Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
Details with meteorologist Tyler Hamilton.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
CHARLOTTETOWN — The spring session of the Prince Edward Island legislature has opened with a throne speech acknowledging the challenges of the past year caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry thanked the chief medical officer of health and other front-line workers for their efforts keeping Islanders healthy and safe. "We owe a debt of gratitude to those who put themselves in danger to accommodate our needs," Perry said Thursday. "Because of them, and because of the faithful adherence to public health protocols on the part of all Islanders, we are in an enviable position to make a speedy recovery from this pandemic," she said. Perry said she walks in the footsteps of the many governors and lieutenant-governors during the 170 years of government on Prince Edward Island, but joked she's probably the first to wear a mask into the legislative chamber. The speech outlined a number of new health initiatives planned by the Progressive Conservative government, including the creation of three new primary care homes. "Islanders assigned to primary care homes will have quicker access to the appropriate health professional," Perry said. "The new model will employ more virtual care options in circumstances where a physical visit may be unnecessary." She said the government is also creating a five-year, $10-million fund for mental health and addictions. "And to ensure that attention to our mental health has parity with our physical health, my government will establish the P.E.I. Centre for Mental Well-being," she said. She said the centre will provide guidance to ensure mental health services are responsive to the needs of the community. Perry says the government will table a seniors health strategy during this legislative session, which will focus on preventing hospital admissions and increasing at-home care. She said the government will also increase efforts to recruit and retain more health professionals. A working group will collaborate to expand the nursing programs at UPEI and Holland College, and the government will establish a $5-million fund to recruit nurses and nurse practitioners over the next five years. The government also announced a $2.5-million Retention, Mentorship and Training Fund for registered nurses and nurse practitioners currently working on Prince Edward Island. Perry said the government will announce programs to support the development and use of clean-technology solutions to cut carbon emissions. The government will also increase access to childcare by adding 300 additional childcare spaces this year, she said. The speech acknowledged the pressures felt by the tourism sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Perry said 2021 will be a stabilizing year for the tourism industry. "We will focus on a local campaign, working to reopen the Atlantic Bubble, and as our vaccine programs result in immunity over time, opening to travellers from the rest of Canada," she said. Green party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said considering the importance of tourism to the provincial economy, he expected more help for the sector. "I didn't hear any funding in there to ensure tourism operators are going to be there when tourism comes back, hopefully in 2022," he said in an interview. Bevan-Baker said he was pleased to see some emphasis on developing the clean-tech sector but overall was disappointed with the throne speech. "It's a pretty timid vision for what Prince Edward Island should be," he said. Premier Dennis King says the spring session will include the 2021-22 operating budget and that the government plans to introduce about 20 pieces of legislation. The governing Progressive Conservatives hold 14 seats in the legislature, while the Greens have eight and the Liberals five. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. - By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton. The Canadian Press
Portland Thorns captain Christine Sinclair leads the list of 10 Canadians allocated to the NWSL in 2021. Allocated players have their salaries paid by Canada Soccer or the U.S. Soccer Federation. There are a total of 32 allocated players this year with the other 22 coming from the U.S. Chicago Red Stars defender Bianca St. Georges gets allocated status for the first time. Orlando Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod and OL Reign midfielder Quinn, who goes by one name, return to allocation status for the first time since 2015 and 2018, respectively. Canadian defender Shelina Zadorsky, now with England's Tottenham, is no longer allocated. The 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup will kick off the league’s ninth season on April 9. The NWSL’s 10 teams start their 24-game regular season beginning May 15. Canada's 2021 NWSL Allocated Players List Chicago Red Stars: Bianca St. Georges. Houston Dash: Allysha Chapman, Nichelle Prince, Sophie Schmidt. Kansas City: Desiree Scott, Diana Matheson. Orlando Pride: Erin McLeod. OL Reign: Quinn. Portland Thorns FC: Christine Sinclair. Sky Blue FC: Kailen Sheridan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb, 25, 2021 The Canadian Press
WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project is looking toward the next phase targeting funding broadband projects in lower-density areas. SWIFT is a non-profit that aims to subsidize broadband projects in rural southwestern Ontario areas that have poor or no connectivity. George Bridge, Minto mayor and SWIFT board member, and Barry Field, SWIFT executive director, gave an update on the project to Wellington County council at Thursday’s meeting. In the presentation Bridge noted some highlights from the first phase of the project, called SWIFT 1.0. He explained they are exceeding their target of 50,000 premises served by a few thousand and are very close to reaching their kilometre of fibre laid goal. He was also happy to report that despite earlier concerns from smaller companies about SWIFT becoming a “Bell and Rogers show,” projects from small internet service providers (ISPs) accounted for about half of the funding given through SWIFT’s first phase. The small ISPs will become more important for SWIFT 2.0, the next phase of the project where SWIFT intends to focus on projects in lower density areas. “The bigger ones, Bell and Rogers, they go after so many people per km but your small ISP, for example they’ve gone down as low 3.1 density per km or three houses on a km,” Bridge said. “Our next round we’ll get into, some of the low hanging fruit has been done, now we need to get out to that last mile.” The funding is a big question for the next phase as there has been no commitment on what the province and federal governments will give, if anything at all. A third of SWIFT is funded by the province and a third from the federal government, with the private sector filling in another third and municipal governments providing some capital contributions. Coun. David Anderson asked if there’s anything they could do to give projects a better chance at a successful grant application. Field said municipal financial support or just letter of support for a grant application — which Field noted applies for other funding beyond SWIFT — can go a long way. He also said it might be helpful to encourage local ISPs to apply for funding if they haven’t done so. Wellington North mayor Andy Lennox questioned how to ensure funding gets distributed more equitably so lower density projects aren’t missed again. Field said by the time SWIFT 2.0 comes around those will be most of the projects left and to lower the number of premises per kilometre required, which in the first phase is at around 17 premises per km on average. “There are things we can do in the (request for proposals), the procurement itself, to not only encourage but ensure that we’re not getting at that easiest of the remaining premises,” Field said, noting this was a valid criticism of SWIFT 1.0. “We did have a very high premises count target we had to achieve and that kind of led to policies we had to encourage more premises passed.” Coun. Jeff Duncan asked if a possible federal election this year could delay or impact the next phase. Field said he wasn’t sure but did stress there is no commitment from upper levels of government to fund SWIFT 2.0. Bridge said they’ve been advocating through the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus to all political parties and there is no question from any of them that this is needed. The presentation was accepted as information from council. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
OTTAWA — Canada's top court has decided against hearing a pair of appeals brought to it by Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and a number of cable companies seeking to overturn a CRTC decision that lowered the wholesale rates those companies charge smaller competitors. The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the appeals is a victory for Canada's independent internet service providers and may lead to lower internet prices for consumers. The independent ISPs compete with bigger internet network owners, such as Bell and Rogers, and say lower wholesale rates would let them cut retail prices The Federal Court of Appeal in September had dismissed the appeals. Thursday's decision means the ball is back in the court of the CRTC, which has not yet implemented the new prices and is instead reviewing its decision, though the federal government has indicated it could step in at some point if it thinks the arms-length regulator doesn't strike the right balance. As is usual, the Supreme Court didn't give a reason for its dismissal. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE, TSX:RCI.B) The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal government was granted one more month Thursday to expand access to medical assistance in dying even as its efforts to do so stalled in the House of Commons. Quebec Superior Court Justice Martin Sheehan agreed to give the government a fourth extension — until March 26 — to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 court ruling. But he suggested this will be the last one. Given that the government is close to finally reforming Canada's assisted-dying law, Sheehan said "it is appropriate to grant a final extension to allow it to end." But he added, if the government can't meet the new deadline, "it must be deduced that this incapacity results from a lack of consensus on the sensitive issues raised rather than exceptional circumstances justifying an extension." Sheehan's decision came just one day before the previous deadline was to expire. The 2019 ruling struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural deaths are "reasonably foreseeable." Bill C-7 is intended to bring the law into compliance with the ruling, expanding access to assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the ends of their lives. However, the bill is stalled in the Commons, where the Conservatives refused for the third straight day Thursday to facilitate debate on a motion laying out the government's response to amendments passed last week by the Senate. Conservative MPs talked out the clock on the motion Tuesday and then refused the unanimous consent needed to extend the debate until midnight, despite calling last week for extended hours to allow thorough debate on the issue. They refused unanimous consent again Wednesday to allow the Commons to sit into the night to wrap up debate on the motion. And they refused unanimous consent again to sit Thursday night. The Bloc Québécois offered to give up its opposition day Thursday, an opportunity for it to set the agenda in the Commons, to allow debate on the motion to continue. The minority Liberal government decided that would be pointless, given the Conservatives' stalling tactics. "Conservatives have twice blocked our proposal that the House sit late to debate this important issue, despite claiming that they want extended hours," Mark Kennedy, a spokesman for government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, said late Wednesday. "Based on this, we now know that Conservatives will continue to obstruct, and cancelling the Bloc opposition day tomorrow will not change anything." The Conservatives were largely opposed to the original bill and object even more strenuously to the amended version the government is now proposing. The bill originally would have imposed a blanket ban on assisted dying for people suffering solely from mental illnesses. The government is now proposing a two-year time limit on that exclusion, six months longer than the time limit approved by senators. The government has rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed advance requests for assisted dying, as well as an amendment intended to clarify what constitutes a mental illness. It has accepted a modified version of two others. The Bloc has said it will support the government's response to the Senate amendments, assuring the motion's eventual passage. But until Conservatives agree to wrap up debate, it can't be put to a vote. Once the motion is passed, the bill will still have to go back to the Senate for senators to decide whether to accept the verdict of the elected parliamentary chamber or dig in their heels on their amendments. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
A coalition of five local agencies are working together to provide better support services for members of the community. The Strathmore Wheatland Wellness Resource Project will help residents of Strathmore and Wheatland County come to one place to access resources. It is composed of the Golden Hills School Division, Growing Family Society, Strathmore FCSS, Wheatland County Counselling and Wheatland FCSS.“ It’s a great partnership of not-for-profits coming together,” said May Rostecki-Budzey, executive director of the Growing Families Society. The provincial government announced the provision of grant funding of $100,000 to Wheatland County Counselling and $85,460 to the Growing Families Society on Feb. 11. Wheatland County Counselling is providing service delivery of the navigation phone lines, helping direct people to the proper channels for whatever they need, explained Rostecki-Budzey. If a crisis does arise, the caller can be redirected to one of the therapists there. Each member organization also collaborates to determine what resources are needed in the community, both in Strathmore and among rural communities in Wheatland County, explained Brittany Olsen, Wheatland County Counselling office manager. “We’ve able to identify needs for residents, from counselling to nutrition support and financial support,” said Olsen. The project is in its infancy, so it provides information only and does not perform case management. Other organizations may connect their services through the project as well, she said. “We’ve been able to help a dozen people so far, and we’re just wishing to still continue to help,” she said. Residents can access the project online at swwellness.ca or by phone 403-962-0167, email firstname.lastname@example.org and through its Facebook page. Providing access to many programs from a single point and contact makes getting support easier and less time consuming for residents, explained Olsen. “Instead of them being frustrated with Google searching, finding what resources are available to them and clicking a bunch of links, we’ve provided a one-stop shop resource providing them the information they need.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
(Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit) Business owners across the province are urging the chief medical officer of health to consider a regional reopening of the province, and lift the Alert Level 5 lockdown for all areas outside of the metro St. John's region. The Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce — which represents 300 businesses — posted its letter to Dr. Janice Fitzgerald publicly Wednesday night, asking for areas outside the Northeast Avalon to be moved into Alert Level 3. The letter comes just ahead of Fitzgerald's Friday deadline for an update on a two-week provincial lockdown first announced on Feb. 13. While most businesses made it through last spring's lockdown, the chamber's chair told CBC News, they never fully recovered and the second wave of restrictions has proved far rougher than the first. The chamber letter is a result of a flood of those concerns. "The problem we're hearing from our members is that, this is bad this time. And they don't know if they're going to make it through," said Sheldon Handcock. Gander itself has taken a hard hit in the last year, as the core industry in the town — aviation — has been pummelled by the pandemic, with its airport losing Air Canada entirely in January. Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce Chair Sheldon Handcock, seen here during a Zoom interview with CBC, says he hopes Dr. Janice Fitzgerald takes a regional approach to reopening businesses. As of Thursday, only eight of the 335 active cases are outside the Eastern Health region, four of them in central Newfoundland. "Our numbers are low. We know that the threat is still there, we know the virus can move rapidly, but we would like to have the island assessed more granularly," Handcock said, pointing to New Brunswick as a prime example where public health officials have shuffled various regions of its province in and out of alert stages in the last few months. Under provincial guidelines, Alert Level 3 allows for retail stores and restaurants to reopen with restrictions. So too can personal care services such as hair salons, barber shops and estheticians, although other segments of society, like fitness centres and movie theatres, remain closed. 'If I do not work, I don't make any money' Tash Noble, the owner of Tash's Studio in Corner Brook, agrees with Handcock's points. "Coronavirus is a very serious virus, but if it's not here in this area, we should start alleviating some of the restrictions," she told CBC News on Thursday. Noble said while some businesses can pivot to online sales or curbside pickup, hair, nail and waxing services obviously cannot. Business owners outside St. John's are hoping they will get the go ahead to flip their signs to 'Open.' "If I do not work, I don't make any money," she said. "We're still recovering from last year ... Bills still keep coming out. They shut down our business, but Newfoundland Power doesn't shut down, the rent doesn't shut down." In an update on Thursday, the provincial government announced the new extended deadline of March 11 for applicants to apply for financial help under the small business assistance program. So far, 3,130 applications have been approved. A safe reopening The current lockdown in Newfoundland and Labrador involves a particularly contagious variant of the coronavirus — with confirmation of the B117 variant spurring public health to move all of the province to Alert Level 5 — and Handcock commended Fitzgerald's actions thus far, calling her "a rock star." But he said he hopes she is looking at a different reopening from last spring, when the entire province moved in lockstep into freer forms of public life, although whatever reopening looks like Handcock said needed to keep public health top of mind. "If there can be safe way that business can open and the economy can resume, that's what we're hoping for," he said, looking toward Friday's announcement, about which no hints thus far have been given, with Fitzgerald only saying any reopening with the variant in play will involve limited personal interactions. Adding to the chamber of commerce's economic argument, Handcock said, is a medical one: all regional health authorities have put off routine hospital appointments, and he worried about the possibility of backlogs like those seen last spring. Those could be avoided, he said, in at least some areas of the province if there was a regional re-opening. "People need bloodwork, people need to have certain surgeries, people need to get these appointments, and it's a tough time," he said. Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
L’Association des propriétaires de cinémas du Québec annonce la réouverture de la majorité des salles le 26 février. C’est le cas du cinéma Carrefour du Nord à Saint-Jérôme et du cinéma Pine à Sainte-Adèle. C’est en prévision de la semaine de relâche, afin d’offrir une sortie culturelle sécuritaire aux familles et à tous les Québécois que la décision d’ouvrir a été prise, malgré le couvre-feu et la fermeture des concessions alimentaires. « Nous reconnaissons l’importance des règles sanitaires visant à limiter la propagation de la COVID-19. Comme l’été dernier, nous continuerons d’être rigoureux afin d’offrir des lieux sécuritaires aux cinéphiles. Néanmoins, nous avons eu l’occasion d’échanger avec le gouvernement et ils ont bien compris qu’une ouverture avec toutes les contraintes avec lesquelles nous devons conjuguer nous plaçait dans une situation financière encore plus fragile », a expliqué Éric Bouchard, coprésident de l’Association des propriétaires de cinémas du Québec. Pour cette raison, le gouvernement a apporté une modification à son programme d’Aide aux entreprises en régions en alerte maximale (AERAM) qui permettra de continuer de recevoir le soutien même si les cinémas sont ouverts. Monsieur Bouchard est aussi copropriétaire des cinémas Saint-Jérôme et Saint-Eustache. « On plonge et on veut ouvrir. Les familles ont démontré de l’intérêt. C’est clair que nos revenus seront affectés. Pour la semaine de relâche, nous sommes sûrs que ce sera bon, mais après on verra », a ajouté Éric Bouchard. Quant à Tom Fermanian, propriétaire du cinéma Pine à Sainte-Adèle, il compte aussi ouvrir ses portes pour la semaine de relâche afin d’offrir une programmation durant la journée. Il y aura donc des projections à 11h, 13h30 et 16h, selon les informations qu’il possède à l’heure actuelle Pour la suite, le propriétaire ne sait pas non plus ce qu’il adviendra après la semaine de relâche. « Si nous restons dans la zone rouge, nos programmes de soirées seront amputés, ce ne sera vraiment pas intéressant pour nous d’ouvrir », déplore-t-il. De plus, le fait d’ouvrir et fermer souvent rend les opérations plus difficiles, notamment pour le personnel. Si toutefois le couvre-feu est repoussé à 21h30, ils pourront à ce moment faire des projections à 19h, ce qui serait plus avantageux. « Le 16 mars 2020 quand le gouvernement a décidé de fermer les cinémas, nous avons été les premiers à être fermés et les derniers à rouvrir. Depuis mars dernier, en zone rouge, on aura eu trois mois d’opération, ce qui représente des pertes de 80 %. À ce niveau, n’importe quelle entreprise est fragilisée », soutient M. Bouchard. Du côté du cinéma Pine, M. Fermanian croit qu’ils ont été chanceux en quelque sorte puisqu’ils ont pu rester ouverts jusqu’en décembre. « Mais ça a tout de même été difficile. Puisque les grands marchés de Montréal étaient fermés, les fournisseurs de films ne sortaient pas beaucoup de choses. » Il explique que la vente de popcorn et de friandises peut représenter plus de 60% de leurs revenus. « Ça fait partie de notre plan d’opération. Cette affaire passe mal auprès du public, mais pour nous, ça représente tous les revenus que nous allons perdre. » « ll y aura des nouveautés dès la relâche tel que Félix et le trésor de Morgäa, un film parfait pour toute la famille, avec les voix de Marc Labrèche et Karine Vanasse, ainsi que La déesse des mouches à feu, qui reprendra enfin l’affiche après s’être vus couper l’herbe sous le pied en septembre. Le calendrier 2021 s’annonce lui aussi dense et rempli de belles surprises », souligne Denis Hurtubise, coprésident de l’Association des propriétaires de cinémas du Québec. Marie-Catherine Goudreau, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès
U.S. property data and analytics company CoreLogic Inc has asked peer CoStar Group Inc for more assurances that it can complete their combination should it attract antitrust scrutiny, people familiar with the matter said. CoStar unveiled a $6.9 billion all-stock bid for CoreLogic earlier this month, after the latter agreed to sell itself to a private equity consortium of Stone Point Capital and Insight Partners for about $6 billion. CoreLogic has informed CoStar it would be willing to declare its bid superior and abandon its deal with the private equity firms if CoStar provides more certainty that the transaction will be completed expeditiously, the sources said.
WASHINGTON — Antony Blinken will meet virtually Friday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau in a day of online diplomacy for the U.S. secretary of state. Blinken will meet with Trudeau, Garneau and other members of the federal cabinet as part of a "virtual trip" to Canada and Mexico, Blinken's first bilateral video conferences since taking office. The visit follows up on Trudeau's own virtual summit this week with U.S. President Joe Biden, which produced a "road map" for plans to collaborate on issues like climate change, the economy and COVID-19. The pandemic made an in-person visit impossible, said Julie Chung, the acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. "We decided to do this virtually instead of waiting for the time when it would be safer to travel," Chung said. "This is the new world we live in through virtual platforms, but we thought it was really important to engage with both Canada and Mexico early on." Agenda items for the two "neighbours, friends and allies" also include "defending human rights in the Western Hemisphere and around the world, and bolstering our shared defence and security," said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. That means the conversations will likely include the plight of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians who have spent the last two years in custody in China. Spavor and Kovrig — the "two Michaels," as they are known in Canada — were swept up in the weeks that followed Canada's arrest in December 2018 of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei and daughter of the company's founder. Meng is facing extradition to the U.S., where she has been charged with violating sanctions against Iran — a case some observers believe is sure to keep the two Michaels behind bars indefinitely. On Tuesday, Biden vowed to work with Canada to secure their release, but offered no clues as to what specifically the U.S. is prepared to do. Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi would only say the U.S. will "continue to seek extradition" of Meng, who is under house arrest in Vancouver and due back in court Monday. Earlier this month, Canada, the U.S. and a coalition of 56 other countries collectively denounced the state-sponsored arbitrary detention of foreign nationals for political purposes. "We've been consistently for the past year talking about the two Michaels … and calling for Beijing to release these two individuals and stop the arbitrary detention," Chung said. "Human beings should not be used as pawns. And we stand by Canada, our strong friend and partner, in the issues of arbitrary detention and for the release of the two Canadian citizens." The followup work after Tuesday's bilateral meetings continued this week in other departments as well. Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson spoke Wednesday with John Kerry, Biden's special envoy on climate, to shore up plans for more stringent emissions-reduction targets in advance of a climate summit in April. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra committed to more stringent vehicle pollution standards to push both countries toward a zero-emissions future on roadways throughout the continent. They are also collaborating on new standards for aviation and for seagoing vessels, as well as efforts to develop new clean-tech solutions with an eye toward the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Blinken is also scheduled to meet with a group of Canadian students, as well as with Mexico's foreign secretary and secretary of the economy during a "visit" to a port of entry facility along the southern U.S. border. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
(St-Albert Cheese Co-Op - image credit) The St-Albert Cheese Co-op in eastern Ontario is temporarily closed as it deals with a COVID-19 outbreak. Three employees have tested positive at the factory in St. Albert, Ont., over the past week. The mobile unit of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) was sent to the cheese factory Thursday to screen all 180 staff members for COVID-19. As a result, both the store and factory will be temporarily closed for screening. "We believe we have no choice if we want to stop the spread, and especially we're concerned about the health of our workers," said general manager Éric Lafontaine. "We're shocked. We're disappointed, because you'd never want that to happen." Lafontaine said the three workers who have tested positive are only experiencing mild symptoms, "so that at least that's a good sign for now." Product still safe, says director Lafontaine assured customers that there was no transmission of the virus to any of their products, as the food production facility already has a number of health and safety measures in place. Workers sanitize their hands and surfaces and wear prersonal protective equipment, Lafontaine said, while also getting their temperature checked before starting their shifts. 'We believe we have no choice if we're going to stop the spread,' says Éric Lafontaine, general manager of the St. Albert Cheese Co-op. He said they were closing the plant out of caution, given the threat posed by more contagious variants. "It's been 11 months since the COVID started and we never had any case. It's just unfortunate that we [just got our first case and] now we have three cases in the same week," Lafontaine said. The store will reopen on Saturday, but the factory will stay closed several days after so that management has time to get test results back and evaluate the situation, Lafontaine said. "We believe with all the measures in place, the spread should not be that big and we should be [able] to continue the operation really soon," Lafontaine said. When asked about the situation at St-Albert during a briefing Thursday, EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis offered few details. "We aware of the situation and we're investigating that right now," he said, adding the EOHU would likely provide additional information Friday.
Wheatland County council is considering sending a letter to provincial representatives and municipalities requesting provincewide COVID-19 public health restrictions be lifted. During its regular meeting on Feb. 6, Wheatland council voted 5-2 in favour of a motion directing administration to draft a letter protesting COVID-19 public health restrictions, with Reeve Amber Link and Councillor Glenn Koester voting in opposition. The motion was proposed by Councillor Tom Ikert. “I am becoming very distressed about the amount of not only economic damage, but the amount of mental health damage that’s being done with this shutdown,” he said, during the meeting. “We’ve got to get people out, (and) we’ve got to quit treating this like it’s the end of the world.” Ikert said once the letter is drafted, it should be sent to Premier Jason Kenney and local MLAs, with council’s approval. Councillor Jason Wilson said in addition to these provincial officials, the letter should be sent to all municipalities in Alberta. “It’s not just a provincial issue,” he said. “We’re facing federal restrictions as well that are very hindering – hindering our industry that crosses borders (and) deals with airlines.” Provincewide shutdowns have pitted rural and urban areas against each other, said Councillor Scott Klassen. “(COVID-19) does hit the large centres,” he said. “Our urban partners are afraid, and they have the numbers to support that, but we don’t (in) rural Alberta.” Councillor Donna Biggar said she supports a more regional approach to restrictions. “That way, maybe the government can actually concentrate on those areas (and) why those numbers are going up (there),” she said. Councillor Ben Armstrong said he and many others in the community have been not following restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic. Wilson said he too has at times engaged in social gatherings, against the restrictions. “A person’s greatest strength against anything is their refusal to follow the rules – that shows the most discontent,” he said. But this view was not unanimous among council. “I don’t like that nobody can come to my house,” said Councillor Glenn Koester. “But we follow the rules here, and my kids follow the rules.” Wilson said more seniors are experiencing reduced quality of life because of restrictions than are being affected by the virus directly. “My question to policymakers is, when are you going to start asking seniors what they want? You can assume they want to sit in a room with food being passed through a little hole, like in a jail, or they can risk living, to have a life, to see their family, and be part of society,” he said. “I think that quality of life far outweighs any risk of this disease.” But Koester said the threat of COVID-19 to seniors’ health is undeniable, with resultant deaths in such places as Wheatland Lodge and AgeCare Sagewood. Unlike the province, which has physicians, mathematicians and other professionals on staff, Wheatland County only has their feelings on the matter, he said. “What’s our expertise?” Koester asked, adding that easing restrictions now could result in a larger cost later, especially with the uncertainty of newly identified variants of the virus in the province. “I don’t like (restrictions), but opening and closing back and forth is not the answer either.” On March 2, council will debate the drafted letter and vote on whether it be sent. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Loblaw Companies Ltd.'s discount grocery stores are starting to win back market share after consumers flocked to conventional supermarkets at the outset of the pandemic, the company's president said Thursday. Sarah Davis said COVID-19 restrictions prompted many consumers to opt for conventional grocery stores as they sought a more "complete shop" while they limited the number of times they shopped a week. "When the pandemic started, we saw a flight to conventional, which had a significant impact on our discount business," she told analysts during a conference call after Loblaw reported its fourth-quarter profit and revenue rose compared with a year ago. The trend positively impacted sales at the company's conventional grocery stores. But given Loblaw's food business breakdown is about 60 per cent discount stores and 40 per cent conventional, Davis said the company has been "working to win that market share back." The company's fourth-quarter results showed a "closing of the gap," she said. "We're seeing an improved trajectory." Loblaw said its food retail same-store sales grew 8.6 per cent, with its conventional division growing 10.6 per cent and its discount division growing 7.4 per cent. That's up from the discount division's growth of 4.7 per cent in the previous quarter. Davis said the "food divisional results" were more balanced in the fourth quarter than they have been since the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting customers are returning to discount stores following a "short pandemic hiatus." "We're seeing a little bit of change in consumer patterns, maybe not just the one shop," she said. "We're seeing a few more shoppers doing more than one shop in a week, perhaps shopping in a few different banners as well." Loblaw has conventional grocery stores like Loblaws, Zehrs, Your Independent Grocer, Real Atlantic Superstore and Provigo, as well as a discount division, which includes No Frills and Maxi. Overall, the company said it earned net income available to common shareholders of $345 million or 98 cents per diluted share for the 13-week period ended Jan. 2, boosted in part by an extra week in the quarter. The result compared with a profit of $254 million or 70 cents per diluted share for the 12-week period ended Dec. 28, 2019. Revenue totalled $13.29 billion, up from $11.59 billion. Loblaw’s e-commerce sales spiked 160 per cent during the quarter as many provinces reinstated lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Meanwhile, Davis said the company is "ready to play a key role in the nationwide vaccination effort." She said the retailer's supply chain is able to deliver vaccines and begin administering the shots the day it receives them. The company's 1,300 Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix drugstores across the country are within 10 minutes of most Canadians, Davis added. The company's pharmacies have administered seasonal influenza vaccinations for years and are well positioned to do the same with the COVID-19 vaccines, she said. Yet Davis said Loblaw has not been given the rollout strategy across all provinces or the timing yet. The company's pharmacists in Alberta will start offering the vaccine in some stores next week, she said. Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have all indicated the company will be part of the vaccination process, but Loblaw hasn't received more details such as the exact timing, Davis said. In British Columbia and Quebec, meanwhile, she said it appears pharmacists could play a role at the mass vaccination sites, but not within the drugstores themselves. However, Davis said the vaccine will likely be around for a long time and it's possible the scope of the pharmacy's role in some provinces could expand over time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:L) Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
Authorities say that all those connected to the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have now been arrested.View on euronews
Boeing Co will pay $6.6 million to U.S. regulators as part of a settlement over quality and safety-oversight lapses going back years, a setback that comes as Boeing wrestles with repairs to flawed 787 Dreamliner jets that could dwarf the cost of the federal penalty. Boeing is beginning painstaking repairs and forensic inspections to fix structural integrity flaws embedded deep inside at least 88 parked 787s built over the last year or so, a third industry source said. The inspections and retrofits could take up to a month per plane and are likely to cost hundreds of millions - if not billions - of dollars, though it depends on the number of planes and defects involved, the person said.
CAMEROON, Cameroon — Linda Thomas-Greenfield presented her credentials as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, officially taking on one of the most challenging jobs for the Biden administration of helping to restore the United States as a top multilateral player on the global stage after former President Donald Trump’s unilateral “America First” policy. The longtime American career diplomat thanked Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who swore her in on Wednesday, for choosing her for the “distinguished position.” “That was made all the more wonderful because I knew you were here,” she told Guterres who served as the U.N.’s refugee chief before his election to the U.N. post. “I worked with you in the past on refugee issues so I’m looking forward very anxiously to getting to work and working on many of the key issues that we know are before the United Nations and we know that people around the globe are looking to us for.” Guterres warmly welcomed Thomas-Greenfield, calling her a “distinguished global citizen" with great compassion for refugees. Thomas-Greenfield and Guterres then moved to his private office on the 38th floor of U.N. headquarters overlooking New York’s East River for private talks. She will be jumping right into her new job, tackling global peace and security issues with Russia, China and a dozen other countries because the United States takes over the rotating presidency of the powerful U.N. Security Council on Monday. And she might even decide to attend a council meeting on Friday. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told a group of reporters Wednesday that “the red carpet” will be rolled out for Thomas-Greenfield and Moscow is ready to work with President Joe Biden’s administration -- but “it takes two to tango.” “We are looking forward to interactions with her,” he told a group of reporters Wednesday. “You can count on our most favourable attitudes and positive emotions towards her as a member of our Security Council family.” Noting Thomas-Greenfield's decades as a U.S. diplomat, he said “it's always easier to interact with professionals." But he said America’s view that Russia is “an enemy” and a “threat” hasn’t changed under Biden, so “it’s very difficult to imagine how the interaction with us might change with such starting points of the positions of the new administration.” Nonetheless, Polyansky said, “there are a lot of things Russia and the United States can do together” and “we will judge the new administration by what it does.” “We’re in favour of co-operation,” he said. But “it takes two to tango, and really we’re ready to dance, but we need a good and reliable partner who knows all the moves and who respects us” as a country with certain positions, “doesn’t view us as a threat” and sees “our obvious national interests in many issues.” Thomas-Greenfield, a retired 35-year veteran of the U.S. foreign service who rose to be assistant secretary of state for Africa, resigned during the Trump administration. She will be the third African-American, and the second African-American woman, to hold the U.N. post. Her confirmation on Tuesday was hailed by Democrats and advocates of the United Nations who had lamented former President Donald Trump’s “America First” unilateral approach to international affairs and rejoiced at President Joe Biden’s return to multilateralism. At the Senate hearing on her nomination, Thomas-Greenfield called China “a strategic adversary” that threatens the world, and called a speech she gave in 2019 that praised China’s initiatives in Africa but made no mention of its human rights abuses a mistake. The Senate voted 78-20 to confirm her with Republican opponents saying she was soft on China and would not stand up for U.S. principles at the U.N. Thomas-Greenfield said at the hearing that Washington will be working not only with allies “but to see where we can find common ground with the Russians and the Chinese to put more pressure on the Iranians to push them back into strict compliance” with the 2015 agreement to rein in their nuclear program. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement in 2018 and Biden has indicated the U.S. will rejoin it, though how that might happen remains a major question. Polyansky said Russia welcomes the “positive developments” on the Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. agreement to extend the START nuclear agreement, adding that Moscow is ready for serious and meaningful discussions “first and foremost in the area of strategic stability.” Thomas-Greenfield stressed at the hearing that the U.S. will be reengaging internationally and promoting American values -- “support for democracy, respect for universal human rights, and the promotion of peace and security.” Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that Thomas-Greenfield should promote human rights as “a top priority.” “She should abandon the Trump administration’s selective approach to human rights – enthusiastically condemning its enemies’ abuses while ignoring rights violations of allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia,” he said. “But there’s room for continuity on China and Syria," Charbonneau said. “She should make expanding the coalition of nations willing to speak out against Beijing’s human rights abuses one of her chief goals at the U.N., above trying to bring African, Asian, and Latin American states into the fold. And she should continue to push for expanded humanitarian access to all parts of Syria.” Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A British Columbia businessman who made an illegal contribution to New Democrat MP Peter Julian's 2015 election campaign has been ordered to pay $7,500 to the receiver general of Canada. Elections commissioner Yves Côté says Robert Gibbs, co-owner of Romar Communications, provided free website development services to Julian's campaign. Gibbs told Julian's campaign that the work was done by volunteers, after work hours. However, unbeknownst to the campaign, Côté says three workers were paid $1,000 each for their work, the commercial value of which Côté says was actually $6,000. In its report to Elections Canada, Julian's campaign reported non-monetary contributions worth $2,000 from each of the three workers. Since that exceeded the $1,500 individual donation limit, the campaign paid $1,500 to Gibbs' company on the understanding that it would be given to the three workers, but Gibbs kept the money. The $7,500 Gibbs must now pay the receiver general represents the commercial value of the work done plus the $1,500 from the campaign that was never given to the workers. Côté announced the payment as part of a compliance agreement with Gibbs. Compliance agreements are commonly used by the elections commissioner to deal with relatively minor violations of the Canada Elections Act. They do not constitute a criminal conviction in a court of law and do not create a criminal record for the offender. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Strathmore town hall solar project is proceeding, dependent on grant funding and after the establishment of a reserve to meet the eventual costs of decommissioning. During its regular meeting on Feb. 17, Strathmore town council voted to approve a proposal to construct a solar power array on the rooftop of the new Strathmore Municipal Building. The 73.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system will be installed by SkyFire Energy Inc. at an estimated cost of about $120,000. However, the decision was made dependent on the receipt of a grant from the Alberta Municipal Solar Program that, if received, will limit the town’s cost of the project to less than $70,000. The estimated program funding will be a $36,000 rebate ($0.75 per watt) plus a first-time applicant bonus of about $18,000 ($0.25 per watt). The cost will be sourced from unspent funds allocated to the town hall. The decision comes after proposals for rooftop solar for the building have come to council before, with different project details and suppliers. Council voted to approve a solar panel array for the building on May 20, 2020, but this decision was deferred on Sept. 2, due to uncertainty of grant funding for the project. But then on Oct. 21, town council directed administration to again pursue the concept of installing solar panels on the building’s roof. Given SkyFire’s new proposal and the availability of the grant funding, council decided the financials for the project now work. The project is projected to provide the town about $4,500 per year in savings, while reducing the building’s dependence on the electrical grid by about 55 per cent. The panels will require about $1,000 per year of maintenance, however. Administration returned with this new proposal on Feb. 3, but council wanted answers to several inquiries before deciding, so the proposal was postponed to the following meeting, on Feb. 17. One of the questions during the Feb. 3 meeting, raised by Councillor Tari Cockx, was whether the solar panel project would affect the view of residents of Lambert Village, located across Second Avenue from the new municipal building. But as the top (third) floor at Lambert Village is below the roof level of the municipal building, residents there will not be able to see the panels or see any reflection from them, explained Ethan Wilson, the town’s infrastructure manager, during the Feb, 17 meeting. The panels are static, being arranged at an optimum angle for Strathmore, meaning there will be no noise as in some other systems. There will be rooftop access to the solar panels, so the array can be maintained throughout the year, including the clearing of snow, as necessary. No changes are needed to the current roof layout to install the panels, said Wilson. Another issue brought up during the Feb. 3 meeting, by Councillor Jason Montgomery, was the cost of recycling the panels at the end of their estimated 30-year lifespan. SkyFire will provide a full three-year warranty, alongside manufacturer and product warranties ranging between 10 and 25 years in duration. There are currently options to recycle the panel materials, said Wilson. But the panels would still need to be removed from the building and disassembled at the end of their lifetime. However, there is indication the programs available now will be improved in 30 years, with the Alberta Recycling Management Authority starting a two-year pilot program for electronics recycling, including solar panels, he said. But in response to this uncertainty, Montgomery requested the establishment of a reserve fund to pay for the ultimate removal and disposal of the solar array at the end of its lifetime. “Something that’s been very important to me is just that whenever we embark on a new project or new idea, that we are looking down the road of what our future obligations are,” he said. As part of the motion to approve the project, town council directed the creation of a restricted reserve fund for end-of-life disposal of the solar array, to which $1,500 will be allocated yearly. The motion to approve the project then passed unanimously. Proceeding with the project is an achievement 10 years after the town hired a consulting firm to produce a report, called the Strathmore Community Sustainability Plan, identifying ways the town could be more sustainable, recounted Councillor Bob Sobol, during the Feb. 17 meeting. One of the recommendations was to establish a sustainability committee. “They believe, as do I, that it is time for the town to take more aggressive steps regarding dealing with solar energy,” he said. Other benefits of the project include reducing the building’s electrical bill, thereby insuring against rising power prices, it being an environmentally friendly project, and providing leadership in sustainability, said Sobol. “I support this project, which I see as a pilot, and encourage council to support our municipality’s first journey into clean, sustainable energy.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Facebook Inc ended a one-week blackout of Australian news on its popular social media site on Friday and announced preliminary commercial agreements with three small local publishers. The moves reflected easing tensions between the U.S. company and the Australian government, a day after the country's parliament passed a law forcing it and Alphabet Inc's Google to pay local media companies for using content on their platforms. The new law makes Australia the first nation where a government arbitrator can set the price Facebook and Google pay domestic media to show their content if private negotiations fail.