With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
Homelessness in Hythe and the possibility of establishing a shelter in the village have become hot topics in the wake of this year’s economic downturn. The Village of Hythe is requesting feedback ahead of proposed virtual town hall to discuss the issue. “This is the first time to my knowledge that we’ve really experienced the issue, so we’re looking at options for how to deal with it,” said mayor Brian Peterson. No date has yet been set for a virtual meeting, said Leona Hanson, village chief administrative officer. Peterson said he doesn’t believe homelessness is widespread in Hythe, but it poses a great problem to those directly affected. “It’s a small-scale problem, but with large impacts to individuals,” he said. Peterson said he doesn’t believe the number of homeless residents exceeds a half dozen. There is a combination of causes of local housing instability; COVID, falling oil prices and their impact on the economy, he said. The former 7 Lakes Motel near Tags had provided long-term housing for many people and its closure earlier this year has contributed to the issue. Some of the former residents have found other accommodations, but others haven’t, Peterson said. Though rumours have been circulating on social media that the former motel will be re-purposed as a homeless shelter, nothing concrete has been received by the village, said Peterson. A number of concerned citizens have begun discussing how to address homelessness in Hythe, and the idea of re-purposing the motel has been suggested, he said. The group isn’t yet well-established and it hasn’t yet proposed a plan, Peterson said. If the former motel were to be converted into a shelter the village would need to approve that re-purposing through a development permit process, he said. Village CAO Hanson is working on a potential virtual town hall before a plan is advanced, Peterson said, adding the village isn’t considering funding a facility because it lacks the resources. Peterson said there’ve been no applications for a development permit yet, but the process has typically taken months. Homelessness is an urgent issue, but he said the process needs to ensure a good plan for a shelter is in place. “You need to do it right, and ask, ‘Is it the right place?’” Peterson said. “The shelter is a basic concept, but I need a lot more information than that.” He said he’s heard concerns from residents about having a shelter in the community, including whether the village can handle issues often associated with homelessness, mental health and addictions. “Those are valid concerns, and how do you deal with that and what resources are available?” Peterson said. “We certainly don’t have those resources available here today.” That said, some Hythe residents are already struggling with housing instability and mental health or addictions and Peterson said he’s not aware of anyone moving to Hythe to use the shelter. Other residents have expressed concerns about the rising crime they perceive would come with a shelter. Peterson said RCMP response times in Hythe are already an issue. “Adding extra stress to the system is not a good thing,” he said. Before the town hall, feedback is being accepted at 780-356-3888 or firstname.lastname@example.org and residents can also express interest in attending the meeting by using that email address.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter The grade 11/12 Leadership and Peer Support class at St. Marys DCVI is looking to help local families struggling with food insecurity this holiday season. It is a tradition with DCVI to hold a food drive around the holiday season every year, however, there was some concern that the COVID-19 pandemic may put that in jeopardy. However, thanks to the senior Leadership class, the annual food drive will continue, albeit slightly modified to account for this year's unique circumstances. The event is taking place in multiple different ways, with different aspects targeted to in-school food collection, as well as donations from the public. Each part will be managed by a group of students from the class, with the first part being an in-school contest between grades. This challenges students of every grade to donate non-perishable food items and whichever grade can fill up a kiddie pool the most will win a prize. This in-school contest will run the week of December 7th to December 11th. The next group of students will be going outside the school to collect donations from the public. On Tuesday, December 8th, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the students will be located in the parking lot of Delmar Foods Food Factory Outlet to collect donations. They will then be located in the DCVI parking lot on James Street on Wednesday, December 9th, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Then, on Thursday, December 10th, a group will be stationed in the DCVI parking lot outside on Elizabeth Street. Using the roundabout outside of the school's main doors, this portion of the food drive will run as a drive-thru event, allowing you to place your donations on a table and remain physically distanced from the volunteers. All events will adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, and all of the non-perishable food items collected will be donated to the St. Marys food bank once the food drive is completed on Friday, December 11th. Katie Stevens and Cierra Boyer, two members of the class running the food drive, spoke to the Independent on why it was so important for the entire Leadership class to continue DCVI's tradition of the food drive. "With COVID-19 hitting, we believe that the food drive could support many families during the pandemic, hence why we wanted to still have one even in these times. We have also lost a lot of opportunities in the course to give back to the community because of COVID-19. The course itself is about getting involved with our community and supporting not only our peers but the whole town. The class hopes to not only successfully put on a food drive during a pandemic but also fulfill the curriculum of the course and continue to get involved with the community and our peers." Stevens and Boyer also noted that Guidance Counselor Ruthan Waldick said of the pandemic impacting the food drive, "I have been at the school for over 20 years and can't imagine a school year without the food drive, not even a pandemic will get in the way." If you're unsure of what you could donate, the food drive is accepting canned goods, dry foods, infant/baby formula, diapers, personal hygiene products, bathroom tissue, and paper towels. Monetary donations will also be accepted, and the Leadership class would like to thank Delmar Foods and the Independent for their support.