WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
A Malahide resident was surprised to find a boat, car topper, and construction debris, all discarded at a remote spot along Sawmill Road. Vern Shaver said that while garbage has occasionally been tossed in this area, the items he finds along the road have been more bizarre than usual lately. “You name it, it’s been dumped there over the years,” he said. “There’s been foliage, tires, medical masks, dead animals, and hazardous materials, like shingles or siding with asbestos.” Not only are there environmental and economic consequences to illegal dumping, but the garbage can be potentially dangerous for drivers. Some items, such as the car topper found on Saturday, Oct. 17, are dumped directly on the gravel roadway. Mr. Shaver said his seven-year-old son, Sean, hit some fencing materials in the weeds while operating an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) along Sawmill Road last autumn. Sean was not hurt; the machine came to a stop after it became entangled in wire. “It’s inconsiderate and dangerous, and it’s not saving anybody any money,” he said. Mr. Shaver has notified Malahide township on multiple occasions. The roads department drives out shortly afterwards to clean up the mess, which costs the township hundreds of dollars. “I’m disappointed that people take this route. There is an expense to clean this up,” said Malahide Mayor Dave Mennill. “It’s far more expensive for us to clean this than it is for people to dispose of it properly.” Elgin Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have investigated, and concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to press charges. If there is sufficient evidence, Elgin OPP normally asks the suspected person to clean it up or charge them with illegal dumping, said Mayor Mennill. No other residents have complained about the issue in that specific area recently. Mr. Shaver travels on Sawmill Road relatively often, as his property is nearby on Vienna Line. A long stretch of the road is relatively isolated, surrounded by forests and farm fields. There are about two properties on opposite ends of the road. The Malahide roads department winter patrol inspects every kilometre on a daily basis, including all township roads as well as county roads, as part of the minimum maintenance standard. There are also “no dumping” signs posted on some roads. There have been several other similar instances of public trash dumping in East Elgin. The Aylmer Express reported about an Aylmer man in the April 22 edition, who consistently found trash piles near his residence across from Centennial Estates Park. In late March, several residents complained about trash piles on Port Bruce beach.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Sports competition is suspended and gatherings at restaurants are being further limited under new COVID-19 restrictions announced by Saskatchewan on Wednesday. Limits on private gatherings like weddings and funerals, along with places of worship, will also be introduced. Premier Scott Moe said he does not believe a full lockdown is "imminent" because he thinks the restrictions will make a difference. "Our goal is to not shut down businesses, services and activities that ultimately put people out of work and at times threaten their mental health," Moe said at a news conference on Wednesday. "Our goal is to find ways for those things to operate and to do so safely so that people can continue to participate in athletics and continue working."Starting 12:01 a.m. on Friday, no more than four people will be allowed to sit together at a table at a restaurant, and tables will need to be separated by three metres unless there are "impermeable barriers" between them, in which case they can be placed two metres apart. Restaurants will also need to keep information about guests or patrons.All team sports and group activities are suspended, but athletes and dancers 18 years old and under may keep practising in groups of eight or fewer if they use masks and practise physical distancing. Fitness activities in groups of eight or less are still allowed, with conditions.All places of worship must reduce capacity to 30 people, and no food or drink can be served. Mandatory non-medical masking is being extended to apply to all students, employees and visitors at schools. All employees and visitors in common areas in businesses and workplaces, even where the public does not have access, also have to wear a mask.All residents, employees and visitors in all common areas in provincial and municipal correctional facilities will also have to wear a mask.Capacity will be restricted to 30 people at casinos, bingo halls, arenas, live theatres, movie theatres, performing arts venues and other facilities that currently have a capacity of 150 people.Indoor gatherings such as banquets, weddings, funerals, conferences will also have a limit of 30 people, and food and beverage service will be prohibited. The limit for private indoor gatherings will remain at five but the province said "gatherings of any size beyond your immediate household are strongly discouraged at this time."The government announcement was initially scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but was postponed for a day.Saskatchewan COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb, with nearly 3,000 known active cases across the province as of Tuesday. More than 100 people are in hospital, including 20 in intensive care units.A food bank, a safe consumpion site and other services for Saskatoon's vulnerable population have been shuttered after positive cases. Many schools are operating on reduced schedules or have closed. The virus is spreading rapidly through urban and rural care homes, northern villages, First Nations and elsewhere.Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating after a potential recent exposure in a Prince Albert restaurant. Fred Sasakamoose, a member of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation and one of the first Indigenous hockey players to make it to the NHL, died this week after contracting COVID.Last weekend, Moe said he was against a full lockdown of the province, stating it would be disastrous for the economy.Last week, the province made masks mandatory in indoor public spaces across the province and restricted indoor private gatherings in people's homes to five people.Visits to long-term and personal care homes were also suspended in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus to vulnerable people.On Tuesday, Alberta announced its latest plans to limit the spread of the virus. Premier Jason Kenney said all indoor gatherings would no longer be allowed and Grade 7 to 12 students would switch to online learning from Nov. 30 to the end of their winter break.Only 10 people will be allowed to be present at weddings and funerals in Alberta. Banquet halls, auditoriums and children's play spaces will be closed.Moe said Saskatchewan residents need to "slow down a little bit" but a return to the tighter restrictions on businesses like those introduced earlier in the pandemic is not needed. "The overwhelming majority of Saskatchewan businesses and their employees in this province are operating safely day to day so it would be terribly unfair and it would have a huge negative impact close down all of those businesses and put thousands of Saskatchewan people out of work," said Moe. The premier said the province is considering compensation for industries affected by the pandemic, calling it an "active conversation." He would not say which sectors the province is currently in discussions with. "I don't have a date on when we will be moving forward or if we will be moving forward with a compensation package, but we are working with those sectors to understand how today's recommendations … are going to impact them," said Moe. "And how to ensure that our local small business, our restaurant sector for example, and others, are there when we come out the backside of this pandemic."Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab and Moe said more restrictions could be needed if case numbers do not fall. What's yours? CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.
Town of Aylmer is asking for public feedback on their proposed official plan amendments, with the details explained through a virtual open house. The official plan is a statement of goals and policies, intended to guide future land use within the town to build sustainable communities and protect natural and agricultural resources. The Ontario Planning Act requires a review/update of the plan every five years. “It’s not a brand-new official plan, it’s just amending our existing one to fit with the current legislation,” explained Corporate Services Director Kale Brown during a virtual council meeting on Monday, Nov. 16. The draft official plan lists proposed changes to housing access and attainability; active transportation; parks, open space and sustainability; cultural heritage; servicing, stormwater, and waste management; transportation, energy and utilities; and general “housekeeping” updates. For example, one amendment is the provision of traditional and non-traditional housing options “to support residents of all ages.” Another is a new policy to partner with infrastructure providers to increase access to electrical vehicle charging stations. A 13-minute video explaining the amendments is available on the town website. During the meeting, Councillor Tom Charlton asked, “Are you in pretty good shape as far as growth concerns – our lagoons can handle the development in Cottonwood [Hills] without any issues?” Mr. Brown said that these projects would be addressed separately through the budget process and through the strategic priorities of the operations and planning department. “Staff will always recommend that council plan accordingly for our growth,” said Mr. Brown. “It’s difficult to say exactly what capacity that we would have because you don’t know exactly what’s going to be built. “We think it’s going to be around 300 units, and that was set aside back when the plan of subdivision was approved.” Aylmer staff started the review process of the town’s official plan in 2019, with the help of WSP, a consulting firm. Citizens are encouraged to review and provide feedback on the proposed changes before the plan is brought back to council on Monday, Dec. 7.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
The Catfish Creek Conservation Authority board members agreed to give staff two additional paid days off around Christmas, instead of forcing them to use their vacation time. Further, a maximum of 10 vacation days are permitted to be carried over into next year, and the CCCA waived the requirement to use the carried over time by March 31, 2021. The CCCA office is closed from December 24 at 12 p.m. and reopens January 4, 2021 (the Monday after New Year’s Day), as is standard practice for the organization every year. Staff will get Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Wednesday, Dec. 30 as paid days off. CCCA general manager Chris Wilkinson presented a series of options to board members at their Nov. 12 meeting, including allowing all staff to work from home during that time. “One of the ideas that came up is just to keep it simple is to give staff an additional two days paid off over that Christmas holiday to limit that need to work over the vacation period this year,” said Mr. Wilkinson. “That’s just an option, we can work from home or force staff to take vacation days.” Board member Sally Martyn asked if the holidays were ever taken off an employee’s vacation time in the past. Mr. Wilkinson referred to this as “forced vacation,” and this was done in 2018. “The staff have done an extraordinary job through these trying times,” said CCCA board chair Rick Cerna. “I think to give them two paid vacation days is minimal to the fact of what they’ve achieved throughout the year. It’s like a little added bonus.” Board member Arthur Oslach was in agreement, called two paid days off “reasonable.” Water Management Technician Peter Dragunas said that while the office may be closed, he was always watching for potential flooding each year, and responds as required. “If there’s any threat, I’m on it,” he said. “I have been out there actually on New Year’s Eve day. It doesn’t shut down that way.” Conservation Areas Supervisor Dusty Underhill agreed with Mr. Dragunas, and said he consistently keeps an eye on the office, even during the holidays. According to Mr. Wilkinson’s report, many vacations were cancelled and staff often worked instead of taking time off this year due to COVID-19.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
The Trump administration plans to tighten sanctions on Tehran during its final months in power, the top U.S. envoy on Iran said on Wednesday, as he urged President-elect Joe Biden to use the leverage to press for a deal that reduces the regional and nuclear threats posed by the Islamic republic. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams, praising Biden's National Security Adviser and nominee for Secretary of State as "terrific people", cautioned against repeating what he saw as former President Barack Obama's mistakes in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal.
Rebecca Irving has applied to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, asking it to quash a decision by the province's minister of land regarding a controversial land transfer that took place in 2019.Irving is part of the larger Irving family, which has multiple corporate holdings throughout New Brunswick and P.E.I.In June of 2019, a company listing Rebecca Irving as its director, Haslemere Farms, became the owner of 2,200 acres of land in the area of Summerside and North Bedeque that had belonged to a family-owned farming operation.A previous attempt to purchase the same land involving several corporations with connections to the Irvings had failed to receive the necessary cabinet approval.But in the Haslemere Farms transaction, Minister of Land Bloyce Thompson said the transfer had not been put before cabinet for approval. He asked the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to investigate, and vowed to close "loopholes" in the Lands Protection Act, legislation that sets limits on individual and corporate land ownership on P.E.I.Haslemere Farms has since changed its name to Red Fox Acres. Under P.E.I.'s corporate registry, Rebecca Irving is the only person listed under the heading of "directors and shareholders."Minister says he asked for divestitureSixteen months after Thompson asked IRAC to investigate, the commission delivered its report to government in October. However, neither IRAC nor the province has released that report to the public. The minister said he would do so after it's been reviewed by P.E.I.'s privacy commissioner.Thompson issued a written statement Oct. 27 saying the investigation had found "there are reasonable and probable grounds that two individuals and the corporation involved contravened the Lands Protection Act by having aggregate land holdings in excess of the prescribed limits."The statement went on to say "the involved parties have received correspondence from government asking them to divest land and become compliant with the Lands Protection Act within 120 days," but the statement did not disclose who those involved parties are. Under the Lands Protection Act, individuals are limited to owning 1,000 acres of land. For corporations, the limit is 3,000. With allowances for leased and non-arable land, those limits increase to 1,900 acres for individuals and 5,700 acres for corporations.The act also includes measures to prevent corporations "directly or indirectly controlled by the same person, group or organization" from stacking up land limits in order to control more land. Minister exceeded jurisdiction, says IrvingTwo court applications for judicial review filed Monday, one from Rebecca Irving and the other from Red Fox Acres, ask the court to "nullify" the minister's decision, and seek an interim order affirming the status quo until a final ruling can be delivered.The two court applications argue Thompson exceeded the jurisdiction granted him under the Lands Protection Act and "erroneously interpret[ed] the provisions of the Lands Protection Act."The filings also argue Thompson breached "his duty of fairness" to Irving and Red Fox Acres for, among other things, failing to provide proper notice and opportunities to respond at various points throughout the investigation process. Jonathan Coady, legal counsel for both Rebecca Irving and Red Fox Acres, sent this statement to CBC News: "The filing made by the company was to preserve its right to court review, if it became necessary to do so. Because the matter is ongoing, the company has no additional comments to make at this time."The allegations have not been tested in court and there was no response from the minister or the department as of Wednesday.More from CBC P.E.I.
My mother's dementia has become more difficult to manage as Canadians are told to limit social contact for safety's sake.
In order to welcome the jolly old elf to Aylmer, while keeping everyone safe, spectators and floats will swap roles for a “reverse” Santa Claus Parade this year. Aylmer Kinsmen Club’s 76th annual Santa Claus Parade will take place at night and have spectators drive past light displays, characters, floats, and Santa himself, while remaining in their own vehicles. “We’re going to do our best to make it enjoyable – it’s important that Santa comes to town,” said Andy Beck, the club’s parade marshal for the last eight years. The Santa Claus parade normally attracts thousands of people each year, he added. East Elgin Community Complex will host the “drive-through parade” on Saturday, Nov. 28 starting at 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Instead of moving through town, floats would be fixed in place and include plenty of lights along with some Christmas music. Spectators would be driving past them along a planned route circling the complex parking lot. (See ad on Page 3 for parade details and route.) No pedestrians are permitted. Visitors must stay in their cars, except for emergencies. No open vehicles, such as motorcycles or convertibles, are allowed. There will be no candy or other handouts this year, and the Kinsmen are asking anyone who is feeling ill to stay home. Kinsmen and EECC volunteers be outside directing traffic flow. Vehicles will enter from the east, and exit from the west. Drivers can use Rogers Road to return to town. All volunteers will wear face coverings at the event and practice physical distancing. Some Kinsmen will wear red jackets, while others may be dressed as clowns or Santa’s elves. The Aylmer Fire Department will also make an appearance at the event. The Kinsmen are inviting spectators to donate canned food and monetary donations for the Aylmer Corner Cupboard. Monetary donations will be placed in a collection bucket, while food donations should be delivered using a bag with a handle. The Kinsmen will have extra bags if needed. The Kinsmen will use a hockey stick with a bucket to collect from a distance. Letters to Santa are also encouraged. Donations will be quarantined for 72 hours before being distributed to the Aylmer Corner Cupboard or Canada Post. There is no washroom availability or access to the EECC. “The Santa Claus parade is the main event for the Kinsmen all year. We’re always talking about it, it’s always in process,” said Mr. Beck. “We’re hoping people come to visit and see Santa Claus.”Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
This fall, Cathy Walker trained to properly don protective clothing, wash her hands and wear a face mask so she could visit her 100-year-old mother in the room she calls home at Northwood in Halifax.She was able to visit Kay Murphy twice as a result, but future visits are uncertain now that the province has once again imposed limits on who can enter a long-term care facility."I hate it, but it's the smart thing to do," Walker told CBC News after learning of the change Tuesday from Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health."Instead of being able to go visit her like we had been whenever we wanted, we're now going to be restricted again," she said. "But they have to do that."During the province's Tuesday COVID-19 briefing, Strang explained the new restrictions."As we continue to control the spread of the virus we need to have a particular focus on those who are most vulnerable among us," he said. "So effective 12:01 a.m.Thursday across the province all long-term care facilities will be closed to visitors, except for volunteers and designated care givers who will be allowed inside."Although Walker is her mother's designated caregiver, she also happens to be the assistant manager of a retail store in Kentville, where she lives.Now that COVID-19 infections are on the rise, she is not sure if her work with the public will prevent her from continuing to care for her mom.Walker does not want to bring the virus into Northwood, which this spring was the epicentre for the pandemic in Nova Scotia. Of the province's 65 deaths from the virus, 53 were residents of the home, the province's largest care facility.During the first wave, the province locked down long-term care homes and allowed only staff to enter them. Allowing others in is an attempt to ease the burden staff shouldered alone last spring.Nurses hope helpers will be allowedThe Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia Association, which represents 76 homes, more than 80 per cent of care facilities in Nova Scotia, agrees with the new, less stringent restrictions.Debra Boudreau, the board chair, said it was the appropriate measure, despite its impact on families and residents."It's not something any of us would choose to do lightly or want to do it," said Boudreau. "It's certainly not the environment that we want to create in our nursing homes, but given what's happening all around us, it is the right decision to do for the moment."She said allowing some volunteers and one family member to help out would ease the pressure on staff."If we can have those individuals in our building, at least even on a small scale to help us with the day to day, and especially when we get into an outbreak, that is a relief to us," she said.But Boudreau is worried about those people too."The majority of those individuals are also the at-risk population, they're also the elderly in our community," she said. "They may be not as frail as the individuals living in care, but they too are seniors and are very much at risk."Boudreau said the flip side is the comfort it will bring to residents that they didn't have last spring."The residents missed their presence and had to rely on staff to be their everything," said Boudreau. "To be able to continue those connections with their loved ones, their families, that's really priceless."MORE TOP STORIES
If you love food, and most of us do, you will love our Fun and Easy Cinnamon Roll Apple Crisp Recipe! Not only can you make it for anytime, it also makes a great dessert for the holidays or that special occasion! Feel free to tweek the recipe and then let us know what you did and how it came out so we can all give it a try! If you make the recipe as is let us know how you liked it!
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Trump administration is preparing to auction oil drilling rights inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the degree to which the industry will participate is uncertain.Leases on the land in northeast Alaska could be go on the block days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Tuesday.Supporters, including Alaska’s congressional delegation, have celebrated the prospect of a lease sale as a way to create jobs and revenue. Opponents express concerns about impacts on ecosystems, Indigenous people and the climate.Kara Moriarty, CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said oil and gas companies are unsurprisingly remaining quiet about their intentions.“Participation in lease sales is one of the most competitive and secretive things between companies,” Moriarty said.The public likely will not learn about the industry's level of interest until the federal government unseals the bids on the sale date, which has not yet been announced.There is a possibility that the sale could be held shortly before Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration.Some industry analysts believe there is a measure of uncertainty and risk that could lead to limited interest in a lease sale within the next two months.The coronavirus pandemic and an oil price war have hit the oil industry hard. Oil prices remain low and there are high costs and difficulties involved in Arctic exploration, said Mark Myers, a geologist and former Alaska natural resources commissioner.“The prices have fallen down to a level that leaves very little capital for exploration in these companies,” Myers said.Rowena Gunn, an analyst for energy research firm Wood Mackenzie Ltd., said public criticism of drilling in environmentally sensitive areas could weigh heavily on publicly traded companies.Colorado-based energy economist Philip Verleger said he would not expect a deluge of bids because of the uncertainty over future demand for oil and natural gas.A lease sale in the refuge would have been “terrifically successful” 15 years ago, but the time to develop the coastal plain has passed, Verleger said.“The cost of going there and developing and putting the resources in is too high, particularly since the production would last a long time, and we don’t know if demand would last," he said.as long.”The Associated Press
After six years operating in one of Aylmer’s landmark buildings, the Family Central Restaurant will be closing its doors on Saturday, Dec. 19. Central building board member, Albert Loewen, described challenges from COVID-19 as “the final nail” that led to the restaurant’s closure. The building’s Family Central Apartment program, which provides affordable housing to participants while they work towards education and employment goals, will remain open. “It’s tough because you need numbers, you need crowds, that’s literally what you rely on to make your ends meet,” Mr. Loewen said. “We’re headed into the winter where there’s no patio option, and now there’s talk of further lockdowns.” Family Central Restaurant has been serving the community since 2014 with a goal of providing a wholesome and welcoming dining environment to families and the business community of downtown Aylmer. To encourage families and groups to have meaningful conversations with each other, the restaurant rewards patrons who refrain from using cell phones during meals with a 10% reduction on the bill. “At the end of the day, it’s a tough market for restaurants right now. We’re sad about it, but it’s a reality that a lot of restaurants are facing,” said Mr. Loewen. “I would highly encourage people to support the other local restaurants.” The organization’s main focus will now be providing affordable housing to the community through the Family Central Apartments, which provides eight units on the second and third floors. Currently, the basement is being renovated to operate as a space to serve those in the program. The space will provide semi-private meeting rooms, access to computers for job searches and other online needs, shower and laundry facilities, and an in-house barber. “The whole idea is to be a transitional space for people to get to a place of independence - whether they’re lacking education, or whatever is holding them back from a place they can get on their own,” explained Mr. Loewen. The apartment program currently employs two people who actively work and partner with other agencies to support those living in the program. The future for the first floor of the building, where the restaurant is, has yet to be determined.Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
Les résidents et l’administration municipale de Baie-Johan-Beetz s’opposent fermement au projet d’exploitation par l’entreprise Dexter d’une ancienne carrière située à moins de 300 mètres du village. « Si ça a lieu, c’est vraiment annoncer une lente agonie du village. C’est la mort du village, point barre », déclare austèrement le maire de la municipalité, Martin Côté. La filiale québécoise de Dexter a déposé, au mois de mai, une demande de bail exclusif (BEX) pour l’exploitation de substances minérales de surface pour rouvrir un site de 10,4 hectares situé à moins de 300 mètres de l’entrée est du village et bordé par la rivière Piashti. Dexter compte extraire et traiter au plus 80 000 m3 d’agrégats par année pendant 25 ans, soit de 2020 à 2045. Pour M. Côté, la réouverture et l’exploitation du site vont à l’encontre de la vision de développement de la municipalité, axée sur la revitalisation et la réalisation d’un projet de plantation d’argousier dans l’ancienne carrière. « Avec le contrat de 50 000 $ qu’on a donné à une firme de marketing territorial, c’est tout simplement incompatible. » Le bruit, les vibrations, la poussière et les odeurs causés par les possibles travaux dans la carrière viendraient sabrer les efforts de la municipalité pour attirer de nouveaux résidents, estime M. Côté. « Tout le monde qui va vouloir venir s’installer ici, qui vont voir ça à côté, qui vont savoir qu’à tout moment, ça peut partir pendant un ou deux mois, qu’il va y avoir de la poussière dans le village, du son, de la puanteur… S’ils ont le choix entre Baie-Johan-Beetz et un autre village, ils vont aller ailleurs », déplore-t-il. Le tourisme serait aussi mis à mal par la relance de la carrière, croit-il. « Imaginons que nous sommes au mois de juillet au petit camping du village. Il est 6 h 30, le touriste se réveille avec le soleil dans sa tente, se prépare un café. Il sort dehors et à 7 h 01, il commence à entendre des “bang bang bang” et ça ne lâche pas jusqu’à 19-20 h… Qu’est-ce que les gens vont faire? Ils vont partir d’ici. » La réouverture de la carrière compromettrait aussi le projet touristique d’envergure Les Caraïbes Nordiques des propriétaires de la Pourvoirie Baie-Johan-Beetz, Guy Bellefleur et Vincent Pérès, qui affirment avoir acquis le bâtiment patrimonial précisément pour cette raison. « Cette carrière nous occasionnerait de sérieux préjudices financiers, économiques, professionnels et moraux », écrivent-ils dans une missive adressée au ministre de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN), Jonatan Julien. Le chef du conseil de bande de Nutashkuan, Réal Tettaut, a également fait part de son opposition au projet d’extraction minérale, en soulignant l’utilisation par la communauté innue du territoire pour des activités de chasse, de pêche et de cueillette. Dexter veut rassurer les résidents Le directeur régional de Dexter, Maxime Bourassa, dit entendre les préoccupations des Baie-Johannais. « On est au courant que ça ne fait pas l’unanimité [au village] et que si on décide d’aller de l’avant avec cette carrière-là, lorsque va venir le temps de l’exploiter, ça va être problématique parce qu’il n’y a pas eu d’acceptabilité publique », exprime-t-il. Il indique que même si l’entreprise obtient le BEX, rien ne dit que la carrière sera exploitée à chaque année pendant la durée du bail puisque tout dépend des contrats qui seront octroyés par le ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ). « Je vais vous donner un exemple : j’ai un BEX à Sept-Îles depuis environ cinq ans et on n’a pas encore exploité la carrière », signale-t-il. À son avis, la réouverture de la carrière aurait aussi des retombées économiques pour la petite municipalité. « C’est certain que si on va faire des travaux là, durant les périodes d’exploitation, les travailleurs n’auront pas le choix d’être hébergés, de manger, d’utiliser les services ou des endroits pour acheter du gaz près de la carrière. » M. Bourassa précise par ailleurs que les dynamitages n’auraient lieu « qu’aux quatre ou cinq ans » et que des mesures d’atténuation seraient mises en place, notamment l’arrosage des minéraux concassés pour éviter les nuages de poussière. « Ça ne veut pas dire que parce que [les résidents] ont vécu quelque chose qui a été fait tout croche dans le passé que ça va se répéter. Nous, on s’efforce de respecter les normes en vigueur et on ne veut pas faire de l’exploitation ou des travaux tout croches », assure-t-il. La crainte de revivre les événements de 2008 Le souvenir amer de la première utilisation du site par l’entreprise Sintra en 2008 n’est pas étranger au refus catégorique du conseil municipal à l’idée que Dexter exploite la carrière. « On avait donné notre accord parce que c’était dans le cadre d’un projet spécifique du MTQ pour 70 000 m3 », explique Martin Côté, en évoquant le besoin d’alors de la municipalité pour du gravier et de l’asphalte. L’expérience avait été tout sauf rose. « À cause de la poussière et du bruit, des senteurs, du non-respect des mesures d’atténuation qui avaient été promises », le conseil avait refusé que Sintra revienne dans le paysage l’année d’après. Alors quand, au mois de mai, le MERN avise la municipalité qu’il procède à l’analyse d’une demande de BEX de la part de Dexter, le conseil rétorque un « non » inébranlable. Pourtant, à la fin du mois d’octobre, le maire reçoit une copie de la demande de bail de Dexter au MERN. Aussitôt, le village s’est braqué. « Les gens ne veulent pas revivre ça. En plus, ils savaient qu’en 2008, ce n’était que pour un été. Là avec Dexter, c’est 25 ans possiblement. Tout le monde va se sauver du village », s’alarme M. Côté. Depuis, la municipalité multiple les rencontres et les démarches pour mettre un frein à l’exploitation de la carrière, allant jusqu’à entamer un processus de changement de zonage et de plan d’urbanisme pour le site, pour qu’il soit utilisé à des fins récréotouristiques et agroforestières. Dans un esprit de conciliation, des aménagistes de la MRC de Minganie ont identifié trois autres sites, situés à 8, 10 et 12 kilomètres à l’ouest du village, que Dexter pourrait exploiter, ce qui atténuerait le problème initial de proximité. « C’est dans la cour des gens, l’autre carrière à presque 200 mètres », compare Martin Côté. De son côté, Maxime Bourassa, de Dexter, a certifié que l’entreprise était ouverte à l’idée d’exploiter un autre site. « Ça chemine dans ses eaux-là », laisse-t-il entendre. D’autres rencontres sont prévues dans les prochains jours pour déterminer la suite des choses. Au moment d’écrire ces lignes, le ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles n’avait pas répondu à notre demande d’entrevue.Laurence Dami-Houle, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Portageur
NEW YORK — Kaley Cuoco knew she wanted to turn Chris Bohjalian’s bestselling novel “The Flight Attendant’ into a TV series when the book caught her eye online.“The cover of the book is a blonde woman. It just kind of looks like me,” she recalled in a recent interview. Cuoco read the one sentence summary and called her agent. “The first thing I asked was, ‘Has Reese Witherspoon gotten the rights to this book?’” she said.When she learned Witherspoon had not optioned the book, Cuoco said she instructed her team to hurry and nab the rights because she wanted to make it into a TV series.“My entire team was like, ‘Great. So, you read it? Tell us about it.’ I hadn’t read it, but I knew I needed them to get moving. I’m trying to make up all these things that I think it’s going to be."Cuoco says she then read the book for real and thankfully loved it “because that would have been embarrassing.”Fast-forward to now and “The Flight Attendant” debuts Thursday on HBO Max. Cuoco is an executive producer and stars as Cassie, a party girl flight attendant who meets a handsome man on a flight to Bangkok. She spends the night with him on a layover, and wakes up to him dead in her bed.She panics and leaves, and while she’s at work on another plane, authorities discover the body. Cuoco becomes a suspect in the murder since she doesn’t remember what happened.After 12 years as a lead on the CBS hit “The Big Bang Theory,” Cuoco said her goal for what came next in her career was to play an interesting character — it didn't matter what genre.The writers wrote Cassie in Cuoco's voice, allowing some quirkiness and humour to shine through. She was also able to show her range.“By the time we get to episode six, seven and eight, there’s such an emotional crash and breakdown that I’ve never been able to do before. I’m just so excited for people to see that."The pace of work was new for Cuoco, who was accustomed to the sitcom filming schedule, which actors will gleefully admit is akin to a 9-to-5 job, except for taping days.“I’ve never worked like this before,” said Cuoco. She jokes that one day when she had a 3:40 a.m. pickup time, she was confused: “I remember saying, ‘Is this a.m.?’ I didn’t understand what I was looking at. I’m like, ‘It must be a night shoot.’ I could not wrap my brain around that.”___Follow Alicia Rancilio online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciarAlicia Rancilio, The Associated Press
Les vols à l’étalage de moins de 5 000 $ ont augmenté de 13 % depuis un an sur le territoire de l’agglomération de Longueuil, incluant Boucherville Signe des temps, l’analyse des dossiers indique que le vol de nourriture figure en tête de liste (30 %), devant celui d’articles personnels (25 %) et d’alcool (18 %) . Plusieurs initiatives prises par le SPAL pourraient expliquer cette augmentation. Par exemple, la participation active du SPAL au blogue ORCQUE7 permet d’échanger de l’information avec plusieurs partenaires dans le domaine de la sécurité du commerce de détail. Les rencontres périodiques et les publications à même la plateforme ont permis d’identifier des sujets d’intérêt, de reconnaître des modes opératoires et, fort probablement, d’encourager la dénonciation des commerçants. Au total, en 2019, le service de police a recensé 2938 cas de vol de moins de 5000$. Les vols qualifiés ont, pour leur part, grimpé de 27 % passant de 157 en 2018 à 200 en 2019. A l’inverse des crimes contre la personne qui ont fait un bon de 400 % en 2019, (4 en 2019 mais aucun en 2018) ceux contre la propriété ont poursuivi leur tendance à la baisse dans l’agglomération de Longueuil, inclant le territoire de Boucherville. Celle-ci est notable dans quasi toutes les catégories d’infraction, mis à part les fraudes qui poursuivent leur progression. Ce sont principalement les vols d’identité, les fraudes par ordinateur ainsi que les fraudes par carte (crédit/débit) qui ont augmenté. L’analyse des dossiers démontre que les fraudeurs procèdent encore majoritairement par transactions frauduleuses, vols de carte suivis d’une fraude et hameçonnage par téléphone. Dans plusieurs cas, on observe maintenant le recours à la cryptomonnaie pour soutirer de l’argent aux victimes. On retrouve présentement moins de personnes âgées dans les victimes de fraude et une plus grande implication des jeunes. En 2016, période durant laquelle les fraudes de types grands-parents étaient très répandues, 25 % des victimes étaient âgées de 65 ans et plus, et seulement 2 % des personnes impliquées étaient d’âge mineur. En 2019, ce sont 15 % des victimes qui sont âgées de 65 ans et plus, et 4 % de toutes les personnes impliquées ont moins de 18 ans. À l’image des années précédentes, des diminutions importantes sont observées en ce qui a trait à l’ensemble des introductions par effraction. Entre 2014 et 2019, ces événements ont chuté de 38 %. Moins de vols et de méfaits ont également été enregistrés en 2019. François Laramée, Initiative de journalisme local, La Relève
While the development of a COVID-19 vaccine could generate billions of dollars for some pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, concerns over accusations of exploiting the pandemic will likely temper profits, experts suggest. "It doesn't really make sense to profit from this pandemic," said Tinglong Dai, associate professor of operations management and business analytics at Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School in Baltimore."This is a perfect time for [pharmaceutical companies] to develop their brand equity, which will serve them well for longer -term profits. In the long run, what's really important for pharmaceutical manufacturers is in brand equity. So people trust Pfizer, for example."Vamil Divan, a senior biopharmaceuticals research analyst with Mizuho Securities, said he believes these companies are very aware of the need to be responsible for their pricing and not to overcharge."I think they think it's appropriate to get back the investment they made. But I imagine they are being reasonable about it," he said.The giant pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the upstart biotech firm Moderna, which both have announced test results showing their coronavirus vaccine candidate is 95 per cent effective, have indicated they will make some profit from their ventures.Some companies say they won't profit during pandemicHowever, some other companies, including Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, have pledged they will not profit from their vaccine, although they have suggested this would be limited to the time during the pandemic. Stacie Dusetzina, an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University, said for an industry that has not been popular with the public, this is an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to get back in their good favour, at least to some degree. "I think they have a lot going for them if they don't mess it up," she said.Still, Dusetzina noted, "I'm sure everyone will make quite a lot of money."Just how much money is difficult to determine. Michael Levesque, senior vice-president of Moody's Investors Service, said there's very limited data that would allow for a precise estimate."We do believe that the Pfizer vaccine will generate profits for Pfizer in 2021, but we haven't made an explicit estimate of that profit," he said.What is known is that Pfizer, along with its COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing partner, BioNTech, will be selling the vaccine at $19.50, that two doses are needed and that it will be able to provide 1.3 billion shots worldwide by 2021. Using that data, Cinney Zhang, an equity research analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, calculated that in 2021, Pfizer and BioNTech could expect $24 billion of revenues. That would equate to $7 billion in profit for each company."This could be a windfall," she said. Meanwhile Moderna, which has said it will charge somewhere between $25 and $37 per dose, could add almost $30 billion to its revenues, estimated market analyst Peter Cohan, writing in Forbes.Game changer for smaller companiesCertainly for a smaller company like Moderna, the vaccine could be a game changer, said Divan. And while Pfizer is looking at some big revenue numbers,"it doesn't really change the trajectory" of the company.Pfizer generates about $50 billion a year in revenue, with up to around $16 billion in profits, said Damien Conover, director of health-care equity research and equity strategy for the financial services company Morningstar.The COVID-19 vaccine, he said, will likely mean a "pretty substantial windfall" for Pfizer. Some of the vaccines, even at very low price points, will generate billions of dollars, he said.But the gross margins on those dollars are going to be much lower than a typical gross margin for a big pharmaceutical firm, he said."I would probably frame it: Some good profits for about one year for some firms."Conover also noted that post-2021, the COVID-19 vaccine market could become very competitive."Pfizer and Moderna, I think, would have a hard time getting people to buy their vaccine at the $40 that they're going to be charging initially. So I think even those more modest profit levels will come down."Profits for Pfizer, for example, could be affected by unforeseen expenses, Zhang said. Their vaccine needs to be stored at about –75 C, meaning escalating refrigeration costs could impact their bottom line, she said.Latecomers into the marketProfits will also obviously depend on whether the vaccine continues to be needed, which could also impact those vaccine manufacturers coming late to the market."It's certainly possible that some of these reach the market too late to turn into meaningful opportunities, especially if the first [companies] are very successful and are taken broadly across the population," Levesque said."If there is no need for revaccination, that scenario is one where some of the players who come out a bit later may not have much of a market opportunity."However, if their vaccines prove more effective, easier to distribute and revaccinations are needed, there may be opportunity for others, he said."Not to mention if any of the leading players see any sort of manufacturing or safety problems emerge down the road," he said."So it's too early really to estimate ultimately who's the most successful or to feel any company is going to be totally excluded. It's still early days for anybody involved."
Canadian auto racer Raphael Lessard has signed a part-time deal with GMS Racing for the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.The contract will see the 19-year-old native of Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce, Que., compete in 12 races, with Lessard's team seeking funding for the other 10 events on the schedule.Lessard won his first career NASCAR trucks race last month at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. It was his first year as a full-time driver in the series, racing for the Kyle Busch Motorsports team.Overall, Lessard had four top-five and six top-10 finishes.The Canadian joins a GMS team that swept the top three spots in the season standings this year.The 2021 season will kick off at Daytona Speed Week in Florida on Feb. 12."Finding myself with the best team of the 2020 season is unbelievable ... I can't wait to show what we can do aboard such great machines," Lessard said in a statement. "The team knows how to bring potential winners at every race, a key to a great season. Our team will be great, and I can't wait to be back on track."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.The Canadian Press
Amid heartfelt condolences to another 12 families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and another 471 new cases announced, the province’s chief public health officer spoke of the rollout of an outbound automated calling system in the coming days. "Today, we’re announcing Manitoba is introducing additional steps to improve case and contact investigations," Dr. Brent Roussin said. "This will expand on current methods for case and contact monitoring." In the first phase of the automated system, the calls will be used to determine if active cases can be shifted to the recovered category. The automated system will ask as questions, and the person receiving the call can press a key and request a callback from public health. If the case or contact is at the end of the monitoring period, and has no further questions, the case or contact can be marked as recovered. The second phase of system will be used to contact cases and related contacts. "This allows us to be more responsive and reach people sooner," Roussin said. "Individuals will continue to receive calls from public health officials. The combined automated calls and the current monitoring process will be more efficient and effective in redirecting resources." Roussin said other provinces are safely using this method of communication. The system will help Manitobans quickly and efficiently receive information they need to make the informed decisions. Other provinces were able to make progress through the use of automated calls that offer information about testing, treatment and next steps. "We believe that this similar system will be a valuable tool for our fight against COVID-19," he said. "People will be asked important information about testing, self-isolation and other public health guidelines. Then a question-and-answer format with answers provided via a keypad on the phone." Roussin advised Manitobans they will never be asked for personal health information or other personal information, such as banking information, social insurance numbers, credit card numbers, passport numbers or other non-health related identification data. "If this is occurring, share this information with your local police department as it is suspicious," he said. Looking ahead to the next official holiday, the province has not made any specific decisions regarding a possible two-week extension to the usual school Christmas break. "We’re at the biggest restrictions we’ve had to date. Although we’re not seeing the test positivity or case numbers climb over the last bit, we’re not seeing the numbers diminish as we would like," Roussin said. "We are looking at taking advantage of that natural break over the holidays and possibly extending that." He stressed again, as he does during most daily COVID-19 updates, that officials are not seeing high amounts of transmission within the schools. "It’s more that we don’t want to go into the holiday season with a very high test positivity rate, where we know it’s going to be very challenging to limit gatherings. It’s something we’re definitely looking at right now. We haven’t landed anywhere. Hopefully, we’ll have some more definitive news on that shortly." But even before the holiday, another important date is likely marked on many a calendar: Dec. 11, the expiry of the current critical level red public health orders. Looking ahead, what is the plan? "When, and it is a when, we will be able to lessen these restrictions … We don’t know exactly when that will be, but, we will be loosening these restrictions at some point. We’re going to have to do it in a very cautious manner. Much like we did in the spring and early summer, in a phased approach, and follow our numbers quite closely," Roussin said. He said the prerequisites are: diminished test positivity, diminished case numbers and a clear relief of the strain on the health-care system. "Don’t have any specifics to look at. It’s something we’re always considering — where we would go first. At this point, we have to focus on getting these numbers down," he said. Regardless of what mid-December brings, Manitobans will need to adjust to the idea Christmas will not be the same in 2020. "We’re a bit of a ways away from the holiday season. It’s quite possible that we could see a good trend by then, where we might be able to provide different advice," Roussin said. "If it’s advice that people are going to rely on, and they need it right now, that advice is to not gather outside of your household, to keep those gatherings as minimal as possible. Do look for alternative ways to celebrate, such as virtually. But we’re really going to try to get these numbers down to see if we can have some remnants of the holiday season outside of our household."Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun