Ontario is set to see 300 ICU beds filled due to COVID-19. Caryn Lieberman speaks with a critical care specialist at Humber River Hospital to find out how his hospital is managing.
Ontario is set to see 300 ICU beds filled due to COVID-19. Caryn Lieberman speaks with a critical care specialist at Humber River Hospital to find out how his hospital is managing.
The Alberta government has relaxed some of the public health measures enacted in December to stop the spread of COVID-19. Despite these changes, Alberta’s case numbers and hospitalizations remain high, and continue to pose a threat to healthcare system capacity, said Health Minister Tyler Shandro, during a Jan. 14 government press conference. “When we introduced new mandatory health measures in December, we did so with a goal to limiting as much in-person interaction as possible, and the point was to minimize exposure to the virus,” said Shandro. “Today, we can’t entirely ease up on this goal, but we can make small adjustments to provide Albertans with some limited activities.” As of Jan. 18, outdoor social gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed. Personal and wellness services are also now allowed to reopen, by appointment only. This includes a variety of businesses, including hair salons, barber shops, aesthetics, manicure and pedicure businesses, reflexology, piercing and tattoo shops, among others. Maximum funeral ceremony attendance was increased to 20 people, but funeral receptions are still prohibited. Trends of the virus will be assessed to determine if restrictions can be eased further. “I want to stress to everyone that while we are actively looking at what restrictions we are able to ease, over the weeks ahead, in order to make any further changes we need everyone’s cooperation to stay within the rules,” said Shandro. “If we continue to see case rates, hospitalizations and our ICU admissions continue to slow down and go down, we will continue to open things up.” School reporting changes The province is also changing how cases in schools are reported. As of Jan. 18, a school with one to four cases of COVID-19 will receive an “alert” status, while if more than five cases are detected, a school will receive “outbreak” status. There will be two categories of outbreaks, for schools with five to nine cases and for 10 or more cases, and the “watch” status will no longer be used. This change is to terminology only and will not affect how AHS is supporting schools or responding to cases. The province will continue to report schools on the COVID-19 school map when two or more cases are identified. Parents will still be notified if there is a single case in their child’s school. As of Jan. 18, across the province there are two outbreaks (both five to nine cases) and 29 alerts in schools, according to the COVID-19 school status map. However, none of these schools are in Strathmore or Wheatland County. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
After nearly a year in, it seems at this point the pandemic may have gotten to a lot of us. In a series of videos that have struck a chord with the internet, social media marketer and Cambridge local Mikael Melo certainly found some agreement when it comes to the lack of clarity around lockdown and state of emergency messaging in Ontario. One of Melo’s TikTok videos poking fun at the government’s state of emergency order has been watched more than one million times and has 37,000 shares as of Jan. 20. “The response to it has been wonderful,” he said. “I've just had so many people message me saying, ‘I really needed this laugh today,’ or ‘Thank you so much,’ or like, ‘It's really just lifted my spirits during these tough times.’” The sketch in question has him playing a fictional government spokesperson who still has to go to work, despite the government mandate. “We just felt ‘lockdown’ wasn’t really hitting our target audience, so ‘state of emergency’ is just our makeover,” he explains to a bewildered caller. “We’re essentially the exact same experience though,” he explains. If the official message seems a little vague, it’s “because we want customers to choose their own pandemic experience,” the operator adds. When creating the video, Melo thought a few friends would see it and “didn’t think much of it.” But the response hit home (literally) when a few friends turned into a million views in the matter of a few days. Melo “really realized” the video had gone viral when friends reached out to him about the video organically. “They would say, ‘Hey, man, like my mom's friend posted this on her Facebook’ or ‘Hey, dude, like, I'm in North Bay right now, and the local flower shop just posted your video on their Instagram.’ It was like, wow, like this is really making it throughout Ontario.” Melo thinks the reason for the video’s popularity is that the rules of the stay-at-home order still feel “loose” to a lot of people. As someone with marketing experience, the change from lockdown in March to state of emergency today “just feels like a rebrand,” he noted. Melo added that he has more videos that he’d like to keep posting, once TikTok removes his temporary ban. “They thought I was spamming, but I was just trying to respond to everyone's comments and like, thanking them for supporting the video.” Melo, who has been making short TikTok videos since March, said he’s always been someone to “crack a joke or two during tough times.” “I really enjoy making people smile,” he added. Viewers have taken delight to his followup video as the ‘operator,’ which has racked up tens of thousands of views. “In dark times, we just need to find lightness and humour,” Melo said. “And so that's kind of why I started doing those videos.” Swikar Oli, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times
Le Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux (CISSS) des Laurentides fait de la campagne de vaccination contre la COVID-19 sa priorité, dès maintenant et pour les mois à venir. Pour ce faire, Mme Caroline Chantal sera directrice responsable du dossier de la vaccination et travaillera en collaboration avec Dre Danielle Auger, médecin-conseil à la Direction de santé publique. Elles seront supportées par un comité stratégique formé de représentants des différentes directions du CISSS des Laurentides. Cette nouvelle structure de coordination sera centrale aux efforts du CISSS, qui met déjà tout en œuvre pour être prêt à débuter la campagne de vaccination aussitôt qu’il recevra les premières doses. L’équipe de Mme Chantal sera responsable d’assurer le bon fonctionnement de la campagne et de relever les nombreux défis intrinsèques à une opération de cette envergure. « Avec tous les enjeux engendrés par la COVID-19, mettre fin à la propagation du virus est une priorité incontournable pour nous et la campagne de vaccination est notre priorité organisationnelle. Même si plusieurs orientations en lien avec le déroulement de la campagne de vaccination restent à confirmer, nous sommes déjà en action. Ainsi, lorsque viendra le moment de débuter la vaccination, nous serons efficaces dès le départ, tout en maintenant les efforts pour offrir des soins et services de qualité à la population », a laissé savoir Mme Rosemonde Landry, présidente-directrice générale du CISSS des Laurentides, par voie de communiqué. Mme Landry a aussi affirmé que la vaccination devrait commencer dans les Laurentides d’ici la fin du mois. La priorité sera donnée aux résidents des CHSLD et des ressources intermédiaires et de type familial (RI-RTF), ainsi qu’aux travailleurs de la santé qui sont en contact avec eux. Mme Landry rappelle que les Laurentiens doivent continuer de respecter les mesures sanitaires en place. « Continuez vos efforts pour vous protéger et pour protéger les plus vulnérables! » Ailleurs au Québec, la vaccination est commencée! En date du 18 décembre, 2 582 Québécois avaient déjà reçu une première dose du vaccin de Pfizer-BioNTech. Ce vaccin requiert une seconde dose, trois semaines plus tard, pour être pleinement efficace. Radio-Canada a par ailleurs ajouté à ses tableaux interactifs le nombre de doses de vaccin administrées, aux côtés des infections, des rétablis, des morts, des hospitalisations et des tests de dépistage. Durant une conférence de presse le 15 décembre, Justin Trudeau a annoncé que le Canada devrait recevoir 168 000 doses du vaccin de Moderna, dans les jours suivant son approbation par Santé Canada. 200 000 doses supplémentaires du vaccin de Pfizer-BioNTech arriveront aussi au pays durant la semaine du 21 décembre. Le Canada aura donc reçu 417 000 doses de vaccin avant la fin de l’année 2020.Simon Cordeau, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès
Frontline health care workers in Strathmore had a bit of extra time following their long shifts last week thanks to an initiative to provide them with a free meal. The meals were provided by the Calgary Health Foundation, a charity that raises money for health care across the City of Calgary and surrounding communities. The initiative, called Feed the Frontline, started after the organization started to receive requests from the community for ways to show gratitude to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, explained Valerie Ball, director of marketing, communications and community engagement with the organization. “I think over the last couple of months, health care workers have been tirelessly putting everything that they have into providing care and fighting COVID-19 and ensuring that we are taken well care of,” said Ball. “So, people just really wanted a way to give back and give thanks.” The meals, from Sunterra Market in Calgary, were offered to staff members working in hospital and community health centres, in Calgary and 16 surrounding communities, said Ball. “It’s just to give them a night off, after everything they put into work every single day, whether it’s to fill their belly and rejuvenate or maybe spend some more time with their family.” Feed the Frontline provided health care workers in the region 21,000 meals in total, including 325 meals to health care workers living in Strathmore. The meals are a welcome relief, said Shayla Noel, a pre-triage screener at the Strathmore Hospital. “We do get pretty busy and it’s exhausting some days, so to be recognized is just touching,” said Noel. “I know everyone who is being recognized is very appreciative.” Work in the hospital has been busy, but everyone can still be seen, said Jarrett Fawdry, Strathmore Hospital site manager. “COVID is an old hat now – with our enhanced infection prevention and control measures, we’re very comfortable inside with what we’re doing to protect our patients in the community.” With meal prep and cooking out of the way for a night, Fawdry said he would spend some extra time with his kids, while Noel said she “might go to bed early.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
A bevy of major U.S. earnings reports next week led by Apple, Microsoft and Facebook could help technology and growth stocks reassert their dominance after a recent run by banks, energy and other potential beneficiaries of an economic reopening. That shift has stalled in recent days as investors weighed lackluster outlooks from big banks and a blockbuster quarterly report from Netflix that lifted its shares by 17%. Next week's crop of fourth-quarter results - with about a quarter of the S&P 500 reporting - could help determine whether the resurgence in growth stocks will continue, potentially threatening the recent rally in value and cyclical shares, said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services.
À l’automne dernier, le gouvernement minoritaire de Justin Trudeau a passé près de tomber à deux reprises, sauvé in extremis par le NPD. En 2021, les partis fédéraux se préparent déjà à de possibles élections, peut-être aussi tôt que ce printemps. Discussion avec Rhéal Fortin, député de Rivière-du-Nord et du Bloc québécois. « Je n’en souhaite pas. On a de quoi s’occuper, avec la pandémie! » M. Fortin croit que les partis à Ottawa peuvent continuer de travailler ensemble et finir leur mandat de 4 ans. Il met toutefois un bémol. « Il ne faut pas non plus que les évènements deviennent des excuses pour ne plus travailler en démocratie. » Le député bloquiste rappelle que le gouvernement libéral s’est attribué des pouvoirs extraordinaires pour gérer la crise, comme celui de gouverner par décrets. « Les Libéraux l’ont utilisé de façon abusive. Ils ont octroyé des contrats sans appel d’offre pour des centaines de millions de dollars, voire des milliards! » M. Fortin mentionne le scandale UNIS, qui a éclaboussé le Parti libéral l’été dernier, à titre d’exemple. Les sondages sont avantageux pour le Parti libéral, avec une confortable avance devant les Conservateurs. Le nouveau chef conservateur, Erin O’Toole, n’est en poste que depuis août dernier, et a eu peu de temps pour se faire connaître. Le NPD a soutenu les Libéraux à l’automne, suite à des concessions de ces derniers, mais aussi parce que Jagmeet Singh considérait que son parti était mal préparé pour des élections. Toutefois, cette collaboration fragile pourrait se terminer… « Ça dépend beaucoup de M. Trudeau. C’est sûr que ça peut être tentant, aller chercher un gouvernement majoritaire. Plus le temps passe, plus il s’expose à se faire critiquer », analyse le député bloquiste. Que ce soit la gestion des frontières et des voyageurs, la dette grandissante ou la prestation canadienne d’urgence (PCU) sur laquelle il faudra bientôt payer des impôts (et que certains devront rembourser), le temps pourrait jouer contre M. Trudeau. « Les risques que sa popularité aille en décroissance sont grands. Ça pourrait être suffisant pour déclencher des élections ce printemps, sinon à l’automne prochain », croit M. Fortin. Cependant, selon le député de Rivière-du-Nord, un gouvernement minoritaire sert mieux les intérêts des électeurs qu’un gouvernement majoritaire. Cela oblige le parti au pouvoir à négocier avec les partis d’opposition et à faire des compromis. « Tous les points de vue doivent être représentés », une composante essentielle à la démocratie, insiste M. Fortin. Le député du Bloc québécois croit d’ailleurs que son parti est en bonne position pour maintenir les 32 sièges qu’il occupe à la Chambre des communes, peut-être même pour faire des gains. « Moi j’ai confiance, je suis satisfait du travail que notre caucus a fait. » M. Fortin vante la représentation que son parti donne aux Québécois, par exemple dans les dossiers environnementaux et en foresterie. « Avoir des députés dont le seul mandat est de veiller aux intérêts et aux valeurs du peuple du Québec, c’est une maudite belle affaire! » Il prend garde, toutefois, d’être trop confiant. « En politique, ça peut changer vite! » Comment les partis mèneront-ils une campagne électorale en pleine pandémie? « Ça, c’est la question à un million de dollars, que tout le monde se pose! » M. Fortin admet qu’il sera difficile d’atteindre les électeurs. « Il va falloir trouver une façon de faire passer des messages : ce qu’on n’a pas aimé du gouvernement, et ce qu’on propose. » Le politicien d’expérience croit que la campagne passera beaucoup par les médias, la publicité et les pancartes électorales (que lui-même déplore), plutôt que sur le terrain en rencontrant les électeurs. Les médias sociaux pourraient aussi jouer un rôle important, mais les électeurs seront-ils au rendez-vous pour écouter les candidats? 155 députés libéraux 121 députés conservateurs 32 députés bloquistes 24 députés néo-démocrates 3 députés verts 3 députés indépendants Selon le site web Qc125.com, qui fait des projections statistiques basées sur les tendances électorales, l’évolution démographique et les sondages politiques, si des élections fédérales avaient eu lieu le 10 janvier 2021, le vote aurait été de : Au Québec, la projection est la suivante : Simon Cordeau, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Friday he wanted it known that he had no plans to commit suicide in prison, as he issued a message of support to his followers on the eve of protests the authorities say are illegal. Navalny was detained on Sunday after flying home for the first time since being poisoned with what the West says was a military-grade nerve agent that Navalny says was applied to his underpants by state security agents. The 44-year-old lawyer, in a Moscow prison pending the outcome of four legal matters he describes as trumped up, accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering his attempted murder.
Kingston’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said he is confident that students and schools in the region are in a good position to safely resume in-class learning on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. “We [continue] to have one of the lowest rates of illness in the province,” Dr. Moore said on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. “Our rates are lower than many of the northern health units, whose schools opened right after the new year.” Kingston-area students have been out of class since Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. The Ministry of Education delayed their return to class following the winter break, originally scheduled for Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, as COVID-19 cases spiked across Ontario. Ontario has been under a Provincewide Shutdown since Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 and a stay-at-home order since Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Cases in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health region have steadily declined during that time, with only 10 active cases of COVID-19 currently confirmed in the region. Ontario parents were told a decision on whether students could return to in-person class on Monday would be announced on Wednesday, Jan. 20 2021. Ontario’s Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, drew negative social media attention when, late Wednesday afternoon, he tweeted an announcement about gas tax funding in Ontario’s York region, but made no indication of a decision on schools. His statement regarding the reopening of schools was eventually posted at 8 p.m., after the news had already been broken by national outlets who had received a copy. The statement revealed that seven eastern Ontario Public Health regions would be resuming online learning, and that virtual learning would continue elsewhere. Meanwhile, Dr. Moore said he had been anticipating that KFL&A Public Health region would get the green light. He said he had discussed the topic in his weekly conversation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario. “I was absolutely comfortable, given that our cases are four cases per 100 thousand per week, very comfortable to say that our schools are opening,” he said. Dr. Moore noted that students and staff will need to follow some additional Public Health measures when they return to in-class learning. “There’s mandatory masking now, even in the school yard, when you can’t physically distance,” he said. Previously children were allowed to play mask-free outdoors on school property. “Also, extra precautions to limit the number of high school students outdoors, congregating. That has to follow the Reopening Ontario Act: five or less are allowed to gather at any one time.” He reminded parents to send extra masks given the weather, as they can anticipate masks will get wet. “The masks don’t work well when wet,” he cautioned. “We’re confident that schools will continue to follow best practices. We’re sending out an information package to them that can be sent to parents, and working on a joint communication.” In the meantime, he asked that any students exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and students who have travelled outside the region or had visitors from outside the region, get tested now. The COVID-19 assessment centre is open seven days per week, and results are typically returned in under 48 hours. “We’re ready, locally, and we’ve been in a very good position for the last 10 to 14 days. We’ll monitor the situation very closely,” he said. Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
Ontario reported another 2,662 cases of COVID-19 and 87 more deaths linked to the illness on Friday, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will send two mobile health units to assist in the Greater Toronto Area. "The spike in COVID-19 cases this month has put a real strain on hospitals," Trudeau said during a morning news conference. "For Ontario, in particular, the situation is extremely serious." Trudeau said the units will provide up to 200 additional hospital beds as well as medical equipment and supplies, freeing up space in the region's intensive care units. In a news release, the federal government said the mobile units are being deployed after a provincial request for assistance, and that they expected to be in the GTA "as rapidly as possible." They are scheduled to remain available to the provincial government until May 1, depending on the COVID-19 trends in Ontario at that time. The province will be responsible for staffing the mobile units, the release added. WATCH | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on mobile health units headed to the GTA: The new cases reported today include 779 in Toronto, 542 in Peel Region, 228 in York Region, 128 in Waterloo Region, 188 in Windsor-Essex County and 102 in Halton Region. Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were: Niagara Region: 95 Durham Region: 80 Hamilton: 78 Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 77 Ottawa: 75 Simcoe Muskoka: 71 Middlesex-London: 65 Thunder Bay: 58 Eastern Ontario: 37 Huron-Perth: 26 Southwestern: 19 Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge: 16 Sudbury:13 Chatham-Kent: 11 (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.) They come as labs processed 71,750 test samples for the virus and reported a provincewide test positivity rate of 3.3 per cent, the lowest it has been since mid-December. Further, the seven-day average of daily cases dropped to 2,703, marking 11 straight days of decreases. Another 3,375 infections were marked resolved in today's report. There were 25,263 confirmed, active infections in Ontario yesterday — a figure that has also been trending downward since its peak on Jan 11. According to the province's data, the number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals, as well as those requiring intensive care and ventilators all decreased. As of yesterday, the total number of COVID-19 patients that were: In hospitals: 1,512 (down 21) Being treated in intensive care units: 383 (down five) On ventilators: 291 (down two) There were ongoing outbreaks of the illness in 244, or about 39 per cent, of Ontario's 626 long-term care homes. Revised projections recently released by the province's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table suggested if Ontario were to accelerate its immunization rollout and vaccinate all long-term care home residents by the end of January, rather than mid-February, as many as 580 lives could be saved. The 87 additional deaths push Ontario's official COVID-19-linked death toll to 5,701. Meanwhile, the province said it administered 13,784 doses of vaccines Thursday. A total of 264, 985 shots have been given out, while 49,292 people have received both doses. WATCH | Measures in Ontario, Quebec seem to be working, epidemiologist says: #StayHomeON media campaign The provincial government said it has a new #StayHomeON campaign, which will include messages from various online "influencers" and politicians, including a video from Rick Mercer posted this morning. Lisa MacLeod, minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries, said in a news release that athletes on the Toronto Raptors and Ottawa Senators will also be participating. Markedly absent from the province's expanded effort to get Ontarians to stay home is the availability of permanent paid sick days, which the Progressive Conservative government eliminated in 2018. The government's own medical and science advisers, as well as a chorus of municipal officials and activists, have repeatedly called for Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet to implement paid sick days, especially for essential and low-wage workers in the manufacturing, warehousing and food processing sectors. Ford has instead pointed to the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which offers $500 per week for up to two weeks eligible workers. Critics have noted, however, that the program amounts to less than minimum wage and the financial assistance is not immediate. More cases at Canada Post facility Meanwhile, mandatory testing at a Mississauga Canada Post facility found 27 asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 in 48 hours. Canada Post said 149 workers at its massive Dixie Road site had tested positive between Jan. 1 and Thursday afternoon. Spokesperson Phil Legault said the latest cases were detected among workers who were asymptomatic or didn't believe they had symptoms. Testing of the entire shift was ordered by Peel Public Health and began Jan. 19. Legault said Canada Post is now offering voluntary testing to employees working outside the public health-identified shift. More than 4,500 people work at the Mississauga site.
It's time for Canada to consider finally appointing a First Nations person to the post of Governor General, says the head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, resigned on Thursday after an external review at Rideau Hall foundthe pair presided over a toxic work environment. That leaves the position open to a new appointment. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs issued a statement later that day, saying that having the federal government appoint a First Nations person as the next Governor General would send a strong message that it is sincere about its rhetoric on reconciliation, and that there is no relationship that is more important to the Prime Minister than the one with Indigenous peoples. Such an appointment would pay respect to the spirit and intent of the treaties between Canada's First Nations people and the Crown, Grand Chief Arlen Dumas told CBC News. Historically, the Governor General had a significant role in developing those treaties, he said. "It would also be a testament to the collaboration of what it took to make Canada the country it is today," he said. "I think that having a First Nations person play that role would help expedite those things and encourage the conversation and acknowledgement of how it's actually the First Nations, along with the French and English, that built this country." There is no shortage of strong Indigenous candidates in Manitoba who could become the Queen's representative in Ottawa, he said. "We have doctors, we have lawyers, we have scientists. We have all sorts of people from all walks of life who would be able to play that role in a truly respectful and meaningful way." An independent consulting firm was hired to do the review by the Privy Council Office last year after reports surfaced that Payette was responsible for workplace harassment at Rideau Hall. President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc told CBC's Vassy Kapelos the federal government received the final report late last week, and it offered some "disturbing" and "worrisome" conclusions. In a media statement announcing her departure, Payette apologized for what she called the "tensions" at Rideau Hall in recent months.
The website of Iran's Supreme Leader on Friday carried the image of a golfer resembling former President Donald Trump apparently being targeted by a drone alongside a threat of revenge over last year's killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. drone attack. The image first appeared on a Persian-language Twitter feed that carried a link to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's website. Twitter took down that feed on Friday, saying it was fake.
In a landmark verdict in one of the mining world's most high profile legal cases, a Swiss criminal court found Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz guilty of corruption and forgery on Friday and sentenced him to five years in jail with a sizeable fine. The ruling after a two-week trial is a blow for Steinmetz, a diamond trader, whose pursuit of the world's richest uptapped deposits of iron ore put him at the centre of a battle that has triggered probes and litigation around the world. Steinmetz said he would appeal the verdict, which also included a 50 million Swiss francs ($56.48 million) fine.
The Town of Strathmore has reinstated license fees for Strathmore-based businesses in 2021 after waiving them last year, but a rebate could be enacted later in the year if needed. Under the town’s business license bylaw, all businesses are required to hold a valid business license, costing a fee. But this fee was waived for Strathmore-based businesses by town council in February 2020 to attract new businesses to Strathmore and support existing ones. Whether the town should again waive fees for local businesses in 2021 was discussed by town council during the Jan. 13 committee of the whole meeting. Mayor Pat Fule said he brought the issue to the meeting after being contacted by multiple residents concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on businesses. The 2021 to 2023 operating budget council passed in November 2020 included about $100,000 in revenue from business fees in 2021. Therefore, if council was again to waive business license fees, the town would need to either raise property taxes or make a transfer from reserves to offset the revenue loss, said Mel Tiede, the town’s director of corporate services, during the meeting. Another consideration in the decision is that the Strathmore Wheatland Chamber of Commerce (SWCC) is funded by licensing fees from SWCC-member businesses, noted Councillor Bob Sobol. The town has already billed more than $60,000 in business license fees this year, said Tiede. Approximately 80 businesses have already paid for licenses. Invoices for business fees are mailed out during the first two weeks of December, with fees due and payable by the last week in January of the current calendar year. Councillor Melanie Corbiell proposed extending the due date for business licensing fees. However, Doug Lagore, the town’s interim chief administrative officer, recommended council stay a decision for now. “If we find that the businesses have to remain shut down for a good portion of the year, we could look at a rebate program sometime during the year if there is a big impact,” he said. “But I think it’s premature at this time. Let’s see what the impact of COVID will be during the year, and deal with it at a later time.” Councillor Lorraine Bauer suggested businesses challenged by the licensing fees could be exempted on an individual basis. Council decided to keep licensing fees in place for now, and the presentation was accepted as information. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
WASHINGTON — Capitol Police are investigating an incident in which a Republican lawmaker was blocked from entering the House chamber after setting off a metal detector while apparently carrying a concealed gun. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., set off the metal detector while trying to enter the chamber Thursday afternoon. The metal detectors were installed after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. The incident was witnessed by a reporter from the Huffington Post After setting off the machine, Harris was asked to step aside for further screening. At that time, an officer discovered Harris was carrying a concealed gun on his side, according to the reporter. The officer sent Harris away, at which point Harris tried to get Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., to take the gun from him. Katko refused, telling Harris he didn’t have a license to carry a gun. Harris eventually left and returned less than 10 minutes later. He once again went through security and did not set off the magnetometer. He was then allowed to enter the House floor. Harris, in his sixth term representing Maryland's Eastern Shore, issued a statement through his chief of staff, Bryan Shuy. “Because his and his family’s lives have been threatened by someone who has been released awaiting trial, for security reasons, the congressman never confirms whether he nor anyone else he’s with are carrying a firearm for self-defence,'' the statement said. "As a matter of public record, he has a Maryland Handgun Permit. And the congressman always complies with the House metal detectors and wanding. The Congressman has never carried a firearm on the House floor.'' Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for Capitol Police, said the incident is being investigated. The public is not allowed to carry guns on Capitol grounds, but members of Congress may keep firearms in their offices or transport them on the Capitol grounds if they are unloaded and securely wrapped. Lawmakers are not allowed to bring guns into either the House or Senate chambers. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
CBC News gains access to a unique inoculation site in the U.K., where vulnerable groups are being prioritized.
After complaints from its residents, Wheatland County is confronting large, personal medicinal cannabis growing facilities that, unlike regulated commercial facilities, operate without having to notify the municipality. Tom Ikert, Division 4 Councillor, brought forth the issue after becoming aware of a cannabis growing operation close to his residence. “I went to the county because the neighbours were complaining about the smell,” he said. At first Ikert was assured that no growing facility exists in the area – the county allows commercial cannabis cultivation in the Wheatland Industrial Park only – but he later determined the facility was a personal medical cannabis growing facility. A big one. In November 2020, Wheatland County published a white paper arguing there is a regulatory gap for personal and medicinal cannabis growing that is creating safety and environmental risks and causing disputes among neighbours. The white paper was sent to local MLAs, Bow River MP Martin Shields, and Premier Jason Kenney. Under Canada’s cannabis laws, the federal government is responsible for the rules for cannabis production and processing, while provinces and territories are responsible for regulating distribution and sale. While Alberta municipalities have the power to create land use bylaws on where cannabis can be grown, these apply to commercial enterprises only. Municipal policies and land use regulations are not applicable to personal cannabis production. Under Health Canada’s Medicinal Use of Cannabis application, individuals can apply for a medicinal growing license. The number of plants each license holder is allowed is determined by a calculator tool that creates an output based on the number of grams they are prescribed daily. Up to 485 cannabis plants can be grown at home, without the requirement of notifying local authorities. “Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s 1,000 pounds of weed you can grow in a year if you’re using 500-watt bulbs,” said Ikert. He added many of these growers have brought three-phase power onto the sites, which raises questions as to whether the cannabis grown is strictly for personal use as restricted by law. While the permit holder is expected to meet local bylaws, regulations and safety code requirements, the application and approval process does not require confirmation that all municipal requirements have been met. The county is arguing this has created a large regulatory loophole, where large cannabis growing facilities can be active without being known or accountable to municipal enforcement. The problem is exacerbated by regulations allowing a designated producer to be registered by multiple permit holders. Multiple (up to four) registrations can be active at one same location, meaning up to 1,940 plants can be grown together. “You can also congregate, in a sense,” said Bow River MP Martin Shields. “Three or four growers get together and say, ‘let’s just roll with this one place,’” he said. “Wheatland County is absolutely right saying that if cannabis is being grown as a congregated personal site, municipalities have no clue what’s out there.” Many growers choose to make changes to their homes or buildings that legally require an electrical, gas or building permit. If they applied for a permit, it would be reviewed for compliance with the Alberta Building Code and the work inspected by a safety codes officer, once complete. But by not having to notify municipalities, these growers may skip the permit process and install new systems that are unsafe, the white paper argues. Without the requirement for proper ventilation, there is potential for environmental health issues from home cannabis growing, including air quality and moisture concerns (e.g. mould), and chemical exposure from use of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, it states. Residents also have little recourse when faced with nuisance issues from a neighbouring facility, namely odours. If the county is notified of a nuisance growing facility that is not a known commercial operation with a development permit, the RCMP will be contacted. However, if the occupant or owner is found to have a license for medical cannabis, the only option is to let the license holder know of the complaint and work toward a voluntary solution. These personal medical grow operations do not have to have the same security systems that commercial sites require, resulting in a higher potential for crime, added Shields. The resolution of the white paper is for the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) to collaborate with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), to advocate for Health Canada to ensure municipal compliance for all personal medical cannabis production facilities for existing license holders and prior to approval for all future applications. Reeve Amber Link presented the paper to the RMA District 2: Central directors, who supported the resolution. It will go forward to the RMA District 2 spring meeting on Feb. 5. If the resolution receives support at that meeting, it will go to the RMA spring convention for consideration by all rural municipalities in Alberta, she explained. The paper will also be presented to the FCM during its March 2021 board meeting. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
JACKSON, Miss. — A leader of the Brexit movement and newly appointed government trade adviser in the United Kingdom is now the head of a conservative think-tank in the American South. Douglas Carswell, 49, started working this month as the new CEO and president of Mississippi Center for Public Policy. Carswell, a libertarian and former member of Britain’s governing Conservative Party, was a member of Parliament for 12 years and a co-founder of Vote Leave, the campaign that pushed the Brexit referendum in 2016. Carswell said his home country was his primary focus as the U.K. negotiated terms of its recently finalized split from the European Union. However, he said he has had a growing interest in working in the U.S. “I think the fight for freedom in America is the most important battle for freedom in the world, because America is the exceptional country in the world,” Carswell told The Associated Press. Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican who left office a year ago, has developed a work relationship with Brexit leader Nigel Farage, and Bryant attended a 2019 event for the lobbying group World4Brexit. Carswell said he has never met Bryant. Carswell clashed with more populist Farage after being the first of only two U.K. Independence Party candidates ever elected to Parliament. Farage ran unsuccessfully more than half a dozen times. Carswell's 2014 election victory gave political momentum to the party and the Brexit cause. He left the U.K. Independence Party in 2017, later stepping down from Parliament. After Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union, many of the figures who led the campaign have moved on to new ventures. Farage became a radio talk-show host and Donald Trump’s main British supporter, once even attending and speaking at a 2016 Trump campaign event in Mississippi. Others have been appointed to the House of Lords by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government. It’s common for former British lawmakers of all political stripes to seek think-tank or academic posts in the U.S. — a career move that can often bring prestige back home. In an email introducing his new position in Mississippi, Carswell said he believes freedom in the U.S. is “under attack” from a “radical New Left.” “If liberty is extinguished, the United States will become just another over-regulated, over-taxed, debt-ridden country, presided over by remote officials,” he said. “That would be a catastrophe for the whole world.” Carswell said he thinks school choice can give low-income Mississippi families more opportunities. He said he will push policies to make the state more competitive in attracting new businesses and allowing existing ones to grow. “Businesses that are traditionally located in hubs like New York, or Chicago or California, quite a few of those businesses are moving away from high tax and regulation regimes to Texas, Florida or Tennessee,” he said. “Why not Mississippi?” The Mississippi Center for Public Policy lobbies for lower taxes, fewer government regulations and free-market approaches to health care. Carswell said he admires that people’s freedoms in the U.S. are defined in federal and state constitutions. “In America, if your local mayor wakes up one morning and decides to take away your fundamental freedoms, you can take the politicians to court under the Constitution, you can enforce your rights as an individual,” he said. It allows “ordinary folk to live their lives free from the arbitrary whim of government,” Carswell said. “It’s only when you don’t have that that you realize quite how precious it is,” he said. “It really is the secret of American success.” Carswell plans to live in Jackson with his family but is not leaving U.K. politics. In November, he was appointed to a three-year term as a nonexecutive director of Britain’s Department for International Trade. Liz Truss, the U.K.’s secretary of state for international trade, said Carswell will work at “striking free trade agreements in markets around the world, operating our own trading system after the transition period, boosting exports and investment across the UK, and championing free trade and shaping global trading rules.” ___ Associated Press reporter Jill Lawless contributed from London. ___ Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Leah Willingham, The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth but went on to break the career home run record in the pre-steroids era, died early Friday. He was 86 The Atlanta Braves said Aaron died peacefully in his sleep. No cause of death was given. Aaron made his last public appearance less than two weeks ago when he received the COVID-19 vaccine. “Hammerin’ Hank” set a wide array of career hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, including RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases. But the Hall of Famer will be remembered for one swing above all others, the one that made him baseball’s home-run king. It was a title he would hold for more than 33 years, a period in which the Hammer slowly but surely claimed his rightful place as one of America’s most iconic sporting figures, a true national treasure worthy of mention in the same breath with Ruth or Ali or Jordan. “Hammerin’ Hank” set multiple hitting records during a 23-year career spent mostly with the Braves, including RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases. But the Hall of Famer will be remembered for one swing above all others. On April 8, 1974, before a sellout crowd at Atlanta Stadium and a national television audience, Aaron broke Ruth’s home run record with No. 715 off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Aaron finished his career with 755. Barry Bonds surpassed that in 2007 —though many continued to call the Hammer the true home run king because of allegations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Paul Newberry, The Associated Press
Squamish Nation has launched a new program to help guide its community members through the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation has introduced a team of ‘COVID Guardians’ to offer extra support to community members in isolation, educate and raise awareness of the virus and provincial health officer restrictions, and to report on any issues that may arise. Syetáxtn, Chris Lewis, Squamish nation spokesperson, said the new program was already having a positive impact, sharing the news in a Facebook update to members. “It's a new program to assist our community through the pandemic and to also ensure that there is public awareness and the information gets out,” he said in the latest video update on Jan. 15. “The guardians are here to ensure safety and engage with members of the public to make sure that the residents and everybody in our community are aware of the physical distancing directives and to provide education around public etiquette and courtesies and shared outdoor spaces. “They'll also help maintain and prevent any COVID exposures within the community through continued education and prevention.” There are five guardians, three for North Vancouver and two for the Squamish Valley, who report to the nation’s emergency co-ordinator, David Harrison, and to the emergency operations director, Paul Wick. Syetáxtn said so far the guardians had been busy checking in with community members that are in isolation, or quarantining, delivering COVID lawn signs and care packages to households, and fixing and repairing damaged and vandalized signs throughout the community. “They patrol high exposure areas and help clean up the community, so I really want to thank them for the work that they're doing,” he said, Syetáxtn said the guardians would also be helping with the rollout of vaccinations in the community. Vaccinations have already started in 169 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities across Canada, according to Indigenous Services Canada. “In the coming months, you can see our guardians assisting in the setup operation of the upcoming Squamish nation COVID vaccination site,” said Syetáxtn. “We're continuing to work with Vancouver Coastal Health and health authorities to ensure that those sites are set up and we're in the queue.” While plans are in the works, Syetáxtn said there was “no update in terms of when the nation will receive the current vaccine.” “We are in conversations, though, in terms of our home care assistants, in terms of getting them vaccinated because we know that they’re supporting our most vulnerable,” he said. He added that the nation’s older adults and elders were a priority for vaccinations in B.C. “The age requirement for indigenous adults will be lower than the rest of the population due to the higher rate of health risks to our elders and other factors that have affected access to quality health care," said Syetáxtn. “So, our elders will be in that queue.” During the members update, Khelsilem, Dustin Rivers, Squamish Nation spokesperson, confirmed there are active COVID-19 cases in the nation’s community at this time, but they did not have exact case numbers to provide. “The nation does not receive names of any confirmed cases or members advised to self-isolate or quarantine unless the members voluntarily share that information with us and give us permission to share that information publicly,” he said. Earlier this month he told North Shore News the nation temporarily closed its main office at 320 Seymour Boulevard, from Jan. 6 to 11, due to a COVID-19 exposure, and those involved were taking the “necessary precautions.” He said there were a number of other active cases in the community which weren’t related to the office exposure. He added that there had been no cluster events in the community since the summer. Up until Sep. 23, 2020 there had been a total of 43 confirmed cases - 39 lab-confirmed, four epi-linked, for the nation. Since then, Khelsilem said “they have all been minor cases, contained through contact tracing and isolating.” In First Nations communities across B.C., as of Jan. 20, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of a total of 1,377 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. ISC said Across Canada, numbers had “reached an all-time new high this week” with a total of 14,200 positive cases – 5,409 active cases, 124 deaths, and 8,667 recoveries. “A number of communities are experiencing mounting cases, and ISC is taking measures to mitigate risks, including meeting regularly with local health services in Indigenous communities and engaging with provincial and other federal department representatives in an effort to assess on-going community needs,” a Government of Canada release stated. Khelsilem commended the community for its ongoing efforts to follow the PHO recommendations and restrictions. “You've done an amazing job of helping protect the community from the spread of the virus,” he said, adding he understood how difficult it had been to not be able follow usual traditions and spiritual practices in hard times. “As we get through this, I just want to continue to thank and encourage our community to work very hard to stay by these health orders that are set in stone to help protect our community. “We're all in this together, and of course, we will all get through this together.” The community can reach out to the Squamish Nation’s Guardians by calling 604-374-2687 or can contact the Member Services Department on 604-982-7610 during office hours or 604-505-3776 after hours for care packages and support. Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News
Pendant que la neige tombait à gros flocons samedi dernier, j’ai déniché quelques trésors cachés sur le site web de l’Office national du film, onf.ca. Pour vous, j’ai fait une sélection des meilleurs courts-métrages mettant en vedette la neige, l’hiver et nos paysages nordiques. Idéal pour une soirée de couvre-feu, faute d’aller jouer dehors. Découvrez l’homme derrière la légende qui a sillonné les Laurentides pendant des décennies et qui en a tracé les plus importants sentiers. Ce portrait, réalisé pour le centenaire d’Herman Smith-Johannsen, révèle un explorateur infatigable, sa résilience et son humour. Le documentaire trace des parallèles entre sa Norvège natale et ses Laurentides d’adoption, et nous fait voyager dans le temps. Dans une scène, on le voit racontant ses souvenirs dans une voiture, cigare en bouche, pendant que des paysages enneigés défilent par la fenêtre. En noir et blanc, ce court-métrage offre un regard d’ensemble du ski au Canada, de Banff aux Laurentides. On y retrouve l’enthousiasme des premières neiges, la leçon de ski, le remonte-pente pour les « moins vaillants » (dit le narrateur), et la vue magnifique une fois arrivé au sommet. Somme toute, le sport a bien peu changé, 73 ans plus tard. Une journée à la patinoire, présentée par Gilles Carle, le célèbre cinéaste québécois dans ses débuts. La musique de Claude Léveillée anime même ce court-métrage sans paroles. En bottes ou en patins, on y découvre le simple plaisir de patiner, de glisser et de jouer sur la glace. Pourquoi ne pas jouer une amicale partie de hockey, avant de se déhancher sur la glace au rythme de la musique de l’heure : le rock ‘n’ roll! Suivez ces deux Inuits (appelés Esquimaux dans le film) alors qu’ils bâtissent un iglou pour la nuit, pendant que le narrateur vous explique comment faire. Vous n’aurez besoin que d’un couteau à neige… et de neige. Les Inuits peuvent prendre aussi peu que 40 minutes ou aussi longtemps que 2 jours pour construire leur iglou, selon leurs besoins. Mon préféré. Suivez l’artiste Alexander Young Jackson dans la création de ses paysages uniques. Jackson est membre du Groupe des sept, un rassemblement de paysagistes canadiens qui ont révolutionné l’art durant les années 1920. Pour faire ses ébauches, Jackson part en expédition dans la nature automnale de l’Ontario, au Lac Grace, puis dans les collines enneigées de Saint-Tite-des-Caps, juste au nord de l’Île d’Orléans. On le voit en canot, faire du portage et même escalader les parois rocheuses du bouclier canadien, tout pour trouver le parfait paysage.Simon Cordeau, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Accès