The Afro-Canadian Contractors Association vice-president Sephton Spence shares insight on racism in Canada’s construction industry and what the association is doing about it.
The Afro-Canadian Contractors Association vice-president Sephton Spence shares insight on racism in Canada’s construction industry and what the association is doing about it.
(Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP - image credit) Two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden met to set a new tone for Canada-U.S. relations, the Biden administration official whose decisions may affect Canada's economy the most sat for three hours of questioning at her confirmation hearing before the Senate finance committee Thursday. Some cabinet confirmations become partisan wrestling matches. By the end of her appearance, the confirmation of Katherine Tai as the next United States Trade Representative felt more like a collective laying on of hands. The chair, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, called her a "superb choice." All ranking Democrats and Republicans from not only the Senate but also the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee applauded the depth of her skills and experience with a long list of complimentary adjectives. Representative Richard Neal from Massachusetts, appearing as a guest Democratic chair of the House committee, told senators he considers Tai to be like family after her seven years as legal counsel for his committee. Tai played a critical role in crafting and negotiating bipartisan support for endgame revisions that ensured Congressional approval of the revised North American trade agreement by delivering more environmental and labour protections. "There is one issue that all of us in this room agree upon: enforcement, enforcement, enforcement of these trade agreements," Neal said, praising Tai's "understated grit." Biden's pick was endorsed by leaders from the environmental, business and labour communities, Neal said. Tai accompanied Neal on a critical trip to Ottawa in November 2019 to persuade Canada to agree to amend the new NAFTA so it could get through Congress. The Trudeau government had thought its negotiations with the Trump administration were over. Canada's ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, came to know Tai well as Canada's lead negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. She said she remembers having lunch with her that day and their "vibrant conversation" with the assembled politicians about how international trade can benefit domestic workers — a focus the Biden administration now embraces. Canada's ambassador in Washington, Kirsten Hillman, far right, joined her then-minister Chrystia Freeland as Representative Richard Neal met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 6, 2019. House Democrats asked Canada to agree to amendments they were making to secure Congressional approval for the renegotiated NAFTA. "I think that's just telling on where some of the priorities may well lie," Hillman told CBC News earlier this winter. "She has specific expertise in that area." Fortunately for the Trudeau government, Tai's vision for "expanding the winner's circle" of beneficiaries of international trade lines up with the beliefs of Canadian Liberals like Chrystia Freeland who have spoken about making deals work for small businesses and middle class workers — not just corporations. Winning with win-wins During Thursday's hearing, Tai said she wants to move away from negotiations that pit one sector's workers against another. It's a sharp contrast with the zero-sum style of the Trump administration, which was more focused on scoring targeted political wins than mutually-beneficial gains. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time." - USTR nominee Katherine Tai While that could come as a relief for trading partners like Canada, Tai's hearing also revealed several priorities to watch carefully. For example, will Tai continue Robert Lighthizer's push to "re-shore" as many commodities in as many supply chains as possible, to repatriate jobs for American workers? "There's been a lot of disruption and consternation that have accompanied some of those policies," she said — without specifically calling out Trump administration tactics like using national security grounds to slap tariffs on foreign steel. "I'd want to accomplish similar goals in a more effective, process-driven manner." And what about the critical product shortages the U.S. is facing, especially during the pandemic? President Biden signed an executive order this week to strengthen U.S. supply chains for advanced batteries, pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and semiconductors. "A lot of the assumptions that we have based our trade programs on [have] maximized efficiency without regard for the requirement for resilience," Tai said. Rethinking the China strategy Between 2011-14, Tai was the USTR's chief counsel for trade enforcement with China. On Thursday, she told senators the U.S. needs a "strategic and coherent plan for holding China accountable to its promises and effectively competing with its state-directed economics." The government must have "a united front of U.S. allies," she added. "China is simultaneously a rival, a partner and an outsized player whose cooperation we'll also need to address certain global challenges," she said. "We must remember how to walk, chew gum and play chess at the same time." Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, himself a former USTR during the George W. Bush administration, pushed her to explain how the U.S. could compete with the "techno-nationalist" approach China takes on semiconductors — which he said are subsidized by up to 40 per cent, allowing the Communist regime to dominate the global market. "We can't compete by doing the things China does, so we have to figure out how we can compete by marshalling all the tools and resources that we have in the U.S. government," Tai said. Later she described how the Chinese state is able to conduct its economy "almost like a conductor with an orchestra," while Americans trust the "invisible hand" of the free market. The U.S. government may need to revisit this, she said, "knowing the strategy and the ambition that we are up against." Fellow Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown asked Tai whether she'd make it a top priority to crack down on imports that trace back to China's forced labour program, which human rights investigators believe abuses potentially millions from China's minority Uighur and Turkic Muslim population to pick crops like cotton. "Yes," she said. "I think the use of forced labour is probably the crudest example of the race to the bottom." 'Laser-focused' on Huawei Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who also sits on the Senate intelligence committee, urged Tai to form a "coalition of the willing" to compete with the Chinese "authoritarian capitalism" model that's enabled the rise of tech giants like Huawei. Trade negotiations have to protect the security of digital infrastructure, he said, and the U.S. should consider asking trading partners to prohibit certain Chinese technologies. "If we keep Huawei out of American domestic markets but it gets the rest of the world, we're not going to be successful," Warner said. Sen. Tom Carper, left, greets Katherine Tai, Joe Biden's nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, and meets her mother, right, at Tai's confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday. Tai agreed with him, and said the U.S. government should be "laser-focused" on this, and not just in trade negotiations. To counter China's influence, Delaware Sen. Tom Carper asked whether it would be a "fool's errand" to rejoin partners like Canada in the Pacific Rim trading bloc — which was renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. left it in 2017. Tai said the thinking behind the CPTPP remains a "solid equation" but the world in 2021 is "very different in important ways" to the climate in 2016, when Congress failed to approve the TPP. Carper also asked how trade policy is affected by the Biden administration's renewed multilateral approach to climate change. "The rest of the world is coming up with its own climate solutions, and that means that as other countries and economies begin to regulate in this area, climate and trade policies become a part of our competitive landscape," she said. 'Digging in' on dairy Tai also promised to work closely with senators who raised issues about commodities important to their states — and Canada. But the veteran trade diplomat didn't tip her hand too much on what Canada should expect. Idaho's Mike Crapo was assured she'll work on "longstanding issues" in softwood lumber. She told Iowa's Chuck Grassley she's aware of the "very clear promises" Canada made on dairy as part of concluding the NAFTA negotiations, and how important they were to win the support of some senators. Some of these Canada-U.S. issues "date back to the beginning of time," she said, adding she was looking forward to "digging in" on the enforcement process her predecessor began in December. Several senators pushed for more attention to America's beef, of which Tai said she was a "very happy consumer." South Dakota Sen. John Thune expressed frustration with the World Trade Organization's ruling against the cattle industry's protectionist country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rules, prompting a commitment from Tai to work with livestock producers on a new labelling system that could survive a WTO challenge. One of the toughest questioners Thursday proved to be former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who slammed the lack of transparency in past trade negotiations and told Tai her administration needs to "take a hard line." Warren called for limiting the influence of corporations and industries on advisory committees and releasing more negotiating drafts so the public understands what's being done on their behalf. At the conclusion of the hearing, Chairman Wyden asked Tai to send her ideas for improving the transparency of trade processes to the committee's bipartisan leadership within 30 days. Katherine Tai bumps elbows with Congressional leaders following her Thursday confirmation hearing on Capital Hill. Throughout the hearing, senators described Tai's confirmation as "historic." She's the first woman of colour and first Asian-American (her parents emigrated from Taiwan) to serve as USTR. Pennsylvania's Bob Casey asked if she'd commit to working on women's economic empowerment and participation in trade laws. She answered with just one word: "Yes."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is struggling to beat back his biggest political challenge in years from a protest movement which began with disgruntled farmers travelling to New Delhi on tractors and is now gaining wider support at home and abroad. Simmering in makeshift camps housing tens of thousands of farmers since last year, the movement has seen a dramatic growth in recent weeks, getting backing from environmental activists, opposition parties and even A-list Western celebrities. At its heart are three new farm laws passed by the government last September, thanks to the majority Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enjoys in the lower house of parliament.
CANBERRA, Australia — Facebook announced on Friday preliminary agreements with three Australian publishers, a day after the Parliament passed a law that would make the digital giants pay for news. Facebook said letters of intent had been signed with independent news organizations Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media. The commercial agreements are subject to the signing of full agreements within the next 60 days, a Facebook statement said. “These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” the statement said. Schwartz Media chief executive Rebecca Costello said the deal would help her company continue to produce independent journalism. “It’s never been more important than it is now to have a plurality of voices in the Australian press,” Costello said. Private Media chief executive Will Hayward said the new deal built on an existing Facebook partnership. Australia's Parliament on Thursday had passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code. In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a six-day-old ban on Australians accessing and sharing news. Access to Australian news sites did not appear to be fully restored until Friday. Google, the only other digital giant targeted by the legislation, has already struck content licensing deals, or is close to deals, with some of Australia’s biggest news publishers including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Seven West Media. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new Australian law was critical to the deals that Australian media businesses were negotiating with the two gateways to the internet. Under the law, if a platform can't reach agreement with a news business, an arbitration panel can be appointed to set a legally binding price for journalism. "Global tech giants are changing the world, but we can’t let them run the world,” Morrison told reporters. “People in free societies like Australia, who go to ballot boxes and who go and they vote, that’s who should run the world,” Morrison added. Facebook Vice-President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg on Wednesday took a veiled swipe at News Corp. in a social media post criticizing Australia’s law, which is aimed at setting a fair price for the Australian journalism that the digital platforms display. “It is ironic that some of the biggest publishers that have long advocated for free markets and voluntary commercial undertakings now appear to be in favour of state sponsored price setting,” the former British deputy prime minister wrote. News Corp. Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said last week that his company had pay negotiations with Facebook. “Having been someone who’s dealt with Facebook over the past months, we have some weeks where we’re getting good engagement and think we’re progressing and then you get silence. I think the door is still open,” Miller told a Senate inquiry into Australian media diversity. News Corp. owns most of Australia’s major newspapers, and some analysts argue the U.S.-based international media empire is the driver for the conservative Australian government making Facebook and Google pay. News Corp. has announced a wide-ranging deal with Google covering operations in the United States and Britain as well as Australia. Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
If you're coming to “ Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry ” hoping for a primer on the music sensation, you’ve come to the wrong place. Filmmaker R.J. Cutler’s two hour and 20-minute documentary about the “Ocean Eyes” singer and songwriter is not biography or reportage. It’s a verite-style plunge into her life, her home, her concerts, her process, her Tourette’s, her brother’s bedroom where they famously write all their songs and even her diary in the year in which she became a star. It is raw and filled with music — over 20 of her songs are played over the course of the film, including live performances, like her extraordinary Coachella showing in 2019. Some are shown in full. It is also very, very long. Cutler, who also did “The September Issue” and “Belushi,” cited seminal verite rock docs “Gimme Shelter” and “Dont Look Back” as inspiration. But both of those came a few years and albums into The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan’s superstardom. Eilish’s ascent is extraordinary and yet she is still in the early part of her artistic and actual life. Fans will certainly disagree, as is their right, but it is an enormous amount of unfiltered space to give to an artist who is still getting started. There's no right or wrong way to make a documentary like this, but for the Eilish curious and not the Eilish die-hards, it's initiation by fire without any context. Clearly someone in Eilish’s camp had an eye toward legacy when they invited Cutler to her family home to see if he wanted to follow the then-16-year-old during her breakout year, during which she and her brother Finneas wrote, recorded and released her debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Eilish is funny and sullen and charismatic and moody, just as you’d want and expect a teenage artist to be. She gets dreamy and protective of her followers, saying “they’re not my fans, they’re like part of me” and complains that for her, writing songs is “torture.” And she breaks the fourth wall occasionally (she’d told Cutler that she wanted it to be like “The Office”) to let the audience knows that she knows they’re there. Her brother is the driving force a lot of the productivity in their cozy family home in the Highland Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles (he’s since moved out). Their parents homeschooled them and music was always part of their life, with mom, Maggie Baird, teaching them how to write songs and dad, Patrick O’Connell, teaching instruments. It is interesting to see her and Finneas riff about lyrics and test things out — he has anxiety about having to produce a hit and she couldn’t care less — and the juxtaposition of her glamorous appearances and performances with the modest normalcy of their home life. There are some terrific moments that Cutler caught out on the road: In one instance, she meets Katy Perry who introduces Eilish to her fiance — “a big fan.” It’s only later that Eilish realizes that was Orlando Bloom. Her brother reminds her he is “Will Turner from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies.” She wants a redo. “I thought he was just some dude,” she says. Another is her first meeting with Justin Bieber. She talks about her longstanding obsession in an interview, he gets in touch three days before her album release about wanting to collaborate. (She tells her manager that “he could ask me to kill my dog and I would.”) Then at Coachella he appears as she’s greeting a hoard of her fans. She freezes and becomes a fan herself. Later she’ll sob over a heartfelt message he sends her. And there are some incredibly vulnerable moments too, showing the performer exhausted and annoyed. Eilish remains as unique and enigmatic as she seems from a distance, but also is presented very much like a normal Los Angeles teenager, getting her driver's license, dreaming of a matte black Dodge Challenger and texting with a largely absent boyfriend. Fans will eat up every morsel of this documentary and wish for more. For newcomers, however, it might benefit from watching in installments, which is one of the benefits of the film debuting on Apple TV+. There’s even an intermission to help take the guesswork out of where to hit pause. This does not come across as a vanity project that’s been intensely controlled by the star or the machinery around her, either. It’s refreshing. It's also probably one of the last times we’ll all be invited into her life in this way. “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry,” an Apple TV+ and Neon release out Friday, has not been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running time: 140 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
(Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit) Despite looking for volunteers to vaccinate the community, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has turned down some cross-border nurses who have offered their services, leaving some feeling disappointed. Last week, the local health unit put out a call for volunteers with a medical background to help with the vaccination rollout. But medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says they can't accept cross-border health-care workers under Canada's guidelines. CBC News has heard from nurses who say the majority of registered nurses in the U.S. are vaccinated, which is why they don't understand the inability to volunteer. But Canada's rules say that health-care workers crossing the border should isolate as much as possible outside of work and Ahmed says the regulations don't differentiate between people who are vaccinated and those who aren't. Registered nurse Kate Kemplin, who is licensed to work on both sides of the border, says it must have been difficult for the health unit to turn away help — but she agrees that that's the way it must be. "I'm sure that anyone running a vaccine program would love to have as many nurses as possible but the reality is that when you cross the border every day, or you cross the border once, you make a choice and the choice is to come home and isolate," she said. "The fact of the matter is that this is not discrimination, this is public health." She said there's many other ways that cross-border nurses can be helpful, including calling patients, doing pre-screening and providing online training for new vaccine injectors. "If we want to get as many people vaccinated as possible, then we do have to consider community injectors, injections for this type of vaccination is fairly low risk as a procedure and we could be training lay people to do it," she said, adding that this can include people who are not currently working due to COVID-19 layoffs. She said people who do the job should also be paid for it. As for nurses that really want to vaccinate their fellow Canadians, Kemplin said they could always make that happen. "The reality is we do need you at home and if that is what you want to do, quarantine for 14 days and make that your mission," she said.
(Submitted by Kate Gillis - image credit) When Kate Gillis launched into her masters in Indigenous studies, she quickly noticed a gap in the history. "Being Métis myself, I found that when I wanted to go into my master's and start my research and everything, I found it frustrating that I wasn't necessarily able to see myself in the literature and the research that had been done," Gillis told The Homestretch. The Calgary woman is being honoured for her research into the achievements of Métis women during the first year of her master's in Indigenous studies at the University of Saskatchewan. "In part, it has to do with who has written the history," Gillis said. "When we talk about history in any sense, it's largely written by colonial figures, right? "And so I think there's also a misrecognition of who is Métis. And I think in that, the Métis nation as we know it now, is more than just being mixed blood … there's so much more to that." Indigenous Achievement Week Gillis received an award recognizing academic excellence from the university during Indigenous Achievement Week earlier this month. "It has been absolutely phenomenal," she said. "I will be honest and say it was a little bit of a surprise. But it is great to not only be acknowledged, but to have the support of the faculty at [the university] as well — and just reaffirming that I'm doing the right thing." Gillis said she hopes to bring the accomplishments of Métis women to the forefront. "I'm looking at the period from roughly 1790 to 1840 and just the original establishment of what we now know is the Métis nation, and how the role of women fostered the nation that we know today," she said. The historical research is a matter of "reading between the lines" of the official archives, Gillis said. "Looking at marriage records, birth records, that kind of stuff, and then on top of that, just keeping the contemporary community connections as well," she said. "So I'm hoping to do some oral interviews with community members and Métis women to get both sides of it." Gillis said her research has only showed her how much work there is to do. "It's going to be a long haul, I think, for sure," she said. "So after my master's degree, I will probably go back and do my PhD. "And then after that, I'm hoping to be able to do some teaching and really just share what I've been learning, because I think it is so important, and it is largely men. And yeah, just getting it out there, which I think is the goal of all grad students." Family history Gillis said she has learned about her own family history through the work. "It's been really fascinating, actually, even within my own research … my family is originally from the Red River area. And so I was looking at birth charts and everything, and I literally found my family tree. Like it was mapped out right in front of me," she said. Gillis said she has not experienced a lot of outright racism in her own life. "Not myself. My dad is white and I would consider me and my siblings to be quite white-passing. But I know even my mom and my grandpa especially, they have faced a lot of racism in their lives," she said. "I think, more so than anything, than those like microaggressions — like just people always asking, 'Where are you from?' And then I always get the, 'Oh, I didn't know you were part First Nations.' And I'm like, 'Oh, that's not actually really how it works.'" Both of Gillis' parents are educators within the Calgary Catholic School District — her father is the principal at Holy Child School, while her mother teaches Grade 2 at St. Cyril School. "I feel in part that I'm very grateful," she said. "I feel that education has been very ingrained into not only my interest, but who I am as a person. And I've always found it to be very important." Gillis has settled on two areas of study, based on the Cree terms "wahkohtowin" and "otipemisiwak". "Wahkohtowin is not only familial relations and family members, but it extends to animals, nature, the spiritual world and that," she said. "The other concept is that of otipemisiwak, translating to, 'the people that own themselves' … so, Métis self-determination, and looking at those two terms together, really establishing both the collective and individual experiences — not only of the Native women, but of the nation as a whole." With files from The Homestretch.
WASHINGTON — The Senate parliamentarian dealt a potentially lethal blow Thursday to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a massive COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress. The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, means Democrats face an overwhelmingly uphill battle to boost the minimum wage this year because of solid Republican opposition. Their proposal would raise the federal minimum gradually to $15 hourly by 2025, well above the $7.25 floor in place since 2009. President Joe Biden was “disappointed” in the outcome but respected the parliamentarian's ruling, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The Senate has a long tradition of obeying the parliamentarian's decisions with few exceptions, a history that is revered by traditionalists like Biden, a 36-year Senate veteran. “He will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty,” Psaki said. Democrats are pushing the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief measure through Congress under special rules that will let them avoid a Senate filibuster by Republicans, a tactic that Democrats would need an unattainable 60 votes to defeat. But those same Senate rules prohibit provisions with only an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. The parliamentarian decides if provisions pass that test. MacDonough's decision now forces Democrats to make politically painful choices about what to do next on the minimum wage, which has long caused internal party rifts. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats “are not going to give up the fight” to raise the minimum wage to $15. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, hailed MacDonough's decision. He said it shows the special procedure that Democrats are using to protect the relief bill “cannot be used as a vehicle to pass major legislative change — by either party — on a simple majority vote." Republicans solidly oppose the $15 minimum wage target as an expense that would hurt businesses and cost jobs. They also oppose the overall relief bill, saying it’s too expensive, not targeted enough at the people and businesses that most need it and a grab bag of gifts for Democratic allies. In the wake of the decision, Democratic leaders were likely to face unrest from rank-and-file lawmakers, who have long had differences over the federal minimum wage. They can afford little dissension: Democrats have just a 10-vote edge in the House and no votes to spare in the Senate. Progressives seeking to maximize Democratic control of the White House and Congress have wanted party leaders to push aggressively on the issue. But Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have voiced opposition to including the minimum wage hike in the relief bill, and other moderates have expressed concerns, too. Even so, MacDonough's decision might actually make passage of the overall relief bill easier because efforts to find a minimum wage compromise among Democrats could have been contentious. Democrats have said they could still pursue a minimum wage boost in free-standing legislation or attach it to legislation expected later this year that is to be aimed at a massive infrastructure program. But they’d still face the challenge of garnering 60 Senate votes, a hurdle that has upended Democratic attempts to boost the minimum wage for over a decade. Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a chief sponsor of the minimum wage effort, blamed “archaic and undemocratic" Senate rules for the setback. He said he'd try amending the overall relief package to erase tax deductions from large corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide incentives to small businesses to raise wages. The parliamentarian's decision came to light the night before Democrats were set to push through the House an initial version of the $1.9 trillion relief legislation that still includes the minimum wage boost. “House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the" bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. The overall relief bill is Biden’s first legislative priority. It is aimed at combating a year-old pandemic that’s stalled much of the economy, killed half a million Americans and reshaped the daily lives of virtually everyone. Despite their paper-thin congressional majorities, Democratic leaders were hoping that House approval of the package would be followed by passage in the Senate, where changes seem likely. Democrats are aiming to get the legislation to Biden’s desk by mid-March. The relief bill would provide millions of people with $1,400 direct payments. It contains billions of dollars for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments, the ailing restaurant and airline industries and emergency jobless benefits while providing tax breaks to lower earners and families with children. In a study that’s been cited by both sides in the clash, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the $15 increase would increase wages for 27 million workers and lift 900,000 people out of poverty by 2025, but would also kill 1.4 million jobs. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have state minimum wages that exceed the federal $7.25 hourly floor, with only the District of Columbia currently requiring a $15 minimum. Seven states have laws putting their minimums on a pathway to $15 in a future year, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures Alan Fram, The Associated Press
Canada's ministry of finance called a media report that the head of the country's largest pension fund had traveled to the Middle East and received a COVID-19 vaccination "very troubling". Mark Machin, the 54-year-old chief executive of the C$475.7 billion ($377 billion) Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), received a Pfizer Inc vaccine shot after arriving in the United Arab Emirates with his partner this month, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
A plan to expand the Crescent Acres neighbourhood took another step forward with the approval of a plan begin to begin annexing a portion of the neighbouring municipality. City councillors voted unanimously Monday to annex 44 acres of land from the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert. The motion to support the boundary changes was moved by Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick who, along with Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards, was pleased to see the report before council. The other part of the motion would see administration meet with representatives of the RM to negotiate both the annexation settlement and agreement. Ogrodnick explained that at community meetings a north access to Crescent Acres was a major issue for residents. The eventual expansion would ease congestion at 15th Avenue and Muzzy Road as well as on Olive Diefenbaker drive. “Once that north access comes into play and gets built, it will help the eastern parts of both of our wards. This is a good agreement as long as we are able to build this and it is something that the residents of both of those wards badly want and are happy that our director is moving forward with this,” Ogrodnick said. Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski also voiced his approval of the eventual north access to the neighborhood as a great step in the development of Prince Albert and saluted the work done on the file. “It is not only an issue in that area but in terms of traffic flow throughout our whole city because you absolutely avoid that area of town at certain times of the day. Well done let’s move on,” Zurakowski said. Mayor Greg Dionne thanked the city manager and both the previous and current council for their work. “I have been on council for 19 years and boy there was lots of talking but I have got to thank this council and the council before for bringing this forward,” Dionne said during the meeting. After the meeting, Dionne explained that opening up another access point on Crescent Acres will also benefit development. “We are having more and more development there on Hadley and other streets in the back there and that’s where our new lots are. So before we get them all open let’s get the traffic out to the highway,” he explained. The land to be annexed has already been bought by the city. They hope to extend Byars Street and add another highway junction at Highway 302. Once the Byars Street extension is done, the city plans to later extend Olive Diefenbaker Drive. The city purchased 80 acres in 2020. Development of the rest of the land, which remains within the RM’s boundary, will be up to the RM council. “It is up to them to plan for, but we want to be proactive and be a partnership to how that land is developed, Guidinger said. The planned construction is part of a larger Transportation Master Plan and a future Crescent Acres Neighborhood Plan. The extension of Byars Street was already included in the 2021 budget by public works. The cost is $200,000 for required engineering design and geotechnical work with $700,000 expected to be added for construction in the 2022 budget. The proposal was initially presented at an in camera session on Feb. 1 and presented to RM council on Feb. 11. The RM was receptive, and only had a few questions about taxation and timing. The process of land annexation is when land is transferred from one municipality to another neighbouring municipality. There are a number of steps in the process, including consultation with the municipality in question, negotiation of a payment for the land in question and the annexation agreement and public notice. The first steps in annexation were completed with the presentation to the RM of Prince Albert. Once there is a complementary resolution from the RM, the city and RM can enter into negotiations to negotiate a purchase cost. The city intends to propose a financial settlement similar to those in the past. The value of the settlement will be directly connected to the current agricultural tax rate applied to the land multiplied by a 22.5 years. Other costs will come from issuing public notice and other legal items such as preparation of the agreement itself among others. Once the annexation price and terms of agreement have been negotiated, city administration will report back to council. The annexation team will included the directors of planning and development and public works, planning manager and capital projects, city solicitor’s office, city clerk’s office, director of the Prince Albert and District Planning Commission, Reeve Eric Schmalz and administrator Roxanne Roy of the RM of Prince Albert. -with files from Peter Lozinski, Prince Albert Daily Herald Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The Alberta government's latest budget is far from the "fiscal reckoning" Premier Jason Kenney had long promised. Instead, there are very few cuts and lots of debt — a situation the province blames on the pandemic and shrinking oil revenue.
Winnipeg has posted an abysmal score on climate change policy, when compared to its Canadian peers. Climate Reality Project (Canadian arm of the environmental non-governmental organization created by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore) carries out annual rankings of the nation’s municipalities to measure progress on a number of metrics. According to its newly released 2020 National Climate League report, Winnipeg overall ranks middle of the pack at best, and dead last in many categories, in the large city category (more than 600,000 residents). One positive for the city, says Susan Lindsay, who works with Winnipeg not-for-profit Climate Change Connection and is regional manager for Climate Reality Project: there is much room for improvement. “The standings give us like a clear indication of our city’s priorities — that climate and sustainability isn’t one of our city’s priorities,” Lindsay said Wednesday. Transportation is the second-largest contributor to national greenhouse gas emissions (after the oil and gas industry) and there are a number of indicators that consider policy progress towards low-emissions transportation. In the NCL report, Winnipeg ranked last in nearly all of related categories, including kilometres of bike lanes, cyclist and pedestrian safety, number of electric vehicle chargers, number of transit trips, and number of car-share vehicles available to residents. Winnipeg has 307 km of bike lanes, compared to Calgary, which had the most (1,290 km). The city logged 97.7 injuries and deaths of cyclists/pedestrians per 100,000 residents, compared with the second-worst performing large city: Calgary (58.7). Winnipeg has nine EV chargers per 100,000 people, compared to Montreal at 96. Sixty-seven transit trips were logged per capita in Winnipeg, compared with 236 in Montreal. The 2020 report gathered some information on household expenditures on gas and diesel fuels, but statistics were only available for a handful of cities of any size. In Winnipeg, the average household spends $3,102 on fuels per year. Buildings are another key source of emissions in cities, principally from heating them. Winnipeg was in the middle of the pack when it comes to the number of sustainable buildings, with 1.6 that qualify under one of the international sustainability certification programs per 100,000 people. Vancouver topped the large cities at 8.6. The average Winnipegger is responsible for approximately 670 kilograms of garbage going to landfills each year, the report says. The Manitoba capital ranked second worst in this category. Edmonton was last at 680 kg; best in class was Toronto (430 kg). In smog days per year, Winnipeg came in at 18; Calgary was worst-in-class with 69. Winnipeg had previously been tops in the category but fell substantially in the rankings. “Over the last two years, the city of Winnipeg has experienced an increase in number of days with a rating of 4 or over on the Air Quality Health Index. In the (prior) two years, they rarely experienced days where the Air Quality Health Index was above 4. The increase in poor air quality days can be attributed to the increase in frequency and severity of forest fires in the region, and Winnipeg was affected quite harshly in 2019 (the year we last have data for). We can expect to see a decrease in air quality across the entire country as forest fires continue to rage more intensely as the years go on,” the report reads. The report also touches on some seemingly unrelated indicators, such as the cost of housing. It explains the importance of such a measure in reference to climate change by saying: “Affordable housing that is located within urban centres, close to people’s place of work and that incorporates green infrastructure will make more efficient use of land, transportation systems, and energy resources.” On this measure, Winnipeg experienced a 2.47 per cent increase in the average annual increase in the cost of housing. Only Vancouver and Toronto had housing costs rise faster. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
(CFSEU-BC - image credit) Drug fugitive Khamla Wong was arrested arriving at Vancouver International Airport Wednesday, according to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia. Wong was wanted for his connection to the cross-border cocaine and ecstasy trade going back to 2008. Charges of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of a loaded prohibited firearm were laid against him in 2012. CFSEU-BC said the investigation spanned from B.C. to California, Mexico and Peru, and resulted in the seizure of tens of millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs, including: Aug. 21, 2008 — 23 kilograms (117,000 pills) of ecstasy seized in Princeton, B.C. Dec. 20, 2008 — 121 kilograms of cocaine seized at the Pacific Border Crossing. Dec. 24, 2008 — 97 kilograms of cocaine seized at the Pacific Border Crossing. The drugs were hidden inside a commercial transport truck carrying bananas. May, 2009 — 10 kilograms of cocaine seized in Burnaby. In June 2009, seven search warrants were executed at residences in Chilliwack, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Lake Country in the Okanagan. A number of firearms were seized including a restricted .44-calibre Magnum pistol, along with a prohibited .357-calibre Magnum revolver, .38-calibre semi-automatic pistol and .40-calibre semi-automatic pistol. "Time and time again we have sought out individuals living abroad to hold them accountable and face justice in Canada. Those who remain on the run from CFSEU-BC should know that we will not stop until we find you," said Supt. Duncan Pound, CFSEU-BC acting chief officer in a statement. Wong remains in custody.
The Southeast Asian country has been in crisis since the army seized power on Feb. 1 and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party had won. The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to Myanmar's streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.
Astronaut Joshua Kutryk touched down in the gym at Christ the King School this week — not via a spacecraft, but rather a massive video screen. The St. Vital school welcomed Kutryk, who was hired by the Canadian Space Agency in 2016, as a virtual guest speaker for a 45-minute presentation about his career Wednesday. He answered questions about his profession, including what he is most looking forward to when he gets assigned a mission to outer space. “The view back,” said Kutryk, during the videocall broadcast into classrooms of wide-eyed students. “You see nothing but Earth in the void blackness of space, everything that’s ever been human on Earth. That’s when you probably realize, more than anything, how important it is to protect it.” Middle-schoolers won the visit, which was scheduled for the spring and was postponed because of COVID-19, through the Canadian Space Agency’s Junior Astronauts program. Teacher Teresa Edwards’ 2019-20 class of sixth graders was selected, after completing two science projects. They first compared the temperature, humidity and CO2 levels in their classroom to those in the International Space Station. The second project involved participating in a Mars rover simulation during which students communicated with a pretend operator. Given recent announcements about NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars last week, and the Artemis program, which aims to land the first woman on the moon by 2024, Edwards said students are extra keen to learn about planetary exploration. “I hope it inspires them to pursue their dreams, whether they be in science or math or engineering or perhaps in other areas, and to stretch their limits,” she said about Kutryk’s visit. Edwards added she learned something new Wednesday: astronaut trainees must go underground for several weeks to simulate the experience of being cut off from the outside world. That was among the anecdotes Kutryk, who is from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., shared about his training. “Trying to be an astronaut is really a lifelong endeavour,” he said, speaking from the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. Kutryk’s resume includes four degrees and experience as a test and fighter pilot, engineer and lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He became a certified astronaut following two and a half years of intensive training, including exercises underwater and in jets to mimic the outer space environment. Mo Ogunbodede said she was shocked by how long it took. “The fact they have to go underwater for a long time, that surprised me too,” Mo said. Even though she is not a confident swimmer, the 12-year-old said she isn’t discouraged from pursuing a career in astronomy; Mo simply knows what she’s up against now. Before signing off Wednesday, Kutryk had a simple message for students: “Dream big!” Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The province reported on Tuesday that a resident of the North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, has had the B1.351 SA (South Africa) COVID-19 variant detected in their test. The individual was tested at the end of January and Public Health’s investigation is ongoing. During a press availability on Thursday, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab explained that deaths and hospitalizations are trending down but we are still seeing hospitalizations and that we should continue to stay the course with following health measures. “Especially because we have seen over the last week that we have found increased isolations of variants of concern not just linked to international travel but showing some initial start of community transmission events of them as well,” Shahab said. The B1.1.7 UK (United Kingdom) variant has also been detected in two residents in the Regina zone. These individuals were tested at the end of January. Based on the contact investigation to date, there is no link to travel at this time but public health's investigation is ongoing. There is also a presumptive case of B1.1.7 UK in one individual in the Saskatoon zone. The individual was transferred from out of province to Saskatoon for acute care. Whole genome sequencing will need to be completed to confirm the results and health's contact investigation is ongoing. The province’s own documents have indicated that Saskatchewan is on track to reduce its cases to a point where health restrictions can be lifted only if people rigidly follow public health orders and no virus variants of concern pop up. Saskatchewan Health Association CEO Scott Livingstone also addressed the caution around the variants being in the province. “While there have been lower case numbers at time in recent weeks the existence of variants of concern is very concerning. This may fuel exponential growth of cases as Dr. Shahab has said. So in the days ahead we are going to need to maintain our diligence, vigilance and moderate these trends very closely,” Livingstone said Shahab explained that COVID-19 testing was just one measure along with things such as physical distancing and mask use. “Testing is an important layer because by testing we know what our status is and if COVID positive we can, for the most part, safely isolate at home for 10 days. For many people it is a milder illness. We can also immediately notify our close contacts so they can isolate for 14 days. And that really is essential to break the chain of transmission.” According to Shahab some people in the province have delayed testing after having symptoms for a few days resulting in outbreaks at workplaces and to make sure you get tested. “You can get tested right away at the onset of symptoms now but if your test is negative and your symptoms are continuing, do get tested again just to make sure that your are COVID negative. I think testing will be an important layer in an ongoing fashion along with easier access to many varieties of testing that will really increase our ability to show a downward trend,” Shahab said. Livingstone also noted the need to follow health orders to continue this downward trend. “We are not out of the woods yet and we can’t take our foot off the gas with respect to adhering to public health orders and insuring that we keep everyone safe as we move through the vaccination program,” he explained. According to Shahab, people should remain vigilant of the most vulnerable as that group continues to be vaccinated “Older age groups are so close to getting vaccinated over the next few weeks and months and I think we should do everything we can to shield the people who are older, who are more vulnerable so that they can successfully get vaccinated. And as you have seen even from our observations, a vaccination is an important step to reduce your chance of getting seriously ill and hopefully over the next few weeks and months that will show in declining hospitalizations and declining deaths,” Shahab said. Both Shahab and Livingstone sent their condolences to the family and friends of the four individuals who passed away due to COVID-19 since Tuesday moving the number who have died since the beginning of the pandemic to 380. “This high number of deaths from COVID in the last couple of months is having a large emotional toll not just on families and friends of those loved ones who passed away but on healthcare workers who work and do everything they can to insure they save lives and protect those individuals across the province from COVID,” Livingstone said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
CALGARY — Hearts rookie Beth Peterson of Team Wild Card Three played like a veteran Thursday at the Canadian women's curling championship. WIth her draw weight in form when she needed it most, Peterson stole a single in the 10th and added another steal in the extra end for a 9-8 victory over Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories. The win gave the young Manitoba-based skip a top-four spot in Pool A at 5-3 and a berth in the championship pool in her first appearance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. "(We) really pumped each other up and at the same (time) calmed each other down and really supported each other," Peterson said of teammates Jenn Loder, Katherine Doerksen and Brittany Tran. "I think that we were our best team in the 10th and 11th end that we have been this week." Ontario's Rachel Homan beat Canada's Kerri Einarson 7-4 in a rematch of last year's Scotties final. Both teams, who had already secured championship pool spots, moved to 7-1. Alberta's Laura Walker (5-3) locked up the other Pool A berth with an 11-1 victory over Yukon's Laura Eby (0-8). The Pool B picture became clear after the evening draw at the Markin MacPhail Centre. Saskatchewan's Sherry Anderson (6-2), Manitoba's Jennifer Jones (6-2), Quebec's Laurie St-Georges (6-2) and Wild Card One's Chelsea Carey (5-3) made the cut. Anderson secured first place with a 9-3 victory over Sarah Hill of Newfoundland and Labrador. Anderson also edged British Columbia's Corryn Brown 8-7 in the morning draw. Brown rebounded in the evening with a 9-5 win over Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt, leaving both teams at 4-4. Jones dumped Nunavut's Lori Eddy 10-3 and St-Georges topped New Brunswick's Melissa Adams 9-7 in the other late games. Galusha (4-4) was eliminated with her loss in the afternoon. Her tap attempt in the 10th end moved the second shot stone just enough to prevent a steal of two. The confident Peterson put the pressure on again in the 11th and Galusha's draw to the button was light. "The girls brought me back in after a few missed shots and we were able to capitalize in the last two ends," Peterson said. "We (threw) pretty much at 100 per cent in those last two ends. I'm thankful for my girls." Team Wild Card Two's Mackenzie Zacharias (3-5) posted a 9-4 win over Northern Ontario's Krysta Burns (2-6) in the other afternoon game. Carey, who's filling in for Tracy Fleury this week, thumped Newfoundland and Labrador 11-2 in the morning in her preliminary round finale. Birt beat Nunavut 10-8 in the morning, that kept her championship pool hopes alive until the evening. The late results ensured there wouldn't be a tiebreaker game on Friday. Jones, seeking a record seventh Hearts title, downed New Brunswick 12-3 in the morning draw. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia's Jill Brothers finished with 3-5 records. Newfoundland and Labrador was 2-6 and Nunavut was 0-8. For the eight teams that advanced, records will carry over into the two-day championship round. Each team will play four games against teams that qualified from the other preliminary round pool. The top three teams will advance to Sunday's playoffs. The top seed goes straight to the evening final and the second- and third-place teams will meet in an afternoon semifinal. The Hearts winner will get a berth in the Tim Hortons Curling Trials and earn $100,000 of the $300,000 total purse. The champion will also return to the 2022 Scotties as Team Canada. If the recently cancelled women's world championship is rescheduled later this season, the Hearts winner will represent Canada. The March 5-14 Tim Hortons Brier will be the next event to be held in the spectator-free bubble. The Canada Olympic Park venue will host six bonspiels in all through late April. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter. The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — Police in Victoria are asking for help from the public who may know something about the beheading of a royal statue and a recent rash of graffiti in the city. There were numerous acts of spray-paint vandalism on Tuesday which targeted businesses and public and city-owned property. Police say in a statement that the graffiti specifically references Beacon Hill Park, the site of a long-running tent encampment. They're also asking for help recovering the head removed from a statue of the Queen located in the same park. Officers were called to the area near the park's petting zoo on Wednesday for reports of the damaged statue. Despite both being acts of vandalism, police say the two incidents have not been linked. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit) The RCMP should do more to help those who feel threatened or coerced by foreign governments, including China, to come forward, according to Commissioner Brenda Lucki. Lucki's comments to the parliamentary committee on Canada-China relations come after pro-Hong Kong activists in British Columbia say they were threatened online and told by police there was little authorities could do. Lucki noted that, though the RCMP has a 1-800 number for reporting threats to national security, "by the sounds of it, it sounds like we need to do better communication." "If people are getting intimidated, as soon as they're brought to our attention, there's full investigations. If people, if they have broken any of the laws in the Criminal Code, we will pursue charges in those cases," Lucki told the committee Thursday night. The issue of foreign governments pressuring their international communities is far from new, but Canada's spy agency has been publicly sounding the alarm. Most recently, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) raised concerns with companies in the vaccine supply chain that malicious foreign actors could threaten the rollout by targeting workers. And last year, one of Canada's key national security oversight bodies, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, released a report showing how China has been pressing their diaspora and groups based on Canadian campuses as part of "significant and sustained" foreign interference activities in Canada. The committee said those methods are part of an attempt by foreign actors to sway public opinion, manipulate the media and influence government decision-making. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, also testifying before the committee on Thursday, said Ottawa will step in if foreign governments cross the line. "For those Canadians who may be subject to intimidation or inappropriate influence in Canadian society, we want them to know that we're here for them and that we're here to support them," he said. "If they need our help, we have the ability and the tools to respond appropriately." Earlier this month CSIS director David Vigneault outlined how hostile foreign governments, notably China and Russia, are "aggressively" targeting Canadians, seeking a political and economic advantage. "A number of foreign states engage in hostile actions that routinely threaten and intimidate individuals in Canada to instill fear, silence dissent, and pressure political opponents," he said during a public speech. Vigneault stressed that the threat from China comes from its government and not from the Chinese people.
A forest fire in a sparsely populated area 75 kilometres north of Tokyo continued to rage for a fifth day on Friday, as local officials were set to ask dozens more households to evacuate hillside villages. The fire in the vicinity of Ashikaga city, in Tochigi prefecture, has continued to spread since breaking out Sunday, despite efforts by firefighters on the ground and military helicopters dousing the area.
Rapid testing for COVID-19 will be expanding in the province in the near future. The rapid test kits allocated by the federal government will now be available in available in a variety of settings to test asymptomatic individuals. Saskatchewan has created a strategy to deploy more than 700,000 rapid point-of-care tests received through a federal government allocation. The tests will be used in a variety of settings including walk-in or drive-thru sites, mobile testing and pop-up testing sites. In media availability on Thursday, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone explained that testing is an important part of the strategy in maintaining offensive work around containing, mitigating and delaying the virus spread. “These are simple tests, are readily available and some of the new sites that will be included in this expansion include personal care homes, group homes, detox facilities, emergency shelters and schools. Rapid tests will also be made available to ambulance, police and fire services as well as pharmacy and dental offices for staff that work within those areas to insure that we are screening essential workers in those areas,” Livingstone said. The tests are already available at over 150 long-term care facilities and over 100 areas in acute care. Livingstone explained that the Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations have been amended to exempt point of care COVID-19 specimen collection and testing sites from requiring a laboratory license when those sites have entered into an agreement with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. He explained that the lab license was a barrier and was lifted because the test is simple and safe. “These changes give us the ability to move swiftly to expand testing options,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a release. “We know that testing plays a crucial role in helping to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and now with variants of concern surfacing in our province it is more important than ever that testing is expanded to make it easier, quicker and more convenient to access.” Many of these sectors may not have the capacity to use these tests on their own, so the Ministry of Health is working with SaskBuilds and Procurement to develop a Request for Pre-Qualifications (RFPQ) tender for third-party providers to deliver testing to these locations. This will enhance the number and variety of venues where rapid testing is offered. Livingstone explained that one example of why the RFPQ tender was in place was for ambulance, fire and police and participating pharmacies and dental offices. “This is going to take a little bit of time but we are committed to using these tests widely across many venues in the province as soon as possible. There are still some operational and logistic details to sort out but there is hope that the delivery and support for the expanded venues can happen over the next few weeks,” Livingstone said. Livingstone stated that the program could move quicker in schools because they have existing public health infrastructure with public health staff to do testing. The SHA is also looking at pop-up point of care testing sites and the ability for health care workers to carry out weekly surveillance testing on themselves. The Ministry of Health and SHA will work with various sectors and provider groups to ensure training and support is in place to use these testing resources to their full potential. Any rapid point-of-care tests that return a positive result will need to be retested to confirm the result using a PCR test with the Saskatchewan Health Authority labs. However, negative tests do not need to be retested for confirmation, which is expected to reduce pressure on provincial lab resources. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald