Catherine McDonald has the latest on the investigation from the SIU and more on how Const. Marc Hovingh is being remembered by his colleagues a day after he was fatally shot.
Catherine McDonald has the latest on the investigation from the SIU and more on how Const. Marc Hovingh is being remembered by his colleagues a day after he was fatally shot.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the possibility of involving other countries in efforts to maintain a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire on Nov. 10 that halted six weeks of clashes in the mountain enclave, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the enclave under the ceasefire deal, which locked in Azeri advances.
Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, 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
BELLE PLAINE, Kan. — It's barely a town anymore, battered by time on the windswept prairie of northwest Kansas. COVID-19 still managed for find Norcatur.Not much remains of the rural hamlet, save for service station, a grain elevator, a little museum, and a weekend hangout where the locals play pool, eat pizza and drink beer. The roof has collapsed on the crumbling building that once housed its bank and general store. Schools closed decades ago and the former high school building is used for city offices.But for the 150 or so remaining residents, the cancellation of the beloved Norcatur Christmas Drawing has driven home how the global coronavirus pandemic has reached deep into rural America.“Due to individuals who have COVID and refuse to stay home and quarantine it has been determined it is not safe for the citizens of Norcatur and the area to proceed,” read the notice tucked in the town’s newsletter and posted on its Facebook page. It blamed “negligent attitudes of lack of concern for others” for the cancellation.In a decades-old tradition that evokes Norman Rockwell nostalgia, the whole town typically gathers for a potluck dinner at Christmastime. Its namesake drawing features a plethora of donated meats, crafts and other goodies so every family can go home with prizes. The local 4-H Club puts on its bake sale. Santa Claus comes riding the firetruck.Decatur County has fewer than 3,000 people scattered across farms and small towns like Norcatur. As of Monday, the county had 194 coronavirus cases and one death, although medical providers say there are at least four more deaths of local residents that have yet to be added to the official toll.Carolyn Plotts, a 73-year-old Norcatur resident who never had symptoms and only found out she was positive for COVID-19 when tested for a medical procedure in October, said two of her former high school classmates who live in the county died because of the virus. Her husband also tested positive.“It's been very real to me,” she said.Plotts wondered whether the cancellation notice was maybe “talking about me.” During her quarantine she would only leave her house — with her doctor's permission and wearing a mask, she said pointedly — to care for a housebound friend who still believes the pandemic is a hoax.Carl Lyon, the Norcatur mayor who takes on the annual Santa role, said while most residents are “pretty good” about social distancing and wearing a mask, some have gotten the virus.“I know a couple of people had it and they were still kind of running around and whatnot,” Lyon said. “Didn't seem to bother them that they infected everybody else.”Decatur County Sheriff Ken Badsky estimated that 5% of county residents who should quarantine violate the restrictions and go out. His office has called some and “insisted they do what they are supposed to do,” but has taken no legal action.“I have so much other stuff to do. I don’t have time to follow people around,” Badsky said. “We have 900 square miles, we have three full-time officers and a part-time to take care of that and we are busy with everything else.”Such sentiments anger medical providers as coronavirus cases surge and it gets more difficult to find beds for their sickest patients as hospitals across the state fill up.“We need some backing to stop this virus and we are looking to people that need to do their job to do it, and so otherwise this thing is going to run rampant and it is going to put more pressure on our hospital,” Kris Mathews, the administrator of Decatur Health, a small critical access hospital in Oberlin, just 19 miles west of Norcatur.Stan Miller, the announcer for the Christmas Drawing for more than 25 years, has mixed emotions about the decision to forgo it this year. The 63-year-old Norcatur resident said he understands that there are elderly people who you don't want to get the virus. But it's also disappointing.“I like to see all the joy, especially the little kids,” Miller said. “We have Santa Claus after the drawing is over and to see them sit on Santa's lap and tell them what they want for Christmas, you know, always puts a smile on my face."Roxana Hegeman, The Associated Press
After 17 years on the job, former Timmins mayor Jamie Lim is looking forward to the spending more time with family life while keeping an optimistic eye on the future of the province’s forestry sector. On Monday it was announced that she will be retiring from her position as president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) at the end of the calendar year. “In 2019, we had a little bit of a family health crisis, and it just sort of made me reassess everything, and I thought 2020 would be a nice time to retire,” she told The Daily Press. “I made the decision before COVID. I can tell you now when I made the decision in 2019, I thought 2020 was going to be a nice walk in the park, and regular work, and closing some files and stuff with the association. I had no idea that 2020 would have a global pandemic and a global economic crisis waiting for us.” Her final year at the helm has seemingly gone in a flash. “Since March, it’s just been a blur, because we’ve been so busy making sure that we can continue working during this global pandemic.” Lim said it is important to know when to pass the torch. “Seventeen years at a trade association is a really long tenure. I’m very, very proud that I’ve had 17 wonderful years to work with the forest sector. Some of my members have been running their mills in their family for six generations. Representing this sector, honestly, has been one of the greatest pleasures in my life. It really has.” Ian Dunn will step in as interim president and CEO effective Jan. 1. Dunn is currently the executive director of policy and operations, and has been with the organization for five years. “It’s really an honour and a privilege to lead an association like this,” he said. “I got into this because of a passion for Ontario’s forests, and that’s a real source of inspiration for me and OFIA staff, and I'm looking forward to Jan. 1.” Dunn believes the experience from his current role has prepared him to step into his new position smoothly, as it was policy focused. “Certainly, how it impacted the woodlands operations of our members of forest management type issues. It’s grown over time to include manufacturing-type issues such as carbon pricing, emissions standards, things like that, as well as market-related issues such as the softwood lumber trade dispute. “So in my current role, I’ve had a really good opportunity to get exposed to all facets of the business and I’m really looking forward to stepping into more of a leadership position.” Lim said that by both growing up in Timmins and living in the city as an adult, she knows how important the mining and forestry sectors are to the local and regional economies, and emphasized their roles as the economic engines of the area. She pointed to some big numbers from the OFIA. “We employ 147,000 people directly and indirectly, and we generate about $18 billion in revenue for the province every year.” Over the last two years, she said it has “been a pleasure” to work with a provincial government that recognizes the importance of the forestry sector to Ontario “and acknowledges the importance of having economic engines in Northern and rural Ontario that can create employment for our people.” She credited Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, as well as Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks Jeff Yurek for their commitment to improving the forestry sector in Ontario. “All three ministers with the Premier have been instrumental in supporting the sector before the pandemic and during the pandemic,” said Lim. Ford and Yakabuski announced the provincial forest sector strategy in August. Lim stated that in her 17 years with the OFIA, she has never seen the province willing to put forward a formal strategy. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. The United Nations in 2018 had a study commissioned and it showed that global demand for wood products is expected to increase by 30 per cent by 2030.” Lim believes that everything points to continued strength for the forest products sector, and that with the right public policy, and right aspirations from government decision makers, forestry can become an even bigger economic powerhouse. “Respond to that global demand for wood products. I want to see them come from Ontario, and I want to see the jobs, and the economic growth in Northern and rural Ontario.” Dunn agrees. “I think we’re on a real solid foundation. The province’s forest sector strategy is an amazing opportunity to grow the sector. So I’m very optimistic about the future of forestry in Ontario,” he said. In a year like no other in history, the forestry sector being declared an essential service was absolutely critical for both the people who are employed in the sector, as well as the general public. Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to make that declaration. “People realize in times of crisis like this how important forest products are, and if we can source them from a local jurisdiction like Ontario, that’s even better,” said Dunn. The forestry sector is essential to not only the province’s economic recovery, but also its response to the crisis. “I think this is a sector that can really contribute to the response to the current pandemic in a number of ways. The production of PPE (personal protective equipment) or lumber for infrastructure projects or even palettes for the movement of goods and medicines,” he said. Lim added, “We’ve kept people working, and to me, right now during this economic and health crisis, nothing could be more important. “I never thought I would see something like this in my entire life.” As she prepares to leave her position, Lim talked about the overall current state of forestry in Ontario. “In March, I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect, and it’s incredible that forestry doesn’t seem to have been impacted like other sectors.” The demand and sales numbers for wood products have been “exceptional,” according to Lim. “Who knew that people, because they were staying home, would start doing all these do-it-yourself projects, new decks and renovations — the amount of building that went on really allowed our sector to maintain its strength in the global marketplace.” Having been with the OFIA since 2004 and working through the 2008 recession, Lim sees the forestry sector as being in a better position this time around. “I think there are more opportunities than challenges.” She said that health and safety for everyone must be the top priority, but it does also present its own challenges. There are questions about how tree planting will be handled next spring, for example. However, the forestry sector is in big demand right now with PPEs, consumer lumber, and of course, toilet paper sales way up. “We’re the sector that is making sure that the supplies that people need right now are available,” said Lim. She said the OFIA has a very engaged and passionate team in place, and has full confidence in Dunn. “I am confident that the strong, effective advocacy that OFIA has been known for is going to continue without even a hiccup. We’re going to continue to make sure that forestry is top of mind with the provincial and federal governments, and that the measures we need to keep people working will be in place.” Dunn will be keeping a close eye on the numbers in the final weeks of 2020 before he moves into his new role. “I think Ontario is in a good position,” he said. “I think prices that we’re seeing for some commodity products, certainly dimensional lumber, which have increased pretty substantially over the last couple of months, it will be interesting to see how sustainable those prices are, or if they're more of a blip on the radar.” So what’s next for Lim? Well, for starters, she said she would like “a well-deserved rest” but also, more family time. “I want to exhale. My three children work in the medical sector and they’re all in hospitals, so I really haven't been able to spend any time with them over the last nine months. So my priority is going to be my family. “We’re a really close family and we’re used to being together all the time.” She is looking forward to the next chapter of her life. “People that work with me and know me well, know that I am so passionate about two things: That’s my family and Northern Ontario.” Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
LOS ANGELES — The Weeknd angrily slammed the Grammy Awards, calling them “corrupt” after the pop star walked away with zero nominations despite having multiple hits this year.The three-time Grammy winner criticized the Recording Academy on Tuesday after he was severely snubbed despite having one of the year’s biggest albums with “After Hours” and being tapped as the Super Bowl halftime headline performer. He also topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless.”“The Grammys remain corrupt,” the singer said on Twitter. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”The harsh words come less than a year after the Recording Academy's ousted CEO accused the group that determines nominations in the top categories of having conflicts of interest and not engaging in a transparent selection process.Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s interim president and CEO, spoke earlier about whether he was surprised the Weeknd didn’t earn a single nomination. He said it’s hard to predict the voters’ decisions.“You know, there’s so many nominations and there’s only so many slots, it’s really tough to predict what the voters are going to vote for in any given year,” he told The Associated Press. “I try not to be too surprised.”After the Weeknd called out the academy, Mason Jr. released a statement explaining some that “unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”“We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling,” Mason Jr. said.The Weeknd was shut out from being a Grammy nominee along with Luke Combs, who set records on streaming services and dominated the country charts. Morgan Wallen also had a successful year in country music, but he came away empty.A group of young R&B female acts moving the needle also missed out on nominations, including Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor and Kehlani. Late rapper Juice WRLD, Brandy and Chris Brown were also snubbed.Justin Bieber earned four nominations, but the singer also criticized the Grammys decision-making as well. He said music from his fifth studio album “Changes” was wrongly viewed as a pop album, rather than an R&B project.Bieber gave thanks saying he was “flattered” for being acknowledged but thought being left out of the R&B category was a mistake.“I set out to make an R&B album,” he wrote on Instagram. “’Changes’ was and is an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album, which is very strange to me.”Bieber was nominated in the categories for best pop solo performance, best pop duo/group performance, best pop vocal album and best country duo/group performance.The singer said he loves pop music, but he wants to be respected for his work.“I grew up admiring R&B music and wished to make a project that would embody that sound,” he said. “For this not to be put into that category feels weird, considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style, all the way down to the hip-hop drums that were chosen, it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!”Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press
EDMONTON — The Alberta government announced Tuesday new restrictions to battle record-high rates of COVID-19 infections in the province. In addition to declaring a public health emergency, the government ordered the following for the next three weeks:— No indoor social gatherings. Funerals and weddings are limited to 10 people, as are outdoor gatherings. Churches are restricted to one-third normal attendance.— Restaurants and bars can remain open. But a maximum of six people from the same household can sit at a table and there must be no movement between tables. People who live alone can meet with two people.\-- Retail stores can remain open at 25 per cent capacity. — At-home learning for students in Grades 7 through 12 starting Monday. Other students are to do their schooling from home starting Dec. 18 before winter break. All students are to resume at-home learning after the break and can return to school Jan . 11.\-- Casinos can remain open at 25 per cent capacity with slot machines only.— The closure of banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, concert venues, community centres, and indoor play places.— A halt on all levels of sport, although exemptions may be considered.— Mandatory masks for indoor workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and surroundings areas.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.The Canadian Press
Ottawa is taking the first steps toward creating a national flood insurance program for high-risk residential properties. The federal government this week announced the creation of an interdisciplinary task force on flood insurance and relocation that will begin work in January, considering what form a national low-cost insurance program would take. It will be comprised of representatives from all three levels of government, as well as members from the insurance industry. The task force will work alongside a steering committee that will consider the needs of Indigenous communities and how the needs of people living on reserves might differ. “Flooding in Canada has devastating effects for thousands of Canadians each year. Our government is making investments to reduce the impact of climate-related disasters to foster a more resilient Canada,” Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said. Overland flood insurance is excluded by most home insurance plans in Canada, and when it is offered, it is often expensive. Increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as flooding, comes along with a changing climate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a national flood insurance program as part of the Liberals’ climate strategy in the 2019 election campaign. The Insurance Bureau of Canada — an industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers — has been calling for years on the federal government to create a national flood program. “More Canadians are exposed to flooding than to any other climate-related peril. Through this task force, insurers will work with governments across the country to ensure every Canadian has access to affordable flood insurance,” said Don Forgeron, IBC president and chief executive officer. The insurance industry is feeling the weight of mounting claims. In 2018, “insured catastrophic losses” were pegged at $2 billion — 60 per cent higher than in 2017. “But unlike the 1998 Quebec ice storm, the 2013 Calgary floods or the 2016 Fort McMurray, Alta. wildfire, no single event in 2018 caused the high amount paid out for losses. Instead, Canadians and their insurers experienced significant losses from a host of smaller severe weather events from coast to coast to coast,” the 2019 industry report reads. The IBC estimates 10 per cent of Canada’s 10.9 million homes are at high risk for flooding. The association has also called on provincial and municipal governments to immediately amend bylaws and land-use planning that allows for people to construct new buildings on flood plains. The task force will report its findings in spring 2022.Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Another senior in the town of Grand Bank has tested positive for COVID-19. That makes five people over the age of 70 who have been infected with the coronavirus in the past week, three of them tenants at a seniors' complex called Blue Crest Cottages. The new case, a woman, is not one of the tenants. In total, seven people in the community have tested positive, including a rotational worker. Newfoundland and Labrador registered another case on Tuesday, a woman in her 60s who is a close contact of a previous case unrelated to the Grand Bank cluster. With one new recovery from the disease, there are now a total of 24 active cases in the province. No one is in hospital. There are no new cases in Deer Lake, where a cluster of six positive cases, including an elementary student, has caused the school and much of the community to shut down as a precaution. Meanwhile, the Department of Health advised Tuesday that rotational workers who have returned from the LNG Canada project site in Kitimat, B.C., in the last 14 days will have to self-isolate for 14 days and stay physically distant from household members because of an outbreak there. They should also call 811 to arrange a COVID-19 test. Normally, rotational workers returning from within Canada can get tested on Day 7 and leave isolation if it’s negative, with some provisos. They are not allowed to enter long-term or personal care homes. The province is suspending its participation in the Atlantic bubble as of today at noon. That means anyone arriving in the province from the Maritimes must complete a full 14-day isolation, although a travel exemption is not required as it is for other parts of Canada. The province has strongly advised against non-essential travel due to a growing second wave of COVID-19 across the country. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s former treasury and foreign relations secretary, Luis Videgaray, angrily denied accusations Tuesday by a lawyer for another former Cabinet secretary who claimed he used embezzled government money to help finance election campaigns. The accusations by a lawyer for ex-social development secretary Rosario Robles mark the second time that former top officials have lodged such accusations against Videgaray. A former head of the state-owned oil company, Emilio Lozoya, made similar accusations earlier this year. All three — Robles, Videgaray and Lozoya — worked in the 2012-2018 administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Videgaray, currently a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, is considered the political figure closest to Peña Nieto. He called the accusations “completely false.” “The mechanism of ‘I will save myself by blaming Videgaray’ has a limit, and that limit is truth and justice,” Videgaray wrote in a statement. Both Lozoya and Robles have reportedly offered to turn state's evidence and implicate Videgaray in return for favourable treatment for themselves. Robles wrote in her Twitter account Tuesday that “statements have been made that have not been agreed on with me. I have instructed my lawyers to limit themselves to the legal proceedings,” but she did confirm she had decided to be a co-operating witness. Videgaray wrote that strategy “is immoral and wrong, and does nothing to contribute to the fight against corruption led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.” López Obrador made the crusade against corruption the centerpiece of his administration upon taking office in December 2018. He has, however, said he is not personally eager to go after former presidents and has proposed submitting the question to voters in a referendum. In 2019, a judge ordered Robles to be held in jail pending trial on corruption charges. She is accused of “wrongful exercise of public service” related to the alleged diversion of up to $260 million in public funds. Robles held multiple posts in Peña Nieto’s administration. The accusations against Videgaray date to June 2014 when Robles was social development secretary. Prosecutors say she was aware of the diversion of funds but never denounced it. Robles has denied wrongdoing. Lozoya was extradited from Spain earlier this year to face money laundering charges and immediately began co-operating with authorities. Videgaray previously denied accusations by Lozoya that he engaged in bribery or illegal campaign financing. Lozoya accused Peña Nieto and Videgaray of using bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to help win the presidency and then to pass the energy sector overhaul that could greatly benefit that company and others. To that end, some opposition lawmakers were bribed for their votes, he alleges. In a statement in August, Videgaray called the accusations false, adding that "moreover, they are absurd, inconsistent and reckless.” The accusations Tuesday involved elections in 2012, 2015 and 2018. Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party denied there had been any illicit financing in those races and said mandatory electoral audits had confirmed that. The Associated Press
NEW YORK — With police brutality continuing to devastate Black families and the coronavirus ravishing Black America disproportionately, the world was driven to the significance of this year’s Juneteenth more than ever before.And Beyoncé knew she wanted to release a song on that momentous day — so she dropped “Black Parade,” an anthemic jam where she proudly sings about her heritage, hometown and returning to her African roots.Months later, the song — and others focused on protesting, police brutality and the overall Black experience — are taking centre stage at the 2021 Grammy Awards.Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” scored nominations for two of the top awards: song of the year and record of the year. The track will also compete for best R&B song and best R&B performance.“There could have been a different approach as far as releasing the record and capitalizing off of timings of other things, but we really wanted to get it out during a time where we could all remember the feeling and the energy,” Derek Dixie, a longtime collaborator of Beyoncé’s who co-wrote the song with the pop star, said in an interview with The Associated Press.“It’s not always about the money and about catching streaming numbers and things like that. Sometimes it’s just about what it is — which was making our people proud.”“Black Parade” helped Beyoncé land nine nominations, making her the overall top Grammy contender. Dixie earned three Grammy nominations for co-writing and co-producing the song.For song of the year, “Black Parade” will compete with H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” the R&B singer’s track about police brutality.Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” a protest song he created in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, scored nominations for best rap song and best rap performance. Proceeds from the song will support the Black Lives Matter movement, Breonna Taylor’s attorney, the Bail Project and the National Association of Black Journalists.Anderson .Paak also released a song on Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free — and it’s competing for two awards. “Lockdown” is nominated for best rap performance and best music video..Country singer Mickey Guyton wrote the track “Black Like Me” a year ago but released it this year because she felt it was extremely relevant. Now, it’s nominated for best country solo performance, giving the performer her first-ever Grammy nomination.“It’s been so hard in the country music community and trying to get country music to even support my music and for me to get a Grammy (nomination), it just goes to show that writing your truth is just the way to go,” Guyton told the AP on Tuesday. “And not only writing your truth, but really bringing your brothers and sisters up with you.”But Guyton admits that everyone’s response to her song wasn’t warm. It features the lyrics, “If you think we live in the land of the free/You should try to be Black like me."“I released it and I did get people that were very angry. There were even radio stations that people were like, ‘Get this (expletive) off of my radio station,’” she said. “I would get people writing me messages like, ‘Well, if you don’t like it here then leave.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, it’s just as much my country as it is yours.’”Guyton added that some “radio stations were scared to play (‘Black Like Me’) because they were (angering) their listeners because their listeners didn’t want to hear that.”“But I wasn’t writing that song for them, I was writing that song got the people that understand this exact walk that I’m walking," she continued. “It’s for them."Apart from “Black Parade,” Beyoncé also earned nominations for her film honouring Black art and Black history, “Black Is King,” as well as her ode to dark- and brown-skinned women, “Brown Skin Girl.”Dixie, who has worked as Beyoncé’s music director and has produced, engineered and arranged songs for the singer, said he’s grateful he’s working with an artist who boldly speaks about Black pride in her music.“It’s just good to see that she’s willing to put that type of energy out and not necessarily be thinking about: ‘What’s going to guarantee me a No. 1? What’s going to guarantee me this?' It’s a part of our conversation, it’s a part of the process, but when it’s necessary to put that art out there, to put that energy out there, she’s usually ... leading the pack in that regard,” Dixie said. “So I’m grateful to be associated with her on that path.”Guyton added that it’s comforting to see some many Black musicians reflect the current times in their music, and she’s grateful to the Grammys for acknowledging those kinds of songs.“It’s so important because so often Black people, and Black women especially, are getting overlooked and constantly get overlooked and you’re constantly just trying to get people to remember that you’re there,” she said. “It feels like we’re seen and I don’t think we’ve always felt seen.”“I use this scenario of going into any grocery store — if you go to any grocery store ... and you look for hair products for someone who is ethnic and ... you see an entire aisle full of every and any hair product you can possibly think for someone that is not Black. But whenever it comes to finding hair products for a Black person, we’re designated a shelf. And today, it doesn't feel like we’re designated a shelf.”The 2021 Grammy Awards will air live on Jan. 31.Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's system for paying unemployment benefits is so dysfunctional that the state approved more than $140 million for at least 20,000 prisoners, local and federal prosecutors said Tuesday, detailing a scheme that resulted in claims filed in the names of well-known convicted murderers like Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.From March to August, more than 35,000 inmates were named in claims filed with the California Employment Development Department, with more than 20,000 being paid, according to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. At least 158 claims were filed for 133 death-row inmates, resulting in more than $420,000 in benefits paid“It involves rapists and child molesters, human traffickers and other violent criminals in our state prisons,” Schubert said.The list includes Peterson, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing his pregnant wife following a trial that riveted the nation. The California Supreme Court recently overturned Peterson’s death sentence and has ordered a lower court to review his murder conviction.Schubert confirmed there was a claim made in the name of Scott Peterson, but declined to provide further details.Peterson's attorney, Pat Harris, said while Peterson's name surfaced during the investigation, there is no evidence Peterson received unemployment aid from the state.“This investigation, when it's completed, will show that he had not a thing to do with any kind of scheme to get fraudulent benefits,” Harris said.Schubert listed a number of inmates there who had claims filed in their names, including Stayner, convicted of killing four people in or near Yosemite National Park in 1999; Susan Eubanks, a San Diego woman convicted of shooting her four sons to death in 1997; Isauro Aguirre, who was sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in Los Angeles; and Wesley Shermantine, part of the duo dubbed the “Speed Freak Killers” for their meth-induced killing rampage in the 1980s and ’90s.Prosecutors said they learned of the scheme from listening in on recorded prison phone calls, where inmates would talk about how easy it was for everyone to get paid. They said the scheme always involved someone on the outside — usually friends or family members of the inmates, who would then receive the benefits.In Kern County, home to five state prisons, one address was used to receive benefits for 16 inmates.“In my nearly four decades as a prosecutor in this state, I have never seen fraud of this magnitude,” Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said.In some cases, inmates used their real names. In others, they used fake names and even fake Social Security numbers. In one instance, an inmate used the name: “poopy britches," Schubert said.“Quite frankly, the inmates are mocking us,” Schubert said.So far, 22 people have been charged in San Mateo County, including six people who were not in prison. Prosecutors said dozens of other investigations across the state are continuing.Prosecutors blamed the Employment Development Department, which has been overwhelmed by more than 16.4 million benefit claims since the pandemic began in March, resulting in a backlog that at one time totalled more than 1.6 million people.But prosecutors said in its haste to approve benefits, the department did not check unemployment claims against a list of prisoners, as many other states do. San Mateo District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said that when he notified the department about inmates fraudulently receiving benefits, they told him they could not cut off the payments until they were formally charged with a crime.The problem was so bad that on Monday, nine county district attorneys sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for him to intervene.“We face a manifest problem that requires action, not talk,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.Employment Development Department spokeswoman Loree Levy said the agency has been working with the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General on cross-checking claims with inmates, saying they are “pursuing how to integrate such cross-matches moving forward as part of enhanced prevention efforts during this unprecedented time of pandemic-related unemployment fraud across the country.”In an email to the AP, Newsom called the fraud “absolutely unacceptable.” He said he first learned of the fraud earlier this year, which prompted him to order the department to “review its practices and take immediate actions to prevent fraud and to hold people accountable.”Newsom said he has ordered the Office of Emergency Services to set up a task force to assist prosecutors with their investigation.“While we have made improvements, we need to do more,” Newsom said.___This story has been corrected to say that Cary Stayner killed four people in or near Yosemite National Park; to show 20,000 of 35,000 claims were paid; and to accurately spell the last name of convicted killer Wesley Shermantine.Adam Beam, The Associated Press
Some snowbirds in Peterborough County are choosing to stay put this winter. Currently residing on Lake Kasshabog north of Havelock, Les Morris and Lois Galbraith have been heading south for the past six year. “We have gone to Florida in the past, but the last few years we’ve gone to an island in Honduras called Roatán,” Galbraith said Although they’d love to go away, the numbers in both the U.S. and Honduras are staggering, she said. “I can’t believe people are actually going to go away in this,” Galbraith said. As for Honduras, Morris noted it’s a Third World country and while the island is modern with many activities for tourists, it’s not really equipped to handle the COVID-19 virus. “Our contacts down there say that they’re not even paying much attention; they’re still having big parties and not wearing masks and there’s lots of COVID cases. I’m 88 and Lois has a bit of a chest problem, she has a puffer, and we just can’t take the chance,” Morris said. She said even if they could, they wouldn’t go to the U.S. anyway. “They’re crazy. They’re paying no attention to anything. Maybe when Biden takes over, things will change,” he said. Norwood resident Bonnie Davidson said she and her husband normally flock south for a month during the wintertime, but decided it would be better to stay home this year. “I mean, we’re both in our 70s and my husband, his mother is also with us and she’s 102, and so we just decided it’s better to stay home for a lot of reasons,” she said. “We have no cases in Norwood and we’ve only ever had two in nine months, so we’re safe here.” Linda Black, a Buckhorn resident who has gone to Estero, Fla. for five months during the winter season for the past seven years with her husband, said they’ve decided to stay in Canada this year for two reasons. “The atmosphere is not good anymore, with Trump and the election and everything being divided. And who wants to go where everybody’s sick. It costs too much for us to get sick down there. Your insurance only covers so much,” she said. Morris said he and Galbraith have heard that a lot of people are turning their cottages into winter homes so they can stay. Asphodel-Norwood Mayor Rodger Bonneau said he has several friends that are snowbirds who are doing this. “I’ve actually had to run out and do some work on some of furnaces for them just to make sure they can actually stay home now. We are going to see an impact, but a lot of the residents are the people that stay here all summer long and are Canadian citizens anyways,” Bonneau said. However, Black said she knows a couple of people from Buckhorn that are still heading south. “They’re flying down and then they’re going to rent a car because they’re one of these trailer people that have really nowhere to live in the wintertime, so it makes it difficult for them,” she said. Black said she believes a lot of snowbirds don’t want to go south this year because of the health and safety of themselves and others. “Our community that we go to in Florida has a mixture of people both young and old, so you don’t want to go down there and catch something from them, or give something to them, because you can also be asymptomatic. Especially some of the older people there. They just couldn’t handle it,” she said. Because where they live is so isolated, Morris and Galbraith said it’s good COVID-wise, but not good in an emergency with the winter weather on its way. “It’s a bit of a worry, but we’ll survive it,” Galbraith said. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgMarissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
Saint-Jerôme Hospital in Quebec was overloaded before COVID-19. Since the pandemic began hundreds of patients have caught the virus at the hospital, dozens have died. And doctors are worried about what will happen if hospitalizations in the province continue to increase.
Adamson Barbecue based in Etobicoke, just west of Toronto, was allowed to have guests dine-in on Tuesday afternoon despite being in violation of provincial and municipal bylaws.
Debbie Forward looked back at 24 years at the helm of the Registered Nurses Union of Newfoundland and Labrador Tuesday in a tenure punctuated by a strike in 1999 that got them banned from the lobby of the Confederation Building and a showdown in 2009 with then premier Danny Williams. Forward, who started nursing 40 years ago, gave her last address to the biennial convention at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s before stepping down next month. “I’ll never forget 1999, having rallies on the steps of Confederation Building, not knowing if our members would show up,” she said, recounting their fight with then premier Brian Tobin. “Well, we didn’t have to worry about that, because they came out in the hundreds.” She recalled how members rallied in the lobby of the legislature, banging their picket signs on the floor until someone complained they were chipping the marble. Protests were banned from the building after that. “That was unity and solidarity like I had never seen or experienced before,” she said. During the showdown with Williams in 2009, Forward said, the premier insisted his sources said most nurses would be happy with a deal on the table. The union put it to a vote. Sixty-four per cent rejected it. Forward said her numbers predicted 66 per cent would. The dispute was finally settled in negotiation. Forward highlighted some of her primary goals as president, including a long battle to increase staffing levels and end the cycle of overtime and sick leave that has characterized the profession for many years. She said nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador currently punch in 250,000 hours of overtime a year. Overtime and sick leave, she said, cost the province an extra $45 million annually. “Research shows more RNs, staffed properly and working in healthy environments, will improve our health-care system and save the province money,” she said. Forward said she is pleased Health Minister Dr. John Haggie has committed to breaking that cycle, and only regrets she won’t be around to see the results. She said the fact incoming president Yvette Coffey will play a role in the province’s 10-year Health Accord Task Force speaks volumes about that commitment. “I am confident that Yvette will be a strong, powerful voice for our union. Having a seat at that table will ensure that we are not on the menu.” After her speech, Forward said she has three main things in mind for her retirement: “Relaxation, relaxation, relaxation.” She said she’s looking forward to spending more time with family, including her granddaughter, but admits travel is out of the question for now. Asked if she misses nursing as such, Forward said she never left. “I believe I’m still nursing, I’m just nursing in a different role,” she said. “I miss connections with patients and those conversations and being on the front line. “My connection with my members and my conversations with them on what’s happening on the front line has really helped keep me grounded in the realities of the system.” Before Forward’s address, the minister made a virtual appearance to offer his thoughts and answer some questions from members. Haggie also had a few flattering words for the outgoing president, saying she has laid the groundwork for a new approach to nursing. “Your successors will go further because they’re stood on your shoulders, so I wouldn’t worry about not having been able to finish this particular piece. It will be done.”Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
In September, as the pandemic summer began to wane, school children across Ontario found themselves back in the classroom for the first time since March. For Jason Bradshaw, a science teacher with the Peel District School Board (PDSB), the occasion meant dusting off and booting up his laptop. He was one of many assigned to teach online, as PDSB staffed an entire digital school operating in parallel to in-person education. It gave students the option to learn from the safety of their homes. The system wasn’t perfect, but was generally considered to be an improvement from what was scraped together in March. Students (and teachers) who wanted to work online had an option, as did those who prefered the classroom. But the compromise wasn’t to last. Since the end of August, the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario has trended rapidly toward the top of case charts at increasing speed. In Peel Region, and especially in Brampton, the pace has accelerated faster than anywhere else in Ontario and the virus has spread out of control. In mid-October, students were offered a chance to reassess. Would they prefer to learn online or from home? The answer was overwhelming. The proportion of students opting to learn from home was so great that the model of online and in-person schools was no longer viable. Both PDSB and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) switched to a hybrid model for high school students that sees teachers juggling in-class and virtual class at the same time. “The way I describe it: it’s similar to what I was doing when I was teaching online, but with a live studio audience,” Bradshaw told The Pointer. “I still have the computer in front of me, I can see my online students, I can interact with them. But I’m doing this all with some number of in-person students in front of me who I also have to engage and respond to as well.” To try his best to maximize the learning experience for his students, Bradshaw has created a mission control cobbled together from board computers and his own devices. His system involves using a Chromebook to broadcast his lessons to students at home, a personal laptop is at the heart of the operation, a desktop links his online presentation to the class projector and an iPad helps to monitor the online chatbox. “People are right to consider the accessibility for students, they should always be our primary focus … but in doing so, people forget this is not what any teacher has ever really trained for,” he added. “The way the system is working right now is leveraging the fact teachers are going to fill in the gaps and give a little extra to make it work [including providing their own devices]. That’s an expectation I don’t think is really fair for myself or my colleagues.” Bradshaw says the majority of his students are tuning in online. It’s not uncommon, he says, to have five students in front of his desk and a further 25 learning online. At PDSB, 57 percent of elementary school students are learning online and 43 percent in person. At the secondary school level, 45.1 percent are only online, while 54 percent are taking part using an “adaptive” model. It seems the steeply rising COVID-19 case count in schools has convinced many students and families they’re better off learning at home. Data taken from dashboards maintained by the two main school boards at 12 p.m. on November 23 show 40 percent (or 163) schools in Peel had at least one active case of COVID-19. Of that figure, 56 DPCDSB schools were reporting a total of 130 cases, while 196 infections were spread out between 107 PDSB schools. In the face of these figures, and startling rates of community transmission, Peel entered a 28-day lockdown on Monday. Between September and November 15, there were 14 outbreaks of COVID-19 at Peel schools. An outbreak is defined as two or more cases in school where an epidemiological link can be found to suggest transmission took place in the classroom. Five additional outbreaks have been reported since November 15, including the recent brief closure of DPCDSB’s Holy Spirit School. Data from Peel Public Health says 64 percent of elementary staff or students involved in nine outbreaks were asymptomatic. Despite the spread of cases in some schools and lockdown measures, DPCDSB teachers are still required to report to the classroom. Even those teaching courses entirely online are being told to do so from school property. Measures introduced by Peel’s medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh on November 8 told employers to give their staff the option to work from home if possible. While this is difficult for many, those continuing to work in DPCDSB’s entirely online elementary school could possibly have done so. Yet, even in the face of closures, wide infection spread and warnings from Peel’s top public health doctor, DPCDSB has told its staff that to teach online they must be in a classroom. “DPCDSB educators teaching students in remote-only learning mode will continue to do so from DPCDSB schools,” Bruce Campbell, general manager, communications and community relations, told The Pointer on November 10. The statement was reconfirmed on November 23. “As schools remain open and with no direction to close schools and implement 100 percent remote operations such as was the case during the initial closure period, DPCDSB educators will continue to be based in our schools.” Asked for comment, Loh said the final decision lies with the board. “I have instructed owners/operators (in this case, the school board) to permit work from home wherever possible,” he said in an email. “It is up to them to decide what is possible.” As Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce repeat that “the safest place for kids is in the schools, not in the community,” it is teachers who are stretched to keep students there. Not only are some now teaching from empty classrooms instead of their homes, others are learning to juggle two jobs at once to offer the best option to students. “I don’t want to be too blunt, but I don’t think it’s a model that is giving either group of students the best possible experience,” Bradshaw added. “Your attention is being split; teaching online and teaching in person are two very different things… it almost feels like you’re doing the job of two teachers at the same time.” 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
Gone are the days of — at least, temporarily — the hallways at Hampstead School smelling of scrambled eggs in the morning. Owing to new public health restrictions, the thrice-weekly hot breakfast program at the Winnipeg school has been replaced by morning meal packs given out by teacher volunteers who wear masks and gloves. “Now, it’s dry cereal and some apple slices. It’s not anything glamorous, but everyone’s eating — and that’s how I know there’s a need,” said Katie Patteson, who oversees the alternating-day breakfast and snack programs at the K-Grade 5 school in East Elmwood. Breakfast, lunch and snack programs have had to adjust their menus for 2020-21 owing to COVID-19 precautions that have restricted visitors from entering schools and altered food-handling procedures. Instead of serving sit-down spreads prepared by volunteers from local churches, Hampstead hands out jam sandwiches on whole wheat bread, granola bars, muffins, cheese strings, and yogurt, among other items. If not pre-packaged, the food has to be individually wrapped and distributed to students in individual lunch bags stored in buckets the school purchased for classrooms this year. The inability to lean on student and community volunteers to prepare fresh meals, as well as a spike in COVID-19-related costs, have proven to be huge challenges for healthy meal programs, said Clara Birnie, a program dietitian with the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba. At Hampstead, the administration estimates new costs will result in the school’s program costs “at least” doubling from the $2,500 price tag in 2019-20. That is, in part, because of increased demand. Forty-five students participated in the early breakfast at Hampstead last year. In late September, the number of students accessing it more than doubled to 106 — although, the figure has since dropped to 75 because many families have switched to remote instruction in recent weeks. Patteson’s best guess for the spike is a combination of the ability of students to participate during regular school hours, instead of only before school for a sit-down meal, and the financial impact COVID-19 has had on families. The council is a key funder for nearly 300 schools, including Hampstead, in the province. The council, which is staffed by three dietitians who work with schools, funds food programs that feed approximately 34,000 students every year. “This year is the first year, in the history of the council, that we haven’t been able to provide grants to new applicants,” Birnie said, adding the pandemic has put breakfast programs into the spotlight and had underscored their value. The council applied for additional provincial funding in the summer, but chairwoman Wendy Bloomfield said she has yet to receive a response. “We’re hoping that they see the need as getting desperate,” said Bloomfield, a school trustee in Seine River, noting funding has remained stagnant since 2014. Private donors, food banks and the Manitoba Association of Parent Councils have contributed to programs to keep them going this fall; a combination of support is what Patteson said is helping Hampstead feed students and keeping them focused on learning. “We’re going to get through this,” she added. “We’ve bobbed and weaved through COVID as we’ve needed to and we’ve provided breakfast in a safe way.”Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
A Toronto taxi company says the city should use its own vehicles to transport people with probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 because relying on cabs puts drivers at risk.Kristine Hubbard, the operations manager for Beck Taxi Limited, said the company has received several calls from the city to pick up people who may be or who are infected with the novel coronavirus and take them to and from assessment centres, shelters and isolation centres. Hubbard said if the city wants taxi drivers to transport probable or positive COVID-19 patients, then it could hire those drivers, install plastic shields in their vehicles, dedicate them to that specific work to avoid picking up general fares, and cover them if they are forced to go into quarantine."Taxi drivers are vulnerable people as it is. They're doing their best to keep safe. But that's a risk they just shouldn't be asked to take and frankly they're just not willing to take," Hubbard told CBC Toronto on Tuesday."This is kind of a city issue. They have giant vehicles, whether it's TTC buses that aren't in operation, or Wheel-Trans buses. We know that Wheel-Trans is not being used at its full capacity," Hubbard said. "These are vehicles operated also by people who are hired by the city, vehicles that are larger and that provide them with more protection." .Hubbard said she consulted with taxi drivers about the city's request and they have told her that they are not interested in providing the service."I got a resounding response of: 'Please don't.' They have families at home. And they are worried about their own health. And they are certainly worried about the health of the people who are taking our safe, reliable service right now."Since the start of the pandemic, Beck Taxi has been approached by the city to transport probable and positive COVID-19 patients, she said. She said it would be "irresponsible" of her to suggest the company commit taxi drivers to providing such a service that would increase their risk.Jafar Mirsalari, a taxi driver for Beck, said there are other vehicles available to transport people who may be infected with COVID-19."When people call 911 now, the ambulance people, they show up, fully equipped and fully covered," said Mirsalari, who has worked as a taxi driver in Toronto since 1988."Now I heard that the city wants us, knowingly, to take the risk without any protection. I don't know if they want us to do the essential work, but who wants to be responsibility for my loss —not only for my business, but for my health?" he said."It's not our job."Mirsalari said he doesn't want to jeopardize the health of his wife and children.Taxis asked to transport patients after hours, TPH says Sonya Bourgeois, associate director of strategy and preventive health for Toronto Public Health (TPH), said the public health unit has formed a partnership with the city's shelter, support and housing administration division to provide transportation for people who are going to the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre."Transportation is provided through the City's own fleet of vehicles and/or contracted providers and City staff," Bourgeois said in an email on Tuesday."During after hours, TPH has been working with taxi companies to provide transportation for individuals to access the Toronto Voluntary Isolation Centre. In these cases, TPH discloses that the individual may or may not have COVID-19, and the driver may opt out of providing transportation if they do not feel safe to do so," she said.As for Beck Taxi drivers, the company says about 10 have tested positive for COVID-19 but it doesn't know if the drivers caught the virus from passengers.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government says American duties on Canadian softwood lumber exports continue to be "unfair" and "unjustified," even if they have been reduced. An administrative review by the U.S. Department of Commerce imposes countervailing duties of nearly nine per cent on certain Canadian exporters, down from just over 20 per cent. It's the latest salvo in one of the most persistent trade irritants between Canada and the United States, a dispute that has been raging for nearly 40 years. The lower rate appears to be the result of a World Trade Organization decision in August that found Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission were wrong to impose the original duties in 2017. International Trade Minister Mary Ng acknowledged the lower tariffs as a step in the right direction, but insisted they remain baseless and unfair. Ng says the government will continue to seek a negotiated settlement and defend the interests of Canadian forestry companies and workers."While reduction in tariffs for some Canadian producers is a step in the right direction, Canada is disappointed that the United States continues to impose unwarranted and unfair duties on Canadian softwood lumber," she said in a statement Tuesday evening."These duties have caused unjustified harm to Canadian businesses and workers, as well as U.S. consumers."U.S. producers have long taken issue with Canada's system of provincially regulated stumpage fees, which are paid to the Crown in exchange for the right to harvest timber. They say the system unfairly subsidizes an industry which in the U.S. is privately owned and operated, with pricing set by the competitive marketplace.Canadian lumber exports play a critical role in the U.S., where demand for wood products used in construction significantly outstrips the domestic supply.The U.S. Lumber Coalition, a champion of countervailing duties against Canada, noted in a statement that the August decision by the WTO is being appealed — although the U.S. has effectively hamstrung the world body's dispute resolution panel by refusing to appoint new members. "It is absolutely imperative that these flawed WTO recommendations are not allowed to undermine in any way the continued enforcement of the trade laws," executive director Zoltan van Heyningen said in a statement. "The WTO case is far from over, and as such, it must not be allowed to influence the ongoing process and the results of the second administrative review."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.The Canadian Press