As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Newfoundland and Labrador announced Wednesday it was extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months. Public health officials said the change will help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey said the decision is a game changer for the province's vaccination prospects. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. Nova Scotia will get 13,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine the week of March 8. Health officials said March 3 the upcoming shipment must be used by April 2 and therefore all 13,000 doses will be administered to residents across the province aged 50 to 64 years starting March 15. The vaccine will be given out at 26 locations in Nova Scotia on a first come, first served basis. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario Ontario has given its first vaccines to people in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, some health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will include a service desk and online portal. It said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. Several regions in Ontario have moved ahead with their plans to vaccinate the general public using their own booking systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. The province has also said it will extend the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines to up to four months. Toronto began vaccinating police force members who respond to emergency calls on Monday and has also started offering vaccines to people experiencing homelessness. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will go to residents between the ages of 60 and 64, but has not elaborated yet on how it will be distributed except to say it won't be through mass immunization sites. The province has said it will follow the advice of a national panel that has recommended against using the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on people aged 65 and older. The health minister said the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot could be used in correctional facilities, but further details haven't been released. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. Like British Columbia, Manitoba has already indicated it would opt for a four-month interval between doses. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The province was also one of several Wednesday to say it would extend second doses of COVID-19 for up to four months, starting March 10. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary groups have told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson they are temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal. While the groups pledged "peaceful and democratic" opposition to the deal, such a stark warning increases the pressure on Johnson, his Irish counterpart Micheál Martin and the European Union over Brexit. Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal, known as the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, ended three decades of violence between mostly Catholic nationalists fighting for a united Ireland and mostly Protestant unionists, or loyalists, who want Northern Ireland to stay part of the United Kingdom.
Exxon Mobil Corp is suing Australia's Macquarie Energy in a Texas court to avoid paying $11.7 million for missed deliveries during last month's winter freeze in the central United States. The lawsuit, filed by Exxon's natural gas business, said the massive storm and state declarations of emergencies prevented it from fulfilling its supply commitment to Macquarie Energy, the second largest U.S. gas marketer. Exxon is asking the Texas court to rule that the massive storm, caused when an arctic air mass swept the central United States, was a natural disaster.
BRUSSELS — An inquiry into claims that the European Union’s border and coast guard agency was involved in illegally pushing back migrants has cleared Frontex of links to most of the incidents but has been unable to establish what happened in five cases, according to the official report into the allegations. The report is by a special working group set up to investigate media allegations that staff, ships or aircraft working with Frontex took part in or were near more than a dozen pushback incidents in the sea between Greece and Turkey last year. Its findings will be the focus of an extraordinary meeting of the agency’s management board on Friday. Frontex, which is responsible for patrolling the external borders of the 27-nation EU, has rejected the pushback allegations and said that its own internal inquiry could find no evidence to substantiate the claims. Greece, which is in charge of operations involving co-ordinating Frontex on its territory, has also denied reports of pushbacks by its border officers. Pushbacks are forcibly preventing people from entering a country when they might want to apply for asylum. They are contrary to refugee protection agreements, which say people shouldn’t be returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or political views. They also contravene EU law and policy. The working group cleared Frontex of any wrongdoing in 8 cases, but said in five cases “it has not been possible to completely resolve the incidents beyond any reasonable doubt,” according to part of the restricted report, dated March 1 and seen by The Associated Press. Investigators could not determine whether the people involved in the five incidents were picked up by Turkish authorities or made it safely onto Greek soil. “There is no indication of anybody injured, reported missing or having died in connection with the respective incidents,” the report said. The probe, by experts from seven European countries and the European Commission, was set up weeks after reports of collective migrant expulsions were revealed in an October joint investigation by media outlets Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi. ___ Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration Lorne Cook, The Associated Press
During the past six months of making grocery and alcohol deliveries around downtown Toronto, Taryn Ellis has racked up an estimated $500 in parking tickets while performing what she considers to be an essential service. "We try to park right in front of the building, run in, deliver, come back out," said Ellis. "Sometimes I'll be gone two minutes and I'll have a parking ticket on my car." Ellis, who started working as a full-time courier in 2019, says her job has become more difficult during the pandemic due to a substantial increase in orders and what she calls the "extreme" enforcement of bylaws by parking officers. Those challenges are greatest in dense downtown areas like Liberty Village, she explained, where there are few legal parking spaces near the high-rise buildings where she frequently makes deliveries. Her typical solution has been to park in "no parking" or loading zones, usually leaving a hand-made "out for delivery" sign on the dashboard of her yellow SUV. Finding a legal parking spot is sometimes not a feasible option, she said, especially when that would mean hauling large orders of groceries or heavy boxes of bottles across multiple blocks. "I know what I'm doing is wrong," Ellis said. "But it'll just make my job so much easier if the city puts something in [place] about this." Existing parking zones 'helpful,' but too few, driver says Toronto bylaws allow delivery and courier vehicles to stop in some areas where normal parking is prohibited. However, drivers are not allowed to leave their vehicles unattended if they go into a building. WATCH | CBC Toronto reporter Nick Boisvert speaks with delivery drivers frustrated with limited parking The city operates a limited number of delivery vehicle parking zones where they can park for up to 30 minutes. The city also runs a Courier Delivery Zone pilot project, which allows couriers to park for a certain amount of time, usually 15 or 30 minutes. "There aren't very many," said Shaniece Sylva, another courier who delivers groceries using her own private vehicle, of the downtown parking zones. "Those are very helpful." Some major logistics companies, including Purolator, are testing new delivery models, including electric cargo bikes.(CBC / Radio-Canada) Like Ellis, Sylva said couriers do not have access to legal and convenient parking in many parts of the city. "Usually, if I am parked illegally it's only because there is no other parking around or I would have to walk quite far to do the delivery," Sylva said. City exploring changes Ellis is asking the City of Toronto to consider bylaw changes that would give couriers and delivery people the right to temporarily park in otherwise illegal zones or for the city to establish additional delivery zones in high-traffic areas. She has started a petition asking the city to make those changes. The City of Ottawa offers a similar program through its "business identity card permit," which allows the drivers of delivery vehicles to park in certain restricted zones for up to 15 minutes for $130 annually. Toronto considered a similar program in 2011 with a proposed $600 annual fee, but the plan was never adopted. Staff with the city are now considering possible changes to delivery and parking regulations as part of Toronto's Freight and Goods Movement Strategy, which seeks to improve safety and efficiency given the increasing number of delivery vehicles on city streets. "The city has recognized this for years," said Mike Layton, who represents Ward 11, University-Rosedale, one of two city councillors on the Toronto Parking Authority committee. Layton said the city will have to work with delivery companies to develop new models that consider a range of factors, including commerce, traffic, road safety and the environmental impact of delivery vehicles. He listed a wider adoption of cargo bikes and the creation of distribution centres from which smaller vehicles could be deployed as possible options. In some neighbourhoods, he said dedicated delivery parking zones could also make sense. "This past 12 months has just given us a cause to put more of our energies into trying to resolve it sooner rather than later," Layton added.
