WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
A $2 million family healing and wellness centre is scheduled for construction on Muskowekwan First Nation. The First Nation, which is about 330 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, expects the project to be completed in 2021. Funded by an Indigenous Services Canada initiative, the centre will be built in the spring and summer, a government statement announced on Monday. The prepared statement said the centre will have four family log homes, each holding two to four bedrooms. The First Nation will use a fifth home for healing program delivery. Operations support will come from community Elders, in addition to counsellors and staff. In a prepared statement, Chief Reginald Bellerose said the project is an "urgently needed" step on a "healing journey from the historical effects of attending residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, among other traumas." While he said communities like his are in crisis, he hopes the model of care will produce tangible results for his First Nation. The project is "driven by the community, for the community," he said. The goal is to "provide a welcoming, homelike environment where families in crisis referred to the Centre can get the support they need to help heal together," the federal government's statement added.Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and as residents of Quinte West make their lists and check them twice, holiday gifts that promote social distancing and staying home may be tricky. During the spring when the coronavirus first forced residents indoors, board games and puzzles were flying off the shelves. As the second wave of COVID-19 progresses into the colder months, indoor games and activities are expected to be popular items this holiday season. Mindful of the global pandemic, Canadian owned and operated Outset Media has partnered with Walmart Canada to launch limited-edition board games that bring fun to families by creating Canadian city-based board games. The Quinte West community is fortunate enough to be celebrated in Belleville-Opoly and Trenton-Opoly. Similar to the classic Monopoly games, Belleville-Opoly and Trenton-Opoly’s property spots highlight crucial aspects of the Quinte West community. Belleville-Opoly features properties like Zwick’s Centennial Parks and Trails, Downtown Belleville, The Empire Theatre, Glanmore National Historic Site, Burger Revolution and many more beloved spots throughout the community. On the Trenton-Opoly board, players will notice properties such as the National Air Force Museum of Canada, the Trent Port Marina, Trent Port Museum and other historically rich landmarks. Outset Media is thrilled that Trenton and Belleville have been selected to be featured in this exciting, limited-edition game. “Outset Media is excited to help families across Canada celebrate where they live. These games were created to help people appreciate some things they cherish about their community,” said senior vice-president of Outset Media, Jean-Paul Teskey. “We are grateful that families and friends all over the country have made us part of the time they spend together during the holidays.” Based on the best-selling game of all time, Monopoly, Belleville-Opoly and Trenton-Opoly draw attention to some of the great features and rich history of Quinte West. These Onset Media board games are available now at local Walmarts or online at walmart.ca.Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
LONDON — The Duchess of Sussex has revealed that she had a miscarriage in July, giving a personal account of the traumatic experience in hope of helping others.Meghan described the miscarriage in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday, writing that “I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.”The former Meghan Markle and husband Prince Harry have an 18-month-old son, Archie.The duchess, 39, said she was sharing her story to help break the silence around an all-too-common tragedy. Britain's National Health Service says about one in eight pregnancies in which a woman is aware she is pregnant ends in miscarriage.“Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few,” Meghan wrote. “In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing.”In a startlingly intimate account of her experience, the duchess described how tragedy struck on a “morning that began as ordinarily as any other day: Make breakfast. Feed the dogs. Take vitamins. Find that missing sock. Pick up the rogue crayon that rolled under the table. Throw my hair in a ponytail before getting my son from his crib."“After changing his diaper, I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right.”Later, she said, she “lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.”Buckingham Palace said it was “a deeply personal matter we would not comment on.”Sophie King, a midwife at U.K. child-loss charity Tommy’s, said miscarriage and stillbirth remained “a real taboo in society, so mothers like Meghan sharing their stories is a vital step in breaking down that stigma and shame.”“Her honesty and openness today send a powerful message to anyone who loses a baby: this may feel incredibly lonely, but you are not alone,” King said.Meghan, an American actress and star of TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son was born the following year.Early this year, the couple announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said was the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California.The duchess is currently suing the publisher of Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper for invasion of privacy over articles that published parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father after her wedding.Last month, a judge in London agreed to Meghan's request to postpone the trial from January until fall 2021. The decision followed a hearing held in private, and the judge said the reason for the delay request should be kept confidential.Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
ORILLIA — Police across the province are reminding motorists of the consequences of getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol and drugs as the annual OPP Festive RIDE campaign kicks off this week. Ontario Provincial Police have received more than 21,000 calls related to suspected impaired drivers so far this year, according to a news release issued on Wednesday, Nov. 25. The seasonal campaign runs from Nov. 26 to Jan. 3, 2021. “As Ontarians celebrate this physically-distanced holiday season, an important part of staying safe is ensuring you have a solid plan that prevents you and your family from driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs,” OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said in the release. “The OPP encourages citizens to continue reporting impaired drivers to the police. Combined with the dedication of our frontline officers, our collective efforts can significantly help keep you and your loved ones safe on our roads during the holidays and throughout the year.” Last year, OPP conducted more than 8,800 RIDE stops and charged more than 600 drivers with impaired driving. Police are reminding motorists that officers regularly conduct mandatory alcohol screening procedures with drivers who are lawfully pulled over and will be ramping up this measure including at RIDE stops throughout the campaign. OPP also praises proactive citizens for doing their part and calling in suspected impaired drivers. Nearly 3,300 calls were placed during last year’s Festive RIDE campaign. An officer with an alcohol screen device can demand a breath sample from any driver without having reasonable suspicion they have consumed alcohol, OPP said in the release. Officers also have drug screening equipment that detects cannabis and cocaine in a driver’s saliva. These devices are used to enforce provincial zero-tolerance sanctions which apply to drivers under the age of 21. “Impaired driving continues to be the leading criminal cause of death and injury on Ontario’s roads and these dangers remain a threat to our communities as we continue to face COVID-19 this holiday season. We all want a safe and happy holiday season and it is important to remind our friends and family to plan ahead and make alternative arrangements to get home safely. The decision to get behind the wheel impaired can be a matter of life and death,” Solicitor General of Ontario Sylvia Jones said in a statement. Forty-two people have died on OPP-patrolled roads so far this year in collisions involving alcohol or drug-impaired driving, according to OPP statistics.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
NASHVILLE — More than four decades ago, Lamar Alexander won a ticket to the governor's mansion after he walked more than 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometres) around Tennessee in a plaid shirt and hiking boots. He spent the night with 73 families and called his campaign headquarters from payphones.Alexander, who served two terms as the state's chief executive before heading to Washington, is finishing up his third and final U.S. Senate term in a nation increasingly divided by the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of racial injustice and law enforcement, and the vitriolic election season.In a recent interview with The Associated Press, wearing a facemask in the same red-and-black plaid he favoured as a young candidate, the 80-year-old Republican lawmaker discussed how he has navigated the presidency of President Donald Trump.Known as a dealmaker from a more co-operative, bygone era, Alexander has spent his final years, in part, deciding how and whether to react to what Trump is saying, doing and tweeting, without losing a partner in the White House who shares some of his own priorities.Alexander said many Democrats wish he would “spend more time criticizing President Trump’s behaviour,” while a lot of Republicans wish he “spent more time criticizing President (Barack) Obama’s liberal policies.”“President Lincoln, if he got mad, he’d write a hot letter and put it in the drawer,” Alexander said. “Today, if the president gets mad, he puts it out on a tweet to 72 million people and they put something out on their tweet. So, this drives a lot of division in the country. The blessings of an internet democracy — we’re somehow going to find a way to tolerate it and live with it if we want to unify the country and solve big problems in a way most of us can accept.”The former U.S. education secretary and two-time presidential candidate recently urged Trump’s team to begin the transition with Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, citing the need to keep coronavirus vaccine distribution plans on track. Even before COVID-19, the Senate health committee chairman pushed back against anti-vaccine disinformation. This summer, he also pressed Trump to wear a mask more often to set an example for his followers.The attorney and businessman helped draw the auto industry to Tennessee as governor. He served as the University of Tennessee's president before his 2002 election to the Senate. Tea party-aligned opposition arose during his 2014 reelection, resulting in a tighter-than-desired GOP primary win of 9 percentage points.The legislative wins he touts most aren't really the kinds of accomplishments that put politicians in the limelight: A copyright law change to sort out pay for songwriters in the digital age; simplification of the federal college aid application; legislation to cut in half maintenance backlogs in national parks, national forests and other public lands; national laboratories funding; and an education law that gives states authority to decide how to use certain testing results to evaluate teachers and schools.But the spotlight shone brightly on Alexander during some particularly fraught moments in the administration — most notably, when the senator voted against allowing witnesses and to acquit Trump during his impeachment trial.“On the impeachment, I said I thought he did it," Alexander said. "That didn’t justify removing him from office.”Alexander is retiring at the end of his term in January. Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty ultimately won the open seat with Trump's endorsement and his pledge to support the president's priorities. Hagerty emerged from a rough primary in which he and another Republican traded fire over who was better aligned with Trump. Alexander said the jury's still out on how Hagerty will act in office, but he predicted he will be an "excellent senator."“A lot of things are said in campaigns, and they have been for a long time. They don’t have much to do with what happens after you get elected,” Alexander said. “So I think we need to wait and see.”Alexander, who served in the Senate with Biden, said his focus on unifying the country is “exactly the right message," but he said Biden should not veer too far left. Senate Republicans could aim to block Biden's priorities if they deem them too progressive. Thus far, key Senate Republicans have kept quiet on confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees.“He’s a person of good character,” Alexander said of Biden. “He’s well-liked in the Senate on both sides of the aisle. He listens well. He’s well-acquainted with leaders around the world. Those are his strengths. The difficulty he is going to have is with the radical left agenda of the Democratic national party.”As the U.S. nears a new presidency and a COVID-19 vaccine, Alexander says there are good reasons for Americans to reject disinformation about both the coronavirus and the election.He said the hand tally of votes cast in the presidential race in Georgia, for example, “should reassure the American people that the election is valid.”Additionally, Alexander said he hopes the high effectiveness rates and safety of COVID-19 vaccines will outweigh concerns. For people who don't buy into masks, he suggested talking to frontline workers.“When I stopped smoking was when my doctor showed me a picture of a lung of a person who died from lung cancer," Alexander said. "I think what might persuade people is if they talk to a nurse who has been dealing with people in a hospital who are dying from COVID.”Jonathan Mattise, The Associated Press
As controversial as he was talented, Maradona is a gigantic loss for the beautiful game. View on euronews
It's been a long time coming, but the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) is building a hut in the Robson Pass area at the end of the Berg Lake trail. The site has been cleared and, if all goes to plan, the dorm-style hut will be built by next summer and usable by the fall. It will be open seasonally and accommodate 16 overnight guests: four bunks of four. Matt Reynolds, a professional mountaineer and president of the Jasper/Hinton section of the ACC, said the location is sought by "hikers and mountaineers alike”. "It's a really popular hiking destination for people who don't want to camp in the elements,” he said “It really will be quite a good thing for the community as a whole." The ACC got word of their permission to build the hut on Oct. 6 and the next day, a crew of ACC volunteers and two McElhanney survey technicians flew up to the site armed with chainsaws, fuel and other equipment to prepare and clear the area, which had already been marked with tape. Claire Levesque, a mountaineer and a Jasper/Hinton section member said she dropped everything when she found out the hut was a go-ahead and was happy to help. She said the crew worked all day. "There was a lot of work,” she said. The hut at Robson Pass will be the first one to be maintained by the ACC in B.C. Provincial Parks, though the club has had a presence in that area for more than 100 years - The first ascent of Mt. Robson was on an ACC camp. Lawrence White, ACC executive director in Canmore, and an avid mountaineer and backcountry skier, said the bid to get permission to build the hut started in 2005. The process was a three-way consultation between B.C. Parks, First Nations groups and the ACC. It's a World Heritage site. "We have a great partnership with B.C. Parks,” White said. “This seemed like the next natural step.” Next, the ACC will be working with the province and avalanche specialists to categorize the access route. The Jacques Lake cabin The ACC is now about a year into its 16-month trial agreement to manage the Jacques Lake patrol cabin, formerly managed by Parks Canada. As a not-for-profit operator, the ACC operates a number of cabins throughout the mountain national parks including four in Jasper. Steve Young, communications officer for Jasper National Park, said, "The addition of the Jacques Lake cabin provides an introductory level winter backcountry experience to novice visitors who may not otherwise experience Jasper’s backcountry at this time of year. The cabin offers visitors rustic accommodation along a moderate non-technical trail." Young said Parks Canada’s backcountry operations in Jasper National Park have changed over the years, reducing the frequency of use of patrol cabins such as Jacques Lake. The cabin was identified as a viable option to be used for public enjoyment as it is no longer required for operations during the winter months. Parks Canada retains ownership of the cabin while the ACC is responsible for the booking, management and maintenance of the cabin during the winter months. Established in 1906, the ACC head office is in Canmore and there are 25 local sections across the country, including the Jasper/Hinton section. The ACC promotes alpine experiences, knowledge and culture, responsible access and excellence in mountain skills and leadership. Currently there are 35 backcountry huts maintained by the ACC across the country.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
Participants both in favour of and opposed to the proposed Grassy Mountain mine squared off Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 during the scheduled presentation and cross-examination period. The hearing topics focused on the project’s purpose, visual esthetics, alternative road access and the potential socioeconomic effects the mine could have on the region. In Benga’s beginning statement, vice-president of external relations Gary Houston said the mine would spike the local economy, encouraging local business, the service industry and tourism in the area. “Benga considers [that] economic development, recreation and tourism are compatible and mutually supportive in the community and the region,” he said. Providing Crowsnest Pass with an established industry, Mr. Houston continued, would help draw more hotels and restaurants, which in turn would attract more tourists to the region to the point the municipality could rival a destination like Fernie. Heather Davis, owner of Uplift Adventures, challenged such an assertion because the environmental and socioeconomic assessment sections of Benga’s application were missing consultation with the outdoor recreation industry. “It appears that the consultant who prepared the report left a gap regarding what is going on in the community,” she said. “A cost-benefit analysis should include the assessment of outdoor recreation, lifestyle and tourism prior to the mine approval.” Ms. Davis said the mine’s approval would limit access to recreational opportunities, which would not only deter people from coming to the area but would also drive away people who live there. Gavin Fitch, representing the Livingstone Landowners Group, said Benga’s claim that the mine would help tourism ignored the fact travel destinations always have a destination worth going to. Amenities like hotels and restaurants, he said, come second. “How, then, is removing the top of one of the local mountains going to contribute to attracting or drawing more tourists?” he asked. Money talks In terms of improving the local economy, Mr. Houston said Benga’s “hire local” policy would ensure the two-year construction phase would provide meaningful employment for nearby residents, as well as establish some 400 good-paying, permanent positions once the mine was operational. The total socioeconomic benefit of the mine, however, was called into question. Though Mr. Houston said in Benga’s opening statements that some 500 jobs would be created during construction, it was later corrected that at its peak the construction phase would require only 190 workers. Overall, an average of 120 workers would be employed while construction is occurring. The estimate of $1.7 billion in provincial and federal royalties and taxes over the mine’s 25-year lifespan — two for construction and 23 for operations — was also based on an assumed average price of US $140 per tonne of metallurgical coal. Coal prices, Benga acknowledged, can regularly fluctuate above $300 or below $100, though the process is a complicated one to predict since prices are established directly between individual steelmakers and coal mines. The risk to the multibillion-dollar agrifood industry downstream from the mine, which was recently reported at $2.2 billion in 2020 for Lethbridge County alone, has raised questions as to whether any purported benefit from the mine is worth the economic risk. With more and more countries investing in green energy to combat climate change, Mr. Fitch said, the economic viability outlook was overly optimistic since global coal use is estimated to decrease. Alternative methods of producing steel without metallurgical coal, like hydrogen-field forges or electric-arc furnaces, could also hamper the mine’s profitability on world markets. Opponents of the proposed mine also said the mine’s development contradicted Canada’s international commitments to limiting gas emissions. Gas emissions as part of the project’s mining operations, however, are regarded by proponents as negligible. “I believe the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project are in the order of 0.05 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions, so that seems like a small number to me,” said Mr. Houston. He also added that figure would be applicable only once the mine reached peak production during its 19th year. As well, decreasing coal demand worldwide only really applies to thermal coal, or coal used to produce electricity, said Benga’s Mike Yuill. “For Canadian export hard-coking coal, the outlook is still very robust,” he said. While using electricity in arc-flash furnaces is growing, Mr. Yuill added that the process requires recycling old steel. For many countries in southeastern Asia just starting to develop, little amounts of steel exist to be recycled, necessitating the need for metallurgical coal. Using hydrogen instead of coal is still in its preliminary stages and is not expected to be used widely during the Grassy Mountain mine’s lifespan. Property problems The mine’s land use, as well as its effect on nearby properties, was also discussed. Since the mine is located on an existing mine that closed in the 1960s, Benga argued that it’s reclamation efforts would improve the area since the previous mining company did not complete any land reclamation. The company also clarified concerns about private properties being located within the mine’s boundary; the boundary was purposefully drawn larger than what operational needs actually required to facilitate appropriate environmental study. No properties exist within the mine footprint, where mining would occur. For Fran Gilmar, who has owned property in the area for 60 years, the distance properties were from the mining footprint was irrelevant since mining activity would destroy the area’s source of fresh water, particularly Gold Creek. “I've drank it for 58 years, and it's, it's beautiful water. It's the last of the last,” she said. “You know, you do not find water like that anywhere.” In addition to water pollution, residents also said the resulting air and noise pollution would significantly devalue their properties. While acknowledging values would decrease if a catastrophic accident occurred, Brian Gettel, a professional appraiser who testified at the hearing, said property losses would only really be affected by the dust produced at the mine. He estimated the additional air pollution would result in 10 per cent or less loss in property value, though mining activity would more negatively affect the higher-end housing, which typically involves people from the city owning a second house in an alpine area. “Put simply, second homes in a mountain area are not necessarily the greatest thing if it's a mining community,” Mr. Gettel said. To mitigate property losses in the Grassy Mountain area, Benga had engaged nearby landowners throughout the proposal and application period, Mr. Houston said. A voluntary buy-back program had been established, with Benga offering to pay owners double what their property was worth, based on individual negotiations. The average starting point for such negotiations, Mr. Houston continued, was $800,000. Describing $800,000 as double the average property price, however, was a disputed figure. “From my perspective, $400,000 is a rare instance, and that is the absolute lowest value I've seen,” said Mr. Gettel. In their communications with Benga, Norm and Tyler Watmough, who own property immediately adjacent to the proposed mine, said negotiations were more like an ultimatum. The initial offer the family received was for $750,000, even though they knew two of their neighbours’ land had been bought by Benga for $1.1 million and $1.3 million. When the family declined the initial offer, Benga offered $800,000, claiming it was 60 per cent premium over the highest appraised property in the region. The Watmoughs again refused the offer. “We felt that they were bullying us and trying to force us out at a price that was below market value,” Tyler said. The difference in pricing, Mr. Houston said, was the result of Benga determining what land was necessary for it to own in order to operate the mine. Land within the mine footprint, then, would be a higher priority for purchase. Landowners in the area also are concerned they will be cut off from Grassy Mountain Road, the most direct access to their properties. Though Benga has suggested alternative roads exist, locals say the routes amount to little more than quad trails or are accessible only parts of the year with four-by-four trucks. The issue stems from an agreement property owners formerly had with the gas company Devon Canada Corp. The agreement granted residents permission to access Grassy Mountain Road, even though it went through private property. Richard Secord, legal counsel for the affected landowners, said Benga did not do its due diligence in ensuring residents could still use the road. “You didn't determine or bother in your public consultation to find out whether [the agreement] was real [and] that they had a similar access to the Grassy Mountain Road,” he said. In Benga’s defense, Mr. Houston responded that no landowners had approached the company about the issue until the hearing. “I don't know that the onus is on Benga to ask [if] there any secret agreements that we don't know about,” he said. “The lines of communication have been open for five years. The fact that we have intended to close the Grassy Mountain Road has been documented in writing at least [since] 2015 and through several other communications.” When Martin Ignasiak, Benga’s legal counsel, asked landowners Larry and Ed Donkersgoed why they did not discuss the issue with the mining company, they replied that they just assumed Benga would know. Benga’s understanding of the agreement was that residents could maintain the road at their own expense, though Mr. Houston said the company was under the impression it really only included clearing snow. He also said the agreement only formally acknowledged Devon was not liable for residents using the road and gave the gas company power to terminate the agreement with 120 days written notice. Evidence of the agreement brought before the hearing was also a little suspect, Mr. Houston said, since a letter indicating the agreement was written and signed by a former Devon employee. The letter didn’t have an official letterhead and only described a verbal agreement rather than laying out terms and conditions. Accessing the hearing The public hearing for the joint review panel continues throughout November. Live and recorded proceedings of the hearing are available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/GMtnHearing, with transcripts and submitted documents accessible at https://bit.ly/AllDocx.Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
MILAN — Though the first real snow has yet to fall across much of Europe, ski buffs are imagining with dread a once-unthinkable scene: Skiing in Zermatt in Switzerland while lifts idle across the border in Italy's Aosta valley.The leaders of Italy and France are resisting pressure to reopen ski resorts before Christmas, pushing for European co-ordination so their industries don’t suffer during the pandemic while others flourish. But the Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria could well be spoilers.Ski resorts were one of the major sources of contagion in the deadly spring surge of COVID-19.So far, restrictions to slow the curve of infections have kept lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. They are warning of irreversible economic damage if they are not permitted to open this season.Both Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that pre-Christmas openings are unthinkable. While such skiing luminaries as world and Olympic champion Alberto Tomba argue that it is an individual sport conducted in the open air, the leaders point to the risks of contagion in crowded lift lines and lodges, as well as closed cable cars.Top health officials in Italy appeared aghast when they were asked at a briefing Tuesday about the prospects for opening ski season, minutes after they had just reported a resurgence-high 853 deaths in a 24-hour period.“I admit I have a difficult time inside commenting on arguments relating to ski areas and what will happen at Christmas, thinking about these numbers,’’ said Dr. Franco Locatelli, head of Italy’s national scientific council.French mountain industry representatives met with the French prime minister Monday to press to be able to reopen, but apparently their pleas weren’t heard.“It seems impossible to me to imagine a reopening for the holidays, and much more preferable to favour reopening in January, in good conditions,’’ Macron said as he laid out plans Tuesday night for a gradual easing of the current lockdown.Plans for reopening also remain on ice in the eastern countries of Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — although Serbia is prepping for the winter season in full swing, as if COVID-19 did not exist, counting on both domestic and foreign visitors.Austria, whose current lockdown runs through Dec. 6, has been for months saying that it hoped to reopen the slopes this season and rejected Italy’s idea of keeping them closed until Jan. 10. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz pushed back against calls to write off this year’s ski season because of the pandemic.In Bavaria, Germany’s largest ski destination, Governor Markus Soeder supported the idea, saying that if Europe’s borders are to remain open through the Christmas season there will have to be some sort of a blanket rule on keeping resorts closed.In Switzerland, lifts are indeed in operation on Zermatt, next to the famed Matterhorn, and eastern Davos, near Austria. The famed resort of St. Moritz, a favourite destination for well-heeled Italians, is set to open about 60% of slopes this weekend.But much of the fun of skiing getaways is missing: Zermatt's slopes may be open, but its restaurants are not — meaning a warm cocoa, mulled wine or cold beer at pubs or eateries after mountain runs is out.So far, just 10% of the country’s 250 ski stations are open as only the highest altitudes have gotten enough snow, according to Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel. She said she didn't expect a flood of foreign skiers, noting strict travel rules still in place in many countries.An official in the Swiss health ministry said Switzerland plans to join a discussion among officials from Alpine countries in the coming days on co-ordinating a plan for relaunching the ski season.“Clearly the situation is complicated: It’s difficult to have only one country open its ski slopes when others close theirs. There needs to be co-ordination,” said the official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.___Keaten contributed from Geneva. Angela Charlton in Paris and Dave Rising in Berlin also contributed.___Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreakColleen Barry And Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press
Police have laid charges after once again attending Adamson Barbecue on Wednesday, a restaurant in Etobicoke that had been ordered to close after defying public health rules and allowing in-person dining despite a provincial lockdown order. Toronto Police Superintendant Dom Sinopoli said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that owner Adam Skelly and the restaurant face nine charges, including violating indoor dining rules, holding an illegal gathering and operating a business without a licence. Four of the charges were laid on Tuesday. When asked what police will do if Skelly decides to open again Thursday, Sinopoli said "tomorrow is another day" and they will take enforcement actions based on what happens.The restaurant closed around 1 p.m. after serving crowds of customers Wednesday morning. Skelly decided to close down after discussions with police, said Sinopoli.He said police are currently in discussions with "partners" about what their enforcement powers are when dealing with businesses that violate health orders. He did not elaborate on who those partners are.Protesters not chargedNo one who rallied outside the restaurant was charged or fined, he added.Crowds outside the establishment were told to leave Wednesday afternoon, though many also left as it began raining. Earlier Wednesday morning, more than a dozen officers arrived at the restaurant located on Queen Elizabeth Boulevard. Skelly was seen without a mask speaking with law enforcement indoors.A crowd of customers was gathered to eat inside the establishment as officers were present. As the doors opened at 11 a.m., cars came by the restaurant to honk in support and a rally of at least 100 people formed outside the establishment to protest current lockdown orders. One day after Monday's lockdown came into effect for Toronto and Peel region, Skelly vowed in an Instagram post that his establishment would remain open despite new health measures that prohibit in-person dining at restaurants for at least 28-days.The new rules were ushered in as the vast majority of the province's increase in COVID-19 cases stem from the regions covered by the lockdown.Coun. Mark Grimes told reporters at the scene Wednesday that Skelly has been charged for breaking public health orders on both Tuesday and Wednesday.Grimes said he's asking for a maximum fine of $100,000 to be laid.On Tuesday, Adamson Barbecue served a packed dining room of patrons who were pictured eating indoors and outdoors on benches, many without masks.The unabashed flouting of the rules resulted in Dr. Eileen de Villa , the city's medical officer of health, to order the business to close Tuesday evening. When that order came in, Skelly was already closing up shop.An illustration was posted to the restaurant's Instagram page Tuesday night of Skelly standing on a police vehicle with the caption, "Etobicoke. 11 a.m. to sold out. Dine-in." Skelly opened again Wednesday despite the city's order.City, police 'not satisfied' with initial enforcement response, Tory saysInsp. Tim Crone had told reporters Tuesday that due to the "sheer number of people" inside the restaurant, police didn't have the ability to go inside and remove anyone. Later Staff Supt. Mark Barkley acknowledged at the scene that it was a mistake not to act sooner. At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor John Tory said that he was updated about the restaurant Tuesday and that he and police were "not satisfied" with law enforcement's initial response when the owner defied the lockdown. When reporters asked about his involvement in that response, he emphasized that it would be inappropriate for a politician to direct law enforcement and it's up to police to determine charges and enforce the law.However, he did say that he'd throw the book at business owners like Skelly, who choose to violate public health orders. Placing concrete blocks in front of the restaurant would be something he'd consider — but he again said he will not direct police. Barkley, who spoke on the phone at the news conference, said the response to the barbecue restaurant was a "complex situation" and police had to ensure they handled it in accordance with the law.He did concede that after reviewing the response there were "other opportunities" that officers could have pursued at the time. Barkley confirmed that charges were laid against the business. Ford calls owner 'irresponsible' and tells him to shut downDuring a news conference Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said he was not going to " start pounding on a small business owner when the guy's holding on by his fingernails." But he emphasized that guidelines have to be followed.But on Wednesday, he took a sterner tone toward Skelly and any other businesses that are considering defying public health orders."You need to shut down. You're putting people's lives in jeopardy," he said, in response to a question about the barbecue restaurant openings again for the second day in a row. "This guy is just totally ignoring public health officials. That's how this spreads.""People are dying, because of COVID-19. And he just wants to say 'forget it' and have everyone down there? It's absolutely irresponsible and ridiculous," he said. His statements came as reporters asked questions about why larger department stores like Walmart were allowed to remain open, while small businesses sometimes selling similar goods had to shutter. Spectacle outside eatery a 'distraction': restaurant ownerToronto restaurateur Nathan Hynes said he's concerned the opening of Skelly's eatery and the response from officials has distracted from real concerns small business owners have as they enter the first week of the new lockdown.The new rent subsidy from the federal government paid directly to tenants is coming too late, said Hynes, who owns The Auld Spot Pub on Danforth Avenue. "The support hasn't been good enough. And the big businesses kind of act on a different playing field," he said, adding that the province allowing big players like Walmart to remain open has been a blow.Hynes said he continues to owe fixed costs to banks and insurance companies that he cannot pay.He said he firmly disagrees with Skelly's decision to reopen, but added the sporadic approach by different levels of government in providing support for businesses has been a concern throughout the pandemic. "My creditors are knocking on my door looking for money that I can't pay them because I'm forced to close," he said."I don't want a sideshow like this to overwhelm ... the reality of the situation and distract from a real kind of change happening here."
The Sexsmith Wellness Coalition is seeking space for its programming in early 2021, with council granting the coalition up to $7,000 to rent a facility. The space is needed for January to April and council granted the amount during its regular meeting last week. “Due to COVID, we can’t access the buildings we would normally be renting,” said Melody Sample, Sexsmith wellness co-ordinator. “We are on the hunt for a larger space to run our programs out of.” According to Sexsmith administration, at council’s Nov. 2 meeting council granted the coalition $6,800 to rent the former hardware store on 100th Ave. The plan to use that location fell through when the space was rented out to another party, according to administration. At last week’s meeting Coun. Clint Froehlick’s motion to add up to $7,000 to the coalition’s budget for a rental was carried unopposed. The previous $6,800 was rescinded. Sample is based in the town office but programming takes place in a variety of locations, including school gyms which are now closed to the public, she said. The coalition used the Peace River Bible Institute gym for pre-kindergarten playtime, St. Mary’s School for family gym nights and Robert W. Zahara School’s gym for pickleball, she said. The civic centre and community centre are also occasional venues, but some of the rooms aren’t set up for events like pickleball, Sample added. The coalition currently uses the civic centre for its few programs still operating, namely the seniors community kitchen and upcoming food and nutrition workshops, she said. Provincial restrictions and exercise classes wouldn’t prevent pickleball from restarting with sufficient space, she said. She said larger space in the civic centre is rented out, with the Sexsmith Tumbling Club having a home there. To observe physical distancing requirements the coalition needs space as large as a typical school gym, she said. Sample said the coalition is eyeing a few potential locations in town but couldn’t comment on which ones. A challenge is spaces available for rent are limited, with some already being rented and others not large enough, she said. After April, Sample said she envisions more outdoor programming. She also plans for some outdoor programming like a snowshoe group in December and January, she said. At this point, Sample said the coalition isn’t looking for permanent new space, although it’s possible a location secured for 2021 could become a regular venue. “We’re keeping in mind long-term solutions,” she said.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
During November, best friends and entrepreneurs Kara Anderson and Jewell-Ihea Jensen officially opened the doors to their enchanted beauty studio in downtown Belleville. On Tuesday, November 24th, city councillor Bill Sandison and executive director of the Belleville Downtown District BIA Marijo Cuerrier welcomed the new business at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Located at 1 Bridge St. East, Bewitched Beauty Studio is now open for clients seeking non-surgical beauty treatments and body modifications. This dynamic duo had a goal of opening a salon that makes body contouring services attainable for everyone, with pricing reflecting the attainable vision, and decided that the Downtown District in Belleville was the perfect place to plant their roots. “We choose downtown because it has a strong community of businesses and we feel very passionately about collaboration,” said Anderson. “We hope to work with other businesses downtown to support and promote each other.” After launching the business six months ago from their homes, Jensen and Anderson quickly experienced increasing demand and sought out a larger, professional space better fit for their clients’ needs. “We wanted to create a studio that offered affordable and attainable beauty treatments for all,” explained Jensen. “We knew there was a gap in the market for these types of treatments being accessible to a wider group of women, so it was important to us to make these enhancements accessible for women to feel good.” Anderson and Jensen are independent young women with a passion for helping other women love themselves, and are committed to continuing to expand their range of knowledge in the aesthetics field. The two entrepreneurs strive for professionalism and excellent customer service, offering an array of services including body contouring, teeth whitening, eyelash extensions, and jade healing treatments and facials. The studio performs non-surgical body modifications such as skin tightening, fat reduction, micro-blading, spray tan and butt lifting. Residents interested in learning more about Bewitched Beauty Studio can visit bewitchedbeautystudio.ca for more information about their services.Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer
As Alberta grapples with the second wave in the COVID-19 pandemic, Sexsmith reduced the number of staff working at its town office last week. Five staff members at the Sexsmith town office are working remotely but there have been no layoffs, said Rachel Wueschner, chief administrative officer (CAO). “This will have no effect on town services,” Wueschner said. Residents frequently access the office for development and building permit applications and bill payments and these services will continue to be provided, she said. There are still two full-time staff at the office with others coming in as needed, she said. Wueschner consulted council about her plans to reduce in-person staff at the office during the meeting last week. Meanwhile in Beaverlodge, Nichole Young, an executive assistant in administration, said on Monday night no staff have been sent home so far. There are eight staff at the town office, including two in Family and Community Support Services, Young said. The Beaverlodge office continues to provide all services, she added. Hythe’s village office remains open and typically has two to three staff at a time, said CAO Leona Hanson. There have been no layoffs in village operations, Hanson added. In Wembley, all four staff members continue to work at the town office but have the option to work at home if they feel it’s necessary, said CAO Noreen Zhang. “We have taken steps such as mask wearing in common spaces and sanitizing stations throughout the office to ensure that we curve the spread of the virus,” Zhang said. County of Grande Prairie administration has also made working from home an option for staff, said CAO Joulia Whittleton. County administration also recently implemented a strategy to have masks in common areas and meeting rooms when physical distancing can’t be followed, she said. Whittleton said county administration remains “committed to providing essential municipal services.” Under the state of public health emergency declared Tuesday office workers are encouraged to work at home if possible. Masks in indoor working places are only mandatory in the Edmonton and Calgary zones.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
An NHL legend from Manitoba is honouring an NHL pioneer from Saskatchewan and the path he cleared for First Nations people dreaming of the big league."It's a sad day for the hockey world, especially the First Nations across the country. We'll miss a great guy," said Reggie Leach, whose name is inscribed on the Stanley Cup, about Fred Sasakamoose, who died Tuesday from complications due to COVID-19.Sasakamoose, who grew up on the Ahtahkakoop Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan and later became chief of the community, was one of the first Indigenous athletes to play in the National Hockey League.He was 86 years old. "It was just an honour for me to be around him. Every time I would see him, it made my heart happy," said Leach, from Riverton, Man., who was a 16-year-old junior player when he first heard the name Sasakamoose."I heard there was a [First Nations] guy who played a few games in the National Hockey League and back then, I don't think there was that many First Nations players playing anywhere," Leach said, adding it gave him inspiration.Now 70, Leach had a storied NHL career over 13 seasons with the Boston Bruins — who drafted him third overall in 1970 — as well as the California Golden Seals, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 1975.A member of the renowned Broad Street Bullies-era Flyers, Leach set goal-scoring records that still stand today.But he's not sure any of it would have happened without Sasakamoose first lacing them up, even if it was only for a brief time.Sasakamoose played just 11 games with Chicago during the 1953-54 season, splitting the rest of the time with the Moose Jaw Canucks of the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League."A lot of people say, 'well, he only played 11 games,' but to me, those 11 games were everything to our First Nation people," said Leach, who earned the nickname the Riverton Rifle for his speed and goal-scoring prowess."He carried that [mantle as a leader] on through his whole life, being chief in his community and showing leadership and kindness to all — not just the First Nation people. That's the way life should be, being kind to everybody."Leach never got the chance to meet up much with Sasakamoose until after Leach retired in 1984.Then they often crossed paths at youth workshops and tournaments across the country where they helped out — including the Fred Sasakamoose "Chief Thunderstick" National Championship for young Indigenous hockey players in Saskatchewan."He wanted to push our young kids to do the best they can and don't give up. The stuff that he has done for people in his life, it's amazing," Leach said."I got to know him over the years and we became great friends. I listened to his stories and the struggles that he went through."In 1940, when Sasakamoose wasn't quite seven years old, a priest, an RCMP officer and a Canadian government Indian agent showed up in Ahtahkakoop. He and his eight-year-old brother, Frank, were forcefully taken from their parents and put into a truck, the Canadian Encyclopedia says.Although the boys' mother looked after them and their father worked as a logger, the Indian agent declared them unfit parents because of their poverty. The brothers were shipped off to St. Michael's Indian Residential School, nearly 100 kilometres away in Duck Lake.The Sasakamoose boys had no idea where they were going or why. It was two years before they saw their parents again.Despite the hardships Sasakamoose faced, "he always had a smile and a kind word for everyone," Leach wrote in a Facebook post late Tuesday night."He was a very, very interesting person to talk to. Every time I had a chance to spend some time with him, I would sit with him and talk to him, and I learned a lot from him," Leach told CBC News in an interview.Leach last spoke with Sasakamoose on a Zoom call about three weeks ago, along with other former Indigenous NHLers Ted Nolan and Theoren Fleury. The group chatted about their careers and hockey in general, he said."It was a great thing and something that I'm very happy I got to do."Despite the trailblazing of Sasakamoose, Leach and others who followed, the NHL lags in its inclusion efforts around Indigenous people, said Leach."We're a long way off," he said bluntly."It's like anything else. We're always second fiddle when it comes to anything with First Nation people and that stuff has to stop."When the league appointed Willie O'Ree as ambassador to hockey for Black players, he hoped an Indigenous appointment would soon follow. It hasn't.O'Ree, who became the NHL's first black player on Jan. 18, 1958, with the Boston Bruins, has been the league's diversity ambassador since 1998. In that role, he travels to schools and hockey programs to promote messages of inclusion, dedication and confidence."Those are things that sort of bothered me with the National Hockey League, that they do something for one nationality but don't do anything for us," Leach said."I think our First Nation people are probably the best hockey fans in the world because that's all they do is live and breathe and eat hockey."It doesn't matter what little community, they have leagues and play and play and play and play. And Freddie proved that."Dauphin-born Brigette Lacquette, the first First Nations woman on Canada's Olympic hockey team, also paid tribute to Sasakamoose through a Twitter post on Tuesday."RIP to my buddy, Freddy Sasakamoose. He was a trailblazer, a leader and a survivor," she wrote. "He paved the way for so many Indigenous hockey players. My thoughts and prayers to the family."Rest Easy, Legend."Lacquette stood with Sasakamoose at centre ice in October 2019 for the ceremonial puck drop at the Heritage Classic outdoor game between the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames at Mosaic Stadium in Regina."That was one of the highlights of my life, for sure, to be there with him and his family," she said.She became quick friends with Sasakamoose and his family, and was asked to contribute to an upcoming autobiography Sasakamoose wrote, Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL's First Treaty Indigenous Player, which is set to hit shelves in April."His story is very powerful, very moving," Lacquette said. "The things that he's overcome is absolutely amazing; the perseverance and determination to get to where he got."He's a role model and just an amazing person that I'm glad I crossed paths with. He showed us anything is possible if you work hard and you persevere through hard times."
Canadian service workers are faring even worse during the pandemic than previously thought with hundreds of thousands of those who still have jobs not actually putting in any hours at all, and a grim holiday season could add to the pain. Canada has so far clawed back nearly 80% of the jobs lost to the COVID-19 crisis, official data shows. There are 391,300 Canadians employed but working zero hours because of the pandemic, data provided to Reuters shows, and another 42,100 working less than half their usual hours.
ÉMILIE PELLETIER Initiative de journalisme local — Le Droit La vice-première ministre de l’Ontario et ministre de la Santé Christine Elliott est en désaccord avec « certains aspects » du plus récent rapport de la vérificatrice générale, dévoilé mercredi. Le document de 260 pages qui porte sur la préparation et sur la gestion du gouvernement Ford face à la COVID-19 déposé mercredi matin par la vérificatrice générale « est à bien des égards une description erronée de la réponse de la province à la pandémie », selon la ministre Elliott. À LIRE AUSSI : Le gouvernement Ford a réagit plus lentement que les autres Le Dr David Williams sous la loupe de la vérificatrice générale Malgré les nombreuses failles soulignées par la vérificatrice à l’endroit du médecin hygiéniste en chef de l’Ontario, la ministre de la Santé continue de se porter à sa défense et de réitérer son appui. « J’ai une confiance complète envers le Dr Williams. Il a plus de 30 ans d’expérience, non seulement au niveau provincial mais aussi local. Il a le savoir de continuer et de nous mener à travers la pandémie. Il a été un vrai leader à travers cette pandémie. » Elle réfute aussi l’affirmation de la vérificatrice générale selon laquelle le Dr David Williams n’a pas dirigé l’intervention du gouvernement face au virus. « Il nous a fourni des recommandations depuis la première journée. » Ce n’est pas vrai que l’Ontario a réagi plus lentement que les autres provinces, a aussi relaté Mme Elliott. Quelques minutes après le dépôt du rapport, le bureau de la ministre a envoyé aux médias un tableau qui compare les données de la COVID-19 de l’Ontario à celles des juridictions autour, afin d’appuyer son argument voulant que la situation en Ontario est l’une des moins pires en Amérique du Nord. La vérificatrice générale surprise par cette réponse Bonnie Lysyk s’est dite un peu surprise par les propos de la ministre Elliott en réponse à son rapport. La vérificatrice a fait savoir en conférence de presse que des bureaucrates de haut niveau du gouvernement Ford ont approuvé son rapport. Elle aussi rappelé que son objectif n’est pas de blâmer personne, mais bien de répondre aux failles mises en lumière par son Bureau.Émilie Pelletier, journaliste, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Droit
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Following Chief Administrative Officer Brent Kittmer's overall summary of the draft budget and some of its key elements, it was Town Treasurer Andre Morin's turn to speak more specifically on the high-level aspects of the 2021 draft capital budget. It is important to note that this is still a draft budget, meaning the budget is not finalized yet. With that in mind, this will give you a glimpse at how the 2021 budget is beginning to take shape. Morin began his presentation by noting that it's expected that revenues across the board will be down in 2021, due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic. These revenues that are expected to decrease include the largest, fees and charges, as well as ice rentals, rents and leases, and sales. Morin also pointed out that the carry-over from the 2020 Safe Restart funding the Town has yet to spend is about $250,000, which will help cover the extra costs and lost revenues. The draft capital budget also reflects several increases in expenses for the Town. The first that Morin touched on was an increased investment in the community safety and policing plan, as well as parks patrol. The expense increase for those areas is approximately $45,000. Most of the other increases proposed in the budget are spread over other departments within the municipality and are fairly standard and routine. The Town is seeing an increase in debenture payments in 2021, but not as large of an increase as they likely expected. The net increase of about $68,000 is largely due to an increase in debenture payments related to the fire hall, but there is also a debenture payment related to wastewater services that is coming off the books. The materials and services line of the budget did reflect a large increase of $140,000, however, that is largely due to its reflection of additional costs brought on by the pandemic. Lastly, an increase in salary and wages is also included in the budget, and the Council asked Town staff to report back later on the implications of a 1.5 percent increase in salary and wages. Morin then touched on the tax increase for St. Marys residents, which, thanks in no small part to the Town's handling of the pandemic, is not going to be as substantial as other municipalities. The net tax levy, according to Morin, will result in the average St. Marys resident paying approximately 0.82 percent more in taxes. Morin also said that the Town is projecting a 0.97 percent increase for the average municipal dwelling, as well as increases of between 2-2.5 percent for water and wastewater services. No increase is predicted for garbage and recycling wheelie bin services.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
A snowmobiler got more than he bargained for when he ventured away from his friends in search of new terrain while out in the Yanks Peak area two Sundays ago. He took the detour without telling anyone and without a shovel. He paid for it by spending the night and much of the next day out in the wilderness. "He got really stuck," said Dave Merritt of Prince George Search and Rescue. "He got stuck multiple times, he just couldn't get himself out without a shovel." Merritt said search and rescue volunteers were originally called out to look for another member of the party of about 15-20 enthusiasts. By the time the searchers had shown up, that subject had made his way back to the parking lot at the entrance to the popular snowmobiling area south of Wells after spending a few hours extracting his sled from a tree well. But by then, the party had realized one other person remained unaccounted for. Volunteers from three search and rescue organizations plus members of the Wells Snowmobile Club and a couple of the missing man's friends participated in the search. Prince George SAR was called in because it has the skills to search in avalanche terrain. The second man was "cold and tired" but otherwise OK when he was spotted by a helicopter shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday. "We probably would've found him another hour and a half later by sled but the weather had lifted enough that we were able to spot him a little faster and get him home a little quicker," Merritt said. "We had maybe another 20 minutes and the helicopter would've had to go back to Prince George because of the darkness." Cell service in the area is spotty and neither snowmobiler had radios or satellite communication devices, Merritt said. The one who spent the night outside was also without fire starter and material to build a shelter. Merritt urged outdoor enthusiasts to check the AdventureSmart website for advice on being prepared in case something goes wrong. "The group did everything right once they realized somebody was missing," Merritt added. "They initiated all the proper procedures."Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
EDMONTON — All 26 on-ice officials at the world junior men's hockey championships in Edmonton will be from Canada.International Ice Hockey Federation tournaments normally have an international cross section of referees and linesmen.The IIHF is limiting the pool of officials to the host country to reduce risk of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.The 10-team world under-20 men's tournament is scheduled for Dec. 25 to Jan. 5 in the Alberta capital.“The game officials we would normally choose would have come from many different countries,” IIHF officiating manager Danny Kurmann said Wednesday in a statement.“Every additional person we bring into the bubble is a risk, so we decided to source the officials locally in order to reduce the risk to travelling personnel and teams.”The IIHF said all 10 participating countries approved of the decision."Special events require special measures, and we are confident that this group will be able to uphold the officiating standards of this tournament,” IIHF officiating committee chairman Sergej Gontcharov said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.The Canadian Press