Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Ontario in Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is launching the long-promised buyback program for what he has described as “assault” or “assault-style” firearms.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Ontario in Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is launching the long-promised buyback program for what he has described as “assault” or “assault-style” firearms.
LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods was seriously injured Tuesday when his SUV crashed into a median, rolled over and ended up on its side on a steep roadway in suburban Los Angeles known for wrecks, authorities said. The golf superstar had to be pulled out through the windshield, and his agent said he was undergoing leg surgery. Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed into a raised median shortly before 7:15 a.m., crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled several times, authorities said at a news conference. No other cars were involved. The 45-year-old was alert and able to communicate as firefighters pried open the front windshield to get him out. The airbags deployed, and the inside of the car stayed basically intact and that “gave him a cushion to survive the crash,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. Both of his legs were seriously injured, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. They said there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired. Authorities said they checked for any odor of alcohol or other signs he was under the influence of a substance and did not find any. They did not say how fast he was driving. The crash happened on a sweeping, downhill stretch of a two-lane road through upscale Los Angeles suburbs. Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the first to arrive at the wreck, told reporters that he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and has seen fatal crashes there. “I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said. Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where he presented the trophy on Sunday. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement. A tweet Monday showed Woods in a cart smiling with comedian David Spade. According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons for celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade, at Rolling Hills Country Club. Woods, a 15-time major champion who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, has been recovering from Dec. 23 surgery on his lower back. It was his fifth back surgery and first since his lower spine was fused in April 2017, allowing him to stage a remarkable comeback that culminated with his fifth Masters title in 2019. He has carried the sport since his record-setting Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific rate in modern PGA Tour history. He is singularly responsible for TV ratings spiking, which has led to enormous increases in prize money during his career. Even at 45, he remains the biggest draw in the sport. The SUV he was driving Tuesday had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational. Tournament director Mike Antolini did not immediately respond to a text message, though it is not unusual for players to keep courtesy cars a few days after the event. Woods feared he would never play again until the 2017 fusion surgery. He returned to win the Tour Championship to close out the 2018 season and won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time. He last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, an unofficial event where players are paired with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter. During the Sunday telecast on CBS from the golf tournament, Woods was asked about playing the Masters on April 8-11 and said, “God, I hope so.” He said he was feeling a little stiff and had one more test to see if he was ready for more activities. He was not sure when he would play again. Athletes from Mike Tyson to Magic Johnson and others offered hopes that Woods would make a quick recovery. “I’m sick to my stomach,” Justin Thomas, the No. 3 golf player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Bradenton, Florida. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he’s all right.” Crews used a crane to lift the damaged SUV out of the hillside brush. The vehicle was placed upright on the street and sheriff’s investigators inspected it and took photos. Then it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away Tuesday afternoon. This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months. In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder. Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. The surgery Tuesday would be his 10th. He has had four previous surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, and five surgeries on his back. ___ Ferguson reported from Jacksonville, Florida. Stefanie Dazio And Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Fueled by Black turnout, Democrats scored stunning wins in Georgia in the presidential and U.S. Senate races. Now, Republicans are trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. GOP lawmakers in the once reliably red state are rolling out an aggressive slate of voting legislation that critics argue is tailored to curtail the power of Black voters and undo years of work by Stacey Abrams and others to increase engagement among people of colour, including Latino and Asian American communities. The proposals are similar to those pushed by Republicans in other battleground states: adding barriers to mail-in and early voting, major factors in helping Joe Biden win Georgia's 16 Electoral College votes and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff take the two Senate seats that gave Democrats control of the chamber. But one aspect of their plans, a proposal to eliminate early voting on Sundays, seems specifically targeted at a traditional get-out-the-vote campaign used by Black churches, referred to as “souls to the polls." It's led many to suggest Republicans are trying to stop a successful effort to boost Black voter turnout in Georgia, where they make up about a third of the population and have faced a dark history of attempts to silence their voices in elections. “It's a new form of voter suppression, the Klan in three-piece suits rather than white hoods,” said the Rev. Timothy McDonald III of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, which has participated in souls to the polls events. “They know the power of the Black vote, and their goal is to suppress that power.” In previous elections, souls to the polls campaigns were festive, with vehicles and people parading to election offices during early voting windows. Churches would sometimes playfully compete to see which could bring the most voters, said McDonald, who described the GOP legislation as “spiteful.” In Georgia and elsewhere, Republicans say proposals to tighten voting access are meant to bolster confidence in elections, though they have been some of the loudest proponents of meritless claims that the election was fraudulent. The Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy group, has counted 165 bills in 33 states this year meant to limit access to voting. In Georgia, Republicans control state government and have introduced dozens of legislative measures that would restrict voting access. GOP state Rep. Barry Fleming is chief sponsor of a wide-ranging proposal that would ban Sunday early voting, require a photo ID for absentee voting, limit the time when an absentee ballot could be requested, restrict where ballot drop boxes could be placed and curb the use of mobile voting units, among other changes. In committee hearings, Fleming has cast the legislation as “an attempt to restore the confidence of our public in our election system.” He didn’t respond to an email or phone message requesting comment. Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project that Abrams founded in 2014, called the GOP measures a backlash “to our multiracial, multilingual progressive majority that is winning elections." Biden beat former President Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democrat to win a presidential contest in Georgia since 1992. Biden received nearly double the number of absentee votes as Trump in a state that became a major target of Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. Biden's win there was confirmed in three separate counts, including one by hand. "These measures, in our opinion, are not based on any objective, data-driven, evidence-based assessment of the issue but solely with the intention to undermine Black voters and other communities of concern,” said Democratic state Rep. Michael Smith, chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Policy Committee. Because Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office, at least some form of their proposals are likely to become law. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, has called for a photo ID requirement for absentee voting but has yet to back a specific proposal. His office said it was still reviewing the legislation. Republicans are trying to limit ways to vote that have been wildly popular. After states expanded access to mail-in and early voting during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 70% of all ballots cast nationwide came before Election Day. An estimated 108 million people voted by mail, early in person or by dropping off absentee ballots. In Georgia, over 4 million voters cast early or absentee ballots. “They realize if they continue to allow individuals to vote by mail, it is going to be an uphill battle for Republicans to win at the polls and maintain their position,” Democratic state Rep. Debra Bazemore said. At the federal level, Democrats are pushing for a sweeping overhaul of how Americans vote. House Democrats are expected to vote next week on a measure that would establish federal election standards like early voting periods, same-day voter registration and other policies that Republicans have dismissed as federal overreach. And they are expected to introduce another bill to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that had triggered federal scrutiny of election changes in certain states and counties with histories of discrimination. Georgia was among the states that previously had to get approval for voting changes. “If left to their own devices, Republicans will try to limit the ability of minority voters to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat co-sponsoring the bill on federal election standards. “It's open season on voting rights in Georgia,” he said. ___ Izaguirre reported from Lindenhurst, New York. ___ Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content. Anthony Izaguirre And Ben Nadler, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official contact during former President Donald Trump’s four years in office. As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America's closest partner in the region. On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden's administration categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel’s claims to land that the Palestinians want for an independent state. The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. “During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” the State Department said in a statement. “The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” it said. U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s foreign minister in which Blinken stressed that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed the two-state solution. Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden's intentions in the region, particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. In Monday's call, Blinken “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on territory and sovereignty. The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate under international law, Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
THUNDER BAY — A new website launched this week features various services and tools to support victims and survivors of local human trafficking, says the co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. Thunder Bay has been identified as one of the top six hubs in Ontario for human trafficking says Kristal Carlson, human trafficking youth and transition worker at Thunder Bay Counselling and co-chair of the Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. “This crime is rampant in Thunder Bay,” she said Monday, Feb. 22. The website was created to provide victims and survivors of human trafficking with access to free services and to also spread awareness and education in the community about the crime. “The Thunder Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking created the website to help community members, potential survivors and business people alike to be able to acknowledge, identify and potentially intervene if they should see human trafficking in young peoples’ lives,” Carlson said, adding the crime is often under-reported. For women, only one in 10 will report and for men only one in 20 will report to police, Carlson said. “It is such an under-reported crime so any sex-based crime we know that only six per cent will ever end in conviction so it is really hard to convince people to come forward when there is not the likelihood that something will happen,” she said. And while groups such as the Thunder Bay Coalition To End Human Trafficking exist to support victims of the crime, it is important to note they do not classify themselves as a “rescuing people” group, Carlson said. “We support individuals to move forward when they are ready in the way that is going to best suit them in their current situation,” she said. Last year alone, through various programs across the Coalition more than 60 people were successful in leaving their current situation, Carlson said. The creators of the new website also hope to address misconceptions around human traffickers that are often presented in media and movies. “Human trafficking, more times than not, is somebody being exploited by the person they identify as their boyfriend, their best friend or somebody that they know so that happens in more than 85 per cent of cases,” she said. The other most common form of trafficking is the exploitation of young people by family members, extended family members, caretakers or guardians. “More times than not it’s happening by the person they believe to be their boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend,” Carlson said. The website also teaches individuals how to identify signs and risk factors of human trafficking. “We also want to raise the education in the city of Thunder bay because we are identified as one of the top six hubs in the province of Ontario and Ontario makes up two-thirds of all human trafficking that takes place in our country,” Carlson said. Carlson also points out that coming forward doesn’t mean individuals have to report to the police. “The Thunder Bay Police have started to do some really amazing work in being able to meet survivors exactly where they are at and not needing to move forward with charges but to support them for when they are ready to do that if they are ever ready to do that,” she said. “We just want [survivors] to know they are not alone and that there are people to support you no matter where you are, whether you are currently at risk, entrenched, or you looking to exit, there are people here to support you.” For more information, visit Thunder Bay Coalition’s new website by clicking here. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's auditor general says NB Power needs to make reducing its $4.9-billion debt a priority, adding that credit rating agencies are taking notice of the utility's liabilities. Kim Adair-MacPherson tabled two volumes of her annual report Tuesday as she appeared before the legislature's public accounts committee. She said NB Power has the highest debt-to-equity ratio of all government-owned utilities in Canada. "NB Power was financed 94 per cent by debt in 2020," she said. Adair-MacPherson said she has "serious concern" about the utility's repeated failure to meet debt-reduction and income targets. "NB Power has planned major capital projects estimated to cost at least $4 billion, so potentially NB Power's debt could double in the coming years," she told the committee. Those projects include $2.7 billion to $3.7 billion to extend the life of the Mactaquac Dam, $84 million for the Belledune generating station and $93 million for the Coleson Cove generating station. Adair-MacPherson told a virtual news conference later in the day that credit rating agencies are taking notice of the utility's high debt load. "The rating agencies state NB Power as the province's largest contingent risk. Sustainability of NB Power will be a concern whether it's the ratepayer or the taxpayer who ends up footing the bill," she said. Adair-MacPherson said NB Power has reduced debt by an average of $20 million per year since renovations to the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant were completed in 2013. However, she said, the utility would have to reduce debt by $65 million per year to meet its 2027 target. Reducing debt to that extent is possible if management at the utility makes it a priority, she added. Responding to the auditor general Tuesday, NB Power said it takes very seriously its responsibility to operate its facilities "in a safe, reliable and economically sustainable manner." "NB Power remains committed to meeting its mandated debt-to-equity target by 2027," the utility wrote. The utility added that significant portions of its costs remain outside its control, such as fuel prices, electricity market prices and weather. Adair-MacPherson told the committee that NB Power's revenue over the last four years was $195 million less than what the province had expected it to be, adding that inaccurate forecasting by the utility has helped prevent it from reducing debt more quickly. Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said Tuesday that when he was finance minister, NB Power's income forecast was never on target. "There needs to be more focus on financial management and management around the debt," Melanson said. People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said someone needs to be held accountable for NB Power failing to meet its financial targets. Also in her report, the auditor general was critical of the provincial government for failing to address the demand for nursing homes. "In my view, the province is failing to address the nursing home capacity demand. The province is not ready for the increase in seniors requiring placement in a residential facility," she said. Adair-MacPherson said although some capacity has been added, there remains a long wait-list for nursing home placements, which she said is causing pressure on hospitals and increasing costs. "The senior population of New Brunswick aged 75 and older is expected to double over the next 20 years," she said in her report. "Failing to implement nursing home plans and obtain needed services for seniors will result in a crisis." She also took aim at the Health Department's electronic medical records system, which she said has been expensive and adopted by fewer than half the province's doctors. Adair-MacPherson said the government took a hands-off approach to the program's funding and implementation and did not exercise adequate oversight. As a result, she said, the province did not get the intended benefit after spending more than $26 million on the project. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — British Columbia will permanently allow restaurants, bars and tourism operators to buy liquor at wholesale prices, a move that industry hopes will help revive the struggling sector. The provincial government made temporary changes last June to allow the hospitality industry to buy alcohol at the same cost as liquor stores and it has now made that decision permanent. Previously, restaurants, pubs and tourism businesses with liquor licences paid full retail price — the wholesale price, plus a markup set by the government — on most alcohol purchases. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says in a news release that the government is making the change permanent to give businesses certainty and to help the estimated 190,000 residents who work in the sector. Trevor Kallies, beverage director for the Donnelly Group, which owns several bars in Vancouver, says in the release that wholesale liquor pricing will help alleviate some financial pressures so businesses can focus on other areas, such as the health and safety of staff and customers. Restaurants Canada says in a statement that the move fulfils a long-standing recommendation from the industry group and it thanked the B.C. government for levelling the playing field between the province's retail and hospitality sectors. "This move will go a long way to help British Columbia's hard-hit restaurant sector transition from survival to revival," said Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president for Western Canada. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Athletes setting significant records in their sport are often too busy achieving those milestones to process their place in history at the moment. What helps Jennifer Jones wrap her head around a career 153 wins at the Canadian women's curling championship is seeing them through the eyes of people she loves. Jones became the career leader in wins at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts with a 6-5 win Tuesday over Newfoundland and Labrador's Sarah Hill. Jones arrived at the 2021 Tournament of Hearts two back of the 152 victories held by Colleen Jones. Jennifer Jones knows the record would have meant a lot to her late father Larry, who died two years ago at age 80. "My dad always loved the records," Jones aid Monday. "He always followed all the records. I know he would watching from above, (be) very, very proud. "It definitely means something to me. As you kind of approach the end of your career, just to be remembered for doing something that you love is pretty remarkable." The wins record is among many Jones holds in women's curling. If the six-time national champion prevails in Calgary, the 46-year-old from Winnipeg will be the only woman to win seven. Should daughters Isabella and Skyla take up curling, the record book provides a compelling argument that their mother is the best to ever play the game. "My kids do look at it. There's a book with my name in it with some records," Jones said. "I hope if anything it just shows them that if you work hard, that dreams are possible. I just want them to have the best possible life and if this can have any impact on that, it's absolutely incredible." Jones's first win in 2002 was an 8-4 victory over Prince Edward Island's Kathy O'Rourke, who is P.E.I's alternate in Calgary this year. Jones's 153rd wasn't a work of art as her team's shooting accuracy was 80 per cent, but it was one Jones and her Manitoba foursome needed to get to a 3-2 record. Sitting on 2-3 until their next game Wednesday wouldn't have felt uncomfortable. "We were grinding it out today," Jones said. "We really needed this win to stay kind of in there in the competition." Quebec's Laurie St-Georges topped Pool B at 4-1 ahead of Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt at 3-1. Manitoba was knotted at 3-2 with Chelsea Carey's Wild Card One. St-Georges downed Nunavut's Lori Eddy 7-5. Carey lost a second straight game, falling 7-5 to B.C.'s Corryn Brown. B.C., Newfoundland and Saskatchewan were even at 2-2. Saskatchewan's Sherry Anderson fell 7-6 to New Brunswick's Melissa Adams, who won her first game. Nunavut was winless in five games. Ontario's Rachel Homan and defending champion Kerri Einarson at 4-0 were the only undefeated teams in the tournament heading into Tuesday's Pool A draw. The top four teams from each pool of nine at the end of the preliminary round Thursday advance to the two-day championship round and take their records with them. The championship round's top three will be Sunday's playoff teams, with the No. 1 seed rewarded with a bye to that day's final. Jones has won everything there is to win in women's curling, including two world titles a decade apart in 2008 and 2018. Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen went undefeated en route to an Olympic gold medal in 2014. "I can't believe this is my 11th year with Jennifer and the girls," Lawes said. "I still feel like I'm the 21-year-old kid when I joined the team. "I was just so eager to learn from the best. I've always looked up to Jen. She's a role model and how special is it to be able to play with people that you're inspired by?" Jones and former second Officer own the record for most Hearts final appearances (9). Dawn McEwen, who is pregnant and sitting out this year, played lead for Jones in seven of them. Jones has appeared in the most playoff games (33) and shares the playoff win record (21) with Officer. "I've been so fortunate to have the best human beings as teammates that have supported me throughout I don't know how many years," Jones said. In her 16th Hearts appearance, Jones trails only Colleen Jones (19) for the most by a skip. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
"Schitt's Creek'' is continuing its winning streak at the ACTRA Awards in Toronto. The Emmy-sweeping comedy took the Members' Choice Series Ensemble Award for a third year running at an awards show put on by the largest chapter of Canada's performers' union. Tamara Podemski won the prize for outstanding performance by a female for her turn on the CBC drama series "Coroner." Jesse LaVercombe earned a trophy for outstanding performance by a male for his role in the horror film "Violation." Being recognized for their vocal work are Bahia Watson in "Total DramaRama" and Cory Doran in "Doomsday Brothers." Multi-disciplinary artist Jani Lauzon won this year's Award of Excellence, which was presented by her daughter, Tara Sky, at Sunday's online ceremony. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
WABASCA-DESMARAIS, Alta. — RCMP have arrested a man on 15 sex charges in a remote northern Alberta community and say there could be more. Police say the allegations involve five women and took place between 2013 and 2018 in the Desmarais area, about 275 kilometres north of Edmonton. Mounties say they began investigating in December after receiving reports of sexual offences. Police say the suspect and the women know each other. Daniel Michael Balanger, who is 36, is charged with five counts of sexual assault, five counts of sexual interference and five counts of sexual exploitation. Balanger has been remanded in custody and is to appear in Desmarais provincial court on Thursday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021 The Canadian Press
Going outside could be just what the doctor ordered. British Columbia has launched a new program that has doctors prescribing the great outdoors to help people with mental health issues or chronic illnesses. Robin Gill explains the science behind it.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Interior Department faced sharp questions from Republicans Tuesday over what several called her “radical” ideas that include opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Deb Haaland, a New Mexico congresswoman named to lead the Interior Department, tried to reassure GOP lawmakers, saying she is committed to “strike the right balance” as Interior manages oil drilling and other energy development while seeking to conserve public lands and address climate change. If confirmed, Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. Native Americans see her nomination as the best chance to move from consultation on tribal issues to consent and to put more land into the hands of tribal nations either outright or through stewardship agreements. The Interior Department has broad oversight over nearly 600 federally recognized tribes as well as energy development and other uses for the nation’s sprawling federal lands. “The historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me,? Haaland testified. “Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans — moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us.? Haaland's hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after nearly 2 1/2 hours and will resume Wednesday. Under questioning from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the panel's chairman, Haaland said the U.S. will continue to rely on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas even as it moves toward Biden’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. The transition to clean energy “is not going to happen overnight,” she said. Manchin, who is publicly undecided on Haaland’s nomination, appeared relieved, saying he supports “innovation, not elimination” of fossil fuels. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., was less impressed. He displayed a large chart featuring a quote from last November, before Haaland was selected to lead Interior, in which she said: “If I had my way, it'd be great to stop all gas and oil leasing on federal and public lands." If confirmed as Interior secretary, "you will get to have it your way,'' Daines told Haaland. She replied that Biden's vision — not hers — will set the course for Interior. "It is President Biden's agenda, not my own agenda, that I will be moving forward,'' Haaland said, an answer she repeated several times. While Biden imposed a moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands — which doesn’t apply to tribal lands — he has repeatedly said he does not oppose fracking. Biden rejected the long-pIanned Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office. Haaland also faced questions over her appearance at protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota before she was elected to Congress in 2018. Haaland said she went there in solidarity with Native American tribes and other “water protectors” who “felt they were not consulted in the best way'' before the multi-state oil pipeline was approved. Asked by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., if she would oppose a renewal of the pipeline permit, Haaland said she would first ensure that tribes are properly consulted. She told Hoeven she also would "listen to you and consult with you.'' Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the GOP questions over oil drilling and pipelines revealed a partisan divide in the committee. “I almost feel like your nomination is this proxy fight about the future of fossil fuels," Cantwell said, adding that Haaland had made clear her intention to carry out Biden’s clean-energy agenda. She and other Democrats “very much appreciate the fact that you’re doing that, and that’s what I think a president deserves with his nominee,'' Cantwell said. In her opening statement, Haaland told lawmakers that as the daughter of a Pueblo woman, she learned early to value hard work. Her mother is a Navy veteran and worked for a quarter-century at the Bureau of Indian Education, an Interior Department agency. Her father was a Marine who served in Vietnam. He received the Silver Star and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. “As a military family, we moved every few years ... but no matter where we lived, my dad taught me and my siblings to appreciate nature, whether on a mountain trail or walking along the beach,'' Haaland said. The future congresswoman spent summers with her grandparents in a Laguna Pueblo village. “It was in the cornfields with my grandfather where I learned the importance of water and protecting our resources and where I gained a deep respect for the Earth,'' she said. Haaland pledged to lead the Interior Department with honour and integrity and said she will be “a fierce advocate for our public lands.” She promised to listen to and work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and ensure that decisions are based on science. She also vowed to “honour the sovereignty of tribal nations and recognize their part in America’s story.'' Some Democrats and Native American advocates called the frequent description of Haaland as “radical” a loaded reference to her tribal status. “That kind of language is sort of a dog whistle for certain folks that see somebody who is an Indigenous woman potentially being in a position of power,” said Ta’jin Perez with the group Western Native Voice. In an op-ed in USA Today, former Sens. Mark and Tom Udall said Haaland's record "is in line with mainstream conservation priorities. Thus, the exceptional criticism of Rep. Haaland and the threatened holds on her nomination must be motivated by something other than her record.'' Mark Udall is an ex-Colorado senator, while cousin Tom Udall just retired as a New Mexico senator. Tom Udall's father, Stewart, was Interior secretary in the 1960s. Daines called the notion of racial overtones in his remarks outrageous. “I would love to see a Native American serve in the Cabinet. That would be a proud moment for all of us in this country. But this is about her record and her views,” he said in an interview. National civil rights groups have joined forces with tribal leaders and environmental groups in supporting Haaland. A letter signed by nearly 500 national and regional organizations calls her “a proven leader and the right person to lead the charge against the existential threats of our time,'' including climate change and racial justice issues on federal lands. ___ Associated Press writer Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, contributed to this report. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
Sudbury's board of public health has endorsed the idea that workers in Ontario should get permanent paid sick days. It doesn't mean it's going to happen. The motion will be forwarded to the Ontario government for consideration. The motion was included as part of the agenda for the regular monthly meeting of the board of the Public Health Sudbury and Districts, which was held as an online teleconference Thursday. The board was presented with several pages of information outlining the concern that some workers who have used up their sick days and cannot afford to take time off, would rather show up for work, even if they're sick or infectious, thus spreading their sickness around the workplace. In Ontario, most workers have the right to take up to three days of unpaid job-protected leave each calendar year due to a personal illness, injury or medical emergency. This is described as sick leave. Special rules apply to some occupations. Employees are entitled to up to three sick leave days per year once they have worked for an employer for at least two consecutive weeks. An employee who missed part of a day to take the leave would be entitled to any wages they actually earned while working, according to Ontario labour law. The concern is that a genuinely sick person might need more time off work and could lose their job if they miss too much time. PHSD Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe recommended the motion as a way to prevent Ontario workers from having to choose between unpaid time off work or continuing to go to work when they are sick. She outlined her position in a briefing note to the board. "Paid sick leave provisions are essential to protect the health of individual workers, their workplaces, and the broader community, which has become even more evident with the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread economic impacts, increasing the level and depth of poverty across the country," Sutcliffe wrote. "Inequitable access to paid sick days in Canada has significant impacts on income and health. Income alone is the single strongest predictor of health and individuals and families require a stable source of income to meet their basic needs for health and well-being. Paid sick leave provisions are essential to protect the health of individual workers, their workplaces, and the broader community, which has become even more evident with the COVID-19 pandemic," the note continued. The motion stated that staying at home is one of the most effective containment strategies for disease. It also noted that paid sick days actually create savings in the health-care system and eventual savings for the businesses by not causing more sickness in the workplace. "Despite clear evidence and public health directives to stay home when sick, workers without paid sick days are forced to choose between sacrificing their financial security to comply with public health measures or going to work while sick to support themselves and their families," Sutcliffe added, quoting a report from the Decent Work and Health Network. The motion was approved unanimously by the board of health. Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
OTTAWA — Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem says the central bank is seeing early signs that people may be purchasing homes solely because they believe prices may go up. Macklem says rising prices in particular for single-family homes are still a long way from the heated market the country observed about five years ago. Fuelling the increase has been a combination of demand for more space as millions of workers do their jobs remotely, constrained supply and rock-bottom interest rates driven low by central bank actions. The bank's key policy rate has been at 0.25 per cent for about 11 months, and its quantitative easing program is trying to reduce the rates paid on things like mortgages to drive spending. Macklem says the central bank is surprised by the rebound in the housing market. He adds there are early signs of what he called "excess exuberance," with people maybe expecting the recent increases in prices to go on indefinitely. "What we get worried about is when we start to see extrapolated expectations, when we start to see people expecting the kind of unsustainable price increases we've seen recently go on indefinitely," Macklem said during a question-and-answer session with chambers of commerce in Edmonton and Calgary. "We are starting to see some early signs of excess exuberance, but we're a long way from where we were in 2016-2017 when things were really hot." The central bank plans to keep its key rate low until the economy recovers, expected sometime in 2023, and adjust its bond-buying program over time. Macklem says there is still a need for considerable monetary policy support to generate a complete recovery. In the meantime, the bank will keep an eye on debt levels, as mortgage debt rises as households pay down other debt like credit cards and personal loans, Macklem says. "We are acutely aware that in a world of very low interest rates, there is a risk that housing prices could get stretched, households could get stretched, and certainly that's a risk we want to guard against," Macklem told reporters following the speech. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Frank Gunn/Canadian Press - image credit) Public health officials are looking to contact six people who shared a ride in a van from Toronto to Ottawa last week, after a seventh occupant later tested positive for COVID-19. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) said the white van left Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre around 1 p.m. last Tuesday with six passengers and a driver aboard. OPH didn't name the private operator, but said the trip had been advertised on Kijiji. At the time, Toronto was still under a stay-at-home order, while Ottawa's was lifted that same day. OPH said the van arrived in Ottawa around 6 p.m., dropping off passengers at Bayshore Shopping Centre, Rideau Centre and St. Laurent Shopping Centre. The passenger who tested positive for COVID-19 would have been contagious at the time of the trip, OPH confirmed. Health officials recommend people only get into a vehicle with members of their own household. Anyone who has to share a ride with others should wear a mask, avoid sharing food and drinks, and stay home if they're sick. Anyone who thinks they may have travelled in the van last Tuesday is asked to contact OPH at 613-580-6744 to arrange a COVID-19 test.
(Michael Hugall/CBC - image credit) Yellowknife city councillors have voted to spend $1.8 million in federal money on projects they say will reduce homelessness and address its root causes. With strict rules for how the COVID-19 homelessness funding can be spent, Yellowknife city councillors chose to target some of the root causes of homelessness. City council decided to allocate $370,438 to initiatives including a land-based program run by Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) and $100,000 for community hunts. Council voted unanimously Monday evening to approve the funding allocations recommended by the city's Community Advisory Board on Homelessness. The allocations include both regular funding from the federal government's Reaching Home initiative for 2021-22, as well as a special allocation tied to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. "There is more to ending homelessness than just providing a home," said Coun. Stacie Smith, acknowledging that the money won't create new housing. She said initiatives like the YKDFN land-based program recognize the importance of culture. Smith said the advisory board on homelessness consulted non-governmental organizations on their needs and allocated money to programs like Housing First, which helps people who are chronically homeless access services and private market housing. Housing First will receive $900,000 from the two federal pots of money. The women's shelter will get $25,000. Other homelessness prevention and diversion initiatives will get $219,000. 'There is more to ending homelessness than just providing a home,' said Yellowknife city councillor Stacie Smith. The on-the-land program will be open to people experiencing homelessness in Yellowknife. The COVID-19 spending will support food and breakfast programs, such as those offered by the YWCA, which is set to receive $10,000. As the city debated how to spend almost $2 million from the federal government, it realized it would not be able to put the money into permanent housing. Mayor Rebecca Alty said earlier this month that a major reason the money couldn't go toward more permanent housing projects is that the "federal directives are quite restrictive and the money has to be spent so quickly." Smith said despite this, the city can support programs that recognize the needs of the tight-knit community of people facing homelessness — some of whom return to shelters after they are put into housing. "We can provide as many roofs, apartments for people to stay, but if we're not getting to the root of why they're in the situation that they're in, there will always be homelessness," said Smith. "We found other opportunities where we could put our energies to assist them in those holistic methods that might reach them a lot better than the norm." City to give feds feedback Alty said the city will give the federal government feedback, including its criticism that tight timelines kept the city from putting the money toward permanent housing initiatives. The federal objectives for the Reaching Home COVID-19 funding program are to extend COVID-19 measures for people experiencing homelessness, to find permanent housing for people in temporary housing, and to divert people away from becoming homeless or entering the shelter system.
BRUSSELS — A key European Parliament committee voted Tuesday to lift the immunity of three former top Catalan officials who fled Spain fearing arrest over a secessionist push they led in the region, possibly paving the way for their extradition. The parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee voted 15-8 with two abstentions to recommend waiving the immunities of Carles Puigdemont, former president of Spain's Catalonia region, and two associates, former health minister Toni Comin and former education minister Clara Ponsati. The decision must be endorsed during a full sitting of the European Parliament to take effect. The next plenary session is scheduled for March 8. Puigdemont and a number of his political associates fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing arrest over the holding of an independence referendum that the Spanish government said was illegal. In 2019, he, Ponsatí and Comín won seats in the European Parliament, and were afforded protection in their positions as members of the EU assembly. Ponsati, 63, has since 2016 been a lecturer of the University of Saint Andrews, in Scotland, where she lives. In the 2017 independence referendum, the vote in favour of Catalonia breaking away won by a landslide. But those in favour of the relatively rich northern region remaining part of Spain largely stayed home. Spain’s central had government declared the vote illegal and unconstitutional, and hundreds of people were injured in a police crackdown on the day of the referendum. Spain has attempted to have Puigdemont returned for trial but failed to convince Belgian justice authorities to extradite him. The lifting of his parliamentary immunity could lead to a new effort to have him returned. A post from the Twitter account for the Council of the Republic of Catalonia, a symbolic body created for Puigdemont to preside over from Brussels, slammed the European Parliament vote, saying: “That the Spanish parties have dragged a majority of the EP to adopt a decision incompatible with the principles of the rule of law makes today a black day for European democracy.”” But it added that “the legal and political struggle continues. We have the strength of reason, the legitimacy of the popular will, and the perseverance it takes to take new steps.” Separately, Esteban González Pons, a Spanish EU lawmaker who is a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, said in a statement: “The European Parliament cannot become a haven of impunity for those who attack the rule of law in an EU member country, thus damaging the stability of the Union as a whole.” The Associated Press
(Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit) The Calgary Board of Education is considering cutting some programs of choice and consolidating programs as it looks to balance student populations in public high schools across the city. "Right now, as some of you are aware, some of our schools are overflowing while others are under capacity," said acting superintendent of school improvement, Darlene Unruh. On Monday, the CBE unveiled two scenarios that are designed to fix that problem. In Scenario A, programs would be consolidated to fewer high schools, and arts-centred learning would be discontinued. In Scenario B, there would be a further reduction in the number of program locations, and arts-centred learning, Spanish bilingual and French international baccalaureate would be discontinued at the high school level. Unruh says both scenarios would balance enrolment at most high schools, and in Scenario B, even more students in the regular program would be able to attend school closer to home. "In both scenarios, four of five regular program students will attend the same school as currently designated, and 74 per cent of our communities will continue to attend the same school as they do now," she said. Parents fear scenarios spell end of Spanish program For parents like Heather Campbell, who has three children enrolled in the CBE's Spanish bilingual program at schools in the city's south, these scenarios aren't good news. Scenario A would see students wishing to complete Spanish immersion sent to Crescent Heights School, and Scenario B would see the program end. "Obviously, having it cancelled entirely is disappointing, and having it moved to Crescent Heights School is disappointing," she said. Campbell said her oldest daughter is set to graduate this year from Dr. E.P. Scarlett's Spanish immersion program. Campbell said that when her daughter started in kindergarten, there was no guarantee it would be Scarlett. The Campbell family says it fears the changes could end their children's Spanish education altogether. Pictured: Ian Campbell, Brenna Campbell, exchange student Beatriz Garcimartin Bailon from Spain, Heather Campbell, Connell Campbell, Keenan Campbell. "But the CBE did carry through and made those investments, and along with the two other schools — Canyon Meadows and Robert Warren — the whole set up of that program was having all three levels of school in one neighbourhood … that was the selling point," she said. "It's just disappointing that you do commit as a family to a program, especially a language or an arts-based education, and then it's just not supported as advertised. We feel like we're constantly fighting for our program." The CBE said it's not uncommon that they have high uptake in its alternative programs in K-9 and then see those numbers drop off in high school, and right now Spanish immersion enrolment in high schools is low. But, Campbell said, they're cutting the program off at the knees, which will ultimately lead to the end of it altogether. "I am worried that it's a trickle-down effect," she said. "They say that the program will continue, but that seems disingenuous at this point. I feel like … we will be having a conversation about our middle school in the next two years." Feedback to be gathered online, in virtual meetings Unruh said the two scenarios were developed through 2019 consultations with students, staff, parents and the community, and recognize the board's limited space and resources and attempt to have the best impact for students. "Both scenarios provide quality learning opportunities that allow students to complete their high school requirements," she said. "They do this in three key ways. Firstly, they provide a more equitable learning experience for all high school students. Secondly, they maintain a regular program at every high school, and thirdly, they allow for alternative programs and academic enrichment when possible." The board is now launching the next phase of its high school scenarios engagement process — which initially began in May 2019 and has faced many delays — in hopes of picking a scenario, or gathering enough feedback from families to create a third, hybrid scenario. Feedback will be gathered through online surveys and virtual meetings. A decision will be announced in the fall of 2021 and will be put into action for the 2022-23 school year.
Square Inc raised the bets on bitcoin by investing $170 million more and Chief Executive Jack Dorsey promised on Tuesday to "double down" on the payment firm's commitment to the world's biggest cryptocurrency. "The Internet needs a native currency, and we believe bitcoin is it," the longtime bitcoin enthusiast and chief executive of social media firm Twitter Inc said. Square bought 3,318 bitcoins in the fourth quarter, adding to the mainstream acceptance of the digital currency that has been winning support from several big investors.
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers plans to meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday to discuss supply chain issues, including semiconductor chips, three people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. One of the sources said the lawmakers, from both the Senate and the House of Representatives, are expected to learn more about an executive order the Biden administration has been discussing on supply chain issues. The White House declined to comment.
Sudbury's Community Drug Strategy group has published some fresh statistics that, as expected, reveal that the opioid addiction and overdose problems are still significant issues in the community. The stats are based on information accessed as of Feb. 3, 2021. The community drug strategy group includes membership from Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD), Greater Sudbury Police Service, Health Sciences North and the City of Greater Sudbury. Other members of the group include mental health agencies and several social wellness agencies. The updated opioid surveillance report was recently published by the drug strategy group on the PHSD website. According to the most recent statistics, the report said Greater Sudbury Paramedic Services had responded to 67 suspected "opioid-related incidents" in January of 2021. The report also compared that number to January of 2020, the same period last year, when the number was 38. The report also revealed that Greater Sudbury paramedics responded to a total of 683 suspected opioid-related incidents in 2020. This compared with the total of 468 incidents in 2019, the previous year. The numbers were different for actual emergency department visits for "suspected accidental overdoses" at Health Sciences North. Overdoses identified as intentional, or overdoses not related to opioids, have been removed, where identified. However, the numbers presented may include emergency department visits related to drugs or substances other than opioids. Statistics also showed a bit of a decrease in 2020 in year over year comparisons. The total number for 2019 was 579. The total number for 2020, during the pandemic, was lower at 562. Part of this might have been a reluctance to visit the hospital during the first wave of the pandemic. When compared to the numbers in 2019, the emergency room numbers declined in March, April, May, June, July and August of 2020. The number of suspected overdose visits at the emergency room in January 2021 was at 43, higher than January visits for both 2020 and 2019. In footnotes published with the numbers, it said the information is based on patient signs and symptoms, not on the final diagnosis. Overdoses identified as intentional, or overdoses not related to opioids, have been removed, where identified. However, the numbers presented may include emergency department visits related to drugs or substances other than opioids. Numbers were also provided in the report for confirmed opioid overdoses in the PHSD district in 2020, but the numbers were not complete for the year, nor were they specific to Sudbury. Many of the numbers were flagged as preliminary and subject to change. Additional statistics revealed that Naloxone doses were distributed in the Sudbury area in the past year by the thousands. The kits were distributed by PHSD, Réseau ACCESS Network and by local pharmacies. Altogether in 2020, nearly 23,000 Naloxone were distributed locally. A footnote in the report said the increase in the distribution is partially due to the number of agencies distributing the kits. Naloxone kits are free in Ontario and can be used in a timely manner to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com