In 2017, Kate Cochlan moved her husband, Trevor Nash, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, into the same long-term care facility where both of her parents were living. Less than a year later, she learned that all of its staff had been let go. It was May 2018, and the subcontractor that operated Lakeshore Care Centre in Coquitlam was retiring. It would be up to a new operator to hire staff, and they weren’t obligated to rehire the unionized current employees. The 110 care aides at Lakeshore had unionized for a second time in April 2018, just weeks before they were informed of their forthcoming layoff. Following deregulation of the long-term care sector under the BC Liberal government in 2001 and 2002, Lakeshore’s operator had withdrawn from the provincial collective agreement that initially covered its staff and rehired them using a subcontractor at lower wages. The practice, known as contract-flipping, is used by for-profit care providers to cut costs. Cochlan could see how difficult the unionization fight had been, and she was thrilled workers would be able to negotiate sick pay so they didn’t work while ill, and better hours and benefits that would keep staff turnover low. Then, she learned of the staff layoff via a notice pinned to a bulletin board in the care facility’s common area. “We were pretty appalled,” she said. The staff “are the people who know our people.” For families, keeping the same staff was a matter of good care and continuity for their loved ones. And so the Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents Lakeshore staff as well as the vast majority of care staff in B.C., suggested they establish a family council to increase pressure on the operator. Family councils, formed by family members of residents in care, work to advocate for the needs of residents and their family caregivers to facility operators and provide peer support for people navigating complex care policies for the first time. They are not mandatory in B.C. and don’t exist in every long-term care facility. Those that do exist vary in degree of independence from the facilities themselves. The Hospital Employees’ Union brought over Kim Slater, who had set up family councils on Vancouver Island, to teach the families and caregivers of residents at Lakeshore Care Centre how to do the same. With Slater’s help, Cochlan built an independent family council from the ground up with about a dozen family members representing a total of 56 residents in the facility. They successfully lobbied the new subcontractor to keep the current staff on the same terms. The relationship between Lakeshore Care Centre’s family council and its management was never adversarial, Cochlan said. Eventually the family council was allotted space on-site to meet every other month, and the director of care often attended the first few minutes of the meeting to answer questions from caregivers. “The fact is,” Cochlan says, “a family or friend who sees how things are and can speak up is a big help.” Family councils provide a way for family and caregivers to advocate for the interests of residents to staff on matters ranging from small things like laundry frequency to ensuring designated care hours are fulfilled for each resident. They can also be an invaluable tool to ensure that caregivers are supported. But setting up a council isn’t always as easy as it was for Cochlan and her colleagues. Family councils are not even mentioned in regulation and legislation surrounding long-term care. A care home operator is under no obligation to listen to or engage with an independent family council that is established, let alone provide space or inform new residents’ families they can join. Slater, who chairs the Vancouver Island Association of Family Councils, which represents councils for facilities in 13 Island Health municipalities, said families have been raising the alarm for years on issues of staffing and care standards in long-term care facilities. Letters to the province penned by members shared with The Tyee date back to 2015, but Slater and Cochlan say they have never been answered. Instead, it was the tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic that finally prompted the province to begin addressing staff shortages, inadequate sick leave, and part-time scheduling norms that pushed many staffers to work in multiple facilities to make ends meet. “Why wouldn’t you talk to the very people in care, the canaries in the coal mine?” asked Slater, whose mother passed away in a Vancouver Island long-term care facility a few years ago. “We’d be a really valuable asset for the Ministry of Health to consult with… but that hasn’t been happening.” Nola Galloway worked to establish a family council in 2010 at a Vancouver Island care facility during a labour dispute similar to the one Cochlan witnessed at Lakeshore in Coquitlam. But she said her family faced hostility from the facility. They were forced to meet off-site and families worried about retaliation from management for bringing up concerns or suggestions. The Tyee is not naming the facility because it is not able to independently verify some facts of the situation. “If one thing surfaces, it’s always the fear of retaliation,” said Galloway, whose father was a resident for seven years. “It’s systemic, it’s rife through all the facilities.” Galloway had noticed care aides helping serve lunch or working in the kitchen when she visited, and through a lengthy reporting process to the Vancouver Island Health Authority, learned many of these hours had been misreported as direct care hours. Their perseverance in gathering and sharing observations resulted in finding that more than 30,000 hours of care — totalling $500,000 in care aide wages — had been inaccurately reported by the facility over four years, she said. The misreporting may have been unintentional, Galloway said, but the revelation nonetheless opened her eyes to the importance of family being able to advocate for their loved ones. And as a result, 20 more daily care hours shared among all residents were mandated at the facility by Vancouver Island Health Authority. “A lot of families give up because they’re beaten down,” said Galloway. “Where they will see things happening is when we have stronger family councils.” But family councils are nothing if they are not recognized and independent, says Delores Broten. At the Courtenay facility where her husband used to live, Broten worked to create an independent family council. As soon as she did, management demanded to attend meetings. When the council asserted meetings were private and for family, management created their own internal family council, and refused to allow notices to be posted about the independent group. Getting in touch with patients’ family members in order to form family councils can be a challenge because management often won’t share contact information or include family council information in their own communications. Management hostility, Broten said, only makes it worse. The pandemic has made it even harder for families to connect with other caregivers, Cochlan said. Cochlan lost both her parents within a few months of each other just before the pandemic. Her husband passed away due to COVID-19 complications in late December during an outbreak. “It was brutal, just brutal,” Cochlan said, describing what it was like to lose her husband without being able to visit for weeks during the outbreak. Peer support from fellow family members helped her get through those difficult nine months. “You never feel like you’ve done enough,” she said. “Strong family councils would go a long way to supporting care.” Last November, B.C.’s independent Seniors’ Advocate Isobel Mackenzie recommended the Health Ministry and her office create a provincial association of long-term care and assisted living councils in response to the emotional and physical devastation that visitation limits wrought on residents and their loved ones. Family members should be included as stakeholders alongside staff and operators, she argued in her report. “These councils are unique to each care home and have no collective voice at the health authority or provincial level,” reads Mackenzie’s report. An association “would bring to the table the voice of residents and their family members in equal measure with those who own and operate care homes and the staff who work there.” The Health Ministry said at the time Mackenzie’s recommendations would be considered in future planning, but it has not committed to implementing her suggestion for family councils. In addition, the four family members The Tyee spoke with all agreed that the province should require facilities to provide space and share contact information, as well as recognize family councils and be accountable to their feedback. The province should also be legally mandated to consult with family councils, who have been raising important issues for years, Galloway and Slater said. “Long-term care seems to lurch from one crisis to another,” said Slater. “We’ve got to do better than this.” Ensuring operators and government are obligated to consult and be accountable to family would value the essential care family provides, Galloway added. “The whole mindset has to change, and it’s going to get our voice at the table alongside ministry and health authorities,” said Galloway. “Where’s the family voice? We need to be at that table.” Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
At least 19 Myanmar police have crossed into India to escape taking orders from a military junta that is trying to suppress protests against last month's coup, an Indian police official said on Thursday, adding that more were expected. The men have crossed into Champhai and Serchhip, two districts in the northeastern state of Mizoram that share a porous border with Myanmar, the official said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. There have been several instances recounted on social media of police joining the civil disobedience movement and protests against the junta, with some arrested, but this is the first reported case of police fleeing Myanmar.
NEW YORK — Paramount+ debuts Thursday as the latest — and last — streaming option from a major media company, this time from ViacomCBS. It's betting that consumers are willing to add yet another paid streaming service in an increasingly crowded field. Its backers hope a smorgasbord of offerings — live sports and news, reboots of properties like “Frasier" and “Rugrats," original shows like “Star Trek: Discovery" and the ViacomCBS library — will entice viewers. But its relatively late entrance to a competitive landscape and a $4 price increase compared to its predecessor, CBS All Access, could make it a challenging sell. “Paramount+ has a mountain of challenges ahead of it," said Tim Hanlon, CEO of Vertere Group, playing off the Paramount+ tagline, “A mountain of entertainment." (The venerable Paramount logo features — you guessed it — a mountain, and the streamer's recent ad campaign featured a number of characters from its shows climbing a snowy peak.) Over the last year and a half more and more streaming services have debuted to challenge the reigning triumvirate of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Disney+ kicked things off in late 2019, followed by WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Discovery+. In a way, ViacomCBS is a pioneer; CBS, then a separate company, debuted CBS All Access in 2014. The new service effectively rebrands All Access and adds other Viacom Properties channels including Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon. But Paramount+ could have a brand awareness problem, Hanlon said. Most people associate the name Paramount with the mountainous title card that appears before movies. “Most consumers have very little understanding that Viacom, Paramount and CBS have the same parent, so the marketing team has a big job in front of it," he said. Second, the pricing may leave some scratching their heads. The ad-free tier launching Thursday is $10 a month. That's $4 more than CBS All Access, although the new service will offer a lot more material, including live news and sports. A $5 monthly ad-supported version will launch in June, but it won't include the live local CBS stations that CBS All Access offered. Showtime and BET+, both owned by ViacomCBS, will remain separate subscription services. Still, the service also has some potential advantages over others. CBS All Access, Showtime and BET+ now have nearly 30 million subscribers, some of who will shift to Paramount+. ViacomCBS projects that those services will reach 65 million subscribers by 2024, with most of the growth coming from Paramount+. ViacomCBS plans to increase its investment in streaming, from $1 billion a year to at least $5 billion annually by 2024. It will introduce 36 original shows in 2021, including a spinoff of “60 Minutes" called “60 Minutes+," a documentary series about the making of “The Godfather," a reboot of MTV's “The Real World" that reunites the original New York City cast from 30 years ago, and series based on movies including “Fatal Attraction" and “Flashdance." “Viacom really has all assets they need to have a thriving business,” said Brian Wieser, GroupM global president of business intelligence. “A meaningful investment in original programming attracts people to the platform. And a deep library causes people to stay. Put those two together and you could have a viable successful service.” But they may not be taking bold enough steps to stand out, said Colin Gillis, director of research at Chatham Road Partners. ViacomCBS said some of the studio’s films, including “Mission: Impossible 7” and “A Quiet Place Part II,” will go to its fledgling streaming service, Paramount+, after 45 days in theatres. But that's not as bold a step as HBO Max has done, releasing 17 of their films on HBO Max the same day they're released in theatres. “That type of strategy, plus being late to the market, looks a lot like a ‘me too’ move'," Gillis said. “If they want to act like a second tier streaming service, they're doing a fantastic job." Mae Anderson, The Associated Press
