This tiny dog enjoys a roll in the snow during a walk in Whiteway, Newfoundland & Labrador.
This tiny dog enjoys a roll in the snow during a walk in Whiteway, Newfoundland & Labrador.
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.
When the opportunity to open up his own FreschCo franchise came around, Eric Nugent jumped at the chance. After all, the born-and-raised Winnipegger has done everything possible to climb up the corporate ladder from one grocery store to the next, in many ways, for nearly a decade. “But back when I first started that minimum-wage supermarket job in high school, I never thought I’d even stick around — let alone own my own store,” Nugent said. “I couldn’t be happier and prouder about being able to achieve this after all of that.” Today, Nugent will open the doors for the first time to a new FreshCo store at Kimberly Avenue and Henderson Highway. He’s already hired more than 90 staff members to make this possible, and he’s set up partnerships with several local businesses — including Perfect Pierogies, Natural Bakery, City Bread, Winkler Meats and Jimel’s Bakery — to feature their products at the new location. Getting any of that done during COVID-19, however, wasn’t easy. “The pandemic completely changed everything about the way we set any of this up, or how we went about it,” he said. “Especially when it came to hiring, it’s weird not being able to see the people in-person that you’re recruiting… everything was online for the sake of making things safe.” Still, Nugent thinks it’s an advantage that his supermarket is opening up after proper pandemic protocols — sanitization stations, arrows to allow physical distancing in aisles, plexiglass barriers and deep daily cleaning among others — have already been established by other stores. “We’re almost a year into this crisis now,” he said, “but that means we don’t have to do that kind of adapting that other grocers had to do when they had no idea how to navigate this. “And to me what’s most exciting is that it’s a discount store, which is especially the perfect fit for the Winnipeg market.” Sobeys Inc., the company that owns the FreschCo brand, seems to agree. In June, 2020, the grocery store chain announced it would be converting several current and former Safeways in Winnipeg into FreshCos. And across Western Canada, back in 2017, Sobeys’ parent conglomerate Empire Company Limited, said it was on its way to converting at least 25 per cent of its Safeway and Sobeys stores to FreshCos due to underperformance. A Sobeys spokesperson confirmed Thursday that, apart from Nugent’s franchise, three other FreschCos are coming to the city in the next few months. One of them will open next week at Niakwa Village on Alpine Avenue. Two others (on Sargent Avenue at Sherbrook Street, and Pembina Highway at McGillvray Boulevard, respectively) do not have a set date yet. Two FreshCos are already open, one on McPhillips Street at Jefferson Avenue, and the other on Regent Avenue at Lagimodiere Boulevard. Sylvain Charlebois, a leading food distribution and supply management expert, said the writing has been on the wall for premium stores like Safeway for quite some time. “The pandemic just accelerated this,” he said. “The market is shifting from a socio-economic perspective and I think you’re going to see more companies trading down their premium stores for a while because of the trends customers are setting, who are getting used to seeing discounts.” “To me, it’s all about what the consumer wants,” said Nugent. “Right now, more than ever, we’re all trying to save up on money. And I’m proud to own a FreshCo franchise because it’s that hard-discounts supermarket which is what my community wants.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
With restrictions still in place for large gatherings of people, the Tottenham & Beeton District Chamber of Commerce is making the best of the current situation by moving some of their events to a virtual format. By going on-line, the TBDCC can still keep people connected while promoting the local business com-munity. VIRTUAL HOME SHOW & ARTISAN MARKET The TBDCC’s annual Spring Home Show which usually takes place in March, will be going on-line. Since restrictions regarding gatherings will likely still be in place, it is not practical to plan an indoor show. Instead, the Board of Directors decided to move to a virtual format this year. Local businesses and vendors will still be able to showcase their prod-ucts and services, just in a different format. The good side of this means more businesses will be able to participate and members of the public don’t have to commit to a specific day to attend the show. Businesses and services will also be showcased for a longer period of time. Launch date for the virtual Home Show and Artisan Market is April 17.Registration information will be available on the TBDSS website. TBDCC ONLINE LEARNING SERIES The TBDCC is presenting an op-portunity for local businesses to share their expertise and promote their products and services. This gives members and non-mem-bers the opportunity to take part in workshops on a variety of different subjects. The first workshop will take place on Friday, March 12, at 1:00 p.m. and will feature Devin Merkac, from 92.1 myFM radio. He will discuss the benefits of radio advertising. Also featured over the next few weeks will be investment basics, with Horan & Associates, Wills & Power of Attorney with lawyer Jerry Switzer, Understanding real estate listing agreements with Peter Barbati of First Choice Realty, thriving after COVID with Tonia Salvaterra of DinoLand, Gypsy Moth Control with Meadowood Tree Services, and PLUS Lifestyle workshops on topics like photography and wellness. Fees are $20.00 for non TBDCC members and free for members. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Pressure is mounting on the federal government to cap interest rates on payday money lenders, which can charge nearly 50 per cent interest. Advocates say it’s often the most financially vulnerable using them and the pandemic economy has made things worse.
OTTAWA — With a federal budget in the offing, premiers are stepping up the pressure on Ottawa to immediately boost health-care funding by at least $28 billion a year.They held a virtual news conference Thursday to reiterate their demand for a big increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.Starting this year, they want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.During a virtual first ministers' meeting in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers he recognizes the need for the federal government to eventually shoulder a bigger share of health-care costs. But he said that must wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent the federal deficit on track to exceed an unprecedented $381 billion as Ottawa doles out emergency aid, including at least $1 billion for vaccines and $25 billion in direct funding to the provinces to, among other things, bolster their health systems.Quebec Premier Francois Legault, chair of the premiers' council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are "non-recurring." He pointed to studies that suggest the federal government could quickly eliminate its deficit, and even return to surplus, once the pandemic is over while provinces would be mired in debt.The premiers argued they need stable, predictable, long-term funding for their health systems, which were already under strain before the pandemic hit and will be even more stressed once it's over and they must deal with the backlog of delayed surgeries, tests and other procedures.Manitoba's Brian Pallister said wait times have been a problem for decades and are destined to get worse as Canada's population ages. But he said the pandemic has made "a bad situation much, much worse.""The post-pandemic pileup is coming and it's real and its impact on Canadians and their families and their friends is real too," he warned. "The time is now to address this issue and to address it together."Pallister accused Trudeau of ignoring the problem of wait-times and the real life-threatening impact on people. Five years ago, he said he told Trudeau a true story about a woman with a lump in her breast who had waited for tests and referral to a specialist, only to be told in the end that it was "too bad we couldn't have caught this sooner.""He looked across the table at me and said, 'I'm not your banker,'" Pallister said."We don't need a banker. We need a partner."Trudeau has offered to give provinces immediate funding for long-term care homes, provided they agree to some national standards. Long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of deaths from COVID-19.But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa's latest offer would provide just $2,500 per person in long-term care — a drop in the bucket compared to the $76,000 it costs his province each year for every long-term care resident."The math doesn't work," he said.Legault ruled out conditional transfers for long-term care altogether as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. He said each province and territory has its own health-care priorities and their "jurisdiction must absolutely be respected."When universal health care was adopted in Canada, British Columbia's John Horgan said the cost was originally shared 50-50 between Ottawa and the provinces. The steadily declining federal share has led to ever more challenges in delivering health care, exacerbated now by the pandemic."Our public health-care system is at risk," Horgan warned."COVID has brought (the challenge) into graphic light. It's stark, it's profound and we need to take action."Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said Canadians deserve a well-funded health system "that is supported by both levels, both orders of government in this nation, not one that is propped up by almost entirely by the provinces and territories."Trudeau's minority Liberal government is poised to table a budget this spring, which could theoretically result in the defeat of his government should opposition parties vote against the budget. Legault said premiers have already talked to opposition parties to solicit their support for their health funding demand. He said the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the demand, while the Conservatives agree in principle with the need to increase the health transfer but have not specifically agreed to the $28-billion figure.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
A Winnipeg woman is the lead plaintiff for a $750-million class-action lawsuit against the biggest bank-owned brokerage in Canada, claiming it failed to pay vacation pay to her and many other investment advisers for years. According to a statement of claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, RBC-Dominion Securities allegedly breached its legal duties by not fairly compensating many of its nearly 1,500 current advisers across the country, as well as those it previously employed. The claims have yet to be tested or proven in court. It is expected that RBC-DS will defend against the action and deny any allegations in court. Leigh Cunningham, a veteran adviser who spent 26 years at the company’s Winnipeg office and was its vice-president and director, is the lead plaintiff. Cunningham alleges she hadn’t been receiving at least six per cent vacation pay on her full income for decades. “But it’s not just about me,” she said, answering questions from the Free Press at a news conference held inside Manitoba Club Thursday. “I’m trying to help everyone else who was in the same position as me and who now could hopefully be helped with the outcome of this case. “It’s unfair that this happened and the culpability should only be on RBC for letting it get to this.” In an emailed statement Thursday, RBC Wealth Management’s director of communications Louise Armstrong said, “everyone who works at any RBC company is fairly compensated.” “The policies that apply to the employees involved in the action state that their compensation includes vacation pay and statutory holiday pay,” she said. Armstrong declined to provide further comment, adding their statements of defence have not yet been filed because the action has not been certified by court. Cunningham is being represented by a team of lawyers out of Toronto. They include Stephen Moreau, a partner at Cavalluzzo LLP; David O’Connor of Roy O’Connor LLP and Daniel Lublin of Whitten & Lublin. Cunningham’s lawyers are claiming for $750 million in general damages and $50 million in punitive damages from RBC-DS for the lawsuit. Asked where that number came from, they told the Free Press, that’s because the amount of vacation and holiday pay varies from region to region across Canada. “It’s a very hard calculation to make because we’re talking about 13 provinces and territories, who all have their own employment standards,” said Moreau, one of Cunningham’s lawyers. “So, this is the number we believe is best from what we have gathered. As we move forward, we will continue to quantify the level of damages for our case.” In Manitoba, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation with vacation pay of four per cent from their gross wages, per provincial employment standards. After one year of employment, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation and vacation pay of four per cent from their gross earnings. In five years time, vacation rises to at least three weeks, and vacation pay increases to six per cent of gross wages. For Cunningham, it’s also a “systematic problem” — stemming from the type of compensation that financial advisers receive for their work, based mostly on commissions and bonuses. “When I saw that RBC was reporting such large profits last week, I wanted people to know that it’s the advisers who make a lot of that happen,” she said. “Me, personally, I was so focused on my career and how that was going and progressing that I really didn’t even see this happening... But the onus for that shouldn’t have to be on me.” Cunningham’s lawsuit was served to RBC around December, with a notice of action made in 2019. It was not made public until Thursday. It is one of five proposed class actions launched against several banks and insurance companies since early 2019 that are seeking a cumulative $1.2 billion for vacation pay allegedly owed to current and former employees. Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
A family is raising concerns about decisions made at a private living facility dealing with an outbreak of a COVID-19 variant and a mouse infestation. Rose Zennick's 94-year-old father lives at Churchill Manor in southeast Edmonton. She says restrictions were loosened too soon. Her father tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday — the same day he received the vaccine. "With them knowing that the vaccine was coming within a two-week period, they should have waited," Zennick said Thursday at a news conference hosted by the NDP. "I'm so angry and frustrated and disappointed. I'm very concerned for my dad. He's scared right now. He has no symptoms, but his doctor told me to get ready." Emails shared with CBC show residents were informed the facility eased safety measures on Feb. 16, allowing residents to gather in groups of five, though with masks and social distancing. Residents were also allowed to visit with two family members indoors. Four days later, families were informed residents would receive their vaccinations on March 1. On Feb. 26, a resident tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then 32 residents and 4 staff have tested positive with at least 19 of those people infected by a highly contagious variant, the operator Atria said. The patients are being cared for by nurses with Alberta Health Services who are on site. NDP labour critic Christina Gray raised concerns about the mouse infestation at the facility at the news conference. She showed photos taken by a family member of mouse droppings and torn shavings. "We're asking for the government to make sure that the seniors in our community are being cared for, that they are living in hygienic condition [and] getting the support they need during this outbreak," Gray said. Health officials say they have been supporting Churchill Manor since Monday but, as an independent residence, the facility is not contracted to Alberta Health Services. AHS is working with the operator Atria to bring in pest control, the department said.
Alberta's cross-country ski community has come through to finance trail grooming in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary after the UCP government cut funding for maintaining trails last year. Nordiq Alberta, the provincial sports body for cross-country skiing and a non-profit organization, announced that with three weeks left in its grooming pilot program, users have raised approximately $270,000 after expenses through voluntary parking pass sales. It exceed its goal of raising $200,000 through a pilot project to pay the costs of the trail grooming. On top of that, the organization has raised thousands in donations to support track setting. "The pilot was set out in part to inform us and to inform the government as to the ability and the willingness of the recreational ski community to help pay for ski trail grooming," said program lead Ken Hewitt. "The pilot proved, I think, beyond the doubt, that the ski community is prepared to pay for having groomed trails." The project came about after Premier Jason Kenney's UCP government announced in February 2020 that it would be making a number of changes to Alberta provincial parks, including stopping the grooming and setting of cross-country ski trails in Kananaksis Country. Though the government was to continue grooming at the Canmore Nordic Centre and track setting in the West Bragg Creek area, it planned to end trail setting and grooming in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area. The trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park are some of the most popular in the province with Alberta Parks estimating 100,000 site visits in the winter, representing about 40,000 vehicles. News of the cuts concerned the cross-country ski community, who said not grooming these trails would take a bite out of trail availability in the area. Under a pilot project arranged with the province, Nordiq Alberta asked people to voluntarily pay for parking if they were using the trails at Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area in Kananaskis Country. The passes were $10 a day, or $50 for a season. People could book online and print their passes to leave on the dash of their vehicles. Lots were patrolled by volunteer crews who would ensure people knew about the voluntary program and leave brochures on vehicles without passing asking them to consider paying retroactively and why. Meanwhile, the government continued to groom the trails with the same staff and equipment that it used for decades. Here's how the pilot program fared: Volunteers sold 5,200 season passes. Skiers bought 2,500 day passes. The program garnered $270,000 in net sales. Donors provided $22,000. The program got off the ground quickly. Hewitt said there were more than 150 volunteers assisting. Some drove in from nearby Canmore or Calgary, while others came to help from as far as Edmonton and Medicine Hat. The program now guarantees tracks will be set and groomed for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, with an estimated $60,000 left over for future grooming. Future of paid parking pass pilot unclear But it's unclear what the next steps are, Hewitt told CBC. "We're all optimistic that ski trail grooming will be sustained in next year and going forward," said Hewitt, adding the decision on how to proceed is in the government's hands. He said continuing the program as it stands, and depending on volunteers year after year, may not be sustainable. "You can only go back to the well so many times," Hewitt said. Although the future is unclear, Nordiq Alberta does plan to do what it can and ensure trail setting continues in Alberta. There are rumours in the cross-country ski community that a park fee system that operates similar to how National Parks charge for daily or yearly access could be brought forward, Hewitt said. "I don't know if that's a reality or just just a dream," he added. In a statement, Environment and Parks thanked Nordiq Alberta for its partnership and said any additional funds raised will be held in trust by Nordiq Alberta and used to support ski programs and projects in the future. "We will evaluate the pilot grooming operations program following the close of the season and discuss future plans with Nordiq," wrote Environment and Parks press secretary Jess Sinclair.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers on Thursday approved a $6.6 billion plan aimed at pressuring school districts to return students to the classroom before the end of the school year. The bill does not order school districts to resume in-person instruction and it does not say parents must send their kids back to the classroom if they don’t want to. Instead, the state will dangle $2 billion before cash-strapped school boards, offering them a share of that money only if they offer in-person instruction by the end of the month. School districts have until May 15 to decide. Districts that resume in-person learning after that date won’t get any of that money. “We need to get the schools reopen. And I know it’s hard, but today we are providing powerful tools for schools to move in this direction,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who pleaded with his school district to accept the money and offer in-person instruction. Most of California's 6.1 million students throughout 1,037 public school districts have been learning from home since last March because of the pandemic. Frustrated parents and politicians have been clamouring for schools to return students to the classroom for months. But many school boards have been reluctant, facing opposition from teachers unions worried about coronavirus safety protocols and citing surveys from parents saying they are not comfortable sending their kids back to class in-person. “As a former math teacher for 13 years, we know that that’s the place we need our kids to be, but we’re afraid because you’re asking to put our own lives at risk and to put our families' lives at risk,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County. Nearly every lawmaker voted for the bill on Thursday, but many did so reluctantly, arguing it's too weak. The bill does not say how much time students should spend in the classroom, prompting fears some districts might have students return for just one day a week and still be eligible to get the money. And while the bill requires most elementary school grades to return to the classroom to get the money, it does not require all middle and high school grades to return this year. Republicans in the state Senate tried to amend the bill to say schools must offer at least three days per week of in-person learning, but Democrats in the majority rejected it. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has said he plans to sign the bill into law on Friday. Newsom faces a potential recall election later this year, fueled by anger over his handling of the fallout from the pandemic. He has travelled the state in recent weeks touting his efforts at reopening the economy, including a visit to an elementary school where he read to students as they sat behind plexiglass barriers on their desks. Scott Wilk, the Republican leader in the state Senate, said the bill was simply an effort by Democrats to give Newsom political cover so he can “get parents to believe he’s doing everything he possibly can for them.” “The truth is (this bill) doesn’t do anything to reopen our schools. ,” said Wilk, who voted for the bill along with most other Republicans. The bill has two sets of rules districts must follow to get the money. The first set applies to school districts in counties where the coronavirus is widespread. The second set of rules applies to districts in counties where the virus is not as widespread. To get the money, districts governed by the first set of rules must offer in-person learning through at least second grade by the end of March. Districts governed by the second set of rules must offer in-person learning to all elementary grades, plus at least one grade in middle and high school. However, the Newsom administration late Wednesday changed the standards that dictate which counties must follow which rules. The new standards mean most counties will have to follow the second set of rules requiring districts to offer in-person instruction for more grades. Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez criticized that decision as “a little dishonest.” Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, went further, saying he was “deeply concerned to see the goalposts already moving on this reopening plan just days after its unveiling.” “This change risks the unintended consequences of delaying return to classrooms and further eroding Californians' trust,” he said. The bill also includes $4.6 billion aimed at helping students catch up after a year of learning from home. Districts could use the money to extend the school year into the summer or they could spend it on counselling and tutoring. All districts would get this money, regardless of whether they offer in-person instruction. But the bill stated that districts must use at least 85% of that money for expenses related to in-person instruction. Adam Beam, The Associated Press
Christine Burgener called on the council for "unified support, action", asking "how much more can we allow the Myanmar military to get away with?", following the deaths of dozens of civilian protesters this week. She said the situation in Myanmar was moving toward "an acute humanitarian crisis".
There seems to be some new residents living along the walking trails in Totten-ham by the Conservation Area. Local hikers have noticed little doorways that enter into secret tiny homes inside the trees along the trails. Some tiny little signs announce that it is a fairy home. While no one has yet to admit to actually seeing a fairy, there is little doubt among trail users that they are there – they’re just very secretive. Local resident and avid hiker Marc Landry first noticed the fairy homes on a recent hike down the trails.An avid bird watcher, he had his cam-era with him and took some photo and posted on them on a local Facebook page. “I’m out there at least once a week,” Mr. Landry explained. “I do a lot of birding on that trail so, for me, it’s a lot of observation. They crossed my eyesight a couple of times and decided to have a look at them. They’re pretty easy to find once you start looking for them. About two weeks ago I took all the pictures. For me it’s all about the observation of nature. If I find something, well good.” He started quite the buzz when he posted his photos. People wanted to know where the little fairy homes were coming from. At first it was a secret, but a local resi-dent had the inside scoop and let it slip. It turns out local artist Becky Crawford and her husband Tom MacDonald, have been secretly fixing the fairy doors to trees along the trail. They did it just to give other people some joy in their life. “I usually work in stained glass,” Becky explained. “We weren’t sure anyone would even notice. We started doing it a few months ago. They’re not too spread out so you can easily find them. We thought it was something that would just bring a smile to someone’s face. Times are so tough right now, we thought if we could do something light and fun, maybe someone would like it.” Becky started making the fairy doors with a friend when their children were small, and they would put them in the yard. Although she usually works in glass, it would not be the right medium for attaching to a tree so she switched to wood. “In Europe a lot of people put them around their baseboards at home,” Becky said. “Even some big businesses with have a little fairy door – it’s a tradi-tion. It’s a little bit of magic and a little fun. I wanted to put them where people were walking because that’s pretty much all you could do during the lock-down. Me and my husband make them. He cuts the wood and sands the doors down and I go from there.” Becky usually sells her stained glass at local artisans’ markets, so venturing out and putting her work on the local trail was a little different. Children love the fairy doors and make a game of trying to find them all. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Another step was taken in a roof replacement project as an engineering firm has been selected for the Ecole St. Mary High School roof plan at the Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education meeting on Monday. The board selected Prakash Consulting of Prince Albert to oversee the engineering side of the replacement. Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen outlined the steps in the process before the board unanimously chose the firm. “We are commencing planning for replacement of sections of the Ecole St. Mary High School roof. The first step in the process was to solicit submissions from qualified engineering firms to provide project management and engineering services for that project. As a result of that process we did receive three submissions and evaluated those submissions,” McEwen told the board during Monday's meeting. McEwen explained that the project was approved as part of the three year Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) plan under three separate parts. Division administration sent out a request for estimates from firms in Prince Albert for engineering and project management for the project. Three firms submitted for the roof replacement and after evaluating the submissions Prakash was selected by administration for engineering and project management. The evaluation was made after applying board policy regarding purchasing of goods and services. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Despite a closure for public access, all is not lost for the 150-year-old Springfield House and Escott Hall. Following a committee of the whole meeting Monday evening, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands and the Friends of the Springfield House Complex both say they are comfortable with where the issue is currently regarding the two buildings in the township. Last Thursday, the township released a long-awaited report that cited structural issues in its recommendation that council close public access to the two buildings located on County Road 2. The report also recommended that council direct staff to initiate the process for the consideration of declaring the two buildings surplus, a move that would allow the township to place the buildings on the market. However, township officials stressed they are a long way from placing the two buildings up for sale and it is not the goal of the township to sell the historical buildings. "We recognize the significance of the properties," said Stephen Donachey, the township's chief administrative officer. "This isn't going to be a consultation period that is very abbreviated… we want a fulsome discussion with the public." Most on council said it is not their preference to have the buildings put up for sale, but that time is of the essence to get something done with them due to their condition. Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke said the issue is at a critical period due to the condition of the buildings. "The conditions of the buildings are what they are today because everybody has sort of pushed this around and pushed it to the side," she said. Robert Burtch, chairman of the Friends of the Springfield House Complex committee, gave a presentation Monday before councillors discussed the matter. He says he is happy with the outcome of the meeting and thinks that the current mood of council is in favour of at least one of the buildings being saved. "We have to focus on what we can do now and if we've got the goodwill of the council with us, that's all we care about right now and we need to act on it," said Burtch. During his presentation, Burtch suggested to council that a historical engineer assess the buildings to get an accurate dollar figure on potential restoration costs. Smith-Gatcke said she is on board with having a more updated and historical assessment of the buildings. Along with the option to begin consideration of the buildings being surplus, the other two options presented to the committee were to repair the two buildings or close them for demolition. Nobody on the committee considered levelling the buildings, due in part to their historical nature. Springfield House was built in 1871 and is one of the oldest still-intact buildings in the township. Following restoration in the 1980s, the house served as the township public library until 2016. Both buildings have been given historical designations, which do limit potential outcomes and options for the township. Another limiting issue is the archives. The Escott Hall serves as the home for the archives of the township. Due to the nature of belongings in the archives, the space they can be kept in is limited. Further, the process for moving the archives would require experts and would not come cheap, said Burtch. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. There are 878,391 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 878,391 confirmed cases (29,903 active, 826,337 resolved, 22,151 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,832 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 78.68 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,063 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,866. There were 47 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 286 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 41. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,763,481 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,002 confirmed cases (125 active, 871 resolved, six deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 23.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,101 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 138 confirmed cases (23 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Thursday. The rate of active cases is 14.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 18 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 109,360 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,649 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,555 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 350,135 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,443 confirmed cases (37 active, 1,378 resolved, 28 deaths). There were five new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 4.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 239,229 tests completed. _ Quebec: 290,377 confirmed cases (7,379 active, 272,553 resolved, 10,445 deaths). There were 707 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 86.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,047 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 721. There were 20 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 84 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 304,757 confirmed cases (10,309 active, 287,424 resolved, 7,024 deaths). There were 994 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 69.97 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,446 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,064. There were 10 new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 108 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 15. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.67 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,017,094 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,051 confirmed cases (1,143 active, 30,005 resolved, 903 deaths). There were 51 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 82.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 394 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 56. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 536,934 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,220 confirmed cases (1,422 active, 27,407 resolved, 391 deaths). There were 161 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 120.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,029 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 147. There were two new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.17 per 100,000 people. There have been 581,914 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,785 confirmed cases (4,613 active, 128,261 resolved, 1,911 deaths). There were 331 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 104.32 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,353 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 336. There were nine new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 37 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.22 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,425,265 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 82,473 confirmed cases (4,808 active, 76,289 resolved, 1,376 deaths). There were 564 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 93.4 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,691 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 527. There were four new reported deaths Thursday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.73 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,950,778 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Thursday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,187 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,743 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 369 confirmed cases (14 active, 354 resolved, one deaths). There were 10 new cases Thursday. The rate of active cases is 35.58 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,755 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Former President Donald Trump intensified his war with the Republican establishment on Thursday by attacking Karl Rove, a longtime Republican strategist who criticized Trump's first speech since leaving office for being long on grievances but short on vision. "He’s a pompous fool with bad advice and always has an agenda," Trump complained in a statement issued by his office in Palm Beach, Florida. Rove, the architect of Republican George W. Bush's presidential victories in 2000 and 2004, wrote in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Trump's speech last Sunday to the Conservative Political Action Conference was wanting.
China will increase its annual research and development spending by more than 7% every year over the next five years, the government wrote on Friday in its work report from the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress. The government will increase expenditure on basic research by 10.6% in 2021, the report added. The ramp-up highlights the country's commitment to advancing in the tech sector, as the country increasingly clashes with the United States and other countries over technology policy.
That’s it for hockey this year. After a short-lived time on the ice, minor hockey is throwing in the towel – and they have no choice. The TNT Tornados have announced the season is over. The decision to cancel the rest of the season comes after the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit decided the region needs to go back into lockdown mode. The kids were back on the ice on February 20, when the region went into a Red Alert situation. Teams were able to practice and do training drills with restrictions. Those restrictions included limiting the ice to ten people and having no contact during practice. Parents were not allowed into the arena to watch practices.No dressing rooms were available, so players had to arrive dressed for the ice with the exception of helmets and skates. The move back to a lockdown situation on March 1, means arenas will again be off lim-its. The TNT executive had no choice but to finally just cancel everything. Previously, they said they had hoped to continue playing through to the end of April with hopes that a move to a Yellow or Orange alert would allow more kids to participate and be on the ice. The on again, off again situation when it comes to lockdowns in the region has crippled most sports with many activities not tak-ing place at all this year. There is a lot of doubt whether spring and summer sports will even be allowed this year. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Ontario’s first and only diamond mine is moving to the next phase of its closure plan with the appointment of Golder, a Canadian-owned engineering and environmental services consulting group, as the primary contractor who will oversee the remaining demolition and site rehabilitation. Victor Mine, owned by The De Beers Group, is located approximately 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat in the James Bay Lowlands. It opened in 2008 as only the second diamond mine in Canada. The open pit operation also included its own airstrip located on the property. It ceased mining operations in June 2019. De Beers reports that as of the end of 2020, approximately 65 per cent of the on-site infrastructure has been safely demolished, and around 40 per cent of the site has been rehabilitated with more than 1.2 million trees planted on the property since 2014. The De Beers Group will remain accountable for the site, and will retain responsibilities for achieving site closure objectives, keeping in line with government regulations, as well as relationships with Indigenous communities, the company stated in a release. All permits and licences remain in De Beers’ name. A small site-based oversight team will work directly with Golder personnel throughout the process, in addition to the De Beers employees who will continue to be responsible for daily environmental monitoring. Golder was chosen after what De Beers called an “extensive commercial process” which was undertaken throughout 2020. Golder’s responsibilities will include the remaining closure activities, as well as the day-to-day management of the site. They will also handle the remaining infrastructure demolition work, and site rehabilitation through 2023. “A similar model, hiring a prime contractor, was used during construction of Victor Mine, which opened ahead of schedule and on budget,” said Maxwell Morapeli, head of closure for De Beers. “Golder has a strong track record of successful closure and rehabilitation of industrial sites around the world, including working with local communities where they operate. We look forward to benefiting from their experience as we continue the responsible closure of Victor Mine.” Included in its contract with the De Beers Group is a commitment from Golder to work with local Indigenous contracting companies to provide necessary on-site services such as catering, housekeeping, and security. Heavy equipment operators and other personnel will be hired from the Attawapiskat First Nation and will be provided training and other opportunities. Golder and its sub-contractors have also hired 19 former De Beers Victor Mine employees to continue on-site work. “We are proud to have been selected to lead the responsible closure of the Victor Mine,” said Greg Herasymuik, Golder's Canadian Region president. “As we manage activities at site, we are committed to providing employment opportunities and to continue involving the local community.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
EDMONTON — The lawyer for a pastor accused of holding Sunday services that ignored COVID-19 rules says his client should be released from jail and be free to lead worshippers until his trial. James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for more than two weeks and is appealing his bail conditions. Queen's Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn is to make a decision Friday. Coates is charged with violating Alberta's Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence. The judge noted that Coates did not want the publication ban that is normally imposed on bail hearings. Coates's lawyer, James Kitchen, told the judge that his client can't follow a bail condition that forbids holding church services, because that would violate the pastor's conscience by disobeying God. "Imposing upon a pastor the condition of his release that he not pastor ... that is an embarrassment to the courts," Kitchen told Michalyshyn. "This is a matter of deep, deep personal conscience and personal beliefs. He is compelled to obey the God he loves, he believes, as are his congregants." Kitchen said it should be determined whether Coates's charter rights are being violated before he is jailed. "We are putting the cart before the horse, doing things backwards," he said. If the pastor does not agree to bail conditions, he could remain in jail for two months until his trial begins in May, Kitchen added. The public health prosecutor, who asked the court to be addressed only by her title because she is concerned for her safety, argued that the pastor's release is a danger to the public. "The one condition that was imposed is directly related to the behaviours that come under the prohibition of the Public Health Act orders," she said. The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing. More than 50 people were gathered outside an Edmonton courthouse with their family and children to pray for Coates during the hearing today. They held a banner that read #freejamescoates. GraceLife Church has continued to hold services, even though Coates is in jail. Many gathered again on the weekend as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation. "Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,'' the Mounties said in a news release. "The Parkland RCMP remain engaged in continued consultations with several partner agencies to determine the most productive course of action in relation to the church.'' Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates had been addressing the province's health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press