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Tay council wrangled with budget-item options in an attempt to bring down the proposed tax levy as much as possible, eventually settling on a 2% increase. The number is expected to go down to at least 1.4% or 1.2% once the blended tax rate from the county is shared with the municipality, said treasurer Joanne Sanders, who presented a detailed budget to council at its recent special meeting. She told councillors about items that had been taken off the list to help bring the tax rate down to 2%, including major expenses like repairs to bridges. "Granny White bridge, Rumney Road culvert and the Rosemount Road north bridge have all been removed from the capital budget," she said. "We did some more research there and no safety issues came up. The most recent bridge report still had those repairs in the one- to five-year category." These projects will be re-assessed during the 2020 bridge report, added Sanders. And with growth, comes surplus And it is this surplus, said Sanders, which is helping keep the tax rate down. "We are projecting a healthy surplus for the close of 2020," she said. "The greatest contributors are salaries and the supplementary assessments, which created additional income. There is a surplus of $349,500 left in the 2020 projected surplus. We do have funds to work with." Most of that money, Sanders said, has come from growth in the area. "Rather than $93,000 being covered by growth, we're looking at $128,000," she said. "That reduces our reliance on the reserve from $66,500 to $31,500." And with the additional bylaw summer student and administrative summer student positions also taken out of the budget, the reliance on surplus fell further to $19,600. Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle warned about relying too much on growth. "Moving forward, we need to remember the future may not be so kind to us," he said. "We're running out of inventory. Do we require that growth to balance our budget? What impact does that have year-in and year-out?" Sanders said money from supplementary assessments as a result of growth in the area doesn't show up immediately on a budget, but trickles in over a few years. But with great growth comes higher liability, and that means higher insurance costs, she said. According to the budget Sanders shared, insurance costs are estimated to increase by 20% or $84,000 for next year, adding she doesn't see a light at the end of that tunnel. "They're not saying the landscape is going to change," said Sanders. "Last year, we looked at increasing our deductible to decrease our rate, but I don't see a huge light at the end of the tunnel." Capitals projects Coun. Jeff Bumstead wasn't sure if that move would end up saving the township any money in the long run. "If we're pushing these replacements to the end of that one- to five-year suggested range, are we looking at further cost or replacement?" he asked. Rick Bingham, interim operational service general manager, agreed with the councillor's assumption. "You need to do some rehabilitation before it gets to the point you have to do a reconstruction," said Bingham. "I think there are quite a few of them that will need to be reconstructed because they haven't had any rehabilitation done over the years. "I understand the former director had engaged the consultants to do a feasibility review and they will be providing a report over the next couple weeks on how money is best spent on bridges so we can stay ahead of the game," he added. Seeing the trend of removing projects from the capital budget, Coun. Barry Norris came up with another 'money-saving' suggestion. "The dry hydrants for the rural areas; I don't support it," he said talking about the emergency preparedness list. "The fact that we have tankers and mutual aid, I still can't support that at this point in time. Council may want to weight in to defer that expenditure." Fire Chief Brian Thomas made the case for fire safety. "The dry hydrants are a water source for the fire department to use while they're fighting fires out in the rural areas," he said. "We have $10,000 down for the next three years to find locations and get agreements with property owners so that we can enter their property to access the water sources. We do have mutual-aid agreements, but we still need the water source for all those tankers. The closer the water source is the more readily available; then the firefighters will have the amounts of water they will need." Then Norris focused on the planned sidewalk for Seventh Avenue and wondered about $127,000 expenditure. "I find it tough to increase that. The next thing we're going to have to do is clear it through the winter," said Norris, who instead suggested staff should consider putting in a base and a screen top over the pathway. "If it's substantially used, I have no problems putting a top coat on," he said. "To allow $30,000 to do that, let's see how it pans out. We can deviate that to another part of the capital." That suggestion did not sit well with Coun. Sandy Talbot, who said she wasn't sure why Norris had a problem with a project she considered a 'no brainer.' "This has been on the books for two years," she said, noting the safety of children who catch a bus there is a paramount concern. "I'm not sure if you're aware there's an incline on that road on Seventh Avenue, which is like a speedway and people are going down the road at unbelievable speeds. We need this. People walk this road on a daily basis. We need to ensure the safety of our residents." And she had support from councillors Paul Raymond and Mary Warnock. "I agree with Coun. Talbot," said the latter. "They've