The Imagine Clinic has been serving people who don’t have an OHIP card for more than 10 years. Last spring they had to stop seeing patients because of COVID-19. Katherine Ward has more on how they are reopening and seeing patients virtually.
The Imagine Clinic has been serving people who don’t have an OHIP card for more than 10 years. Last spring they had to stop seeing patients because of COVID-19. Katherine Ward has more on how they are reopening and seeing patients virtually.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
EDMONTON — Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations and the province hopes to hit a major milestone before July. “We now expect to offer all Albertans aged 18 and over a first dose of vaccine by the end of June,” Tyler Shandro said Thursday. But he noted that this goal depends on vaccine shipments from the federal government arriving on time. Earlier shipments this year did not come as expected. "We will keep pushing the federal government to actually deliver the vaccines that they have promised, and we’ll keep expanding our roll out to get doses into arms as fast as possible,” Shandro said. So far, Alberta has delivered 266,000 doses of vaccine. About 176,000 Albertans have been vaccinated, including 90,000 fully immunized with the recommended two doses. Shandro said residents aged 65 to 74, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis aged 50-plus, can begin booking March 15. The province had originally not expected to begin this stage of vaccination until April. Shandro said Alberta can now begin to accelerate the shots for two reasons: a new vaccine and a change in the vaccine regimen. Last week Health Canada approved a third vaccine, from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Shandro said the first 58,000 doses will be available starting March 10, but there is a caveat. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or NACI, has said while AstraZeneca is just as effective as the other vaccines, due to incomplete data it recommends it not be given to those over 64. Shandro said for that reason, the AstraZeneca vaccine will for now be offered to adults aged 50 to 64 who don’t have a severe chronic illness. The vaccination ramp-up is also due to a recommendation this week by the NACI that the wait for a second dose can be safely extended from the original six-week time limit to as long as four months. The NACI says evidence shows a first dose is 80 per cent effective for months. British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan will implement the delay in order to get more people inoculated quicker. Canada has already been using vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Alberta’s economy has been on a modified lockdown since cases spiked dangerously high in December. Retail shops and faith services are open at 15 per cent capacity, but indoor gatherings are banned, and outdoor get-togethers are capped at 10 people. From a high of 900-plus people in hospital with COVID two months ago, there were 245 as of Thursday, including 47 in intensive care. There have been 1,911 deaths. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, reported 331 new cases for a total active caseload of 4,613. Alberta has recorded 541 cases of variant COVID strains, which can spread far faster and have the potential to swamp a health system if left unchecked. This week, the province reported a variant case at Churchill Manor, a south Edmonton seniors centre. The facility saw one case spread to 27 cases within days. The daughter of one of the Churchill Manor residents, at a news conference with the Opposition NDP, said she fears for the safety of her 94-year-old father. Rose Zinnick said her father got his COVID-19 inoculation Monday, the same day he was told he tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Zinnick said Churchill Manor recently began allowing visitors and gatherings. She said her father told her people were sitting four to a table in the dining hall. “Now it’s two weeks later and there’s an outbreak, and many residents, including my dad, have COVID. I’m so angry and frustrated and disappointed,” said Zinnick. The Manor did not return a request for comment. Alberta Health Services, in an email, said the manor is an independent residence not contracted to AHS, but that it is now involved to ensure residents and staff are protected. The NDP also showed pictures depicting a mouse infestation in the facility. AHS confirmed the infestation and said it is ensuring pest control is brought in. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Efforts to ban the application of the death penalty to some people with severe mental illnesses ran into resistance Thursday, but the bill mustered just enough votes to be sent to the Kentucky Senate. The measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-4 vote, leaving it potentially one step away from being sent to the governor. But that final hurdle could be a formidable one in the full Senate after the bill won 75-16 House passage this week. Republicans control both chambers. Afterward, the committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, said the bill’s prospects appeared to have become “dimmer.” Westerfield, who supports the bill, put its chances of passing the Senate at “50-50,” adding: “I’m not as confident as I once was.” The measure would block use of the death penalty for people who, at the time of the offence, have a documented history of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or delusional disorder. “This is not, despite all the rhetoric we’ve been hearing, going to do away with the death penalty," said Republican Rep. Chad McCoy, the bill's lead sponsor. "It is a very, very narrow bill.” The bill reflects a long-running goal of mental health advocates in Kentucky. The measure drew opposition from prosecutors at the committee hearing Thursday. Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron objected to the bill's reference to a person's documented history of disorders. He said it's too “loose a term” that would cause more legal disputes in cases that already consume considerable time. The bill's critics worry that a decades-old diagnosis could prevent that person from being held accountable for a heinous crime later in life. Disorders listed in the bill are seen frequently in criminal cases, and defence attorneys could try to have the proposal applied to existing death row cases if it becomes law, Cohron said. “The odds of this not being challenged and litigated retroactively is zero,” he said. Kentucky hasn't carried out an execution since 2008 and currently has 26 inmates on death row. McCoy said the bill applies only to future cases where the death penalty might be considered. “I don’t think we could be more clear on the retroactivity,” McCoy told the committee. Defendants with a history of having the disorders listed in the bill would still face severe punishment if the bill becomes law, he said. “This is not a decision of whether somebody’s not going to be tried or not going to be punished,” McCoy said. “They’re still going to get life in prison without parole.” ___ The legislation is House Bill 148. Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press
Ontario’s first and only diamond mine is moving to the next phase of its closure plan with the appointment of Golder, a Canadian-owned engineering and environmental services consulting group, as the primary contractor who will oversee the remaining demolition and site rehabilitation. Victor Mine, owned by The De Beers Group, is located approximately 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat in the James Bay Lowlands. It opened in 2008 as only the second diamond mine in Canada. The open pit operation also included its own airstrip located on the property. It ceased mining operations in June 2019. De Beers reports that as of the end of 2020, approximately 65 per cent of the on-site infrastructure has been safely demolished, and around 40 per cent of the site has been rehabilitated with more than 1.2 million trees planted on the property since 2014. The De Beers Group will remain accountable for the site, and will retain responsibilities for achieving site closure objectives, keeping in line with government regulations, as well as relationships with Indigenous communities, the company stated in a release. All permits and licences remain in De Beers’ name. A small site-based oversight team will work directly with Golder personnel throughout the process, in addition to the De Beers employees who will continue to be responsible for daily environmental monitoring. Golder was chosen after what De Beers called an “extensive commercial process” which was undertaken throughout 2020. Golder’s responsibilities will include the remaining closure activities, as well as the day-to-day management of the site. They will also handle the remaining infrastructure demolition work, and site rehabilitation through 2023. “A similar model, hiring a prime contractor, was used during construction of Victor Mine, which opened ahead of schedule and on budget,” said Maxwell Morapeli, head of closure for De Beers. “Golder has a strong track record of successful closure and rehabilitation of industrial sites around the world, including working with local communities where they operate. We look forward to benefiting from their experience as we continue the responsible closure of Victor Mine.” Included in its contract with the De Beers Group is a commitment from Golder to work with local Indigenous contracting companies to provide necessary on-site services such as catering, housekeeping, and security. Heavy equipment operators and other personnel will be hired from the Attawapiskat First Nation and will be provided training and other opportunities. Golder and its sub-contractors have also hired 19 former De Beers Victor Mine employees to continue on-site work. “We are proud to have been selected to lead the responsible closure of the Victor Mine,” said Greg Herasymuik, Golder's Canadian Region president. “As we manage activities at site, we are committed to providing employment opportunities and to continue involving the local community.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the "geopolitical winds swirling around" Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng's legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. "With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians," Frater said Thursday. He made the comments in response to claims from Meng's legal team that Trump's words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings. Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would "certainly intervene" if he thought it was necessary. Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny. Her lawyers allege Trump's comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings. It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May. "Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it," Frater told the judge. "We're confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion." On Wednesday, Meng's team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China. Huawei's success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an "existential threat" to the United States and Meng's case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to "debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei," her lawyer Richard Peck said. Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a "threat to the security of the U.S.," Peck said. "This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today," he said. Frater, representing Canada's attorney general, sought to redirect the judge's attention Thursday. There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng's argument doesn't pass it, he said. The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused's right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn't a "powerless" person. Someone with "the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual," Frater said. Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng's celebrity makes her a "higher value target" for interference, adding that a person's resources shouldn't affect how they are treated by the court. Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump's failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. "This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there's been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it," Frater said. The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. "They've had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
There seems to be some new residents living along the walking trails in Totten-ham by the Conservation Area. Local hikers have noticed little doorways that enter into secret tiny homes inside the trees along the trails. Some tiny little signs announce that it is a fairy home. While no one has yet to admit to actually seeing a fairy, there is little doubt among trail users that they are there – they’re just very secretive. Local resident and avid hiker Marc Landry first noticed the fairy homes on a recent hike down the trails.An avid bird watcher, he had his cam-era with him and took some photo and posted on them on a local Facebook page. “I’m out there at least once a week,” Mr. Landry explained. “I do a lot of birding on that trail so, for me, it’s a lot of observation. They crossed my eyesight a couple of times and decided to have a look at them. They’re pretty easy to find once you start looking for them. About two weeks ago I took all the pictures. For me it’s all about the observation of nature. If I find something, well good.” He started quite the buzz when he posted his photos. People wanted to know where the little fairy homes were coming from. At first it was a secret, but a local resi-dent had the inside scoop and let it slip. It turns out local artist Becky Crawford and her husband Tom MacDonald, have been secretly fixing the fairy doors to trees along the trail. They did it just to give other people some joy in their life. “I usually work in stained glass,” Becky explained. “We weren’t sure anyone would even notice. We started doing it a few months ago. They’re not too spread out so you can easily find them. We thought it was something that would just bring a smile to someone’s face. Times are so tough right now, we thought if we could do something light and fun, maybe someone would like it.” Becky started making the fairy doors with a friend when their children were small, and they would put them in the yard. Although she usually works in glass, it would not be the right medium for attaching to a tree so she switched to wood. “In Europe a lot of people put them around their baseboards at home,” Becky said. “Even some big businesses with have a little fairy door – it’s a tradi-tion. It’s a little bit of magic and a little fun. I wanted to put them where people were walking because that’s pretty much all you could do during the lock-down. Me and my husband make them. He cuts the wood and sands the doors down and I go from there.” Becky usually sells her stained glass at local artisans’ markets, so venturing out and putting her work on the local trail was a little different. Children love the fairy doors and make a game of trying to find them all. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Avalanche Canada, Parks Canada and Alberta Parks have issued a joint avalanche warning for a large portion of Alberta’s mountain parks. As Jackie Wilson reports, recent warm weather has created the dangerous conditions.
Despite a closure for public access, all is not lost for the 150-year-old Springfield House and Escott Hall. Following a committee of the whole meeting Monday evening, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands and the Friends of the Springfield House Complex both say they are comfortable with where the issue is currently regarding the two buildings in the township. Last Thursday, the township released a long-awaited report that cited structural issues in its recommendation that council close public access to the two buildings located on County Road 2. The report also recommended that council direct staff to initiate the process for the consideration of declaring the two buildings surplus, a move that would allow the township to place the buildings on the market. However, township officials stressed they are a long way from placing the two buildings up for sale and it is not the goal of the township to sell the historical buildings. "We recognize the significance of the properties," said Stephen Donachey, the township's chief administrative officer. "This isn't going to be a consultation period that is very abbreviated… we want a fulsome discussion with the public." Most on council said it is not their preference to have the buildings put up for sale, but that time is of the essence to get something done with them due to their condition. Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke said the issue is at a critical period due to the condition of the buildings. "The conditions of the buildings are what they are today because everybody has sort of pushed this around and pushed it to the side," she said. Robert Burtch, chairman of the Friends of the Springfield House Complex committee, gave a presentation Monday before councillors discussed the matter. He says he is happy with the outcome of the meeting and thinks that the current mood of council is in favour of at least one of the buildings being saved. "We have to focus on what we can do now and if we've got the goodwill of the council with us, that's all we care about right now and we need to act on it," said Burtch. During his presentation, Burtch suggested to council that a historical engineer assess the buildings to get an accurate dollar figure on potential restoration costs. Smith-Gatcke said she is on board with having a more updated and historical assessment of the buildings. Along with the option to begin consideration of the buildings being surplus, the other two options presented to the committee were to repair the two buildings or close them for demolition. Nobody on the committee considered levelling the buildings, due in part to their historical nature. Springfield House was built in 1871 and is one of the oldest still-intact buildings in the township. Following restoration in the 1980s, the house served as the township public library until 2016. Both buildings have been given historical designations, which do limit potential outcomes and options for the township. Another limiting issue is the archives. The Escott Hall serves as the home for the archives of the township. Due to the nature of belongings in the archives, the space they can be kept in is limited. Further, the process for moving the archives would require experts and would not come cheap, said Burtch. Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
BOSTON — Jayson Tatum had 27 points and 12 rebounds and the Boston Celtics won their fourth straight game, outlasting the short-handed Toronto Raptors 132-125 on Thursday night. Jaylen Brown added 21 points and seven rebounds, and Kemba Walker finished with 15 points. Toronto, which played without starters Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, along with Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw as they remained in the health and safety protocols, has lost four of five. Coach Nick Nurse and several members of his staff were also in the protocols, leaving the coaching duties to assistant Sergio Scariolo. The Raptors hit 21 3-pointers and led early before being outscored 35-22 in the third quarter. Chris Boucher led Toronto with 30 points. Norman Powell finished with 25 points and Terence Davis added 22. After trailing for most of the first half, the Celtics outscored the Raptors 35-22 in the third quarter to take an 101-92 lead. It grew as high as 121-109 in the fourth before a 10-1 run by Toronto cut it to 122-119. But a free throw by Brown, step-back jumper by Tatum and runner by Jeff Teague gave Boston back a cushion and it was able to close it out at the line. Being short-handed didn’t stop the Raptors from starting fast. They got 21 first-half points from Powell and connected on 11 3-pointers to take a 70-66 lead into halftime. The Celtics had eight 3s and shot 58% (23 of 40) from the field in the opening 24 minutes. They also had nine turnovers, leading to 10 Toronto points. Boston trailed by as many as nine before outscoring Toronto 19-14 to end the half. The run included some nice defensive plays, including a block by Robert Williams on Kyle Lowry that started a fast break and ended with Williams on the receiving end of an alley-oop from Walker. TIP-INS Raptors: Had six 3-pointers in the first quarter. … Rookie Jalen Harris rejoined the team’s G-League affiliate, Raptors 905, to participate in the playoffs. Celtics: Had 51 bench points. … Finished with 16 turnovers. … Had six turnovers in the first quarter. UP NEXT Raptors: Open the second half of their schedule March 11 against Atlanta. Celtics: Visit Brooklyn on March 11. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Kyle Hightower, The Associated Press
Edmonton's mayor and city council are giving a thumbs down to the provincial government's budget, which cuts millions of dollars in infrastructure money to municipalities and post-secondary institutions. At a meeting Thursday, Mary Persson, Edmonton's chief financial officer, gave council the initial lowdown on how the cuts may impact the city's plans and economy. The provincial budget released last Thursday highlights projects that the government says will create thousands of jobs. But post-secondary institutions are expected to lose the equivalent of 750 full-time positions in 2021 and 2022, although the breakdown by school isn't available yet, Persson said. Mayor Don Iveson said cuts to colleges, universities and the public sector spell bad news for Edmonton. "It may very well be a jobs budget for Alberta, but it ain't a jobs budget for Edmonton," Iveson said Thursday after a council meeting. Coun. Ben Henderson said the forecast doesn't look good for the city. "I am really worried about the cuts to post-secondary in this city, which is very much part of what makes our city tick." The province plans to reduce the government workforce by 7.7 per cent over four years, with many of those positions in Alberta's capital city. The public sector is expected to lose more than 300 jobs next year. "I'm deeply puzzled by how this budget can be seen as a job creation budget," Henderson said during the meeting. "It does not look like that to me, sitting here in the city of Edmonton." 'It's actually just a declining staircase that continues in this budget' - Mayor Don Iveson The province says the budget will support more than 50,000 direct and 40,000 indirect jobs through to 2024. This includes new funding for 41 projects around the province totalling nearly $826 million over three years, the budget release says. The province's Treasury Board and Finance branch said municipalities will receive about 25 per cent less in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding over the next three years. Charlotte Taillon, the Treasury Board and Finance's press secretary, said Edmonton will receive $235 million in total MSI funding in 2021-22. "We recognize grant funding is an essential part of municipal capital plans and budgets," Taillon wrote in an email to CBC News. "We're asking municipalities to keep working with us as we transition to the Local Governance Fiscal Framework in 2024-25." MSI cuts Persson said that means the city faces a net loss of $30 million in 2022 in MSI funding, and $120 million in 2023-24 when the new fiscal framework replaces MSI. The cuts may limit the city's ability to renew facilities and 325 km of arterial roads, she said. "Difficult decisions will be ahead as we plan for the 2023 to 2026 capital budget cycle," Persson said. Instead, the city will likely be limited to maintaining existing projects already on the books. The city was eyeing green initiatives, affordable housing, infrastructure renewal including industrial and arterial roads, facilities and open spaces with that money, she noted. "These potential opportunities are no longer realistic with the current budget cuts," Persson said. Broken promises It's not just the United Conservative government that council blames. The province now collects more than $2 billion in education property tax, Iveson noted, a source of funding once promised to municipalities. Several years ago, the province said it would give municipalities the equivalent of what it collects in education tax, in infrastructure funding, Iveson said. "We never once got the full amount," he recalled. Iveson said when times were tough, the funding was cut. Every time the economy came back, Iveson said promises were made about funding increases that never happened. "It's actually just a declining staircase that continues in this budget of cuts to municipalities, and promises made and promises broken by successive governments." Less funding makes it difficult for the city to plan for new initiatives, retain talent and invest in areas that keep companies growing, Iveson said. City councillors directed administration on Thursday to take a historical deep dive at the years of what they call broken promises. They passed a motion to get a summary of cuts to operating and capital funding, back to the beginning of MSI in 2007. The finance branch is asked to report its findings during spring supplemental budget talks in April. @natashariebe
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 76,438 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,168,138 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,720.79 per 100,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,614,020 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 82.94 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,842 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 37,590 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.518 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 60.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 17,794 new vaccinations administered for a total of 490,504 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 57.324 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.83 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 30,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 784,828 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 53.429 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 86.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,408 new vaccinations administered for a total of 82,579 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.97 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 116,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.79 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,493 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,090 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 71.314 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 112.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 10,948 new vaccinations administered for a total of 266,231 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.479 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 96.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 9,042 new vaccinations administered for a total of 298,851 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.238 per 1,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.61 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 18,158 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 435.12 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 96.07 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 360 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,753 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 355.136 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 57.54 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alberta's cross-country ski community has come through to finance trail grooming in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary after the United Conservative Party government cut funding for maintaining trails last year. Nordiq Alberta, the provincial sports body for cross-country skiing and a non-profit organization, announced that with three weeks left in its grooming pilot program, users have raised approximately $270,000 after expenses through voluntary parking pass sales. It exceed its goal of raising $200,000 through a pilot project to pay the costs of the trail grooming. On top of that, the organization has raised thousands in donations to support track setting. "The pilot was set out in part to inform us and to inform the government as to the ability and the willingness of the recreational ski community to help pay for ski trail grooming," said program lead Ken Hewitt. "The pilot proved, I think, beyond the doubt, that the ski community is prepared to pay for having groomed trails." The project came about after Premier Jason Kenney's UCP government announced in February 2020 that it would be making a number of changes to Alberta provincial parks, including stopping the grooming and setting of cross-country ski trails in Kananaksis Country. Though the government was to continue grooming at the Canmore Nordic Centre and track setting in the West Bragg Creek area, it planned to end trail setting and grooming in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area. The trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park are some of the most popular in the province with Alberta Parks estimating 100,000 site visits in the winter, representing about 40,000 vehicles. News of the cuts concerned the cross-country ski community, who said not grooming these trails would take a bite out of trail availability in the area. Under a pilot project arranged with the province, Nordiq Alberta asked people to voluntarily pay for parking if they were using the trails at Kananaskis Village/Ribbon Creek, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Mount Shark and the Sandy McNabb Recreation Area in Kananaskis Country. The passes were $10 a day, or $50 for a season. People could book online and print their passes to leave on the dash of their vehicles. Lots were patrolled by volunteer crews who would ensure people knew about the voluntary program and leave brochures on vehicles without passing asking them to consider paying retroactively and why. Meanwhile, the government continued to groom the trails with the same staff and equipment that it used for decades. Here's how the pilot program fared: Volunteers sold 5,200 season passes. Skiers bought 2,500 day passes. The program garnered $270,000 in net sales. Donors provided $22,000. The program got off the ground quickly. Hewitt said there were more than 150 volunteers assisting. Some drove in from nearby Canmore or Calgary, while others came to help from as far as Edmonton and Medicine Hat. The program now guarantees tracks will be set and groomed for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, with an estimated $60,000 left over for future grooming. Future of paid parking pass pilot unclear But it's unclear what the next steps are, Hewitt told CBC. "We're all optimistic that ski trail grooming will be sustained in next year and going forward," said Hewitt, adding the decision on how to proceed is in the government's hands. He said continuing the program as it stands, and depending on volunteers year after year, may not be sustainable. "You can only go back to the well so many times," Hewitt said. Although the future is unclear, Nordiq Alberta does plan to do what it can and ensure trail setting continues in Alberta. There are rumours in the cross-country ski community that a park fee system that operates similar to how National Parks charge for daily or yearly access could be brought forward, Hewitt said. "I don't know if that's a reality or just just a dream," he added. In a statement, Environment and Parks thanked Nordiq Alberta for its partnership and said any additional funds raised will be held in trust by Nordiq Alberta and used to support ski programs and projects in the future. "We will evaluate the pilot grooming operations program following the close of the season and discuss future plans with Nordiq," wrote Environment and Parks press secretary Jess Sinclair.
The Town of New Tecumseth has hired a new Director of Ad-ministration Services and Clerk. Pamela Fettes will take over the position effective March 22, 2021. She will fill the vacancy created when the former clerk retired at the end of 2020. Ms. Fettes’ previous experience includes the past eight years with Clearview Township as the Director of Legislative Services and Municipal Clerk. “We are excited to welcome Pamela to the Town of New Te-cumseth,” said Mayor Rick Milne. "Her experience, expertise and knowledge of Simcoe County and our growing community will be an asset to the Town. Council and staff are looking forward to her leadership in the important role of Director of Administration Se-vices and Clerk as we continue to move the Town’s administration forward.” Under the Corporate Services division, as the Director of Admin-istration Services and Clerk, Ms. Fettes will lead the Town’s admin-istrative services which includes customer service, the Municipal Bylaw Enforcement area, licenses and permits, the preparation and circulation of Council documents, records management, requests for information under the Mu-nicipal Freedom of information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the conduct and administration of municipal elections. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Le bilan provincial des dons d’organes pour 2020 a énormément reculé. Un seul donneur a été répertorié dans toute l’année sur la Côte-Nord. Une diminution majoritairement attribuable, selon Transplant Québec, à l’impact de la première vague de la pandémie, là où les références ont significativement chuté. Cette personne qui a signé son don d’organes, suite à son décès, a permis la transplantation de deux poumons, un foie et deux reins. Au 31 décembre 2020, quatre personnes étaient toujours en attente d’une greffe dans la région, dont trois pour un rein. Selon le rapport de Transplant Québec, le nombre d’organes transplantés est passé de 592 en 2019, à 497 l’année dernière pour l’ensemble de la province. Karine Lachance, Initiative de journalisme local, Ma Côte-Nord
BEIJING — New polling from the Pew Research Center shows strong negative attitudes among Americans toward China, with almost nine out of 10 adults seeing the country as hostile or a danger to U.S. interests. Negative feelings have increased over human rights, economic friction, China’s authoritarian Communist Party political system and perceptions that China wishes to supplant the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower, according to the survey results released Thursday. Respondents specifically cited Chinese actions in Hong Kong, where Beijing has been accused of demolishing freedom of speech and opposition politics, and in Xinjiang, where it has imposed a police state and detained more than 1 million members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups. China's growing military power, technological prowess and alleged cyberattacks on U.S. targets were also cited as concerns. It said 64% of respondents described economic relations between the countries as “somewhat or very bad." Respondents also said they had less confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden’s ability to handle China than on other foreign policy issues such as dealing with terrorist threats, climate change and decisions about the use of force. While Biden says he wants a more civil relationship with China than under his predecessor, Donald Trump, he has shown no sign of softening tough measures on trade, technology and human rights, along with U.S. support for Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory. Chinese officials routinely attribute negative perceptions about China to inherent prejudice, ignorance or political self interest. Pew said 89% of Americans “consider China a competitor or enemy, rather than a partner.” A total of 48% responded that limiting China’s power and influence is a top priority, up from just 32% who felt that way in 2018. Opinions in the Pew survey were drawn from a random online sampling of 2,596 U.S. adults conducted from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7. The margin of error was given as 2.7 percentage points. Negative perceptions of China were especially pronounced among respondents who identified as Republicans or Republican-leaning, with 72% saying it was more important to get tougher with Beijing than to build a strong economic relationship, compared to 37% for Democrats. Many more Republicans also saw China as an enemy and wanted to limit numbers of Chinese studying in the U.S., although Republicans and Democrats were essentially united in their support for promoting human rights in China and in feeling that China's human rights policies are a “very serious problem for the U.S." On the issue of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, survey respondents gave the U.S. and China roughly equal marks, with 43% saying China had done a good job and 42% saying the same about the U.S. However, 58% said the U.S. had done a bad job of handling the outbreak, while just 54% said China had done a bad job. Pew said few Americans “put much stock” in Chinese President Xi Jinping. "Only 15% have confidence in Xi to do the right thing regarding world affairs, whereas 82% do not -– including 43% who have no confidence in him at all,” Pew said in a summary of its findings. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday said the Trump administration and “anti-China forces in the U.S.” had “grossly slandered and discredited China, wilfully provoked confrontation and division, spread political viruses, and seriously poisoned the public opinion of both countries." “We hope that the U.S. will look at China and China-U.S. relations objectively and rationally, adopt a rational and pragmatic policy toward China, move in the same direction as the Chinese side, do something to enhance mutual trust and co-operation with China, and bring the bilateral relations back to the track of healthy and stable development," Wang said at a daily briefing. The Associated Press
The tour of a high school for incoming Grade 9 students is an important part of the transition to the larger high school setting. After consultation with local public health officials those tours are continuing at Ecole St. Mary High School in Prince Albert. According to St. Mary Principal Mark Phaneuf, the annual tours are part of the job that reminds him that you can always see the next year and see hope. “We're back into that spot where we are bringing the Grade 8s from our school system in the afternoon for tours of our school and you see the excitement on their faces. Their eyes light up. They walk in and it is kind of wide eyed to the big high school in their opinion. But then they realize right now that one thing about St. Mary is that we are not trying to be like a small university but we are trying to be like a big elementary school to these kids,” Phaneuf said. He explained that it is about transitioning into high school for Grade 8 students. “So you see the excitement on their faces and you see some of the stress being relieved too when they are walking around the building because it doesn't seem so big anymore,” he said. The entire process has been vetted and approved through local public health including Medical Health Officer Dr. Khami Chokani. The school was able to complete tours last year before schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The protocols in place include bringing one class at a time for tours. “ In previous years we did school-wide tours with Grade 8 classes they would bring all the classes in at one time, I had a vice principal do a tour, another vice principal do a tour and I would do a tour. Now it’s kind of neat because we get to be focused on the group of kids that are with us right now,” Phaneuf said. The Grade 8 class tours started this Monday and Phaneuf expects them to run for the next two weeks to complete all of them. Phaneuf explained that another change approved by Chokani is a replacement for their traditional open house that would take place for two days beginning March 15, instead they are doing private school tours for up to two families at a time. “If families are interested and they don't attend our school system and they want to come to St. Mary or anybody really wanting to attend St. Mary next year Grade 9 through Grade 12 all they have to do is call our main office,” Phaneuf said. Last year's open house also occurred before schools closed to in person learning in March. The family school tours will also be beginning around the middle of March. The main office number is 306-953-7544 and if anyone is interested in a school tour he will personally make contact to set up the tours. “Those tours we anticipate will happen from March right through to April and possibly into May for the time to complete all of them,” He explained that it gives the advantage of being able to tour families with multiple children possibly entering the school next school year and things are a bit more informal on the tour. He clarified that these tours are for anyone wanting to attend St. Mary not necessarily in the Prince Albert Catholic School Division system. “We look forward to the opportunity to meet families. We have done the open house where we can at least meet the families and take them around the building but this will be a little more intimate and it will be an opportunity for people to maybe have a better understanding of what we are all about when they are trying to make their decision,” Phaneuf said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
A Calgary man has been found guilty of murdering two men, both of whom he shot "at point blank range" as they sat, unsuspecting, in the front seats of an SUV, a Calgary judge has ruled. Christopher Naidu was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the April 2018 deaths of fellow drug dealers Joshua Brendan Bamfo, 25, and Mahad Abdiraham Ainanshe, 23. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jim Eamon found Naidu planned the killing of the two victims and "shot them at point blank range to their heads and neck area." "There's no reasonable possibility that Mr. Naidu happened to have his loaded gun at a meet-up with his business partners and used it on impulse," said Eamon in delivering his decision. After Eamon convicted Naidu, the killer sat in the prisoner's box shaking his head. During the trial, the judge heard that the three men sold drugs together, sharing a cellphone containing a client list of about 100 names and numbers. Naidu was supposed to have the phone every Friday and Saturday but one of the victims had recently kept the phone on the killer's assigned days. The Crown said in its opening statement that Bamfo and Ainanshe "were killed for the list," said prosecutor Todd Buziak on Day 1 of the trial last month. Victims 'not expecting a threat of violence' On April 20, 2018, just after 3 p.m., police were called to the northwest neighbourhood of Evanston after neighbours reported hearing gunshots. The two victims were found dead in a Nissan SUV. Bamfo's legs were up, casually resting on the dashboard of the vehicle, suggesting he had no idea what Naidu was planning. "[They were] not expecting a threat of violence, rather it was a meet-up," said Eamon. Following a 14-month investigation, Naidu was arrested and charged. A date for sentencing will be set next week. Naidu faces a life sentence with no chance of parole for between 25 and 50 years. Prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will seek consecutive parole ineligibility periods.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers on Thursday approved a $6.6 billion plan aimed at pressuring school districts to return students to the classroom before the end of the school year. The bill does not order school districts to resume in-person instruction and it does not say parents must send their kids back to the classroom if they don’t want to. Instead, the state will dangle $2 billion before cash-strapped school boards, offering them a share of that money only if they offer in-person instruction by the end of the month. School districts have until May 15 to decide. Districts that resume in-person learning after that date won’t get any of that money. “We need to get the schools reopen. And I know it’s hard, but today we are providing powerful tools for schools to move in this direction,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who pleaded with his school district to accept the money and offer in-person instruction. Most of California's 6.1 million students throughout 1,037 public school districts have been learning from home since last March because of the pandemic. Frustrated parents and politicians have been clamouring for schools to return students to the classroom for months. But many school boards have been reluctant, facing opposition from teachers unions worried about coronavirus safety protocols and citing surveys from parents saying they are not comfortable sending their kids back to class in-person. “As a former math teacher for 13 years, we know that that’s the place we need our kids to be, but we’re afraid because you’re asking to put our own lives at risk and to put our families' lives at risk,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County. Nearly every lawmaker voted for the bill on Thursday, but many did so reluctantly, arguing it's too weak. The bill does not say how much time students should spend in the classroom, prompting fears some districts might have students return for just one day a week and still be eligible to get the money. And while the bill requires most elementary school grades to return to the classroom to get the money, it does not require all middle and high school grades to return this year. Republicans in the state Senate tried to amend the bill to say schools must offer at least three days per week of in-person learning, but Democrats in the majority rejected it. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has said he plans to sign the bill into law on Friday. Newsom faces a potential recall election later this year, fueled by anger over his handling of the fallout from the pandemic. He has travelled the state in recent weeks touting his efforts at reopening the economy, including a visit to an elementary school where he read to students as they sat behind plexiglass barriers on their desks. Scott Wilk, the Republican leader in the state Senate, said the bill was simply an effort by Democrats to give Newsom political cover so he can “get parents to believe he’s doing everything he possibly can for them.” “The truth is (this bill) doesn’t do anything to reopen our schools. ,” said Wilk, who voted for the bill along with most other Republicans. The bill has two sets of rules districts must follow to get the money. The first set applies to school districts in counties where the coronavirus is widespread. The second set of rules applies to districts in counties where the virus is not as widespread. To get the money, districts governed by the first set of rules must offer in-person learning through at least second grade by the end of March. Districts governed by the second set of rules must offer in-person learning to all elementary grades, plus at least one grade in middle and high school. However, the Newsom administration late Wednesday changed the standards that dictate which counties must follow which rules. The new standards mean most counties will have to follow the second set of rules requiring districts to offer in-person instruction for more grades. Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez criticized that decision as “a little dishonest.” Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, went further, saying he was “deeply concerned to see the goalposts already moving on this reopening plan just days after its unveiling.” “This change risks the unintended consequences of delaying return to classrooms and further eroding Californians' trust,” he said. The bill also includes $4.6 billion aimed at helping students catch up after a year of learning from home. Districts could use the money to extend the school year into the summer or they could spend it on counselling and tutoring. All districts would get this money, regardless of whether they offer in-person instruction. But the bill stated that districts must use at least 85% of that money for expenses related to in-person instruction. Adam Beam, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — With a federal budget in the offing, premiers are stepping up the pressure on Ottawa to immediately boost health-care funding by at least $28 billion a year.They held a virtual news conference Thursday to reiterate their demand for a big increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.Starting this year, they want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.During a virtual first ministers' meeting in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers he recognizes the need for the federal government to eventually shoulder a bigger share of health-care costs. But he said that must wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent the federal deficit on track to exceed an unprecedented $381 billion as Ottawa doles out emergency aid, including at least $1 billion for vaccines and $25 billion in direct funding to the provinces to, among other things, bolster their health systems.Quebec Premier Francois Legault, chair of the premiers' council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are "non-recurring." He pointed to studies that suggest the federal government could quickly eliminate its deficit, and even return to surplus, once the pandemic is over while provinces would be mired in debt.The premiers argued they need stable, predictable, long-term funding for their health systems, which were already under strain before the pandemic hit and will be even more stressed once it's over and they must deal with the backlog of delayed surgeries, tests and other procedures.Manitoba's Brian Pallister said wait times have been a problem for decades and are destined to get worse as Canada's population ages. But he said the pandemic has made "a bad situation much, much worse.""The post-pandemic pileup is coming and it's real and its impact on Canadians and their families and their friends is real too," he warned. "The time is now to address this issue and to address it together."Pallister accused Trudeau of ignoring the problem of wait-times and the real life-threatening impact on people. Five years ago, he said he told Trudeau a true story about a woman with a lump in her breast who had waited for tests and referral to a specialist, only to be told in the end that it was "too bad we couldn't have caught this sooner.""He looked across the table at me and said, 'I'm not your banker,'" Pallister said."We don't need a banker. We need a partner."Trudeau has offered to give provinces immediate funding for long-term care homes, provided they agree to some national standards. Long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of deaths from COVID-19.But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa's latest offer would provide just $2,500 per person in long-term care — a drop in the bucket compared to the $76,000 it costs his province each year for every long-term care resident."The math doesn't work," he said.Legault ruled out conditional transfers for long-term care altogether as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. He said each province and territory has its own health-care priorities and their "jurisdiction must absolutely be respected."When universal health care was adopted in Canada, British Columbia's John Horgan said the cost was originally shared 50-50 between Ottawa and the provinces. The steadily declining federal share has led to ever more challenges in delivering health care, exacerbated now by the pandemic."Our public health-care system is at risk," Horgan warned."COVID has brought (the challenge) into graphic light. It's stark, it's profound and we need to take action."Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said Canadians deserve a well-funded health system "that is supported by both levels, both orders of government in this nation, not one that is propped up by almost entirely by the provinces and territories."Trudeau's minority Liberal government is poised to table a budget this spring, which could theoretically result in the defeat of his government should opposition parties vote against the budget. Legault said premiers have already talked to opposition parties to solicit their support for their health funding demand. He said the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the demand, while the Conservatives agree in principle with the need to increase the health transfer but have not specifically agreed to the $28-billion figure.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press