Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration at the news that Canada will not receive any new doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, though the general overseeing Ontario's vaccine rollout plan remains hopeful the distribution delay won't impede plans to immunize the general population by early August. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ford called the news that Canada will receive no new Pfizer vaccines next week "troubling" and "a massive concern." "Until vaccines are more widely available, please stay home, stay safe and save lives," he said. The news comes as the province recorded another 1,913 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with officials cautioning that Toronto Public Health — which consistently logs the most new infections each day — is "likely underreporting" its number of cases. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the artificially low total of 550 new cases reported by the city was due to a "technical issue," but did not provide any further details. For reference, over the three previous days, Toronto Public Health logged 815, 1035 and 903 cases, respectively. Other public health units that saw double- or triple-digit increases were: Peel Region: 346 York Region: 235 Durham Region: 82 Windsor-Essex: 81 Waterloo Region: 79 Middlesex-London: 73 Halton Region: 71 Hamilton: 63 Niagara Region: 52 Simcoe Muskoka: 48 Ottawa: 41 Huron-Perth: 37 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 31 Lambton: 28 Southwestern: 22 Eastern Ontario: 14 Chatham-Kent: 13 (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.) Over 200,000 Ontarians vaccinated so far At a technical briefing for media Tuesday morning, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force offered a rough breakdown of which groups received a first dose of vaccine: About 83,000 long-term care residents, staff and caregivers. About 25,000 retirement home residents, staff and caregivers. More than 99,000 health-care workers in other sectors. With the more than 200,000 vaccines administered, Ontario has completed the first round of immunization at all long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex — the four regions with the highest transmission rates of the virus. The first round of immunizations has also been administered at all long-term care homes in Ottawa, Durham and Simcoe-Muskoka. Still, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton cautioned, "The rise of community spread during the second wave is posing a serious threat to our long-term care homes." The province aims to finish vaccinating those at all remaining long-term care homes by Feb. 15. At Tuesday's technical briefing, members of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force also addressed how the province is responding to Pfizer's announcement last week that it was slowing down production of its vaccine, resulting in delivery delays for Canada. WATCH | An exasperated Premier Ford appeals to incoming U.S. president for vaccines: The impact in Ontario will vary week to week, officials said, with an 80 per cent reduction in the number of doses that were originally expected the week of Jan. 25; 55 per cent the week of Feb. 1; and 45 per cent the week of Feb. 8. In turn, the province will reallocate its available doses of the Moderna vaccine to more regions, while also extending the interval between doses of the Pfizer vaccine in some situations to ensure that everyone who has had a first shot will have access to their second. Residents and staff at long-term care and high-risk retirement homes who have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will receive a second dose in 21 to 27 days, the province says. All others who receive the Pfizer vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 42 days after the first. For those who receive the Moderna vaccine, the 28-day schedule will remain in place. As for whether the province still expects to immunize the general population of Ontario by late July or early August, General Rick Hillier said that will come down to whether there are any further hiccups with vaccine availability, but that he remains optimistic. Toronto to halt operations at mass vaccination clinic Following the announcement of the delay, the province asked the City of Toronto late Tuesday to immediately stop operating a "proof-of-concept" mass vaccination clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The clinic, which began operating only on Monday, had aimed to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that was entirely dependent upon vaccine supply. People scheduled to receive the shot at the clinic over the next three days have had those appointments cancelled, Toronto Public Health said in a statement. "The City's Immunization Task Force is continuing to plan for city-wide immunization clinic roll-out and will continue to work with the province to determine next steps once vaccine supply is re-established," the city said. Just over 34,000 new tests processed Meanwhile, Ontario's network of labs processed just 34,531 test samples for the novel coronavirus and reported a test positivity rate of 6.8 per cent. Testing levels often fall over weekends, but there is capacity in the system for more than 70,000 tests daily. The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 2,893, the lowest it has been since Jan. 4 this year. For the seventh time in eight days, the numbers of cases reported resolved outpaced new infections. There are currently about 27,615 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 provincewide. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said there were 1,626 patients in hospitals with COVID-19. Of those, 400 were being treated in intensive care, the most at any point during the pandemic, and 292 required a ventilator to breathe. Notably, a daily report generated by Critical Care Services Ontario and shared internally with hospitals puts the current number of ICU patients with COVID-19 at 418, with 303 still on ventilators. Public health units also recorded 46 additional deaths of people with the illness, bringing the official toll to 5,479. Twenty-nine of the further deaths were residents of long-term care. A total of 254, or just over 40 per cent, of long-term care facilities in Ontario were dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. The province said it administered another 14346 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, and that 224,134 people have been given a first dose. A total of 25,609 people in Ontario have gotten both shots.
WASHINGTON — Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. His arrival coincided with the awful news that the U.S. death toll had surpassed 400,000 in the worst public health crisis in more than a century — a crisis Biden will now be charged with controlling. “To heal we must remember," the incoming president told the nation at a sunset ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. Four hundred lights representing the pandemic's victims were illuminated behind him around the monument’s Reflecting Pool. “Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights into the darkness ... and remember all who we lost,” Biden said. The sober moment on the eve of Biden's inauguration — typically a celebratory time in Washington when the nation marks the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power — was a measure of the enormity of loss for the nation. During his brief remarks, Biden faced the larger-than life statue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War president who served as more than 600,000 Americans died. As he turned to walk away at the conclusion of the vigil, he faced the black granite wall listing the 58,000-plus Americans who perished in Vietnam. Biden was joined by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, who spoke of the collective anguish of the nation, a not-so-subtle admonishment of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has spoken sparingly about the pandemic in recent months. “For many months we have grieved by ourselves,” said Harris, who will make history as the first woman to serve as vice-president when she's sworn in. “Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.” Beyond the pandemic, Biden faces no shortage of problems when he takes the reins at the White House. The nation is also on its economic heels because of soaring unemployment, there is deep political division and immediate concern about more violence following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak who took the train thousands of times between his home in Delaware and Washington during his decades in the Senate, had planned to take a train into Washington ahead of Wednesday's Inauguration Day but scratched that plan in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. He instead flew into Joint Base Andrews just outside the capital and then motorcaded into fortress D.C. — a city that's been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing. “These are dark times," Biden told supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware. "But there’s always light.” Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing Trump's effort to leave the Paris climate accord, cancelling Trump's travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments. Trump won’t be on hand as Biden is sworn in, the first outgoing president to entirely skip inaugural festivities since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden's name. Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency. He planned to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself. Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much as he had at Iowa rope lines at the start of his long campaign journey. “I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks. Inaugural organizers this week finished installing some 200,000 U.S., state and territorial flags on the National Mall, a display representing the American people who couldn’t come to the inauguration, which is tightly limited under security and Covid restrictions. The display was also a reminder of all the president-elect faces as he looks to steer the nation through the pandemic with infections and deaths soaring. Out of the starting gate, Biden and his team are intent on moving quickly to speed distribution of vaccinations to anxious Americans and pass his $1.9 trillion virus relief package, which includes quick payments to many people and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden also plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on the first day of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status. That would be a major reversal from the Trump administration’s tight immigration policies. Some leading Republican have already balked at Biden's immigration plan. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is often a central player in Senate immigration battles. Many of Biden's legislative ambitions could be tempered by the hard numbers he faces on Capitol Hill, where Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the Senate and House. His hopes to press forward with an avalanche of legislation in his first 100 days could also be slowed by an impeachment trial of Trump. As Biden made his way to Washington, five of his Cabinet picks were appearing Tuesday before Senate committees to begin confirmation hearings. Treasury nominee Janet Yellen, Defence nominee Lloyd Austin, Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines were being questioned. Yellen urged lawmakers to embrace Biden’s virus relief package, arguing that “the smartest thing we can do is act big.” Aides say Biden will use Wednesday's inaugural address — one that will be delivered in front of an unusually small in-person group because of virus protocols and security concerns and is expected to run 20 to 30 minutes — to call for American unity and offer an optimistic message that Americans can get past the dark moment by working together. To that end, he extended invitations to Congress' top four Republican and Democratic leaders to attend Mass with him at St. Matthew's Cathedral ahead of the inauguration ceremony. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting. ___ This story has been corrected to show that flags on the National Mall represent people who couldn't come, not COVID deaths. Bill Barrow And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
Depuis la rentrée pour les écoles primaires, c’est une majorité d’enfants et de parents qui se sont montrés soulagés de la tournure des événements. Des petits bouts de chou masqués se rendent dans les rangs d’école à la hâte, envoyant la main à des parents qui reprennent le télétravail dans la quiétude qui leur a manqué. Ils sont confiés à des professeurs du primaire qui se disent, pour certains, enthousiastes et prêts à transmettre leurs « savoirs essentiels ». C’est le cas de Nathalie Déry, de l’école De Bourgogne à Chambly. « Je suis très heureuse de retrouver mes petits loups! Tout se passe très bien et je croise les doigts pour que l’on reste ouverts jusqu’à la fin de l’année! » Le maintien de la semaine de relâche Récemment, le ministre de l’Éducation et député de Chambly, Jean-François Roberge, a confirmé au journal que le calendrier scolaire serait maintenu tel quel et que, par conséquent, la semaine de relâche également. Malgré la fermeture temporaire de plusieurs classes pendant l’automne, ce sont 98 % des classes qui étaient restées ouvertes de manière régulière. Mais au printemps, les écoles ont été fermées sur une période de deux mois et demi, forçant un recul scolaire important. Afin de permettre aux enseignants de concentrer leurs efforts sur le rattrapage de la matière manquée et de faire baisser la pression, on a retiré les examens ministériels de fin d’année pour miser sur le savoir dit « essentiel », que l’équipe du Ministère sera chargée d’identifier. Le maintien de la semaine de relâche viserait ainsi à assurer un congé salutaire aux travailleurs de l’éducation, aux élèves et à leurs familles. Pour les syndicats des enseignants, jusqu’ici tout va bien, la semaine de relâche est un congé nécessaire. Au sujet de la ventilation, par contre, ils ne se montrent pas rassurés. La qualité de l’air, sujet sensible Rappelons que l’enjeu déterminant, qui est présentement débattu quant à la rentrée scolaire, est la qualité de l’air dans les écoles du Québec. En entretien avec le journal, le président du Syndicat de Champlain, Éric Gingras, s’est dit « perplexe », émettant des doutes quant aux déclarations du Ministère à ce sujet. « On a pété la balloune avec la ventilation. Depuis septembre, nous faisons valoir que l’aération est essentielle mais difficile dans les écoles. La majorité d’entre elles sont remplies à pleine capacité. Ce que l’on nous propose de faire n’est pas adapté à la réalité. Pour le Centre de services scolaire des Patriotes, où l’on est en construction pour l’agrandissement de l’école, il y a quelque chose qui ne marche pas et que l’on dénonce depuis septembre. L’anxiété du retour à l’école repose sur l’aération. Malheureusement, on ne nous a rien annoncé de nouveau à ce sujet. » Se voulant rassurant, le ministre a expliqué qu’à la suite des tests mesurant le taux de CO2, effectués sur l’échantillon de 330 classes, « la moyenne, c’est de 804 ppm, la cible est de 1000, mais on peut en tolérer jusqu’à 5000 en milieu de travail. Vous comprenez que si l’on peut en tolérer 5000, quand l’éducation a une cible très exigeante de 1000 et que la moyenne est à 804, et moins il y en a, mieux c’est, je pense que ça, c’est rassurant (...) Ce (que le Dr Massé) est venu nous dire essentiellement, c’est qu’il faut bien ventiler nos classes, mais qu’installer des purificateurs d’air, c’est une mauvaise bonne idée ». Du côté du Centre de services scolaire des Patriotes (CSSP), on promet d’annoncer au personnel des écoles les détails concernant les tests de la qualité de l’air « qui devront être effectués dans les établissements scolaires, tel qu’annoncé par le ministre de l’Éducation ». M. Roberge indique que des informations propres aux services de tutorat mis en place seront communiquées au cours des prochaines semaines également. Une mise en garde de la CSQ Du côté de la Centrale des Syndicats du Québec (CSQ), on a fait part, dans un communiqué du 10 janvier, de l’intention d’adopter des mandats de grève dans l’ensemble des syndicats d’ici la fin du mois de janvier. « Le ras-le-bol et la colère sont généralisés chez nos 125 000 membres du secteur public, et cela se traduit par d’importants appuis à la grève (...) Le ministre semble dire que leur présence dans les classes et le bruit que ces appareils produisent seraient dérangeants pour la concentration des élèves. Je pense qu’il saute un peu trop vite aux conclusions et qu’il met en doute trop facilement le bon jugement du personnel pour ce qui est de choisir le meilleur emplacement pour ces purificateurs. Rappelons-nous qu’il n’y a pas si longtemps, le ministre doutait de la nécessité de porter des masques en classe, alors que son point de vue a changé depuis. La question des purificateurs d’air mérite sans nul doute d’être plus réfléchie également », amène Sonia Ethier, présidente de la CSQ.Chloé-Anne Touma, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Journal de Chambly
Plusieurs questionnements flottent dans l’air quant à ce qu’il est permis de faire pendant le couvre-feu et le confinement, et quant aux autres mesures sanitaires instaurées. Selon les autorités sanitaires, la tendance collective à la fête et au rassemblement a aggravé les effets de la deuxième vague de cas de COVID-19. Le gouvernement s’est résigné à devoir instaurer de nouvelles mesures. Bien que leur application soit exercée par une majorité de Québécois disciplinés, il arrive qu’elles soient mal interprétées et qu’il faille faire un effort d’investigation supplémentaire pour dissiper le doute. Solution pour le transport Bien que plusieurs en soient étonnés, il est possible de faire du covoiturage avec une personne d’une autre bulle afin d’effectuer ses déplacements, qu’ils soient essentiels ou non. Cette pratique n’est toutefois pas recommandée mais demeure tolérée, au même titre que les services de taxi ou d’Uber. Il est donc autorisé de se rendre au travail, comme au ski, en covoiturage, et avec la même personne désignée, si possible. Vos finances personnelles Contrairement à ce que l’on pourrait croire, le fait de rester à la maison au lieu de travailler afin de s’occuper de son enfant lorsque la garderie est fermée n’est pas une raison valable pour demander la prestation d’assurance emploi, puisque dans ce cas-ci, l’employeur n’est pas responsable de l’arrêt de travail. Il est toutefois possible de faire une demande de prestation pour la relance économique pour les proches aidants (PCREPA) lorsqu’on doit s’occuper d’enfants de moins de 12 ans. Comment être vacciné en priorité? Notons que même lorsqu’on fait partie des groupes vulnérables et prioritaires, il n’est pas possible de téléphoner soi-même au Programme québécois d’immunisation pour prendre rendez-vous afin de recevoir le vaccin, ni pour s’ajouter à la liste. La manière de procéder pour l’appel individuel des personnes admissibles n’a été communiquée à la population, ni par le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de la Montérégie-Centre, ni par le ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS), pour la raison qu’il ne revient pas aux citoyens de s’inscrire eux-mêmes au programme. Les informations divulguées à ce jour quant à la procédure sont limitées à l’ordre de priorité des groupes vulnérables ciblés, dont les premiers reçoivent actuellement le vaccin en Montérégie, mais n’incluent que les aînés en perte d’autonomie, les préposés en CHSLD et les travailleurs de la santé. Le tour viendra ensuite aux communautés éloignées. Il est donc indiqué de faire preuve de patience, mais aussi de vigilance quant aux tentatives de fraudes du moment, contre lesquelles le gouvernement met la population en garde. « Toute communication électronique ou téléphonique proposant un vaccin contre la COVID-19 moyennant des frais est frauduleuse », la vaccination étant gratuite dans les faits. L’efficacité d’une seule dose Rappelons que parmi le premier groupe à avoir reçu une dose du vaccin Pfizer, au CHSLD Maimonides à Montréal, sept résidants ont tout de même contracté la COVID-19. Cette situation fait beaucoup jaser et génère des doutes chez plusieurs internautes quant à l’efficacité du vaccin. Mais comme mentionné à plusieurs reprises par les professionnels de la santé, ainsi que sur le site du gouvernement, c’est à partir du 14e jour suivant la vaccination que l’on parle d’un taux d’efficacité de 92 % avant la deuxième dose. On rappelle également qu’aucun vaccin n’est efficace à 100 %, mais que l’objectif d’immuniser une grande partie des vaccinés n’est pas à remettre en cause et qu’il demeure atteint. Les enjeux commerçants La Régie intermunicipale de police Richelieu-Saint-Laurent a confié au journal qu’elle avait reçu plusieurs signalements pour infraction, fondés sur la méconnaissance que certains commerces, ouverts en toute légitimité, auraient dû être fermés. Des cliniques offrant des soins esthétiques et corporels, par exemple, sont demeurées ouvertes légalement parce qu’elles offraient aussi un service de consultation avec dermatologues, et que ces rendez-vous jugés essentiels avaient été maintenus. Dans un récent communiqué de l’Association des restaurateurs du Québec (ARQ), on rapporte que la clientèle de plusieurs restaurants ignore qu’ils demeurent en activité malgré le confinement, et qu’ils maintiennent également leurs services de livraison pendant le couvre-feu. Finalement, les quincailleries rappellent que seule la peinture de couleur blanche peut être achetée en magasin. La couleur implique de faire une manipulation consistant à injecter du colorant dans la peinture blanche, ce qui présenterait un risque de contamination supplémentaire à éviter. Chez Rona, à Carignan, on explique qu’il « est toujours possible et très facile d’en acheter en ligne », si l’on souhaite vivre le confinement dans une ambiance aux couleurs de ses envies.Chloé-Anne Touma, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Journal de Chambly
