Defiant supporters of US President Donald Trump held a rally in Washington on Saturday a week after the presidential race was called for Democrat Joe Biden. (Nov. 14)
Defiant supporters of US President Donald Trump held a rally in Washington on Saturday a week after the presidential race was called for Democrat Joe Biden. (Nov. 14)
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and New Brunswick reported six as the stream of cases from ongoing outbreaks continued in both provinces.Health officials in Nova Scotia said 16 of the cases identified were in Halifax, including one at St. Margaret's Bay Elementary school that was reported late Tuesday. The other case was in the province's northern health zone and was related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.The province's total number of active cases is 127.In New Brunswick, health officials reported six new cases of COVID-19. The Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Edmundston regions each had one case, while there were two in the Bathurst region. There are now 119 active cases in the province.During an online news conference Wednesday, Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill said St. Margaret's Bay Elementary was closed for cleaning and would remain closed on Thursday because of a scheduled professional development day.He said a decision on reopening would be made later this week."That is yet to be determined because the investigation hasn't been completed," he said.Churchill also said it was likely that students at two schools in Cole Harbour that were closed after cases were identified last week would return to classes on Monday.The minister, who announced a further $14.3 million in funding to help support schools during the pandemic, was asked his thoughts on the fact there have only been five cases identified to date in the school system.He credited good guidance from the provincial public health department and said Nova Scotians have followed that advice."I think our teachers, principals, support staff, our cleaners, our students should be proud," Churchill told reporters. "It seems at this point that the majority of people are doing their part to make a difference and protect people from the virus."Still, he said talks were ongoing about the possibility of extending the upcoming Christmas break if needed.The money announced for schools on Wednesday is from a federal fund announced in August, and Churchill said it would go toward a range of programs and initiatives to help keep schools safe. He said $3.8 million would be used to boost school water supplies through the purchase of 950 touch-free water-filling stations, while $2.7 million would be used to ensure maintenance and inspections of school ventilation systems."This is above and beyond the (ventilation) assessments that have been done and the regular assessments," he said. "If any issues crop up, this funding will allow us to deploy resources very quickly to deal with any maintenance issues."Another $1.5 million would be used to purchase additional personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer for students and staff, while $4.1 million would go toward new online math and literacy programs. Money would also go toward school food programs, including $500,000 to meet increased demand for the existing school healthy eating program, and $1 million to support an emergency food fund that can be accessed if at-home learning is needed.The announcement followed one last month that will see $21.5 million in federal relief money used to purchase 32,000 new computers for students and to upgrade servers and Wi-Fi systems in schools.Meanwhile, one new case of COVID-19 was reported by Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, bringing its number of active cases to 30. Health officials said the case was related to travel and involved a man between 20 and 39 years old in the eastern part of the province.In Prince Edward Island, the government announced that those with lower incomes can now get free face masks at all food bank locations across the province. The province said it had collaborated with the P.E.I. Association of Food Banks to distribute three-ply, non-medical reusable masksSince Nov. 20, non-medical masks or face coverings have been mandatory in all public spaces on the Island.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
South Peace communities are considering re-opening discussions to establish a regional handi-bus service. Wembley mayor Chris Turnmire sent out letters to councils in neighbouring municipalities inquiring about the interest in returning to the project, which was put on hold two years ago. “The focus was to identify opportunities to improve mobility options primarily for seniors and disabled residents to attend to basic needs, including medical and dental appointments,” Turnmire said. In 2017 Wembley applied to the Alberta Community Partnership program and won a grant of $67,500 to study the feasibility of a regional service. The town partnered with Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, Hythe and the city and county of Grande Prairie in the project, Turnmire said. Wembley and its partners then contracted Watt Consulting Group to conduct the study. Turnmire said $61,324 was spent on the study and the remainder was refunded to the Alberta government. In 2018 municipal councils decided to put the project on hold due to the launch of the County Connector, he said. The county-based transit service had space for wheelchairs but ended in August due to low ridership. “A regional handi-bus service would have a different focus,” Turnmire said. “This isn’t a money-making project; this is a service to individuals who may not have access to transportation to get to appointments or other places they need to go. “I suspect it’s going to have a cost attached to it, that each municipality would have to look at and (determine) what the proportional share would be.” In early November South Peace mayors and CAOs attended an intermunicipal meeting and the leaders discussed possibly renewing handi-bus talks, he said. None of the mayors rejected the idea outright and due to Wembley’s lead in the project two years ago, it was decided Turnmire would write a letter to all councils, he said. Early work completed In April 2018 Watt Consulting Group held an open house in Beaverlodge discussing plans for a regional handi-bus. The draft policy presented in 2018 called for a round trip running two days per week. Under the program, the bus would travel along the western and northern corridors connecting the city to each town and village, along with Clairmont, La Glace and Valhalla. Plans may change If the councils decide to re-open the possibility of a regional handi-bus, Turnmire said some of the 2018 plans for the service may change. The councils would establish a working group, with each appointing a councillor or staff member to re-examine the study, he said. Turnmire said with council meetings slowing down during December, he doesn’t expect the working group would be established until after the new year. Some of the municipalities have existing handi-bus services, and Turnmire said the working group would also have to consider how to avoid duplication of service and keep things efficient. COVID-19 poses another question as to how service will be affected if the health crisis is still ongoing, Turnmire added. During a recent regular meeting last week Sexsmith council approved Coun. Jonathan Siggelkow’s motion to express interest in the project. At Beaverlodge council’s last meeting Coun. Terry Dueck expressed interest in representing the town in the group. Mayor Gary Rycroft said joining the working group would allow for an exploration of various considerations. Coun. Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus’ motion to express interest was carried.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Dale Woodard Lethbridge Herald The Winter Light Festival at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is ready to light it up. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that will mean a few adjustments, but the annual festival is still going forward starting Thursday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Speaking Tuesday, Michelle Day, executive director for Nikka Yuko, said things could change as the event goes on and to stay tuned for updates and check online for any other details. “We need our community support and that comes with patience and being able to be flexible,” said Day. “Working with Alberta Health Services and the City of Lethbridge, we are going to be able to continue our Winter Light Experience. We’re going to continue to monitor the guidelines as they may change. They may have new ones or they may relax them in the future. By this time, it’s going to be as much of a touch-less experience as possible. But we’re encouraging everybody in our community to show support and come out to our Winter Light Festival as it is a safe experience.” With the current guidelines, the first weekend of the Horse and Wagon rides and the first Shakespeare in the Garden performance have been cancelled. “But we’ll continue to monitor (the situation) and as we go along, we might be able to add more programming as the guidelines change, and that’s where we need the communities support and flexibility in the sense (the events) might happen after Christmas or in January,” said Day. As for the events going forward — following COVID guidelines laid out by AHS – a maximum of 100 people will be allowed in the garden per half hour, said Day. “We’re staging the entry ways and all access to the garden has to be done online,” said Day. “I know our community is used to just showing up and going to the visitors’ centre but, unfortunately, we can’t do that. We feel it’s important we work with Alberta Health Services to ensure the tracking is there.” Private events are still able to be booked, said Day. “What we’re asking our companies and our customers during their private events is no gathering-like activities, so no speeches. But we can hand out things at the door and stage entry. “We’re also making sure we have things for people to take home. We’re going to have an enhanced brochure to give everybody when they come to learn more about Japanese and Canadian winter customs.” For the kids, Nikka Yuko has teamed up with local artist Eric Dyck to provide a colouring package. “With Panasonic and their projectors, we’ve teamed up with a local anime gentleman, Keith Morgan (a local CG-Generalist and compositing artist) and he’s going to be telling a story throughout the garden (with) one-minute episodes,” said Day. “So people can space, but enjoy a story and experience along with the lights. They’ll still be leaving with some programming and some memories to take home with them.” Tickets can be purchased on the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden website events calendar (www.nikkayuko.com/events) or through the Enmax Centre. “I stress to like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/search/top?q=nikka%20yuko%20japanese%20garden) and watch our website (www.nikkayuko.com) for ongoing updates,” said Day. Day said even before the pandemic, the Winter Light Festival experience was an essential one. “I’ve had many families say it’s affordable, it’s accessible and that the community really enjoyed. I think in the summer when we opened there was much of a need for people to get outdoors in a safe place and connect to nature. We heard that, so I think this Winter Light Festival is so important to our community for both those reasons. It’s outdoors, it’s a connection to nature and it’s a safe location to go.” Day added the Garden was built and designed to promote mental health and wellness and a place to go to reflect. “We don’t lose sight that sometimes the winter months are hard. I think there is seasonal depression and winter holiday anxiety and I think sometimes people just need a place to go to walk and we are honoured to provide a safe place for people to do that.” Follow @DWoodardHerald on TwitterDale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 9, 2020 Two Simcoe County teenagers are charged after a woman was robbed at gunpoint in Orillia Oct. 5. Orillia OPP officers responded to a 911 call about a robbery outside an Atherley Road business at about 11 p.m. but were unable to track down the suspects at the time. Following further investigation, police identified the suspects and arrested them in Port McNicoll. Officers seized a replica Glock handgun, and two prohibited knives, one doubling as brass knuckles. Police allege a female suspect ordered the victim to hand over her money and cellphone while a male suspect pointed a handgun at her. An 18-year-old Midland man and an 18-year-old Tay Township man are charged with robbery using a firearm, robbery using violence and uttering threats. Both suspects were held in custody for a bail hearing. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
The owner of the Water Street Dinner Theatre in Saint John says he gave Public Health the names and numbers of the 120 guests and staff who were present for a Nov. 13 show, but he can't say whether that was a superspreader event. Roy Billingsley says he's aware that people are speculating that his was one of " two venues" that the chief medical officer of health has described as being the source of 80 per cent of the current active cases in the Saint John zone. "The timeline might suggest that we were involved," said Billingsley. "But I've received no confirmation of that." Billingsley said Public Health notified him on Nov. 18 about a potential public exposure at the theatre on the previous Friday evening. "I was told that myself and my staff had to isolate for 14 days," said Billingsley, who has since decided to close the venue indefinitely. He said about a dozen employees were working that night, and all were tested for the coronavirus but none tested positive.Billingsley said the business was complying with the strict protocols that were in place at the time and masks were mandatory except when customers were seated at their tables. The venue can accommodate 14 tables of 10 people each, with two metres of distance between the tables. As another precaution, customers were able to place their food orders online in advance of the show, he said.> I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines. We were playing by the rules. \- Roy Billingsley, Water Street Dinner Theatre ownerThere was an option to order drinks by texting the bartender, and diners could also order beverages in advance of the event.Those who decided to line up for drinks had to maintain the appropriate distance. "I guess I do take some comfort in knowing that we were following guidelines," Billingsley said. "We were playing by the rules. "It's unfortunate that somebody was identified as attending one of our productions having COVID-19. However, I think as long as business owners abide by the rules, anybody who lays blame is kind of foolish for doing so. We're all working within the guidelines, and I think people really need to be kind at this time."Owner not sure when dinner theatre will reopen CBC News asked Billingsley how his business has been faring since the start of the pandemic. He operates both the dinner theatre and a restaurant in the same building across from the cruise ship terminal He said the restaurant, Steamers, is a seasonal business that normally closes in November. This year he decided to close it in September. In March, Ottawa announced a ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters and later cancelled the season entirely. Billingsley said he doesn't know when he'll be able to safely open the theatre, especially since singing is part of the show. "It's been a bit of a roller-coaster," he said. "We've been very fortunate in our region that we haven't had to deal with the effects of COVID for very long … but it certainly takes a toll on you, financially and psychologically." On Nov. 20, when Dr. Jennifer Russell first mentioned the superspreader event in response to a question from CBC News, she said it involved "many" health-care workers. Billingsley said he didn't know about health-care workers attending the show but said many of the customers that night would have known each other.Russell brought up the subject again on Tuesday, without naming dates, times or locations of what she called the superspreader event. She said it occurred at two venues over the course of one evening in Saint John and was directly responsible for 60 confirmed cases in Zone 2. "Sixty people have contracted the respiratory disease from the event — 34 who attended and 26 others who were infected when they came into contact with attendees," said Russell. "This isn't about casting blame, it's really about a teaching moment."
New membership is bringing new ideas to one Tay Township neighbourhood. Several of those new ideas were presented to council at a recent meeting by Victoria Reaume,president, Talpines Property Owners' Association. “Waubaushene has changed over the last few years and it's still changing a lot,” she said. “We see young families and retirees moving into town. They're looking for wonderful new things to do in the community.” One of those, said Reaume, is to enhance the usability of the Tay Trail. “We've raised a number of issues with bylaw about motorized vehicles,” she said. “The township did do some stakeouts and managed to catch some folks who were riding motorcycles on the trail and other types of vehicles.” But the trail, said Reaume, is increasingly being used by bike clubs and there seem to be no speed limits. “They will ride by in numbers like 20 and it's scary when they drive by at that speed,” she said. “We're asking for more signage because clearly people are not seeing the signage that exists.” The group is also looking to beautify Pine Street Beach with a mural on the tin building in the vicinity, said Reaume. “It's a very popular site and we're starting to see people use it more,” she said, talking about the beach. “We also mentioned last year a ramp or stairs at the beach so people with mobility problems could have better access to the beach. We don't want a boat ramp for sure. We do want a pedestrian ramp, something that people can use to walk down more easily.” As well, Reaume said, a lot of the seniors and kids go down to enjoy the beach, where there's no shade. “We know that other parks in Tay have gazebos,” she said. “We just want something to provide a bit of shade; we don't need anything fancy.” At least two councillors expressed support at the meeting. “We could maybe look at accessibility grants out there to make that beach more accessible,” said Coun. Mary Warnock. “I'm sure there are artists out there looking to paint something so you could collaborate with them. And I'm sure staff would appreciate the help in getting some money for signage.” Coun. Jeff Bumstead said he could watch out for opportunities through the Cultural Alliance Committee channel. A final decision about how much money can be given to the Talpines POA will be made at a December council meeting around grants.Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
EDMONTON — Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, in violation of Starfleet’s Prime Directive, is questioning the intelligence of Alberta-based life forms over their COVID-19 contact tracing app.William Shatner, the Canadian who played the iconic commander in "Star Trek" has taken to Twitter to urge Alberta use the federal app.Shatner writes, “you just need to get Alberta on board,” adding that the province cannot go its own way in a world interconnected by travel.Shatner writes Alberta’s approach is, “bizarre and dangerous,” but also says “what do I know? I’m just an actor.”Premier Jason Kenney’s government has avoided signing onto the federal app, saying it’s not as effective because Alberta’s app is connected to contact tracing rather than simply delivering notifications of close contacts.Alberta’s app has tracked down just a handful of cases in six months, but the government says the program will be more effective as more people sign on.The Prime Directive in "Star Trek" was a top-down direction to avoid interference in alien cultures -- a directive the two-fisted Kirk and crew repeatedly violated as they beamed up, beamed down and otherwise finger-wagged their way through the galaxy on a five-year mission.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
This past summer of discontent against police has set the stage for Norm Lipinski, the new top cop in Surrey, who is vowing a slew of changes in one of Canada’s fastest growing and most culturally diverse cities. From more cops on bikes to walking the beat and welcoming soirees for new Canadians, Lipinski’s central goal revolves around creating a force that will police the plurality of Surrey with constant engagement and strident enforcement. “That will begin with creating a command structure that reflects the diversity of Surrey both in ethnicity and gender,” Lipinksi told NCM as he prepared for his new role that will begin later this month. “We can learn a lot from the anti-police sentiment that has swept many parts of the world this past summer, especially in the U.S. and from the great work of the RCMP has done in Surrey. But now is a time for change to remove tensions and rebuild confidence in police,” he said. “We can do it and build a more modern, inclusive, accountable, and community-based model,” said Lipinski, who brings 42 years of policing experience to Surrey, where close to half of residents are immigrants. Lipinski said the first order of business will be to hire a complement of senior staff and officers that will be reflective of the community with recruitment efforts targeting ethnic and Indigenous communities and women. The RCMP employs nearly three-quarters of B.C.’s 9,500 police with 18 per cent of its officers coming from visible minority groups and another five per cent comprising Indigenous persons. About 20 per cent of RCMP members across the country are women. While these numbers may be representative for rural communities, it is out of whack for places like Surrey, where 34 per cent of residents speak English as a secondary language and where females outnumber males in the general population. Statistics Canada said in a report last week that people designated as visible minorities report less confidence in police than non-visible minority people. Just over one-third (35 per cent) of Canadians belonging to population groups designated as visible minorities reported having a great deal of confidence in the police in 2019, compared with 44 per cent among non-visible minority people, the national number crunchers said. Confidence levels also varied among different visible minority groups. For example, Southeast Asian (25 per cent) and Chinese (26 per cent) Canadians were less likely to report a great deal of confidence in the police compared with non-visible minority people (44 per cent). Lipinski, a former assistant commissioner for the RCMP’s E-Division in B.C., said he will be reaching out to faith leaders, community groups, NGOs, neighbourhood associations and local media among others as he works on a strategic plan for the Surrey Police Force, which will have 1,150 employees — 805 police officers, 325 civilian positions and 20 Community Safety Personnel (CSP). Surrey currently is the only one of 19 major Canadian population centres with more than 300,000 people without a local police department. A self-described data geek, with a Master of Business Administration degree as well as a Bachelor of Laws degree, Lipinski plans to use the community consultations to draw up a delivery service model that will hinge on a $200 million budget annually. “If the data shows we can deliver better service by having officers out of their cars and walking the beat or on bikes, we will do it,” said Lipinski. The veteran cop also plans meet and greet sessions for immigrants and refugees as they settle in Surrey which is home to about a fifth of all new arrivals to B.C. “Our recruiting will be different, our tone will be different and our engagement will be different,” Lipinski added.Fabian Dawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Canadian Media
JERUSALEM — Israel took a major step toward plunging into its fourth national election in under two years on Wednesday as lawmakers — supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main coalition partner — passed a preliminary proposal to dissolve parliament.The 61-54 vote came just seven months after the coalition took office following three inconclusive elections in just over a year. Netanyahu's Likud party and Defence Minister Benny Gantz's Blue and White said they were seeking national unity to confront the coronavirus crisis. But since then, the rivals have been locked in infighting.The vote gave only preliminary approval to ending the alliance and forcing a new election early next year. The legislation now heads to a committee before parliament as a whole takes up final approval, perhaps as soon as next week. In the meantime, Gantz and Netanyahu are expected to continue negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to preserve their troubled alliance.By joining the opposition in Wednesday's vote, Gantz’s party voiced its dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his own personal interests ahead of those of the country.Netanyahu is on trial for a series of corruption charges, and Gantz accuses the prime minister of hindering key governmental work, including the passage of a national budget, in hopes of stalling or overturning the legal proceedings against him. Gantz and other critics believe Netanyahu is ultimately hoping to see a friendlier parliament elected next year that will give him immunity from prosecution.Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party sponsored the bill to trigger new elections, accused the government of gross mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. He said the one thing all citizens share is “the feeling that they lost control over their lives.”The government still has not yet passed a budget for 2020, a result of the deep divisions produced by its power-sharing agreement. The lack of budget has caused severe hardships and cutbacks for Israelis at a time when unemployment is estimated at over 20% because of the pandemic.In a nationally broadcast news conference Wednesday evening, Netanyahu delivered a mixed message, calling on Gantz to remain in the government but also sounding very much like a politician on the campaign trail.Netanyahu began his address by claiming credit for leading the battle against the coronavirus, forging diplomatic agreements with Gulf Arab countries and protecting Israel against its enemies in the region.He derisively referred to Gantz's party as “an opposition within the coalition" and skirted around questions about passing the budget or honouring the rotation agreement with Gantz.“In dramatic times like these, we don’t need to go to elections. The people of Israel want unity, not ballots. It wants vaccines, and not campaign ads,” he said. "The only way we can defeat corona is defeating it together. We need to put politics aside.”Gantz, meanwhile, released a video blaming Netanyahu for the political paralysis and economic damage resulting from the pandemic.“We all know the truth. You know the truth,” Gantz said in the video. “If there was no trial, there would be a budget. If there was no trial, there would be a functioning government. There would be unity.”Israel has gone through two nationwide lockdowns since March, and officials are already warning that rising infections could result in a return to strict restrictions that were only recently lifted.If a budget for 2020 isn’t passed by Dec. 23, Israeli law stipulates an automatic dissolution of parliament and new elections three months later in late March.Under the coalition deal, Netanyahu is to serve as prime minister until November 2021, with the job rotating to Gantz for 18 months after that. The only way Netanyahu can hold onto his seat and get out of that agreement is if a budget doesn’t pass and new elections are held.There were no indications that either side is interested in preserving their partnership for the long run. Instead, the battle is expected to be over when the election will be held.Although Gantz's party has plummeted in opinion polls, he appears to have concluded that elections are inevitable and the sooner they are held, the better.By pushing for an election early next year, he seems to be banking that Netanyahu will be punished by voters for a still-raging pandemic, a struggling economy and the resumption of his corruption trial.Starting in February, Netanyahu's corruption trial is scheduled to kick into high gear, with a string of witnesses testifying against him. The prime minister expected to be a frequent visitor to the courtroom.Netanyahu, on the other hand, is expected to try to drag out budget talks to delay elections until the summer in hopes that a vaccine will arrive and the economy will begin to recover. If he can put together a hardline coalition at that time, he might finally be positioned to push through an immunity bill or appoint new judicial officials to freeze or overturn his case.“Over the last two years, the only question you need to ask is not what is best for the country and not what is best for this or that party, but what is in the best interest of Benjamin Netanyahu," Gayil Tashir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, told reporters. She said it looks like Netanyahu thinks it is his best interest to hold an election next summer.One wild card in any Israeli election will be the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.Netanyahu has had a close relationship with President Donald Trump after clashing with President Barack Obama for the previous eight years. Israeli officials fear that Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, will return to the policies of that era, especially renewing possible diplomatic engagement with archenemy Iran.Tashir said this would be a “big issue” in the next Israeli campaign.“Netanyahu is going to put forward an argument which says 'I’m the only Israeli leader who can actually stand up against a Biden administration,'" she said.Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
Yukon RCMP have put out another appeal for information about the death of Allan Waugh who was killed six years ago.The police say Waugh, 69, was found in his home in the early morning on May 30, 2014. They believe he was killed at the hand of someone who entered the home overnight."Someone knows something about what happened and who killed Allan on that fateful night over six years ago," it says in a recent RCMP news release."Allan's death has been extremely hard on his family and community, and his children have had to go through the past six years without knowing what happened to their father."Cst. Michael Simpson in the Yukon RCMP historical cases unit said police have not given up on finding out what happened."When a matter has been a number of years like this one, we believe that people know information about what happened that they learned … over the years," said Simpson.Simpson said police have made it easier for people to provide information to the historical cases unit.There is now a dedicated telephone tip line and an email address. The number is 867-667-5500, email at, email@example.com.The police have made periodic appeals to the public for information over the years.Waugh's family has gone door to door looking for information, put up posters and led a community march in hopes of learning what happened to him.Simpson said there are persons of interest and the investigation is ongoing when asked if there was progress or any recent new information.
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the priority list for the first COVID-19 vaccines is being refined because there won't be enough doses available in the first round to cover the initial groups recommended.
With just over three weeks until Christmas, going out and getting your own live Christmas tree or getting a load of wood to stay toasty over the holidays just got easier. The Alberta government announced Nov. 26 that the $5 fee for a permit to harvest trees for personal use is no longer being collected. The change will save Albertans close to $100,000. It is important to note, however, that getting a permit before harvesting Crown timber is still the law since it helps the province track how many trees are harvested. Fines for harvesting without a permit can range from $50 to several thousand dollars, as well as running the risk of further legal prosecution. Timber harvested under a Personal Use Forest Products Permit is limited to three Christmas trees, five cubic metres (or three level truckloads) of firewood, five cubic metres of roundwood and 20 tree transplants. The permit is good for 30 days. Permits can be obtained online at https://bit.ly/TreePermit, and anyone with questions is encouraged to contact one of Alberta’s forest area offices at www.alberta.ca/forestry-area-office-contacts.aspx. Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
Líídlįį Kúę High School in Fort Simpson has reported a case of chickenpox among its students. The school’s principal, Marty Leach, used Facebook to inform families a letter had been issued by the village health centre's nurse in charge regarding the case. Chickenpox is a highly infectious viral illness which has symptoms like an itchy blister rash and mild fever. It can develop two to three weeks after contact with an infected individual and can spread five days before the rash appears. Pregnant women, newborn infants, and people with weakened immune systems who haven’t been vaccinated, nor had chickenpox or shingles in the past, should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible if they are exposed. “Please contact the Fort Simpson Health Centre if your child has not had the chickenpox disease or vaccine,” the letter reads. Chickenpox can be deadly for people with health issues and newborns. Those who may need to see a physician regarding chickenpox should call first to ensure they do not come into contact with others, especially vulnerable people. People who have or think they may have chickenpox should avoid public areas for at least five days after the first signs of the disease appear. Infected individuals should not go out in public until the last marks have scabbed over. Clothes should be washed or disinfected if they have come into contact with chickenpox or any discharge from the throat or nose. The Fort Simpson Health Centre and nurse on call can be reached at (867) 695-7000.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
Dentists travelling within the Northwest Territories to provide services are now back in operation in some communities as the territorial government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, gave dental teams the green light to travel."Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness. I am pleased with the collaborative work across Government to resume these services," said Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services in a news release issued on Wednesday.All non-urgent services were suspended in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.Then, in mid-June, the Northwest Territories government relaxed guidelines to allow dentists to resume services "pending appropriate steps" — but some dentists said strict rules still prevented them from travelling into smaller communities to provide services.The following communities can start services, as their facilities "have met facility infrastructure dental care standards" and were given approval by the Chief Public Health Officer: * Fort Providence, N.W.T. * Sambaa K'e, N.W.T. * Fort Simpson, N.W.T. * Norman Wells, N.W.T. * Fort Resolution, N.W.T. * Aklavik, N.W.T.As well, visiting private dentists will now also be able to resume in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River, the release says.The rest of the communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to be back in operation "when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet COIVID-19 safety protocols," the release says.The government says the "necessary assessments" and required work is expected to continue throughout the coming year and that more updates will be given as more facilities in other communities are confirmed.The territory faced criticism after suspending services with many people saying it deepened the disparity in health care between larger centres and communities.The territory has been working with Indigenous Services Canada to resume the service.For now, Indigenous Services Canada will cover travel for people in communities to receive dental care until further notice, the release says.
WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged Congress to approve COVID-19 relief funds without further delay, though Democrats continued to attack a decision by Mnuchin to allow five Fed lending programs to expire during the pandemic.In his most direct comments so far, Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday that it's “very important” for Congress to provide economic support.New funding would serve as a “bridge” for the economy to get from the current environment in which virus infections are spiking, to next year when vaccines should be widely available, Powell said.“We are trying to get as many people across that bridge as we can,” Powell said.Without more assistance, Powell said, people will lose their homes and small businesses will fail. “You could lose parts of the economy,” which would slow any recovery next year, he said.“We are hearing from all over that small businesses are really under pressure," Powell told lawmakers.For a second day a number of Democratic lawmakers on the committee challenged Mnuchin’s decision to allow five Fed lending programs to expire at the end of this year, contending that his reading of the law was incorrect. They say it's a political manoeuvr to hobble the incoming Biden administration financially.“There is no justifiable reason for taking these tools away,” Rep. Maxine Waters, chair of the House panel, told Mnuchin. “It is foolish and reckless.”In a rare split with Treasury last month, the Fed issued a statement saying that it believed it was important to continue providing an economic backstop after Mnuchin said he was terminating the programs.Mnuchin has repeatedly insisted that he was just following the CARES Act law.When Powell was asked if he agreed with that interpretation, Powell deferred to Mnuchin.Powell did say Wednesday that the Fed had issued its statement to make it clear that the central bank was committed to providing further support to the economy.“We were concerned that the public might misinterpret (Mnuchin’s action) as the Fed stepping back and thinking our work is done,” Powell said.Asked what Congress should put in a relief bill that could pass in the lame-duck session this month, Mnuchin said his priority would be an authorization allowing the Treasury to use $140 billion in left-over funds to provide small businesses with a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans.The PPP program allowed businesses to get loans to keep their workers on the payroll with the loan forgiven if the business met certain terms geared at avoiding layoffs.Mnuchin said Congress should also consider extending some of the emergency unemployment benefit programs that are being used by around 11 million workers. Those programs will expire at the end of this month without Congressional action.Lawmakers have been unable to reach agreement on further economic relief after many programs in the $2 trillion CARE Act expired in August. Democrats are seeking more funds than the GOP-controlled Senate has been willing to provide.On Tuesday a bipartisan group of senators introduced a aid bill totalling around $908 billion, raising hopes that the legislative impasse might be broken. Mnuchin said he was in discussions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who since this summer has insisted on a larger bill. Mnuchin said unfortunately Pelosi has insisted that a half-a-loaf measure would not be good enough.“I would encourage Congress in the lame duck," Mnuchin said. "Let’s get something done.”He said has been keeping President Donald Trump abreast of the negotiations every day.Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
More small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a provincial grant under a recently extended program. Applications for the small and medium enterprise (SME) relaunch grant were due last week but a second round of applications will now be available until March 31, according to the Alberta government. “A lot of our small- and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of (the grant),” said Larry Gibson, Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce chairperson. Gibson said the chamber has heard from approximately a half-dozen businesses that have applied since the program was introduced in June, including a couple near Clairmont. The SME relaunch grant benefits businesses, co-operatives and non-profits that have experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic. The SME grant is for 15 per cent of the business’ pre-COVID monthly revenue, or a maximum of $5,000, said Justin Brattinga, Jobs, Economy and Innovation department press secretary. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t go far these days, but it is a helpful program when you’re looking at added expenses,” Gibson said. “Most of the (local businesses) are using the grant to offset some of the extra costs, in plexiglass shields, the masks and sanitization.” Gibson said Grande Prairie-area businesses that have shown interest in the grant represent a variety of sectors, including retail, small manufacturing organizations and the restaurant and hospitality industries. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 500 employees and be affected by provincial restrictions, or have revenue losses of 40 per cent, according to the Alberta government. Initially, the SME grant required the business to have revenue losses of 50 per cent, a threshold lowered to 40 per cent retroactively to March, Brattinga said. The lowered threshold will enable thousands of more businesses across the province to benefit, he said. The chamber observed many small- and medium-sized businesses experience losses in the range of 40 and 50 per cent between April and May, Gibson said. The new funding is available to businesses in enhanced-status areas of the province, such as the city and county of Grande Prairie and the municipalities within the county.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Le Centre de services scolaire (CSS) de l’Estuaire a procédé, au cours des derniers mois, à une vaste opération de dépistage afin de mesurer la concentration de plomb dans près de 400 points d’eau de ses écoles primaires, destinés à la consommation. « À la demande du ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, ces analyses ont permis de démontrer que 88 %, soit 346 des 395 points d’eau analysés respectaient la nouvelle norme de Santé Canada, établie à 5 microgrammes par litre d’eau », mentionne l’agente aux communications du CSS de l’Estuaire, Patricia Lavoie. Des 21 écoles ayant fait l’objet d’une analyse, quatre présentaient des résultats 100 % conformes aux normes gouvernementales. Il s’agit des écoles Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Cœur, Saint-Cœur-de-Marie de Colombier ainsi que Bois-du-Nord et Boisvert de Baie-Comeau. Quelque 11 établissements ne comptaient qu’un ou deux points d’eau potable dont la concentration de plomb excédait la limite acceptable. Pour les autres, le taux de non-conformité variait de 18 % à 44 %. Pour l’ensemble des points d’eau où les résultats ont démontré une concentration de plomb dans l’eau excédant les normes de Santé Canada, des correctifs ont immédiatement été apportés. « Pour ce faire, le service des ressources matérielles a procédé à l’installation d’un filtre spécialisé afin de traiter l’eau des buvettes problématiques, ce qui représente un correctif permanent aux points d’eau concernés », explique Mme Lavoie. Afin de garantir la qualité de l’eau potable mise à la disposition des élèves et du personnel, l’ensemble des établissements avaient également installé à titre préventif, il y a déjà plus d’un an, des affiches indiquant les consignes propres à chacun des points d’eau. « Cet affichage, qui permettait déjà de se conformer aux normes en vigueur, demeurera en place tout comme la décision de réserver les lavabos des toilettes et des vestiaires exclusivement pour le lavage des mains et le brossage des dents, conformément aux directives ministérielles », de préciser l’agente aux communications. Le CSS de l’Estuaire poursuivra par ailleurs son travail, au cours des prochaines semaines, afin d’installer des filtres accrédités à l’ensemble des points d’eau potable de ses établissements. Appel d’offres Ayant condamné toutes les buvettes ne permettant pas un remplissage sans contact en raison des risques de contamination liés à la COVID-19, le service des ressources matérielles procédera à un appel d’offres permettant de faire l’acquisition et l’installation de buvettes sans contact dotées d’un filtre accrédité afin de remplacer toutes celles actuellement fermées dans le but de limiter la propagation des différents virus qui circulent en milieu scolaire. Mentionnons finalement qu’à compter de 2021-2022, la réfection intérieure des écoles primaires sera amorcée de façon intensive. « Ces chantiers permettront notamment le remplacement de la tuyauterie domestique et, par le fait même, l’élimination de matériaux à base de plomb susceptibles d’influencer la contamination de l’eau potable », soutient Patricia Lavoie. D’ailleurs, la réfection de blocs sportifs, de vestiaires et de salles de bain a permis de pallier cette problématique dans plusieurs écoles au cours des dernières années. L’opération se poursuit Une opération de dépistage semblable sera réalisée dans les écoles secondaires et les centres de formation professionnelle et d’éducation des adultes à compter de la mi-décembre. En raison du surplus de travail engendré par la pandémie, le gouvernement a donné aux centres de services scolaires jusqu’au 1er mars pour compléter les analyses et les travaux correctifs dans l’ensemble de leurs établissements. « L’affichage indiquant l’importance de laisser couler l’eau une minute avant consommation ou encore de ne pas consommer l’eau à certains endroits est cependant en place partout sur le territoire depuis l’automne 2019 », conclut Mme Lavoie.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
HALIFAX — A new website was launched Wednesday to assist Nova Scotia first responders coping with trauma, in a year in which a pandemic and a mass shooting have added to the distressing experiences they routinely face. The site offers resources designed for paramedics, firefighters, police officers and health services workers to help them manage the toll of the trauma they experience at work. It also provides support for their recovery from traumatic psychological injury, including links to online counselling. The site www.FirstRespondersMentalHealthNS.com is promoted by posters with the faces of first responders superimposed with phrases reflecting thoughts they may be keeping inside. They include statements such as "It's hard to quiet the voices in my head," and "There's this heavy feeling." The website, launched by a provincial steering committee, is modelled on a similar site in British Columbia, and also contains links for family members living with a person with post-traumatic stress disorder. Debra Fortune, a 42-year-old paramedic who participated in the committee, said in an interview Wednesday that first responders often are reluctant to seek help or are unaware of how to begin. Her husband Jason Fortune, also a paramedic, developed PTSD in 2014 but went without significant treatment for two years, she said. Fortune, who started in her field in 2002, gradually accumulated psychological traumas herself from exposure to disturbing scenes, including arriving at a home where a young child had died. Early this summer, she realized the incident was causing her to lose sleep, as painful memories kept returning. At times, she'd feel a searing pain through her back and neck. "I had some previous pediatric calls that were very difficult, and all of a sudden I wasn't able to be around my (infant) daughter. I was very fearful," she said. "When I realized I was avoiding my 16-month-old child that's when I reached out for treatment." She said she's hopeful that she will be able return to work next year. Fortune said paramedics across the province have been at a breaking point for years as they try to help patients who are awaiting treatment in backed-up emergency rooms, or move them from one overcrowded hospital to another. COVID-19 has added to the stress as the paramedics must now often don protective equipment for patients who might have the illness. "It's very scary because there are many people who aren't always honest with us," she said. The Nova Scotia mass shooting in April, in which a gunman killed 22 people in a 13-hour rampage, will likely contribute to the number of medics and other first responders with trauma, said Fortune. "We go to work and know anything can happen, but there is nothing that can prepare you for something like that," she said. Nova Scotia has passed legislation that presumes a diagnosis of PTSD for first responders is related to their work, and they are therefore eligible for workers' compensation. Fortune said the legislation, along with the new awareness campaign, are giving access to more resources than when her husband became ill. "Hopefully this site will bring people forward, to get the help that they need," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press