waited long enough. Sidewalks are important in our community to make them walkable. As we're going to see in official plans that come out, making our communities age-friendly, sidewalks are going to be a priority. I don't think there's any reason to delay this any further." With that, Norris' bid to remove those two items from the list was defeated. Expenses and overtime Talbot had her own concerns over some of the items contained within the budget. "Under expenditures, there's a cost for a rental car for $7,000. What did we need that car for?" she said. Sanders said that was thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. "It was for bylaw due to physical distancing requirements," she added. "It's on the COVID-related expenses list." Talbot then said she was concerned about the amount of overtime recorded. "It's $55,000," she said. "Can you give me an explanation of that? It's a lot of money. It's almost another position." Sanders said that wasn't just in one department, but spread across various township sections. "In a lot of cases, overtime was worked due to COVID-19, additional research and setting stuff up," she said. "There was also additional time that we felt was worked because we didn't necessarily fill positions as quickly as we would have because filling positions wasn't feasible during the height of COVID-19. So you have staff doing double-duty and that's why you see a fair bit of overtime." Talbot said she would like to see overtime kept in check moving forward. "Our aim should be reducing the overtime hours," she said. "I understand (the need) with our snowplow drivers or a public works emergency. But we need to be adherent to the lowest overtime we can allow. We're responsible for the monies of this township. In turn, we need to adhere to some kind of reduction in the overtime as possible." Grants and funding requests This section will be discussed in further detail at an upcoming December meeting, still council directed staff around two moves. "We can take the YMCA out," said Mayor Ted Walker. "They're not going to take us up on the loan offer." He took a bit of a hard line around the funding request made by the Severn Sound Environmental Association. "They had a huge increase last year and this year, the increase looks rather substantial as well," he said, talking about their request of $76,070 from 2019, that increased to $108,462 for this year and has gone up further to $122,042 for next year. "I'm wondering if we've heard anything back from them about this huge increase. "I think we should wait for their response and if we don't get any, we should budget what we did last year," added Walker.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter There were two standout topics of discussion from last Tuesday's St. Marys Town Council meeting. Council first discussed correspondence from the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. The UTRCA is challenging new amendments to Ontario's Conservation Authorities Act, which the organization claims will cause "additional red tape, further delays for permit approvals, and increased costs, as well as several new municipal constraints regarding agreements with Conservation Authorities and control of Board appointments." The letter sent to St. Marys Town Council also requested the municipality's support in pushing back against these new regulations, as well as calling on Minister Phillips, Minister Yurek, and Minister Yakabuski to reconsider the changes. However, the views expressed by the UTRCA were not shared widely by Council members, specifically, Mayor Al Strathdee and Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer. Several members asked questions about parts of the UTRCA's request for support, but overall, there wasn't a large outpouring of support for the UTRCA's position. Kittmer noted that many of the changes in the new Provincial legislation were changes that St. Marys had advocated for last year. Included in these changes was the ability for municipalities to opt-out of programs as they saw fit, as well as calling on conservation authorities to narrow the scope of their projects. Additionally, Kittmer said that municipalities have been operating under similar regulations that conservation authorities will come under, meaning they have experience dealing with what the UTRCA might have to deal with and, in some cases, regulations that the UTRCA suggests will slow things down will actually speed up certain processes. Mayor Strathdee also spoke on the matter, saying that he feels the changes will increase accountability on conservation authorities, something he felt was needed. Also discussed later in the Council meeting was the one-parent guideline at the Pyramid Recreation Center for youth sports. Currently, only one parent is permitted to be inside the arena during their child's sporting event due to COVID-19 restrictions. Council did receive a letter from St. Marys Ringette, which called on Council to change this policy. However, Council was of the consensus that the one parent per child policy should remain in place while the Huron Perth Public Health coverage area remains at the Orange (Restrict) level of the Provincial reopening framework. They also agreed that, as it relates to ice rentals and gameplay at the PRC, organizations from outside of the HPPH coverage area should not be permitted inside the PRC while the region remains in the Orange reopening level.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 9, 2020 Two Simcoe County teenagers are charged after a woman was robbed at gunpoint in Orillia Oct. 5. Orillia OPP officers responded to a 911 call about a robbery outside an Atherley Road business at about 11 p.m. but were unable to track down the suspects at the time. Following further investigation, police identified the suspects and arrested them in Port McNicoll. Officers seized a replica Glock handgun, and two prohibited knives, one doubling as brass knuckles. Police allege a female suspect ordered the victim to hand over her money and cellphone while a male suspect pointed a handgun at her. An 18-year-old Midland man and an 18-year-old Tay Township man are charged with robbery using a firearm, robbery using violence and uttering threats. Both suspects were held in custody for a bail hearing. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Saying federal aid promised for the tourism industry is missing key items, P.E.I. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay says he will have programs to fill some of those gaps next month.Earlier this week federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland provided an update on how the federal government plans to cope with the ongoing pandemic, and part of that was low-interest loans that operators in the tourism industry would qualify for."There's still a lot of details that we don't know yet," MacKay told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.He said he expects to hear more on the next national ministers call, but he does not expect to hear everything he would like."There's certainly some things that we've been advocating for that just aren't in this," he said."We plan to fill some of these gaps and roll them out in early January."Corryn Clemence, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said loan programs won't be enough for many operators."We certainly have quite a few of our small business operators who already have a big debt load," said Clemence."With the uncertainty of … the industry in the next 12 months there's a fear and a hesitation on taking additional debt load."Looking aheadThe 2020 tourism season saw business cut by more than half compared to 2019.There had been hopes that the opening of the Atlantic bubble might be an opportunity to salvage something of the season — New Brunswick and Nova Scotia accounted for 60 per cent of the market in 2019 — but Maritimers did not take advantage of the open border.While vaccine rollout is expected early in the new year, MacKay does not expect a full recovery in 2021. He does, however, believe the province can do a better job of marketing to the Maritimes."We know the Atlantic bubble can work," he said."We feel we can utilize that better than we did. By the time we rolled that out and got going it was July 1st. We've had numerous months now to plan for next year."P.E.I. has positioned itself as a safe destination, and that should help take advantage of any opportunities that do exist for the coming season, he said.More from CBC P.E.I.
The number of continuing care facilities in Alberta with COVID-19 outbreaks of two or more cases has more than tripled in three weeks, causing advocates to sound the alarm.In three weeks, the total number of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta care homes has shot to 123 from 40.As of Wednesday morning, 351 residents of long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites have died of COVID in the province since the pandemic began, according to the government.That's 64 per cent of the 551 reported COVID deaths in Alberta."It's very challenging and quite frankly it's a situation in our province of our own making," said Mike Conroy, CEO of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, which runs a number of Calgary care homes.At one of them, Clifton Manor in southeast Calgary, an ongoing outbreak has led to 74 COVID-19 cases and three deaths.For months, Conroy has been calling for dedicated contact tracing and testing at Alberta continuing care facilities.The care homes that he's in charge of conduct asymptomatic testing every three days during an outbreak.And as recently as last week, Conroy had to wait three days for a batch of swab results — eight of which came back positive."My expectation, and I've been trying to secure a commitment, is that we should get those results in 24 hours, because it's information … the sooner we have the results, the sooner we can take action," he said.Staffing shortages more dire than in springStaffing is another major challenge for care homes as they battle through the second wave, said Lorraine Venturato, a nursing professor at the University of Calgary. "It's kind of coming in like a tsunami and there hasn't been as much attention being focused on continuing care as there was in the first wave and yet the situation is probably more dire now," she said.Venturato said continuing care centres may need to look to other industries — perhaps recruiting laid-off restaurant workers — for help with non-medical jobs."Meals need to be delivered to rooms if a site's in lockdown, so they may need extra people in the kitchen, extra people for delivery, extra people for cleaning," she said.20 hospitals also battle outbreaksCurrently, 20 Alberta hospitals are also now battling COVID-19 outbreaks.According to information published by Alberta Health Services, there are more than 190 COVID cases connected to active hospital outbreaks right now, and at least 20 deaths have been linked to the outbreaks.Hospitals across the province are working to dedicate 2,200 beds for COVID patients, as they did last spring, Premier Jason Kenney said in the legislature on Monday. At Tuesday afternoon's provincial update, Alberta reported 1,307 new cases, with a provincial positivity rate of 8.4 per cent. Alberta has reported more than 1,000 cases a day for nearly two weeks, and ICU and hospital numbers continue to hit record highs.The total number of active cases was 16,628, an increase of 174 from the day before.Conroy adds to calls for 'circuit-breaker' style lockdownFor his part, Conroy says the province's restrictions aren't working and he thinks it's time for a so-called "circuit-breaker" style lockdown.A circuit breaker lockdown is a short period of more stringent restrictions with a defined end point where non-essential services are shut down in order to reduce spread, allowing the system to catch up to the number of cases.Kenney's UCP have fielded repeated calls from doctors and others for a circuit-breaker lockdown in past weeks.Among them, the Alberta government has received letters from groups of hundreds of physicians and three major health-care unions in the province urging the government to institute a "circuit-breaker" targeted lockdown.The retiring head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, Tom Sampson, also called for up to a 28-day "circuit breaker" lockdown, adding it should happen now to salvage the holiday season.
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and New Brunswick reported six as the stream of cases from ongoing outbreaks continued in both provinces. Health officials in Nova Scotia said 16 of the cases identified were in Halifax, including one at St. Margaret's Bay Elementary school that was reported late Tuesday. The other case was in the province's northern health zone and was related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. The province's total number of active cases is 127. In New Brunswick, health officials reported six new cases of COVID-19. The Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Edmundston regions each had one case, while there were two in the Bathurst region. There are now 119 active cases in the province. During an online news conference Wednesday, Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill said St. Margaret's Bay Elementary was closed for cleaning and would remain closed on Thursday because of a scheduled professional development day. He said a decision on reopening would be made later this week. "That is yet to be determined because the investigation hasn't been completed," he said. Churchill also said it was likely that students at two schools in Cole Harbour that were closed after cases were identified last week would return to classes on Monday. The minister, who announced a further $14.3 million in funding to help support schools during the pandemic, was asked his thoughts on the fact there have only been five cases identified to date in the school system. He credited good guidance from the provincial public health department and said Nova Scotians have followed that advice. "I think our teachers, principals, support staff, our cleaners, our students should be proud," Churchill told reporters. "It seems at this point that the majority of people are doing their part to make a difference and protect people from the virus." Still, he said talks were ongoing about the possibility of extending the upcoming Christmas break if needed. The money announced for schools on Wednesday is from a federal fund announced in August, and Churchill said it would go toward a range of programs and initiatives to help keep schools safe. He said $3.8 million would be used to boost school water supplies through the purchase of 950 touch-free water-filling stations, while $2.7 million would be used to ensure maintenance and inspections of school ventilation systems. "This is above and beyond the (ventilation) assessments that have been done and the regular assessments," he said. "If any issues crop up, this funding will allow us to deploy resources very quickly to deal with any maintenance issues." Another $1.5 million would be used to purchase additional personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer for students and staff, while $4.1 million would go toward new online math and literacy programs. Money would also go toward school food programs, including $500,000 to meet increased demand for the existing school healthy eating program, and $1 million to support an emergency food fund that can be accessed if at-home learning is needed. The announcement followed one last month that will see $21.5 million in federal relief money used to purchase 32,000 new computers for students and to upgrade servers and Wi-Fi systems in schools. Meanwhile, one new case of COVID-19 was reported by Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, bringing its number of active cases to 30. Health officials said the case was related to travel and involved a man between 20 and 39 years old in the eastern part of the province. In Prince Edward Island, the government announced that those with lower incomes can now get free face masks at all food bank locations across the province. The province said it had collaborated with the P.E.I. Association of Food Banks to distribute three-ply, non-medical reusable masks Since Nov. 20, non-medical masks or face coverings have been mandatory in all public spaces on the Island. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
Shoppers hoping to pick up a unique Christmas gift or two at the Victoria Park Gallery may be able to finish their shopping, after finding the Gallery closed for the past two weeks. Ruth Nicholson, a member of the Gallery, said that many of her colleagues, some of who are seniors, became very concerned as the number of COVID cases began to climb. Because the Gallery is not considered an essential service, the group opted to close for two weeks. “We are all retired and need to stay away from it,” said Nicholson. While the doors are closed to the public, there is renovation work taking place, updating the bathrooms and electrical systems. Once the work is done, members will do a thorough cleaning before reopening. “Christmas is a big season,” said Nicholson. “The plan right now is to open on the second of Dec. and stay open until Christmas Eve.” Nicholson said the Gallery may extend its hours to allow for more shopping. Once open, the Gallery, as in past months, will maintain strict cleaning procedures and follow all other recommendations from Public Health. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
THUNDER BAY — Thunder Bay police will begin publishing the names of all drivers charged with impaired driving offences in order to deter individuals from getting behind the wheel impaired as the annual Festive RIDE program officially launched on Wednesday. The number of individuals charged with impaired driving offences have been ‘staggering’ so far this year, according to Thunder Bay Police Const. Mark Cattani with the traffic unit. “We are at a point now where we are essentially running out of options,” Cattani said during a virtual news conference. At the end of last year’s festive RIDE season, police reported a record of 204 individuals charged with impaired driving for the total year. “This was by far the greatest number we had ever seen,” Cattani said. “I am discouraged and unfortunately have to report that we are at 251 impaired drivers at this point without even having started the RIDE program.” Starting Wednesday, Dec. 2, police will begin publishing the names of people who are charged with impaired driving offences in hopes of deterring individuals from driving impaired, a practice that has been in place in several other police forces in Ontario. “There is a very clear need for enforcement,” Cattani said. “We are already beyond so far where we have already been any other year.” The OPP have named alleged drunk divers for years in news releases. During Wednesday’s news conference, police reported in the last 24 hours four individuals had been charged with impaired driving. Two who were drug-impaired and two under the influence of alcohol. “We feel this is probably one of the most effective ways as a supplement to the RIDE program itself to get impaired drivers off the road potentially,” Cattani said. The festive RIDE program runs from Dec. 2 to Jan. 1, 2021.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
MULGRAVE – “This year with COVID, people have been struggling lately, some people have lost their jobs in the community. It is a tough time for everyone. I figured why not change it up to help the people in our community,” Town of Mulgrave Recreation Director Heather Brennan told The Journal regarding the new spin they put on its annual Festival of the Trees. This year, instead of dressing a tree to the nines, festival participants were asked to build a tree, or any Christmas-themed art piece, out of non-perishable food items to be donated later to the recently created food pantry. First, second and third-place winners will be selected through online voting. For residents not online, they can cast ballots at the town office. While a prize will be awarded, Brennan said, “Everybody is a winner.” The response to the competition was greater than Brennan had expected with 10 entries and a great amount of food donated to the food pantry. “I am pleasantly surprised by how many people have done it and the amount of food taken in has surpassed what I thought,” she said. Participants taking part in the festival include local businesses Mulgrave Machine Works and DSM, along with the Town of Mulgrave, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 37 Mulgrave, Mulgrave Heritage Centre, Atlantic Association of CBDCs and several groups of friends. Along with the food used in the displays, Brennan said community members have been dropping off food at the Mulgrave Memorial Centre, where the Festive of Trees is set up in the hallway, for the food pantry. The food pantry is an initiative of the Mulgrave Medical Centre Board that got off the ground this past summer. Board chair Al England told The Journal that the project has been a “greatsuccess to date; a lot of people are supporting it financially and with goods.” The pantry consists of a locker and a cooler constantly restocked with food. It is being moved from the medical centre to the vestibule in the Superport building where the East Coast Credit Union has an ATM. “They were gracious enough to allow us to use that space and we are very thankful and appreciative of that,” said England, adding that the location was temporary for the winter months and the pantry would return to the medical centre, when weather allowed. England said of the pantry project, “It has been an excellent project and it has been well received. We are grateful that it is being supported in the manor that it is and hopefully it is providing some help and assistance to those that really need the help at this time of year.”Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
As Alberta rolls out COVID-19 vaccines in three phases next year, most members of the public will likely have to wait until summer for their shots, Premier Jason Kenney says.Paul Wynnyk, a deputy minister in the municipal affairs department, has been appointed to lead Alberta's vaccine task force, which will be a multi-disciplinary team drawn from across the public service, Kenney said at a news conference Wednesday.Phase 1 of the vaccine roll out will happen in the first three months of 2021, he said, when it's anticipated that vaccines will been given to about 435,000 people, a little more than 10 per cent of the population.Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses to be fully effective, with three to six weeks between doses, which means vaccinating 435,000 people would require 870,000 doses."Not all of this will arrive at once," Kenney said. "We've been assured by the federal government that shipments will begin to arrive by Jan. 4 and continue to arrive in waves throughout the early part of next year."Phase 1 will focus entirely on the province most at-risk populations, he said, which includes residents of long-term care homes and designated supported-living facilities, staff who work in those facilities, on-reserve First Nations people, and other health-care workers.Each dose 'represents an Albertan'Wynnyk served as an officer in the Canadian Forces for more than 38 years, rising to command of the Canadian Army, before joining Alberta's public service."I look forward to the challenge ahead, and I want to be very clear that I do not look at these vaccines simply as objects to deliver or a work task to complete," he said at the news conference."Each and every dose of vaccine represents an Albertan who needs to be protected, and is vital to protecting not just their health but their livelihoods as well. My commitment to Albertans is that we will do everything within our control to ensure no Albertan has to wait any longer than absolutely necessary."WATCH | Kenney and Hinshaw discuss vaccinesPhase 2 of the roll out will run from April to June, with the goal by the end of the period to have 30 per cent of the population immunized, Kenney said."By the summer, we plan to begin Phase 3, where vaccine will be offered to all Albertans. And that means it will be months before vaccine is available to the general population. This is the unfortunate reality that Canadians across the country face, and people around the world."The risk of hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths will decline significantly once the most vulnerable people are vaccinated, he said."I know people are getting tired and frustrated, but this is evidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we can see this critical juncture, when we will get past the terrible damage that COVID-19 has caused for our society."So my message to Albertans today is this: We are ready for the vaccine, and we have a plan to get it out to you as quickly and safely as possible."Latest case numbersThe province reported 1,685 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 10 more deaths.The total number of active cases in the province reached 17,144, an increase of 516 from the day before.A total of 561 people have now died from the disease since the start of the pandemic.On Wednesday, Alberta hospitals were treating 504 patients with the illness, including 97 in ICU beds.The province has now surpassed 61,000 total cases, meaning about one in every 73 Albertans has so far contracted the disease."Around the world, there has been great progress on the development of COVID-19 vaccines," Premier Jason Kenney said at a news conference on Wednesday. "We know that effective vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will be ready for distribution here in Canada within weeks."While the province cannot control when those vaccines arrive in Alberta, it will be ready to roll them out as quickly as possible, Kenney said.Vaccine will not be mandatoryQuick and effective distribution of the vaccine will be essential to the province's economic recovery, Kenney said, and will be a matter of life and death for many Albertans and their families."Before I continue, I want to be clear, Alberta's government will not make any mandatory vaccination," the premier said. "Some think that this is controversial but we don't live in a country where government can inject you with something against your will.The government will soon amend the Public Health Act to remove the power of mandatory inoculation that has been on the books since 1910, Kenney said."But we need as many Albertans as possible to get vaccinated. And let me be clear about that I will certainly choose to receive this vaccine when it's my turn, and I strongly urge others to do so."Alberta prepared for vaccine distributionAlberta is well-prepared to receive, distribute and administer vaccines as soon as they arrive, Kenney said.Alberta Health Services has 13 vaccine depots throughout the province, all of which can receive and distribute the Moderna vaccine, which needs to be stored and transported at -20 C.Another 17 facilities in the province are also able to handle vaccine storage, meaning there are a total of 30 depots across Alberta."The Pfizer vaccine, on the other hand, requires ultra-cold transportation and freezing, at 80 degrees below zero Celsius," Kenney said."Currently, three of our 13 vaccine depots can receive and store the Pfizer vaccine, and AHS is working to expand that capacity as we speak, ordering additional freezers and related equipment."Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, attended the news conference with Kenney and Wynnyk."We must continue to work together over the coming months to keep our numbers down, until enough Albertans have received their full series of vaccine to keep COVID under control," Hinshaw said."The actions each of us take right now are vital in slowing spread and bending the curve, as we are each others' vaccine until the vaccine arrives."The regional breakdown of active cases on Wednesday was: * Edmonton zone: 7,857 * Calgary zone: 6,331 * Central zone: 1,226 * North zone: 967 * South zone: 663 * Unknown: 100 Albertans need to prepare themselves for smaller Christmas celebrations, top doctor says
For paramedics on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis, taking a moment to decompress after a harrowing call before gearing up for the next one can be critical for maintaining mental health.But in the Fraser Health Authority region right now, those breaks are few and far between.The Lower Mainland continues to see the highest transmission of the disease, with more cases of the virus reported in the Fraser Health region — which includes the cities of Surrey, Burnaby, Abbotsford and Coquitlam — than the other four regions combined.As the second wave of the pandemic batters the suburban regions of Metro Vancouver, those scrambling to save lives say it's their colleagues in the trenches, and the promise of a vaccine, that are giving them the strength to carry on."We can see there will be a light at the end of the tunnel," said Dave Leary, spokesperson for Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., on CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday.But right now, Leary said paramedics are not only going to work with the fear of bringing home the virus, they're also dealing with a "never-ending" onslaught of overdose calls due to the concurrent opioid crisis."We don't have the amount of time we need in between calls to decompress," said Leary. "The mental health toll is quite high."Staff, he said, are leaning on one another, and employer stress programs, for support.According to Leary, there is also a current staffing crisis among B.C. paramedics, meaning colleagues are stepping up to cover service gaps for one another and still respond to calls as quickly as possible.And when they do pull up to area hospitals with a patient in need, the scene can be very, very busy.On Nov. 24, Burnaby Hospital, one of the region's busiest, stopped taking most new admissions after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility, which came a little more than a week after a Nov. 15 fire in the building.While the fire disruption did not definitively cause further virus spread, it caused stress for hospital staff who had to relocate patients safely on the fly."It is a bit stressed in terms of not only the availability of beds, but also staff availability as well. But we just hold on," said respirologist Susan Kwan.Kwan said given the dire situation in the region right now, and the stress it is causing the public and patients, it is more important than ever for front-line workers to stay positive to reduce fear.Like the paramedics bringing patients to the doors, Kwan said much of the staff on the other side of those doors are turning to one another to keep morale high."We are cautiously proceeding and the staff is still in good spirits overall," said Kwan on The Early Edition on Friday. When hospital employees have been isolated at home because of virus exposure, there has been incredible support from colleagues who check in regularly to offer support and prayer, Kwan told CBC on Monday.By Kwan's last count on Nov. 27, 44 staff members at Burnaby Hospital had tested positive for COVID-19."This is a battle that we are all fighting together," she said. "Without collegial cohesion, it would be much harder."It's not just the custodians, nurses, transporters, doctors, therapists, dietitians and pharmacists where Kwan works that are helping each other out, Kwan says, but also teams at other hospitals in the region.Kwan said after the Nov. 15 fire, staff had to relocate some patients and reduce bed availability. Other hospitals admitted patients Burnaby had no space for, and Kwan says the favour will be repaid if required."If we have any capacity, we will be willing to help," said Kwan.There are now 8,796 people with active COVID-19 cases in B.C. out of 33,894 cases to date. The Fraser Health region has 6,430 of those active cases.The next update of cases is at 3 p.m. PT Wednesday.Tap here to listen to the complete interview with Dave Leary and here to listen to Dr. Susan Kwan on CBC's The Early Edition.
The Kincardine Theatre Guild has devised a way to bring live, local entertainment to the homes of residents who are pining for theatre and a boost for their Christmas spirit, during the pandemic. The 2020 Advent Calendar – a gift of theatre, will showcase short video clips, submitted by the public, to help bring some holiday spirit to the community. Earlier this year, the Guild was in the midst of preparing for its production of Curse of the Silver Pharaoh, when the pandemic hit and restrictions were implemented. Bringing the play to the stage was put on hold and while it had hoped to resume rehearsals and reschedule performances for later this year or early 2021, the second wave of COVID struck, and all plans have been put on indefinite hold. “We were well into rehearsals for the spring 2020 show, Curse of the Silver Pharaoh, when the Covid lockdown happened,” said Debbie Deckert, a performer and Guild board member. “We kept hoping this would be a short term thing but sadly we have had to cancel the show, but plan to put it on at a future date. The way things are now, we’ve had to cancel our 20-21 season. We’re only allowed to have three to five crew members in the theatre for maintenance work, no public access.” “Theatre can get to feel like a family and it’s really tough when we can’t be together. We’re looking at alternatives and this “Gift of Theatre” gives us an opportunity to test online performances.” The initiative, which began on Dec. 1, offers a daily clip provided by members of the public. People were invited to send in a video of a song, a dance, reading a poem, or a skit, approximately three to eight minutes in length. The daily video is available for viewing on the Guild website, www.kincardinetheatreguild.com, its YouTube page or on Facebook. The performances are free to view. In lieu of an admission payment, a donation to the Food Bank would be appreciated. “If you enjoyed this presentation, please consider making a donation to the Food Bank,” said Deckert. Deckert hopes the Guild will receive enough clips to offer a new performance every day until Dec. 24. Questions regarding the clip content or format can be directed to Jim May by email, at email@example.com, and any late submissions should be directed to Deckert at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
SIOUX LOOK — Sioux Lookout Ontario Provincial Police have released the name of a woman who died in a house fire last month as they continue to determine the cause of the fire. Clara Ash, 37, of Sioux Lookout has been identified as the individual who died in a house fire on Nov. 19. In a news release issued Wednesday, Dec. 2, police say the cause of death was smoke inhalation. Police responded at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 19 along with fire and emergency crews to an apartment on First Avenue in the municipality of Sioux Lookout. Two individuals were extracted from the building and neighbouring units were safely evacuated, according to a news release. A third deceased individual was located by firefighters. OPP continue to investigate the cause of the fire under the direction of the criminal investigations branch, the chief coroner, and the Ontario Fire Marshal. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact OPP or their local police service.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source