The Ontario government plans to ramp up inspections at big-box stores. But confusion over the rules remain. Marianne Dimain reports.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America’s fourth-quarter profits fell 18% from a year ago, as lower interest rates weighed down its results. However the bank was able to release more than $800 million from its credit reserves, a sign that it sees the U.S. economy improving in the coming months. The North Carolina-based bank said Tuesday that it earned a profit of $5.47 billion, or 59 cents a share, down from $6.99 billion, or 74 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Analysts were expecting BofA to earn 56 cents a share, according to Zacks Investment Research. Like its Wall Street competitors, Bank of America was able to release hundreds of millions of dollars from its loan-loss reserves — money the bank had set aside earlier in the pandemic to cover loans that might be now be unpayable. But as the economy has relatively improved, banks have been able to free up some of those reserves. In the quarter, BofA released $828 million from its credit reserves. This type of release goes straight to a bank’s bottom line, but it’s largely because the money was moved out of an escrow-like account and was now free to be used again. Low interest rates were the biggest drag on BofA’s results compared to last year. The Federal Reserve sharply cut rates once the pandemic hit. Bank of America’s balance sheet is heavily weighted toward short-term interest rates, so it was hit harder than the rest of its competitors. Interest revenue in the quarter dropped from $12.14 billion to $10.25 billion. In a separate release, Bank of America's board of directors announced the bank would buy back $2.9 billion worth of stock in the upcoming quarter as well as pay a quarterly dividend of 18 cent per share. Share buyback had been on hold through much of last year when the Federal Reserve required all large banks to hold onto cash to brace for the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Ken Sweet, The Associated Press
Two members of Canada's snowboard delegation preparing to compete at an international event in Switzerland have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the entire Canadian men's slopestyle team to miss the event. They have been put into isolation and will not be competing in the annual Laax Open — an event that has massive Olympic qualifying ramifications this year. "This is to inform you that two members of the Canadian delegation have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Laax Open, which is hosting FIS Snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle competitions this week," the governing body posted to one of its press releases. "At this point, the Canadian men's slopestyle team has been put into isolation and will not participate in the Laax Open. In agreement with the FIS Event Task Force, all competitions will proceed as scheduled." Details are limited around what restrictions and protocols were in place to ensure the safety of the athletes competing, but on the International Ski Federation website it says, "a huge amount of time, energy, and infrastructure has been put in place to ensure the riders on hand are able to get down to business in the safest and most secure way possible at this all-important Olympic qualifying event." Canada's top snowboarders were there to compete in the event —Mark McMorris, Seb Toutant and Max Parrot are all part of Canada's men's slopestyle team and are in Switzerland. They had been posting to their social media in recent days about preparing for the event. They are all now in isolation. Toutant won this event last season and was one of the favourites to win this year's event. Event still going forward While the Canadian team is out, the event is still going forward as scheduled. The men's slopestyle qualification is taking place Tuesday, followed by the men's and women's semifinals on Wednesday, and finals on Friday. The men's field includes 60 competitors from around the world — that number is now smaller due to the Canadians being out of the event. This all comes just weeks before Calgary is planned to host hundreds of international skiers and snowboarders. The 2021 freestyle ski, snowboard and freeski world championships, as well as a number of World Cup events, are provisionally being rescheduled to be held starting Feb. 24 and running until the middle of March. At this point, the Government of Alberta still has not approved the event. Canada's snowboard and freestyle organizations are working with the appropriate Canadian authorities to obtain the necessary approvals. "We continue to work in close collaboration with key partners around the potential of creating a winter sport bubble in Calgary to host multiple international FIS Freestyle, Freeski, Snowboard events this winter," the federations wrote in an email to CBC Sports at the beginning of January. There would be a number of events taking place over a month of competition including slopestyle, big air, halfpipe and freestyle ski moguls, dual moguls, aerials, and aerials team events. With freestyle and snowboard events being cancelled across the world, the Calgary World Cup races could wind up playing a major factor in qualifying for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
On Monday, January 11th at 6:30 P.M. Mayor Johnston called the public meeting for the Cedar Crescent Development open with Evan Wight present as the project planner. Some of the concerns raised were back alleys and drainage, as well as the proposed start date of the development. After a few amendments to the agenda, Councillor N. Thies made a motion to accept the agenda as amended; motion carried. After reviewing the minutes of the last meeting Councillor Gosselin made the motion to accept which was carried. The Foreman’s Report was next. Foreman Poppenheim explained to the council what the maintenance staff has been up to over the last two weeks, as well as a review of the year. Foreman Poppenheim thanked the summer students for their hard work over the summer. Council Standing Committees were next as each councillor gave a short explanation of their assigned committees. Mayor Johnston gave his report with three recommendations included that will be brought forward at the next council meeting. Administrator Report was next. Administrator Paridaen included an update on the RO system build, strategic planning and a landfill update. There is approximately $128,000 from MEEP as well as $87,000 in reserve for lot development to be used towards the Cedar Crescent Development as well as for the water heater for the town hall as it broke and now needs replacing. Councillor R. Thies motioned for the town to pay for a new water heater for the hall; motion carried. The town staff will be picking up old Christmas trees on January 13th; this is a service the town maintenance staff do yearly. N. Thies made the motion to accept the reports which was carried. OLD BUSINESS Borrowing By-law 2020-014 received its third reading with a motion by Councillor Vaughan; motion carried. This By-law 2020-014 is so the town can borrow more money to pay for projects like the reverse osmosis system. Nuisance By-law 2020-016 received its second reading with a motion by N. Thies, and 3rd Reading with a motion by R. Thies; motion carried; there was an amendment added to exempt the fire department to allow five old cars at the Firehall rather than three. Residents are not allowed old unlicensed vehicles on their property. The Big Bike will be taken back by Ken Mack, the developer of the bike. CORRESPONDENCE The preschool has made a proposal to only pay $75 a month during the summer as it won't be using the building for the three months in the summer; motion tabled. Walking/bike path snow removal was then discussed. Rural Connectivity Task Force sent information concerning the lack of internet service and cell service in rural areas. The council reviewed the RCMP Report. Council will request the RCMP to attend a council meeting when available. Councilor Antosh-Cusitar made the motion to file the correspondence which was carried. The council reviewed the list of accounts for approval. Councillor N. Thies making a motion to accept which was carried. NEW BUSINESS A Financial Reserve Policy was discussed next. Councillor Vaughan made a motion to table this until further information is received; motion carried. Commercial bin locks were next to be discussed. There is a lot of contaminated recycling still being received by the recycling center resulting in contaminated recycling charges. The town will consult with commercial users for their input. Election Appointments and rates for poll clerk was discussed, with the upcoming by-election coming up to fill the vacant council seat. Administrator Paridaen proposed $18.80 for the returning officer and $15.00 per hour for pole clerk. Councillor Antosh-Cusitar made a motion to accept Administrator Paridaen’s proposal; motion carried. Councillor Gosselin made a motion to table the Municipal Access Agreement until after the strategic planning; motion carried. Councillor Vaughan mentioned purchasing a wheat weaving art display/picture and wishes to donate it to the town to display possibly in the library. Councillor R. Thies made a motion to go in-camera; motion carried. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
NEW YORK — R&B star Jazmine Sullivan and country singer Eric Church will join forces to sing the national anthem at the next month’s Super Bowl, where Grammy-winning singer H.E.R. will perform “America the Beautiful.” The performances will take place Feb. 7 at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa before the big game and halftime show starring The Weeknd. It will air on CBS. Deaf rapper and recording artist Warren “WAWA” Snipe will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” in American Sign Language. Emmy-nominated musical director Adam Blackstone will arrange and produce Church and Sullivan’s rendition of the national anthem. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company is executive producing the halftime show for a second year. Jesse Collins, who has produced the BET Awards and is working on this year’s Grammys and Oscars telecasts, will serve as an executive producer. Sullivan rose to the top of the R&B charts in 2008 with her debut single and album. She’s earned 12 Grammy nominations and written songs for Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Monica. Her new album, “Heaux Tales,” debuted at No. 4 on this week’s all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart. Church, a 10-time Grammy nominee, released his debut album in 2006 and has topped the country charts with songs like “Drink In My Hand,” “Springsteen,” “Talladega” and “Record Year.” He’s released multiple multiplatinum and platinum albums and was named entertainer of the year at last year’s Country Music Association Awards. H.E.R. won two Grammys in 2019 and has earned critical acclaim for her live performances, including her work as a guitarist. She’s won honours at the MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards and Soul Train Music Awards and launched R&B hits such as “Focus,” “Best Part,” “Slide,” “Damage” and “B.S.” with Jhené Aiko. Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. — Two Virginia Democratic lawmakers are spearheading a push to repeal a decades-old law that allows the state to hold certain sex offenders at psychiatric facilities indefinitely after their criminal sentences if they are deemed “sexually violent predators.” Critics say civil commitment laws are fundamentally unfair and violate the constitutional prohibition against punishing someone twice for the same crime. Supporters counter that the laws protect society from repeat offenders who are unable to control their behaviour. Sen. Joe Morrissey and Del. Patrick Hope, both Democrats, are co-sponsoring legislation that would end the state’s authority to civilly commit sex offenders. “It is as archaic and as Neanderthal a process as I can imagine," said Morrissey, a defence attorney and lead patron of the bill that would repeal 1999's Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act. “We don't sentence people because of what they might do,” he said. “That's abhorrent to everything that our democracy and our criminal justice system believes in.” Twenty states and the federal government now have civil commitment laws, which have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Morrissey's bill is drawing criticism from Republicans and raising eyebrows among some Democrats who believe the state should retain the ability to commit the most serious sex offenders. “The civil commitment of sexual predators appears to be well within constitutional bounds, and there is no reason to believe it’s not working to make sure that dangerous people do not have access to future victims as long as they remain a threat to the public,” said House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert. The process begins with an initial screening by the Department of Correction. Based on that, offenders deemed likely to reoffend are given a psychological evaluation and additional review by an interagency committee. That group then makes a recommendation on whether the state attorney general should seek civil commitment. A judge or a jury makes the ultimate decision on whether to commit or release an offender. Offenders who are committed are sent to the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, where about 405 people are currently housed and a 258-bed expansion is underway. Attorney General Mark Herring's office says inmates are placed in a “secure, intensive, inpatient sex offender treatment program,” while critics say it's a place where sex offenders are forced to serve a second prison term. Offenders are entitled to an annual review hearing for the first five years and every two years after that, when a court decides whether the person remains sexually dangerous and needs to stay at the facility or can be released with monitoring and supervision. Since 2003 — when the law was first funded by the legislature — through October 2020, Virginia had a total of 689 civil commitments after final disposition as a sexually violent predator. During that same time period, the state granted 410 conditional releases from civil commitment. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services said the recidivism rate for people released from the centre is currently estimated at about 2%. “If you look at our discharge numbers, despite claims, people are not held here indefinitely. They receive good treatment and it results in a reduction in recidivism and safety in the community," said Facility Director Jason Wilson. Critics say the process of deciding who will be committed is rife with speculation by state-hired experts trying to predict who will commit crimes in the future. Galen Baughman has spent years trying to repeal civil commitment laws around the country. Baughman spent 6 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to nonviolent sexual misconduct involving offences that occurred when he was 14 and 19. As he was completing his sentence, the state moved for civil commitment, and he was held for another 2 1/2 years while awaiting a trial. The jury found he was not a “sexually violent predator” and he was released on probation. Four years later, he was arrested on a technical probation violation after he exchanged text messages with a teenage boy he met at the funeral of a mutual friend. Baughman, who is gay, said there was no sexual content in his text messages with the heterosexual boy. The state moved to revoke his probation, and a judge sentenced Baughman to 21 months in jail. When the state then tried to civilly commit Baughman for a second time, a psychologist hired by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services found that Baughman was not a "sexually violent predator." But Attorney General Mark Herring then retained another psychologist who said Baughman met the criteria to be labelled sexually dangerous. In 2019, the jury, which was not allowed to hear testimony from two defence psychiatrists or from the first expert who found that Baughman was not dangerous, found that Baughman was eligible for commitment as a sexually violent predator. Baughman has asked the Supreme Court of Virginia to hear his appeal. “This is anyone's worst nightmare — getting locked up, with no exit, with the government claiming it's ‘treating’ you," he said. "The state is trying to punish you for what you might do in the future. This turns the Constitution upside down.” Denise Lavoie, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Goldman Sachs said its profits more than doubled from a year earlier thanks to a surge in both trading and advising revenue. The New York-based investment bank said it earned a profit of $4.36 billion, or $12.08 per share, up from a profit of $1.72 billion, or $4.69 a share, in the same period a year earlier. The earnings were significantly better than the $7.45-per-share profit that analysts were expecting. Goldman's results reflect that Wall Street had a strong year, despite the pandemic and millions of Americans out of work. After plunging sharply in March and April, the stock market went basically straight up for seven months as investors tried to look beyond the near-term death and pain and focus on where the U.S. economy will be in a year or two years' time. Goldman’s profits were driven higher by its investment bank and trading desks, the cornerstone to the bank’s business models. Investment banking revenue was up 29% from a year earlier to $2.73 billion. The bank saw higher underwriting revenues — fees the bank collects to take companies public or underwrite debt they want to offer — as well as trading revenue, which rose 23% from a year earlier. The banks also saw revenue gains in its wealth management arm as well is nascent consumer banking business, which focuses on consumer loans, savings accounts as well as handling the underwriting for Apple’s credit card. Like its competitors, Goldman also moved some of the money it had set aside to cover credit losses out of its reserves. However Goldman’s exposure through consumer and business loans is significantly smaller than commercial banks like Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo so it wasn’t a significant part of its overall results. The stellar quarter also will result in stellar bonuses for Goldman’s well-compensated employees. The bank set aside $13.31 billion to pay out bonuses and payroll this year, up 8% from a year earlier. Most of Goldman’s top employees make most of their money in year-end bonuses. Ken Sweet, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will continue to fight to convince president-elect Joe Biden's administration of the merits of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion. Trudeau says Kirsten Hillman, Canada's envoy to the U.S., is pressing Ottawa's case with what he calls the "highest levels" of the Biden team. Biden promised during last year's election campaign that he would rescind President Donald Trump's approvals for the US$8-billion cross-border expansion. Transition documents reviewed by The Canadian Press suggest an executive order on that score could come as early as Wednesday, Biden's first day in the White House. Environmental groups briefed on the incoming administration's plan say they have been told it would come on Day 1. Advocates for the project, however, are clinging to hope that the ensuing outcry will prompt the Biden team to give them a chance to change the president-elect's mind. Trudeau says he has been an advocate for the Keystone XL expansion since before he even became prime minister. He says the project, which aims to send an added 800,000 barrels a day of Alberta oilsands bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, has evolved since then. So too has Canada's approach to climate change more broadly, he added. "Canada has, in the intervening few years, become a global leader in the fight against climate change and moving forward in transforming our economy in important ways towards reducing emissions," Trudeau said. "I trust that we will be heard, that our arguments will be considered." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Memorial University is sending its staff back to campuses at the beginning of February. "Memorial's campuses are safe," reads a media release issued on behalf of Mark Abrahams, academic vice-president, and Kent Decker, administration and finance vice-president. "The university has followed all public health guidelines and implemented measures to ensure the return to campus is a positive experience." It was in November when MUN announced a phased-in return to campus for its employees that started Nov. 23. At that time, some non-academic staff returned for a minimum of two days a week. MUN says the current risk of COVID-19 in the province is low and points to the vaccine program underway. "The short spike in cases in November did not continue and has since decreased.… The health and safety of the campus community continues to lead decision-making," says the statement. As of Monday afternoon, Newfoundland and Labrador had six active cases of COVID-19. If cases increase or community spread becomes an issue, the university could revert back to staff working remotely. Tuesday's announcement relates only to staff returning, not students. Only limited exceptions The expanded return applies to all staff, but there are a few exceptions, according to the university, based on density requirements, medical accommodations, work-from-home pilot programs and business continuity planning for essential functions and services. The vast majority of employees who are heading back to campus should get in touch with their supervisor to figure out their next steps, says MUN. For example, there may be a staggered approach so not everyone is walking back into the buildings on Feb. 1. "The university has followed all public health guidelines and implemented measures to ensure the return to campus is a positive experience.… Empathy during this transition is crucial," reads Tuesday's statement. MUN's COVID-19 website has been updated with new information for staff returning. Parking, food and tunnels The St. John's campus will have some food options in the University Centre, but it will be limited. Grenfell Campus does not. The Marine Institute's cafeteria is operating 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parking permits for the St. John's campus and Signal Hill campus were previously waived for the rest of the winter semester. Grenfell Campus and Marine Institute will issue permits, but there will be no charge, says MUN. However, meter and pay-per-use parking lots are still being enforced. All buildings, tunnels and pedways will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Offices should be open and accessible to students, says MUN, but virtual meetings are still preferred. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Recently Yorkton This Week wrote an article about political figures taking Christmas vacations outside of Saskatchewan, entitled ‘Saltcoats Mayor and Municipalities of Sask. president in Hawaii’. As a result of this article, and a myriad of similar articles from other news sources, Cabinet Members have been stepping down from their position; not only in Saskatchewan but across the nation. Restrictions allow for the freedom of going on a flight, even an international one, but they also demand a strict set of protocols when passengers depart and arrive back in Canada. Thousands of Canadians have travelled to Hawaii since December 1st, according to a report cited by the Calgary Herald. A recent article by Stephanie Babych reported, “Since Dec. 1, 2,824 visitors have jetted to Hawaii from Calgary’s airport, according to an online portal from the U.S. state on Sunday. More than 80 percent of these travellers cited ‘pleasure/vacation’ as their reason for the trip. Another 2,058 travellers departed from Vancouver International directly to Hawaii, 21 from Lester B. Pearson International and 15 from Edmonton International.” Certain members of the public have voiced their concern regarding politicians travelling during a time when restrictions are heightened. While restrictions have increased, travel is allowed if strict protocols are followed. Of these nearly 5000 Canadians who travelled, most were not asked to leave their positions of employment. Gordon Barnhart, President of the Municipalities of Sask. and Mayor of Saltcoats was contacted to hear first hand his side of the story by the Four-Town Journal, to which Barnhart shared the experience of he and his and his wife, Naomi when travelling during COVID-19 and the nature of their Christmas vacation to Hawaii. Mr. Barnhart offered, “For the last nine years, Naomi and I have spent Christmas and January in Maui. This year with COVID-19, we took extra precautions to ensure that our health and the health of those around us would be safe.” Explaining the precautions he had to meet in order to travel, Gordon said, “ In order to enter Maui, it is required by Hawaiian state law that you have a Covid test done at pre-approved labs in Calgary. We took extra precautions to ensure we were free of Covid before flying to Calgary. We took the test with a negative result. After registering this result with the Hawaiian Ministry of Health, we received clearance to board the Air Canada flight to Maui.” The Mayor of Saltcoats added, “It was reassuring to know that all 182 passengers on that flight were Covid free. We all wore masks and followed the health requirements. On arrival in Maui, with the lab test results in hand, we were welcomed and were not required to self-isolate.” Now that he is safe and healthy in Hawaii, he has been able to enjoy cycling, swimming and the beautiful sunshine. “Other than a weekly visit to grocery stores, we do not have direct contact with anyone.” Gordon said, “This is our usual lifestyle in Maui even before Covid. The stat on new Covid cases for the island of Maui has been in the range of 30 new cases per day. By taking the usual precautions and the low Covid count, we feel very safe here. We will again take the Covid test and will self isolate for 14 days on returning to Saskatchewan.” Mr. Barnhart understands the importance of being cautious and staying protected. “We are both supporters of taking precautions to stop the spread of Covid. With the above-mentioned testing and careful lifestyle, we believe that we have done our very best to protect ourselves and those around us.” Responsibility is a priority for Barnhart, which he demonstrated by informing all members around him that needed to be privy to his flight plans. Gordon explained, “Before leaving for our vacation, I discussed with the Saltcoats Council and Administration how we could keep in contact while away. While in Maui, we both have been keeping up with work by email and phone, FaceTime and zoom. As Mayor of Saltcoats, I am in touch with Councillors and Administration on a daily basis. Arrangements have been made for me to fulfill my administrative duties by distance and I have been able to Chair Council Meetings by Zoom. I take my role as Mayor very seriously and believe I have been able to fulfill my duties to the best of my ability while still taking a holiday with my wife.” The Municipalities of Saskatchewan President ended by saying, “We look forward to meeting our friends and colleagues in person on our return and after the required period of self-isolation.” Even though the Barnhart family travelled, they followed all COVID protocols of pre-testing, social distancing, masking in public areas and self-isolation, Gordon was still able to conduct his responsibilities to the Municipalities of Saskatchewan as well as to the community of Saltcoats. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
SILVER SPRING, Md. — General Motors is teaming up with Microsoft to accelerate its rollout of electric, self-driving cars. In the partnership announced Tuesday, the companies said Microsoft’s Azure cloud and edge computing platform would be used to “commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale.” Microsoft joins General Motors, Honda and other institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise, bringing its valuation to about $30 billion. Cruise, which GM bought in 2016, has been a leader in driverless technology and got the go-ahead from California late last year to test its automated vehicles in San Francisco without backup drivers. “Microsoft is a great addition to the team as we drive toward a future world of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Microsoft will help us accelerate the commercialization of Cruise’s all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realize even more benefits from cloud computing as we launch 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025 and create new businesses and services to drive growth.” General Motors has been aggressively revamping its image, saying the industry has reached a history-changing inflection point for mass adoption of electric vehicles. The 112-year-old Detroit automaker this month unveiled a new corporate logo to signify its new direction as it openly pivots to electric vehicles. It wants to be seen as a clean vehicle company, rather than a builder of cloud-spewing gas-powered pickups and SUVs. GM scrapped its old square blue logo for a lower case gm surrounded by rounded corners and an ‘m’ that looks like an electrical plug. Shares in GM jumped more than 8% in early trading, to $54.07. Matt Ott, The Associated Press
The ice skating season is over in the Sundridge region. In the words of Sundridge Coun. Steve Rawn, the ice in the Sundridge Strong Joly Arena is coming out “immediately.” The decision at an arena board meeting after the province announced further lockdown measures, which include arenas as it continues to fight COVID-19 outbreak numbers. Rawn says the original hope was the arena could be used by residents of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit area once the province's previous two-week lockdown of Northern Ontario ended. But Rawn says the board voted to remove the ice after the province invoked the stay-at-home order. Rawn says the latest lockdown would take the arena situation well into February and that's getting closer to the end of the regular ice season. In a statement, Rawn said “this last extension would be too long to keep the ice sitting and not be used.” In neighbouring Magnetawan, it's a different story. Although the lockdown has closed the community's outdoor skating rink, Mayor Sam Dunnett says it will reopen once the order ends. “We had people using it for public skating and they were in groups of no more than five people,” he says. The local Lions club was instrumental in creating the covered outdoor rink, which is appropriately named Lion's Pavilion. Dunnett doesn't know for certain how long the latest lockdown will last since the province could change the length at any time. And while this reason alone is enough for other communities to end the ice skating season, Dunnett says “we're not taking out our ice. “We'll continue to maintain it,” he says. Dunnett says the outdoor nature of the Magnetawan rink makes it easier to maintain compared to the indoor arena ice in surrounding towns. If COVID outbreak numbers can fall low enough, Dunnett believes the province “can start opening stuff back up a little like ice-skating rinks. “And if it does re-open, people can come out and enjoy themselves,” he says. “There will still be no hockey, but they can get some exercise.” Dunnett says the municipality will continue to maintain the outdoor ice until warmer spring temperatures arrive. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
Lumentum Holdings will spend $5.7 billion in cash and stock to buy Coherent and expand its reach into lasers and photonics. The San Jose, California, company said Tuesday that it would pay a 49% premium to the closing price of Coherent shares on Friday. The deal includes $100 in cash and slightly more than one share of Lumentum for each Coherent share. Shares of Coherent jumped 34% after markets opened Tuesday, while Lumentum’s stock fell more than 10%. Santa Clara, California-based Coherent Inc. provides lasers and laser-based technology for scientific, commercial and industrial uses. Lumentum said the deal will help speed its push into the market for lasers and photonics outside of communications and 3D sensing applications. The deal still needs approval from regulators and shareholders of both companies. Lumentum and Coherent expect it to close in the second half of the year. Coherent’s stock price jumped more than $52 to $204.12 Tuesday morning, while broader indexes rose less than 1%. Shares of Lumentum fell $11.36 to $94.96. The Associated Press
The COVID-19 pandemic could be the catalyst for much-needed reform of the World Health Organization just as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 forced urgent changes at the U.N. nuclear agency, an independent review panel said on Tuesday. The panel, set up to investigate the global response to the coronavirus, said the WHO is underpowered, underfunded and required fundamental reform to give it the resources it needs to respond more effectively to deadly disease outbreaks. "We are not here to assign blame, but to make concrete recommendations to help the world respond faster and better in future," the panel's co-chair, former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, told a news briefing.
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has delayed its high school scenarios process yet again, leaving parents of junior high students waiting to find out where their child will attend high school. Some of those parents say it's time for the school board to "pull the Band-Aid off," allowing families to plan for the future. Christopher Usih, chief superintendent of the CBE, said the purpose of this work will determine the catchment areas for students entering high school in the 2022-2023 school year. The plan is meant to deal with growing capacity issues faced by numerous high schools in the city. "Otherwise what will happen is we'll have situations where if a school is way above capacity, then we run into challenges around safety and even our ability to be able to provide effective programming because there are just too many students in that one building," he said. "You probably heard in fall of last school year that one of our high schools, [Ernest Manning], was way over capacity and we were really challenged from a health and safety standpoint." Changing timelines Documents posted on the CBE website in May 2019 said the original timeline for the engagement process would see the scenarios finalized and communicated between July and October 2021. In February 2020, the timeline was adjusted, pushing back the engagement and presentation of possible scenarios from March to June 2020, to September to November last year. However, that never happened, and in November, CBE parents were informed that the board would be sharing the high school scenarios with them this month. But in an email sent home last week, the CBE informed parents there would be yet another delay — and that scenarios would be released and and engagement would take place between Feb. 23 and March 17. Kelly Van Webber has a daughter in junior high who will be directly impacted by these decisions. The area their family lives in is currently designated for Ernest Manning, but these potential boundary changes could see them designated to Central Memorial. "The concerning part around that is … when they redid the boundaries for [Ernest Manning High School] before, they basically said in November of that year, 'your kids are going to these schools,' and it was under a year to plan and families were thrown into chaos," he said. COVID-19 to blame for delays Usih said all of the delays to this process have been caused by COVID-19 and the challenges the school board has faced when it comes to school re-entry and online learning. He said it's been an adjustment to switch to engaging families and staff online, as opposed to an in-person session. Van Webber said he struggles to see how this work can be dragging on for more than a year-and-a-half. "[The CBE] knows the numbers, so make a decision and let people plan," he said. "Pull the Band-Aid off already." For his family, Van Webber said knowing which high school their daughter is designated to has big implications. "We're going to see where our designated high school is and we've talked to different families and said, 'Hey, do we form some sort of carpool to go to Bowness?' for example. A bit of a circuitous route to get there, but at least it's a shorter commute," he said. "We've kicked around the idea of, do we move basically a kilometre away to get on the other side of Old Banff Coach road to get into the catchment for Manning if we decide that's the best or the appropriate school? Should move into the catchment area? So, going back and forth with that." CBE confident parents will have time to plan Usih said he appreciates and understands that families want their child to attend a school where there's strong and effective programming. "And, if parents have concerns about programming or any aspect of the school there, we have processes in place for addressing those," he said. "But I cannot emphasize enough the need to ensure that we have strong programming in every one of our schools." Van Webber said the uncertainty of this process is beginning to weigh on students too. "My daughter is in Grade 8 now, and she and her friends are starting to talk about it and, you know, you kind of want some certainty for them as they go into high school, especially with all the wackiness that COVID has caused," he said. Usih said he knows the last year has been a difficult period for many. "We want to make sure that we are we are doing our due diligence to communicate clearly and to provide opportunities for families to know what our plan is going forward," he said. "And I'm confident that, you know, the timelines that we've we've indicated will will satisfy that expectation." Following the engagement in March, Usih said the scenarios are subject to change. But, he said the CBE is committed to finalizing all scenarios for 2022-2023 by no later than December 2021.
Tiny Township residents can expect a 1% blended tax rate increase for this year. The decision was forwarded to the next meeting after hours of deliberation at Monday's budget meeting. Where a majority easily agreed on the option, one council member expressed some concerns. A blended tax rate is achieved after incorporating the county and education tax rates. "I’m not comfortable with 1%," said Coun. Tony Mintoff, adding he also wasn't comfortable sacrificing important projects to find the $400,000 to keep the township's tax rate increase at zero per cent. "Based on that, I will reluctantly agree to a 1% blended rate increase." Council approved $70,000 in salary for a full-time human resource person. Staff pointed out that there may yet be savings in this line item once recommendations from the North Simcoe services operations review comes forward in March. Further, even if the township hires an independent HR staff member, the $70,000 annual salary will not be realized in full for this year. Then council found $30,000 in savings by directing staff to take out the extra ask for arena use from the Town of Penetanguishene. "It’s my understanding the recreation master plan had created the recommendation that fulsome discussion be held with all three municipalities that provide arena facilities to us," said Mintoff. "Given the fact that hasn’t happened yet, my recommendation would be to remove the $30,000 that was asked by Penetang, subject to the discussions to take place in 2021." Agreeing with staff, council decided to delay the purchase of a vehicle for the parks department, instead moving the $70,000 to reserve funds. At the end of the day, staff was sent back to find efficiencies in departments or seek out projects that could be delayed to make up for the $8,500 in funding gap that still remains if the tax rate is to be set at 1%. Other budget approvals include a 6% increase in funds to be moved to the municipal infrastructure reserves. As well, council approved a 1% cost of living increase for staff wages, despite Mintoff's suggestion to the contrary so the township could show solidarity with residents who had suffered through the pandemic. "This has been a very difficult year financially for a lot of our residents," he said. "The majority that live in the private sector world and those who live on retirement income. I’m pleased we were able to maintain full employment for our staff, so I think it would be inappropriate and insensitive of us to consider any kind of increase in wages. My recommendation would be to remove this salary increase from the budget." Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma disagreed with his peer. "I can 100% justify the cost," he said. "When you look at municipal employees as a whole, there’s very little you can do in terms of incentives. There are no bonuses and there’s no additional time off you can get. I know there’s been a CPP increase this year. If we’re going to take a look at our retirees being affected, we have to back it up with quantitative evidence as well. "If a statement needs to be made in terms of leadership, then I’d be in favour of council taking no increase," added Walma. "The savings can be donated to a local charity. Or the council could take the 1% increase and donate it back to the municipality into the bursary program." Other council members agreed with his suggestion. And so did Mintoff. "I have no issue with council taking zero per cent increase," he said. "Speaking about council’s initiative to raise our rate of pay for staff from 50th percentile to the 55th percentile, how much did that bumping up of salaries cost? "I believe it was several hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t want my comments to be misconstrued that we don’t value our staff, but I believe we pay them above a comparative group. I don’t want staff watching to think they don’t deserve fair recognition and compensation for what they do." Staff will now bring back a third and possibly final draft of the 2021 budget at a meeting next month. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com