Check out this pet raccoon's reaction after he finishes the last grape. Priceless!
Check out this pet raccoon's reaction after he finishes the last grape. Priceless!
WASHINGTON — The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden's dogs Champ and Major. The two German shepherds are the first pets to live at the executive mansion since the Obama administration. Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association. Champ joined the family after the 2008 presidential election that made Joe Biden vice-president. The dogs moved into the White House on Sunday, following Biden's inauguration last week. “The first family wanted to get settled before bringing the dogs down to Washington from Delaware,” said Michael LaRosa, spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden. “Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace and Major loved running around on the South Lawn.” The dogs were heard barking outside near the Oval Office on Monday as Biden signed an executive order lifting the previous administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military. Last week, the Delaware Humane Association cosponsored an “indoguration” virtual fundraiser to celebrate Major's journey from shelter pup to first dog. More than $200,000 was raised. Major is the first shelter dog to ever live in the White House and “barking proof that every dog can live the American dream," the association said. The Bidens had promised to bring the dogs with them to the White House. They plan to add a cat, though no update on the feline's arrival was shared on Monday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki predicted, while on video answering questions from members of the public, that the cat will “dominate the internet” when it arrives. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, a self-described germaphobe, does not own any pets and had none with him at the White House. Just like they do for ordinary people, pets owned by the most powerful people in the world provide their owners with comfort, entertainment, occasional drama and generally good PR. “Pets have played an important role in the White House throughout the decades, not only by providing companionship to the presidents and their families, but also by humanizing and softening their political images,” said Jennifer Pickens, author of a book about pets at the White House. Pets also serve as ambassadors to the White House, she said. Pickens added that she hoped the Bidens' decision to bring a rescue dog to the White House might inspire others to adopt. President Theodore Roosevelt had Skip, who is described by the White House Historical Association as a “short-legged Black and Tan mongrel terrier brought home from a Colorado bear hunt.” Warren G. Harding had Laddie Boy, who sat in on meetings and had his own Cabinet chair. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his beloved terrier Fala. At night, Fala slept in a special chair at the foot of the president’s bed. More recently, George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel Millie was featured on “The Simpsons” and starred in a bestseller, “Millie’s Book: As dictated to Barbara Bush.” Hillary Clinton followed Bush’s lead with a children’s book about family dog Buddy and cat Socks: “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” When he declared victory in the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama told his daughters: “You have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.” Several months later, Bo joined the family, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy. A few years later, fellow Portuguese water dog Sunny arrived. Among the stranger White House pets was Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge’s raccoon Rebecca. She was given to the Coolidge family by a supporter who suggested the raccoon be served for Thanksgiving dinner, according to the White House Historical Association. But instead she got an embroidered collar with the title “White House Raccoon” and entertained children at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Some notable pets belonged to first kids, including Amy Carter’s Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, and Caroline Kennedy’s pony Macaroni. The Kennedy family had a veritable menagerie, complete with dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and a rabbit named Zsa Zsa. President Harry Truman famously said that “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” — and many successors have followed Truman's advice. The first President Bush once said, “There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to help you get through the rough spots.” ___ Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump's former chief spokeswoman, announced she's running for Arkansas governor at a time other Republicans are distancing themselves from the former president facing an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. But the former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, ran the other direction with an announcement Monday that embraced Trump as much as his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a nearly eight-minute video announcing her 2022 bid that prominently featured pictures of the president as well as some of his favourite targets. Trump, who publicly encouraged Sanders to run, wasted no time putting his seal of approval on her bid. The former president on Monday night backed Sanders' candidacy — his first official, public endorsement since leaving office — and called her a “warrior who will always fight for the people of Arkansas and do what is right, not what is politically correct." The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders is the most high-profile Trump official to seek major office and is doing so less than a week after the tumultuous end of his presidency. Her candidacy could showcase just how much of a hold Trump still has on the GOP. “Trump is simply not a liability here,” said Janine Parry, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. “At least for the time being, we’re in a state where he remains an asset.” That’s even as the Senate is preparing for an impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters that was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the president last week, saying he “provoked” the siege. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters days before Biden’s inauguration he wanted Trump’s administration to end, though he also opposed the president’s impeachment. Sanders’ announcement makes a brief reference to the Capitol siege that left five dead, equating it with violence that occurred at some protests last year over racial injustice and the 2017 shooting at a congressional baseball practice that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and four others. “This is not who we are as Americans,” Sanders said in the video, but not mentioning Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters who stormed the Capitol. She joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed Hutchinson, who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Griffin and Rutledge had already spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ entry by lining up endorsements, raising money and trying to stake their claims as the most conservative candidate. Griffin has called for the outright elimination of the state’s income tax, while Rutledge signed on to Texas’ ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the result of the presidential election. Following the riot, Griffin and Rutledge issued statements condemning the storming of the Capitol but not addressing Trump’s role in stirring up his backers. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million for the race. Griffin on Monday criticized Sanders for promising in her video to cut off funding to so-called sanctuary cities that violate immigration laws. He noted a 2019 measure Hutchinson signed into law already does just that by cutting off funding to cities that don’t co-operate with immigration authorities. “It sounds like she needs to catch up on what’s been going on in Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. Rutledge, meanwhile, said in a statement the race was about “who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric.” The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat and said he hoped to make a decision within the next three weeks. “Right now we have three announced candidates but they all do represent the far right part of the Republican Party,” said Hendren, who has been much more willing to criticize Trump and hasn’t ruled out an independent bid. “The question I have to decide is, is there room for a more pragmatic, centrist type of approach?” Sanders was already well known in Arkansas politics, going back to when she appeared in ads for her father’s campaign. She managed Sen. John Boozman’s 2010 election and worked as an adviser to Sen. Tom Cotton’s in 2014. During Sanders’ nearly two-year tenure at the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her. She faced questions about her credibility, but she also earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. She remains an unknown on many issues and wasn’t made available for interviews Monday, though she staked out some positions in her introductory video that include reducing the state’s income tax. Her introductory video indicates she’s leaning more on her time with Trump, with it featuring images of or calling out those who frequently drew his ire including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN. Republicans hold a firm grip on Arkansas, with the GOP holding all statewide and federal seats. They also hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. State Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray on Monday called the GOP primary a “race to the bottom.” But national party leaders indicated Sanders’ candidacy may draw more resources and attention to a long-shot race that will coincide with 2022 congressional midterm elections. “As we close the book on a dark chapter in our history, we must make sure Trump’s brand of politics stays in the past," Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison tweeted. “Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running on his record." Hutchinson, who has remained generally popular since taking office in 2015, said he didn't plan on endorsing anyone at this time in the race. “I am a voter, so I will follow the campaign with interest, but I have a job to do for the next two years, and I will devote my energies to bring Arkansas out of the pandemic and to revitalize our economy," he said in a statement. ___ Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
Canada's natural resources minister accused the Opposition of beating their chests in a show of support for the oil and gas industry, during an emergency debate in the House of Commons regarding the Keystone XL pipeline expansion project Monday evening. "Do we, as some are suggesting, start a trade war with our closest ally and largest trading partner, with the single largest customer for Canadian crude? ... I have not yet heard a single argument that would convince me a trade war is in the best interests of our oil and gas workers," Seamus O'Regan said. O'Regan said the new U.S. administration represents an opportunity to work together with a government aligned with Canada's priorities on clean energy, pointing to TC Energy — the Calgary-based company behind the Keystone project — committing to buying renewable energy to achieve net zero emissions. Last week, on his first day in office, U.S. President Joe Biden scrapped the pipeline's permit as one of multiple actions intended to fight climate change, effectively killing the $8-billion US project. If completed, the 1,897-kilometre pipeline expansion project, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of oilsands crude from Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska, where it would then connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Opposition Leader Erin O'Toole called for the debate earlier on Monday, accusing the government of not doing enough to advocate for the expansion. During the evening's debate, which stretched until just past midnight in Ottawa, O'Toole described empty office towers and job losses in Calgary. "Canada has been dealt a serious blow … these are Canadians, thousands of them, being totally forgotten and left behind by this government," he said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has repeatedly said it supports the project, and Trudeau expressed his disappointment with Biden during a call between the two nations' leaders on Friday. "We will stand up and have our workers' backs.… Let's talk TMX. We approved it, we bought it, we're building it," O'Regan said, referring to the federal purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is under construction. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has called for sanctions against the U.S. in response to the permit's cancellation. Kenney's government invested $1.5 billion Cdn in equity in the project alongside billions in loan guarantees.The provincial opposition NDP is calling on the Alberta government to release documents containing details of that deal, calling it a risky one. The project had been rejected under former president Barack Obama's government. It was later approved under former president Donald Trump, but Biden had repeatedly stated he intended to rescind that permit once elected. Canada's ambassador to the U.S. has said it's time to respect that decision, however disappointing it may be to proponents, and move forward. WATCH | Keystone XL pipeline project 'appears to be dead,' says Rachel Notley Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Heather McPherson said Biden's decision should have come as no surprise given Biden's opposition and legal challenges of the project. "Remember when Jason Kenney gambled on Donald Trump. He didn't gamble his money — he gambled ours … that was his plan to get jobs for workers in my province," she said. "Now, he wants to start a trade war with the U.S., the customer for 95 per cent of our energy exports." Lakeland Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said while the decision did not come as a shock, it underlines that Canada is in a vulnerable position when it comes to its energy industry as the U.S. has increased domestic production. "With the stroke of a pen thousands of people are out of work in the middle of a global crisis ... Canadians whose livelihoods depend on the oil and gas sector are rightfully anxious about their future," she said. O'Regan referred to climate change as an "existential crisis." "The market has an important role here. It is the leading role in determining how investment decisions should be made, but it is our government's duty to set the parameters on that and to incent what we believe to be extraordinarily important goals, namely net-zero emissions by 2050. That is the goal we have set for ourselves, and many of our friends, colleagues and competitors around the world have also set that goal for themselves. This is an existential crisis, there is no question." It's also an economic crisis for the many people across the country who worry they may be left behind, he said. "We cannot allow that to happen." Former Green Party Leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May said it would be extremely unfair to say those who think the Keystone expansion cancellation was a good decision don't care about workers losing their jobs. "I would no more say that people who are supporting the oilsands are deliberately and consciously threatening my grandchildrens' future than I would say it's right to be celebrating when people suffer an immediate downturn in their economic prospects."
