Crashing waves and howling wind in Flat Bay, NL.
Crashing waves and howling wind in Flat Bay, NL.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
Mark Nichols is taking mandatory Curling Canada isolation in stride ahead of the Brier. He's lapping it up, actually. On his second day of quarantine, he walked 5K in his Calgary hotel room. "12 steps from wall to door," he counted. "That's a lot of laps." It took the Olympian an hour, pacing past his bed, through the room's seating area, and back —something to keep moving while Team Gushue looks to win its fourth Brier in five years. "It's tough at times," Nichols said when asked how isolation will affect his mental game, adding he feels ready. "We've been preparing for this for a long time, whether it's visualization or meditation or anything like that," he said. "This team has done a lot to kind of get to this place. We're ready for it." 'We're ready for it' The Brier takes place from March 5 to March 14, but Team Gushue — the defending champions, playing as Team Canada — plans to bunker down for the curling season. There's mixed doubles, two grand slam events, and the world championships for whoever wins the Brier. Team Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue, left to right, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker hold the Brier Tankard trophy after defeating Team Alberta in the 2020 Brier curling final.(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) "It could be 55 days in this hotel and out on Day 56 if everything goes as planned." Nichols said, adding that with the required safety protocols, if the team were to win worlds, it wouldn't make sense to leave the hotel between tournaments. Curling Canada mandates two weeks of relative isolation for curlers and coaches in their home province before flying out to an event. For the last three days, people aren't allowed to leave their homes or have contact with their families. Teams have to test negative for COVID-19 four times: before arriving in the host city, upon arrival, the following day and, again, either two or three days after that. Participants have a check-in every day to disclose any symptoms. They're restricted to their individual hotel rooms and they're not allowed visitors. Teams each have a car. They're only permitted to drive to the rink and back. It's a minute-long drive and stopping anywhere other than the arena isn't allowed. Keeping up the 5K But once they're on the ice, Nichols said, the game will feel much the same. They're used to downtime between matches and hanging out in hotel rooms. This season will just be an extreme version of that, with more time spent doing hotel room laps. "If that's the worst thing that happens here, I have to walk 5K back and forth, and we're still winning, then that's a good thing to do," Nichols said. "If it distracts me from what's going on around, then that's a good thing." Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
With restrictions still in place for large gatherings of people, the Tottenham & Beeton District Chamber of Commerce is making the best of the current situation by moving some of their events to a virtual format. By going on-line, the TBDCC can still keep people connected while promoting the local business com-munity. VIRTUAL HOME SHOW & ARTISAN MARKET The TBDCC’s annual Spring Home Show which usually takes place in March, will be going on-line. Since restrictions regarding gatherings will likely still be in place, it is not practical to plan an indoor show. Instead, the Board of Directors decided to move to a virtual format this year. Local businesses and vendors will still be able to showcase their prod-ucts and services, just in a different format. The good side of this means more businesses will be able to participate and members of the public don’t have to commit to a specific day to attend the show. Businesses and services will also be showcased for a longer period of time. Launch date for the virtual Home Show and Artisan Market is April 17.Registration information will be available on the TBDSS website. TBDCC ONLINE LEARNING SERIES The TBDCC is presenting an op-portunity for local businesses to share their expertise and promote their products and services. This gives members and non-mem-bers the opportunity to take part in workshops on a variety of different subjects. The first workshop will take place on Friday, March 12, at 1:00 p.m. and will feature Devin Merkac, from 92.1 myFM radio. He will discuss the benefits of radio advertising. Also featured over the next few weeks will be investment basics, with Horan & Associates, Wills & Power of Attorney with lawyer Jerry Switzer, Understanding real estate listing agreements with Peter Barbati of First Choice Realty, thriving after COVID with Tonia Salvaterra of DinoLand, Gypsy Moth Control with Meadowood Tree Services, and PLUS Lifestyle workshops on topics like photography and wellness. Fees are $20.00 for non TBDCC members and free for members. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
BEIJING — China is increasing its defence spending by 6.8% in 2021 as it works to maintain a robust upgrading of the armed forces despite high government debt and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A national budget report issued Friday said China would spend 1.355 trillion yuan ($210 billion) on defence in the coming year. That’s up from 1.3 trillion yuan ($180 billion) last year representing a 6.6% boost, the lowest percentage increase in at least two decades. The military budget has dipped during periods of slower economic growth, but has also been dropping steadily from the double-digit percentage increases over years as the increasingly powerful military matures and rapid expansion of what is already the world’s second largest defence budget is no longer required. The lavish spending increases of years past have given China the second-largest defence budget in the world behind the U.S. With 3 million troops, the world’s largest standing military has been steadily adding aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and stealth fighters to its arsenal. The government says most of the spending increases go toward improving pay and other conditions for troops while observers say the budget omits much of China’s spending on weaponry, most of it developed domestically. China’s military is largely designed to maintain its threat to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, although it has also grown more assertive in the South China Sea, the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and elsewhere. The U.S., whose defence spending is estimated to run to about $934 billion between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, has complained of a lack of transparency in China's defence programs, fueling speculation that Beijing aims to supplant America as the primary military power in East Asia. The People's Liberation Army exercises a strong political role as the military branch of the ruling Communist Party. President and party leader Xi Jinping heads the government and party commissions that oversee the armed forces. In his address to Friday's opening session of the ceremonial legislature, the National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said the government would “thoroughly implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the armed forces and the military strategy for the new era, (and) ensure the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces." “We will boost military training and preparedness across the board, make overall plans for responding to security risks in all areas and for all situations, and enhance the military’s strategic capacity to protect the sovereignty, security, and development interests of our country" Li said. The Associated Press
There seems to be some new residents living along the walking trails in Totten-ham by the Conservation Area. Local hikers have noticed little doorways that enter into secret tiny homes inside the trees along the trails. Some tiny little signs announce that it is a fairy home. While no one has yet to admit to actually seeing a fairy, there is little doubt among trail users that they are there – they’re just very secretive. Local resident and avid hiker Marc Landry first noticed the fairy homes on a recent hike down the trails.An avid bird watcher, he had his cam-era with him and took some photo and posted on them on a local Facebook page. “I’m out there at least once a week,” Mr. Landry explained. “I do a lot of birding on that trail so, for me, it’s a lot of observation. They crossed my eyesight a couple of times and decided to have a look at them. They’re pretty easy to find once you start looking for them. About two weeks ago I took all the pictures. For me it’s all about the observation of nature. If I find something, well good.” He started quite the buzz when he posted his photos. People wanted to know where the little fairy homes were coming from. At first it was a secret, but a local resi-dent had the inside scoop and let it slip. It turns out local artist Becky Crawford and her husband Tom MacDonald, have been secretly fixing the fairy doors to trees along the trail. They did it just to give other people some joy in their life. “I usually work in stained glass,” Becky explained. “We weren’t sure anyone would even notice. We started doing it a few months ago. They’re not too spread out so you can easily find them. We thought it was something that would just bring a smile to someone’s face. Times are so tough right now, we thought if we could do something light and fun, maybe someone would like it.” Becky started making the fairy doors with a friend when their children were small, and they would put them in the yard. Although she usually works in glass, it would not be the right medium for attaching to a tree so she switched to wood. “In Europe a lot of people put them around their baseboards at home,” Becky said. “Even some big businesses with have a little fairy door – it’s a tradi-tion. It’s a little bit of magic and a little fun. I wanted to put them where people were walking because that’s pretty much all you could do during the lock-down. Me and my husband make them. He cuts the wood and sands the doors down and I go from there.” Becky usually sells her stained glass at local artisans’ markets, so venturing out and putting her work on the local trail was a little different. Children love the fairy doors and make a game of trying to find them all. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
Pressure is mounting on the federal government to cap interest rates on payday money lenders, which can charge nearly 50 per cent interest. Advocates say it’s often the most financially vulnerable using them and the pandemic economy has made things worse.
Le bilan provincial des dons d’organes pour 2020 a énormément reculé. Un seul donneur a été répertorié dans toute l’année sur la Côte-Nord. Une diminution majoritairement attribuable, selon Transplant Québec, à l’impact de la première vague de la pandémie, là où les références ont significativement chuté. Cette personne qui a signé son don d’organes, suite à son décès, a permis la transplantation de deux poumons, un foie et deux reins. Au 31 décembre 2020, quatre personnes étaient toujours en attente d’une greffe dans la région, dont trois pour un rein. Selon le rapport de Transplant Québec, le nombre d’organes transplantés est passé de 592 en 2019, à 497 l’année dernière pour l’ensemble de la province. Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
Ontario’s first and only diamond mine is moving to the next phase of its closure plan with the appointment of Golder, a Canadian-owned engineering and environmental services consulting group, as the primary contractor who will oversee the remaining demolition and site rehabilitation. Victor Mine, owned by The De Beers Group, is located approximately 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat in the James Bay Lowlands. It opened in 2008 as only the second diamond mine in Canada. The open pit operation also included its own airstrip located on the property. It ceased mining operations in June 2019. De Beers reports that as of the end of 2020, approximately 65 per cent of the on-site infrastructure has been safely demolished, and around 40 per cent of the site has been rehabilitated with more than 1.2 million trees planted on the property since 2014. The De Beers Group will remain accountable for the site, and will retain responsibilities for achieving site closure objectives, keeping in line with government regulations, as well as relationships with Indigenous communities, the company stated in a release. All permits and licences remain in De Beers’ name. A small site-based oversight team will work directly with Golder personnel throughout the process, in addition to the De Beers employees who will continue to be responsible for daily environmental monitoring. Golder was chosen after what De Beers called an “extensive commercial process” which was undertaken throughout 2020. Golder’s responsibilities will include the remaining closure activities, as well as the day-to-day management of the site. They will also handle the remaining infrastructure demolition work, and site rehabilitation through 2023. “A similar model, hiring a prime contractor, was used during construction of Victor Mine, which opened ahead of schedule and on budget,” said Maxwell Morapeli, head of closure for De Beers. “Golder has a strong track record of successful closure and rehabilitation of industrial sites around the world, including working with local communities where they operate. We look forward to benefiting from their experience as we continue the responsible closure of Victor Mine.” Included in its contract with the De Beers Group is a commitment from Golder to work with local Indigenous contracting companies to provide necessary on-site services such as catering, housekeeping, and security. Heavy equipment operators and other personnel will be hired from the Attawapiskat First Nation and will be provided training and other opportunities. Golder and its sub-contractors have also hired 19 former De Beers Victor Mine employees to continue on-site work. “We are proud to have been selected to lead the responsible closure of the Victor Mine,” said Greg Herasymuik, Golder's Canadian Region president. “As we manage activities at site, we are committed to providing employment opportunities and to continue involving the local community.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
China will increase its annual research and development spending by more than 7% every year over the next five years, the government wrote on Friday in its work report from the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress. The government will increase expenditure on basic research by 10.6% in 2021, the report added. The ramp-up highlights the country's commitment to advancing in the tech sector, as the country increasingly clashes with the United States and other countries over technology policy.
VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the "geopolitical winds swirling around" Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng's legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. "With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians," Frater said Thursday. He made the comments in response to claims from Meng's legal team that Trump's words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings. Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would "certainly intervene" if he thought it was necessary. Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny. Her lawyers allege Trump's comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings. It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May. "Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it," Frater told the judge. "We're confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion." On Wednesday, Meng's team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China. Huawei's success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an "existential threat" to the United States and Meng's case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to "debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei," her lawyer Richard Peck said. Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a "threat to the security of the U.S.," Peck said. "This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today," he said. Frater, representing Canada's attorney general, sought to redirect the judge's attention Thursday. There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng's argument doesn't pass it, he said. The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused's right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn't a "powerless" person. Someone with "the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual," Frater said. Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng's celebrity makes her a "higher value target" for interference, adding that a person's resources shouldn't affect how they are treated by the court. Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump's failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. "This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there's been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it," Frater said. The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. "They've had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
Thursday was the first day Londoners 80 and older living in the community could get the COVID-19 vaccine. The shots — coming nearly one year since Ontario first announced COVID-19 lockdowns — mark a milestone in the battle against the pandemic. Here’s what some Londoners had to say after getting their first dose: “I feel secure,” he said after the jab. “I was most concerned about my wife,” who got her first dose just hours before. While it’s good news, Loubert knows life won’t be back to normal soon. “My biggest thing is following the health rules . . . Until everyone is vaccinated, we’re not safe.” “I’m relieved . . . I’d been trying for two days to get through” to book an appointment, she said. “I’m glad to get the process started. They’re doing a fantastic job.” “We’ve spent three mornings trying to book,” Maureen said, with the couple finally booking last-minute slots Thursday morning. “We’re really, really pleased. We need it.” As for Gary, how he's feeling was summed up in one word: “good.” “I’m glad. I’m so glad. And to get it so early.” “I was lucky. I saw a couple of blanks this morning (in the booking) and jumped in.” As for after the shot, Friesen said he was "feeling OK." But it's still a mystery what life will look like once he's fully vaccinated. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll have to see what they say.” “I’m relieved. It was a long time coming,” she said. She doesn't expect life to change too much, even after she gets the second dose. “I’ll still keep my mask on and follow the rules.” “I’m delighted, relieved, excited,” he said. Henderson is eagerly awaiting the rest of the world to get inoculated so he can return to one of his favourite pastimes: travel. Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
OTTAWA — With a federal budget in the offing, premiers are stepping up the pressure on Ottawa to immediately boost health-care funding by at least $28 billion a year.They held a virtual news conference Thursday to reiterate their demand for a big increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.Starting this year, they want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.During a virtual first ministers' meeting in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers he recognizes the need for the federal government to eventually shoulder a bigger share of health-care costs. But he said that must wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent the federal deficit on track to exceed an unprecedented $381 billion as Ottawa doles out emergency aid, including at least $1 billion for vaccines and $25 billion in direct funding to the provinces to, among other things, bolster their health systems.Quebec Premier Francois Legault, chair of the premiers' council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are "non-recurring." He pointed to studies that suggest the federal government could quickly eliminate its deficit, and even return to surplus, once the pandemic is over while provinces would be mired in debt.The premiers argued they need stable, predictable, long-term funding for their health systems, which were already under strain before the pandemic hit and will be even more stressed once it's over and they must deal with the backlog of delayed surgeries, tests and other procedures.Manitoba's Brian Pallister said wait times have been a problem for decades and are destined to get worse as Canada's population ages. But he said the pandemic has made "a bad situation much, much worse.""The post-pandemic pileup is coming and it's real and its impact on Canadians and their families and their friends is real too," he warned. "The time is now to address this issue and to address it together."Pallister accused Trudeau of ignoring the problem of wait-times and the real life-threatening impact on people. Five years ago, he said he told Trudeau a true story about a woman with a lump in her breast who had waited for tests and referral to a specialist, only to be told in the end that it was "too bad we couldn't have caught this sooner.""He looked across the table at me and said, 'I'm not your banker,'" Pallister said."We don't need a banker. We need a partner."Trudeau has offered to give provinces immediate funding for long-term care homes, provided they agree to some national standards. Long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of deaths from COVID-19.But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa's latest offer would provide just $2,500 per person in long-term care — a drop in the bucket compared to the $76,000 it costs his province each year for every long-term care resident."The math doesn't work," he said.Legault ruled out conditional transfers for long-term care altogether as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. He said each province and territory has its own health-care priorities and their "jurisdiction must absolutely be respected."When universal health care was adopted in Canada, British Columbia's John Horgan said the cost was originally shared 50-50 between Ottawa and the provinces. The steadily declining federal share has led to ever more challenges in delivering health care, exacerbated now by the pandemic."Our public health-care system is at risk," Horgan warned."COVID has brought (the challenge) into graphic light. It's stark, it's profound and we need to take action."Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said Canadians deserve a well-funded health system "that is supported by both levels, both orders of government in this nation, not one that is propped up by almost entirely by the provinces and territories."Trudeau's minority Liberal government is poised to table a budget this spring, which could theoretically result in the defeat of his government should opposition parties vote against the budget. Legault said premiers have already talked to opposition parties to solicit their support for their health funding demand. He said the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the demand, while the Conservatives agree in principle with the need to increase the health transfer but have not specifically agreed to the $28-billion figure.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
The Stevenson Memorial Hospital Foun-dation and the Gibson Centre are partnering to create an “Idol style’ music competition to showcase local artists’ talent. The competition, dubbed Raise Your Voice will raise funds for community health care and the arts in Simcoe County and the surrounding area. A portion of the proceeds will support critical needs at SMH and the Arts and Cultural Programming at the Gibson Centre.Amateur performers from Simcoe County and surrounding area are encouraged to compete in the music competition. The top three artists selected through public voting will perform at the Raise Your Voice virtual concert on June 3, 2021. A first-place winner will be chosen. The final winner will take home a grand prize valued at over $1,000. The judges for the final competition will include three well-known artists. Marshall Dane, Male Artist of the Year at the CMAO Awards, for five years in a row, will be joined by blues vocalist Erin McCallum, and up and coming singer/songwriter Sophia Fracassi, to make the final decision. All three will also be headlining performances at the virtual concert. Tickets for Raise Your Voice – Virtual Concert will go on sale on March 15, 2021. You can enjoy a full line-up of local musicians and the grand finale of the competition from the comfort of your home. The competition will accept submissions from artists from February 11 through to March 14, 2021. Tickets will be available on March 15. The final virtual concert and competition grand finale will take place on June 3.Some funds raised will go toward the SMH Foundation’s Because of You, We Can campaign. This is the most significant fundraiser the in the Foundation’s history. Of the $43 million goal, $30 million rep-resents the community share of the hospital’s redevelopment project which includes doubling the square footage of the hospital and tripling the amount of parking space. A revitalized emergency department, re-freshed out-patient rooms, birthing suites, and laboratory space are also included in the plans. You can learn more about the Raise Your Voice competition by visiting them on-line at www.raiseyourvoiceconcert.ca. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Alberta's cross-country ski community has come through to finance trail grooming in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary after the United Conservative Party government cut funding for maintaining trails last year. Nordiq Alberta, the provincial sports body for cross-country skiing and a non-profit organization, announced that with three weeks left in its grooming pilot program, users have raised approximately $270,000 after expenses through voluntary parking pass sales. It exceed its goal of raising $200,000 through a pilot project to pay the costs of the trail grooming. On top of that, the organization has raised thousands in donations to support track setting. "The pilot was set out in part to inform us and to inform the government as to the ability and the willingness of the recreational ski community to help pay for ski trail grooming," said program lead Ken Hewitt. "The pilot proved, I think, beyond the doubt, that the ski community is prepared to pay for having groomed trails." The project came about after Premier Jason Kenney's UCP government announced in February 2020 that it would be making a number of changes to Alberta provincial parks, including stopping the grooming and setting of cross-country ski trails in Kananaksis Country. Though the government was to continue grooming at the Canmore Nordic Centre and track setting in the West Bragg Creek area, it planned to end trail setting and grooming in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area. The trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park are some of the most popular in the province with Alberta Parks estimating 100,000 site visits in the winter, representing about 40,000 vehicles. News of the cuts concerned the cross-country ski community, who said not grooming these trails would take a bite out of trail availability in the area. Under a pilot project arranged with the province, Nordiq Alberta asked people to voluntarily pay for parking if they were using the trails at Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area in Kananaskis Country. The passes were $10 a day, or $50 for a season. People could book online and print their passes to leave on the dash of their vehicles. Lots were patrolled by volunteer crews who would ensure people knew about the voluntary program and leave brochures on vehicles without passing asking them to consider paying retroactively and why. Meanwhile, the government continued to groom the trails with the same staff and equipment that it used for decades. Here's how the pilot program fared: Volunteers sold 5,200 season passes. Skiers bought 2,500 day passes. The program garnered $270,000 in net sales. Donors provided $22,000. The program got off the ground quickly. Hewitt said there were more than 150 volunteers assisting. Some drove in from nearby Canmore or Calgary, while others came to help from as far as Edmonton and Medicine Hat. The program now guarantees tracks will be set and groomed for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, with an estimated $60,000 left over for future grooming. Future of paid parking pass pilot unclear But it's unclear what the next steps are, Hewitt told CBC. "We're all optimistic that ski trail grooming will be sustained in next year and going forward," said Hewitt, adding the decision on how to proceed is in the government's hands. He said continuing the program as it stands, and depending on volunteers year after year, may not be sustainable. "You can only go back to the well so many times," Hewitt said. Although the future is unclear, Nordiq Alberta does plan to do what it can and ensure trail setting continues in Alberta. There are rumours in the cross-country ski community that a park fee system that operates similar to how National Parks charge for daily or yearly access could be brought forward, Hewitt said. "I don't know if that's a reality or just just a dream," he added. In a statement, Environment and Parks thanked Nordiq Alberta for its partnership and said any additional funds raised will be held in trust by Nordiq Alberta and used to support ski programs and projects in the future. "We will evaluate the pilot grooming operations program following the close of the season and discuss future plans with Nordiq," wrote Environment and Parks press secretary Jess Sinclair.
Christine Burgener called on the council for "unified support, action", asking "how much more can we allow the Myanmar military to get away with?", following the deaths of dozens of civilian protesters this week. She said the situation in Myanmar was moving toward "an acute humanitarian crisis".
The deadline for community grants ended on March 1, and the Town is now considering those applications that were received. Community Grants assist organizations who provide beneficial, core ser-vices to the community that are not provided by the Town.Funds supplied will include requests for initial start-up funding, equipment, material, and supplies purchases, and to offset Town-established user fees. Applications are also taken in this category if a group is requesting a fee waiver to rent Town space, rent Town equipment or supplies (IE: tables and chairs) or use in-kind services. The maximum eligible grant amount is $2,000.The Community Events Grant as-sists organizations who deliver commu-nity celebrations, festivals, and special events that Council considers to be core services to the community. This does not include fundraising events, events which raise funds for an-other organization, or events hosted by the private sector or individuals. The maximum eligible grant in this category is $2,000.The Community Arts, Culture and Tourism Grants support organizations promoting opportunities in artistic expression and cultural endeavours for people of all ages through education and participation. It includes tourism and development activities as well as the operation of a significant cultural facilities providing core services to the community. The maximum eligible grant in this category is $25,000.Once grant applications are received, they are considered by the Grant Review committee in March and April of this year. The applications will go through a second review. Council will approve grant application recommendations during the first council meeting in May. Applicants are encouraged to read over the applications carefully to ensure eligibility and to make sure the applica-tion is submitted accurately. The Community Grant Program poli-cy will give preference to not-for-profit organizations that demonstrate community support, efficient use of resources, sound business practices and develop volunteer knowledge, skills, and self-reliance. The purpose of the Community Fund Program is in keeping with the Town’s strategic objective to preserve the heritage and promote the provision of a diversity of cultural activities, and active and passive recreational opportunities. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Premiers say federal COVID-19 vaccine procurement delays have left them no choice but to stretch out the time between doses, as pharmacies in some parts of Ontario were preparing to start giving shots next week. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that he had asked chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw some time ago to take a serious look into allowing a four-month gap between shots after seeing "tremendous" results in the United Kingdom and Israel. He said an outbreak driven by a new, more transmissible COVID-19 variant started at a seniors' home in Edmonton on Monday just as residents were supposed to be receiving their vaccines. "They should have been vaccinated weeks ago, like they were in similar settings in the United States, Israel, the U.K. and many, many other countries," he said following a virtual premiers' meeting. "This is extremely frustrating and I think we have no choice but to expand the interval to get more people covered." Alberta announced Thursday that it is extending the timeline for second doses to four months. It said nearly half a million more people in the province will become eligible for shots in the next two weeks as more supplies become available. That includes 437,000 doses for anyone between 65 and 74 and Indigenous people over 50 starting the week of March 15. Another 58,500 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be made available to Albertans without chronic health conditions between 50 and 64 starting March 10. Alberta reported 331 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths due to the illness on Thursday. British Columbia, which reported another 564 cases and four deaths in its latest update, will be distributing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to first responders and essential workers, said health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Henry announced Monday that B.C. would be allowing up to four months between doses. Several other provinces followed suit after a national panel of vaccine experts recommended Wednesday that such an extension would be appropriate if supplies are limited. Labels of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines call for a three or four-week gap between doses. Research has shown one dose is 70 to 80 per cent effective for up to two months, but it's unclear how long protection lasts beyond that. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Thursday his province is moving to the four-month interval because the federal government has done a "disappointing job at best" in quickly getting vaccines to provinces. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister added: "Let's face it: this strategy has become necessary as a consequence of an absence of vaccines." On Thursday, Saskatchewan reported 169 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths. Manitoba had 51 new infections and two deaths. A Health Canada official said that a decision on Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine could come "within days," making it the fourth to be approved. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Ottawa's vaccine rollout, told a media briefing that nearly three million doses have been distributed to the provinces and territories so far. "In April, we're anticipating a steep increase in vaccine availability," he said. That includes 23 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines between April and June and at least 1.5 million of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by mid-May. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said many of the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses the province receives will go to pharmacies for a pilot program beginning next week. The Ontario Pharmacists Association said about 380 pharmacies in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex will be doling out shots initially. A similar program in Alberta began with pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary this week. Ontario recorded 994 new infections and linked 10 more deaths to the virus on Thursday. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia is easing public-health restrictions in and around Halifax. Health officials in the Atlantic province said rules that came into effect last week limiting restaurant hours, prohibiting sports events and discouraging non-essential travel will end Friday morning in the capital region. Nova Scotia reported three new cases Thursday and 29 active ones. Quebec said it had 707 new cases, along with 20 additional deaths. It is easing restrictions in Quebec City and four other regions starting Monday, but keeping them in place in the Montreal area due to concern over variants. New modelling suggests the variant first identified in the U.K. is likely to become the dominant strain the province by mid-April. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — The lawyer for a pastor accused of holding Sunday services that ignored COVID-19 rules says his client should be released from jail and be free to lead worshippers until his trial. James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for more than two weeks and is appealing his bail conditions. Queen's Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn is to make a decision Friday. Coates is charged with violating Alberta's Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence. The judge noted that Coates did not want the publication ban that is normally imposed on bail hearings. Coates's lawyer, James Kitchen, told the judge that his client can't follow a bail condition that forbids holding church services, because that would violate the pastor's conscience by disobeying God. "Imposing upon a pastor the condition of his release that he not pastor ... that is an embarrassment to the courts," Kitchen told Michalyshyn. "This is a matter of deep, deep personal conscience and personal beliefs. He is compelled to obey the God he loves, he believes, as are his congregants." Kitchen said it should be determined whether Coates's charter rights are being violated before he is jailed. "We are putting the cart before the horse, doing things backwards," he said. If the pastor does not agree to bail conditions, he could remain in jail for two months until his trial begins in May, Kitchen added. The public health prosecutor, who asked the court to be addressed only by her title because she is concerned for her safety, argued that the pastor's release is a danger to the public. "The one condition that was imposed is directly related to the behaviours that come under the prohibition of the Public Health Act orders," she said. The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing. More than 50 people were gathered outside an Edmonton courthouse with their family and children to pray for Coates during the hearing today. They held a banner that read #freejamescoates. GraceLife Church has continued to hold services, even though Coates is in jail. Many gathered again on the weekend as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation. "Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,'' the Mounties said in a news release. "The Parkland RCMP remain engaged in continued consultations with several partner agencies to determine the most productive course of action in relation to the church.'' Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates had been addressing the province's health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
The Town of New Tecumseth has hired a new Director of Ad-ministration Services and Clerk. Pamela Fettes will take over the position effective March 22, 2021. She will fill the vacancy created when the former clerk retired at the end of 2020. Ms. Fettes’ previous experience includes the past eight years with Clearview Township as the Director of Legislative Services and Municipal Clerk. “We are excited to welcome Pamela to the Town of New Te-cumseth,” said Mayor Rick Milne. "Her experience, expertise and knowledge of Simcoe County and our growing community will be an asset to the Town. Council and staff are looking forward to her leadership in the important role of Director of Administration Se-vices and Clerk as we continue to move the Town’s administration forward.” Under the Corporate Services division, as the Director of Admin-istration Services and Clerk, Ms. Fettes will lead the Town’s admin-istrative services which includes customer service, the Municipal Bylaw Enforcement area, licenses and permits, the preparation and circulation of Council documents, records management, requests for information under the Mu-nicipal Freedom of information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the conduct and administration of municipal elections. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times