When the hockey season resumes, 13-year-old Matéo Pérusse-Shortte will be taking a shot at a long-standing problem in his sport: racism. The Montreal teen and his mother Moashella Shortte are starting a hockey diversity group in Quebec to make the sport more inclusive by allowing players of colour to share their experiences. Pérusse-Shortte, a right winger, was only eight when he first had to confront racism head-on. As he pursued his hobby into his teens, the discrimination continued. Matéo Pérusse-Shortte first experienced racism while playing hockey at the age of eight.(Kwabena Oduro/CBC) "We were in the semi-finals and I scored the tying goal. I got to celebrate in the stands and there was a family flipping me off and calling me the N-word," he said. "Coaches would look at me differently, maybe [give me] less ice time … I felt it, the ignorance of coaches." A self-described hockey mom, Shortte says being one of the only parents of colour in those stands was an additional barrier to speaking about the prejudice her son faced. Teen hockey player Matéo Pérusse-Shortte says a family in the stands once called him the N-word. He first confronted racism head-on when he was eight years old. (Submitted by Moashella Shortte) "If I start telling people, 'Hey, you know, this happened to my son,' I know exactly what's going to happen: those people are going to talk to me less and less," she said. "People are not comfortable to talk about race, and Black people are not comfortable to put themselves out there because we know that we will be isolated." Plans for the group are still in development, but the first online session is scheduled for September and will be open to players, parents and coaches. "I would love to see coaches seeking out information on how they can support their Black players, how they can learn to identify when racism is taking place and what to do about it," said Shortte. Once the group is launched, Pérusse-Shortte says he hopes to have a greater sense of belonging. "I hope to feel more comfortable in my sport after all of this." (CBC) For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
A Downtown Eastside advocate says it’s unacceptable that Vancouver Coastal Health failed to inform the public about a dysentery outbreak that has sickened 24 people and sent 16 of those patients to hospital. Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside resident and advocate, says she first learned about the outbreak of shigellosis from a doctor who began messaging her on Twitter in the early morning hours Friday. The doctor was concerned: at that point, 11 patients with shigellosis had been hospitalized, all from the Downtown Eastside. The shigella bacteria causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps and some people can become severely ill and need treatment with antibiotics to recover. Shigella is a major cause of dysentery. The doctor who messaged Ward was worried that information about the outbreak wasn’t getting out. “He said, ‘Can we talk tomorrow?’ And I said, ‘Of course.’ He got ahold of me the next day and said he was scared,” Ward said.* What the doctor was worried about, according to Ward, was that information about the outbreak had not yet been made public. Ward has a contract to work with the City of Vancouver on drug policy and often advocates for Downtown Eastside issues. Ward said she took her concerns to the health authority, then early on Saturday morning, to the City of Vancouver. “VCH wouldn’t even answer me, so I went to the city: I emailed the mayor, council and senior managers.” On Saturday, Vancouver Coastal Health sent a notice about the outbreak to organizations that operate housing and shelters in the Downtown Eastside. Doctors were told on Friday, according to the health authority. The notice outlined causes, symptoms and measures organizations and individuals could take to prevent the spread. But Ward said VCH has still not communicated anything to the wider public, meaning some people may not know to seek medical help if they have symptoms or take extra precautions to protect themselves. Shigella is a bacteria present in feces that can spread when people don’t have access to proper hand washing options, safe food preparation or clean bathrooms. “People here are not in the best of health, but if they catch these symptoms early and get tested, get diagnosed and they get prescribed a round of antibiotics, it could clear up in three or four days,” Ward said. “If they don’t get to it quickly, it will spread. They will get sicker. It could turn into a very serious blood infection.” Carmen Lansdowne, the executive director for First United, confirmed her organization received a notice about the outbreak from Vancouver Coastal Health on Saturday. She said the facilities First United operates, including a shelter and several residential buildings, have not been affected by the outbreak. Lansdowne said she sent the notice to shelter staff and asked them to remind residents to wash their hands thoroughly. While VCH initially reported “over 10” people had been hospitalized, those numbers are now at 24 total cases and 16 hospitalizations, according to a staff update Lansdowne shared with The Tyee. In response to questions from The Tyee, Vancouver Coastal Health communications staff said in an email that the health authority had been getting reports of isolated cases of shigellosis in the Downtown Eastside for the past few weeks. Ward says the first case was diagnosed at St. Paul’s Hospital on Jan. 31. In its statement, VCH said it became aware of a cluster of shigellosis among people hospitalized at St. Paul’s Hospital, and “immediately began investigating the cases in order to determine the source of transmission, to identify further cases, and to provide information to residents and housing providers in the community about how to limit the spread of the bacteria.” Local doctors were alerted on Friday, and that alert was posted to Vancouver Coastal Health’s website on Saturday, according to the health authority. The alert says doctors should consider that shigellosis may be the cause of gastroenteritis if patients are “homeless, under-housed, or part of the social network of the Downtown Eastside.” Ward said many Downtown Eastside residents have very low incomes and are in poor health, and the health authority needs to do a better job of giving residents health information directly. “This is not a palliative care ward, this neighbourhood, and it’s not your laboratory either,” Ward said. People who live in the Downtown Eastside have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effect of pandemic restrictions. Drug poisoning deaths and homelessness have both increased in the neighbourhood, and many residents struggle to access bathrooms and places to wash their hands with soap. Those challenges are not limited to people who are homeless: many residents live in single-room occupancy hotels with shared bathrooms. The Tyee previously reported on complaints that one SRO building, the Gastown Hotel, was not being cleaned properly and soap was not available in washrooms. A tenant who lives in the Hazelwood Hotel, where at least 20 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, also said cleanliness could be improved in her building. According to information Vancouver Coastal Health sent to Downtown Eastside housing providers this week, the health authority has identified several COVID-19 “trends” increasing the risk of transmission. Those include building staff smoking with clients or each other; residents and peer workers cleaning with limited training and personal protective equipment; staff double-masking but putting less effective cloth masks on the bottom; inadequate PPE and unsafe PPE removal; staff eating and travelling together; and poor ventilation. Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
The UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland plan to fast-track modified COVID-19 vaccines so they can tackle new variants more swiftly. View on euronews
Britain and the European Union are on course to agree a deal on regulatory cooperation in financial services this month, but the UK's actions in Northern Ireland makes it harder to build trust, the bloc's financial services chief said on Thursday. "We are on track," Mairead McGuinness told a Politico event. The British government unilaterally extended a grace period for checks on food imports to Northern Ireland, a move Brussels said violated terms of Britain's divorce deal.
Chrystia Freeland seemed only too happy on Wednesday to mention some recent grumbling about the Liberal government's pandemic spending over last year. For most of 2020, the government was faced with questions about whether it was delivering financial supports fast enough and broadly enough. Now, some are wondering aloud whether the government spent too much. "I've been surprised to read some commentary suggesting that Canadians may be doing too well for their own good," the finance minister said. "Some have pointed to rising household disposable income in the first nine months of last year as evidence that our government acted too swiftly and too effectively to support Canadians." It will not surprise you to learn that Freeland disagrees with that take. And if Freeland is eager to note that criticism, surely it's because she and the government know how difficult it might be for any of their political opponents to campaign against any of the specific measures the Liberals took to support Canadian households over the past 12 months. But it remains to be seen how all that spending — and the historic deficit that resulted from it — will frame the political debate going forward. On Monday, Statistics Canada released estimates that suggest Canadian households ended up with more disposable income through the third quarter of 2020 because of the unprecedented sums the federal government transferred to individuals through various support programs. "Although households did experience notable declines both in wages and salaries and in self-employment income in the second quarter, the value of COVID-19 support measures provided by governments more than compensated for those losses," StatsCan said. The gains were highest in the second quarter and proportionally larger for those with the lowest amount of disposable income in 2019. Before April 2020 and June 2020, StatsCan estimates, the households that had less than $26,500 in disposable income for 2019 saw their disposable income increase by 33.6 per cent. For those households with more than $64,900 in disposable income in 2019, the increase in disposable income in the second quarter of 2020 is estimated at 7.1 per cent. A person walks through an almost deserted Yorkdale Shopping Centre as Toronto enters the first day of a renewed coronavirus lockdown on Nov. 23, 2020.(Carlos Osorio/Reuters) As of October 3, 2020, the federal government had paid out $81.6 billion through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provided $2,000 per month to those who lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. Beyond the CERB, the federal government also moved forward with a number of other supports, including a new student benefit (estimated to cost $3 billion) and a series of measures aimed at "vulnerable Canadians" (at an estimated cost of $14.9 billion). More analysis is needed to fully understand the distribution and impact of government spending last year, but the basic finding — that support exceeded income losses — has been put forward before. Tammy Schirle, a professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, notes that some of those in the bottom quintile would not have been making money before the pandemic began — and so wouldn't have lost any income — but they still would have benefited from increases in the Canada Child Benefit and the GST credit, which could have helped with extra expenses. An 'acceptable compromise' Research conducted by Schirle and three co-authors also estimated that nearly half of the job losses that occurred between February and April 2020 were suffered by those in the lowest quarter of earners. "Generally, there was criticism at the time that some workers with the lowest earnings would have received more income than was lost," Schirle said in an email this week, referring to the CERB. "However, in the context that Canadians needed something rolled out quickly, and our current infrastructure for [employment insurance] would not suffice, this was an acceptable compromise in my view." In a global emergency, too much help is likely better than too little. But the federal government may have faced a choice between moving fast and moving with precision — between making sure that people who would need money got it quickly and making sure that people only got as much money as they absolutely needed. Social policy in a hurry "CERB payments were flat amounts because the government did not have the capacity [in information and technology] to income-test the benefit," said Jennifer Robson, a professor of political management at Carleton who has been consulted by the government on EI reform (full disclosure: Robson is a friend). "The choice was 'automatic' or 'income-tested.' But until and unless we build serious back-of-house capacity in our social programs, you can't have both for a crisis of this scale." Robson also suggested that if the CERB did end up overcompensating people, the question could be flipped around to ask whether that proves too many people in this country were being paid unreasonably low wages in the first place. The Liberal government has since transitioned away from the CERB and StatsCan's estimates show that the disposable income increases dropped off significantly in the third quarter. John Lester, a fellow at the University of Calgary's school of public policy and a former analyst at the Department of Finance, argued in December that the government should have been quicker to deal with the issue of "overcompensation." The threat of inflation In her fall economic statement, Freeland suggested that increased disposable income and savings could act as "preloaded stimulus" to spur economic growth once the Canadian economy reopens. Mikal Skuterud, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo, said the risk is that excessive stimulus could trigger inflation, though he argues that the actual severity of that risk is a "million-dollar question that nobody knows the answer to." For now, the political criticism is muted. The Conservative Party has criticized the size of the deficit and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has noted that the Trudeau government spent more per capita than comparable countries. The Conservatives also have argued that the government should have moved faster to deliver a wage subsidy and have criticized the fact that some large, profitable companies were able to access the wage subsidy. But they do not seem eager to make the case that Canadians got more money than they deserved or truly needed — presumably because they know how well that would go over with those Canadians who received federal support. Ahead of a federal budget — and possibly a federal election — the larger question is how the spectre of a significant deficit will affect both fiscal policy and the political debate going forward. Canadians might be thankful for all the support that the federal government has provided, but will they come out of this pandemic with new worries about government debt? And if so, are Conservatives interested in trying to connect with that anxiety to build support for a much more fiscally restrained approach?
A national panel of vaccine experts recommended Wednesday that provinces extend the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to quickly inoculate more people, as the prime minister expressed optimism that vaccination timelines could be sped up. In laying out its new guidelines, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said extending the dose interval to four months would create opportunities to protect the entire adult population against the virus within a short time frame. As many as 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could receive a single dose by the end of June simply with the expected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the panel said. Second doses would begin to be administered in July as more shipments arrive, the panel said, noting that 55 million doses are expected to be delivered in the third quarter of the year. In comparison, the federal government previously said 38 per cent of people would receive two doses by the end of June. The addition of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the country's supply could mean almost all Canadians would get their first shot in that time frame, but Ottawa has not yet said how many doses of that vaccine will be delivered in the spring and how many in the summer. "The vaccine effectiveness of the first dose will be monitored closely and the decision to delay the second dose will be continuously assessed based on surveillance and effectiveness data and post-implementation study designs," the panel wrote. "Effectiveness against variants of concern will also be monitored closely, and recommendations may need to be revised," it said, adding there is currently no evidence that a longer interval will affect the emergence of the variants. The updated guidance applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada. The committee's recommendation came hours after Newfoundland and Labrador said it will extend the interval between the first and second doses to four months, and days after health officials in British Columbia announced they were doing so. Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec also said Wednesday they will delay second doses. Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said any change in public health guidance regarding the timing of the two doses could affect the speed of Canada's vaccine rollout, as could the approval of more shots. The federal government's plan to have doses administered to all Canadians who want one by the end of September didn't factor in the arrival of new vaccines such as the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, Trudeau said. And despite delays in the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last month, Canada is now "fully back on track and even ahead of schedule" when it comes to its supply of the various shots, he said, noting the country should receive more than the six million doses of COVID-19 vaccines it initially expected to get by the end of March. "The projections we've had for many, many months certainly hold, but we're also very optimistic that they're going to be able to be moved forward if, indeed, all the vaccines that we've contracted for are able to be manufactured and shipped in the right ways," the prime minister said. The first 500,000 doses of the recently approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Canada on Wednesday, though confusion persists over who should get them. The vaccine, manufactured at the Serum Institute of India, is the third COVID-19 shot approved for use in Canada. Health Canada last week authorized its use for all adult Canadians but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended Tuesday that it not be administered to people 65 years of age or older. The committee said there is limited data from clinical trials about how effective the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is for seniors and recommends that they be given priority for the two other vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — already greenlighted for use in Canada. Both Health Canada and the committee stress no safety concerns have arisen in the clinical studies or among the millions of seniors who have received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in other countries. Some provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, plan to follow the advisory committee's advice and target the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at younger people working in front-line essential services or in high-risk settings like prisons. On Wednesday, the Ontario government said it will give the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot to residents aged 60 to 64. The drug will not be doled out through mass immunization clinics but rather through a "different pathway," Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said. Details of the program were not released. Manitoba said it plans to target those between the ages of 50 and 64 who have high-risk underlying conditions. The province said it expects to receive its first shipment of the AstraZeneca shot by mid-month. Other provinces, including Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, are still mulling over the issue. Meanwhile, Quebec said it would move more regions into the less restrictive orange level of its pandemic system starting next Monday. But while residents in Quebec City, Chaudiere-Appalaches, Mauricie, Estrie and Centre-du-Quebec will see measures loosen, those in the Montreal area will remain under the more stringent rules of the province's red level. New guidelines for shipping and storing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were also released Wednesday, with Health Canada saying the drug can be transported and kept at standard freezer temperatures for up to two weeks. The previous storage instructions required that the vaccine be kept in ultralow temperatures and thawed just before use, which restricted its distribution to areas equipped with the necessary specialty freezers. The change should allow for wider distribution of the vaccines. Ottawa also confirmed Wednesday it is extending three federal support programs meant to lessen the economic impact of COVID-19 on residents and business owners until June. The federal wage subsidy, rent support and lockdown programs will carry on with the same level of aid, the government said. In addition to Wednesday's shipment of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses, Canada is also scheduled to receive 444,600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week. With Oxford-AstraZeneca added to Canada's vaccine arsenal, the country is on track to receive a total of 6.5 million vaccine doses by the end of this month — half a million more than originally expected. -- With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. There are 875,559 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 875,559 confirmed cases (29,930 active, 823,524 resolved, 22,105 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,812 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 78.75 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,365 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,909. There were 60 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 299 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 43. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.16 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,676,396 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 997 confirmed cases (153 active, 838 resolved, six deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 29.3 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 35 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 199,347 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 137 confirmed cases (22 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 13.78 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 20 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 107,377 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,646 confirmed cases (30 active, 1,551 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 3.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 343,260 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,438 confirmed cases (38 active, 1,372 resolved, 28 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 238,399 tests completed. _ Quebec: 289,670 confirmed cases (7,336 active, 271,908 resolved, 10,426 deaths). There were 729 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 85.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,198 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 743. There were 19 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 81 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 303,763 confirmed cases (10,397 active, 286,352 resolved, 7,014 deaths). There were 958 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 70.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,590 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,084. There were 17 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 121 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,964,481 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,000 confirmed cases (1,146 active, 29,953 resolved, 901 deaths). There were 50 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 83.09 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 413 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 59. There were three new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.15 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 535,163 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,059 confirmed cases (1,431 active, 27,239 resolved, 389 deaths). There were 121 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 121.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,079 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 154. There were two new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33 per 100,000 people. There have been 579,326 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,454 confirmed cases (4,649 active, 127,903 resolved, 1,902 deaths). There were 402 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 105.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,421 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 346. There were 12 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 36 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,414,903 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 81,909 confirmed cases (4,718 active, 75,819 resolved, 1,372 deaths). There were 542 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 91.65 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,559 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 508. There were seven new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 34 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,941,589 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Wednesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,183 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (two active, 40 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,664 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 359 confirmed cases (eight active, 350 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 20.33 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of eight new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,718 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Hudson's Bay Co. hopes to transform its website into Canada’s next online shopping marketplace in a bid to position itself as a premium, home-grown alternative to e-commerce heavy hitters like Amazon. The company will open its website to third-party sellers starting later this month, adding hundreds of new brands and thousands of items to its online assortment of products at a time when pandemic restrictions have curtailed in-person shopping. The new site will include electronics and sporting goods, pushing the retailer beyond tried-and-true categories like clothing and home decor as it seeks to attract and retain customers who increasingly demand a strong online presence. The company has to find the right balance between maintaining its premium brand and expanding its inventory, executives said in an interview. "Although it will very much be a vast assortment, it will feel curated," said Adam Powell, senior vice-president of omni customer experience. "We're not going to approach it in the same way that Amazon our Walmart would, which is 'absolutely everything goes' … with little consideration other than having as many products as possible." Shoppers will have access to more products, some of which will be sold and shipped directly by Hudson’s Bay -- and can be returned in store -- while others will be sold and shipped by third-party sellers that also manage returns for those items. The Hudson’s Bay marketplace, hosted on the Mirakl software-as-a-service platform, comes a little over a year after the iconic company was taken private. Since then, many of its department stores have been closed for months on end amid COVID-19 restrictions, hundreds of workers have been laid off and competition online has soared as consumers take to internet shopping in record numbers. Although the company’s digital strategy was in place before the pandemic – the retailer relaunched its website last April using a new e-commerce platform from Salesforce – it has taken on more urgency amid lockdowns. "This was the most logical way to really expand our digital first strategy at a supercharged rate," Iain Nairn, said president and CEO of Hudson's Bay. "It opens up thebay.com for one-stop shopping." Even post-pandemic, retail watchers say consumers will continue to shop more online and look for “omni-channel” options such as picking up online purchases at stores, while in-store shopping will focus more on interacting with products. “It’s actually creating the store to be more exciting and have more experiences,” Nairn said. “There may not be as much absolute product but there will be more options for them to look at" before they purchase online. The idea is to use stores as more of a showroom for products, with a wider selection available online and shipped directly to customers, Powell said. “What we want to do is extend the aisle for in-store shoppers,” he said. “We want our in-store customers to know that when they're shopping in our stores, they have access to a much broader catalogue than what resides within those four walls.” Like the new HBC marketplace, some other online retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon also allow third-party sellers. Yet HBC is banking on the department store’s unique position as a Canadian retailer with a reputation for higher-end goods to attract customers. The company has about 225 million website visits a year and 5.6 million loyalty rewards members, numbers HBC expects will attract sellers interested in reaching Canadian shoppers. Hudson's Bay marketplace will feature large multinational third-party sellers of brand-name goods as well as smaller vendors, artisans and entrepreneurs, the company said. The retailer even issued a call out for "cool local and Canadian brands" with direct-to-consumer shipping capabilities and inventory on hand, providing a national platform for handmade products that might normally be sold on websites like Etsy, Facebook marketplace or Kijiji. “It will be a variety of different sellers that will run the gamut from big strategic partners that are larger well-known organizations to smaller or independent businesses,” Powell said. “It gives us a great opportunity to showcase local products and local retailers from the communities. The focus will be on merchandise customers are already searching for, including technology, sports equipment, pet products, food and drink and health and wellness, Powell said. “We can tell by our search results that these types of categories are products that our customers are already looking,” he said. “If Nintendo launches a new console, we see that coming up in our search results, so it won’t feel foreign to a customer to stumble upon these new categories that we're going to be introducing. "It'll be a real natural extension from our existing business, and it'll still be very much in keeping with the types of areas and quality that we want to portray with our customers." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
Starting Thursday, clients and staff at Ottawa's six homeless shelters will receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Shelters were initially part of the second phase of the city's vaccine rollout plan, but according to city officials, the Ontario government is looking to target facilities that have been subject to serious outbreaks. "COVID-19 has had a significant impact on Ottawa's shelter system," said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches during a virtual media briefing Wednesday. Etches confirmed that all of the city's shelters have experienced an outbreak and that "one-quarter of the clients, about 220 people, having tested positive for the virus since mid-January." There are about 860 clients currently in the city's shelter system. People will be screened and will need to consult with a health-care provider before getting vaccinated. "With vaccination, it will mean that a lot fewer people will be able to get COVID and therefore a lot fewer people will be able to transmit COVID," said Wendy Muckle, CEO of Ottawa Inner City Health, who's also advocated for Ottawa's homeless to be vaccinated. Shelters can increase capacity Muckle said it's likely not everyone will be vaccinated in the first round, so there will still be some infection and transmission "but it will be on a much smaller scale" that before. She said it's likely that shelters will slowly be able to increase their capacities and support programs that were put on hold can resume. Ottawa Inner City Health will also be working on a flexible schedule with shelters to make sure everyone who's homeless can get the shot, Muckle said. The organization is aiming to have all first doses done over the next two weeks. Second doses will be given two weeks after that. Those not staying at a shelter are still eligible to be vaccinated through outreach centres.
Federal Liberal government staffers were worried that a donation of medical-grade masks for Korean War veterans in Canada would send the wrong message as the country grappled with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the outset of the pandemic. The Republic of Korea, commonly known as South Korea, shipped more than one million face masks to veterans around the world last May as a "token of appreciation" for those who fought in the 1950-53 conflict on the Korean peninsula. Some 35,000 KF94 masks, the Korean equivalent of the gold standard N95 respirator, were shipped to Canada to be distributed to the 5,900 surviving veterans of the war. The South Korean government said it wanted to help these elderly Canadian Armed Forces veterans — their average age is 88 years old — at a time when masks were scarce in Canada and the novel coronavirus was claiming the lives of hundreds of seniors in Canada's long-term care homes. "We know how difficult it is to obtain this personal protective gear in Canada at this moment," Ambassador Yun Je Lee, the consul general of the Republic of Korea in Montreal, told CBC News at the time. "This can never match the warm hands you extended to us, but we hope this will help you overcome the current crisis." Behind the scenes, however, federal political staffers worried that helping to facilitate the donation might lead to awkward comparisons with the plight of Canadian health care personnel struggling to acquire PPE to protect themselves at work. The federal government's PPE procurement efforts at the time were beset by problems with shaky supply chains in China and a protectionist push in the U.S. to reduce shipments to other countries. Jake McDonald holds up a package of masks sent to him by the Republic of Korea. McDonald served in the Korean War at the age of 17.(Dave Laughlin/CBC) According to documents tabled at the House of Commons health committee last week, the government staffers urged Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) to downplay the South Korean announcement and relegate news of the donation to a social media post to avoid media inquiries. One staffer floated the idea of redeploying the masks to meet other needs. While procurement agents previously had ignored warnings about shortages in the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) and rebuffed an offer from U.S. industrial giant Honeywell to supply Canada with N95 masks, by May it was abundantly clear that the country did not have enough PPE on hand for doctors and nurses working on the front lines. Supplies were stretched so thin that some health care workers were sanitizing their masks in microwaves. "I worry about the optics around the government of Canada facilitating the distribution of N95s in settings where they are not recommended for use when doctors are pulling all the stops to stretch the existing supply that they have," wrote Sabrina Kim, then the issues advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a May 20 email. "I submit for your consideration that some low key social media expressing Canada's thanks (rather than a news release) would invite fewer questions about N95 mask distribution, testing & healthcare priorities. Just my 0.02$!" she added. Kathleen Davis, a senior foreign policy adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, agreed with Kim that a plan to issue a news release thanking the South Korean government should be scrapped to avoid generating what she called "unnecessary controversy." "Agree with this, for what it's worth," she wrote. Andrew MacKendrick, a communications planning staffer in the Prime Minister's Office, asked if Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) raised any red flags about this donation to a relatively small subset of the Canadian population at a time when there were supply demands elsewhere. "Are there any issues with Health/PHAC that these donations are going to specific places vs. to PHAC and then area of greatest need?" Andrew MacKendrick, a communications staffer in the Prime Minister's Office, asked John Embury, the director of communications to Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay. Travis Gordon, a senior policy adviser in Health Minister Patty Hajdu's office, said the federal government couldn't easily intercept the donation to make up for shortfalls elsewhere. "Given that it's a donation, I suppose we can't redirect them to where they are sorely needed (hospitals)," Gordon wrote. "We will just try to avoid this spinning into a story about how some vets in some LTC homes will get N95s while doctors in hospital are limited to one per day," he added. "Please let us know if any interesting media Qs come your way on mask grade/distribution." In total, 35,000 face masks were sent out in bags like this one to Korean War veterans across Canada.(Eddy Kennedy/CBC) John Brassard, the Conservative critic for veterans affairs, said it's "egregious" that the government was even considering "confiscating" masks destined for elderly war veterans. "It tells me just how miserably unprepared the Canadian government was in terms of PPE and providing PPE to front line health care workers, including doctors," Brassard told CBC News. "It was a gift. A gift from the South Korean government to elderly Canadian war veterans who served in the Korean conflict. The fact they were even thinking about confiscating this gift, it's disturbing." After pushback from his colleagues, Embury ultimately dropped plans to release a statement to the media celebrating the donation and the diplomatic gesture. "No problem, we will pull the plug," he wrote on May 20. He also said he would ask the South Korean embassy to hold off on publicizing the donation until after the prime minister's scheduled press conference on May 21 so that Trudeau could avoid questions from the media. "Asked them to delay releasing their NR until after the PM's news conference, but no guarantee on that," he said. "Great thanks," Kim said in response. On May 21, the prime minister announced support for off-reserve Indigenous communities in the morning. A ceremony commemorating the face mask donation was later held at the South Korean embassy in Ottawa. MacAulay did not attend that ceremony but the department's deputy minister, Walt Natynczyk, was on hand. "They were clearly embarrassed by the PPE situation. They were trying to tamp down this news release, and hold off. They didn't want the prime minister to be asked about it because they didn't want him to be embarrassed," Brassard said. Reached by phone, Embury said VAC had planned to send out a news release but the South Korean embassy "jumped out ahead of us" and released one of its own, "and we just rolled with the punches." He said a press release was "only one possible channel" to acknowledge the donation, and MacAulay later had a private Zoom call with the South Korean ambassador to thank him for the donation. "We didn't have any reluctance to publicize the gift of masks," Embury said. The donation ultimately received scant coverage in the mainstream press until CBC News in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador profiled some grateful Korean War veterans at the end of June, nearly a month after the masks had first arrived in Canada. "I feel very proud that they remembered some of the guys that were over there. A lot of the guys never came back," one recipient, Jake McDonald, said of the South Korean donation.
RED DEER, Alta. — Some employees of a pork processing plant in central Alberta that shut down after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility are afraid to go back to work, the union president says. Olymel's facility in Red Deer was shut down Feb. 15 because of the COVID-19 outbreak that claimed three lives and infected 515 workers. The company announced late Wednesday it had been given approval to gradually reopen by Alberta Health. Slaughter operations are scheduled to resume today and cutting room operations on Friday. The plant processes about 10,000 hogs per day. UFCW 401 president Thomas Hesse said he received no word from the company that the plant was reopening. "Obviously the bottom line for Olymel is they're just putting pigs ahead of people," Hesse in an interview Wednesday. "What you've got is a frightened workforce. There's this enormous amount of fear and anxiety, and now a layer of grief on top of that, and they expect employees to jump to attention and parade back to work." The union represents about 1,800 workers at the plant. Hesse said the union interviewed between 600 and 700 workers who indicated they were afraid to return to work. He said that wasn't done by Olymel, Alberta Health Services or Occupational Health and Safety. Hesse said he expects some workers will take advantage of their right to refuse unsafe work. "I have no confidence in the safety of the workplace," he said. Olymel said the reopening will come with a number of strict measures. Alberta Health experts will be on site when operations resume and will offer rapid testing. The company said 1,370 employees at the plant have been tested since Jan. 1. The company says it has added more space to the facility to enhance physical distancing. Additional staff have been assigned to monitor and enforce the updated measures, Olymel said. Employee groups have been recalled to take part in training sessions covering all implemented health measures, adjustments and the action plan developed for reopening. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. — By Bill Graveland in Calgary The Canadian Press
Post secondary student Ivette Rincon recalls living in a rental house with 10 other people, which she describes as a "terrible condition." She is in favour of a new bylaw that would allow city inspections of residential rental housing units on a regular basis. "You constantly complain to the landlords, and there doesn't seem to be a standard or procedure. It looks like it's just a way of them getting their profit and not caring for the residents," Rincon said. City council will have four options to consider Monday: Keeping the status quo. Imposing a mandatory licensing bylaw on residential rental units city-wide. Imposing a voluntary city-wide licensing bylaw. Starting a two-year pilot project that imposes a mandatory bylaw on rental units in Wards One and Two. The last option is what Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante is advocating. He says those are the wards with the most student rentals, and city officials have noticed that students are hesitant to complain to the city when they are living in deplorable conditions. Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante wants to see a two-year pilot project for licensing rental homes.(Dale Molnar/CBC) "I think it's sensible. I think it allows us to build the infrastructure and to roll this out in a way that is doable," Costante said. In a report, city inspectors have added pictures of dangerous and sub-standard living conditions they have come across over the years including, collapsing ceilings from water damage, excessive black mould and filthy bathrooms. In one case, inspectors found a bed tucked away in an area of a basement with a flashlight as a light. City inspectors found this "bed" in a small nook in a basement in one housing rental.(City of Windsor) "This whole policy is intended for tenant safety," said Costante. Recent college graduate Sania Vega has also experienced sub-standard living conditions in rentals and agrees the city needs to crack down. She says she lived in housing with undesirable characters. "They had all the garbage in one room and if you have to go out, you'll be scared to go out and it's just a horror story," said Vega. But Borys Sozanski, who owns several rental houses near the University of Windsor, says the unscrupulous landlords will fly under the radar, not apply for a license and the cost of the program will fall to the good landlords to bear. He says the city should step up enforcement of current bylaws. He believes that demand for the housing — which is already waning due to the COVID pandemic — will further erode this fall and so students who need accommodations won't have to settle for sub-standard conditions. The decent housing units will satisfy demand. Filthy bathroom in a rental house inspected by city officials.(City of Windsor) "Forces will push out the people who have not taken care of their properties," said Sozanski. Sozanski says landlords will also just pass the cost of licensing onto the renters. But Costante says that has not been proven in other jurisdictions where licensing has been imposed. "It's just the cost of doing business," said Costante. If council chooses to go the licensing route, details around who must pay and how much will still have to be worked out. Black mould found in one rental house by city inspectors.(City of Windsor)