A Fort St. John man was sentenced last Tuesday to 20 months probation and 50 hours community service for an illegal cannabis grow-op in June 2017. Edward James Fennell, 51, pleaded guilty to to one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking, and for the production of more than three kilograms of cannabis seized from his home on 99 Avenue. Officers seized 170 plants from three hidden grow rooms inside the home, which RCMP described as a “typical two-stage grow op.” The cannabis had a street value between $60,000 to $95,000, court heard. Fennell previously had a medical licence to grow cannabis, which was expired at the time of his arrest, court heard. He declined an opportunity to speak to the court about his sentencing. He was issued a two-year suspended sentence, and released to serve 20 months probation and the requirement to complete community service. Cannabis became legal in Canada in October 2018. Email reporter Tom Summer at firstname.lastname@example.org Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Two major casino companies announced deals Monday with daily fantasy sports providers as they seek to expand their reach and integrate different forms of fan engagement with professional sports into their gambling operations. In the first deal, announced Monday morning, Bally's continued its acquisition juggernaut by acquiring the daily fantasy sports company Monkey Knife Fight in an all-stock transaction that further widens the fast-growing company's drive to add casino, online sports betting and media companies. Later in the day, Caesars Entertainment announced a strategic investment in SuperDraft, a daily fantasy sports company launched in September 2019, with the option to acquire the whole company over time. Daily fantasy sports involves players assembling virtual rosters of professional athletes, and then competing against others based on the performance of those athletes in real life. It is played just for fun, as well as for cash. There has been growing synergy between daily fantasy sports and sports betting; two of the original dominant fantasy providers, DraftKings and FanDuel, have become leading sports betting bookmakers in the U.S. Providence, Rhode Island-based Bally's becomes the third U.S. sports betting company to have a daily fantasy sports component, along with DraftKings and FanDuel. Bally's has been on a tear in recent months, adding gambling and media properties as it aims to become a major national player. “With this acquisition, we are pleased to enter into the high-growth (daily fantasy sports) market," said George Papanier, the company's president and CEO. "Monkey Knife Fight is a unique asset that we look forward to incorporating into Bally’s constantly growing omnichannel portfolio of land-based casinos and iGaming platforms.” Bally's recent moves include the purchase of Bally's casino in Atlantic City, a media partnership with Sinclair Broadcast Group and its pending acquisition of Bet.Works. The company plans to integrate Monkey Knife Fight's geographic presence in 37 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada, with Sinclair’s portfolio of 21 regional sports networks. Monkey Knife fight has about 180,000 registered users, 80,000 of whom have made monetary deposits in order to play. Papanier said Monkey Knife Fight will support Bally’s plans to develop a potential customer database in states that have not yet adopted sports betting but which are considered lucrative potential markets, including California, Florida and Texas, as well as in Canada. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021. Caesars did not divulge the amount of its investment in SuperDraft, which operates in more than 35 states. "We’re super excited to be part of Caesars’ powerful gaming ecosystem,” said Steve Wang, CEO and founder of SuperDraft. “Daily fantasy players deserve a breath of fresh air, and we’re here to transform the industry. SuperDraft is now well-positioned to accelerate its growth with financial staying power while broadening its consumer appeal with bigger contests and better rewards to players of all interest levels.” ___ Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC. Wayne Parry, The Associated Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Groups of youths confronted police in Dutch towns and cities Monday night, defying the country's coronavirus curfew and throwing fireworks. Police in the port city of Rotterdam used a water cannon and tear gas in an attempt to disperse a crowd of rioters. Police and local media reported trouble in the capital, Amsterdam, where at least eight people were arrested, the central city of Amersfoort, where a car was turned on its side, and other towns before and after the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew began. It was the second night of unrest in towns and cities across the Netherlands that initially grew out of calls to protest against the country's tough lockdown, but degenerated into vandalism by crowds whipped up by messages swirling on social media. Rotterdam police said youths took to the streets “seeking a confrontation with police.” Riot officers attempted to break up the violence and made a number of arrests, before firing tear gas. Police warned people to stay away from the area. National broadcaster NOS showed video of police using a water cannon and reported that some shops had been looted. In the southern town of Geleen, police tweeted that youths in the downtown area were throwing fireworks. Riot police charged at protesters in The Hague. Dutch media reported calls on social media for further violent protests even as the country struggles to contain new coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Police in the southern town of Goes and the North Holland province said they detained people on suspicion of using social media to call for rioting. “It is unacceptable,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said earlier Monday of rioting Sunday. “This has nothing to do with protesting, this is criminal violence and that's how we'll treat it.” Worst hit Sunday was the southern city of Eindhoven, where police clashed with hundreds of rioters who torched a car, threw rocks and fireworks at officers, smashed windows and looted a supermarket at its railway station. “My city is crying, and so am I,” Eindhoven Mayor John Jorritsma told reporters Sunday night in an emotional impromptu news conference. He called the rioters “the scum of the earth” and added “I am afraid that if we continue down this path, we’re on our way to civil war." Amsterdam police arrested 190 people amid rioting at a banned demonstration Sunday. The rioting coincided with the first weekend of a new national coronavirus curfew, but mayors stressed that the violence wasn't the work of citizens concerned about their civil liberties. “These demonstrations are being hijacked by people who only want one thing and that is to riot,” Hubert Bruls, mayor of the city of Nijmegen and leader of a group of local security organizations, told news talk show Op1. Nijmegen was one of a number of towns and cities that issued emergency decrees giving police extra powers to keep people away from certain locations amid reports of possible riots there. At least one store in Nijmegen was shown on Dutch television being boarded up as a precaution. Bruls, who chaired a meeting of security officials Monday, said despite the violence, he didn't advocate further limiting demonstrations. “You should be very reluctant to limit the right to demonstrate,” he said, noting that the rioting Sunday happened at protests that already had been banned by local authorities. Police in Eindhoven said Monday they have detained 62 suspects and have launched a large-scale investigation to identify and arrest more. One woman not involved in the rioting in Eindhoven was injured by a police horse. Local residents went to the scene of the rioting Monday morning to help in the cleanup operation. On Sunday, rioters threw rocks at the windows of a hospital in the eastern city of Enschede. On Saturday night, youths in the fishing village of Urk torched a coronavirus testing facility. Police in the southern province of Limburg said military police were sent as reinforcements to two cities. The Netherlands has seen over 13,600 confirmed virus deaths in the pandemic. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak Mike Corder, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — These suspects weren't exactly in hiding. “THIS IS ME,” one man posted on Instagram with a hand emoji pointing to himself in a picture of the violent mob descending on the U.S. Capitol. “Sooo we’ve stormed Capitol Hill lol,” one woman texted someone while inside the building. “I just wanted to incriminate myself a little lol,” another wrote on Facebook about a selfie he took inside during the Jan. 6 riot. In dozens of cases, supporters of President Donald Trump downright flaunted their activity on social media on the day of the deadly insurrection. Some, apparently realizing they were in trouble with the law, deleted their accounts only to discover their friends and family members had already taken screenshots of their selfies, videos and comments and sent them to the FBI. Their total lack of concern over getting caught and their friends' willingness to turn them in has helped authorities charge about 150 people as of Monday with federal crimes. But even with the help from the rioters themselves, investigators must still work rigorously to link the images to the vandalism and suspects to the acts on Jan. 6 in order to prove their case in court. And because so few were arrested at the scene, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service have been forced to send agents to track suspects down. “Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of criminal activity inside the Capitol,” Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington office, said earlier this month. “Bottom line — the FBI is not sparing any resources in this investigation.” In the last few weeks, the FBI has received over 200,000 photos and video tips related to the riot. Investigators have put up billboards in several states with photos of wanted rioters. Working on tips from co-workers, acquaintances and friends, agents have tracked down driver’s license photos to match their faces with those captured on camera in the building. In some cases, authorities got records from Facebook or Twitter to connect their social media accounts to their email addresses or phone numbers. In others, agents used records from license plate readers to confirm their travels. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol, although it's likely not everyone will be tracked down and charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors are focusing on the most critical cases and the most egregious examples of wrongdoing. And they must weigh manpower, cost and evidence when charging rioters. A special group of prosecutors is examining whether to bring sedition charges against the rioters, which carry up to 20 years in prison. One trio was charged with conspiracy; most have been charged with crimes like unlawful entry and disorderly conduct. Many rioters posted selfies inside the Capitol to their social media accounts, gave interviews to news outlets describing their experience and readily admitted when questioned by federal investigators that they were there. One man created a Facebook album titled “Who’s House? OUR HOUSE” filled with photos of himself and others on Capitol grounds, officials said. “They might have thought, like so many people that work with Trump, that if the president tells me to do it, it’s not breaking the law,” said Michael Gerhardt, an expert on impeachment and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Others made blunders, like a Houston police officer, who denied he went into the Capitol, then agreed to let agents look at the pictures on his phone. Inside his deleted photos folder were pictures and videos, including selfies he took inside the building, authorities said. Another man was wearing a court-ordered GPS monitor after a burglary conviction that tracked his every movement inside the building. A retired firefighter from Long Island, New York, texted a video of himself in the Capitol rotunda to his girlfriend’s brother, saying he was “at the tip of the spear,” officials said. The brother happened to be a federal agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, who turned the video over to the FBI. A lawyer for the man, Thomas Fee, said he “was not part of any attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol” and that “the allegation is that he merely walked through an open door into the Capitol — nothing more." Another man who was inside the Capitol was willing to rat out another rioter who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and emailed the video to an FBI agent, even signing his own name to it. “Hello Nice FBI Lady,” he wrote, “Here are the links to the videos. Looks like Podium Guy is in one of them, less the podium. Let me know if you need anything else.” In another case, a man was on a flight leaving D.C. two days after the riot when he kept shouting “Trump 2020!” and was kicked off. An airport police officer saw the man get off the plane and the man was booked on another flight. Forty-five minutes later, the officer was watching a video on Instagram and recognized the man in a group of rioters. The man, who was wearing the same shirt as the day he stormed the Capitol, was arrested at the airport, authorities said. Even defence attorneys have acknowledged that the evidence poses a problem for them. “I’m not a magician,” said an attorney for the man seen in a photo carrying Pelosi's lectern. “We’ve got a photograph of our client in what appears to be inside a federal building or inside the Capitol with government property,” he told reporters. Police at the Capitol planned only for a free-speech demonstration and were overwhelmed by the mob that broke through and roamed the halls of the Capitol for hours as lawmakers were sent into hiding. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Trump was impeached after the riot on a charge of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” Opening arguments will begin the week of Feb. 8. He is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office. Unlike criminal cases, impeachment trials do not have specific evidence rules so anything said and done that day can be used. And several of the people charged have said in interviews with reporters or federal agents that they were simply listening to the president when they marched to the Capitol. ___ Richer reported from Boston. Michael Balsamo, Alanna Durkin Richer And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
CALGARY — Canadian exports of crude oil by rail jumped 87 per cent in November as oil production rose in Western Canada amid limited pipeline capacity for heavy crude. The Canada Energy Regulator says rail shipments of oil amounted to 173,000 barrels per day, up about 80,000 bpd from 92,800 barrels per day in October. That's down from 302,300 barrels per day shipped by rail in November 2019. Crude-by-rail numbers have been volatile in the past year, with shipments rising to a record 412,000 bpd last February, then falling to an eight-year low of 39,000 bpd in July. Rail transportation of crude oil is considered to be more expensive than shipping by pipeline so shippers tend to use it only when pipelines are full or if the destination market offers much higher prices than can be achieved in Canada. The CER says overall Canadian crude oil exports in November came to 3.74 million bpd, up by almost five per cent from 3.57 million bpd in October. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. CEO Brian Penney struck a hopeful tone on the opening day of the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s final hearing on his company’s proposed mine expansion, saying that many concerns about the project have been addressed. He also offered a warning: the Mary River iron mine can’t continue operating unless it’s allowed to grow. “The [Mary River] project has not been financially sustainable, regardless of ore price,” Penney said Monday as the hearing got underway in Pond Inlet thought its proceedings were streamed online. The nine-member Nunavut Impact Review Board assesses the environmental and socio-economic impacts of development projects and advises the federal and territorial governments on whether they should go ahead. For the Mary River mine to turn a profit, Penney said, Baffinland needs to reduce transportation costs. The proposed 110-kilometre railway between Mary River and Milne Inlet, among other additions, would help accomplish that, he said. Since the hearing was put on hold in November 2019, Baffinland has tried to address concerns about the environmental and cultural impact of its phase two plans. These attempts included an Inuit stewardship plan, to allow Inuit to “report on social, environmental, and cultural impacts” of the phase two proposal, which will be run by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and paid for by Baffinland. As well, the Inuit Certainty Agreement, a multimillion-dollar agreement between the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Baffinland, was signed in July 2020 and outlines community benefits, Inuit participation in the project and incentives for affected communities. But it looks like this inducements may not be enough. P.J. Akeeagok, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, said in his opening remarks that organizations involved are unsatisfied with the specifics of the project, including how and in what quantities ore will be shipped. “Baffinland, I ask you to be adaptive, I ask you to challenge the depth and the form of your commitments to Inuit,” Akeeagok said. “Heed the advice you have been given about the environment you are seeking to operate among [and] within; acknowledge your place as settlers within an Inuit homeland. Your project grows out of Inuit lands and resources.” On Sunday, a statement issued by the hunter and trapper organizations and hamlets from North Baffin called the project’s adaptive management “ineffective and dysfunctional.” “The existing Mary River mine and proposed expansion have caused serious concern among North Baffin communities,” the statement reads. “While there are some benefits, we are not convinced the benefits outweigh the adverse impacts.” Penney, prior to the lunch break, said he is willing to work with Inuit to complete the deal. “We are very proud of the work our team has done over the past year to improve the project, expand the benefits, and to support and enhance the framework for project planning, monitoring and adaptive management to achieve environmental and social sustainability,” Penney said. The final hearing will continue until Feb 6. Afterwards, the review board will send a report to federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal recommending whether the project should go ahead. Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News
NEW YORK — Illustrator Michaela Goade became the first Native American to win the prestigious Randolph Caldecott Medal for best children's picture story, cited for “We Are Water Protectors.” Tae Keller's “When You Trap a Tiger” won the John Newbery Medal for the outstanding children's book overall of 2020. Jacqueline Woodson, whose previous honours include a National Book Award, won her third Coretta Scott King Award for best work by a Black author for “Before the Ever After.” And a tribute to Aretha Franklin, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T," received the King award for best illustration. The book was written by Carole Boston Weatherford, with images by Frank Morrison. The awards were announced Monday by the American Library Association. Goade is a member of the Tlingit and Haida Indian tribes in Southeast Alaska. “We Are Water Protectors,” written by Carole Lindstrom, is a call for environmental protection that was conceived in response to the planned construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through Standing Rock Sioux territory. Keller, who was raised in Hawaii and now lives in New York, drew upon Korean folklore for “When You Trap a Tiger," in which a young girl explores her past. Keller's work also was named the year's best Asian/Pacific American literature. The Newbery medal was established in 1922, the Caldecott in 1937. Goade is the first Native American to win in either category. Daniel Nayeri's “Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story)" won the Michael L. Printz Award for best young adult novel, and Mildred D. Taylor, known for “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” among other works, was given a “Literature Legacy” award. Kekla Magoon, who has written or co-written “X: A Novel" and “How It Went Down,” won a lifetime achievement award for young adult books. Ernesto Cisneros' “Efrén Divided" won the Pura Belpré prize for outstanding Latinx author. Raul Gonzalez's “Vamos! Let’s Go Eat” received the Belpré award for illustration. The Stonewall Book Award for best LGBT literature was given to Archaa Shrivastav for “We Are Little Feminists: Families." ____ On the Internet: ala.org. Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
A Halifax development company that started demolishing an apartment building with a tenant still living there has been issued two penalties totalling $1,000 by the province's Department of Labour. The administrative penalties were issued following a Dec. 4 inspection by the province. Each are for $500. One was for violating the process outlined in the engineering plan, and the other was related to a lack of proper hazard assessment and site controls, according to an email from department spokesperson Shannon Kerr. Halifax Regional Municipality and the province issued stop-work orders in early December when Mosaik Properties began tearing down the residential building at on North Street. The demolition got underway before the last tenant had moved out, and while a hearing before the Residential Tenancies Board was pending. The tenant is no longer living in the building. The province's stop-work order was lifted on Jan. 5 after compliance with the order was met. But the HRM order remains in place. The municipality revoked the demolition permit for the project on Jan. 4, but it only applies to the demolition of the overall structure. Erin DiCarlo, HRM spokesperson, said in an email that even with a stop-work order in place "environmental remediation and other steps are currently being taken by the developer to ensure the site is safe and secure." According to HRM, the developers can appeal the decision to revoke the demolition permit to the Nova Scotia Building Advisory Committee. But DiCarlo said the city has not been served with an appeal. MORE TOP STORIES
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Julie Payette's access to a six-figure expense account is being reviewed in the wake of her resignation as governor general following a blistering outside report on the workplace environment at Rideau Hall. Under the Governor General's Act, former vice-regals are entitled to an annuity which, according to the 2020 Public Accounts, amounts to $149,484 per year. They are also given access to a lifetime expense program for office and travel expenses — a program that grew out of a Treasury Board decision in 1979. 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. In an interview with CBC News' Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos, Freeland said that former governors general are legally entitled to the annuity. "It is buttressed by laws and those laws include the pension to which all former governors general are entitled. That's just the law and I think we all agree we need to follow the law," she said. "In terms of the other aspects of the life of someone who has served as governor general after they are no longer serving as governor general, all of those issues are under careful consideration." WATCH / Chrystia Freeland on Payette's expense account: When asked specifically about the expense account, Freeland said "everything is under careful consideration." "It is going to be important for our government, and what I can 100 per cent commit to Canadians is we're going to follow the law here and the legal entitlements are entitlements we're going to honour, because we believe in honouring Canada's political institutions," she said. "The important thing at this point is not what I think. It is what the rules are, and that is something that is being looked into very carefully right now." Opposition questions Payette's access to funds A Rideau Hall spokesperson said the expense account is meant for former governors general who continue to serve the public after they step down or retire. "Once governors general end their mandate, there remains an expectation that they continue to serve as Canadian leading figures. This expectation of continued public life means that they are regularly solicited to support various causes, take part in important events and undertake official activities," said Rideau Hall spokesperson Rob McKinnon. "When submitting claims for reimbursement, supporting documentation are provided, including original receipts and invoices. Reasonable expenses of secretarial and temporary help services are reimbursed to all former Governors General through the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General." In a shock move, Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, resigned Thursday after an outside workplace review of Rideau Hall probed claims that she had belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole questioned Payette's access to the fund, given the report's findings. "She resigned her role, she should not be able to access the normal courtesies provided to governors general," he told reporters Monday morning ahead of Parliament resuming. "The office, sadly, has been sullied." Both O'Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to tell the public whether he and Payette came to an agreement before she resigned. "There's a couple things that people are really upset about," Singh said today. "One is that the governor general resigned and, secondly, resigned in light of a report that shows some really troubling examples of harassment of staff and poor work conditions. "Given those two elements, people are wondering why would someone receive what seems like a reward for this really bad behaviour. "So really, this question has to be directed to Justin Trudeau. What was the agreement that he put in place that precipitated the resignation?" CBC has requested comment from the Prime Minister's Office. WATCH | Opposition leaders say former governor general should not receive perks
MONTREAL — The Quebec government came under pressure Monday to ease lockdown restrictions, from the opposition who called for the homeless to be curfew exempt, to regional mayors who said the rules are unjustified in their towns. Mayors in less-populated parts of the province where COVID-19 infections rates are low said health authorities should ease restrictions after they are set to expire Feb. 8. Marc Parent, the mayor of Rimouski, Que., said his region shouldn't be treated like Montreal, which reports hundreds of new cases every day. Rimouski, by contrast, located about 540 kilometres northeast of Montreal, reported a single new case on Sunday, he said. “When you look at the lower St-Lawrence, the Gaspe and the North Shore, we are in the neighbourhood of about 10 cases per 100,000 residents,” Parent said in an interview Monday. He said residents are looking for health orders to reflect the COVID situation in their region. “I believe the Quebec government must take into consideration the regional realities … it’s a must," Parent said. Much of Quebec has been under some form of lockdown since October, when in-person dining at restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues were closed. But in early January, following a rise in COVID-related hospitalizations, the premier ordered all non-essential businesses across the province to close and imposed an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for virtually all Quebecers. Rejean Porlier, mayor of Sept-Iles, Que., said he’s had conversations with Quebec’s director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, about identifying thresholds that would trigger certain extra measures as needed. “That’s what was behind the colour-coded system in the beginning, but we’re in a completely different place now: it’s oatmeal for everyone,” Porlier said. He said curfews and restaurant closures don't make sense in Sept-Iles, located about 650 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, which reported zero new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and five cases last week. “We’ll have to respect the decisions that are taken but we’re hopeful our concerns will be heard and we’ll be able to resume certain activities here,” Porlier said. “When there are zero cases, our (hospital) beds aren’t occupied, what could justify such extreme measures?” Also on Monday, opposition parties joined community groups for a virtual news conference during which they repeated demands the government exempt the homeless from the provincewide curfew. Meanwhile, lawyers argued in Quebec Superior Court that the curfew violates homeless people's Charter rights to safety and security and to be protected against cruel and unusual punishment or treatment. The judge hearing the case is expected to rule later in the week. Last week, Premier Francois Legault rejected the Montreal mayor's request for an exemption, saying he had concerns people would fake homelessness to defy the curfew and avoid the fine, which can be as high as $6,000. Montreal's request came following the recent death of Raphael Andre, a 51-year-old homeless Innu man found dead in a portable toilet. New data indicates the daily infection rate and number of hospitalizations are trending downward. Quebec has reported a drop in hospitalizations for the past six reporting periods, representing 179 fewer patients in hospital. Health officials reported 1,203 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 43 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 12 that occurred in the past 24 hours. The Health Department said hospitalizations dropped by six, to 1,321 and 217 patients were in intensive care, a decrease of two. Fewer hospitalizations in recent days are starting to impact hospitalizations, Heath Minister Christian Dube said. "Case data continue to be encouraging," Dube said in a tweet announcing the daily count. "It shows that our efforts over the past few weeks are bearing fruit." Health officials said Monday 1,672 more people have recovered from COVID-19, for a total of 228,887, adding that Quebec has 16,424 active reported cases. Officials said 220,715 doses of vaccine had been administered as of Sunday, representing 2.58 per cent of the population that had been vaccinated. Quebec has reported 254,836 infections and 9,521 deaths linked to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. — with files from Morgan Lowrie Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Enthusiasm for TFI International Inc. and BlackBerry Ltd. offset some investor concerns to push the Canada's main stock index higher. The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 60.11 points to 17,906.02. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 36.98 points at 30,960.00. The S&P 500 index was up 13.89 points at 3,855.36, while the Nasdaq composite was up 92.93 points at 13,635.99. The Canadian dollar traded for 78.51 cents US compared with 78.64 cents US on Friday. The March crude oil contract was up 50 cents at US$52.77 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was up 14.2 cents at US$2.60 per mmBTU. The February gold contract was down US$1 at US$1,855.20 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 0.3 of a cent at US$3.63 a pound. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Microsoft founder Bill Gates did not create the virus that causes COVID-19 and he is not forcing microchips into your body through vaccinations. Those pieces of misinformation are examples of what a group of Canadian scientists and health professionals is trying to discredit through a new campaign tackling inaccurate theories about the pandemic. About 40 misinformation debunkers are using the hashtag #ScienceUpFirst to provide science-based evidence on social media. "There's been misinformation about all kinds of things that you can do to treat COVID with crazy treatments like cow urine and bleach," said Prof. Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta. Caulfield is spearheading the #ScienceUpFirst movement. "And now we're in the middle of trying to roll out the vaccine and we know that misinformation is having an adverse impact on vaccination. "Things like the vaccine will change your DNA. No, it won't. The idea that the vaccine is associated with infertility. No, it's not," Caulfield said Monday in a phone interview. "There is just an incredible amount of misinformation out there about COVID. I've been studying misinformation for decades. I've never seen anything like this." He said the campaign was already trending on Twitter on Monday, the day of its launch. Caulfield is known for taking actor Gwyneth Paltrow's wellness brand Goop to task in his book "Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything?'' as well as for a Netflix series called "A User's Guide to Cheating Death." The initiative is in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Science Centres, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. "There's been research that has shown that the spread of misinformation is having an adverse impact on health and science policy, it's led to increased stigma and discrimination, and it's just added to the chaotic information environment that we all have to deal with," Caufield said. "The evidence tells us that debunking does work if you do it well, so we're trying to do it well. We're trying to listen. We're trying to be empathetic in our approach. We're trying to be creative in our messaging and, hopefully, even if we move the needle a little bit, we can make a difference." A spokesperson for #ScienceUpFirst says the campaign is pushing to involve Canadian athletes and celebrities to get the word out about tackling misinformation. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
B.C. health officials say they are extending the gap between shots to 42 days from 35 after learning fewer doses are on their way. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is at a critical juncture.
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Chatham-Kent is on the decline. In the last two weeks, the number of active cases has fallen by more than 40 percent, leaving the number of active cases to 80, as of January 21. The 80 active cases include 52 tied to close contact with other cases, 13 with an unknown cause, four with information pending and three in Chatham-Kent residents at an institutional outbreak not in Chatham-Kent. According to Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, while 80 is still higher than what he wants it to be, he is pleased it is moving in the right direction. “I am pleased that our number of active cases is very significantly dropping, which means that more patients are recovering than are arising as new cases,” said Colby. “We’ll just continue to monitor this.” In total, Chatham-Kent’s cumulative Covid-19 case total rose to 1,046. The region’s six active workplace outbreaks had a total of eight active cases in Chatham-Kent residents as of January 21. “The workplace outbreaks are, by and large, very small and have been contained very fast,” said Colby. “They’re not large outbreaks. I think that’s important for the public to know.” The outbreak at the Wallaceburg Walmart, where five employees tested positive, has not spread to customers, said Colby. He added they did mass testing of almost all the employees at Walmart and had no further positives. “There are no cases from the community that we could trace to that environment whatsoever,” said Colby. “We’re looking forward to declaring this outbreak over very, very soon.” As of January 21, five Chatham-Kent residents have died of COVID-19. Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
CINCINNATI — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said Monday that he won’t seek reelection to a third term in 2022, expressing dismay with the deep partisanship and dysfunction in American politics. Portman, an establishment Republican who served in the House and in President George W. Bush's administration before joining the Senate, cited a political climate that has made it “harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress." “Our country is very polarized,” Portman said, adding that former President Donald Trump did not help with the polarization. “It’s shirts and skins right now. We need to tone it down.” The decision is one measure of the difficult politics facing many Republicans in Washington as they cede power in President Joe Biden's administration and watch their party split between hard-right Trump supporters and others eager to turn the page. Portman, who turned 65 last month, is among the longtime Republican lawmakers who often backed Trump, though not vociferously. Once dubbed “The Loyal Soldier” in a front-page profile story in his hometown Cincinnati Enquirer, Portman usually defended Trump or avoided criticism of him with carefully worded statements. After Trump called the presidential election rigged, citing no legitimate evidence, Portman said Trump had a right to a probe of any irregularities. But immediately after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of Trump backers, Portman said Trump needed to go on national TV to tell his supporters to refrain from violence. “Both in his words before the attack on the Capitol and in his actions afterward, President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened,” Portman said. Portman’s announcement came the same day that the U.S. Senate is receiving the House impeachment article against Trump for his role in the Capitol riot. While some Republican senators have criticized going ahead with the trial with Trump out of office, Portman said last week that he would listen to the evidence presented by both sides before deciding how to vote. His retirement adds another open seat for the GOP to defend in 2022 as it seeks to regain control of a Senate that Democrats hold by virtue of Vice-President Kamala Harris being the tiebreaking vote. Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have said they plan to retire. Republicans have 20 seats up for reelection in 2022, compared to 14 for Democrats. Those GOP seats include presidential battlegrounds Wisconsin and Florida. Ohio, a perennial battleground for decades, has become more reliably Republican, carried by Trump by more than 8 percentage points in 2016 and 2020. But Portman, like many mainstream GOP lawmakers viewed as insufficiently supportive of Trump, was considered likely to face a primary challenge from the right. Portman twice won election to the Senate by landslide margins. Still, his departure offers a glimmer of hope for Democrats in the state. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was reelected in 2018, but most other statewide officials are Republican. Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters said Portman should take “a long hard look in the mirror” before complaining about partisan gridlock and the end of civility in Washington. “Over the past four years, Rob Portman has been one of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders, so his attempt today to rewrite that history is ridiculous,” she said in a statement. Portman’s first federal government job started in 1989, when he served as an associate legal counsel in the George H.W. Bush White House. Portman considered Bush a mentor, one whose genteel style was far from that of the abrasive Trump and some of his Republican supporters in Washington Portman was elected to Congress from southern Ohio in a 1993 special election and won six more elections before President George W. Bush tapped him to serve as U.S. trade representative in 2005. He travelled the globe, negotiating dozens of trade agreements. Bush then nominated him to be White House budget director in 2006. Portman stepped down in 2007, then returned to politics in 2010 with a successful U.S. Senate run, and won again in 2016, both times by landslide margins. Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken said in a statement after Portman's announcement that his service has been “invaluable.” Generally voting with his party, Portman broke ranks in 2013 to announce his support for same-sex marriage. He said his son Will had come out as gay. Portman and his wife, Jane, have three children. After a long career, Portman said Monday that he was looking forward to spending more time with his family and in his community. He pledged to focus on legislative work in his last two years, working on pandemic relief — he participated in testing of a new vaccine — and issues he’s long been involved with such as fighting drug misuse. ___ Follow Dan Sewell at https://twitter.com/dansewell By Dan Sewell, The Associated Press
Marco Polo Land in Cavendish, P.E.I., has been named large campground of the year by a national camping and RV council. The campground was selected from hundreds of nominations across the country, said Shane Devenish, executive director of the Canadian Camping and RV Council. Marco Polo Land is the first recipient of the award, which will be presented annually for the top campground with 250 sites or more. Devenish said Marco Polo Land was chosen because of the amenities it has added over the last year, including a new water park and deluxe cabins that capitalize on the "glamping" trend. "The ability to have deluxe cabins at a campground now is becoming really popular because it allows people to experience the outdoor camping experience without having to have an RV or a tent." KOA Cornwall a finalist Devenish said the entries were whittled down to three finalists, which also included another campground on P.E.I. — KOA in Cornwall. The other finalist was the Camperland Resort in Rosedale, B.C. Hennie Hoekstra, who has owned Marco Polo Land since 2006, said winning the award was special after a "totally different season" due to COVID-19. "It's a really nice honour to receive … not only good for Marco but for the province." Hoekstra said the COVID-19 pandemic was not as bad for Marco Polo Land as it was for other tourism businesses such as restaurants and cottage rentals. She said many of her customers were Islanders and others from within the Atlantic bubble when it was in place. Had to be 'a little bit creative' She said while some parts of the business, such as the inn and the restaurant, were down, others, such as campsite and cabin rentals, were up, which helped to even out the bottom line. She said they had to move some activities, such as bingo, outside due to public health restrictions. "You could still do lots of activities, you just had to be a little bit creative," she said. Hoekstra said she expects 2021 will be similar, at least until more people are vaccinated. More from CBC P.E.I.
L’annonce d’une possible suspension des services d’Orléans Express en région ne passe pas en Gaspésie. Élus et citoyens s’indignent de voir la péninsule encore une fois prise en otage par un enjeu de transport qui la dépasse. «C’est une autre tuile en transport pour nous. Ça commence à être très pénible», lâche sobrement le préfet de la Haute-Gaspésie, Allen Cormier. Comme pour plusieurs, la lettre de Keolis laissant entrevoir la suspension de ses services en Gaspésie a été reçue comme une bombe par l’élu. «On met la population en otage ! Pire encore, c’est notre population âgée et vulnérable qui va être la plus touchée», s’indigne M. Cormier. Seul transporteur reliant la péninsule gaspésienne aux grands centres, la perte du service d’autobus d’Orléans Express serait particulièrement difficile pour les personnes comme André Ouellet qui doivent sortir de la région pour des rendez-vous médicaux. «Je prends l’autobus depuis qu’il n’y a plus de train. En perdant Orléans Express, on revient 70 ans en arrière. Ça n’a pas de bon sens de vivre ça en 2021 !» s’exaspère M. Ouellet. «J’ai un handicap visuel, alors je ne peux pas conduire. Avant, on avait quatre départs par jour, et puis deux, et ensuite on a enlevé des trajets, et maintenant on menace de tout arrêter. Si Orléans lève les pattes, je vais être obligé d’aller à mes rendez-vous médicaux par covoiturage, et ce n’est vraiment pas fiable. Dans mon cas et pour plusieurs autres personnes âgées ou vulnérables, c’est plus qu’essentiel d’avoir un moyen de transport sur lequel on peut compter !», note-t-il. «Je comprends qu’il y a moins de voyageurs avec la pandémie, mais s’ils ne peuvent pas remplir de gros autobus, pourquoi ne nous amènent-ils pas des petits autobus?», questionne M. Ouellet. Un gout amer La possible suspension de la desserte d’Orléans Express a un gout particulièrement amer pour les Gaspésiens. Plusieurs attribuent à l’entreprise, et surtout à la multinationale Keolis, la fermeture de Taxi Fortin en 2018, un service taxi interurbain qui faisait la navette entre la Gaspésie, Québec et Montréal. En service depuis 1949, l’entreprise qui était basée à Cloridorme offrait un service «porte-à-porte» unique au Québec. Exploitant un permis spécial qui lui permettait de récupérer des clients en Gaspésie et les déposer à Québec et Montréal uniquement, l’entreprise locale a cessé ses activités en 2018 alors que Keolis avait entrepris des démarches pour faire révoquer le droit acquis par Taxi Fortin, alléguant que les conditions n’étaient pas respectées puisque des clients étaient parfois déposés hors des zones permises. «Beaucoup de personnes âgées utilisaient [taxi] Fortin. C’était un super service très personnalisé où tout le monde était à l’aise. Ils pouvaient prendre des passagers à la maison et les déposer à destination, mais ils étiraient un peu leur permis et se sont fait prendre. Ils n’avaient pas l’argent pour se battre avec Keolis», explique André Ouellet, qui a souvent utilisé le service. L’aide de Québec réclamée Dans la lettre adressée aux élus, le président-directeur général de Keolis Canada, dont Orléans Express est une filiale, réclame une aide financière de Québec afin de maintenir ses services en région. «Sans une aide financière viable de la part du gouvernement du Québec, Keolis Canada ne pourra continuer à desservir toute sa clientèle et nous devrons procéder à des coupures de services dès le mois de février, notamment la région de la Gaspésie», écrit Pierre-Paul Pharand. Pour le préfet de la Haute-Gaspésie, cette manœuvre frôle le chantage. «On joue le jeu de la COVID pour faire en sorte d’aller chercher un peu d’argent, et en même temps on menace un service essentiel», déplore M. Cormier. Il est d’avis qu’il est plus qu’urgent que le gouvernement et le transport en arrivent à une entente. «Présentement, il y a déjà des programmes d’aides pour les transporteurs. Il faut simplement s’assoir à la table et voir comment on peut s’arranger, parce que ces pressions-là, ça ne passe pas», conclut le préfet. Contacté par Le Soleil, le cabinet du ministre des Transports note que «suite au premier confinement, un programme d’aide de 8,2M$ afin d’assurer le maintien des services a été mis en place» et que «[le gouvernement] est conscient que la diminution de l’achalandage ne permet pas aux transporteurs d’assurer l’équilibre financier qui permet de maintenir leurs services». Une rencontre entre Keolis Canada et le ministre des Transports, François Bonnardel «devrait avoir lieu prochainement». Simon Carmichael, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Soleil