The Trump administration on Friday suspended all federal student loan payments through the end of January and kept interest rates at 0%, extending a moratorium that started early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of this month. By extending payments by one month, the administration is effectively leaving it to the Biden administration or Congress to decide whether to provide longer-term relief to millions of student borrowers. The measure was included in a March relief package and the White House extended it in August, but its fate was in doubt amid stalemate over a new relief bill. In announcing the extension, DeVos rebuked Congress for failing to act. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate," DeVos said in a statement. "The Congress, not the Executive Branch, is in charge of student loan policy.” Under the measure, students will not be required to make payments, their loans will not accrue interest and all collection activity will halt until the end of January. DeVos won praise for using her authority to pause federal student loan payments in March. Congress later cemented the measure in legislation and Trump extended it through December, but the looming deadline stoked fears that millions of borrowers would be forced to resume payments even as unemployment rates soared. Last month, the American Council on Education and dozens of other higher education associations urged DeVos to extend the relief, saying the recent surge in COVID-19 cases would likely lead to even more economic turmoil. “Bringing millions of Americans back into repayment in the thick of this crisis will cause additional financial hardship and force borrowers to make difficult decisions about their limited resources,” the groups wrote in a letter to DeVos. Even DeVos' own agency warned of looming trouble if the moratorium lapsed. In its annual report last month, Federal Student Aid, the office that oversees student loans, said that without an extension it would face a “heavy burden" in moving millions of borrowers to active repayment at the same time. President-elect Joe Biden has not directly addressed the moratorium but on Tuesday called for immediate relief including "relief from rent and student loans.” He has also supported proposals to erase up to $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers as part of a future virus relief package. In Friday's announcement, DeVos said her agency is working to notify the loan servicing companies that the Education Department contracts with to manage collections. A federal lawsuit filed against DeVos in April alleged that thousands of overdue borrowers were still getting pay withheld despite the mortarium. The department blamed the error on its servicers. DeVos' Friday release says that any defaulted borrowers who continue to have wages withheld will receive refunds. Collin Binkley, The Associated Press
South Korean authorities urged vigilance on Saturday as small coronavirus clusters emerged in a third wave, centred in the Seoul area, with infections near nine-month highs. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 583 new coronavirus infections, down from the 629 reported on Friday, which was the highest since the first wave peaked in February and early March. This wave of infections is different from the first two, which were driven by large-scale transmission, said KDCA official Lim Sook-young.
A request from a long-time Port McNicoll resident could present a winter activities opportunity to people living along 1st Avenue. Joyce Burns is asking that the sidewalk/trail along the entirety of the busy road be plowed for safe winter use. She presented her case through a letter that Coun. Sandy Talbot read to other council members at a recent council meeting. "The mental health benefits of having it plowed is that young families can still walk and run it safely as can all the people that use it,” Burns wrote. “They will be able to use it to teach them how to cross-country ski safely when the conditions are good. “The kids that catch the buses on 1st Avenue will have a safe place to walk to get back and forth and also when they're waiting for their buses,” continued the letter. “With COVID still around this winter, people will be able to get out and enjoy the sidewalk/trail, like they have in spring and summer. They will see wildlife and birds and even a decorated Christmas tree on the sidewalk trail to brighten their day.” Burns also said in her letter that she’d counted eight sidewalks in Port McNicoll that she believes are plowed. “They plow Talbot (Street) to Davidson (Street), a two block section,” she noted in her letter. “Why not all the way down 1st Avenue? I'm hoping there will be a positive outcome to this. I don't expect it to be as wide as it is now. If it is plowed like the rest of the sidewalks, that would be great." Talbot said she had no problem supporting the request considering the cost the township would incur. “I think sometimes we have to think outside the box and there will be an increase in cost if there's an increase in service level,” she said. “It's well-utilized. Other people have trails in other communities and they make skating rinks out of them so they're multi-purpose uses.” Coun. Paul Raymond supported the idea, but also brought forth concerns. “We have a growth of young families down by that area and they are increasingly using the road or the trail in summer time,” he said. "My only concern with cleaning the trail off is that in winter we have motorized vehicles ripping up and down there. What happens if we open it up and see some destruction because of these vehicles? I think we have to put some more thought into the whole thing.” Mayor Ted Walker, who also backed the request, said the snowmobile issue could be mitigated by a 'No Snowmobiles' sign as is done in other areas. “I'd be open for a one-year trial,” he added. Where Talbot had a few peers in her corner, Coun. Barry Norris was at the other of the spectrum on the issue. “Seriously?” he asked. “Why don't we clear the whole trail then? It makes no sense. I'm sorry we're not here to turn around and allow all of this? We're talking about a two-mile sidewalk to allow a couple of pedestrians to walk it. “I don't support it one iota,” continued Norris. “I think there is a policy in place as to what sidewalks we actually do and I doubt this is actually going to be covered under it.” And not to mention the costs of having to maintain it with sand, he said. “There's more to it than just clearing it off,” said Norris. “What's the rough cost on it?” Staff didn’t have an immediate answer as to how much it would cost to clear the two-kilometre pathway and were asked to bring back a report to a December meeting for a final decision. When asked for her reaction to council's decision, Burns wrote in, "I'm hopeful that council will go ahead with plowing 1st Ave., but if not, that will be alright ... I'll try again for next year."Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
A West Coast MP wants the federal transport minister to ditch fines in the thousands of dollars and allow BC Ferries passengers to remain in their vehicles on enclosed car decks to protect themselves from COVID-19 despite regulations against the practice. Rachel Blaney, North Island-Powell River’s NDP MP, has written to Transport Minister Marc Garneau questioning the logic of potentially fining people up to $12,000 when they are heeding public health orders to keep their contact with other people to a minimum. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic and case numbers are growing in B.C.,” Blaney said. “And obviously it’s a concern to the point that people are willing to be written up and risk fines on the ferries to prevent exposure to COVID-19.” In the initial wave of the pandemic, Transport Canada temporarily waived regulations requiring people in cars on closed decks to head up to passenger lounges. But the federal agency rescinded the exception granted to ferry operators at the end of September. Blaney said she has made her second appeal to Garneau after learning 1,000 people have defied the order and have been reported to Transport Canada. The risks of exposure to the virus are higher now than during the initial exemption, Blaney said, adding B.C. Premier John Horgan has also called on Ottawa to extend the exemption. “The minister previously paused that rule so that people could stay safe,” she said. “Now, when case numbers are growing, why won't he do it again?” Ferry workers have not been policing passengers who choose to remain in their cars, said BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall. “We’re not an enforcement agency,” said Marshall. “We’re politely reminding customers of the Transport Canada regulations.” Staff has been handing out Transport Canada leaflets to passengers who don’t leave the decks that outline the regulations and potential penalties, she said. Those who elect to stay in their cars have their information forwarded to the transport ministry, she added. Marshall confirmed more than 1,000 incidents have been reported to Transport Canada, most often on the sailings between Horseshoe Bay on the mainland and Departure Bay on Vancouver Island. But the vast majority of passengers have been complying with the regulation, Marshall said. The rule is in effect again because Transport Canada believes that new distancing and cleaning protocols on the provincial ferry service mitigate the risk individuals face from COVID-19 exposure, she added. “We certainly understand people are concerned about COVID-19,” Marshall said, adding there a number of risks associated with staying on a car deck. Though it’s unlikely, a car fire could pose serious danger in an enclosed deck, she said. “A customer in their vehicle could be overcome by smoke inhalation or might not be able to find their way out of their vehicle or get through to a stairwell to get upstairs,” she said. Blaney feels the current risks from the virus are greater than those from remaining on closed decks. And she has asked for the risk assessment the transport ministry relied on to make its decision. Constituents in her riding, particularly those who are vulnerable to the virus but must travel to seek medical attention, are expressing grave concerns, Blaney said. “People are very scared,” she said. “They're already travelling to access the care that they need from bigger centres, asking them in their health conditions to risk exposure just adds to the tension.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
WHITEHORSE — Yukon recorded three new COVID-19 cases in Whitehorse as the territory prepared to introduce new rules for restaurants and bars. The territory says in a statement Friday that the new infections bring the total active case count to 12. There have been 54 people infected in Yukon over the course of the pandemic. Beginning Monday, the government says restaurants and bars will be required to collect information from their patrons to assist contact tracers.One patron from each party will be required to sign in, and the eating and drinking establishments must keep the daily lists for 30 days.The lists will only be shared with Yukon Communicable Disease Control if an exposure has been identified.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
Ahead of a looming year-end deadline, only 1,785 out of about 20,000 short-term rentals in Toronto have registered with the municipality. With fines beginning at $1,000 for both property owners and host platforms, the race is on to come into compliance. Matthew Bingley reports.
A new chamber of commerce partnership program designed to help businesses connect with new talent, and gain access to financial incentives, has just launched. The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Magnet and the Talent Opportunity Program (TOP) to connect chamber of commerce members to the Magnet platform, a digital social enterprise out of Ryerson University. Through Magnet, businesses can get connected with new talent, and get access to business growth opportunities and tools to navigate the impacts of the changing labour market and the COVID-19 pandemic. Key to the partnership between Magnet and local chamber is access to wage subsidies through the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP). Funded by the Government of Canada, SWPP lets employers tap into wage subsidies of up to $7,500 when they hire a Canadian post-secondary student, in a co-op style environment . "The combination of a national recruitment platform and the SWPP wage subsidy will be an important lifeline for our members," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. This chamber partnership initiative brings together local chambers and boards of trade, small and medium-sized enterprises, job-seekers, and post-secondary institutions to support opportunities for student job seekers from coast to coast, across Canada, in an effort to boost economic recovery. "The initiative represents an innovative and necessary approach to helping small businesses grow, connecting early talent to new opportunities to emerge from this challenge stronger and better," said Kirkland. Creating an account with the Magnet Business Growth Portal is free for businesses of all sizes and industries. The Magnet Business Growth Portal helps small and medium enterprises strategize, adapt, and grow with notifications about funding, wage subsidies, training and hiring programs, market research, and COVID-19 support, according to the portal. "Ensuring a strong economic recovery depends on the success of our students and youth. Programs like the Student Work Placement Program exist to provide post-secondary students with the chance to grow professionally and develop new skills while working in sectors that are in line with their interests and field of study," Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement. The SWPP can help business, working towards recovery, offset the cost of hiring, while giving youth an opportunity to gain work experience. "Our government's investment in Magnet will go a long way in helping young Canadians gain meaningful placement opportunities in a variety of disciplines including health care and other high demand sectors, all of which play an especially important role in responding to the current pandemic," said Qualtrough.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
A trilingual 16-year-old budding baker has launched her own business in St. Albert. Valeria Fonseca is turning her passion for baking into a home business by offering her cakes for sale online. “I feel really happy. I am very happy because I have a new business and because the kitchen is my passion,” Fonseca said. Fonseca’s passion for baking and cooking ignited just one year ago after her parents separated. Fonseca lives with her mom, Catherine Varvas, who after the separation started to take over the family cooking and asked her daughter for help. Fonseca quickly took to cooking and discovered her passion for creating food with her own hands. Varvas said she loves baking and cooking with her daughter because it makes her happy and calm. "She dances, she sings – she's so happy," the mom said. Fonseca started watching baking and cooking shows, like Master Chef, and wants to be a chef when she grows up. The business really took off this year during COVID-19, when the teen had more time at home. Fonseca is doing online learning this year and makes time to bake on Tuesdays and Sundays. Making the cakes has been good for the teen's self-esteem. “People say, ‘A beautiful girl with delicious cakes,’ and I am so proud,” Fonseca said. Fonseca began her cake-making venture by baking one for a friend, who remarked that the cakes were delicious. The friend suggested the family make a video of Fonseca making the cakes to promote her baking skills, and after the video was posted to Facebook, the family got very positive feedback. "People had a very good reaction and liked the cakes," Varvas said. Fonseca said her favourite cake to make is a red fruit cake, with strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. The teen is also passionate about cooking, loves to make Mexican food and hopes to specialize in cooking that cuisine when she is older. Fonseca, who speaks English as a third language, moved to St. Albert two years ago. The family is originally from Columbia but emigrated to Montreal five years ago. Varvas said the family left Montreal to find more inclusive education for her daughter, who has Down Syndrome. Back home in Colombia, Fonseca was learning alongside all of the other children in a classroom and getting an inclusive education, but in Montreal they didn’t have that same experience. So Varvas moved the family to Alberta so Fonseca could have the very best education possible. "We came to Alberta and we've found the door open, and we are so happy here," Varvas said. To order Fonseca's cakes, you can visit Valecakes on Facebook.Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
VENTNOR, N.J. — The FBI is telling anyone who underwent a coronavirus test at a New Jersey laboratory to get retested and to contact the agency.In a statement Friday on Twitter, the FBI’s Newark office urges people who were recently tested for the virus at Infinity Diagnostic Laboratory in Ventnor “to be retested as soon as possible.” It also asks that anyone who was administered a finger-prick blood test at the laboratory to contact a victim assistance unit at the FBI.The announcement gave no further details, and a message left with the FBI seeking further information was not immediately returned.Voicemail for the company’s operations director Friday evening said it was closed and did not offer the opportunity to leave a message.___THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:— Vice-President Pence: Confidence in vaccine important for US— Fauci apologizes for suggesting UK rushed vaccine decision— As hospitals cope with a COVID-19 surge, cyber threats loom— A World War II veteran from Alabama has recovered from COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday___Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak___HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has authorized medically trained National Guard soldiers to fill nursing roles, drive ambulances and perform coronavirus testing for hospitals that are overstretched on staffing while they care for a climbing number of coronavirus patients.The order Friday allows the adjutant general to send hospitals reinforcements from the Tennessee National Guard. The state is focusing on troops who are actively assigned, including those serving in coronavirus testing roles statewide, but not those currently serving in civilian jobs in health care.State health officials decline to identify which hospitals have expressed interest, but say there is need statewide.The state reports 2,485 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with only 14% of floor beds and 8% of ICU beds available.___SAN FRANCISCO — The health officers in six San Francisco Bay Area regions issued a new stay-at-home order Friday as the number of virus cases surge and hospitals fill.The changes will take effect for most of the area at 10 p.m. Sunday and last through Jan. 4. The counties have not yet reached Gov. Gavin Newsom’s threshold announced a day earlier requiring such an order when 85% of ICU beds at regional hospitals are full, but officials said the hospital system will be overwhelmed before the end of December when Newsom’s order would apply.It comes the same day the state recorded another daily record number of cases, with 22,018, and hospitalizations topped 9,000 for first time.It means restaurants will have to close to both indoor and outdoor dining, bars and wineries must close along with hair and nail salons and playgrounds. Retail stores and shopping centres can operate with just 20% customer capacity. Gatherings of any size with people outside of your household are banned.___RALEIGH, N.C. — A judge agreed on Friday to name a third-party expert to scrutinize the COVID-19 response within North Carolina’s prison system, which like the rest of the state is experiencing a surge in cases and hospitalizations.Ruling again in ongoing litigation about health and safety within prisons, Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier said he’s worried about the pressure the coronavirus is now placing upon correctional institutions.The prison system closed temporarily three units over the last two weeks to handle staffing challenges, brought on in part by the upward swing in positive cases and the medical care prisoners need.The Department of Public Safety said that 370 correctional staff testing positive for COVID-19 were out of work Friday, up 50 workers from last week. There were 667 active cases among the roughly 30,000 prisoners statewide. Twenty-five prisoners have died from COVID-19 related illnesses since the pandemic.___ATLANTA — Georgia’s coronavirus infections are soaring above their worst peaks of the summer, pushing more people into hospitals and resulting in more deaths.Hitting a new single-day record of more than 6,000 suspected and confirmed infections on Friday pushed Georgia’s rolling 7-day average of infections to nearly 4,300. That rolling average was above its previous July record for the second day in a row.Hospitalizations have not yet reached their summer heights in Georgia, but beds are filling rapidly with COVID-19 cases. Nearly 2,400 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital Friday.Deaths, which usually come after infections and hospitalization, are also rising. Georgia has now recorded 9,725 confirmed and suspected deaths.___BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama health officials have urged the state Friday to extend its statewide mask mandate, set to expire next week.Dr. Sarah Nafziger, who teaches emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said it was “critically important” for Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to maintain the requirement, which is opposed by some who consider it an infringement on personal rights or discount the threat of the new coronavirus.The president of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Donald Williamson, said the organization “absolutely” supports continuing the order as cases of COVID-19 rise statewide.The order, which expires Dec. 11, requires anyone older than 6 to wear a mask when in public spaces indoors and outside if they can’t stay away from others. First imposed in July, health officials credit the rule with a sharp decline in cases until a recent spike began nationwide.___HARRISBURG, Pa. — States faced a deadline on Friday to place orders for the coronavirus vaccine as many reported record infections, hospitalizations and deaths.The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high in the U.S. on Thursday at 100,667, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That figure has more than doubled over the past month.New daily cases are averaging 210,000 and deaths are averaging 1,800 per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.Arizona on Friday reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases for the second straight day as the number of available intensive care unit beds fell below 10% statewide. Pennsylvania’s top health official says intensive care beds could be full this month.___SALEM, Ore. — As Oregon reached a new record number for reported daily COVID-19 cases and deaths, lawmakers, advocates and others continue to call on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to declare a special legislative session.The Oregon Health Authority on Friday reported 2,100 new COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths. The previous daily records have been 1,699 cases and 24 deaths. Oregon also surpassed 80,000 cases since the start of the pandemic in March.Housing advocates in the state are asking the Legislature to act on a proposal to extend a statewide eviction moratorium until July 1. The current eviction moratorium, which was ordered at the beginning of the pandemic, is scheduled to lapse on Dec. 31.___TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas considers meatpacking plant workers and grocery store employees essential workers, putting them in the second phase for possible vaccinations.Kelly says the Kansas vaccine plan calls for the first shots to go to front-line health care workers with a high risk of coronavirus exposure.She says the second phase will focus on vaccinating essential workers, including first responders but also grocery store and meatpacking plant workers.The Democratic governor says members of the Legislature will get vaccinated at different times, based on their risk of being exposed or developing serious complications.Next week, the Food and Drug Administration will consider whether to grant emergency authorization for vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.Kansas has reported 168,295 confirmed cases, an increase of 6,234 since Wednesday, and 1,786 total confirmed deaths.___KYIV, Ukraine — About 1,000 representatives of small business rallied outside the Ukrainian parliament against possible new coronavirus restrictions.Demonstrators in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv attempted to block access to the parliament building but were pushed back by police.Ukraine, which is facing a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, tightened weekend restrictions last month but lifted them this week. The government is considering a lockdown in early January. Protesters are concerned the new restrictions could deal a harsh blow to small and medium business.Ukrainian reported 15,131 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 787,891 confirmed cases. There’s been 13,195 confirmed deaths.___ATLANTA — Vice-President Mike Pence is trying to boost Americans’ confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines that are awaiting regulatory approval and distribution.At the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention main campus in Atlanta, Pence said Friday the Food and Drug Administration could approve the first vaccines “the week of Dec. 14” with the first wave of Americans being vaccinated “in all 50 states” within 48 hours of that approval.Pence said “the confidence piece is so important” so that enough Americans will take the vaccine and ensure its maximum effectiveness. Pence called on “all of us in public life” to vouch for the process that got vaccines to the cusp of mass distribution.“We’ve gone at record pace, but we’ve cut no corners in this,” Pence said, sitting beside CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “What we want to do is assure the American people that there’s been no compromise of safety or effectiveness in the development of this vaccine.”Pence’s comments come the day after former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said they’d be willing to take a vaccine on television to boost confidence.___UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. health chief says positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials are encouraging but warns against poorer nations being left behind in “the stampede for vaccines.”World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Friday. He says vaccines must be shared “as global public goods.”Referring to the upsurge in cases and deaths: “Where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self-interest, the virus thrives, the virus spreads.”Tedros urged all nations to unite and build the post-pandemic world by investing in vaccines, preparedness against the next pandemic and basic public health.Tedros says Covax, an ambitious but troubled global project to buy and deliver virus vaccines for the world’s poorest people, faces a $4.3 billion gap and needs $23.9 billion for 2021.He says the total is less than one-half of one per cent of the $11 trillion in stimulus packages announced by the Group of 20, the world’s richest countries.___MILAN — Italy recorded another 814 coronavirus deaths on Friday. There were 24,099 new coronavirus cases reported among more than 212,000 tests.While the rate of transmission in Italy has dropped below 1, signalling that the virus curve is under control, the government has imposed tight restrictions for the Christmas holiday.They include a ban on travelling between regions from Dec. 21-Jan. 6, and a strong recommendation against hosting guests for holiday lunches and dinners.New cases remain highest in Lombardy, the epicenter of both the spring peak and the fall surge, with 4,533 new cases. Neighboring Veneto followed with more than 3,700. There were 201 fewer new admissions to Italy’s intensive care units than a day earlier, dropping the total to 3,657 in ICU. Hospitalizations dropped by 600 to 31,200.Italy has 1.6 million cases and 58,842 confirmed deaths, the second-highest death toll in Europe, behind Britain.___WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic.Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday.As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. During President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away.Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House.On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president.___The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says that as soon as she knows when the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada, she will share that information with Canadians. But Anand told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the original contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines had to be vague about delivery dates because nobody knew at the time if the vaccines would be successful. It's only in the last few weeks, when the leading candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported such positive results from their large clinical trials, that the way forward became clear enough for Anand's department to start asking the companies to be more specific about when they can make good on their contracts with Canada. "We put these contracts in place in order to place Canadians in the best stead possible, of any country in the world, recognizing that we would need to negotiate additional terms such as precise delivery dates, once a vaccine was discovered, and regulatory approval was obtained," she said. "And that is what's happening now." As Canadians face a pandemic-plagued holiday season and dream that 2021 will not be the anxiety-laden and often tragic disaster that 2020 has proven to be, there is one gleaming hope dangling still just out of reach: a vaccine for COVID-19. Still, the federal government has yet to answer one big question: When will it get here? It is not that she doesn't want to tell Canadians when, said Anand. But the complexities of figuring out a specific date are linked to when Health Canada approves the vaccine, and when the vaccine makers can see that Canada is ready to receive and safely distribute the precious doses, some of which have to be stored at temperatures below -70 C. Those pieces are starting to converge now. Health Canada officials are days, maybe even hours, away from approving the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in Canada. Canadians got some more information on the logistics from a briefing of federal officials this week, including that Pfizer will ship its vaccine directly to 14 identified receiving sites in provinces. FedEx and Innomar Strategies were contracted Friday to oversee the delivery of other vaccines from a national receiving site to provinces. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued refined guidance Friday for who should get the vaccine first, including long-term care residents and workers, and people over the age of 80. The materials like syringes, gauze pads and bandages needed to vaccinate millions of people are in place. Ultralow temperature freezers have been purchased and nine new ones have already arrived. Provincial governments are lining up their own task forces. "We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible," Anand said. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has been decrying the lack of clarity from the Liberals about the vaccine plan. A week ago he accused the Liberals of only starting to buy vaccines in a panic this summer after a collaboration with China on a vaccine fell apart. The partnership between the National Research Council and China's CanSino Biologics was announced in May to great fanfare. But the doses to be used in a Canadian clinical trial failed to arrive, when the Chinese government — in the midst of political tensions with Canada — refused to issue an export permit for them. “I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said Nov. 29, adding the timeline shows it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Canada "started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options." Anand said that is not the case. She said the CanSino deal fell within Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies. Her marching orders to negotiate deals with other vaccine makers came weeks earlier. A team of procurement officials in her department was assigned to the file in March, at the same time as those negotiating contracts for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and rapid tests. In June, the COVID-19 vaccine task force provided a list of vaccines for Canada to pursue. Anand said talks with manufacturers began in early July. The first deal, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna, was struck July 24. Canada was first to sign with Moderna. It signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech a week later, on Aug. 1. It was the fourth country to do so, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. News of trouble on the CanSino deal first appeared in early July when the doses still hadn't been approved for export by China. Canada walked away from the deal at the end of August when it became clear it would not happen. By then, Canada had deals with four other vaccine companies, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and NovaVax. It added deals with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in September and then with Canada's own Medicago the next month. Anand said Canada approached every contract with a similar goal — to get 20 million doses guaranteed, and options to potentially buy more later on. In all, Canada is paying more than $1 billion to the seven vaccine makers for 194 million doses, even if those vaccines never get beyond the experimental stage. Another 220 million doses are available if Canada asks for them, a decision that will be made for the vaccines that are proving to be the best. Anand announced Friday another 20 million doses will come to Canada in 2021 from Moderna, for a total of 40 million. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Le sud-est de l'Estrie, la Beauce, le Bas-Saint-Laurent et une partie de la Gaspésie peuvent s'attendre à recevoir de 20 à 30 centimètres de neige cette fin de semaine, selon Environnement Canada. Cette première bordée importante de la saison pour ces régions est attribuable à une dépression qui remonte le long de la côte-est américaine pour traverser le golfe du Maine lors de la journée de samedi et le Nouveau-Brunswick durant la journée de dimanche. Tous les secteurs qui sont en bordure, donc tout juste au nord de la trajectoire de cette dépression, en subiront les effets principalement sous forme de neige abondante et de vents, a expliqué le météorologue Alexandre Parent, d'Environnement Canada. «Ça pourrait même dépasser les 30 centimètres de neige dans les secteurs de Kamouraska, de Témiscouata, de Rimouski et de la vallée de la Matapédia», a estimé M. Parent lors d'une entrevue avec La Presse Canadienne. La neige devrait débuter en fin de journée samedi ou dans la nuit de samedi à dimanche. Les vents se mettront également de la partie, principalement dimanche matin. M. Parent prédit que ces conditions pourraient être difficiles en première moitié de journée dans l'est du Québec et que la visibilité sera probablement nulle par endroits. Il suggère «fortement» d'effectuer les déplacements samedi plutôt que dimanche. Le Grand Montréal ne devrait rien recevoir de cette dépression. La région de Québec pourrait quant à elle recevoir de 5 à 10 centimètres. La semaine prochaine devrait être «tranquille» avec pratiquement pas de précipitations et des températures près du point de congélation. \- Texte de l'Initiative de journalisme local.Michel Saba, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
Health Minister Adrian Dix said he expects the Provincial Health Services Authority and its president and CEO "to do better" following allegations of misspending."We're not happy," Dix said in a phone interview. "It's [president and CEO Benoit Morin's] job and PHSA's job to do better and to follow the recommendations. And I expect that they will."A review of spending at the PHSA has made several recommendations, including an independent adviser to look into a "problematic purchase" of personal protective equipment.Dix ordered an immediate review of alleged misspending by the authority after CBC News brought forward concerns raised by multiple sources.The whistleblowers accused the authority of squandering $7 million on the purchase of unusable face masks from China, hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary renovations to executive offices and tens of thousands of dollars on high-end catered meals for executives and their staff."We needed ... to clear these issues up so the PHSA can make improvements and then move on from this," Dix said."It's critical that an agency this important have public credibility."Dix said in the statement he had accepted recommendations from the deputy minister of health, including: * Limits on PHSA internal capital spending, absent the deputy minister's approval. * A "review and refresh" of policies covering internal capital planning to be completed by the Ministry of Health. * Limits on senior executive changes by the authority without the deputy minister's approval. * A review of business meeting expense policies of the authority and each regional health authority.Dix also said a third-party adviser would be hired to probe concerns about how the authority handled the "problematic purchase" of personal protective equipment "to help restore public confidence in the PHSA and its leadership.""We're in a legal process now to seek legal remedies for that purchase," Dix said Friday. "We'll see how that goes."Friday's recommendations also called on the authority to clarify by January Morin's role in all aspects of the transaction involving Luminaire, a health-care product distributor.Dix said PHSA staff, current and former, are "absolutely" assured they can speak freely to Ernst and Young advisor John Bethel, who is overseeing the review, without fear of retaliation. He added this applies even if they believe their severance agreement precludes them from doing so.PHSA respondsThe PHSA, in a statement, said little in reaction to Friday's announcement."We have been and continue to be fully supportive of the review and we now welcome the recommendations as an opportunity to ensure public confidence in PHSA and its leadershipThe authority also said it welcomed the review into the mask purchase but cannot comment further at this time."PHSA is home to extraordinary people, doing remarkable life-changing and life-saving work. We will continue to support them in serving the citizens of British Columbia," the statement continued.Concerns about new CEOThe whistleblowers said the problems began with the hiring of new president and CEO Morin in February.In addition to the misspending allegations, they told CBC several key senior executives who oversaw spending at the authority are no longer employed there. Dix, on Friday, confirmed the direction to the authority not to change senior executive leadership was motivated by the departure of these financial watchdogs.He said it was implied they were let go for raising concerns about what was happening at the authority and there was a need to "clear the air."In addition, Dix ordered the authority to eliminate the position of chief of staff. He said the position is inconsistent with what other health authorities are doing.The chief of staff, he added, is already serving as vice-president of human resources and will continue to hold that position.As for the renovations of executive offices, Dix said they were "clearly poorly timed at the very least."CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email email@example.com.
The City of Vancouver says work to bring eastbound vehicle traffic back to Beach Avenue between Denman and Jervis streets will begin next week.In April, when few cars were on the road because of stay-at-home orders by public health officials, Beach Avenue's eastbound lanes were closed to motorists all the way to Hornby Street. The changes were made to allow park users more room for physical distancing due to COVID-19 concerns. Cyclists in Stanley Park had a two-lane road to themselves and pedestrians got exclusive use of the seawall.Under the new plan, traffic will still be banned from Jervis to Hornby streets, as the city works to establish a more permanent plan for the area."These interim changes are based on feedback from more than 2,500 residents during the fall on the current street design," according to a statement from the city.The changes include: * Painting crosswalks to better prioritize pedestrians crossings. * Adding median islands to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians. * Incorporating accessible design features like level bus boarding islands and modified traffic signals. * Replacing traffic cones with sturdier and harder-to-move concrete barriers.In September, the City of Vancouver launched an online survey to gather public input on the future of the Beach Avenue bike lane and the path.A plan to gather feedback on the longer-term vision for the area, and whether the changes should be permanent will be rolled out in 2021.The budget for the changes was not mentioned in the statement from the city.
Feist and a "Barenaked Ladies" member are also criticizing how homeless communities are being treated.
A search continues in Haines, Alaska, for two people still unaccounted for after heavy rains this week caused landslides, washed-out roads, and widespread flooding in the small coastal community.Mayor Doug Olerud said that Alaska State Troopers were leading the search efforts for the two missing people."They've had teams out on the water, with search dogs combing the beaches, and on the beach they've got crews that are trying to remove some of the materials to get into some of the areas," Olerud said."So the efforts are ongoing."Olerud said Thursday that weather is still a concern. It was raining again on Thursday afternoon, and he said the forecast was calling for more rain or snow in the coming days."It's not stopping and giving us a break here," he said."We've got two missing individuals, but everybody else that has requested evacuation, we've gotten them out safely. We don't have any other missing individuals. And so to the best of our knowledge, everybody else in the community is safe."Olerud said local crews are doing their best to deal with the extensive damage around town, but it's been difficult to get a handle on things. "It's kind of one of those [where] we've got so many places that where do you put the crews first?" Olerud said.Alekka Fullerton, interim manager of the Haines Borough government, said there are about 50 homes that have been ordered to evacuate because of potential mudslides."Unfortunately last night we had to evacuate several other areas of town so we have a lot more people who have been displaced now and so our hotels are all full," Fullerton said.Fullerton said with all the rain, the ground is getting saturated and dangerous for residents in certain areas.A geological team from Alaska's Department of Natural Resources that was supposed to arrive Thursday to help determine the stability of the area, was weathered out and didn't arrive until Friday.They arrived by ferry as the weather made flying impossible, Olerud said."We really are discouraging people from coming to town, we do not need any more volunteers, we don't need people coming to town," Fullerton said.Olerud said the community has already received a lot of support, from within the state and beyond. He said it's been tough especially with two local residents still unaccounted for."It's hard. You know, everybody knows each other," Olerud said."I hope we get a break here. We've got a lot of talented people doing everything they can to keep everybody safe. And I have faith that they're going to do that."
Employees at the LNG Canada work site in Kitimat, B.C., complained multiple times about unsafe working conditions just months before the facility experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, according to WorkSafe BC inspection reports obtained by The Narwhal. The outbreak at LNG Canada started on Nov. 19 and there are now 54 cases. In the months leading up to the outbreak, workers raised concerns about COVID-19 cleaning procedures in common areas, rooms and work spaces, prompting inspections by WorkSafe BC on Aug. 28 and Oct. 19. The documents also reveal that a WorkSafe BC inspection of the Site C work camp’s sewage treatment facility in northeast B.C. on March 19 found the facility did not have a plan to sufficiently protect workers from pathogens, body fluids, human waste, mould and COVID-19. WorkSafe BC didn’t say if or how the issues flagged during the inspection were resolved. The first case of COVID-19 at Site C was in July and there have been 17 cases to date. On Dec. 4, BC Hydro reported five active cases and 18 people in self-isolation. The revelations come as calls grow for B.C. to shut down work camps or risk further community spread with northern hospitals already stretched thin. More than 180 frontline health workers have signed an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that started circulating on Thursday, calling on her to immediately shut down industrial work camps on Indigenous territories. “To put the interests of economy and industry ahead of Indigenous lives is not public health,” the letter says. “To put Indigenous Elders and youth at further risk in the midst of a pandemic is to say quite clearly that Indigenous lives still do not matter in B.C.” On Thursday, the Unist’ot’en Camp said Coastal GasLink confirmed five new cases at its camp 9A on Unist’ot’en territory. Sley’do Molly Wickham, Gidimt’en Camp spokesperson, said at least one Wet’suwet’en worker in a Coastal GasLink work camp recently contracted the virus and is now hospitalized in an induced coma. David Bowering, former chief medical officer for Northern Health, said the time has come for the province to shift gears and take a harder look at what it deems essential. “Is it industry first, or the health and safety of the population in the north first? They need to rethink the essential designation and say it’s not that essential, certainly not at this price.” Coastal GasLink, BC Hydro and the Ministry of Health did not respond to interview requests prior to publication. LNG Canada declined an interview request. Bowering told The Narwhal he’s surprised it took this long for an outbreak in the work camps to occur. In the early days of the pandemic, he wrote an open letter to Henry urging her to shut down the work camps, calling them “land locked cruise ships” and warning that cases related to these industrial sites were inevitable. He knows what he’s talking about — his first job as a doctor was at a mining camp. He called the safety plans prepared by LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink “deluxe” documents but says the best plans in the world don’t mean anything if people aren’t following the rules. “They have luxury-class health and safety plans and luxury-class consultants compared to what the public sector can afford,” he said. “The virus doesn’t respect paper protocols. There’s just too much human nature involved.” Wickham said she has frequently seen workers flouting the rules. “We know that they’re not following even the basic protocols like wearing masks when they’re in vehicles together or when they’re close working closely with one another,” she said. “And they’re certainly not wearing masks when they’re interacting with our people on the territory.” Bowering is concerned that capacity at Northern Health hospitals is already stretched thin. In a statement released yesterday, the health authority said it is “experiencing an increase in COVID-19 activity and hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients requiring critical care.” There 235 active cases in the region including 33 people in hospital. Patients have already been transferred to hospitals outside the region to deal with the increase. “I think we’re in for a rough ride,” Bowering said. “The worry about our local hospitals and our local staff being overwhelmed, burned out and having difficulty coping, that’s becoming a pretty clear reality. Our communities need help.” Bowering isn’t alone in his calls to shut down work camps. The open letter from frontline health workers calls for Henry to take “immediate action” and shut down work camps. “As health professionals, we have a responsibility to uphold the current and future health of these communities, which are now under threat from the continuing of Coastal GasLink (LNG) work and man camps,” the letter says. The frontline health workers’ letter is in support of concerns raised by more than 20 Wet’suwet’en matriarchs, or Ts’ako ze’, in an open letter to Henry dated Nov. 30. In that letter, the matriarchs asked the public health officer to reconsider the essential designation given to the oil and gas industry and close work camps, which have also been shown to increase violence against Indigenous women and children and bring a host of social ills. “Not only have we witnessed an increase in drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence in our communities, we are now faced with a disease that could kill any one of us,” the matriarchs wrote. “In addition to the risk man camps have on our Indigenous women and girls, we are now facing the loss of some of our most sacred elders and chiefs.” At the time of publication, the Ts’ako ze’ said they had not received a response from the public health officer. The calls to shut down work camps come in the wake of a damning independent review that found widespread racism and discrimination against Ingienous people in B.C. health care. The 224-page report released on Nov. 30 found that racism and discrimination negatively affect the treatment and health outcomes of Indigenous people, who are already at higher risk of health issues due to a number of factors realted to systemic racism, such a poverty and intergenerational trauma. “Many Indigenous people have underlying health conditions because of all of the impacts of colonization,” Wickham said. “We have higher rates of diabetes and higher rates of heart disease. Our people are at greater risk of dying.” Wickham said a particularly alarming aspect to the increase in cases in work camps is the potential impact on Indigenous communities. Most industrial operations have a mandate to hire local and Indigenous workers and those people mix with transient workers and, on their days off, with members of their own communities. Bowering said the continued presence of industrial activity is contradictory to the goals of the public health office. “I drive by First Nations [communities] and see the barriers and the closed signs — these people are trying remarkably hard to stay safe,” he said. “But at the same time, there are buses coming and going to many of them, up to the mines and back.” The BC Centre for Disease Control noted in its guidance document for industrial sites that Indigenous people are at higher risk of COVID-19 and recommended that employers limit its workers’ interactions in surrounding towns. But Bowering and Wickham said the presence of out of town workers in the region is both common and on the rise. “We have been concerned about not just the man camps, but the fact that a lot of the workers are living in our communities and hotels,” Wickham said. “They’re going back and forth every day.” Bowering said the B.C. public health office can easily put the brakes on what could quickly become a serious and escalating crisis in high-risk communities. “They have to decide whether having everybody else not travelling, but allowing these workers to travel is a reasonable public health decision? Is it even ethically reasonable?” Meanwhile, activity on Wet’suwet’en territory is increasing. “The whole territory is just crawling with workers,” Wickham said. She lives with her partner and three children in a cabin near the Coastal GasLink work zone. “They have helicopters flying overhead at least two or three times a day, both surveillance helicopters and industry helicopters slinging materials in and out of the territory. It’s a warzone out there.”Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
A Fort St. James man has been fined $1,000 for flying a drone while out on a hunting expedition. Paul James Hesse was issued the penalty on November 9 in Fort St. James Provincial Court. He was also prohibited from hunting for one year and assessed a $150 victim surcharge. The outcome stems from a complaint conservation officers received on Sept. 22, 2018. The next day, officers attended a cabin on Marie Lake, southwest of Fort St. James, where they seized the drone along with a harvested bull moose. After securing a search warrant, they gathered photos and videos from the machine and forwarded the matter to Crown prosecution. Conservation officer Richard Keenan-Toop, who was the lead investigating officer on the file, said it was the first conviction for the offence in British Columbia. The Wildlife Act was amended in July 2016 to make the use of drones while hunting illegal. "It was definitely a different one and definitely a learning experience for the Conservation Officer Service for sure," Keenan-Toop said. "But it's not something we see very often, thankfully, because hunting with a drone completely defeats fair chase for wildlife." However, Connie Morrisey, a native court worker in Fort St. James who helped Hesse put together a defence against the charges said he never actually used the drone for actual hunting. Instead, she said he was using it to get images of the cabin and a route planned for a trail from big Marie Lake to little Marie Lake, but because he was at the cabin as part of a hunting trip, he was charged. "The minute you leave your house to go hunting to the minute you get back to your house, that's considered a hunting expedition," Morrisey said. "He did not use it to hunt but he flew it when he was at the cabin." She said Hesse uses the drone for work purposes and had it with him in camp. When he came back to Fort St. James, his father picked him up and went to the cabin. "He said 'I know you can't use it for hunting but if I had known you can't even have it one you, I would've went home, dropped the drone off and went out," Morrisey said. As part of the prohibition against hunting for a year, Hesse is also prohibited from accompanying other hunters and the drone was forfeited to the Crown. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
The City of Vancouver now owns the Regent and Balmoral hotels, Downtown Eastside buildings the city had been trying to expropriate after years of neglect and decay, The Tyee has learned. Land title records list the city as the current owner of 159 E. Hastings — the Balmoral — and 160 E. Hastings — the Regent. The city confirmed to The Tyee that a settlement with the owners, the Sahota family, had been reached. But the city says the terms of the agreement prevent it from revealing how much was paid to purchase the properties, which have been assessed at a value of $1 each because of their extreme disrepair. Sam Dharmapala worked in the buildings as an employee of the former owners, the Sahota family. For a decade, Dharmapala said, he worked alongside tenants and advocates to raise the alarm about the dangerous living conditions at the hotels. “This is a very good fight in the history of the Downtown Eastside,” Dharmapala said. “We want to see [the hotels] go back to the residents of the Downtown Eastside, who have lived in those buildings.” Dharmapala said the city needs to ensure all the units in the two hotels are rented at the welfare shelter rate — $375 for a single person — to provide homes for Vancouver’s poorest residents. The hotels had provided more than 300 units. The records show the transfer happened Nov. 13, one year after Vancouver city council voted unanimously to expropriate the hotels in a groundbreaking decision. Council voted to expropriate after decades of repeated building code and bylaw violations and after taking the owners, the Sahota family, to court numerous times. It was the first time the city had ever attempted to expropriate residential buildings because of extreme neglect. The city started the court action with the intention of renovating or redeveloping the properties for low-income housing. Before the expropriation vote, council heard from dozens of tenants and former tenants who described living with no heat or hot water, constant bedbug, rat and cockroach infestations and the fear of what would happen if there were a fire. Tenants had lived in squalor in the two buildings for decades. City building inspectors ordered the Balmoral to be emptied in the summer of 2017 because it was in such poor condition. One year later, the Regent was also condemned. Tenants of both buildings were moved into other buildings by the City of Vancouver and BC Housing. Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside resident who now works for the city as a drug policy advisor, said city building inspectors initially closed just the bathrooms of the Balmoral in June 2017 because they feared bathtubs could plunge through the rotten floors. Ward worked at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users at the time. “People were coming to me daily to say they were terrified to go into their own home,” Ward said. Ward called for the buildings to be torn down and for modular housing to be quickly built in their place. “We can build a six- to eight-story building and house 100 people by April,” Ward said. “It’s a desperate situation out here and we don’t need to do things the old way — we can use modular housing to build housing that decreases the chance of death for drug users. We can do this.” Overdose deaths have soared throughout 2020 and homelessness has increased as COVID-19 restrictions have made the drug supply more toxic and reduced the number of places people can go to find shelter. Vancouver’s mayor, Kennedy Stewart, said the city plans to work with BC Housing to turn the buildings into low-income housing. “Bringing the Regent and Balmoral into public ownership marks a hopeful new beginning for residents of the Downtown Eastside and something all residents should be proud of,” Stewart was quoted as saying in a press release. “Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community.” B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, David Eby, also weighed in, saying: “For too long, people had to live in sub-standard living conditions in these buildings. The acquisition of these properties is welcome news.” The next steps will be to start community consultation sessions with the Downtown Eastside community, and city staff will report back to council on next steps and a timeline for renovating or redeveloping the properties in early 2021, according to the City of Vancouver. On Nov. 3, city communications staff told The Tyee court expropriation proceedings were paused while the city worked with “representatives of the owners of the Regent and the Balmoral to resolve the expropriation of the hotels.” The Tyee has reached out to the city for comment. In a statement emailed to The Tyee by lawyer Evan Cooke, the Sahota family confirmed they had come to an agreement with the city. “We have determined that the public sector is better equipped to respond to the acute needs of the area’s residents at this time; including their urgent need for housing, mental health and substance abuse support, and other critical programs.” The statement said the details of the transfer are confidential.Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
Gananoque kicks off its Christmas celebrations this weekend. The three-week event will start on Saturday with the Festival of Light and a stand-still parade on King Street, organized by the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. "We lit up the whole visitor centre, Town Hall, the bandshell and 20 trees today, thanks to Hydro One; they showed up today with four bucket trucks and 20 guys and they did an amazing job," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the chamber. On Saturday the parade will be a little smaller than previous years but no less spectacular. So far there are 29 confirmed floats and Kirkland says she is expecting another eight to show up on the day, bringing the total to 37 floats. "Before the parade starts at 5:30, the Gananoque Curling Club will be handing out free hot chocolate and apple cider in Town Park between 2 and 4 p.m.," said Kari Lambe, the town's manager of recreation. The 1000 Islands History Museum will also be lighting up the museum and is offering a walk-by window exhibit, "Toys of Yesteryear," on Saturday. The town is billing this year's celebrations as "A Wonderful Life in Gananoque" with a variety of festivities planned for the holiday season. "Starting on Sunday, Dec. 6, children will have the opportunity to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at his grotto in Town Park, where proper social distance and safety measure have been put in place," said Lambe, adding that there will also be carolling on the front steps of Town Hall from 3 until 4 p.m. The Gananoque Fire Service will be setting up firepits in Town Park from 2 until 5 p.m. Every Wednesday just after 6 p.m., Santa will be reading children's stories on 99.9 MyFM, with the final reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas scheduled for Dec. 24, just before the man in red takes off on his big journey. The town is also hosting a Winter Lights competition, and residents are encouraged to decorate their homes for the holiday season. Lambe said a group of judges will pick a winner from each ward, North, South and West, and one award will be given to the business with the best window and/or light display. The winners will be announced on Dec. 18 on the town's Facebook page. The Christmas celebrations are the work of several community groups, including those mentioned earlier as well as a committee of council, the Municipal Accommodation Tax Tourism Advisory Panel, 1000 Islands RV, the Thousand Islands Playhouse and several town volunteers. A full schedule of events is posted on the town’s website.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
For a man obsessed with winning, President Donald Trump is losing a lot. He’s managed to lose not just once to Democrat Joe Biden at the ballot box but over and over again in courts across the country in a futile attempt to stay in power. The Republican president and his allies continue to mount new cases, recycling the same baseless claims, even after Trump’s own attorney general declared the Justice Department had uncovered no widespread fraud. "This will continue to be a losing strategy, and in a way it's even bad for him: He gets to re-lose the election numerous times," said Kent Greenfield, a professor at Boston College Law School. “The depths of his petulance and narcissism continues to surprise me.” In an Associated Press tally of roughly 50 cases brought by Trump's campaign and his allies, more than 30 have been rejected or dropped. About a dozen are awaiting action. Trump has notched just one small victory, a case challenging a decision to move the deadline to provide missing proof of identification for certain absentee ballots and mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania. Trump has refused to admit he lost, and this week posted a 46-minute speech to Facebook filled with conspiracies, misstatements and vows to keep up his fight to subvert the election. Five more losses came Friday. The Trump campaign lost its bid to overturn the results of the election in Nevada and the Michigan appeals court rejected a case from his campaign. The Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed a challenge brought by GOP lawmakers. And in Arizona, a judge threw out thrown out a bid to undo Biden’s victory there, concluding that the state’s Republican Party chairwoman failed to prove fraud or misconduct and that the evidence presented at trial wouldn’t reverse Trump’s loss. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a conservative group over Trump’s loss. Thursday dealt another blow in Wisconsin, where a split state Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s lawsuit seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. The case echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes. Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court late Wednesday. Judges in battleground states have repeatedly swatted down legal challenges brought by the president and his allies. Trump's legal team has vowed to take one Pennsylvania case to the U.S. Supreme Court even though it was rejected in a scathing ruling by a federal judge as well as an appeals court. After recently being kicked off Trump's legal team, conservative attorney Sidney Powell filed new lawsuits in Arizona and Wisconsin this week riddled with errors and wild conspiracies about election rigging. One of the plaintiffs named in the Wisconsin case said he never agreed to participate in the case and found out through social media that he had been included. The same lawsuit asks for 48 hours of security footage from the “TCF Center,” which is in Detroit. The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have raised are typical in every election: problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postmarks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost. Election officials from both parties have said the election went well, and Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the Justice Department uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the election's outcome. Trump's lawyers responded by criticizing Barr, who has been one of the president's biggest allies. Greenfield says their criticism speaks volumes. “It goes to show how vehement their ability to overlook reality is," he said. Failing to gain any traction in court, Trump and his allies are now turning to events with Republican lawmakers and rallies in states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan where they can use unfounded claims of fraud to incite the president’s loyal base. At a rally in Georgia on Wednesday, Powell and another pro-Trump attorney, Lin Wood, suggested that Republican voters sit out of the two January runoff elections that will decide control of the Senate because of the potential for fraud. And in Michigan, Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, urged Republican activists to pressure, even threaten, the GOP-controlled Legislature to award the state’s 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Biden’s 154,000-vote victory. In his video posted Wednesday, Trump said there were facts and evidence of a mass conspiracy created by Democrats to steal the election, a similar argument made by Giuliani and others before judges that has been largely unsuccessful. Most of their claims are rooted in conspiracy theories about voting machines that are not true, and affidavits by partisan poll watchers who claimed they didn't get close enough to see ballots being tallied because of safety precautions in the coronavirus pandemic. Because they couldn't see, they argued, something untoward must have happened. “No, I didn’t hear any facts or evidence," tweeted Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, after watching the video Wednesday night. “What I did hear was a sad Facebook rant from a man who lost an election." ___ Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report. Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press