services has a big effect on the provincial economy, and while the spin offs are concentrated in the north, economic benefits also flow down to Vancouver, said Peacock. “Spending in Metro Vancouver kind of gets lost in the magnitude of the Metro Vancouver economy, so you don't see and feel the impact as much,” said Peacock. “Up in the north, where the economies are smaller, the lift from these large projects is much, much more significant and much more beneficial.” Most of the 180 Northern Regional Construction Association member contractors are very busy, said Bone. “They're working 24/7 to keep up with the work that they've got,” he said. The same seems to apply to contractors in the smaller communities of the Robson Valley. “The hardware and the building supply stores are as busy as anything,” said Dannielle Alan, Area H director for the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George. “All of our contractors are absolutely swamped.” According to the Canadian Home Builders Association (BHBA), in 2019, new home construction, and renovations and repairs created 1.3 million on and off-site jobs in Canada, equalling $83 billion in wages. Of that, about $159 million was paid in wages for 2,500 jobs in Prince George. Home construction jobs numbers for 2020 are not yet available. “There's actually a shortage of lumber, people are doing so much construction and renovating,” said Alan. Valemount has several active construction projects as well, according to Deputy Mayor Pete Pearson. An affordable housing development is underway, along with some single-family residential activity, he said. “We've had quite an influx of younger families moving to town,” said Pearson. “So, we're seeing a few new builds. “There's the combined housing and daycare facility that's pretty much almost shovel-ready,” said Pearson. “Generally, we're in pretty good shape.” The Trans Mountain campus and construction camp have also generated employment, Pearson said. “Our local contractors have been working on plumbing, gas fitting, and electrical with the camp setup,” said Pearson. “So, there's definitely been a positive spin off in the trades.” The challenges facing the construction industry are skilled labour shortages, not a lack of available work, said Bone. More young people need support to take up trades such as electrical, plumbing and carpentry and the construction association is collaborating with the Prince George school district to help make that happen. “There’s a huge gap between those that are going into the trades and getting trained and what we need going in the future,” Bone said. @FranYanor / Fran@thegoatnews.caFran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
CANBERRA, Australia — British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert arrived back in Australia on Friday and will soon reunite with her family after more than two years in an Iranian prison.Moore-Gilbert was met by public health officials and members of the Australian Defence Force after leaving her plane at Canberra Airport, less than 24 hours after being released from prison in Iran.Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said Moore-Gilbert, 33, will have to undergo quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.The academic from Melbourne University was released after 804 days behind bars on spying charges. She was freed in exchange for the release of three Iranians who were held in Thailand.Australian media reported on Friday that Iranian authorities had detained her after discovering she was in a relationship with an Israeli citizen, which led to claims she was a spy for Israel.Fairfax Media reported that the Australian government played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in bringing Thailand to the table and engineering the prisoner swap.Fairfax said the discovery of Moore-Gilbert’s Israeli boyfriend led to Iranian authorities stopping her at Tehran's airport as she was about to leave the country in 2018 after attending an academic conference. Authorities sentenced her to 10 years in prison for espionage. The Australian government and Moore-Gilbert rejected the allegations as baseless.Fairfax Media cited unidentified Australian government sources as saying the at-times delicate negotiations took more than six months.In Bangkok, Thai officials said they transferred three Iranians involved in a botched 2012 bomb plot back to Tehran. While they declined to call it a swap and Iran referred to the men as “economic activists,” the arrangement freed Moore-Gilbert and saw the three men, who were linked to a wider bomb plot targeting Israeli diplomats, return home to a hero’s welcome.They wore Iranian flags draped over their shoulders, their faces largely obscured by black baseball caps and surgical masks. It was a sharp contrast to other prisoner exchanges Iran has trumpeted in the past, in which television anchors repeatedly said their names and broadcasters aired images of them reuniting with their families.In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday he was “thrilled and relieved” that Moore-Gilbert had been released but added that it would take time for her to process her “horrible” ordeal.“The tone of her voice was very uplifting, particularly given what she has been through,” Morrison told Australia’s Network Nine.Despite her ordeal, Moore-Gilbert said in a statement that she had “nothing but respect, love and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people.”Asked about the swap, Morrison said he “wouldn’t go into those details, confirm them one way or the other.” However, he said he could assure Australians there had been nothing done to prejudice their safety and no prisoners were released in Australia.The Associated Press
Manitoba Education is leaning toward a temporary period of remote learning for K-12 students in early 2021, should COVID-19 case counts remain high in the coming weeks. Sources have told the Free Press the department hinted about its plans during a meeting with school board superintendents Thursday afternoon. Among the call-in conference agenda items were the status of both the winter break and schools’ levels on the pandemic response system. During the meeting, the province suggested it is considering moving schools to the most severe level on the system — critical (code red) — for a minimum of two weeks, starting as early as Jan. 4, to ensure widespread distance learning. Sources said Manitoba Education indicated the department doesn’t favour extending the upcoming break — which is scheduled for Dec. 19 to Jan. 4, but the province’s top doctor will have the final say. If schools enter the critical phase in the new year, there would be no need for an extended closure of schools to reduce community transmission since the majority of students would be learning at home. Except for Steinbach-area schools, which entered the most severe level on the response system earlier this week, all classrooms in Manitoba remain in the restricted (code orange) phase. That means the majority of the approximately 210,000 learners in the province continue to attend in-person classes, which have been reorganized to emphasize two metres of physical distancing between pupils. In code red, remote learning becomes universal for all students — although critical service workers’ children in K-6, and older students with disabilities, may access supervision at school to complete their remote work, be it online or paper packages. A downgrade in code for all schools would be an extreme move, given both Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, have repeatedly said schools are the best environments for student learning and well-being. When the province announced last week the Hanover School Division and surrounding schools were to enter code red as of Nov. 24, officials indicated it was a precautionary measure to address a skyrocketing test positivity rate in the region (40 per cent). Principal Emery Plett said the transition from orange to red has gone fairly smoothly at Steinbach Christian School, one of 28 facilities affected by the announcement. That is, in part, because of the school’s experience with learning disruptions in the spring, Plett said. His advice for other administrators who might experience the same change in coming weeks? “Make plans, but be flexible, and make sure you’re supporting your teachers as they work at making the transition,” said Plett, whose K-12 school is attended by 317 students — including the son of the education minister. Both the Manitoba Teachers’ Society and Manitoba School Boards Association declined to comment on specifics about what sources told the Free Press was discussed in the Thursday meeting. School board association president Alan Campbell was on the call. “The position of school boards has always been clear,” Campbell said, “whether it’s an extended break or a move to code red or whatever it may be, when child care is going to become a consideration because kids aren’t in school, the earlier (the announcement), the better.” A spokesperson for Manitoba Education said in a statement the province is monitoring the situation closely and no final decision has been made about an extended winter break.Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The team at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area is celebrating a successful, albeit pared down, research season and preparing to continue COVID-19-safe protocols into the winter. This spring, the spread of the global pandemic made it clear a regular season at the world-renowned freshwater research facility operated by International Institute for Sustainable Development (about 70 kilometres east of Kenora, Ont.) would be impossible. “This year, we decided to really prioritize our long-term monitoring work for our 52-year data set, which tells us about how our lakes are changing in everything from fish populations to insects to water chemistry,” said ELA deputy director Pauline Gerrard. That long-term data set has proved especially important in the study of climate change and the impact on the boreal forest’s water systems. It is one of the most comprehensive freshwater data sets in the world. In a normal year, some 60 staff and scientists would be out at the lakes. This year, research was conducted by small teams of seven people. The teams isolated for two weeks before arriving at ELA, as well as two weeks after their return home. One team was assigned to conduct water chemistry monitoring, another went out in the spring and fall to collect fish samples and analyze them. They were also able to squeeze in monitoring for a long-term oil spill study ongoing at the remote research centre, Gerrard said. The best news of all: there were no COVID-19-positive tests among researchers. However, the remote research teams did not have the same break from pandemic isolation periods the rest of the public had this summer, and with Manitoba now back under code red restrictions, it’s been a long year for her team, Gerrard said. “There’s definitely just a fatigue with isolation,” she said. “But I think people felt proud and pleased to be able to get the work done.” The priority now is to keep this up through the winter, and to begin planning possible ways to start new projects at ELA in 2021. A key priority is starting work on a microplastics project, led by University of Toronto researchers. Gerrard is also hard at work on a fundraising campaign so the facility might be able to get some more up-to-date lab equipment. With a smaller team on a time crunch, the need for better equipment out there was highlighted, she said.Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
B.C.'s police watchdog is investigating after a man went into medical distress and died during a confrontation with Vancouver police on Thursday night.Vancouver police say they were called to the Tim Hortons at Terminal Avenue and Station Street just after 6 p.m. because of a man who had been inside the bathroom for half an hour.At the time, staff at the coffee shop were trying to shut down the dining area and wanted the man removed, according to an email from VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin."When he came out of the restroom, he was agitated and aggressive which resulted in a physical altercation," Visintin wrote.Police say the man went into medical distress during that confrontation, and though paramedics were called, the man was pronounced dead at the scene.The Independent Investigations Office, which investigates incidents involving police that lead to serious harm or death, has been called in.
The Nature Trust of New Brunswick is warning that an amphibian reserve in Fredericton has high levels of heavy metal contaminants in the sediment, which could be affecting the frogs. A 2016 Nature Trust report showed levels of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc all above the probable effect level value set out by the Canadian Sediment Quality guidelines. "We found that there were high levels, especially of lead, arsenic and other elements that are usually found naturally in areas. But unfortunately, the levels that we found in Hyla Park are way above the normal levels that are recommended," said Nature Trust CEO Renata Woodward. Before Hyla Park became a nature reserve, it was a Race Track in the 60s and a dumping ground for years after that.The Nature Trust began leasing the 8.77 hectare park from the city in 1995 and has been working to clean up the site. Adjacent to the wetland, American Iron and Metal has a metal recycling facility. Some lead concentrations were more than 600 times above the national guidelines. Those high concentrations can be damaging to frogs. "The wetland connecting to Hyla Park... those concentrations are extremely high where it would be very likely these amphibians are being exposed to extremely high levels of lead or other metals," said the Nature Trust's stewardship technician Shaylyn Wallace. "It could cause deformities in any of the tadpoles that are hatched out, they could have slowed growth if they're exposed to high metal contaminations."The Trust took its findings to the City. The City hired Stantec to review the findings in 2017."It identified that further assessment was required and it also noted that the source of the pollution was not fully defined, so that's when the city referred the report to the Department of Environment," said Coun. Stephen Chase, chair of the public safety and environment committee. But three years on, the Trust says nothing has happened. "We have made multiple requests," said Woodward, "but because we are dealing with private landowners outside of the Hyla Park, it is bound by confidentiality so (the government) cannot give us any information. "Just getting updates and directions, what we can do, and information -- how the provincially significant wetland will be protected better than it is right now, would be welcome."CBC asked the Department of Environment for an interview, but no one was made available.
BRUSSELS — Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny urged the European Union to reject the results of Russia's parliamentary election next year if any candidates are blocked from taking part and he called Friday on the EU to impose sanctions on oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin.Navalny, a corruption investigator and longtime foe of Putin's, has been recovering in Germany from a poisoning attack with what experts have said was a Soviet-era nerve agent. He told EU lawmakers he thinks it’s “important that Europe not remain silent” on conditions in Russia.Navalny described next September’s election for Russia’s lower house of parliament as “an absolutely crucial event.” He said that while he and other opposition politicians expect some vote-rigging, what “is most important is the right to participate.”Navalny, who has been blocked several times from registering as a candidate, said the EU’s approach should simply be: “If everyone is allowed to participate, we can discuss it further. But if some are not allowed to participate, the results of such an election will never be recognized.”He urged the 27-nation bloc to change its approach to sanctions, saying there is little point in slapping travel bans or asset freezes over poisonings or election irregularities on military officers because they generally don’t move much outside of Russia, own real estate or hold bank accounts in Europe.Navalny said the EU should ask itself why these alleged crimes are happening.“The answer is very, very simple: money," he told EU lawmakers via video-link. "So, the European Union should target the money, and Russian oligarchs” notably the new circle of the ultra-rich business people around Putin.Navalny said most Russian citizens would support such an approach.Last month, EU foreign ministers imposed sanctions on six Russian officials and a state research institute over Navalny’s poisoning. Russia announced retaliatory action, saying that it would target French and German officials close to the leaders of France and Germany.Vladimir Kara-Murza, head of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation in Russia, urged the EU to stay true to its values.“Stop enabling those corrupt, abusive officials and oligarchs who want to steal from our people in Russia and enjoy their loot in European Union countries by spending their holidays, sending their wives and their mistresses on shopping trips, buying up yachts and real estate properties and so on,” he said.Lorne Cook, The Associated Press
An average 400 Grade 7-12 students in the North End have been reported “inactive” during the school year for the last decade. Despite being registered in the Winnipeg School Division, they are not actively participating at their home school and their families have not reported a move. The WSD data (from 2009 to 2019) obtained by the Community Education Development Association indicates hundreds of students stop attending class at some point after Sept. 30, the annual head-count day in Manitoba, in any given year. “We know the COVID pandemic has created even more stress on North End students and that more students are disengaging from school, so this is a challenge that’s just going to get further exacerbated,” said Tom Simms, co-director of CEDA. Keeping students “active” in the public education system is the motivation behind a new collaborative project between CEDA, Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. and Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre. Together, the partners have founded Indigenous Education Caring Society — a non-profit charitable organization that will offer students a culturally sensitive alternative to standard middle and high schools in the division. The organizations have secured a $500,000 capital grant from the Winnipeg Foundation, as well as support from the Thomas Sill Foundation, to launch off-campus learning environments with built-in access to community support services for students in the North End. Students will be able to access both academic lessons and resources to find stable housing, as well as leadership opportunities in the community. Kayla Stubbs, interim executive director at Ndinawe, said her hope for the project is that it will provide Indigenous youth with “equal access to education, teachers and programs that will help them thrive.” “Community-based programming provides a unique opportunity to utilize Indigenous lenses in developing effective tools for community youth to succeed,” Stubbs wrote in a statement to the Free Press Thursday. After surveying the North End for facilities and learning many buildings are in disrepair, Simms said the most cost-effective option is to build two campuses — with the hopes of expanding in the future — from the ground up. Vacant lots on Selkirk Avenue and Arlington, Salter and McGregor streets are being eyed as possible sites. In the meantime, the IECS is trying to secure an agreement to have the division rent classroom space and staff it with program teachers, who will be employed by WSD. The funding the division collects annually for students who become inactive should be redirected, Simms said, adding, “the basis of the proposal is to have the funding for the student follow the student.” The official definition of an inactive student is a pupil in Grade 7-12 who has left WSD between Oct. 1 and May 31 inclusive, and for whom there is no record of re-entry in any area school in the current year. The purpose of collecting the counts is to provide a baseline of withdrawals, but the division cautions the numbers should not be viewed as exact records because they do not account for students who have registered in other divisions. Directors in charge of the WSD programs were not available for comment Thursday. In a statement, division spokeswoman Radean Carter said WSD administrators look for “all sorts of ways” to encourage students to return to their learning and re-engage them in school. “Our partnerships with CEDA and off-campus programs have been among the successful ways that this has been achieved,” Carter said. The division currently has 13 off-campus programs. Among them, the North District Off-Campus Program, administered through Isaac Newton School, which serves Grades 7-9 students who are disengaged from traditional schooling. Simms praised the division for its openness to the project, as well as the fact it collects data on inactive students. Schools alone can’t fix inactivity, he said, “there needs to be partnerships.” The IECS programs are expected to launch sometime in the 2021-22 academic year.Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Dix ans après l’incendie qui a complètement détruit leur salle communautaire, les citoyens de Saint-Charles-de-Bourget doivent patienter encore un peu avant de pouvoir la fréquenter. La construction du nouvel édifice de 108 par 60 pieds, réalisée par l’entrepreneur général Isofor d’Alma, a pris un retard de trois mois, explique le maire de la municipalité, Bernard St-Gelais, en raison de l’arrêt de production de certaines usines, au printemps dernier, provoqué par la pandémie de COVID-19. « En mars, il y a eu un arrêt de production dans les usines. Chantiers Chibougamau, le fournisseur des poutres lamellées collées, les a fait traiter chez Boréale à Jonquière », explique M. St-Gelais. La rareté de la main-d’oeuvre explique également le retard. Lundi, des travailleurs s’affairaient à installer une section de la toiture malgré la première tempête qui faisait rage. Une visite autorisée à l’intérieur a permis de constater que les utilisateurs disposeront d’un immeuble somptueux, en mars prochain, moment prévu pour la livraison. La présence de poutres de bois aux teintes foncées au plafond intérieur était visible. En raison du retard dans les travaux, l’entrepreneur procédera à l’asphaltage du stationnement et à la finition des travaux de maçonnerie au retour des beaux jours. Le nouveau centre est construit à proximité de la patinoire extérieure et du terrain de balle. M. St-Gelais a mentionné que la grande salle aménagée pourra accueillir 200 personnes. Des locaux pour le Cercle des fermières ainsi que la Maison des jeunes seront aménagés, mais rien n’est prévu pour l’accueil d’un service de restauration, a mentionné le maire. L’investissement nécessaire à la construction du centre s’élève à 2,1 M$, dont 1,4 M$ proviennent du ministère des Affaires municipales via le programme Réfection et construction des infrastructures municipales. La MRC du Fjord-du-Saguenay, via le Fonds de développement des territoires, y a contribué pour une part de 232 000 $, tandis que la Caisse Desjardins d’Arvida-Kénogami y est allée d’une somme de 50 000 $. Le trésor municipal assume une part de 300 000 $.Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
Filmmaker Dana Nachman wanted to make a documentary about the United States Postal Service’s Operation Santa program for years, but it never seemed like the right time. Then in 2018 she got up some courage and decided to cold email the USPS press office.They responded immediately and agreed to give her and a film crew unprecedented access to the inner workings of this charitable program. But there was one big rule: Don’t ruin Christmas for kids.Every year, hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa go through the USPS system, asking for everything from toys to food. The program, which has been running in some form for over 107 years, takes letters from kids in need, matches them up with donors and helps make Christmas wishes come true.“Dear Santa,” out Dec. 4 from IFC Films, takes viewers inside the program showing the kids writing the letters, the postal workers who sort and categorize them (Santa’s helpers) and the adoptees who go out and purchase the gifts they ask for.“I think a lot of people don’t know it exists,” Nachman said. “I didn't!"She and her team began filming last year and had only the couple of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to shoot. They had a couple of parameters: She wanted a diversity of locations (cosmopolitan, rural and everything in between) and to focus on what the postal service calls “special requests,” which could be anything from heat to a medical procedure. In other words, they're wishes that don't necessarily fit in a box.“I wasn’t so much interested in the kids asking for toys and iPhones and, believe me, there are a lot,” Nachman said. “We could have done an entire film on people who just wanted food or mattresses.”With Santa’s helpers knowing what they were looking for, when a special request came through that they thought might work, they would send it off to Nachman who would peruse and consider. Sometimes there were a few, sometimes 20, sometimes 50. To protect the privacy of the families, the postal service had to act as liaison at first. If Nachman liked a letter, the USPS would send an express mail letter to the parents essentially saying if you’re interested in participating in this movie, here’s the filmmaker’s email and phone number.Then, the waiting game began.“We just waited by the phone,” Nachman said. “It was very stressful. Time was ticking.”They also needed the permission of the adopter to make a perfect match. But calls started coming in and eventually they wound up with more than they could use.“We wanted to make sure that the film tonally was a shot of poignancy that drives people to act and give and help the world, but also have it be entertaining and fun,” Nachman said.She hopes the film will both help spread the word about the program and inspire people to adopt a letter.“Once you read them, you won’t be able to not do it,” she said.Operation Santa is forging ahead this year even with the pandemic and for the first time it’s national and online. Letters will be available online at USPSOperationSanta.com for browsing and adopting starting Dec. 4. Due to COVID-19, the USPS said there will be no in-person adoption.Those writing letters to Santa, located at 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888, should get started too: They need to be postmarked by Dec. 14, but the sooner the better. And don’t forget a return address and a stamp.___Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahrLindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
WinSport is opening its season on Friday for a year unlike any other — but for now, only pass holders will be allowed to participate."No walk-up or day tickets will be available, at least for the foreseeable future," said Dale Oviatt, senior manager of communications for WinSport. "[At least] until we can get a start on things and see how our processes are working."Pass holders are required to book times online with WinSport's reservation system as the organization seeks to control the capacity on the hill.The organization is also seeking to keep numbers down in indoor spaces. When guests arrive, they are asked to put their masks and equipment on and proceed directly to the hill."If you've decided to bring your own lunch, or you just want to warm up, just pop back out to your car, and use that for your items as well," Oviatt said.WATCH | Learn how venues like WinSport's Canada Olympic Park keeps ski runs open and in tip-top shape, even during iffy weather conditions:With the new restrictions announced this week by the Alberta government, Oviatt said WinSport is not allowed to operate warming areas.The hill's food court area will be open, but will follow restaurant guidelines."So, not a lot of indoor space," Oviatt said. "That's why we want you to use your car as your day lodge."Increased security will be onsite, but Oviatt suggested guests not bring valuables to the hill. In a typical season, WinSport sees families come out to watch kids participate in lessons. That will be changed due to the pandemic."We're not allowing any foot traffic or spectators anywhere on snow," Oviatt said. "That's just to keep the physical numbers down on the hill."The organization is requesting guests review all of the hill's COVID-19 protocols before visiting.The tube park at the facility is scheduled to open Dec. 19.
This column is an opinion from political scientists Duane Bratt, of Mount Royal University, and Lisa Young, of the University of Calgary.Jason Kenney is a shrewd and experienced politician.He has years of experience as a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper's government, and was instrumental in helping Harper win a majority in 2011. Returning to Alberta politics, he successfully merged the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties and won a resounding victory in the 2019 provincial election.And yet, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, he and his government are floundering.Alberta has the largest absolute number of COVID cases in Canada, despite having the fourth largest population. For 10 days in mid-November, Kenney did not appear in public despite rapidly increasing case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.Eight months into the pandemic, his cabinet had to meet for eight hours to devise responses that many dismissed as inadequate. And most recently, a public servant has taken the unusual move of leaking information to journalists to highlight the growing divide between the Kenney government and its chief medical officer of health. Opinion polling shows that the Kenney government is paying a price for its handling of the pandemic.Even in the early days of COVID-19, it was noticeable that the Kenney government missed out on the "COVID bump" that most other political leaders enjoyed. This was despite the fact that, in many ways, the Alberta government had responded effectively to the first wave.But unlike other provincial governments, Kenney and his cabinet were engaged in a very public fight with doctors at a time when the public was banging pots and pans in appreciation of front-line workers.Not taking a lesson from this, the government engaged in a broader dispute with health-care workers through the fall, and its poll numbers continued to drop.A slide in public supportLast week, Leger reported that only 37 per cent of Albertans believed that their provincial government was handling COVID-19 well; the lowest, by far, of any province. Then, ThinkHQ reported that 81 per cent of Albertans would support a province-wide mask mandate.It is unlikely that the measures announced on Nov. 24 will reverse, or even halt, this slide in public support.How did a skilled politician like Kenney end up in this situation? We offer a few hypotheses. First, Kenney is almost certainly concerned about an electoral split on the right. Public opinion on appropriate responses to COVID is split along partisan lines, with those further to the right more resistant to mandatory measures.Common Ground Politics survey research conducted in Alberta in August found that UCP voters were more likely than others to think that the reopening was too slow. A national survey conducted by Vox Pop found that Conservative voters were less likely to wear masks.WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces new COVID-19 restrictions for AlbertaIn his comments on Tuesday, the premier focused a great deal of attention on acknowledging the concerns of those on the right, who argue that restrictions are unconstitutional, for example. The Alberta separatist (or "Wexit") movement has gained momentum since the 2019 federal election and Justin Trudeau's re-election.With his experience merging conservative parties at both the federal and provincial level, the premier is presumably concerned about vote splitting on the right. By appeasing conservatives, especially in rural Alberta, Kenney is consolidating his base.With 41 of the 87 seats in the Alberta legislature outside of Edmonton and Calgary, consolidating that base makes electoral sense.The restrictions that were announced on Tuesday, and the exemptions that were offered, lend support to this hypothesis.Certainly, the decision to extend mask mandates only in Calgary and Edmonton (where they were already required through municipal bylaws) speaks to a desire to please conservative rural voters.Similarly, the decision to permit in-person religious services to continue while junior high and high schools had to close speaks to a desire to keep voters in conservative-leaning faith communities onside. Response informed by ideologySecond, Kenney and many of his close advisors are strong partisans prone to demonizing their political opponents.Although Alberta has elected conservative governments for decades, we have to go back to the Social Credit governments of the 1950s and 1960s to find a more ideologically conservative government than the current UCP. Although Ralph Klein's government was driven by fiscal conservatism in its early years, its policies moderated in later years. The Kenney government's strong ideological conservatism has informed its pandemic response, particularly since the end of the spring lockdown.The government's approach has been to emphasize personal responsibility rather than implementing restrictions.Citing the economic cost of the lockdown, Kenney has repeatedly minimized the toll of the pandemic while emphasizing the negative consequences of restrictions on the economy broadly, and small business in particular.This helps to explain why restaurants, bars, casinos, movie theatres and gyms are permitted to remain open, although with some further restrictions.While other conservative provincial governments — notably Ontario and Manitoba — are placing greater restrictions on retail, Alberta is not. WATCH | University of Alberta's Tim Caulfield says the province needs a transparent approach to pandemic policyThird, having been elected on a mandate of "jobs, economy, pipelines," the Kenney government remains focused on economic performance.Its promise of balanced budgets are, of course, no longer feasible, but the government remains deeply concerned about the province's balance sheet. This helps to explain the decision to push forward on cost savings in the public sector — including health-care — during the pandemic, as well as decisions that prioritize the economy. These three explanations — electoral considerations, ideology, and a focus on the economy — have resulted in a pandemic response that looks weak when compared to other provinces.This is a moment that tests political leaders, requiring them to set aside political considerations in favour of the public good. Lives are at stake.As the death toll continues to rise, the government's tepid response will come under greater public scrutiny, and the political calculations that have informed it will appear increasingly out of touch.If the Kenney government is unable to adjust to these new realities, it may pay a steep political price in 2023, as the electorate holds it accountable for both the economic and human cost of the pandemic.This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.
Les élus de la MRC du Fjord-du-Saguenay ont adopté, mercredi soir, un budget de près de 24 M$ pour l’exercice 2021, en croissance de 3,6 M$ comparativement au budget 2020, dans le cadre d’une réunion tenue par visioconférence. Ils ont entériné par le fait même une augmentation de 22 % de leur rémunération telle que présentée le mois dernier. Les citoyens des territoires non organisés continueront de payer la taxe foncière maintenue à 45 cents du 100 $ d’évaluation. Les quotes-parts des municipalités se chiffrent à environ 4,4 M$. Selon le préfet Gérald Savard, l’augmentation importante du budget s’explique par l’ajout de nouvelles activités, comme la collecte et le traitement des matières organiques, débutés l’automne dernier, la municipalisation des vidanges des installations septiques, ainsi que des contributions financières pour l’achat de génératrices dans les casernes de pompiers. La MRC anticipe des revenus globaux de 22,5 M$, en hausse de 1,1 M$ provenant des revenus tirés des redevances sur les ressources naturelles et de subventions pour les programmes liés aux changements climatiques. Le budget des territoires non organisés, 4,2 M$, comprend des revenus de taxes de 1 M$ et des paiements tenant lieu de taxes de 2,2 M$. Parmi les détails du budget, une enveloppe de 650 000 $ est réservée dans le cadre d’un programme destiné à combattre les changements climatiques, a expliqué M. Savard. « Cet argent sera distribué aux municipalités qui voudront participer à la diminution des gaz à effet de serre pour l’achat d’un véhicule électrique, le remplacement de lampes d’éclairage des patinoires ou stationnements », a expliqué le préfet. L’argent provient du Fonds Péribonka. En matière de sécurité civile, la MRC met à la disposition des municipalités une enveloppe de 75 000 $ pour l’acquisition de génératrices destinées à alimenter les centres de coordination municipaux en cas de pannes majeures, catastrophes naturelles, etc. Le développement communautaire figure au budget avec une enveloppe de 1,3 M$ pour l’acquisition d’équipements sportifs, jeux, parcs. Pour la première fois, les clubs quad du territoire pourront obtenir de l’aide à même une enveloppe de 75 000 $ qui leur est réservée, le tout étant distribué selon le kilométrage de sentiers. L’an dernier, les clubs Saguenay, Valin et Fjord avaient obtenu respectivement 24 800 $, 12 600 $ et 8600 $. En cette période de pandémie, une enveloppe de 400 000 $ est réservée pour le développement économique. Richesse foncière Le tableau étalant la richesse foncière uniformisée de la MRC indique une somme de 3,4 G$ répartie entre les 13 municipalités comptant 22 534 habitants Saint-David-de-Falardeau continue d’occuper la tête des municipalités les plus riches avec 879 M$, suivie de Saint-Honoré à 555,8 M$, tandis que Saint-Ambroise occupe le troisième rang à 340,5 M$. Hommage Les élus ont adopté une résolution destinée à rendre hommage à l’ex-député et ministre de Chicoutimi, Marc-André Bédard, décédé mercredi de la COVID-19. Le préfet Savard a souligné le travail accompli par M. Bédard comme homme politique, mais aussi comme un citoyen impliqué au sein de nombreux organismes d’éducation et religieux, après avoir clos le chapitre de la politique active. Guide d’accueil M. Savard a souligné le dévoilement vendredi dernier d’un nouvel outil destiné à faciliter l’intégration de nouvelles personnes sur le territoire de la MRC. Il s’agit d’un guide de 42 pages destiné à informer les nouveaux citoyens en matière culturelle, sociale, logement, emploi, éducation, soins de santé et environnement. On y retrouve également des portraits d’enracinés installés sur le territoire, des histoires d’immigration et de migration inspirantes et touchantes. Un montant de 47 750 $ a été investi dans la réalisation du plan d’action 2019-2020 dans le cadre du programme Mobilisation-Diversité du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration et réparti également avec la MRC du Fjord-du-Saguenay.Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien