Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the mob in Washington, D.C., was 'fed lies' and that President Donald Trump and others 'provoked' those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the mob in Washington, D.C., was 'fed lies' and that President Donald Trump and others 'provoked' those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Six additional variants of concern – for a total of nine - have been identified in COVID-19 cases in the region, and this afternoon the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit shared that those cases are located in Northumberland County and City of Kawartha Lakes but were acquired outside the region. Dr. Ian Gemmill, acting medical officer of health, spoke to the topic and provided the latest numbers on Wednesday afternoon at his regularly-scheduled weekly press conference. At that time, he mentioned five additional variants of concern, but later in the afternoon an additional case had been added. “The situation with VOCs can change quickly,” he said in comments shared by the health unit an hour after the press conference. “In fact as of now, there are nine variants of concern (VOC) cases in the HKPR District Health Unit region. Seven are in Northumberland County, while two are in the City of Kawartha Lakes.” “The source of all of these VOCs are tied to contacts with others outside the HKPRDHU region,” he said. “The nine VOCs involve three clusters and a single case … and in all these situations, these local VOCs are well under control as the people involved are isolating and limiting their contacts.” In the meeting, Gemmill said he did not have at that time the information about where the cases are located, nor which strain has been identified. When it was noted by a reporter that people are concerned and want further information, Gemmill said: “We need to assume that coronavirus is everywhere,” he said. “We need to assume that the variants could pop up anywhere. So far, they've all had the acquisition outside of our area, which means it's not being transmitted in [the HKPR region]. I agree there's a public interest in knowing which county it's in, we'll get that for you, but I think that people need to behave as though they could be exposed to this at any point. I think that's a message I have to keep repeating, repeating, repeating, because it's so key to the preventative measures.” On Feb. 9, the region's first identified variant of concern was reported. That case was linked to a resident in Port Hope, and later at a Feb. 17 press conference, Gemmill said two of that resident's household contacts were also identified as having variant cases of COVID-19, noting that those cases had been isolating. "This is a controlled situation," said Gemmill at that time. "Since they've all been quarantined, I'm not worried particularly about these cases." Last week, the public health unit had not yet been informed through lab results of which variant of concern was identified in the Port Hope cases. Across Ontario, Gemmill said at the Feb. 17 press conference, the proportion of positive cases that are constituted by the variants of concern are rising, and that he was hearing "worrisome chatter" about it being identified in other parts of Ontario. "We have been affected, but in a very minor way, but this is becoming a big issue across the province of Ontario," he said. The variants are more transmissible than the original virus, and can amplify cases because of the ease in which it spreads, which has led to speculation about a potential third wave and lockdown to protect hospital capacity. "Anything is possible, but I'll be completely forthright with you, the way this variant is behaving, the one from the U.K. primarily, I'm not sure we're going to have control of it, so it could theoretically replace the original virus and become the dominant one, and then it's going to be a lot more difficult to control,” said Gemmill. As of the Feb. 24 HKPRD health unit update, Haliburton County has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one current high-risk contact. City of Kawartha Lakes currently has 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 77 high-risk contacts, and Northumberland County has 20 current cases of COVID-19 and 71 high-risk contacts. “What is worrisome is the continuing spread of coronavirus variants across Ontario,” said Gemmill in Feb. 24 comments. “We are likely to see more of these VOCs in our region, so the need to take public health prevention measures continues to be important until more people are vaccinated.” Sue Tiffin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Minden Times
Newtonbrook Secondary School received hate mail over its new course tackling anti-Black racism, but administration says it’s just “strengthening their resolve.” Last week, the principal of Newtonbrook Secondary School received a manila envelope with no return address. Inside, was a copy of the Star’s newspaper article about the school’s new course on deconstructing anti-Black racism, which was scrawled over with racist remarks. “N------ have taken over the school system!” the anonymous sender wrote, along with a note about not wanting their children to attend school with Black boys. Toronto police were called to the school and an investigation is underway. D. Tyler Robinson, co-author and project lead of the course, said that the tone of the letter, coming from an adult or parent, doesn’t surprise him. “Kids aren’t the issue. The student interest is not the issue,” Robinson said. “Parents with fixed notions of how things are, and other community members at large with fixed notions of how things are, this is where the problem lies.” Robinson has taught for 11 years at seven different schools across the TDSB — from affluent areas to economically and socially depressed areas — and he said he’s always found that students want to discuss race and racism. News of the course was first covered last month by the Star, and as it gained more media attention, a TDSB parent’s event where Robinson was speaking was “Zoom bombed.” Anonymous attendees hijacked the virtual event playing Guns N’ Roses music videos when Robinson attempted to speak about the course. The Grade 12 university prep course “Deconstructing anti-Black Racism in the Canadian and North American Context” covers language, the history of Black people in North America, media stereotypes and how oppression connects to other groups. It was written by four past and present Newtonbrook teachers over the summer of 2020, and the team has been working to bring it to other schools around the province. At least six will be teaching it next year so far. Instances like the hate mail and the Zoom bombing are overt forms of racism, which Robinson says he can find some “empathy” and understanding with the fact that they have yet to unlearn hate. “But how do we deal with the covert racism?” he wonders. “How do we engage principals who don’t want to run this course?” TDSB spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz said that principals and superintendents met with TDSB equity representatives right after the hate mail was received and while they “were appalled, and incredibly upset,” it also reaffirmed the work. “(It was) beautiful to see such a strengthening of the resolve ... to continue the work.” Schwartz-Maltz told the Star. “It opened a lot of eyes and said, ‘This is why we need the course.’” This incident comes just weeks after the TDSB’s released its first human rights report, which revealed the degree of racism and oppression it has to reckon with within its schools. Racist incidents — particularly anti-Black ones — made up the majority of hate incidents that had been investigated between 2018 and 2020. Education Minister Stephen Lecce condemned the hate mail in a statement to the Star, saying: “We condemn this vile form of anti-black racism — it has no place in our province or country … We are committed to combating racism in our communities and systemically in Ontario institutions.” Schwartz-Maltz echoed that the role schools play is more than teaching math, but these lessons of addressing racism as well. “Schools are places where we help kids become the people that they should be: compassionate, tolerant, open their eyes to the world, and understanding and loving of people,” Schwartz-Maltz said. Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering equity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
There may be a lockdown, but Paradise council still had a bevy of development applications to deal with last week. Councillor Alan English made inquires during the February 16 meeting of council as to whether a development application for Stapleton’s Road would have accommodation for potential flooding, given a history of flooding in the area. The application was for a two-lot infill subdivision at civic number 35-37. “One lot was previously subdivided from the original parcel, thus creating a three-lot total,” said councillor Sterling Willis, adding the planning and protective services committee recommended approval of the application subject to 14 conditions. That’s when English then raised his concerns. “We’ve had a lot of problems on Stapleton’s Road with flooding over the years,” he said. “Is there any anticipation of problems with these building lots or is there any particular requirement that they would have to fulfill in order to ensure that there is no flooding in that area?” Director of Planning and Protective Services Alton Glenn said each lot would have to have a grading plan submitted and approved by the Town’s engineering department. “So that the new lots couldn’t create any adverse conditions, such as flooding, or anything else, to the existing lots,” explained Glenn. English inquired further as to whether there would be any special requirements for culverts needed to access the lots. Director of Infrastructure and Public Works Chris Milley said there will be requirements for the culverts, but he did not have them on hand. Milley said he could provide the information at a later time. “But, yes there would be requirements for the size of the culverts going in there,” said Milley. “It would match what else is on the street.” English noted the culverts on the properties just below the lot are quite large, while the ones above are smaller. “The main consideration is that it’s going to be taken into account when the lots are finally approved,” summarized English. During the same meeting council approved an alcohol licence, subject to no objections received in response to the discretionary use and other conditions that were advertised, for an establishment on Topsail Road. “With the pandemic and everything going on, it’s not to see our business community is going strong and we’re continuing to grow our economy in the Town of Paradise,” said councillor Patrick Martin. Other applications included a baked goods and charcuterie board home based business on Beaugart Avenue (subject to no objections to the discretionary use notification and adherence to 10 conditions), a three unit row house on Dina Place (again, subject to no objections from a discretionary notice or nearby residents), and a five lot residential subdivision at Three Island Pond. That application was previously approved in principle following no objections from the public. Willis explained resident had expressed concerns about the submission deadline date. The date was extended, but Willis said the resident did not submit an objection. Councillor English said he spoke to the resident in question, and that the concern was primarily related to some confusion about the notice itself. “Subsequent to that Director Glenn and the Planning Department clarified that for him,” said English. “He didn’t express a particular concern about the development itself. He did, and I’m just throwing this out there as I have similar concerns myself, he did wonder how this can proceed on all lots where there is some issue with a river running through it, and the pond, and there has to be a septic system installed, and so on. So, as far as I understand it, these lots are approved, and Service NL will have to approve the septic systems which will legitimize the building lots.” All permit motions passed unanimously. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
At their Asset Management and Waste Management committee meeting on Feb. 17, South Algonquin Township discussed their upcoming 2021 Capital Projects. Public Works Superintendent Dave Gatley took the committee, chaired by Councillor Joe Florent, through the list of projects the public works department has budgeted to get completed this year and the estimated cost to the township. After being given the floor by Florent, Gatley called up the list of proposed capital projects that his public works department would be doing or having some involvement with in 2021. He began by talking about the purchase of the Asset Management software, which would cost an estimated $20,000 and the Main Street signage, which Gatley believed would be limited to brushing or doing some layout for the signs, which would cost around $15,970. Gatley went on to tell the committee about the purchase of dry hydrants for the fire department, with an estimated cost of $60,000. Dry hydrants are permanently installed in lakes and streams, and this non pressurized hydrant system give firefighters a ready source of water to fight fires in rural areas. At the meeting, he didn’t know where they were going to be located but when they do know, he said there will have to be some design work done. “Last time, I reached out to a consultant that gave an aerial image for the installed hydrants and then I went to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for permits and then public works went and installed them. It went really well. I assume that process would start again,” he says. Next up, Gatley talked about transportation services, which are scheduled for replacement or an upgrade in the township’s Asset Management Plan. The rehabilitation of the Airy Pedestrian Bridge, which the Ontario Structure Inspection Manual (a manual that dictates the procedures and requirements for inspecting bridges) estimated would cost $49,000, will be part of a larger project if the township gets a COVID-19 related grant they applied for, according to Gatley. Holly Hayes, the clerk and treasurer, when asked about this, had not heard anything about it yet, but had received confirmation that the township’s application had been received. She suspected it would be announced around the time the Ontario budget is revealed. The McRae Hay Lake Road is due for a replacement of its surface and drainage components, estimated to cost $940,000. Gatley said he’d had a look at it and it’s 4.7 kilometres to resurface. “It looks like the asphalt numbers will be on the high side this year from what I’ve been hearing back. Approximately $600,000 is for paving alone, about $200,000 in gravel and some contingencies and considerations for drainage improvements. One of the things that came up in discussions with staff was the condition of the culvert at the causeway where there was the wash out in 2012. I did make some contingency allowances if we have to get in and change that pipe,” he says. However, he also indicated that the cost of doing that repair would lend itself more to being part of the Road Needs Study and looking at financing it over time, or even looking into a grant to cover it. The engineering drawings for Hay Creek Road were estimated to cost around $15,000, and Gatley said he had some quotations on that and that they were coming in within the estimated cost so far. Under the umbrella of additional projects for 2021, Gatley provided information on the Annual Road and Drainage Improvements Program, and said that of the $60,000 available from 2020, $50,000 would carry over into this year, as they didn’t do a lot with it last year. The Road Needs Study was estimated to cost $16,000; the traffic counts will cost approximately $11,000 and an estimated $7,500 will go toward the sign inventory. Gatley said of the quotes he had gotten in on these items, all were coming in within the budgeted amounts. Next, Gatley spoke about the need to replace the outhouse facilities at Galeairy Lake Park, which will cost an estimated $40,000. “We’ve upped the budget on the washrooms based on the tenders we received. I do think we can take advantage of the redesign we talked about last year and going to block and using subcontractors. The tank has been built and it’s sitting in the precast yard so it accounts for about $8,000 of that [$40,000 estimated cost]. I think if we did go with the architectural block route we talked about, we’d come in under budget. If push comes to shove, that budget would allow us to go to tender and at least get that project completed,” he says. Public bench acquisition and installation at various locations around the township will run around $6,200, while new picnic tables for the township’s parks will cost an estimated $5,000. Gatley says they’ll be ordering them shortly and putting them together as the weather improves. Both the Whitney Library and the Lester Smith Building really need their asphalt shingles replaced this year, at an estimated cost of $11,000 and $30,000 respectively. Gatley then turned the committee’s attention to the list of vehicles and equipment that public works uses that are due for replacement or an upgrade. The loader, which was way overdue for replacement, is still performing well and its maintenance costs are low at $2,300 per year. Gatley recommended doing a little more work to the bucket this year but did not think it needed to be replaced immediately. The cost to replace it would be $300,000. The tandem truck, which was replaced last year, has been invaluable this year with COVID-19 restrictions in order to keep the public works staff separated a bit, according to Gatley. He also thought it was great in that it had improved service and response times, and its maintenance costs were stabilizing for its age and were pegged at $31,300 per year. The replacement cost for it would also be $300,000. The single axel truck has already been replaced at a cost of $75,000, and the township is just waiting for delivery, expected to be in the Fall of 2021. While the old truck is still performing, its maintenance costs are becoming a bit high, at $15,600 every year. The pickup truck was due to be replaced in 2019 but it is still holding its own and its maintenance costs are acceptable, according to Gatley, at $4,100 per year. Its replacement cost would be $40,000. There was also a proposed new acquisition brought up by Gatley, which he brought back to the table from two years ago. It was a 2,600-gallon slide in water tanker with an estimated cost of $30,000. “It could be used in the tandem truck to help us with our sand sweeping operations. Since we had to get rid of the old Airy Township fire truck that we used to use, we’ve been having to rent a water truck, which is costing us between $3,500 and $4,000 a season,” he says. Availability is also hit and miss on those rental water trucks, and Gatley says that he took the proposed water tank purchase out of the budget last year because there were none available at that time. “However, they are telling me that there would be one available for the springtime for our sand sweeping operations. So, I’ve put that back on the list for consideration,” he says. Gatley concluded his presentation and Florent thanked him. He asked if there were any questions. Councillor Richard Shalla had a question about the Main Street signage and its cost. Gatley and Hayes clarified that the cost was not part of the public works budget, although they’d be doing the work. Shalla also had a question about the culvert that Gatley had mentioned earlier that needed to be replaced. He asked if putting in a liner to fix the pipe would be feasible instead of replacing the whole thing. Gatley said he hadn’t looked at it closely enough yet to make that determination but he admitted that a liner would be preferable to having to dig up and replace the entire culvert. He said he’d be looking into it. Mayor Jane Dumas suggested to Gatley that the building inspector should have a look at the gazebo at Galaiery Lake Dam, as it was in bad shape. He agreed and said it could be done under park maintenance, although he didn’t have any repair numbers yet. Gatley brought up a final matter; a streetlight replacement on Paradise Road, which had been pending for five years. “I heard back and I’ve got the numbers. It looks to be a reasonable cost to do it, and could be done under road improvements,” he says. Hayes then interjected, bringing up what she called the “elephant in the room;” the nearly $1 million projected cost to redo McRae Hay Lake Road. “We should look at getting a grant, as without that or something else, we’d be looking at a 36 per cent tax increase to do it. I think council needs to have that discussion about either prioritizing it or looking at getting a grant or doing the project in stages where it will take a couple of years,” she says. Florent suggested tabling it for 2021 at least and looking into getting a grant to cover at least some of the cost. “Maybe we could look at doing some spot improvements like culvert replacement and things like that, and investigating fixing the culvert where the washout occurred back years ago. We should keep our eyes and ears open for a grant, as that cost is prohibitive. If we can get it paid for by the government, at least in part, instead of us, that’d be better,” he says. Everyone on the committee agreed with that assessment and resolved to look into procuring a government grant for the McRae Hay Lake Road rehabilitation. With that consensus, they moved on to other business. Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
À moins de 48 heures d’intervalle, les deux partis d’opposition ont fait connaître leur candidat dans le district Auteuil en vue des prochaines élections. Parti Laval – Équipe Michel Trottier y présentera Dayila Sassy tandis qu’Action Laval - Équipe Sonia Baudelot misera sur SeyLac Try pour tenter de ravir ce district que détient le Mouvement lavallois – Équipe Marc Demers depuis l’élection de Jocelyne Frédéric-Gauthier en 2013. Douzième candidate à rejoindre les rangs de l’opposition officielle, Dayila Sassy poursuit actuellement ses études au baccalauréat en informatique à l’Université Laval. Membre indépendante siégeant au sein du Comité consultatif jeunesse de la Ville de Laval, elle avait participé au programme de jumelage «Jeunes et relève municipale» de la Fédération québécoise des municipalités (FQM) en 2019. À titre bénévole, Mme Sassy s’est aussi impliquée auprès de la Fondation des maladies du cœur et de l’AVC de même que de l’Institut de réadaptation Gingras-Lindsay-de-Montréal. En briguant les suffrages, elle souhaite promouvoir la place des femmes, des minorités ethniques et des jeunes dans les postes décisionnels. La nomination de SeyLac Try porte à onze le nombre de candidats confirmés sous la bannière d’Action Laval, incluant les quatre conseillers en poste qui solliciteront cet automne un renouvellement de mandat. Entrepreneure et courtière immobilière depuis 2004, Mme Try habite le quartier Auteuil depuis plus de 30 ans. Le parti dépeint cette mère de deux enfants comme une citoyenne «engagée localement [qui] milite activement pour le succès scolaire». Ayant immigré avec sa famille au Canada alors qu’elle était très jeune, cette Cambodgienne d’origine dit vouloir «redonner» à sa communauté en contribuant à faire de Laval «une ville harmonieuse et prospère». Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
Holyrood council has voted to become a member of the Grand Concourse Authority. Council hopes that membership will help trail development in the community. “The purpose of the Grand Concourse is to foster, promote, and enable the design, development , and operation by or for the members of an integrated network of walkways, amenities, and land owned or occupied by the members,” said councillor Kim Ghaney during the February 9 meeting. The benefits include access to trailway standards and maintenance planning, which Ghaney said will lead to credibility in trail planning and increase the likelihood of success in getting grants “And, as Deputy Mayor (Curtis) Buckle likes to say, it’s always better to get funding for these infrastructure pieces of work. It reduces the burden on the community, so we’re always looking for funding for that purpose,” said Ghaney. “We recognise that trail development has been a gap in our outdoor recreation offered in the town, and we look forward to the creation of new trails in our area, and by doing it in the right way, by adhering to the best practices and good standards outlined by the Grand Concourse Association.” Councillor Roger Myette assured residents the membership will not mean that ATV users will be booted from the T’railway. “This is by no means taking the T’railway and turning it into a walking path,” said Myette. “Because when people hear Grand Concourse, they think right away of CBS, when they came in and removed all motorized vehicles from that trail. This is not that intent of what we have. This is to help us with the other trails we have around the community, and to increase this trail as well. But, so far as we know, as of right now, it will still be motorized, there is no intent of taking motorized vehicles off the T’railway.” Ghaney agreed that it was a “great point,” and noted that any such changes would not happen without public consultation. Council voted unanimously to approve the membership. The Grand Concourse Authority is a non-profit, member-based charitable organization. It’s board of directors includes representatives from CBS, Paradise, Mount Pearl, and St. John’s. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
(Submitted by Amber Tucker - image credit) A Facebook group dedicated to supporting Nova Scotians during the pandemic is closing up shop, but its creator hopes people will keep stepping up to help others. Amber Tucker created Caremongering-Hfx: Halifax-area community response to COVID-19 last March, modelled after similar groups in Ontario. Members could ask for help, donate supplies or services, and offer advice and emotional support. "It was meant to provide a sense of safety when everything else felt so unsafe," Tucker told CBC Radio's Information Morning. Requests ranged from immunocompromised people needing help with errands to posting resources to keep kids busy during lockdown, Tucker said. One member even stepped up to bring a little boy a birthday cake. By the time the Facebook page was officially archived on Feb. 24, there were more than 11,000 members. Stopping spread of misinformation Tucker said it was heartwarming to see so many strangers come together to help each other, whether it was by providing services or offering moral support. In the early days, the group's admin team also did a lot of damage control when it came to rumours and misinformation about COVID-19, said Marine Decaillet, one of the group's administrators. Decaillet, a cultural anthropologist, previously spent two years working on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and wrote a thesis on the management of rumours during that epidemic. "I'm trying to monitor and provide information to people so that they could accurately stay safe," she said. Decaillet and Tucker worked full time while managing the group, a balance Decaillet called "extremely intense." "It was a little overwhelming … we discovered burnout in a different way, but it was also a really rewarding part of the work," Decaillet said. 'Spirit of mutual aid' Almost 11 months after creating Caremongers-Hfx, Tucker said the time has passed for the need to maintain the group and all the work that goes into it. With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and the low case numbers in Nova Scotia, she said a lot of the recent activity in the group hasn't been as focused on pandemic-related needs. "There's still community help going on, which is amazing. We really want people to continue doing that work in different forums now that we all kind of have the idea and the spirit of mutual aid," Tucker said. Both Tucker and Decaillet said they plan to spend less time on social media now that Caremongering-Hfx has closed. Tucker plans to focus her volunteer efforts on housing justice, and Decaillet hopes to help migrants get settled in the province. MORE TOP STORIES
TORONTO — The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights" is making Canadian history on Spotify. The Toronto-raised singer's hit single has become the first song by a Canadian artist to pass two billion plays on the streaming platform. And he's only the fourth artist in the world to join this elite group of massively popular songs. Ahead of him is "Dance Monkey" by Australia's Tones and I (2.1 billion streams), "Rockstar" by American Post Malone (2.12 billion) and the leader "Shape of You" from English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (2.7 billion). A couple of other Canadians could also reach two billion streams with one of their songs later this year. Drake's "One Dance" is teetering around the mark with 1.98 billion streams, which ranks him one spot behind the Weeknd as the No. 5 most-streamed song. Shawn Mendes' "Senorita" is at No. 9 with 1.7 billion plays. The Weeknd's streaming numbers were helped by his performance at the Super Bowl, which gave his entire catalogue of albums a boost. But it's fellow Torontonian Drake who holds the biggest streaming crown on Spotify. He earned the platform's most-streamed artist of the decade honour at the end of 2019. Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Jill Biden offers comforting advice to Kelly Clarkson, telling the singer and talk-show host as she goes through a divorce that things happen for the best and that life will eventually “look better.” The first lady — a divorcee herself — also reveals one thing she looks forward to when COVID-19 clears up and explains why women should take some time for themselves every day as she does. She spoke during an interview with Clarkson that is set to air nationally on Thursday. Clarkson recently brought her show to the White House for a socially distant conversation with Jill Biden in the East Room. NBC released interview excerpts Wednesday, including a clip of Jill Biden offering comforting words about carrying on after a relationship breakup. Citing her late mother's advice, she tells Clarkson things happen for a reason. She also says her divorce freed her to meet Joe Biden and have a family with him. “My mother always said to me things are going to look better, tomorrow,” Jill Biden said, encouraging Clarkson to “take one day at a time, and things will get better.” 'I look back on it now, and I think, you know, if I hadn’t gotten divorced, I never would have met Joe," she continued. “I wouldn’t have the beautiful family I have now. So I really think things happen for the best and I think, Kelly, over time, I don’t know how long it’s been for you, but I think, over time, you heal, and you’re going to be surprised and I can’t wait until that day comes for you.” Clarkson has spoken in other interviews about the pain of her public breakup. She filed for divorce last year from Brandon Blackstock after nearly seven years of marriage. They have two children. After marrying Joe Biden, Jill Biden helped raise his sons Beau and Hunter after their mother and baby sister died in a car crash in 1972. The couple later had a daughter, Ashley. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46. The Bidens also have six grandchildren. During her first solo television interview, Jill Biden also discussed her interest in education, military families, cancer research and healing the country. She also answered questions from members of the show's live, virtual audience. “Maybe go have a martini and some french fries,” she replied to one audience participant who asked about the one thing she would do when COVID-19 clears up. She also explained why she makes sure to exercise and take time out for herself. “I love to exercise. I run, I bike. It clears my head, so that’s really important to me and I think all women should have something, it doesn’t have to be exercise, although hopefully it would be," she said. “Just to take a moment for yourself.” “So I get up early, and that’s my time that I have for myself," Biden said. Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Parliament’s budget watchdog is predicting another multibillion-dollar increase in the cost of a new fleet of warships for the Royal Canadian Navy, pegging the price for what was already the largest military procurement in Canada’s history at more than $77 billion.Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux’s latest estimate is $17 billion more than the government’s stated price for the 15 warships, which are to be built in Halifax over the next two decades and form the navy’s backbone for most of the century.Giroux’s estimate is in a highly anticipated report released Wednesday that is likely to set the stage for some tough discussions — and heavy industry lobbying — on whether Canada should push ahead on the project or change tack.To that end, the budget officer’s report includes a number of potential scenarios designed to provide a clearer picture of what options are available to the government should it decide to go in a different direction — and how much each would cost.That includes scrapping the existing plan to base the 15 warships on the British-designed model called the Type-26, which Canadian defence officials have repeatedly described as the right ship for Canada, and choosing a different design for the fleet.Giroux and his team also looked at the idea of a hybrid fleet, in which Canada builds three Type-26 ships and supplements them with 12 other vessels. That would mimic how the navy was previously built, with three Iroquois-class destroyers and 12 Halifax-class frigates.The Type-26 frigate is also being built by the United Kingdom and Australia, but Canadian officials have been making numerous changes to the design to meet Canada’s unique military and industrial requirements.Those changes have been made more complicated by the government’s attempts to pack all the capabilities from the navy’s now-retired destroyers and existing frigates into one type of ship.The destroyers provided air defence while the frigates specialize in hunting submarines.The PBO found that the government could save $40 billion if it built only three Type-26 frigates and supplemented them with 12 smaller, less capable Type-31s, which is similar to what Britain has decided to do.Canada could also save $50 billion if it scrapped plans to build any Type-26s and went with an entire fleet of Type-31s, according to the report, though the PBO notes that the Type-31 was “designed to operate alongside the ‘higher-end’ Type-26.” Restarting the entire project could result in a four-year delay to the start of construction.Giroux acknowledged during a media briefing that building a “hybrid fleet” would incur added costs over the long term due to the need for more training and spare parts for different types of ships, among other things, which were not figured into his calculations.“It also means that you don't put all your eggs in the same basket,” he added. “So if you find a major defect in one class of ship, you have a fallback option. You're not bound by 15 ships.”The PBO also looked at the potential cost to switch to a type of warship called the FREMM that is currently being built for the United States and which Giroux described as on par with the Type-26 in its capabilities.The budget officer found a revised project would cost around $71 billion whether the government decided to build an entire fleet of FREMMs or three Type-26s and 12 FREMMs.The Defence Department stood by its $60-billion cost estimate on Wednesday, arguing Giroux put too much emphasis on the ship's weight in his calculations, and noting his figure included tax. It also called the Type-26 "the right ship" for the navy, suggesting the other designs would not meet Canada' needs.While it said selecting a new design "is not an option we will be pursuing," the department did not specifically address the idea of a hybrid fleet.“As a taxpayer, I really hope they're right on the $60 billion — and even lower if they can,” Giroux said. “But we're confident that our cost estimate is the most likely scenario: $77 billion. I'm confident we have an accurate cost estimate.”The warship project was launched in earnest nearly a decade ago when Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax was selected in October 2011 to build the fleet, with the total cost estimated at around $26 billion and the first ship to be delivered in the mid-2020s.That vague schedule remained largely unchanged, at least on paper, even as the estimated price tag ballooned to $60 billion and Ottawa ordered several smaller ships so Irving would have work until the surface combatants were ready for construction.But defence officials revealed to The Canadian Press earlier this month while that construction on the first Type-26 is set to begin in 2023-24, the ship won't be delivered until 2030-31. Officials nonetheless insisted that the $60 billion budget would be sufficient despite the new delays.Giroux said his team’s analysis found a one-year delay in the project would add $2.3 billion to the overall cost, while a two-year delay would result in the fleet costing $4.8 billion more.Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and chief of the defence staff Admiral Art McDonald also appeared in a promotional video this month for a new design facility for the Type-26 that was organized by BAE Systems, which designed the warship, suggesting the government is doubling down on the warship.Wednesday’s report is the result of a request from a parliamentary committee for the PBO to look into the warship project, and had been highly anticipated given the amount of money involved and the relative lack of information about the project from the government.It also comes as the federal auditor general prepares to release her own report Thursday on the federal government’s entire shipbuilding strategy, which includes not only the 15 new warships but dozens of other vessels for the Navy and Canadian Coast Guard.The Naval Association of Canada, which represents current and retired naval officers, sent a commentary to members of Parliament last month warning them to exercise caution when it came to Wednesday’s PBO report.Giroux acknowledged that naval officials are in a better position to determine what the navy needs in its new fleet, and that each of the different designs provide pros and cons. However, he said MPs asked his office to look at the costs, “and that’s what we did.”“Ultimately, it's up to decision-makers to make these trade-offs as to what the navy needs and what Canada can afford,” he said. “And by providing them with these cost estimates, we're allowing them to have better information to make these important decisions.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
On Feb. 9, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association issued a press release to its membership about the Ontario Energy Board’s upcoming hearing to eliminate Hydro One’s seasonal rate class and transfer those customers to one of their three residential rate classes; urban, medium density or low density. FOCA has been against this move since it was first put forward, as it will increase hydro rates for nearly 80,000 of its members. While the OEB’s decision to eliminate the seasonal rate class is final, this hearing will determine Hydro One’s proposed mitigation measures, to soften the blow of the rate hikes for over half of its current seasonal rate consumers. The changes are expected to take effect on or after Jan. 1, 2022. The OEB first made the decision to eliminate the seasonal rate class back in 2015. Several years and appeals hearings later by Hydro One, FOCA and others, the OEB finalized their decision to get rid of the seasonal rate class on Sept. 17, 2020. Last October, Hydro One sent in a draft rate application which illustrated how the elimination of the seasonal rate class would impact those customers. In this report, Hydro One found that the elimination of the seasonal rate class would result in a small rate reduction to the nearly 70,000customers moving to the medium density rate, while the nearly 80,000 customers being moved to the low-density rate would see their rates jump by about $54 per month. According to Terry Rees, the executive director of FOCA, the OEB has been looking Hydro One’s report over for the past several months. Once Hydro One has informed all of its consumers of the change, the OEB will hold a hearing to ask Hydro One any further questions, to consider any input from FOCA and other interested parties, and to determine whether rate mitigation is required and what that rate mitigation should be. If rate mitigation is deemed appropriate, Hydro One has been tasked with initiating these measures for the 77,595 seasonal rate customers who will see an increase in their hydro bills. This will of course depend on their usage, according to Rees. “We think in an era of low inflation, lots of economic pressures, especially in the north and in rural Ontario, that’s something that’s a pretty troubling decision,” he says. Hydro One’s proposed mitigation measure is a rate increase of not more than 10 per cent per year, spread out over a number of years, to reduce the impact to those seasonal residents who will now be paying more for service. According to their October report to the OEB, they would provide a fixed monthly credit for the seasonal customers affected based upon their prior year’s average monthly consumption. They estimate that these credits would need to be in place for nine years at a total cost of $150 million. Regarding billing and meter reading, they recommend that it be based upon seasonal customers’ usage level and patterns and their current reading and billing method. According to Hydro One, this would meet their needs while overall billing and meter reading costs would be minimized. Hydro One’s rate classes determine how much someone pays for hydro depending on their location and usage. A property qualifies as seasonal if it’s a secondary residence where the owner lives for less than eight continuous months out of the year. The 147,679 seasonal rate class consumers would mostly fall into the low-density residential rate class (77,595) or the medium density residential rate class (69,839), with only a handful of customers falling into the urban residential rate class (245). Alex Stewart is a spokesperson with Hydro One, and says that in the coming weeks, these seasonal customers will get a notice from the OEB with details on the next steps for the seasonal class elimination. “The notice will include details on moving customers to one of the three residential rate classes and the projected bill impacts associated with the move. This change could increase electricity costs for a typical seasonal customer by $650 per year,” he says. At the upcoming hearing, likely to be sometime this spring, the OEB will hear from Hydro One, FOCA and any other intervenors who wish to participate. If somebody does want to participate and have their say, they are invited to contact the OEB by visiting www.oeb.ca or by calling 1-877-632-2727, and quoting OEB file number EB-2020-0246. While the OEB has steadfastly refused to back down on eliminating the seasonal rate class, they will be looking at Hydro One’s proposals to mitigate the rate increase for their seasonal customers who will fall into the low-density rate category, as well as any comments from intervenors like FOCA. After the hearing, Hydro One will be implementing this changeover from the seasonal rate to the residential rates for its seasonal customers. This is a process that they estimate will cost between $3 million and $4 million. Rees is one of those customers affected by the upcoming rate change, as he lives south of Bancroft near Apsley. He had already gotten his notice, and was surprised to find out he would be classified as a low-density residential rate customer when this change takes effect. “I have neighbours on either side of me, about 100 feet away, so it’s not really remote. It’s typical of central Ontario. You can see your neighbour but they’re not too close,” he says. While surprised at his rate change, Rees also realized that the rate change may impact more people in the near northern parts of the province than he’d anticipated. “I thought it would be the north and the more remote areas [of Ontario] that would be affected,” he says. How does Hydro One determine who is a low density versus medium or urban density rate customer? According to Stewart, the urban density zone is defined as areas containing 3,000 or more customers with a line density of at least 60 customers per circuit kilometre. “The medium density zone is defined as areas containing 100 or more customers with a line density of at least 15 customers per circuit kilometre. The low-density zone is defined as areas other than urban or medium density zone,” he says. According to Hydro One, the main reason for the rate increases for current seasonal rate payers who fall into the low-density rate category is that these customers will not qualify for some of the subsidies available to normal residential consumers in the aforementioned rate categories, like the Rural and Remote Electricity Rate Protection and the Distribution Rate Protection. At the upcoming OEB hearing, Rees explained the basis of FOCA’s remarks in defence of its members, who will be facing this rate hike at some time next year. “We will remind them that we’ve been against this change and why. I think they will be based on the fact that we have to consider people’s household budgets and their ability to pay and how such a dramatic change would be budgeted for. And so, we’ll certainly be encouraging them to consider whatever mitigation is available to soften the blow.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
PARIS — Striker Renaud Ripart scored a late penalty as Nimes beat Lorient 1-0 in the French league on Wednesday to move out of the relegation zone and put Lorient there instead. Nimes has won three consecutive matches without conceding a goal and is in 17th place while Lorient dropped to 19th after a second straight loss. Ripart confidently sent the goalkeeper the wrong way in the 88th minute after a Lorient defender handled the ball following a corner. In an even first half, Nimes midfielder Haris Duljevic missed a good chance and Lorient defender Julien Laporte hit the crossbar with a powerful shot from 25 metres. Lorient again went close when striker Terem Mefi's header struck a post early in the second half. The match was rescheduled from the 21st round of matches following a coronavirus outbreak in the Lorient squad. Lorient's five-game unbeaten league run ended last weekend when it lost 4-1 at home to leader Lille. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
TORONTO — A quarantine screening officer who allegedly demanded cash from a woman before sexually assaulting her at her home faces related charges, police said on Wednesday.The accused had been trained by the Public Health Agency of Canada as a designated screening officer under the Quarantine Act, Halton regional police said. According to a police statement, the accused was doing a quarantine compliance check at a home in Oakville, Ont., on Feb. 18."The accused informed the victim that they were in violation of the quarantine order and demanded that a fine be paid in cash," police alleged. "When the victim declined to pay, she was sexually assaulted by the accused."Police said they arrested a man they identified only as Hemant, 27, of Hamilton, on Tuesday. He has been charged with sexual assault and extortion. The Public Health Agency of Canada said it was "very disturbed" by the alleged events and was co-operating with investigators.Police refused to disclose the name of the security company that employs the man, but said he had been suspended.The Public Health Agency said it had awarded contracts last month to four companies to conduct in-person compliance visits. Agency spokesman Eric Morrissette said trained and designated screening officers working under these contracts began in-person compliance visits on Jan. 29 in Montreal and Toronto. The national rollout began on Feb. 15 he said. "Close to 30,000 compliance verification visits have been done so far," Morrissette said.Everyone entering Canada must isolate for 14 days. Designated screening officers visit quarantine locations to confirm people are where they said they would be on arrival in the country. Failure to comply can result in fines.However, screening officers are not police officers and have no authority to issue a ticket or arrest anyone. As a result, they should never be demanding payment during a quarantine-compliance check.To be designated, officers must be licensed security guards and have had a valid police background check. Training comprises online self-study courses related to the Quarantine Act and their duties and responsibilities. They must also pass an exam.The Public Health Agency listed the four companies under contract as the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, G4S Secure Solutions (Canada) Ltd., Garda Canada Security Corporation (GardaWorld), and Paladin Risk Solutions.The investigation announced Wednesday was prompted by a complaint from the alleged victim, said Const. Steve Elms, a police spokesman, who had no other details. Elms said the accused is on bail pending a court appearance March 23 and apparently goes only by one name.Police said other people might have been victimized and urged anyone who might have had a similar experience to contact their local police.Issues have previously arisen with quarantine guards. Last year, private security contractors at a quarantine hotel in Melbourne, Australia, were accused of sleeping with guests, the Herald Sun reported.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Residents of Simon Place and Ryan’s Road were likely glad to hear the Town of Spaniard’s Bay will be putting money towards addressing flooding concerns in their area. “Because of the complexity of the issue, we needed engineers to help us come up with a resolution,” said Mayor Paul Brazil during the February 9 meeting of council. The engineering firm in question is Progressive Engineering, which sent the town a proposal with a staged estimate totalling up to $20,950 concerning the flooding concerns on Simon Place and Ryan’s Road. Councillor Eric Jewer moved to approve Progressive Engineering to proceed in accordance with the proposal. Council voted unanimously to approve the motion. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
From hockey arenas to Montreal's Olympic Stadium, sites across Canada that are usually dedicated to sports, business or entertainment are being repurposed to serve the goal of mass vaccination. As provinces prepare to expand their vaccine rollouts to the general population in the coming days and weeks, here's a look at some notable landmarks that have been named as mass vaccination sites. Olympic Stadium, Montreal Built for the 1976 Olympics, Montreal's towering "Big O" has previously hosted the Expos baseball team and major sporting events such as the CONCACAF Champions League soccer final. It's known for holding major events, such as a concert by the Rolling Stones and a mass by Pope John Paul II, as well as for costly and embarrassing falling concrete and roof tears. In mid-February, the local health authority announced the atrium of the stadium would be repurposed as a mass vaccination clinic. Quebec is set to start vaccinating people 85 and older there next week. Canada's Wonderland, Vaughan, Ont. The theme park bills itself as "the country’s premier amusement park," featuring more than 200 attractions, including a 20-acre water park and 17 roller-coasters. The Yukon Striker, it boasts, is the world's fastest, longest and tallest dive coaster. Now, the site is also being eyed as a drive-thru vaccine clinic in the spring, according to public health officials. The City of Toronto is also preparing a number of mass vaccination sites, including the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto Congress Centre and the Cloverdale Mall. Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of the province's vaccine distribution task force, said Wednesday there would be enough sites to allow Ontarians to get the vaccine close to where they live. "Whether it's a Shoppers Drug Mart in Orleans, Ont., or whether it's a drive-thru vaccination clinic at Canada's Wonderland later on in the spring, when the weather improves a bit, or whether it's a hockey rink in York Region ... the ones closest to you will be the ones brought up (where) you will be able to reserve an appointment," he said. Keystone Centre, Brandon, Man. The Keystone Centre is home to the Brandon Wheat Kings junior hockey team and the Brandon Curling Club, as well as the as the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair and special events, such as a now-postponed ZZ Top concert. In addition to the Keystone Centre, the province has announced other mass vaccination sites including the Thompson Regional Community Centre and the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg. Canada Games Complex, Sydney, N.S. The venue at Cape Breton University was originally built for the 1987 Canada Winter Games. It is now listed as a recreational facility on the website of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The university announced in 2019 that some 500 solar panels would be installed on the roof of the complex in what it called the largest solar installation on Cape Breton Island. Other vaccine clinics in Nova Scotia include the IWK Health Centre, a major hospital in Halifax, and the New Minas Baptist Church. Other venues The government of British Columbia has not yet released the locations of its clinics but says they will take place in large spaces including school gymnasiums, arenas, convention halls, and community halls. In Nunavut, upcoming vaccination clinics are to be run out of schools and community halls. The government of Alberta has chosen not to publish the locations of its vaccine sites in order to try to avoid having people show up without appointments, according to a spokesman for Alberta Health Services. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
(Evan Vucci/The Associated Press - image credit) U.S. President Joe Biden has agreed to work with Canada to protect the North's Porcupine caribou herd — marking another shift away from the policies and priorities of Biden's predecessor. In a joint statement issued after their meeting on Tuesday, Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they "recognized the ecological importance of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR]" in Alaska. The refuge is home to the calving grounds of the Porcupine herd. The two leaders also "agreed to work together to help safeguard the Porcupine caribou herd calving grounds that are invaluable to the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit peoples' culture and subsistence," according to the statement. The fate of the refuge on Alaska's North Slope has been the subject of debate for decades. The refuge's remote coastal plain is believed to contain billions of barrels of oil and Republican leaders in the state have long pushed for the area to be opened up to development. Indigenous groups and environmentalists in Canada and the U.S., meanwhile, have fought to maintain its protected status. The Canadian and Yukon governments have also opposed any development there. In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, caribou from the Porcupine Caribou Herd migrate onto the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. President Donald Trump had said he "really didn't care" about opening a portion of the refuge to oil drilling but insisted it be included in 2017 tax legislation at the urging of others. Addressing fellow Republicans in 2018, Trump said a friend told him that every Republican president since Ronald Reagan wanted to get oil drilling approved in the refuge. "I really didn't care about it, and then when I heard that everybody wanted it — for 40 years, they've been trying to get it approved, and I said, 'Make sure you don't lose ANWR,"' Trump said. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Alaska held the first lease sale for the refuge's coastal plain on Jan. 6, and the issuance of leases was not announced publicly until weeks later, on Trump's last full day in office. Temporary moratorium on leasing Biden has opposed drilling in the region, and on his first day in office he announced a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing in ANWR. Tuesday's statement from Biden and Trudeau signals a move toward providing permanent protections, which Biden called for during the presidential campaign. In a statement on Wednesday, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm commended Biden and Trudeau for agreeing to cooperate on ANWR. The Yukon First Nation relies on the Porcupine caribou for sustenance, and the herd has spiritual significance to the Gwich'in. Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, testifying in 2019 in Washington before a U.S. congressional subcommittee, on protecting ANWR. Tizya-Tramm commended Biden and Trudeau on Wednesday for agreeing to cooperate on ANWR. "Since 1988, upon our elders' direction, the Gwich'in Nation have worked tirelessly to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; the beating heart of an ancient ecosystem," Tizya-Tramm said in a written statement. "Hai choo' to Prime Minister Trudeau and President Biden for making protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge part of a renewed U.S. – Canada Partnership."
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health expressed concern Wednesday about the gradual rise in the number of COVID-19 cases reported in the province over the past week. Dr. Robert Strang reported three new cases, bringing the total number of known active infections in Nova Scotia to 21. There were nine active cases on Feb. 14. Strang said he was also concerned about possible community transmission. "We are seeing several cases over the last few days with no clear link to travel or a known case," he told reporters in Halifax. As a result, Strang warned residents to expect higher case numbers over the coming days and said public health will be stepping up COVID-19 testing in two specific areas where cases had recently been detected: the Halifax-area communities of Lower Sackville and Beaverbank, and in the Annapolis Valley between Wolfville, N.S., and Berwick, N.S. "Specifically focused testing in geographic areas is what we've done previously when we've detected concerning signs," he said. "It's what helped us to deal with the recent Halifax outbreak (in November)." It's unknown whether some of the recent cases are the result of a more contagious novel coronavirus variant, Strang said, and he urged residents to follow COVID-19 hygiene and gathering protocols. Wednesday's new cases were identified in the Halifax area, with one involving a close contact of a previously reported case and the other two infections under investigation. The province said it had administered 29,237 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday, with 11,658 people having received a booster shot. Strang said Nova Scotia is receiving 14,700 doses of vaccine this week; at least 10,000 weekly doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected until the end of March, he added. "Meaning we are on target to meet the outcomes for the first 90 days of our vaccine strategy," he said. Meanwhile, the province's first community clinic for people 80 years of age and older was into its third day in Halifax Wednesday, while another clinic opened for residents 55 years old and older, on the Millbrook First Nation reserve near Truro, N.S. Strang said talks were underway to open a clinic for the African Nova Scotian community by the end of March. Monday marked the first briefing for new Premier Iain Rankin, who was sworn into office Tuesday. He described himself to reporters as a "science guy." Rankin said there were no plans to change how the province contained COVID-19 under former premier Stephen McNeil. "The approach has worked," he said. "And I do agree that when there's an issue, that we have to be very quick to shut down or add restrictions and then be cautious when we open back up." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
Nikola Dimitrov of AIS Technologies Group in Windsor, Ont., discusses how the pandemic has affected supply lines.
PLAINS, Ga. — Now that former President Jimmy Carter and his wife are vaccinated against COVID-19, they have returned to one of their favourite things: church. Maranatha Baptist Church in tiny Plains, Georgia, announced on its Facebook page Wednesday that Carter, 96, and Rosalynn Carter, 93, were again attending worship in person. The couple has been in the sanctuary the last two Sundays, Pastor Tony Lowden said in a video. Jimmy Carter hasn’t resumed teaching his Sunday school class, which once drew thousands of visitors annually. But video from last Sunday’s service showed both of the Carters sitting in their customary spots on the front pew and wearing face masks. The former president waved as members applauded their presence. “They’ve both had their shots," Lowden said from the pulpit. In a reminder to keep a safe distance from the couple, Lowden said if someone gets tackled by him, another man or Secret Service agents, “it's because we're still practicing social distancing.” With the Carters once again in church, Maranatha Baptist posted rules that also include mandatory face masks and temperature checks; limited building capacity; reservations and no photographs. Before the pandemic, visitors usually gathered around the couple for pictures at the end of worship. The Carters celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary last July and are the longest-married presidential couple in U.S. history. The Associated Press
STONY PLAIN, Alta. — A trial date has been set for a jailed Alberta pastor who is accused of holding Sunday services that violated COVID-19 rules.James Coates with GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove, near Edmonton, did not appear in court Wednesday when a date for a three-day trial was set to start May 3. He was arrested last week and remanded in custody after refusing to agree to bail conditions.Coates was charged this month for violating Alberta's Public Health Act and breaking a promise to abide by rules of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence. The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health regulations on attendance, masking and distancing.John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the organization representing Coates, said lawyer James Kitchen plans to file an application with the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench seeking the pastor's release until the trial begins.Carpay said Kitchen will argue that the provincial government needs to be held accountable for COVID-19 rules that infringe on constitutional rights."The health orders violate our Charter Section 2 rights to assemble and associate worship, Section 6 rights to move and to travel, and Section 7 charter rights to life, liberty, and security," Carpay said."If the past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, I don't think it's likely that Pastor Coates is going to abide by unscientific public health workers but that's his decision."Several people gathered outside the Stony Plain courthouse in support of the pastor and urged Premier Jason Kenney to lift COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday."Our governing authorities are acting criminally and all this is against our constitutional rights and freedoms," said Jasmine Tucker, who has been going to GraceLife Church for 10 years and has continued attending church since Coates' arrest."We're devastated by what has happened. We have the right to go to church and worship God the way that God tells us to. We pray that churches will open, that churches stand up and say this is not right."Tucker said she has been in touch with the pastor's wife and has been told he is doing OK in jail."He is faithful, he is courageous, and he is honouring the Lord."Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January.Coates has addressed the province's health restrictions in his sermons, telling worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship.Jacob Spenst, an associate pastor of the church, conducted last Sunday's service and told the congregation that messages of support have been pouring in for the jailed pastor.The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021.---This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press