Teachers surveyed by CBC News say the return to school this fall has left them with overwhelming stress and a never-ending workload. "There's no time to prep.… You really are go, go, go," says one Ottawa teacher.
Teachers surveyed by CBC News say the return to school this fall has left them with overwhelming stress and a never-ending workload. "There's no time to prep.… You really are go, go, go," says one Ottawa teacher.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
L’Alliance du corridor ferroviaire Estrie-Montérégie n’est pas inquiétée par l’augmentation de la vitesse des trains de Canadien Pacifique (CP) sur le réseau des Chemins de fer du centre du Maine et du Québec (CMQ) annoncée plus tôt cette semaine. L’entreprise a assuré à l’ACFEM et ses municipalités membres que la sécurité est au cœur de leurs préoccupations. «Je sais qu’ils ont mis beaucoup d’argent pour sécuriser les rails pour amener les trains à un niveau plus rapide, soit de 25 miles à l’heure à 40 miles à l’heure. Ils me l’ont garanti, qu’ils ont à cœur la sécurité», commente le président du sous-comité sur la sécurité ferroviaire de l’ACFEM, également préfet de Brome-Missisquoi et maire de Farnham, Patrick Melchior. Si Transport Canada a donné son accord à CP pour que la compagnie ferroviaire augmente la vitesse de ses trains, c’est que les rails sont sécuritaires, ajoute le président de l’ACFEM et maire de Bromont, Louis Villeneuve. Il souligne également que le train ne roulera pas toujours à 64 km/h, précisant qu’il y a des sections où le train devra ralentir. Par exemple, le train circulera toujours à 16 km/h dans le secteur de Lac-Mégantic. Plus de capacité La question qui turlupine davantage M. Melchior est le nombre de trains qui passeront chaque jour. L’achalandage augmentera-t-il au cours des mois à venir? C’est ce que laissait entendre l’entreprise dans un communiqué en parlant de capacité supplémentaire. «Comme maire de Farnham, s’il y a plus d’achalandage, ça veut dire plus de trains dans la gare de triage, plus de trains aux passages à niveau. Déjà, on passe beaucoup de temps en arrêt aux passages à niveau puisque le chemin de fer scinde la ville en deux. Des fois, on peut être arrêté pendant 12 à 15 minutes en attendant que le triage se fasse.» Il n’a pas obtenu de réponse claire à ce sujet de la part de CP jusqu’à présent, mais entend bien suivre le dossier de près.Cynthia Laflamme, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix de l'Est
Nathan Hann has been a long-time member of GoodLife in Grimsby, and lately has been seeing a lot of new faces at the gym on 9 Industrial Drive. Hann, a health-care professional and pharmacist by trade, said he began noticing changes at the gym just as restrictions in Hamilton increased, limiting the number of people allowed to book appointments at gyms and fitness centres as the region moved from orange to red under the province’s COVID-19 alert system. “When I have been going to book an appointment, I have been noticing that it has been really full and I haven’t been able to get in. I gave GoodLife a call to ask why, and they told me a lot of Hamilton people are coming down to the gym.” The potential influx of gym-goers from Hamilton, where cases of COVID-19 are higher than here in Niagara, has Hann concerned, not just for his own personal safety, but also about the potential spread of the virus across regions, as people living in areas with higher restrictions travel to cities with fewer limitations. In Niagara, which currently sits in the orange ‘restrict’ category, a maximum of 50 people are allowed in gyms at a time, while in Hamilton, the number is 10. Hann said he has already seen the impact first-hand. “I know people who usually go to the Hamilton location, they are all coming to the Grimsby location now, because they can’t get into the extremely limited appointment slots available in Hamilton. “My concern is that if they keep doing this, then Niagara is going to get hit even harder than we already are.” Tracy Matthews, vice-president of operations for GoodLife Fitness, said with gyms in Hamilton still open, the company has currently not placed any restrictions on members, and which locations they may choose to visit. "Gyms in Hamilton are not closed, and we did not ask Hamilton members to limit travel because their gyms are still open.” Matthews did add though that in previous situations where gyms have closed in certain regions across the province such as the GTA, GoodLife has placed members living in those areas on a temporary freeze, asking they refrain from visiting clubs outside of their region. With gyms and fitness centres still open in Hamilton though, GoodLife members are free to travel to other locations in Grimsby, or anywhere in Niagara where booking an appointment is easier, and spaces are more plentiful. Of course, that could change if Hamilton is moved into the lockdown measures currently seen in the GTA, or if GoodLife updates its policies as conditions develop, something Matthews said is possible in the future. “We will continue to review and update policies and procedures where needed to ensure we are providing our members with the best experience possible while meeting or exceeding government and public health protocols in relation to health and safety." In the meantime, Hann said he will continue to take all safety precautions necessary, including wearing a mask at all times, and keeping distance from other members, adding that he continues to see potential public health risks with a system that puts people in a position to move from region to region during a pandemic. “The virus is not going to spread on its own. It is only going to go where people take it. By putting people in a position where they travel outside of their region, it is really just creating the possibility for more cases in Niagara.” Story behind the story With COVID-19 restrictions being increased in Hamilton, reporter Bryan Levesque looked at the impact on gyms in Grimsby, where some have concerns that an increase in Hamilton visitors could lead to further spread of the virus in Niagara.Bryan Levesque, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La vérificatrice générale de l’Ontario n’a pas mâché ses mots à l’endroit du médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario, le Dr David Williams, dans son plus récent rapport sur les mesures prises par la province pour lutter contre la COVID-19. Le médecin hygiéniste en chef n’a pas dirigé l’intervention du gouvernement de l’Ontario face au coronavirus et n’a pas exercé pleinement ses pouvoirs en vertu de la Loi sur la protection et la promotion de la santé dans l’intervention face à la pandémie, a conclu Bonnie Lysyk dans son rapport, dévoilé mercredi matin. À LIRE AUSSI : Le gouvernement Ford a réagit plus lentement que les autres Le Dr Williams n’aurait pas émis de directives aux médecins hygiénistes locaux afin que leurs bureaux interviennent avec cohérence face à la pandémie, constate également la vérificatrice. Rappelons qu’en mai 2020, 34 médecins hygiénistes locaux ont signé un document indiquant qu’il fallait améliorer l’orientation et la cohérence régionale. Par exemple, c’est la province, et non le médecin hygiéniste en chef, qui a finalement émis un arrêté d’urgence au début d’octobre 2020 pour imposer le port du masque au grand public. La vérificatrice générale affirme aussi que Santé publique Ontario a joué un rôle « réduit » dans l’intervention globale de la province, et que même les structures d’interventions régionales n’étaient pas dirigées par des experts en santé publique. Le Bureau de Mme Lysyk a appris des médecins hygiénistes locaux que les conseils de santé publique donnés par les politiciens provinciaux à la place du Dr David Williams étaient une source de confusion à leurs yeux. Mme Lysyk juge également que la reconnaissance de la transmission communautaire de la COVID-19 s’est faite en retard, en province. Même si dès le 15 mars, plusieurs médecins hygiénistes régionaux, dont ceux d’Ottawa, de Toronto, de Simcoe Muskoka et de Halton, avaient déjà décelé des cas de COVID-19 qui découlaient d’une transmission communautaire, le Dr Williams a déclaré le 17 mars qu’il attendait de constater des exemples concrets. Malgré les preuves tangibles, le ministère de la Santé et le Dr Williams n’ont reconnu l’existence de la transmission communautaire que le 26 mars. Par ailleurs, la vérificatrice souligne à maintes reprises des soucis de communication chez le médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario. Par exemple, le Dr Williams a émis une note de service plutôt qu’une directive claire aux médecins hygiénistes locaux dans laquelle il recommandait « fortement » d’émettre eux-mêmes des directives pour réduire le risque de propagation du virus chez les travailleurs étrangers dans les fermes. Ce n’est que le 21 juin que cette note de service est parue, soit huit semaines après la première flambée de COVID-19 chez ces travailleurs en milieu agricole. Son contrat prolongé? Le gouvernement Ford, qui tente de prolonger le contrat du Dr Williams - dont la retraite était prévue en février 2021- jusqu’en septembre 2021, se heurte actuellement à l’opposition des différents partis politiques à Queen’s Park. « Est-ce que c’est le Dr Williams qui conseille le gouvernement Ford, ou est-ce le gouvernement Ford qui dicte au Dr Williams les recommandations qu’il doit faire? » Il s’agit là de la question que martèle le NPD depuis plusieurs semaines. Les néo-démocrates et les libéraux déplorent de ne pas avoir été consultés dans la prise de cette décision. Pourtant, le Dr David Williams avait été choisi comme médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario de concert avec tous les partis politiques, en 2016. Dans son rapport, la vérificatrice générale recommande de donner au médecin hygiéniste en chef et à Santé publique Ontario un rôle plus important dans la réponse à la pandémie, y compris le pouvoir de présider les réunions décisionnelles clés et de diriger la surveillance de la santé publique de la province.Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
The response was immediate and huge after Erin Quiroga asked on Facebook if there would be a fundraiser for typhoon victims in the Philippines. Seven Filipinos in Jasper have family members in the Philippines who have been directly affected by Typhoon Rolly, hit the country from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, and Typhoon Ulysses from Nov. 11 to 12. Michael Oregines, media relations officer for the group that organized the fundraiser, said a couple of provinces in the Philippines had been hit hard. "Imagine when the rescuers were in helicopters, trying to find people in low light, and were asking people to shout or turn on their cell phone flash lights," he said. "People were sitting on their roofs, trying to be safe." As soon as notice of a fundraising bottle drive posted on Facebook group Jasper Buy, Sell & Trade, organizers started getting responses from people straight away that they had bottles at businesses and addresses that could be picked up. Clara Adriano led the bottle drive with Kathleen Bautista and Daren De Guzman, treasurer. And the fundraising didn’t stop there. Organizers asked Filipino families to donate $10 apiece per household. But when they went to collect the money, those donations ranged from $10 to $200, and were not only from the Filipinos. "Everybody supports the cause - the full community," Adriano said. Lito and Kathleen Bautista sold homemade Filipino food and money was donated to the fundraiser. Chowie Ismaili, a staff member at the Alpine Summit Seniors Lodge, and her Filipino colleagues donated prizes for a raffle draw with proceeds from the raffle being donated to the fundraising effort. Rodelita Rabago is also donating 100 per cent of her profits from selling breads and pastries from a bakery in Edmonton. Frank Marcojos, group leader of the Tim Hortons Jasper Family, collected a total of $1,100 within the group. Adriano said Marcojos' family was helped by a Filipino fundraiser in 2013. "He said that he will always be thankful for that," Adriano noted. "And this is the reason why we do what we do. His message keeps us motivated." So far, the group has raised $8,035: $2,100 from the bottle drive and $5,935 from monetary donations, the raffle, food sales and bread sales. The group will continue to raise funds into the first week of December. Some of the money raised will go to the local families whose family members in the Philippines were affected by the typhoons. The rest will go to organizers in the Philippines to provide clean water, food, blankets, and personal hygiene items. "There are many who lost their homes," Oregines said, "so they need basic essentials." Once a connection has been set up between Jasper and organizers in the Philippines, the community will be updated about how the donations were applied. "We're emotional about the support," Adriano said. "This is how the Filipinos have been every time there has been a typhoon in the Philippines. We just come together. "It's the same with our beautiful town and all the Jasperites. "We are truly thankful for the trust and support that our small community has given to us. Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude and joy."Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
The Sexsmith Wellness Coalition is seeking space for its programming in early 2021, with council granting the coalition up to $7,000 to rent a facility. The space is needed for January to April and council granted the amount during its regular meeting last week. “Due to COVID, we can’t access the buildings we would normally be renting,” said Melody Sample, Sexsmith wellness co-ordinator. “We are on the hunt for a larger space to run our programs out of.” According to Sexsmith administration, at council’s Nov. 2 meeting council granted the coalition $6,800 to rent the former hardware store on 100th Ave. The plan to use that location fell through when the space was rented out to another party, according to administration. At last week’s meeting Coun. Clint Froehlick’s motion to add up to $7,000 to the coalition’s budget for a rental was carried unopposed. The previous $6,800 was rescinded. Sample is based in the town office but programming takes place in a variety of locations, including school gyms which are now closed to the public, she said. The coalition used the Peace River Bible Institute gym for pre-kindergarten playtime, St. Mary’s School for family gym nights and Robert W. Zahara School’s gym for pickleball, she said. The civic centre and community centre are also occasional venues, but some of the rooms aren’t set up for events like pickleball, Sample added. The coalition currently uses the civic centre for its few programs still operating, namely the seniors community kitchen and upcoming food and nutrition workshops, she said. Provincial restrictions and exercise classes wouldn’t prevent pickleball from restarting with sufficient space, she said. She said larger space in the civic centre is rented out, with the Sexsmith Tumbling Club having a home there. To observe physical distancing requirements the coalition needs space as large as a typical school gym, she said. Sample said the coalition is eyeing a few potential locations in town but couldn’t comment on which ones. A challenge is spaces available for rent are limited, with some already being rented and others not large enough, she said. After April, Sample said she envisions more outdoor programming. She also plans for some outdoor programming like a snowshoe group in December and January, she said. At this point, Sample said the coalition isn’t looking for permanent new space, although it’s possible a location secured for 2021 could become a regular venue. “We’re keeping in mind long-term solutions,” she said.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
LONDON — The Duchess of Sussex has revealed that she had a miscarriage in July, giving a personal account of the traumatic experience in hope of helping others.Meghan described the miscarriage in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday, writing that “I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.”The former Meghan Markle and husband Prince Harry have an 18-month-old son, Archie.The duchess, 39, said she was sharing her story to help break the silence around an all-too-common tragedy. Britain's National Health Service says about one in eight pregnancies in which a woman is aware she is pregnant ends in miscarriage.“Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few,” Meghan wrote. “In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing.”In a startlingly intimate account of her experience, the duchess described how tragedy struck on a “morning that began as ordinarily as any other day: Make breakfast. Feed the dogs. Take vitamins. Find that missing sock. Pick up the rogue crayon that rolled under the table. Throw my hair in a ponytail before getting my son from his crib."“After changing his diaper, I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right.”Later, she said, she “lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.”Buckingham Palace said it was “a deeply personal matter we would not comment on.”Sophie King, a midwife at U.K. child-loss charity Tommy’s, said miscarriage and stillbirth remained “a real taboo in society, so mothers like Meghan sharing their stories is a vital step in breaking down that stigma and shame.”“Her honesty and openness today send a powerful message to anyone who loses a baby: this may feel incredibly lonely, but you are not alone,” King said.Meghan, an American actress and star of TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son was born the following year.Early this year, the couple announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said was the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California.The duchess is currently suing the publisher of Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper for invasion of privacy over articles that published parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father after her wedding.Last month, a judge in London agreed to Meghan's request to postpone the trial from January until fall 2021. The decision followed a hearing held in private, and the judge said the reason for the delay request should be kept confidential.Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
The Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association is a not-for-profit registered charity that provides therapeutic riding lessons to children and adults with diverse abilities, while also working with at-risk youth. The association is one of five organizations being helped this year by the KTW Christmas Cheer Fund. The association works with riders from throughout the Thompson-Nicola region, with some riders coming as far as from Lillooet to participate. As a social enterprise, the association also provides a community riding program for Kamloopsians interested in getting on a horse. In a normal year, there would be between 80 and 100 participants per session, with a 12-week session in the spring and an eight-week session in the fall. But 2020 has not been a normal year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We were unable to do our 12-week spring session, so we did a small summer session for independent riders only,” said Ashley Sudds, executive director of the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association. But that meant numbers dropped to about 30 participants. The organization tried to offer a longer session in the fall — once again for independent riders — with a bit more success, managing close to 50 riders for those sessions. With lower numbers, and some of the horses nearing retirement, the therapy horse herd was downsized a bit. Sudds is hopeful the KTW Christmas Cheer Fund money can help improve the situation for the association in 2021, saying funds can go toward sponsoring a horse or perhaps sponsoring a rider or two who might have aged out of financial support for the program. but would still like to continue with it. The riding programs are tailored for each individual according to their diagnosis and the association is able to work with a variety of different individuals, including those who are in wheelchairs. “We have an electric lift,” Sudds said. “It can lift them out of their wheelchair.” Information on volunteering with the association, as well as rider information and information on the Parent A Horse program can be found on their website at www.ktra.ca People can also take a virtual tour of the facility online and get a chance to see what the location is all about. It’s also where people can go to find out how to support the group directly or to find out more about volunteering. For more information on the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association, go online to ktra.ca.Todd Sullivan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La province de l’Ontario a été plus lente et plus réactive que les autres provinces ainsi que plusieurs autres administrations internationales dans son déploiement de mesures pour lutter contre la COVID-19. Après avoir vivement critiqué l’inaction du gouvernement Ford en environnement, dans son rapport la semaine dernière, la vérificatrice générale de l’Ontario Bonnie Lysyk est de retour cette semaine avec un nouveau rapport tout aussi accablant portant cette fois-ci sur les mesures prises par l’Ontario pour lutter contre la COVID-19. La vérificatrice constate notamment dans son rapport que le gouvernement Ford a mis de côté, au début de la pandémie, la structure qui avait déjà été établie pour intervenir durant un état d’urgence. Il a plutôt élaboré une toute nouvelle structure pendant l’urgence sanitaire, engendrant l’embauche d’un consultant externe, le 25 mars, au coût de 1,6 millions $. À LIRE AUSSI : Le Dr David Williams sous la loupe de la vérificatrice générale La ministre de la Santé de l'Ontario contredit la vérificatrice générale Une somme supplémentaire de 3,2 millions $ a été versée à ce même consultant pour aider à la planification de la reprise économique et à la stratégie de réouverture des écoles. Ces coûts seraient supérieurs aux standards de l’industrie, note la vérificatrice. Ainsi, ce n’est que près d’un mois après avoir déclaré l’état d’urgence sanitaire que le gouvernement a commencé à mettre en œuvre sa stratégie de situation d’urgence. Effectivement, « en raison du changement de leadership au Centre provincial des opérations d’urgence (GSUO), des plans d’urgence désuets et du manque de personnel, la province n’était pas en mesure d’activer la structure d’intervention de son plan d’intervention d’urgence lorsqu’elle a déclaré l’état d’urgence le 17 mars 2020. » Mme Lysyk souligne que la mise en place d’une différente approche pangouvernementale a pris du temps, et la table centrale de coordination qui a été créée a tenu sa première réunion près d’un mois après le début de l’urgence, soit le 11 avril 2020. Un autre constat accablant de la vérificatrice: la structure d’intervention de l’Ontario face à la COVID-19 comprenait un Groupe de commandement pour le secteur de la santé qui s’est complexifié pendant la pandémie et dont la composition est passée de 21 à 83 participants en août. Pendant des mois, toutes les communications de ce groupe se faisaient par téléphone, ce qui créait de la confusion, note la vérificatrice. Ce n’est que le 14 juillet que des réunions ont débuté par vidéoconférence. Ces réunions n’ont pas eu lieu en personne, souligne Mme Lysyk, et il n’existe aucune documentation complète sur les discussions tenues. Au total, plus de 500 personnes s’investissent actuellement dans le Groupe de commandement pour le secteur de la santé. Par ailleurs, la vérificatrice indique dans son rapport que le ministère du Solliciteur général n’a pas mis à jour régulièrement ses plans d’intervention d’urgence, et n’a pas corrigé les lacunes des systèmes d’informations sur la santé publique. Il s’agissait pourtant de recommandations formulées par le Bureau du vérificateur général au fil des dernières années. « Cela a eu des répercussions négatives sur le travail des bureaux de santé publique pendant la COVID-19. » Quand la vérificatrice avait terminé ses travaux, le GSUO n’avait toujours pas planifié ni collaboré avec les municipalités en prévision des futures vagues de la pandémie. L’Ontario n’a rien appris du SRAS Les importantes leçons tirées de l’épidémie du syndrome respiratoire aigu sévère (SRAS) en 2003 n’ont pas été suivies pendant l’intervention de la province au moment où la COVID-19 a frappé l’Ontario, selon les découvertes de la vérificatrice. Ces leçons n’ont pas non plus été suivies pendant l’intervention de la province en réponse au coronavirus. Parmi les exemples rapportés par Mme Lysyk, le rapport final de la Commission du SRAS soulignait que le principe de précaution, qui consiste à prendre des mesures préventives pour protéger la santé du public même en l’absence d’informations complètes et de certitude scientifique, était la leçon la plus importante du SRAS. Selon la vérificatrice, si le gouvernement avait respecté ces conclusions, il aurait pris rapidement des mesures « énergiques et éclairées ». « Ce n’est pas ce que nous avons constaté dans notre travail d’audit, nous avons plutôt relevé des retards, des conflits et de la confusion dans la prise de décisions. » Les changements dans la gestion et le fonctionnement des bureaux de santé publique ont causé des incohérences partout en Ontario, soutient Mme Lysyk, selon qui la santé publique dans d’autres administrations comme la Colombie-Britannique, l’Alberta et le Québec est plus simplement organisée. « La réforme de santé publique recommandée il y a environ 15 ans par la Commission du SRAS n’avait pas été pleinement mise en œuvre. Au moment d’écrire ces lignes, les 34 bureaux de santé publique de l’Ontario continuaient de fonctionner de manière indépendante et, souvent, ils n’échangeaient toujours pas leurs pratiques exemplaires », peut-on lire dans le rapport. La vérificatrice générale Bonnie Lysyk publiera bientôt un deuxième rapport spécial sur les dépenses en santé liées à la COVID-19, sur l’équipement de protection individuelle et sur les soins de longue durée.Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
TORONTO — A judge accused of lying about his involvement in a Black activist organization will face a disciplinary hearing starting next month, the Ontario Judicial Council has announced.The four-person panel will delve into whether Judge Donald McLeod committed perjury at a previous misconduct hearing into his involvement with the Federation of Black Canadians. McLeod was cleared in the earlier process and denies the current unproven allegations.If the complaints are proven, the panel could impose punishment up to suspension with or without pay. It could also recommend to the attorney general that McLeod be forced from the Ontario court bench.In its notice of hearing filed earlier this year, the council alleges the judge behaved in a manner "incompatible with the due execution of the duties of his office."The earlier hearing focused on McLeod's involvement with the non-profit federation, which advocates on legal and policy issues affecting the community. Key was his role in the group's advocacy related to a Somali child refugee, Abdoulkader Abdi.In December 2018, the panel dismissed the complaint based on an agreed statement of facts and McLeod's evidence that he was no longer involved in Abdi advocacy. That wasn't true, the new complaint alleges.Among other things, McLeod is alleged to have either arranged or taken part in a meeting with then-refugee minister, Ahmed Hussen, on the federation's behalf. "Contrary to his evidence at the hearing, Justice McLeod was involved in (the federation's) efforts in this regard," the hearing notice states. "In light of the above, His Honour committed perjury and/or misled the hearing panel regarding his involvement in the Abdi case."Similarly, the notice alleges the judge resumed his leadership role during which time the federation sought funding from government and met various officials.It also says he spoke at a political summit in Ottawa in February 2019. At one point, a security guard ordered a group of Black attendees to leave the Parliament Hill cafeteria in an allegedly racist incident.McLeod, according to the notice, counselled two witnesses against speaking out about the incident which, the complaint asserts, amounted to giving legal advice or using his position to influence them.Overall, the complaint alleges, McLeod's conduct could undermine public confidence in the judiciary.In his response, the judge maintains his meeting with Hussen in January 2018 was not about Abdi. He also states the allegations are based on claims from people who did not directly witnesses the various events."The evidence will show Justice McLeod did not commit perjury or intentionally mislead the 2018 hearing panel," his response states. "(He did not) engage in impermissible advocacy or lobbying, or attempt to pressure or intimidate two youth delegates."McLeod says the earlier panel recognized that racialized judges "legitimately feel and act upon a moral obligation to serve as leaders and role models" in their communities.His return to the federation in a "limited capacity" was in line with the panel's decision and his advice to the youth delegates about the cafeteria incident was based on his personal experience as a Black man, he says. "The choice not to investigate this matter thoroughly led to a notice of hearing that contains unnecessary allegations," his response states.The hearing panel will comprise an Appeal Court and a Superior Court justice, a lawyer and a community member. The virtual hearing, scheduled for 20 days over three weeks, is set to begin Dec. 7 and will be open to the public.Several groups of Black Canadians have called for the misconduct charges to be dropped.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter After several housekeeping items from Mayor Al Strathdee, he gave the floor to Town Treasurer Andre Morin, who began his presentation by introducing Denice Williamson, the new Deputy Treasurer for the Town of St. Marys. Williamson began her new role with the Town back on November 9th of this year and she was invited to sit in and watch the special meeting of the Council to get a feel for how the budget deliberations work and get introduced directly to members of Council themselves. Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer then gave a formal introduction to the 2021 budget deliberations. He noted that this year's budget deliberation is the first as part of the new budget schedule. Council has had more opportunities to discuss high-level aspects of the budget earlier than in previous years, which Kittmer noted has helped Town staff be better positioned to present a better version of the draft budget to Council. At the direction of Council, Town staff are using the remaining funds received by the Safe Restart program to help offset some of the increased costs, so there is less burden on the Town and its residents and businesses. An interesting comment made by the CAO, concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was the acknowledgment that the Town must find things for residents to do as pandemic fatigue continues to settle in, but that can be done safely and with proper safety measures in place. Additionally, according to Kittmer, the draft budget presented was the "worst-case scenario," meaning the Town is working under the assumption that the community will remain in some level of the pandemic state for the duration of 2021. The reason for this consideration going into the budget deliberations is so that Council can ensure it has what it needs if that worst-case scenario of remaining in some form of lockdown for the entirety of 2021 is realized.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
As controversial as he was talented, Maradona is a gigantic loss for the beautiful game. View on euronews
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
This holiday season, The Station Belleville is getting into the festive spirit and is hoping to bring joy to families of the Belleville community. Located in the Bayview Mall, the Station is a cultural, recreational and educational centre for children from the ages of 6-14 that offers classes, after-school programs and private events. Described as a kids’ clubhouse for boys and girls to keep their minds and bodies active, The Station Belleville is encouraging families to take part in fun activities at the Station or to drop their kids off while they do holiday shopping. With his experience in the health care sector and understanding the restrictions and regulations put in place by COVID-19, owner Joe Tambasco assures residents that COVID-19 measurements are in place to ensure the safety of all staff, families and children visiting the centre. Visitors will have their temperature taken by a wall-mounted thermometer, questioned about potential symptoms, interactions or increased risk of COVID-19 and will be asked to use the provided hand sanitizer. Children are mandated to wear a mask while at The Station and hand sanitizing stations have set up throughout the facility. The QBOT gift cards make an excellent holiday gift and are good for 1 admission into the Quinte Belleville Obstacle Training (QBOT) area. The QBOT gift cards are easy to register online with the number on the back of the card, and kids can coordinate with their friends to schedule times to go together. QBOT Gift Cards are now available for purchase at The Station Belleville. Gift cards are $15 plus tax and are a great gift for children and their friends this holiday season. “It may be getting cold outside but everyone inside The Station is burning up with excitement from the activities we have to offer,” added Tambasco. The Station is available for booking online and will enforce COVID-19 policies and asks that residents showing any symptoms do not visit The Station. Residents looking for more information about The Station, programs, fees, waiver and booking times can visit thestationbelleville.com NoneVirginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
The Northern B.C. Crisis Centre could use some help when it comes to helping others. In the time since the novel coronavirus pandemic took hold, the centre has seen a 25-per-cent increase in calls to its phone lines from people feeling anxious, depressed and suicidal. The jump has translated into about 600 calls per month from people in the Northern Health region plus a further 400-500 calls per month the centre fields from the national suicide prevention line. "Things really ticked up in March and they haven't really stopped. We've been very busy," Sandra Boulianne, the centre's executive director, said. She said there have been similar upticks in the past, such as during the two major wildfire seasons, but nothing as sustained as this. Adding to the trouble, Boulianne said the centre is short-staffed. The centre works on a hybrid model with trained volunteers taking calls during the days and evenings and paid staff working the overnight shift. The roster of volunteers has waivered between 25 and 30. Ideally, Boulianne said the count should be over 40. As it stands, the centre's call answer rate averages about 70 per cent. "So we're missing 30 per cent of our calls," Boulianne said. "It's not good." Moreover, the volunteers are typically university students looking for some practical experience while pursuing their degrees. While she welcomes them, Boulianne said she would like to have a broader representation of the community not only because they may be able to better relate to some of the callers but they may last longer than the two to three years a student typically does. "Sometimes it feels like we're training people as fast as we're losing people," she said. Retired folks and stay-at-home mothers with some spare time are among the kinds of people Boulianne said she is seeking, adding the centre also has a youth-serving-youth line. Newcomers go through 70 hours of training, delivered online, and once completed, they're asked to put in one four-hour shift per week, either from home or at the centre. "It's difficult work but it's very rewarding," Boullianne said. She added that she joined the centre after earning a social work degree as a mature student at UNBC and had intended to stay for just two years. That was eight years ago. "I can honestly say I've fallen in love with the work," Boullianne said. "I love the authenticity of people when they're calling anonymously and confidentially and I love the skills that we use to help people open up." On the bright side, the centre was one of 10 across B.C. to receive a $10,000 from Pacific Blue Cross. Boulianne said it has made a difference to the non-profit which relies largely on funding from Northern Health and the United Way of Northern B.C. "We're very, very grateful," she said. Pacific Blue Cross provided the funding after a survey indicated two-thirds of British Columbians predict their mental health will deteriorate in the coming months. "We know that those who engage early support through crisis lines, are less likely to require acute care later," said Jim Iker, Chair of the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation. "With BC now facing its second wave of the pandemic, supporting our community and our health care system has never been more critical.” Boulianne attributed a significant amount of the jump in calls to people stuck in quarantine or other forms of isolation brought on by the virus. For some, it's also meant they have been unable to access face-to-face counselling in a timely manner and just need someone to talk to while they're waiting. "The beautiful thing about crisis lines is you can talk to somebody right away," Boulianne said. "We are not counsellors because our service is anonymous and we don't have a therapeutic relationship with our callers but we're able to diffuse a situation in the moment." Even if the centre needs more volunteers, Boulianne said those in need of help should still call. "You don't need to be suicidal to call a crisis line," she said. "We take any kind of distress call. If anything is worrying or distressing an individual, we want to be there to support them and so, no issue is too small," she said. "It's really anything, all the way from social isolation and loneliness to suicidal ideation and everything in between." Those interested in volunteering can get more information at crisis-centre.ca. If you need help, call 1-888-562-1214. There is also a suicide prevention line at 1-800-SUICIDE and youth crisis line at 1-888-564-8336. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
During November, best friends and entrepreneurs Kara Anderson and Jewell-Ihea Jensen officially opened the doors to their enchanted beauty studio in downtown Belleville. On Tuesday, November 24th, city councillor Bill Sandison and executive director of the Belleville Downtown District BIA Marijo Cuerrier welcomed the new business at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Located at 1 Bridge St. East, Bewitched Beauty Studio is now open for clients seeking non-surgical beauty treatments and body modifications. This dynamic duo had a goal of opening a salon that makes body contouring services attainable for everyone, with pricing reflecting the attainable vision, and decided that the Downtown District in Belleville was the perfect place to plant their roots. “We choose downtown because it has a strong community of businesses and we feel very passionately about collaboration,” said Anderson. “We hope to work with other businesses downtown to support and promote each other.” After launching the business six months ago from their homes, Jensen and Anderson quickly experienced increasing demand and sought out a larger, professional space better fit for their clients’ needs. “We wanted to create a studio that offered affordable and attainable beauty treatments for all,” explained Jensen. “We knew there was a gap in the market for these types of treatments being accessible to a wider group of women, so it was important to us to make these enhancements accessible for women to feel good.” Anderson and Jensen are independent young women with a passion for helping other women love themselves, and are committed to continuing to expand their range of knowledge in the aesthetics field. The two entrepreneurs strive for professionalism and excellent customer service, offering an array of services including body contouring, teeth whitening, eyelash extensions, and jade healing treatments and facials. The studio performs non-surgical body modifications such as skin tightening, fat reduction, micro-blading, spray tan and butt lifting. Residents interested in learning more about Bewitched Beauty Studio can visit bewitchedbeautystudio.ca for more information about their services.Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Following Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer's overall summary of the draft budget and some of its key elements, it was Town Treasurer Andre Morin's turn to speak more specifically on the high-level aspects of the 2021 draft capital budget. It is important to note that this is still a draft budget, meaning the budget is not finalized yet. With that in mind, this will give you a glimpse at how the 2021 budget is beginning to take shape. Morin began his presentation by noting that it's expected that revenues across the board will be down in 2021, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. These revenues that are expected to decrease include the largest, fees and charges, as well as ice rentals, rents and leases, and sales. Morin also pointed out that the carry-over from the 2020 Safe Restart funding the Town has yet to spend is about $250,000, which will help cover the extra costs and lost revenues. The draft capital budget also reflects several increases in expenses for the Town. The first that Morin touched on was an increased investment in the community safety and policing plan, as well as parks patrol. The expense increase for those areas is approximately $45,000. Most of the other increases proposed in the budget are spread over other departments within the municipality and are fairly standard and routine. The Town is seeing an increase in debenture payments in 2021, but not as large of an increase as they likely expected. The net increase of about $68,000 is largely due to an increase in debenture payments related to the fire hall, but there is also a debenture payment related to wastewater services that is coming off the books. The materials and services line of the budget did reflect a large increase of $140,000, however, that is largely due to its reflection of additional costs brought on by the pandemic. Lastly, an increase in salary and wages is also included in the budget, and the Council asked Town staff to report back later on the implications of a 1.5 percent increase in salary and wages. Morin then touched on the tax increase for St. Marys residents, which, thanks in no small part to the Town's handling of the pandemic, is not going to be as substantial as other municipalities. The net tax levy, according to Morin, will result in the average St. Marys resident paying approximately 0.82 percent more in taxes. Morin also said that the Town is projecting a 0.97 percent increase for the average municipal dwelling, as well as increases of between 2-2.5 percent for water and wastewater services. No increase is predicted for garbage and recycling wheelie bin services.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Prince Edward Island has one new case of COVID-19 and three potential exposure sites in Charlottetown.Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison made the announcement Wednesday during an unscheduled COVID-19 briefing.The case is a woman in her 20s who travelled to P.E.I. from within Atlantic Canada recently. She is experiencing mild symptoms and is self-isolating at home, Morrison said.Contact tracing is underway. So far, close contacts of the woman who have been tested have all received negative results. Visited grocery store, 2 restaurants Morrison said anyone who was at the Atlantic Superstore at 465 University Ave. in Charlottetown on Monday between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. should monitor themselves closely for symptoms and get tested if any develop.Other possible exposure sites include the Terra Rossa restaurant Saturday between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and the Gahan House between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. the same night. People patronizing those restaurants should also monitor for symptoms.> I don't think this is cause for alarm. — Dr. Heather MorrisonThe Gahan House quickly posted a message on its Facebook page about the exposure: "We have shared our contact tracing list with the CPHO and they are reaching out to all guests that need to be tested."As per the recommendation of the CPHO, all front of house team members who worked during those hours have been asked to self-isolate and are being tested."Heightened cleaning and sanitation measures are taking place throughout the restaurant above and beyond our regular increased cleaning and sanitizing protocols. In consultation with public health, we have been assured that no further action is needed at this time."Bill Pratt, CEO of Chef Inspired group of restaurants, which operates Terra Rossa, said in an email to CBC News that he had spoken with Morrison "multiple times" on Wednesday."All of our staff have gone for testing and will continue to follow directions from the health board," he added. CBC News has also reached out to managers at the Atlantic Superstore for comment. More new cases wouldn't be a surpriseMorrison said the new case is not surprising, and more cases should not be unexpected."I don't think this is cause for alarm," she said. "It's really a reminder for Islanders to continue doing what we need to do."Morrison reiterated that anyone who was at a bar or restaurant in Halifax after 10 p.m. in the last few weeks should get tested.On Monday, P.E.I. announced it would be leaving the Atlantic bubble due to a rise in cases in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.Testing hours to be expandedLineups for COVID-19 test procedures have been getting longer recently; at 4 p.m. Wednesday, dozens of vehicles were lined up at the drive-thru testing facility in Charlottetown.To cope with the demand, Morrison said Health PEI will be expanding testing hours across the province. Clinics at Slemon Park and Charlottetown will be open until 8 p.m.As well, a news release issued after the briefing said Islanders wanting tests "now have the option of booking their appointment online and receiving a scheduled test in Slemon Park in Summerside or at the Charlottetown testing clinic on Park Street." The release quoted Health PEI chief of nursing Marion Dowling as saying people using this option must wait for the COVID clinics to call or email them back with a specific appointment time. On Tuesday, Morrison urged people to cancel plans to travel over Christmas, warning that the rise in new cases in the other two Maritime provinces would likely mean more infections here as well. P.E.I. now has two known active case of COVID-19, out of the 70 diagnosed since the pandemic began. More from CBC P.E.I.
The 2020 Canadian Championship final between Forge FC and Toronto FC will be played in the first quarter of 2021, Canada Soccer announced Wednesday. The organization said in a release the final has been moved due to restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A date and location for the game have yet to be determined.Hamilton-based Forge FC qualified for the final by finishing first at the Canadian Premier League’s Island Games in Charlottetown. Toronto FC qualified after finishing first among three Canadian teams in the first phase of Major League Soccer’s revised schedule. The seven-time champions have reached the Canadian final in five consecutive years.The game will mark the first meeting between the Ontario-based clubs.The winner of the match will earn a spot in the next CONCACAF Champions League. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.The Canadian Press
Crowsnest Pass councillors engaged in a lengthy discussion concerning rent rates for municipal facilities during the Nov. 17 council meeting. In 2018, a standard annual fee for renting the MDM Community Centre was set for all new and existing leases. That rate was set for $6.61 per square foot for 2020. In order to level the playing field throughout the municipality, council determined during its Jan. 14, 2020 governance and priorities committee meeting to apply the $6.61 rate as an annual fee to all organizations renting municipal facilities. Administration was directed to contact each affected group before standardizing the rates, and a five-year time frame for groups to work up to the $6.61 rate was established. Mayor Blair Painter brought the issue back for council’s discussion after the Crowsnest Pass Pistol Club contacted him with concerns over the expected increase to its rental rates for the Elks Hall in Blairmore. The club is currently negotiating a new lease with the municipality. The club’s rental rate was set at $1.70 per square foot for 2017, 2018 and 2019. To reach the standard $6.61 rate within the established time frame, the pistol club would be required to increase its annual rate payment by $1,800 a year to an annual rental fee that would amount to about $13,000. “I think it was our intention that we all agreed that we needed to come up with an even playing field for everybody, but I don’t think we need to go to today’s standard commercial rates for renting in the Crowsnest Pass,” Mayor Painter said. “These are not groups that are commercial. They’re not selling goods, they’re not making a profit.” Expecting the pistol club to reach the standardized rate within five years was unreasonable, he continued, and would put additional stress on the club’s finances since it wasn't able to collect any revenue from its annual guns show. Though the club’s reserves will cover costs this year, long-term operations with the increased rent would require doubling its $100 membership fee. Not all of council, however, was overly concerned with the prospect of pistol club members facing increased dues. “In order for my children to play hockey, I pay $400 a child to use the facility in the municipality that is subsidized by the taxpayer,” Coun. Lisa Sygutek said. “It’s not really fair for kids’ families to be paying $400 to play a sport and then a group of adult people paying $100. I have a bit of a problem with that.” She suggested the pistol club could take a page out of the minor hockey association’s play book and apply for casino shifts or fundraise in other ways. Expecting the club to jump from about $3,000 a year in rent to $13,000, she continued, was also an issue. “I also have a problem with the fact that we’re going to throw it down and say you gotta pay $13,000. That’s a big number,” she said. As such, Coun. Sygutek said the pistol club could come before council to ask for assistance in addition to whatever fundraising efforts it secured on its own. Such an arrangement, said manager of community services Trent Smith, had always been part of the intention behind the rental rate, and the five-year time frame was meant to be a flexible target to aim for. “Administration in no means was trying to shove a five-year lease down their throat,” he said. “If they needed to come to council and ask for 10 years, we would happily sit down and ask council and decide that.” As part of those discussions, Mr. Smith continued, the topic of fundraising was brought up, as well as looking at what financial options other small-town gun clubs pursued. “At no time was administration saying, ‘Hey, you must.’ We were saying, ‘Hey, if this doesn't work, we’ll come back and talk to council. And then communication went dead,” said Mr. Smith. Though certainly a jump from the pistol club’s $1.70 rate, Coun. Dean Ward said the $6.61 amount was agreed upon earlier in the year by council because about half of the community groups were paying rental fees near $6 a square foot. The pistol group’s rent, he added, had also been largely unchanged for close to 20 years. “If we cut these rates, we’re going to have to come up with $30,000 from somewhere else,” said Coun. Ward. “I have no problem phasing somebody in over time, but these groups are all earning, they’re all begging for money, they’re all working hard … selling vegetables, selling chocolates, to pay their bills. “It’s a sad situation when nine groups are paying one rate and one group is paying 20 per cent of that rate.” Beyond the pistol club’s concerns, Coun. Dave Filipuzzi expressed concern that the current rent arrangement would add financial strain to community groups already grappling with fallout from the pandemic. “If we continue to stress these groups out, we won’t have them. I think it’s fairly important we find a way to solve this problem; it’s good to accommodate these groups to stay a part of our community and be part of our community. I don’t want to lose these groups, any one of them,” he said. Expecting every group to conform to one amount, added Coun. Doreen Glavin, was also unfair. “Different groups have different resources in order for them to run and operate, and it isn't fair to say we’re going to standardize,” she said. “I think it comes down to what each group ... has for resources themselves in order to operate or pay for leases.” Backtracking on the $6.61 rate to accommodate groups, Coun. Sygutek responded, was the right way to respond. “We accepted that, we agreed with it. We can’t go back now and say, ‘Hey, you know, we made a mistake,’ and go to every one of those groups and lower their rent. I don’t think that’s an option,” said Coun. Sygutek. “But I do think it’s an option for them to come to us and ask for funding help.” Council eventually accepted two motions: the first directed administration to reach out to the Crowsnest Pass Pistol Club and see what options could be arranged for the $6.61 rate to be eventually met, and the second directed administration to notify the other nine groups paying the rate to approach council for assistance if they are facing financial hardships. The second motion, said Coun. Marlene Anctil, was especially important. “There are a lot of groups that we don’t know the positions they’re in right now who are struggling, so let’s notify every group and see what comes back to us,” she said.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze