Quebec is expected to announce new COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday that go beyond what any province has tried, including a potential nightly curfew and the first-time closure of some still-active workplaces.
Quebec is expected to announce new COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday that go beyond what any province has tried, including a potential nightly curfew and the first-time closure of some still-active workplaces.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is looking at ways to strengthen the vetting process for the next governor general after his choice for the job — Julie Payette — resigned yesterday following reports she presided over a toxic work environment at Rideau Hall. Trudeau faced multiple questions from reporters today about the vetting process he followed in appointing Payette back in 2017, and the red flags raised by former employers about her behaviour. "Obviously the vetting process that was in place was followed, but obviously we're going to also look at ways we can strengthen and improve the vetting process for high-level appointments," he said outside his home at Rideau Cottage, not far from Rideau Hall. "We are looking right now at processes that can be strengthened as we move forward and we will have more to say on that as we make decisions." WATCH | Trudeau is asked why Payette wasn't thoroughly vetted before being appointed GG In an unprecedented move, Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, resigned Thursday after an outside workplace review of Rideau Hall probed allegations she had belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff. "Notwithstanding, in respect for the integrity of my vice-regal office and for the good of our country and of our democratic institutions, I have come to the conclusion that a new governor general should be appointed," the former astronaut wrote in her statement. A senior government source (speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly) said about 100 public servants took part in the outside review. The report concluded it was an overwhelmingly toxic and poisonous workplace and the two people at the very top, Payette and Di Lorenzo, were responsible for it, the source said. PM and Queen spoke today The source also said Payette received parts of the report that pertained to her on Monday and that the clerk of the Privy Council and Privy Council President Dominic LeBlanc had a tense conversation with her on Tuesday. Speaking from prepared remarks, Trudeau said he spoke to the Queen Friday morning and let her know Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner will fulfil the duties of the governor general — her representative in Canada — on a temporary basis. He said a recommendation on Payette's replacement is coming. Trudeau was asked repeatedly today about his decision to not use a selection committee in 2017, something his predecessor implemented. "We will continue to the look at the best way to select people for the vice regal appointments. It is an important role for Canadians and we'll look at how we can improve it," he said. WATCH Jagmeet Singh on Payette resignation Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell said this could have been avoided if Trudeau hadn't shunned the Harper-era committee. "This is all sad, but it's so Justin Trudeau's style," he said. "He thinks that he knows better than anybody else, than the special committee created by the Conservatives. But we were right at that time. We made the right decision, he did the wrong decision and unfortunately, today we paid a price for this mess." NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh suggested other parties be brought into the process of selecting the official 30th governor general. "The system is deeply problematic in that the federal government, whoever's in power, can choose who they want," he said Friday morning. "I think there would be a great benefit in having a better system...so that the selection is not just a government appointment, but it's something that is done in a manner that is more fair." Questions about annuity Payette will collect a six-figure annuity for the rest of her life, a tradition critics are calling into question given the report on the Rideau Hall workplace climate — a report LeBlanc said came to some "disturbing" and "worrisome" conclusions. Under the Governor General's Act, former vice-regals are entitled to a lifetime annuity — which, according to the 2020 Public Accounts, amounts to $149,484. They are also entitled to a lifetime expense program for office and travel expenses. Documents obtained by the National Post in 2018 show that each former governor general is allowed to claim up to $206,000 per year under the program, which has existed since 1979 and is based on the notion that governors general never truly retire. "This country has very clear rules and regulations and processes and procedures in place to follow in these cases of reporting expenses, or indeed on annuities for governor generals," Trudeau said Friday. "Those processes will be followed, but obviously we're always open to having discussions on changes that need to be made moving forward." A spokesperson for the NDP said that if there's a way to cancel Payette's annuity, New Democrats would support it since Payette failed to provide a harassment-free workplace for her workers. WATCH | Trudeau is asked about the annuity Julie Payette will receive after her resignation "With respect to the annuity, I think that Canadians, rightly so, are concerned that given this report and how horrible the workers were treated, that this doesn't sit well with people," said Singh. In a statement, the outspoken Canadian Taxpayers Federation called on the Liberal government to change the way former governors general are paid. "With the resignation of Julie Payette, now is the time for this government to ensure that taxpayers are not on the hook for the expense accounts of former governors general," said Aaron Wudrick, the advocacy group's director. "Two years ago, the prime minister said he would 'review' this program. Nothing has happened since. It's time to save taxpayers money by scrapping this outrageously wasteful program." In 2018, following reports that Adrienne Clarkson had billed more than $1 million in expenses since leaving the viceregal job, Trudeau called for more transparency. "These are people who've stepped up and offered tremendous service to this country but Canadians expect a certain level of transparency and accountability, and we're going to make sure we're moving forward in a thoughtful way," he said. A spokesperson for the Privy Council said the final cost of the Quintet Consulting review was $393,367.13, nearly four times higher than the original value of the contract. The original terms of reference of the contract did say the amount could change depending on how long the review took.
