Professor Neil Ferguson has said the government's biggest mistake was not controlling COVID-19's growth in the autumn
Professor Neil Ferguson has said the government's biggest mistake was not controlling COVID-19's growth in the autumn
(Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP - image credit) Two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden met to set a new tone for Canada-U.S. relations, the Biden administration official whose decisions may affect Canada's economy the most sat for three hours of questioning at her confirmation hearing before the Senate finance committee Thursday. Some cabinet confirmations become partisan wrestling matches. By the end of her appearance, the confirmation of Katherine Tai as the next United States Trade Representative felt more like a collective laying on of hands. The chair, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, called her a "superb choice." All ranking Democrats and Republicans from not only the Senate but also the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee applauded the depth of her skills and experience with a long list of complimentary adjectives. Representative Richard Neal from Massachusetts, appearing as a guest Democratic chair of the House committee, told senators he considers Tai to be like family after her seven years as legal counsel for his committee. Tai played a critical role in crafting and negotiating bipartisan support for endgame revisions that ensured Congressional approval of the revised North American trade agreement by delivering more environmental and labour protections. "There is one issue that all of us in this room agree upon: enforcement, enforcement, enforcement of these trade agreements," Neal said, praising Tai's "understated grit." Biden's pick was endorsed by leaders from the environmental, business and labour communities, Neal said. Tai accompanied Neal on a critical trip to Ottawa in November 2019 to persuade Canada to agree to amend the new NAFTA so it could get through Congress. The Trudeau government had thought its negotiations with the Trump administration were over. Canada's ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, came to know Tai well as Canada's lead negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. She said she remembers having lunch with her that day and their "vibrant conversation" with the assembled politicians about how international trade can benefit domestic workers — a focus the Biden administration now embraces. Canada's ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, far right, joined her then-minister Chrystia Freeland as Representative Richard Neal met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 6, 2019. House Democrats asked Canada to agree to amendments they were making to secure Congressional approval for the renegotiated NAFTA. "I think that's just telling on where some of the priorities may well lie," Hillman told CBC News earlier this winter. "She has specific expertise in that area." Fortunately for the Trudeau government, Tai's vision for "expanding the winner's circle" of beneficiaries of international trade lines up with the beliefs of Canadian Liberals like Chrystia Freeland who have spoken about making deals work for small businesses and middle class workers — not just corporations. Winning with win-wins During Thursday's hearing, Tai said she wants to move away from negotiations that pit one sector's workers against another. It's a sharp contrast with the zero-sum style of the Trump administration, which was more focused on scoring targeted political wins than mutually-beneficial gains. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time." - USTR nominee Katherine Tai While that could come as a relief for trading partners like Canada, Tai's hearing also revealed several priorities to watch carefully. For example, will Tai continue Robert Lighthizer's push to "re-shore" as many commodities in as many supply chains as possible, to repatriate jobs for American workers? "There's been a lot of disruption and consternation that have accompanied some of those policies," she said — without specifically calling out Trump administration tactics like using national security grounds to slap tariffs on foreign steel. "I'd want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective, process-driven manner." And what about the critical product shortages the U.S. is facing, especially during the pandemic? President Biden signed an executive order this week to strengthen U.S. supply chains for advanced batteries, pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and semiconductors. "A lot of the assumptions that we have based our trade programs on [have] maximized efficiency without regard for the requirement for resilience," Tai said. Rethinking the China strategy Between 2011-14, Tai was the USTR's chief counsel for trade enforcement with China. On Thursday, she told senators the U.S. needs a "strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its state-directed economics." The government must have "a united front of U.S. allies," she added. "China is simultaneously a rival, a partner and an outsized player whose cooperation we'll also need to address certain global challenges," she said. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time." Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, himself a former USTR during the George W. Bush administration, pushed her to explain how the U.S. could compete with the "techno-nationalist" approach China takes on semiconductors — which he said are subsidized by up to 40 per cent, allowing the Communist regime to dominate the global market. "We can't compete by doing the things China does, so we have to figure out how we can compete by marshalling all the tools and resources that we have in the U.S. government," Tai said. Later she described how the Chinese state is able to conduct its economy "almost like a conductor with an orchestra," while Americans trust the "invisible hand" of the free market. The U.S. government may need to revisit this, she said, "knowing the strategy and the ambition that we are up against." Fellow Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown asked Tai whether she'd make it a top priority to crack down on imports that trace back to China's forced labour program, which human rights investigators believe abuses potentially millions from China's minority Uighur and Turkic Muslim population to pick crops like cotton. "Yes," she said. "I think the use of forced labour is probably the crudest example of the race to the bottom." 'Laser-focused' on Huawei Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who also sits on the Senate intelligence committee, urged Tai to form a "coalition of the willing" to compete with the Chinese "authoritarian capitalism" model that's enabled the rise of tech giants like Huawei. Trade negotiations have to protect the security of digital infrastructure, he said, and the U.S. should consider asking trading partners to prohibit certain Chinese technologies. "If we keep Huawei out of American domestic markets but it gets the rest of the world, we're not going to be successful," Warner said. Sen. Tom Carper, left, greets Katherine Tai, Joe Biden's nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, and meets her mother, right, at Tai's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday. Tai agreed with him, and said the U.S. government should be "laser-focused" on this, and not just in trade negotiations. To counter China's influence, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper asked whether it would be a "fool's errand" to rejoin partners like Canada in the Pacific Rim trading bloc — which was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. left it in 2017. Tai said the thinking behind the CPTPP remains a "solid equation" but the world in 2021 is "very different in important ways" to the climate in 2016, when Congress failed to approve the TPP. Carper also asked how trade policy is affected by the Biden administration's renewed multilateral approach to climate change. "The rest of the world is coming up with its own climate solutions, and that means that as other countries and economies begin to regulate in this area, climate and trade policies become a part of our competitive landscape," she said. 'Digging in' on dairy Tai also promised to work closely with senators who raised issues about commodities important to their states — and Canada. But the veteran trade diplomat didn't tip her hand too much on what Canada should expect. Idaho's Mike Crapo was assured she'll work on "longstanding issues" in softwood lumber. She told Iowa's Chuck Grassley she's aware of the "very clear promises" Canada made on dairy as part of concluding the NAFTA negotiations, and how important they were to win the support of some senators. Some of these Canada-U.S. issues "date back to the beginning of time," she said, adding she was looking forward to "digging in" on the enforcement process her predecessor began in December. Several senators pushed for more attention to America's beef, of which Tai said she was a "very happy consumer." South Dakota Sen. John Thune expressed frustration with the World Trade Organization's ruling against the cattle industry's protectionist country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rules, prompting a commitment from Tai to work with livestock producers on a new labelling system that could survive a WTO challenge. One of the toughest questioners Thursday proved to be former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who slammed the lack of transparency in past trade negotiations and told Tai her administration needs to "take a hard line." Warren called for limiting the influence of corporations and industries on advisory committees and releasing more negotiating drafts so the public understands what's being done on their behalf. At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Wyden asked Tai to send her ideas for improving the transparency of trade processes to the committee's bipartisan leadership within 30 days. Katherine Tai bumps elbows with Congressional leaders following her Thursday confirmation hearing on Capital Hill. Throughout the hearing, senators described Tai's confirmation as "historic." She's the first woman of colour and first Asian-American (her parents emigrated from Taiwan) to serve as USTR. Pennsylvania's Bob Casey asked if she'd commit to working on women's economic empowerment and participation in trade laws. She answered with just one word: "Yes."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is struggling to beat back his biggest political challenge in years from a protest movement which began with disgruntled farmers travelling to New Delhi on tractors and is now gaining wider support at home and abroad. Simmering in makeshift camps housing tens of thousands of farmers since last year, the movement has seen a dramatic growth in recent weeks, getting backing from environmental activists, opposition parties and even A-list Western celebrities. At its heart are three new farm laws passed by the government last September, thanks to the majority Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enjoys in the lower house of parliament.
If you're coming to “ Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry ” hoping for a primer on the music sensation, you’ve come to the wrong place. Filmmaker R.J. Cutler’s two hour and 20-minute documentary about the “Ocean Eyes” singer and songwriter is not biography or reportage. It’s a verite-style plunge into her life, her home, her concerts, her process, her Tourette’s, her brother’s bedroom where they famously write all their songs and even her diary in the year in which she became a star. It is raw and filled with music — over 20 of her songs are played over the course of the film, including live performances, like her extraordinary Coachella showing in 2019. Some are shown in full. It is also very, very long. Cutler, who also did “The September Issue” and “Belushi,” cited seminal verite rock docs “Gimme Shelter” and “Dont Look Back” as inspiration. But both of those came a few years and albums into The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan’s superstardom. Eilish’s ascent is extraordinary and yet she is still in the early part of her artistic and actual life. Fans will certainly disagree, as is their right, but it is an enormous amount of unfiltered space to give to an artist who is still getting started. There's no right or wrong way to make a documentary like this, but for the Eilish curious and not the Eilish die-hards, it's initiation by fire without any context. Clearly someone in Eilish’s camp had an eye toward legacy when they invited Cutler to her family home to see if he wanted to follow the then-16-year-old during her breakout year, during which she and her brother Finneas wrote, recorded and released her debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Eilish is funny and sullen and charismatic and moody, just as you’d want and expect a teenage artist to be. She gets dreamy and protective of her followers, saying “they’re not my fans, they’re like part of me” and complains that for her, writing songs is “torture.” And she breaks the fourth wall occasionally (she’d told Cutler that she wanted it to be like “The Office”) to let the audience knows that she knows they’re there. Her brother is the driving force a lot of the productivity in their cozy family home in the Highland Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles (he’s since moved out). Their parents homeschooled them and music was always part of their life, with mom, Maggie Baird, teaching them how to write songs and dad, Patrick O’Connell, teaching instruments. It is interesting to see her and Finneas riff about lyrics and test things out — he has anxiety about having to produce a hit and she couldn’t care less — and the juxtaposition of her glamorous appearances and performances with the modest normalcy of their home life. There are some terrific moments that Cutler caught out on the road: In one instance, she meets Katy Perry who introduces Eilish to her fiance — “a big fan.” It’s only later that Eilish realizes that was Orlando Bloom. Her brother reminds her he is “Will Turner from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies.” She wants a redo. “I thought he was just some dude,” she says. Another is her first meeting with Justin Bieber. She talks about her longstanding obsession in an interview, he gets in touch three days before her album release about wanting to collaborate. (She tells her manager that “he could ask me to kill my dog and I would.”) Then at Coachella he appears as she’s greeting a hoard of her fans. She freezes and becomes a fan herself. Later she’ll sob over a heartfelt message he sends her. And there are some incredibly vulnerable moments too, showing the performer exhausted and annoyed. Eilish remains as unique and enigmatic as she seems from a distance, but also is presented very much like a normal Los Angeles teenager, getting her driver's license, dreaming of a matte black Dodge Challenger and texting with a largely absent boyfriend. Fans will eat up every morsel of this documentary and wish for more. For newcomers, however, it might benefit from watching in installments, which is one of the benefits of the film debuting on Apple TV+. There’s even an intermission to help take the guesswork out of where to hit pause. This does not come across as a vanity project that’s been intensely controlled by the star or the machinery around her, either. It’s refreshing. It's also probably one of the last times we’ll all be invited into her life in this way. “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry,” an Apple TV+ and Neon release out Friday, has not been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running time: 140 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia — Facebook announced on Friday preliminary agreements with three Australian publishers, a day after the Parliament passed a law that would make the digital giants pay for news. Facebook said letters of intent had been signed with independent news organizations Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media. The commercial agreements are subject to the signing of full agreements within the next 60 days, a Facebook statement said. “These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” the statement said. Schwartz Media chief executive Rebecca Costello said the deal would help her company continue to produce independent journalism. “It’s never been more important than it is now to have a plurality of voices in the Australian press,” Costello said. Private Media chief executive Will Hayward said the new deal built on an existing Facebook partnership. Australia's Parliament on Thursday had passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code. In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a six-day-old ban on Australians accessing and sharing news. Access to Australian news sites did not appear to be fully restored until Friday. Google, the only other digital giant targeted by the legislation, has already struck content licensing deals, or is close to deals, with some of Australia’s biggest news publishers including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Seven West Media. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new Australian law was critical to the deals that Australian media businesses were negotiating with the two gateways to the internet. Under the law, if a platform can't reach agreement with a news business, an arbitration panel can be appointed to set a legally binding price for journalism. "Global tech giants are changing the world, but we can’t let them run the world,” Morrison told reporters. “People in free societies like Australia, who go to ballot boxes and who go and they vote, that’s who should run the world,” Morrison added. Facebook Vice-President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg on Wednesday took a veiled swipe at News Corp. in a social media post criticizing Australia’s law, which is aimed at setting a fair price for the Australian journalism that the digital platforms display. “It is ironic that some of the biggest publishers that have long advocated for free markets and voluntary commercial undertakings now appear to be in favour of state sponsored price setting,” the former British deputy prime minister wrote. News Corp. Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said last week that his company had pay negotiations with Facebook. “Having been someone who’s dealt with Facebook over the past months, we have some weeks where we’re getting good engagement and think we’re progressing and then you get silence. I think the door is still open,” Miller told a Senate inquiry into Australian media diversity. News Corp. owns most of Australia’s major newspapers, and some analysts argue the U.S.-based international media empire is the driver for the conservative Australian government making Facebook and Google pay. News Corp. has announced a wide-ranging deal with Google covering operations in the United States and Britain as well as Australia. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
Mélanie Joly compte sur l’immersion française pour soutenir la relève francophone. Dans son livre blanc sur la modernisation sur les langues officielles, Mélanie Joly mise sur l’immersion pour assurer la vitalité du français, hors Québec. Entre pénurie d’enseignants et sous financement chronique, l’Alberta n’a pas forcément les moyens de ses ambitions. Dans son énoncé d’intention, intitulé « Français et Anglais : Vers une égalité réelle des langues officielles au Canada », la ministre du Développement économique et des Langues officielles, Mélanie Joly, souhaite mettre l’accent sur les écoles d’immersion pour renforcer le bilinguisme au pays. Selon elle, cette solution mettrait fin à la liste d’attente de parents anglophones qui souhaitent inscrire leurs enfants dans ces établissements. Cependant, en Alberta, globalement, « il n’y a pas assez d’enseignants qui parlent le français dans les deux systèmes scolaires, celui des écoles d’immersion et le système francophone », explique Michael Tryon, directeur général de Canadian Parents For French, en Alberta, un collectif de parents qui milite pour la promotion du français en milieu scolaire. Selon lui, les chiffres sont encore flous pour dresser un portrait exhaustif concernant les besoins du nombre d’enseignants en français, car chaque conseil scolaire de la province ne donne pas toujours l’heure juste à l’Alberta teacher’s association (ATA). Parmi les 62 conseils scolaires de la province, 42 offrent l’immersion française et chacun est indépendant. L’Association canadienne des professionnels de l’immersion a lancé, voilà quelques jours, une enquête pour sonder cette réalité. À défaut de chiffres, le manque de professeurs se fait sentir, « les baby-boomers partent à la retraite et avec la pandémie les conseils scolaires n’ont pas assez d’enseignants pour enseigner que ce soit en ligne ou en classe », décrit Michael Tryon. Actuellement, l’Alberta compte environ 47 000 étudiants en programme d’immersion française et 147 000 jeunes qui ont le français comme langue seconde, à l’instar des cours d’anglais enseignés au Québec comme langue minoritaire. Dans ce cas-ci, la fréquence de cours est de deux fois par semaine, d’environ 45 minutes chaque. Cependant, la politique de la province ne rend pas obligatoire l’enseignement du français dans tous les conseils scolaires de l’Alberta, ce que déplore le directeur de Canadian Parents For French. « Il n’y a pas de standards minimums en Alberta, j’aimerais que tous les étudiants de la province puissent apprendre le français, mais maintenant ce n’est pas possible », regrette-t-il. La demande en enseignants reste forte, mais l’offre ne suit pas. « On a vraiment besoin d’un coup de pouce, car dans certains coins de la province, c’est difficile de trouver suffisamment d’enseignants », témoigne aussi de son côté, la directrice générale de la Fédération des conseils scolaires francophones de l’Alberta (FCSFA), Anne-Marie Boucher. Selon elle, l’immigration serait un pas supplémentaire pour remédier au manque chronique d’enseignants dans la province. « S’il y avait plus d’immigrations francophones, cela pourrait aider », explique-t-elle. Depuis des années, la cible des 4 % fixée par le gouvernement fédéral pour garder le même taux de francophones dans les provinces n’est toujours pas atteinte, notamment en Alberta qui se situerait autour de 2 %. En attendant, selon Marianne Jacquet, professeur en éducation dans le programme de formation des maîtres, au Campus Saint-Jean, la relève est bien présente avec « l’immigration internationale qui est un allié pour la francophonie et les jeunes issus de l’immersion », dit-elle. « Entre 60 et 65 % des étudiants qui sont au Campus Saint-Jean viennent des écoles d’immersion », précise Michael Tryon. Aujourd’hui, s’il y a pénurie des enseignants, « il y a aussi un grand intérêt de la part des familles, il faut capitaliser sur cet intérêt », fait remarquer la professeure en éducation. Cependant, « pour que cette modernisation devienne réalité, il faut qu’elle soit accompagnée de ressources et de financements afin qu’elle soit vraiment réaliste », met-elle en avant. Bien que le Campus Saint-Jean souffre toujours d’un sou financement important, il ouvrira, en septembre prochain, un programme d’éducation en français à Red Deer, Calgary et Grande Prairie, financé dans le cadre de l’Entente Canada-Alberta. « L’avenir du Canada réside dans la dualité linguistique. Il s’agit de voir ce qui sera mis en place dans le livre blanc. C’est important, car je pense que l’avenir du pays en dépend », déclare Pierre-Yves Mocquet, doyen du Campus Saint-Jean. En effet, dans le livre blanc de Mélanie Joly, le recensement de 2016 indique que le taux de bilinguisme dans la majorité anglophone stagne sous la barre des 10 %. Hélène Lequitte, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
India's coast guard found 81 survivors and eight dead on a boat crammed with Muslim Rohingya refugees adrift in the Andaman Sea, and were repairing the vessel so that it can return safely to Bangladesh, Indian officials said on Friday. The Indian government was in discussions with Bangladesh to facilitate the safe return of the vessel, which was found drifting in international waters having left southern Bangladesh about two weeks ago with hopes of reaching Malaysia. The boat had sailed on Feb. 11 from Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh carrying 56 women and eight girls as well as 21 men and five boys, officials said.
OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says he assumes security authorities signed off on an arrangement to allow a company owned by a Chinese police force to run Canada's visa application centre in Beijing. Blair says he can only make assumptions because the arrangement was put in place in 2008, under the previous Conservative government. Still, he says he's been assured by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that the personal information provided by visa applicants is secure. He says the information is handled according to Canada's privacy laws, that no application or biometrically collected data is stored at the centre and that all databases containing personal information are located in Canada. Questions have been raised about the centre since The Globe and Mail reported earlier this month that its operation has been subcontracted to Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company, which is owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. Opposition MPs questioned Blair about the possibility that visa applicants' personal information could be relayed to the Chinese government and cause negative repercussions, particularly for dissidents trying to flee the country's repressive Communist regime. Bloc Quebecois MP Stephane Bergeron and New Democrat MP Jack Harris pressed Blair to explain which of Canada's national security agencies signed off on the subcontract to the Chinese police. "I have some difficulty frankly answering your question Mr. Harris about the origins of this contract," Blair told the special committee on Canada-China relations Thursday. "It was signed in 2008. So it's been in place for 12 years now and so its origin and who actually authorized this contract predates me or my government and frankly my knowledge." Blair said there are "normal procurement processes" in place for contracting out services and he assumes they were followed in this case. "I want to make sure that it's clear. I'm only able to make an assumption that those processes were in fact followed because it did take place 12 years ago." "That's not much comfort, I have to say," Harris responded. Blair acknowledged that IRCC is not a security agency but he said it does have an information technology specialist department that has provided assurances that the visa information is secure. He said inspections and audits are regularly conducted to ensure there is no privacy breach of sensitive information and there has been no evidence of a problem. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A headline on a previous version said Bill Blair testified a Conservative government authorized the contracting-out of visa services in Beijing specifically to a company owned by Chinese police.
Futur dentists, dental hygienists-in-training and instructors of oral medicine in Manitoba are wanted for a new study on the risks associated with COVID-19 infection, transmission and immunity. Ottawa has earmarked $1.4 million through its COVID-19 immunity task force to fund a national study that aims to investigate the effect the novel coronavirus has on people who work in dental clinics, labs and offices on university campuses. The University of Manitoba is among 10 schools recruiting dental and dental hygiene students, as well as residents, faculty, and support staff involved with patient care to take part in the McGill University-led research project. While many university programs have moved online amid the pandemic, dentistry students and staff have continued to do in-person labs to practise procedures on mannequins and patients. “Many of our medical counterparts have transitioned to doing virtual consults with their patients, but it’s a little bit harder to do that with clinical dentistry,” said Dr. Robert Schroth, a professor and clinician scientist at the Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry in Winnipeg. “We’re such a unique population, in that we’re very closely in confined quarters with aerosols.” Despite heightened personal protective equipment, that reality puts dentistry students and staff, theoretically, at a higher risk for acquiring COVID-19, Schroth said, noting aerosol transmission is recognized as one of the main ways the novel coronavirus is transmitted. The Manitoba Dental Association has released guidelines to encourage dentistry professionals to use aerosol-reduction techniques, including using a rubber dam and doing pre-procedural antiviral rinses, when treating patients. Schroth said the research team behind the new study wants to know if existing preventive measures are working or if they need to be adjusted. The researchers plan to secure 800 participants, from dentistry colleges in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Every month for a year, participants are expected to provide a saliva sample and answer a questionnaire. The former will allow researchers to test samples for active SARS-CoV-2 infections, while the latter will allow for sociodemographic, socioeconomic, and health status information to be collected. If an individual tests positive, they will be asked for additional saliva and blood samples so researchers can perform antibody tests to determine if they have any signs of immunity to COVID-19. The research team will also collect data from each dentistry college about their training settings, infection-control protocols, counts of students and staff and total COVID-19 cases. As vaccines roll out, participants who are immunized will be monitored to see what their immune response is like. Manitoba recently broadened COVID-19 immunization criteria to include all health-care professionals who have direct contact with patients in dental offices. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
TORONTO — Ontario's universities are facing a shortfall of about half a billion dollars this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an advocacy group for the sector said Friday in seeking government relief.Schools incurred significant expenses in the switch to remote learning, in implementing enhanced health and safety measures, and in providing personal protective equipment, the Council of Ontario Universities said.At the same time, revenues from student residences, facilities and other sources took a hit, for a combined loss of roughly $1 billion for the 2020-2021 school year among the province's 21 universities, the group said.Institutions made one-time cuts and savings to bring that number down by about half, and are now asking for sector-wide support from the province to help make up the difference, the organization said.Steve Orsini, the organization's president and CEO, wouldn't say whether other cuts or changes would be necessary if universities don't receive additional funding. But he said the province has "a number of options" to support the sector, which would in turn support the workforce, the economy and the province's recovery."We know that not supporting this sector will not support students, local communities, and our economic recovery," he said.Universities achieved savings this year through "temporary reductions" and deferring some spending, which may not be possible long term, Orsini said."You can't defer some capital or some maintenance or things for far too long," he said.With no clear end to the pandemic, universities will likely face more financial pressure down the line, he said, noting the group is asking the province for a long-term strategy as well as immediate relief. "What we're looking for right now is to deal with the impact of COVID-19 in the 2021 fiscal period, but we'll continue to monitor ... how this is impacting the sector over time," he said. "There will need to be a review, if this pandemic continues, of what additional steps universities will take to manage it, and what additional costs we'd be looking for government support to help us get through."One northern Ontario university's financial situation has been under scrutiny recently after it filed for creditor protection earlier this month, following a decade of financial strain from issues that predated the pandemic.Laurentian University's president has said the school is insolvent due to a number of factors, including declining population in the region, recurring historical deficits and the 2019 closure of the school's campus in Barrie, Ont.Robert Hache has also said the Progressive Conservative government's decision to reduce and freeze tuition fees in 2019 and the costs and impacts of the global pandemic contributed to the Sudbury, Ont., school's plight.The province has assigned an investigator to examine the school's financial problems, and a report is expected in the coming months. The report aims to help the government decide what steps to take regarding the university.Asked whether any other institutions were struggling to a similar extent, Orsini said he couldn't comment on the financial status of individual schools, and stressed universities have worked hard to "maintain strong financial discipline" during the crisis.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb 26, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
(Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit) The Saskatchewan government says a booking system is coming to allow people to make their own appointments for COVID-19 vaccination. The province announced the change on Thursday, one day after saying the government would reach out to those eligible for vaccinations. The CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority said Thursday the government will instead transition to self-booking for seniors eligible under Phase 1 of the province's vaccination plan in a couple of weeks. Those 70 years old and older eligible for a vaccine are being contacted by age according to government vital statistics and health information. That will continue until the new system is up and running, health authority CEO Scott Livingstone said. Both online and phone booking will be available. On Wednesday, Minister of Health Paul Merriman released a statement and Premier Scott Moe wrote about Phase 1 vaccination plans on social media. Neither indicated the government would be changing its booking system. Livingstone said the decision to move to the self-booking system was made this week. "We had been using lists that have been generated through vital statistics and health card registration, and one thing we found out is those lists aren't complete," he said. "We're not going to miss people. We will make sure that we don't and once you are qualified, you qualify for vaccination throughout the entire time frame, including Phase 2."
CALGARY — Hearts rookie Beth Peterson of Team Wild Card Three played like a veteran Thursday at the Canadian women's curling championship. WIth her draw weight in form when she needed it most, Peterson stole a single in the 10th and added another steal in the extra end for a 9-8 victory over Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories. The win gave the young Manitoba-based skip a top-four spot in Pool A at 5-3 and a berth in the championship pool in her first appearance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. "(We) really pumped each other up and at the same (time) calmed each other down and really supported each other," Peterson said of teammates Jenn Loder, Katherine Doerksen and Brittany Tran. "I think that we were our best team in the 10th and 11th end that we have been this week." Ontario's Rachel Homan beat Canada's Kerri Einarson 7-4 in a rematch of last year's Scotties final. Both teams, who had already secured championship pool spots, moved to 7-1. Alberta's Laura Walker (5-3) locked up the other Pool A berth with an 11-1 victory over Yukon's Laura Eby (0-8). The Pool B picture became clear after the evening draw at the Markin MacPhail Centre. Saskatchewan's Sherry Anderson (6-2), Manitoba's Jennifer Jones (6-2), Quebec's Laurie St-Georges (6-2) and Wild Card One's Chelsea Carey (5-3) made the cut. Anderson secured first place with a 9-3 victory over Sarah Hill of Newfoundland and Labrador. Anderson also edged British Columbia's Corryn Brown 8-7 in the morning draw. Brown rebounded in the evening with a 9-5 win over Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt, leaving both teams at 4-4. Jones dumped Nunavut's Lori Eddy 10-3 and St-Georges topped New Brunswick's Melissa Adams 9-7 in the other late games. Galusha (4-4) was eliminated with her loss in the afternoon. Her tap attempt in the 10th end moved the second shot stone just enough to prevent a steal of two. The confident Peterson put the pressure on again in the 11th and Galusha's draw to the button was light. "The girls brought me back in after a few missed shots and we were able to capitalize in the last two ends," Peterson said. "We (threw) pretty much at 100 per cent in those last two ends. I'm thankful for my girls." Team Wild Card Two's Mackenzie Zacharias (3-5) posted a 9-4 win over Northern Ontario's Krysta Burns (2-6) in the other afternoon game. Carey, who's filling in for Tracy Fleury this week, thumped Newfoundland and Labrador 11-2 in the morning in her preliminary round finale. Birt beat Nunavut 10-8 in the morning, that kept her championship pool hopes alive until the evening. The late results ensured there wouldn't be a tiebreaker game on Friday. Jones, seeking a record seventh Hearts title, downed New Brunswick 12-3 in the morning draw. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia's Jill Brothers finished with 3-5 records. Newfoundland and Labrador was 2-6 and Nunavut was 0-8. For the eight teams that advanced, records will carry over into the two-day championship round. Each team will play four games against teams that qualified from the other preliminary round pool. The top three teams will advance to Sunday's playoffs. The top seed goes straight to the evening final and the second- and third-place teams will meet in an afternoon semifinal. The Hearts winner will get a berth in the Tim Hortons Curling Trials and earn $100,000 of the $300,000 total purse. The champion will also return to the 2022 Scotties as Team Canada. If the recently cancelled women's world championship is rescheduled later this season, the Hearts winner will represent Canada. The March 5-14 Tim Hortons Brier will be the next event to be held in the spectator-free bubble. The Canada Olympic Park venue will host six bonspiels in all through late April. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. The Canadian Press
SALEM, Ore. - Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday extended Oregon’s declaration of a state of emergency until May 2 as confirmed COVID-19 cases drop but hundreds of new cases continue to be reported daily. The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday reported 553 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 154,554. The state’s death toll is 2,204. The agency’s weekly COVID-19 report, which was released Wednesday, shows a sharp decreases in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the previous week. The health authority reported a 35% decrease in cases and a 42% decrease in hospitalization. The emergency declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders the governor has issued, including her orders surrounding reopening Oregon, childcare, schools and higher education operations. Oregon Republican state senators refused to show up to Thursday’s floor session, objecting to the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions and handling of reopening schools, vaccine rollout and economic recovery ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: Pfizer is studying effects of third vaccine dose as booster. Dr. Fauci says take whatever vaccine is available. Drug companies can tweak vaccines to adapt to variants, a process that should be easier than coming up with the original shots. China approves two more virus vaccines for wider use to reach four total vaccines. Medical oxygen scarce for coronavirus patients in Africa, Latin America. — Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday said none of the state’s regions will revert back to more restrictive COVID-19 requirements under the state’s economic reopening plan. Inslee announced the pause in potential rollbacks amid dropping case counts across the state. While all 39 counties are currently in the second phase of the plan — which includes limited indoor dining at restaurants — the governor has yet to provide information about what subsequent phases might look like. Last month, Inslee announced that regions had to meet three of four metrics in order to advance and to stay in Phase 2: a 10% decreasing trend in case rates over a two-week period; a 10% decrease in coronavirus hospital admission rates in that same timeframe; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90%; and a test positivity rate of less than 10%. In the second phase, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25% capacity, and indoor fitness centre can open with the same limit. Sports competitions can resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their number of guests. ___ SAO PAULO — On the same day Brazil reached the grim milestone of 250,000 deaths by COVID-19, the country’s health ministry signed a deal with Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech for the purchase of 20 million doses of the Covaxin vaccine, which is yet to be approved by local regulators. The administration of President Jair Bolsonaro said the first 8 million Covaxin shots, which will be made by Brazilian company Precisa Medicamentos, will arrive in March. A second batch of another 8 million doses is expected for April and in May, another 4 million doses will be available. So far Brazil has vaccinated less than 4% of its population of 210 million people, with some cities stopping immunization campaigns last week due to shortages. Neither Precisa nor Bharat confirmed the deal or the delivery dates. ___ HELENA, Mont. -- The Montana House failed Thursday to advance a bill that would ban discrimination based on vaccination status and prohibit the use of vaccination status to grant or deny services or access to businesses. The Republican-controlled House split on the bill in a 50-50 vote, with several Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the measure. Under the bill, employers — including health care facilities — would have been banned from mandating vaccinations as a condition for employment. Public schools and child care facilities would be required to allow for medical and religious exemptions for all vaccination requirements. The bill’s supporters say it would protect freedom and privacy regarding medical choices. Opponents say mandatory vaccinations ensure the health of children and prevent disease outbreaks. The bill would also have prohibited the use of vaccine passports — or documents that prove an individual’s vaccination status. Vaccine passports have not been implemented in Montana or by the U.S. federal government. They are being considered by several countries and airlines to allow those inoculated against COVID-19 to travel internationally. ___ WATERBURY, Conn. - Connecticut school districts around the state have begun organizing their own COVID-19 vaccination clinics, preparing for the official rollout of vaccines for teachers and other school staff on Monday. Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary said a special vaccination appointment hotline for the roughly 4,000 eligible workers in his city’s school system will become available on Friday morning. He said there will be a special section at the mass vaccination clinic at Waterbury Arts Magnet School just for those employees. “We’re going to get you done very, very quickly,” O’Leary said. “We are very excited to get you in, get your your shot, schedule your second shot. Let’s go.” Waterbury is distributing the hotline number of school employees via email. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who appeared with the Democratic mayor and local officials at a news conference on Thursday, said Waterbury is the first school district in the state that has said it’s ready to begin vaccinations for teachers and other employees at public and private schools. He said he expects other will soon follow. Residents age 55 and older will be allowed to register for vaccination appointments on Monday as well. ___ NEW YORK — U.S. regulators are allowing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped and stored at less-frigid temperatures, which should ease distribution and administration of one of the two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the country. The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it’s allowing the additional option after reviewing new data from New York-based Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech. The FDA said the vaccine, which is shipped in frozen vials, now can be transported and stored for up to two weeks at the temperatures of freezers commonly found in pharmacies. That’s after Pfizer provided the FDA with data on Feb. 19 that showed its vaccine remains stable for up to two weeks at those standard freezer temperatures. Until now, the vaccine was required to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — from minus 112 degrees to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees to minus 60 degrees Celsius) — so Pfizer ships the vials in a special thermal container packed with dry ice to maintain that temperature range. That requirement meant vaccination sites had to either obtain expensive ultracold freezers, keep adding dry ice to the shipping container to keep to the correct temperature range, or administer all the doses in each shipment quickly so none spoiled. ___ MISSOURI __ Missouri teachers and child care providers will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in mid-March, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday. Parson said during his weekly media briefing that the state plans to open up vaccinations to those in Phase 1B, Tier 3, effective March 15. That group involves an estimated 550,000 additional residents. The new date is about a month earlier than state leaders originally projected. In addition to teachers and child care workers, those newly eligible will include school staff, water and waste employees, energy workers, critical manufacturing workers, and food and agricultural workers. “While supply is still limited, we are expecting slow and steady increases, and activating Tier 3 on March 15 will allow us to continue making progress as supply expands,” the Republican governor said. ___ PRAGUE — The Czech government is planning to tighten the country’s lockdown amid a surge of a highly contagious coronavirus variant. Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the plan includes a ban on travelling between counties for next three weeks in an attempt too “radically limit movement.” Among other measures, nursery schools, schools for children with disabilities and the first and second grades of elementary schools that have still been opened will close on Monday. The government is set to discuss the plan with the opposition tomorrow morning. To make it possible to limit people’s movement, the opposition has to support a government request to extend the state of emergency in a vote in the lower house of Parliament scheduled for Friday. More details of the restrictions will be announced on Friday. The government is also discussing with Germany and Poland an option to send Czech COVID-19 patients to their hospitals for treatment as the local clinics are reaching their limits. The Czech Republic is one of the hardest-hit European Union countries. The day-to-day increase in new confirmed cases reached 13,657 Wednesday, about 2,700 more than a week ago. The nation of 10.7 million had almost 1.2 million cases with 19,835 deaths. ___ SAN FRANCISCO -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom is continuing his push to reopen more schools for in-class instruction with a plan broadly outlining how the state will allocate vaccines to education workers. Last week the Democratic governor announced that at least 10% of the state’s vaccine supply would go to education workers. That translates roughly to 75,000 doses a week. Newsom has come under increasing political pressure to get California’s public schools back open. The majority of the state’s 6 million K-12 public school students have not been inside a classroom since March 2020 due to the pandemic. California’s powerful teachers unions have repeatedly said that getting teachers vaccinated is key to reopening classrooms. Newsom and lawmakers disagree. Much of the supply in California remains dedicated for seniors 65 and older, although more counties are opening up appointments for educators, food and farm workers and other essential employees. The state had administered more than 8 million doses as of Thursday. ___ DES MOINES, Iowa — Gov. Kim Reynolds says she’s optimistic vaccinations of Iowans will accelerate due to the impending authorization of a new one-dose coronavirus vaccine and increased deliveries of the two-shot varieties. Speaking at her weekly news conference on Thursday, Reynolds said 19.2% of eligible Iowans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and nearly 53% of residents 65 and older have had a first dose. Reynolds credited the federal government for increasing the production and delivery of vaccines to states. “I’m cautiously optimistic that the progress we’re seeing now will only continue and I do appreciate the partnership of the federal government in making this possible,” she said. She projected that by next week, 70% of first responders, health care workers in hospitals, K-12 teachers and staff and childcare workers will have received at least one dose. By mid-March, she expects 70% of Iowans 65 and older to have received at least a first dose. The next priority group expected to be eligible for vaccinations in March is essential workers, which will include people in meatpacking plants, food processing, agricultural production and manufacturing. People with disabilities living in home settings and staff at those facilities also should begin vaccinations in March. ___ PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron said he is confident European Union leaders will agree on common standards to allow international travels during the summer, including through introducing vaccine certificates amid other measures. Macron spoke in a news conference following EU talks about whether and when to introduce vaccine certificates, which could help smooth a return to air travel and possibly avoid another disastrous summer holiday season. “None of us will accept that to attract tourists, one country would have looser rules than others and would be taking risks by making people come from the other side of the world to fill up its hotels,” he said. Southern European countries dependent on tourism, like Greece and Spain, support such a system, but their northern EU partners, like Germany, doubt whether the certificates would work. Macron said vaccine certificates cannot be a condition for travelling in Europe this summer since a large part of the population won’t have access to vaccination yet. He said tests may be required for non-vaccinated people. ___ SALT LAKE CITY __ Utah Gov. Spencer Cox doubled down Thursday on his prediction that there will be gatherings without masks by the Fourth of July, contrary to predictions from the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Cox told reporters that he’s feeling optimistic about the nation’s vaccine rollout and expects mass gatherings could be held without masks this summer. His comments contradict predictions from Fauci who said earlier this week that Americans may still be wearing masks outside their homes in 2022. “I’m not gonna be wearing this on the Fourth of July, and I’m gonna be in a parade somewhere,” Cox said holding a mask during his weekly COVID-19 briefing. “But if I’m wrong then I’ll come here and I’ll admit that I’m wrong and that we’re gonna do something different.” Cox tweeted on Tuesday that he is “baffled” by pessimism coming from Washington and that he believes “we will be celebrating maskless in large groups” by the Fourth of July. ___ PARIS — French Prime Minister Jean Castex held out the possibility on Thursday of increased measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus in 20 regions, including Paris, where hospitals are under pressure, the infection rate is high and contagious variants make up in some cases more than 50% of new infections. The regions are being placed under increased surveillance with a decision to take action by the weekend of March 6 if there is no improvement, Castex said on a national television. “The virus has been gaining ground over the past week,” the prime minister said, noting Wednesday’s count of more than 30,000 new infections. The Riviera city of Nice and surrounding region and the northern port of Dunkirk have been ordered under weekend lockdowns for at least two weeks, in addition to a national 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, is taking another tact. She wants to strong-arm the virus with a three-week full lockdown for the French capital. Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said on FranceInfo radio that the Paris City Hall will put that option on the table in talks this weekend with regional health authorities and others then take it to the government which alone can decide. France has had two full lockdowns since the pandemic began sweeping over Europe. More than 85,000 people have died from COVID-19. The Associated Press
The Alberta government's latest budget is far from the "fiscal reckoning" Premier Jason Kenney had long promised. Instead, there are very few cuts and lots of debt — a situation the province blames on the pandemic and shrinking oil revenue.
(CFSEU-BC - image credit) Drug fugitive Khamla Wong was arrested arriving at Vancouver International Airport Wednesday, according to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia. Wong was wanted for his connection to the cross-border cocaine and ecstasy trade going back to 2008. Charges of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of a loaded prohibited firearm were laid against him in 2012. CFSEU-BC said the investigation spanned from B.C. to California, Mexico and Peru, and resulted in the seizure of tens of millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs, including: Aug. 21, 2008 — 23 kilograms (117,000 pills) of ecstasy seized in Princeton, B.C. Dec. 20, 2008 — 121 kilograms of cocaine seized at the Pacific Border Crossing. Dec. 24, 2008 — 97 kilograms of cocaine seized at the Pacific Border Crossing. The drugs were hidden inside a commercial transport truck carrying bananas. May, 2009 — 10 kilograms of cocaine seized in Burnaby. In June 2009, seven search warrants were executed at residences in Chilliwack, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Lake Country in the Okanagan. A number of firearms were seized including a restricted .44-calibre Magnum pistol, along with a prohibited .357-calibre Magnum revolver, .38-calibre semi-automatic pistol and .40-calibre semi-automatic pistol. "Time and time again we have sought out individuals living abroad to hold them accountable and face justice in Canada. Those who remain on the run from CFSEU-BC should know that we will not stop until we find you," said Supt. Duncan Pound, CFSEU-BC acting chief officer in a statement. Wong remains in custody.
(Thanassis Stavrakis/The Associated Press - image credit) Saskatchewan is expanding its rapid-testing capabilities as concerns rise over coronavirus variants. The province is set to deploy more than 700,000 rapid tests, which were procured through a federal government allocation, according to a Thursday news release. "These safe and simple tests will be used in a variety of settings including walk-in or drive-thru sites, mobile testing and pop-up testing sites," the province's news release said. "Tests will also be available for ambulance, fire and police and participating pharmacies and dental offices." The tests will also be offered to to long-term and personal care homes, shelters, group homes and schools, the province said. The Ministry of Health said it's developing a tender for third-party providers to conduct the tests, since care homes, shelters, schools and others won't likely have the capacity or training to administer the tests on their own. "I think we need to use testing even more now because of the variants of concern," Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, said Thursday. Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, added that provincial legislation had been amended so that the places where the tests are being deployed don't need a lab licence. The change allows for a quicker expansion of testing services in the province. "There isn't a point-of-care test that's going to expire in the province of Saskatchewan," Livingstone said. "We'll have them used well in advance of that," he said. With coronavirus variants "as well as a slower than what we want immunization strategy because of vaccine supply, this extra testing is going to go a long way to put a bigger safety blanket across many areas," said Livingstone. Any positive results from a rapid test will have to be confirmed with a lab test. A negative test does not need to be retested for confirmation. Shahab says that it's normal for testing rates to fluctuate depending on how much COVID-19 is spreading in the community, but that it's important to keep testing above a certain level. He didn't have an exact number for that level. "Testing rates sometimes also start trending down and that's not very good, because then you can start missing COVID," he said. "We've already had situations where people were delaying testing testing even though they were symptomatic."
Hyundai Motor has so far avoided a chip shortage that has plagued global automakers, largely maintaining its stockpile of chips last year and even accelerating purchases towards the end, three people with knowledge of the matter said. The shortage has forced production cuts worldwide, including at Volkswagen and General Motors, prompting Germany and the United States to ramp up efforts to resolve the shortage. Other than Japan's Toyota Motor, which said this month it had enough chip inventory to last it about four months, Hyundai and its sister firm Kia Corp are the only global automakers to have maintained a stockpile of low-tech chips that helped them keep up production.
Le chef-propriétaire du restaurant Wong à Québec livre les secrets de cette cuisine métissée. Macaroni chinois, poulet à l’ananas, côtes levées bouillies dans le sucre ; commander « du chinois » reste un classique des repas pour emporter. Steven Wong, chef-propriétaire du restaurant Wong et descendant de la première famille chinoise autorisée à immigrer à Québec, livre les secrets de cette cuisine métissée. L’enseigne du restaurant Wong n’a pas changé d’un iota depuis son ouverture vers 1960. L’établissement familial éclaire encore aujourd’hui de ses ampoules blanches et de ses néons rouges la rue De Buade, au cœur du Vieux-Québec. En entrevue, la fierté de son propriétaire, Steven Wong, est palpable, lui qui évolue dans une industrie surtout marquée par les ouvertures et les fermetures à la chaîne. Celui-ci se targue d’ailleurs de posséder le seul restaurant chinois de Québec qui n’a pas changé de nom ou d’enseigne depuis son ouverture. Mais la communauté chinoise qui gravitait autrefois autour du restaurant, elle, a bien changé, constate le chef. « Quand j’étais petit, je me rappelle qu’il y avait toujours plein de monde au restaurant. On faisait des dumplings, des desserts… Aujourd’hui, il n’y a plus la communauté comme avant. » Le restaurant Wong a été lancé par le grand-père de Steven, Fred, arrivé au Québec au tournant des années 1920 alors qu’il n’avait que 13 ans. Sa famille avait fui la pauvreté extrême et la répression politique qui sévissaient en Chine. L’ouverture du restaurant Wong n’a pas été de tout repos, Fred Wong ayant été victime de racisme et de discrimination de la part des autorités. Il faut dire qu’à l’époque, la première vague d’immigrants asiatique causait bien des frictions dans un Québec rompu au conservatisme. « Mon père disait qu’en revenant de l’école, il y avait toujours des enfants qui attendaient pour lui donner une volée », confie Steven. Lorsque Fred Wong veut installer son enseigne, la Ville ne cesse de lui mettre des bâtons dans les roues, soutient son petit-fils. On lui refuse, sans toutefois lui fournir les raisons motivant cette décision. Loin de se laisser démonter, l’homme demande des conseils à l’un de ses clients réguliers qui se trouve à travailler à l’hôtel de ville. « Il s’est fait dire de laisser une enveloppe blanche contenant 75 $ en dessous de la porte de tel bureau un vendredi soir, à telle heure, et d’accrocher son enseigne à minuit et qu’aucune question ne sera posée… Et c’est exactement ce qu’il a fait », raconte Steven. Comme d’innombrables migrants de Chine installés au Québec — et ailleurs au pays —, l’ouverture d’un restaurant permet à Fred et à sa famille de survivre dans une société plutôt hostile aux étrangers. Avec peu de moyens, les chefs d’origine chinois rivalisent de débrouillardise pour mettre au point leur menu. « La plupart des premiers immigrants chinois en Amérique du Nord venaient tous du sud de la Chine. C’est un endroit extrêmement pauvre. Ils n’avaient pas grand-chose, alors il fallait qu’ils s’adaptent. Les gens faisaient avec ce qu’ils avaient. C’est exactement ce que les Chinois ont fait en arrivant ici. » Aux dires de Steven Wong, ainsi naquit le fameux macaroni chinois. « Un jour, un chef à Québec avait manqué de nouilles chinoises. Ça fait qu’il a envoyé quelqu’un à l’épicerie pour acheter des macaronis. Les gens ont aimé ça. Ça ressemblait un peu à ce qu’ils connaissaient et ça a fait fureur. » Entre le bœuf au gingembre typique des prairies canadiennes et le chow mein unique à Terre-Neuve, le macaroni chinois du Québec mériterait sa place dans le panthéon culinaire du pays, selon lui. « Je pense que chaque province au Canada a sa version de la cuisine chinoise-canadienne. » Aujourd’hui, Steven Wong tente de s’éloigner du menu classique des restaurants chinois. « Je suis à moitié chinois, j’ai grandi à Québec », fait-il remarquer. « Ça fait que j’apprécie la cuisine québécoise, la cuisine plus européenne, mais j’ai aussi mon côté chinois. Et puis j’aime voyager alors j’ai essayé d’avoir un menu qui me ressemble. » Quand il décide de renouveler sa carte, par exemple en retirant les côtes levées sucrées, il entame un travail de « rééducation » auprès de sa clientèle. « C’est une des choses que j’ai le plus de misère à faire : changer l’image que les gens ont du restaurant chinois. On est tellement habitué que ça soit “ça”, que dès qu’on pense en dehors de la boite, les gens sont déboussolés », dit-il. « J’ai déjà entendu quelqu’un dire : ils n’ont même pas de buffet, ce n’est pas un restaurant chinois ! » Entre les habitudes québécoises et les attentes des nombreux touristes chinois, il joue l’équilibriste, cuisinant les ingrédients d’Orient avec les techniques d’Occident. Par exemple, son menu inclut une burrata aux poires asiatiques et des chips de won-ton frits. « On essaye de donner d’autres choix, avec des goûts plus authentiques, mais qui ne vont pas trop dépayser. » La pandémie a forcé la fermeture des buffets chinois et obligé Steven Wong à cuisiner du riz frit et des eggs roll à la tonne, l’essentiel des commandes pour apporter qu’il reçoit. Il espère cependant que les clients sauront reconnaître la valeur de ces coins d’Asie en terre d’Amérique. « Même si on a nos racines québécoises, il y a beaucoup d’influences externes qui ont influencé qui l’on est comme Québécois. On commence à réaliser ça. » Jean-Louis Bordeleau, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
WASHINGTON — The Senate parliamentarian dealt a potentially lethal blow Thursday to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a massive COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress. The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, means Democrats face an overwhelmingly uphill battle to boost the minimum wage this year because of solid Republican opposition. Their proposal would raise the federal minimum gradually to $15 hourly by 2025, well above the $7.25 floor in place since 2009. President Joe Biden was “disappointed” in the outcome but respected the parliamentarian's ruling, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The Senate has a long tradition of obeying the parliamentarian's decisions with few exceptions, a history that is revered by traditionalists like Biden, a 36-year Senate veteran. “He will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty,” Psaki said. Democrats are pushing the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief measure through Congress under special rules that will let them avoid a Senate filibuster by Republicans, a tactic that Democrats would need an unattainable 60 votes to defeat. But those same Senate rules prohibit provisions with only an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. The parliamentarian decides if provisions pass that test. MacDonough's decision now forces Democrats to make politically painful choices about what to do next on the minimum wage, which has long caused internal party rifts. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats “are not going to give up the fight” to raise the minimum wage to $15. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, hailed MacDonough's decision. He said it shows the special procedure that Democrats are using to protect the relief bill “cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change — by either party — on a simple majority vote." Republicans solidly oppose the $15 minimum wage target as an expense that would hurt businesses and cost jobs. They also oppose the overall relief bill, saying it’s too expensive, not targeted enough at the people and businesses that most need it and a grab bag of gifts for Democratic allies. In the wake of the decision, Democratic leaders were likely to face unrest from rank-and-file lawmakers, who have long had differences over the federal minimum wage. They can afford little dissension: Democrats have just a 10-vote edge in the House and no votes to spare in the Senate. Progressives seeking to maximize Democratic control of the White House and Congress have wanted party leaders to push aggressively on the issue. But Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have voiced opposition to including the minimum wage hike in the relief bill, and other moderates have expressed concerns, too. Even so, MacDonough's decision might actually make passage of the overall relief bill easier because efforts to find a minimum wage compromise among Democrats could have been contentious. Democrats have said they could still pursue a minimum wage boost in free-standing legislation or attach it to legislation expected later this year that is to be aimed at a massive infrastructure program. But they’d still face the challenge of garnering 60 Senate votes, a hurdle that has upended Democratic attempts to boost the minimum wage for over a decade. Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a chief sponsor of the minimum wage effort, blamed “archaic and undemocratic" Senate rules for the setback. He said he'd try amending the overall relief package to erase tax deductions from large corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide incentives to small businesses to raise wages. The parliamentarian's decision came to light the night before Democrats were set to push through the House an initial version of the $1.9 trillion relief legislation that still includes the minimum wage boost. “House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the" bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. The overall relief bill is Biden’s first legislative priority. It is aimed at combating a year-old pandemic that’s stalled much of the economy, killed half a million Americans and reshaped the daily lives of virtually everyone. Despite their paper-thin congressional majorities, Democratic leaders were hoping that House approval of the package would be followed by passage in the Senate, where changes seem likely. Democrats are aiming to get the legislation to Biden’s desk by mid-March. The relief bill would provide millions of people with $1,400 direct payments. It contains billions of dollars for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments, the ailing restaurant and airline industries and emergency jobless benefits while providing tax breaks to lower earners and families with children. In a study that’s been cited by both sides in the clash, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the $15 increase would increase wages for 27 million workers and lift 900,000 people out of poverty by 2025, but would also kill 1.4 million jobs. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have state minimum wages that exceed the federal $7.25 hourly floor, with only the District of Columbia currently requiring a $15 minimum. Seven states have laws putting their minimums on a pathway to $15 in a future year, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures Alan Fram, The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — Kyle Connor scored two goals and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled the debut of the Montreal Canadiens' new head coach Dominique Ducharme with a 6-3 win on Thursday. Nate Thompson scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, while Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and an assist. Blake Wheeler also scored and added two assists for the Jets (12-6-1), who've won three in a row. Joel Armia scored twice for the Canadiens (9-6-4), who've lost four straight. Tomas Tatar scored the Habs other goal while Jeff Petry had two assists. The Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller on Wednesday, promoting Ducharme to interim head coach. The move came on the heels of Montreal's 5-4 shootout loss to Ottawa the previous night. Ducharme originally joined the Canadiens coaching staff in 2018 after 10 seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. After lofty pre-season expectations and a hot start to the season, the Habs have struggled, plummeting to fourth in the North Division. The misery continued despite the coaching change, and raised more questions about struggling goalie Carey Price, with Habs fans calling for backup Jake Allen. Price allowed five goals on 29 shots, while Winnipeg netminder Connor Hellebuyck only had to make 18 saves for the win. Armia got Montreal on the scoreboard in the first period with his third goal of the season, firing a shot through the legs of Hellebuyck at 13:45. Armia notched No. 4 at 17:29 with the Canadiens in transition again. After a gesture from Jonathan Drouin to head for the net, Armia redirected Drouin's pass past Hellebuyck. Connor sliced the difference in half on the power play with his ninth goal of the season at 5:37 of a second period that saw three Jets goals, poking in the puck past Price in a scramble in front of the net. The Habs answered with their own power-play goal from Tatar at 7:33 of the second, but Connor cut the lead to a goal once again, finishing a tic-tac-toe passing play at 11:50. Wheeler scored at 14:31 to tie the game 3-3- heading into the third period. Mason Appleton slid the puck to Thompson, who scored through Price's legs for the go-ahead at 6:37 of the third. Dubois padded the Jets lead at 12:37, and Sheifele had an empty-netter at 18:22. Montreal lost forward Josh Anderson to an injury in the first period. Anderson collided with Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo. He finished his shift but then headed to the locker-room, and was ultimately ruled out. The Habs and Jets meet again on Saturday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
When the struggling business owners got the call a few weeks ago, it felt like they’d won the lottery. Nearly a year into the pandemic, good news has been hard to come by for both Kings Park Child Care and San Vito Coffee House — especially if it’s something without any strings attached and particularly when it comes to monetary funding. But now, the two Winnipeg businesses are part of only a dozen handpicked to receive $10,000 each, through a partnership between Canada’s leading insurance company and the primary network of commerce. The 12 small firms being awarded the “Business Boost” grant are representative of regional areas and industry sectors across the country, Canada Life and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce exclusively told the Free Press ahead of a wide release today. “Good people coming together is how Canadians have managed this crisis, and this is the very epitome of a good corporate citizen stepping up,” said Chamber president and CEO Perrin Beatty, in an interview. “It’s a business helping other businesses where governments are still behind.” Recipients have been selected from over 4,000 applicants and hope to use the funding to keep their doors open, as thousands of companies face the risk of permanently disappearing. “Truth be told,” said Dawn Forbes, executive director of Kings Park Child Care, “this isn’t just a way to save our bacon. It’s also a boost for our staff to keep doing the important work we’ve been doing as an essential service every single day, throughout all those many shutdowns and closures.” As a facility that supports children and families, especially for kids with autism, Down syndrome and other medical or special needs, Kings Park has had to remain open since the onset of COVID-19. “But we’ve had to do that with barely any enrolment until this January and with most of our staff forced to be let go,” said Forbes. “Everything’s been up in the air and it felt like we were always an afterthought in terms of restrictions and even support — especially from the province,” she said. “If it weren’t for some of the federal government’s support like the rent subsidy, I don’t know if any child-care centres would have even been able to hold their space to operate, let alone do anything else.” For Geordie Wilson, who owns and runs San Vito Coffee House, it’s been a constant shift trying to keep his local eatery and café afloat. When public-health orders and lockdowns first came into effect, Wilson tried to partner with delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and even SkipTheDishes. Fairly quickly, the third-party payouts became far too costly to make ends meet and Wilson started to offer his own free city-wide delivery. “We didn’t really have a choice,” he said. “Our bottom line was being impacted because they were frankly ripping us off. And yes, it felt like being a university student again, but so what? We just had to keep going to survive.” Wilson even started to make videos for social media — something he called “kitchen karaoke,” for which he would sing popular songs but change their lyrics to be more coffee-centric. “We’re not Tim Hortons and we’re not Starbucks, but we are something that represents what makes our city ours,” he said. “I know all our regulars by name and those people we saw every single day who couldn’t come in anymore. That’s why I did everything possible to keep people smiling and just keep trudging along.” Stories like that are “truly the reason behind this kind of grant program,” said Jeff Macoun, president and CEO for Canada Life, in an interview. “It’s the heart of what makes a local business more than just a business to a community. They represent the very cultural fabric of what makes a city or town,” he said. “We wanted to keep seeing that flourishing, especially at our company’s home in Winnipeg. “It’s why we did this small part to help with that.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press