For the first time since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump acknowledges the possibility that it might not be his administration dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic going forward.
For the first time since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump acknowledges the possibility that it might not be his administration dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic going forward.
Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
The Trump administration on Wednesday granted ByteDance a new seven-day extension of an order directing the Chinese company to sell its TikTok short video-sharing app, according to a court filing. The administration previously had granted ByteDance a 15-day extension of the order issued in August, which was set to expire Friday. President Donald Trump on Aug. 14 had directed ByteDance to divest the app within 90 days.
TORONTO — A judge accused of lying about his involvement in a Black activist organization will face a disciplinary hearing starting next month, the Ontario Judicial Council has announced.The four-person panel will delve into whether Judge Donald McLeod committed perjury at a previous misconduct hearing into his involvement with the Federation of Black Canadians. McLeod was cleared in the earlier process and denies the current unproven allegations.If the complaints are proven, the panel could impose punishment up to suspension with or without pay. It could also recommend to the attorney general that McLeod be forced from the Ontario court bench.In its notice of hearing filed earlier this year, the council alleges the judge behaved in a manner "incompatible with the due execution of the duties of his office."The earlier hearing focused on McLeod's involvement with the non-profit federation, which advocates on legal and policy issues affecting the community. Key was his role in the group's advocacy related to a Somali child refugee, Abdoulkader Abdi.In December 2018, the panel dismissed the complaint based on an agreed statement of facts and McLeod's evidence that he was no longer involved in Abdi advocacy. That wasn't true, the new complaint alleges.Among other things, McLeod is alleged to have either arranged or taken part in a meeting with then-refugee minister, Ahmed Hussen, on the federation's behalf. "Contrary to his evidence at the hearing, Justice McLeod was involved in (the federation's) efforts in this regard," the hearing notice states. "In light of the above, His Honour committed perjury and/or misled the hearing panel regarding his involvement in the Abdi case."Similarly, the notice alleges the judge resumed his leadership role during which time the federation sought funding from government and met various officials.It also says he spoke at a political summit in Ottawa in February 2019. At one point, a security guard ordered a group of Black attendees to leave the Parliament Hill cafeteria in an allegedly racist incident.McLeod, according to the notice, counselled two witnesses against speaking out about the incident which, the complaint asserts, amounted to giving legal advice or using his position to influence them.Overall, the complaint alleges, McLeod's conduct could undermine public confidence in the judiciary.In his response, the judge maintains his meeting with Hussen in January 2018 was not about Abdi. He also states the allegations are based on claims from people who did not directly witnesses the various events."The evidence will show Justice McLeod did not commit perjury or intentionally mislead the 2018 hearing panel," his response states. "(He did not) engage in impermissible advocacy or lobbying, or attempt to pressure or intimidate two youth delegates."McLeod says the earlier panel recognized that racialized judges "legitimately feel and act upon a moral obligation to serve as leaders and role models" in their communities.His return to the federation in a "limited capacity" was in line with the panel's decision and his advice to the youth delegates about the cafeteria incident was based on his personal experience as a Black man, he says. "The choice not to investigate this matter thoroughly led to a notice of hearing that contains unnecessary allegations," his response states.The hearing panel will comprise an Appeal Court and a Superior Court justice, a lawyer and a community member. The virtual hearing, scheduled for 20 days over three weeks, is set to begin Dec. 7 and will be open to the public.Several groups of Black Canadians have called for the misconduct charges to be dropped.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
A snowmobiler got more than he bargained for when he ventured away from his friends in search of new terrain while out in the Yanks Peak area two Sundays ago. He took the detour without telling anyone and without a shovel. He paid for it by spending the night and much of the next day out in the wilderness. "He got really stuck," said Dave Merritt of Prince George Search and Rescue. "He got stuck multiple times, he just couldn't get himself out without a shovel." Merritt said search and rescue volunteers were originally called out to look for another member of the party of about 15-20 enthusiasts. By the time the searchers had shown up, that subject had made his way back to the parking lot at the entrance to the popular snowmobiling area south of Wells after spending a few hours extracting his sled from a tree well. But by then, the party had realized one other person remained unaccounted for. Volunteers from three search and rescue organizations plus members of the Wells Snowmobile Club and a couple of the missing man's friends participated in the search. Prince George SAR was called in because it has the skills to search in avalanche terrain. The second man was "cold and tired" but otherwise OK when he was spotted by a helicopter shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday. "We probably would've found him another hour and a half later by sled but the weather had lifted enough that we were able to spot him a little faster and get him home a little quicker," Merritt said. "We had maybe another 20 minutes and the helicopter would've had to go back to Prince George because of the darkness." Cell service in the area is spotty and neither snowmobiler had radios or satellite communication devices, Merritt said. The one who spent the night outside was also without fire starter and material to build a shelter. Merritt urged outdoor enthusiasts to check the AdventureSmart website for advice on being prepared in case something goes wrong. "The group did everything right once they realized somebody was missing," Merritt added. "They initiated all the proper procedures."Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
After months of boredom and frustration, two Alaskan girls are excited they can go back to classes just across the border in B.C. — a school run that had until recently been impossible due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.On Oct. 30, Ottawa began to allow cross-border students to attend school on the other side of the Canada-U.S. border, as long as they're taken there and back by the same driver.Monday was the first day in this academic year Nick Korpela drove his daughters Hilma and Ellie from their home in Hyder, Alaska, to Bear Valley School in Stewart, B.C., where Americans' attendance has been approved by School District 82."The kids seemed to be really bouncing around quite a bit. I didn't know how the teacher is going to be able to get them to sit in their chair," Korpela told Dominika Lirette, guest host of CBC's Radio West.Hilma, 10, and eight-year-old Ellie were two of five children in their U.S. hometown, population 63, stuck at home despite their Canadian school being only three kilometres away. Hyder, situated in the Alaskan panhandle, is not connected by road to the rest of the state. Both girls said they were happy and excited to see their classmates and teachers again. "It was nice to play with more friends," Ellie said.The two girls would have been able to return to school earlier but had been denied access by Canadian border officers.Korpela says he tried to take the children to school on Nov. 16 but the Canada Border Services Agency officer in charge, despite knowing their purpose for crossing the border, wouldn't allow it.But Korpela said on Sunday he received a voice message from CBSA telling him he was now permitted to take the two girls to the Stewart school.When CBSA was asked why Korpela and his daughters were initially denied entry, it deferred to the Public Health Agency of Canada. PHAC has been contacted for comment. Tap the link below to listen to the Korpelas' interview on Radio West:
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Following Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer's overall summary of the draft budget and some of its key elements, it was Town Treasurer Andre Morin's turn to speak more specifically on the high-level aspects of the 2021 draft capital budget. It is important to note that this is still a draft budget, meaning the budget is not finalized yet. With that in mind, this will give you a glimpse at how the 2021 budget is beginning to take shape. Morin began his presentation by noting that it's expected that revenues across the board will be down in 2021, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. These revenues that are expected to decrease include the largest, fees and charges, as well as ice rentals, rents and leases, and sales. Morin also pointed out that the carry-over from the 2020 Safe Restart funding the Town has yet to spend is about $250,000, which will help cover the extra costs and lost revenues. The draft capital budget also reflects several increases in expenses for the Town. The first that Morin touched on was an increased investment in the community safety and policing plan, as well as parks patrol. The expense increase for those areas is approximately $45,000. Most of the other increases proposed in the budget are spread over other departments within the municipality and are fairly standard and routine. The Town is seeing an increase in debenture payments in 2021, but not as large of an increase as they likely expected. The net increase of about $68,000 is largely due to an increase in debenture payments related to the fire hall, but there is also a debenture payment related to wastewater services that is coming off the books. The materials and services line of the budget did reflect a large increase of $140,000, however, that is largely due to its reflection of additional costs brought on by the pandemic. Lastly, an increase in salary and wages is also included in the budget, and the Council asked Town staff to report back later on the implications of a 1.5 percent increase in salary and wages. Morin then touched on the tax increase for St. Marys residents, which, thanks in no small part to the Town's handling of the pandemic, is not going to be as substantial as other municipalities. The net tax levy, according to Morin, will result in the average St. Marys resident paying approximately 0.82 percent more in taxes. Morin also said that the Town is projecting a 0.97 percent increase for the average municipal dwelling, as well as increases of between 2-2.5 percent for water and wastewater services. No increase is predicted for garbage and recycling wheelie bin services.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Crowsnest Pass councillors engaged in a lengthy discussion concerning rent rates for municipal facilities during the Nov. 17 council meeting. In 2018, a standard annual fee for renting the MDM Community Centre was set for all new and existing leases. That rate was set for $6.61 per square foot for 2020. In order to level the playing field throughout the municipality, council determined during its Jan. 14, 2020 governance and priorities committee meeting to apply the $6.61 rate as an annual fee to all organizations renting municipal facilities. Administration was directed to contact each affected group before standardizing the rates, and a five-year time frame for groups to work up to the $6.61 rate was established. Mayor Blair Painter brought the issue back for council’s discussion after the Crowsnest Pass Pistol Club contacted him with concerns over the expected increase to its rental rates for the Elks Hall in Blairmore. The club is currently negotiating a new lease with the municipality. The club’s rental rate was set at $1.70 per square foot for 2017, 2018 and 2019. To reach the standard $6.61 rate within the established time frame, the pistol club would be required to increase its annual rate payment by $1,800 a year to an annual rental fee that would amount to about $13,000. “I think it was our intention that we all agreed that we needed to come up with an even playing field for everybody, but I don’t think we need to go to today’s standard commercial rates for renting in the Crowsnest Pass,” Mayor Painter said. “These are not groups that are commercial. They’re not selling goods, they’re not making a profit.” Expecting the pistol club to reach the standardized rate within five years was unreasonable, he continued, and would put additional stress on the club’s finances since it wasn't able to collect any revenue from its annual guns show. Though the club’s reserves will cover costs this year, long-term operations with the increased rent would require doubling its $100 membership fee. Not all of council, however, was overly concerned with the prospect of pistol club members facing increased dues. “In order for my children to play hockey, I pay $400 a child to use the facility in the municipality that is subsidized by the taxpayer,” Coun. Lisa Sygutek said. “It’s not really fair for kids’ families to be paying $400 to play a sport and then a group of adult people paying $100. I have a bit of a problem with that.” She suggested the pistol club could take a page out of the minor hockey association’s play book and apply for casino shifts or fundraise in other ways. Expecting the club to jump from about $3,000 a year in rent to $13,000, she continued, was also an issue. “I also have a problem with the fact that we’re going to throw it down and say you gotta pay $13,000. That’s a big number,” she said. As such, Coun. Sygutek said the pistol club could come before council to ask for assistance in addition to whatever fundraising efforts it secured on its own. Such an arrangement, said manager of community services Trent Smith, had always been part of the intention behind the rental rate, and the five-year time frame was meant to be a flexible target to aim for. “Administration in no means was trying to shove a five-year lease down their throat,” he said. “If they needed to come to council and ask for 10 years, we would happily sit down and ask council and decide that.” As part of those discussions, Mr. Smith continued, the topic of fundraising was brought up, as well as looking at what financial options other small-town gun clubs pursued. “At no time was administration saying, ‘Hey, you must.’ We were saying, ‘Hey, if this doesn't work, we’ll come back and talk to council. And then communication went dead,” said Mr. Smith. Though certainly a jump from the pistol club’s $1.70 rate, Coun. Dean Ward said the $6.61 amount was agreed upon earlier in the year by council because about half of the community groups were paying rental fees near $6 a square foot. The pistol group’s rent, he added, had also been largely unchanged for close to 20 years. “If we cut these rates, we’re going to have to come up with $30,000 from somewhere else,” said Coun. Ward. “I have no problem phasing somebody in over time, but these groups are all earning, they’re all begging for money, they’re all working hard … selling vegetables, selling chocolates, to pay their bills. “It’s a sad situation when nine groups are paying one rate and one group is paying 20 per cent of that rate.” Beyond the pistol club’s concerns, Coun. Dave Filipuzzi expressed concern that the current rent arrangement would add financial strain to community groups already grappling with fallout from the pandemic. “If we continue to stress these groups out, we won’t have them. I think it’s fairly important we find a way to solve this problem; it’s good to accommodate these groups to stay a part of our community and be part of our community. I don’t want to lose these groups, any one of them,” he said. Expecting every group to conform to one amount, added Coun. Doreen Glavin, was also unfair. “Different groups have different resources in order for them to run and operate, and it isn't fair to say we’re going to standardize,” she said. “I think it comes down to what each group ... has for resources themselves in order to operate or pay for leases.” Backtracking on the $6.61 rate to accommodate groups, Coun. Sygutek responded, was the right way to respond. “We accepted that, we agreed with it. We can’t go back now and say, ‘Hey, you know, we made a mistake,’ and go to every one of those groups and lower their rent. I don’t think that’s an option,” said Coun. Sygutek. “But I do think it’s an option for them to come to us and ask for funding help.” Council eventually accepted two motions: the first directed administration to reach out to the Crowsnest Pass Pistol Club and see what options could be arranged for the $6.61 rate to be eventually met, and the second directed administration to notify the other nine groups paying the rate to approach council for assistance if they are facing financial hardships. The second motion, said Coun. Marlene Anctil, was especially important. “There are a lot of groups that we don’t know the positions they’re in right now who are struggling, so let’s notify every group and see what comes back to us,” she said.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
The Northern B.C. Crisis Centre could use some help when it comes to helping others. In the time since the novel coronavirus pandemic took hold, the centre has seen a 25-per-cent increase in calls to its phone lines from people feeling anxious, depressed and suicidal. The jump has translated into about 600 calls per month from people in the Northern Health region plus a further 400-500 calls per month the centre fields from the national suicide prevention line. "Things really ticked up in March and they haven't really stopped. We've been very busy," Sandra Boulianne, the centre's executive director, said. She said there have been similar upticks in the past, such as during the two major wildfire seasons, but nothing as sustained as this. Adding to the trouble, Boulianne said the centre is short-staffed. The centre works on a hybrid model with trained volunteers taking calls during the days and evenings and paid staff working the overnight shift. The roster of volunteers has waivered between 25 and 30. Ideally, Boulianne said the count should be over 40. As it stands, the centre's call answer rate averages about 70 per cent. "So we're missing 30 per cent of our calls," Boulianne said. "It's not good." Moreover, the volunteers are typically university students looking for some practical experience while pursuing their degrees. While she welcomes them, Boulianne said she would like to have a broader representation of the community not only because they may be able to better relate to some of the callers but they may last longer than the two to three years a student typically does. "Sometimes it feels like we're training people as fast as we're losing people," she said. Retired folks and stay-at-home mothers with some spare time are among the kinds of people Boulianne said she is seeking, adding the centre also has a youth-serving-youth line. Newcomers go through 70 hours of training, delivered online, and once completed, they're asked to put in one four-hour shift per week, either from home or at the centre. "It's difficult work but it's very rewarding," Boullianne said. She added that she joined the centre after earning a social work degree as a mature student at UNBC and had intended to stay for just two years. That was eight years ago. "I can honestly say I've fallen in love with the work," Boullianne said. "I love the authenticity of people when they're calling anonymously and confidentially and I love the skills that we use to help people open up." On the bright side, the centre was one of 10 across B.C. to receive a $10,000 from Pacific Blue Cross. Boulianne said it has made a difference to the non-profit which relies largely on funding from Northern Health and the United Way of Northern B.C. "We're very, very grateful," she said. Pacific Blue Cross provided the funding after a survey indicated two-thirds of British Columbians predict their mental health will deteriorate in the coming months. "We know that those who engage early support through crisis lines, are less likely to require acute care later," said Jim Iker, Chair of the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation. "With BC now facing its second wave of the pandemic, supporting our community and our health care system has never been more critical.” Boulianne attributed a significant amount of the jump in calls to people stuck in quarantine or other forms of isolation brought on by the virus. For some, it's also meant they have been unable to access face-to-face counselling in a timely manner and just need someone to talk to while they're waiting. "The beautiful thing about crisis lines is you can talk to somebody right away," Boulianne said. "We are not counsellors because our service is anonymous and we don't have a therapeutic relationship with our callers but we're able to diffuse a situation in the moment." Even if the centre needs more volunteers, Boulianne said those in need of help should still call. "You don't need to be suicidal to call a crisis line," she said. "We take any kind of distress call. If anything is worrying or distressing an individual, we want to be there to support them and so, no issue is too small," she said. "It's really anything, all the way from social isolation and loneliness to suicidal ideation and everything in between." Those interested in volunteering can get more information at crisis-centre.ca. If you need help, call 1-888-562-1214. There is also a suicide prevention line at 1-800-SUICIDE and youth crisis line at 1-888-564-8336. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
Former Saskatchewan music teacher convicted of sexually assaulting students will be sentenced in January 2021. Gerard Loehr, 57, was found guilty in Wynyard Provincial Court Nov. 13 on three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference. In 2019 Loehr was charged with five counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual interference related to incidents involving students in the 90s. The court heard that the victims encountered Loehr when he was a teacher in Wynyard and Foam Lake schools when he worked in the Shamrock School Division. During a trial in Wynyard court in July 2020, five former students testified. The students ranged in age from 12 to 14 at the time of the incidents. Judge Lloyd Stang found Loehr not guilty on four counts of sexual interference because the girls were 14 at the time and according to the law in the 90s, the age of consent was 14. The age has since been raised to 16 and today, the Criminal Code Section 151 charge of sexual interference now states, “Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years… is guilty.” Judge Stang also found Loehr not guilty on two counts of sexual assault because he had concerns about the reliability of the witness’ memory. One charge of sexual interference was dismissed in July. Wynyard RCMP launched an historic sexual assault investigation against Loehr in February 2019 after a woman contacted them to report an assault that occurred in the 90s. Five others later came forward to police with sexual assault allegations against Loehr. Loehr left Saskatchewan in 1996 and taught in Ottawa schools. In 2019 Ottawa Police Service charged Loehr with sexual assault and sexual interference against 11 students. Ottawa Police say Loehr taught middle school level music in the west end of Ottawa between 2000 and 2003. He also taught privately in his home. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board removed him from the classroom. His trial on those charges is scheduled in November in Ontario. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Regina International Airport is coming under review as NAV Canada, Canada's air navigation service provider, considers cost-cutting measures at airports across the country. Regina is one of seven airports where air traffic controller jobs might be eliminated. According to James Bogusz, the CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, NAV Canada looks for a threshold of approximately 60,000 aircraft movements per year to justify having an aircraft control tower. Last year, Regina's airport came close, with 56,000 airport movements.Bogusz said he is concerned about how NAV Canada's decision might impact the community. "I simply cannot [let] our airport, and by extension our community and our whole region — which is all of southern Saskatchewan — diminish any operational capability we have," he said. NAV Canada is able to safely operate without a control tower on site — and does, at many airports — but doing so limits how much activity an airport can accommodate at any one time. With commercial flights, charters, military planes and the flight school all relying on Regina's airport, Bogusz said having a local air traffic control tower makes a major difference. "It's quite obvious that having boots on the ground, or, in this case, eyes in the tower, is far more efficient than trying to advise services from a city that cannot see what's going on in the airfield," he said. Doug McNair, president of the Regina Flying Club, said the NAV Canada air controllers based in Regina are a positive presence in the city's aviation community and have helped local flight students graduate better prepared to take on all sorts of aviation jobs."A lot of our students go on to get their commercial licenses and they move on to the airlines or air ambulance — they have a career in aviation," he said. "A lot of those types of jobs will take them into larger airports, and larger airports and airspace that has more traffic requires a lot more training and experience. "So in Regina here, by having the tower, we have all the benefits for our students of learning advanced procedures, taking direction from the air traffic controllers."Rebecca Hickey, a spokesperson for NAV Canada, said the review process will include a detailed study of the types and patterns of aircraft movement at the airport, as well as consultation with local stakeholders. While the option of closing or reducing the hours of the air traffic control is on the table, at this point in the process that is not a foregone conclusion."The outcome of our study could very well be status quo," Hickey said. "It's not determined, and it will be a number of months before it's concluded."
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter After several housekeeping items from Mayor Al Strathdee, he gave the floor to Town Treasurer Andre Morin, who began his presentation by introducing Denice Williamson, the new Deputy Treasurer for the Town of St. Marys. Williamson began her new role with the Town back on November 9th of this year and she was invited to sit in and watch the special meeting of the Council to get a feel for how the budget deliberations work and get introduced directly to members of Council themselves. Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer then gave a formal introduction to the 2021 budget deliberations. He noted that this year's budget deliberation is the first as part of the new budget schedule. Council has had more opportunities to discuss high-level aspects of the budget earlier than in previous years, which Kittmer noted has helped Town staff be better positioned to present a better version of the draft budget to Council. At the direction of Council, Town staff are using the remaining funds received by the Safe Restart program to help offset some of the increased costs, so there is less burden on the Town and its residents and businesses. An interesting comment made by the CAO, concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was the acknowledgment that the Town must find things for residents to do as pandemic fatigue continues to settle in, but that can be done safely and with proper safety measures in place. Additionally, according to Kittmer, the draft budget presented was the "worst-case scenario," meaning the Town is working under the assumption that the community will remain in some level of the pandemic state for the duration of 2021. The reason for this consideration going into the budget deliberations is so that Council can ensure it has what it needs if that worst-case scenario of remaining in some form of lockdown for the entirety of 2021 is realized.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Participants both in favour of and opposed to the proposed Grassy Mountain mine squared off Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 during the scheduled presentation and cross-examination period. The hearing topics focused on the project’s purpose, visual esthetics, alternative road access and the potential socioeconomic effects the mine could have on the region. In Benga’s beginning statement, vice-president of external relations Gary Houston said the mine would spike the local economy, encouraging local business, the service industry and tourism in the area. “Benga considers [that] economic development, recreation and tourism are compatible and mutually supportive in the community and the region,” he said. Providing Crowsnest Pass with an established industry, Mr. Houston continued, would help draw more hotels and restaurants, which in turn would attract more tourists to the region to the point the municipality could rival a destination like Fernie. Heather Davis, owner of Uplift Adventures, challenged such an assertion because the environmental and socioeconomic assessment sections of Benga’s application were missing consultation with the outdoor recreation industry. “It appears that the consultant who prepared the report left a gap regarding what is going on in the community,” she said. “A cost-benefit analysis should include the assessment of outdoor recreation, lifestyle and tourism prior to the mine approval.” Ms. Davis said the mine’s approval would limit access to recreational opportunities, which would not only deter people from coming to the area but would also drive away people who live there. Gavin Fitch, representing the Livingstone Landowners Group, said Benga’s claim that the mine would help tourism ignored the fact travel destinations always have a destination worth going to. Amenities like hotels and restaurants, he said, come second. “How, then, is removing the top of one of the local mountains going to contribute to attracting or drawing more tourists?” he asked. Money talks In terms of improving the local economy, Mr. Houston said Benga’s “hire local” policy would ensure the two-year construction phase would provide meaningful employment for nearby residents, as well as establish some 400 good-paying, permanent positions once the mine was operational. The total socioeconomic benefit of the mine, however, was called into question. Though Mr. Houston said in Benga’s opening statements that some 500 jobs would be created during construction, it was later corrected that at its peak the construction phase would require only 190 workers. Overall, an average of 120 workers would be employed while construction is occurring. The estimate of $1.7 billion in provincial and federal royalties and taxes over the mine’s 25-year lifespan — two for construction and 23 for operations — was also based on an assumed average price of US $140 per tonne of metallurgical coal. Coal prices, Benga acknowledged, can regularly fluctuate above $300 or below $100, though the process is a complicated one to predict since prices are established directly between individual steelmakers and coal mines. The risk to the multibillion-dollar agrifood industry downstream from the mine, which was recently reported at $2.2 billion in 2020 for Lethbridge County alone, has raised questions as to whether any purported benefit from the mine is worth the economic risk. With more and more countries investing in green energy to combat climate change, Mr. Fitch said, the economic viability outlook was overly optimistic since global coal use is estimated to decrease. Alternative methods of producing steel without metallurgical coal, like hydrogen-field forges or electric-arc furnaces, could also hamper the mine’s profitability on world markets. Opponents of the proposed mine also said the mine’s development contradicted Canada’s international commitments to limiting gas emissions. Gas emissions as part of the project’s mining operations, however, are regarded by proponents as negligible. “I believe the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project are in the order of 0.05 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions, so that seems like a small number to me,” said Mr. Houston. He also added that figure would be applicable only once the mine reached peak production during its 19th year. As well, decreasing coal demand worldwide only really applies to thermal coal, or coal used to produce electricity, said Benga’s Mike Yuill. “For Canadian export hard-coking coal, the outlook is still very robust,” he said. While using electricity in arc-flash furnaces is growing, Mr. Yuill added that the process requires recycling old steel. For many countries in southeastern Asia just starting to develop, little amounts of steel exist to be recycled, necessitating the need for metallurgical coal. Using hydrogen instead of coal is still in its preliminary stages and is not expected to be used widely during the Grassy Mountain mine’s lifespan. Property problems The mine’s land use, as well as its effect on nearby properties, was also discussed. Since the mine is located on an existing mine that closed in the 1960s, Benga argued that it’s reclamation efforts would improve the area since the previous mining company did not complete any land reclamation. The company also clarified concerns about private properties being located within the mine’s boundary; the boundary was purposefully drawn larger than what operational needs actually required to facilitate appropriate environmental study. No properties exist within the mine footprint, where mining would occur. For Fran Gilmar, who has owned property in the area for 60 years, the distance properties were from the mining footprint was irrelevant since mining activity would destroy the area’s source of fresh water, particularly Gold Creek. “I've drank it for 58 years, and it's, it's beautiful water. It's the last of the last,” she said. “You know, you do not find water like that anywhere.” In addition to water pollution, residents also said the resulting air and noise pollution would significantly devalue their properties. While acknowledging values would decrease if a catastrophic accident occurred, Brian Gettel, a professional appraiser who testified at the hearing, said property losses would only really be affected by the dust produced at the mine. He estimated the additional air pollution would result in 10 per cent or less loss in property value, though mining activity would more negatively affect the higher-end housing, which typically involves people from the city owning a second house in an alpine area. “Put simply, second homes in a mountain area are not necessarily the greatest thing if it's a mining community,” Mr. Gettel said. To mitigate property losses in the Grassy Mountain area, Benga had engaged nearby landowners throughout the proposal and application period, Mr. Houston said. A voluntary buy-back program had been established, with Benga offering to pay owners double what their property was worth, based on individual negotiations. The average starting point for such negotiations, Mr. Houston continued, was $800,000. Describing $800,000 as double the average property price, however, was a disputed figure. “From my perspective, $400,000 is a rare instance, and that is the absolute lowest value I've seen,” said Mr. Gettel. In their communications with Benga, Norm and Tyler Watmough, who own property immediately adjacent to the proposed mine, said negotiations were more like an ultimatum. The initial offer the family received was for $750,000, even though they knew two of their neighbours’ land had been bought by Benga for $1.1 million and $1.3 million. When the family declined the initial offer, Benga offered $800,000, claiming it was 60 per cent premium over the highest appraised property in the region. The Watmoughs again refused the offer. “We felt that they were bullying us and trying to force us out at a price that was below market value,” Tyler said. The difference in pricing, Mr. Houston said, was the result of Benga determining what land was necessary for it to own in order to operate the mine. Land within the mine footprint, then, would be a higher priority for purchase. Landowners in the area also are concerned they will be cut off from Grassy Mountain Road, the most direct access to their properties. Though Benga has suggested alternative roads exist, locals say the routes amount to little more than quad trails or are accessible only parts of the year with four-by-four trucks. The issue stems from an agreement property owners formerly had with the gas company Devon Canada Corp. The agreement granted residents permission to access Grassy Mountain Road, even though it went through private property. Richard Secord, legal counsel for the affected landowners, said Benga did not do its due diligence in ensuring residents could still use the road. “You didn't determine or bother in your public consultation to find out whether [the agreement] was real [and] that they had a similar access to the Grassy Mountain Road,” he said. In Benga’s defense, Mr. Houston responded that no landowners had approached the company about the issue until the hearing. “I don't know that the onus is on Benga to ask [if] there any secret agreements that we don't know about,” he said. “The lines of communication have been open for five years. The fact that we have intended to close the Grassy Mountain Road has been documented in writing at least [since] 2015 and through several other communications.” When Martin Ignasiak, Benga’s legal counsel, asked landowners Larry and Ed Donkersgoed why they did not discuss the issue with the mining company, they replied that they just assumed Benga would know. Benga’s understanding of the agreement was that residents could maintain the road at their own expense, though Mr. Houston said the company was under the impression it really only included clearing snow. He also said the agreement only formally acknowledged Devon was not liable for residents using the road and gave the gas company power to terminate the agreement with 120 days written notice. Evidence of the agreement brought before the hearing was also a little suspect, Mr. Houston said, since a letter indicating the agreement was written and signed by a former Devon employee. The letter didn’t have an official letterhead and only described a verbal agreement rather than laying out terms and conditions. Accessing the hearing The public hearing for the joint review panel continues throughout November. Live and recorded proceedings of the hearing are available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/GMtnHearing, with transcripts and submitted documents accessible at https://bit.ly/AllDocx.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
Giant dumps of snow are nothing new to people in the Big Land, but even by Labrador standards the snowfall over the last 24 hours was a doozy. Snow began to fall Monday evening and by 11 a.m. Tuesday 60 centimetres of snow had fallen, with 25-30 more expected before evening. SaltWire Network meteorologist Cindy Day said the storm, the first blizzard of the season for Labrador, tracked across Ontario and Quebec, bringing significant snow across those provinces, and was just off the Northern Peninsula Tuesday afternoon. “The system really is a two-season system. North of the storm it’s a blizzard, snow and wind and significant windchill. On the south side of that low-pressure system it's extremely mild, but also very windy. So, depending on where you are, there are either spring-like conditions or deep into winter.” Day said it’s interesting to note that as of 11 a.m. Tuesday Gander was the hot spot in the country, while there was 60 centimetres of snow in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, about 840 kilometres away. Schools and many businesses closed for the day in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, but some remained open or were slated to open after lunch. All town facilities, including the town hall and the E.J. Broomfield Arena, remained closed for the day, and the scheduled town council meeting was moved to Thursday. Canada Post announced it would not deliver mail in the region Tuesday due to the weather. The average snowfall for the month of November in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is 56 centimetres, Day said, so Tuesday alone will top that. There has already been a record amount of snowfall this month, she said, but depending on how the calculations are done it could also be a new one-day record. The previous record was set, she said, on Jan. 16, 1985, when 71 centimetres fell in one day. “It’s going to be tricky how they add these numbers, since it will have fallen on the 23rd and 24th, so we’ll see how that comes out, but it’s on track for a record,” she said. Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
The Black Cultural Society of P.E.I. is holding a town hall this Friday to ask Black Islanders how it can help them.President Tamara Steele says the group is putting together a strategic plan and wants to make sure it represents the community, whether it's newcomers or people whose families have been here for generations."I think the biggest challenge we have right now is connecting with everyone, so we know that there are people that we're not reaching and just figuring out how to reach them," she said."I don't hesitate any more to just ask people if they've heard about the society and get involved if they want to."Steele said the group has identified three main themes to discuss at the town hall — financial security, mental health and community engagement.The event will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there is only room for 100 people. Pre-registration is required.For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.More from CBC P.E.I.
"As a doctor, I see a lot of very distressed people coming into my office," he said. "The way the government and politicians talk about the virus is making people anxious and that's a big problem."View on euronews
ORILLIA — Police across the province are reminding motorists of the consequences of getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol and drugs as the annual OPP Festive RIDE campaign kicks off this week. Ontario Provincial Police have received more than 21,000 calls related to suspected impaired drivers so far this year, according to a news release issued on Wednesday, Nov. 25. The seasonal campaign runs from Nov. 26 to Jan. 3, 2021. “As Ontarians celebrate this physically-distanced holiday season, an important part of staying safe is ensuring you have a solid plan that prevents you and your family from driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs,” OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said in the release. “The OPP encourages citizens to continue reporting impaired drivers to the police. Combined with the dedication of our frontline officers, our collective efforts can significantly help keep you and your loved ones safe on our roads during the holidays and throughout the year.” Last year, OPP conducted more than 8,800 RIDE stops and charged more than 600 drivers with impaired driving. Police are reminding motorists that officers regularly conduct mandatory alcohol screening procedures with drivers who are lawfully pulled over and will be ramping up this measure including at RIDE stops throughout the campaign. OPP also praises proactive citizens for doing their part and calling in suspected impaired drivers. Nearly 3,300 calls were placed during last year’s Festive RIDE campaign. An officer with an alcohol screen device can demand a breath sample from any driver without having reasonable suspicion they have consumed alcohol, OPP said in the release. Officers also have drug screening equipment that detects cannabis and cocaine in a driver’s saliva. These devices are used to enforce provincial zero-tolerance sanctions which apply to drivers under the age of 21. “Impaired driving continues to be the leading criminal cause of death and injury on Ontario’s roads and these dangers remain a threat to our communities as we continue to face COVID-19 this holiday season. We all want a safe and happy holiday season and it is important to remind our friends and family to plan ahead and make alternative arrangements to get home safely. The decision to get behind the wheel impaired can be a matter of life and death,” Solicitor General of Ontario Sylvia Jones said in a statement. Forty-two people have died on OPP-patrolled roads so far this year in collisions involving alcohol or drug-impaired driving, according to OPP statistics.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
The Goulds Lions Arena bears the Lions name, so it’s only appropriate that its warm room also bear a Lion’s name. During a short ceremony on November 19 attended by family and fellow Lions, the Lion Ron Whitten Room was unveiled. “A few months ago, one of our Lions came to me with a suggestion. He said, ‘We always honour Lions with a plaque or something, after they pass away. Why not do something for our Lions while they’re still alive?’” Goulds Lions Club President Charlie Phillips said to those gathered. So, when Phillips announced that they would be naming the warm room after Lion Ron Whitten, Whitten jokingly asked if that meant he was going to die soon. “Without Ron, I’m not sure if, or when, there would have been a Lion’s Club,” said Phillips. “It was the vision of Lion Ron when he returned from Labrador back in 1975. He had a notion of starting up the Lions Club, which, he did, in March of 1976. He is a well-respected member of our community, and also a well-respected member of our Lions Club. Ron is a strong supporter of the Lions Club and of it’s activities. I’m sure most of you, if we went around the room, could add another 10, 20, 40, maybe a hundred reasons why we should name this room after Lion Ron.” Whitten was grateful for the gesture. “I appreciate this, it’s very nice,” he said. “It’s important to help out the community where you’re from.” During the ceremony, the Goulds Lions Club also presented a $6000 cheque to the Arena Association.Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
As Glenn Somers prepared to testify this week at the inquest into lumberjack Mario Roy's death in the woods at Saint-Quentin, he still didn't understand how the accident could have happened to someone with Roy's experience.Somers is the owner of maple syrup company TDG Somers, where Roy was cutting down trees with an electric saw when one of the cut trees fell and struck him on Sept. 7, 2018. Roy's friend and colleague André Bouchard found him with severe injuries to his face and chest. Roy died later that day.The inquest being held by coroner Jérome Ouellette began this week at the Edmundston Convention Centre. The jury is expected to make recommendations later Wednesday.Somers, whose company owns the woods, said he can't understand how a lumberjack like Roy could have made a mistake limbing trees. "The safety rule was established a long time ago," Somers told Radio-Canada. "There is no lumberjack who should ever continue limbing a tree after having cut one down that is resting on another tree."Despite his own questions, Somers said he believes the inquest is a waste of time and money, and thinks it will only open wounds about the tragedy. Roy's sister, Angèle Roy, hopes the inquest will allow her to mourn her brother. "He was experienced, so we don't understand," she said. She is optimistic the recommendations coming out of the inquest will lead to stricter safety guidelines for the maple syrup industry.
Le feuilleton du redécoupage électoral qui a occupé Rimouski pendant des mois vient de prendre fin, et son épilogue soulagera les résidents du Bic : la Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE) a décidé que ce district conservera ses limites actuelles, qui sont celles de l’ancienne municipalité annexée par Rimouski en 2009. Pour justifier sa décision, la CRE dit avoir considéré « les commentaires émis par les électeurs du district numéro 11 du Bic relatifs au sentiment d’appartenance à leur quartier ainsi qu’au respect et à la préservation de l’identité villageoise et patrimoniale du Bic ». L’éloignement entre Le Bic et le centre-ville de Rimouski a également joué dans la réflexion des deux commissaires Pierre Reid et Serge Courville. Si le caractère villageois du Bic a été largement évoqué tout au long des consultations sur la nouvelle carte électorale, les résidents du district voisin de Sacré-Cœur ont également fait valoir leur sentiment d’appartenance depuis le début de cette saga. Eux aussi peuvent souffler : la CRE considère que les districts de Sacré-Cœur et du Bic forment des communautés naturelles distinctes, et qu’on ne peut donc transférer une partie rurale du premier vers le deuxième. « Il a été démontré que les liens socioéconomiques des citoyennes et des citoyens du district numéro 1 de Sacré-Cœur sont davantage tournés vers les secteurs centraux de la Ville de Rimouski », écrit la CRE dans sa décision. Cette décision porte l’écart de population entre le district du Bic et la moyenne des autres districts de Rimouski à 34,4 %, bien au-delà de la limite de 15 % prescrite par la loi. Du côté de Sainte-Blandine/Mont-Lebel, autre district rural particulièrement affecté par le redécoupage, la CRE a entériné la proposition de la Ville de Rimouski. Celle-ci agrandit le territoire du district tout en lui conférant un statut d’exception, puisque l’écart de population avec la moyenne des autres districts est de 25,8 %. Défaite pour la Ville Avec cette décision, la CRE a infligé ce qui a toutes les apparences d’une défaite cinglante à la Ville de Rimouski, tant celle-ci s’est obstinée pendant des mois à défendre l’agrandissement du district du Bic en dépit de l’opposition des citoyens. De nombreux avis publics et présentations ont été produits pour défendre coûte que coûte ce projet alors qu’il ne s’est jamais trouvé aucun résident de Rimouski pour donner son appui aux différents redécoupages proposés. Cet épisode laisse surtout l’impression d’un gâchis de temps et de ressources, puisqu’on en revient à une situation très proche du statu quo en faveur duquel avaient voté deux conseillers début mai, Grégory Thorez (Sainte-Odile) et Virginie Proulx (Le Bic). La conseillère du Bic s’est réjouie de ce dénouement sur sa page Facebook ce matin, tout en félicitant les citoyens qui se sont mobilisés au cours des derniers mois. « C’est une victoire pour la démocratie, une victoire qui montre encore une fois la pertinence de consulter ses citoyens en amont des décisions au bénéfice de tous », écrit-elle. Mais il est clair que c’est aussi une victoire personnelle pour elle : elle fut la seule à s’opposer au règlement actant le redécoupage et le déplacement de la frontière Bic/Sacré-Cœur, tout comme elle fut la seule à informer de manière proactive les citoyens de son district sur les impacts du redécoupage et sur les manières de le contester. Incidemment, on peut conclure de la décision de la CRE qu’il existe bel et bien une corrélation entre le district électoral et le « district d’appartenance », contrairement à ce que prétendait le maire de Rimouski Marc Parent lors de la consultation publique de la CRE. « Lorsque les conseillers et les conseillères siègent au conseil municipal, c’est d’abord et avant tout pour la Ville de Rimouski qu’ils siègent, et non pas pour les électeurs qu’ils représentent dans leur district », avait même déclaré M. Parent, contredisant ce qui est écrit dans le Guide d’accueil et de référence pour les élues et les élus municipaux du gouvernement du Québec. Finalement, c’est peut-être cela que la saga du redécoupage aura permis de rappeler : le rôle d’un conseiller municipal est avant tout de représenter son quartier et ses habitants, avec leur diversité mais aussi leur histoire commune.Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir