COVID-19 numbers for Alberta, reported on February 6:
Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
COVID-19 numbers for Alberta, reported on February 6:
Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
WASHINGTON — House Democrats passed the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide, avoiding a potential clash with moderates in their own party who were wary of reigniting the “defund the police” debate they say hurt them during last fall's election. Approved 220-212 late Wednesday, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is named for the man whose killing by police in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked demonstrations nationwide. It would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement while creating national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability, and was first approved last summer only to stall in the then-Republican controlled Senate. The bill is supported by President Joe Biden. “My city is not an outlier, but rather an example of the inequalities our country has struggled with for centuries,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who represents the Minneapolis area near where Floyd died. Floyd’s family watched the emotional debate from a nearby House office building and said “defunding the police” is not what the legislation is about. “We just want to be treated equal. We just want to deescalate situations,” said Brandon Williams, Floyd’s nephew. “We want to feel safe when we encounter law enforcement. We’re not asking for anything extra. We’re not asking for anything that we don’t feel is right.” Democrats hustled to pass the bill a second time, hoping to combat police brutality and institutional racism after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans following interactions with law enforcement — images of which were sometimes jarringly captured on video. But the debate over legislation turned into a political liability for Democrats as Republicans seized on calls by some activists and progressives to “defund the police” to argue that supporters were intent on slashing police force budgets. Though this bill doesn't do that, moderate Democrats said the charge helped drive Democratic defeats in swing districts around the country last November. “No one ran on ‘defund the police,’ but all you have to do is make that a political weapon,” said Teas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar. Republicans quickly revived the “defund the police” criticisms before the vote. “Our law enforcement officers need more funding not less,” Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis. Still, even the House’s more centrist lawmakers, some representing more conservative districts, ultimately backed the bill. “Black Americans have endured generations of systemic racism and discrimination for too long, and this has been painfully evident in their treatment by law enforcement,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, who chairs the moderate New Democrat Coalition. That endorsement came despite the bill’s prohibitions on so-called qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement from certain lawsuits and is one of the main provisions that will likely need to be negotiated in any compromise with the Senate. Another possible point of contention is provisions easing standards for prosecution of law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing. Police unions and other law enforcement groups have argued that, without legal protections, fear of lawsuits will stop people from becoming police officers — even though the measure permits suits only against law enforcement agencies, rather than all public employees. California Rep. Karen Bass, who authored the bill, understands the challenge some House members face in supporting it. “My colleagues, several of them, I do not make light of the difficulty they had getting reelected because of the lie around defunding the police,” Bass said. She called provisions limiting qualified immunity as well as those changing standards for prosecution “the only measures that hold police accountable — that will actually decrease the number of times we have to see people killed on videotape.” Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci released a statement on behalf of the Floyd family saying the House was “responding to the mandate issued by thousands of Americans who took to the streets last summer to raise their voices for change.” “This represents a major step forward to reform the relationship between police officers and communities of colour and impose accountability on law enforcement officers whose conscious decisions preserve the life or cause the death of Americans, including so many people of colour,” Crump and Romanucci said. “Now we urge the Senate to follow suit.” That may be a taller order. Even though Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, it seems unlikely the bill could pass the Senate without substantial changes to win GOP support. Bass acknowledged the challenges Democrats faced last November — and may likely see again — when former President Donald Trump's reelection campaign and other leading Republicans crowded the airwaves with images of cities around the country burning. But she said those attacks, like much of the opposition to the bill, are built on racism, promoting fears about how “the scary Black people are going to attack you if you try to rein in the police.” “That's as old as apple pie in our history,” she said. “So do you not act because of that?” Still, Bass conceded that changes are likely to come if the measure is to win the minimum 60 votes it will need to advance in the Senate, which is now split 50-50. She said she'd been in contact with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, and was confident he would help deliver some GOP support. Scott said this week that the legislation's sticking points were qualified immunity and prosecutorial standards and that in both areas, “We have to protect individual officers.” “That's a red line for me,” Scott said, adding, “Hopefully we'll come up with something that actually works.” ___ Lisa Mascaro contributed. Will Weissert And Padmananda Rama, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to first responders and essential workers, but it still needs to be determined which industries will be included. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the first shipments of the recently approved vaccine are expected in the province next week and the B.C. Immunization Committee is developing a detailed plan of who should be immunized and when. She says she expects the plan will be finalized around March 18, and in the meantime, the initial supply will be used to address ongoing outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing case numbers in some communities. Henry also apologized to long-term care residents and health-care workers whose second dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was suddenly postponed this week after B.C. decided to extend the gap between first and second shots to four months. She says the decision was not taken lightly, but it did need to be made quite rapidly because the province was approaching a time when tens of thousands of second doses were scheduled to be given. Henry reported 564 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 1,376, and she also says two of those who died had variants of concern. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Ontario Police College has seen more than 90 positive cases of COVID-19 in a week since an outbreak was reported, the region's medical officer of health said. Last week, the college in Aylmer, Ont., halted all in-person learning for 14 days, in an effort to curb any further spread of COVID-19 at the institution. It also required all of its recruits who test positive to remain at the college to self-isolate. On Thursday, the outbreak had reached a total of 93 active COVID-19 cases. Dr. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Southwestern Public Health (SWPH), said while the number of cases is not alarming, it is a clear example of just how fast the coronavirus can spread through congregate settings. "This is a clear case of how easy the virus — and this is not even the variant, this is the routine virus — can spread when people live together," Lock told CBC News on Thursday. Lock said there is no concern regarding possible coronavirus variants among the cases at this time, as it would have likely come up in testing within the past week as cases emerged. "If it had been a variant of concern, we would've known by now," Lock said. "We expected the numbers to go up, and they still may go up higher." On Thursday, SWPH reported 83 new cases of COVID-19, with 66 logged in Aylmer. The number was a major spike in cases compared to last week when Aylmer reported no new cases of COVID-19. Lock noted that some cases have not yet appeared on the SWPH dashboard as some recruits may have returned to their own jurisdiction. She also noted that due to an outage on Wednesday, Aylmer's figure might not yet accurately reflect the outbreak. CBC News has reached out to the Office of the Solicitor General for comment on Thursday but has not received a response. Lock said given the number of students attending the college, the region had expected to see a rise in positive cases, which is why they conducted testing as quickly as possible. More than 700 people were tested for COVID-19 over two days when the outbreak was reported on Feb. 22, Lock told CBC News. The police college, which trains more than 400 recruits, has implemented a number of safety measures during the pandemic to curb further spread of the virus. The measures include mandatory screening, on-site testing, personal protective equipment as well as implementing isolation whenever necessary. "We knew that there was a significant risk that despite all the good effort put in into infection prevention," Lock said. "There was a high risk of spread once we got a virus into that organization." All staff and recruits were tested for COVID-19 as of Feb. 25, according to the ministry. Lock said most of those who have tested positive have mild illness, while many are asymptomatic.
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Friday: SPAIN Valencia hosts Villarreal in a regional derby amid speculation about the possible sale of the struggling club. Villarreal coach Unai Emery once had Valencia regularly in the top four of the Spanish league when he managed the side almost a decade ago. But owner Peter Lim sold off the team’s top talent last summer, and now there are rumours he could be listening to offers for a buyer. Emery’s Villarreal is in seventh place and with hopes of securing a Europa League berth despite a poor run of seven consecutive rounds without a victory. In 14th place, Valencia’s main concern is staying out of the relegation battle. GERMANY Schalke's fifth coach this season takes charge of the struggling former title contender in a game which is vital to avoiding relegation. Dimitrios Grammozis has never coached in a top-division game before as last-place Schalke faces Mainz, the team one place above. Schalke is already nine points from safety with one league win all season and crushing debt. It fired coach Christian Gross after last week's 5-1 loss to Stuttgart before appointing Grammozis. Mainz has two wins from its last four Bundesliga games and can escape the relegation zone with a win, overtaking Arminia Bielefeld and big-spending Hertha Berlin. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Canada's premiers are demanding that Ottawa immediately give them an extra $28 billion for health care this year, with a promise of at least a five-per-cent hike in the annual transfer payment each year thereafter.
Brent Braaten of Halifax is now in possession of a taxidermic three-headed duckling and he has no idea why. It arrived in the mail last week in an unassuming cardboard box that sat on his table unopened for hours because he figured it was a Pilates ball he'd ordered online. It wasn't. "I tore away at the plastic and packaging and then one of the duckling's faces emerged and I immediately sort of jumped back," he told CBC Radio's Mainstreet. "When I gained the courage to go back to the box and dig a little bit further, I noticed it wasn't just one head, but there were three duckling faces staring back at me." The package is addressed to Braaten with a return address in China, so he's certain the duck delivery wasn't a mail mix-up. "They were definitely intended for me, but I certainly did not order these ducklings," he said. To be sure Braaten didn't accidentally make the order on eBay after a night of drinking — something he admits has happened on occasion — he checked his bank statements. He can find no evidence that he sought out the strange item himself. How to care for a 3-headed duckling The three-headed duckling comes with a set of instructions. Instruction No. 1: Let your new arrival sit out in the sun or in the air for 48 hours after opening the package. "I guess sort of the same way as you'd want to off-gas a new mattress, that's the way I saw it anyway," Braaten chuckled. "The second instruction was to — this is something that I found kind of strange — it asked me to use a regular hair blow-dryer 'to fluffy' the duck's feathers." Braaten wrote on Facebook about "becoming a three-headed duckfather" and posted a video where he dutifully follows the instructions. He said a quick search online revealed a taxidermic duckling can cost between $80-$200 US. "This is an expensive artifact," he said. "I can't imagine a company … sending away all these ducklings when they're quite valuable." Email offers a clue, but no answers The only clue contained in the package is an email address. Braaten sent a message to the address but didn't receive many answers. "They didn't quite understand what I was asking. They wanted to know if I wanted to buy something, and so I asked for more information, but they haven't gotten back to me yet," he said. Some digging online also revealed the name on the email address matches the name of a Chinese zoologist who appears to be well-known for his work preserving larger animals like elephants and giraffes. "I really hope that I do find out who sent it to me," Braaten said. "I figure it's either a friend who really likes the idea of giving me a mystery or it's an enemy who's trying to send a cursed object to me." Braaten says his dog, Zelda, isn't a fan of the new arrival. 'She definitely doesn't trust them,' he said.(Brent Braaten) He asked his friends to come up with a name for the duckling, a question that led to a philosophical discussion about the nature of the soul, and whether a three-headed being deserves three names. One suggestion was to name it after three Disney cartoon ducks, Huey, Dewey and Louie. Braaten's personal favourites are Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards Hades in Greek mythology, or Howards the Duck, a spin on the name of the Marvel Comics character. Braaten might be confused, but he's not mad that this unusual gift landed on his doorstep. "I guess in these sort of COVID days, it's nice to have something whimsical happen to you once in a while." MORE TOP STORIES
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden tried to maintain bipartisan momentum for a new infrastructure program by meeting Thursday with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House. The meeting was about “what we’re gonna do to make sure we once again lead the world across the board on infrastructure," Biden said. “It not only creates jobs, but it makes us a helluva lot more competitive around the world if we have the best infrastructure.” Spending on infrastructure appears to be the next major priority for the Biden administration after its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package clears the Senate, likely along hardened partisan lines. The prospect of funding roads, bridges, ports, broadband and other infrastructure is a chance for Biden to rebuild his relationship with Republicans. It also allows him notch a policy achievement that evaded both the Obama and Trump administrations. Biden met Thursday with eight members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, a follow-up to a February 11 meeting with senators on infrastructure. The president laid the groundwork for an infrastructure package during last year's campaign by proposing $2 trillion in “accelerated” investments to shift to cleaner energy, build charging stations for electric vehicles, support public transit and repair roads and bridges. The plan emphasizes the importance of addressing climate change and creating unionized jobs. There is a need for infrastructure spending. The American Society of Civil Engineers on Wednesday graded the nation's infrastructure as a lacklustre “C-.” The group said $5.9 trillion must be spent over the next decade for safe and sustainable roads, bridges and airports. That recommendation is about $2.6 trillion more than what the government and private sector spend. Republicans say they want to invest in infrastructure, but they appear to disagree with Biden's focus on the environment and the possibility of financing any program with debt after the federal government has already borrowed heavily to combat the economic fallout from the pandemic. Their concern is that infrastructure would ultimately become a form of the Democratic-proposed “Green New Deal” that would move the country away from fossil fuels. Missouri Rep. Sam Graves, the ranking Republican on the transportation committee, left the Thursday meeting with a series of markers for Biden to win bipartisan backing. “First and foremost, a highway bill cannot grow into a multi-trillion dollar catch-all bill, or it will lose Republican support," Graves said in a statement. “Second, a transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill that primarily focuses on fundamental transportation needs, such as roads and bridges. Republicans won’t support another Green New Deal disguising itself as a transportation bill." Still, the committee chairman, Oregon Democrat Pete DeFazio, described the meeting with Biden as productive and refreshing after conversations with former President Donald Trump led to minimal progress on infrastructure. DeFazio said they discussed paying for the plan, but he declined to go into specifics. “The difference between talking to Joe Biden about infrastructure and what goes into it and how we’re going to get it done and Donald Trump is like, it’s just a whole different world,” DeFazio said. "It’s way better.” Josh Boak And Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
The municipality of Grey Highlands is calling in backup to assist in gathering public input for its Downtown Markdale Revisioning project. “In a pandemic world, as we know, we're all Zoomed out and tired of sitting at a computer screen. We wanted to make sure that this was a fulsome opportunity for the community to engage,” said Michele Harris, director of community and economic development for Grey Highlands. At a council meeting held on Wednesday, Grey Highlands council approved appointing The Planning Partnership as the consultants for the project. In 2018, the municipality purchased 20 Toronto Street North, a two-acre property located in downtown Markdale. Markdale is the largest settlement area in Grey Highlands with 1,200 residents. The rural community is also located near Highway 10 and Grey Road 12, which sees 9,300 daily travellers in the peak season. At the time of the purchase, the municipality declared the site would serve as “a place where cultural and market interests intermingle to catalyze the region’s economy and contribute to the revitalization of Markdale’s downtown core”. In late 2020, council moved the project forward, authorizing staff to proceed with an RFEI process that would seek out applicants to assist the municipality through the community engagement process. The RFEI also called on applicants to outline how they would create a plan to build awareness around the project; propose post-project recommendations on how to keep the community updated and provide a final report highlighting the results of the process. In early February, two submissions were recommended to proceed to the next step in the Downtown Markdale Revisioning RFEI. Fotenn and The Planning Partnership provided full RFP submissions to the municipality’s Technical Review Team in mid-February. “The committee was unanimous in my recommendation of the Planning Partnership, they're extremely experienced in this field, their firm's depth of expertise, their approaches to community engagement are going to be really interesting,” said Harris. The Technical Review Team includes three volunteer representatives from the community, as well as the CAO and Harris. During the presentation process the proponents were asked to identify their experience in understanding how zoning and planning regulations would need to be considered; the importance of the project as a catalyst for downtown revitalization; their approach to meaningful community engagement; and experience with similar projects. “This company had been using a lot of these virtual tools, in parallel with their traditional tools, prior to the pandemic,” Harris explained. “This is not new for them. They have the experience that I think really sets them apart from most of the other submissions we received.” Council approved spending $31,000 for the consulting portion of the project, which will be funded through the municipality’s working capital reserve. According to Harris, the project is expected to begin almost immediately and staff expect to deliver the final report from the consultants by the end of June. “We will be communicating out to the public what the process is and what the timelines are,” she added. “I'm really interested to see how the community embraces this.” Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Gisèle Fortaich a été la première citoyenne lavalloise à recevoir une dose du vaccin contre la COVID-19 dans le cadre de l’opération de vaccination lancée le jeudi 25 février au Quartier Laval. La dame de 86 ans jugeait qu’il était important pour elle d’aller se faire vacciner, notamment après avoir contracté le virus il y a quelques mois. «Au début, je ne pensais pas que je l’aurais attrapée, note-t-elle. Par la suite, j’ai été malade et eu plusieurs symptômes, mais les gens du CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée m’ont bien traité.» Notons qu’elle n’est pas résidente de cet endroit et qu’elle y allait plutôt pour y suivre des traitements de physiothérapie. Par ailleurs, Mme Fortaich recommande à tous les Lavallois de se faire vacciner. «Ce n’est pas facile de vivre avec la COVID-19, donc il est important d’aller se faire vacciner le plus rapidement possible.» Elle affirme n’avoir ressenti aucun effet secondaire après avoir reçu cette première dose. Rappelons que la vaccination est désormais accessible aux citoyens lavallois âgés de 70 ans et plus en date du jeudi 4 mars. Ceux-ci sont invités à prendre rendez-vous au Québec.ca/vaccinCOVID ou par téléphone au 1 877 644-4545. Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
PARMA, Italy — Alexis Sánchez scored twice to help Inter Milan win 2-1 at relegation-threatened Parma on Thursday to open up a six-point gap at the top of Serie A. Romelu Lukaku had a hand in both Inter goals in the second half before Hernani pulled one back for Parma. Inter moved six points above second-place AC Milan, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. Nine-time defending champion Juventus is third but has played a match less. Parma remained second from bottom, six points from safety. Inter had won six of its past seven league matches heading into the game at Parma, scoring 17 goals and conceding just one. It was Parma which had the better of the earlier chances, but Inter broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half. Lukaku chested down a pass on the edge of the area and tried to turn but the ball ended up ricocheting into the path of Sánchez. Sassuolo defender Riccardo Gagliolo tried to clear his shot off the line but it had already gone over. Lukaku did even better eight minutes later as he powered through from his own half and then rolled a great ball across for Sánchez to drive into the bottom right corner. Parma briefly threatened a comeback when Hernani volleyed in Germán Pezzella’s cross in the 71st. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Disney is known as the golden standard in animated storytelling but it's very likely that when you look through the credits of some of your recent favourites, you will see multiple Canadians behind the production of recent massive hits. Andrew Lawson, Benson Shum and Clio Chiang are just three of the Canadians who worked on the upcoming animated film Raya and the Last Dragon (coming to Disney+ on March 5). Lawson and Shum are animators while Chiang is a story artist.
OTTAWA — Canada is on the cusp of authorizing a fourth vaccine for COVID-19, raising the possibility that every Canadian adult will be offered at least one dose before Canada Day. Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said Thursday the review of Johnson and Johnson's vaccine "is going very well." "It's progressing, and we're expecting to have that completed and a decision in the next few days," Sharma said at a virtual news conference from Ottawa. Johnson and Johnson, which was authorized in the United States last weekend, would join Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca on Canada's list of approved vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna have been in use since December, with more than 1.5 million Canadians now vaccinated with at least one dose. Canada's deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said that with new vaccines being approved and moves by provinces to delay second doses, more Canadians will be vaccinated at a faster rate. All provinces have indicated they will accept a recommendation made Wednesday by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to delay second doses of vaccine by up to four months. The new guidelines say the science shows a first dose is so effective that delaying the second dose so everyone can get a first dose more quickly, is better both for individual protection and to establish herd immunity in Canada. Canada had been expecting enough doses of approved vaccines to vaccinate every adult with two doses by the end of September, based on Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca all requiring two doses given 21 or 28 days apart. Canada is in line to get 26 million more doses of Pfizer and Moderna, and at least 3.5 million of AstraZeneca by the end of June. Those deliveries alone would be enough to offer a first dose to every Canadian over 16 years of age by Canada Day. No vaccines are approved for use on children under the age of 16 yet. Another 20 million doses of AstraZeneca and 10 million from Johnson and Johnson are to arrive by September, but it's not yet clear how many will arrive by June. Another 55 million doses expected from Pfizer and Moderna between July and September would more than cover the necessary second doses. The national advisory panel's recommendation to delay doses is the latest adjustment to vaccine guidelines that some fear may make Canadians hesitant to trust the vaccines. "We're very concerned about that," said Sharma. "We want to make sure that people have confidence in the decisions that are being made about vaccines." She said experts are basing vaccine decisions on evidence as it is presented. With more data coming almost daily about the vaccines, including how they're faring as millions of doses are administered around the world, new and changing guidance is not surprising. "The responsible thing to do is to make sure that we get all that information and incorporate that into our decision-making," she said. "So definitely, the messaging would be simpler if we had one set of data and we had one message, and it never changed. But that's not what science does." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2020. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Latest on a possible threat against the Capitol (all times local): 5:50 p.m. The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says its oversight board is suggesting the razorwire-topped fencing that has surrounded the Capitol since the insurrection in January should come down next week. But Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman says in a letter to congressional leaders Thursday that she isn’t clear if it is a recommendation or an order from the Capitol Police Board. The letter to the leaders of the House and Senate was obtained by The Associated Press. Pittman says the board suggested some temporary fencing would be removed starting Friday, and the fencing around the outer perimeter of the Capitol complex would be removed starting March 12. Some fencing is likely to remain as law enforcement officials continue to track an increased number of threats against lawmakers and the Capitol. The letter exemplifies the ongoing confusion and communication issues between top law enforcement officials who are charged with ensuring the security of the Capitol complex. The failures that allowed thousands of pro-Trump rioters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 have shined a spotlight on the opaque police force and the complicated oversight process that governs it. The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the House and Senate sergeant at arms and the Architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force. __ HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT A POSSIBLE THREAT AGAINST THE CAPITOL: Law enforcement is on high alert around the U.S. Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again, two months after a mob of Donald Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Read more: — Takeaways: What hearings have revealed about Jan. 6 failures ___ HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 12:10 p.m. Security is high outside the U.S. Capitol, with National Guard troops and Capitol Police officers on alert inside a massive black fence that surrounds the Capitol grounds and several neighbouring buildings. On one of the warmest days in weeks, the National Mall was almost totally deserted Thursday, save for joggers, journalists and a handful of tourists trying to take photos of the Capitol dome through the fence. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Guard troops protecting the Capitol should stay as long as they are needed amid a new threat of another mob attack. Law enforcement is on high alert after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the Capitol again, just two months after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. ___ 11:40 am. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the National Guard troops protecting the Capitol should stay as long as they are needed amid a new threat of another mob attack. The House wrapped up its work early amid reports of a threat on the Capitol on Thursday. Pelosi says a draft security review from the deadly Jan. 6 mob siege is making various recommendations to beef up Capitol security and is expected to be made public next week. Law enforcement is on high alert around the Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again. This comes two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York says, “Domestic terrorism will not prevail. Democracy will prevail.” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas says lawmakers are braced for the threat against the Capitol. ___ 10:30 a.m. A top House Democrat says the threat of mob violence at the Capitol won’t stop Congress from doing its work. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York says, “Mob rule will not prevail. Domestic terrorism will not prevail. Democracy will prevail.” Jeffries says he thinks “there’s a reason for all of us to continue to be concerned about the heightened security environment.” Jeffries blames “a ‘big lie’ that Donald Trump perpetrated in respect to the election that has radicalized millions of folks across the country.” Law enforcement is on high alert around the U.S. Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again. This comes two months after a mob of Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. Jeffries says lawmakers “will not allow those anti-democratic forces across the country who want to undermine our ability to get things done for the American people to prevail.” ___ 9:50 a.m. A former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee who was among those briefed about a possible new threat against the Capitol says lawmakers are braced for it. Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas says he thinks “we’ll see some violence.” The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday, which is March 4, the original presidential inauguration day. But unlike on Jan. 6, the Capitol is now fortified against intrusions. McCaul says there’s razor wire and a National Guard presence that weren’t at the Capitol on Jan. 6 so he feels “very confident in the security.” McCaul warns there could be another diversionary tactic — much like the pipe bombs discovered at the political campaign offices on Jan. 6 appeared to be an attempt to lure law enforcement away from the Capitol ahead of the insurrection. The Associated Press
CALGARY — Parkland Corp. is reporting lower fourth-quarter earnings and revenue as affects of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns continue to erode fuel sales. The Calgary-based convenience store operator and fuel retailer says it had net earnings of $53 million in the last three months of 2020 on revenue of $3.47 billion, down from $176 million on revenue of $4.78 billion in the same period of 2019. It says it sold 5.4 billion litres of fuel and petroleum products in the fourth quarter, a decrease of seven per cent compared with the year-earlier period. It says lower volumes were offset by strong per unit fuel profit margins in Canada and in its international operations, as well as robust company convenience store same-store sales growth in Canada of around eight per cent and a healthy 90 per cent utilization of its Burnaby, B.C., refinery. Parkland says it will hike its dividend by two per cent, its ninth consecutive annual increase. The company says it plans growth capital spending of between $175 million and $275 million in 2021, along with between $225 million and $275 million in maintenance capital spending, including about $40 million of work deferred from 2020. "In 2021, we will strengthen our customer offerings and continue our organic growth initiatives, advance our disciplined acquisition strategy and deepen our commitment to providing customers with low-carbon fuel choices as part of our broader sustainability efforts," said CEO Bob Espey. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:PKI) The Canadian Press
The owners of a house in northeast Calgary that police were called to 115 times last year alone have been slapped with a court order mandating that it be boarded up for three months. The Alberta Sheriffs' Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit obtained a court order on Thursday giving it the authority to change the locks and put up a fence around the property at 5504 Centre Street North, the province said in a release. Police responded to many incidents at the house in Thorncliffe-Greenview last year, including reports of robbery, breaking and entering, possession of a controlled substance and theft of a motor vehicle. SCAN has fielded more than 30 complaints — the largest number it has ever received — and letters from people in the community detailing criminal activity associated with this property. "Recently at this location, a woman sustained a wound to her thigh after being attacked with a machete, and a male suffered serious injuries after taking a bullet to his face," the province said in a release. Alberta Health Services has also issued several orders declaring the property unfit for human habitation, most recently on Jan. 21. Nobody is allowed on the property without permission from the sheriffs until the closure ends on June 2. During the 90-day closure, sheriffs can give the owner and a realtor access for the purpose of showing it to potential buyers. If the owner does not sell the property, the court order gives authorities the option of applying to court for a five-year ban on renting the house and a five-year community safety order. "This is precisely the sort of situation that the SCAN unit was created to fix: a location where criminal activity and violence has become a seemingly everyday occurrence," Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said in the release. "Law-abiding Albertans should not have to tolerate such a level of chaos and danger in their communities."
A Liberal MLA wants more details about what the government plans to do to support the Island's tourism industry during the upcoming season. Heath MacDonald raised the issue during question period in the legislature Thursday. He said many Island tourism operators are currently trying to make plans for the upcoming season and are waiting for guidance from the province. "Predictability is an important part of the process of whether they're going to open their business or not and you know, they're very, very worried," MacDonald said. Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald says other regions are ahead of P.E.I. when it comes to planning for the tourism season.(John Robertson/CBC) He asked Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay when those working in the industry would have some answers. "So where is the plan? Maybe there's a plan we're not aware of for this industry. Where is the road map for this anxious industry?" Plan to be released March 18 Responding to MacDonald's question, MacKay said he knows the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and government is gearing up to release its tourism strategy at a conference later this month. "We've been working round the clock for the last eight months, with industry as a whole," MacKay said. "Obviously I wish I had a crystal ball … the road map of the future, we still don't know what it looks like but we're prepared to the best of our ability and industry has been at the table front and centre with this and it's going to be rolled out March 18," MacKay said. MacDonald countered that other regions are ahead of P.E.I. when it comes to laying out their intentions for this season. MacKay told CBC News the recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases on P.E.I. and the modified red phase were a setback in rolling out the plans. He said the tourism strategy for 2021 is being developed in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. and includes details about the province's marketing campaign and new programs to help support operators. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay says government will roll out its plans for the upcoming tourism season at a conference on March 18.(Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. ) MacKay didn't provide specific details of what this year's plan will include, but did say it will build upon last year's strategy that encouraged Islanders to explore P.E.I. and welcomed visitors from within the Atlantic bubble. "Islanders really stepped up last year to support the tourism industry and tour the Island. The Atlantic bubble was a success and we feel like we can improve on that. Until vaccines roll out I just can't see us having much more than that," MacKay said. "But depending on how quick we can roll vaccines out and how quick the rest of the provinces can roll vaccines out, will be the tell tale." More P.E.I. news
REGINA — The Saskatchewan government has shot a boost of optimism into its fight against COVID-19, announcing it will join other provinces by delaying the second dose of vaccines to speed up immunizations. Speaking Thursday at a news conference with other premiers, Premier Scott Moe said people will get their second shot up to four months after the first, which falls in line with a recent recommendation from Canada's national immunization committee. Alberta, Manitoba and other provinces made similar announcements after British Columbia first said Monday it was moving to a four-month delay. The shift comes as health experts point to people being well protected against the novel coronavirus with a first dose, noting the country faces a limited supply of vaccines. "The benefits are tremendous," Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said during a briefing. "We can emerge out of the pandemic three months earlier than we had anticipated. With a two-dose program, it would have taken us till September. Now we can vaccinate everyone 18 and older as early as June." Provincial health officials said that starting Friday, staff will only be giving first shots. The change will not apply to people who have appointments booked to receive a second dose, long-term care residents and staff, as well as those in personal care homes. Shahab said since vaccinations started in long-term care homes, there have been fewer outbreaks and infections in the facilities. To date, about 84,000 vaccinations have been done in Saskatchewan out of the roughly 400,000 shots needed to inoculate residents 70 and older and health-care workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure. Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said he expects most of these vaccinations under the first stage of the province's immunization program will be finished in early April. He also asked for patience, as the authority has to adjust how it delivers vaccines with the new four-month window between doses. Saskatchewan reported 169 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Thursday. The province of 1.1 million people also continues to lead the country with the highest rate of active cases per capita in Canada. Moe said earlier in the week that delaying the second dose of vaccine would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions need to stay in place. The current order is in effect until March 19. Shahab said decisions about what rules might be relaxed could come next week. "I know it's been very hard for people not to be able meet each other in their houses," he said. "In the past, we did have, you know, two to three households as a bubble of up to ten. So that's something that we're looking at." The Ministry of Health also said it would use 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on people aged 60 to 64 and certain health-care workers. A national panel has recommended it not be used on seniors. The province said these vaccinations will start later this month and eligible residents will be able to book an appointment by phone through a system that is expected to launch next week. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
HONOLULU — The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled a tsunami watch Thursday for Hawaii that was issued after a huge earthquake occurred in a remote area between New Zealand and Tonga. The agency previously cancelled a tsunami warning it had issued for American Samoa. The magnitude 8.1 quake struck the Kermadec Islands region. The quake forced thousands of people to evacuate in New Zealand but did not appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure. It was the largest in a series of tremors that hit the region over several hours, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3. The Associated Press
TORONTO — North American stock markets dropped Thursday despite efforts by the chairman of the Federal Reserve to reassure investors that interest rates aren't about to increase. The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 194.95 points at 18,125.72, despite strength in the energy sector as oil reached its highest level in more than two years. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 345.95 points at 30,924.14 and the S&P 500 index lost 51.25 points at 3,768.47. The Nasdaq composite fell 274.28 points or 2.1 per cent to 12,723.47, the lowest level since early January. Market jitters followed as the 10-year U.S. bond yields again increased above 1.5 per cent. Investors are worried that the U.S. vaccine rollout will spur a quicker economic recovery and prompt the central bank to hike interest rates sooner than they expect. Fed chairman Jerome Powell tried to tame expectations by insisting Thursday that rates won't rise and quantitative easing won't taper off until the U.S. reaches his maximum employment goals. "The market was not reassured by that because after the speech the market continued to go down," said Pierre Cleroux, chief economist for the Business Development Bank of Canada, adding he thought Powell's message was clear. The United States is still down 10 million jobs from before COVID-19 struck. "The initial recovery was quite strong, but since November they haven't created a lot of jobs because the second wave of the virus was very important in the U.S.," Cleroux said in an interview. Powell said he's willing to accept inflation rising above two per cent, saying it won't change the bank's long-term inflation goals. Canada's largest stock index dropped even though the energy sector had a strong day on higher crude oil prices. The April crude contract was up US$2.55 at US$63.83 per barrel after hitting an intraday high of $64.86. The April natural gas contract was down seven cents at nearly US$2.75 per mmBTU. Crude climbed to its highest level since October 2018 after OPEC decided Thursday not to raise its production for April despite a recent rise in prices. "This is sending the signal that they are going to wait until they readjust production to the increase of the demand," Cleroux said. Canadian oil producers got a lift with shares of MEG Energy Corp. surging 9.8 per cent while Vermilion Energy Inc. rose 5.6 per cent and Cenovus Energy Inc. gained 4.9 per cent. Despite the oil price increase, the Canadian dollar slipped, trading for 79.13 cents US compared with 79.17 cents US on Wednesday. Consumer staples were the only other positive sector on the day. Health care, technology and consumer discretionary were the biggest laggards among the nine losing major sectors. The health care sector, which includes cannabis producers, lost 4.9 per cent as Aphria Inc. fell 8.2 per cent. Technology decreased 3.3 per cent as shares of Kinaxis Inc. plunged 17 per cent, Lightspeed POS Inc. fell 9.1 per cent and Shopify Inc. was down 5.8 per cent. Materials were also lower as metal prices fell with gold hitting its lowest level in nine months. Hudbay Minerals Inc. decreased 7.7 per cent. Cleroux believes Thursday's market sell-off will be temporary because inflation is still low. "This worry that interest rates are going to increase faster than expected, I don't think it's based on solid grounds so I think the market is going to come back." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:HBM, TSX:SHOP, TSX:LSPD, TSX:KXS, TSX:APHA, TSX:MEG, TSX:VET, TSX:CVE, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press