WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared Tuesday the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press Writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A new poll suggests most Canadians aren't currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first.Thirty-seven per cent of respondents to a survey conducted by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies say they are very concerned that Canada may not receive doses of a new COVID vaccine as early as the United States."That's not necessarily low, but I think most pundits would have expected this number to be much higher," said Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.Meanwhile, 48 per cent say they are not concerned about getting a vaccine first and 10 per cent say they don't care at all or are not planning to get vaccinated anyway.Getting a vaccine before other countries doesn't seem to be "a major (issue for the Liberal government), which is contrary to what we might have thought … when the prime minister actually said that we would not be the first ones to get doses," Bourque said.The amount of concern regarding getting a COVID-19 vaccine first varies along party lines, with 45 per cent of self-identified Conservative supporters saying they are very concerned that Canada may not receive doses of a new COVID vaccine at the same time as other countries. Only 38 per cent of Liberal supporters say they are concerned. "The Conservative voters have the highest rate of people who say they're very concerned about not getting (a vaccine) first," said Bourque. "It's probably just because they tend to have a negative view or perspective on the Trudeau government, period."Furthermore, with the likelihood of multiple vaccines arriving over a period of time, just 28 per cent of respondents said they will take the first vaccine they can get, while 45 per cent said they will wait for other vaccines to become available.Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians and 55 per cent say it should be given on a voluntary basis.But the poll suggests that the vast majority of Canadians want people entering Canada to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with 83 per cent of respondents saying vaccines should be required. Also, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said employers should be able to demand that workers be vaccinated.The poll suggests that 65 per cent of Canadians intend to take a COVID-19 vaccine when it's approved by Health Canada and available for free while 17 per cent say they don't intend to. "That proportion used to be a bit higher, closer to 70 per cent in the spring. Since then it's gone down," said Bourque. "Over the past three months, when we've actually asked the question again, it is fairly stable in the mid-60s.""It really seems that two thirds of us are kind of committed to this idea of getting the vaccine when it's available."The poll of 1,516 adult Canadians in an online panel was conducted from Nov. 26 to Nov. 29 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization is warning residents to pay close attention to Tuesday's rainfall warnings.Environment Canada has marked the first day of December by issuing a rainfall warning for more than half the province.Central and southwestern parts of New Brunswick can expect between 40 and 120 millimetres of rain Tuesday into Wednesday morning.However, some regions in southwestern New Brunswick could see up to 180 millimetres. "No one should be caught off guard at this point, so stay informed through trusted sources and make sure you are prepared to react if needed," said Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick EMO.Downey said people should also check their storm drains and rain gutters and have an emergency kit ready.Special weather statements issuedThe national weather agency has also issued a special weather statement for eastern New Brunswick, where up to 50 millimetres of rain is expected. Those areas include: * The Acadian Peninsula. * Bathurst and Chaleur region. * Kent County. * Kouchibouguac National Park. * Miramichi area. * The Moncton area.Environment Canada said similar rainfall events in the past have caused road washouts and localized flooding in low-lying areas."Heavy downpours can cause flash floods and water pooling on roads," the agency said in a statement."Localized flooding in low-lying areas is possible. Don't approach washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts."Environment Canada says the storm is similar to one that caused severe flooding in December 2010.This year, however, the ground is not frozen so it should be able to absorb a lot more rain."We've been running a water deficiency throughout the province for pretty much all of 2020," said Jill Mapea, a meteorologist with Environment Canada."The ground is not very saturated at all."After a bit of a lull Tuesday morning, Mapea said the heaviest rain was expected Tuesday afternoon and evening."Fingers crossed it doesn't come down too hard," she said, "but I think a lot of people with wells are welcoming this rain." However, Mapea wasn't ruling out the possibility of flooding."You never know. Sometimes a big downpour can raise those levels really quick."Populated areas might expect some street flooding, she said if storm drains are overwhelmed.
Dec. 1 marks Giving Tuesday, the follow-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday that encourages people to consider where they can make a charitable donation or find some other way of giving back to the community.With the COVID-19 pandemic this year, however, there's a renewed focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, says Kate Bahen, the managing director at Charity Intelligence, a non-profit that evaluates the Canadian charity sector."We're putting the basic necessities back to the forefront. The women's shelters. The food banks," Bahen said on CBC's B.C. Today. "We're hearing from a lot of donors who used to give to, you know, symphonies, art museums, etc., and we're seeing a real rotation in giving back to the community and back to the essential services." Bahen has a few tips for those interested in giving back this season. Do your research and give with intention. It's important to know what impact your donation is having in the community, says Bahen, especially at a time when dollars need to be stretched. Bahen says Canadians give $17 billion to charities each year, but early estimates show that giving is likely going to be down by about 37 per cent due to hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. "When you're giving at this time, we need donations to do the most good possible," she said, pointing out that Charity Intelligence has research and analysis available on its website that can help inform a giving decision. She said going through previous statements can help you judge whether a charity needs help this year, or whether another one might be better served."Just like some people are very well off and are going to be fine and some people are really struggling, there are some charities that are really well off. They have tens of millions of dollars in the bank, they'll be able to come through COVID fine, absolutely fine," she said. "There are lots of other charities that are really trying to keep their lights on."Sometimes, cash is best. Bahen says pay attention to what people need. She notes that food banks would much rather have cash than items purchased at a grocery store and then donated. "A local food bank ... has its purchasing power. It can buy four times as much food with that dollar as you could spending it retail. It knows its clients. It knows what it needs," she said. The same goes for gift cards or cash vouchers for families in need. "Giving cash has dignity with it. It's a trust, it's a respect. It's saying to them … get what you need, rather than what we think you should have," she said.It's a tough year. Take care of yourself, too.Finally, Bahen said, not everyone will be able to give in the same capacity as previous years — and that's perfectly fine."When you've lost your job, when you've faced financial uncertainty, you cannot make a charitable donation. You have to take care of yourself," she said. "[For] those who are in a position to give, it's time for us to dig deep and help out our neighbours."On Dec. 4, join us virtually for special broadcasts and digital Meet and Greets with your favourite CBC British Columbia hosts, and donate to Food Banks B.C. from the comfort of your own home. For more, visit cbc.ca/openhouse
As the case count continues to rise in New Brunswick, Dr. Jennifer Russell says one thing has proven to be unfailingly true: masks and physical distancing work, and ignoring that truth is risky.In an interview Monday on Shift, the province's chief medical officer of health said recent cases of transmission related to sports have prompted people to question whether allowing practices and games is a good idea.Her answer, she said, is that sports aren't the problem. Letting your guard — and your mask — down is.If people are following the guidelines, participating in sports and practices should be relatively safe, Russell said. It's when people engage in "the social side of things," removing their masks and being within two metres of one another, that the risk rises."You have to remember that of every single one of these cases, we're above 500 now, every single case of COVID in every close contact was somebody who was within six feet of somebody without wearing a mask for more than 15 minutes," Russell said."That advice from the very beginning of the pandemic has held true and will continue to hold true until everybody is vaccinated."> We like to really thoroughly investigate before we label anything as community transmission. \- Dr. Jennifer RussellRussell was also asked about the origins of the 120 active cases in the province, and said that most of them have been figured out, "with the exception of probably a couple in the Moncton region."She acknowledged she does worry about community transmission, given that there are cases of community transmission in Halifax, but cautioned against labelling anything "too early.""Obviously, anybody who's come or gone from the Halifax area in the last 14 days should be monitoring for symptoms," she said. "If you have come back after the new directions were provided around the border, you do need to self-isolate for 14 days … with the exception of people who are essential workers."During the outbreak in the Campbellton region earlier in the pandemic, she said, there were cases that for a long time did not appear to be linked, "but by the end of the investigation, after four weeks," all of the links were established."So we like to really thoroughly investigate before we label anything as community transmission," Russell said.Testing backlogs easing, but still some concernsRussell said the backlogs that have caused testing delays are easing, but there are still some concerns.There have been some cases of priority testing not being completed within the advised 24-hour window, and Russell said she has heard of some people who have been waiting up to seven days.She urged anyone in this situation "please don't be shy to call again or fill out another assessment form, because we do want people to get tested."In the meantime, she said, "we are working away every day" to erase the backlog, bringing in extra staff, more testing sites and working extra extra hours."Time is of the essence, because the sooner we test and do the contact tracing and make sure people are self-isolating, the sooner that we know that people are not at risk of transmitting COVID to other people in their close contacts."Mental health toll, exhaustion wearing on everyoneRussell also made a point of issuing "a big thank you to all the people who have been working so hard and sacrificing" throughout the pandemic, from health-care workers to business owners to students.The mental health toll, and the sheer exhaustion of having to adapt to new measures and guidelines, has been felt by everyone, she said."It is impacting everybody in this province, whether it's your social life, whether it's your business, whether it's your mental health, even the school system — students who are going to school in a different type of environment wearing masks — there are a lot of things that people have had to adjust to and that can be really tiring," she said.In the months ahead, as we move toward the rollout of vaccines, Russell said it will be important for people to reserve their energy and to recharge, "to keep on keeping on and and really work together" to get to the finish line."We have done very well up until now. And that success has has been contributed to by so many people, so many citizens."
Two battleground states, Wisconsin and Arizona, certified their presidential election results in favour of Joe Biden, even as President Donald Trump's legal team continued to dispute the results.Biden’s victory in Wisconsin was certified Monday following a partial recount that only added to his 20,600-vote margin over Trump, who has promised to file a lawsuit seeking to undo the results.Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, signed a certificate that completed the process after the canvass report showing Biden as the winner following the recount was approved by the chairwoman of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission. Evers’ signature was required by law and is typically a procedural step that receives little attention.“Today I carried out my duty to certify the November 3rd election,” Evers said in a statement. “I want to thank our clerks, election administrators, and poll workers across our state for working tirelessly to ensure we had a safe, fair, and efficient election. Thank you for all your good work.”The action Monday now starts a five-day deadline for Trump to file a lawsuit, which he promised would come no later than Tuesday. Trump is mounting a longshot attempt to overturn the results by disqualifying as many as 238,000 ballots. Trump’s attorneys have alleged without evidence that there was widespread fraud and illegal activity.Biden’s campaign has said the recount showed that Biden won Wisconsin decisively and there was no fraud. Even if Trump were successful in Wisconsin, the state’s 10 Electoral College votes would not be enough to undo Biden’s overall victory as states around the country certify results.Earlier Monday, Arizona officials certified Biden’s narrow victory in that state.Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey both vouched for the integrity of the election before signing off on the results.“We do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong,” Ducey said.He did not directly address Trump’s claims of irregularities but said the state pulled off a successful election with a mix of in-person and mail voting despite the pandemic.Hobbs said Arizona voters should know that the election “was conducted with transparency, accuracy and fairness in accordance with Arizona’s laws and election procedures, despite numerous unfounded claims to the contrary.”Biden is only the second Democrat in 70 years to win Arizona. In the final tally, he beat Trump by 10,457 votes, or 0.3% of the nearly 3.4 million ballots cast.Even as Hobbs, Ducey, the state attorney general and chief justice of the state Supreme Court certified the election results, Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis met in a Phoenix hotel ballroom a few miles away to lay out claims of irregularities in the vote count in Arizona and elsewhere. But they did not provide evidence of widespread fraud.“The officials certifying have made no effort to find out the truth, which to me, gives the state Legislature the perfect reason to take over the conduct of this election because it’s being conducted irresponsibly and unfairly,” Giuliani said.Nine Republican state lawmakers attended the meeting. They had requested permission to hold a formal legislative hearing at the Capitol but were denied by the Republican House speaker and Senate president.Trump berated Ducey on Twitter Monday night, asking, “Why is he rushing to put a Democrat in office, especially when so many horrible things concerning voter fraud are being revealed at the hearing going on right now.”Elections challenges brought by the Trump campaign or his backers in key battleground states have largely been unsuccessful as Trump continues to allege voter fraud while refusing to concede.There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.___Bauer reported from Madison, Wis.; Cooper and Tang reported from Phoenix.Scott Bauer, Jonathan J. Cooper And Terry Tang, The Associated Press
What began as an idea for two Cree best friends has turned into a podcast that is catching on with their laid back conversation and list of Indigenous guests."We firmly believe that everyone has a story," said River Thomas, 25, originally from the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in Saskatchewan, and co-host of Foxing Around."Everyone comes from all aspects of life with some sort of knowledge they can give or share to the general public."The other co-host is Raymond Fox, 25, originally from the Sweetgrass First Nation in Saskatchewan. The pair currently live and produce the program out of their basement in Olds, Alta., where they both are student athletes.Fox attends Red Deer College, where he plays soccer, and Thomas goes to Olds College on a partial volleyball scholarship."The thing I am most proud of is we are doing this together," Fox said."To do this with my best friend is the best part about it." Fox came up with the idea to do their own podcast after being interviewed on a Saskatchewan podcast this past summer."I was shown the basics and thought it would be a great platform to start Foxing Around," said Fox. Fox thought with COVID-19 restrictions it was a great time to do it, so the pair scraped up some funds to buy used microphones and a mixer and with a homemade green screen the podcast was on the air in October."We wanted to create meaningful conversation, but at the same time keep it light," he said. The list of guests has included a wide variety of people from actor Adam Beach, international round dance singers Fawn and Tia Wood, as well as Saskatchewan rapper Joey Styles, who was their first guest."They are just starting out and you get that feeling it was something they were meant to do," said Styles. "It seems to be thriving; they are connecting with people while realizing their dream and inspiring others."The show has gained thousands of followers and comments from the audience are reflected, with issues ranging from culture, entertainment and personal stories of guests. Melissa Worm, originally from Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan said that, as a listener, she was excited to hear about the subjects the show delves into."Hearing the culture being talked about from a younger point of view and how honest and open the space they created to talk about these things is becoming, is really very exciting," she said.Fox said they hope to bring together people who have success stories with others who can either learn from them or relate to them. According to the pair they have had messages and comments from Indigenous people all over Canada and the United States. The podcast airs every Sunday on Facebook and can be found on YouTube.
MONTREAL — Canadians planning to buy a live Christmas tree this season should start shopping now and expect to pay more, the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association says.Farmers anticipate 2020 will be a record sales year. Association head Larry Downey says it's simple supply and demand: a shortage of trees coupled with a greater appetite from people hoping to liven up their living spaces amid widespread stay-at-home orders. “Personally, we don’t see COVID affecting us,” says Downey, whose family farm in Hatley, Que. sells up to 30,000 Christmas trees each year.Most wholesale farmers Downey has spoken this year with have already reached sales records, he added, with much of the demand coming from vendors in the United States. Retailers typically place their orders for trees as early as June, Downey says.The Christmas tree market is still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, which put many U.S. growers out of business and led others to reduce planting. Since saplings take eight to 10 years to reach the size of a typical Christmas tree, the effects of the lower supply have only recently emerged. In turn, the shortage has pushed prices upward. Downey says Christmas trees are retailing for about $5 more this year, continuing a trend that has been ongoing for several years. The average price of a tree rose 123 per cent to US$78 in 2018 from US$35 in 2013, according to the U.S. National Christmas Tree Association.Prices are on the rise in Canada as well. Stephane Bernier, who runs Plantation Bernier in Lac-Brome, Que., and Bronwyn Harper, who co-owns the Hillcrest Tree Farm near Ottawa, both say they have raised prices for Christmas trees this year.On top of the shortage, tree sellers say they are expecting strong demand from consumers looking for an outdoor, physically distanced activity and who want to add some holiday cheer to their homes, where people are spending more time amid a second wave of Covid-19 cases. The pandemic has already led to some greater-than-expected spending in the home improvement market, a trend that could bode well for Christmas tree sales. Some tree varieties such as Fraser firs, prized for their pleasant fragrance and excellent needle retention, are even more sought after. Harper says she is selling Fraser firs for around $85 — or $20 more than last year — after her supplier raised prices. (Fraser firs can’t grow on her property because of the terrain, Harper says.)The anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some retailers to purchase more trees wholesale.Phil Quinn, the co-owner of Quinn Farm near Montreal, says he had to buy additional trees from wholesalers to sell at his farm since he didn’t grow enough on his own property to meet the demand he expects this year. And Harper says she's received many calls from people looking for wholesale trees, although she only sells to retail customers.“Everyone wants a tree and they want it now,” says Quinn, who expects to be sold out of trees by the second week of December. But while demand for trees is expected to be strong, the pandemic has created its own set of challenges for tree vendors. Most sellers will not be able to offering the same set of attractions this year, with physical distancing requirements forcing farms to scrap additional draws such as wagon rides and fire pits.Harper says her biggest challenge this year will be developing clear distancing guidelines for people picking up trees. The farm’s owners won’t allow people to bring their dogs, for example, nor will they offer horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides. Rather than serving hot apple cider, Hillcrest Tree Farm will be giving people treats to take away when they leave.“What might have been a one-hour visit will be a shorter visit this year,” Harper says.Similarly, Serge Lapointe, the owner of Plantation JLS in Sainte-Angele-de-Monnoir, Que., says his farm won’t have anywhere for Christmas tree buyers to congregate this year, unlike in previous years when it offered visitors rides and the chance to take a photo with Santa Claus.One aspect of the Christmas tree market to watch this year will be how lockdown orders affect how people buy trees, including whether they go in person to pick them up or order them online, says Paul Quinn (no relation to Phil Quinn), an analyst at RBC Dominion Securities who studies Christmas tree sales from year to year. Retail tree vendors could face some competition from large online players: On their websites, Home Depot and Walmart both list natural Fraser Fir trees for sale, available for delivery before Christmas. A search on Amazon’s website revealed no results for natural Christmas trees, although the company offers a variety of artificial trees for sale.But Phil Quinn says people are looking to take advantage of the chance to pick out their own tree in person, noting his farm is seeing greater interest in its choose-and-cut option, even with Quebec at its highest COVID-19 alert level.“People are just asking for some kind of normalcy,” Quinn says.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Jon Victor, The Canadian Press
Newfoundland and Labrador's information and privacy commissioner says the provincial Department of Justice's refusal to share documents with him is preventing him from doing his job. In his submission Monday to the review of the province's access-to-information legislation, Michael Harvey says he can't do his job properly without records that the department says are exempted from release."Over the past year, the Department of Justice has appealed our recommendations to court in an effort to prevent our review of documents over which public bodies are claiming solicitor-client privilege," he told CBC News on Monday.The information and privacy commissioner's job is to make sure government bodies are following the rules and ensure citizens are not being wrongly denied access to information"We are only asking that we be allowed to do our job and provide that oversight," said Harvey.> My strongest appeal for this review of ATIPPA is to simply allow me to do my job. Don't go back to Bill 29. \- Michael HarveyIn his submission to the review of the Access To Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Harvey argued the importance of the privacy commissioner's oversight function needs to be reinforced.Harvey's submission noted that was also recommended by a committee that reviewed the former PC government's Bill 29, which in 2012 brought in measures that weakened the powers of the legislative transparency watchdog — including stripping the commissioner's power to review solicitor-client privilege documents."That role had been taken away through the infamous Bill 29. The 2014 Wells committee spoke clearly about the importance of the commissioner's ability to review these records to confirm that public bodies were following the law, as did the government of the day in the House of Assembly when ATIPPA 2015 was being debated," said Harvey in the submission."Unfortunately, in the past year, the Department of Justice and Public Safety has begun an effort to chip away at that clear legislative direction and is now refusing to provide the records, or indeed, any evidence to the commissioner, in support of its claims of solicitor-client privilege. My strongest appeal for this review of ATIPPA is to simply allow me to do my job. Don't go back to Bill 29."Harvey says access-to-information legislation should be changed to underscore the importance of oversight, by allowing the commissioner to review solicitor-client privilege documents."To give, you know, just really greater clarity, we're proposing a simple amendment so that we can really nail this down and put this issue to bed once and for all," he saidIn response, the Justice Department sent CBC a statement Monday saying the provincial government "is committed to openness and transparency." The final report of retired chief justice David B. Orsborn's review is expected by April, while the dispute between the information commissioner and the Department of Justice is going to court. Harvey said a court date has not yet been set.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
It's been a bit of a roller-coaster weekend for Toronto father Yaser Nadaf, after Ontario's new asymptomatic testing for schools in COVID-19 hot spots turned up 19 new positive cases at his children's school.While his daughter and her Grade 3 class were cleared to return to school on Monday, his son's Grade 2 class must self-isolate for 14 days, even though the youngster himself was among those who tested negative.The weekend's testing blitz at Thorncliffe Park Public School — the first Toronto District School Board (TDSB) location selected for the voluntary testing pilot announced last week — saw 14 classes affected and sent home for two weeks. However, the rest of the school will remain open, according to direction from Toronto Public Health.Nadaf is rolling with it, saying he believes teachers and staff have been trying their best to maintain health and safety precautions and protocols."What can we do? This is going on everywhere in the world," he said. "They try their best, but at the same time they cannot prevent it completely."Testing asymptomatic students and staff is currently being offered at designated schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions and Ottawa — four Ontario regions with a high number of active COVID-19 cases.The goal is to improve tracking of the coronavirus and prevent transmission within schools, as well as to inform future public health decisions. While parents and health experts seem to be applauding the pilot, some are also highlighting shortcomings in how it's being rolled out.Over the weekend, testing also began in Ottawa at Manordale Public School, part of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Amber Mammoletti, an occasional teacher working at two schools this fall, dropped by on Sunday to be tested with her son, Fynn."I think there's people walking around not realizing they have it — no symptoms — so it's just better to keep everyone safe: Get tested if you can and see what happens," she said.WATCH | How testing helped Cornell University become a model of COVID-19 prevention:School boards are working with local public health authorities to determine which schools to target over the next four weeks, but the expectation is that new positives will undoubtedly emerge, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said."The 19 cases we've learned about over the weekend [at Thorncliffe Park PS] as a result of the testing is a concern, but it's not unexpected," he said Monday."While this information is concerning, it really is the information that our public health officials need to know, because it gives them a better snapshot of how many of those asymptomatic people are positive cases of COVID."Despite the batch of positive cases arising from this first weekend, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce reiterated his assertion that "99.9 per cent of Ontario students are COVID-free" during a press briefing on Monday afternoon.Acknowledging that "we still have work to do" in tracking COVID-19 cases in communities, he characterized the new testing initiative as an extension of the existing safety measures his ministry had announced."The fact that hundreds of children, students and staff have gotten tested [at Thorncliffe Park PS] in conjunction with the local public health unit I think underscores that the plan in place is ... working hard to mitigate any further spread: identifying COVID cases, isolating them or moving them from the school, so we don't have spreaders within the school." 'Canaries in the coal mine'A targeted campaign of testing in schools — which in most neighbourhoods are considered trusted, known places — is a welcome tool that adds to the barometer of what's happening in the communities they're located in, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at McMaster University in Hamilton."Parents who may not be encouraged to go get tested in their local communities will readily take their kids to the school, which is a place they know," he said."Things like this are going to be canaries in the coal mine. You kind of get a better sense of what's happening in the community by doing these local testing strategies."He added the caveat, however, that the type of test being used will likely cause more chaos for families and schools.For the pilot, Ontario is using PCR testing, which detects the genetic material of a virus. Although considered the gold standard, it's also so sensitive it would "pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago," Chagla said.He suggested that they could have chosen rapid antigen tests, which flag active infections by identifying proteins on the surface of infectious virus particles.The rapid antigen tests may offer a more precise picture "of who is really a threat to the community versus who had COVID six weeks ago, where they're not really a threat," Chagla said.WATCH | Nova Scotia offers rapid COVID-19 tests in Halifax for asymptomatic cases:Though Toronto parent Jessica Lyons welcomes the introduction of asymptomatic testing, she said it comes months late and should be offered more widely."This is desperately needed," said the mother of two school-aged children and an organizer with the Ontario Parent Action Network."Much more testing in schools — to make it accessible, to make it easy for parents and families and students to do — is really essential. So we support this pilot, obviously, but we think that it should have come ... weeks and weeks ago, and it needs to be expanded."Back in Thorncliffe Park, among the Toronto communities hardest hit by COVID-19 this year, parents in the neighbourhood expressed concern about the new positive cases found through the testing initiative. But they're also adamant about one thing: their schools staying open.Remote learning last spring was "really hard for kids. We've seen the mental stress on our child and other kids," said Osamah Aldhaby, father of a second grader who he said really missed being at school."When we were kids, you know, we used to run away from school," Aldhad noted."Now they're actually really wanting to go to school, which is really important for them."
The Canadian navy's new frigates will get a cutting-edge radar system that has never before been installed on a warship — a recent decision that quietly ended a heated debate within the $60 billion warship program.The Lockheed Martin-built AN/SPY-7 radar will be installed on the new warships despite a furious back-room lobbying campaign by elements in the defence industry to convince DND to take a pass on the new system.It was a critical decision — one on which the federal government has been silent, apart from a few scattered social media posts, despite repeatedly promising to be more open and transparent about the multi-billion-dollar decisions it makes on shipbuilding.The choice of a radar system for the frigates has important implications for the military, as well as for the taxpayers who will foot the bill for Ottawa's $60 billion plan to build 15 new surface combat ships for the navy.The BMD optionIt also has significant political ramifications because Lockheed Martin's AN/SPY-7 radar is easy to upgrade to a ballistic missile defence system — a defence program successive Canadian governments have resisted joining.The contract to install the radar system on the new frigates was awarded in September by the warship's prime contractor, Irving Shipbuilding Inc., and acknowledged publicly by Lockheed Martin Canada earlier this month.Japan purchased a land-based version of the radar to serve as an early warning system for North Korean ballistic missile launches. That plan was rolled back earlier this year in response to fears that the missile batteries — located near the radar installations — would pose a hazard to densely-populated surrounding areas.At the moment, Canada and Spain are the only two countries planning to put the SPY-7 on their warships, although Japan has now also signalled it might equip some of its new warships with the technology.For more than three decades, Canadian governments of both political stripes have turned down U.S. overtures to join its ballistic missile defence (BMD) network. The issue became a diplomatic lightning rod the last time it was discussed over 15 years ago.The new frigates, including their radar systems, are being designed with BMD in mind in case a future government decides to get Canada involved.The potential for a new political brawl over BMD worries leading defence expert Dave Perry less than the technical and budget issues related to the federal government's choice of radar system.New system unproven, says expertIn a statement, the Department of National Defence insisted that the cost of adapting the radar to the Canadian frigate design "will be covered as part of the ($140 million) long-lead contract" signed with Irving Shipbuilding in early 2019, after Lockheed Martin was selected to design the new ships.There is another concern, though.The fact that the AN/SPY-7 "has not been marinized and deployed on a ship at sea is significant," said Perry, a defence procurement expert and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute."It means on the spectrum of developmental production, it is far closer to the purely developmental end of the spectrum than something that is deployed and has been proven on a couple of different navies around the world," he said.Lockheed Martin officials dispute that assessment, saying all of the components have been used on warships in one way or another, including the cabinets used to house the electronics."The SPY-7 radar is not in development. It was designed for use as a maritime radar and is based on mature technology that has been thoroughly tested and is being adapted and scaled for a variety of customers in both land-based and at-sea applications," said Gary Fudge, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Canada Rotary and Mission Systems.The company officials concede it will take design work to integrate the system into the new Canadian frigates, but insist that would be true of any other new radar system.There are still risks, Perry said.Canada's struggles with new technology"Canada has a lot of problems bringing development technology into service," he said, pointing to auditor general reports on the procurement fiasco involving the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter and the 16-year quest to replace the air force's fixed-wing search plane."Part of the problem is making sure you understand what it is you actually are buying," Perry added. "So if you are structuring a process to buy something off-the-shelf, you can buy something off-the-shelf. But we generally don't do that."DND said the AN/SPY-7 was pitched as part of Lockheed Martin's bid to design and manage the frigate program, and the navy needs the most up-to-date technology in warships that will be in service for decades.The system represents the "latest generation radar, with capability that surpasses other units fielded today," said DND spokesperson Jessica Lamirande in a media statement.DND was targeted by a furious behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign aimed at getting it to drop Lockheed Martin's radar system.An unsolicited defence industry slide deck presentation — obtained and published last year by CBC News — made the rounds within the government and landed on the desks of senior officials and military commanders. It described the AN/SPY-7 as "unproven technology" that will be "costly to support."Lockheed Martin officials pushed back against that assertion recently, saying that the new system will be easier to maintain, relies on existing components and — importantly — doesn't have to be switched off for maintenance work.Lockheed Martin officials were less clear on whether the overall system has yet to be fully certified for use on warships at sea."SPY-7 technology has been declared Technical Readiness Level 7 by the U.S. government, meaning it has been tested in an operationally relevant environment," said Fudge. "SPY-7 for CSC takes advantage of investments across multiple shore and sea based programs as well as internal funding for its development and testing. Canada has agreed to pay for the CSC-specific requirements and integration of SPY-7 into the CSC platform, which is required for any radar selected."
Bright Lights Windsor is back on — but like many events during the pandemic, it's going to look different this year.The "reimagined" event is now going to take place citywide. Signature displays, which Windsorites would normally view at Jackson Park, are now placed in different pockets of the city.The announcement comes about a month after the City of Windsor decided to pull the plug on this year's festival because of COVID-19.The city also announced on Monday that it gave $20,000 to each of the nine business improvement associations (BIAs) which "will be used to purchase holiday lights and displays to further light up our neighbourhoods and support local small business," — a boost that some local business owners, including Filip Rocca, the owner of Mezzo Ristorante & Lounge and president of the Erie Street BIA, say they need."It was a great move by the city to offer the buyers a little bit of funding to spruce up their areas. We've been wanting to do that on every street for a couple of years now. So this gave us the opportunity to pull the trigger this year and help with obviously paying for it. So we're really happy about it," Rocca said."Not only cosmetically it does look nicer, especially at night, but obviously, you know, a little safer for the area as well."He said he looks forward to seeing the trees along Erie Street lit up in the coming days and hopes it drives up more customers to local businesses.Mohammed Al Khaleel, the owner of Brothers Barber Shop on Ottawa Street, hopes this to be case for his business as well."It makes me feel good when people walk around the business and when people around the street," he said.Kathy Molenaar, the owner of Victoria's Flowers and Gifts on Erie Street, said her business won't be benefiting from the light displays as the bulk of her business operates the in morning and early afternoons, but she hopes the light displays across the city "brings a lot of cheer and a lot of businesses to prosper in good ways."Locations of light displays include: * Charles Clark Square * Chimczuk Museum * City Hall * Jackson Park * Mackenzie Hall * Ouellette Overpass * Transit Centre * WFCU Centre * Willistead Manor * Windsor International Aquatic and Training CentreTake a look at some of the holiday lights draped across the city:
When Johnny Beach was just six years old, something caught his eye."On YouTube, I found a 14-year-old boy playing the Orange Blossom Special and it just moved me and I really wanted to do it," he said.His mother, Jamie O'Donnell, said it was love at first sight."He was captivated by it. He begged us for six months to get him a fiddle, so we got him a fiddle and he took right to it," she said.Now eight, the Riverview boy is passionate about fiddling, takes lessons and practises at least 30 minutes a day.Johnny joined some young fiddle players called the Plucky Pizzicatos, who perform for seniors and take part in some fundraising benefits.JohnnyBut when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that all stopped. Johnny decided to keep on playing."He was just practising in front of our house and as people were walking by on the street they were cheering for him and we even had a few people that ran up and gave him a little tip, so he got this idea to street perform," O'Donnell said. ""It was just a way that he could share his gift with others."And Johnny made a decision about what to do with the money."I just want to help people that need the money, and I don't really need it for anything, so I just like to give it to people that need it," he said.Johnny's first donation was $300 to Riverview P.R.O. Kids, which provides financial assistance to help kids take part in sports, and artistic and recreational activities. The organization has helped Johnny qith his fiddle lessons.O'Donnell said Johnny's next donation was to an organization near and dear to the whole family's heart: Friends of the Moncton Hospital.Johnny received life-saving surgery at the Moncton Hospital at the age of three.Johnny has made two donations of $200.Now with the holidays approaching, he's turned his attention to the Albert County Food Bank."He knows that turkey dinner is something everybody likes to enjoy at Christmastime," O'Donnell said. "Not every family has that opportunity, so he knows that the Albert County Food Bank gives Christmas boxes and turkey dinners to families, so that's his focus right now … to see how much money he can raise for them in time for their Christmas boxes."Donations are also coming in online.With the weather turning colder, O'Donnell hopes they can find some place indoors where Johnny can continue playing and raising money."With COVID, it's really difficult because businesses — there's a lot of guidelines and a lot of restrictions and businesses definitely don't want to be doing anything that could potentially draw any kind of a crowd, and he tends to draw a little bit of a crowd wherever he is."So it's been really hard to find somewhere indoors."But that was far from Johnny's mind as he chose a tune from his songbook and picked up his fiddle. He played with joy, tapping his foot along to the beat.Johnny said he'll keep raising money. And he hopes to become a professional fiddler someday.His mother gets emotional watching him play."I have those happy cries, like, a few times a week. Just the amazing things that people say and seeing that's my little boy — that's just motivating and inspiring people and bringing so much joy everywhere he goes. Proud would be an understatement."
Here's the latest for Tuesday December 1st: Arizona & Wisconsin certify Biden win; Science adviser Scott Atlas leaving White House; Cuomo says coronavirus surge coming to New York state; Congress in Washington with coronavirus relief far from reach.
The Calgary Board of Education says Hub online students will still have the option to return to in-person learning at their schools starting on Feb. 1, but students currently doing in-person learning will not be allowed to move online. In an update sent to CBE families on Monday, the district says that they will not be accommodating new requests for Hub online learning in the new year. That's "in order to ensure continuity of learning and minimize disruption to in-person classes that may arise from the movement of staff from in person to online," reads the update from chief superintendent Christopher Usih.Kayla Martinez, who is the mother of a boy in Grade 1, says she began the process to switch her son out of in-person learning to Hub a few weeks ago. "Basically, [the pandemic] is just getting worse. [At] the schools there is outbreak after outbreak after outbreak," she said."I just don't want to put my one-year-old daughter at risk as she has low immunity."Martinez said she's been grateful that the process hasn't been difficult. "They sent me paperwork, which I'm already getting filled out and I have to take a paper for his old school to sign release and there has been no issues at all," she said. Martinez said she feels that other parents and guardians should have the same choice to do what they feel is safest and most appropriate for their children."You can't say no other families are allowed to register online. They don't know everybody's home life. They don't know the reasons why people may be choosing to pull their children and put them in online schooling," she said. "We were basically assuming as a province that things were going to get better and it's just getting worse. The numbers keep rising, so don't take the choice from people."The district says any Hub families wishing to transition their child back to the classroom must inform the school of their decision before Jan. 8.
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are in a tight race to launch their COVID-19 vaccines in Europe after both applied for emergency EU approval on Tuesday, though there was uncertainty over whether a rollout could begin this year. The applications to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) came a day after Moderna sought emergency use for its shot in the United States and more than a week after Pfizer and BioNTech did the same. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German development partner BioNTech said their vaccine could be launched in the European Union as early as this month.
In the midst of a deadly year on ATV trails across Newfoundland and Labrador, the RCMP has launched a bigger push to curb what it's calling reckless behaviour, a move being met with acclaim from some ATV riders in the province.Fifteen people have died while operating ATVs and snowmobiles in areas policed by the RCMP across the province since Jan. 1. There were 12 ATV-related deaths in 2019 and 10 in 2018.In 11 of the deaths this year, safety equipment, such as helmets and seatbelts, were either not worn or improperly used. Alcohol use was a suspected factor in 10 of the deaths, according to an RCMP media release. "I find these numbers personally alarming," Assistant Commissioner Ches Parsons, commanding officer of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador, told reporters on Monday. He also called the casualty rate "extreme."Dean Layman of Avalon ATV said it's about one in 10 riders who don't follow the rules, and with his group the rules are plain and simple: no helmet, no ride. "Enforcement is good if they get the, I call them idiots, off the road," Layman said Monday evening, shortly after the RCMP launched its enforcement and social media campaign in response to the high number ATV-related deaths across the province this year."People who go out and plan to destroy stuff and hurt people, and don't care ... that's the issue I have."Laymen said he often rides with RCMP and RNC officers, and there's never an issue when they're on the trail. Covert surveillanceThe RCMP's campaign, launched Monday, plans to increase enforcement of existing ATV laws. Officers will target speeding, use of safety equipment, under-aged drivers and alcohol use.The RCMP plant to use special tactics, including plainclothes officers and vehicles that are hard to identify as police, to allow covert surveillance and to gather evidence, in collaboration with its varying detachments, to support any charges laid. "The undeniable fact of death and tragedy is there. In my personal experience I've had ATVs flee from me, and in many cases the operator saw it as a joke," said RCMP Sgt. Matthew Christie, the commander of the force's traffic services east unit."I can assure you when I knock on a door and tell someone their loved one has been killed, it's no joke."WATCH | Find out why the RCMP in N.L. are aiming for the heart in a new safety campaign: On top of those efforts, the RCMP is also launching a social media campaign called ATV Safety Can Save More Than One Life.The campaign will run for three months. It's designed to make an emotional impact by focusing on the devastation to the loved ones left behind in the wake of ATV deaths, as well as the causes of those deaths, according to the RCMP.The campaign will use visuals and simple messages in an effort to get more people talking about safe recreational vehicle use.But as he heads out riding with his group, Layman said he wants to see officers on the trails themselves, and stricter fines for those caught breaking the law. "The [RCMP] or the RNC need to get on the trails and just get out and take a look," he said."Put a bigger fine out. No helmet, take a picture, then you got proof. Then give them a fine, take his bike from him for 24 to 48 hours ... and you can't get it back until you pay the fine."Under the Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Act: * It is illegal to operate an ATV on a highway except to cross from one side of the road to another, and in that case the operator must have a valid drivers licence, insurance and registration to do so and 100 yards of visibility. * All occupants of an ATV must be wearing an approved helmet. * It is illegal to operate an ATV while under the influence or alcohol or narcotics. * A person must be 16 years old to operate an adult-sized ATV of over 90 cubic centimetres (cc). * A person who is 14-15 years old can operate an ATV under 90 cc but only when being supervised by a person who is 19 years old or older. * A person under 14 years old is not permitted to operate an ATV of any size. * A person who permits an under aged child to operate an ATV without supervision can be charged for doing so.Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The City of Windsor has ordered a local man to take his driveway tent down — a temporary structure he uses to help get his daughter, who has a disability, in and out the house in the winter.Steven Levesque says he put up the tent because it's a safer and easier way of transporting his 14-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, without worrying about the ice and snow."We put the enclosure to keep the van out of the elements," he said. "It's a handicap vehicle that we can load the ramp out halfway and get my daughter into the van when we transport her."This is the first year Levesque and his fiance have used a driveway tent. Levesque says it's because as his daughter has grown older and bigger, it's also become more of a struggle to get her from the school bus to the house and vice-versa. He also finds staying with his daughter in the tent for a bit before bringing her in the house makes the process easier.He intends to keep the tent up only temporarily in the winter, and take it down when spring comes.He put up the tent on Thursday last week, but on Friday, he received notice that the structure is in violation of a city zoning bylaw. A bylaw officer will issue a citation if he doesn't have the tent down by Friday."I don't know what to do," Levesque said. "Come December 5 we'll see what happens, whether I take it down or face the consequences."Levesque spoke to the bylaw officer who gave him the notice, but beyond receiving a little sympathy, didn't get very far.He's contacted every member of city council to see if he can get an exception. He's also posted in the Windsor Car Spotters Facebook group, asking for advice.Levesque says he doesn't know who complained about the tent."Most people recognize our situation and are okay with it," he said. "But there's always that bad apple that they have to mind everyone's business but their own.""It might be an eyesore, but it's a needed eyesore for us."'It's certainly not a good situation'John Revell, the city's chief building official, says there isn't much he or the bylaw office can do to make an exception for Levesque's needs.He says they received a complaint through 311, and that there is an open and active investigation."In situations like that, those temporary covers people like to use to prevent snow from getting on their vehicles, those aren't allowed in front yards — they're prohibited in the front of a house," he said.He says that no orders have been issued yet. If Levesque does get an order, he'll have 30 days to comply, and if he still doesn't comply, he'll get a warning letter.After that, Revell says, the city would file with the courts and it would become a court matter."The inspector's following up with the homeowner, and we'll let the inspector deal with that," he said. "It's certainly not a good situation, and I certainly feel for the homeowner, but there is a prohibition under the zoning bylaw, so that's why there's an open investigation here."Levesque's only option, according to Revell, is to go through the planning department to see if he can get approval for rezoning or temporary use zoning — but that matter would have to go before council and get approved.In any case, Levesque is planning on keeping the tent up."I think that's what we're intending to do at this point," he said. "I think my daughter's health and safety is more important than any repercussions we'll suffer."
Alberta Health is now collecting data on the racial and ethnic background of people diagnosed with COVID-19 but says the data is not yet ready for public release because it's not complete. A snippet of the data was put out by the premier's issues manager Monday, in defence of the premier's comments about high caseloads in the South Asian community. "Albertans of South & East Asian descent account for just under 20 per cent of COVID-19 cases, but represent only 11 per cent of the population," Matt Wolf posted on Twitter. The tweet was one of several Wolf posted in response to what he described as misplaced outrage from some of Premier Jason Kenney's critics over Kenney's recent comments about high caseloads in northeast Calgary, where many immigrants live. "Some are arguing that the premier is 'blaming' or 'stigmatizing' Albertans by trying to raise awareness amongst cultural communities about how to slow the spread," Wolf tweeted. "No, the premier is not 'blaming' any groups of Albertans. COVID-19 affects all elements of our society. But data does show that some cultural communities are disproportionately affected." That data is only currently available to Wolf and other members of the provincial government, however. CBC News asked the province last week for the data, after the premier said on RedFM radio that "we are seeing a very high level of spread in the South Asian community." In response, Alberta Health provided a written statement saying the information is being collected but is not yet being published. "To date, we have not been publicly reporting on the race, ethnicity or socio-economic status of Albertans with COVID-19, focusing instead on risk factors and case-specific data by age and location," the statement said. It went on to say that Alberta Health "may revisit this in the future when it's feasible." Asked Monday about Wolf's tweet, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the numbers he cited were "preliminary." "We have been working over the past several months on putting that data together and doing some analysis so that we would be able to communicate it as a comprehensive whole, with complete analysis," Hinshaw said. "That's not complete at this time." 'We need less confusion and more transparency' Dr. Hakique Virani, a clinical associate professor of public health with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta, said he was glad to learn the province is now collecting this data but he believes it should be shared publicly, in its entirety, not in snippets. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to hit new highs daily, and Virani believes Albertans' trust in the pandemic response has already been undermined for a variety of reasons. He says it doesn't help when the public is told data exists but isn't ready to be published, only for select parts of the data to then be released on social media. "When you're hearing two different messages from within the same government, it becomes even more of a challenge," Virani said. "So we need less confusion and more transparency. And this doesn't serve either of those purposes." Virani said there is value in collecting this type of data, which has many potential applications. "It's not just of interest to researchers, but it's interesting to public health practitioners," he said. "To have local data about certain at-risk groups is invaluable to mounting a sensible response." Repeated calls for more data like this In Toronto, demographic data like this was collected early in pandemic, and it showed minority groups were over-represented in reported cases of COVID-19. Human rights advocates, anti-racism groups, researchers and social agencies have been calling for months for similar data to be collected and shared publicly in Alberta. "It could lead to a change in health care," Linda McKay-Panos with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre told CBC News in August. "We need to know what's going on in order to more effectively treat it." There have been similar calls in Quebec and British Columbia for more of this type of data to be gathered and released. In the United States, data on race and ethnicity is more routinely collected alongside health data. In that country, Black people, Indigenous people and Hispanic people are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than white and Asian people, according to the COVID Tracking Project. There are multiple, overlapping and complex reasons for this, according to researchers who have studied the topic. The reasons for the high rates among Calgarians of South Asian descent are also complex, Kenney said Monday. Kenney elaborates Speaking to former Wildrose leader and Progressive Conservative MLA Danielle Smith, who now hosts a radio show on NewsTalk 770, the premier said there are a wide range of factors related to the rapid spread of COVID-19 among Albertans of particular international backgrounds. He cited lower socio-economic status, more dense housing, larger households and linguistic barriers among those factors. "And some folks, especially refugees who didn't have the benefit of formal education, may even have limited literacy in their own maternal tongue, which means our efforts to translate materials, for example, uncovered that guidelines don't necessarily have the same impact that they might in the broader population," Kenney said. He said the province is looking at ways to do more "on the ground" outreach to better communicate the latest public health advice to people in situations like that, in addition to supports for people who test positive for COVID-19 but cannot effectively self-isolate due to their living situation at home. "These are great, hardworking people and we need to to help them," Kenney said. "So I've asked our team to come up with a much, much bigger package of free hotel isolation where the province will cover the bills." "This is not at all about blame," the premier added. "It is about reaching out." Role of work Coun. George Chahal, who represents Ward 5 in northeast Calgary, believes one of the biggest factors at play in this part of the city is the type of work that many people do. He said it's especially common for people in his ward to have jobs that put them at increased risk, such as working in meat-packing plants, driving taxis, buses or ride-sharing vehicles like Uber, working in hospitals or nursing homes, and working in retail or grocery stores. "Most of these residents don't have a choice to work from home," Chahal said Monday, in an interview on The Calgary Eyeopener. "We also see in northeast Calgary, there are some of the highest rates of public-transit use — pre-pandemic and during the pandemic," Chahal added. "So I think this is an important factor, as well." Contact-tracing backlog affects November data Hinshaw said Alberta Health aims to release the additional demographic-based data when it's more complete. That will take some time, she said, as the data is gathered via contact tracers and there have been significant backlogs in that system — and gaps in data collection, as a result. "We will not have reliable ethnicity data for the month of November," Hinshaw said. "It's really important to remember that single numbers that are released should never be used to stigmatize particular communities," she added. "There are many reasons why individuals who self-identified within a particular ethnic group may be over-represented and that could have more to do with occupation or with other factors in those individuals' lives, and absolutely should not be taken to infer any kind of blame or stigma on particular individuals."
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has begun ramping up some community programs that were suspended at the start of the pandemic, but the city's medical officer of health said not all will return to their pre-COVID-19 selves.The pandemic didn't just throw OPH's budget into disarray but also how it offered many of its services, including chronic disease prevention work."These kinds of teams are completely redeployed to the COVID-19 response," said Dr. Vera Etches, the city's medical officer of health, on Monday.OPH also had to shutter its four dental clinics across the city that offered services to people who had difficulties paying for care elsewhere.The St. Laurent Boulevard clinic reopened for emergency services last week, while the Wabano Centre clinic should reopen part time on Thursday, Etches said.Those clinics together saw 140 clients a day before the pandemic hit, said OPH's director of health promotion and chief nursing officer Esther Moghadam, and the hope is to get the other two open so vulnerable populations have easier access to one nearby. While the clinics were closed, Moghadam said dentists across the community stepped up to help and will likely have to continue to do so until the clinics are at full capacity."It's still very early … There is going to be a need that we won't be able to address fully," she said.Another program that fell by the wayside was the Healthy Growth and Development Program, which Etches said is currently running at 50 per cent capacity.Its breastfeeding support work is moving online or having mothers come to OPH or other community partners instead of nurses visiting them in their homes.Not all programs are set to return to the way they once were."We're looking to learn from the new tools we have, the innovative approaches that can be built upon and the partnerships that we have grown to extend some of this work into the future," said Etches.That future shift includes those services tailored at chronic diseases, which she said will change because private companies have been stepping up to help protect and promote employee health.COVID-19 in 2021Ottawa's Board of Health unanimously passed its largest budget ever at its meeting Monday night, with $24 million of its $98.1 million budget for 2021 expected to cover a number of one-time COVID-19 expenses. Even with positive vaccine updates, Etches said next year's budget forecasts a similar amount of COVID-19 cases, outbreaks, follow-up and communication work in 2021 as exists now.It is also expecting to help provide that COVID-19 vaccine to Ottawa residents "which we are hopeful, initially, will protect against hospitalizations and deaths in the people most at risk," she said."That would be excellent."The budget will go to city council for final approval on Dec. 9.