Millions of Americans are without power after a winter storm hit the U.S. South and Midwest, forcing sites providing COVID-19 vaccines to shut down.
Millions of Americans are without power after a winter storm hit the U.S. South and Midwest, forcing sites providing COVID-19 vaccines to shut down.
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine safety: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations to the tune of 84 per cent," Sharma said. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902 ) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. An analysis of results from 2,000 adults older than 60 years suggested the vaccine was similarly effective and well tolerated in this age group. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
The City of Brampton’s independent internal audit mandate stresses the philosophy of improving operations within the City, emphasizing the highest level of due diligence and autonomy is applied when looking into the way public funds are used, free from any outside influence. However, shortly after CAO David Barrick arrived at City Hall following his firing from a Niagara conservation agency for mismanagement and a scathing Ontario ombudsman investigation report that implicated him in a fraudulent hiring process, the City’s top bureaucrat fired the head of internal audit, then moved the role from its independent reporting line to council and placed it under his authority. At least one councillor has expressed concern over Barrick’s takeover of another accountability mechanism. The mandate of internal audit was also quietly changed, removing its independence, the hallmark feature of any municipal audit department function. The structure no longer follows the recommended independent structure outlined by the association that represents municipal auditors. In September, following Barrick’s hiring in late 2019 and the immediate termination of former director of internal audit, Foruzan Velji, council approved a new audit charter that was quietly amended by staff to reflect the stark departure from the independence under the previous charter, approved in 2017. There are now concerns that Barrick is blocking audit and investigation work that would reveal disturbing behaviour directed by the CAO. Mayor Patrick Brown oversaw the process to hire Barrick, who has close ties to Brown through Conservative political circles. Despite all the evidence and years of reporting, Brown has denied that Barrick was implicated in the Niagara hiring scandal, even though the provincial ombudsman investigation, titled “Inside Job”, details his disturbing conduct. Sunny Kalkat had been hired by Barrick to take over the internal audit department after Velji departed days after the new CAO’s arrival. But two weeks ago, the public learned that Kalkat was suddenly no longer the head of internal audit, raising many questions about who is providing crucial oversight and whether the CAO is once again stripping away transparency and accountability inside CIty Hall. Last month, councillors expressed their frustration during a public meeting after Barrick had illegally removed the independent freedom of information function from the City clerk’s office (the accountability role reported directly to council) and quietly moved it under his authority, which was a violation of the bylaw outlining the function and the provincial legislation which states the municipal freedom of information role has to report either to council or someone appointed by council. Barrick was never given that role. Council voted to put the function back under the clerk’s office, reporting directly to elected members, not the CAO. While councillors expressed their frustration and concern during the public meeting over Barrick’s behaviour, Brown remained quiet. Now, questions are mounting about how Barrick has handled City Hall’s primary oversight mechanism, through the internal audit department. The CAO had the Charter that governs the audit function altered shortly after his arrival. The document now details a new reporting structure, stating audit reports will be shared with divisional heads or commissioners of a department, along with the CAO, before being presented to the council-led audit committee. “The CAO will be advised prior to Internal Audit sharing internal audit reports and/or related information with the Audit Committee.” These new guidelines created by staff, not council, run contrary to accepted best practices for municipal internal audit departments, which are supposed to be completely independent from the bureaucratic staff auditors are required to hold accountable. The Institute of Internal Auditors, which Ontario’s municipal auditors use for guidance, states, “The internal audit charter is a formal document that defines the internal audit activity's purpose, authority, and responsibility. The internal audit charter establishes the internal audit activity's position within the organization, including the nature of the chief audit executive’s functional reporting relationship with the board (council); authorizes access to records, personnel, and physical properties relevant to the performance of engagements; and defines the scope of internal audit activities. Final approval of the internal audit charter resides with the board (council).” Independence is the key to the function. “The chief audit executive must report to a level within the organization that allows the internal audit activity to fulfill its responsibilities,” the institute states. “The chief audit executive must confirm to the board (council), at least annually, the organizational independence of the internal audit activity.” Functional and administrative practices under the 2020 Internal Audit Charter are now under Barrick’s authority, after he moved all reporting lines out from under council and the audit committee. Before Barrick had the Charter altered, the prior version stated: “The Chief Audit Executive will report functionally to the Audit Committee and administratively to the CAO.” The organizational chart was changed and shows how internal audit is now under the CAO, whereas the previous chart had it under the council audit committee. The current Charter no longer follows the guidelines set out by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) which was previously used by the City of Brampton to establish its internal audit standards. In a report presenting the 2020 Charter, the importance of the IIA is acknowledged, and the guidelines the 2017 Charter was modeled after are included, but the final version of the current Charter does not include the suggested reporting structure. “Ideally [the charter] establishes reporting lines for the chief audit executive (CAE) that support that independence by reporting functionally to the governing body (or those charged with governance) and administratively to executive management,” the City audit report states, using guidelines from the IIA. This was an issue Councillor Jeff Bowman raised at the September 8 audit committee meeting when the item was first discussed. He said the auditor’s reports should come to council alone. “I have a major problem with that. That is not transparent… there's no way that should be happening.” Citizen member Iqbal Ali echoed Bowman’s concerns, questioning how the new reporting structure would guarantee the auditor could report to council without any fear of reprimand if a report casts staff in a negative light. Barrick said the new charter responds to what council asked staff to do: ensure it reflects the bylaws and legislation of the City. He did not explain what specific bylaws or legislation the charter lines up with. And he did not explain why he changed the Charter to remove the functional oversight of internal audit from council to himself, an obvious contradiction of the stated need for independence. All the investigation work internal audit does, to ensure staff are not abusing public trust, finances or their responsibilities, involves staff who report to Barrick. He oversees them and now also oversees the accountability mechanism meant to hold himself and other bureaucrats in check. Reporting directly to council would be a function of an auditor general, which the previous term of council decided against, he told audit committee. “With the director of internal audit function, they have to report somewhere and in this case, it's the CAO.” This is a direct contradiction of the guidelines for internal audit, and the Charter in place before Barrick’s arrival. Since stepping foot inside City Hall he has stripped away council’s mandated oversight role, on behalf of the public, in an alarming violation of bylaws and provincial legislation. When audits are presented to council, questions about any problems uncovered have to be answered by the staff responsible for any problems. Barrick said it’s difficult to answer these questions when the “operational awareness” is absent and staff don’t know what the issue at hand is. It’s unclear what he meant, as staff are always fully aware of their own behaviour and practices. Barrick claimed the director of internal audit reported to the CAO before he took the City’s top job in October 2019. “This is not new.” His claims are inaccurate. Barrick’s claims do not match up with the previous charter or the City’s organizational chart outlining the departmental structure. Currently, the internal audit department is listed under Barrick, where he claims it always has been. The City’s organizational chart from June 2020, and for the months prior, show the department stood on its own, with a reporting line to the council internal audit committee. When The Pointer asked the City about the changed structure, a spokesperson said the question was “not factual.” When images of the website were provided as evidence of the change to the audit reporting structure, the City did not respond. The Pointer tried numerous times to get clarification but no response was provided ahead of publication. The new Charter was created under Sunny Kalkat, the former director of internal audit. According to sources who spoke with The Pointer, Kalkat was let go from her position days before her contract was set to expire, recently. At this time, Richard Gervais, senior advisor for IT audit, is filling the position on an interim basis. A City spokesperson told The Pointer they can’t speak to the employment status of any City employees. Under the 2020 charter, the CAO is listed as being responsible for the “appointment, dismissal and remuneration of the Director of Internal Audit,” a task that typically is supposed to be overseen by council. Under the Charter approved in 2017, Council was given authority to "Approve decisions regarding the appointment and removal of the Chief Audit Executive"; and approval of "decisions relating to the remuneration of the Chief Audit Executive." It stated that, under the IIA guidelines: "The Chief Audit Executive will have unrestricted access to, and communicate and interact directly with, the audit committee, including private meetings without management present." Barrick has removed this independence, effectively cancelling the audit department's key accountability and oversight function. The IIA states council must ensure: "The internal audit activity must be free from interference in determining the scope of internal auditing, performing work, and communicating results. The chief audit executive must disclose such interference to the board (council) and discuss the implications." According to an internal email obtained by The Pointer, Barrick advised Council of the decision to release Kalkat on February 19. “In consultation with the chair and vice chair of audit committee, it is the most responsible course of action to fill such a position once City Council has deliberated and made a decision on the forthcoming report,” the email read. It goes on to say Kalkat’s contract with the City was fulfilled and it wasn’t extended because of council’s decision to explore “options for an auditor general model.” It’s unclear why Barrick thought the council request to explore another layer of oversight was grounds to not rehire the existing head of internal audit. Sources told The Pointer Kalkat did not serve the full duration of her contract. The idea of an auditor general function was initially introduced at the January 27 City Council meeting. Following allegations of widespread fraud under his watch, Brown asked staff to look at the possibility of creating a municipal ombudsman office. A municipal ombudsman would allow complaints to be filed against any staff members for a possible investigation. Councillors pointed out that an auditor general does not need complaints to investigate staff, and focuses their investigation on issues they deem important. Kalkat is the second internal auditor to vacate her position since Barrick was hired. Former director Foruzan Velji was let go in October 2019, a week after Barrick started, according to sources. Kalkat’s position was left vacant mere days before the Tuesday audit committee meeting last week, the first of four meetings that happen throughout the year. Her name was listed as the lead in three of the four reports that were part of the committee agenda. In the obtained internal email, Barrick states filling the position on an interim basis “is the most responsible course of action” until council decides on the position it wants to take. Kalkat’s vacancy comes as the corporate fraud prevention hotline has seen a dramatic rise in complaints. This function allows employees to anonymously make complaints regarding fraudulent activities in City Hall. Since the committee’s last meeting on November 24, the hotline received 29 complaints, the most reported since Kalkat was hired a year ago, making up a third of the 77 total complaints since the service was launched in 2016. Barrick acknowledged there are gaps in the types of complaints that are allowed to be investigated and said the corporate policy team is looking into the issue and examining how to best direct complaints. Some of the complaint reports have been “closed” but details were not provided during the discussion as to what each investigation uncovered or who was investigated. The Pointer will be following up on the reports that were closed without providing details during the public meeting. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @nida_zafar Tel: 416 890-7643 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Nida Zafar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
(Colin Perkel/Canadian Press - image credit) Hydro One is in the process of planning for a new high-voltage power line that will connect a transmission station just outside Chatham with one being built just outside of Comber. But the proposed route would take it across Highway 77 between Comber and Hwy. 401. Mayor Tom Bain said that section is too close to a populated area. "You're looking at a lot of interference for TVs and computers and you're going to get objections to the unsightly mess," said Bain, who supports the construction of the line because it is being built to meet the needs of the growing greenhouse industry and development in general. Hydro One chose the line out of eight options because it best met a number of criteria that took into account the natural and socio-economic environments, technical considerations and cost and consultation with a number of stakeholders such as Indigenous groups. It will increase the power to the entire region by 400 megawatts. But Comber resident Jodi Langley wants to know more. "I don't feel like we're very informed about what's going on in our community for the power. I want to know what it's going to do for us or how it's going to affect what's going on around here," said Langley. But Hydro One's vice-president of stakeholder relations Daniel Levitan says there's still a lot of work to do to determine the exact pathway. "We will be circling back with Mayor Bain and the County of Essex and local mayors, councils and certainly local businesses to now take a look at the specific path and ensure that it's safe and impacts the local environment, local businesses as minimally as possible," said Levitan. Hydro One will hold an online information session on March 11.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two U.S. Navy warships operating in the Mideast have been struck by coronavirus outbreaks, authorities said Friday, with both returning to port in Bahrain. A dozen troops aboard the USS San Diego, an amphibious transport dock, tested positive for COVID-19, said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea also has “confirmed several cases of COVID-19," she said. “All positive cases have been isolated on board, and the (ships) remains in a restricted COVID bubble,” Rebarich told The Associated Press. “The port visit and medical support have been co-ordinated with the host nation government and Bahrain Ministry of Health.” The San Diego sails with nearly 600 sailors and Marines aboard, while the Philippine Sea carries some 380 sailors. The 5th Fleet patrols the waterways of the Mideast. Its vessels often have tense encounters with Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Gulf through which 20% of all oil traded worldwide passes. The Navy’s largest outbreak so far in the pandemic was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which had to be sidelined in Guam for nearly two months last year. More than 1,000 sailors tested positive and one died. Eventually all of the 4,800 crew members were sent ashore in Guam for weeks of quarantine, in a systematic progression that kept enough sailors on the ship to keep it secure and running. The failure of the ship’s leaders to properly handle the outbreak exploded into one of the biggest military leadership crises in recent years. The ship’s captain, who pleaded for faster action to protect his crew from the rapidly spreading virus, was fired and the one-star admiral on the ship had his promotion delayed. Earlier this month, three sailors tested positive as the aircraft carrier was conducting operations in the Pacific. The sailors and those exposed to them were isolated, and the Navy said it is “following an aggressive mitigation strategy,” including masks, social distancing, and proper handwashing and hygiene measures. Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
GameStop Corp closed 6% lower on Friday as an early rally fizzled but the stock finished the week 151% higher in a renewed surge that left analysts puzzled. Analysts have struggled to find a clear explanation, and some were skeptical the rally would have legs. Analysts mostly ruled out a short squeeze like the one that fueled GameStop's rally in January, when individual investors using Robinhood and other apps punished hedge funds that had bet against the stock, forcing them to unwind short positions.
The tattoo industry, like many others, have been hit hard during COVID. Obviously not being an essential service, the pandemic has shutdown thousands of tattooers’ livelihoods. Tattooing has grown to become a $3 billion industry worldwide, with 38% of Canadians having at least one tattoo. Revenue growth for the Tattoo Artists industry is expected to decline 9.5% as a result of the pandemic and overall economic downturn. All tattooers have been forced to close up shop during the lockdowns as their work requires close contact and sitting with people for prolonged periods. Sjeli Pearse, a local tattoo artist who is currently living and working in Toronto, shares her experience with SaultOnline as she is currently closing up her studio. “We recently made the hard decision to let go of our location,” Pearse shares that for more than half of her lease she has not been able to work in her rented space due to the pandemic, “it’s hit the community really hard in Toronto especially because the lockdowns have been so much longer.” “At this point we really can’t trust that we will open, or that we will be allowed to stay open, or that clients will even have money to get tattooed.” Although the tattoo industry usually weathers economic downturns well, COVID has stopped them from providing their services. They already have to maintain sterilized work spaces and be extremely aware of their shop environment. Adapting their practice to COVID safety measures will be a necessity in order for tattooers to reopen and return to business. Follow SaultOnline as we follow this industry going forward. Josie Fiegehen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SaultOnline.com
“We’ve been subject to these gravel guerrillas now for at least 50 years, trying to build more highways, more urban sprawl.” Those were the words this week of Mississauga Ward 11 Councillor, George Carlson, who brought them down like a blunt hammer on the heads of builders determined to continue profiteering from the land. “I can almost hear the old scotch and soda tinkling as the decision was made to add another highway and let the developers build more stuff north of Toronto. They haven’t even finished doing infill in Toronto.” As the planet continues to reel from the catastrophic impacts of climate change, some Peel politicians have finally picked their heads from the sand, while others remain largely oblivious. On Wednesday, after more than a year of silence, the City of Mississauga finally threw its considerable weight behind calls to cancel the proposed GTA West Corridor, also known as Highway 413. Carlson’s comments underscored the frustration felt around the virtual council chamber. It was better late than never in the eyes of environmentalists. Meanwhile, many municipal leaders in Brampton and Caledon continue to claim support for environmentally friendly policies, as they walk the fence on a project that will devastate local watersheds, ecosystems and wildlife, while adding hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon emissions into the air above Peel. Since the Progressive Conservatives, led by Premier Doug Ford, restarted the GTA West Highway’s Environmental Assessment (EA) in the first half of 2019, Mississauga has been largely silent. Presentations by the Province to Region of Peel councillors outlining the highway’s debatable benefits have been received unanimously. The City’s lobbying power at Queen’s Park has been used on other priorities but not to fight the planned 400-series transportation corridor. A recent swell of opposition to the highway forced the issue back to the top of the agenda. After a request by Environmental Defence and Ecojustice to have the federal government complete a study of the environmental impacts of the proposed route, and even wrestle control of the project from Queen’s Park, opposition groups have received a new round of support. Unlike their previous requests, which have fallen on deaf ears in Peel Region and only seen success in Halton and Orangeville, this recent campaign has bigger supporters with more clout at the provincial and federal level. At a special council meeting on Wednesday, called to pass Mississauga’s 2021 budget, the City adopted a new and aggressive stance. Councillors voted unanimously to approve a lengthy motion, brought forward by Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish and seconded by Ward 8’s Matt Mahoney, explicitly opposing any construction activity relating to the GTA West Corridor. “I find it interesting that the buzzword in today’s day and age is climate change action, environment and all of these things and then we kind of fly in the face of it,” Mahoney said, welcoming the strong position detailed in the lengthy motion. “With projects like this, [we] almost talk out of both sides. I am very pleased to second this motion.” The GTA West Highway was scrapped by the Liberal government in 2018. The decision came after an expert panel came to the conclusion it would do almost nothing to solve the GTA’s congestion problems. The report was completely ignored by the PC government, which quickly restarted the environmental assessment process and began touting benefits of the corridor, including unsupported claims it will reduce traffic congestion. Mississauga’s new stance — directly opposing the highway — is the clearest in the Region of Peel. To the north, Brampton and Caledon have both recently voiced concerns, but stopped well short of opposition. In Brampton, Mayor Patrick Brown and Wards 2 and 6 Councillor Michael Palleschi have been pushing for a boulevard in place of the highway through Brampton. The concept, brought to life by a consultant, has come with few technical details, with no one able to explain how a highway would morph into a walkable, urban corridor and back again. Brampton’s mayor has refused to condemn the highway, and, despite his claims to recognize a climate emergency, he’s bragged about being the one who put the GTA West Highway back on the table when he added it to the PC campaign platform ahead of the 2018 election, before his dramatic fall from provincial politics. In its requests to the Provincial government, Brampton has asked for its boulevard design to be considered for a portion of the route without stating opposition to the highway. On Wednesday, Brampton also backed calls for the federal government to take over the route’s EA. Bowing to growing pressure, the Town of Caledon has also backed the same calls. The move is a 180-degree turn from previous calls by Caledon council members who pushed for an expedited environmental assessment – currently being conducted by the provincial government – to get the project started even faster. A federal EA would have the power to override the provincial government and cancel the project should the environmental impact be deemed too great. On Thursday, Mississauga brought its motion to the Region of Peel. Parrish and Brampton Wards 3 and 4 Councillor Martin Medeiros put the proposal on the floor, offering Brampton and Caledon councillors a chance to make a clear statement against the highway and in support of their own climate emergency declarations. But they shied away. Spearheaded by Caledon Wards 3 and 4 Councillor Jennifer Innis and Mayor Allan Thompson, the issue was deferred to a later date. Stating concerns about rushing to a decision and the need to hear from more residents, a referral was proposed to revisit the idea of opposing the highway in a fortnight, once a staff report has been completed detailing the implications cancelling the highway would have on the Region’s long-term planning strategy. “I do believe that a referral to start to bring back a fulsome report, simply with the history and the impacts, what impact would a decision to oppose have on the planning process [would be prudent],” Peel CAO Janice Baker said. “There has been extensive work done, some of which may very well have to be looked at or re-examined as a consequence of this.” The vote resulted in a tie, with Chair Nando Iannicca voting in favour of the referral to break the deadlock. Iannicca said it may have been the first tie-breaking vote he has cast since being elected chair. The delay means official positions in Peel are divergent. Mississauga stands alone opposing the highway, while all three municipalities have recently passed motions expressing support for a federal EA. The Region itself does not have a current position, but the clerk noted Thursday that a 2012 motion “indicates a level of support for the GTA West Transportation Corridor.” Mississauga’s vote on Wednesday was far less complex and more emphatic. Where several regional councillors, including Brown, Thompson and Innis, raised concerns about rushing the process on Thursday, Wednesday simply saw Mississauga representatives congratulating one another on their newly adopted stance, in support of the environment. The wholehearted support for Mississauga’s new stance raises questions about timing. In October 2019, Mississauga’s 12 regional representatives unanimously accepted a presentation from the Province outlining the GTA West Corridor and its unfounded benefits, while there was no concerted outcry over the Province’s decision this summer to approve a route and speed up the environmental assessment. As recently as January, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told The Pointer she did not think she could convince the Province to change its course. “I think they’re committed to the GTA West Corridor,” she said. Asked this week what precipitated the change of heart and the unambiguous stance, Crombie admitted she and her councillors had been asleep at the wheel. “I think there’s been a groundswell of momentum opposing the building of the highway,” she said at a Wednesday press conference. “I have to say I think we as a council have been a bit complacent, I think we thought it was a done deal; a fait accompli. But now there are so many questions arising from the building of this highway... I think that we saw that there were other voices who opposed it and we agreed we would join them, at least to undertake the full federal environmental assessment.” Parrish shook her colleagues out of their slumber. Mississauga’s new stance sits in harmony with its internal policies and publicly declared goals. Just over a year-and-a-half after declaring a climate emergency, the move is tangible evidence of council’s resolve to make good on a popular promise to help stop the degradation of the planet. Parrish, who has made a career of taking on the establishment, led the way with her detailed motion. “You can just see the vultures waiting to build completely along that belt rather than compact developments, which is what we should be looking for — complete communities.” Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Protesters gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia over the arrest earlier in the week of opposition leader Nika Melia.View on euronews
BEIJING — The thrills and chills of the big screen are back big-time in the world’s largest film market. With the coronavirus well under control in China and cinemas running at half capacity, moviegoers are smashing China's box office records, with domestic productions far outpacing their Hollywood competitors. February marked China’s all-time biggest month for movie ticket sales, which have so far totalled 11.2 billion yuan ($1.7 billion). China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest market for movie ticket sales last year as the American box office took a massive hit from the closure of cinemas because of the pandemic. Chinese theatres were able to reopen by midyear and have seen steady audience growth since then. Local movies have also benefited from periodic unofficial “blackout" periods, when only domestic productions are allowed to be screened. A dearth of major Hollywood blockbusters over recent months appears to have also boosted the market for Chinese films. “People were encouraged to stay in Beijing for the Lunar New Year, and so watching movies in the cinema became the top choice of entertainment,” said Chu Donglei, marketing manager at Poly Cinema’s Tiananmen branch in central Beijing. Mask wearing is mandatory and moviegoers must register with a cellphone app so they can be traced in the event of an outbreak. Only every other seat is allowed to be occupied, making it even harder to obtain tickets for the most popular films. According to the China Movie Data Information Network, 95% of ticket sales came from the seven top-grossing films timed for release around the Lunar New Year festival, which began this year on Feb. 12. “Hi, Mom,” a time-travelling comedy written and directed by and starring Jia Ling, was the top earner with 4.36 billion yuan, followed by action comedy “Detective Chinatown 3,” with 4.13 billion yuan. Wang Xiaoyu, 32, who works in the film industry, was only able to procure a ticket for “Hi, Mom” on Thursday and called the viewing experience “deeply moving." “I know there are some movies that are released and streamed online. But I think the experience of watching movies online is not as good as that of watching in a cinema,” Wang said. A lack of entertainment options helped pump up ticket sales during the pandemic, foretelling a bright future for the Chinese film industry, Wang said. Recent box office figures show the “great resiliency and powerful foundation of China’s film industry," said Fu Yalong, deputy general manager of the Solution Center at ENDATA, an analysis firm focusing on the entertainment industry. “During the Lunar New Year, there were films with a variety of genres and topics and the audiences were satisfied," Fu said. “Even with the impact of the pandemic and the increase in ticket prices, we were still able to score such achievements.” College student Zhang Jiazhi, 21, said the movie theatre experience was a welcome break from staying at home watching videos. Successful online film promotion also helped attract many viewers to brick-and-mortar cinemas, Zhang said. “I’m bored, and you can’t stay at home watching (streaming service) Douyin all the time, so I came to the cinema to watch a movie. There’s nothing to do,” said Zhang, who is on winter break and came to the cinema to see “A Writer’s Odyssey," a Chinese fantasy film which he said he didn’t quite understand. Last year, China sold an estimated $2.7 billion in tickets compared to $2.3 billion in the U.S., which saw an 80% drop in ticket sales. “The Eight Hundred," an action drama glorifying China's resistance to Japanese invaders in 1930s Shanghai, was the world's biggest hit, making $461.3 million at the box office, most of it within China. China's theatres also closed for a time during the height of COVID-19 in the country last spring, but gradually reopened over the summer. As of Friday, China has gone 11 days without reporting a single new case of local transmission of the virus. Since the outbreak was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, China has reported a total of 89,877 cases, including 4,636 deaths. ___ Associated Press news assistant Caroline Chen contributed to this report. Andy Wong, The Associated Press
LONDON — A woman who ran away from London as a teenager to join the Islamic State group lost her bid Friday to return to the U.K. to fight for the restoration of her citizenship, which was revoked on national security grounds. Shamima Begum was one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria in 2015. She resurfaced at a refugee camp in Syria and told reporters she wanted to come home, but was denied the chance after former Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship. Begum's lawyers appealed,, saying her right to a fair hearing was harmed by the obstacles of pursuing her case from the camp. The U.K. Supreme Court disagreed, ruling Friday that the right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as public safety. “The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation hearing to be stayed - or postponed - until Ms. Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised,'' said Justice Robert Reed, the president of the Supreme Court. “That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.” Javid argued that Begum was Bangladeshi by descent and could go there. She challenged the decision, arguing she is not a citizen of another country and that Javid’s decision left her stateless. The human rights group Liberty said the court’s ruling sets “an extremely dangerous precedent”. “The right to a fair trial is not something democratic governments should take away on a whim, and nor is someone’s British citizenship,'' said Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer with Liberty. “If a government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguards of a fair tria,l it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.'' Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
(Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit) The Alberta Teachers' Association says the devil will be in the details for education funding in the 2021-22 school year. ATA president Jason Schilling says documents usually released on budget day, including school funding manuals and school jurisdiction funding profiles, weren't made available Thursday and aren't expected to be released until next month. Overall funding for K-12 education in Alberta will go from $8.32 billion in 2020-21 to $8.24 billion for 2021-22, and stay that way for the following two years. "The exact impacts of this budget for the next school year are unclear, because the government is not releasing details of funding for school boards until the end of March," Schilling said. "We are concerned that the government may be obscuring the reality of school board funding by conflating government fiscal years with school board fiscal years, while delaying the release of the details by over a month." Calgary Catholic School District chair Mary Martin said school boards need those documents to understand how unique packets of money — like grants and specialized learning supports — are being divvied up. "The funding manual is like the recipe book for funding jurisdictions," she said. "We need to see the details that are forthcoming to understand what this budget's going to mean for Calgary Catholic." Martin said school boards have been told that Alberta Education is looking at adjusting some of those unique packets of money, but they haven't been given any further details. In an interview with CBC News on Friday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said that while those documents are forthcoming, she wants to ensure school divisions that none of them will see their funding go down compared with the current school year. "But they will receive their funding profiles by the end of March, and in the meantime we've shared data, you know, the formula so that they can look at their weighted moving average and that they can kind of use the current funding model to to project out while they are waiting for the new funding model," she said. LaGrange said the government has moved significant dollars in the education budget into the learning supports envelope, which covers the costs of things like the Program Unit Funding (PUF) grant and the school nutrition grant. "We really felt strongly because of the fact that we've been in a COVID environment, as well as what we've been hearing from school divisions, that we wanted to re-look at that whole envelope and as such there's an additional $40 million in that overall funding envelope," she said. "Which is quite significant, when you think that the overall funding in that envelope is going to be at $1.35 billion." Schilling said the ATA is also concerned that the budget shows $27 million less in spending on instruction, while private school funding sees an increase of $20 million. "When you see a decrease in the basic instructional grant, we need to know how that's reflected in the school board's funding manuals," he said. "When you don't have those funding manuals right away, it's difficult to see what that impact will be on schools and students and teachers." LaGrange said that because this is the first year utilizing this funding model, there were still a few things in the funding manual and funding profiles they needed to iron out. "We had committed all along that we would review it and ensure that we had all the right points. And we want to make sure that the new funding model reflects what we are hearing from school divisions," she said.
(Nico Inocalla - image credit) A Filipino-Canadian family was left shaken after being shouted at and discriminated against by a fellow customer in a Regina Costco last week. Nico Inocalla, his brother and sister-in-law were finishing up their shopping last Thursday when the incident occurred. "This man in front of us, he kept on looking at us as if he doesn't want us to be there," said Inocalla. "But we ignore it. We just still choose to be there and stay in our own lane. But while we were waiting for a turn, he doesn't stop looking at us, and [then] he started yelling 'you need to social distance, you need to stay six feet away from us.'" Inocalla said he and his brother tried to explain that they were following the rules — they were standing on the appropriate social distancing marker on the floor, and if they backed up any further, they would be in the other lane. But the man wouldn't listen. "He keeps on stressing that we need to stay away … he wants us further away from him, as if we are sick, and he's murmuring different derogatory words which I'm not going to mention," said Inocalla. "I was about to cry, honestly, during that time … in my mind, I was just stunned. I was shocked. I still can't believe it, that it happened to us." Eventually, a manager intervened to tell the man that Inocalla and his family were following the physical distancing protocols appropriately, and encouraged him to leave them alone and go and check out. At first, Inocalla didn't want to believe the man was being racist, but as he continued yelling, Inocalla thought it was an unavoidable conclusion. "From the way he insisted that we obviously don't know what we are doing because of my race as an Asian, I felt like I was being discriminated against because of my skin tone," he said. Anti-Asian discrimination has been on the rise in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to David Arnot, chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, hundreds of incidents of hate targeting Asians within Canada have been reported in the last year alone. "Anxiety, fear and frustration over the coronavirus have fueled xenophobia, racism, hate and discrimination against Asian and Asian-descent communities - but it has also exposed a pre-existing xenophobia, which I think is important to understand," said Arnot. Arnot said there have been some notable and concerning incidents of anti-Asian discrimination in Saskatchewan due to the pandemic this year, including a 15-year-old being called slurs and physically assaulted, and employees at a restaurant in Saskatoon being subjected to a "barrage of racial slurs" earlier this month. "Right now, in the midst of this pandemic, there is no room for racism, hate or discrimination," said Arnot. "We all have to work together in this province to emerge from this pandemic much stronger and more unified. "In Saskatchewan, racism runs very deep in the fabric of our society. Racism is a social norm in this province. … and so this racism has to be called out." Inocalla said the other customers — strangers — behind his family in line did support them in the moment. "They kept on apologizing to us and telling the man he doesn't need to do that," he said. "If he wants to talk, just say it calmly. He doesn't need to react like that based on what we look like." But he worries about how that man — and others like him — see him, his family and the other Asian-Canadians in their lives. "I hope they don't see us like a kind of sickness," said Inocalla. "We're not the virus. We're humans, too. We don't want this. We're just hoping to be treated like normal people. Don't see us like a threat or a disease."
(Submitted by Bill Schurman - image credit) With six new cases in the past 48 hours, public health officials on P.E.I. are urging everyone 14-29 in the Summerside area to get tested for COVID-19, even if they don't have symptoms. Testing will take place at Three Oaks Senior High School through the weekend. Friday afternoon, Dr. Heather Morrison said a woman in her 20s had tested positive but her case appears to be unrelated to the three positive cases in Summerside and two cases in Charlottetown identified in the previous 48 hours. Morrison said the Taste of India restaurant in Charlottetown was a possible public exposure site. There were long lineups for tests at Summerside's Slemon Park facility Friday, after public health officials announced a cluster of three new cases of COVID-19, and asked all residents of Summerside to be vigilant for symptoms. If they have any, they are being asked to self-isolate and seek a test. Friday morning, Morrison held the first of two news briefings to tell Islanders about the three potential exposure sites and possible exposure times at three Summerside businesses: Iron Haven Gym, Dominos Pizza and The Breakfast Spot. Thursday, Dr. Morrison said enforcement is now involved with two new cases announced Wednesday and a link to one public exposure site, the Toys R Us in Charlottetown. Iron Haven Gym in Summerside is one of three possible exposure sites to COVID-19 listed by officials Friday. Prince Edward Island now has seven active cases of COVID-19, and has diagnosed a total of 120 cases since the pandemic hit P.E.I. almost a year ago. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. Newfoundland and Labrador's active COVID-19 caseload dropped again Friday, as the province reported 52 new recoveries — a single-day record — and four new cases. The province now has 287 active cases. Nova Scotians are facing a host of new restrictions as the province tries to stem an increase in COVID-19 cases: 10 new cases Friday, the highest number the province has seen since early January. The province now has 35 active cases. New Brunswick reported one new case Friday with 41 active cases, and is just over a week away from rolling into the less-restrictive yellow phase. Also in the news Further resources Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
La prise de parole d’Aïssa Maïga en 2020, destinée à rendre visible et politiser les « non-Blancs » dans le cinéma français, a jeté un trouble.
(Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit) Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner says Cape Breton Regional Municipality's estimated fee of nearly $43,000 to answer a freedom of information request in 2016 is likely the highest ever issued in the province and is "inflated and inaccurate." In a report issued this week, Tricia Ralph said CBRM's method for calculating the fee estimate was unfair and recommended the fee be waived entirely. Guy LaFosse, a Sydney lawyer whose anonymous client made the FOIPOP request, said the public has a right to know public information and shouldn't have to pay high fees to get it. "I wasn't overly surprised by the decision, but I was surprised with how strongly worded the decision was and how critical the commissioner was of CBRM," he said. "This is a very scathing report when one reads this, particularly when you realize that this is information that should have been disclosed way back in 2016." LaFosse said the ruling shows the province's freedom of information system needs teeth. 'Not acceptable' "The fact that you have to wait a little better than four years to get a report from the commissioner is not acceptable in my opinion and the kind of costs that in this instance the municipality was charging … raises various concerns about how business is conducted, particularly in CBRM." LaFosse said his client cannot afford the high fees CBRM says it needs to charge. His client, who LaFosse said remains unwilling to be identified, requested details four years ago on contracts and expenses related to former mayor Cecil Clarke and employees in his office and at the port. After LaFosse asked the information commissioner for a review, the provincial office worked with both sides to narrow the scope of the request. The commissioner's office also worked with CBRM to determine how it came to estimate the fee at $43,000. In her report, the commissioner said CBRM staff did not use a representative sample of all the document types to determine the estimate and it estimated the time required using higher rates than those that have been previously established. She said the provincial guide suggests it should take between 30 seconds and two minutes to review a single page, but CBRM estimated three minutes per page. In November, the commissioner said CBRM broke the law by withholding 900 pages of information on CBRM's port marketing contracts requested by Sydney journalist Mary Campbell. According to the report, after negotiations CBRM provided a second estimate that came in at just under $3,900, but the commissioner said that's still too high. Ralph said CBRM has not met its legal duty to assist the applicant in getting access to public information and it should waive the fee entirely. This is the second report from the commissioner critical of CBRM's handling of FOIPOP requests. In November, the commissioner said CBRM broke the law by withholding or failing to locate 900 pages of information on CBRM's port marketing contracts requested by Sydney journalist Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator. LaFosse, who was involved in the provincial PC Party's court case seeking details on the Yarmouth ferry management fee, says the FOIPOP system needs to be overhauled. That request was made five years ago and after the commissioner's critical report late last year, CBRM released most of the documents to Campbell. LaFosse said that may bode well for his client. "The new council and mayor have made indications that they are going to be very transparent and will be hopefully assessing as to how they will deal with FOIPOP applications in the future," he said. LaFosse, who was involved in the provincial Progressive Conservative Party's court case seeking details on the Yarmouth ferry management fee, said the FOIPOP system needs to be overhauled. "All of these cases really raise the issue about the way the legislation is worded and how government, whether it's the provincial government or municipal governments, can simply delay things and hope that people will forget that they've made an application, or make them so expensive and time-consuming that they will just fade away and that's not the way that government should be run." Clerk Deborah Campbell Ryan says CBRM has received 100 freedom-of-information requests in the last seven years and needs to hire a full-time FOIPOP administrator. In the meantime, CBRM council may be hiring a full-time FOIPOP administrator. During pre-budget discussions last week, clerk Deborah Campbell Ryan said the municipality has received 100 freedom-of-information requests in the last seven years and dealing with those is only one of her duties. "The applications are certainly growing in number and complexity," she said. "They're not just routine requests. There are a number of steps that have to be followed." During pre-budget discussions last week, CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said she sees the need for a full-time FOIPOP administrator. Deputy chief administrative officer John MacKinnon, who oversees CBRM's communications department, said the one full-time employee is already too busy. "She really doesn't have the ability to do FOIPOP as well as her current communications activities," he said. "We're struggling as it is to get information out to the public with one person." Mayor Amanda McDougall said she sees the need for a full-time FOIPOP administrator. "I think it's important to highlight how much work we might take from the corner of one desk and put to another in hopes that it is a fix that oftentimes it's just kind of prolonging the inevitable, that we do need to hire more people." MORE TOP STORIES
(Sara Minogue/CBC - image credit) Weeks after Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson requested the government send grief counsellors to his electoral district, Health Minister Julie Green says she will look into sending a mental health team to the district's four communities. In early February, Green urged anyone seeking mental health services to use same-day counselling services available through the health department but stopped short of committing to send in new resources. On Thursday, she said she will investigate if she can deploy mental health teams that typically travel to communities without resident counsellors. While a child and youth counsellor position is filled at the Mangilaluk School in Tuktoykatuk, there are vacancies in community counselling, said Green. Health Minister Julie Green says she will look into sending mental health teams to Nunakput. Jacobson said mental health issues are coming up in Tuktoyaktuk, Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk. He said a lot of people are hurting from depression to all the deaths that have occurred over the last year," said Jacobson. "We have to start trying to help them, heal them and try to move forward. When are we gonna get these travel teams into Nunakput?" he said. "We need a team to come in to work with the community on the depression, alcoholism, everything ... anything they want to talk about to get off their chest. We need help." The Kids Help Line is available to youth by text or call, Facebook and online chat, said Green. If you are under 25 years old and you need someone to talk to, you can call the Kid's Help Phone 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868. Texting and online chat options are also available 24/7. To text with a counsellor, text CONNECT to 686868. To live chat, visit https://kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat/ and click the "chat" button OR download the Always There app.
ALGONQUIN PARK, Ont. — Ontario Parks says that reservations for its campsites have nearly doubled since the same time last year.The provincial government agency says that bookings made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5 have increased almost 100 per cent.They say that campers have made 58,475 reservations in that span this year, up from 29,504 reservations in the same period in 2020.The agency recommends that campers do their research well in advance of their reservation date becoming available on its website so they can book as early as possible.They also suggest camping at a less popular park to ensure greater availability for sites.Algonquin, Killbear, Pinery, Sandbanks and Bon Echo are Ontario's five busiest provincial parks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier - image credit) This column is an opinion from Graham Thomson, an award-winning journalist who has covered Alberta politics for more than 30 years. Before delivering the new provincial budget Thursday, Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews bought himself new cowboy boots. A pair of ballet shoes would have been more appropriate. Toews's budget does a lot of dancing, much of it on eggshells. This is a budget that is afraid of suffering another embarrassing pratfall like the one performed last year when Toews tabled an overly optimistic budget in February that predicted solid economic growth, higher employment and a balanced budget by 2023 — and was quickly rendered obsolete with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. "When I was actually presenting the budget, it felt like Rome was burning behind me," said a slightly traumatized Toews at the time. This year's budget might be entitled, "Protecting lives and livelihoods" but, "Once burned, twice shy" would work, too. It's a conservative document, not in terms of spending and deficits, but in terms of predictions. The budget uses the word "uncertainty" so often it's like a nervous twitch, as in, "A great deal of uncertainty remains about vaccination roll-outs and the speed and breadth of global economic recovery." WATCH | Finance minister, Opposition leader discuss 2021 budget: "Uncertainty" is the word of the day. And it's going to be the word of the year as we continue to muddle through the minefield that is COVID 2021. The government learned an important lesson last year: don't raise expectations. Toews's economic outlook this year includes an $18 billion deficit, in addition to last year's $20 billion shortfall caused in part by a price of oil that went negative at one point. The accumulated debt will hit $115 billion this year and reach an astronomical $132 billion in two years. That's not including the $1.3 billion at risk in the Keystone XL pipeline gamble. The debt is climbing so high, so fast, the government is starting to couch the debt in terms of its relationship to the total provincial economy. This is called the net-debt-to-GDP ratio and it's a term beloved by pernickety economists — and by politicians trying to mask the size of their government's record debt. Right now Alberta's ratio is 24.5 per cent, which is pretty good compared to Ontario, for example, at 50 per cent. But just two years ago, our ratio was 11 per cent. Yes, there are few encouraging numbers in this budget. The government is spending four per cent more on health care and is setting up a $1.25-billion contingency fund to fight the pandemic. Premier Kenney is not slashing spending or cutting services as he seemed to suggest much of last year with his warning of a "fiscal reckoning" to come. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney promised there would be no new taxes in the budget. This is not a fiscal-reckoning budget or even an austerity budget. It is not the fiscal plan of a self-assured government. This is the keep-your-head-down-budget of a government under siege from COVID-19 and an unhappy public that seems to be increasingly dissatisfied with the UCP. The fiscal outlook is so uncertain that Toews doesn't even pretend to have a plan to balance the budget, unlike last year when he confidently predicted no more deficits starting in 2022, right before he felt the flames of COVID setting his prognostications on fire. 'Right-sizing' But if Toews is not outright slashing, he is planning to do some whittling and that has public-sector unions nervous. "One area where we can no longer delay is addressing a public -ector salary structure in Alberta that has for decades been an outlier compared to other provinces," said Toews, who has previously warned unions that if they don't accept concessions, they'll face more job cuts. Toews calls this "right-sizing" public-sector compensation, a term sure to infuriate workers and do nothing to quell labour unrest. "Perhaps if governments had shown more restraint in previous years, we would not have had to confront this issue," added Toews, who might be taking a jab at the former NDP government but really should be aiming at a succession of previous Conservative governments. True to form, Toews also pointed the finger of blame at the federal Liberal government: "The biggest obstacle to recovery may be our own national government, which has layered on regulatory requirements, created investment uncertainty, chased away the investment that maintains family-supporting jobs, and is now increasing the costs for our most vital national economic drivers." What the Kenney government tends to gloss over is that after the pandemic hit, most of the financial aid delivered to beleaguered Albertans came from Ottawa. Not only did the federal government deliver $11 billion in direct transfers to the Alberta treasury last year, it sent an additional $23 billion to individual Albertans and businesses via programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Albertans are no doubt relieved that, as Kenney promised, there are no new taxes in the budget. But you have to wonder if that's just a matter of time. The pandemic might have forced the government into spending record amounts of money but our fiscal problems didn't begin and end there. COVID's rampage through our economy demonstrated once again how over-reliant we are on the capricious price of fossil fuels. There will be a "fiscal reckoning" in our future, sooner or later.
OTTAWA — Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, the third to be given the green light for national use. Details of the approval and when Canadians might see doses begin arriving are due at a technical briefing later this morning in Ottawa. Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June. Vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna had already been approved by Health Canada. Approximately 1.7 million doses of those formulas have been administered in Canada. Health Canada is also reviewing two other vaccines. Approval of Johnson and Johnson's vaccine will likely not come until early March and Novavax is not expected until April. The European Union has also approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca formulas. AstraZeneca's vaccine, like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's formulations, requires refrigeration and takes two doses for maximum efficacy. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
NYON, Switzerland — Draw Friday for the last 16 in the Europa League: First Leg March 11 Ajax (Netherlands) vs. Young Boys (Switzerland) Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) vs. Villarreal (Spain) Roma (Italy) vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) Olympiakos (Greece) vs. Arsenal (England) Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) vs. Tottenham (England) Manchester United (England) vs. AC Milan (Italy) Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) vs. Rangers (Scotland) Granada (Spain) vs. Molde (Norway) ___ Second Leg March 18 Young Boys (Switzerland) vs. Ajax (Netherlands) Villarreal (Spain) vs. Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) vs. Roma (Italy) Arsenal (England) vs. Olympiakos (Greece) Tottenham (England) vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) AC Milan (Italy) vs. Manchester United (England) Rangers (Scotland) vs. Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) Molde (Norway) vs. Granada (Spain) ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press