Extreme winter weather in Texas has delayed delivery of gasoline to some fuel stations in northern Texas, leaving drivers to scramble.
Extreme winter weather in Texas has delayed delivery of gasoline to some fuel stations in northern Texas, leaving drivers to scramble.
WASHINGTON — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm won Senate confirmation Thursday to be energy secretary, joining President Joe Biden's Cabinet as a leader of Biden’s effort to build a green economy as the United States moves to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with all Democrats and 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm, 62, served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. She has promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from oil, coal and other fossil fuels. Granholm, who was sworn in late Thursday, is just the second woman to serve as energy secretary. She tweeted her thanks to senators and said, "I’m obsessed with creating good-paying clean energy jobs in all corners of America in service of addressing our climate crisis. I’m impatient for results. Now let’s get to work!'' Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Granholm has the leadership skills, vision and compassion needed at the Energy Department to “develop innovative solutions for the climate challenge'' while preserving jobs. Granholm is committed to working every day “to ensure that we don’t leave any workers behind as we move towards a cleaner energy future,'' said Manchin, D-W.Va. During her confirmation hearing last month, Granholm pushed her plans to embrace new wind and solar technologies. But her position caused tension with some Republicans who fear for the future of fossil fuels. “We can buy electric car batteries from Asia, or we can make them in America,” Granholm told senators. “We can install wind turbines from Denmark, or we can make them in America.'' Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, said Biden “seems to want to pull the plug on American energy dominance. So I cannot in good conscience vote to approve his nominee for secretary of energy.'' Barrasso and other Republicans have complained that a freeze imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands is taking a “sledgehammer” to Western states’ economies. The moratorium could cost tens of thousands of jobs unless rescinded, Barrasso said. He and other Republicans also bemoaned Biden’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, saying thousands of jobs will be lost and a friendly source of oil left idle. Granholm assured lawmakers that creating jobs was her top priority — and Biden's. “We cannot leave our people behind. In West Virginia, and in other fossil fuel states, there is an opportunity for us to specialize in the technologies that reduce carbon emissions, to make those technologies here, to put people to work here, and to look at other ways to diversify,'' she said at her Jan. 27 hearing. During her introduction as Biden's nominee, Granholm described arriving in the U.S. at age 4, brought from Canada by a family “seeking opportunity.” She said her father found work as a bank teller and retired as head of the bank. “It’s because of my family’s journey and my experience in fighting for hardworking Michigan families that I have become obsessed ... with gaining good-paying jobs in America in a global economy,” she said. In other action Thursday on Biden's Cabinet nominees: SURGEON GENERAL Surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Americans must not lose track of opioid addiction and other health emergencies amid the intense national focus on overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. He told senators at a hearing that “we cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness and racial and geographic health inequities.” After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have risen again, the result of street formulations laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Murthy told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the overdose rescue drug naloxone should be even more widely available and that medication-assisted treatment must be expanded. Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, has drawn opposition from gun rights groups because of his assessment that gun violence is a public health problem. But he tried to dispel notions that he would launch a crusade against guns. He told Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., that while he supports government studying the problem, “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.” TRADE REPRESENTATIVE Biden’s pick for U.S. trade representative promised to work with America’s allies to combat China’s aggressive trade policies, indicating a break from the Trump administration’s go-it-alone approach. Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that rebuilding international alliances would be a priority, as well as "reengaging with international institutions? to present Beijing with “a united front of U.S. allies.? Tai did not address whether the Biden administration would drop former President Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or whether it would revive the Obama administration's Asia-Pacific trade deal, which Trump killed. BUDGET DIRECTOR Another key Republican lawmaker came out against Biden’s embattled pick to head the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, raising further questions about her viability. Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters he won't support her nomination. He and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski were two Republicans seen as potentially gettable votes for the White House, as Grassley had previously said he’d had good conversations with Tanden. Murkowski has yet to say how she'd vote. With a handful of other key centrist Republicans coming out against her in recent days, Tanden’s path to confirmation hinges largely on Murkowski and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., neither of whom have made their positions known. The White House was forced to search for a Republican to support Tanden after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition last week. Lawmakers have largely cited Tanden’s controversial and at times harshly critical tweets about members of both parties in explaining their opposition to her. ___ Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
Wheatland County voted not to support the draft of a regional planning document that, if adopted, could shape development across 10 municipalities in the Calgary region into the future. The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) was established by regulation passed by the NDP-led provincial government in 2017 to promote the long-term sustainability of the region around Calgary. It is composed of 10 member municipalities, including Strathmore and (a portion of) Wheatland County. A requirement of the CMRB is the creation of a regional planning document to establish overarching planning strategies for the region, relating to such things as land use, infrastructure investment and service delivery. This document, called the CMRB Growth and Servicing Plan, is due to be submitted to the province by March 1. While a draft growth and servicing plan has been developed by an external consultant, HDR Calthorpe, a planning consulting firm, it has not yet been finalized. As such, the CMRB is requesting an extension of this deadline to June 1, but it has not yet publicly received a response from the province. HDR Calthorpe has been presenting an overview of the draft CMRB Growth and Servicing Plan to member municipalities. This plan was presented to Strathmore town council during its Feb. 10 committee of the whole meeting and to Wheatland County council during its Feb. 16 regular meeting. Following the Feb. 16 presentation, Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link raised several questions about the impacts of the proposed CMRB Growth and Servicing Plan on Wheatland County. An aspect of the draft regional growth plan could affect Wheatland County as it prohibits employment areas from rural areas, outside of hamlets and “joint planning areas” (of which there are three: between Calgary and Chestermere, Calgary and Airdrie, and Okotoks and High River). The plan thus aspires to shut down rural growth and mandate that most of the growth in the Calgary metropolitan region be directed into urban municipalities, said Link. “This entire plan is built on a basic premise that specific types of development are only appropriate in certain municipalities, and that’s really being delineated by virtue of whether a municipality is considered urban or rural – and that doesn’t capture the reality of Alberta,” said Link. “Our rural neighbours in the CMRB have demonstrated that effective, sustainable and efficient servicing can happen for industrial or commercial developments outside of urban centres.” With challenges in the oil and gas sector, Wheatland County has seen significant reductions to its linear tax assessment revenue. In response, its council has been looking to attract investment, diversify and maintain the sustainability of the municipality, said Link. But this new restriction could hinder long-term investment attraction. “This growth plan certainly constrains, if not completely sterilizes, our ability to (attract investment).” The CMRB draft growth and servicing plan honours existing area structure plans (ASP), planning documents for major developments (e.g. residential communities, industrial parks), passed by member municipalities. But if significant amendments to an ASP are required, approval from the CMRB will be required. Under the CMRB regulation, if a decision is to be made by a vote, it must be supported by at least two thirds of the representatives from member municipalities with at least two thirds of the population in the Calgary metropolitan region. As Calgary accounts for about 90 per cent of the Calgary metropolitan region’s total population, this essentially gives the City of Calgary veto power. This voting structure of the CMRB, together with the growth plan, will move decisions away from local democratic governments to a model where one municipality exercises authority over all others, said Link. “That voting structure is essentially based on the notion that authority is given due to the population of that certain municipality, and ignores the responsibility we as rural municipalities have for stewarding large masses of land and our local communities.” This dynamic could affect Wheatland County directly, which has an approved ASP for its West Highway 1 industrial park which currently requires developers to provide self-servicing for wastewater and stormwater. But as the county is considering providing servicing to the area, this would likely constitute a significant change, requiring CMRB approval, and may not be seen as aligned with the new plan. “I don’t think anybody could have anticipated that our local autonomy would be stripped, and another municipality would be making the decisions on those amendments,” said Link. Link also questioned whether public engagement for the growth and servicing plan was sufficient. “The public was only asked to comment on high-level concepts,” she said. “They were never given the opportunity to comment on policy that would give them an understanding of how the plan would impact them.” There was little to no participation by Wheatland County residents, she added. Later in the meeting, Wheatland County council passed unanimously a multi-part motion to not support the draft regional growth plan, stating it is concerned significant portions of the growth plan have not been submitted as required. “We just don’t feel that we can in good conscience support the growth plan as it stands with the impacts of the policy that it contains,” said Link. “It is potentially extremely detrimental to economic growth in Alberta.” The contract between CMRB and HDR Calthorpe stipulates the submission of the regional growth plan, as well as a regional servicing plan and a regional evaluation framework, the motion states. But Wheatland County is “greatly concerned” none of this work has been “satisfactorily completed,” despite the county contributing over $165,000 worth of staff and elected officials’ time over the past 13 months towards the project, it reads. As a result, county council is requesting an analysis of the time and money spent by all member municipalities as contributions toward the work of the consultant for review and discussion at the next CMRB board meeting. An accounting of all project costs to date and project work submitted should also be provided, according to the motion. The final part of the motion states the CMRB board should review the draft submissions while considering the provincial mandate of red tape reduction and other provincial economic strategies. An updated growth and servicing plan will be presented to the CMRB during its next meeting, on Feb. 26. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
La campagne de sociofinancement pour les rénovations du Bar à Pitons bat son plein. En moins d’un mois, plus de 8000 $ ont été amassés, sur un objectif de 30 000 $, afin de permettre l’agrandissement de ce lieu culturel et d’ainsi assurer sa survie. Avec ces rénovations, l’établissement pourra revoir sa capacité d’accueil à la hausse et bonifier son offre d’activités. C’est la Coopérative de Solidarité V.E.R.T.E qui est responsable du bar et qui a mis en place la campagne de sociofinancement appelée Pour l’amour du Bar à Pitons. Selon Christine Rivest-Hénault, coordonnatrice générale de la coopérative, le Bar à Pitons est devenu, au fil des années, un endroit unique pour la scène émergente artistique du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. « La signature du Bar à Pitons, c’est que tout le monde peut être une vedette. Ils peuvent tous venir chanter ou lire leurs textes. On accueille aussi beaucoup de groupes émergents. On a une offre qui, je pense, est importante pour la région culturellement », explique-t-elle, lors d’un entretien téléphonique avec Le Quotidien. Alors que les gestionnaires avaient pris la décision, en février 2020, de concentrer leurs activités sur le Bar à Pitons et de fermer l’auberge, ils ont été frappés de plein fouet par la pandémie. Le bar a dû fermer ses portes tout l’hiver, avant de rouvrir quelques mois à l’été. La terrasse extérieure a permis la tenue de certaines activités. Cet automne, la coopérative a dû faire face à la réalité. Les normes sanitaires ne permettent pas au bar d’ouvrir ses portes à l’hiver. Les gestionnaires devaient donc décider de le laisser fermé tout l’hiver ou d’amorcer des rénovations qui permettraient au lieu d’être adapté aux règles sanitaires. « Ça faisait déjà deux ans que nous pensions à ces rénovations et, comme tout le monde, nous ne savons pas combien de temps nous serons dans cette pandémie. Nous nous sommes donc lancés. Nous savons qu’il y a plein de gens qui nous aiment, qui tiennent au Bar à Pitons. Nous avons décidé de prendre le pari que tous ces gens-là, qui voient que notre mission est importante, allaient nous aider », se réjouit-elle. Déjà, les rénovations sont amorcées. La coordonnatrice est fière du montant amassé jusqu’à maintenant et reconnaît que son objectif est ambitieux. L’important pour elle est d’amasser le plus de sous possible, pour que la relance de l’établissement soit le plus facile possible, à la réouverture. Jadis un lieu touristique Le Bar à Pitons a bien changé avec les années. Lorsque la coopérative a acheté la Maison Price, où se trouve le Bar à Pitons, le but était de transformer cette maison en auberge. Au sous-sol, une salle de réunion avait été aménagée, surtout pour les visiteurs. « C’est comme ça qu’est né le Bar à Pitons, une toute petite salle principalement pour les utilisateurs de l’auberge. Rapidement, les gens qui habitent autour se sont approprié le lieu », souligne la coordonnatrice générale. C’est cet engouement qui a motivé les gestionnaires à faire des rénovations en 2015 et à mettre sur pied le Bar à Pitons. Le bar a eu le droit à un léger agrandissement, mais plusieurs espaces étaient toujours réservés à l’auberge. En 2018, l’auberge a commencé à perdre de la clientèle, tandis que le Bar à Pitons lui, en gagnait. C’est ce qui a amené les gestionnaires à fermer l’auberge, en février 2020, pour de bon et se concentrer sur le lieu culturel. « C’était rendu le Bar à Pitons qui faisait vivre l’entreprise. Notre programmation culturelle était de plus en plus riche, aimée et fréquentée, donc nous avons concentré nos activités là-dessus puisque c’est ce qui fonctionne et ce qui attire les gens », continue Mme Rivest-Hénault. La mission de l’établissement alors touristique a officiellement changé pour devenir plus culturelle. Tous les intéressés à participer à la campagne peuvent se rendre sur le site de la coopérative pour faire un don. Myriam Arsenault, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
Sudbury's first ever COVID-19 mass vaccination event began Thursday at the Carmichael Arena on Bancroft Drive. It's a joint effort of Public Health Sudbury and Districts, Health Sciences North, Greater Sudbury Paramedics Service and the City of Greater Sudbury. The clinic is taking place Thursday and Friday this week. Members of the Sudbury media were ushered through the building Wednesday to see how the vaccinations will be carried out. Media will not be allowed in the building when patients are receiving vaccines. The arena's main area has been transformed into a large room filled with partitions, arrows pasted on the floor, tables and chairs and waiting areas where people will be gathered to get their first shot of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The target is to vaccinate 1,200 people a day. "So when people come to the arena, the most important thing is that it is by appointment only," said Karly McGibbon, the lead public health nurse assigned to the event. She said all those who are receiving vaccines have been contracted and given a time for when to visit the arena "Once the people are registered and checked in they will come here," McGibbon said at the entrance to the rink surface. "There will be staff members telling them where to go and then they will be sent to one of our twelve vaccine stations." Each person will be screened for any conditions such as allergies or other health matters before the vaccine is given. At each station, a nurse is on hand to swab each patient's arm and then give a needle with the vaccine. McGibbon said the actual needles are the same as the small-gauge sharps used for flu shots. The needles are considered relatively painless for anyone accustomed to getting a flu shot. Once the shot is complete, each patient will be directed to a waiting area to sit for 15 minutes to ensure they're feeling well. There is then a formal check-out area where each patient will be handed a printed receipt outlining the time and place of their first dose. The patients will then be moved out of the building through the back doors to ensure there is no mix up with people coming in the front doors. McGibbon said the entire process should take about 30 minutes. "People should plan to be here for half an hour," she said. "The vaccine itself will take maybe five minutes." She said anyone with a history of allergies might be asked to stay a bit longer so that the health-care staff can check them out before they leave. McGibbons said the target group at this event are priority workers who up until now have not been able to get their first dose of the vaccine. "The people coming this week, Thursday and Friday, are staff members and essential care givers from long-term care homes. So these are people that have been identified by facilities and so their place of work, or where they're an essential care giver, notified them to say, it's your turn. Please call this number and book your appointment." All the booking was done by the City of Greater Sudbury in collaboration with PHSD. Second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will also be booked to take place in about one month's time, said McGibbon. McGibbon said there is no immediate word on future clinics beyond the one happening this week. "Well, we have the two clinics right here this week," said McGibbon. "We may move to other locations. It all depends on vaccine availability when the clinics can be booked. We may use a different venue. We may return to this venue. That hasn't been set up yet." McGibbon said the vaccines are being stored in extreme freezers at Health Sciences North. "What we'll do is pick it up in the morning. We'll bring it here. It has to thaw and then we have to mix it, so it is a little bit of a different process from Moderna," she said, referring to the other vaccine approved by Health Canada. McGibbon said all those who provide the vaccines are well-trained and experienced in giving the needles. "We are using a multitude of immunizers. We are using nurses from public health that have experienced immunizers, we are using nurses from other sectors, so we certainly have nurses from HSN coming, we have nurses from community centres, and we are also using community paramedics." Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking at easing many of its COVID-19 restrictions as early as March 5. The proposed changes include raising capacity limits at stores and personal service operations to 50 per cent from the current 25 per cent. Restaurant capacity would also increase to 50 per cent capacity from 25 per cent, but tables would continue to be limited to members of the same household. Indoor religious services would be allowed at 25 per cent, up from 10 per cent and outdoor public gatherings would be capped at 10 people instead of the current five. Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says Manitoba's COVID-19 statistics are heading in the right direction. He says the public is encouraged to provide feedback in the coming days before a decision is made. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021 The Canadian Press
Canada's Auditor General Karen Hogan on Thursday delivered her 2021 report, including five performance audit reports to the House of Commons. Hogan's report found that Canada's ship building strategy was slow to deliver combat and non-combat ships.
WASHINGTON — The Democratic-led House is poised to pass a bill that would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation's labour and civil rights laws, a top priority of President Joe Biden, though the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The Equality Act amends existing civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics. The protections would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education, public accommodations and other areas. Supporters say the law before the House on Thursday is long overdue and would ensure that every person is treated equally under the law. “In the absence of federal civil rights protection, there are members of the LGBTQ community who are fair game in the eyes of the law to be targeted, based on sexual orientation,” said House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. “That is not America.” Republicans broadly oppose the legislation, echoing concerns from religious groups and social conservatives who worry the bill would force people to take actions that contradict their religious beliefs. They warn that faith-based adoption agencies seeking to place children with a married mother and father could be forced to close, or that private schools would have to hire staff whose conduct violates tenets of the school's faith. “The bill may have equality in the title, but it certainly does not serve all Americans," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. “It is a vehicle for serious, harmful consequences." The House passed the Equality Act in the last Congress with unanimous Democratic support and the backing of eight Republicans, but Donald Trump's White House opposed the measure and it was not considered in the Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Democrats are trying to revive it now that they have control of Congress and the White House, but passage appears unlikely in the evenly divided Senate. The Supreme Court provided the LGBTQ community with a resounding victory last year in a 6-3 ruling that said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to LGBTQ workers when it comes to barring discrimination on the basis of sex. Civil rights groups have encouraged Congress to follow up that decision and ensure that anti-bias protections addressing such areas as housing, public accommodations and public services are applied in all 50 states. Biden made clear his support for the Equality Act in the lead-up to last year's election, saying it would be one of his first priorities. Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said her home state of Pennsylvania was one of about 30 that doesn’t have legal protections for LGBTQ people. She said the Equality Act is needed to end “the patchwork of state laws” around gay rights and create “uniform nationwide protection.” “It's been personal since my baby sister came out to me almost 40 years ago," Scanlon said. “For many people all across this country and across this House, that is when the fight hits home." The debate among lawmakers on Capitol Hill has also become personal. Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., whose daughter is transgender, tweeted a video of herself placing a transgender flag outside her office. Her office is across the hall from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who was recently blocked from serving on two committees because of past comments and tweets. “Our neighbour, @RepMTG, tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is “disgusting, immoral, and evil.” Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.," Newman tweeted. Greene responded with a video of her own in which she puts up a sign that reads: “There are Two genders: MALE and FEMALE. “Trust The Science!" “Our neighbour, @RepMarieNewman, wants to pass the so-called “Equality” Act to destroy women’s rights and religious freedoms. Thought we’d put up ours so she can look at it every time she opens her door," Greene tweeted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed to the exchange to advocate for the bill Thursday. “I wish it weren’t. It breaks my heart that it is necessary, but the fact is, and in fact we had a sad event here even this morning, demonstrating the need for us to have respect," Pelosi said, at one point pausing and taking a deep sigh. “Not even just respect, but take pride, take pride in our LGBT community." Leaders at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote lawmakers this week to say they had grave concerns about the bill. Among the concerns the five bishops raised is that the bill would expand the government's definition of public places, forcing church halls and equivalent facilities to host functions that violate their beliefs, which could lead to closing their doors to the broader community. Some of the nation's largest corporations are part of a coalition in support of the legislation, including Apple Inc., AT&T, Chevron and 3M Co., just to name a few of the hundreds of companies that have endorsed it. Kevin Freking, The Associated Press
Advocates behind a campaign for province-wide public transit say it would increase safety and access in underserved rural communities, while others recommend improving competitiveness so the private sector steps up. “There have to be substantive investments made by government all across the province,” said Interim BC Liberal Leader Shirley Bond. “But there also needs to be a climate in British Columbia where we have the private sector looking at filling some of those gaps, as well.” In 2018, Greyhound cancelled bus routes across the province citing low ridership and reduced profitability, the provincial government opened the routes up for bids, and all but two are now covered by private operators, according to a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson. One remaining gap is the former Greyhound route from Kamloops, through Valemount and Jasper, and into Edmonton. “If it's not a medical issue, you can't go to Kamloops or Vancouver or anywhere points south for any sort of pleasure or business, unless you drive,” said Barb Shepherd, a winter bus rider and advocate for increased bus service through Valemount. “Even twice a week like the one going to Prince George would be fine.” When Greyhound cancelled its B.C. routes, the provincial government formed BC Bus North to connect regional centres, including Valemount, Prince George, Smithers, Prince Rupert, Mackenzie, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. “A lot of the rest of the province was left with a kind of a piecemeal bunch of routes that don't necessarily work together and don't run very often,” said Maryann Abbs, one of the volunteers behind the Let’s Ride! campaign to make public transit B.C.-wide. “Why don't we treat the rest of the province like it needs transit, and have it as a public service?” said Abbs. “We think it's a win-win for the government to put some money into providing decent transit service for the rest of the province outside the Lower Mainland.” Transportation dollars tend to focus on massive infrastructure projects and regions of congested traffic, said Bond, a former transportation minister under the Liberal government and current MLA for the rural-urban riding of Prince George-Valemount. “I'm certainly a supporter of those kinds of (urban) investments, (but) transportation issues exist across the entire province.” In fact, nearly 20 per cent of most people’s expenses in B.C. are for transportation costs, according to BC Transit’s 2020 Strategic Plan. “It is far and away the number one thing we're trying to improve on in the province,” said Ed Staples, president of the B.C. Rural Health Network, a collective of communities advocating for improved rural health care delivery. In a survey of British Columbians last year by UBC’s Centre for Rural Health Research, rural residents spent an average of $777 in transportation costs to access healthcare services outside their home communities for their most recent health issue. “For people living rural, to be able to access the care that they need, many have to rely on transportation that they can't provide for themselves,” said Staples. “Even if they can provide transportation, sometimes it's a huge inconvenience.” The province has a mix of public city transit and private-public intercity services. Communities over 10,000 population, and most over 5,000, usually have transit run by local government in partnership with BC Transit. In smaller communities, residents can book custom transit, via Handy Dart or the health authorities, to reach medical appointments as far away as Vancouver. Still, non-medical transport between many rural communities remains a challenge. “Many areas of the province are without any regional transit system, and rely heavily on private transportation services such as taxis and private charters,” said representatives of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (IBCIC) in a letter to Premier John Horgan last November. “We need a unified, provincially-owned and operated public transportation system across BC, bridging communities and making transportation accessible for all.” People need better access to get to work, daycare and medical appointments, said UBCIC secretary-treasurer and Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson. “It should be provided without hardship to families that live below the poverty line.” Some people resort to hitchhiking or finding rides through social media, said Wilson. “(The Province) did a lot of investments in Vancouver, but they need to also invest in the rural and remote areas,” she said. Recently announced Safe Restart funding, provided jointly by the federal and provincial governments, will limit fare increases and provide $86 million, mainly to BC Transit municipal partnerships, according to the ministry. The provincial government also funded 12 mostly Indigenous communities in the north to purchase vehicles and operate their own transportation services. “People question the viability of Greyhound routes, but it depends on how convenient they are; it depends on the frequency of when they come through communities,” Bond said. “How do we make it competitive enough and how do we make it convenient enough that there's room for private sector companies to survive?” According to a ministry source, the application process was simplified to encourage private sector intercity bus operators to serve abandoned Greyhound routes. Thompson Valley Charters, a Kamloops owned and operated transportation company, recently applied to run a twice-a-week bus service from Kamloops to Edmonton. “Public transportation to urban centres is a need for Valemount, particularly in the winter,” said village mayor, Owen Torgerson. “The offer from Thompson Valley Ltd. will provide a partial solution and hopefully will show others in the private sector that rural public transport is a sound business model.” The solutions are up for discussion, but ideally, people would have a public transportation system that runs on a regular basis, that they can count on to get them where they need to go, said Staples. “And that's not what we have right now,” he said. Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
Retention bonuses and incremental increases for volunteers are being considered to better reward members of the East Ferris Fire and Emergency Services Department. Council had asked Fire Chief Frank Loeffen last year to look at how the municipality’s renumeration compared to other similar-sized townships. His report presented at Tuesday’s meeting indicated there is much variety in how each department compensates its members, with East Ferris in the mid-range for volunteers and top end for officers. Loeffen, representing the municipality’s fire and emergency services committee, recommended a $10,000 increase for 2021 to the annual points system allocation used to compensate volunteers at each call for service and training sessions. It would bring that budget up to $54,566, which is slightly above the mid-range of comparable departments, he said, suggesting it then increase three percent annually in following years. His report also looked at the implications of moving to a “minimum wage per point” system, but said it would be “unpredictable for budgetary purposes” as calls to service and number of members responding fluctuate. As it functions now, the budget is divided up based on points with the hourly amount going up or down depending on volume of calls and training sessions. Included in the recommendations was a two percent increase to the annual officer honourarium, bringing it to $1,081.20 for 2021. In addition, it was suggested to council that the Fire Prevention Officer be given the same officer honourarium instead of $50 per inspection. Council warmly embraced the suggestions and several members recommended two options to recognize longer service. Deputy Mayor Steve Trahan suggested that senior volunteers be given an extra point or two to reflect the skills and experience they provide at fire scenes and collisions. “They are asked to do extra roles … (we) lean on them a little heavier compared to someone newer,” Trahan said. Councillor Rick Champagne said he's interested in a system that works as an “incentive for people to step up and stay a little longer. “These people do work very hard for us,” Champagne said, “I think we’re getting away fairly cheap the way we’re paying them right now.” East Ferris currently has 26 volunteer members on its roster. Four of them are rookies less than one year of participation, six are in the one to five year's of experience, nine are in the five to 10-year bracket, two at 10-15, two 15-20 and five with more than 20 years involvement. Councillor Terry Kelly, a long-time fire and emergency services volunteer, said he looks at that kind of thing as a “retention bonus,” noting they now get a “recognition” plaque every five years, joking the plaque grows in size the longer you are there. Kelly suggested a $500 bonus every time a volunteer hits a five-year milestone as recognition for long-time service. “We’ve been very fortunate with retention,” he said, “and if you look at what the fire department does not cost the taxpayer … it’s one of the best deals we have with the service they do, and quite frankly, they knowingly put themselves I harm’s way with great training.” Last year, a report looked at running a part-time service with scheduled shifts at $20 an hour that would have doubled the budget to about $90,000. Loeffen was asked to explore the suggestions at the committee level and cost out the “pros and cons” as well as financial impacts of both the retention and recognition of skills systems. Mayor Pauline Rochefort thanked him for an “excellent report with lots of comparables” and she looked forward to considering the initial recommendations and new information for the budget deliberations. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador health officials are reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 today.Authorities say the new cases are in the eastern region of the province, where officials have been battling an outbreak in the metro area of St. John’s.Officials say 10 people are in hospital with the disease, and five of them are in intensive care.With 335 active reported infections, Newfoundland and Labrador now has an active infection rate of 64 per 100,000 people.On Wednesday, health officials in the eastern region released a list of schools where students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 during the recent outbreak.The health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
A left turn lane will be installed on southbound Westmount Road at its intersection with Highway 1. The change is expected to improve safety and reduce congestion at Westridge Road by preventing traffic backing up along Westmount Road from the intersection, explained Ethan Wilson, Town of Strathmore’s infrastructure manager. Alberta Transportation has already performed repairs at the intersection, at no costs to the town. These included upgrades, including camera position and signal timing changes, to improve safety. But while these changes have improved the wait times at the intersection, it is still a busy intersection with limited space for vehicles to wait, said Wilson. The cost for the project is estimated to be $30,000, of which $7,000 is for design and about $23,000 for construction. These sums include provisional items that may not be required once the design is completed, said Wilson. Once the design is completed, Alberta Transportation will need to grant approval to the project. The government department has already been consulted and has given some support to the project, but they still need to assess how the project would affect east and westbound traffic on the highway, before giving sign off. “There is a risk of spending some money without getting approval,” said Wilson, adding he is confident the project engineer will be able to provide a solution allowing the project to proceed. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
ROME — Italy paid tribute Thursday to its ambassador to Congo and his bodyguard who were killed in an attack on a U.N. convoy, honouring them with a state funeral and prayers for peace in Congo and all nations “torn by war and violence.” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s vicar for Rome, presided over the solemn funeral at the Santa Maria degli Angeli basilica that was attended by Premier Mario Draghi, top lawmakers, representatives of the armed forces and relatives of the young men. Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci were killed Monday north of Goma when an armed group stopped them as they travelled in a two-car convoy to a World Food Program school feeding project. The WFP's Congolese driver, Moustapha Milambo, was also killed in the attack and was buried in Goma on Tuesday. Italy has formally asked the U.N. for an inquiry into what happened amid questions about whether the U.N. security arrangements were sufficient for the mission. The U.N. has said the road had been cleared for travel without security escorts. The WFP said in a statement Thursday it was co-operating in the Italian, Congolese and U.N. investigations and hoped for a swift conclusion “so that the facts can be established with transparency and integrity." In his eulogy, De Donatis decried the “stupid and ferocious” attack and said it was right that Italy, Congo and the community of nations weep over such violence that “tore Luca and Vittorio from this world." “Let us pray together that today is a day in which the prayer for peace in Congo and in all nations torn by various forms of war and violence is raised to heaven," he said. He denounced how so many Congolese feel the constant threat of danger from rebel groups “knocking at their door,” saying the country had been “cruelly devastated by violence that sees their children die every day.” But he praised Attanasio and Iacovacci for working for peace and looking out for others “even at the cost of their own lives.” “If this the fate of peace workers, what will be the fate of the rest of us?” he asked. The funeral, carried live on state-run RAI television, featured masked Carabinieri officers as pallbearers and altar servers, with a military band performing Chopin’s haunting “Funeral March” as the flag-draped coffins were carried in and out of the basilica. After the service, the socially-distanced crowd applauded as the two hearses pulled out of the piazza carrying the coffins for burial, flanked by a police escort. Attanasio is survived by his wife and three young daughters, at least one of whom attended the funeral, as well as his parents and siblings. Iacovacci is survived by his fiancee and other family members. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
If there is a universal language, one method of communicating emotion, culture, heritage and welcoming, it’s the language of food. At Sudbury.com, we’re always looking for ways to share the stories of the community of Greater Sudbury and the many smaller communities that make up the fabric of this city. What better way, then through your stomach. Welcome to the first edition of Communities Eat. It’s a chance to meet wonderful members of this community and to enjoy some great food – maybe even learn a little something new. This edition features Tibila Sandiwidi, who is a school settlement worker in Sudbury. Originally from Burkina Faso, Sandiwidi arrived in Sudbury almost 20 years ago. He is an excellent cook, even though he is largely self-taught. In his home country, men must be invited into the kitchen, as it is not only the domain of women, but every grain of rice is accounted for and when there isn’t much to go around, a little unpermitted snack can mean one less meal. He is cooking a common meal from his homeland, one that would be cooked for celebrations and events, when family would come together to dine. Called Riz Gras, it translates as Fat Rice, but only because it requires slightly more oil than you might expect. Sandiwidi’s home country of Burkina Faso, in West Africa, did not always go by that name. For many years it bore the name of the colonizers who named the Volta River that flows through the area, then naming their colonies based on the proximity to the river’s flow. In 1960, it gained independence from France, but remained as Haute or ‘Upper’ Volta. Later, the impoverished country weighed down by government corruption needed a fresh start. Landlocked and poor, as well as irrevocably changed by colonialism, the president of the country from 1983 to 1987, Thomas Sankara, decided it needed to be renamed, and a name that was chosen by its people, the communities that lived there. It became known as Burkina Faso, which means ‘Land of Incorruptible People’ or ‘The People of Integrity.’ When Sankara spoke to the United Nations for the first time as leader, he said, “I am here to bring you fraternal greetings from a country that covers 274,000 square kilometers, and whose seven million children, women and men refuse henceforth to die from ignorance, hunger and thirst. These are people who, despite a quarter century of existence as a sovereign state represented here at the UN, are still not able to really live.” We hope you enjoy this taste of Burkina Faso and a little more information about The People of Integrity. Thanks to the Centre de santé communautaire du Grand Sudbury for allowing Sudbury.com to film in their kitchen. You can watch the video here or click the Play button to watch the video below. For the puree: For the main Preparation Instructions: Add onion, green onion, garlic, parsley, ginger, and peppers to the blender or food processor. If using blender, add oil to help the mixture blend. Blend until ingredients are fully combined. Add half of this mixture to large bowl, set aside the rest to add to recipe later. Toss cubed meat, fish or poultry in the bowl with half of the puree mixture. Set aside while you prepare other ingredients. In large pot, add enough oil to coat one inch on bottom of pot Fry leftover puree mixture in oil, 1-2 minutes. Add medium can of tomato paste, stir to fully combine. Add cubed meat and its puree mix, scraping all juice and puree into pot. Add water to the pot until the meat is just covered. (Some would sear meat before add liquid, but Sandiwidi prefers that the meat simmer without searing, “to let the flavours go in and the juices come into the pot.”) Simmer until meat is nearing your desired level of tenderness (longer = more tender) Add vegetables, in this case Okra, Manioc, eggplant, cabbage and carrots. Add Manioc and carrots first to allow a few extra minutes of cook time, and then add the remaining vegetables. (Any vegetables you have on hand can be used, as long as they are added in order of their cooking time, longest to shortest, to allow even cooking of all.) Add bouillon cube, any extra salt you feel is needed after the bouillon, pepper to taste, and 2 Bay leaves. (remove Bay before serving.) Simmer until the meat is cooked and vegetables are fork tender, or to your preference Remove the meat and vegetables to another bowl, tent with aluminum foil to keep warm while rice cooks. To the liquid remaining in pan, add your desired amount of rice. 2 cups is common for 2-4 portions. Add water “Until the liquid amount sits 1-1.4 inches about the level of rice in the pot” Simmer until rice is cooked, checking to ensure doneness and level of water remaining. When the rice is almost done, put your fork underneath the rice to the bottom of the pot, lifting the rice and allowing the liquid to move underneath, covering the bottom and keep the rice from sticking. Serve the rice alongside the cooked meat and vegetables. Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
((RCMP) - image credit) The New Brunswick RCMP say their major crime unit is investigating the suspicious death of a 49-year-old woman whose body was found near Tracadie-Sheila. At about 2 p.m. on Wednesday, members of the Tracadie RCMP responded to a report of a dead woman on Chemin W. Gautreau, in the area of Pont-Landry, the force said in a media release Thursday. The woman's body was found by a passerby, RCMP said. An autopsy will be done on Friday to assist police in the investigation and to help determine the woman's exact cause of death, the RCMP said. The force said anyone with information about the incident can contact the major crime unit at 1-888-506-7267. Information can also be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, by downloading the secure P3 mobile app, or by secure web tips at www.crimenb.ca.
WHITEHORSE — Yukon is beginning to look toward revising its pandemic restrictions as the number of active cases of COVID-19 returns to zero. Speaking at the weekly COVID-19 update in Whitehorse, deputy premier Ranj Pillai says Yukon is "putting resources in place" to be prepared when the time to adjust restrictions arrives. In the meantime, Pillai says the government is extending and expanding assistance to hard-hit Yukon businesses. Supports include extensions to Sept. 30 for several programs, including a plan that helps businesses break even and another that supports employers who pay workers to stay home when they're sick. A new program also allows small and medium-sized businesses to seek up to $100,000 in deferred-interest loans, with no payments due until 2023 and forgiveness of 25 per cent of the amount if certain conditions are met. Pillai and chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley both mentioned "hiccups" as the territory launched its online reservation site for immunization appointments, but Hanley says the problems have been resolved. The availability of vaccine marks an "exciting time" for Yukon residents, he told the news conference on Thursday. "We have seen an incredible uptake in appointments," Hanley says, confirming he has a booking next week for his first dose of the vaccine. "The turnout so far shows so much promise that we are well on our way to immunizing the majority of our population." Yukon has had 72 cases of COVID-19 and one death since the pandemic began. Its website shows 10,781 people have received their first vaccination and 3,585 have been given their second shot. The government has assured all Yukon residents who want the vaccine that they are guaranteed to receive both doses required for maximum immunity. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario had no updated plan for dealing with a pandemic when COVID-19 began cutting a deadly swath through the province last spring, a public commission was told. In testimony before the panel released on Thursday, the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, denied responsibility for the shortcoming. The province had developed a pandemic response plan in 2006 that was updated in 2013, but the process stalled after work started on a "Ready and Resilient" blueprint in 2016. "Do you have any knowledge about the "Ready and Resilient" plan and why it wasn't completed in four years before COVID?" commission co-counsel John Callaghan asked. "The process was in place, and they were doing reviews on it," Williams answered. "Why was it not done?" "Because it was not completed." The commission is delving into the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Ontario's long-term care homes. To date, coronavirus disease has killed 3,753 residents and 11 staff members. Williams said pandemic preparation drifted down the priority list because things had been relatively quiet for several years. Historically, he said, planning focused on influenza A, a situation that hadn't changed as late as 2019 when the World Health Organization said the world is not ready for a pandemic. "For seven years, you never felt the need to increase your pandemic plan, your influenza pandemic plan?" Callaghan asked. "We did quality work back in 2006," Williams said. "You are saying, in your opinion, it was your decision not to upgrade the 2013 plan?" "No, I was not asked to update the plan." Williams said he "took flak" over pushing more robust preparation for a major infectious disease outbreak because others saw the exercise as wasting time and resources for something that would never occur. "It is hard to keep that prevention thing always at the front table because the tyranny of the urgent always pushes things aside," Williams said. "It was to me disappointing to find the lack of depth and breadth of infection prevention and control expertise that was available out there." Williams said he was shocked to discover the poor situation at long-term care homes when it came to masks and other personal protective equipment. The purpose of the provincial stockpile, he said, was to equip front-line doctors and their offices, not long-term care facilities. Nursing homes, he said, were supposed to have their own supplies able to last between four and seven weeks. However, when the pandemic hit in earnest, he learned most of the protective equipment was made in China and global demand had outstripped supply. "That was startling and shocking to me that that had happened in there because it is something that I thought we had in-house; anyways in North America at least," he said. Constant staff turnover of key personnel in nursing homes hampered efforts to ensure adequate infection prevention controls were in place, he said. "The changeover was at times disconcerting," he said. Callaghan called it "vexing" the commission had received 217,000 pages of documents from Williams only in the week before he testified. The co-counsel also noted Williams had provided 2,000 pages of his redacted notes. New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said Williams' testimony made it "astoundingly clear" the government was trying to hide its response to COVID-19 in nursing homes. “The Ford government and Dr. Williams are taking great pains to hide, bury and cover up how they dealt with COVID-19 in long-term care homes,” Horwath said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
CAMEROON, Cameroon — Linda Thomas-Greenfield presented her credentials as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, officially taking on one of the most challenging jobs for the Biden administration of helping to restore the United States as a top multilateral player on the global stage after former President Donald Trump’s unilateral “America First” policy. The longtime American career diplomat thanked Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who swore her in on Wednesday, for choosing her for the “distinguished position.” “That was made all the more wonderful because I knew you were here,” she told Guterres who served as the U.N.’s refugee chief before his election to the U.N. post. “I worked with you in the past on refugee issues so I’m looking forward very anxiously to getting to work and working on many of the key issues that we know are before the United Nations and we know that people around the globe are looking to us for.” Guterres warmly welcomed Thomas-Greenfield, calling her a “distinguished global citizen" with great compassion for refugees. Thomas-Greenfield and Guterres then moved to his private office on the 38th floor of U.N. headquarters overlooking New York’s East River for private talks. She will be jumping right into her new job, tackling global peace and security issues with Russia, China and a dozen other countries because the United States takes over the rotating presidency of the powerful U.N. Security Council on Monday. And she might even decide to attend a council meeting on Friday. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told a group of reporters Wednesday that “the red carpet” will be rolled out for Thomas-Greenfield and Moscow is ready to work with President Joe Biden’s administration -- but “it takes two to tango.” “We are looking forward to interactions with her,” he told a group of reporters Wednesday. “You can count on our most favourable attitudes and positive emotions towards her as a member of our Security Council family.” Noting Thomas-Greenfield's decades as a U.S. diplomat, he said “it's always easier to interact with professionals." But he said America’s view that Russia is “an enemy” and a “threat” hasn’t changed under Biden, so “it’s very difficult to imagine how the interaction with us might change with such starting points of the positions of the new administration.” Nonetheless, Polyansky said, “there are a lot of things Russia and the United States can do together” and “we will judge the new administration by what it does.” “We’re in favour of co-operation,” he said. But “it takes two to tango, and really we’re ready to dance, but we need a good and reliable partner who knows all the moves and who respects us” as a country with certain positions, “doesn’t view us as a threat” and sees “our obvious national interests in many issues.” Thomas-Greenfield, a retired 35-year veteran of the U.S. foreign service who rose to be assistant secretary of state for Africa, resigned during the Trump administration. She will be the third African-American, and the second African-American woman, to hold the U.N. post. Her confirmation on Tuesday was hailed by Democrats and advocates of the United Nations who had lamented former President Donald Trump’s “America First” unilateral approach to international affairs and rejoiced at President Joe Biden’s return to multilateralism. At the Senate hearing on her nomination, Thomas-Greenfield called China “a strategic adversary” that threatens the world, and called a speech she gave in 2019 that praised China’s initiatives in Africa but made no mention of its human rights abuses a mistake. The Senate voted 78-20 to confirm her with Republican opponents saying she was soft on China and would not stand up for U.S. principles at the U.N. Thomas-Greenfield said at the hearing that Washington will be working not only with allies “but to see where we can find common ground with the Russians and the Chinese to put more pressure on the Iranians to push them back into strict compliance” with the 2015 agreement to rein in their nuclear program. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement in 2018 and Biden has indicated the U.S. will rejoin it, though how that might happen remains a major question. Polyansky said Russia welcomes the “positive developments” on the Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. agreement to extend the START nuclear agreement, adding that Moscow is ready for serious and meaningful discussions “first and foremost in the area of strategic stability.” Thomas-Greenfield stressed at the hearing that the U.S. will be reengaging internationally and promoting American values -- “support for democracy, respect for universal human rights, and the promotion of peace and security.” Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that Thomas-Greenfield should promote human rights as “a top priority.” “She should abandon the Trump administration’s selective approach to human rights – enthusiastically condemning its enemies’ abuses while ignoring rights violations of allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia,” he said. “But there’s room for continuity on China and Syria," Charbonneau said. “She should make expanding the coalition of nations willing to speak out against Beijing’s human rights abuses one of her chief goals at the U.N., above trying to bring African, Asian, and Latin American states into the fold. And she should continue to push for expanded humanitarian access to all parts of Syria.” Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
Weyburn, Bismarck, N.D., Regina, – The Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show committee is still planning on holding its bi-annual event this June 2-3, but things are still up in the air due to public health restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s not the only oil show affected. “We are hopeful and optimistic,” said Tanya Hulbert, Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show manager, by phone from Weyburn on Feb. 25. She said they’ll know more March 19, when the provincial government announces its plans for public health restrictions beyond that date. As Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 numbers have been dropping, the committee was hopeful the provincial government would have started lifting restrictions in mid-February, as North Dakota and Montana have done. That has not been the case. “If anything, we are still going to go through with our golf tournament, because we know that last summer, golfing was allowed,” she said. It may have to be done differently, such as not using a shotgun start, but they intend to find a way. The golf tournament would be held on June 1, but that could change, depending on what happens with the show. And no matter what, they will be announcing this year’s Oilman of the Year, Southeast Saskatchewan Oilman of the Year, and Saskatchewan Oil Patch Hall of Fame inductees. The layout of the show may be changed, and the committee is looking at options for suppers which would allow for more spacing. “We're looking at an all-outdoor show which wouldn't have the same restrictions, but right now we're exploring every possible avenue and we're hopeful and optimistic,” Hulbert said. Williston Basin Petroleum Conference If the global pandemic hadn’t come along in the spring of 2020, the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference would have been held in Bismarck, North Dakota, with this year’s edition to be held in Regina. However, nothing has been normal for the past year, and that schedule was kyboshed a long time ago. However, the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) is planning on going ahead with the convention, live and in person, this May 12-13. Traditionally, for over 30 years, the show has alternated between Saskatchewan and North Dakota, with participation from Manitoba, Montana and South Dakota, all of which have parts of their land area in the Williston Basin. For Saskatchewan, that means the southeast corner of the province. The NDPC has announced that registration is open. “We appreciate your patience as we navigated the uncertainty over the past year - North Dakota is open for business and we want you to join us this May,” they said in an email. “We are firming up our agenda and look forward to making announcements about keynote speakers in the coming weeks. Our trade show is also filling up, over 150 exhibitors so far, and we expect a busy and engaged exhibit hall!” That’s a far cry from Saskatchewan, where this weekend’s TeleMiracle will have no audience, and substantial portions of its show will have been pre-recorded separately. Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 new case numbers have come down somewhat, with seven-day average now 155, and 211 new cases reported on Feb. 25. Saskatchewan had 1,493 active cases. But North Dakota, which saw a tremendous spike in new cases in the late fall, has seen its COVID cases plummet. On Feb. 25, it had 91 new cases, but only 706 active cases. As of Feb. 24, its seven-day average was 90 new cases. In Saskatchewan, the Petroleum Technology Research Centre heads up our version of this event, in conjunction with the Minister of Energy and Resources and the Saskatchewan Geological Survey. Norm Sacuta, spokesperson for PTRC, said they’ve heard recently from North Dakota and talked about their sponsorship. “We will not be going,” Sacuta said on Feb. 24. The Canadian board is meeting this week to discuss what they’re going to do in terms of sponsoring the event. One thing being considered is providing a virtual morning session focused on Saskatchewan, with the PTRC, University of Regina, International Carbon Capture and Storage Knowledge Centre and one other group making presentations. They will be discussing the Canadian version in 2022, which, hopefully by that time, will occur after borders are opened and public health restrictions have eased. Sacuta said it helps in that Saskatchewan’s version of the WBPC is more focused on presentations than the trade show, while the North Dakota version has a heavy emphasis on its large trade show. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
LOS ANGELES — Lady Gaga's dog walker was shot and two of the singer's French bulldogs were stolen in Hollywood during an armed robbery, police said. The singer is offering a $500,000 reward. The dog walker was shot once Wednesday night and is expected to survive his injuries, according to Los Angeles Police Capt. Jonathan Tippett, commanding officer of the department's elite Robbery-Homicide Division. The man was walking three of Lady Gaga's dogs at the time but one escaped. That dog has been recovered safely. Tippett told The Associated Press that the dogs belong to pop star Lady Gaga. It's not yet clear if the dog walker was targeted because of his celebrity client, the captain said. Lady Gaga is offering the reward for the return of her dogs — whose names are Koji and Gustav — with no questions asked, according to her representative. An email address for tips, KojiandGustav@gmail.com, has been set up. The singer is currently in Rome to film a movie. Police were initially called to North Sierra Bonita Avenue, a street off the famed Sunset Boulevard, around 9:40 p.m. Wednesday following several 911 calls reporting a man screaming and the sound of a gunshot, said Capt. Steven Lurie, commanding officer of the department’s Hollywood Division. The victim, whose name has not been released, was walking the dogs when a four-door sedan pulled over and two men tried to steal the animals, Tippett said. The dog walker tried to fight them off and was shot by one of the men wielding a semiautomatic handgun during the struggle. It's not yet known if both men were armed. ___ AP Music Writer Mesfin Fekadu contributed to this report from New York. Stefanie Dazio, The Associated Press
Wheatland County council is considering sending a letter to provincial representatives and municipalities requesting provincewide COVID-19 public health restrictions be lifted. During its regular meeting on Feb. 6, Wheatland council voted 5-2 in favour of a motion directing administration to draft a letter protesting COVID-19 public health restrictions, with Reeve Amber Link and Councillor Glenn Koester voting in opposition. The motion was proposed by Councillor Tom Ikert. “I am becoming very distressed about the amount of not only economic damage, but the amount of mental health damage that’s being done with this shutdown,” he said, during the meeting. “We’ve got to get people out, (and) we’ve got to quit treating this like it’s the end of the world.” Ikert said once the letter is drafted, it should be sent to Premier Jason Kenney and local MLAs, with council’s approval. Councillor Jason Wilson said in addition to these provincial officials, the letter should be sent to all municipalities in Alberta. “It’s not just a provincial issue,” he said. “We’re facing federal restrictions as well that are very hindering – hindering our industry that crosses borders (and) deals with airlines.” Provincewide shutdowns have pitted rural and urban areas against each other, said Councillor Scott Klassen. “(COVID-19) does hit the large centres,” he said. “Our urban partners are afraid, and they have the numbers to support that, but we don’t (in) rural Alberta.” Councillor Donna Biggar said she supports a more regional approach to restrictions. “That way, maybe the government can actually concentrate on those areas (and) why those numbers are going up (there),” she said. Councillor Ben Armstrong said he and many others in the community have been not following restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic. Wilson said he too has at times engaged in social gatherings, against the restrictions. “A person’s greatest strength against anything is their refusal to follow the rules – that shows the most discontent,” he said. But this view was not unanimous among council. “I don’t like that nobody can come to my house,” said Councillor Glenn Koester. “But we follow the rules here, and my kids follow the rules.” Wilson said more seniors are experiencing reduced quality of life because of restrictions than are being affected by the virus directly. “My question to policymakers is, when are you going to start asking seniors what they want? You can assume they want to sit in a room with food being passed through a little hole, like in a jail, or they can risk living, to have a life, to see their family, and be part of society,” he said. “I think that quality of life far outweighs any risk of this disease.” But Koester said the threat of COVID-19 to seniors’ health is undeniable, with resultant deaths in such places as Wheatland Lodge and AgeCare Sagewood. Unlike the province, which has physicians, mathematicians and other professionals on staff, Wheatland County only has their feelings on the matter, he said. “What’s our expertise?” Koester asked, adding that easing restrictions now could result in a larger cost later, especially with the uncertainty of newly identified variants of the virus in the province. “I don’t like (restrictions), but opening and closing back and forth is not the answer either.” On March 2, council will debate the drafted letter and vote on whether it be sent. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times