A year ago, some forecasters predicted another banner year for condo sales in Toronto for 2020, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit. As Sean O’Shea reports, a seller's market has become a buyer's one and prices have fallen as a result.
A year ago, some forecasters predicted another banner year for condo sales in Toronto for 2020, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit. As Sean O’Shea reports, a seller's market has become a buyer's one and prices have fallen as a result.
MADISON, Wis. — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear President Donald Trump’s lawsuit attempting to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the battleground state, sidestepping a decision on the merits of the claims and instead ruling that the case must first wind its way through lower courts.In another blow to Trump, two dissenting conservative justices questioned whether disqualifying more than 221,000 ballots as Trump wanted would be the proper remedy to the errors he alleged.The defeat on a 4-3 ruling was the latest in a string of losses for Trump’s post-election lawsuits. Judges in multiple battleground states have rejected his claims of fraud or irregularities.Trump asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in the state’s two biggest Democratic counties, alleging irregularities in the way absentee ballots were administered. His lawsuit echoed claims that were earlier rejected by election officials in those counties during a recount that barely affected Biden’s winning margin of about 20,700 votes.Trump’s attorney Jim Troupis said he would immediately file the case in circuit court and expected to be back before the Supreme Court “very soon.”“It was clear from their writings that the court recognizes the seriousness of these issues, and we look forward to taking the next step,” he said in a statement. Trump's team made the filing late Thursday evening.In asking the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case directly, Trump had argued that there wasn’t enough time to wage the legal battle by starting with a lower court, given the looming Dec. 14 date when presidential electors cast their votes.Swing Justice Brian Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in denying the petition without weighing in on Trump's allegations. Hagedorn said the law was clear that Trump must start his lawsuit in lower courts where factual disputes can be worked out.“We do well as a judicial body to abide by time-tested judicial norms, even — and maybe especially — in high profile cases,” Hagedorn wrote. “Following this law is not disregarding our duty, as some of my colleagues suggest. It is following the law.”Trump filed a similar lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday.Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, in a dissent where she was joined by Justice Annette Ziegler, said she would have taken the case and referred it to lower courts for factual findings, which could then be reported back to the Supreme Court for a ruling.But she also questioned whether disqualifying ballots was appropriate, saying that "may be out of reach for a number of reasons.”Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote that the court “forsakes its duty” by not determining whether elections officials complied with the law and the inaction will undermine the public's confidence in elections. Allowing the elections commission to make the law governing elections would be a “death blow to democracy,” she wrote.“While some will either celebrate or decry the court's inaction based upon the impact on their preferred candidate, the importance of this case transcends the results of this particular election,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Roggensack and Ziegler. “The majority's failure to act leaves an indelible stain on our most recent election.”Democratic Gov. Tony Evers praised the decision.“I was frankly amazed that it was not unanimous," Evers said.Trump's lawsuit challenged procedures that have been in place for years and never been found to be illegal.He claimed there were thousands of absentee ballots without a written application on file. He argued that the electronic log created when a voter requests a ballot online — the way the vast majority are requested — doesn’t meet the letter of the law.He also challenged ballots where election clerks filled in missing address information on the certification envelope where the ballot is inserted — a practice that has long been accepted and that the state elections commission told clerks was OK.Trump also challenged absentee ballots where voters declared themselves to be “indefinitely confined,” a status that exempts them from having to show photo identification to cast a ballot, and one that was used much more heavily this year due to the pandemic. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in March ruled that it was up to individual voters to determine their status.Roggensack, the chief justice, appointed Reserve Judge Stephen Simanek of Racine County to hear the case at the circuit court level. Simanek retired in 2010.The court late Thursday also declined to hear a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin resident, Dean Mueller, that argued that ballots placed in drop boxes are illegal and must not be counted. The court's brief order included a single line noting Roggensack, Ziegler and Bradley all dissented with the denial.One other lawsuit filed by conservatives is still pending with the court seeking to invalidate ballots. In federal court, there is Trump’s lawsuit and another one with similar claims from Sidney Powell, a conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team.Wisconsin this week certified Biden’s victory, setting the stage for a Democratic slate of electors chosen earlier to cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for him.Scott Bauer, The Associated Press
PORT HOPE, Ont. — A southern Ontario community is grieving the loss of a 12-year-old boy who died after a vehicle struck him as he was waiting for a school bus. Ontario Provincial Police said the collision happened Wednesday morning just after 8 a.m. on a country road in Port Hope, Ont. The boy died at the scene and his 10-year-old sister was airlifted to a Toronto trauma centre to be treated for injuries. Const. Kimberly Johnson with the OPP's Northumberland County detachment said Thursday that the siblings were waiting for a school bus when a passing vehicle hit them. Johnson said the tragedy has been difficult for entire community to grapple with. "The family, schools, first responders, the community, it's a very difficult one all the way around," she said. Police are still investigating the incident and said they are looking factors such as poor road conditions after a snowfall. "It's going to take time and patience on everyone's part to determine the cause of the crash," Johnson said. In a Wednesday letter to parents, the principal of St. Anthony Catholic Elementary said the school was grieving the "tremendous loss" of a student in the tragedy. The injured girl is also a student at the school. "Words cannot adequately express our profound shock and deep sorrow over this terrible event. The family has asked for your prayers at this time," Karen McCormack wrote. McCormack said the school board's crisis response team, including social workers, would remain at the school this week to support students and staff. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — A Transportation Safety Board team has been assigned to investigate a marine accident that seriously injured two crew members from a freighter moored in English Bay, off Vancouver.A statement from the board says the team will examine why a lifeboat from the bulk carrier Blue Bosporus was accidentally released from the ship on Dec. 1.A coast guard statement issued Tuesday said the two crew members were hurt as they carried out a routine drill in the covered lifeboat.The boat began to sink after it had dropped into the water and a vessel from the Kitsilano coast guard station was one of several that responded, rescuing the injured sailors.The statement from the safety board says its team will gather information and assess the occurrence.Three Ukrainian crew members died and one was hurt in October 2000 when a similar covered lifeboat fell about 15 metres into the water from a bulk carrier moored in English Bay.A report by the safety board in 2003 identified issues with the lifeboat's lowering mechanism and the hooks connecting it to the launching equipment. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.The Canadian Press
TORONTO — One of the first things Alexandher Brandy wanted to do after reading Elliot Page's coming out letter was break into a dance.The urge to celebrate the Oscar-nominated performer's announcement was undeniable. So as the business day ended at his retail job in the city's Gay Village, the Toronto artist gave in to the sensation.“I don't know what energy I had, but I was literally just running around a store that was completely empty — dancing,” he said.Someone as famous as Page saying they are transgender (using the pronouns he/they) and non-binary, meaning their gender identity is neither man nor woman, is almost unheard of. Page's message was heartfelt, written with a mixture of confidence and vulnerability that many in the community feel about sharing their own story with others.For Brandy, who is trans masculine, it was validation. "I'm just excited to have someone that I can be like, 'Hey, that's a famous person and people are going to understand me more because this person is like me,'" Brandy added."It's so weird that still exists in our world."Later this month, Brandy plans to throw an unofficial coming out party for Page over a Twitch live stream, called the House Royale, with trans and non-binary entertainers filling the evening. It's a way for the community to hold this moment as their own, he said.But for many trans and non-binary Canadians, all the joy of Page's coming out is also built upon knowing this is merely an inch towards the goal of being recognized as equals in society.Those sentiments were shared this week as they read and re-read through Page’s social media letter, hanging onto every sentence.His words were at once certain and cautious, recognizing the harsh realities of trans people who don’t share the same privilege of celebrity.Luiza Alves, a musician based in Victoria, B.C., believes there’s reason to feel optimistic for whatever lies ahead. She said the non-binary community is “gaining a voice” and advocate in Page that has rarely, if ever, been present at this level of fame.“It’s another type of exposure. Another type of trans folk in the world," she said.But she knows from her own experience that sharing such a truth isn’t easy. It comes with endless questions from friends and family; people using their birth name rather than their chosen name, either by accident or on purpose; and these days figuring out what to share on social media. Page’s coming out will certainly be no different.“I wish I could hug them many, many times because it's going to be rough,” she said.“It's an ongoing process, but I think overall that's the beauty of accepting yourself for who you are. It’s going through this… and letting people around you start to discover it with you, be comfortable with you. I think it’s a beautiful, painful journey.”Faelix Kayn, a Toronto-based consultant, is more hesitant to start throwing confetti over the arrival of Page in the trans and non-binary community.While having a famous person bring new awareness is "wonderful," Kayn notes there are deep systemic issues and barriers affecting trans people, saying most of them don't receive nearly enough attention.Those include transphobia in homeless shelters, a problem that’s only worsened in the pandemic, Kayn said, as well as binary markers on some health and government documents.Kayn is also concerned with the invasive and sometimes negative curiosity that plays out on social media once someone of Page’s stature is involved.Shortly after the “Gaycation” and “Juno” star’s social media post, people were already speculating about personal topics such as the likelihood of a physical transition and whether he’s planning to start using hormones. All of those conversations can deeply affect individuals still grappling with their identity, Kayn added.“I'm thinking of the younger, not out, non-binary people seeing this and thinking, ‘Am I going to be subjected to this dehumanization? To this level of interrogation? Is it worth it?’” Kayn said.Gemma Hickey, an author based in St. John’s, N.L., has run through similar questions in their head over several decades of activism.Known for being the first Canadian to get a non-binary birth certificate in 2017, Hickey said it often feels isolating when there are few others who want to stand in the public spotlight as they push for change.“You're putting yourself at risk for having to defend your choice, your name or your pronouns, even having to look over your shoulder,” they said.“What Elliot coming out in a public way means for me and so many others is that you're not alone.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020. David Friend, The Canadian Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 11, 2020 Master Cpl. Jonathan Woolvett didn’t die on the battlefield. But the horrors he endured as a soldier in Afghanistan ultimately cost him his life. The Canadian veteran, who saw two tours of duty in that wartorn country, was remembered with reverence Nov. 11 as his mother laid a wreath in his honour during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Barrie Legion. “He paid the price. He gave it all,” Diana Monteiro told Simcoe.com. “I tried to change his mind a million times not to go back there, but he always wanted to be a soldier ever since he was a little kid.” Woolvett passed away March 17 at Royal Victoria Regional District Health Centre due to complications from catastrophic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He was 38. Woolvett was a “boots-on-the-ground” soldier who saw the nightmare of war first-hand, once having to pick up the pieces of a fellow soldier who was killed by an explosive device. Woolvett received the Medal of Sacrifice in 2013 for saving Canadian lives while fighting the Taliban. “In a hail of bullets, he went and grabbed a friend a hundred feet away and brought him back in a helicopter,” his mother said. “They always said Jonathan was the first one in and the last one out. I’m very proud of him.” At the end of his second tour in 2009, he returned to Canada physically able, but the Barrie-area resident never overcame the mental anguish he carried with him until he died of a heart attack in hospital. “They call it the living death,” Monteiro said. “What never gets talked about is the ones that commit suicide when they come back.” During an interview with Global News in 2014, Woolvett spoke about the nightmares he tried to quash with alcohol and prescribed medications. “A lot of my nightmares are of stuff that didn’t necessarily happen over there. But it’s my greatest fears, like being overrun, being captured, my friends being systematically executed in front of me.” In 2013, he made national headlines when his father addressed an all-party committee of MPs about the “tremendous disconnect” between the military chain of command and the medics treating soldiers with combat-related mental injuries. Greg Woolvett told committee at the time his son was “drinking himself into stupidity” to wash away the nightmares, but appeared to be getting little help from his military commanders. Still, Jon Woolvett had a gregarious side and was popular among his friends and teammates in the Barrie Molson Sportsmen Hockey League, where he went by the nickname “Gunny.” He would tell his teammates stories of Afghanistan, but would lighten the mood with humorous anecdotes. “He always was the entertainer,” his mother said. “When he was little, he was always the last one out of the dressing room because he was performing for his friends.” Woolvett served in Afghanistan from Jan. 21 to Aug. 30, 2007, and Sept. 9, 2008, to March 22, 2009. He retired from the military on April 2, 2015. He is buried in Beechwood National Military Cemetery in Ottawa.Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
ATLANTA — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump's narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state's vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities. Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn't necessary and would disenfranchise voters. Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state's office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn't expected to change the overall outcome. Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month's election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting. “Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online. Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia's previous secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces reelection — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022. Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say. The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don't think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview. Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans use mail-in ballots. Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up. One way to do that could be to require a person's driver's license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said. “We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said. While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms. With no evidence of widespread fraud or other problems in the election, it doesn’t make sense to talk about measures that could ultimately prove to be barriers to voting, said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?" she asked. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.” Young says adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting would be harmful because “we know that these barriers have a different impact on African American voters, on younger voters and, in this instance, on seniors who have certainly earned the right” to vote. State Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat, echoed Young’s concerns, saying Republicans were offering solutions in search of a problem. “What this says to me is that they just don’t want people voting," Jordan said. “And they specifically don’t want Democrats voting, or people that don’t support their chosen candidates voting, and they’re going to try to make it as hard as possible." Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all. An agreement signed in March to settle a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party spells out a standard process that must be used statewide to judge the signatures. That agreement has been the subject of much of Trump's online ire, and he has incorrectly said it “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.” Ben Nadler And Kate Brumback, The Associated Press
Silicon Valley based payment company Affirm has agreed to acquire PayBright, one of the leading Canadian players in the growing "buy now, pay later" payment industry.Affirm said in a press release Thursday that it has agreed to pay $340 million for PayBright, which is works with 7,000 retailers to give customers the option to pay for their purchases in instalments.The instalment payment business is growing rapidly around the world — especially among younger consumers — as an alternative to credit cards, because it allows them to pay for their purchases in staggered payments that come with either no interest, or far less than are charged by conventional payment means.Toronto-based PayBright works with 7,000 retailers across Canada and around the world including Hudson's Bay, Oakley, SAIL, Steve Madden, eBay, Dynamite, SHEIN, Wayfair, Samsung, and Endy. PayBright's model typically allows the consumer to get their purchase up front, and pay for it with four bi-weekly interest-free payments, or over 60 months for larger purchases. The company says it does not charge hidden fees, retroactive interest or revolving interest on purchases.Australia's AfterPay, a similar company, is a global leader in the space which recently launched in Canada. Affirm is another major international player, accepted by 6,500 retailers around the world, and is reportedly getting ready to go public with a valuation of up to $10 billion US."We built PayBright with the mission of making the everyday commerce experience simply better for Canadians," PayBright's CEO Wayne Pommen said in a release. "Partnering with Affirm gives us the opportunity to deliver on that promise on a much larger scale ... As part of a larger, multinational organization, we can help even more merchants attract new customers and provide a greater number of consumers with more control and flexibility in their purchasing decisions."The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year. Currently, PayBright employs about 200 people in Canada. All are expected to join Affirm if and when the deal goes through.
Nakusp Village Hall and the Public Works offices are closed to public walk-in traffic under the new COVID-19 orders issued by Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry. The public is asked to call ahead if you need to speak with Village staff, as all meetings are by appointment only. Masks will be required in all public and common areas in municipal offices as long as the health order is in effect, which is currently until December 7. Zoning decisions • A developer’s plan to tweak the zoning of a property at 88 Nelson Avenue across from the Leland breezed through a public hearing and approvals. The developer wants to build a multi-story building over five lots, with professional offices at street level and strata townhouses above. “The new owners are applying to rezone their property to allow for the operation of a doctor or dentist practice within the commercial space of a newly constructed building,” explained a staff report. However, to do that, the zoning had to be changed from Lakeshore Development (LD-1) to Core Commercial (C1). No one spoke against the zoning change, and councillors approved it without comment. Mayor Tom Zelznik, who’s related to the developer, declared a conflict and did not participate in the discussion or vote. • It was a significantly more robust debate over approving a second cannabis store in downtown Nakusp than the first go-around. Fresh Cannabis, a company out of Revelstoke, wants to open a retail cannabis shop at 201 Broadway, but needed to apply for a zoning change to allow for site-specific use. The Village received five written submissions on the issue, and three people attended the virtual meeting to voice their opposition. “I was told that’s not where Nakusp wanted to be, allowing more franchises to come into town,” said Colin Hanet, owner of Mount Odin Cannabis. He just opened Nakusp’s first pot store a few months ago, and said new competition when he was just getting established would “impact me very negatively.” “We’re local, we’re keeping everything local, we’re trying to get as many BC growers into the business as we can. We try to give back to the community, that’s our goal,” he said, adding he was submitting a petition signed by 187 people showing opposition to the second retail shop. Other intervenors cited health and safety concerns, and questioned the need for more than one cannabis shop in town. Two council members agreed. Councillor Ken Miller and Mayor Zelznik voted against the proposal. But it was Councillor Joseph Hughes’ argument that won the day. “This isn’t a simple decision, it’s very challenging,” he said. “But as a small community, we need to support a little bit of diversity in options… sometimes the market needs to decide what we have the capacity for.” The zoning amendment passed, and Fresh Cannabis will be the first company out of the gate under the Village’s revised bylaw that allows more than one cannabis retail shop. A third potential company, which has applied for zoning to set up a retail outlet on the highway near the golf course, has tabled its proposal while it gathers more information for council. Well tender accepted The project to build a third well for the Village water supply has taken another step. Council approved a proposal from WSA Engineering to do the project design, tendering and management of the project for $53,020. Hot springs revenues cooled by COVID The new COVID restrictions implemented November 19 have also put a damper on the revenues from the municipally owned hot springs. The facility is being closed to non-residents, at least until December 7, the term of the current orders from Dr. Bonnie Henry. The hot springs chalets will also be closed for the duration. The new restrictions are going to impact what was turning out as a decent year for the facility. After the shutdown earlier in the season, revenues bounced back along with the strong summer tourist season. Even with the limits set by the pandemic, the facility was showing a profit of $35,700 for the first 10 months. That’s now evaporated. “Our hope will be to end around ‘net-zero’ for the year, which is still a possibility” said the Village’s financial officer, Mark Tennant. “Which I think would be a success for the year, all things considered.” Campground revenues to benefit Village The municipal campground had a great season, despite COVID, as people vacationed close to home this year. While expecting to make $80,000, the campground actually took in $103,000 in revenue. After salaries and expenses, the campground showed a profit of $28,055. That may change a bit as the year’s last bills come due, but it still will leave some revenue to work with for the future. Taxes due Nakuspians are mostly giving unto Caesar that which is his. A report from the CFO shows only 5% of current taxes remain outstanding. That’s on par with 2019. Late-paying residents still owe a total of $109,042 for this year’s taxes. Some owners are in arrears, or still owe on past years’ taxes, to the tune of $44,966. Two properties delinquent from years past were purchased by the Village in a tax sale in September. The owners have a year to get their properties out of hock, or they could lose them. The situation is a little more pronounced for paying utility bills, which were due August 31. Current utilities outstanding as at November 15 were $119,700, said the CFO. At the same point in time last year there were $71,030 in unpaid fees for water, sewer, and waste disposal. Any utilities outstanding after December 31 will be added to arrears taxes. Broadway facelift complete The renovation of the Village’s downtown is all but complete. Staff reported that a small amount of outstanding work will be completed in the spring. “Not all invoices have been received to date but we are expecting the final costs to be around 10% under budget,” said Director of Finance Mark Tennant.John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 29, 2020 The province has taken cash seized as proceeds of crime and handed it to police services and social agencies, including Barrie police and South Simcoe police. The $2.5 million in funding will be used for 33 projects across the province, aimed at fighting human trafficking. The Barrie Police Service will receive about $97,000, which will be used to “address the underlying causes of crime, such as mental health, addiction or family violence.” “The funds will be used to focus efforts on a system that supports the most vulnerable people and works to reform offenders and lower rates of reoffending,” a media release from the province said. The South Simcoe Police Service will receive about $41,000, which will be used to fund data resources to analyze “patterns and prevalence of crimes” in Innisfil and Bradford-West Gwillimbury. “We are fighting back against human traffickers by investing in training, surveillance technology and equipment, to help local police and prosecutors crack down on the criminal networks that prey on and profit from young and vulnerable people in our communities," said Attorney General Doug Downey. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 29, 2020 Is Barrie fitness club owner Christy Toms worried Simcoe County may follow York Region and shutdown gyms as the second wave of COVID-19 takes hold? The owner of HotBod Fitness in the city’s south end says she doesn’t dwell on the thought, but it does cross her mind. “I’m thinking it won’t happen, but you don’t know,” Toms told Simcoe.com. “Last time, I never thought that would happen in my entire life. So, when it went from two weeks to four months, that was a long time. You do get worried about a shutdown.” Toms, who opened HotBod more than six years ago, offered online classes during the shutdown and is taking advantage of Stage 3 openings announced in July. But there’s no guarantee her business would survive a second shutdown. “I’ve planned ahead in case,” she said. “But would we survive it? I don’t know, but I’m hoping we would.” HotBod was on a roll before provincewide COVID-19 restrictions closed gyms in the spring. “Last year was the best year we ever had. We’re probably down about 50 per cent revenue from what I was pre-COVID-19, which is frustrating to say the least, but you just kind of keep moving forward.” HotBod has gone from “cramming” 30 participants in a fitness class to limits of 15, and has put several COVID-19 safety measures in place. Face masks are essential at all times, except when a member is working out in their own space and is two metres away from others. Toms said she decided to go even further by checking temperatures and asking symptom-screening questions before members enter. “People want to be safe for the most part,” she said. “I think people are just happy to work out and be safe at the same time.” Toms said she could take advantage of a new rent subsidy announced by the federal government and has accepted a $40,000 government loan. But she is hoping she won’t have to dip into that safety net. “At least that’s there if I have to use it. No one likes to use a loan when they’ve been in business for a while.”Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
WASHINGTON — China poses the greatest threat to America and the rest of the free world since World War II, outgoing National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said Thursday as the Trump administration ramps up anti-Chinese rhetoric to pressure President-elect Joe Biden to be tough on Beijing.“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” Ratcliffe wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal. “Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”“I call its approach of economic espionage ‘rob, replicate and replace,'" Ratcliffe said. “China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace.”Trump administration officials have been stepping up their anti-China rhetoric for months, especially during the presidential campaign as President Donald Trump sought to deflect blame for the spread of the coronavirus . On the campaign trail, Trump warned that Biden would go easy on China, although the president-elect agrees that China is not abiding by international trade rules, is giving unfair subsidies to Chinese companies and stealing American innovation.The Trump administration, which once boasted of warm relations with China's President Xi Jinping, also has been ramping up sanctions against China over Taiwan, Tibet, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. It has moved against the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and sought restrictions on Chinese social media applications like TikTok and WeChat.China’s embassy in the U.S. did not respond to a request for comment on Ratcliffe’s op-ed, although China has routinely denied many of these allegations in the past.Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist who has been accused of politicizing the position, has been the nation's top intelligence official since May. In his op-ed, he did not directly address the transition to a Biden administration. Trump has not acknowledged losing the election.Ratcliffe said he has shifted money within the $85 billion annual intelligence budget to address the threat from China. Beijing is preparing for an open-ended confrontation with the U.S., which must be addressed, he said.“This is our once-in-a-generation challenge. Americans have always risen to the moment, from defeating the scourge of fascism to bringing down the Iron Curtain,” Ratcliffe wrote in what appeared to be call for action to future intelligence officials.Biden has announced that he wants the Senate to confirm Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, to succeed Ratcliffe as the next national intelligence director.“This generation will be judged by its response to China’s effort to reshape the world in its own image and replace America as the dominant superpower," Ratcliffe wrote.He cited several examples of Chinese aggression against the United States:The Justice Department has charged a rising number of U.S. academics for transferring U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property to China.He noted the theft of intellectual property from American businesses, citing the case of Sinoval, a China-based wind turbine maker, which was convicted and heavily fined for stealing trade secrets from AMSC, a U.S.-based manufacturer formerly known as American Superconductor Inc. Rather than pay AMSC for more than $800 million in products and services it had agreed to purchase, Sinovel hatched a scheme to steal AMSC’s proprietary wind turbine technology, causing the loss of almost 700 jobs and more than $1 billion in shareholder equity, according to the Justice Department.Ratcliffe and other U.S. officials have said that China has stolen sensitive U.S. defence technology to fuel Xi's aggressive military modernization plan and they allege that Beijing uses its access to Chinese tech firms, such as Huawei, to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten the privacy of users worldwide.Ratcliffe said he has personally briefed members of Congress about how China is using intermediaries to lawmakers in an attempt to influence legislation.Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct.28, 2020 An ATV driver riding along a Springwater road faces a fine after police stopped an adult with a two-year-old passenger on the back on Oct. 25. The ATV driver was pulled over during a patrol of Simcoe County Forest trails by OPP officers and Central Ontario ATV club trail wardens. Riding an ATV on a highway with a child under age eight as a passenger carries a $325 fine under the Highway Traffic Act. Police and trail wardens were also able to help a 33-year-old woman who had injured her arm when she crashed her dirt bike on one of the trails. She was taken to hospital with minor injuries. Four ATV drivers were fined $215 each for not having the required $103 permits to use trails designated for off-road use. Riding in undesignated areas also carries a $215 fine. Trail permits can be purchased from OFATV and OFTR. For details, refer to https://myoftr.ca or call 855-637-6387. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov.8 ,2020 Police and the chief coroner continue to investigate after a dead man was found in Lake Simcoe in Orillia Nov. 7. Orillia OPP is releasing few details as authorities try to determine the cause of death. Police received a phone call at about 10 p.m. Saturday night about a body in the water near the road end of West Street South. Police know the man’s identity but are not releasing it until officers can notify the next of kin. More information will be released when it’s available. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Editor's note: This story was first published on Nov. 10, 2020 Simcoe County’s municipally-funded airports continue to operate during the pandemic, but fewer planes have touched down this year, creating a financial pinch. The Lake Simcoe Regional Airport is weathering COVID-19 thanks to cross-border commercial air traffic. The airport, which is owned by the County of Simcoe and the City of Barrie, benefits from having Border Services agents on site. But like many regional airports across the country, fewer passenger jets are using the runways at the Oro-Medonte airport. Huronia Airport in Tiny Township, which receives one-third of its funding from Tiny, Midland and Penetanguishene, saw a sharp reduction in plane traffic since COVID-19 appeared. “One hit we took this year is fewer landing fees for commercial flights,” airport manager Adam Rigden said. “Normally we will get jets in here for a few months from the States, and none of that has happened. We’ve had virtually no jet traffic in here this year, at all.” As an essential service, the small airport must stay open around the clock for emergency use by the OPP and the Ornge air ambulance. Rigden said the small operation, which only has two full-time employees, isn’t eligible for any government emergency COVID-19 funding to offset loses. Several regional airport associations are lobbying the federal government for financial aid to help small airports survive the pandemic. The Regional Community Airports of Canada (RCAC) accuses the federal government of bailing out large airports in major cities while ignoring regional airports. “Canada’s smaller airports have carried the financial burden of maintaining their runways, air terminals and emergency services without access to any previous or current financial aid,” the group said in a media release. The RCAC recommends: • Regional airports receive federal COVID assistance programs, such as emergency wage subsidy, debit relief and loans programs, and rent subsidy regardless of the ownership model. • Stabilizing the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy for airports to not less than 75 per cent for 2021 to protect the employment capabilities of these airports. Simcoe County Warden George Cornell told Simcoe.com the county is working with the area’s Conservative MPs to put pressure on the Liberal government. “We appreciate the value of small airports, the role they play in our economy,” Cornell said. “We know our MPPs and MPs are supportive of our airports, and we continue to work with them to ensure our businesses across all sectors are receiving the support they require during this outbreak.” Earlier this year, Cornell credited MPs Doug Shipley and John Brassard with ensuring Border Services agents remained at the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport. Meanwhile, the Huronia Airport is operating on a tight budget and could use financial support as the pandemic continues, Rigden said. The airport was expecting a boost this year by adding a restaurant that would have been operated by Georgian College co-op students. But the pandemic put a quick end to those plans, because the terminal has been shut down to the public.Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Minister of Justice David Lametti welcomed on Thursday the UN Declaration on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, saying it’s a statement that the government of Canada “values, respects and promotes” the human rights of all. He added its importance shouldn’t be underestimated.
Toronto police say they have arrested two men and seized large quantities of drugs following two separate investigations.Police say about 150 kilograms of crystal meth, cocaine, fentanyl and heroin were recovered during the probes.They say two firearms and about half a million dollars were also seized.The men were arrested separately and are facing multiple charges including possession for the purpose of trafficking.Police allege that an address in Mississauga, Ont., was being used as a fentanyl lab and for distribution of drugs.A 23-year-old man from Vaughan, Ont., and a 26-year old from Edmonton are scheduled to appear in court on separate dates later this month.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Fresh off another rejection in Pennsylvania's courts, Republicans on Thursday again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, while the state's lawyers say fatal flaws in the original case mean justices are highly unlikely to grant it. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania and the other plaintiffs are asking the high court to prevent the state from certifying any contests from the Nov. 3 election, and undo any certifications already made, such as Biden’s victory, while its lawsuit is considered. They maintain that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions. However, in a sign that the case is likely too late to affect the election, Justice Samuel Alito ordered the state's lawyers to respond by Dec. 9, a day after what is known as the safe harbour deadline. That means that Congress cannot challenge any electors named by this date in accordance with state law. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016. Most mail-in ballots were submitted by Democrats. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court threw out the case Saturday. Kelly's lawyers sought an injunction Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court, then withdrew it while they asked the state's high court to halt any certifications until the U.S. Supreme Court acts. The state's justices refused Thursday, and Kelly's lawyers promptly refiled the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the state’s courts, justices cited the law’s 180-day time limit on filing legal challenges to its provisions, as well as the staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. In addition to challenging the state's mail-in voting law, Kelly’s lawyers question whether the state's justices violated their clients' constitutional rights by throwing out the case on the basis of time limits and barring them from refiling it on the same grounds. Lawyers for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in court filings that Kelly's lawyers never before argued that the U.S. Constitution provides a basis for their claims, making it “highly unlikely” the U.S. Supreme Court will grant what they are seeking. In the underlying lawsuit, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors. ___ Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/timelywriter Marc Levy, The Associated Press
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A female volunteer who regularly feeds big cats was bitten and seriously injured by a tiger Thursday morning at Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Florida, which was made famous by the Netflix series “Tiger King,” officials said. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue received a trauma alert call about 8:30 a.m. Thursday from the sanctuary, agency spokesman Eric Seidel told The Associated Press. Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, said in an email to the AP that the volunteer, Candy Couser, was feeding a tiger named Kimba when she noticed the animal was not in his usual location. Baskin said Couser opened a gate that had been clipped shut but she reached in to unclip it. “This is our universal signal NOT to open a gate” without assistance, Baskin said. “It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it.” “Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder,” Baskin added. Couser was taken to a hospital for treatment of serious injuries after staff and other volunteers at Big Cat Rescue sought to stop the bleeding, Baskin said. Kimba will be placed in quarantine for the next 30 days, but Baskin said the tiger was “just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity.” Baskin said Couser did not want Kimba to suffer any consequences for the incident. The sanctuary was founded by Baskin and Don Lewis in the 1990s and is a prominent animal sanctuary. Lewis disappeared in 1997. The incident came the same day the U.S. House is to vote on a bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, championed by Baskin that would ban handling of big cat cubs and personal possession of them in places such as backyards. “This sort of tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye and we cannot relax our guard for a second around these dangerous cats,” Baskin said. “Tiger King", which debuted in March, was a documentary series about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” an eccentric former Oklahoma zookeeper who loves big cats. Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison earlier this year for his role in a murder-for-hire plot. He was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut him down, accusing the Oklahoma zoo of abusing animals and selling big cat cubs. In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Baskin’s former husband, Lewis. The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin has not been charged with any crime and has repeatedly released statements refuting the accusations made in the series. ___ Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Curt Anderson And Freida Frisaro, The Associated Press
There are no new cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday, marking the first day the province has gone without a new case in more than two weeks The last day without a new case was Nov. 16.Thursday also saw a new recovery from the virus in the Western Health region, according to a news release from the Department of Health, bringing the active number of cases in the province to 29.The start of December has brought with it a continued drop in overall cases in the province, with four recoveries noted on both Wednesday and Tuesday of this week.The province's overall caseload since the pandemic reached N.L. in March remains at 340, with 307 recoveries and four deaths.Health Minister John Haggie has found himself at the eye of a social media storm, centred around his headlining of a fundraiser for his district's Liberal Association the night before at a country club in St. John's.Haggie attended the reception hours after warning against some holiday gatherings, and despite a barrage of online criticism, has maintained his event followed all proper public health guidelines and procedures.In an interview with CBC News Thursday afternoon, Haggie offered an apology.He will speak to the province's pandemic situation again at the week's final live briefing Friday.Some 63,527 people in the province have been tested for the virus, an increase of 364 in the last 24 hours.Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
MONTREAL — Two months after the death of Joyce Echaquan in a Quebec hospital, the head of the regional health authority that runs the hospital has been removed from his post.The departure of Daniel Castonguay was announced Wednesday evening in a news release issued by the provincial health minister. The decision was approved after the provincial cabinet saw a report by Lise Verreault, who was appointed in mid-November to study allegations of racism against Indigenous people at the hospital in Joliette, Que., northeast of Montreal.The hospital and its management came under scrutiny in late September after Echaquan, an Atikamekw woman, filmed two staff members at the Joliette hospital insulting her as she lay dying, and other Indigenous people came forward with stories of abusive treatment.Wednesday's press release says Verreault interviewed 18 people as part of her mandate to establish whether the bond of trust had been broken between the health authority's management and the Indigenous communities it serves.Castonguay has been reassigned to aid in the preparation of Quebec COVID-19 vaccination campaign and will be replaced on an interim basis by Caroline Barbir, who is also head of a Montreal's Ste-Justine children's hospital.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.———This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.The Canadian Press