RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, and Vinegar Strokes share their wisdom on how to build up your confidence, become the best person you can be, and top tricks for finding your place in the LGBTQ+ community.
RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, and Vinegar Strokes share their wisdom on how to build up your confidence, become the best person you can be, and top tricks for finding your place in the LGBTQ+ community.
When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
After two full weeks of virtual events and activities, Bonhomme Carnaval has come to an end and the identity of this year's mascot has been unveiled. The annual carnival wrapped up with a virtual concert and unveiling of the Bonhomme last Saturday, Feb. 27. Emma Bertrand, a dance teacher at Dansons La Ronde and Melissa Kelly Dance Academy, was this year's Bonhomme Carnaval. The carnival was held virtually this year. Centre Culturel La Ronde’s executive director Lisa Bertrand said she didn’t expect such a big turnout and she was very happy with how many people tuned in online. “I’m super happy that the community supported (us). With the window contest, teachers and the principals were so supportive and the French community as well,” she said. “When I mentioned doing a virtual carnival to the board, I didn’t think it was going to be as much work as it was but I’m very, very happy with the result.” The evening show featuring the Lapointe family and Dayv Poulin and the reveal of Bonhomme reached 6,794 people on Facebook and garnered 1,770 engagements, 189 comments and 35 shares. Bertrand said the cooking workshops, as well as the Sip and Paint workshop, were a “great hit.” For the next year’s carnival, the centre is looking into offering virtual events again. “If we have our building, it will definitely be at our Centre Culturel La Ronde. If not, I’ll do a couple of events virtually. It was different and we had a lot of participation,” Bertrand said. “It was fun because we did have people from Montreal that joined, a few people from Cochrane, Iroquois Falls.” Hosting the carnival from a technical perspective has been challenging, Bertrand said, but it was also fun getting together virtually, seeing interactions between people and receiving love and support from the community. “It was virtual but we definitely felt the love,” said Bertrand. Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com
A local conservation group is aiming to get phragmites at Wye Marsh. The invasive species is spreading and crowding out native vegetation that is at the centre of the food web supporting the biodiversity at the marsh, said Kate Harries, president of MTM Conservation Association (MTM). The MTM is a volunteer board responsible under contract of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for managing crown land at Marl Lake, Tiny Marsh, and Matchedash Bay, she explained to Tiny council during a presentation at a recent council meeting. Harries was looking for in-kind and financial support in the amount of $6,000 over the next three years for a project aimed at tackling the issue. She said the group is looking for $3,000 from the township for year one, two-thirds of that in year two and one-third in the last year. The association, Harries said, is budgeting an expense of $32,666 for each of the three years. This funding, she explained, is made up of support from Tiny Township and other community partners, such as Ducks Unlimited Canada. She said she will be applying for a federal grant seeking $22,166 annually for the three-year program. "We've identified a federal fund we feel we have a good chance of getting a grant from to cover a three-year project," she said, talking about the EcoAction Community Funding Program. Step one of the project will be to map the spread in the Wye Marsh, Harries said. "At present, an educated guess is that we have approximately 140 hectares of invasive phrag and the marsh could be plugged within eight years," she added. In some Southern Ontario wetlands, Harries said, the invasive plant grows in dense fields leaving nowhere for waterfowls to nest and trapping any turtles that wander into the stand. She said MTM started forming a plan of attack last year in collaboration with the Severn Sound Environmental Association and the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre. "The time to evaluate the problem is when the ice is in and you can walk out there and look at the phrag," said Harries. "Our first opportunity was in early February." For that visit, she said, the group invited Janice Gilbert, executive director, Invasive Phragmites Control Centre, to visit the location. "She's pioneered the use of truxors, amphibious vehicles in cutting the phrag out where it's growing in water," said Harries. "They can do in three days what it could take a crew of people a whole season." She said Gilbert is positive about the potential of an intensive three-day attack with herbicide and truxors this August. Volunteers can then work before and after to take out the less dense patches of phragmites. Harries explained to MidlandToday that the herbicide Gilbert is proposing is a form of glyphosate. "We didn't want any herbicide sprays," said Harries. "But Janice said there's no other way of dealing with the phragmites when it's growing along the dyke. We've tried digging it out of the dyke structure, but it's too tough. The roots are totally entangled." This, she said, is like having to choose between the evil of the phragmites and the evil of herbicide. "They do it very carefully with backpack sprayers and it's spot application, which looks at exactly the spot you're targeting," said Harries. "We would need to get a permit from the provincial government to use that. There's certainly a lot of concern among ourselves because we're very conscious of the need to be carefully of the amphibians in the area." After listening to the proposal, council was immediately on board with the idea, provided they could find some money, having recently approved their budget. Tim Leitch, director of public works, said there was money in his department for just such a project. "We do have money we just set aside for phrag control in the township and my recommendation would be to utilize that amount for this," he said. "I think this is a great opportunity for us to get involved with." Coun. Cindy Hastings asked if MTM would be able to cover the remaining 50% with another grant and what percentage of the 50% could be covered by in-kind contributions? "As far as I know, there's no limit," said Harries. "But when we get somebody like the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre in with the truxors, they are providing some in-kind services, but they need to be paid in cash." Since the grant application had to be submitted by March 3, council ratified its decision at its regular council meeting. The motion stated that Council would supports the phragmite removal project by providing a letter of support and $3,000 in cash for 2021 and offer additional support either through the Mayor's Charity Golf Tournament or through an in-kind donation. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
The Village of Big Valley council heard a report from their new chief administrative officer (CAO) that repairs to the municipal water tower will likely be in the $270,000 range. The report was made at the Feb. 24 regular meeting of council, held one day earlier than normal. The meeting was streamed via Zoom and Coun. Art Tizzard was absent from the meeting. CAO Tracy Mindus noted a contractor has provided an estimate of $270,000 to repair the cracked water tower, but instead of installing a bladder they will use carbon fibre to seal it. This would have a life expectancy of 20 to 50 years. The CAO noted several provincial government grants may be available for this work, including one that may cover up to 75 per cent of the cost. Municipal Sustainability Initiative money may also be available. Mindus said the village continues to receive information from the contractor and it appears the work can be done no earlier than spring. Councillors accepted the report for information. Garbage concerns Mindus read a letter sent from the Big Valley Historical Society, requesting the society no longer be charged for garbage pick-up because it appears their garbage isn’t being picked up. The letter noted the McAlister site hasn't had garbage pick-up in 10 to 12 months and the tool museum hasn’t had garbage pick-up at all in the roughly four years it’s been there. The society requested the village no longer bill them for the service and the volunteers would handle garbage pick-up themselves. CAO Mindus noted garbage pick-up is based on the number of users in the village, and if one or more users opt out, the rates will likely increase for everyone else. Coun. Harry Nibourg stated the garbage pick-up fee is about $8 a month and waiving it would set a precedent. Nibourg also noted he would recuse himself from a vote on this issue as it affects his own property. Mayor German stated the item would be tabled until March, as Tizzard’s absence and Nibourg’s recusal meant a vote could not be held. Invoice concerns Councillors read a letter from the Village of Donalda regarding their concerns about the County of Stettler's recent invoice for the Regional Emergency Management Agency. It was stated in the letter Donalda is concerned about the dollar amount, $7,944.32, which included a substantial increase and the village was requesting more information about why the invoice was so large. Mayor German noted he saw nothing wrong with the request and felt taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going. Coun. Nibourg stated the fee may seem high, but if the village decides to, for example, handle emergency services itself, costs may be much higher. Councillors passed a motion for CAO Mindus to contact the County of Stettler and get a breakdown of where the emergency management funds are going. Village election Councillors decided they will hold an advance poll for the village election next fall, and also advertise the position of returning officer after reading a report from the CAO. Mindus noted the municipal election will be held Mon. Oct. 18 and nominations close on Mon. Sept. 20. She noted Big Valley is small enough that it’s not mandatory to hold an advance poll but pointed out it would be convenient for people who work and aren’t able to vote on election day. S he suggested two Saturdays, Oct. 9 or 16, for the advance poll. She also noted advance polls can’t be held within 24 hours of the regular election day. Councillors passed a motion naming Oct. 9 the advance poll in Big Valley, appointing Mindus as returning officer and also authorizing the CAO to advertise for a deputy returning officer. Get the MOST The CAO reported Big Valley will receive $40,339 in Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) funding from the provincial government, intended to help with COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue. She estimated the village’s expenses at about $10,000, and asked councillors what they would like to do with the rest. She noted other communities have granted the funds to non-profits who have losses related to the pandemic. Mindus also noted the province has given a March 31 deadline to disperse the funds. Councillors instructed Mindus to reach out to non-profits and similar groups and offer the money while asking for an accounting of their losses due to the pandemic. The CAO will report back at the March regular council meeting. Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
The Rideau Waterway Land Trust (RWLT) has launched a fundraising campaign to purchase a large property on Opinicon Lake near Chaffey’s Lock. The 30-hectare (74-acre) piece of land in the heart of the Rideau Canal, Ontario’s only World Heritage Site, is also within the Frontenac Arch UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The location provides critical habitat for many species-at-risk, the RWLT said in a release on Monday, Mar. 1, 2021. The Frontenac Arch also provides a “land bridge” that connects the boreal forest of the Canadian Shield to the forests of the Adirondack and Appalachian Mountains. The organization says this link helps to maintain genetic diversity in plant and animal life as our climate continues to undergo change. According to the release, the land abuts provincially significant wetlands, is near the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS), and has been used for scientific research and education. The current owners now wish to sell the land and its acquisition is an ideal project to help the Trust celebrate its 25th year of successful operation. Since it’s incorporation in 1996, the RWLT has been able to preserve 20 significant properties through ownership and conservation easement while expanding its area of interest to include all the communities within the Rideau Corridor from Kingston to Ottawa. If RWLT is successful in this fundraising campaign, they say the property will be added to the Land Trust’s collection. A map of the properties protected by the RWLT can been seen here, and includes the popular Rock Dunder hiking trail near Morton, Ontario. The property up for purchase was once owned by Don and Mary Warren. Don was one of the founders of the Rideau Waterway Land Trust, an educator and activist who led the community’s resistance to the plan to electrify the Rideau Canal’s locks in the 1960s, according to the release. The organization says Mary was an enthusiastic supporter and was instrumental in convincing Don to purchase this property in 1965. The opportunity to establish the Warren Nature Reserve is a fitting tribute to their foresight, RWLT said in the release. RWLT is seeking to raise $120,000 towards the $435,000 project cost by April 2021; all donations will be used to leverage matching government funding. The RWLT expects the government funding to cover 40 per cent of the land acquisition cost, providing they are able to raise the other 60 per cent. RWLT has a very short timeframe to raise these funds, and say any and all donations from local communities would be greatly appreciated. Anyone interested can learn more about this project at www.rwlt.org/warren. Donations can be made at www.rwlt.org/donate, noting “Warren Property” in the donation comments. All donations will receive a charitable receipt. Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
B.C. is moving into the second phase of its immunization plan, vaccinating seniors in the community aged 80 and up over the course of this month. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said the second dose of the three approved vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca—will be delayed to four months or 16 weeks, to provide more protection to more people sooner. Henry said the initial dose provides “a very high level of real-world protection.” In Phase 2, more than 400,000 people in B.C. will receive their first vaccine dose from March to early April, including: • seniors and high-risk people residing in independent living and seniors' supportive housing (including staff); • home-care support clients and staff; • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years and older); and • seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and older). Today, first-dose immunizations begin for those living and working in independent living centres and seniors' supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff. Health authorities will directly contact those in this priority group to book appointments—there is no need to call. Beginning Monday (March 8), seniors aged 80+ and Indigenous peoples aged 65+ who are not living in independent living or seniors' supportive housing can make one call to book their appointment through their local health authority call centre according to a staggered schedule. This is to avoid long waits and system overload. Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15: • March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; • March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; and • March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment. Health authority contact information, complete call-in schedules, hours of operations and step-by-step instructions on how to call to book an appointment for yourself, for a family member, for a friend or neighbour will be available on March 8, here: www.gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst "We can now see the light at the end of what has been a difficult and challenging time for us all. To get us through, we need to continue to work together and support each other," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "We are working hard each and every day to make sure that everyone who wants a vaccine gets one, and my new provincial health officer order significantly expands the range of health professions and occupations who can support our immunization clinics, including dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, firefighters and retired nurses." For health professionals who want to sign up to support B.C.'s immunization efforts as immunizers, visit: https://forms.hlth.gov.bc.ca/registry-covid-19 Immunizing other priority groups identified in Phase 2, many of whom have already received their first dose, is also underway, including: • Indigenous communities, Indigenous Elders, hospital staff, community general practitioners and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1; • vulnerable populations living and working in select congregate settings; and • staff in community home support and nursing services for seniors. In mid-April, Phase 3 will begin mass vaccination of people aged 79 to 60 years, and people aged 16+ who are extremely clinically vulnerable, at community immunization clinics throughout B.C. Mobile clinics will be available in some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues. In Phase 3, British Columbians will register and book their appointments to receive their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine through an online registration tool. People born between 1942 and 1946 (ages 79-75), and Indigenous peoples born between the years of 1956 and 1960 (ages 64-60), will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31. As of last week, 252,373 people in B.C. have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 73,808 who have received their second dose. “Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this,” said Premier John Horgan. “We have a long way to go.” Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
Hamilton schools reported 49 COVID-19 cases and one outbreak in the third week after the return to in-person learning. School boards reported 41 cases of the virus the previous week. The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, which has a student population of approximately 50,000, reported 29 cases — 26 students and three staff — between Feb. 22 and 28. In the same week, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, which serves approximately 29,000 students, reported 20 confirmed and probable cases of the virus — 14 students, three staff, two adult learners, and one “third-party employer.” There are currently 17 schools in the Catholic board with cases. An outbreak was declared at St. Eugene Catholic Elementary School reporting three confirmed cases of the virus — a staff member on Feb. 23, a “third-party employee” on Feb. 22 and a student on Feb. 15 — at the school. There is also an outbreak at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School in central Hamilton, where there are three positive staff cases. Outbreaks at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School, which reopened on Monday after being closed for more than a week, and A.M. Cunningham Elementary School were declared over. Hamilton public health lists the schools in outbreak as having “no variant” associated. Schools in Hamilton reopened for in-person learning on Feb. 8 with enhanced health and safety measures. Since students returned to in-person learning, there have been 100 cases and four outbreaks at school boards in Hamilton. Two cases of the virus were reported at Mohawk College over the weekend. A case of the virus was reported on Sunday in a student at the Mohawk Centre for Aviation Technology. The student was last in classes on Feb. 25. Public health has “carried out the investigation … and is in the process of contacting everyone who is considered to have been in close contact with the infected student,” reads a Feb. 28 update from the college. A case of the virus was reported on Saturday at Mohawk College’s Fennell campus. The infected student last attended class on Feb. 24. The college says “no other students have been asked to self-isolate related to this case.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
WASHINGTON — The White House is making it abundantly clear it has no plans to share America's COVID-19 vaccines with Canada or Mexico. Press secretary Jen Psaki has been indicating for weeks that the Biden administration would not allow the export of doses manufactured in the U.S. any time soon. Today, with Mexico planning to explicitly ask for help, Psaki ruled the possibility out entirely. She says President Joe Biden is focused first on making sure the vaccine is available to every American. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was expected to ask Biden directly for doses when the two meet virtually later today. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly stopped short of making a similar request in his virtual meetings with Biden last week. "No," Psaki said today when asked whether the U.S. would be willing to share its supply of vaccine doses. "The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are available to every American. That is our focus." Psaki hinted last week that the White House position could change later this year once more Americans are vaccinated and the doses are no longer in such short supply.Johnson and Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine began shipping out today after it received emergency authorization over the weekend from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That now makes three vaccines that are available in the U.S., along with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health Canada has yet to approve the Johnson and Johnson shot, but gave the green light last week to a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas' top utilities regulator resigned Monday in the widening fallout from blackouts triggered by an unusually heavy and widespread winter storm that left millions in the state without power and water for days. DeAnn Walker, the chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission, is the highest-ranking official to step down in the aftermath of one of the largest power failures in U.S. history. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Walker to the commission in 2017, and she is one of two commissioners who used to work in his office. She is also a former attorney and executive at CenterPoint Energy, one of Texas’ largest electric retailers. Abbott, a Republican, blamed the power failures on the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, commonly known as ERCOT. But the three-member commission appointed by Abbott has oversight authority over ERCOT. Walker struggled in two lengthy appearances before legislative panels investigating the state's electric grid breakdowns, the commission's response and the lack of communication with the public over the approaching storm. She initially said her agency has little control over ERCOT, but later said it has total control. Lawmakers questioned her knowledge of her agency’s authority and the decision to reduce or reassign enforcement staff charged with policing the utility companies. She was also criticized for a lack of communication about the approaching catastrophic storm. Walker testified that she spoke with Abbott’s office, as well as staff for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and others several days before the storm hit to warn them about the weather and its potential impact on power distribution in the state. Texas was hit with historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures in an icy blast that cut across the Deep South for days starting Feb. 14. More than 40 deaths in Texas — and double that toll regionwide — have been blamed on the storm and the resulting blackouts. ERCOT officials have said the entire grid — which is uniquely isolated from the rest of the U.S. — was on the brink of collapse in the early hours of Feb. 15 as power plants froze in the cold and record demand for electricity to heat homes overwhelmed the system. At least six ERCOT board members have resigned in the wake of the power failures. Also Monday, Brazos Electric Power announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing the punishing storm. The state's largest and oldest power co-operative said it received excessively high invoices from ERCOT for collateral and purported cost of electric service during the storm, and that it was not prepared to pass those costs along to its members or customers. Jim Vertuno, The Associated Press
Whitehorse is the first capital city in Canada to open its COVID-19 vaccination clinic to all citizens aged 18 and older, the Yukon government confirmed. People lined up in front of the Yukon Convention Centre Monday for the clinic, which is now accepting residents from the general public in Whitehorse, along with people from Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake, Mendenhall and Mount Lorne. Shari Heal went to the clinic with her 19-year-old daughter, Brianna Heal, where they got vaccinated together. "It was great to get a chance to go with my daughter and this is a pretty momentous occasion, having our very first shot. We've been waiting a long time for it," Heal said. She said everything went smoothly and once in line, they didn't have to wait long to get their shots. The most difficult part of the process, she said, was booking the appointment. The government's online booking site crashed repeatedly after these clinics were announced on Feb.18, but officials said last week that the problem had been fixed. Shari Heal, right, and daughter Brianna were some of the first to get vaccinated at the Whitehorse clinic, which is now open to all adults. Brianna is 19, making her one of the youngest people eligible to use the clinic, which opened to those over 18 as of Monday. 2nd highest percentage of population fully vaccinated The territory's most recent shipment of 16,100 vaccine doses arrived Sunday, the government said in an email to CBC News on Monday. As of last Thursday, the territory had administered 15,174 Moderna vaccine shots — 10,865 first doeses, and 4,309 second-doses. This gives Yukon the second-highest percentage of total population fully vaccinated among the provinces and territories, at just over 10 per cent, closely following Nunavut's lead. Joie McBryan, nursing lead at the Whitehorse COVID-19 vaccine clinic, said on Monday that everything was going well with opening up vaccinations to all adults. "We've been so lucky to work with multidisciplinary teams to get everything going. We've got every kind of support imaginable," said McBryan. She said the clinic was expecting to see between 800 and 1,000 people that day, numbers the territorial government says it's hoping to see each day that the clinic is open. 'An exciting time' McBryan said the team is ready to take on these numbers, with 10 to 11 immunizers going at all times. "Really, we have no challenges right now other than making sure that people are getting booked, and that the information for people to access the vaccine is easy for them and streamlined," said McBryan, adding that it is hard to accommodate walk-ins at this time. Joie McBryan, nursing lead at the Whitehorse COVID-19 vaccine clinic, said on Monday that everything has gone well since the clinic opened its doors to all adults. Appointments for the Whitehorse general-population clinics and in the communities can be booked online or by phone at 1-877-374-0425. The general-population clinics will be held daily, except Sundays, from March 1 to 20 at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse. On Monday, the earliest date available to book an appointment was March 16. "This is an exciting time," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley at a weekly COVID-19 update on Thursday. "We are well on our way to immunizing a majority of our population."
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has eased slightly more restrictions tied to COVID-19. Libraries can now open at 15 per cent capacity and gyms can now host indoors low-impact group activities, like Pilates and tai chi. Kenney had been expected to ease rules in other areas, such as retail capacity and hotels, but he says the COVID numbers have hit a plateau and they need more time to assess just to be safe.
Bashaw town council heard a report that the frigid weather in mid-February caused some issues with ice removal in the arena. The report was given at the Feb. 18 regular meeting of council held via Zoom to meet pandemic rules. Mayor Penny Shantz was absent from the meeting, so it was chaired by Coun. Rosella Peterman. During the regular report of Public Works Foreman Murray Holroyd, councillors heard that staff were not able to remove skating ice from the arena because of the cold weather. “It is still too hard to remove,” stated Holroyd in his report. However, he noted the decals and re-usable centre line were removed. The foreman reported that in the week leading up to the council meeting, several water and sewer lines froze up in the very frigid weather. Holroyd also reported water meter replacement work continues. The town was able to sell the old sander truck for $5,500 along with the old cardboard baler, which sold for $800. Holroyd also sits in on regular COVID pandemic updates from the provincial government and reported that masks are still mandatory in all public places in Alberta and that the provincial government is planning on easing some restrictions when the number of people in hospital with COVID drops down. Holroyd’s report was accepted for information. CAO report The town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller stated in her regular report that the town’s new computer server was approved for purchase in 2020, and the new item has been somewhat delayed. “It has taken some time to receive the server and all the migration of data etc.,” stated Fuller. “It is still in process, contacting the various external software providers to migrate data accurately.” New staff The CAO reported the town has a new employee. “Natasha Larkin was hired for the municipal treasurer position,” said Fuller. “She has started full-time with us in January 2021. Training has been progressing well. “This time of year there are ‘one-time’ activities, being year-end close out on each financial module preparation for audit, etc.” Internet service Councillors received a letter from Telus requesting a letter of support from the Town of Bashaw for an improved tower. “Telus is currently in the process of applying for funding through the Universal Broadband Fund to upgrade our tower site in the Town of Bashaw,” stated an email from Dan Johnson, real estate manager. “Our tower in Bashaw currently has 90 customers who receive their home internet from the tower. “This upgrade would allow us to offer additional speed to these customers.” Coun. Rob McDonald thought it was a great idea. “I think we should sign onto that,” said McDonald. Pension question Fuller presented to councillors the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) document and the town’s own policy, noting there was an issue with them. She stated the LAPP identifies 30 hours of work per week for eligibility while the town policy states 35. She recommended councillors alter the town policy to match the LAPP. Coun. Lynn Schultz asked if this would cost the town money, and Fuller stated no. Councillors approved a change to the pension policy to match the LAPP number. Committee reports During committee reports, it was noted the Boys & Girls Club is currently interviewing for a new facilitator. It was also noted at the Bashaw Agricultural Society annual general meeting that grant money from the provincial government has been confirmed. Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
Tofino, BC - Robert Stanley was in Tofino when he heard about the house fire that claimed the life of an Ahousaht First Nation member last week. He had traveled from his home on Flores Island to attend a nine-day Captain’s Boat Camp. The loss weighed on him heavily and his first impulse was to drop-out of the course and return home. It didn’t feel right for Stanley to be so far away from his grieving community. Before he could follow through, members from his nation encouraged him to stay, saying, “there was nothing he could do.” Emotionally tapped out and disinterested, he struggled through the beginning of the in-class marine training. It wasn’t until he was out on a boat during a practical session that Stanley started to feel more at peace. “The water soothed my heart,” he said. Along with four other Nuu-chah-nulth students, Stanley was taking the boat camp to get his certifications to be a captain on a small commercial vessel. The $3,000 course was offered to 16 Nuu-chah-nulth participants from Ahousaht and the regions of Tofino and Ucluelet at no cost. It was limited to those geographical areas due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Funded by the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the course was facilitated by Uu-a-thluk, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s fisheries program. Selected on a first-come-first-serve basis, 11 participants signed-up and will walk away with certifications for Small Vessel Operator Proficiency (SVOP), Small Domestic Vessel Basic Safety (SDV-BS), Restricted Operator Marine Radio Licence (ROC-M) and Marine Basic First Aid. Stanley works as a commercial fisherman and has been driving trollers since he was 11 years old. No stranger to the water, he never uses a map for navigation. Instead, he relies on the traditional markers his grandfather taught him, like the top of Lone Cone Mountain. He enrolled in the course to renew his certificates so that he could run his brother’s boat. While he has no trouble maneuvering through local waters, Stanley said he “loved the practical training” that allowed him to practice his skills. Joe Titian also traveled from his community of Ahousaht to attend the course. Although he has been on boats since he was nine years old and started commercially fishing at the age of 12, he needed to renew his certificates to run a water taxi for his brother-in-law. As he pulled out of the Tofino marina, the 63-year-old quoted Dolly Parton and said, "Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain; but there can't be a rainbow without a little rain.” Relying on his fellow classmate, Brianna Lambert, for navigational directions, Titian continued driving out into rough seas up the Tofino Inlet. Datum Marine Services instructor, Marla Barker, guided them through a “person overboard drill” where Titian had to demonstrate a high-speed turn to rescue a fallen buoy, they covered anchoring and docking a boat, along with slow-speed maneuvering. After catching up with the other participants who were on different boats, the rain stopped as the skies parted. A vibrant rainbow emerged that arched across the inlet. It was like the ancestors were comforting the students in an embrace. As the day ended, the group gathered on a dock in Cannery bay. “You guys showed a lot of courage for hanging in there,” said Ed Houlihan, a Datum Marine instructor. While Stanley said he couldn’t wait to get back to his family and community, he was proud to have made it through the course. “It’s what my community wanted,” he said. Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has agreed to live in the seat of state government in Charleston, ending a long-running challenge over his residency. A Kanawha County judge Monday signed an order dismissing a 2018 lawsuit filed by a former state lawmaker. Through his attorney, Justice said he intends to reside in Charleston “consistent with the definition of ‘reside’ in the Supreme Court of Appeals’ opinion," according to the dismissal order signed by Senior Status Circuit Judge Dan O'Hanlon. “The parties agree that Respondent’s voluntary agreement to reside at the seat of government within the meaning of the Constitution renders this case moot and that the case should be dismissed,” O'Hanlon wrote. In allowing the lawsuit to proceed in November, the state Supreme Court rejected arguments from Justice that the courts could not force him to live in the state capital. The challenge has been a thorn in the side of Justice, a two-term governor who defended living in Lewisburg even though the state constitution says the governor “shall reside at the seat of government” in Charleston. The justices wrote that courts had the right to compel the Republican governor to comply with the constitution. Justice's lawyers had appealed to the Supreme Court after the lower court declined to throw out the case. Democratic Del. Isaac Sponaugle brought the suit after bipartisan criticism that Justice lived 100 (160 kilometres) miles away from Charleston, near his resort, The Greenbrier. Both sides had argued over the definition of “residency.” Sponaugle claimed the common sense meaning of the word “residency” holds that the governor needs to sleep in Charleston. But Justice's lawyers have said the term was vague and the matter was a political question outside the court's purview. While defending the constitution's residency clause, the justices also said the governor "failed to meet his burden to show that the circuit court exceeded its legitimate powers.” Under the terms of the dismissal order, Justice, a billionaire businessman and richest person in the state who owns a complex business empire of coal and agricultural entities, agreed to pay $65,000 to Sponaugle for attorney fees and costs. John Raby, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — A lawyer for the Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States says there's evidence showing the case against her is "manifestly unreliable" and he wants that evidence admitted to the record. Meng Wanzhou's lawyer Frank Addario says emails between staff at the telecom giant and international bank HSBC show the bank was well aware that Huawei controlled another company called Skycom, therefore Meng wasn't responsible for any violation of U.S. sanctions again Iran by the bank. He told the B.C. Supreme Court hearing that staff at HSBC knew that Skycom was sold to Canicula, that Canicula was Skycom's parent company and that Huawei controlled the Canicula account. Addario is asking the judge to admit affidavits including emails and bank account information into evidence to support the defence team's case at Meng's committal hearing, to be heard in May. Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in 2018 on a request by U.S. officials who allege she misrepresented the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, causing HSBC to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran. Both she and Huawei deny the allegations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
MILAN — Fashion is off the hamster wheel, taking a deep breath that is allowing some freshness to seep into the once relentless cycle. “It is so weird thinking about fashion, and the kind of hamster wheel of fashion, and how we never had a break and always complained about it,’’ Marc Jacobs said during a Milan Fashion Week video chat with Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons post-digital show. “And then you get a break, and you complain.” Instead, he said, he was taking the moment to watch others, and be inspired. Milan Fashion Week of mostly womenswear previews for next fall and winter wrapped a nearly all-digital edition on Monday. Only one designer — Daniel Del Core, marking his brand's debut — held a live runway show for a small number of guests. While the bustle of live shows with the parade of itinerant fashionistas decamping from New York to London, Milan and finally Paris was missed, designers also were stimulated by the slower pace of the pandemic-era fashion cycle. Austrian designer Arthur Arbesser shrank his collection to just 25 looks, which he presented in visits to his Milan studio and video calls, opting out of a digital runway show. For the creations, he upcycled textiles from previous collections that had been stashed in a studio cubbyhole. The designer revitalized them either by printing a new design on the other side, in the case of a pretty pleated skirt, or printing over the original with a different pattern, in the case of a black architectural detailing over a striped cotton. Arbesser said the enforced quiet of the COVID-19-era restrictions, along with the necessity of saving money, pushed other creative forces to the fore. He and his team created a patchwork mini-dress out of cotton, silk and technical nylon, and they experimented with Shibori hand-dying for a wool mini skirt. The collection bears Arbesser’s love of prints, this season’s inspired by an actual painter’s palette that he picked up at a flea market, which he mashes up with geometrical patterns and materials that range from soft silk jersey to wool to knits. “I felt it was important to keep writing this story, my little story, keep adding chapters,’’ Arbesser said of his 8-year-old brand. “I am happy that even doing something so reduced, so little, while at the same time producing quality, you can still be seen, you can actually sell your production.” Global masters Dolce&Gabbana took a technological leap forward with a no-holds-barred, youth-inspired collection featuring technical textiles in bold hues intermingled with hologram finishes, metallic glimmers and even multi-colored Styrofoam beads, for a feast of colorful confections. The 140 looks included some reinterpretations of Domenico Dolce and Stefan Gabbana’s iconic pieces — including Madonna’s bejeweled bodysuit and corsets worn by dancers in Prince’s “Cream” video — from the early days when Dolce&Gabbana helped define the bold sexiness of the 1990s. The result was a mix of Dolce&Gabbana’s trademark tailoring, often under strands of layered pearls and gold, alongside more futuristic elements that bely our new protective bearing: elaborate eye shields, plastic sneaker coverings and transparent slickers. Underlining this leap forward, a humanoid robot developed by the Italian Institute of Technology acted as master of ceremonies for the digital runway show. “The collection is a tribute to this generation that asks us about the 1990s,” Dolce said during an in-person presentation of the looks at the designers' showroom. The designers said the younger generation’s idea of sexy is much freer of preconceived notions than in the past, meaning men can wear lace T-shirts without a second thought. “It has nothing to do with sexuality,’’ Gabbana said. “It is almost a euphemism; it’s about pleasing themselves.” Giorgio Armani staged separate digital men's and women's collections in his own theatre both around a replica of a gorilla statue dubbed Uri that has been part of his personal home decor for decades. This green version of Uri evoked the designer's support of wildlife preservation, but also echoed the collections' ties to the natural world. Prints and designs that can be interpreted as leaves, or water lilies, or simple sea creatures, provided the motif for elegantly relaxed looks. The fashion world also paid tribute to creative colleagues in the theatre, which have been mostly empty in Italy since the start of the pandemic. Pierpaolo Piccioli staged the Valentino Fall/Winter 2020/21 collection live to empty seats in Milan’s Piccolo Theater, while the singer Cosima hauntingly intoned Sinead O’Conner’s lyrics: “It’s been so lonely without you here.” The Valentino collection was a sombre affair, fitting the moment. It featured tailored jackets that have been reconstructed into capes, layered with pointy-collared white shirts, skin-fitting tops with seemingly hand-cut holes. For women, there was a movement in flouncy miniskirts peeking out of jacket hems, while feminine flourishes like ruffles on shirts were employed with discipline. Accessories featured studded bags and boots. Milan designer Francesca Liberatore had planned an extravagant show in a Milan theatre with holographic effects, but decided against it in solidarity with theatre creatives who can't occupy that space. “I had the moral problem. How could I do a show in a theatre at this moment when artists themselves cannot recite in this place?” Liberatore said by phone. Instead, her virtual show featured an actor on an empty stage, and two-dimensional models, like paper dolls, in creations including reinvented trenches in camouflage, representing the state of siege society is living under in the pandemic. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
Residents of a backpackers’ hostel now being used as housing for low-income people hope they’ll be able to stay permanently, but the future of 1025 Granville St., along with 20 other Metro Vancouver hotels recently leased by the province, is up in the air. “I have friends, good friends here, who lived on the streets for years,” said Chris, a resident who became homeless last February when he lost his job. “You know what I see here? I see them smile every day.” The building is a standard single-room occupancy hotel, an older style of hotel that features small rooms and shared bathrooms, and often houses very low-income people. Between 2002 and 2020, the Granville hostel was operated as a low-cost tourist accommodation by Hostelling International Canada. But with tourism falling during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became one of 21 Metro Vancouver hotels leased by the province to provide shelter or to use as COVID-19 isolation space. Some residents came from a tent city that had been located at Oppenheimer Park in the Downtown Eastside for two years, while others had been living rough in other parts of Vancouver or staying in shelters. With the hotels in place, the province and City of Vancouver removed the Oppenheimer Park encampment in May 2020. The province also bought the 110-room Howard Johnson Hotel at 1176 Granville St. for $55 million, just a block away from the Granville hostel, and awarded an operating contract to Atira Women’s Resource Society. Community Builders operates the former hostel at 1025 Granville St. Initially, public reception to the new housing on Granville Street was rough, with neighbours complaining about discarded needles and an increase in street disorder. But the current operator of the hostel says leasing 1025 Granville St. to formerly homeless Vancouverites has worked out well, with residents now thriving in a well-maintained building that has fostered community. “The Granville hostel has been a really remarkable success story,” said Julie Roberts, the executive director of Community Builders. “Some people that have been long-term residents of the park hadn’t been housed for a number of years or longer. We just found that people have really settled in, and a really strong community has formed.” Martin, who had been homeless for three years before ending up in the hospital with pneumonia, went first to a shelter and then to the hostel last June. “It’s fantastic here,” Martin said. “It’s safe and it’s clean, they feed us if we’re hungry. They really take good care of us. I hope I’m staying here for life!” Along with building staff, Martin, Chris and other residents often do volunteer work to keep the sidewalk clean and have made an effort to build relationships with nearby business owners. Roberts also sits on a community dialogue committee that includes other housing operators, businesses and neighbouring residents. “We’ve been an operator of shelters and non-profit housing on Granville Street for the last 15 years, so we know that homelessness has been a long-standing issue,” Roberts said. “And I think that sites like the Granville hostel and some of the shelters we operate actually make the businesses safer because people are inside and not outside, and they have a safe place to be. That’s our perspective, though I do know that there are some concerns that remain.” When it comes to how long the residents will be able to stay at 1025 Granville St., BC Housing says the length of the leases for the hotels vary, “and we typically have the option to extend by mutual agreement for as long as necessary.” Laura Matthews, a communications staffer with BC Housing, told The Tyee in an email that the agency usually has the option to extend the lease if the building owner agrees. But Matthews said BC Housing cannot release lease terms for any of the hotels and will not reveal the locations of the hotels. “Generally, as we get closer to a lease expiring, we either work to help people stay where they are by extending the lease or through other means, or we support them to transition to alternate accommodation,” Matthews wrote. “We understand the concerns people may have and we will communicate as much as possible with people as plans are finalized for individual locations. We do not want to see anyone forced back into homelessness.” A spokesperson for the owner of the hostel, Hostelling International, said the association cannot comment on the terms of the lease. Hostelling International operates 50 hostels across Canada. “Out of an abundance of caution, we made the very difficult decision to temporarily close our hostels in light of public health advice at the time,” Shelby Sy wrote to The Tyee in an email. “With our properties closed, HI Canada was pleased to give back to the city by leasing HI Vancouver Central as a housing solution to the most vulnerable in our city.” Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
Much like the snow, budget season is in the air and Whitestone held its draft operating and capital budget meeting in the afternoon of March 1. Whitestone Nursing Station expansion, municipal facilities renovations and road work were among items on the list. Here are the top six budget considerations for 2021: 1. Listed under “other” on the draft budget were the proposed municipal facility renovation at $700,000; nursing station expansion at $80,000; library pathway and water system improvements at $30,000, for a subtotal of $810,000. 2. The estimated cost for road work in 2021 is $459,320. Road work includes gravel, dig-outs, slurry/crack seal, ditching, culverts and repairs. 3. In terms of facilities, Whitestone had budgeted $74,000 for upcoming projects such as a waterline and pump for flooding the DunDome, dock installation at Church Street and an electronic sign for the community centre. 4. In “general government,” projects include a new server, a consultant to develop an asset management plan (more of a 2022 project) and an office phone system, which are estimated to cost $48,000. 5. Landfill projects include converting sea containers into an attendant shed for both York and Aulds landfill sites at a cost of $6,000 per each container. 6. In recreation, projects include a sunshade for the beach area and an accessibility path to the play area for an estimated subtotal of $45,000. The revenue for 2021 is projected to be six per cent less than the 2020 budget. Revenue streams for the Municipality of Whitestone in 2021 include: The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund which will see $988,100 go to Whitestone. Gas tax revenue will provide $58,102, which is an increase of $2,526 from 2020. Whitestone received $20,000 in January from the provincial Safe Restart funding program. Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund will allocate $50,000 to Whitestone. The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation was due to start the four year phase-in program in 2021; however, due to COVID-19, all initiatives have been cancelled. So, there is only a 0.7 per cent increase on total property value. Revenue from community programs, recreation and thrift shop are currently at zero due to COVID-related closures. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
Counting mail-in ballots for Newfoundland and Labrador's election could take up to a month, according to Elections NL, as the agency gears up to receive potentially tens of thousands of envelopes to open, sort and tally. That means results might not be revealed until April, confirmed chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk on Monday afternoon, although he expressed optimism that the team will finish processing the votes sooner than that. "That's what I've estimated, that it would be three weeks," said Chaulk. Depending on how many votes come back and when, the process could take up to 30 days, he added. Although some voting kits have not yet been mailed out, Chaulk told CBC News he's confident they'll be received by voters in time, and counting will likely begin prior to the March 12 deadline for ballots to be postmarked, he added. Sixteen people are enlisted to count the votes, according to Chaulk, and will likely work regular hours, seven days a week, to prevent fatigue-related mistakes. Elections NL will have to count about 155,000 special ballots mailed or delivered directly to local agency offices. This figure includes some 120,000 special ballots requested since Feb. 12, when in-person voting was cancelled due to an outbreak of COVID-19. The 33,353 ballots cast in the advance poll on Feb. 6 will also need to be tallied, according to the agency, for about 188,000 possible votes. Mail-in system slower Chaulk said counting mail-in ballots is a two-part process. First, clerks identify the voter. "You have to strike that person off the list as their ballot having come back," he explained. Then the clerk opens the envelope and places the ballot into a ballot box, sorted by constituency. Once full, those boxes are opened and counted, he said. "That's actually a fairly quick process," he said, akin to how elections workers tally votes in a normal election. Because of the weeks-long count, Chaulk said, he has advised the parties they are entitled to a scrutineer to monitor the process. "They're concerned with what is an accepted ballot and what is a rejected ballot," he said of those overseers. "But they won't be seeing the counts themselves at each table," to prevent leaked information on who may be leading the pack, especially if counting begins before the deadline. Although the number of active COVID-19 cases continues to decline across the province, Chaulk confirmed the election would not return to in-person voting. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador