With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Wall Street's GameStop saga won't stop. After weeks of going dormant, shares of GameStop have suddenly shot higher again, rising 18.6% Thursday after surging 75% in the last hour of trading Wednesday. Thursday's gain, which topped 101% before shrinking, came even as most stocks across Wall Street fell sharply on worries about rising interest rates. The moves are reminiscent of the shocking 1,625% surge for GameStop in January, when bands of smaller and novice investors communicating on social media launched the struggling video game retailer's stock. That initial supernova heightened questions about whether the broader market was in a bubble and whether a new generation of traders should be able to take full advantage of the free trades available on their phones. Global markets swooned momentarily; Congress held a hearing. No clear reason seems to be behind this most recent move, leaving market observers to grasp at what little news is out there, but it does demonstrate the increased power that regular investors suddenly have. One major piece that drove last month’s surge is not as big a player this time around: a huge build-up of what’s called “short interest,” or bets by investors that the stock is set to fall. After short-selling funds got badly burned by last month's sudden surge, many fewer GameStop shares are being sold short now. That means this pop may not reach last month's heights. “It’s like dropping a ping-pong ball on the table,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. "The first bounce is the greatest while subsequent bounces are a bit more muted. We’re still getting a bounce, but it’s probably not going to drive up GameStop to $500 a share.” Here’s what we know: KITTY ROARS AGAIN — The most influential GameStop-backer may be Keith Gill, a colorful personality known for wearing a red headband and cat-themed T-shirts. He’s given regular updates of his GameStop holdings on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum, going back to when a share cost just 85 cents in 2019. A day after testifying in a Congressional hearing about GameStop last week, he indicated he added another 50,000 shares after Feb. 3, doubling his GameStop stock position. By Feb. 3, GameStop had dropped toward $90 after touching a momentary peak of $483 in late January. CFO EXIT — This is one of the few actual pieces of news. Late Tuesday, GameStop said its chief financial officer had agreed to leave the company and that he was entitled to the benefits due to him under his employment contract for a “good reason” resignation. Speculation rose that the departure was part of the company’s accelerating transformation from a struggling brick-and-mortar retailer to a digital seller better able to compete in an increasingly online business. But this information was known when trading began on Wednesday, and the stock didn't surge until hours later. THE ICE CREAM CONE — Ryan Cohen is a co-founder of the Chewy online pet-supplies company. He is also a big shareholder of GameStop and on its board of directors. GameStop backers see his involvement as a key reason to bet on a successful transformation for the company into a successful digital powerhouse. On Wednesday, an hour or so before GameStop shares spiked, Cohen tweeted a photo of an ice cream cone from McDonald’s, along with an emoji of a frog. Sounds fairly mundane, but nothing is normal in the GameStop saga. Market watchers and Reddit users tried to parse the cryptic image. Some focused on how the original photo seems to have accompanied an article about a person who created a website tracking whether McDonald’s ice cream machines are working ... a person whose past tweets indicate he may be a holder of GameStop stock. LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE — Some market watchers speculated that GameStop’s surprise reanimation was a reaction to critical comments from Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. “That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you get a whole lot of people who are using liquid stock markets to gamble the way they would in betting on race horses,” Munger said on Wednesday while speaking at the annual meeting of Los Angeles Daily Journal The remarks didn’t win Munger many admirers on WallStreetBets, where traders often see themselves in opposition to Baby Boomers, hedge funds and others. One Redditor posted a chart in the forum showing the spike in GameStop’s shares, adding: “TAKE THAT CHARLIE MUNGER.” TRADING FRENZY — The stock's movement were so wild that trading was temporarily halted four times on Thursday for volatility. Even though some novice investors suspected something nefarious, such halts are normal. There are rules that mandate a halt in trading when a stock rises or falls by a certain percentage within a certain time. Even so, GameStop shares changed hands more times by midday Thursday than for Apple, a company with a market value nearly 180 times the size of GameStop. REGULATORS REACT — The Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission are reviewing whether trading practices were consistent with “investor protection and fair and efficient markets.” At a hearing last week by the House Financial Services Committee, some lawmakers floated the possibility of crafting new rules requiring market players to disclose short-selling positions and restricting arrangements of payment for order flow, a common practice in the securities markets in which Wall Street trading firms such as Citadel Securities pay companies like Robinhood to send them their customers’ orders for execution. Stan Choe And Alex Veiga, The Associated Press
(Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit) New Brunswick's child and youth advocate says he's cautiously optimistic after the province announced it's five-year plan to tackle mental health and addictions in the province. Earlier this week, the province announced a provincial treatment centre for youth would be open by 2024. Such a centre has been a priority for successive governments, both Liberal and Progressive Conservative, and a centre was planned for Campbellton. Concerns about the location and staffing led the Blaine Higgs government to move the centre to Moncton. Child and youth advocate Norm Bosse said he was happy to see the plan released but hopes the treatment centre can open sooner. "The Addiction and Mental Health Action Plan released by Minister Shepherd this week is a welcome sight, that's for sure," said Bosse. "I know she said 2024, but let's hope that it's built before then." Going beyond centre of excellence The new centre in Moncton has been trumpeted as a centre of excellence for youth mental health and addictions services. But Bosse said treating youth mental health and addiction issues can't stop at the centre of excellence. A network of excellence is needed, he said This would allow young people to be treated for more moderate issues in their communities, with more serious cases being reserved for the Moncton centre. He cited Saint John's Access Open Minds as an example and said treating youth in their own communities is key to getting them better, faster. "Youth can go there, they can talk to a counsellor, if they need assistance, they can certainly get it," said Bosse. "It's what we call treating the situation at the right place at the right time and not waiting for months and months to get in to see either psychologists or psychiatrists. Those are what make a difference sometimes so that the situations of mental health don't escalate to the point where they need tertiary care" Bosse said the data is too fresh to draw any permanent conclusions, but anecdotally, he said, youth have had a hard time during the pandemic. "What we're hearing and receiving from calls for assistance in our office is that children are suffering, there's depression and there's also risk of suicide," said Bosse. "I've not heard of one case of youth dying by suicide during this pandemic, but the the elements are all there to create those situations."
(Beth Brown/CBC - image credit) Nunavut's chief public health officer announced the territory is easing public health measures for all Qikiqtani, Kitikmeot and Kivalliq communities except Arviat, beginning March 1. In a news release Thursday, Dr. Michael Patteron said that all schools will be able to open to full-time, in-classroom learning for all grades in the Qikiqtani and Kitikmeot regions. All halls, conference spaces, restaurants, bars, theatres and places of worship may increase to 75 per cent capacity or 100 people, whichever is less," the release reads. It adds that all gyms, fitness centres, pools, libraries, museums and galleries may open to 25 people or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is less. Communities within the Qikiqtani region include Apex, Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Grise Fiord, Igloolik, Iqaluit, Kimmirut, Kinngait, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Resolute Bay, Sanikiluaq and Sanirajak. Communities within the Kitikmeot region include Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Kugluktuk and Taloyoak. The release said that in all Kivalliq communities except Arviat, schools may also open to full-time, in-classroom learning for all grades. Schools in that region outside of Arviat had been open to students in elementary school, but middle and high school students were attending two to three days a week and had some remote instruction. "All the other current public health measures in the Kivalliq region remain unchanged," the release stated.
The COVID-19 vaccine is now being made available to Alberta seniors aged 75 and over. All Alberta residents born in 1946 or earlier may now book appointments to be vaccinated through Alberta Health Services (AHS) using online and telephone booking systems. AHS started offering the vaccine directly to all residents in retirement centres, lodges, supportive living and other congregate living facilities with residents aged 75 or older, as of Feb. 19. Then on Feb. 24, the province opened appointments to all residents aged 75 or older, regardless of where they live. Appointment availability is based on vaccine supply. Appointments can be booked online (albertahealthservices.ca) or by calling 811. Seniors isolated seniors and those with mobility challenges can call 21 for assistance finding a ride to and form their vaccination appointment. These vaccinations are being provided as part of Phase 1 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination program. Other people eligible to receive the vaccine under this phase include select healthcare workers, staff and residents of long-term care facilities, and First Nations, Inuit, Métis and persons 65 years of age and over living in a First Nations community or Metis Settlement. Phase 2 of the province’s vaccination program is scheduled from April to September 2021, but timelines are subject to change depending on vaccine supply, according to the government. This phase is broken down into four groups (A to D), of about 1.8 million Albertans, with each group being eligible once the vaccination of the previous group is complete. Group A consists of Albertans aged 65 to 74, First Nations, Inuit and Metis people aged 50 to 64, and staff of licensed supportive living not included in Phase 1. Group B includes Albertans aged 18 to 64 with high-risk underlying health conditions. Group C is composed of residents and staff of congregate living settings (e.g., prisons, homeless shelters, group homes), and caregivers who are most at risk of severe outcomes. Group D includes Albertans aged 50 to 64 and First Nations Inuit and Métis people aged 35 to 49. Phase 3, scheduled for fall 2021, will see the anticipated roll-out of the vaccine to the rest of the public. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
OTTAWA — A British Columbia businessman who made an illegal contribution to New Democrat MP Peter Julian's 2015 election campaign has been ordered to pay $7,500 to the receiver general of Canada. Elections commissioner Yves Côté says Robert Gibbs, co-owner of Romar Communications, provided free website development services to Julian's campaign. Gibbs told Julian's campaign that the work was done by volunteers, after work hours. However, unbeknownst to the campaign, Côté says three workers were paid $1,000 each for their work, the commercial value of which Côté says was actually $6,000. In its report to Elections Canada, Julian's campaign reported non-monetary contributions worth $2,000 from each of the three workers. Since that exceeded the $1,500 individual donation limit, the campaign paid $1,500 to Gibbs' company on the understanding that it would be given to the three workers, but Gibbs kept the money. The $7,500 Gibbs must now pay the receiver general represents the commercial value of the work done plus the $1,500 from the campaign that was never given to the workers. Côté announced the payment as part of a compliance agreement with Gibbs. Compliance agreements are commonly used by the elections commissioner to deal with relatively minor violations of the Canada Elections Act. They do not constitute a criminal conviction in a court of law and do not create a criminal record for the offender. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
An Onion Lake man currently serving time on charges from Saskatchewan has a bail hearing in Alberta on charges out of that province. Michael Patrick Hill, 23, was scheduled to enter a plea in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on Feb. 24 but an agent appearing on his behalf asked for an adjournment. The matter was adjourned until March 10 for a bail hearing. Hill is charged in Alberta in connection to an incident where an RCMP officer was injured while pursuing Hill. If Hill is granted bail at his upcoming hearing in Alberta, he will first have to finish his custodial sentence from a Saskatchewan court. On Feb. 9, 2021, in Lloydminster, Sask., Provincial Court, Hill was sentenced to six months for theft over $5,000 and two months consecutive for breach of a curfew. Hill has been in custody since he was arrested in Alberta on Jan. 19, 2021. Alberta RCMP say that Hill was involved in an incident in Vermillion, Alta., where a gun was allegedly pointed at someone. The suspects fled in a black SUV, which police located about an hour later near Edmonton. One of the RCMP officer’s pursuing Hill hit the ditch and the police cruiser rolled on Range Road 540 just outside of Edmonton. The officer was taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries. A second RCMP vehicle was able to stop the SUV near Township Road 534. Strathcona County RCMP and Fort Saskatchewan RCMP assisted Vermillion RCMP in the pursuit. Hill was charged with assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a vehicle, flight from a peace officer, pointing a firearm, operation of a motor vehicle while prohibited, possession of stolen property under $5,000, possession of stolen property over $5,000, and failing to comply with conditions. Alberta RCMP also arrested a twenty-one-year-old woman from Onion Lake Cree Nation who was with Hill. She was released on an undertaking and is scheduled to make her first court appearance in Sherwood Park Provincial Court on March 17. Alberta RCMP say they will release her name after she makes her first court appearance. Sherwood Park is part of Strathcona County and part of the greater Edmonton region. Onion Lake Cree Nation is about 50 kilometres north of Lloydminster and borders the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as early as March 5. The proposed changes include raising capacity limits at stores and personal service operations to 50 per cent from the current 25 per cent. Restaurant capacity would also increase to 50 per cent capacity from 25 per cent, but tables would continue to be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services would be allowed at 25 per cent, up from 10 per cent and outdoor public gatherings would be capped at 10 people instead of the current five. Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says Manitoba's COVID-19 statistics are heading in the right direction. He says the public is encouraged to provide feedback in the coming days before a decision is made. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 The Canadian Press
Quebecers 85 years and older were able to register for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Thursday, while seniors in Ontario will have to wait weeks to book in that province. The Quebec appointments are to begin next week in the Montreal region. Ontario’s vaccine distribution committee, blaming a lack of supply for the delay, has said seniors won’t be able to book appointments until March 15. Provinces are moving forward with their vaccine distribution plans as federal officials assure the disruptions that have plagued supply lines have been rectified. The vaccine appointment launch in Alberta on Wednesday left many frustrated when the government's online portal crashed after more than 150,000 people tried to get access to it about the same time. Some 230,000 people born in 1946 or earlier are now eligible to be immunized in that province. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, military commander in charge of the federal vaccine distribution program, said he understands that provinces may not have a lot of confidence in dose deliveries after a disappointing performance in February. But supply is already ramping back up, he said. The largest number of doses yet was delivered this week — 643,000 across the country. "Provinces are now in a position to fully deploy their immunization plans," Fortin said. Even with setbacks in recent weeks, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, said more than 40 per cent of seniors over 80 have received one dose of the vaccine. About 5.5 per cent have received a second dose. Njoo cautioned it is not time for people to let their guard down. "For now, however, COVID-19 remains a serious threat” Concern over spread of the novel coronavirus in Quebec has prompted officials there to require primary school students in red pandemic-alert zones, including the greater Montreal area, to wear masks starting March 8. It won't apply to certain students with special needs or when children are playing outside. The more contagious B.1.1.7 variant — first detected in the United Kingdom — has become a significant concern in Montreal, where there is still widespread community transmission. The variant is making up eight to 10 per cent of new cases. Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal's public health director, said 40 per cent of cases linked to variants in the city involved children. Hospitalizations, however, are declining provincewide. Health authorities are reporting 858 new infections and 16 more deaths. Ontario was to release new COVID-19 projections later Thursday. The province has reported 1,138 new infections and 23 more deaths linked to the virus. There has been a total of 20,945 new cases across Canada over the past seven days. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
WHITEHORSE — Yukon is beginning to look toward revising its pandemic restrictions as the number of active cases of COVID-19 returns to zero. Speaking at the weekly COVID-19 update in Whitehorse, deputy premier Ranj Pillai says Yukon is "putting resources in place" to be prepared when the time to adjust restrictions arrives. In the meantime, Pillai says the government is extending and expanding assistance to hard-hit Yukon businesses. Supports include extensions to Sept. 30 for several programs, including a plan that helps businesses break even and another that supports employers who pay workers to stay home when they're sick. A new program also allows small and medium-sized businesses to seek up to $100,000 in deferred-interest loans, with no payments due until 2023 and forgiveness of 25 per cent of the amount if certain conditions are met. Pillai and chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley both mentioned "hiccups" as the territory launched its online reservation site for immunization appointments, but Hanley says the problems have been resolved. The availability of vaccine marks an "exciting time" for Yukon residents, he told the news conference on Thursday. "We have seen an incredible uptake in appointments," Hanley says, confirming he has a booking next week for his first dose of the vaccine. "The turnout so far shows so much promise that we are well on our way to immunizing the majority of our population." Yukon has had 72 cases of COVID-19 and one death since the pandemic began. Its website shows 10,781 people have received their first vaccination and 3,585 have been given their second shot. The government has assured all Yukon residents who want the vaccine that they are guaranteed to receive both doses required for maximum immunity. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal government has been granted one more month to expand access to medical assistance in dying. Quebec Superior Court Justice Martin Sheehan has agreed to give the government a fourth extension — until March 26 — to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 court ruling. The decision comes just one day before the previous deadline was to expire. The 2019 ruling struck down a provision in the law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural deaths are "reasonably foreseeable." The government has introduced Bill C-7 to expand assisted dying to intolerably suffering individuals who are not approaching the end of their lives. It is currently stalled in the House of Commons, where the Conservatives are refusing to facilitate debate on the government's response to amendments made by the Senate. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
During a briefing on Thursday, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s science advisory group, presented the latest COVID-19 modeling data which predicted that with the rate of spread, coronavirus variants are likely to make up 40% of COVID-19 cases by mid-March in the province.
A left turn lane will be installed on southbound Westmount Road at its intersection with Highway 1. The change is expected to improve safety and reduce congestion at Westridge Road by preventing traffic backing up along Westmount Road from the intersection, explained Ethan Wilson, Town of Strathmore’s infrastructure manager. Alberta Transportation has already performed repairs at the intersection, at no costs to the town. These included upgrades, including camera position and signal timing changes, to improve safety. But while these changes have improved the wait times at the intersection, it is still a busy intersection with limited space for vehicles to wait, said Wilson. The cost for the project is estimated to be $30,000, of which $7,000 is for design and about $23,000 for construction. These sums include provisional items that may not be required once the design is completed, said Wilson. Once the design is completed, Alberta Transportation will need to grant approval to the project. The government department has already been consulted and has given some support to the project, but they still need to assess how the project would affect east and westbound traffic on the highway, before giving sign off. “There is a risk of spending some money without getting approval,” said Wilson, adding he is confident the project engineer will be able to provide a solution allowing the project to proceed. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project is looking toward the next phase targeting funding broadband projects in lower-density areas. SWIFT is a non-profit that aims to subsidize broadband projects in rural southwestern Ontario areas that have poor or no connectivity. George Bridge, Minto mayor and SWIFT board member, and Barry Field, SWIFT executive director, gave an update on the project to Wellington County council at Thursday’s meeting. In the presentation Bridge noted some highlights from the first phase of the project, called SWIFT 1.0. He explained they are exceeding their target of 50,000 premises served by a few thousand and are very close to reaching their kilometre of fibre laid goal. He was also happy to report that despite earlier concerns from smaller companies about SWIFT becoming a “Bell and Rogers show,” projects from small internet service providers (ISPs) accounted for about half of the funding given through SWIFT’s first phase. The small ISPs will become more important for SWIFT 2.0, the next phase of the project where SWIFT intends to focus on projects in lower density areas. “The bigger ones, Bell and Rogers, they go after so many people per km but your small ISP, for example they’ve gone down as low 3.1 density per km or three houses on a km,” Bridge said. “Our next round we’ll get into, some of the low hanging fruit has been done, now we need to get out to that last mile.” The funding is a big question for the next phase as there has been no commitment on what the province and federal governments will give, if anything at all. A third of SWIFT is funded by the province and a third from the federal government, with the private sector filling in another third and municipal governments providing some capital contributions. Coun. David Anderson asked if there’s anything they could do to give projects a better chance at a successful grant application. Field said municipal financial support or just letter of support for a grant application — which Field noted applies for other funding beyond SWIFT — can go a long way. He also said it might be helpful to encourage local ISPs to apply for funding if they haven’t done so. Wellington North mayor Andy Lennox questioned how to ensure funding gets distributed more equitably so lower density projects aren’t missed again. Field said by the time SWIFT 2.0 comes around those will be most of the projects left and to lower the number of premises per kilometre required, which in the first phase is at around 17 premises per km on average. “There are things we can do in the (request for proposals), the procurement itself, to not only encourage but ensure that we’re not getting at that easiest of the remaining premises,” Field said, noting this was a valid criticism of SWIFT 1.0. “We did have a very high premises count target we had to achieve and that kind of led to policies we had to encourage more premises passed.” Coun. Jeff Duncan asked if a possible federal election this year could delay or impact the next phase. Field said he wasn’t sure but did stress there is no commitment from upper levels of government to fund SWIFT 2.0. Bridge said they’ve been advocating through the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus to all political parties and there is no question from any of them that this is needed. The presentation was accepted as information from council. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada is launching an investigation and reviewing its practices after two returning travellers were allegedly sexually assaulted during their mandatory quarantine periods. A spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said allegations of assaults reported in the media this week are "really concerning." Cole Davidson said the public health agency would review its own procedures as well as those of its service providers to ensure the safety of travellers returning to the country. The response follows reports that a quarantine screening officer as well as a returning traveller have been charged in separate sexual assault cases that allegedly occurred last week. The Opposition Conservatives immediately demanded a suspension of the obligation for travellers to quarantine in hotels until better safety measures are in place, as well as an end to the use of security guards, who they say haven't been properly evaluated, to check on people quarantining at home. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet says he doesn't necessarily believe the quarantine measures need to be suspended, but he wants to see improvements to ensure the safety of travellers under quarantine. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 The Canadian Press
Canadian Alexis Davis returns to action Saturday with a surgically repaired shoulder and a renewed zest for fighting. The 36-year-old from Port Colborne, Ont. who now makes her home in California, steps into the cage for the first time in 19 months when she takes on Sabina (Colombian Queen) Mazo on a UFC Fight Night card in Las Vegas. Davis (19-10-0) is looking to snap a three-fight losing streak. "I believe in myself 100 per cent," she said in an interview. "And I feel like I'm a way better fighter than I've been able to showcase. "People don't understand. it's not about your athletic ability so much as it for your mindset, And I think that's been a huge change for me, and you know what, I like new beginnings. I feel really good. I feel happy. I'm actually excited to fight. That's something I feel like I was missing about my last few (fights). I didn't quite have that same energy, same excitement that I've had before. "It's hard after you've been doing it so long." Davis had her first pro fight in 2007 -- losing to fellow Canadian Sarah Kaufman -- and competed in Strikeforce and Invicta FC before moving to the UFC in 2013. Thirteen months and three wins later, she challenged (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey for the UFC bantamweight title at UFC 175. Rousey, then unbeaten and at the height of her powers, lived up to her billing as 10-1 favourite when she needed just 16 seconds to end the fight. A lot happened in those 16 seconds, none of them good for Davis. Rousey hurt the Canadian with a punch to the face, connected with a knee, then took her down with a hard judo throw, with Montreal referee Yves Lavigne stepping in seconds later after Davis absorbed some 10 rapid-fire blows to the face. "There's a lot of stuff that I didn't do that I wanted to do … But live and learn from your mistakes," she said after the fight. "Just get back up and keep fighting." Davis won three of her next four fights and took time out to have her son before dropping her last three outings. Davis lost a decision to Viviane Araujo last time out at UFC 240 in Edmonton in July 2019. The defeat prompted her to seek help for her shoulder which had been damaged two fights earlier against Katlyn Chookagian in July 2018. "Over time, just that wear and tear, it just got worse and worse," said Davis, noting that her hand kept dropping in training and fights because of the shoulder problems. She had surgery in early 2020, subsequently rehabbing and taking some classes to move farther down the road towards becoming a firefighter. She also got to spend more time with son Rafael, who turns five next week. "Shoulders take so long to recover from," she lamented. But the hard work has paid off, despite the occasional ache. "I've been able to strengthen it, rebuild it and it feels great now," she said. "I feel so much better and so much more confident now that I've got it repaired," she added. Davis is moving back to bantamweight (135 pounds) after four fights as a flyweight (125 pounds). She is currently ranked 11th among flyweights. The five-foot-six Davis, who is 6-5-0 in the UFC, made the move because she had had more success as a 135-pounder and because it makes for less stress. "I get to enjoy food a little bit more," said Davis, who got into combat sports after taking a kickboxing class in Port Colborne. The 23-year-old Mazo (9-1-0) is a former Legacy Fighting Alliance flyweight champion who is 3-1-0 in the UFC. Saturday's main event at the UFC's Apex production facility pits Suriname's Jairzinho (Bigi Boy) Rozenstruik against France's Cyril (Bon Gamin) Gane. Rozenstruik (11-1-0) is ranked fourth among UFC heavyweight contenders while Gane (7-0-0) is No. 7. In other Canadian UFC news: — Quebec featherweight Charles (Air) Jourdain has a new opponent in Marcelo (Pitbull) Rojo (replacing the injured Steve Garcia) on March 13. Fellow Canadians Gavin Tucker and Misha Cirkunov are on the same Las Vegas card, facing featherweight Dan (50K) Ige and light-heavyweight Ryan (Superman) Spann, respectively. — Flyweight Gillian (The Savage) Robertson’s fight against Miranda (Fear The) Maverick has been rescheduled for UFC 260 on March 27 in Las Vegas. The two were scheduled to meet Feb. 13 at UFC 258 but Robertson, a native of Niagara Falls, Ont., who makes her home in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., had to withdraw due to a non-COVID-related illness. — Felicia (Feenom) Spencer takes on Danyelle Wolf on a May 22 Fight Night card. It's the first fight for the Montreal-born Spencer, who now calls Orlando home, since last June when she lost a decision to featherweight champion Amanda (Lioness) Nunes at UFC 250. — Middleweight Marc-Andre (Power Bar) Barriault returns from a six-month doping suspension to fight Morocco's Abu (Gladiator) Azaitar at UFC 260 on March 27 in Las Vegas. Barriault, a native of Gatineau, Que., who fights out of Quebec City, blamed the low-level positive test on tainted supplements with the UFC backing him. — Montreal lightweight John (The Bull) Makdessi meets Chile's Ignacio (La Jaula) Bahamondes on an April 10 Fight Night card, with the venue yet to be announced. --- Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
(CBC - image credit) The provincial government is on the hook to pay 10 defence lawyers for their work defending 10 correctional officers charged in the death of Jonathan Henoche. CBC News has confirmed the province lost an arbitration hearing against the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, the public sector union representing the officers. A decision was sent to all parties on Thursday morning. NAPE notified the correctional officers via email, enclosing a snippet of the ruling, in which arbitrator James Oakley wrote, "The employer is required by Section 36 [of the officers' collective agreement] to pay legal fees incurred by the grievors until such time as there is a determination by the facts or the courts that the grievors have been deemed to have performed in a negligent manner." Section 36 deals with who pays legal fees when a person is charged or sued while acting in their role as a correctional officer. It says the province is responsible except in cases where officers are deemed negligent by "facts or the courts." Seven officers are charged with negligence causing death, and three are charged with manslaughter in the death of inmate Jonathan Henoche on Nov. 6, 2019. Henoche was facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Regula Schule, 88. He died after what sources told CBC News was an altercation with officers at Her Majesty's Penitentiary. Sources have told CBC News Henoche was involved in a physical altercation with officers in his cell. He was taken to the segregation unit and later died. His death was ruled a homicide by the province's chief medical examiner. The 10 officers' first court appearance was Feb. 11, when defence lawyers said they didn't have enough time to review all the documents handed over by the prosecution, and a second date was set for March 11. No facts have been proven by the court, but the province had refused to pay the officers' legal fees, while saying it was abiding by its interpretation of the collective agreement. NAPE disagreed, and filed a grievance. The hearing was held on Feb. 19. CBC News has yet to obtain a full copy of Oakley's decision. NAPE declined comment Thursday afternoon. Messages to representatives of the provincial government were not immediately returned. This story will be updated if the Department of Justice and Public Safety responds to a request for comment. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
HARDCOVER FICTION 1. “A Court of Silver Flames” by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury) 2. “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Press) 3. “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig (Viking) 4. “The Sanatorium” by Sarah Pearse (Viking/Dorman) 5. “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” by V.E. Schwab (Tor) 6. “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett (Riverhead) 7. “Faithless in Death” by J.D. Robb (St. Martin’s Press) 8. “The Russian” by Patterson/Born (Little, Brown) 9. “Missing and Endangered” by J.A. Jance (William Morrow) 10. “Relentless” by Mark Greaney (Berkley) 11. “The Return” by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central Publishing) 12. “Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman (Atria) 13. “A Time for Mercy” by John Grisham (Doubleday) 14. “Neighbours” by Danielle Steel (Delacorte) 15. “Ready Player Two” by Ernest Cline (Ballantine) HARDCOVER NONFICTION 1. “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” by Bill Gates (Knopf) 2. “Just As I Am: A Memoir” by Cicely Tyson (HarperCollins) 3. “Walk in My Combat Boots” by Patterson/Eversmann (Little, Brown) 4. “The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee (One World) 5. “Keep Sharp” by Sanjay Gupta (Simon & Schuster) 6. “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (Crown) 7. “Winning the War in Your Mind” by Craig Groeschel (Zondervan) 8. “Unmasked” by Andy Ngo (Center Street) 9. “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House) 10. “Greenlights” by Matthew McConaughey (Crown) 11. “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle (Dial) 12. “Between Two Kingdoms” by Suleika Jaouad (Random House) 13. “Four Hundred Souls” by Kendi/Blain (One World) 14. “Think Again” by Adam Grant (Viking) 15. “Magnolia Table, Vol. 2” by Joanna Gaines (William Morrow) MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS 1. “The Numbers Game” by Danielle Steel (Dell) 2. “Reckless Road” by Christine Feehan (Berkley) 3. “Western Stars” by Nora Roberts (St. Martin’s Press) 4. “The Lost and Found Bookshop” by Susan Wiggs (Avon) 5. “Bridgerton: The Duke and I” (TV tie-in) by Julia Quinn (Avon) 6. “Perfect Partners” by Debbie Macomber (Mira) 7. “The Sea Glass Cottage” by RaeAnne Thayne (HQN) 8. “Revenge” by Patterson/Holmes (Grand Central Publishing) 9. “Shadows in Death” by J.D. Robb (St. Martin's Press) 10. “A Minute to Midnight” by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing) 11. “Long Range” by C.J. Box (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) 12. “Hit List” by Stuart Woods (G.P. Putnam's Sons) 13. “Highland Treasure” by Lynsay Sands (Avon) 14. “Wicked Game” by Jackson/Bush (Zebra) 15. “The Inn” by Patterson/Fox (Grand Central Publishing) TRADE PAPERBACKS 1. “Burn After Writing” (pink) by Sharon Jones (TarcherPerigee) 2. “The 20th Victim” by Patterson/Paetro (Grand Central Publishing) 3. “Home Body” by Rupi Kaur (Andrews McMeel) 4. “Fair Warning” by Michael Connelly (Grand Central Publishing) 5. “28 Summers” by Elin Hilderbrand (Back Bay) 6. “Bridgerton: The Duke and I” (TV tie-in) by Julia Quinn (Avon) 7. “The Girl from the Channel Islands” by Jenny Lecoat (Graydon House) 8. “The Order” by Daniel Silva (Harper) 9. “Circe” by Madeline Miller (Back Bay) 10. “The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook” by Jeffrey Eisner (Voracious) 11. “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial) 12. “Thank You for Rejecting Me” by Kait Warman (Baker) 13. “Eight Perfect Murders” by Peter Swanson (William Morrow) 14. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey (Simon & Schuster) 15. “Firefly Lane” (TV tie-in) by Kristin Hannah (Griffin) The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — European Union leaders vowed Thursday to accelerate the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and pressed pharmaceutical companies to respect their delivery commitments, as concern mounts about the spread of new variants of the virus. However, the leaders could offer no prospect of short-term respite for curfew-weary, mask-wearing citizens, many of whom have often worked from home over the last year — if they have not lost their jobs. The leaders also said that restrictions, including on travel, should remain in place in many parts of the 27-nation bloc. COVID-19 has killed more than 531,000 people across the EU. “Our top priority now is speeding up the production and delivery of vaccines and vaccinations,” EU Council President Charles Michel said, adding a warning for vaccine makers: “We want more predictability and transparency to ensure that pharmaceutical companies comply with their commitments.” The European Commission has sealed deals with several companies for well over 2 billion vaccine shots — far more than the EU population of around 450 million — but only three have been authorized: jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. Officials say the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be approved next month. But some seniors officials at the big pharmaceutical companies, a few of whom were grilled by EU lawmakers not far from where Michel was chairing the videoconference summit in Brussels, said it's no simple matter to build new vaccine production sites. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said production problems are inevitable as companies work around the clock to do in one year what normally takes 3-4 years. Most of the company chiefs said they expect an improvement in the second quarter. “Every time there is a human error, equipment breaking down... or raw material from one of our suppliers late by a day, you cannot start making the product because it will not be safe, you will not have the right quality,” Bancel said, explaining the technological issues facing producers. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said a big challenge is to improve yield — the number of doses that can be extracted from a litre of vaccine. He also rejected the idea that companies can simply open new production sites to solve the problem, saying that engineers must spend a lot of time training staff. “Our teams are absolutely stretched to the maximum. There’s no way they could train any more people,” he said. Soriot insisted that most companies developing vaccines probably face the same constraint. Soriot came under fire after he confirmed that the company would deliver less than half the vaccines it had committed to in the first quarter. The EU has partly blamed supply delays for lagging far behind nations like Israel, the United States and Britain when it comes to vaccinations. By early this week, 6.5% of the adults living in the EU had been vaccinated, compared to more than 27% in the U.K. Soriot said AstraZeneca would deliver 40 million doses to the EU in the first quarter, attributing the delay to complicated production issues, including “lower than expected output in our dedicated European supply chain.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted pointedly that in terms of companies honouring the delivery commitments in their contracts with Europe, “there is room for improvement” at AstraZeneca. Still, despite the slow vaccine rollout in Europe, delayed by almost a month compared to former member the U.K., von der Leyen said the bloc still aims to inoculate 70% of all adults — around 255 million people — by September. “This is a goal that we are confident we will reach,” she said. Border checks remain a sore point. Divisions among EU member countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Czech Republic, on restrictions to stave off transmission has again raised the spectre of travel delays and long traffic backups in a bloc that prides itself on being a seamless market. Michel told reporters that “non-essential travel may still need to be restricted, but measures should be proportionate.” The leaders were also updated on the movement of fast-spreading new variants of the virus within Europe, with the so-called U.K variant now present in 26 member countries. The variant first detected in South Africa has been identified in 14, while the Brazilian type is known to be in 7. This means that restrictions could well continue through coming months. “There is a growing COVID fatigue among our citizens. It has been a very trying year, but we should not let up now,” said von der Leyen. Also debated was the issue of "vaccine certificates," which could help smooth a return to air travel and possibly avoid another disastrous summer holiday season, as the tourism industry and broader economies suffer from restrictions. Southern European countries dependent on tourism, like Greece and Spain, support such a system, but their northern EU partners, like Germany, doubt whether the certificates would work. Von der Leyen said it would be technically possible to develop a “green pass” using a minimum of data indicating whether a person has been vaccinated, tested negative, or is immune after contracting the disease, within about three months, but that many political issues must first be resolved. French President Emmanuel Macron insisted the EU nations should move in lockstep. “None of us will accept that to attract tourists, one country would have looser rules than another and would be taking risks by making people come from the other side of the world to fill up its hotels,” he said. “The most important question remains whether you can still transmit the disease. It is a crucial question,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters. He also raised concern about other issues, like the exclusion of those who have not been vaccinated, or cannot be. Rutte also said Europeans should consider whether the discussion on vaccination certificates should involve other international institutions such as the World Health Organization, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Air Transport Association. “You have to be careful that by adding more weight to it, the whole thing does not collapse onto itself,” he warned. ___ Sylvie Corbet contributed from Paris, Frank Jordans from Berlin Lorne Cook And Raf Casert, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The number of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases reported at the military service academies dropped in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 school year, the Pentagon said Thursday. The report, which is required by law annually, comes as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that reducing sexual assault is one of his top priorities. He was recently briefed on the military service's programs to counter the problem. “We have been working at this for a long time in earnest, but we haven’t gotten it right,” Austin said last week at his first Pentagon news conference. He promised stronger efforts. “You can look for us to take additional steps in looking in detail at ourselves and what has worked, what hasn’t worked and what measures we need to take going forward to ensure that we provide for a safe and secure and productive environment for our teammates,” he said. “Any other approach is, in my view, irresponsible.” Thursday's Pentagon report said the number of reported sexual assault cases at the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy fell to 129 from 149 in the previous academic year. Sexual harassment reports dropped to 12 from 17. The report said the reason for the declines is unclear, but it noted that in-person classes at the military academies were suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Officials altered most academy activities, including holding graduations virtually and postponing commissioning ceremonies. Thus, it said, the academies offered only about three-quarters of normal levels of interaction. Separately, an in-person survey of military academy students that is normally conducted to give the Pentagon a better understanding of the sexual assault problem and its prevalence was cancelled because of the pandemic. Robert Burns, The Associated Press