President Donald Trump was again downplaying the severity of the coronavirus on Monday during a rally in Arizona. "The pandemic is rounding the turn. Vaccines are coming. And I look fine, don't I?" Trump said, speaking in Tucson. (Oct. 19)
President Donald Trump was again downplaying the severity of the coronavirus on Monday during a rally in Arizona. "The pandemic is rounding the turn. Vaccines are coming. And I look fine, don't I?" Trump said, speaking in Tucson. (Oct. 19)
WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden's pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget is quickly emerging as a political battle that could disrupt his efforts to swiftly fill out his administration.Some Republicans are expressing doubt that Neera Tanden could be confirmed by the Senate after she spent years attacking GOP lawmakers on social media — and many panned the choice.Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton claimed Tanden’s rhetoric was “Filled with hate & guided by the woke left.”Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Tanden's “combative and insulting comments" about Republican senators created “certainly a problematic path." He called her “maybe (Biden's) worst nominee so far" and “radioactive.”Potential Budget Committee Chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was less hostile, telling reporters, “Let's see what happens." Moderate Susan Collins, R-Maine, a target of Tanden's, said, “I do not know her or much about her, but I've heard she's a very prolific user of Twitter.”Such sentiment is notable considering the GOP's general reluctance to criticize President Donald Trump's broadsides on Twitter. But like all of Biden's nominees, Tanden has little margin for error as she faces confirmation in a closely divided Senate.That could be especially daunting for Tanden, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton and the president of the centre-left Center for American Progress, given her history of political combat.Biden's transition team released a litany of praise for Tanden from figures including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.Other Democrats also rushed to defend Tanden's nomination. Former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett said Tanden “grew up on welfare and lived in public housing. She experienced first hand the importance of our social programs. Her extraordinary career has been devoted to improving opportunities for working families. She is an excellent choice to lead OMB.”“Neera Tanden is smart, experienced, and qualified for the position of OMB Director,” added Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a member of the party’s progressive wing. “The American people decisively voted for change - Mitch McConnell shouldn’t block us from having a functioning government that gets to work for the people we serve.”On the Senate floor, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said it's impossible to take Republicans' criticism of Tanden seriously.“Honestly, the hypocrisy is astounding. If Republicans are concerned about criticism on Twitter, their complaints are better directed at President Trump,” Schumer said.At OMB, Tanden would be responsible for preparing Biden’s budget submission and would command several hundred budget analysts, economists and policy advisers with deep knowledge of the inner workings of the government.If Democrats should win runoff elections for Georgia’s two GOP-held Senate seats, Tanden’s job would become hugely important because the party would gain a slim majority in the chamber. That would allow them to pass special budget legislation that could roll back Trump’s tax cuts, boost the Affordable Care Act and pursue other spending goals. OMB would have a central role in such legislation.Top Democrats, Biden included, supported anti-deficit packages earlier in their careers, but the party has since changed. Biden was a force behind the establishment of the Obama deficit commission, which was created to win votes of Democratic moderates to pass an increase in the government’s borrowing cap and was chaired by former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.Tanden shares a commonly held view among Democratic lawmakers that Republicans usually profess concerns about deficits only when Democrats are in power, pointing to tax cut packages passed in the opening year of Trump’s administration and former President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut.___Taylor reported from Washington.Zeke Miller And Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
TORONTO — The province's plan to test asymptomatic students and staff for COVID-19 has uncovered an outbreak in the first school where it was deployed, raising concerns about the spread of the virus in classrooms around the province. Ontario's health minister downplayed concerns about the findings at the elementary Thorncliffe Park Public School in east Toronto over the weekend, where 270 students and 17 staff are self-isolating as public health investigates the outbreak. The Toronto District School Board said 21 people - 19 students and two staff - have tested positive for the virus since the provincial pilot started at the school on Thursday. Health Minister Christine Elliott said the virus is spreading from the community into the schools, and not within the classrooms themselves. "It wasn't a huge surprise because there is significant community spread in that area," Elliott said of the test results. "But it does tell us that we need to be careful to keep the children safe, that teachers stay safe and the staff are safe." The school was the first tested under a new provincial plan to target classrooms in Toronto, Peel, York and Ottawa announced last week. The expanded voluntary testing will be provided for four weeks and those who show symptoms or have been exposed to a COVID-19 case should continue to stay home and get tested at an assessment centre, the province said. The province first announced the program this summer but it had not yet taken effect. NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said the results from Thorncliffe Park are just the "tip of the iceberg" of what the province will find in hot spot region schools. "This is why New Democrats have been calling on this government ... to cap our class sizes to get the outbreaks under control in our schools," she said. Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said the results should motivate the government to take additional measures to keep schools safe, including cutting class size. The tests show Ontario may not actually know what virus rates look like in its schools, he added. "I think it's a scary number that we saw," he said. "And I think as this continues to get rolled out ... we are going to see numbers that will give parents a lot of anxiety." Ontario began the testing at Thorncliffe Park on Thursday - with 433 tests completed last week - and work was expected to continue Monday. Elementary schools in Toronto require staff and students to be screened daily for the virus, wear masks, practice physical distancing and practice proper hand hygiene. Toronto Public Health said it is also now requiring siblings to stay home if there is one child in the household with symptoms of COVID-19. Staff said the positivity rate within the school was approximately four per cent. Associate medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said that local data shows positivity rates in the community around the school are approximately 16 per cent. "We're working very closely with Toronto Public Health on what measures need to be done to reduce the transmission and to reduce the infection rate in schools," she said. "It's concerning but it's not surprising." The province said Monday it has begun testing in some schools in Peel Region and Ottawa and is expecting results back in the coming days. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the findings at Thorncliffe Park are a sign the program is doing what it's supposed to. "I think it underscores that a plan is in place trying to work hard to mitigate any further spread," he said. Lecce said the province will bolster its COVID-19 safety programming when all children return to school after the Christmas break. It will ensure students receive a refresher on pandemic safety measures after the pause in class, he said. "I accept that we still have work to do in the context of countering COVID-19 in our community," he said. The province reported 102 new COVID-19 cases related to schools on Monday, including at least 86 among students. Those brought the number of schools with a reported case to 670 out of Ontario's 4,828 publicly funded schools. Ontario reported 1,746 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and eight new deaths due to the virus. Elliott said 390 cases in Peel Region and 217 in York Region. Toronto reported 622 new cases, its highest ever single-day total. In the province's long-term care homes, 710 residents currently have COVID-19 and two new deaths were reported Monday. The province said 109 of its 626 long-term care homes are experiencing an outbreak. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Ontario reported seven new deaths on Monday.
