Watch as this pet raccoon asks his owner for a treat in the cutest possible way. How could you say no to that face?
Watch as this pet raccoon asks his owner for a treat in the cutest possible way. How could you say no to that face?
Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
As Glenn Somers prepared to testify this week at the inquest into lumberjack Mario Roy's death in the woods at Saint-Quentin, he still didn't understand how the accident could have happened to someone with Roy's experience.Somers is the owner of maple syrup company TDG Somers, where Roy was cutting down trees with an electric saw when one of the cut trees fell and struck him on Sept. 7, 2018. Roy's friend and colleague André Bouchard found him with severe injuries to his face and chest. Roy died later that day.The inquest being held by coroner Jérome Ouellette began this week at the Edmundston Convention Centre. The jury is expected to make recommendations later Wednesday.Somers, whose company owns the woods, said he can't understand how a lumberjack like Roy could have made a mistake limbing trees. "The safety rule was established a long time ago," Somers told Radio-Canada. "There is no lumberjack who should ever continue limbing a tree after having cut one down that is resting on another tree."Despite his own questions, Somers said he believes the inquest is a waste of time and money, and thinks it will only open wounds about the tragedy. Roy's sister, Angèle Roy, hopes the inquest will allow her to mourn her brother. "He was experienced, so we don't understand," she said. She is optimistic the recommendations coming out of the inquest will lead to stricter safety guidelines for the maple syrup industry.
A study published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) shows there is a five-per-cent mortality rate for Ontario people who often visit hospital Emergency Rooms for alcohol-related reasons in a one-year period. The study also said more intervention would be helpful in offsetting the mortality rate of those people, who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds. The authors of the study were Jennifer Hulme, MD MPH; Hasan Sheikh, MD; Edward Xie, MD MSc; Evgenia Gatov, MPH; Chenthila Nagamuthu, MPH; Paul Kurdyak, MD PhD; from the University of Toronto, the Institute for Mental Health Policy and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The study was carried out between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2016 in Ontario for persons who made two or more ER visits in one year for alcohol-related mental or behavioural disorders. More than 25,000 Ontario residents were narrowed down to the cohort of those who had two or more hospital ER visits in a one year. Of that number, the study found a mortality rate of 5.4 per cent. This ranged from 4.7 per cent for those with two visits up to 8.8 per cent for those with five or more visits. "Death due to external causes (e.g., suicide, accidents) was most common," said the study. Despite the percentage findings, the authors concluded that "little is known about the risk of death among people who visit emergency departments frequently for alcohol-related reasons, including whether mortality risk increases with increasing frequency of visits." The authors said their primary objective was to describe socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of this high-risk group and examine the level of mortality, premature mortality and causes of death. In the formal interpretation of their study, the authors said the highest mortality rate involved mostly urban and mostly low income people who had frequent hospital visits for alcohol issues. The study also said alcohol is a leading driver of morbidity and mortality around the world. In 2016, the study said there were an estimated 3 million deaths — five per cent of all global deaths — attributable to alcohol consumption. Alcohol also plays a significant factor in the morbidity of younger people, said the study. "The 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study showed that alcohol was the single greatest risk factor for ill health worldwide among people aged 15-49 years. In Canada, hospital admissions for alcohol-attributable conditions out-number those for myocardial infarction. Alcohol-related harms cost Canadians about $14.6 billion annually, with $3.3 billion in health care costs." The study also said that alcohol-related hospital visits are increasing with acute intoxication and withdrawal disorders becoming common reasons for ER visits. "Data from the United States and Canada, furthermore, suggest that alcohol-related emergency department visits have increased in recent years. For example, a study in Ontario showed that, between 2003 and 2016, the age-standardized rates of alcohol-attributable emergency department visits increased by 86.5 per cent in women and 53.2 per cent in men," said the report. It also stated that those who visit the ER for alcohol reasons have high levels of comorbidity (having two or more diseases or medical conditions at the same time) and social disadvantage and represent a readily identifiable patient population "A systematic review suggested that screening and brief intervention for alcohol-related problems in the emergency department is a promising approach for reducing problematic alcohol consumption," said the study.Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
The Nov. 17 regular Crowsnest Pass council meeting saw council discuss and vote on a handful of agenda items. Senior housing The meeting began with a 2021 budget update from Crowsnest Senior Housing. The budget was very preliminary as uncertainties surrounding Alberta Health Services and Covid-19 funding have yet to be confirmed. Revenue estimates for 2021 were based on the centre having four vacancies, even though currently vacancies sit at 13. A similar situation with seven vacancies resolved itself last year, so staff are optimistic residents will fill the vacancies again this year. One additional vacancy reduces rent revenue by about $18,000 to $20,000. A finalized budget will be in place by January. The housing board requested that, going forward, annual budgets be presented in January as it is difficult for staff to compile a budget when data has yet to be collected for the remaining months of the year. Rather than compiling a complete budget before year’s end, Crowsnest Senior Housing will make a year-to-date presentation in October to keep council informed. So far, the Peaks to Pines senior centre is about halfway through construction, though it is not anticipated to be completed until the summer of 2021. Land redesignation After no issues were raised during the public hearing, council passed second and third reading of Bylaw 1057, 2020, a land-use bylaw redesignation. The bylaw will rezone a property in Coleman from a recreation and open space (RO-1) designation to residential (R-1). The rezoning comes about after administration received a development permit application for a residential addition to the property. It was discovered that part of the land was designated as residential while the other was set aside for recreation and open space. After going through municipal records and past council meeting minutes, it was determined the split zoning was a mistake. Health and wellness Council agreed to make a few minor changes to the municipality’s health and wellness spending account, Policy 1810-02. The biggest change involves allowing employees to submit reimbursement receipts throughout the year. Previously, claims could be made only once a year. Other changes included adding employee leave as a reason to prorate benefits and including a new category on health apps. Club rent rates The meeting concluded with a lengthy discussion on rates the municipality charges clubs to rent municipal facilities. For detailed coverage, please see Crowsnest Pass Council Debates Rent Rates, posted online at www.shootinthebreeze.ca. Next meeting The next regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at the MDM Community Centre. Agendas are available on the municipality’s website at https://bit.ly/CNPagenda.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
Le feuilleton du redécoupage électoral qui a occupé Rimouski pendant des mois vient de prendre fin, et son épilogue soulagera les résidents du Bic : la Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE) a décidé que ce district conservera ses limites actuelles, qui sont celles de l’ancienne municipalité annexée par Rimouski en 2009. Pour justifier sa décision, la CRE dit avoir considéré « les commentaires émis par les électeurs du district numéro 11 du Bic relatifs au sentiment d’appartenance à leur quartier ainsi qu’au respect et à la préservation de l’identité villageoise et patrimoniale du Bic ». L’éloignement entre Le Bic et le centre-ville de Rimouski a également joué dans la réflexion des deux commissaires Pierre Reid et Serge Courville. Si le caractère villageois du Bic a été largement évoqué tout au long des consultations sur la nouvelle carte électorale, les résidents du district voisin de Sacré-Cœur ont également fait valoir leur sentiment d’appartenance depuis le début de cette saga. Eux aussi peuvent souffler : la CRE considère que les districts de Sacré-Cœur et du Bic forment des communautés naturelles distinctes, et qu’on ne peut donc transférer une partie rurale du premier vers le deuxième. « Il a été démontré que les liens socioéconomiques des citoyennes et des citoyens du district numéro 1 de Sacré-Cœur sont davantage tournés vers les secteurs centraux de la Ville de Rimouski », écrit la CRE dans sa décision. Cette décision porte l’écart de population entre le district du Bic et la moyenne des autres districts de Rimouski à 34,4 %, bien au-delà de la limite de 15 % prescrite par la loi. Du côté de Sainte-Blandine/Mont-Lebel, autre district rural particulièrement affecté par le redécoupage, la CRE a entériné la proposition de la Ville de Rimouski. Celle-ci agrandit le territoire du district tout en lui conférant un statut d’exception, puisque l’écart de population avec la moyenne des autres districts est de 25,8 %. Défaite pour la Ville Avec cette décision, la CRE a infligé ce qui a toutes les apparences d’une défaite cinglante à la Ville de Rimouski, tant celle-ci s’est obstinée pendant des mois à défendre l’agrandissement du district du Bic en dépit de l’opposition des citoyens. De nombreux avis publics et présentations ont été produits pour défendre coûte que coûte ce projet alors qu’il ne s’est jamais trouvé aucun résident de Rimouski pour donner son appui aux différents redécoupages proposés. Cet épisode laisse surtout l’impression d’un gâchis de temps et de ressources, puisqu’on en revient à une situation très proche du statu quo en faveur duquel avaient voté deux conseillers début mai, Grégory Thorez (Sainte-Odile) et Virginie Proulx (Le Bic). La conseillère du Bic s’est réjouie de ce dénouement sur sa page Facebook ce matin, tout en félicitant les citoyens qui se sont mobilisés au cours des derniers mois. « C’est une victoire pour la démocratie, une victoire qui montre encore une fois la pertinence de consulter ses citoyens en amont des décisions au bénéfice de tous », écrit-elle. Mais il est clair que c’est aussi une victoire personnelle pour elle : elle fut la seule à s’opposer au règlement actant le redécoupage et le déplacement de la frontière Bic/Sacré-Cœur, tout comme elle fut la seule à informer de manière proactive les citoyens de son district sur les impacts du redécoupage et sur les manières de le contester. Incidemment, on peut conclure de la décision de la CRE qu’il existe bel et bien une corrélation entre le district électoral et le « district d’appartenance », contrairement à ce que prétendait le maire de Rimouski Marc Parent lors de la consultation publique de la CRE. « Lorsque les conseillers et les conseillères siègent au conseil municipal, c’est d’abord et avant tout pour la Ville de Rimouski qu’ils siègent, et non pas pour les électeurs qu’ils représentent dans leur district », avait même déclaré M. Parent, contredisant ce qui est écrit dans le Guide d’accueil et de référence pour les élues et les élus municipaux du gouvernement du Québec. Finalement, c’est peut-être cela que la saga du redécoupage aura permis de rappeler : le rôle d’un conseiller municipal est avant tout de représenter son quartier et ses habitants, avec leur diversité mais aussi leur histoire commune.Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
After expressing outrage, disgust and regret over reports of Coun. Rick Chiarelli's egregious conduct, Ottawa city council unanimously voted Wednesday to impose the harshest penalties available to them to sanction the veteran councillor.Council was united in its call for the College ward councillor to resign immediately, and to ask the minister of municipal affairs and housing to change the law to allow a councillor found to have committed serious misconduct to be removed from office.> There are not enough apologies to make the pain … go away. \- Mayor Jim WatsonMany council members appeared shaken by the details of integrity commissioner Robert Marleau's most recent report on Chiarelli's behaviour, which Marleau called "offensive and disreputable.""I know many of you share my concerns that the behaviour outlined in this report are repugnant and are completely inconsistent with what is expected of anyone in a position of power or trust," said Mayor Jim Watson. "There have clearly been a number of gross violations of the trust the public placed in this elected official."The mayor issued a formal apology to all the women who came forward, and to others who may have been harassed but didn't feel able to tell their stories."I know that there are not enough apologies to make the pain of these events go away, but I would like to publicly apologize and [offer a] sincere gesture of recognition that this should not have happened and that we have listened and heard you," Watson said.Many councillors joined the mayor in apologizing to the former staffers and job applicants.Coun. Diane Deans had many dealings with Chiarelli's College ward office because their wards are next to each other, and said she had met Chiarelli's staffers on numerous occasions."I just wanted to say to the women involved that I am sorry," she said, her voice breaking. "And I am sorry I did not see the signs."Pay suspended for 15 monthsTwo separate integrity commissioner reports found Chiarelli violated the code of conduct for councillors when dealing with job applicants and staff by engaging in shocking behaviour, including speaking to women about going braless to work, pressuring them to go to bars to hit on men as a way of recruiting volunteers, and commenting on their bodies.Marleau recommended council suspend Chiarelli's pay for a total of 15 months — 90 days for each of the five formal complainants — as well as remove him from any committees and take away his delegated authority to hire staff or spend his own office budget.Minister not changing lawBut Chiarelli's council colleagues did not believe the sanctions went far enough. They've been hearing from many people in the community that they'd like to see some sort of mechanism to remove the councillor from office."If I go home, my own wife will be asking, 'Is that all that you guys can do?' or, 'Can't you do more?'" Coun. Eli El-Chantiry said.Council passed a motion looking for changes to the Municipal Act that would include some sort of process "for the vacating of the seat of a member of council who has been found on clear and convincing evidence to have committed serious misconduct."But that doesn't seem in the cards right now.In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said "the ministry is not considering any changes to the Municipal Act ... however, I am taking the unprecedented move of, in the strongest terms possible, urging Councillor Chiarelli to resign his position."Chiarelli's access restrictedThey approved a motion by Coun. Jenna Sudds directing city staff to report back on ways to restrict the councillor's access to city property, including in council chambers when in-person meetings resume. "I ask that his seat at the council table be moved so that none of us have to sit beside him," Sudds said. "His actions as detailed in the report and the very lengthy appendix is enough to turn one's stomach. It is appalling, and no woman should ever have to deal with this type of behaviour."A number of councillors said their staff would be uncomfortable encountering Chiarelli in their workplace. Council also agreed to donate Chiarelli's suspended pay to a non-profit organization that deals with violence against women.Chiarelli going to court in JanuaryThe College ward councillor last year denied all allegations against him, and is challenging the jurisdiction of the integrity commissioner in provincial court. In fact, Chiarelli, who was present for the start of Wednesday's meeting, said a hearing date is set for Jan. 13, 2021.Chiarelli did not participate in the year-long inquiry, nor has he responded to the specific allegations against him, of which he was made aware in September 2019 by CBC News. Last December, the councillor had bypass surgery and some post-op complications, but did participate in a number of virtual council meetings in 2020.The mayor called his silence a further affront to the women involved."Stonewalling is just another form of the type of manipulation the integrity commissioner has identified in his detailed report to council," Watson said. "Coun. Chiarelli, I would like to say that your silence speaks volumes."Chiarelli's office respondsIn a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Chiarelli's office said the councillor will not resign."Councillor Chiarelli will not be resigning. He was democratically elected to serve a 4yr term and he intends to do so," the statement reads."This report is based on an investigation that only heard from one side of the story. Neither Councillor Chiarelli nor his lawyer were provided with information as to how witnesses were selected, their identities nor what testimony they gave which would only be natural justice in a fair forum. "This is important because Councillor Chiarelli was not medically able to participate following his open-heart surgery, and subsequent severe bacterial chest infection and stroke. The Integrity Commissioner refused to accommodate Councillor Chiarelli during his recovery despite having been provided with numerous medical notes."According to the statement, the divisional court hearing on Jan. 13 "will be the first time where both sides are heard in a fair and unbiased forum. Until then the Councillor has been advised by his legal team not to comment on the issue any further."
The Alberta government has brought in massive restrictions on social and public gatherings, which include businesses and services to churches and schools. Failure to follow them can come with a ticketed fine of $1,000 or a maximum court fine of $100,000. At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency as Alberta reported 1,115 new cases and 16 new deaths. Alberta now leads the country with more active cases than any other province. “If we do not slow the sharp rise of both hospitalizations and ICU admissions, they will threaten our ability to deliver health services that we all rely on,” said Kenney, who warned the Alberta health care system cannot handle the rate that COVID-19 is spreading. As of Tuesday, 348 Albertans were fighting the virus in hospitals, with 66 patients in intensive care units. “We believe these are the minimum restrictions needed right now to safeguard our health-care system, while avoiding widespread damage to peoples’ livelihood,” he said. The province won’t have “snitch line” to enforce rules, but the number of enforcement officers tasked with public health orders will increase. Kenney rejected calls for a widespread lockdown and economic shutdown, calling that option “an unprecedented violation of fundamental constitutionally protected rights and freedoms.” He also said this action would hurt small business owners and people living on low incomes. It was a “grave mistake” this past spring when the province tried distinguishing between essential and non-essential retailers, said Kenney. This allowed big box stores and online retailers to thrive, he said, while small businesses suffered. “I wish the people advocating that we go to that extreme at this point were perhaps a little more transparent about what we know from the data on the broader social impact, particularly for the vulnerable,” Kenney said. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com “Let me just be absolutely clear about this: social gatherings are the biggest problem,” said Kenney. “These gatherings in the home continue to be the largest source of transmission and so they must stop now.” “Our school system has done very well at limiting in-school transmission, Parents, teachers and staff have worked incredibly hard to keep kids safe,” said Kenney. However, the premier added the spread of COVID-19 from workplaces and social gatherings means the virus is finding its way into schools. Hinshaw said as of Tuesday, 13 per cent of all schools in Alberta had an active COVID-19 outbreak. “There’s very limited transmission within the schools but more community transition, affecting the schools and their ability to operate,” said Kenney. Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
The Goulds Lions Arena bears the Lions name, so it’s only appropriate that its warm room also bear a Lion’s name. During a short ceremony on November 19 attended by family and fellow Lions, the Lion Ron Whitten Room was unveiled. “A few months ago, one of our Lions came to me with a suggestion. He said, ‘We always honour Lions with a plaque or something, after they pass away. Why not do something for our Lions while they’re still alive?’” Goulds Lions Club President Charlie Phillips said to those gathered. So, when Phillips announced that they would be naming the warm room after Lion Ron Whitten, Whitten jokingly asked if that meant he was going to die soon. “Without Ron, I’m not sure if, or when, there would have been a Lion’s Club,” said Phillips. “It was the vision of Lion Ron when he returned from Labrador back in 1975. He had a notion of starting up the Lions Club, which, he did, in March of 1976. He is a well-respected member of our community, and also a well-respected member of our Lions Club. Ron is a strong supporter of the Lions Club and of it’s activities. I’m sure most of you, if we went around the room, could add another 10, 20, 40, maybe a hundred reasons why we should name this room after Lion Ron.” Whitten was grateful for the gesture. “I appreciate this, it’s very nice,” he said. “It’s important to help out the community where you’re from.” During the ceremony, the Goulds Lions Club also presented a $6000 cheque to the Arena Association.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic would not be allowed to visit the country until he apologized for “genocide” against Kosovo's population.Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla also posted on Twitter that no entry permission would be granted for Serb officials until Serbians are held accountable for “genocide” in an international court.“I repeat once again the only and permanent response to all future demands from Vucic and others: there is no permission for you to visit Kosovo if you do not apologize for the genocide committed on our people and until responsible persons of this genocide are held accountable,” she said.Vucic and other Serb officials have to ask Kosovo's permission before visiting ethnic Serb minority areas in the former Serbian province.Kosovo’s 1998-99 war, which ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign, left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly ethnic Albanians.Haradinaj-Stublla reacted following Vucic' presence at the inauguration of a hospital in Belgrade where a mass grave of 744 ethnic Albanians killed in 1999 has been found.Several mass graves with the bodies of Kosovo Albanians killed by Serb troops during the 1998-99 war have been discovered in various parts of Serbia. Moving victims from Kosovo to Serbia was part of a coverup operation by Serbian authorities at the time to try to hide evidence of war crimes.Last week the European Union’s mission to ensure the rule of law in Kosovo said human remains that appear to be a mass grave of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo have been found in a disused coal mine in Kizevak in southern Serbia.Vucic said on Tuesday that Haradinaj-Stublla had asked to be present at the Kizevak works “in order to create a political show.”Although several of its top military officers have been sentenced by a UN court for war crimes during the 1998-99 war, Serbia has never admitted committing atrocities in its former province.Meanwhile, an international court based in The Hague, Netherlands has indicted and arrested on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity the former Kosovo president and four other top ex-commanders of ethnic Albanian guerillas who fought for independence from Serbia.Last week Vucic asked to visit Kosovo but was denied permission by Pristina.Kosovo-Serbia relations remain tense despite EU-mediated talks on normalization of their ties and efforts from the United States too.Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not recognized that.——-Semini reported from Tirana, Albania; Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade.Zenel Zhinipotoku And Llazar Semini, The Associated Press
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — “No New ‘Movies’ Till Influenza Ends” blared a New York Times headline on Oct. 10, 1918, while the deadly second wave of the Spanish Flu was unfolding.A century later, during another pandemic, movies — quotes no longer necessary — are again facing a critical juncture. But it’s not because new films haven’t been coming out. By streaming service, video-on-demand, virtual theatre or actual theatre, a steady diet of films have been released under COVID-19. The Times has reviewed more than 460 new movies since mid-March.Yet until recently — with only a few exceptions — those haven’t been the big-budget spectacles Hollywood runs on. Eight months into the pandemic, that’s changing. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. experimented with the $200 million “Mulan” as a premium buy on its fast-growing streaming service, Disney+ — where the Pixar film “Soul” will also go on Dec. 25. WarnerMedia last week announced that “Wonder Woman 1984” — a movie that might have made $1 billion at the box office in a normal summer — will land in theatres and on HBO Max simultaneously next month.Much remains uncertain about how the movie business will survive the pandemic. But it’s increasingly clear that Hollywood won’t be the same. Just as the Spanish Flu, which weeded out smaller companies and contributed to the formation of the studio system, COVID is remaking Hollywood, accelerating a digital makeover and potentially reordering an industry that was already in flux.“I don’t think the genie will ever be back in the bottle,” says veteran producer Peter Guber, president of Mandalay Entertainment and former chief of Sony Pictures. “It will be a new studio system. Instead of MGM and Fox, they’re going to be Disney and Disney+, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock.”Many of the pivots in 2020 can be chalked up to the unusual circumstances. But several studios are making more long-term realignments around streaming. WarnerMedia, the AT&T conglomerate that owns Warner Bros. (founded in 1923), is now run by Jason Kilar, best known as the former chief executive of Hulu. Last month, Disney chief executive Bob Chapek, the Robert Iger heir, announced a reorganization to emphasize streaming and “accelerate our direct-to-consumer business.”Universal Pictures, owned by Comcast, has pushed aggressively into video-on-demand. Its first major foray, “Trolls,” kicked up a feud with theatre owners. But as the pandemic wore on, Universal hatched unprecedented deals with AMC and Cinemark, the largest and third-largest chains, respectively, to dramatically shorten the traditional theatrical window (usually about three months) to just 17 days. After that time, Universal can move releases that don’t reach certain box-office thresholds to digital rental.There’s widespread acknowledgement that the days of 90-day theatrical runs are over.“Windows are clearly changing,” says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount Pictures. “All this stuff that’s going on now in the business was going to happen, the evolution is just happening faster than it would have. What would have taken three to five years is going to be done in a year, maybe a year and a half.”That condensed period of rapid change is happening at the same time as a land rush for streaming market share, as Disney+, HBO Max, Apple and Peacock try to wrestle for a piece of the home viewing audience dominated by Netflix and Amazon. With theme parks struggling and worldwide box office down tens of billions, streaming is a bright spot for media companies, and the pandemic may offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lure subscribers. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul” are essentially very expensive advertisements for those streaming services.It can be easy to cheer such moves, even if their financial performance remain cloudy (no studio has been transparent about its viewership numbers or digital grosses) and their long-term viability uncertain. Can you replicate $1 billion in box office in new subscriptions? And for how long will the one-time bounce of a new movie (unlike a series staggered over weeks or months) drive subscribers once streaming services are closer to tapping as many homes as they can?“The whole thing is more complicated than people want it to be,” says Ira Deutchman, the veteran independent film producer and Columbia University professor.Deutchman considers the idea that people, after a year of quarantines and lockdowns, won’t want to leave their living room “ludicrous.” But he does imagine continued mergers and acquisitions, and “a new equilibrium” for distributors and theatre owners.“It could be about pricing," he says. "It could be about the way film rental is split between them. There are a lot of things that are potentially on the table.”So what could that mean on the other side of COVID, if moviegoers are once again comfortable sitting in packed theatres on opening weekend? It will almost certainly mean the months-long runs of films like “Titanic” or “Get Out” are a thing of the past. It could mean variable pricing on different nights. It could mean an even greater division between the franchise films of the multiplex and the boutique art house, with everything in between going straight to streaming.Some things, though, will stay the same.“If you’re going to be in this business, no matter what you do or where it plays, whether it’s streaming or in cinemas, you’re going to make hits and you’re going to make flops," says Guber. "The idea is to make more hits than flops.”Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
Giant dumps of snow are nothing new to people in the Big Land, but even by Labrador standards the snowfall over the last 24 hours was a doozy. Snow began to fall Monday evening and by 11 a.m. Tuesday 60 centimetres of snow had fallen, with 25-30 more expected before evening. SaltWire Network meteorologist Cindy Day said the storm, the first blizzard of the season for Labrador, tracked across Ontario and Quebec, bringing significant snow across those provinces, and was just off the Northern Peninsula Tuesday afternoon. “The system really is a two-season system. North of the storm it’s a blizzard, snow and wind and significant windchill. On the south side of that low-pressure system it's extremely mild, but also very windy. So, depending on where you are, there are either spring-like conditions or deep into winter.” Day said it’s interesting to note that as of 11 a.m. Tuesday Gander was the hot spot in the country, while there was 60 centimetres of snow in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, about 840 kilometres away. Schools and many businesses closed for the day in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, but some remained open or were slated to open after lunch. All town facilities, including the town hall and the E.J. Broomfield Arena, remained closed for the day, and the scheduled town council meeting was moved to Thursday. Canada Post announced it would not deliver mail in the region Tuesday due to the weather. The average snowfall for the month of November in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is 56 centimetres, Day said, so Tuesday alone will top that. There has already been a record amount of snowfall this month, she said, but depending on how the calculations are done it could also be a new one-day record. The previous record was set, she said, on Jan. 16, 1985, when 71 centimetres fell in one day. “It’s going to be tricky how they add these numbers, since it will have fallen on the 23rd and 24th, so we’ll see how that comes out, but it’s on track for a record,” she said. Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
As a kid, Delbert Good remembers that he would come home from a day of picking potatoes to find a meal made from the fruits of his family’s garden. “While I was growing up, we were pretty self-sufficient,” said Good, economic development officer for the Gitanyow Band and a lifelong resident of Gitanyow, a community northeast of Terrace, in northern B.C. Not anymore. In the past hundred years, a suite of colonial policies suppressed traditions that were essential to many Indigenous people’s access to food, including agricultural ones that were practised for generations. For Good, reawakening them could help pave a better-fed future for his community. About 17 per cent of households in northern B.C. were food insecure before the pandemic, according to the province’s Provincial Health Services Authority. The area around Gitanyow is particularly hard hit: about 27 per cent of the population in the census area is classified as low-income by Statistics Canada, with poverty the driver of food insecurity. The region is also a 15-hour drive from Vancouver, the distribution hub for roughly 78 per cent of the province’s food. That distance means that the food on grocery store shelves — particularly produce — is expensive and of low nutritional value when compared to urban centres further south. This year, the pandemic exacerbated the problem. Disruptions in global supply chains and high demand for some products emptied local grocery store shelves and highlighted a need to revitalize the community’s self-sufficiency. “In history, when they had stock market crashes and droughts and stuff like that, it never really affected the First Nations because they were used to living off the land,” Good said. That doesn’t surprise John Lutz, a professor of history at the University of Victoria who has studied Indigenous agriculture in the province. “There was an agriculture here that wasn’t immediately recognizable to Europeans,” he explained. For instance, Coast Salish people on the province’s south coast used controlled burns to maintain camas and wild potato plantations, but these well-tended clearings weren’t recognized by early Europeans as cultivated fields. As more Europeans arrived in present-day B.C., those practices started adapting to a new import: potatoes. The potato trade wasn’t limited to the north coast. Lutz said communities from southern Vancouver Island to Alaska picked up the potato trade and usually grew them in fertile and moist pockets of land scattered across their territories. That trade came to a halt in the late 1800s when the Canadian government started forcing Indigenous people onto miniscule reserves. And because the potato patches were rarely recognized as such by the white surveyors who mapped reserve boundaries, most were left out. The reserve system also made it difficult for Indigenous people provincewide to profitably practise European-style agriculture — like ranching or crop farming — because most of B.C.’s water rights had been stolen by settlers and reserves were rarely large or fertile enough for farming. While the reserve system and other federal policies made farming commercially almost inaccessible to most Indigenous people in B.C., growing food was still a widespread practice, Lutz explained. “In the early 20th century, you see a lot of extensive kitchen gardens, people who are living out of their gardens. In part, this is an economic necessity. Indigenous people in large parts of the province didn’t have much access to the cash economy,” he said. “They would take much of their food off the land in terms of hunting and their kitchen garden if they could. And, of course, like white settlers, they would preserve food for the winter. They would can their peas and preserve their vegetables and have root cellars, and so on.” That period ended in the 1950s, he said. Racist policies prevented Indigenous people from entering many industries, everything from law to hospitality. Jobs in industries that had once been key employers, like fishing and forestry, were becoming automated, a combination of policy and economics that pushed many First Nations out of the workforce. And at the same time, increasingly strict hunting and fishing regulations crafted and imposed without consultation made subsistence harvesting difficult. In addition, intergenerational trauma and loss of cultural knowledge inflicted by the federal government’s assimilationist policies — including residential and day schools — exacerbated already difficult social and economic conditions. Those factors continue to influence Indigenous people’s well-being, Lutz said, including food security. About 40 per cent of on-reserve Indigenous households in B.C. are food insecure, according to researchers at the University of Northern B.C. And Health Canada data shows that Canada-wide, about a third of off-reserve Indigenous households don’t have enough food. These are issues Good hopes next year’s community agricultural training program can help resolve — and that a similar program in the Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) community of Bella Bella on B.C.’s central coast has been successfully addressing for several years. In 2017, the Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society, a Haíɫzaqv youth- and family- focused non-profit, started a community garden in the 1,400-person town, which is only accessible by sea or air. The project was a big success, said ‘Cúagilákv (Jess Housty), the organization’s executive director, especially this year: Due to the pandemic, the organization decided against making a single communal garden, and instead distributed gardening supplies to households and taught them how to grow food in “grannie gardens.” “This year, we supported over 100 households,” she said. “And in a recent community food security assessment we conducted, we learned that a third of households in Bella Bella are growing a portion of their own food and another third of households really want to start next year.” It’s a level of interest that isn’t only driven by food, she explained. Growing food is also good for mental health, particularly when people are facing uncertainty related to the pandemic or other factors out of their control. Nor is the practice new. “I really want people to understand that gardening is actually a Haíɫzaqv ancestral practice … We wanted to remind people that our people have a long history of nourishing themselves through their deep knowledge of plant systems and the climate where they live, and how all things around them interconnect,” she explained. A connection actively undermined by federal policies to assimilate Indigenous people across the country. “We had generations where that sense of connection to certain ancestral food was really deliberately attacked and that is tragic and unfortunate, but I really strongly believe that that knowledge is still in us and that we can wake it up again,” she said.Marc Fawcett-Atkinson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
NEW YORK — Jawan M. Jackson recently got to do something he's been yearning to do for months — sing and dance again with his Broadway cast.Jackson is one of the stars of “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations” and he reunited with castmates for the first time since theatres shuttered to prepare for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.“I was most happy with just seeing all my old friends I haven’t seen in months, some who flew in specifically for the show to do this,” he said. “It was different, but it was still great to do.”The pandemic, which shut down theatres in March, may have upended most traditions this holiday season, but the annual New York City parade will march on with balloons, dancers, floats, Broadway shows and Santa — albeit heavily edited for safety.“Traditions like this are comforting and they’re uplifting,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade. “New York has always been a tough city. It bounces back. It takes its blows and then it continues on. And I think it’s extremely important for us to be that display this holiday season. Regardless of what’s happened, New York needs to be that beacon of light in the darkness and this parade, I think, is symbolic of that.”The Macy’s parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff for more than 90 years, and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching bands. At last year's parade, the big fear was high wind. This time, it's a pandemic that has made crowds untenable.The biggest change this year is that the usual 2 1/2-mile route through crowded Manhattan has been scrapped in favour of concentrating events to a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances have been pre-taped and most of the parade’s performers will be locally based to cut down on travel.In addition to “Ain’t Too Proud," the parade will feature performances from the Broadway casts of “Hamilton,” “Mean Girls” and “Jagged Little Pill,” a musical built around the music of Alanis Morissette. The Broadway performances were taped days before the parade.Things felt a lot different for actor Derek Klena, who was in the 2017 parade as part of the cast of “Anastasia.” This year, he's Tony Award-nominated for his role in “Jagged Little Pill” and helped perform “You Learn” from the Tony-nominated show.The cast was quarantined for two weeks before taping and tested regularly for the virus. Cast members rehearsed in masks until the moment cameras started rolling and kept socially distant. They sang live this time instead of years past when casts lip-synched."Although the circumstances were much different, it was still so magical and fulfilling to get to share that experience with your fellow castmates after being distant for so long," said Klena.“I think it was important to everybody to find a way to still celebrate this event and celebrate the shows and the companies that all get to share in this amazing event.”Both Jackson and Klena said everyone adhered to the show's strict safety protocols — enforcing the 6-foot rule, frequent testing and requiring face masks plus face shields, as well as a fresh mask after their performance. “I’m appreciative of it because it is built to keep you safe,” said Jackson, though he noted “dancing in a mask is a tough feat.”This year's lineup of balloons includes Snoopy, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “The Elf on the Shelf,” Chase from "Paw Patrol," Pikachu, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald, SpongeBob SquarePants and “Trolls.” New this time are “The Boss Baby” and Red Titan from “Ryan’s World.”The giant cartoon-character balloons will be flown without the traditional 80 to 100 rope-pulling handlers assigned to each inflatable and will instead be tethered to specialized vehicles.Pentatonix, Ally Brooke, Keke Palmer, Sofia Carson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Jordin Sparks will perform, and there will be floats from “Blue’s Clues,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and Lego. There will be a New York City Ballet ballerina with a performance from “The Nutcracker,” an all-female samba drumline and acrobats from “The Big Apple Circus,” and the Rockettes will be out in force. The parade ends with an appearance from Santa Claus.Another change this year was the decision to spotlight many of the New York City parades that were cancelled in the spring and fall due to the pandemic — the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Mermaid Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and NYC Pride March.“We’re going to be highlighting them, and we’re going to be really giving them a chance to shine,” said Tercero. “You’re going to be able to see creativity in this entertainment come to life that has sort of been dormant for the past seven months.”For the Broadway performers, there's a silver lining to the changes this year. Usually on Thanksgiving Day, they'd be freezing in Midtown, having woken at dawn and been dancing and singing for hours. This year, they get to watch themselves from the warmth of their apartments, a job already well done.“It’s the first Thanksgiving in a few years where I either don’t have a show or I’m not taping something,” said Klena. “So in that way it’ll be kind of fun to just celebrate with some of my friends here in the city and my wife.”___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — All 26 on-ice officials at the world junior men's hockey championships in Edmonton will be from Canada.International Ice Hockey Federation tournaments normally have an international cross section of referees and linesmen.The IIHF is limiting the pool of officials to the host country to reduce risk of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.The 10-team world under-20 men's tournament is scheduled for Dec. 25 to Jan. 5 in the Alberta capital.“The game officials we would normally choose would have come from many different countries,” IIHF officiating manager Danny Kurmann said Wednesday in a statement.“Every additional person we bring into the bubble is a risk, so we decided to source the officials locally in order to reduce the risk to travelling personnel and teams.”The IIHF said all 10 participating countries approved of the decision."Special events require special measures, and we are confident that this group will be able to uphold the officiating standards of this tournament,” IIHF officiating committee chairman Sergej Gontcharov said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.The Canadian Press
It's been a long time coming, but the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) is building a hut in the Robson Pass area at the end of the Berg Lake trail. The site has been cleared and, if all goes to plan, the dorm-style hut will be built by next summer and usable by the fall. It will be open seasonally and accommodate 16 overnight guests: four bunks of four. Matt Reynolds, a professional mountaineer and president of the Jasper/Hinton section of the ACC, said the location is sought by "hikers and mountaineers alike”. "It's a really popular hiking destination for people who don't want to camp in the elements,” he said “It really will be quite a good thing for the community as a whole." The ACC got word of their permission to build the hut on Oct. 6 and the next day, a crew of ACC volunteers and two McElhanney survey technicians flew up to the site armed with chainsaws, fuel and other equipment to prepare and clear the area, which had already been marked with tape. Claire Levesque, a mountaineer and a Jasper/Hinton section member said she dropped everything when she found out the hut was a go-ahead and was happy to help. She said the crew worked all day. "There was a lot of work,” she said. The hut at Robson Pass will be the first one to be maintained by the ACC in B.C. Provincial Parks, though the club has had a presence in that area for more than 100 years - The first ascent of Mt. Robson was on an ACC camp. Lawrence White, ACC executive director in Canmore, and an avid mountaineer and backcountry skier, said the bid to get permission to build the hut started in 2005. The process was a three-way consultation between B.C. Parks, First Nations groups and the ACC. It's a World Heritage site. "We have a great partnership with B.C. Parks,” White said. “This seemed like the next natural step.” Next, the ACC will be working with the province and avalanche specialists to categorize the access route. The Jacques Lake cabin The ACC is now about a year into its 16-month trial agreement to manage the Jacques Lake patrol cabin, formerly managed by Parks Canada. As a not-for-profit operator, the ACC operates a number of cabins throughout the mountain national parks including four in Jasper. Steve Young, communications officer for Jasper National Park, said, "The addition of the Jacques Lake cabin provides an introductory level winter backcountry experience to novice visitors who may not otherwise experience Jasper’s backcountry at this time of year. The cabin offers visitors rustic accommodation along a moderate non-technical trail." Young said Parks Canada’s backcountry operations in Jasper National Park have changed over the years, reducing the frequency of use of patrol cabins such as Jacques Lake. The cabin was identified as a viable option to be used for public enjoyment as it is no longer required for operations during the winter months. Parks Canada retains ownership of the cabin while the ACC is responsible for the booking, management and maintenance of the cabin during the winter months. Established in 1906, the ACC head office is in Canmore and there are 25 local sections across the country, including the Jasper/Hinton section. The ACC promotes alpine experiences, knowledge and culture, responsible access and excellence in mountain skills and leadership. Currently there are 35 backcountry huts maintained by the ACC across the country.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
The Town of Bay Roberts has awarded a tender in the amount of $316,277 to CanAm Platforms & Construction Ltd. for new ballfield lighting. There was some discussion on whether that tender price would include new dehumidifiers, as the tender was for ballfield lighting and stadium dehumidifier upgrades. “I’m 99 percent sure that’s just the ballfield lighting,” said councillor Dean Franey, who noted the Town had already awarded the dehumidifier upgrade. “I’ll have to check with the director, but I’m pretty sure councillor Franey is right,” agreed Chief Administrative Officer Nigel Black. “What happens is the project name was called Ballfield Lighting and Stadium Dehumidifier. It was all lumped into one project.” Councillor Silas Badcock raised a concern about the awarding of the tender. “This is the company that put up our building at the recreation complex, where we’re having trouble with the roof?” asked Badcock. Black confirmed it was. Badcock said it didn’t make sense to him to award the contract unless the roof was fixed first. Black replied that the company met all the requirements of the tender, which had been reviewed by Municipal Affairs and the Town’s consultant, Crosbie Engineering. “There’s no way in the world we can say, ‘Fix our roof before you get this contract?’” asked Babcock. Black said the roof is being fixed and there is no outstanding claim against the company. “There was an outstanding problem with the roof, and they’re fixing it,” said Black. Councillor Geoff Seymour asked how much interest there was in the tender, and Franey said that there were 10 bids— including one from a company from Nova Scotia. “There’s not much work out there, I’ll put it to you that way. So people are going after whatever they can get,” said Franey. Council voted to approve the tender for the ballfield lighting.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
As controversial as he was talented, Maradona is a gigantic loss for the beautiful game. View on euronews
While the Humboldt chapter of Junior Chamber International (JCI) has been disbanded for over a year, the service club’s impact on the city is still noticeable. Rob Muench, Larry Jorgenson, Roger Korte and Amanda Klitch were all members of the service organization. The club ran in the city from 1958 until 2019 and promoted leadership, volunteering, and community event planning for members ages 18 to 40. Many long-serving members of the club over the years made their mark by becoming city councillors and mayors and this still stands as four of the current council are former members of the organization. For Larry Jorgenson, going from the club to the council was a natural move, he said. It was a young person’s club, he said, so once a member hits 40, they are asked to step away. “You spend that time from when you're 20 years old to when you get to be 40 years old basically training to become a leader. Where else can a leader go but take the next step to the city council or to some other organization?” Having JCI members on council has been a tradition since the club’s founding, said Rob Muench, a former mayor and returning city councillor, considering the similarities of both organizations in improving the community. As part of the JCIs, members learn about Robert's Rules of Order, discussing concerns, and making decisions that are good for the community. The same goes for what happens around the council table. “It is part of [the JCI] mandate to make the world a better place and to build leaders. It starts out with 18-year-old people that want to get involved in the community and over the years it certainly has supplied a number of councillors to the City of Humboldt.” Being an international organization, JCIs have chapters all over the world so there are still opportunities for people to remain involved with the organization. While it would be nice to have the chapter back in Humboldt, Jorgenson said the club was not sustainable. “The club has been struggling to find volunteers and new members, and they just couldn't sustain themselves anymore… We'd love to have a chapter back in Humboldt but the people that were on it we're getting burned out, and they just weren't able to revitalize the clubs moving forward.” For more information, visit the Junior Chamber International website at jci.cc or the JCI Humboldt Facebook page, www.facebook.com/jcihumboldt.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Participants both in favour of and opposed to the proposed Grassy Mountain mine squared off Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 during the scheduled presentation and cross-examination period. The hearing topics focused on the project’s purpose, visual esthetics, alternative road access and the potential socioeconomic effects the mine could have on the region. In Benga’s beginning statement, vice-president of external relations Gary Houston said the mine would spike the local economy, encouraging local business, the service industry and tourism in the area. “Benga considers [that] economic development, recreation and tourism are compatible and mutually supportive in the community and the region,” he said. Providing Crowsnest Pass with an established industry, Mr. Houston continued, would help draw more hotels and restaurants, which in turn would attract more tourists to the region to the point the municipality could rival a destination like Fernie. Heather Davis, owner of Uplift Adventures, challenged such an assertion because the environmental and socioeconomic assessment sections of Benga’s application were missing consultation with the outdoor recreation industry. “It appears that the consultant who prepared the report left a gap regarding what is going on in the community,” she said. “A cost-benefit analysis should include the assessment of outdoor recreation, lifestyle and tourism prior to the mine approval.” Ms. Davis said the mine’s approval would limit access to recreational opportunities, which would not only deter people from coming to the area but would also drive away people who live there. Gavin Fitch, representing the Livingstone Landowners Group, said Benga’s claim that the mine would help tourism ignored the fact travel destinations always have a destination worth going to. Amenities like hotels and restaurants, he said, come second. “How, then, is removing the top of one of the local mountains going to contribute to attracting or drawing more tourists?” he asked. Money talks In terms of improving the local economy, Mr. Houston said Benga’s “hire local” policy would ensure the two-year construction phase would provide meaningful employment for nearby residents, as well as establish some 400 good-paying, permanent positions once the mine was operational. The total socioeconomic benefit of the mine, however, was called into question. Though Mr. Houston said in Benga’s opening statements that some 500 jobs would be created during construction, it was later corrected that at its peak the construction phase would require only 190 workers. Overall, an average of 120 workers would be employed while construction is occurring. The estimate of $1.7 billion in provincial and federal royalties and taxes over the mine’s 25-year lifespan — two for construction and 23 for operations — was also based on an assumed average price of US $140 per tonne of metallurgical coal. Coal prices, Benga acknowledged, can regularly fluctuate above $300 or below $100, though the process is a complicated one to predict since prices are established directly between individual steelmakers and coal mines. The risk to the multibillion-dollar agrifood industry downstream from the mine, which was recently reported at $2.2 billion in 2020 for Lethbridge County alone, has raised questions as to whether any purported benefit from the mine is worth the economic risk. With more and more countries investing in green energy to combat climate change, Mr. Fitch said, the economic viability outlook was overly optimistic since global coal use is estimated to decrease. Alternative methods of producing steel without metallurgical coal, like hydrogen-field forges or electric-arc furnaces, could also hamper the mine’s profitability on world markets. Opponents of the proposed mine also said the mine’s development contradicted Canada’s international commitments to limiting gas emissions. Gas emissions as part of the project’s mining operations, however, are regarded by proponents as negligible. “I believe the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project are in the order of 0.05 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions, so that seems like a small number to me,” said Mr. Houston. He also added that figure would be applicable only once the mine reached peak production during its 19th year. As well, decreasing coal demand worldwide only really applies to thermal coal, or coal used to produce electricity, said Benga’s Mike Yuill. “For Canadian export hard-coking coal, the outlook is still very robust,” he said. While using electricity in arc-flash furnaces is growing, Mr. Yuill added that the process requires recycling old steel. For many countries in southeastern Asia just starting to develop, little amounts of steel exist to be recycled, necessitating the need for metallurgical coal. Using hydrogen instead of coal is still in its preliminary stages and is not expected to be used widely during the Grassy Mountain mine’s lifespan. Property problems The mine’s land use, as well as its effect on nearby properties, was also discussed. Since the mine is located on an existing mine that closed in the 1960s, Benga argued that it’s reclamation efforts would improve the area since the previous mining company did not complete any land reclamation. The company also clarified concerns about private properties being located within the mine’s boundary; the boundary was purposefully drawn larger than what operational needs actually required to facilitate appropriate environmental study. No properties exist within the mine footprint, where mining would occur. For Fran Gilmar, who has owned property in the area for 60 years, the distance properties were from the mining footprint was irrelevant since mining activity would destroy the area’s source of fresh water, particularly Gold Creek. “I've drank it for 58 years, and it's, it's beautiful water. It's the last of the last,” she said. “You know, you do not find water like that anywhere.” In addition to water pollution, residents also said the resulting air and noise pollution would significantly devalue their properties. While acknowledging values would decrease if a catastrophic accident occurred, Brian Gettel, a professional appraiser who testified at the hearing, said property losses would only really be affected by the dust produced at the mine. He estimated the additional air pollution would result in 10 per cent or less loss in property value, though mining activity would more negatively affect the higher-end housing, which typically involves people from the city owning a second house in an alpine area. “Put simply, second homes in a mountain area are not necessarily the greatest thing if it's a mining community,” Mr. Gettel said. To mitigate property losses in the Grassy Mountain area, Benga had engaged nearby landowners throughout the proposal and application period, Mr. Houston said. A voluntary buy-back program had been established, with Benga offering to pay owners double what their property was worth, based on individual negotiations. The average starting point for such negotiations, Mr. Houston continued, was $800,000. Describing $800,000 as double the average property price, however, was a disputed figure. “From my perspective, $400,000 is a rare instance, and that is the absolute lowest value I've seen,” said Mr. Gettel. In their communications with Benga, Norm and Tyler Watmough, who own property immediately adjacent to the proposed mine, said negotiations were more like an ultimatum. The initial offer the family received was for $750,000, even though they knew two of their neighbours’ land had been bought by Benga for $1.1 million and $1.3 million. When the family declined the initial offer, Benga offered $800,000, claiming it was 60 per cent premium over the highest appraised property in the region. The Watmoughs again refused the offer. “We felt that they were bullying us and trying to force us out at a price that was below market value,” Tyler said. The difference in pricing, Mr. Houston said, was the result of Benga determining what land was necessary for it to own in order to operate the mine. Land within the mine footprint, then, would be a higher priority for purchase. Landowners in the area also are concerned they will be cut off from Grassy Mountain Road, the most direct access to their properties. Though Benga has suggested alternative roads exist, locals say the routes amount to little more than quad trails or are accessible only parts of the year with four-by-four trucks. The issue stems from an agreement property owners formerly had with the gas company Devon Canada Corp. The agreement granted residents permission to access Grassy Mountain Road, even though it went through private property. Richard Secord, legal counsel for the affected landowners, said Benga did not do its due diligence in ensuring residents could still use the road. “You didn't determine or bother in your public consultation to find out whether [the agreement] was real [and] that they had a similar access to the Grassy Mountain Road,” he said. In Benga’s defense, Mr. Houston responded that no landowners had approached the company about the issue until the hearing. “I don't know that the onus is on Benga to ask [if] there any secret agreements that we don't know about,” he said. “The lines of communication have been open for five years. The fact that we have intended to close the Grassy Mountain Road has been documented in writing at least [since] 2015 and through several other communications.” When Martin Ignasiak, Benga’s legal counsel, asked landowners Larry and Ed Donkersgoed why they did not discuss the issue with the mining company, they replied that they just assumed Benga would know. Benga’s understanding of the agreement was that residents could maintain the road at their own expense, though Mr. Houston said the company was under the impression it really only included clearing snow. He also said the agreement only formally acknowledged Devon was not liable for residents using the road and gave the gas company power to terminate the agreement with 120 days written notice. Evidence of the agreement brought before the hearing was also a little suspect, Mr. Houston said, since a letter indicating the agreement was written and signed by a former Devon employee. The letter didn’t have an official letterhead and only described a verbal agreement rather than laying out terms and conditions. Accessing the hearing The public hearing for the joint review panel continues throughout November. Live and recorded proceedings of the hearing are available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/GMtnHearing, with transcripts and submitted documents accessible at https://bit.ly/AllDocx.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze