With Chris St. Clair.
With Chris St. Clair.
NORTH PERTH – Residents are being encouraged by Amy Gangl, interim manager of recreation, to have their say in the development of a community park which will replace Listowel Memorial Arena after its demolition this year. Municipal staff are working with consultants, SHIFT Landscape Architecture, to explore design options to help shape the future park space, and they are looking for input on two preliminary design options presented on Your Say North Perth. On the Memorial Arena Park design options project page at YoursayNorthPerth.ca, residents can review the designs and provide feedback through a survey until Jan. 18. “We’ve received some great input and quite a bit of engagement from the community which is fantastic news,” said Gangl. “That is one of the items council was hoping for and our consultants are already quite pleased with the… input regarding the concept of the designs.” Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner
Calling an emergency responder. Accessing an affordable housing unit. Children learning inside school buildings, not portables. Patients receiving care in a hospital room, not a hallway. The services delivered in cities are the heartbeat of safe and comfortable communities, ones that attract residents, jobs, and investment opportunities for municipal and regional development. Municipalities own 60 percent of Canada’s infrastructure, according to StatsCan, and bear the corresponding duty to maintain its state of good repair with limited resources. Peel’s cities rely on funding from higher levels of government to provide key services to residents, including local children’s aid societies, healthcare, schools, and social services. A tacit feature of funding to Peel is – no matter the party colours at Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill – the hyper-growth region is not getting its “fair share” of public dollars, despite the equal contribution of local income taxpayers. During the pandemic, the latest examples from Ottawa and Queen’s Park include the federal government’s initial decision to give Toronto $14 million for COVID-19 isolation centres and none to Peel, before local efforts to point out the higher infection rates in the region forced the feds to allocate $6.5 million to Peel. Queen’s Park, meanwhile, despite socio-economic conditions that drove higher case counts in Peel, gave Toronto 17 provincial testing centres, but funded only 4 in Peel, which advocates said was one of the reasons the viral spread was not properly contained in the hard hit region. “What the pandemic has done is put more of a spotlight on how we’re chronically underfunded,” said Regional Councillor Martin Medeiros, of Brampton. “The leader of any political party needs the 905 to win a majority, and we’ve delivered…But when it comes to getting love, we don’t get the love. Why is that?” Local leaders have struggled to glean an answer to this for more than three decades. But what was once a booming battle cry to put pressure on upper levels of government – most recently via a campaign called the Peel Fair Share Task Force – has been reduced like a diminuendo to a restless hum. Nine months shy of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2019, Brampton councillors began making some noise through demands for increased funding to address its healthcare emergency. They highlighted the dangerous lack of hospital beds in the city, which has less than half the per capita number of Ontario overall. The city receives $1,000 less in funding for healthcare, per person, about half the provincial average. These inequities have been magnified during the pandemic. The region has had the highest infection rates in the province, and residents were put at increased risk because of the chronic failure of healthcare funding, which has left local hospitals particularly vulnerable to capacity issues. Prior to the pandemic, the three full-service hospitals in Mississauga and Brampton were already among the worst in Ontario for performance, with average wait times to be admitted between two-and-a-half and three times higher than the provincial target of 8 hours. As part of its 2020 budget asks, the City launched a “Fair Deal for Brampton” campaign for immediate funding to expand Peel Memorial hospital’s urgent care capabilities, fund the second phase of its build, and create a third healthcare facility. A city of about 650,000 residents, Brampton currently has only one full-service hospital, Brampton Civic, operated by the William Osler Health System. More than one-third of Brampton’s population has at least one chronic condition, and the City says it is projected to have the highest rate of dementia between 2015 and 2025. According to a 2014 study by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in collaboration with Peel Public Health, the region was headed for a rate of one in six people having diabetes by 2025, largely due to the significant South Asian-Canadian population, which suffers much higher rates of the disease than the general population. At the time, it was one in ten, as reported by Peel’s former medical officer of health in 2018. According to the City’s pre-pandemic data, the emergency department at Brampton Civic was equipped for 90,000 visits a year, but received about 130,000, while Peel Memorial is funded for 10,000 visits a year and received 75,000. Patient-loads have skyrocketed over the course of the pandemic. As of January 15, Osler’s system was treating 109 COVID-19 patients, where about nine weeks ago, patient transfers were triggered around the time when it was treating just 64 people. In October, Premier Doug Ford announced funding to support the addition of 766 beds for 32 hospitals in the province, including 46 at Etobicoke General Hospital, which is also in the Osler system, and 41 beds in Brampton, which has about 60 percent more residents than Etobicoke. The smaller community was also given two testing facilities through Osler during the first half of the pandemic, among the total of 17 in Toronto, while Brampton only had one. The apparent differential treatment between funding the two hospitals under Osler’s management is a snapshot of the issues facing Brampton as it seeks its fair share from the province, Councillor Medeiros said. “They gave [funding] to Etobicoke without any ties. Notwithstanding, it’s the Premier’s riding,” Medeiros said. “Yet, when the City of Brampton is looking for more investment in healthcare, and we're looking to complete the second phase of Peel Memorial Hospital, they say that there’s provincial legislation requirements that we give 20 to 30 percent as a contribution.” A lack of commensurate allocation by the Province and federal governments has also affected Peel’s $1-billion Housing Master Plan, which has not yet been fully funded. The plan seeks to create 280 emergency shelter beds and another 5,300 affordable housing units by 2034. As previously reported by The Pointer, the federal government’s commitment of $276.5 million is on top of the Region’s $333.5 million, which has been criticized by Peel social services staff as being “significantly and disproportionately high.” Regional Councillor Annette Groves, of Caledon, said that local taxes and development charges are not sufficient to support the wealth of services offered by Peel. “I don't think it has anything to do with the current government. I think that it’s been such a long, outstanding battle,” Groves told The Pointer. “The Province has given us some funding to help with the pandemic, and so has the federal government, but again, it’s still not enough because we’re so far behind in terms of, for example, affordable housing.” Both Queen’s Park and Ottawa are guilty of a form of hypocrisy. The federal government sets immigration targets for the whole country, 401,000 for 2021 and growing to 421,000 in 2023. But it does not establish a funding formula for those municipalities that willingly accommodate newcomers. Brampton, over the past two decades, has welcomed more immigrants per capita than any other large city in Canada, but the federal government does little to provide adequate services and infrastructure for the hyper-growth community that openly supports the country’s immigration policies through its growth planning. Queen’s Park, meanwhile, relies desperately on Peel to accommodate the province’s largest share of population growth, but continues to ignore the funding needs it creates through provincial growth legislation, known as the Places To Grow Act. While Mississauga and Brampton rapidly expand, schools, for example, are not brought on line fast enough by the Province, forcing the use of portables, which have become a common feature in Peel’s education landscape. GO services are also glaringly under-funded, as more and more commuters move into the region without proper transportation infrastructure. The list of inadequate funding commitments for Peel grows every year. On top of education and healthcare, affordable housing, transportation, public health, settlement support, legal aid, children’s aid and almost every other funding area are all under-funded in Peel. For example, despite skyrocketing demand, Mississauga’s legal aid clinic receives far less funding per capita than Toronto. In 2019 the co-executive director of the city’s legal aid clinic, Douglas Kwan, said it receives the second lowest funding per capita of all legal aid clinics in Ontario: the lowest – Brampton. Led by Mississauga Councillor Carolyn Parrish, Peel revived efforts in its Fair Share for Peel coalition about four years ago to address its municipalities receiving less than half of the per capita rate of others in Ontario. In the fall of 2017, the Region organized a $90,000 conference with neighbouring municipalities, called the Summit 4 Fair Funding, to encourage a dialogue surrounding funding needs ahead of the 2018 provincial election. According to the Brampton Guardian, the summit was later cancelled after staff were not able to obtain transparent formulas as to how funding transfers were calculated from the provincial and federal governments. The effort followed years of pressure, culminating in an earlier effort in 2011 to assess underfunding and service delivery obstacles including those for seniors, people with disabilities, and victims of violence and abuse. As Peel braces for what February brings during the pandemic, the Region’s Governance Committee continues to advocate for government dollars. After almost a year of neglect, which contributed to Peel’s designation as a COVID-19 hot spot, and its placement in the current lockdown on November 23, the Ontario Ministry of Health recently agreed to a one-time funding disbursement of $14-million to Peel Public Health, to “support extraordinary costs associated with monitoring, detecting, and containing COVID-19 in the province.” Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
GREY-BRUCE – The Saugeen Field Naturalists conducted their 44th annual Hanover-Walkerton Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 19, 2020. According to the group’s newsletter, this activity has become one of the largest citizen science projects in the world. The 2020 count was a bit different from past years, due to the pandemic. It didn’t end with a dinner the day after the field outing, but instead with one via Zoom. Care was taken to ensure distancing for everyone’s safety. Gerard McNaughton said the Walkerton-Hanover area count identified 44 species this year including one new species, an osprey. “The actual number of field participants was down as several long-time counters bowed out of this year’s count but once things return to normal I’m sure they will be back,” said McNaughton. He said the weather was a bit blustery, starting out with cloudy skies in the morning and little wind, and shifting to snow showers and limited visibility at times by mid-day, making finding birds harder as the day went on. Most groups said the birds were hunkered down and that most feeders were empty for the first time in years, making for a difficult day. McNaughton said, “As always, several quality birds were observed including a first-ever osprey found by Joy Albright just outside Walkerton. Presumably, the same bird was seen just before count week started but not since, so that was a great find for count day. Several winter finches also put in appearances to help bolster overall numbers.” The overall summary is as follows: Mute swan - 7 Canada goose – 1,339 Mallard - 383 Common goldeneye - 19 Common merganser - 50 Sharp-shinned hawk - 3 Cooper’s hawk - 2 Red tailed hawk - 12 Rough legged hawk - 9 Bald eagle - 11 Osprey - 1 Ruffed grouse - 2 Wild turkey - 132 Ring-billed gull - 428 Herring gull - 121 Great black-backed gull - 2 Rock dove - 439 Mourning dove - 105 Eastern screech owl - 7 Belted kingfisher - 2 Red-bellied woodpecker - 6 Downy woodpecker - 34 Hairy woodpecker - 13 Pileated woodpecker - 3 Northern shrike - 4 Blue jay - 100 American crow – 1,083 Common raven - 3 Black-capped chickadee - 344 Red-breasted nuthatch - 27 White-breasted nuthatch - 32 Brown creeper - 10 European starling – 1,117 American tree sparrow - 51 Dark-eyed junco - 348 Snow bunting - 300 Northern cardinal - 39 Purple finch - 2 House finch - 108 Common redpoll - 164 Pine siskin - 71 American goldfinch - 334 Evening grosbeak - 1 House sparrow - 136 Total was 44 species, 7,405 individuals. Accipiter Sp. - 1 Hawk Sp. - 1 Gull Sp. - 83 Woodpecker Sp. - 1 Two additional species were recorded during the count week period. The hooded merganser and pine grosbeak were both seen in the three days leading up to the count; nothing was reported in the three days after count day. “The next count will take place on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 so mark your calendars now,” said McNaughton. “Let’s hope that everything is back to normal by then and that we’re able to get together to swap stories from the field. Until then, the best of health and happiness to everyone and good birding.” The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago. Winter hike All indoor activities of the Saugeen Field Naturalists have been cancelled because of COVID-19, but outdoor activities continue. The next one is Jan. 16 – the Winter Nature Hike. The location will be the Murray Tract, the less-well-know part of the Kinghurst Nature Reserve, at 1:30 p.m. Participants must register (email firstname.lastname@example.org). Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
An old roadbed in Conception Bay North is getting a new lease on life. Up until the 1970s, the road between Old Perlican and Bay de Verde was the main thoroughfare that connected the two communities. That road was phased out in the 1970s as the current road was put in. Now, decades later, the old roadbed is getting a facelift as a group of volunteers is restoring the old road into a multi-use trailway. “We thought we could go all the way through to Old Perlican,” said organizer Carl Riggs, who is from Bay de Verde. The idea for the trailway started as a conversation between friends, and it ballooned from there. Riggs decided he would take the idea to the councils of Bay de Verde and Old Perlican. They were supportive of the idea and things took off from there. “The support has been tremendous,” said Riggs. It’s been a whirlwind six weeks between work starting and the idea coming to fruition. Since work got underway on Jan. 11, between 80 and 100 people have contributed to clearing brush, rocks and other debris from the trail. There have been significant contributions from the towns of Old Perlican and Bay de Verde, who have sent various pieces of heavy equipment to help with the job. The business community has also chipped in, and there have been donations of equipment, time and money from people all over the province. “It is amazing how much work has been done in a short period of time,” said Bay de Verde Mayor Gerard Murphy. While the original motivation for the restoration of the old road was for use by all-terrain vehicles, the group believes there is ample room for hikers, walkers, mountain bikers and others to use the trail. When finished, it will connect to Bay de Verde’s Lazy Rock Walking Trail. “It is a little bit of an attraction for the whole area,” said Old Perlican Mayor Clifford Morgan. “It is a very, very nice initiative.” The work being conducted this winter by the group is just the start of things for them. Riggs said they want to install gazebos, rest areas and signage along the route in the future. There are also plans to work with the CBN T’railway group to connect their projects. The CBN group is working to clear and maintain the old railbed in the region. The hope is they will be able to connect and provide all-terrain vehicle users with the chance to go from Brigus Junction to Bay de Verde. “This is just the tip of the iceberg for us,” said Riggs. “Excited is not the word.” Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
The McKellar council says it supports the upgrade of unassumed roads within the township. Here are five quotes that capture the discussion from the Jan. 12 council meeting: 1. “This is simply formalizing the process that we did last year, and of course, the word unassumed roads means municipally owned unassumed roads — these are not private roads,” said Coun. Don Carmichael. “We’ve already done Bailey’s (subdivision) and Craigmoore is scheduled for the spring.” 2. “Somebody argued, ‘Why should the municipality put any money on these roads?’ Well, it is the betterment of the township overall in the long run,” said Coun. Morely Haskim. “Somebody argued, ‘It doesn’t affect the vast majority,’ but it does, if you have a subdivision like that and all of a sudden they’re selling as a township-owned, maintained year-round road those properties are going to sell for more than a road that is not maintained by the municipality.” 3. “The resolution seemed a little bit too open-ended, I just thought that maybe it should be more specific regarding which roads that this focusing is going to be on … some type of report from the public works superintendent in regard to what this entails,” said Coun. Mike Kekkonen. 4. “As they get approval by the owners, we have a staff agreement/contract ready, then they can start to be moved forward. There’s not that many but it’s going to take time to get them all,” said McKellar’s Mayor Peter Hopkins. “So there’s a timeline, an open-ended one, to get the agreements in place.” 5. “This is supplementary to the roads policy we approved … it’s a policy that talks about the fact that we have legal liability on municipally owned roads even if we don’t assume it — that’s been clearly demonstrated in the courts so that’s part of the reason why we’re actually interested in doing this,” said Carmichael. According to a report submitted to council, featured in the Dec. 8, 2020 agenda package, the 2020 approved capital budget for the Bailey’s subdivision project was $83,360. The report given by Greg Gostick, road superintendent, states that the total cost for the project, excluding municipal staff time, was $76,867.31 and the cost of staff time to complete the project $14,824.91, bringing the total cost to $91,692.22. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
The provincial government is opening a new hospital in Vaughan to help relieve pressure on other facilities in the Greater Toronto Area. The Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital was originally scheduled to open in early February as the first brand new hospital — not a replacement of an older facility or a merger with an existing facility — in Ontario in almost three decades. Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at a Monday afternoon news conference, saying it would open in "a few short weeks." "It's like reinforcements coming over the hill," Ford said, adding that the province is also adding 500 additional surge capacity hospital beds in Toronto, Durham, Kingston and Ottawa. Health Minister Christine Elliott also said Monday that once the situation with COVID-19 has stabilized in the province, the hospital will open as originally planned. "The idea is this hospital is going to be used ... in order to take the load off of some other hospitals that are experiencing capacity challenges." Elliott said. The hospital will accept both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients "based on the system needs during this surge," a spokesperson for Mackenzie Health said in a statement to CBC Toronto. The news comes as Ontario reported 2,578 additional cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the number of patients with the illness who required a ventilator to breathe climbed above 300 for the first time since the pandemic began. The new cases in today's update are the fewest logged on a single day in about two and a half weeks. They include 815 in Toronto, 507 in Peel Region, 151 in both York and Niagara regions, and 121 in Hamilton. New COVID-19 variant cases expected, Yaffe says "Our health-care system continues to be strained with elevated numbers of people in hospital," Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, said on Monday. Thirty-one new outbreaks were reported as of Monday, Yaffe said, which was slightly lower than Monday of the previous week. Yaffe said Ontario is reporting 15 new cases of the COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, with the most recent case detected in London, Ont. in a patient with no known travel history. "We do expect more cases to be identified in the weeks to follow as there is evidence of community transmission," Yaffe added. She said the data indicated that the new strain is 56 per cent more easily transmissible in comparison to other variants. Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were: Windsor-Essex: 97 Ottawa: 92 Waterloo region: 85 Halton Region: 79 Durham Region: 76 Middlesex-London: 67 Simcoe Muskoka: 65 Lambton: 52 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 51 Eastern Ontario: 36 Southwestern: 31 Chatham-Kent: 29 Huron Perth: 15 Haldimand-Norfolk: 13 Brant County: 12 (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.) The additional infections come as the province's labs processed just 40,301 test samples for the novel coronavirus — tens of thousands fewer than there is capacity for in the system — and reported a test positivity rate of 6.6 per cent. The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 3,035. It reached a high of 3,555 on January 11. Yaffe said Monday's figures may have been low due to the number of tests processed Sunday, which was the lowest since Jan. 5. Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the current test positivity rate shows improvement from previous weeks when it would spike following weekends. "The numbers are dropping, I take that as a sign that Ontarians are doing what we're supposed to be doing," Williams said on Monday. But Williams said the province must cut its daily COVID-19 case counts to below 1,000 before lockdown measures can be lifted. He called the goal "achievable" and said the last time the province saw similar daily case counts was late October. Williams said he would also like to see the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units drop to 150 before lifting any restrictions. Another 2,826 cases were marked resolved in today's report. There are now 28,621 confirmed, active infections provincewide. The number of resolved cases have outpaced new cases on six of the last seven days in Ontario. There were 1,571 total patients with COVID-19 in Ontario's hospitals. Of those, 394 were being treated in intensive care units and 303 were on ventilators. Revised projections released last week by the province suggested that hospitals, especially those throughout southern Ontario, risk being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks. The influx could result in doctors having to triage emergency patients, running the risk that some will not get a hospital bed when needed. This morning, the Ontario NDP released a document they say is the province's triage protocol. However, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health later said in an email to CBC News Monday that it is not a triage protocol but rather "guidance that originated from experts in the sector, for use by the sector." Dated Jan. 13, the 32-page document outlines the details and critical elements of the triage process should there be a major surge in COVID-19 patients requiring hospital care. The documents say this should be considered only "as an option of last resort," prioritizes care for those "with the greatest likelihood of survival." It emphasizes the need for protection of individual human rights, non-discriminatory decision making and accountability. The spokesperson said as of Monday, nothing has been issued or approved by the Ministry of Health. "The expectation of the Ministry of Health is for the Bioethics Table to continue its engagement in consultations and discussions with various stakeholder groups," the statement from the ministry reads. In a news release, the NDP said the document "shows that the crisis in hospitals is out of control" while accusing Premier Doug Ford and his government of trying to keep it out of public view. "Had physicians not reached out to the Official Opposition and others, the directive that was written in secret, without consultation, would remain a secret," the NDP said. Public health units also reported another 24 deaths of people with the illness, pushing the official toll to 5,433. Vaccine clinic opens at Metro Toronto Convention Centre A clinic dedicated to administering COVID-19 vaccines opened in a Toronto convention centre on Monday. The same day, city officials announced the clinic will have to be paused as of Friday, due to a lack of access to vaccines. The clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is in the downtown core, aims to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that is entirely dependent upon vaccine supply. City officials said the "proof-of-concept" clinic will help Ontario's Ministry of Health test and adjust the setup of immunization clinics in non-hospital settings. The Ministry of Health said this morning that another 9,691 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Ontario yesterday. A total of 209,788 shots of vaccine have been given out so far, while 21,752 people have received both doses and are considered fully immunized to the illness. Pfizer-BioNTech, which manufactures one of the two Health Canada-approved vaccines, announced last week that it's temporarily delaying international shipments of the shots while it upgrades production facilities in Europe. The Ontario government has said that will affect the province's vaccine distribution plan, and some people will see their booster shots delayed by several weeks. Officials in Hamilton, meanwhile, said the province has directed it to temporarily cease administering the first dose of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone except residents, staff and essential caregivers at long-term care homes and retirement facilities. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott did not say how many regions of the province had received that directive.
SUMMERSIDE – Students who were planning to visit Vimy Ridge on a school trip last spring may be one step closer to more of their refund thanks to a recent decision by the Travel Industry Council of Ontario ( TICO). The trip to France, Belgium and the Netherlands was planned for April 2020. However, the Public Schools Branch cancelled the trip on March 25, in response to the COVID- 19 pandemic. Kensington Intermediate Senior High, Kinkora Regional High School, Three Oaks Senior High and Englewood School had all booked trips with Explorica to visit Vimy. Teacher David Chisholm was the trip co- ordinator for Three Oaks students. “We always encourage the students to get the full- coverage insurance, in case,” said Chisholm, adding, “We’re not going to travel around the world with kids without the top- level insurance we assumed that we had.” But a dispute between Explorica and the insurance underwriter, Arch Insurance, has delayed the full refund. The disagreement hinged on an amendment to Ontario’s Travel Industry Act called Section 46. Added on March 30, 2020, Section 46 will remain in force until April 1, 2021. It states that bookings cancelled on or after March 30, 2020, could be reimbursed with travel vouchers instead of what was in the booking agreement. A Dec. 3 letter to Explorica from TICO said the P. E. I. trips don’t fall under the Section 46 and “appear to be subject to the terms and conditions of the booking.” So, because the P. E. I. student trips were cancelled before the amendment was in place, students are entitled to a full refund minus the non- refundable deposit, said the letter. Chisholm values school travel and has organized close to 10 international trips with his students, always involving a specific commemoration or event. The planning for the 2020 trip began at least 16 months ahead of the travel dates. “Obviously we had no idea that a pandemic would occur,” said Chisholm. He’s worked with two different tour groups over the years and said “there’s been zero issues”. This delay has him hitting the pause button on future trips, even if it was possible to plan one. “I feel strongly that I’m not getting involved in ( planning student travel), which, again, is a great learning experience, until this is taken care of,” he said, adding many parents and students worked hard and stretched their budgets to pay for the trip. “We’re not the highest socioeconomic demographic in Canada here in Summerside and people put their trust in me, so it does fall back on me.” He understands the companies involved are likely wading through thousands of claims but he’s still frustrated by the delays. “Realistically, to me it’s an easy solution. You bought the insurance, you paid for it. The entire world is in a global pandemic and we buy insurance for these types of things,” he said. Teacher Shirlee Ann Campbell volunteered to help fundraise for the trip to Vimy Ridge and was involved with the students' preparations. She’s also awaiting the full refund and said the Dec. 3 letter has strengthened her optimism. “Now we’re one step closer, we just have to be patient,” said Campbell. Another group of Three Oaks students that was planning to travel to Paris has been fully refunded, said Campbell. That refund came after a lengthy delay and came from the travel company, not the insurance company. “We have no reason to think we won’t be,” she said. So far, everyone that was booked to go on the Vimy trip has received a partial refund from Explorica, minus a $ 195 deposit. A letter from Explorica to The Guardian confirmed the company has paid out its portion of the refund. The remaining money is to come from Arch Insurance. On Dec. 24, Arch Insurance sent an email to some TOSH parents to request “just one credit card/ bank statement to verify one of the payments listed on the account summary” and “proof of refunds or credits received by Explorica from travel suppliers that were a part of the trip. Please note, we will be working with Explorica to obtain this information." The letter finished with a caveat. “Upon receipt of this documentation, we will continue with the assessment of your claim.” Alison Jenkins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Journal-Pioneer
La pandémie de la COVID-19 a provoqué une pluie d'annulation d'événement depuis le mois de mars 2020. Le Boréal Loppet a dû changer sa formule pour sa 17e édition afin de s'adapter à la situation sanitaire. « Nous tiendrons le Loppet sous une formule volontaire et virtuelle », de commenter le président de l'activité qui a fait sa marque en Côte-Nord et dans les autres régions du Québec, Éric Maltais. Les 20 et 21 février, au moment qui vous convient, les participants sont invités à faire une sortie en skis de fond, à vélo, en raquettes ou à la course à pied. « Prenez-vous en photo (ou vidéo de 15-20 sec.), et envoyez le tout sur la page Facebook du Boréal Loppet. Précisez la distance parcourue et le temps est facultatif », demande M. Maltais. Il sera alors possible de prendre part à l'événement de sa ville respective. « À Forestville, les gens partiront du stationnement du club de ski, sur la route 138, à l'est de la station Ultramar (et non au restaurant Le Danube bleu) pour la raquette et le ski, la course à pied se déroulera dans les rues et le vélo au club de golf Le Méandre ou dans les sentiers de leur choix », dévoile le président. Les 150 premiers participants recevront une tuque du Boréal Loppet 2021.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
At a time when Vancouver venues are struggling, the historic Hollywood Theatre in the Kitsilano neighbourhood is banking on more than just movies to survive. The theatre, located near Broadway and Balaclava Street, has reopened its Depression-era doors with pandemic-friendly changes. Operator David Hawkes and his business partner Shawn Mawhinney, both Vancouver locals, painstakingly restored the theatre's art-deco charm while keeping pandemic safety top of mind. Hakwes said they created platforms to be able to move and remove the theatre's seats — most of them originals from when the theatre opened in the 1930s — in order to create a more flexible event space. "We ... reupholstered all of those chairs," he said. "They unbolt from the floor ... we can take them all away." Other elements like the building's exterior paint colour, box office and it's colourful neon sign also had to be restored to the finest detail in order for the building to achieve the highest heritage status offered by the city. "The character of it is really, really quite remarkable," said Donald Luxton, a consultant who worked on the building's heritage plan. "It just feels like ... an updated version of itself without losing any of its character." Preserving heritage during COVID-19 Hawkins' original plans to start running movies as well as arts and culture events last fall were shattered due to COVID-19. Right now, the theatre is open for drinks, but will not be operating as a cinema while B.C. health restrictions are in place. However, Hawkes doesn't want the building to just be known for showing films. He's hoping that creating a space to host a wider variety of arts and culture events will help keep this era of the theatre's history alive. "If we were just a theater, we would have been pigeonholed into one thing and then, economically, it just wouldn't work," he said. "The idea here is to be flexible … if you're a one-trick pony, you're not going to survive." Hakwes added he hopes the building's classic neon sign will become a symbol of resilience in a post-pandemic Vancouver. "We have a history of rolling over ... and paving over our history [in Vancouver]," he said. "We decided to open because it's a little bit of a ray of good, good hope coming, showing that things are coming to be better over time."
Canada's economy will hit a major roadblock during the first quarter of 2021 before gaining momentum in the next quarter, according to economists in a Reuters poll who said the country's GDP would reach its pre-pandemic growth levels within a year. Although economic activity had recovered partially from a record drop - 7.5% in Q1 and 38.1% in Q2 - in the first half of 2020, it took another hit after a resurgence in coronavirus infections led to renewed tight containment measures. The Jan. 11-18 Reuters poll of over 40 economists predicted the economy, which grew a record annualized 40.5% in the third quarter of 2020, expanded 3.8% in the fourth quarter, a third consecutive downgrade.
BRUCE COUNTY – Christine MacDonald, director of human services, made a brief presentation in December on a new emergency response agreement with the Canadian Red Cross. The county has had an agreement with the Red Cross since October 2014. The most recent three-year agreement was set to expire at the end of December. MacDonald said staff have been negotiating with the Red Cross on a revised two-year agreement that will expire Dec. 31, 2022. At that time, the Red Cross anticipates modifications to their service approach due to lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the reason a two-year agreement was recommended instead of one lasting three years. The revised agreement establishes parameters that would have the Red Cross provide emergency services that may include registration, reception and information, family reunification, emergency lodging, emergency food services, emergency clothing, transportation and personal services. In addition, the Red Cross responsibilities in preparing for an emergency include recruiting and training volunteers to deliver local emergency services; stocking and maintaining supplies and logistics capacity; and participating in county-led emergency preparedness exercises, activities, and/or meetings. The annual cost of the agreement is $10,000. It is included in the 2021 budget. Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
July 2008: TC Energy Corp. — then called TransCanada Corp. — and ConocoPhillips, joint owners of the Keystone Pipeline, propose a major extension to the network. The expansion, dubbed Keystone XL, would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oilsands bitumen from Alberta to Texas. 2009: As the U.S. State Department wades through comments based on an environmental assessment of the project, TransCanada starts visiting landowners potentially affected by the pipeline. Opposition emerges in Nebraska. June 2009: TransCanada announces it will buy ConocoPhillips's stake in Keystone. March 2010: The National Energy Board approves TransCanada’s application for Keystone XL, though the OK comes with 22 conditions regarding safety, environmental protection and landowner rights. April 2010: The U.S. State Department releases a draft environmental impact statement saying Keystone XL would have a limited effect on the environment. June-July 2010: Opposition to Keystone XL begins mounting in the United States. Legislators write to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton calling for greater environmental oversight; scientists begin speaking out against the project; and the Environmental Protection Agency questions the need for the pipeline extension. July 2010: The State Department extends its review of Keystone, saying federal agencies need more time to weigh in before a final environmental impact assessment can be released. March 2011: The State Department announces a further delay in its environmental assessment. Aug. 26, 2011: The State Department releases its final environmental assessment, which reiterates that the pipeline would have a limited environmental impact. August-September 2011: Protesters stage a two-week campaign of civil disobedience at the White House to speak out against Keystone XL. Police arrest approximately 1,000 people, including actors Margot Kidder and Daryl Hannah as well as Canadian activist Naomi Klein. Sept. 26, 2011: At a demonstration on Parliament Hill, police arrest 117 of 400 protesters. Nov. 10, 2011: The State Department says TransCanada must reroute Keystone XL to avoid an ecologically sensitive region of Nebraska. Nov. 14, 2011: TransCanada agrees to reroute the line. December 2011: U.S. legislators pass a bill with a provision saying President Barack Obama must make a decision on the pipeline’s future in the next 60 days. Jan. 18, 2012: Obama rejects Keystone, saying the timeline imposed by the December bill did not leave enough time to review the new route. Obama said TransCanada was free to submit another application. Feb. 27, 2012: TransCanada says it will build the southern leg of Keystone XL, from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast, as a separate project with a price tag of $2.3 billion. This is not subject to presidential permission, since it did not cross an international border. April 18, 2012: TransCanada submits a new route to officials in Nebraska for approval. May 4, 2012: TransCanada files a new application with the State Department for the northern part of Keystone XL. Jan. 22, 2013: Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approves TransCanada’s proposed new route for Keystone XL, sending the project back to the State Department for review. January 2013: Pipeline opponents file a lawsuit against the Nebraska government claiming the state law used to review the new route is unconstitutional. Jan. 31, 2014: The State Department says in a report that Keystone XL would produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than transporting oil to the Gulf of Mexico by rail. Feb. 19, 2014: A Nebraska judge rules that the law that allowed the governor to approve Keystone XL over the objections of landowners was unconstitutional. Nebraska said it would appeal. April 18, 2014: The State Department suspends the regulatory process indefinitely, citing uncertainty about the court case in Nebraska. Nov. 4, 2014: TransCanada says the costs of Keystone XL have grown to US$8 billion from US$5.4 billion. November-December 2014: Midterm elections turn control of the U.S. Congress over to Republicans, who say they’ll make acceptance of Keystone XL a top priority. But Obama adopts an increasingly negative tone. Jan. 9, 2015: At the Nebraska Supreme Court, by the narrowest of margins, a panel of seven judges strikes down the lower-court decision. Jan. 29, 2015: The U.S. Senate approves a bill to build Keystone XL, but the White House says Obama would veto it. Feb. 24, 2015: Obama vetoes the bill. June 30, 2015: TransCanada writes to then-secretary of state John Kerry and other U.S. officials saying the State Department should include recent climate change policy announcements by the Alberta and federal governments in its review of Keystone XL. Nov. 2, 2015: TransCanada asks the U.S. government to temporarily suspend its application. Nov. 4, 2015: The U.S. government rejects that request. Nov. 6, 2015: The Obama administration rejects TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada CEO Russ Girling says he is disappointed, but continues to believe the project is in the best interests of both Canada and the U.S. Jan. 6, 2016: TransCanada files notice to launch a claim under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, alleging the U.S. government breached its legal commitments under NAFTA. The company also files a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court in Texas arguing that Obama exceeded his powers by denying construction of the project. May 26, 2016: Republican presidential contender Donald Trump says he would approve Keystone XL if elected, a pledge he repeats several times during the campaign. Nov. 8, 2016: Trump is elected president. Jan. 24, 2017: Trump signs an executive order that he says approves Keystone XL, but suggests the United States intends to renegotiate the terms of the project. He also signs an order requiring American pipelines to be built with U.S. steel. Nov. 9, 2018: A U.S. federal judge blocks the pipeline's construction to allow more time to study the potential environmental impact. March 29, 2019: Trump issues a new presidential permit in an effort to speed up development of the pipeline May 3, 2019: TransCanada changes its name to TC Energy. March 31, 2020: Alberta agrees to invest $1.5 billion in Keystone XL, followed by a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021. April 7, 2020: Construction begins, despite calls from Indigenous groups and environmentalists to pause their efforts. May 18, 2020: Joe Biden, then the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, vows to scrap Keystone XL if elected, but doesn't set out a timeline for doing so. Nov. 3, 2020: Biden is elected president. Jan. 17, 2021: Transition documents show Biden plans to cancel Keystone XL on the first day of his presidency. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX: TRP) The Canadian Press
After being "overwhelmed" with 911 calls on the latest pandemic restrictions, Windsor police have provided more information about how they will enforce the rules. The police service said officers won't enter homes, stop cars or people for the sole purpose of enforcing the stay-at-home order and provincial emergency. Further, no one is required to carry proof that they are going to work, the police service said in a statement Friday. If an officer has "reasonable grounds" to think that someone has violated the Reopening Ontario Act or the emergency declaration, officers can ask for ID in order to issue a fine or summons. Failing to properly identify yourself can lead to a fine or obstruction charges. "We will continue to monitor for COVID-19 compliance and respond to COVID-19-related complaints, as required. We will undertake enforcement actions, as necessary, under the legislation," the police service stated. New order sparks questions, criticism Under the stay-at-home order that took effect last Thursday, people can only leave their homes for essential reasons. There is a long list of exceptions, including going out for exercise or essential work, buying groceries and picking up prescriptions. Under the new order, officers can order people attending gatherings to go home, close any building where they believe an illegal event is taking place, and ask for the name and address of anyone they think is committing an offence. Charges can be laid through a ticket or summons to appear in court. The minimum fine for violating provincial gathering rules is $750. For those organizing illegal gatherings, there's a minimum fine of $10,000 and up to a year in jail. Within Windsor and across the province, the new rules have led to questions about how law enforcement will be ensuring compliance. They've also prompted concerns that people from visible minority groups could be disproportionately targeted by enforcement efforts. Police see uptick in 911 calls Windsor police have asked the public not to call 911 regarding the stay-at-home order, saying operators have been "overwhelmed" with calls. On Friday, the police service said it had received 200 non-emergency and 911 calls related to COVID-19 and the new order since Tuesday. "Any call to 911 that is not an emergency can take precious seconds away from a person trying to get through on 911 for a true emergency, where seconds may count for them," police said in an emailed statement.
For the last four years, the Dr. Hugh Twomey Health Care Centre in Botwood has been without 24-hour emergency services. Just prior to the 2019 provincial election, then-premier Dwight Ball pledged to bring those services back to the hospital in the fall of 2020 once a protective care unit was finished. According to Exploits MHA Pleaman Forsey, the time has come for the Liberal government to come through on its promises. “We are left with a commitment from the Liberal minister of health to review the service after the long-term care facility was finished in Botwood,” Forsey said in a prepared statement this week. “That’s not good enough.” The provincial government stripped the hospital of the service in 2016 in a move by Central Health to reduce its operating budget. An analysis completed by the Department of Health in 2018 indicated patient data supported the decision. Forsey recently sent an email to Central Health about the issue and was told the new health unit is expected to be in use by the end of this month. “This creates added stress to the residents of the Exploits district,” Forsey said of not having 24-hour emergency services. The provincial government's department of health and community services said in a statement the work on the protective unit was nearing completion and the matter of returning to 24-hour service will be looked at when it is done. "Following the completion of construction, the demand and the staffing will be examined to see whether or not there is a need to change the way emergency services are provided to the people in Botwood," wrote a spokesperson for the department. On several occasions since Ball pledged the return of 24-hour emergency services, the Botwood council has written to Gander MHA John Haggie, the minister of health and community services, regarding the status of emergency services at the hospital. Botwood Mayor Scott Sceviour said responses the town has received have not indicated if or when any announcement will be made about the return of regular emergency services. At the time, the town was caught off guard by the decision to alter the emergency services at the hospital. It was expected to help save money, but the mayor says little money has been saved by the decision. “There was no justification for it,” he said. “It was a surprise to all of us.” Now that the area MHA has brought the issue to the forefront again, Sceviour said the town will write to Premier Andrew Furey about the commitments of his predecessor and bring him up to speed on the situation. Botwood is scheduled to have a council meeting this week, where the issue will be on the agenda. “We are going to hold this government to the promise,” said Sceviour. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is urging incoming U.S. President Joe Biden to follow through on a commitment to hear Canada out on the merits of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion before cancelling it following Wednesday's inauguration. Kenney says Albertans are on the hook for $1 billion if the project doesn't go ahead following an earlier decision by his government to invest directly.
SUDBURY, Ont. — A class has been sent home from a Sudbury, Ont., elementary school following a confirmed case of COVID-19. Parents of a senior kindergarten/Grade 1 class at St. David's Catholic elementary school were told their children should stay home. Director of Education Joanne Benard says in a letter issued to parents on Sunday that the person with the confirmed case of the novel coronavirus is self-isolating. She says public health officials will notify the parents of anyone considered a close contact. Benard also says all students in the class should self-isolate until Jan. 29 and get tested for the virus as soon as possible. She says "it's understandable that this situation may make caregivers anxious" and says parents of children in other classes should notify the school if they choose to keep their youngsters at home. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
Leon Draisaitl offers his condolences to defencemen on the other six Canadian teams forced to contend with the foot speed of Connor McDavid this shortened NHL season. "It's so hard to defend," Draisaitl says of the Edmonton Oilers captain's burst up ice. "I wouldn't want to be that guy standing at the blue-line with him coming 1,000 miles an hour at me. He just has that gift that no one else has." Whether it be in practice or in games, Draisaitl and the Oilers routinely witness the magic of McDavid's gifts. At six-foot-three, 193 pounds, McDavid skates fast enough to garner speeding tickets in school zones. His drive to the net is relentless. His playmaking abilities sublime. WATCH | Ranking the North division: At age 24, the Richmond Hill, Ont., native is determined improve his game this season, if that's even possible for a player with 164 goals and 474 points in his first 354 NHL appearances. On the eve of training camp, McDavid told reporters that his team must do a better job of keeping the puck out of the Edmonton net. "No one's hiding their head in the sand here," he said at the time. "Everyone understands where we're at." And he plans to lead by example in that regard. "Offensively, I think I check off most of the boxes," he said. "Defensively is where it's at. It's the little things: stopping on pucks, winning battles, hounding pucks on the forecheck. Getting involved in battles and winning faceoffs. "It's just rounding out that game and being solid all over the ice." Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada's seven NHL teams are playing only one another during the 56-game campaign. Treating the fans As such, Canadian hockey fans are in for a treat with McDavid on their tablets, smartphones, and televisions all season long — with many of his games in primetime for those in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. "We're all a little bit more careful against McDavid," said Montreal centre Phillip Danault. "We all know the speed he's got, his quick hands, quick edges. "I don't know how he changes directions like that, but that's one of his strengths." McDavid's many strengths took over the game last Thursday in a 5-2 victory for the Edmonton Oilers over the Vancouver Canucks. The captain dominated with a hat trick and four points. "He was exceptional," said Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green. "One of the best players in the world." With a game plan designed to minimize the damage inflicted by No. 97, the Canadiens limited McDavid to a lone assist Saturday night and, not coincidentally, beat the Oilers 5-1. WATCH | Connor McDavid dominates the Canucks: Leading the charge With the Canadiens up 1-0 in the first period, McDavid stripped the puck from Montreal forward Tyler Toffoli and roared up the ice on a breakaway. Montreal goalie Carey Price slammed his pads shut just in time. "You want to play against the best players in the world," Price says. "Connor, in my opinion, is the best player in the world. "He's so talented, and with his speed and his hands and his vision, it's a pleasure to share the ice with him." The question of who shares the ice with McDavid — on the home side — will no doubt dominate workday chats around the virtual water cooler this week in the Alberta capital. On Saturday, McDavid's linemate Zack Kassian missed the game due to the birth of his daughter Olivia. And the Canadiens were the more rested team. Still, Edmonton's depth looked shaky, especially in comparison to Montreal's contributions from all four lines and the back end. "They were definitely quicker than us," McDavid said. "They got the jump on us early and Price was solid all over. "Playing three games in three-and-half-days is a lot coming out the gate. But not making any excuses for ourselves. We have to be better. We have to win more battles." Rest assured; the captain will lead the charge.
WOODBRIDGE, Ont. — A long-term care home in Woodbridge, Ont., and a local hospital have agreed to a voluntary management contract.Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill, Ont., will provide enhanced support to Villa Leonardo Gambin, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care.The voluntary management contract will be in effect for 90 days as the facility grapples with a COVID-19 outbreak.Ontario's Ministry of Health says there are 15 confirmed cases of the virus among its residents and 13 staff members.Twenty-one residents at the home have died during the current outbreak.The Ministry of Long-Term Care says that if necessary, the voluntary management contract can be extended beyond its initial 90-day term.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. The Canadian Press
Calgary, Regina, Houston – One of the first acts of Donald Trump as president of the United States was to invite TransCanada, now TC Energy, to resubmit its Keystone XL pipeline application, and to then approve it. Now, it is looking like one of the first acts of President-elect Joe Biden, after his inauguration, may be to kill it, and revoke the Presidential Permit for the pipeline to cross the international border. Numerous media stories the evening of Jan. 17, including CBC, Reuters and CTV, reported that Biden may cancel the Presidential Permit as early as his first day in office. Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20. The 830,0000 barrel per day pipeline is supposed to run from Hardisty, Alberta, past Shaunavon, to Steele City, Nebraska, eventually connecting to oil hub of Cushing, Oklahoma. The southern portion of the pipeline, which runs from Cushing to the U.S. Gulf Coast, was completed under the Obama administration. Up to 15 per cent of the pipeline’s capacity had been designated for North Dakota oil production. Current maps don’t show the lateral pipeline to North Dakota, but the specs for a recently completed Canadian pumping station list it at 700,000 barrels per day capacity, which would leave room for that American oil to be added downstream. Ironically, the most contentious portion of the pipeline – the international crossing which required a Presidential Permit, was one of the first things completed when construction got underway in 2020. That 2.2 kilometre long-section of pipeline crossed the border in May, 2020, in the RM of Val Marie, southeast of Shaunavon. Usually the border crossing is the ceremonial last weld, not the first, on such pipelines. The reason the pipeline was not completed within the four years of the Trump administration was due to multiple court delays, several from one particular judge in Montana. In one of those rulings in November, 2018, U.S. Federal Court Judge Brian Morris said the greenhouse gas emissions of the Enbridge Alberta Clipper pipeline, which ran on a different route and was owned and operated by a completely different company, should have been considered in the Keystone XL evaluation. But he did not mention anything about the recently completed and operational Dakota Access Pipeline, which handles North Dakota oil. As a result, the Keystone XL pipeline, which had been cancelled by the Barrack Obama/Joe Biden administration in 2015, is not anywhere near completion. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney bet heavily on the project – figuratively and literally, with Alberta investing $1.5 billion into it to get construction going in 2020. The announcement at the time noted, “This investment includes $1.5 billion in equity investment in 2020, followed by a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021.” Construction work has already taken place within Alberta, including 145 kilometres of pipe already put in the ground, and the recent completion of the Bindloss Pump Station. Construction was supposed to get going through southwest Saskatchewan this year to the American border. Kenney posted on Facebook the evening of Jan. 17, “I am deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden may repeal the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing next week. “Doing so would kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-US relationship, and undermine US national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports in the future. “In 2019, the United States imported 9.14 million barrels per day of petroleum, 3.7 million of which came from Canada. The rest comes from countries, like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, none of whom share the commitment of Canada and the United States to environmental stewardship, combatting climate change, or North American energy security. “As President-elect Biden’s green jobs plan acknowledges, Americans will consume millions of barrels of oil per day for years to come. It is in perfect keeping with his plan that the United States energy needs should be met by a country that takes the challenges of climate change seriously. “The Keystone XL pipeline also represents tens of thousands of good paying jobs that the American economy needs right now. That is why major American labour unions who supported President-elect Biden’s campaign strongly back the project, as do First Nations who have signed partnership agreements, and all state governments along the pipeline route. “As the Government of Canada has said, building Keystone XL is ‘top of the agenda’ with the incoming Biden administration. Prime Minister Trudeau raised the issue with President-elect Biden on their November 9, 2020 telephone meeting, agreeing “to engage on key issues, including … energy cooperation such as Keystone XL. “We renew our call on the incoming administration to show respect for Canada as the United States’ most important trading partner and strategic ally by keeping that commitment to engage, and to allow Canada to make the case for strengthening cooperation on energy, the environment, and the economy through this project. “Should the incoming US Administration abrogate the Keystone XL permit, Alberta will work with TC Energy to use all legal avenues available to protect its interest in the project.” Premier Scott Moe posted on Facebook the evening of Jan. 17, “It’s very disappointing to hear reports that President-elect Biden is planning to shut down the Keystone Pipeline expansion on his first day in office. “Construction of this project should be a top priority for Canadian-U.S. economic relations. It is critical to North American energy security, will have a tremendous employment impact north and south of the border and has garnered significant indigenous support. Environmentally, Keystone will reach net-zero emissions when it first turns on, and will be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. “While I am urging the prime minister to leverage his relationship with Mr. Biden, Saskatchewan will continue exercising our contacts in Washington D.C. to advocate for the continuation of this project that clearly benefits both of our nations.” TC Energy responds with green announcement In an 11th hour move, TC Energy put out a press release from Houston on a Sunday evening, stating on Jan. 17, “Keystone XL commits to become the first pipeline to be fully powered by renewable energy.” “The company will achieve net zero emissions across the project operations when it is placed into service in 2023 and has committed the operations will be fully powered by renewable energy sources no later than 2030. This announcement comes after an extensive period of study and analysis, and as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, thoughtfully finding innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while providing communities with reliable energy needed today. “Since it was initially proposed more than 10 years ago, the Keystone XL project has evolved with the needs of North America, our communities and the environment,” said Richard Prior, president of Keystone XL. “We are confident that Keystone XL is not only the safest and most reliable method to transport oil to markets, but the initiatives announced today also ensures it will have the lowest environmental impact of an oil pipeline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Canada and the United States are among the most environmentally responsible countries in the world with some of the strictest standards for fossil fuel production.” The release added, “As part of its continued commitment to working with union labor in the U.S. and Canada, Keystone XL has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) to work together on the construction of TC Energy owned or sourced renewable energy projects.” Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Lance White is retired now. He has lived in Fort Liard for about 28 years. He hasn't spoken to anyone since the hamlet entered a containment order on Saturday, but he thinks the right steps are being taken. Three people in Fort Liard have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since Friday. More cases are expected to follow. “It is what it is, so you just have to deal with it," White told Cabin Radio by phone on Sunday. “You don’t see many people walking around at the best of times. I notice the utter silence, lack of vehicles driving about. “But everybody, I would suggest, is taking this very seriously.” Under Dr. Kami Kandola's containment order, gatherings are banned for two weeks in Fort Liard and non-essential businesses and facilitates must close. Non-essential travel in and out of Fort Liard is “strongly discouraged,” the chief public health officer said, but not formally prohibited. Everyone must wear masks in public indoor spaces unless an exception is granted. Lucy Sanspariel works as a teaching assistant at Fort Liard's Echo Dene School, which has closed for the time being with students learning from home. She described worrying about trips to get supplies. “I have two small ones here with me so it’s kind-of scary for me to go out the door, but I have no choice. It’s kind-of hard to go to the store,” said Sanspariel. She thinks more supports like grocery delivery may be needed in the community, especially for Elders and those who are the most vulnerable. Currently, curbside pickup is available. Fort Liard resident Christine Abela thinks the GNWT has taken positive steps to keep her community safe since the cluster of infections began. However, she worries about barriers preventing people from obtaining and understanding the public health information being distributed. Abela says residents who are the most vulnerable – such as those who have limited internet access, no radio contact, low literacy rates and language barriers – may not be getting the information they need. “I think that’s a little bit where the disconnect is,” she said. As an example, Abela described circumstances in which people appeared unclear what was expected of them during isolation. Some 50 people have been asked to isolate by public health officials in a bid to contain what threatens to become an outbreak. “If you’re leaving the health centre and you are unsure about what those instructions are for isolation, then that’s where I think the message is being lost,” Abela said. “I do think, on a macro scale, things are being taken care of. But it seems there’s a lack of understanding by decision-makers … on what is necessary to convey that information.” While word-of-mouth is usually important in the hamlet, rumours and misinformation are being spread, she said. At the moment, the CBC's transmitter in Fort Liard is understood to be out of service. CKLB is broadcasting, while a community radio station on the 95.1 FM frequency recently reentered service. On Sunday, the community station's staff were hoping to receive messages in South Slavey to broadcast locally. Asked on Sunday what steps the territorial government was taking to ensure clear, easily understood information was being provided, Premier Caroline Cochrane said radio, the news media, social media and posters were at the heart of her government's strategy. Minister Shane Thompson, the MLA for Nahendeh, said his office was working with local leadership to answer questions residents may have and share information, both on Facebook and in person. He urged residents to use 8-1-1, the COVID-19 hotline, as a resource. There remain no public exposure advisories related to the three Fort Liard cases. Dr. Kandola said on Sunday there appeared to be no exposure risk in public places along the first patient’s travel route from Hay River, where they had been isolating before returning to Fort Liard. Vaccinations are set to take place in the hamlet on Thursday and Friday this week, a scheduled that remains unchanged. Territorial medical director Dr. AnneMarie Pegg said only inclement weather would stop those vaccination dates going ahead. Anyone isolating in Fort Liard this week must wait for the vaccination team to return. Pegg said her team would try to ensure that happens sooner than currently scheduled so a second opportunity can be provided. Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio