Weather Network meteorologist Nadine Powell has more.
Weather Network meteorologist Nadine Powell has more.
(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.
New Zealand's government said on Friday that it was backing a new project that uses drone technology to understand and protect the endangered Māui dolphins in the country. Maui dolphins live in a small stretch of ocean off the west coast of New Zealand's North Island and current estimates suggest that only 63 dolphins older than one year remain, raising concerns that they may soon become extinct. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is capable of finding and tracking Māui dolphins using artificial intelligence.
VICTORIA — Police in Victoria are asking for help from the public who may know something about the beheading of a royal statue and a recent rash of graffiti in the city. There were numerous acts of spray-paint vandalism on Tuesday which targeted businesses and public and city-owned property. Police say in a statement that the graffiti specifically references Beacon Hill Park, the site of a long-running tent encampment. They're also asking for help recovering the head removed from a statue of the Queen located in the same park. Officers were called to the area near the park's petting zoo on Wednesday for reports of the damaged statue. Despite both being acts of vandalism, police say the two incidents have not been linked. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) Just days after implementing new federal pandemic testing and quarantine rules , Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is reporting passenger frustration but also compliance. "People are, of course, not happy with the quarantine rules but [have] been doing their best to understand them and comply with them in co-operation with the government," said YVR's president and CEO Tamara Vrooman. Speaking with Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition, Vrooman admitted some passengers are facing long waits upon arrival for quick COVID-19 tests. The new federal program to quarantine arriving international visitors for three days is also creating delays. "We are hearing that the public health agency is doing its best to accommodate people when they arrive," Vrooman said. Vancouver International Airport is now just one of four Canadian airports accepting international flights. Vrooman says air travel has dropped drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago. "We welcomed 5,330 passengers through our airport yesterday. And that may sound like a lot until you realize that 365 days earlier, we welcomed 56,052, down over 90 percent. "And the vast majority of the traffic that we're seeing now is domestic with people going, you know, up north to and from essential work, traveling for medical reasons or for family reasons." The loss of traffic has impacted the non-profit organization's finances. YVR is entering 2021 with the single largest operating deficit and debt burden in the airport's history. Vrooman, the former CEO of Vancity Credit Union, insists YVR's books are sound. "We have worked with our bondholders to get the financing that we need for the next three years to ensure that we can operate regardless of the traffic volume we have." Passengers arrive through international arrivals at Vancouver’s international airport (YVR) in Richmond, British Columbia on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. The pandemic has forced YVR to adapt its strategic plan and undertake a one-year review of operations. In a new report, the airport says it will invest in new online digital and data technology and procedures for passenger check-ins. "We've been trying to get people to get rid of their paper boarding passes for forever. Well now, we see people coming to the airport not wanting to touch a piece of paper and quite happy to do things digitally and log in," said Vrooman, "It allows us to serve them better by giving them better information, and it's more efficient." Last September, YVR halted a $525 million capital expansion, including a new parkade, transportation hub, utilities building and a $350-million geothermal heating system. The airport completed the $300 million "Pier D" expansion of its international terminal last week. The new terminal expansion features eight new gates, a glassed-in island forest with access to the outdoors, an immersive digital experience and a yoga, prayer and quiet room.
WASHINGTON — The United States launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. The airstrike was the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration, which in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. Biden's decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq. “I’m confident in the target that we went after, we know what we hit,” Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters flying with him from California to Washington. Speaking shortly after the airstrikes, he added, “We’re confident that that target was being used by the same Shia militants that conducted the strikes," referring to a Feb. 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition personnel. Austin said he recommended the action to Biden. “We said a number of times that we will respond on our timeline,” Austin said. "We wanted to be sure of the connectivity and we wanted to be sure that we had the right targets.” Earlier, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. action was a “proportionate military response” taken together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel," Kirby said. "At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.” Kirby said the U.S. airstrikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian- backed militant groups," including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada. The U.S. has blamed Kataib Hezbollah for numerous attacks targeting U.S. personnel and interests in Iraq in the past. Further details were not immediately available. Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, criticized the U.S. attack as a violation of international law. “The United Nations Charter makes absolutely clear that the use of military force on the territory of a foreign sovereign state is lawful only in response to an armed attack on the defending state for which the target state is responsible,” she said. “None of those elements is met in the Syria strike.” Biden administration officials condemned the Feb. 15 rocket attack near the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region, but as recently as this week officials indicated they had not determined for certain who carried it out. Officials have noted that in the past, Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups have been responsible for numerous rocket attacks that targeted U.S. personnel or facilities in Iraq. Kirby had said Tuesday that Iraq is in charge of investigating the Feb. 15 attack. “Right now, we’re not able to give you a certain attribution as to who was behind these attacks, what groups, and I’m not going to get into the tactical details of every bit of weaponry used here," Kirby said. "Let’s let the investigations complete and conclude, and then when we have more to say, we will.” A little-known Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the Feb. 15 attack. A week later, a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone appeared to target the U.S. Embassy compound, but no one was hurt. Iran this week said it has no links to the Guardians of Blood Brigade. The frequency of attacks by Shiite militia groups against U.S. targets in Iraq diminished late last year ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, though now Iran is pressing America to return to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal. The U.S. under the previous Trump administration blamed Iran-backed groups for carrying out the attacks. Tensions soared after a Washington-directed drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last year. Trump had said the death of a U.S. contractor would be a red line and provoke U.S. escalation in Iraq. The December 2019 killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in a rocket attack in Kirkuk sparked a tit-for-tat fight on Iraqi soil that brought the country to the brink of a proxy war. U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group. Lolita C. Baldor And Robert Burns, The Associated Press
Rapid testing for COVID-19 will be expanding in the province in the near future. The rapid test kits allocated by the federal government will now be available in available in a variety of settings to test asymptomatic individuals. Saskatchewan has created a strategy to deploy more than 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests received through a federal government allocation. The tests will be used in a variety of settings including walk-in or drive-thru sites, mobile testing and pop-up testing sites. In media availability on Thursday, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone explained that testing is an important part of the strategy in maintaining offensive work around containing, mitigating and delaying the virus spread. “These are simple tests, are readily available and some of the new sites that will be included in this expansion include personal care homes, group homes, detox facilities, emergency shelters and schools. Rapid tests will also be made available to ambulance, police and fire services as well as pharmacy and dental offices for staff that work within those areas to insure that we are screening essential workers in those areas,” Livingstone said. The tests are already available at over 150 long-term care facilities and over 100 areas in acute care. Livingstone explained that the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations have been amended to exempt point of care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites from requiring a laboratory license when those sites have entered into an agreement with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. He explained that the lab license was a barrier and was lifted because the test is simple and safe. “These changes give us the ability to move swiftly to expand testing options,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a release. “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” Many of these sectors may not have the capacity to use these tests on their own, so the Ministry of Health is working with SaskBuilds and Procurement to develop a Request for Pre-Qualifications (RFPQ) tender for third-party providers to deliver testing to these locations. This will enhance the number and variety of venues where rapid testing is offered. Livingstone explained that one example of why the RFPQ tender was in place was for ambulance, fire and police and participating pharmacies and dental offices. “This is going to take a little bit of time but we are committed to using these tests widely across many venues in the province as soon as possible. There are still some operational and logistic details to sort out but there is hope that the delivery and support for the expanded venues can happen over the next few weeks,” Livingstone said. Livingstone stated that the program could move quicker in schools because they have existing public health infrastructure with public health staff to do testing. The SHA is also looking at pop-up point of care testing sites and the ability for health care workers to carry out weekly surveillance testing on themselves. The Ministry of Health and SHA will work with various sectors and provider groups to ensure training and support is in place to use these testing resources to their full potential. Any rapid point-of-care tests that return a positive result will need to be retested to confirm the result using a PCR test with the Saskatchewan Health Authority labs. However, negative tests do not need to be retested for confirmation, which is expected to reduce pressure on provincial lab resources. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
A plan to expand the Crescent Acres neighbourhood took another step forward with the approval of a plan begin to begin annexing a portion of the neighbouring municipality. City councillors voted unanimously Monday to annex 44 acres of land from the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert. The motion to support the boundary changes was moved by Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick who, along with Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards, was pleased to see the report before council. The other part of the motion would see administration meet with representatives of the RM to negotiate both the annexation settlement and agreement. Ogrodnick explained that at community meetings a north access to Crescent Acres was a major issue for residents. The eventual expansion would ease congestion at 15th Avenue and Muzzy Road as well as on Olive Diefenbaker drive. “Once that north access comes into play and gets built, it will help the eastern parts of both of our wards. This is a good agreement as long as we are able to build this and it is something that the residents of both of those wards badly want and are happy that our director is moving forward with this,” Ogrodnick said. Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski also voiced his approval of the eventual north access to the neighborhood as a great step in the development of Prince Albert and saluted the work done on the file. “It is not only an issue in that area but in terms of traffic flow throughout our whole city because you absolutely avoid that area of town at certain times of the day. Well done let’s move on,” Zurakowski said. Mayor Greg Dionne thanked the city manager and both the previous and current council for their work. “I have been on council for 19 years and boy there was lots of talking but I have got to thank this council and the council before for bringing this forward,” Dionne said during the meeting. After the meeting, Dionne explained that opening up another access point on Crescent Acres will also benefit development. “We are having more and more development there on Hadley and other streets in the back there and that’s where our new lots are. So before we get them all open let’s get the traffic out to the highway,” he explained. The land to be annexed has already been bought by the city. They hope to extend Byars Street and add another highway junction at Highway 302. Once the Byars Street extension is done, the city plans to later extend Olive Diefenbaker Drive. The city purchased 80 acres in 2020. Development of the rest of the land, which remains within the RM’s boundary, will be up to the RM council. “It is up to them to plan for, but we want to be proactive and be a partnership to how that land is developed, Guidinger said. The planned construction is part of a larger Transportation Master Plan and a future Crescent Acres Neighborhood Plan. The extension of Byars Street was already included in the 2021 budget by public works. The cost is $200,000 for required engineering design and geotechnical work with $700,000 expected to be added for construction in the 2022 budget. The proposal was initially presented at an in camera session on Feb. 1 and presented to RM council on Feb. 11. The RM was receptive, and only had a few questions about taxation and timing. The process of land annexation is when land is transferred from one municipality to another neighbouring municipality. There are a number of steps in the process, including consultation with the municipality in question, negotiation of a payment for the land in question and the annexation agreement and public notice. The first steps in annexation were completed with the presentation to the RM of Prince Albert. Once there is a complementary resolution from the RM, the city and RM can enter into negotiations to negotiate a purchase cost. The city intends to propose a financial settlement similar to those in the past. The value of the settlement will be directly connected to the current agricultural tax rate applied to the land multiplied by a 22.5 years. Other costs will come from issuing public notice and other legal items such as preparation of the agreement itself among others. Once the annexation price and terms of agreement have been negotiated, city administration will report back to council. The annexation team will included the directors of planning and development and public works, planning manager and capital projects, city solicitor’s office, city clerk’s office, director of the Prince Albert and District Planning Commission, Reeve Eric Schmalz and administrator Roxanne Roy of the RM of Prince Albert. -with files from Peter Lozinski, Prince Albert Daily Herald Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
OTTAWA — Colin White had two goals as the Ottawa Senators earned a 6-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. The win was the third straight for Ottawa (7-14-1) -- a first this season -- while Calgary (9-10-2) lost for the fifth time in six contests. Drake Batherson, Erik Gudbranson, Connor Brown and Erik Brannstrom also scored for Ottawa as goaltender Matt Murray stopped 29 shots. Batherson ran his goal-scoring streak to four games. Milan Lucic replied for Calgary, which was playing for the third time in four nights. Still, the Flames came in having won three of the previous four meetings with Ottawa. It was the first of three straight games between the two teams in Ottawa. They meet again Saturday afternoon before finishing up Monday night. Batherson opened the scoring at 7:45 of the first. David Rittich made the save on Tim Stutzle's shot but Batherson fired the rebound past the Flames goaltender for his sixth of the season. Gudbranson made it 2-0 with his first of the year at 9:27 as Ottawa outshot Calgary 13-5. Lucic pulled Calgary to within 2-1 with his fifth 1:41 into the second. But Brown restored Ottawa's two-goal lead at 4:39, intercepting a pass deep in the Flames zone and beating Rittich on the backhand unassisted for his fifth. Brannstrom put Ottawa up 4-1 at 7:24. He blasted a rolling puck from outside the blue-line past Rittich, his second of the year and second in as many games. Shortly afterwards, Calgary made the goaltending change as Artyom Zagidulin got into his first NHL game replacing Rittich, who allowed four goals on 20 shots. White slid the puck under Zagidulin at 4:55 of the third, for his third. He added his fourth at 14:46. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb, 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Peace River Regional District will issue a letter of support for a plan by Telus to expand LTE connectivity in the region. The company is applying to the federal Universal Broadband Fund and is under the wire after its original Feb. 15 deadline was pushed to March. PRRD directors expressed mixed opinions at their board meeting Thursday, with some saying the company has failed to properly communicate with them. Hudson’s Hope Mayor Dave Heiberg said he was initially skeptical, but was convinced of the benefits after a conversation with Telus’ Northern Alberta and BC Interior General Manager Brian Bettis. "This is what the fibre working group was trying to achieve, to get that last mile,” said Heiberg of PRRD’s connectivity committee. “And if the intent is to provide these areas with service to premise, that is a large part of what our goal was, in my mind.” Telus is proposing to expand connectivity in Bear Flat, Bear Mountain, East Pine, Farmington, Farrell Creek, Fort St John, Goodlow, Moberly Lake, Mount Wabi, Pouce Coupe, Prespatou, Rose Prairie, Septimus, Taylor, and Tupper. Heiberg noted the company is also looking at fibre optic and cellular upgrades around Canyon Drive and a portion of Beryl Prairie in Hudson's Hope. But director Leonard Hiebert says the company has backed out meetings scheduled with electoral area directors about their plans. “Considering they’re a communications company, they don’t communicate very well,” said Hiebert. “I can’t justify supporting this if they’re not going to communicate with us in the areas that they’re trying to do this work in." "They expect us to support them blindly," he said. Chetwynd Mayor Allen Courtoreille says the district's questions to Telus about its plans have also gone unanswered. "To this day, I haven’t got a response to what they were going to give us in terms of fibre. I would not support this,” said Courtoreille. Director Dan Rose said Telus is the most likely to complete any cellular upgrades in the region, but said it has not improved its communications with the PRRD. “We met with Brian Bettis when he was first appointed into this new role, and he guaranteed us that we would see a big change in how they communicated. And we have, they’re even worse,” said Rose. “People who adjudicate these applications probably place a fair amount of weight in to what kind of support they’re getting from the community. This is not nearly enough information for me, after the way we’ve been left hanging.” Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman agreed that Telus is the only choice for connectivity, and supported writing a letter of support. “Connectivity is a topic on absolutely every bloody call that we have with every minister, regardless of what their mandate letter contains," Ackerman said. "Putting in this infrastructure is extremely expensive.” Director Karen Goodings noted there are a number of other connectivity initiatives already underway. “We’re getting this again from too many directions, and not being able to ascertain what ones are actually going to be able to support the people,” said Goodings. Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead said connectivity is a problem in rural areas, pointing to areas around Prespatou and Buick Creek. “It’s very spotty in terms of being able to have any access to anything," Bumstead. "This is a good thing if we can increase capacity." Telus representative Bettis said the company is spending $10 million dollars on the plan, and that the federal grant would only cover a portion of its infrastructure costs. He said says some new LTE towers will be installed, while others will be upgraded to enhance existing service. "It's been a particular challenge getting back in front of the PRRD for a proper meeting," he said of the directors' criticisms. "Universal broadband fund is a significant initiative, and we wanted to make sure that every municipality elligible was able to be engaged." Scheduling has been an issue, he said. "With that comes the fact that we're dealing with multiple municipalities across different areas, and trying to co-ordinate meetings. Most councils meet on similiar days," he said, adding he met with directors shortly after Christmas, providing background and maps on the proposed LTE upgrades. Bettis says he's reached out to arrange another meeting with the regional district. email@example.com Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
JUNEAU, Alaska — The Alaska House cancelled most Thursday hearings after a member tested positive for COVID-19, disrupting work that just recently got underway in the chamber after weeks of organizational delays. The disclosure followed the announcement Wednesday that Gov. Mike Dunleavy had tested positive for COVID-19. Dunleavy was in quarantine at his Wasilla area home with what the state’s chief medical officer said were mild symptoms. Alaska House Republicans, in a release Thursday, identified the lawmaker as Rep. Mike Cronk of Tok, a member of their caucus. The release states that Cronk is in quarantine in Juneau and experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive Wednesday. It says Cronk's staff had tested negative as of Thursday morning and that contact tracers had begun identifying close contacts of Cronk. It was not immediately clear where Cronk may have been exposed, said Ben Dietderich, a spokesperson for the House Republicans. He said two other House members who attended a recent event with Cronk outside of Juneau tested negative on Wednesday. House Speaker Louise Stutes, in an email to fellow representatives Wednesday, announced a member had tested positive. The email did not say when the test was taken or identify the lawmaker. Protocols in place for access to the Capitol require testing every five days, filling out a health questionnaire for daily access and undergoing a temperature check. Capitol access to the public has been restricted. Stutes asked that House members and staff come into the Capitol Thursday only if necessary. She said this was to allow for the “appropriate response, contact tracing, and cleaning to occur.” She said any House member or staff requiring entry into the Capitol on Thursday must be tested Thursday and provide proof of that test. Stutes said all House committees would be cancelled Thursday though the posted schedule showed the House Health and Social Services Committee would meet by teleconference. The meeting topic involved a proposed reorganization of the state health department. One week ago, on Feb. 18, the House, which has struggled to organize a clear governing majority, set up committees a month into the session. The first House committee meetings began this week. The Senate pressed on with its work Thursday though “vulnerable staff and legislators” were encouraged to stay home, said Daniel McDonald with the Senate majority press office. Neither the House nor the Senate had planned floor sessions for Thursday. The Senate earlier this session passed a resolution intended to allow for remote voting if necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House has yet to act on a similar measure. Jessica Geary, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, said by email that the contractor handling testing and screening for the Legislature is “assisting with disinfection and sanitation protocols” and working with public health officials on contact tracing. She said there also had been a case in which an aide had tested positive. Geary cited health protocols that state if the person is asymptomatic, “two follow up tests, taken 24 hours apart and producing a negative result, will allow them to be cleared by public health. That is what happened in this instance and there is no relation to the current positive case in the House." A code of conduct, adopted by the Legislative Council ahead of the session, said legislators and staff must avoid nonessential trips out of Juneau, the capital city. Geary has said it is up to individual legislators to define what is essential travel. Stutes asked House lawmakers and staff Thursday to not travel outside of Juneau "unless absolutely necessary until further notice.” The House has considerable work before it, she said. “Further, recent events highlight the likelihood of additional COVID protocol delays and the increased risk of contagion from travelling outside of the Capitol Building bubble,” Stutes said. She added the House would be working weekends “until our business, the people’s business, is concluded.” Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich said he was the only one in his office Thursday afternoon. He said he's asked members of his minority caucus to test before coming into the Capitol, even if they are still within their testing cycle, and said he has been keeping regular contact with House leaders for updates. Begich said he sent staff home when he learned of the House case. There are mask-wearing requirements in the Capitol, and dividers have been placed between members on the House and Senate floors. But lawmakers often huddle to talk, and seating around committee tables or in committee rooms does not always allow for or encourage spacing. State health officials have recommended mask wearing, keeping at least 6 feet from others and handwashing as mitigation steps. Rep. Sara Hannan, a Juneau Democrat, has taken over as chair of the Legislative Council, a committee of House and Senate leaders that handles legislative business. The council met for the first time this session on Thursday, by teleconference. Hannan, who was working from home Thursday, said she's been asked if protocols would change. She said she thinks the current situation is “a reminder that we're probably not ready to change our protocols, that COVID is actively spreading when mitigation efforts like masking, distancing and handwashing aren't being done fastidiously.” Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press
(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."
Australia said on Friday it would lift a near two-year ban on flights involving Boeing Co 737 MAX planes, becoming among the first in the Asia-Pacific region to do so. "We ... are confident that the aircraft are safe," Graeme Crawford, acting chief of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, said in a statement. The regulator has accepted comprehensive return-to-service requirements set by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the 737 MAX, he added.
(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."
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
A decision to send a B.C. teen home from school because of her outfit — a long thin-strapped, lace-trim dress with a turtleneck underneath — has sparked outrage in the community.
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.
The province reported on Tuesday that a resident of the North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, has had the B1.351 SA (South Africa) COVID-19 variant detected in their test. The individual was tested at the end of January and Public Health’s investigation is ongoing. During a press availability on Thursday, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab explained that deaths and hospitalizations are trending down but we are still seeing hospitalizations and that we should continue to stay the course with following health measures. “Especially because we have seen over the last week that we have found increased isolations of variants of concern not just linked to international travel but showing some initial start of community transmission events of them as well,” Shahab said. The B1.1.7 UK (United Kingdom) variant has also been detected in two residents in the Regina zone. These individuals were tested at the end of January. Based on the contact investigation to date, there is no link to travel at this time but public health's investigation is ongoing. There is also a presumptive case of B1.1.7 UK in one individual in the Saskatoon zone. The individual was transferred from out of province to Saskatoon for acute care. Whole genome sequencing will need to be completed to confirm the results and health's contact investigation is ongoing. The province’s own documents have indicated that Saskatchewan is on track to reduce its cases to a point where health restrictions can be lifted only if people rigidly follow public health orders and no virus variants of concern pop up. Saskatchewan Health Association CEO Scott Livingstone also addressed the caution around the variants being in the province. “While there have been lower case numbers at time in recent weeks the existence of variants of concern is very concerning. This may fuel exponential growth of cases as Dr. Shahab has said. So in the days ahead we are going to need to maintain our diligence, vigilance and moderate these trends very closely,” Livingstone said Shahab explained that COVID-19 testing was just one measure along with things such as physical distancing and mask use. “Testing is an important layer because by testing we know what our status is and if COVID positive we can, for the most part, safely isolate at home for 10 days. For many people it is a milder illness. We can also immediately notify our close contacts so they can isolate for 14 days. And that really is essential to break the chain of transmission.” According to Shahab some people in the province have delayed testing after having symptoms for a few days resulting in outbreaks at workplaces and to make sure you get tested. “You can get tested right away at the onset of symptoms now but if your test is negative and your symptoms are continuing, do get tested again just to make sure that your are COVID negative. I think testing will be an important layer in an ongoing fashion along with easier access to many varieties of testing that will really increase our ability to show a downward trend,” Shahab said. Livingstone also noted the need to follow health orders to continue this downward trend. “We are not out of the woods yet and we can’t take our foot off the gas with respect to adhering to public health orders and insuring that we keep everyone safe as we move through the vaccination program,” he explained. According to Shahab, people should remain vigilant of the most vulnerable as that group continues to be vaccinated “Older age groups are so close to getting vaccinated over the next few weeks and months and I think we should do everything we can to shield the people who are older, who are more vulnerable so that they can successfully get vaccinated. And as you have seen even from our observations, a vaccination is an important step to reduce your chance of getting seriously ill and hopefully over the next few weeks and months that will show in declining hospitalizations and declining deaths,” Shahab said. Both Shahab and Livingstone sent their condolences to the family and friends of the four individuals who passed away due to COVID-19 since Tuesday moving the number who have died since the beginning of the pandemic to 380. “This high number of deaths from COVID in the last couple of months is having a large emotional toll not just on families and friends of those loved ones who passed away but on healthcare workers who work and do everything they can to insure they save lives and protect those individuals across the province from COVID,” Livingstone said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
CALGARY — A judge has sentenced a man with a benign brain tumour, who lost consciousness while driving and killed a Calgary woman, to 27 months in prison. James Beagrie, 48, was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death after his truck hit Anjna Sharma, a mother of three, who had been on a walk during a work break in May 2017. Beagrie pleaded guilty last fall to a lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. Court heard he had been told by his doctor not to drive and, three months before killing Sharma, blacked out and got into a single-vehicle crash. "I would describe this offence in two words -- tragic and senseless," Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld said in his sentencing decision Thursday. "Mr. Beagrie ignored all of those warnings and drove anyway, and he will live with that for the rest of his life. It's exactly that type of behaviour that must be denounced and deterred so other lives can be saved." Neufeld said Beagrie deserved a sentence of 30 months, but he lowered it to 27 months because of the man's "precarious medical condition." "In my view, justice without compassion is not justice at all ... he is on borrowed time himself. A sentence of 2 1/2 years may turn out to be a life sentence," said Neufeld. The Crown had asked that Beagrie serve 2 1/2 years in prison. His defence lawyer suggested two years. The judge also ordered Beagrie be banned from driving for 7 1/2 years after his release. "If you do recover, as I hope you will, you will have served your debt to society and will deserve a chance after a period of time to return to normalcy," Neufeld said. "This ordeal does not need to define the rest of your life, just as I truly hope that it will not define the rest of the lives and happiness of the Sharma family in the years to come." On Monday, Beagrie apologized in court and promised not to drive when he get out of prison, unless it's a matter of "life and limb.'' This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. -- Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press