Sherbrooke — Agriculture Sherbrooke entreprend une véritable opération séduction afin de rapprocher les artisans de la terre et de l’assiette. Vendredi, l’organisation remettait des paniers de produits locaux à 25 restaurateurs de la ville dans l’espoir de leur faire découvrir de nouveaux favoris d’ici, tout en mettant un baume sur la difficile année qu’ils ont traversée. Des champignons, des viandes de toutes sortes, du mousseux, du miel, des carottes récoltées sous la neige, un ensemble de démarrage de pousses... ce sont trois gros colis remplis des produits de 11 producteurs qui attendaient chaque entrepreneur, vendredi, au Centre de valorisation de l’Estrie. Marie-France Audet, agente de développement agroalimentaire pour la Ville de Sherbrooke, se réjouissait devant la surprise des restaurateurs. Signe que le territoire a plus d’un tour dans son sac agroalimentaire. « Les gens sont impressionnés du volume du panier! Les restaurateurs m’ont touchée. Je les sens sincèrement reconnaissants de ces paniers. Je pense que ce sont des gens qui ont eu une année difficile en 2020, et je crois que ça les a touchés qu’on ait eu une pensée pour eux », avance-t-elle. Les restaurateurs chanceux sont les 25 premiers à s’être portés volontaires pour participer à « une activité qui a pour objectif de rapprocher les producteurs sherbrookois du milieu de la restauration » en décembre dernier. Redonner en échange Maxime Saumier Demers, copropriétaire d’O Chevreuil, taverne américaine, faisait partie des heureux élus. Le restaurateur, pour qui l’approvisionnement local est « une mission », a beaucoup apprécié ce clin d’œil tant pour son milieu que pour les producteurs d’ici. « Mais on est chanceux, on a des toits sur nos têtes et ça va relativement bien au restaurant, reconnaît-il. Il y a des gens qui ne peuvent pas se permettre d’épiceries toutes les semaines. On va produire pour goûter aux produits, mais tout ce qu’on va être capable de faire avec ça, on aimerait le donner à Moisson Estrie ou quelque chose comme ça pour faire profiter de ce beau cadeau-là à des gens dans le besoin. » Avant même d’avoir pu analyser son panier de fond en comble, celui-ci avance déjà avoir fait de belles découvertes. « C’est le fun parce qu’on ne connaît pas tous les producteurs non plus, je vois un producteur porcin que je ne connaissais pas et qui a l’air de faire des super belles pièces, on a hâte de les essayer », confie-t-il. Un tiers du territoire En tenant cette activité en janvier, la Ville a également pu démontrer qu’il est possible de s’approvisionner localement toute l’année. « L’hiver, ce n’est pas la saison qu’on qualifie de plus abondante, avance Mme Audet. C’est un défi qui m’a inquiétée au début. Mais on a osé le relever. Est-ce qu’on allait trouver des produits agricoles sherbrookois en janvier? La réponse, ça a été oui, et c’est ma deuxième plus belle surprise de l’activité, après les yeux des restaurateurs aujourd’hui. » L’initiative Agriculture Sherbrooke est née d’un mandat de la Ville attribué à Pro-Gestion Estrie dans le cadre du Plan de développement de la zone agricole en 2018. « Comparativement à toutes les autres MRC autour de Sherbrooke, on sentait qu’on avait plus d’énergie à mettre pour faire connaître notre agriculture. Les gens sont surpris de savoir que j’occupe un poste à temps plein pour ça, mais 37 % du territoire de la ville est pourtant dédié à l’agriculture. Toute l’année 2020 a été consacrée à développer des outils et à faire valoir ce qui se passe en agriculture et en foresterie à Sherbrooke », relate Mme Audet, mentionnant la page Facebook « Agriculture Sherbrooke », qui a été créée à cette fin. Les 25 restaurateurs qui ont reçu les paniers locaux sont Boefish, Café Aragon, Café L, Café Pierre Jean Jase, Célestine Café, L’Empreinte cuisine soignée, L’Entre Amis, Festin Royal, Kobo Ramen bistro japonais, Le Baluchon Santé, Liverpool, L’Omnibouffe, Loubards, Madame Gourmandine, Méchant Steak, O’Chevreuil taverne américaine, Overflow, Pain Voyageur, Pizzicato, Poivron rouge, Rôtisserie Chanteclerc, Savo, Shaker Sherbrooke, Tapageur et Vin Polisson. Selon Agriculture Sherbrooke, le territoire de la ville comptait 83 producteurs agricoles en 2020. Au dernier recensement du MAPAQ, en 2016, on n’en comptait que 66. Jasmine Rondeau, Initiative de journalisme local, La Tribune
Medicine Hat College education students have released their masterpiece. The students took to the virtual stage recently to present their showing of ‘The Show Must Go Online.’ The musical documents a drama teacher and her students, who put on a play virtually after the live, in-person showing is cancelled. Every year education students at the college put on a musical to teach them how to organize, practice, promote and put on a production. Many arts teachers end up directing plays and musicals once they start their career, and this is a way for college students to see how it works. “This is a good opportunity to show the community that there are still ways we can do the things we love, we just learn how to adapt to new situations. We’ve learned about time management, it’s given us confidence and strengthened our communication skills,” said student Kendra Lynn-Tripp. The show can be viewed online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dl0EhnYa20&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=WilliamLambsdown Mo Cranker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
While one Northern Ontario health unit has decided to ban some outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, skating and hill sliding, that is not currently in the plans for Sudbury's public health region. As of Thursday January 21, all OFSC (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs) trails and associated sledding trails on crown land within the jurisdiction of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit were shut down by order of Dr. Jim Chirico, the medical officer of health. This takes in thousands of square kilometres from the Quebec border to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. There are roughly 1,900 kilometres of groomed trails. The order will be in effect for the duration of the provincial stay-at-home order and can be reassessed in the future, said the news release. “We have been told to stay home and we need to do this,” said Dr. Chirico in the release. “I have received many complaints about people travelling from other districts to use the local snowmobile trails, thus putting our district at risk of COVID-19. "The OFSC recommends that snowmobilers avoid trailering and travelling to destinations that are outside their health unit region to snowmobile, but people have not taken the direction seriously. “We are also seeing groups of snowmobilers congregating on trails, in parking lots and other locations not maintaining a two-metre distance and exceeding the gathering limits.” The decision sparked an outcry on social media from hundreds of avid sledders who have paid the $270 annual fee for riding OFSC trails across Ontario. Many are upset about the loss of sledding privileges and question the concept of closing down outdoor activities where many believe there is little chance of contracting the coronavirus in an outdoor setting, where most riders wear helmets and face shields. Northern Ontario trails also attract hundreds of riders from Southern Ontario owing to the greater number of long-distance trails. Some local sledders said if anything, police and trail wardens should be sending out-of-town riders back home. The snowmobiling ban came a week after another controversial call by the North Bay Parry Sound health unit. On January 14, it decreed that all outdoor public ice skating rinks, tobogganing hills and skating trails on public property across the district to be closed. It too was done in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act according to a news release. “Travelling to skating rinks and tobogganing hills can increase risk of spread of COVID-19 when individuals choose to travel with people who they do not live with,” said Dr. Chirico. “Skating rinks and tobogganing hills are locations where we have seen a lot of individuals gather without physical distancing and many times without face coverings. While enjoying these amenities COVID-19 restrictions may get forgotten and put our community at risk.” Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD), which also covers large urban and rural areas, has taken a different approach. In response to an inquiry from Sudbury.com, PHSD said outdoor activities would continue and it encouraged people to observe physical distancing and to wear masks. "At this time, Public Health Sudbury & Districts is not recommending the closure of snowmobiling trails, sliding hills, or outdoor skating rinks. Public Health will continue to monitor the local COVID-19 situation closely to protect the health of the community," PHSD said. "There is a higher risk of COVID spread if people are congregating together. Remember to stay with people you live with or in groups of five or less outdoors while keeping at least two metres of distance. Wear a mask if there is a chance you are going to get within two metres of others. As part of the stay-at-home order, avoid non-essential travel. Everyone is required to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise, or for essential work," said the PHSD response. Similar to the Sudbury position, the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, has taken the softer approach. On January 19, Simcoe-Muskoka’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner, held a media briefing and said it hadn't occurred to him to take the restrictive action imposed by the North Bay Parry Sound health unit. "At this point in time I’m not considering doing that. I think I would have to see evidence that it is both helpful and necessary to make that kind of restriction," said Gardner in a live-streamed event. Gardner was also quoted as saying that although an argument could be made for keeping snowmobilers at home, there could be some individuals who rely on sledding as a primary means of transportation at this time of year. He said he would need more evidence before shutting down outdoor activities. Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com, covering health care in Northern Ontario. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the federal government. Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
BROCKTON – Jennifer Stephens, general manager, did a presentation on the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority’s 2021 budget at the Jan. 12 meeting of Brockton council. This year’s budget shows a 1.6 per cent increase over last year, representing a dollar amount of $27,570. Brockton will be paying an additional $2,546. She stated the goal of the SVCA over the past few months has been to focus on the mandated programs and services outlined in the Conservation Authorities Act. Stephens outlined some of those programs including flood forecasting and warning. The goal is to “keep people away from the water, and keep the water away from people.” This is accomplished through a variety of measures including physical structures such as dams and channel work. SCVA is also involved in stewardship activities, environmental planning and regulations, conservation education, forestry, and non-revenue parks and property management throughout the watershed. To help identify priorities over the next five years, the SVCA is undertaking a strategic planning exercise. It will involve extensive consultation with the public, municipalities and other partners. The plan will incorporate recent changes to the Conservation Authorities Act through Bill 229. Council asked a number of questions, including about changes that have a direct impact on Brockton. Coun. James Lang mentioned two staff members who had played an important role in promoting tourism in the Greenock Swamp. Stephens responded by saying the business of the SVCA is to “protect natural spaces and conduct our mandated programs” through the entire watershed. Deputy Mayor Dan Gieruszak addressed plans to conduct needed maintenance work in the SVCA’s parks and said he was pleased at the direction that’s been put in place by Stephens. Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
JACKSON, Miss. — A leader of the Brexit movement and newly appointed government trade adviser in the United Kingdom is now the head of a conservative think-tank in the American South. Douglas Carswell, 49, started working this month as the new CEO and president of Mississippi Center for Public Policy. Carswell, a libertarian and former member of Britain’s governing Conservative Party, was a member of Parliament for 12 years and a co-founder of Vote Leave, the campaign that pushed the Brexit referendum in 2016. Carswell said his home country was his primary focus as the U.K. negotiated terms of its recently finalized split from the European Union. However, he said he has had a growing interest in working in the U.S. “I think the fight for freedom in America is the most important battle for freedom in the world, because America is the exceptional country in the world,” Carswell told The Associated Press. Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican who left office a year ago, has developed a work relationship with Brexit leader Nigel Farage, and Bryant attended a 2019 event for the lobbying group World4Brexit. Carswell said he has never met Bryant. Carswell clashed with more populist Farage after being the first of only two U.K. Independence Party candidates ever elected to Parliament. Farage ran unsuccessfully more than half a dozen times. Carswell's 2014 election victory gave political momentum to the party and the Brexit cause. He left the U.K. Independence Party in 2017, later stepping down from Parliament. After Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union, many of the figures who led the campaign have moved on to new ventures. Farage became a radio talk-show host and Donald Trump’s main British supporter, once even attending and speaking at a 2016 Trump campaign event in Mississippi. Others have been appointed to the House of Lords by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government. It’s common for former British lawmakers of all political stripes to seek think-tank or academic posts in the U.S. — a career move that can often bring prestige back home. In an email introducing his new position in Mississippi, Carswell said he believes freedom in the U.S. is “under attack” from a “radical New Left.” “If liberty is extinguished, the United States will become just another over-regulated, over-taxed, debt-ridden country, presided over by remote officials,” he said. “That would be a catastrophe for the whole world.” Carswell said he thinks school choice can give low-income Mississippi families more opportunities. He said he will push policies to make the state more competitive in attracting new businesses and allowing existing ones to grow. “Businesses that are traditionally located in hubs like New York, or Chicago or California, quite a few of those businesses are moving away from high tax and regulation regimes to Texas, Florida or Tennessee,” he said. “Why not Mississippi?” The Mississippi Center for Public Policy lobbies for lower taxes, fewer government regulations and free-market approaches to health care. Carswell said he admires that people’s freedoms in the U.S. are defined in federal and state constitutions. “In America, if your local mayor wakes up one morning and decides to take away your fundamental freedoms, you can take the politicians to court under the Constitution, you can enforce your rights as an individual,” he said. It allows “ordinary folk to live their lives free from the arbitrary whim of government,” Carswell said. “It’s only when you don’t have that that you realize quite how precious it is,” he said. “It really is the secret of American success.” Carswell plans to live in Jackson with his family but is not leaving U.K. politics. In November, he was appointed to a three-year term as a nonexecutive director of Britain’s Department for International Trade. Liz Truss, the U.K.’s secretary of state for international trade, said Carswell will work at “striking free trade agreements in markets around the world, operating our own trading system after the transition period, boosting exports and investment across the UK, and championing free trade and shaping global trading rules.” ___ Associated Press reporter Jill Lawless contributed from London. ___ Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Leah Willingham, The Associated Press
HEERENVEEN, Netherlands — Canadian women won a World Cup speedskating gold medal in team pursuit in their first international races in months Friday. Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann and Valérie Maltais of La Baie, Que, edged host Netherlands by just over three tenths of a second. Norway placed third. Calgary's Ted-Jan Bloemen, Toronto's Jordan Belchos and Connor Howe of Canmore, Alta., finished third in the men's team pursuit behind the victorious Dutch and runner-up Norway. Racing continues Saturday and Sunday. The World Cup in Heerenveen is the first of the 2020-21 speedskating season and the first major competition since March 8, 2020, in the same city. The COVID-19 pandemic decimated the racing season and compressed it into a pair of World Cups followed by next month's world championship in Heerenveen. Canada's long-track speedskating team has also been without ice at Calgary's Olympic Oval since Sept. 5 because of a mechanical failure. Their on-ice training has been limited to a two-week camp in an indoor oval in Fort St. John, B.C., outdoor oval skating in Red Deer, Alta., and short-track workouts in Calgary. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
The P.E.I. government is opening what it is calling work and study hubs across the province to provide a workspace and reliable internet access to people who need it. Economic Growth Minister Matthew MacKay said the plan is a response to the increased need for Islanders to work and study online during the pandemic. "Islanders need access to a reliable internet connection now more than ever before," said MacKay in a news release. "Our hope with the work and study hubs is that we can help fill the gap as we continue working towards expanding broadband internet across the province." The hubs will be installed in 13 locations, from one end of the Island to the other. Tignish: Tignish Initiatives. Northport/Alberton: Community Centre. O'Leary: Future Tech West. Wellington: Royal Canadian Legion. Bedeque: Rural Women's Business Centre. Stanley Bridge: Stanley Bridge Hall. Kensington: Credit Union Centre. North Rustico: North Rustico Lions Club. Grand Tracadie: Grand Tracadie Community Centre. St. Peters: St. Peters Community Centre. Souris: Matthew McLean Building. Murray Harbour: Murray Harbour Community Centre. Cardigan: Cardigan Fireman's Office. Users will bring their own devices to connect to the internet. Physical distancing and masks are required at all hubs. They will have space for up to six people at a time. Eight of the hubs will open Monday, with the remaining opening the following week. The government has set up a website with details of opening hours. More from CBC P.E.I.
CBC News gains access to a unique inoculation site in the U.K., where vulnerable groups are being prioritized.
Russia said on Friday that TikTok had deleted some of what it called illegal posts promoting weekend protests aimed at securing the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. It has also opened a criminal case into Navalny's supporters. Posts promoting Navalny and protests planned for Saturday have been viewed more than 300 million times on TikTok, the Chinese-owned video sharing app, since he was jailed this week after flying back to Russia for the first time since being poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent.