MONTREAL — A provincial commission looking into the protection of vulnerable children in Quebec recommended on Monday the appointment of a youth-protection director to oversee the entire provincial system.The Laurent Commission released a preliminary report Monday after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its final report, initially due today, until April 2021.The proposed provincial director of youth protection would act as a "guardian angel" and would have a role similar to that of a deputy minister, providing some consistency in how cases are handled across the province.The commission found that the proportion of youth protection cases that are before the courts can vary from 30 per cent to 70 per cent from one region to another, suggesting the interpretation of the law needs to be clarified.Having a director in place would mean they'd be better able to act on the numerous recommendations expected in her report due next year, said Regine Laurent, a nurse and former union leader who is heading the commission.The commissioners recommend that the best interests of children should be at the heart of all interventions made by youth protection. Laurent says that means the child must be talked to about their present situation and their future, and their rights must be respected.The special commission was sparked by the 2019 death of a seven-year-old girl from Granby, Que., after she was found in critical condition in her family home, even though she had been the subject of reports to the youth protection department.However, Laurent's mandate was open-ended, casting a wide net on the system and how users navigate it.Among the recommendations outlined Monday was that youth protection do better in dealing with Black and Indigenous youth, with services better adapted to the realities of those communities. Laurent deplored the over-representation of these families in the youth protection system.She also had positive words for those in the network who are overworked and under tremendous pressure.“The workers are also in distress. They believe that the conditions of practice do not allow them to provide quality services, at the right time and in line with needs," Laurent said.Hearings began in October 2019, and the commission said it has heard from more than 300 witnesses.The commission also held 42 “regional forums” where it heard from more than 2,000 citizens and other stakeholders from across Quebec.In a statement, junior health minister Lionel Carmant said the Coalition Avenir Quebec government intends to act swiftly on the recommendation of a director."The safety and well-being of every child is a top priority for the government," Carmant said. "The creation of a position of national director of youth protection is very interesting and goes in the direction of my reflection."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.Lia Levesque, The Canadian Press
Niagara Catholic District School Board is reporting another case of COVID-19 at St. Martin Catholic Elementary School, bringing the school case count to 10. An outbreak was declared at the Smithville school on Nov. 19. Public health confirmed to Niagara Catholic that the new COVID-19 case was connected to the outbreak. The provincial database that reports on school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario on Monday identified four of the 10 cases as being infected staff and four as students. The remaining two cases were not immediately unknown as the provincial database lags behind school boards in its case reporting. Over the weekend, District School Board of Niagara announced an individual at Martha Cullimore Public School in Niagara Falls and an individual at Port Colborne High School tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, three classrooms will be closed: two at Port High and one at Martha Cullimore. “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual are being contacted and told by NRPH (Niagara Region Public Health) to stay home and self-isolate,” DSBN said a media release. The board website Monday listed six active cases at four of its schools. There are three active cases in Niagara Falls, two at Prince Philip and one at Martha Cullimore; two active cases in St Catharines, all at Eden High School; and the one in Port Colborne. The provincial database had yet to identify if the cases are staff or student. Custodians at both schools will complete a thorough cleaning as required. A public health inspector and a public health nurse will visit the schools to complete a comprehensive assessment. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: email@example.comSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
No matter what's been thrown their way, organizers of this year's Jasper Santas Anonymous program are doing their best to see that families have food and gifts to enjoy this Christmas season. This year, more families than ever will be accessing Santas Anonymous due to the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to more unemployment, isolation and financial stress. Pattie Pavlov, general manager of Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce, said this year, as many as 100 families are participating. In years past, it has hovered around the 70, 80 point. She and Ashley Chorley, operations manager with Chamber, are working with "the new and different nuances" that have been presented by the COVID pandemic. With COVID as one of the primary concerns, they wondered how they would get items to families safely, Pavlov said. "It's very important that we adhere to COVID (protocol), in collecting and distributing the items donated," she said. "We did consult with the Edmonton Santas Anonymous group. We were on the right track. We just wanted to confirm we were doing this properly. It was a learning experience." Chorley some items, including fabric, plush items, plastics and toys have to be put in isolation to discourage COVID transmission. For example, she said, plastic items have to sit for about 72 hours and plush items for a week, which complicates packaging them. Fortunately, with a list of families in the program already started, she and Pavlov can organize items by group. Some of the usually-held get-togethers have been cancelled, including Skate with Santa at Mildred Lake, and a photo opportunity with Santa at Bearhill Lodge. Pavlov said, “With the (allowable) gathering of 10, how are you going to restart the number of families? Pieces of the puzzle just don't come together." But other plans are coming together: the Mitten Line fundraiser at TGP, for example. At the grocery store, mittens are available at the cash registers with values of $10, $20, $50 and $100 with proceeds going to Santas Anonymous. "Some people have already purchased mittens and we're excited about that,” Pavlov said. Shoppers at TGP can also designate a portion of the money paid for groceries to the campaign at the time of purchase. Then there's The Snowball Fight. "We cut out a quantity of snowballs and we are giving them to banks specifically, and encouraging them to compete against others - a friendly competition," Pavlov said. "We're asking them to be creative with their displays." Folks can purchase a snowball for whatever amount they choose, with proceeds going to Santas Anonymous. The pastry team at Jasper Park Lodge has also added to the festive mix of fundraisers. Pavlov said they created an “absolutely unbelievable” gingerbread cottage to be raffled off. The detail in the house is something to behold - there are books on bookshelves, the inside of the log cabin lights up, and there's a pond outside with cattails along the shore. “It's big and so beautiful," Pavlov said. The masterpiece is on display at the Santas Anonymous Facebook page and tickets can be purchased at $5 apiece from Jasper Community Team Society board members. "As has been the tradition since Santa's Anonymous started," Pavlov noted, "there have been collection boxes placed throughout town. Anything you want to support Santas Anonymous with can be done through donations - toys, toques, mitts." Sites include Pharmasave, IDA Rx Drug Mart, Jasper General Store, Ransom, the Jasper Library and Nesters Market. Pavlov said the Chamber will also accept donations at Robson House. "Give us a call and we'll grab it (where it has been safely left),” she said. “I'd also encourage people to bring gift cards.” Another way to donate in a contactless way is via e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winning ticket for the gingerbread house will be drawn on Dec. 17. Proceeds from the Snowball Fight and Mitten Line fundraisers will be announced on Dec. 22.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
OTTAWA — Advocates of stricter gun control are urging the Trudeau government to get on with promised reforms, saying they are months overdue. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has pledged new measures, including a buyback of recently outlawed firearms, tougher storage provisions and steps to control handguns. Heidi Rathjen, coordinator of the group PolySeSouvient, told an online news conference Monday that several months later there are no signs of progress on legislation. "We urge minister Blair to return to the gun file with force and to aim to meet his commitments without delay." The plea came days before the Dec. 6 anniversary of the shootings of 14 women at Montreal's École Polytechnique, which Rathjen witnessed as a student. The federal government outlawed a wide range of firearms by cabinet order in May, including the one used at Polytechnique, saying the guns were designed for the battlefield, not hunting or sport shooting. The ban covers some 1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style weapons, meaning they can no longer be legally used, sold or imported. The measure has met with stiff criticism from some firearms owners and the federal Conservatives, who question the value of the ban. Blair has promised to follow the move with legislative changes to further tighten restrictions on firearms. “There is more to do, and we’re committed to doing it," Blair's spokeswoman, Mary-Liz Power, said Monday. "We will introduce legislation designed to deliver on the promises that we made to Canadians in the last election." PolySeSouvient wants to see the new prohibitions on assault-style guns, brought in through regulation, embedded into law to complete the ban and render it permanent — something the Liberal government has signalled it will do. It also wants the Liberals to legislate a system of pre-authorization for guns to ensure only new models inspected and authorized by the RCMP can enter the Canadian market. Blair has said the coming legislation will create a new evergreen framework for classification of firearms to ensure federal intentions can’t be easily overridden. But also on Monday, Blair announced a three-year delay in setting regulations for "marking" guns so they can be traced to registered owners if they're seized in connection with crimes. Those rules were due to kick in Tuesday after years of previous delays. His department said that without clear record-keeping requirements for some guns, it isn't sure how to to connect markings to owners. But it said it's committed to a marking system nonetheless, if not right away. "The government will not reintroduce the long-gun registry," the announcement concluded. Eyeing the next wave of federal legislation, PolySeSouvient also wants the government to: — Limit firearm magazines to five bullets to reduce the damage a mass shooter can do; — Give police officers easier access to commercial sales record data to help detect bulk gun purchases; — Invest significant efforts and resources in strengthening the screening and monitoring of gun-licence applicants and licensed owners; — End the importation and manufacture of handguns. The Trudeau government plans to empower provinces and cities to take steps to manage the storage and use of handguns within their individual jurisdictions, given that they have different needs and concerns. PolySeSouvient has counselled the government to avoid off-loading handgun restrictions onto municipalities, saying local bans are generally ineffective, as the patchwork of local and state laws in the United States shows. According to the RCMP the number of restricted firearms — predominantly handguns — registered to individuals or businesses rose to 1,057,418 last year from 983,792 in 2018. Claire Smith and Ken Price, whose daughter survived a Toronto shooting in July 2018, pressed Monday for a ban on the private ownership of handguns. "It's been over two years since our daughter was shot," Price said during the news conference. "And from our perspective, there has been zero legislative progress on handguns and the situation keeps getting worse." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Aurora Cannabis Inc. says it is indefinitely pausing operations at one of its Alberta facilities and laying off a few dozen staff.The Edmonton-based cannabis company says the pause will occur at its Aurora Sun property in Medicine Hat, where it will layoff about 30 workers.Aurora spokeswoman Michelle Lefler says that the moves are expected to be complete around Dec. 18. She says the measures are part of a review the company is conducting to ensure all of its operations are a fit for its current and future business and to help the company adjust to recent shifts in the industry.Aurora's shares gained 11 per cent to $15.25 in Monday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.In June, the company laid off 700 workers and announced plans to cease operations at five facilities in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. It also said it planned to consolidate production and manufacturing at four facilities in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:ACB)The Canadian Press
The Netflix limited series The Queen’s Gambit, about an orphaned girl who goes on to become an international chess champion, has created new appetite for the ancient game, especially among women who have long been overlooked in the world of chess.
TORONTO — Some of the most active companies traded Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange: Toronto Stock Exchange (17,205.43, down 191.13 points.)Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU). Energy. Down $1.64, or 7.32 per cent, to $20.77 on 26.1 million shares. Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Industrials. Up 3.5 cents, or 7.07 per cent, to 53 cents on 24.4 million shares.Aurora Cannabis Inc. (TSX:ACB). Health care. Up $1.51, or 10.99 per cent, to $15.25 on 21.5 million shares.Hexo Corp. (TSX:HEXO). Health care. Up 29 cents, or 25.44 per cent, to $1.43 on 15.5 million shares.Score Media and Gaming Inc. (TSX:SCR). Telecommunications. Up 26 cents, or 18.31 per cent, to $1.68 on 14.6 million shares.Northland Power Inc. (TSX:NPI). Utilities. Down $1.80, or 3.89 per cent, to $44.51 on 13.6 million shares.Companies in the news: Nutrien Ltd. (TSX:NTR). Down 20 cents to $64.10. Nutrien Ltd. is calling on other members of the fertilizer industry to join its fight against climate change as it launches an agriculture carbon program to drive improved environmental sustainability and boost profits for farmers. The Saskatoon-based company said Monday it plans to use its role as the world’s largest provider of crop inputs and services to help growers plan, plant and track practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, trap and store carbon and measure the resulting improvements. It will then help farmers make money from their environmental efforts by facilitating the purchase and sale of carbon credits used by industries to offset their emissions and reduce carbon taxes. Nutrien is to pilot its new carbon program in certain regions across North America in 2021 and plans to later take it to South America and Australia.Bombardier Inc. — Bombardier has named veteran executive Bart Demosky as chief financial officer effective immediately. The company says Demosky replaces John Di Bert, who will be leaving the company. Demosky joins Bombardier after serving in senior roles at some of the biggest names in corporate Canada. He has served as the chief executive of Universal Rail Systems Inc., chief financial officer for Canadian Pacific Railway and chief financial officer for Suncor Energy. Bombardier has been working to transform itself from a maker of trains and aircraft into a company focused on business jets. The company is expected to complete the sale of its railway division to French company Alstom early next year.Artis Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:AX.UN). Down 10 cents to $10.72. Artis Real Estate Investment Trust says four trustees have tendered their resignations and both its chief executive officer and chief financial officer will retire as part of a deal reached with private equity firm Sandpiper Group which sought changes at the trust. Under the terms of the agreement, Artis chief executive Armin Martens will retire effective Dec. 31 and chief financial officer Jim Green will retire after the trust's 2021 annual meeting of the unitholders. Sandpiper's slate of five nominees, including Sandpiper chief executive Samir Manji, will join two of the existing trustees — Ben Rodney and Lauren Zucker — to make up the new board. Artis proposed a plan in September that would see it spinoff its retail portfolio into a new real estate trust and focus on its North American industrial and office businesses. The Canadian Press
Jac’s Boutique in Kemptville held a silent auction to raise money for Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary. It was Jac’s Boutique employee, McCall Laframboise, who came up with the idea for the auction. Big Sky Ranch is in desperate in need of support, because they had to close their doors to the public due to the pandemic. This meant that many of their programs, which usually help with fundraising throughout the year, had to be cancelled. “They do great things at Big Sky Ranch,” McCall says. “This way I could support them and support Jac’s Boutique.” Big Sky Ranch’s Office Manager, Pauline Lafleur, says they were thrilled when McCall reached out to them to offer their support. “We were very happy and grateful that the animals were remembered, even though we have been closed since March because of COVID-19,” she says. “The animals are still in people’s hearts!” Jac’s Boutique ran the auction through their Facebook page and raised $655, with everything going for above the starting bid. Owner, Jackie Taylor, decided to match the dollars raised, bringing the grand total to $1,310. “It feels amazing, especially around the holidays,” McCall says about the success of the auction. “I know they need food for the animals, and it’s great that we were able to help out in this way.” This time of year is difficult for the sanctuary, because of higher costs. They also have to keep in mind that hay will have to be ordered for the spring, so this auction couldn’t have come at a better time. “We are humbled and amazed by the dedication, generous hearts, kindness, and community spirit of everyone in Kemptville, and all the surrounding communities,” Pauline says. Big Sky Ranch is still open for adoptions and surrenders, and they currently have about 119 animals at the sanctuary, most of whom are now in the barns for the winter. The ranch has been in operation for 15 years and has found forever homes for over 3,500 animals, and housed many others who needed a safe, comfortable place to spend the rest of their lives. They are currently in need of Lysol wipes, Clorox bleach spray, and bleach, as well as feed for the animals, which can be purchased at Willows Agriservices in the South Gower Business Park. Monetary donations can also be made through their website www.bigskyranch.ca.Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times
Students in grades 7-12 have now moved to online classes until at least Jan. 11, and diploma exams will now be optional for the rest of the school year. Nailah Fuko, a Grade 10 student at Edmonton's W.P. Wagner School, said she found out she'd be back to learned online while scrolling through Instagram. "I came upon this post that was talking about the government saying that we were moving online," Fuko said in an interview on Edmonton AM. "And I was like, 'Oh, this is new.'" Rebecca Boroditsky, a Grade 10 student at Ross Sheppard, said she's not worried about the academic implications of going virtual. Hear the students talk about their next month online: "For the socializing portion, I'm kind of sad," she said. "I've made friends and I won't really get to talk to them anymore until January." Boroditsky said she had been enjoying the quarter system schools brought in instead of the usual two semesters. In quarters, the classes are longer and Boroditsky said she had been liking her ceramics class she's taking. "We have more time to really get into it and do lots of project things, whereas with the shorter classes ... there's less time because you have to designate time to clean up and get set up, and that eats into a good portion of the class if it's shorter," she said. Fuko said she prefers a semester setup. "I think they sped up a lot of the material and it wasn't as easy to learn," she said. One practical difference is that online learning will make it easier to physically distance. Boroditsky said that was much easier in classrooms than in hallways or at lunch. Fuko said her friends are being careful and do care about safety and what's going on with COVID-19. "I definitely think students particularly are very worried and trying to do their best with what the rules are and how to follow the rules," Fuko said.
OTTAWA — Key elements from the federal government's fiscal update, delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland Monday afternoon:A boatload of borrowing. The federal deficit is sailing toward $381.6 billion this year, but could close in on $400 billion if widespread lockdowns return in the coming weeks, according to the fall economic statement. A big reason for that eye-popping sum is the total cost of Ottawa's response to COVID-19, which amounts to $490.7 billion. That also means more than $8 out of every $10 in federal and provincial support comes from the capital, down from $9 out of every $10 from the July fiscal snapshot.The "Netflix tax." For the first time, Netflix and other foreign streaming giants such as Amazon and Apple TV+ will be subject to sales tax in Canada, according to the fiscal update. The government says GST/HST will apply to all companies that provide digital services — which means Netflix and Airbnb would charge sales tax on subscriptions and reservations north of the border. While the European Union moved to tax digital platforms two years ago, Freeland said Canada is prepared to act "unilaterally if necessary."Work-from-home tax break. Employees working from home with "modest expenses" in 2020 can claim up to $400, based on time spent at the dining-room desk. Canadians can make the claim "without the need to track detailed expenses," and the tax man "will generally not request" confirmation from employers, the economic statement says.Increasing fiscal-stabilization payments. Responding to a call from provinces whose finances have taken a beating, the Liberals say they will increase the maximum payment under a program designed to help provincial governments deal with temporary economic shocks. The cap will go from $60 per resident, set in 1987, to $170 per person and increase with economic growth.Support the troops. The government is also proposing to sign off on an additional $600,000 to top up the Veterans Emergency Fund that would ensure more financial support for veterans whose well-being is at risk "due to an urgent and unexpected situation."All the wage. For businesses, the government wants to bring the wage subsidy back to 75 per cent of company payroll costs and extend the business rent subsidy to mid-March. The Trudeau government had previously extended the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to the summer, while the adapted business-rent subsidy — revised from a less popular iteration that hinged on landlord participation — was slated only to continue through the end of the year.Clean water for Indigenous communities. The government is pledging to invest $1.5 billion in 2020-21 to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, and $114 million each year after. The Liberals have maintained a years-long pledge to lift all outstanding boil-water advisories for Indigenous residents by March 2021. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that about 95 advisories had been lifted since the party came to power in 2015, but more than 60 remained the last time figures were updated before the pandemic.A $100-billion stimulus. The government plans to spend between $70 billion and $100 billion over the next three years to stimulate the economic recovery from COVID-19. The boon amounts to between three and four per cent of GDP, and will tilt toward a "greener, more innovative" bounce-back, though the details are to be determined.Get retrofit. Ottawa is aiming to dole out $2.6 billion over seven years to help homeowners make their digs more efficient, starting in 2020-21. The cash, channelled through Natural Resources Canada, would take the form of up to 700,000 grants of $5,000 or less to help with projects that could range from energy-efficient heating to solar-panel installations. The upcoming plan, with eligibility retroactive to December 2020, fulfils a Liberal election promise from last year.Cash for families. Looking to boost temporary support for parents, the Liberals plan to provide up to $1,200 per child under six years old for low- and middle-income families that are entitled to the Canada Child Benefit, starting next year. The bump marks an increase of nearly 20 per cent above the benefit's current maximum payment.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.The Canadian Press
HALIFAX — After a weekend that saw 24 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, health officials reported 16 more on Monday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 138.Fifteen of the latest cases were reported in the central zone, which includes Halifax.The other case is connected to the Northeast Kings Education Centre high school in Canning, N.S. The school will remain closed for the week, and students will be learning remotely. Public health is investigating to determine whether the new case is connected to one previously reported in the school.In a news release Monday, Premier Stephen McNeil said there has been strong public interest in the province's pop-up rapid testing for people without COVID-19 symptoms. "These are important pieces of our collective effort to contain the virus," McNeil said.Health officials said 628 tests were administered at the pop-up site in Dartmouth on Sunday, yielding six positive results. The individuals involved were directed to self-isolate and have been referred for a standard test.Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia Health Authority issued a public exposure notice concerning a bar and restaurant in downtown Halifax. People are asked to book a COVID-19 test if they were at the Highwayman on Barrington Street on Nov. 19 between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.Anyone who visited the Bluenose II Restaurant on Hollis Street on Nov. 23, Nov. 24, or Nov. 25 between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. is asked to do the same. New Brunswick reported six new cases on Monday after 20 cases were confirmed on the weekend. Five of the province's six new cases are in the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions, which remain under heightened public health restrictions including restricted travel and mandatory masks in public.Health officials say the remaining case is in the Bathurst area. Newfoundland and Labrador is ramping up its traveller scrutiny as health officials announced one new case of COVID-19 Monday.The province pulled out of the so-called Atlantic bubble last week, closing travel to all non-residents except those arriving for purposes deemed essential. Starting Tuesday, all essential travellers will have to submit a form and obtain a reference number to show border officials when they arrive, according to a news release Monday.Newfoundland and Labrador has 36 active cases of COVID-19, with 338 cases confirmed across the province since the onset of the pandemic.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.— Written by Sarah Smellie in St. John's, N.L.The Canadian Press
Element AI's ownership is headed across the border and into U.S. hands after years of being touted as one of Canada's most promising technology companies.The Montreal-based firm that creates artificial intelligence solutions for large organizations announced Monday that it has signed a deal to be purchased by ServiceNow, a Santa Clara, Calif., company that offers a cloud‑based workflow technology.The companies did not disclose the financial terms of their agreement, and expect the acquisition to close next year."Element AI’s vision has always been to redefine how companies use AI to help people work smarter," said Element AI founder and chief executive Jean‑Francois Gagne in a statement. "ServiceNow is the clear partner for us to apply our talent and technology to the most significant challenges facing the enterprise today."Though ServiceNow said the acquisition will help it create a Canadian hub for consumer-focused innovation, the deal will see one of Montreal's most prized AI companies put into the control of Americans and jobs slip away.Marc LeCuyer, ServiceNow's director general, would not disclose the current size of Element AI's workforce or the number of job losses that will result from the transaction.Workers not being retained will be connected to recruiters to help them access jobs that are open at ServiceNow, he said in an email.Monday's acquisition should serve as "another cautionary tale" for Canadian politicians because it comes just after Waterloo, Ont., smart glasses company North was sold to Google in the summer, said Jim Balsillie, the former BlackBerry Ltd. co-chief executive and current chairman of the Council of Canadian Innovators."Canada actually has market-proven AI companies with entrepreneurs building successful businesses, and it’s high time they receive the attention they earned," he said in an email to The Canadian Press. Element AI was founded in Montreal in 2016 by Gagne, Anne Martel, Nicolas Chapados, Jean‑Sebastien Cournoyer, Philippe Beaudoin and one of the godfathers of AI, Yoshua Bengio.The company quickly became a pioneer in AI after it raised a Series A funding round of $135 million in its first seven months and opened five offices across North America, Europe and Asia.It got a $5-million loan from the federal government two years later, which it planned to use to expand the company further.Then more cash arrived last year from the Quebec government, pension fund Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, and McKinsey and Company.The investors handed over $200 million in a Series B round of funding. Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec's minister of economy and innovation, said Monday's deal means that Element AI's business model ultimately did not work, but he was relieved the government still managed to break even with its investments in the company."The bad news is that the Quebec shareholder is no longer what it was, which is sad," he said. He was, however, pleased that at least ServiceNow has found value in Element AI.Before the acquisition, ServiceNow was on a spending spree, buying Israeli AI company Loom Systems, U.S. translation technology firm Passage AI and Belgian data management platform Sweagle in 2020. It also created technology development centres in India, Chicago, Washington, San Diego and Silicon Valley.Then it turned its attention to Element AI and Canada."With Element AI’s powerful capabilities and world class talent, ServiceNow will empower employees and customers to focus on areas where only humans excel — creative thinking, customer interactions, and unpredictable work," said ServiceNow chief AI officer Vijay Narayanan in a statement.The two companies will have to wait for approvals before their deal can close, but expect that to happen in early 2021.They say Bengio, who won the 2018 Turing Award with Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun and runs a Quebec-based AI research institute, will serve as a technical adviser for ServiceNow.— with files from Julien Arsenault in MontrealThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — A former judge says she found widespread systemic racism in British Columbia's health-care system where extensive negative profiling of Indigenous patients affects treatment and care.Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said Monday she could not confirm allegations of an organized game to guess the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous patients in B.C. emergency departments, but found extensive harmful profiling of patients based on stereotypes about addictions and parenting. The former Saskatchewan provincial court judge and one-time children's advocate in B.C. was appointed by Health Minister Adrian Dix in June to investigate the guessing-game allegations and conduct a broader examination of Indigenous racism in provincial health care."Indigenous people consistently told us, and this was confirmed by the health-care workers who responded and the cases, that they are subjected to negative assumptions, negative assumptions based on prejudice, based on racism, based on beliefs that should not exist in our health-care system," Turpel-Lafond said at a news conference.She said 84 per cent of the review's Indigenous respondents reported some form of discrimination in health care and 52 per cent of Indigenous health-care workers said they experienced racial prejudice at work, mostly in the form of comments."Among the top negative assumptions that are circulating in our health-care system today is that Indigenous patients and people are less worthy," Turpel-Lafond said. "That they are alcoholics. That they're drug seeking."These negative assumptions lead to the denial and delay of patient services, and cause some people to stay away from hospitals to avoid further incidents of discriminatory treatment, she said.Indigenous people told the review they feared hospitals and would rather face uncertain health than return to get care, said Turpel-Lafond.The review heard from nearly 9,000 Indigenous patients, family members, third-party witnesses and health-care workers. It also examined the health-care data of about 185,000 First Nations and Metis patients.Turpel-Lafond's report makes 24 recommendations. They include bringing in measures and legislation to change behaviour and the appointment of three new positions to focus on the problem, including an Indigenous health officer and an associate deputy minister of Indigenous health.The report also said the government should work with Indigenous organizations to improve the patient complaint processes to address individual and systemic racism specifically experienced by Indigenous people, as well as create a new school of Indigenous medicine at the University of British Columbia.Dix said B.C. will work to implement the recommendations and the review's findings will be felt across the country."Racism is toxic for people and it's toxic for care," he said. "I want to make an unequivocal apology as the minister of health to those who have experienced racism in accessing health-care services in B.C., now and in the past."The First Nations Leadership Council, comprising several B.C. Indigenous organizations and Metis Nation B.C., called on the government to act."These are the voices of our families and our relatives and they have to be heard," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said in a statement. "They can no longer be silenced by a narrative of indifference and negligence and a culture of low expectations."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
Strathmore has moved to make its fire department more diverse and inclusive by hiring a deputy fire chief to a new recruitment position. Laurie VandeSchoot, the town’s new assistant chief of diversity, inclusion and recruiting, was introduced during the regular Strathmore town council meeting on Nov. 18. VandeSchoot is a municipal government, change management and strategic planning specialist with a 28-year career with the City of Calgary who also consults internationally and locally and instructs at Bow Valley College in Calgary. “Laurie is known for building inclusive and high-performance cultures that strengthens communities,” said Judy Unsworth, Strathmore Fire Department deputy chief, during the meeting. VandeSchoot has experience in diversity services, equity solutions, mental health, public participation, strategic planning and sustainable development, said Unsworth. Furthermore, VandeSchoot leads the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) diversity leadership program, chairs the International Fire Chiefs human relations committee, and is the national co-chair of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) national subcommittee on diversity inclusion, among other leadership roles. “Under the direction of chief (Trent) West, I am super excited about what we can do here in Strathmore,” said VandeSchoot. “I’m passionate, as you can tell, about diversity and inclusion – it’s kind of my lifeblood. When we talk about diversity, inclusion and recruitment, diversity and inclusion is our purpose, recruitment is where we start from.” Diversity is about more than numbers, she added. “It’s not just about how many people you have that are different, it’s about that sense of belonging, it’s about that sense of inclusion and how we can create a culture of openness, belonging and wellness.” The hiring of VandeSchoot highlights the importance of welcoming all people to Strathmore’s community and environment, said Strathmore town Councillor Denise Peterson. “It shows that we’re not just saying these things, that we’re actually taking action to embrace inclusion and to break down those barriers that we’ve seen.” Peterson added the position will help develop partnerships with Siksika Nation.Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
VICTORIA — The B.C. government has launched a new land registry that it says will help combat money laundering and make the real estate market more transparent. Beginning Monday, any corporation, trustee or partnership that buys land in B.C. must disclose the interest holders of that land through the Land Owner Transparency Registry. Existing registered land owners have one year to register and disclose their interest holders. The government says in a news release the information provided may be used by tax and law authorities to investigate and crack down on illegal activity. It says the registry was formed after an expert panel on real estate said the disclosure of beneficial ownership is the "single most important measure" that can be taken to address money laundering. The panel's 2019 report estimated that $7.4 billion was laundered through B.C. in 2018, including $5 billion through real estate. "British Columbians expect that when they buy a home, they are entering a housing market based on fairness. But for decades, that didn't happen when they were in competition with fraudsters flush with illicit cash," Finance Minister Selina Robinson said in a news release. "This first-of-its-kind registry will help return transparency and moderation to housing markets throughout B.C." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020. The Canadian Press
Chatham-Kent Police have charged the organizer of a weekend rally against COVID-19 restrictions that drew a crowd of more than 100 people. A 32-year-old Wallaceburg woman accused of organizing a “Freedom Group” rally in Chatham over the weekend was issued a Provincial Offences Act Summons for failing to comply with a continued section 7.0.2 order as per Ontario Regulation 364/20, of the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020, section 10.1(1). If she is convicted, the fine for the offence is at least $10,000 and up to $100,000. It could also include a sentence of up to one year in jail. According to police, the number of protesters exceeded the limit for an outdoor gathering, set at 25 people. Police said a person convicted of this offence is liable to a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 and could be imprisoned for up to one year. A few days before the Chatham protest, Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn warned police would be taking a “zero-tolerance” approach to COVID-19 rule-breakers. According to Conn, Chatham-Kent citizens have had ample time to learn the health and safety measures they’re expected to follow; therefore, violations would no longer be tolerated. “During these difficult and challenging times, those jeopardizing public safety and contradicting the law will be held accountable to the courts,” said Conn. “The law is clear and requires responsible action.” “My understanding is that they did not respect the guidelines that were followed, and there are consequences for that,” said Don Shropshire, Chief Administrative Officer for Chatham-Kent. “It’s not like we’re out to try and get people. We’re trying to educate in advance and trying to get people to take reasonable precautions, so we don’t have activities that are going to encourage the spread of COVID.” Mayor Darrin Canniff said he isn’t just concerned with anti-mask protests. He said he is also concerned with any situation, such as upcoming Christmas gatherings, that could “escalate the spread of COVID.” Despite rules clearly laid out and charges having been laid, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health still can’t predict what people will do. “But there seems to be a polarized view that some people are adopting that (they’re) denying the very existence of this pandemic,” said Dr. David Colby. “I don’t really understand that way of thinking.” Charges have been laid against organizers of similar rallies that have been taking place across the province recently, including one that drew about 200 people to Victoria Park in London on the weekend. The accused is set to appear in court on Jan. 6, 2021, to answer to the charge.Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News
A Nova Scotia court has weighed in on another lobster dispute. This one isn't over catching lobster, but shipping them. The dispute pits two transportation companies against one another over a cargo of crustaceans that arrived, in the words of the adjudicator Raffi A. Balmanoukian "bereft of life.""These Homarus americanus who had prematurely joined the choir invisible had to be destroyed or sold 'as is' for salvage value," he said.The choice of words in his decision are familiar to anyone who has watched Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch.Longstanding relationshipThe dispute is between Flying Fresh Air Freight and Connors Transfer. The two companies have a longstanding business relationship shipping lobster and other products.At this time last year, FFAF contracted Connors to truck about 4,700 kilograms of lobster to Quebec and Ontario for eventual shipment to France, Belgium and South Korea.According to evidence at this small claims court hearing, live lobster should be shipped at temperatures between 2-4 C. But that didn't happen in this case."On arrival, all shipments save one had varying degrees of damage due to low shipping temperatures, in some cases well below that which was appropriate," Balmanoukian wrote in his decision. "It was in evidence before me that many lobsters were dead and indeed some are encrusted in ice. Select sub-freezing crate temperature readings were in evidence before me."Limitation of liabilityThe question for the adjudicator was how much Connors owed FFAF.Connors had FFAF sign a limitation of liability agreement years ago, capping the value of lost lobster at just $2 per pound.Balmanoukian found that the agreement applied in this case, so while the losses totalled $21,703.86, Connors is only on the hook for $11,175.80.In his decision, the adjudicator noted that the only trucking story with more Atlantic Canadian flavour is the "Great Moosehead Beer Heist of 2004," in which more than 50,000 cans of beer destined for the Mexican market disappeared from a truck in New Brunswick. A New Brunswick truck driver was subsequently convicted in that case.MORE TOP STORIES
Despite a "significant outbreak" of COVID-19 at the Calgary Remand Centre, there are reports of inmates being triple-bunked, according to defence lawyers sounding the alarm on conditions at the northwest facility. During her afternoon update, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw identified 41 cases at CRC, up from just three last Tuesday.According to a report prepared last week, the CRC has capacity for 34 infected inmates.The CRC is now on total lockdown. Inmates who are mid-trial — including one murder trial — are not allowed to leave the CRC for court and even CCTV appearances have been cancelled. CRC is a secure holding facility for those awaiting trial or a bail hearing. Many, if not all, of the inmates there have not been convicted of the charges they are facing. "It's grossly negligent," said Tom Engel, an Edmonton defence lawyer and president of the Canadian Prison Law Association."It's disturbing to hear about a client triple-bunking and someone tests positive, and they just leave them in that situation. I don't know how they could think this is appropriate."Engel called it a "significant outbreak" taking place in several units. Hinshaw said AHS is working to ensure strict protocols are maintained with aggressive testing underway.Masks are just now being provided to inmates. Previously, only those leaving the facility would have access to a mask.Defence lawyer Chad Haggerty says he has a client who is triple-bunked with new protocols only allowing inmates allowed to leave their cells for 1.5 to 2 hours a day.Alberta Health Services has previously stated provincial facilities are complying with COVID-19 safety protocols but some inmates say that's not the case. "I keep hearing from prisoners that what the government and AHS are saying about compliance with COVID protocols in Alberta jails is just completely false."New transfers to the Calgary Remand Centre spend 14 days on a quarantine unit. If they develop symptoms, they're moved to an isolation unit.The director of the Calgary Remand Centre was scheduled to meet with the Health Ministry Monday afternoon.