It’s a rite of passge many presidents have taken over the years in their pilgrimage to the White House: where to safely worship with others. (December 22)
It’s a rite of passge many presidents have taken over the years in their pilgrimage to the White House: where to safely worship with others. (December 22)
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Northern Health has released COVID-19 exposure notices for Uplands Elementary School and Centennial Christian School in Terrace. The exposure at Uplands Elementary School occurred Jan. 19 to Jan. 21, and Centennial Christian School’s exposure took place on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, according to Northern Health’s list of public exposures and outbreaks. There have been numerous COVID-19 exposure notices for Terrace schools issued by Northern Health since Nov. 2020, and nearly all Terrace schools have had at least one exposure notice. Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
Police are warning users of illicit drugs across the Northwest Territories of two new noxious substances they found in illicit drugs seized in Yellowknife last November, and for which the health effects are not known. In a Tuesday news release, RCMP said the drugs they seized — believed to crack cocaine, powder cocaine and tablets — were found to contain Adinazolam and 5-MeO-DBT after being analyzed by the Health Canada Drug Analysis Service. "These two drugs are a concern for unexpected reactions, and the concern for other contaminants like opioids is always present," said Dr. Andy Delli Pizzi, the N.W.T.'s deputy chief public health officer, in the release. Police said the substances are either presented as a new form of drug that people may be unaware they are consuming or is so novel that limited information is available on its safety. The presence of the two new substances has increased the danger of illicit drugs, the release says. "In fact, given the distribution systems of the illegal drug trade, those tainted drugs could be anywhere in the territory, so this warning is for the entire Northwest Territories" said Insp. Dyson Smith, the officer in charge of the RCMP's Yellowknife detachment, in the release. The RCMP said it is working with the N.W.T. government Department of Health and Social Services to determine the impacts of the two new substances. Delli Pizzi said in the release that people who use street or illicit drugs should always do so with others present and have a plan in case someone overdoses. "The plan should include having naloxone present and calling 911 for help with any overdose" he said. The Yellowknife RCMP's general investigation section seized the illicit drugs on Nov. 27, 2020 from a Yellowknife residence. They said there have been charges as a result of the case and that it is currently before the courts.
NEW YORK — CBS has placed two top executives on administrative leave as it investigates charges of a hostile work environment for women and minorities at news operations in some of its largest individual stations. Peter Dunn, president of the CBS Television Stations, and David Friend, senior vice-president for news at the stations, are on leave pending the results of an external investigation. “CBS is committed to a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace where all voices are heard, claims are investigated and appropriate action is taken where necessary,” the network said in a statement. The accusations were outlined over the weekend in an investigation by the Los Angeles Times and a subsequent meeting between CBS and the National Association of Black Journalists. Since 2009, Dunn has been head of stations owned and operated by CBS in big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago and others. The Times said Dunn had referred to a Black male news anchor in Philadelphia as “just a jive guy." One executive at the station quit because she couldn't tolerate the culture and another has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relates Commission alleging he was fired for co-operating with an internal review of his bosses, the Times reported. The NABJ has said CBS stations lag in maintaining diverse staffs, saying New York's WCBS-TV had only one female Black full-time reporter and went five years without a male Black reporter. “This is toxic. There's no other way to put it,” said Ken Lemon, the NABJ's vice-president of broadcast, on Tuesday. Since the story was published, Lemon said he had talked to at least five other people with new experiences to tell about the working atmosphere at CBS. He said the NABJ is optimistic about the steps CBS has taken. David Bauder, The Associated Press
Some Tiny council members want some serious action being taken against big corporations that threaten the township's water supply. "We need to stop playing by the rules," said Coun. Gibb Wishart, addressing the question to appeal or not to appeal in the case of the renewal of the permit to take water (PTTW) for the Teedon Pit. "The reason the dump (Site 41) got stopped is that an old couple got arrested; First Nations were there and set up camp, nobody played by the rules. "I think if we play the game the ministry...," he was saying, when Mayor George Cornell cut him off to remind him that even at that time the council played by the rules. Even though Cornell was cautious about siding an appeal process in the matter, Coun. Tony Mintoff spoke his mind clearly. "Anything I’ve heard is overwhelmingly against any kind of operation there," he said. "I encourage council to put their concerns ahead of the province’s unwillingness to allow municipalities to decide what’s best for them within their boundary. "As members of council, it’s our obligation to represent the interests of our residents," added Mintoff. "My suggestion would be we clearly appeal every step." Another member of council, however, was a bit cautious about going the appeal route. "Maybe," said Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma.said, "the right course of action would be to break out some of our concerns around the EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) process reform and how we work with the MOECP (Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks) in future to make sure the municipality and adjacent landowners are notified of big decisions like this one. "Maybe this goes back to our flaws in the first appeal or commenting process with regards to monitoring water quality." Walma also suggested that if the council does plan on appealing the renewal, it should hold further discussions in-camera. "We have a community member that has made significant upgrades and worked with the township on our comments to date," he added. "There was no need for them to install that many wells. They could have gotten away with a lot less. I think that’s something we want to maintain. It’s a good working relationship so in the future we can share our concerns with them. I think going the legal route potentially cuts those options down." The discussion came forth after council had heard the united plea -- save our water --- from various residents of Tiny and beyond that made deputations to elected officials at Tuesday's special council meeting. Council had convened a special session after it became aware of the Jan. 14 decision by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks to renew a 10-year PTTW for CRH Canada Group Inc., which operates the aggregate quarry. "The approval of the water taking permit may compromise the quality of this water," said Tiny resident Bonnie Pauzé. "As elected officials, we, the taxpayers are putting it all on your shoulder to stop this potential disaster. Every single voter drinks water. Do we want to go down in history as heroes that protected and saved one of the world's purest aquifers? Please don't disappoint us. We need you to step up to the plate. Protect the water." Similar messages were presented by others as well. "Our water needs are being undermined for the sake of a global business," said Erik Schomann, another Tiny resident. "The cost business analysis as I have been able to tell is incomplete. There was no announcement regarding the permit, no civilian insight." Even residents of Guelph had joined in the fight. "Matters of groundwater protection are of extreme concern to people across the province," said Karen Rathwell. "The community is asking for a pause; time to study this phenomenon. Once the overburden is scraped away and the digging eats away through the layers of protection, the groundwater is exposed to pollution." According to the township's legal counsel, Sarah Hahn, if the township decides to appeal, it has to clear a two-part test to seek leave to appeal. "First, you look at whether granting of the permit or any conditions within are unreasonable," she said, explaining that this means, "No reasonable person having regard for law and policies have issued the permit. It’s a pretty high test to have to reach. Secondly, could it result to significant harm to the environment. "It’s not a will, it’s a could, so I think there’s some grounds there," added Hahn. "The test for reasonableness is quite high. Having some evidence that what the ministry did was unreasonable is certainly something we would want to put forward if an appeal was brought." The township said they were satisfied with the conclusion drawn by the professional hydrogeologist, who said the ministry had addressed the municipality's concerns laid out in a 2018 letter to the ministry. "Staff’s opinion is that we rely on our experts and in this case it’s Burnside," said Shawn Persaud, director of planning and development. "Based on their letter, we recommend the township not file an appeal relative to the permit to take water." In his Jan. 25 letter, Dave Hopkins, senior hydrogeologist with R. J. Burnside and Associates Ltd., states that ministry has met and addressed the requests laid out by the township in 2018. "The new PTTW has a much more robust monitoring program than the original PTTW and addresses the Township’s request for additional wells," reads his conclusion. "The monitoring program will be completed, and the annual report is to be prepared by a qualified person (P. Geo. or equivalent). "The Permit requires that an annual report documenting the monitoring well results be submitted to the MECP (MOECP). This will allow the MECP to evaluate the impacts of pumping and make any necessary additions to the monitoring program/permitted rates as required. The PTTW also requires the monitoring of specific domestic wells, which is unusual. "Residents, who feel that their wells may have been impacted, may wish to contact CRH to have their well added to the monitoring program. It is Burnside’s opinion, that all of the Township comments have been addressed by the MECP and the conditions included in the new PTTW." Wishart, however, felt all concerns had not been addressed. "I think the major issue that the township is up against the wall with is that we’re talking about water quality, not the serviceability of a gravel pit," he said. "The province doesn’t seem to address that at all. They dance around saying that the various authorities, namely the gravel pit operators, operate within the guidelines that they’re given. "They’ve answered all the questions we had, but we’re talking about water quality and the potential," added Wishart. "We have no proof at all. All we have is the wish they not take away the filtering medium between the sky and the water." Based on that, he asked, does the province even want to hear us if we conclude that they’re not answering our questions? Mintoff didn't seem to think so. "The MOECP didn’t inform us," he said, "and gave us only 15 days to prepare with documented support, so clearly in their mind they didn’t want an appeal. I think they gave us scant time to prepare for these appeals because they’re not welcoming." Mintoff said he would like to see council adopt the two principles that it doesn’t support the taking of aggregate or washing it in an environmentally sensitive area. Further, he said, the municipality also asked that no further licences be issued until a water study by Dr. John Cherry, professor emeritus at University of Waterloo, has produced its findings. "One of the basic risk management principles is to weigh the risks and rewards," said Mintoff. "In my opinion, CRH gets all the rewards and the township and residents assume all the risks. If their experts are wrong, what are the consequences and who is going to live with them? I don’t think it’s going to be CRH." He said he was tired of hearing that ministries are understaffed or under-resourced and don’t have the wherewithal to operate effectively. "They cannot be, in my opinion, entrusted to protect our most valuable resource," said Mintoff. "We need to err on the side of caution. There’s nothing in it for us, only serious potential for impact on water quality and other environmental components." He also offered a somewhat long-term solution to the situation. "Perhaps it’s time for us to offer the purchase of these specific properties at fair market value and once rehabilitated by the current owners, we could create public-private partnerships to use this land to create more affordable housing," said Mintoff. "And if they choose to decline our offer, then we should look at the practicality of the legal feasibility of expropriating that property in order to do so." Unable to decide whether to appeal or not, council moved into an in-camera session around other matters, promising to reconvene at 1 p.m. Wednesday to further discuss the issue. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
Out of 99 new positive cases discovered in the Simcoe Muskoka Region, health officials say 97 are linked to a long-term care home in Barrie and all of those people are likely affected by the fast-spreading U.K. variant. There are concerns the highly contagious strain of the virus is more widespread than initially thought. Miranda Anthistle has the details.
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are preparing to push ahead quickly on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package even if it means using procedural tools to pass the legislation on their own, leaving Republicans behind. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget reconciliation package that would lay the groundwork for swift passage. Coming so soon in Biden's administration, the action provides a first test of Republican opposition to the White House priorities as well as to the new president's promise of a “unity” agenda. “The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must," Schumer said after a private meeting of Democratic senators. "Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We're keeping all options open on the table.” Unwilling to wait for Republicans who argue Biden's price tag is too high and his priorities too wide-ranging, Democrats are flexing their newfound power as they take control of the Senate alongside the House and White House. It is the first time in a decade the party has held the full sweep of power in Washington, and Democrats say they have no time to waste trying to broker compromises with Republicans that may, or may not, happen. They have watched Republicans use similar procedural tools to advance their priorities, most recently the Trump administration’s GOP tax cuts. The fast-moving events days into the new majority on Capitol Hill come as the White House continued meeting privately with groups of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in hopes of striking a bipartisan agreement. Biden's COVID-19 aid package includes money for vaccine distribution, school reopenings and $1,400 direct payments to households and gradually boosts the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. The next steps remain highly fluid. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus of more than 50 House lawmakers met virtually Tuesday with top administration officials on the virus aid and economic recovery package. And the dozen senators emerging from a lengthy private meeting with the White House on Sunday evening are talking on their own to try to craft a more targeted bill. The bipartisan senators assembled privately again Monday evening. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Tuesday that Biden is still looking to negotiate on an aid package, while putting a priority on acting swiftly before aid lapses in March. “He laid out his big package, his big vision of what it should look like, and people are giving their feedback,” Psaki said. "He’s happy to have those discussions and fully expects it’s not going to look exactly the same on the other end.” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who led a bipartisan effort for the last $900 billion relief package, is working again with the senators on crafting an alternative package that she has said would be more focused on money for vaccine distribution and tailored economic assistance to the neediest Americans. Collins said Tuesday that the White House made good on its commitment to deliver a more detailed accounting of the proposed expenditure. But she said the group is still waiting for data on how much funding remains unallocated from past relief measures that, by her tally, totals a whopping $1.8 trillion still unspent. Congress has approved some $4 trillion in emergency aid since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a stunning outlay and the largest rescue package in the nation's history. Senators from both parties who joined the White House call over the weekend agreed the priority needs to be standing up the country's faltering vaccine distribution system. With the death toll climbing, and new strains of the virus threatening more trouble ahead, ensuring vaccinations appears to be crucial to stemming the COVID-19 crisis. Several senators from both parties also said they want the $1,400 direct checks to be more targeted to those in need. They also want an accounting of what remains from previously approved aid bills. But Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and the incoming Budget Committee chair, said he is already working on the budget package for next week and expanding it to include Biden's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. Raising the wage is a long-running Democratic priority that would essentially double the current $7.25 hourly wage set the last time the party was in control in the Obama administration. Advocates say the pay raise would boost millions of full-time workers from poverty. “There is a consensus,” Sanders told reporters at the Capitol. “If Republicans are not prepared to come on board, that’s fine. We’re not going to wait. We’re going forward soon and aggressively.” Lisa Mascaro And Josh Boak, The Associated Press
The consolidation of two airlines is set to take flight in remote fly-in communities in Saskatchewan. Transwest Air and West Wind Aviation will become Rise Air, changing the face of an air service that acts as one of the few links to southern resources. "If we had been two separate airlines going into COVID, I don't believe we would have survived," said West Wind CEO Stephen Smith. West Wind Aviation Group of Companies bought Transwest Air in 2016, but both airlines continued to use separate operating certificates, Smith said. Combining the airlines cuts it down to one and reduces redundancy. Rebranding will take place gradually, and Derek Nice will replace Smith as CEO on Feb. 1. Smith said the consolidation is unlikely to immediately reduce airfares — which are ongoing concerns for people in remote communities who say the costs of travelling south are too steep. "The prices are sky-rising," noted Black Lake First Nation Chief Archie Robillard. The best way to help his community would be a longer runway in Stony Rapids, but that's unlikely, he added. It's similarly costly to fly in and out of Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation, said Chief Bart Tsannie. He noted ticket costs are regularly several hundred dollars, which hasn't improved as COVID-19 reduced passenger loads. "That's very expensive. People don't have that kind of money in Hatchet Lake," he said. Smith said consolidating the airlines will make them more profitable, allowing Rise Air to invest in new aircraft and facilities. That could also mean a better position to pass profits on to its 22 per cent owner, Prince Albert Development Corporation, and its 65 per cent owner, Athabasca Basin Development, which represents seven communities including Hatchet Lake and Black Lake. Smith said those communities haven't received dividends in the last 10 years, which he hopes to change. The Rise Air rebranding also comes after a difficult year. A downturn in mining and the onset of COVID-19 forced a 50 per cent cut to operations, Smith said. He noted operations are now up to two-thirds of their levels prior to the pandemic. While the consolidation likely won't affect the costs of airfare, Smith added that the airline continues to push the federal government to declare paved runways at Fond du Lac and Wollaston Lake. If it does so, aircraft taking off there can carry more weight, lowering some of the prices for those communities, Smith said. "If we can reduce (fares), we will." Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
A warrant was issued for a Biggar man who was arrested by the North Battleford RCMP gang unit after he failed to appear in court. Matthew Greer, 34, was scheduled to enter a plea in North Battleford Provincial Court Jan. 25. Greer, along with Desiree Hinse, 24, of Biggar, Shynia Skeavington, 24, and Rae Ahenakew, 40, both of Mosquito First Nation, were arrested Sept. 2, 2020. RCMP say they observed people in parked vehicles in North Battleford “interacting” with one another. They noticed weapons in one of the vehicles and said one person was known to have an outstanding warrant. Police searched one of the vehicles and found a firearm, weapons, a Taser, quantities of cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. Skeavington appeared by phone in North Battleford Provincial Court Jan. 26. A legal aid lawyer representing Skeavington said there would be a preliminary hearing requested. The matter was adjourned to Feb. 10. Hinse and Ahenakew both appear next on Feb. 1. The charges against Greer, Hinse, Skeavington, and Ahenakew haven’t been proven in court. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
MONTREAL — CN says it will reinstate its guidance for 2021 and increase the company's dividend by seven per cent after seeing improved demand for freight in the last three months of 2020. The Montreal-based railway says its net income surged 17 per cent in the fourth quarter to $1.02 billion or $1.43 per share. That was up from $873 million or $1.22 per share in the prior year. Adjusted profits for the three months ended Dec. 31 were up 14 per cent to $1.02 billion or $1.43 per share, from $896 million or $1.25 per share in last year's quarter. Revenue increased two per cent, or $72 million, to $3.66 billion. CN Rail was expected to report $1.41 per share in adjusted profits on $3.62 billion of revenues, according to financial data firm Refinitiv. CN reported operating income of $1.4 billion, compared with $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019. JJ Ruest, CN's president and CEO, says that while the recovery was uneven across sectors, the company was pleased with the growth in volume demand during the fourth quarter. CN also said it planned to announce $3 billion in capital investments to stay ahead of demand. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:CNR) The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — The interruption in the supply of COVID-19 vaccine justifies Nova Scotia's conservative distribution strategy, Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday. McNeil defended the province's immunization plan to hold doses back for booster shots, and he voiced concerns about the ongoing availability of vaccine. "We have serious concerns about supply," he told reporters. "We had hoped that we wouldn't be in this situation but we will not be receiving any new doses this week." The premier said vaccinations will continue at some long-term care homes because the province had put doses in reserve for booster shots. As of Monday, 11,622 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the province, with 2,708 people having received their second of two doses. McNeil acknowledged the criticism about his government's approach of holding back doses. Quebec, by contrast, decided against that strategy and instead vaccinated as many people as possible with a single dose. The premier, however, said his main concern has been around the consistency of vaccine supply. "We want to reassure all Nova Scotians that if we give you the first shot you will get the second shot," McNeil said. "Until we see a level of consistency in supply, that's the protocol we are going to continue to follow." Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said Nova Scotia would get no vaccine this week from Pfizer and then 1,950 doses the week of Feb. 1, along with another 5,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine. "Beyond that there is no certainty around the amount of vaccine, whether its Pfizer or Moderna, that we are going to get," Strang said. Strang, however, said the province remained committed to its strategy. He said Nova Scotia feels less pressure compared to other provinces to vaccinate the largest amount of people as quickly as possible. Nova Scotia reported one new case of COVID-19 Tuesday and a total of 11 active reported infections. No one was in hospital with the disease. Strang said science is also solidly behind the approach of giving two doses of vaccine within the 21-to-28-day window prescribed by the manufacturers. Over the next three months, he said, the province will continue to focus on vaccinating front-line health-care workers as well as staff, residents and designated caregivers in long-term and residential care facilities. To date, Strang said, vaccinations have been completed at the Northwood long-term care facility in Halifax, where 53 of the provinces 65 deaths occurred last spring. He said vaccinations are also complete at Ocean View Continuing Care Centre in Dartmouth and at Harbourstone Enhanced Care in Sydney. As well, Strang said the province is targeting mid-to-late February to open its first community clinic, which he said will be at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, for people over 80 years of age. "These are community clinics that will help us understand what works and what doesn't work, so when we are ready to administer large quantities of vaccine we are able to do so immediately," Strang said. Meanwhile, health officials urged post-secondary students in the Halifax area to get tested for COVID-19. They said several cases of COVID-19 had been identified among Halifax's student population, and they recommended that all students be tested — even if they haven’t travelled, have no symptoms or haven't visited a location that had been exposed to the novel coronavirus. Drop-in testing began Tuesday and at Dalhousie University and pop-up rapid testing was scheduled to begin Wednesday at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and at two locations in Sydney, N.S., including Cape Breton University. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 26, 2021. Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
The Village of Standard, like many other communities, has faced numerous challenges throughout 2020. Despite the unforeseen circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the community managed to come together to support their neighbours, and prepare shovel-ready projects for 2021. “Due to the pandemic and the fiscal uncertainty surrounding it, the village did not enter into any major infrastructure projects in 2020,” Standard Mayor Joe Pedersen told the Mail. Mayor Pedersen notes much needed concrete repairs throughout the village were completed. Local groups and organizations also had a troubling year, with all community events being cancelled, which may pose significant impacts in the coming year. “We have directed groups and individuals to certain programs that are available to assist them through this troubled time,” Mayor Pedersen says. Surveying on a new residential subdivision was completed in November, allowing for lot size increases. Mayor Pedersen is hopeful this will help to attract buyers to “build and join” the community. “The community has been amazing in its response to the (COVID-19) situation, with everyone willing to help their neighbour,” Mayor Pedersen adds. The village’s grocery store has remained open and continued to serve the community, despite supply chain concerns early in 2020. Staff and community volunteers worked together to ensure no one went without necessities, offering curbside pickup and home deliveries to those who were self-isolating. Currently, the village is in the process of developing additional lots in the industrial park area of the village. “We hope to have shovels in the ground in the first half of 2021,” Mayor Pedersen says, although he notes there is still plenty to do ahead of this including surveys, and completion of underground infrastructure and roadwork. Provincial stimulus funding will help the village complete major infrastructure projects in 2021 and Mayor Pedersen says the village will be calling for tenders early in 2021. “The village council and staff wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and hopes, after this trying and challenging year, success and good health.” Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Drumheller Mail
NEW YORK — Actor Elliot Page and Emma Portner said Tuesday that they are divorcing after three years of marriage. “After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce following our separation last summer," the Canadian couple said in a joint statement. "We have the utmost respect for each other and remain close friends.” They gave no further details. Page, the 33-year-old Oscar-nominated star of “Juno,” “Inception” and “The Umbrella Academy,” and Portner, a 26-year-old choreographer and dance teacher, announced their marriage early in 2018 after only having hinted at their relationship on social media. Portner was vocal in her support of Page when the actor came out as transgender in December, an announcement that was widely greeted as a watershed moment for the trans community in Hollywood. The Associated Press
DENVER — The Vatican has cleared a retired U.S. bishop of multiple allegations he sexually abused minors and teenagers, rejecting lay experts' determination that a half-dozen claims were credible and instead slapping him on the wrist for what it called “flagrant" imprudent behaviour. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith exonerated retired Cheyenne, Wyoming Bishop Joseph Hart of seven accusations of abuse and determined that five others couldn’t be proven “with moral certitude.” Two other cases involving boys who were 16 and 17 couldn’t be prosecuted because the Catholic Church didn’t consider them minors at the time of the alleged abuse, the diocese reported Monday. A 13th allegation wasn’t addressed in the decree. Hart, 89, had long maintained his innocence and denied all allegations of misconduct. His attorney, Thomas Jubin, said multiple allegations against Hart were “specious,” with some based on second- and third-hand information, and with some accusers emphasizing that Hart didn't physically touch them. “Despite this, Bishop Hart asks me to convey that he continues to pray for all involved in this case so that they may find peace and healing. He now asks, and I ask, too, that he may now be afforded peace in the twilight of this life as he prepares to meet his God in the next,” Jubin said in a statement. The Vatican decision clearly disappointed Hart’s successor, Bishop Steven Biegler, who stressed that the Vatican’s findings didn’t mean Hart was innocent, just that the Holy See determined that the high burden of proof hadn’t been met. “Today, I want the survivors to know that I support and believe you” Biegler said in a statement. “I understand that this announcement will not bring closure to the survivors, their family members, Bishop Hart and all those affected.” It also disappointed Darrel Hunter, who said he and his two brothers were abused by Hart after he was assigned to worked at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Kansas City near their home in the 1950s. Hunter, 73, of Prairie Village, Kan., said he did not expect the Vatican to punish Hart but he was concerned about how it treated those who came forward to say they had been abused. He said he did not understand how Vatican officials could discount their allegations, particularly because many alleged victims live hundreds of miles apart and did not have any connection besides Hart. He said he had not heard of any victims being interviewed as part of the Vatican’s investigation, which made the “moral certitude” conclusion like a slap in the face to victims. “It’s like they said ’We’re not going to talk to you but we’re pretty sure what you’re saying didn’t happen,” said Hunter. In Cheyenne, Biegler has previously stood by the findings of his review board, which determined a half-dozen claims were credible. And his diocesan statement noted the qualifications of its members: “law enforcement; school administration; a doctor of psychology; a pediatrician; a psychotherapist, who treats sexually abused children; and a judge, who was a criminal prosecutor for 13 years involving crimes against children, primarily child sexual abuse.” On the other hand, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, relies on the judgment of priests and bishop canon lawyers, and ultimately the pope. The Vatican for decades has been criticized by victims’ groups for giving bishops a pass when they have been accused of sexual abuse themselves or of covering it up. A few exceptions have been made in recent years, most famously in the case of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked after the CDF determined he had abused minors as well as adults, including during confession — essentially the same allegations against Hart. As a result, the sentence showed the arbitrary nature of Vatican’s canonical sex abuse deliberations and judgments, which aren't public. Hart’s previous diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached court settlements years ago with at least 10 victims. But Wyoming criminal prosecutors also decided last year not to proceed with charging Hart. Anne Barrett Doyle, of the online resource BishopAccountability.org, said the Vatican ruling was “heartbreaking and disgraceful" and showed that church law is biased in favour of priests and bishops. “Defenders of canon law might point to the punishment of ex-cardinal McCarrick as evidence that the system works. But for every McCarrick, there are five Harts: bishops who retain their titles and pensions in the face of multiple allegations," she said in an email, adding that the ruling calls into question Pope Francis' vow to hold bishops accountable. In its decree, the CDF rebuked Hart “for his flagrant lack of prudence as a priest and bishop for being alone with minors in his private residence and on various trips which could have been potential occasions endangering the ‘obligation to observe continence’ and that would ‘give rise to scandal among the faithful,'” the diocese said. Hart was also rebuked for failing to observe previous Vatican restrictions prohibiting him from having contact with minors and seminarians and from participating in public engagements, the diocese said, adding that those restrictions remain in place. Jubin, Hart's lawyer, criticized Biegler for what he said was “grandstanding” and trying to disregard due process by trying to convict Hart in the “court of public opinion.” The Associated Press has learned that the CDF had tasked the investigation into Hart to Indianapolis Bishop Charles Thompson, who made headlines in 2019 when he ordered two Catholic high schools to fire teachers in same-sex marriages. After one Jesuit school refused, the Vatican temporarily suspended Thompson's order rescinding the school's Catholic recognition. The CDF under its current leadership seems to follow recommendations from local bishops who investigate sex crimes, while it used to take a more proactive role in sanctioning and defrocking accused clerics. Hart was a priest in Kansas City, Missouri, for 21 years before moving to Wyoming, where he served as auxiliary and then full bishop from 1976 until his retirement in 2001. The first known allegations against Hart dated to the early 1960s and were made in the late 1980s. At least six men came forward in the past few years to say Hart abused them in Wyoming. ___ Winfield reported from Rome. Associated Press writer Margaret Stafford in Liberty, Mo. also contributed to this report. Nicole Winfield And Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan's top doctor says he believes there are limits to where people can protest after a handful of demonstrators unhappy with COVID-19 restrictions showed up outside his home. Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says while people can go to public spaces like legislatures to stage their frustration, he doesn't believe they have the right to protest at someone's private residence. Premier Scott Moe says his government has offered security to Shahab after police were called to his house on the weekend to respond to protesters who had gathered nearby. Moe says it's up to police in Regina to investigate and decide whether to lay any charges. The premier says the demonstration crossed a line between protesting government decisions around COVID-19 and the privacy of a person, his family and his neighbours. He says his Saskatchewan Party government is looking at what options exist to address protests at the homes of public servants. "We have been starting to look at what other jurisdictions have in place with respect to some of the laws that they have, and looking at whether or not we should consider those here," he said during a briefing Tuesday. Moe said he wasn't sure what options the government has to address what happened, since streets and sidewalks are public property. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Dr. Jeannette Armstrong is the associate professor in Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan (UBCO) campus. Armstrong was one of three speakers discussing systemic racism in science in a conversations on Indigenous knowledge in academia. Indigenous people still face systemic racism, and their voices are often left unheard, said Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president of UBCO during her opening remarks of the Jan. 20 webinar. During the two-hour discussion, three Indigenous leaders and researchers discussed some of the differences and misunderstandings of Indigenous knowledge and western science, as well as the impacts of what they framed “environmental racism.” Armstrong, who shared a Syilx Okanagan perspective, spoke alongside Aaron Prosper from Eskasoni First Nation, and Elder Albert Marshall from the Mi’kmaw Nation. “In these times of climate change, societal disease and diseases, we need Indigenous knowledge,” said Armstrong. As Canada Research Chair in Okanagan Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy, Armstrong has been recognized for her award-winning literary work on education, ecology and Indigenous rights. Indigenous knowledge remains overlooked in academia, particularly in science, because unlike a western scientific method, Indigenous knowledge is not evidence-based, according to Armstrong. Indigenous knowledge is focused on a holistic perspective incorporating traditional knowledge and lived experiences, she says. “A general definition of Indigenous knowledge consists of those beliefs, assumptions, and understandings of non-western people developed through long-term associations with a specific place,” Armstrong told participants during the event. “Therefore, Indigenous knowledge is considered the second tier of knowledge, that is, below science. This is racist.” According to Prosper, Indigenous knowledge has been misused or co-opted within the scientific field. “Indigenous people had knowledge prior to Western scientific knowledge, in terms of traditional medicine,” said Prosper, who studies Indigenous Health and Indigenous Ethics & Research Methodologies. “In my personal opinion, there is a significant issue within the scientific field when it comes to racism, systemic racism.” Prosper feels Indigenous knowledge, and Indigenous information or data should be valued the same as Western scientific knowledge. “Usually what you see done is an Elder getting interviewed, getting traditional knowledge taken out, and then the researcher collects the data as a western methodology, to interpret that data, which makes it incorrect,” Prosper explained. Marshall believes two-eyed seeing is the transformative change society needs to understand and incorporate Indigenous knowledge. “Being Indigenous, I see everything through my Indigenous lens,” said Marshall, who says ‘two-eyed seeing’ means a worldview which reconciles and incorporates Indigenous ways of knowing and western scientific ways of knowing. “To see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge, and to see from the other eye with the strengths of Western science knowledge and to use both of these eyes together, is two-eyed seeing.” Indigenous knowledge systems can offer society solutions for living in balance with the environment, the speakers stressed. According to Armstrong, the Syilx Okanagan people view the land as a dynamic system, and their sole purpose is to protect the tmxwulaxw (land) and tmixw (all living lifeforms). “In the Syilx view, the human duty is to perceive how the tmixw are regenerating themselves and how therefore the human must move forward in unity with them,” she said. “Immersion in the knowledge of tmixw allows us to view its reality and makes it possible for the aliveness of each separate life form.” During the webinar, environmental racism was discussed. “In the context of environmental racism, the government had been failing to shut down treatment plants in Indigenous communities,” Prosper told participants. The Pictou Landing First Nation community in Nova Scotia is east of Boat Harbour and is utilized for traditional fishing and hunting. “This place is a significant importance to the Pictou Landing First Nation community,” he said. According to Prosper, Boat Harbour has been receiving wastewater effluent from the industry, and the government has neglected health concerns from the Indigenous people living there. The government told the community that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to make a change, he says. “The government told the people, there’s no evidence of this effluent that we’re putting into boat harbour is affecting the health of the people,” says Prosper. “If our environment is not healthy, how can we be healthy?” said Marshall. Marshall said Indigenous Peoples need to amplify our voices, to protect the environment for future generations. People cannot live in silence, he says, allowing the government to continuously destroy the land. “The government needs to be held accountable because all they do is compromise the ecological entirety of the area, and they compromise the system,” Marshall says. “I was taught, while you stay here on earth, you have to be mindful for the next generations. Most importantly, the future generations will have the same opportunity as we had, of being able to sustain themselves in a healthy environment.” Armstrong is committed to pursuing an alternative academic approach to Indigenous environmental knowledge in her research and study. She has created a methodology that she says may assist as a model in Indigenous Peoples’ struggle to include Indigenous knowledge in the academy. “I am developing better access to Indigenous knowledge through Indigenous oral literature situated as the knowledge documentation system of the Syilx peoples,” Armstrong explains. Marshall is working on cultural understandings and healing of our human responsibilities to care for all creatures and our Earth Mother through two-eyed seeing. “These essentials of the web of life should be protected under the charter of human rights because they constitute to me, a climate emergency,” says Marshall. In response, Prosper is committed to approaching his research mindfully. “How do Indigenous communities consent to research when they were exposed to these unethical experiments, whether be in the residential school or within their own communities?” Prosper asked the group. “We have to be mindful when engaging with Indigenous communities.” “Even the most adverse individuals are still dealing with various issues as a result of their experience with colonialism, and they are still trying to reconcile that.” Prosper acknowledges that little progress in the scientific field has been made, but a lot of work needs to be done. “Yes, we’ve been a lot done within 100 years. Have we done a great job? I don’t think so,” explained Prosper. “I think it’s going to take another hundred years to see a difference.” This event is the second of three examining racism in science, specifically from Indigenous perspectives, with the final one, planned for the spring, will explore Black scientists’ views. Editor’s note: Jeannette Armstrong is reporter Athena Bonneau’s grandmother. At IndigiNews, we take journalistic independence seriously, adhering to the Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Guidelines. Due to Armstrong’s role at UBCO and participant in the webinar as an elder and knowledge keeper, we felt it was important to include her perspective in this piece. Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
UPEI's writer-in-residence is not in residence this year, but because of COVID-19 travel restrictions will be offering readings and workshops online from his home in B.C. Jay Ruzesky, a professor of creative writing, Canadian literature and film studies at Vancouver Island University, is a novelist and poet who also writes travel stories and memoirs. His focus at UPEI will be non-fiction writing. "In the same way that I think everybody is essentially creative, you know, we are creative as human beings, I also think everybody has a story," he said in an interview with Mainstreet P.E.I. host Matt Rainnie. Everybody has a story. — Jay Ruzesky "And creative non-fiction can be a lot of different things, everything from, you know, travel writing to restaurant reviews and all kinds of things." His workshops will focus on two streams, one being more personal — stories about the writer's own experiences — and the other more outward, stories about what the writer observes and collects about another person's experience. "Both things, in order to tell a story really well, it depends on literary techniques. It depends on the language. It depends on, you know, narrative and story and the kind of imagery and the kind of things that all good stories are made of." 'It's so beautiful' Ruzesky said he wishes he could be at UPEI in person, but hosting virtual workshops has become the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic. "It's where we are, right. I've been to Prince Edward Island, to Charlottetown and to the Island many times, and I love it there. It's so beautiful. And I have friends there, but it's just not something we can do right now." The workshops are on Feb. 6 and Feb. 13. There will be a reading, open to anyone through Facebook Live, on Feb. 9. More information is available on the Winter's Tales Facebook page. More from CBC P.E.I.
KELOWNA, B.C. — An attempted murder trial came to an abrupt end Tuesday when a man from West Kelowna, B.C., pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of his mother. Kevin Barrett admitted to savagely beating and choking Eleanor Holmes before throwing her down a forest ravine. An agreed statement of facts presented in court by Crown attorney Patricia O'Neil says Barrett's 79-year-old mother decided to "play dead," believing that would spare her further assault. Holmes had been expected to testify Tuesday when the Crown and defence attorneys told the judge the 59-year-old Barrett had agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge. During the sentencing portion of the trial, the court heard Barrett has bipolar disorder, frequently goes off his medication and his mental-health problems are exacerbated by a history of alcohol use. The court heard that Barrett was often verbally abusive toward his mother, although she allowed him to live with her in a trailer park after the rest of the family turned their backs on him. “She loved him and she did not want him to be homeless," O’Neil said. On April 29, 2019, Barrett was in a loving mood, the court heard. "Mr. Barrett kissed Mrs. Holmes and told her she was the best mom a man his age could ever have,” O'Neil said. But when Barrett asked for his mother to drive him somewhere and she said no, he flew into a violent rage, the court heard. Holmes told investigators it was as if her son had turned into “Satan himself,” O'Neil said. Barrett savagely beat his mother, using both his fists and a blunt object to hit her in the face, head, neck, stomach, and legs. He yanked out much of her hair, hit her so hard her dentures were dislodged, bit her, and choked her with a seatbelt, the court heard. "Mrs. Holmes believed Mr. Barrett was going to kill her," O'Neil said. Barrett dragged his mother out of the vehicle and tossed her down a 100-metre embankment towards a creek. He then used her bank card to buy liquor and ice cream before returning to her trail, the court heard. Despite her serious injuries, Holmes was able to climb the embankment and was found, barefoot, bloodied and cold, by a West Kelowna couple, the agreed statement says. Barrett was quickly arrested at the trailer and has been in custody for almost two years. O'Neil said Holmes told investigators last year that she loved her son and forgave him for what he had done to her. “That speaks to the depth of her compassion as well as the profoundness of a mother's attachment to her child,” O’Neil said. However, in a brief victim impact statement written by Holmes earlier this week and read into the court record on Tuesday, Holmes said: “I’m terrified of Kevin. I’m old and have a bad heart. I do not want Kevin back here.” (Kelowna Daily Courier) This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Ron Seymour, Kelowna Daily Courier, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Canada's main stock index suffered its worst drop of the year on a broad-based decline led by the energy and technology sectors. The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 126.61 points to 17,779.41. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 22.96 points at 30,937.04. The S&P 500 index was down 5.74 points at 3,849.62, while the Nasdaq composite was down 9.93 points at 13,626.06. The Canadian dollar traded for 78.73 cents US compared with 78.51 cents US on Monday. The March crude oil contract was down 16 cents at US$52.61 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was up 3.8 cents at nearly US$2.64 per mmBTU. The February gold contract was down US$4.30 at US$1,850.90 an ounce and the March copper contract was down a penny at US$3.62 a pound. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) The Canadian Press
ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday after a key coalition ally pulled his party’s support over Conte’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, setting the stage for consultations this week to determine if he can form a third government. Conte tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who held off on any immediate decision other than to ask Conte to keep the government running in the near-term, Mattarella's office said. The president will begin consulting with leaders of political parties on Wednesday. Conte hopes to get Mattarella's support to try to form a new coalition government that can steer the country as it battles the pandemic and an economic recession and creates a spending plan for the 209 billion euros ($254 billion) Italy is getting in European Union recovery funds. The premier said in a message posted on Facebook that his resignation was aimed at achieving “a government that can save the nation” during the health, social and economic crisis provoked by the pandemic. “The widespread suffering of citizens, deep social hardship and economic difficulties require a clear perspective and a government that has a larger and more secure majority,” Conte wrote. Conte’s coalition government was thrown into turmoil earlier this month when a junior party headed by ex-Premier Matteo Renzi yanked its support. Conte won confidence votes in parliament last week, but fell short of an absolute majority in the Senate, forcing him to take the gamble of resignation. Mattarella, Italy's largely ceremonial head of state, can ask Conte to try to form a broader coalition government, mandate a new prime minister to try to form a government from the same parties, appoint a largely technical government to steer the country through the pandemic or dissolve parliament and call an election two years early. A technical government and early election are considered the least-likely outcomes. But Conte would need Renzi's support to form a new governing coalition or the backing of independents and the centre-right Forza Italia party. “The most likely outcomes in my opinion are two: one is another government with Conte and with Renzi, and the second most likely is a government without Conte and with Renzi,'' Roberto D'Alimonte, a political science professor at Rome's LUISS University, said. The partners in the current coalition — the 5-Star Movement, the Democratic Party and the smaller LeU (Free and Equal) party — are all hoping for a third Conte government. Conte's first government starting in 2018 was a 5-Star alliance with the right-wing League party led by Matteo Salvini that lasted 15 months. His second lasted 17 months. Salvini and centre-right opposition parties are clamouring for an early election, hoping to capitalize on polls prior to the government crisis that showed high approval ratings for the League and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party led by Giorgia Meloni. Salvini has blasted the “palace games and buying and selling of senators” of recent days as Conte has tried to find new coalition allies, claiming that Conte is incapable of leading Italy through the crisis. “Let’s use these weeks to give the word back to the people and we’ll have five years of a serious and legitimate parliament and government not chosen in palaces but chosen by Italians,” Salvini said Monday. Democratic leader Nicola Zingaretti says an early election is the last thing the country needs. He tweeted Monday: “With Conte for a new clearly European-centric government supported by an ample parliamentary base that will guarantee credibility and stability to confront the challenges Italy has ahead." The ratings agency Fitch said in a statement that the political crisis could hinder Italy's ability to relaunch its economy after the pandemic, particularly if the government is unable to come up with a strategy to use the EU recovery funds. “The advent of a substantially weaker government or persistent political uncertainty could hamper efforts to improve growth prospects after the pandemic via a coherent economic strategy,” Fitch said ."It could also increase the risk of delays in disbursing" the recovery funds. ____ Colleen Barry contributed from Milan. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press