The real estate market saw “exceptional” sales activity in the Waterloo Region last year. Home sales in 2020 exceeded the “6,000-unit threshold for only the third time in our history,” said Nicole Pohl, President of Kitchener-Waterloo Association of REALTORS in a media announcement. December also marked “the sixth consecutive month of record home sales in Kitchener-Waterloo,” she added. KWAR reported a nine per cent increase in residential home sales compared to 2019. Sales rose five per cent over the five year average and 11.6 per cent above the ten-year average. December 351 home sales were the highest ever recorded by the group, with 42 per cent more home sales compared to last year. This included 204 detached (up by 46.7 per cent), and 63 condominium-style semi-detached, townhome, apartment and detached units, which were up 34 per cent. KWAR reported 3,899 detached residential units sold in 2020 (up 8.1 per cent), and 804 condominium units (up 19 per cent), compared to last year. Sales also included 450 semi-detached homes (up 6.8 per cent) and 1,346 freehold townhouses (up 7 per cent), they add.“On a year-to-date basis, the average sale price of all residential properties sold in 2020 increased by 16.1 per cent to $612,521 compared to 2019,” they report. “Detached homes sold for an average price of $719,203, an increase of 16.9 per cent compared to 2019.” Low inventory was reported to be a factor in Waterloo Region, much like the rest of Ontario. The average time on market remained less than one month through most of the year, KWAR reported. The average days on market for homes sold in 2020 was 16 days, compared to a 5-year average of 27 days. For context, the average time of residential homes on the market between 2011 and 2015, KWAR reported, averaged 4months. “Looking to the year ahead, we should expect more of the same” Pohl predicted. “Real estate continues to be one of the shining lights supporting the Ontario economy, so we do not expect to see any significant efforts to try to cool the market. Buyers should continue to expect stiff competition in Waterloo Region.” Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party said Friday that Armin Laschet, the governor of Germany’s most populous state, has been confirmed as its new leader. The 59-year-old centrist came first in an online vote by party delegates Saturday, ahead of conservative rival Friedrich Merz. Under German law the election had to be officially endorsed with a postal ballot. Laschet received 796 out of 980 valid ballots, amounting to over 83% of the vote. He is the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has a population of about 17 million. The party's new chairman will be a strong contender to lead the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, into this year's national election, in which Merkel will not run again. A decision on who to put forward for chancellor ahead of the Sept. 26 election will have to be made together with the CDU's Bavaria-only sister party. That will likely happen after regional election in several German states take place in March. The Associated Press
THUNDER BAY — A number of inmates from the Thunder Bay jail have been temporarily transferred to a Toronto detention centre in an effort to manage the current number of active COVID-19 cases at the facility. On Friday, Jan. 22, a spokesperson with the ministry of the solicitor general confirmed the Thunder bay jail currently has 12 active inmate COVID-19 cases and six COVID-19 positive cases among staff. The inmates were transferred to the Toronto South Detention Centre (TSDC) temporarily to bring the facility within operating capacity and reduce the risk of infection, spokesperson Andrew Morrison said in an emailed statement. “The inmates selected for transfer are low risk for COVID-19 and will be isolated for 14 days upon arrival at the TSDC,” Morrison said, adding the ministry cannot provide details about inmate transfers for security reasons. All inmates are being transferred to a separate area at the TSDC and won’t be placed with current inmates to reduce any potential spread of the virus, Morrison said. “Appropriate protocols are being followed to ensure the protection of all staff and inmates,” Morrison said. The Toronto facility is the ministry’s newest jail with a modern health care unit with medical isolation units to effectively manage and support inmates with COVID-19, the ministry says. The Thunder Bay Correctional Centre currently has 42 active inmate cases and two active cases among staff of COVID-19. According to the ministry, any inmate who tests positive for the virus is placed under droplet precautions and is isolated from the rest of the inmate population while they receive medical care. The ministry continues to work with local public health authorities to complete contact tracing. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the CEO of Pfizer has personally assured him that the pharmaceutical company will send vaccine shots to Canada next month. The promise from Dr. Albert Bourla, the company's top executive, comes after Canada learned it wouldn't receive a single vial of the highly effective vaccine next week, as Pfizer pauses some deliveries while it retools its Belgian manufacturing plant. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), has said Pfizer's deliveries will be reduced by up to 50 per cent over a four-week period, punting as many as 400,000 doses to a later date. The delivery delay is already prompting some provinces — notably Alberta and Ontario — to warn that they will have to curtail vaccination appointments in the weeks ahead as they direct the existing supply of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to patients who need their second shots. "The next few weeks will be challenging when it comes to deliveries," Trudeau told reporters. "That said, Dr. Bourla assured me that hundreds of thousands of Pfizer doses will be delivered the week of February 15 and in the weeks to follow." Trudeau said that, despite the delivery hiccup, the company still expects to meet its promised delivery target of four million doses by the end of March — enough shots to fully vaccinate 2 million Canadians. Trudeau's call with Bourla is the prime minister's first known personal intervention in vaccine deliveries. When asked Tuesday if he would lobby Pfizer to send more doses, Trudeau said Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand was the lead on the file. The prime minister of Israel has had more than a dozen phone conversations with the CEO of Pfizer and the president of the European Union has personally reached out to the company's leadership. Pfizer isn't treating every customer the same way. While Canada will receive no doses next week, the company said it "will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the European Union beginning the week of Jan. 25." Pfizer is grappling with unprecedented global demand for its vaccine as the world scrambles to inoculate patients against the deadly novel coronavirus. While the company had projected it could manufacture up to 1.3 billion shots this year alone, it is now shifting gears to pump out even more. The company is making upgrades to its Belgian plant so that it can manufacture up to two billion doses this year. In order to complete those upgrades, some production lines will have to be idled and Pfizer won't have enough vials to go around in the short term to meet its previously promised delivery schedule. 500,000 Moderna shots to come in February: Trudeau Beyond the Pfizer product — which, to this point, had been delivered weekly — Canada is expecting shipments of the Moderna product to continue uninterrupted. Trudeau said about 500,000 Moderna shots will be delivered to Canada in February. The Moderna doses are to be delivered every three weeks. In addition to the two vaccines already approved, Health Canada regulators are reviewing clinical trial data for both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson products. Canada has placed orders for doses from these companies — Canada has options for up to 20 million doses from AstraZeneca — but a delivery schedule is far from certain because the regulatory review is still underway. The U.K. approved the AstraZeneca vaccine on Dec. 30. The U.K. been a world leader in getting shots into the arms of patients. Nearly 9 per cent of people living in the U.K. and Northern Ireland have received at least one dose so far. The product from Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical division, Janssen, has not been approved for use anywhere in the world. Some countries are eager to secure doses of this vaccine because it only requires one shot. Canada has signed an agreement for up to 38 million doses of this product. The company has not yet publicly presented any final data on its effectiveness, although early results, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, are promising. Dr. Mark McClellan, the former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner and a member of Johnson & Johnson's board of directors, has said he expects the company to produce more than 100 million doses of that shot for the American market by April. 'No unexpected vaccine safety issues,' Tam says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said PHAC has been monitoring the vaccine rollout for any significant adverse medical events following immunizations. With some 700,000 shots administered so far, the department had documented just 90 such events nationwide as of Jan. 15. An adverse event is defined as a medical problem that happens during or after treatment with a vaccine. These problems are not necessarily caused by the vaccine itself, Tam said. Of the 90 reported adverse events, 27 were considered serious — they included severe allergic reactions, Tam said. Based on that data, the probability of someone experiencing a severe medical side effect post-vaccination is just 1 in 22,000. "To date, no unexpected vaccine safety issues have been identified," Tam said.
TORONTO — Global trials examining the potential of blood thinners to treat moderately ill COVID-19 patients have proven so successful its Canadian investigators say clinicians should immediately start using them in standard care.Investigators at Toronto's University Health Network say interim results of clinical trials spanning five continents in more than 300 hospitals suggest full-dose blood thinners could significantly avoid severe cases that are now straining hospital ICUs.The study involved more than 1,300 moderately ill patients admitted to hospital, including some at UHN. Investigators say full doses of Heparin improved outcomes and decreased the need for life support.The full dose was also more effective than the lower dose typically administered to prevent blood clots in hospitalized patients.Critical care physician Ewan Goligher, co-chair of the therapeutic anticoagulation domain of the trial, says the findings could significantly transform care.“Having cared for so many severely ill COVID-19 patients and witnessed the suffering involved for patients and their loved ones, it is profoundly gratifying that together we have discovered a treatment that can prevent patients from becoming severely ill and improve their recovery,” Goligher, also a scientist with the University Health Network, said Friday in a release.Ryan Zarychanski, associate professor, hematologist and critical care physician at the University of Manitoba, said the findings were promising. "In a disease with a limited number of effective therapies, our results have the potential to define a new standard of care for moderately ill hospitalized COVID-19 patients around the world," Zarychanski said.Doctors noticed early in the pandemic that COVID-19 patients suffered an increased rate of blood clots and inflammation. This led to complications including lung failure, heart attack and stroke.Back in December, investigators found that giving full-dose blood thinners to critically ill ICU patients did not help, and was actually harmful.The trials are supported by international funding organizations including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the NIH National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute in the United States, the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom, and the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
THUNDER BAY — A 24-year-old Scarborough Ont., resident is facing charges after Thunder Bay Ontario Provincial Police observed a vehicle excessively speeding on Highway 11/17 on Tuesday. OPP said in a news release this week, an officer was on patrol east of Mackenzie Heights Road in the municipality of Shuniah when they noticed a driver driving 152 kilometres per hour in a posted 90 kilometre per hour zone. The driver was charged with stunt driving and driving with an open container of liquor. OPP also issued a seven-day licence suspension and the vehicle was impounded for seven days. Police are reminding drivers that driving speeds of 50 kilometres per hour or more over the posted speed limit face severe penalties including mandatory seven-day licence suspension, mandatory seven-day vehicle impoundment, fines of up to $10,000 and six licence demerit points. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
MOSCOW — The Kremlin on Friday welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposal to extend the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries, which is set to expire in less than two weeks. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russia stands for extending the pact and is waiting to see the details of the U.S. proposal. The White House said Thursday that Biden has proposed to Russia a five-year extension of the New START treaty. “We can only welcome political will to extend the document,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters. “But all will depend on the details of the proposal.” The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance. It expires on Feb. 5. Russia has long proposed to prolong the pact without any conditions or changes, but former President Donald Trump’s administration waited until last year to start talks and made the extension contingent on a set of demands. The talks stalled, and months of bargaining have failed to narrow differences. “Certain conditions for the extension have been put forward, and some of them have been absolutely unacceptable for us, so let's see first what the U.S. is offering,” Peskov said. Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador at the international organizations in Vienna, also hailed Biden’s proposal as an “encouraging step.” “The extension will give the two sides more time to consider possible additional measures aimed at strengthening strategic stability and global security,” he tweeted. The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, noted in a statement that Russia always has called for maintaining the treaty and said Russian diplomats are ready to quickly engage in contacts with the U.S. to formalize its extension for five years “without any delay.” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the U.S. decision and Russia's reiteration. He encouraged both countries “to work quickly to complete the necessary procedure for the New START’s extension before the Feb. 5 expiration and move as soon as possible to negotiations on new arms control measures," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “A five-year extension would not only maintain verifiable caps on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals but will also provide time to negotiate new nuclear arms control agreements to grapple with our increasingly complex international environment," Dujarric said. Biden indicated during the campaign that he favoured the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice-president. The talks on the treaty’s extension also were clouded by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants. Despite the extension proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden remains committed to holding Russia “to account for its reckless and adversarial actions,” such as its alleged involvement in the Solar Winds hacking event, 2020 election interference, the chemical poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the widely reported allegations that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Asked to comment on Psaki’s statement, Peskov has reaffirmed Russia’s denial of involvement in any such activities. After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries. Arms control advocates have strongly called for New START’s preservation, warning that its lapse would remove any checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Last week, Russia also declared that it would follow the U.S. to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West. While Russia always offered to extend New START for five years — a possibility envisaged by the pact — Trump asserted that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage and initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing flatly rejected. Trump's administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons. Moscow has said it remains open for new nuclear arms talks with the U.S. to negotiate future limits on prospective weapons, but emphasized that preserving New START is essential for global stability. Russian diplomats have said that Russia’s prospective Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle could be counted along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty. The Sarmat is still under development, while the first missile unit armed with the Avangard became operational in December 2019. The Russian military has said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and could make sharp manoeuvrs on its way to a target to bypass missile defence systems. It has been fitted to the existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the more powerful Sarmat. Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press
In his office overlooking Gage Park in downtown Brampton, Mayor Patrick Brown turned away from the live video feed of Wednesday’s committee of council meeting. He peered through the window for a view of the tree-lined outdoor skating rink below, a place that transports visitors to an idyllic winter escape. The ice width is “significantly larger than a sidewalk, or typical creek trail,” Brown pointed out to council members. Given the City’s ability to control rink capacity through its online booking system, he argued that existing measures to promote social distancing are sufficient. Non-medical masks or face coverings were in place only as a recommendation at Brampton’s outdoor rinks, but are mandatory in line-ups, the washrooms, or staging areas. “In general, wearing a mask is always good practice. I would just say let’s be careful about what precedents we set here…and what this means for the city and other avenues,” he said. Brown’s worry was that other City-owned properties, including basketball courts and soccer fields when they re-open, and even sidewalks, could then be subject to mandatory masking orders. The mayor put forward concerns supported by those fatigued by some of the protective measures imposed on them, but his more liberal attitude toward mask use stood in contrast with a motion that had just been forwarded. The comments came in response to a move by Councillor Rowena Santos for Brampton to implement an immediate policy to make face-coverings mandatory while skating, a decision Toronto already made. According to the motion – which passed unanimously despite the mayor’s concerns – provincial public health factsheets point to evidence that people can develop COVID-19 after repeated and cumulative exposure to someone with the novel coronavirus, “in the same manner as prolonged close contact.” Santos told Council the motion was aimed to “provide a little bit more clarity and consistency” to rink etiquette in a shared space, even if outdoors. The City will mobilize its surplus of masks to various skating rinks and inform those who have registered online about the new mandatory policy. The move to make these spaces safer in Ontario’s hardest-hit city comes after a more drastic measure to close winter amenities in Vaughan. Last week, the municipality announced it was closing outdoor amenities, including dog parks, in line with its “disciplined, reasonable and measured approach to COVID-19,” according to a press release announcing the move three days after the province entered a state of emergency and the stay-at-home order came into effect on January 14. “You need to do all that you can to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, and when you get large gatherings of people, you’re actually increasing it,” said Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, in response to criticism, during a taped interview with CityNews. “So our decision was based on what we know at the moment to be true...and use all measures at [our] disposal.” Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health, publicly opposed the move, saying the use of outdoor facilities should be encouraged and regulated by the City to help promote mental health and exercise. Most municipalities in the GTA, including Toronto and Mississauaga have kept these amenities open during the current emergency order, which allows the use of such facilities. Keeping outdoor recreational activities, such as Brampton’s Winter Wonderland program, open has been supported by many infectious disease specialists who recognize the need for healthy, active alternatives during a lockdown. Public health officials have pointed out that if residents do not have the opportunity to exercise and get outside, mental health can suffer, and people might be pushed to violate other rules if they feel restrictions are unreasonable. “From our perspective, here at the Region of Peel, we know that it is ultimately [about] trying to balance outdoor recreation and an opportunity for individuals to exercise, which remains an essential reason to be out of one's home,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, at Mississauga’s weekly press conference on Wednesday. “Region-hopping has always been a challenge or problem, but I imagine there are ways to address that,” said Dr. Loh, pointing to online booking tools and capacity limits that would help mitigate that risk. “It’s always been [the] recommendation, if you are unable to maintain two metres of distance – even outside – that you should be wearing a mask.” In a test of Brampton’s booking system, The Pointer was able to reserve a time at Gage Park using a registration account that listed a non-Brampton postal code as a home address. Mobility patterns analyzed by Peel Public Health using Google’s anonymized, aggregate cellphone location data show that during the first emergency declaration in March, there was a 60 percent drop in trips to workplaces, retail and other recreational locations, and a 20 percent increase in time spent at home. Second wave trends show that the time at home had increased by 21 percent in the first week of January this year, compared to 14 percent in October, which is measured against a January 2020 baseline of pre-pandemic, at-home time. The analysis, which appears in Peel Region’s January 15 epidemiological report, shows Brampton had a 17.6 percent positivity rate for the week ending on January 9; anything above 2.5 percent indicates viral spread in a jurisdiction is not under control. Brampton’s incidence rate was at 351.8 cases per 100,000 residents, for the week ending January 9, compared to 284 in Caledon and 200 in Mississauga. Ontario’s incidence rate was a little more than half of Brampton’s during the same period. Despite Premier Doug Ford’s pleas for Ontarians to stay home, barring essential trips, attending a recreational setting is another choice Peel residents can consider. As previously reported in The Pointer, despite the stay-at-home order, a flight out of Toronto Pearson International Airport, to get a resident from Peel to Miami, or many other destinations, is still allowable, though not advised, another confusing reality of the Province’s state of emergency order. Email: email@example.com Twitter: LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Even during the pandemic, the Okanagan continues to become a hotspot for film projects with bigger stars and films expected on the horizon according to the head of the Okanagan Film Commission. Chair of the film commission, Jon Summerland, told the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) board at their Jan. 21 meeting that movie producers created around $48 million in economic impact in the region last year. The non-profit film commission, funded in part by local regional governments, led the way in health and safety protocols while shooting in 2020, according to Summerland. “One month into the pandemic, we were already quarantining crews in hotels and shooting Hallmark movies. So we were the first in Canada to have film and we’ve been steady since. We were instrumental in creating the protocol for COVID with WorkSafe BC, they were on our sets every day in the beginning,” Summerland said. Health and safety officers became full-time crew members, now there are three on each set in the Okanagan. There were a total of 25 productions filmed in the Okanagan in 2020, including “Dangerous,” from Mind’s Eye Entertainment starring Scott Eastwood (Suicide Squad, The Fate of the Furious) with an approximate $11 million in economic impact for the region. Much of the economic boon from the year could be attributed to around 10 Hallmark and Lifetime movies shot mostly in Summerland, Peachland and Kelowna. With more productions in the Okanagan and the word getting back to Hollywood, the film commission is opening the door to bigger projects and features. The film commission advertised the landscapes of the Okanagan in the magazine Hollywood Monthly, and having some big-name producers and directors living in the region doesn’t hurt either. “So all of them have been great tools in my tool belt to talk to Netflix, who I spoke with yesterday, to talk to bigger feature films, who are now already calling us because all these little shows that nobody watches, Hollywood watches. Hollywood goes ‘where are these being done?’ So now we’re on the radar,” Summerland said. He added he was working on a package for a film with a budget of $180 million. While Summerland said it is unlikely the commission will land the film, it could be a preview of things to come. “We are growing as a film community.” Combined, regional districts in the Okanagan contributed $255,244 to the film commission in 2020, with $45,000 coming from the RDOS and $130,000 from the Regional District of Central Okanagan. Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle
Squamish Nation has launched a new program to help guide its community members through the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation has introduced a team of ‘COVID Guardians’ to offer extra support to community members in isolation, educate and raise awareness of the virus and provincial health officer restrictions, and to report on any issues that may arise. Syetáxtn, Chris Lewis, Squamish nation spokesperson, said the new program was already having a positive impact, sharing the news in a Facebook update to members. “It's a new program to assist our community through the pandemic and to also ensure that there is public awareness and the information gets out,” he said in the latest video update on Jan. 15. “The guardians are here to ensure safety and engage with members of the public to make sure that the residents and everybody in our community are aware of the physical distancing directives and to provide education around public etiquette and courtesies and shared outdoor spaces. “They'll also help maintain and prevent any COVID exposures within the community through continued education and prevention.” There are five guardians, three for North Vancouver and two for the Squamish Valley, who report to the nation’s emergency co-ordinator, David Harrison, and to the emergency operations director, Paul Wick. Syetáxtn said so far the guardians had been busy checking in with community members that are in isolation, or quarantining, delivering COVID lawn signs and care packages to households, and fixing and repairing damaged and vandalized signs throughout the community. “They patrol high exposure areas and help clean up the community, so I really want to thank them for the work that they're doing,” he said, Syetáxtn said the guardians would also be helping with the rollout of vaccinations in the community. Vaccinations have already started in 169 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across Canada, according to Indigenous Services Canada. “In the coming months, you can see our guardians assisting in the setup operation of the upcoming Squamish nation COVID vaccination site,” said Syetáxtn. “We're continuing to work with Vancouver Coastal Health and health authorities to ensure that those sites are set up and we're in the queue.” While plans are in the works, Syetáxtn said there was “no update in terms of when the nation will receive the current vaccine.” “We are in conversations, though, in terms of our home care assistants, in terms of getting them vaccinated because we know that they’re supporting our most vulnerable,” he said. He added that the nation’s older adults and elders were a priority for vaccinations in B.C. “The age requirement for indigenous adults will be lower than the rest of the population due to the higher rate of health risks to our elders and other factors that have affected access to quality health care," said Syetáxtn. “So, our elders will be in that queue.” During the members update, Khelsilem, Dustin Rivers, Squamish Nation spokesperson, confirmed there are active COVID-19 cases in the nation’s community at this time, but they did not have exact case numbers to provide. “The nation does not receive names of any confirmed cases or members advised to self-isolate or quarantine unless the members voluntarily share that information with us and give us permission to share that information publicly,” he said. Earlier this month he told North Shore News the nation temporarily closed its main office at 320 Seymour Boulevard, from Jan. 6 to 11, due to a COVID-19 exposure, and those involved were taking the “necessary precautions.” He said there were a number of other active cases in the community which weren’t related to the office exposure. He added that there had been no cluster events in the community since the summer. Up until Sep. 23, 2020 there had been a total of 43 confirmed cases - 39 lab-confirmed, four epi-linked, for the nation. Since then, Khelsilem said “they have all been minor cases, contained through contact tracing and isolating.” In First Nations communities across B.C., as of Jan. 20, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of a total of 1,377 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. ISC said Across Canada, numbers had “reached an all-time new high this week” with a total of 14,200 positive cases – 5,409 active cases, 124 deaths, and 8,667 recoveries. “A number of communities are experiencing mounting cases, and ISC is taking measures to mitigate risks, including meeting regularly with local health services in Indigenous communities and engaging with provincial and other federal department representatives in an effort to assess on-going community needs,” a Government of Canada release stated. Khelsilem commended the community for its ongoing efforts to follow the PHO recommendations and restrictions. “You've done an amazing job of helping protect the community from the spread of the virus,” he said, adding he understood how difficult it had been to not be able follow usual traditions and spiritual practices in hard times. “As we get through this, I just want to continue to thank and encourage our community to work very hard to stay by these health orders that are set in stone to help protect our community. “We're all in this together, and of course, we will all get through this together.” The community can reach out to the Squamish Nation’s Guardians by calling 604-374-2687 or can contact the Member Services Department on 604-982-7610 during office hours or 604-505-3776 after hours for care packages and support. Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News