This river otter is having a fantastic day swimming loop-de-loops in front of his window! So awesome!
This river otter is having a fantastic day swimming loop-de-loops in front of his window! So awesome!
NEW YORK — The head of the Republican National Committee on Wednesday declined to encourage former President Donald Trump to run for the White House in 2024, saying the GOP would stay “neutral” in its next presidential primary. In an interview, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel also described the pro-Trump conspiracy theory group known as QAnon as “dangerous." The national GOP, under McDaniel's leadership, spent the past four years almost singularly focused on Trump's 2020 reelection. But should he run again in 2024 — and he has publicly and privately suggested he wants to — the national party infrastructure would not support his ambitions over those of other prospective candidates, in accordance with party rules, she said. “The party has to stay neutral. I’m not telling anybody to run or not to run in 2024,” McDaniel told The Associated Press when asked whether she wanted to see Trump run again in the next presidential election. “That’s going to be up to those candidates going forward. What I really do want to see him do, though, is help us win back majorities in 2022.” Just months removed from the last presidential election, several Republican prospects have already begun jockeying for position for the 2024 contest. McDaniel is far more focused on the 2022 midterms, when Republicans have an opportunity to break the Democrats' monopoly on Congress. McDaniel is in a difficult political position as she begins her new term as the national GOP chair. She has been a devoted Trump loyalist, but as the RNC leader, she is also tasked with helping her party recover from its painful 2020 election season in which Republicans lost the Senate and the White House and failed to win back the House. Trump's fervent base continues to demand loyalty to the former president, even as some party officials acknowledge that Trump's norm-shattering behaviour alienated elements of the coalition the GOP needs to win future elections. Tensions are especially high within the party as the Senate prepares for Trump's second impeachment trial. Ten House Republicans voted earlier in the month to impeach the former president for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and on Tuesday, five Senate Republicans voted to move forward with a trial that could ultimately ban him from holding public office ever again. McDaniel acknowledged the frustration of Trump's base, which remains a powerful voice in the party and has little tolerance for Republican officials unwilling to stand behind the former president and his achievements in office. But she repeatedly called for party unity and discouraged elected officials from attacking other Republicans — even those who voted to impeach Trump. She declined to single out any specific Republicans when pressed, however, including Trump loyalist Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who is travelling to Wyoming this week to campaign against Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the highest-ranking House Republican who voted for Trump's impeachment. “If we’re fighting each other every day and attacking each other and brandishing party purism, we’re not going to accomplish what we need to to win back the House and take back the Senate, and that’s my priority,” McDaniel said. She also forcefully condemned the pro-Trump QAnon movement, a large group of conspiracy theorists who were a visible presence at the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. Trump repeatedly declined to denounce the group while in the White House. “I think it’s really important after what’s just happened in our country that we have some self-reflection on the violence that’s continuing to erupt in our country,” McDaniel said, pointing to violence across the political spectrum. “I think QAnon is beyond fringe. I think it’s dangerous.” Moving forward, she said that voters, not Trump, are the head of the Republican Party, though Trump continues to maintain “a huge, huge presence” with his base. McDaniel said she's expecting several Republican leaders to play a significant role in the party's future, mentioning former Vice-President Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations. Both are also considered potential 2024 presidential contenders. She also downplayed reports that Trump is considering leaving the GOP and starting a new party, warning that such a move would divide Republicans and "guarantee Democrat wins up and down the ticket. “It would be basically a rubber stamp on Democrats getting elected. And I think that's the last thing that any Republican wants,” she said. "It’s clear that he understands that.” Steve Peoples, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden's election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks. The department did not cite any specific plots, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4. But this particular bulletin, issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology, and suggests it regards violence like the kind that overwhelmed the Capitol as akin to terrorism. The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups. A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.” “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said. The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose. “The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.” The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate. Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues. Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said in a conference call with reporters. Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers. The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations. Ben Fox And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia says it will spend nearly $500 million this fiscal year to improve and upgrade the province's roads, highways and bridges. Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said today in a news release the province's five-year highway improvement plan includes more than 150 major construction and improvement projects for 2021-22. Hines says spending on roads and bridges is an "investment in public safety." The plan calls for 11 major construction projects in 2021-22, with the focus on the ongoing twinning of Highways 101, 103, 104 and Highway 107. Other work involves improving intersections, constructing passing and turning lanes, and building new interchanges and roundabouts. A total of 19 bridges are to be replaced or repaired at a cost of $29.1 million, while more than 500 kilometres of asphalt and gravel road work are also planned. Last year, $385.3 million was budgeted for road and highway projects. The province says 612 kilometres of road were paved in 2020-21, while 15 new bridges were built and 13 were repaired. More than 216 tenders were issued last year for highway and road work. Nova Scotia has 23,000 kilometres of roads and highways and 4,100 bridges. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
King Township has approved its new Development Charges Bylaw. Development charges are fees collected by the municipality from developers, to help cover the costs of infrastructure, such as parks, roads, fire services and more. The provincial Development Charges Act came into effect in 1997 and it’s based on the idea that growth (development) pays for growth-related costs. DCs provide a substantial amount of funds for municipalities like King. The fees are levied on each residential unit constructed, each subdivision, expansion or conversion of space. Before updating a bylaw a comprehensive review is necessary, involving Township staff and members of the development community. Staff began this process last fall, with Watson & Associates as consultants. Typically, DC bylaws are updated every five years and the current one expires Jan. 24, 2021. The last bylaw was prepared in 2014, and provincial legislative changes in 2015 and 2019 will result in some changes. Municipalities were pleased with one change that now includes a 10% charge for “soft services” such as libraries, parks and recreation. Staff noted DCs are vital in that “... the importance of ensuring that growth related costs are appropriately supported by developer contributions si paramount ot the long--term financial sustainability of the municipality. As population growth continues to proceed in a planned and timely manner towards build-out, it is essential that growth related infrastructure needs are constructed as new residents arrive.” Among the changes are details for places of worship and special care facilities. Municipalities have begun treating retirement facilities as residential units and the better classification results in suitable DCs. DCs pay for the development of parks, and builders provide land or cash in lieu, which is roughly 5% of the value of the land. The higher increases in the non-residential side integrate a shift from less dense employees per square foot, to higher density of more office type employment. This has increased the costs per square metre significantly for this sector. The overall increase for Township-wide services for single family residences rises 11%, from $28,681, to $31,838. The non-residential rate jumps 21.7%, to $114.75 per square metre, up from $94.29 per square metre. Staff noted the non-residential DCs are significantly higher and are calculated using expected employment growth. The employment forecast shows a shift from expected industrial/warehousing to less industrial and more commercial and office uses, which has a higher employee per square metre rate. Development charges are of interest to new investors when looking to establish businesses. Staff believe other, more important factors, lead them to King. They include land availability, construction cost, access to transportation, workforce and infrastructure. “Staff is of the opinion that DC rates and the higher rate increase will not put the Township out of the market for new investment.” King’s rates are near the top compared to nearby municipalities, with Georgina at the lowest end, and nearby Vaughan at the high end. Following adoption of the bylaw, a 40-day formal appeal period follows. Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel
Alphabet unit Google on Wednesday opened a centre to tackle harmful online content, in a move also designed to ease regulatory concerns about how the company and other tech giants police a growing problem on the internet. The world's most popular search engine, along with other U.S. tech giants, has drawn criticism because of the spread of illegal and harmful content via their platforms, triggering calls for more regulatory action. The 27-country European Union has taken the lead in proposing tough new rules to curb their powers, protect smaller rivals and make them take more responsibility for removing harmful content from their platforms.
La députée de Duplessis, Lorraine Richard, se voit confier les dossiers liés aux aînés, aux proches aidants et au maintien à domicile. Le chef du Parti québécois, Paul St-Pierre-Plamondon, a procédé à une redistribution des rôles à l’intérieur de son cabinet fantôme à la suite de l’expulsion d’Harold Lebel. Le député de Rimouski a été exclus du caucus le 15 décembre après avoir été accusé d’agression sexuelle. Notons que lors du remaniement, la députée de Joliette, Véronique Hivon, est devenue cheffe du caucus et whip de la formation politique, tandis que son collègue Joël Arseneau, responsable des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a ajouté le dossier de l’itinérance à sa charge de porte-parole du parti en matière de santé.Laurence Dami-Houle, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
Max and Katie relax in the pool with their new cowboy hats. Coolest dogs ever!
Brighton’s proposed 2021 budget, about $9.8 million of which will be funded by tax revenue, will be presented to the community during a Feb. 1 meeting. During a recent Zoom meeting, Brighton’s committee of the whole recommended council approve the 2021 budget, which was slightly amended during the meeting. The proposed total budget for the municipality for 2021 is $35,017,626. Taxpayers in Brighton pay three levies on their property taxes – a municipal levy, a county levy and an education levy. The blended tax rate would be 1.69 per cent if Brighton’s budget passes. Five of seven councillors supported the proposed budget, with councillors Mary Tadman and Doug LeBlanc objecting to an overall tax increase and the cost of Telephone Road work respectively. Coun. Emily Rowley said “it’s a pretty good budget based on the struggles we’ve had to balance it well.” She said she hoped staff members were OK with the cuts made in terms of their ability to provide the services they do for the municipality. To that end, Ostrander said, “I think we’ve come in with an incredibly tight budget. “I do hope we aren’t going to see a service delivery problem at all and I trust that if we were, staff would have brought that to our attention early on in this budget when we asked that question,” he noted. “I’m equally cognizant of the fact that people are struggling, and I understand that 2.31 per cent is not easy for some people and yet we have a responsibility to ensure that the corporation of the Municipality of Brighton carries on as well.” In advance of the 2021 budget process, council set a pre-budget increase of zero per cent on operating budgets and an increase of the Construction Price Index (CPI) up to two per cent, plus one per cent on capital budgets. Residents who wish to address council about the budget must register with the municipal clerk in advance by e-mailing Candice Doiron at firstname.lastname@example.org. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
Transportation and the impact it’s having on bringing in and retaining workers is one of the biggest issues facing Labrador businesses right now, according to two chambers of commerce in the region. SaltWire Network spoke with representatives of the chambers in both Lake Melville and Labrador West about what they see as the biggest business concerns the parties should be looking at this election, and the answers were similar. Labrador North Chamber of Commerce CEO Julianne Griffin and Labrador West Chamber of Commerce president Toby Leon both referenced the decision by Air Canada to pull flights from the region. “That will have a significant snowball effect on many industries and businesses in the region, and that’s from car rental companies, hotels, restaurants and so on,” Griffin said. “Obviously, we rely on a reliable air transportation network for business travel as well as medical travel and for residents' travel, attracting newcomers, tourism, development of the natural resource sector. The snowball effect will be felt and be widespread.” She said recruitment and retention of professionals is already strained in Labrador, and making it harder to get in and out of the region isn’t helping. Leon echoed Griffin's comments on recruitment, retention and the impact of losing flights to the region, cutting it off from any transportation hubs. “Recruitment and retention mean we have to be able to get in and out of here reasonably,” he said. “We don’t want people to fly in here to work, we want people to live here, spend money in the coffee shops, the ski hill, and grow our economy here locally.” Relying on fly-in and fly-out workers like some companies have to do now isn’t helping the economy, Leon said, and increases the cost of business. There needs to be reasons for people to stay, he said, and being able to easily get in and out of the region is part of that. “Without the support of government making it a level playing field to live here as opposed to somewhere else, then recruitment and retention will always be a problem,” he said. Griffin and Leon both said the entire transportation network, from roads to the ferry service, is important, and upkeep of those parts of the network are critical to the region. The Atlantic Loop, a proposed electricity grid for the east coast, has been a topic of conversation at both federal and provincial levels and includes Muskrat Falls. They haven’t heard much on the future of the project, Griffin said, but the chamber does hope if it proceeds, Muskrat Falls could be a part of driving wealth for Labrador and the whole province. “The potential to meet environmental goals is huge,” she said. “This might lead to improved operational costs off diesel consumption for operators like Voisey’s Bay. We see a lot of diesel being consumed on the north coast of Labrador and we really hope it will lead to more growth in the natural resource sector.” Griffin said to help with the labour market requirements, there needs to be more outreach to schools and industry about the opportunities available and better alignment between programs offered and the needs of the province. “What we hope to see, if we really focus on meeting our labour market challenges, is encouraging Labradorians to remain in Labrador and live and work here for a long time,” she said. Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
NEW YORK — The 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall had all the gruesome elements of a modern true-crime classic. Writer and director Tobias Lindholm initially disagreed. The young woman had been decapitated in a homemade submarine. The perpetrator had tortured and sexually assaulted her. He cut off her limbs and threw them overboard in weighted bags. “People around me would say, ‘That would make a great movie,’" says Lindholm from his home in Copenhagen. "And I just couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see the reason to tell this story.” The submarine case had already generated lurid stories in the Scandinavian tabloids and clickbait headlines online. One way to retell the story was to go over-the-top — showing the bloody underwater crime scene and limbs being hacked off. “It would be tasteless and inhumane and there would be no reason to do that,” Lindholm says. “Other than fascination with a brutal crime, what would be the real, responsible storyteller reason to touch this story?” After meeting members of the police and the victim's family, Lindholm went the opposite direction: Viewers never see or hear the accused in the limited miniseries “The Investigation,” which premieres on HBO on Feb. 1 and is available to stream on HBO Max. Viewers don't just never see the murderer, they also never see the victim in flashbacks or visit the autopsy table. They never go into the cold water with the divers to find the bags. There's not a drop of blood shown in the entire six hours — almost an inverse of “The Killing,” the Danish series that helped kick off a wave of grim and bleak detective procedurals in 2007. Instead of the crime, the show explores the close relationship forged between Wall's grief-stricken parents and the head of homicide, whose pursuit of the case has personal costs. The camera follows the dogged detectives seeking a logical and scientific cause of death that can convict the accused. “I realized that the story wasn’t about all the brutality and it wasn’t about the darkness and it wasn’t even about a murder. It was about people that did their job," Lindholm says. “It was about people in uniform that stood together and actually helped complete strangers through a very hard time,” he adds. “It’s not a story that we seem to share too much with each other these years.” It is a moody, meditative and patient show. Many scenes are silent, with detectives pouring over binders of evidence or with divers scanning the horizon. The camera deliberately includes scenes of actors just driving or thinking, moments usually excised from American dramas. Lindholm — whose reality-based feature films include “A Hijacking” and the Oscar-nominated “A War” — cites the Baltimore-based series “The Wire” as a big influence, with its tendency to detour from the plot to show men and women just doing their — sometimes tedious — jobs. He explained his vision to producers at the outset, and they backed him for the six-part series that is subtitled for English viewers. He was well aware of commercial pressures to go lurid but insisted that the monster at the show's heart would never be shown. “It’s like these days when my kids want candy every day because we’re home all the time. It’s just not going to happen. So they won’t ask me. They know that ‘no’ would be the answer,” he says, laughing. There is a documentary feel to the series, one carefully tethered to reality. Lindholm employed the same cadaver dogs used in the actual murder case, used the same crane ship that recovered the sub and even asked the same police divers to recreate their steps. "Divers dive much better than actors and actors act much better than divers," he explains. “If I was not to make the same mistake that I felt the media had done already by limping towards a true crime fascination, I would need a lot of elements from reality to keep me straight on track.” Jonas Allen, whose Danish production company Miso Film helped produce “The Investigation,” credits Lindholm with staying true to his concept. “I think as soon as Tobias had this approach, we were all behind him 100%," says Allen. ”You need to find that specific angle and you need to find that vision. Hats off to Tobias." In many ways, Lindholm's series is the reverse of his own past. He worked with David Fincher on the “Mindhunter” series, which was obsessed with getting inside the mind of killers because that's how the FBI catches them. “Here we had a chance to actually tell a story where we could be fascinated by a very difficult investigation and where we could liberate ourselves from that cliché,” he says. “And the fact that it’s so radical to leave out the perpetrator tells me that that is probably something we should do a bit more in the future.” Lindholm notes that he's a huge fan of “The Killing,” which kicked off a wave of so-called Nordic noir shows. He credits that series' success with his ability to create the political drama “Borgen.” “Nevertheless, I kind of felt that we could end the circle,” he says. "They did ‘The Killing.’ Now we did ‘The Investigation’ and maybe we could all start to do something different.” ___ Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A lawyer for Hassan Diab says a French appeal court's order that the Ottawa sociology professor stand trial for a decades-old synagogue bombing is the latest misstep in a long odyssey of injustice. Donald Bayne tells a news conference the decision delivered today in Paris flies in the face of the evidence. The RCMP arrested Diab in November 2008 in response to a request by France. French authorities suspected he was involved in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured dozens of others, an accusation he has always denied. Following drawn-out proceedings that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, Diab was extradited to France where he spent three years behind bars, including time in solitary confinement. In January 2018, French judges dismissed the allegations against him and ordered his immediate release, allowing him to return to Ottawa where he lives with his wife and children. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
Sometimes in life, you just have to wait a little bit, said Perry Township’s mayor, Norm Hofstetter, when the topic of the transfer/recycling station wait times came up at the Jan. 20 council meeting. According to Hofsetter, he had to bring items to the Waterloo Regional Landfill for a personal matter and said that while getting into the landfill was quick, getting out took 45 minutes. The topic of transfer station waiting times came up on the agenda as Coun. Joe Lumley mentioned he had heard some ratepayer complaints on the matter. Here are some key quotes from the discussion. “I had two or three members of the public come forth and talk to me about the lineup getting a little heavy and had been out to Highway 592 on some occasions,” said Lumley. “Maybe as a group we can come up with a more efficient way that the lineup can be decreased or sped up. When you get eight to 12 cars deep, especially if you’re only carrying one bag of garbage and waiting for everyone else to recycle, I can see people’s frustration there.” “It’s tough times with everything slowed down so much and the lineups are happening — it’s hard to get around that, but if there’s some way to organize it better, I’m all for it,’ said Coun. Paul Sowrey. “I’ve been there many times and I don’t think the lineups are that long. I’ve been back eight to 12 cars and I think the most I’ve waited was about 10 minutes,” said Hofstetter. “Maybe we can put a notice up that we’d appreciate it if they sorted their recycling ahead of time, not when they’re there. I think that would make a huge difference.” “I think we have it pretty nice up here and I think for a long time we were spoiled because there was no organization going in and out of our transfer station, but I think that’s something we have to consider for the safety and, yes, it might take ten minutes to get through, but we all know we’re going home at the end of the day and nobody’s been backed over — that’s not saying we can’t look at something else to help out, but I think sometimes we have to accept we have to wait a little bit in life,” said Hofstetter. “One of the reasons we have it in a single line is for monitoring; we wanted to monitor what people were putting into the recycling bins and for safety, especially during COVID-19,” said Coun. Margaret Ann MacPhail. “One idea that came into my mind (was) to have a lineup for just recycling and a lineup just for trash,” said Lumley. “Just as a footnote on the safety issue, I understand we have to make it as safe as possible for all of us … we did have an increase of 1,600 cars in the last year; if the increase is being seen now, what’s it going to be like in the summer when things are hopefully more relaxed?” “I think it’s a great idea (to have) a sign there that said: if you want to speed up the line, be organized and have your stuff sorted prior to coming,” said Sowrey. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Eganville – Municipal Wayfinders Group came back swinging against assertions from the Bonnechere Union Library CEO who had challenged “their data, findings and competencies” and while they were at it also took a swipe at the Eganville Leader. “Untrue and disparaging public remarks founded on unrealistic assertions are unprofessional and damaging to our firm and our team’s reputations,” Michael Wildman of Wayfinders said during a committee meeting of Bonnechere Valley council last Tuesday. “They ought to be known as unwelcome. They are unnecessary in professional disagreements.” The consultants also requested a “written apology and retraction from the Library CEO regarding her comments about our firm and team.” The Wayfinders group was back at council not only asking for an apology from the Library CEO Nikolina Likarevic but also refuting her comments and standing by their original recommendations to reduce library hours. “At the crux of what our recommendation is we did not want to get into all the details of wages and expenditures, we were looking at hours,” David Reid of Wayfinders said. “That was the recommendation of reducing the hours and even if you use those comparators the average hours per library is 41 hours and average per branch is 29 hours, so significantly less than the 48 hours the Bonnechere Union Library is open.” Comparing BUPL to libraires in the county, the library is the third highest at a percentage of the levy used for the library, he said. In BV, 5.67 per cent of the levy goes to the library. The highest figure in the county is Deep River where 7.95 per cent of the levy goes to the library. Petawawa uses 4.96 per cent of the levy for the library and Pembroke 3.46. As far as neighbouring municipalities to BUPL, KHR uses 2. 97 per cent of the levy for the library, Admaston/Bromley uses 0.99 per cent and North Algona Wilberforce 2.38 per cent. “We just based it on the tax levy (the amount collected from municipal ratepayers),” Mr. Reid explained. “The BV portion is about 60 per cent higher than the average and the third highest of the 17 municipalities in Renfrew County.” The Financial Circumstances Index of the township shows with an index of 8.8, BV can best be compared to a municipality like Madawaska Valley with a population served at the library of 4,954 and 29 hours of service to the public, the consultants showed. Its expenditures are $189,393 and wages/benefits are $132,097. By contrast, BV has a served population of 5,339 and is open 48 hours a week. The expenditures are $271,030 and wages/benefits $201,369. Looking at comparator libraries, including those used as a comparator by the librarian and the consultations, the average is expenditures of $225,682 and wages/benefits of $157,371. As well other comparator hours were lower at 32.5 per library or 21.7 per branch. Along with his colleague, they gave an extensive presentation about not only their report, but also the assertions made by the librarian. “We have serious concerns with the assertions made by the Library CEO,” Mr. Wildman said. “In many cases they are false, based on flawed and problematic information and are misleading.” He said while the librarian’s presentation used only a fraction of the data collected by the consultants, this was not a factual representation of the extensive data presented by the consultants. Mr. Wildman said the CEO’s “omissions fuel a false narrative.” As far as comparators, Wayfinders used several and based them on location, population, households, services provided and fiscal circumstances. The original report from Wayfinders was on finding efficiencies and he stresses BV’s ability to pay needed to be considered when deciding about library services and competing funding issues. “We are in the firm view this is an imperative consideration,” he said of the fiscal circumstances. Mr. Wildman said while the librarian strongly relied on the Federation of Public Libraries report, the consultants looked at audited statements and multiple reliable sources. He pointed out even the FOPL report places a caveat on the information contained since there are discrepancies with reporting. He re-iterated the closest comparators to the situation in BV are Bancroft, Marmora Lake and Madawaska Valley. While the librarian looked for other comparators, he said it was important to have similar comparators and data. He said her use of Band 6 as a comparator base for libraries with populations of between 5,000 and 15,000 was not a good starting point. “Unfortunately, this does not mean that every or any library in Band 6 is necessarily comparable for the purpose of the Operational Review report,” he said. “It is a great leap to make this assumption.” The BUPL is one of the smallest libraries in this band, with only two libraries serving fewer residents. Many of those libraries are in single tier municipalities and many have much better fiscal circumstances than Bonnechere Valley, he said. “As noted, ability to pay is an essential and responsible consideration,” he said. For example, Muskoka Lakes comparator residential tax base is over $9.5 billion, almost 2,000 per cent higher than BV at $467 million. Mr. Wildman said while the consultants agree hours of operation are not directly equivalent to staff hours, there is an impact. A reduction of hours from the then current 48 hours a week to 30 would result in a savings of around $78,000. “We reduced the number to $50,000 to $60,000 for a potential savings of 63 per cent to 76 per cent,” he said. Leader Article Mr. Wildman also took issue with the Leader reporting the December meeting in which Bonnechere Union CEO Nikolina Likarevic described the report as one with “big conclusions backed by limited and often inaccurate data that demonstrates little understanding of library operations.” He stated Wayfinders should have been given an opportunity to refute the comments made by the CEO for a fairer article. However, the Leader was accurately reporting what was said at a council meeting as is the policy at the newspaper when covering any municipal council meeting. The Leader had previously done an extensive article on the original presentation done by Wayfinders in the fall. At that point many recommendations were made, including reducing the library hours, consolidating fire and public works operations at one location and considering selling Eganville Power Generation as a money-losing venture. As is Leader policy, this was reported as what was stated at the time with no follow-up questions to the library, fire department/works department or EGC board. However, the Leaderdoes continue to report what is said in follow up meetings to present each side of an issue as it has done for issues in the past resulting from council or committee meetings. Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
The cases of three people charged with giving ammunition to the man responsible for killing 22 Nova Scotians last April were in court briefly Wednesday morning and have been adjourned until March. The gunman's common-law spouse, Lisa Banfield, 52, her brother James Blair Banfield, 54, of Beaver Bank, N.S., and her brother-in-law Brian Brewster, 60, of Lucasville, N.S., are accused of unlawfully providing the shooter, Gabriel Wortman, with .223-calibre Remington cartridges and .40-calibre Smith & Wesson cartridges in the month leading up to the massacre that started in Portapique, N.S. When RCMP announced the charges in December, the force said in a press release that the three were not aware of Wortman's plans. None of the accused appeared in provincial court in Dartmouth, N.S., in person. Lawyers representing them called into the arraignment by phone. They told Judge Jean Whalen they were still waiting for disclosure from the Crown and without seeing the evidence that has been gathered, their clients could not yet enter pleas. The next court appearance has been scheduled for March 9. On April 18 and 19, Wortman killed 22 neighbours, acquaintances and strangers in several rural communities while driving a decommissioned RCMP cruiser adapted to look like a real one. Police believe he attacked Lisa Banfield that night and she escaped. The denturist torched their cottage, garage and three other homes before being shot dead by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 13 hours after the violence started. When police searched the stolen car he was driving, they discovered he was carrying two semi-automatic pistols, two semi-automatic rifles and the service pistol of Const. Heidi Stevenson, whom he had killed. Wortman did not have a firearms licence and police believe he obtained all the weapons he carried illegally. Search warrant documents show that investigators traced a Ruger Mini 14 .223 calibre rifle to a now-dead Fredericton lawyer who was a friend of Wortman's. They determined he also adapted a Glock 23 .40 calibre pistol with an over-capacity magazine. Police found casings from that loaded handgun — which was traced back to Maine — in the Mazda that belonged to Gina Goulet, the last person he killed on April 19. Banfield has never spoken publicly. She and Wortman were a couple for 19 years and lived above the denture clinic where they worked together in Dartmouth. Search warrant documents show numerous people told investigators Banfield was abused in the relationship. She is suing Wortman's estate, valued at $2.1 million. It includes six properties, three corporations and $705,000 in cash seized from the wreckage of the couple's cottage in Portapique. In her statement of claim, which was filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Banfield said she was the victim of assault and battery, and she suffered physical, emotional and psychological injuries and trauma. MORE TOP STORIES
While Canada struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, other respiratory illnesses, like colds and the flu, are down this season — and in Newfoundland and Labrador, not a single lab-confirmed case of influenza has been recorded so far this year. Other respiratory infections are down in the province as well, with physicians seeing far fewer than normal, with notable decreases in long-term care facilities, according to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald said influenza infections are down significantly across the country, with no evidence of community spread. "Normally this time of year we have on average about 18,000 cases of influenza reported," said Fitzgerald. "I think at this point, it's just over 50 cases that we've had across the country." Normally, N.L. sees a peak in flu cases in late January and another one in the spring, said Fitzgerald, but the lack of cold and flu infections this year is due in part to the public health measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. "Increased handwashing, physical distancing, wearing masks: all that will stop the spread of respiratory droplets, which is part of the way that influenza spreads as well," she said. Another factor is the steep drop in travel to the province. "[The flu] sort of spreads from elsewhere to Canada, and then generally spreads west to east," Fitzgerald said. "We're not seeing that same amount of travel, so we're not seeing the flu coming into our country either." 40% of N.L. residents have had flu vaccine In September, provincial Health Minister John Haggie announced plans to increase the number of people receiving the flu shot, setting a goal of vaccinating 80 per cent of residents. While a little over 40 per cent have gotten their flu shot so far, it's still the biggest turnout in the province on record, he said. "We've done better this year than we've ever done before," Fitzgerald. "We've vaccinated more people than ever before, just over 230,000 so far." Fitzgerald said it's not too late for residents to get a flu shot, because even though the province has had zero cases, and community spread is low nationally, an outbreak could still be dangerous. "Flu can still spread once it gets in and it takes hold, it can still spread very easily from person to person," she said. "The concern of course is that you'll have a flu outbreak, or increased flu cases, as well as COVID cases, and for the individual, you run the risk of being infected with flu and COVID at the same time. Getting the flu shot will protect against that, so it's always a good idea." According to provincial figures, Newfoundland and Labrador had 1,033 cases in the 2018-19 flu season, and 708 in the 2019-20 season. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
The provincial government is pumping money into agricultural technologies in an effort to grow Southwest Ontario’s greenhouse sector. Chatham-Kent–Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls announced $3.6 million of funding on Wednesday via teleconference, on behalf of Ontario's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman. “I can remember my earlier years traveling down Highway 77, and saying, “Wow look at all those empty fields.’ Those fields aren't so empty anymore. The greenhouse development has just been thriving. They've been a major part of making sure that our province's food supply is strong,” Nicholls said. The funds will go toward 12 projects under the Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative which was started to help the Ontario greenhouse sector thrive in the global markets. Several projects are focusing on biosecurity by developing technologies that can detect diseases and reduce the spread of plant and human viruses in greenhouses. The Leamington area greenhouses will receive approximately $2.3 million of the funding with no projects set for Chatham-Kent. However, Trevor Jones, a director with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) said the Chatham-Kent growers will benefit from the technologies developed which, if commercially viable, will put the Southwest area “on the world stage” when it comes to fruit and vegetable production. “When it comes to things like pest mitigation, disease reduction, and all those technologies, that's really for all greenhouse operators, the highest concentration of which are obviously in Southwestern Ontario,” he said. “And we have a growing concentration of high-tech greenhouses in Chatham-Kent.” Of the funding, $1 million was also given to Allegro Acres, Ruthven, to commercially test a 24-hour low intensity lighting system to reduce energy consumption during peak hours. Nicholls noted the surrounding communities will welcome that particular project, as light pollution has been a hot topic of debate, causing municipalities to look at implementing light mitigation bylaws. Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice
STELLARTON, N.S. — Empire Co. Ltd. is expanding its discount grocery banner FreshCo in Western Canada and Ontario, with plans to convert seven of its Safeway stores starting this fall. The company says six of the store conversions are in Alberta, while one is in Thunder Bay, Ont. Mike Venton, general manager of Empire's discount division, says the FreshCo network has grown 23 per cent since the company opened its first discount store in Western Canada two years ago. Empire says it will work with the unions representing affected employees and offer them the opportunity to work at the new FreshCo locations or other stores within the network. In 2017, the Stellarton, N.S., based company announced a five-year plan to convert 25 per cent of its full-service Safeway and Sobeys locations to FreshCo stores. Empire says it now has 37 FreshCo locations in Western Canada confirmed to date. The grocery chain says the cost of closing and converting its full-service stores into discount locations is about $11.7 million before tax, which will be charged to earnings in the third quarter of fiscal 2021. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:EMP.A) The Canadian Press
Ottawa is reporting 72 new cases of COVID-19. Key indicators continue their slow downward trend. One more person has died of COVID-19 in western Quebec. Today's Ottawa update Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recorded 72 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. OPH also reported 113 more cases resolved and no more deaths. The infection rate in Ottawa rose to record levels after Christmas and has since declined, though not yet to levels seen before the holidays. The current lockdown in eastern Ontario went into effect Dec. 26, and is scheduled to last until Feb. 11. A provincial stay-at-home order is also in effect. Numbers to watch 53.9: The number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 Ottawa residents continues to decline. 0.78: The average number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case, or R(t). Anything below one suggests the spread is coming under control. 2.6%: Ottawa's test positivity percentage drops from the latest update. Across the region The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is reporting 33 new cases. Health authorities in western Quebec are reporting 13 more cases of COVID-19 and one more death. Quebec's lockdown lasts until Feb. 8. It includes an updated 8 p.m. curfew.
King councillors stayed true to their word and wasted no time in giving King taxpayers a break on their municipal taxes. Council passed the 2021 budgets Monday that crossed all the boxes, offering a zero net increase while still maintaining efficient services and putting money into reserves. During a pandemic, that was quite a feat, one that didn’t go unnoticed by council and every staffer at the municipality. Council approved a zero per cent increase in net levy requirements – the portion of the tax bill that goes to the Township. The other two components of the tax bill are payments to the Ministry of Education and York Region. Those two components still have to be finalized by York Region and the Ministry of Education. “The past year has been extraordinarily difficult on all of our residents,” said King Township Mayor Steve Pellegrini. “Many of them have seen their work hours cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, while others have been laid off. We could not ask them to pay more on the Township’s portion of their tax bill.” Mayor Pellegrini said that despite the additional costs of introducing new technology to maintain service levels during the pandemic, staff have looked for efficiencies in other areas in order to keep the Township’s portion of the tax bill flat. “I’m extremely proud of the work council and staff have done to continue offering not only our essential services like Fire and Emergency Services, waste collection and road and sidewalk maintenance, but we’ve been able to offer new services. This includes virtual recreation programs, a brand new website with many new online services and curbside pickup of blue and green bins,” said Mayor Pellegrini. King CAO Dan Kostopoulos said major changes and staff efficiencies have actually added value to King taxpayers. “The mayor and council asked for a zero tax increase and staff delivered,” he said. The CAO also pointed out King has one of the leanest administrations in the N6. The net zero comes without compromising King’s future sustainability. Capital projects are still on track. Division head after division head provided a break-down of department efficiencies and changes. Staff all echoed that modernization and online services have been ramped up to meet taxpayer demand. Staff rose to the challenges and no stone was left unturned in finding new ways to do things. In fact, King achieved more than 80 innovations. Some last-minute tweaking by Mayor Pellegrini delayed a tax-funded project and programs. It was all that was needed to arrive at the net zero rate. Some of the highlights from the capital budget include: • Improvements to various community parks ($2 million) – Blue Heron, Kettle Lake; Tomlinson Gardens, Nobleton Lions Community Park, Tasca Community Park, St. Andrews, OSIN Park. • Schomberg Community Hall renovation and accessibility upgrade ($1 million). • Road-related infrastructure repairs and conversion of gravel roads ($2.5 million). • Nobleton Sewers Phase 3 ($14.6 million). In addition to infrastructure investment, property tax dollars pay for a wide range of programs and services including snow removal from roads and sidewalks, road and bridge repairs and maintenance, fire and emergency services, parks, arenas and four library branches. The total approved 2021 operating budget is $46 million, while the total approved capital budget is $22 million. In order to obtain as much input from the public as possible, King Township offered residents several engagement opportunities. These included a virtual Public Information Centre and an online budget priority survey on King’s digital engagement platform at www.speaking.king.ca. King has also put together a budget quick reference guide which can be accessed at https://www.king.ca/your-local-government/budget-and-finances/budgets along with a complete set of documents related to the 2021 budget. Mark Pavilons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, King Weekly Sentinel
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have not only left businesses and workplaces in disarray, but it has also been taxing on the mental health of the public. In January, Riverside Health Care announced the addition of the same-day addiction support services for adults struggling and seeking support for substance use. The new service is an addition to the same-day mental health support services. "As a community, we have seen increased overdoses and substance use concerns and Riverside is hopeful that this same day service will be a step forward in building healthy relationships with some of our most vulnerable substance using populations," Lisa Belluz, manager of mental health and addictions at Riverside Health Care said in an email. This new service will allow for same-day scheduled appointments for individuals looking for support in recovery from addictions or wondering where to get help can call and speak to the recovery support counsellor without needing a pre-existing appointment. As well, you do not have to be a current client or commit to ongoing counselling. These appointments are confidential and do not require a referral. “It is possible for the client to already be enrolled with a counsellor and still access the same day substance recovery and support; the client may need help now in the recovery process when their primary therapist is not available,” Belluz,said. Belluz said calling into the service could be for a variety of reasons such as support for a really difficult day, harm reduction strategies, information about other services that may be of assistance, substance abuse education, or a referral to a more structured assessment or therapeutic service. At this time, appointments are being offered by phone or video but efforts are presently being explored to offer an alternative for people who do not have access to a phone or internet. Belluz said it has been more complex to provide addictions services throughout the pandemic with the limited availability for face-to-face services. She adds that at times, it is difficult for some residents in the district that experience substance use issues, to keep scheduled appointments and because therapists are scheduled, they are not always available for same-day requests for support. The support services counsellor only known as Tom, has begun a mobile walk-about service where he is looking for people who may be working through addiction issues while in the community. Belluz said they are hoping that Tom becomes a familiar face and a known resource in order for those struggling with substance use to feel comfortable enough to approach him for help. This is in addition to the same-day appointments in an effort to meet the identified challenges of recovery support as presently, there is a longer than usual waitlist for treatment. “We have seen an increase of demand for mental health and addictions counselling over the last several months, requiring us to implement a waitlist for our mental health programs,” Belluz said. “Same-day appointments have provided an opportunity for individuals waiting for mental health and addictions service to access a single, solution focused session while the client waits to be assigned to a therapist.” Belluz said it is their goal to continue to offer same-day recovery support services on an ongoing basis, even post-pandemic. “We are hoping to enhance the service with an option of in-person visits for the scheduled days once restrictions from Covid-19 are lifted,” Belluz said. “The same-day services will be monitored and improved or changed as needed, as we strive to search for new and creative ways to meet unmet needs in the community.” For more information on same day addictions recovery support programming, please call 274-4807, press 1 and ask for Tom. Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times