WASHINGTON — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.Barr's comments, in an interview Tuesday with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month's voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”The comments, which drew immediate criticism from Trump attorneys, were especially notable coming from Barr, who has been one of the president's most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voting could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.More to Trump's liking, Barr revealed in the AP interview that in October he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel, giving the prosecutor the authority to continue to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe after Biden takes over and making it difficult to fire him. Biden hasn't said what he might do with the investigation, and his transition team didn't comment Tuesday.Trump has long railed against the investigation into whether his 2016 campaign was co-ordinating with Russia, but he and Republican allies had hoped the results would be delivered before the 2020 election and would help sway voters. So far, there has been only one criminal case, a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer to a single false statement charge.Under federal regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.Barr went to the White House Tuesday for a previously scheduled meeting that lasted about three hours.Trump didn't directly comment on the attorney general's remarks on the election. But his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his political campaign issued a scathing statement claiming that, "with all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance” of an investigation into the president's complaints.Other administration officials who have come out forcefully against Trump's allegations of voter-fraud evidence have been fired. But it's not clear whether Barr might suffer the same fate. He maintains a lofty position with Trump, and despite their differences the two see eye-to-eye on quite a lot.Still, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quipped: “I guess he’s the next one to be fired.”Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud.That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.The Trump campaign team led by Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence.But local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making unsupported claims, prompting grave concerns over potential damage to American democracy.Trump himself continues to rail against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. He recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but he still refuses to admit he lost.The issues they've have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.But they've gone further. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.Barr didn't name Powell specifically but said: “There's been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that.”In the campaign statement, Giuliani claimed there was “ample evidence of illegal voting in at least six states, which they have not examined.”“We have many witnesses swearing under oath they saw crimes being committed in connection with voter fraud. As far as we know, not a single one has been interviewed by the DOJ. The Justice Department also hasn’t audited any voting machines or used their subpoena powers to determine the truth,” he said.However, Barr said earlier that people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said a remedy for many complaints would be a top-down audit by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all," he said, but first there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. ... And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on."___Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
Charges of first and second-degree murder have been laid against three men in connection with the 2017 shooting death of 24-year old Alexander Blanarou in Abbotsford.Islam Nagem and Edrick Raju are both charged with first-degree murder, while Michael Schweiger is charged with second-degree murder. According to Integrated Homicide Investigation Team spokesman Sgt. Frank Jang, Blanarou was shot multiple times in what is believed to be a targeted killing related to drugs but stopped short of identifying it as a gang hit."Those details will come in court," said Jang. "Including our victim ... all the men are known to police."Blanarou was killed on Dec. 28, 2017 while out on bail on two drug charges he was facing in the Yukon.His body was found in a blueberry field in the 5200-block of Bates Road in rural Abbotsford. The three accused remain in custody. Blanarou's parents are suing ICBC over an insurance claim related to their son's truck which was stolen shortly before he was killed.
Norfolk County’s answer to Cruella de Vil is believed to have stolen two puppies from a Delhi home on Friday. Norfolk OPP say the alleged dognappers came to the Tisdale Road property — just south of Delhi — between 6:40 and 8 p.m. on Nov. 27 and made off with two tan-coloured female pups, along with a trail camera. The five-month-old dogs are described as a mix of ridgeback, mastiff, Newfoundlander and shepherd. Police welcome tips from the public to solve this case and get the pups back home. Information about the theft can be left with the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers via 1-800-222-8477 or helpsolvecrime.com.J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Multiple B.C. First Nations continue to demand the provincial government release the location of COVID-19 cases near their communities. The Heiltsuk Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Tsilhqot’in National Government said despite being engaged in government-to-government negotiations, there has been no result. Public health emergencies, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, “do not impact all populations in the same way” noted a recent report by Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, which discovered widespread systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in B.C’s health-care system. “First Nations people are significantly more likely to experience an overdose event or death, and more likely to contract COVID-19, than non-Indigenous people in B.C.,” the report stated in one of its 11 key findings. Specific challenges reported to the review included lack of access to data, lack of resourcing for prevention and security, and lack of integration of First Nations in the supply chain for personal protective equipment and other necessary emergency supplies, the report added. The First Nations leaders said while they feel vindicated by Turpel Lafond’s report, the report’s recommendations must be immediately implemented and address COVID-19 information sharing. They have been requesting the location of coronavirus cases near their communities, if the case involves a person who has travelled to their territories within the last 14 days and the name of positive members to be used for culturally-safe contact tracing since May. Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Judith Sayers said the health ministry’s ongoing refusal to share the information is based on stereotypes of First Nations governments that receive and work with confidential information every day. “It’s insulting to suggest that we can’t be trusted with this information,” she said in a Dec. 1 release. A complaint by the First Nations was filed in September 2020 with the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner, which has opened a file into the matter.Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune
MONTREAL — When the Quebec government tells English schools they cannot hire women wearing the hijab, it violates the rights of the English-speaking minority to manage its educational institutions, a lawyer argued Tuesday in a case challenging the province's secularism law.The law, known as Bill 21, forbids the wearing of religious symbols such as turbans, kippas and hijabs for certain employees of the state deemed to be in positions of authority, including police officers and school teachers.Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard, who is presiding over the trial, has set aside 14 days to hear closing arguments, which began on Monday.Constitutional rights lawyer Julius Grey argued on behalf of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Quebec Community Groups Network, which are both challenging the law.Grey invoked Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right of Quebec's anglophone minority to be educated in English. Over time, jurisprudence has interpreted this right as giving management power to English schools, which Grey argued includes the right to hire whom they choose as teachers, including those who wear religious symbols.While Bill 21 invokes the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to shield it from most charter challenges, including those based on freedom of religion, Grey argued it can't be used to override the language-rights protections in Section 23.Grey argued Section 23 is essential to the protection and preservation of the language and culture of the English-speaking minority in Quebec.And included in the culture of the English-speaking community is the protection of cultural minorities, he said.Grey also argued that Bill 21 infringes Section 28 of the charter, which provides for gender equality and isn't subject to the notwithstanding clause.A lawyer for Amnesty International argued that the law is too vague and that it doesn't include a definition of "religious symbols."School administrators can't all become theologians to manage their schools, Marie-Claude St-Amant said. Like Grey, she argued that it is not the government's objective in adopting the law that is important but rather the effects of the legislation. Those are disproportionately felt by Muslim women, she said, arguing that the stated goal of the law is a pretence. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Provinces are criticizing the federal Liberals for failing to signal more help for health-care systems and strained provincial coffers in its new spending plans, setting up a potential showdown next week between the prime minister and premiers.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet Dec. 10 with the country's premiers, who have been demanding a meeting since September to talk about the annual federal transfer payments to provinces and territories for health care.The fiscal update released Monday, which proposed some $25 billion in new spending to top up and expand existing programs and create new, targeted support for hard-hit industries, did not detail a bump in health-care spending beyond increases planned before the COVID-19 pandemic.Federal health transfers to provinces will rise to $43.1 billion next year from $41.9 billion this year, as part of a prearranged three per cent annual increase.Provinces say the proposal still falls well short of what is needed to properly fund their systems, not including the added costs associated with COVID-19.They want the federal government to boost its share of health-care funding by an extra $28 billion this year with annual increases of $4 billion thereafter. "The primary objective of the premiers to to see a structural change in how health care is funded," Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said Tuesday in an interview. "And I think they're going to be successful because it is the No. 1 thing that Canadians are interested in right now, in the middle of a global pandemic, is making sure we have stable, long-term health-care funding."The Liberals argue they've sent plenty to the provinces for pandemic-related measures, totalling $24 billion to support health-care systems across the country.On Tuesday, Trudeau said he planned to hear out the provinces about their needs during and after the pandemic, but wouldn't commit to added spending.His Liberal government's fall economic statement must first survive a confidence vote in the House of Commons. Failure to gather the necessary support would mean the minority government falls, which could plunge the country into a federal election."I am reasonably confident that none of the opposition parties wants an election right now. We certainly don't want one," Trudeau told reporters outside his Ottawa residence."We want to get these supports out to Canadians. And there are certainly things in this fall economic statement that every party should be able to support in terms of helping Canadians."Spending to date is putting the federal deficit on track to reach $381.6 billion this year, but the government's math says it could close in on $400 billion if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks.Pandemic-related spending has sent total federal transfers this year to $99.7 billion. Next year, the amount falls to $82.1 billion, near where it was before the pandemic, based on figures in the fall economic statement.Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the Liberals' spending binge pre-pandemic has blown the margin now to increase transfers to lower levels of government."There's not a lot of room left for other commitments because of (Trudeau's) irresponsible and insatiable appetite for spending other people's money," Poilievre said.Rebekah Young, Scotiabank's director of fiscal and provincial economics, wrote in an analysis that one-off transfers to provinces were necessary under the circumstances, but there should be a structural shift in the long term to make the country's finances sustainable."And the discussion should be broader than expenditure-shifting, as provinces have been reluctant to take up revenue capacity given up at the federal level in recent years," she wrote.The Liberals are proposing extra help through a revised fiscal stabilization program that sends money to provinces facing a year-over-year decline in non-resource revenues.The economic statement looks to lift funding capped now at $60 per resident up to $170.Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews said his province expects to receive $750 million under the new limits, which falls well short of what Alberta could use. He said he was disappointed the Liberals didn't eliminate the cap as provinces have asked."We're going to continue to seek support from other provinces and we're disappointed in what I would call is really not even a half measure," he told reporters at the provincial legislature.Newfoundland and Labrador's Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said the province still wouldn't qualify for help through the stabilization fund this year despite a 45 per cent drop in offshore oil revenues.She added the increase in the cap is unlikely to be a big benefit.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.— With files from Shawn Jeffords in Toronto, and Dean Bennett in EdmontonJordan Press, The Canadian Press
Students in Niagara are facing two ways of completing their courses. District School Board of Niagara’s secondary school schedule, which lists Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 as exam days, will now be replaced with “culminating activities.” Helen McGregor, superintendent of secondart shool curriculum and student achievement, said, “Students are learning differently this year, with many learning in-person for part of the week, and others learning exclusively online. “To ensure all our students are supported to find success this year, whether they are learning in-person or online, in October we made the decision to cancel exams,” said McGregor. “Schools have already let students know that they will not have exams and, instead, they will have culminating activities.” In contrast, Niagara Catholic District School Board has already administered two sets of exams, Oct. 9 and Nov. 13, with a third one to be completed on Dec. 18. Niagara Catholic’s back-to-school plan split students into two cohorts. Those cohorts will be focused on one course for 22 days. Upon completion of the course, exams are administered. Board communications officer Jennifer Pellegrini said, “… we are octomestered, students do their exam right at the end of their course — so there aren’t set exam days as other boards have. It’s 22 days of class, then an exam/assessment, then off to the next course.” In October, the Ministry of Education told school boards they have the option to remove designated exam days from their school year calendar and use them for in-class instructional time. Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said the use of essays or report-based assessments in the place of final exams should be allowed “given the circumstance.” “I don’t want to increase the anxiety of our students. An essay, an extended report, these are all ways in which an educator can credibly assess the performance of a student.” The holiday break for students is to begin Dec. 21 and will last until students return to the classroom on Jan. 4. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.comSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
VICTORIA — Insurance companies in British Columbia have agreed to end a pricing practice that has been identified as one of the key factors in skyrocketing property insurance premiums for condominiums. Earlier this year, the B.C. Financial Services Authority said premiums have gone up by 40 per cent on average for a number of reasons. Finance Minister Selina Robinson says an agreement to end so-called best terms pricing on Jan. 1 is a positive step. Insuring multi-unit properties in B.C. often sees many insurers submit bids.Under best terms pricing, the final premium paid by owners is usually based on the highest bid, even if most quotes were lower. Blair Morrison, CEO of the financial services authority, says the change is an important step for long-term stability in the property insurance market. Robinson was the housing minister in June when she introduced legislation to change the Strata Property Act and the Financial Institutions Act to bring more transparency to the insurance market. The Insurance Council of B.C., the regulatory body for insurance agents in the province, says it will work with the industry to address the practice. Council CEO Janet Sinclair says the change will mean less price volatility.A financial authority report released in June says price pressures will continue on buildings considered to be higher risk and the insurance market for so-called strata properties was "unhealthy."It says insurers were accumulating losses mostly from minor claims, especially for water damage due to poor building maintenance and initial construction. It says new building construction, building material changes and rising replacement costs have put added strain on the industry's profitability. Insurers are also reducing the amount of insurance they offer in B.C. because of excessive exposure to earthquake risk, it says. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press
The Kawartha Land Trust has raised enough funds to purchase and protect a property just south of Burleigh Falls. In just seven weeks, the KLT raised more $750,000 to acquire an “environmentally important parcel of land” on Stoney Lake, the organization announced Monday. John Kintare, executive director of the KLT, said for years, the local community has been working to protect the property. When the opportunity ensued to purchase it, the community asked for the KLT’s help in organizing a campaign. The KLT works to protect natural spaces that might otherwise be sold for development, usually through donation. This was the first time the organization has bought land. “This was truly a community initiative that was supported by KLT,” Kintare said in a statement. “KLT has led very successful campaigns to support the stewardship needs of specific properties such as Big Island in Pigeon Lake in 2015, but never a campaign to support a purchase.” Referred to as the Clear Lake North Wetland, the 137-acre property will officially be named after the late Christie Bentham in recognition of a financial gift she left to the KLT. Bentham, who died in 2015, was very well known on Stoney Lake, the organization stated. Her daughter, Margaret, a volunteer with the KLT who is also on the KLT’s development committee, said she’s sure her mother is watching from above and is tickled pink, humbled and so happy to be a part of preserving the piece of the lake. Margaret said Bentham spent all of her summers on the Stoney Lake. Bentham’s grandfather, Richard Russell, had purchased a T-shaped island toward the north side of the lake in 1910. Bentham’s father, Keith, later inherited the property, called Spree Island. While Bentham spent the remainder of the year in Toronto, Stoney Lake was her home, Margaret said. Bentham spent her summers at the lake swimming, canoeing and sailing, with cousins and friends. When she grew up and married, a condition of the marriage was that her future husband Will must love Stoney Lake and Spree Island as much as she did, she said. Fortunately, he did and the couple went on to marry, adopt six children and raised their children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren teaching them to swim, canoe, sail and bail on the lake, Margaret said. For more information visit https://kawarthalandtrust.org/. 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
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s auditor general says the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the need for more robust cybersecurity and anti-fraud measures as government employees are forced to work remotely.However, he says the provincial government isn't working fast enough to manage those risks.Acting auditor general Terry Spicer notes in a report released Tuesday that the federal government's Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity has warned of an increase in attempts to access and attack networks used by remote workers.The audit finds that 10 provincial government departments, nine public service units and 19 government organizations have not completed fraud risk assessments.It adds that Service Nova Scotia, which helps citizens access government programs and services, is lagging behind on finalizing its regulations around cybersecurity.The auditor general cautions that fraud in the public sector can result in the loss of taxpayer funds and erode the public’s confidence in government if the risk isn’t properly handled.Tim Houston, leader of the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, said in a statement that the auditor general's findings reveal the province is failing to protect the information of residents."As governments around the world find themselves increasingly at risk of cyberattacks, Nova Scotia has shown that it doesn’t place a high importance on keeping our health and other records safe from improper access," Houston said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. \- - - This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News FellowshipThe Canadian Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Canada's decision to block American imports of certain prescription drugs from north of the border is getting stony silence from the Trump administration — a sign, one expert says, that the U.S. proposal is "dead in the water."The measure, first floated by Donald Trump a year ago as a strategy to help reduce America's staggering drug costs, took effect Monday after the president signed a pre-election executive order in September. On Saturday, however, Health Minister Patty Hajdu parried the effort with just days to spare, prohibiting bulk drug exports if they pose a risk of creating or worsening drug shortages in the Canadian market. The White House referred questions about the new limits to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has yet to respond to repeated media queries about where Canada's move leaves Trump's plan.That plan was "a desperate act by desperate people at a desperate time," said Dr. Allen Zagoren, a policy administration professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Canada represents only two per cent of global drug sales, and gets 68 per cent of its drugs from outside the country, Health Canada said in a news release announcing the export prohibitions. The U.S. market, on the other hand, comprises 44 per cent of pharmaceutical sales around the world. Buying drugs in Canada "was never realistic, ever," Zagoren said. "Even if Canada said, 'Sure,' there's no way — Canada doesn't have enough drugs. But it allowed them to make a promise. And then they could argue, 'Well, Canada won't let us. So it's them, not us.'"Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said the two countries have been discussing the issue of drug imports for more than a year. In those meetings, Canada has made it clear that given the relatively tiny size of the Canadian market, bulk imports from north of the border simply wouldn’t have the desired effect."We've been saying to them all along: one, we sympathize with your policy concern; two, buying bulk drugs from Canada isn't the solution to your policy concern; and three, above all else, we will always protect the supply of drugs to Canadians," Hillman said.Canada's response is not a blanket export ban, but a "narrow and tailored" measure that applies only to those drugs meant for domestic consumption that are already in short supply or at risk at becoming scarce, she added. Zagoren, who called Trump's proposal "dead in the water," said its failure could prove useful for president-elect Joe Biden's own efforts to address drug costs once he takes over the White House in January. Biden has promised to reduce drug costs, including through imports, and to give the U.S. government insurance program known as Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices — a plan that has the blessing of congressional Democrats. The fact that Trump's proposed solution has failed could provide Biden with helpful leverage in discussions with the all-powerful pharmaceutical industry, which has spent aggressively in its lobbying efforts to head off pricing reforms. "I think it helps the Biden administration, because it sets the stage. The Canadian argument signals to the Biden administration, 'Don't come here for this.' But Biden being the internationalist he is, and a very good friend of Canada, that's not going to happen in the Biden administration anyway." Biden has also promised to expand health insurance coverage to include more Americans, a move that has the potential to broaden the existing U.S. drug market. Much will depend on the outcome of a pair of Senate run-off elections next month in Georgia, where Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock are seeking to unseat Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Should they both succeed, the 100-seat Senate will find itself in an even 50-50 split, giving the tiebreaking vote to Biden's vice-president, Kamala Harris. "It really hinges on the Georgia election as to how far the U.S. government will go with regard to drug prices, and especially on Medicare," Zagoren said. "There'll be a lot of negotiation in the backrooms with regard to pharmaceutical prices going forward. I do think there's going to be an attempt to bring them down, but I don't think it will be on the backs of the Canadians."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
Tuesday marked the first snow day that wasn't in Windsor-Essex, as school transportation was cancelled but secondary students in the public school board still had to do a full day of remote learning.The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) announced the policy last week, saying that students would be expected to do a full day of remote learning for the 2020-21 school year even if transportation is cancelled."For the current school year (2020-21), in the event that student transportation is cancelled in the city and/or the county, all secondary students will participate exclusively in remote on-line learning for that day," the news release says. Shelley Armstrong, the superintendent of business and treasurer at the GECDSB, said the board felt the decision made sense given the "quadmester" remote learning system students are using this year."It's really important that we do the best that we can to support their learning in the classrooms, and it's challenging to do that if there's a missed day," she said. "We really want to make sure that we're supporting them the best that we can with their education."Schools are still open for staff and elementary school students. But elementary students who stay home are not expected to do online work.Armstrong says that the board made the decision for this year only, and she's not certain snow days for secondary students are facing extinction."I don't know necessarily that that would be the case," she said.Armstrong added that if anyone has any questions about the new policy, they can reach out to school administrators."If anyone has specific questions for it, certainly they can reach out to the board office or the school principal, and we'll do our best to help them with any questions they may have," she said.
Stella's Circle in St. John's is moving ahead with its annual Light Up Hope event by taking things online this year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.The event is part of an annual global campaign called Giving Tuesday, the day after Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events that focuses on giving back to the community. "Giving Tuesday started with the purpose to just say, 'let's not forget the purpose of this season, that it's all about giving,'" Stella's Circle CEO Lisa Browne told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show. "Let's take a breath and kind of think of what are some good things we can do, some giving things we can do."Under normal circumstances Rawlins Cross in the province's capital city would be teeming with residents to take in the event and kick off the countdown to the holiday season with the lighting of a large sign that reads "hope." It's an annual campaign to raise money for the charity that helps with housing, employment and counselling support for those who need it. On Tuesday evening the scene was empty, but the hope signs are lit up throughout the city. "Without hope you really don't have anything, and hope is something that we must cling on to," said Browne. "Particularly this year, 2020 has been so challenging and that concept of hope is so important."Food, addictions and mental healthBrowne said 2020 has been a challenging year for Stella's Circle, with unexpected expenses and programming changes due to the pandemic. She said the mental health challenges of clients and staff alike has been increasing. "These are stressful times. I feel like everybody has been heightened, and I feel that our job right now is of course looking after participants, but making sure that staff are feeling well and feeling supported as well," said Browne. Browne said there has also been an increase in addictions challenges where routines and coping mechanisms for many have been interrupted by the pandemic. Food has been a constant necessity out of many of the province's charitable organizations this year. Browne said Stella's Circle has distributed 6,300 meals this year so far, and the Light Up Hope event is meant to bring some hope to people."We'd love it if people wanted to make a donation, and for today until midnight donations are matched up to $10,000 thanks to Bluedrop and Lemur Vehicle Monitors," she said. Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
A fourth route for the Town of Orangeville’s transit system will be delayed thanks to a decision to nix the transfer hub plans on Broadway. The route was set to be established in order to serve an area of town that currently does not have transit service. “(It’s) so frustrating,” Coun. Todd Taylor told the Orangeville Banner. “We are losing precious time to serve all of our community.” He added that Veteran’s Way and the west end of town are two examples. “We currently have entire neighbourhoods not served by transit,” said Taylor. The fourth route would allow the transit service to operate on a four-quad system. Each quad would serve a different area of the town and meet with the rest at a central location, allowing riders to transfer to reach their destination. Council reversed their decision on the Broadway hub in a 4-3 vote on Nov. 23, after hearing numerous concerns from businesses in the downtown core and the BIA. Taylor, along with Councillors Lisa Post and Grant Peters, felt that sufficient work had been completed to prove the safety and benefits of a Broadway transfer point, which would have been located between First and John Street. Instead, several members of council would like to see staff investigate the possibility of using the Edelbrock Centre, an idea which was favoured until more recently. “I am disappointed in the decision,” said Taylor. “The Edelbrock site will cost over $300k to implement, while downtown was minimal.” Until council settles on a location, any work on the transit project, which includes the fourth route, has been put on hold. Taylor added that part of the reasoning behind a centralized station is to improve challenges deterring ridership, such as reliability and access to certain parts of town. “Our buses are underutilized today; this is a fact,” said Taylor. “Why would anyone want to ride a bus that is frequently late and does not get you close to a desired location?” Council is scheduled to vote on a motion to revisit the idea of using the Edelbrock Centre at its Dec. 14 meeting.Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner
The pandemic hasn't seemed to have hurt bank profits, yet thanks to consumer spending on credit, experts warn a wave of insolvencies and bankruptcies may still be coming once the post-pandemic recovery is underway.
Levi Simpson and his horse Stetson are about to trample the turf where the Los Angeles Dodgers hoisted the World Series trophy.Simpson, a team roper from Ponoka, Alta., admits it's unusual for the National Finals Rodeo to be staged in a ballpark.Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, served as Major League Baseball's "bubble" for the National League playoffs and October's World Series.The ball park is once again a COVID-19 sporting event stand-in just over a month after the Dodgers stormed the field in celebration.After 36 years at the Thomas and Mack Center on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus, the NFR opens Thursday at Globe Life."It's going to be a whole new ball game for the team ropers," Simpson said. "Nobody's roped in a baseball diamond."Spectators were not allowed to attend an NFR in Las Vegas this year because of Nevada's public health rules around the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFR was shifted to Texas, which allows 50 per cent spectator capacity at professional and collegiate events. Simpson is among five Canadians competing in the 2020 world championship of rodeo Dec. 3-12.Two-time saddle bronc champion Zeke Thurston of Big Valley, Alta., steer wrestler Curtis Cassidy of Donald, Alta., team roper Kolton Schmidt of Barrhead, Alta., and bareback rider Orin Larsen of Inglis, Man., also qualified in a season severely contracted by the pandemic.The NFR offered US$10 million in prize money each of the last six years, but is expected to pay less in 2020. Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association chief executive officer George Taylor has said the minimum payout will be $6 million, according to the organization's digital media channel.The top 15 in the world standings in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc, tie-down roping barrel racing and bull riding earn NFR invitations. Results at most Canadian professional rodeos count toward world rankings, but all were cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.Canadian competitors were dependent on rodeos in the United States to earn a living. There have been just over 300 sanctioned rodeos in North America in 2020, compared to 732 in 2019.Fewer American rodeos meant more competitors vying for prize money at each one."Especially through July at some of the rodeos there were twice as many guys than they usually get," Cassidy said. "They were getting 160, 170 steer wrestlers in some places. "You can imagine how tough that makes the competition with that many guys competing. It was a lot harder to make money this year, a challenging year to say the least. "It's a good thing they're having the NFR so we actually have an NFR to go to. Qualifying at the end of the year was a sweet deal for those that made it."Thurston, 26, is the defending world champion in saddle bronc and also took the title in 2016. He claimed $170,064 at the NFR in 2019 en route to career-high season earnings of $347,000. Thurston ranks 10th with $50,523 so far this season heading into Thursday's opening go-around in Arlington."I would say it was probably the hardest year that I've been a part of," Thurston said. "It was hard to win."A lot less money to be won, a lot less rodeos and the ones they did cancel were the big rodeos, the big payouts that draw big crowds and for that reason, you're riding for less money."The three-time Calgary Stampede winner hopes Canadian rodeos resume in 2021."I don't have a crystal ball, but I imagine things have to get going again, open back up and get rolling again," Thurston said.Manitoba's Larsen, who lives in Gearing, Neb., ranks third in bareback in his sixth career NFR appearance.Cassidy, 42, qualified in steer wrestling a seventh time and sits fifth.Simpson and Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood, Alta., became the first all-Canadian team to claim an NFR team-roping title in 2016.Simpson returns ranked 13th with Shay Carroll of La Junta, Colo., as his heeler. Schmidt is No. 11 with Hunter Koch of Vernon, Texas, as his heeler.Globe Life holds 40,300 people, compared to just under 19,000 at UNLV's Runnin' Rebels basketball venue."Thomas and Mack is a tiny little basketball arena. The first 25 rows in that arena, you could damn near reach out and touch anybody in the arena," Cassidy said."Comparing that to a baseball field that seats 42,00 people and you're only putting 15 (thousand) or 16 in it, it's going to have a different feel."Having it on the baseball diamond, it will still be good, but it might not have quite the electric feel that Las Vegas does."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Lightspeed POS Inc. is spending another US$430 million to expand its reach in the U.S., this time by acquiring U.S. restaurant and management software company Upserve Inc.The Montreal-based company says the addition of Upserve will accelerate product innovation and advancement of its analytics-driven commerce platform to help the restaurant industry adjust to dining needs "made permanent" by the COVID-19 pandemic.The deal announced after markets closed includes US$123 million in cash and up to 5.9 million in Lightspeed voting shares.It comes less than a month after it acquired ShopKeep Inc., a New York cloud commerce platform provider for US$430 million in cash and shares.Upserve adds 7,000 customer locations and about $40 million in annual revenues.Upserve CEO Sheryl Hoskins says the union with Lightspeed will help North American restaurateurs to deliver superior guest experiences and make them wildly successful."Combining forces with Upserve is a strategic next-step in Lightspeed's vision of providing the most advanced commerce platform to high-performing businesses around the world," said Lightspeed founder and CEO Dax Dasilva.Meanwhile, Lightspeed announced that all outstanding multiple voting shares owned by Dasilva have been converted to subordinate voting shares on a one-for-one basis.Dasilva owns 14.4 million shares, representing about 12.24 per cent of the voting power in the company.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. Companies in this story: (TSX:LSPD)The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The Oscar-nominated Canadian star of the film "Juno" has come out as transgender.The Halifax-raised Elliot Page, formerly known as Ellen Page, made the announcement in a powerful post on social media.The star of the Toronto-shot Netflix series "The Umbrella Academy" says his preferred pronouns are he/they.Page's letter thanks those who have supported him along the journey, and addresses the trauma trans people face from discrimination, hateful acts, and a lack of rights.He says it feels remarkable "to finally love" who he is enough to pursue his "authentic self."And he's been "endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community.""Thank you for your courage, your generosity and ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place. I will offer whatever support I can and continue to strive for a more loving and equal society," Page said in Tuesday's post."I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I'm scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the 'jokes' and of violence." Page said he's not trying to "dampen a moment that is joyous" but wants to address the full picture. "The statistics are staggering. The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences," Page wrote."In 2020 alone it has been reported that at least 40 transgender people have been murdered, the majority of which were Black and Latinx trans women. To the political leaders who work to criminalize trans health care and deny our right to exist and to all of those with a massive platform who continue to spew hostility towards the trans community: you have blood on your hands."Page concluded the post by saying he loves that he is trans and queer."And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive."Page got an Oscar nomination for playing a pregnant teen in 2007's "Juno," and two Emmy nominations for his reality series "Gaycation," which explores LGBTQ experiences around the world.Page often uses his platform to speak out against injustices and amplify underrepresented voices.In his documentary "There's Something in the Water," which hit Netflix in March, he shines a light on marginalized groups in Nova Scotia affected by what's known as environmental racism.Netflix said Tuesday it was in the process of updating all of the titles the performer and producer is involved with on its service to credit Elliot Page.The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD praised Page for delivering "fantastic characters on-screen" and being "an outspoken advocate for all LGBTQ people.""Elliot will now be an inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people. We celebrate him. All trans people deserve to be accepted," said a tweet from GLAAD, which also issued a tip sheet for journalists covering Page's story, to help them write it in a respectful and accurate way. Alphonso David, president of the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, thanked Page for sharing his truth and "shining a bright light on the challenges too many in our community face.""We are proud of you, and we love you. And we will never stop fighting alongside you for change," David posted on Twitter.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020. The Canadian Press
Last week, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced his top cabinet picks, and selected Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Melanie Mark as the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. Mark holds the distinction of being the first First Nations woman to serve in the B.C. Legislature. She was elected to the riding in 2016 and previously served as the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, before being given this new assignment. Mark’s appointment was heralded by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA). “We look forward to working closely with Melanie Mark, the new Minister of Tourism, Arts Culture and Sport to tackle the significant challenges facing the industry, and ultimately moving the sector down the path to economic recovery,” said TOTA President and chief executive officer Glenn Mandziuk. Mandziuk is currently serving as the chair of the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat. The organization is a collaboration between the province’s regional destination management organizations and is giving key input on the province’s tourism recovery plan. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
TORONTO — The cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies like Netflix will go up under a taxation plan the government wants to put in place next year, experts said Tuesday.Ottawa said in its fiscal update released Monday it will require multinationals to collect GST or HST on digital products and services, which it said would add up to $1.2 billion over five years.Sometimes labelled a "Netflix tax," the measure would also apply to other services such as Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video or the Spotify audio streaming service, as well as digital products such as software applications. The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales, so it's only fair that foreign multinationals should do the same. KPMG tax partner Joe Micallef said it's likely Canadians will end up paying the taxes collected for the government by foreign multinationals."Right now, the way in which they're delivering their services, they're not responsible for the collection," Micallef said."And so, effectively, it would mean that these charges would be appearing on (their) invoices."A regular monthly subscription for a streaming service that delivers video or music would be a simple calculation, with the tax rate applied to the purchase price.But Micallef said it is be more difficult to estimate how much additional tax individual consumers, or businesses, will pay for other types of digital purchases, he said.Something like gaming software might cost little or nothing itself, but offer the option for subsequent charges to add features that make the experience better."How many times? How many transactions? It adds up," Micallef said.Dwayne Winseck, a media industry researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa, also expects companies will add the price of the tax to the total sale price. "I mean, this is really not a very substantial amount, when we're talking about corporate finances," said Winseck, who is a professor of journalism and communication.He said that the term "Netflix tax" has become highly politicized and is often used as "code" for levelling the playing field between U.S.-based digital media companies and traditional Canadian broadcasters."And if the idea is to create a level playing field between those two services, then that by all means that makes great sense," Winseck said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2020.David Paddon, The Canadian Press