U.K. begins mandatory hotel quarantines for many travellers amid concern over coronavirus variants. This comes as the country surpasses 15 million COVID-19 vaccinations.
U.K. begins mandatory hotel quarantines for many travellers amid concern over coronavirus variants. This comes as the country surpasses 15 million COVID-19 vaccinations.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
A Winnipeg woman is the lead plaintiff for a $750-million class-action lawsuit against the biggest bank-owned brokerage in Canada, claiming it failed to pay vacation pay to her and many other investment advisers for years. According to a statement of claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, RBC-Dominion Securities allegedly breached its legal duties by not fairly compensating many of its nearly 1,500 current advisers across the country, as well as those it previously employed. The claims have yet to be tested or proven in court. It is expected that RBC-DS will defend against the action and deny any allegations in court. Leigh Cunningham, a veteran adviser who spent 26 years at the company’s Winnipeg office and was its vice-president and director, is the lead plaintiff. Cunningham alleges she hadn’t been receiving at least six per cent vacation pay on her full income for decades. “But it’s not just about me,” she said, answering questions from the Free Press at a news conference held inside Manitoba Club Thursday. “I’m trying to help everyone else who was in the same position as me and who now could hopefully be helped with the outcome of this case. “It’s unfair that this happened and the culpability should only be on RBC for letting it get to this.” In an emailed statement Thursday, RBC Wealth Management’s director of communications Louise Armstrong said, “everyone who works at any RBC company is fairly compensated.” “The policies that apply to the employees involved in the action state that their compensation includes vacation pay and statutory holiday pay,” she said. Armstrong declined to provide further comment, adding their statements of defence have not yet been filed because the action has not been certified by court. Cunningham is being represented by a team of lawyers out of Toronto. They include Stephen Moreau, a partner at Cavalluzzo LLP; David O’Connor of Roy O’Connor LLP and Daniel Lublin of Whitten & Lublin. Cunningham’s lawyers are claiming for $750 million in general damages and $50 million in punitive damages from RBC-DS for the lawsuit. Asked where that number came from, they told the Free Press, that’s because the amount of vacation and holiday pay varies from region to region across Canada. “It’s a very hard calculation to make because we’re talking about 13 provinces and territories, who all have their own employment standards,” said Moreau, one of Cunningham’s lawyers. “So, this is the number we believe is best from what we have gathered. As we move forward, we will continue to quantify the level of damages for our case.” In Manitoba, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation with vacation pay of four per cent from their gross wages, per provincial employment standards. After one year of employment, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation and vacation pay of four per cent from their gross earnings. In five years time, vacation rises to at least three weeks, and vacation pay increases to six per cent of gross wages. For Cunningham, it’s also a “systematic problem” — stemming from the type of compensation that financial advisers receive for their work, based mostly on commissions and bonuses. “When I saw that RBC was reporting such large profits last week, I wanted people to know that it’s the advisers who make a lot of that happen,” she said. “Me, personally, I was so focused on my career and how that was going and progressing that I really didn’t even see this happening... But the onus for that shouldn’t have to be on me.” Cunningham’s lawsuit was served to RBC around December, with a notice of action made in 2019. It was not made public until Thursday. It is one of five proposed class actions launched against several banks and insurance companies since early 2019 that are seeking a cumulative $1.2 billion for vacation pay allegedly owed to current and former employees. Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Christine Burgener called on the council for "unified support, action", asking "how much more can we allow the Myanmar military to get away with?", following the deaths of dozens of civilian protesters this week. She said the situation in Myanmar was moving toward "an acute humanitarian crisis".
EDMONTON — The lawyer for a pastor accused of holding Sunday services that ignored COVID-19 rules says his client should be released from jail and be free to lead worshippers until his trial. James Coates with GraceLife Church, west of Edmonton, has been in jail for more than two weeks and is appealing his bail conditions. Queen's Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn is to make a decision Friday. Coates is charged with violating Alberta's Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is a Criminal Code offence. The judge noted that Coates did not want the publication ban that is normally imposed on bail hearings. Coates's lawyer, James Kitchen, told the judge that his client can't follow a bail condition that forbids holding church services, because that would violate the pastor's conscience by disobeying God. "Imposing upon a pastor the condition of his release that he not pastor ... that is an embarrassment to the courts," Kitchen told Michalyshyn. "This is a matter of deep, deep personal conscience and personal beliefs. He is compelled to obey the God he loves, he believes, as are his congregants." Kitchen said it should be determined whether Coates's charter rights are being violated before he is jailed. "We are putting the cart before the horse, doing things backwards," he said. If the pastor does not agree to bail conditions, he could remain in jail for two months until his trial begins in May, Kitchen added. The public health prosecutor, who asked the court to address her only by her title because she is concerned for her safety, argued that the pastor's release is a danger to the public. "The one condition that was imposed is directly related to the behaviours that come under the prohibition of the Public Health Act orders," she said. The church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing. More than 50 people were gathered outside the Edmonton courthouse and prayed for Coates during the hearing. Some held a banner that read #freejamescoates. GraceLife Church has continued to hold services, even though Coates is in custody. Many gathered for a service again on the weekend, as RCMP and Alberta Health Services monitored the situation. "Observations were again made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity,'' the Mounties said in a news release. "The Parkland RCMP remain engaged in continued consultations with several partner agencies to determine the most productive course of action in relation to the church.'' Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates had been addressing the province's health restrictions in his sermons. He told worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
A Brandon father is accusing the provincial government of “blatant discrimination” against his teenage son, who has Down syndrome, because Manitobans with disabilities have been left off the COVID-19 immunization priority list. Bruce Strang said he filed a formal complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission this week to pressure the province to edit its vaccination plan. “Disability rights shouldn’t be the first thing to go in a time of crisis,” Strang, a father of two, told the Free Press. “It’s unethical in my view. It’s unconscionable in my view and I can’t see how a medical professional can advocate for a plan that discriminates actively against people with disabilities.” Strang’s oldest son, Sean, 16, hasn’t been in a classroom — let alone, left his family home for any other reason — for nearly a year because of his immunocompromised status. (While Health Canada has approved Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for anyone 18 and older, Pfizer-BioNTech doses can be given to patients as young as 16.) Health-care workers, seniors and staff in long-term care facilities, adults who are 80 or older and the elderly in remote and isolated Indigenous communities make up the priority population in Manitoba. The province has started to vaccinate the general population, based solely on age. Strang said his son should not get priority over an 85-year-old who lives in a nursing home, but it doesn’t make sense that Sean can expect a vaccine at the same time a healthy teenager can. People with Down syndrome are nearly five times more at risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization and 10 times more likely to die after contracting the virus in comparison to the general population, according to a U.K. study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in autumn. The population’s unique genetics and predisposition to respiratory illnesses are believed to be contributing factors. Ready for My Shot, a countrywide campaign, is calling on all jurisdictions to clearly identify adults with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities as high priority patients, citing that research. Only the Northwest Territories has explicitly opened up vaccine appointments to adults with disabilities. “I would love to be able to offer vaccine to everybody — everyone in Manitoba, but, certainly, everybody who’s at any level of higher risk. We just don’t have that luxury until we have more supply,” said Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force, when pressed on the subject during a news conference Wednesday. Reimer said all health conditions that put people at a higher risk, including Down syndrome, will be considered as more doses become available. Mike Waddingham, an organizer with Ready for My Shot, called that reasoning — that this is a supply-linked issue — “a red herring.” “You either accept that people with Down syndrome are at higher risks and therefore should be prioritized with other people who are high risk, like elderly people or Indigenous people, or you don’t,” said Waddingham, when reached by phone in Burnaby, B.C., Thursday. Given the commission complaint process is a lengthy one, Strang suspects the immunization issue will have passed by the time his grievance is resolved; nevertheless, he said the act of filing a complaint sends an important message. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
Pressure is mounting on the federal government to cap interest rates on payday money lenders, which can charge nearly 50 per cent interest. Advocates say it’s often the most financially vulnerable using them and the pandemic economy has made things worse.
Another step was taken in a roof replacement project as an engineering firm has been selected for the Ecole St. Mary High School roof plan at the Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education meeting on Monday. The board selected Prakash Consulting of Prince Albert to oversee the engineering side of the replacement. Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen outlined the steps in the process before the board unanimously chose the firm. “We are commencing planning for replacement of sections of the Ecole St. Mary High School roof. The first step in the process was to solicit submissions from qualified engineering firms to provide project management and engineering services for that project. As a result of that process we did receive three submissions and evaluated those submissions,” McEwen told the board during Monday's meeting. McEwen explained that the project was approved as part of the three year Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) plan under three separate parts. Division administration sent out a request for estimates from firms in Prince Albert for engineering and project management for the project. Three firms submitted for the roof replacement and after evaluating the submissions Prakash was selected by administration for engineering and project management. The evaluation was made after applying board policy regarding purchasing of goods and services. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Mark Nichols is taking mandatory Curling Canada isolation in stride ahead of the Brier. He's lapping it up, actually. On his second day of quarantine, he walked 5K in his Calgary hotel room. "12 steps from wall to door," he counted. "That's a lot of laps." It took the Olympian an hour, pacing past his bed, through the room's seating area, and back —something to keep moving while Team Gushue looks to win its fourth Brier in five years. "It's tough at times," Nichols said when asked how isolation will affect his mental game, adding he feels ready. "We've been preparing for this for a long time, whether it's visualization or meditation or anything like that," he said. "This team has done a lot to kind of get to this place. We're ready for it." 'We're ready for it' The Brier takes place from March 5 to March 14, but Team Gushue — the defending champions, playing as Team Canada — plans to bunker down for the curling season. There's mixed doubles, two grand slam events, and the world championships for whoever wins the Brier. Team Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue, left to right, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker hold the Brier Tankard trophy after defeating Team Alberta in the 2020 Brier curling final.(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) "It could be 55 days in this hotel and out on Day 56 if everything goes as planned." Nichols said, adding that with the required safety protocols, if the team were to win worlds, it wouldn't make sense to leave the hotel between tournaments. Curling Canada mandates two weeks of relative isolation for curlers and coaches in their home province before flying out to an event. For the last three days, people aren't allowed to leave their homes or have contact with their families. Teams have to test negative for COVID-19 four times: before arriving in the host city, upon arrival, the following day and, again, either two or three days after that. Participants have a check-in every day to disclose any symptoms. They're restricted to their individual hotel rooms and they're not allowed visitors. Teams each have a car. They're only permitted to drive to the rink and back. It's a minute-long drive and stopping anywhere other than the arena isn't allowed. Keeping up the 5K But once they're on the ice, Nichols said, the game will feel much the same. They're used to downtime between matches and hanging out in hotel rooms. This season will just be an extreme version of that, with more time spent doing hotel room laps. "If that's the worst thing that happens here, I have to walk 5K back and forth, and we're still winning, then that's a good thing to do," Nichols said. "If it distracts me from what's going on around, then that's a good thing." Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
EDMONTON — Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations and the province hopes to hit a major milestone before July. “We now expect to offer all Albertans aged 18 and over a first dose of vaccine by the end of June,” Tyler Shandro said Thursday. But he noted that this goal depends on vaccine shipments from the federal government arriving on time. Earlier shipments this year did not come as expected. "We will keep pushing the federal government to actually deliver the vaccines that they have promised, and we’ll keep expanding our roll out to get doses into arms as fast as possible,” Shandro said. So far, Alberta has delivered 266,000 doses of vaccine. About 176,000 Albertans have been vaccinated, including 90,000 fully immunized with the recommended two doses. Shandro said residents aged 65 to 74, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis aged 50-plus, can begin booking March 15. The province had originally not expected to begin this stage of vaccination until April. Shandro said Alberta can now begin to accelerate the shots for two reasons: a new vaccine and a change in the vaccine regimen. Last week Health Canada approved a third vaccine, from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Shandro said the first 58,000 doses will be available starting March 10, but there is a caveat. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or NACI, has said while AstraZeneca is just as effective as the other vaccines, due to incomplete data it recommends it not be given to those over 64. Shandro said for that reason, the AstraZeneca vaccine will for now be offered to adults aged 50 to 64 who don’t have a severe chronic illness. The vaccination ramp-up is also due to a recommendation this week by the NACI that the wait for a second dose can be safely extended from the original six-week time limit to as long as four months. The NACI says evidence shows a first dose is 80 per cent effective for months. British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan will implement the delay in order to get more people inoculated quicker. Canada has already been using vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Alberta’s economy has been on a modified lockdown since cases spiked dangerously high in December. Retail shops and faith services are open at 15 per cent capacity, but indoor gatherings are banned, and outdoor get-togethers are capped at 10 people. From a high of 900-plus people in hospital with COVID two months ago, there were 245 as of Thursday, including 47 in intensive care. There have been 1,911 deaths. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, reported 331 new cases for a total active caseload of 4,613. Alberta has recorded 541 cases of variant COVID strains, which can spread far faster and have the potential to swamp a health system if left unchecked. This week, the province reported a variant case at Churchill Manor, a south Edmonton seniors centre. The facility saw one case spread to 27 cases within days. The daughter of one of the Churchill Manor residents, at a news conference with the Opposition NDP, said she fears for the safety of her 94-year-old father. Rose Zinnick said her father got his COVID-19 inoculation Monday, the same day he was told he tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Zinnick said Churchill Manor recently began allowing visitors and gatherings. She said her father told her people were sitting four to a table in the dining hall. “Now it’s two weeks later and there’s an outbreak, and many residents, including my dad, have COVID. I’m so angry and frustrated and disappointed,” said Zinnick. The Manor did not return a request for comment. Alberta Health Services, in an email, said the manor is an independent residence not contracted to AHS, but that it is now involved to ensure residents and staff are protected. The NDP also showed pictures depicting a mouse infestation in the facility. AHS confirmed the infestation and said it is ensuring pest control is brought in. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska state senator sought an apology Thursday from Gov. Mike Dunleavy for a scathing letter in which he accused her of misrepresenting the state's COVID-19 response and said his administration would no longer participate in hearings she leads. Sen. Lora Reinbold during a news conference called the reaction by Dunleavy, a fellow Republican, “outlandish” and said the Feb. 18 letter was an “attempt to intimidate those who question him and his administration and to silence those with opposing views.” Jeff Turner, a Dunleavy spokesperson, listened to the news conference, held in a Capitol corridor. In an email later, he said Dunleavy “will not be retracting his letter” to Reinbold. Dunleavy has been working from home while recovering from COVID-19. Several bills that are key parts of Dunleavy's legislative agenda, including proposed constitutional amendments and a proposed change to the yearly oil-wealth check residents receive, are in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Reinbold chairs. The committee also has been designated to hold a confirmation hearing for Dunleavy's attorney general nominee, Treg Taylor. Reinbold did not say whether she might seek to compel testimony from the administration. But she said she will not meet with Dunleavy "until he withdraws the letter and issues a formal apology. That is my first step, and that is what I'm hoping for.” Senate President Peter Micciche, who leads a majority Republican caucus, said he hopes Reinbold and Dunleavy resolve the dispute. “We’re all grown-ups here and the public expects us to be professional and get our work done on time,” he said in a statement, adding later: "However this works out between those two individuals, the Senate’s business is going to get done in a legal and timely manner – including hearings on the governor’s appointees.” Micciche has said he expects Senate committees to take a balanced approach. Reinbold, who has held hearings highlighting views of those who question the usefulness of masks and criticize the effects of government emergency orders, said Thursday she has brought a “diversity of thought” to the committee that has gone against the Dunleavy administration's “fear-mongering” COVID-19 message. Reinbold and other lawmakers saw Dunleavy as overstepping in issuing pandemic-related disaster declarations when the Legislature was not in session. But she also has taken aim at health restrictions imposed by local governments and the Legislature, such as mask requirements, and raised concerns with COVID-19 vaccines. She was appointed in November, when Dunleavy used the state's emergency alert network to warn of rising case counts, ask Alaskans to consider celebrating the holidays differently and said he would require masks at state work sites. He also urged groups to meet remotely and encouraged people to use online ordering or curbside pickup. Dunleavy at the time said hospitalizations and sick health care workers were reaching “untenable levels.” In a social media post, Reinbold said Dunleavy “wants us to dramatically change our lives, in other words, basically to help frontline workers, that have supposedly been gearing up to take care of patients all year. Things aren’t adding up.” She said Thursday some of the information she had requested from the administration included data on hospital capacity. The state health department has long posted online data on available hospital beds and hospitalizations related to COVID-19. The department last fall, including around Thanksgiving, was reporting weekly highs in hospitalizations. “The bottom line is, we as Alaskans want to know why the disaster was extended over the Thanksgiving" holiday, she said, adding that seeing the data on hospital capacity that played a role in a disaster declaration around that time was important. “We need to be able to ask the tough questions.” Dunleavy, in his letter, said Reinbold had made “many superfluous inquiries" and that her “baseless, deleterious, and self-serving demands on government resources amounts to an abuse of public services and will no longer be endured.” The state's last disaster declaration expired in mid-February. Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press
China will increase its annual research and development spending by more than 7% every year over the next five years, the government wrote on Friday in its work report from the Fourth Session of the 13th National People's Congress. The government will increase expenditure on basic research by 10.6% in 2021, the report added. The ramp-up highlights the country's commitment to advancing in the tech sector, as the country increasingly clashes with the United States and other countries over technology policy.
Inside, Kazuyoshi Sasaki carefully dials his late wife Miwako's cellphone number, bending his large frame and cradling the handset. He explains how he searched for her for days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami a decade ago, visiting evacuation centres and makeshift morgues, returning at night to the rubble of their home. Sasaki's wife was one of nearly 20,000 people in northeastern Japan killed by the disaster that struck on March 11, 2011.
OTTAWA — With a federal budget in the offing, premiers are stepping up the pressure on Ottawa to immediately boost health-care funding by at least $28 billion a year.They held a virtual news conference Thursday to reiterate their demand for a big increase in the unconditional transfer payment the federal government sends provinces and territories each year for health care.The federal government this year will transfer to the provinces nearly $42 billion for health care, under an arrangement that sees the amount rise by at least three per cent each year.But the premiers contend that amounts to only 22 per cent of the actual cost of delivering health care and doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent.Starting this year, they want Ottawa to increase its share to 35 per cent and maintain it at that level, which would mean an added $28 billion, rising by roughly another $4 billion in each subsequent year.During a virtual first ministers' meeting in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told premiers he recognizes the need for the federal government to eventually shoulder a bigger share of health-care costs. But he said that must wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent the federal deficit on track to exceed an unprecedented $381 billion as Ottawa doles out emergency aid, including at least $1 billion for vaccines and $25 billion in direct funding to the provinces to, among other things, bolster their health systems.Quebec Premier Francois Legault, chair of the premiers' council, stressed Thursday that the pandemic-related expenses Ottawa has incurred are "non-recurring." He pointed to studies that suggest the federal government could quickly eliminate its deficit, and even return to surplus, once the pandemic is over while provinces would be mired in debt.The premiers argued they need stable, predictable, long-term funding for their health systems, which were already under strain before the pandemic hit and will be even more stressed once it's over and they must deal with the backlog of delayed surgeries, tests and other procedures.Manitoba's Brian Pallister said wait times have been a problem for decades and are destined to get worse as Canada's population ages. But he said the pandemic has made "a bad situation much, much worse.""The post-pandemic pileup is coming and it's real and its impact on Canadians and their families and their friends is real too," he warned. "The time is now to address this issue and to address it together."Pallister accused Trudeau of ignoring the problem of wait-times and the real life-threatening impact on people. Five years ago, he said he told Trudeau a true story about a woman with a lump in her breast who had waited for tests and referral to a specialist, only to be told in the end that it was "too bad we couldn't have caught this sooner.""He looked across the table at me and said, 'I'm not your banker,'" Pallister said."We don't need a banker. We need a partner."Trudeau has offered to give provinces immediate funding for long-term care homes, provided they agree to some national standards. Long-term care facilities have borne the brunt of deaths from COVID-19.But Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa's latest offer would provide just $2,500 per person in long-term care — a drop in the bucket compared to the $76,000 it costs his province each year for every long-term care resident."The math doesn't work," he said.Legault ruled out conditional transfers for long-term care altogether as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. He said each province and territory has its own health-care priorities and their "jurisdiction must absolutely be respected."When universal health care was adopted in Canada, British Columbia's John Horgan said the cost was originally shared 50-50 between Ottawa and the provinces. The steadily declining federal share has led to ever more challenges in delivering health care, exacerbated now by the pandemic."Our public health-care system is at risk," Horgan warned."COVID has brought (the challenge) into graphic light. It's stark, it's profound and we need to take action."Saskatchewan's Scott Moe said Canadians deserve a well-funded health system "that is supported by both levels, both orders of government in this nation, not one that is propped up by almost entirely by the provinces and territories."Trudeau's minority Liberal government is poised to table a budget this spring, which could theoretically result in the defeat of his government should opposition parties vote against the budget. Legault said premiers have already talked to opposition parties to solicit their support for their health funding demand. He said the Bloc Quebecois and NDP support the demand, while the Conservatives agree in principle with the need to increase the health transfer but have not specifically agreed to the $28-billion figure.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
The Town of New Tecumseth has hired a new Director of Ad-ministration Services and Clerk. Pamela Fettes will take over the position effective March 22, 2021. She will fill the vacancy created when the former clerk retired at the end of 2020. Ms. Fettes’ previous experience includes the past eight years with Clearview Township as the Director of Legislative Services and Municipal Clerk. “We are excited to welcome Pamela to the Town of New Te-cumseth,” said Mayor Rick Milne. "Her experience, expertise and knowledge of Simcoe County and our growing community will be an asset to the Town. Council and staff are looking forward to her leadership in the important role of Director of Administration Se-vices and Clerk as we continue to move the Town’s administration forward.” Under the Corporate Services division, as the Director of Admin-istration Services and Clerk, Ms. Fettes will lead the Town’s admin-istrative services which includes customer service, the Municipal Bylaw Enforcement area, licenses and permits, the preparation and circulation of Council documents, records management, requests for information under the Mu-nicipal Freedom of information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the conduct and administration of municipal elections. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Just when you thought it was safe – the Ontario gov-ernment and the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit has issued another lock-down to the region that became effective on Monday, March 1. Calling it an “emergency brake,” the lockdown was imposed locally as well as in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit. The decisions were made “in consultation with the local medical officers of health and are based on the trends in public health indicators and local context and conditions,” according to a state-ment issued by the Province. “While we continue to see the number of cases and other public health indicators lowering in many re-gions across the province, the recent modelling shows us that we must be nimble and put in place additional measures to protect Ontarians and stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “With COVID-19 variants continu-ing to spread in our communities, it is critically important that everyone continues strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures to help contain the virus and maintain the prog-ress we have made to date.” The statement went on to say “variants of concern continuing to spread, the number of patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care may rise once again if public health measures are not relaxed carefully and gradually. The actions of everyone over the coming weeks will be critical to maintaining the progress communities have made across the province to date.” Local medical officers of health continue to have the ability to issue Section 22 orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and municipalities may enact by-laws to target spe-cific transmission risks in the community. “Quickly implementing stronger measures to inter-rupt transmission of CO-VID-19 is a key component of the government’s plan to safely and gradually return public health regions to the Framework,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Due to data and local context and conditions in the Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay Districts, it was necessary to tighten public health measures in these regions to ensure the health and safety of the region at large and stop the spread of the virus.” To help stop the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard health system capacity, ev-eryone is strongly urged to continue staying at home and limit trips outside their household and between other regions for essential reasons only Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
BEIJING — New polling from the Pew Research Center shows strong negative attitudes among Americans toward China, with almost nine out of 10 adults seeing the country as hostile or a danger to U.S. interests. Negative feelings have increased over human rights, economic friction, China’s authoritarian Communist Party political system and perceptions that China wishes to supplant the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower, according to the survey results released Thursday. Respondents specifically cited Chinese actions in Hong Kong, where Beijing has been accused of demolishing freedom of speech and opposition politics, and in Xinjiang, where it has imposed a police state and detained more than 1 million members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups. China's growing military power, technological prowess and alleged cyberattacks on U.S. targets were also cited as concerns. It said 64% of respondents described economic relations between the countries as “somewhat or very bad." Respondents also said they had less confidence in U.S. President Joe Biden’s ability to handle China than on other foreign policy issues such as dealing with terrorist threats, climate change and decisions about the use of force. While Biden says he wants a more civil relationship with China than under his predecessor, Donald Trump, he has shown no sign of softening tough measures on trade, technology and human rights, along with U.S. support for Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory. Chinese officials routinely attribute negative perceptions about China to inherent prejudice, ignorance or political self interest. Pew said 89% of Americans “consider China a competitor or enemy, rather than a partner.” A total of 48% responded that limiting China’s power and influence is a top priority, up from just 32% who felt that way in 2018. Opinions in the Pew survey were drawn from a random online sampling of 2,596 U.S. adults conducted from Feb. 1 to Feb. 7. The margin of error was given as 2.7 percentage points. Negative perceptions of China were especially pronounced among respondents who identified as Republicans or Republican-leaning, with 72% saying it was more important to get tougher with Beijing than to build a strong economic relationship, compared to 37% for Democrats. Many more Republicans also saw China as an enemy and wanted to limit numbers of Chinese studying in the U.S., although Republicans and Democrats were essentially united in their support for promoting human rights in China and in feeling that China's human rights policies are a “very serious problem for the U.S." On the issue of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, survey respondents gave the U.S. and China roughly equal marks, with 43% saying China had done a good job and 42% saying the same about the U.S. However, 58% said the U.S. had done a bad job of handling the outbreak, while just 54% said China had done a bad job. Pew said few Americans “put much stock” in Chinese President Xi Jinping. "Only 15% have confidence in Xi to do the right thing regarding world affairs, whereas 82% do not -– including 43% who have no confidence in him at all,” Pew said in a summary of its findings. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday said the Trump administration and “anti-China forces in the U.S.” had “grossly slandered and discredited China, wilfully provoked confrontation and division, spread political viruses, and seriously poisoned the public opinion of both countries." “We hope that the U.S. will look at China and China-U.S. relations objectively and rationally, adopt a rational and pragmatic policy toward China, move in the same direction as the Chinese side, do something to enhance mutual trust and co-operation with China, and bring the bilateral relations back to the track of healthy and stable development," Wang said at a daily briefing. The Associated Press
MONTREAL — A Universite de Montreal education professor has been charged with a sexual offence involving an 11-year-old child. Police in Longueuil, Que., south of Montreal, said Thierry Karsenti, 52, was arrested Feb. 23. He faces a single charge of sexual interference and is due in court on Friday. Karsenti, who is also the Canada Research Chair on information and communication technologies in education, allegedly committed the offence in 2015, according to a release issued by police. Police said Karsenti also goes by the name "Thomas." They said there could be other victims from a period between 2015 and 2017 and want people who may have information to come forward. Karsenti has been suspended indefinitely from his role at the university, according to Universite de Montreal spokeswoman Genevieve O'Mera. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
A Crown lawyer urged the judge overseeing Meng Wanzhou's extradition proceedings to "leave the politics to the politicians" Thursday by rejecting the Huawei executive's bid to toss the case over comments by former U.S. President Donald Trump. Robert Frater told B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes the defence team's allegations of political interference were based on the "thinnest of evidence" and that there was no indication Trump's words had affected the fairness of the hearing. "Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it," Frater said. "Yesterday, my friends tried to bring the elephant into this room. With respect we urge you to focus on the facts and the law." Operating under an oppressive 'cloud' Frater was delivering the Crown's response to the defence's bid to stay extradition proceedings against Meng because of alleged abuse of process. Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer, is charged with fraud and conspiracy in New York in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC banker about her company's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. In this courtroom sketch, Crown lawyer Robert Frater urges Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes not to toss the extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou. Frater said the judge should leave politics to politicians. (Felicity Don) Prosecutors claim that by relying on Meng's reassurances, the bank risked loss and prosecution for breaching the same set of sanctions. This week's proceedings are part of a series of hearings spread over the next two-and-a-half months, culminating in arguments on the U.S. extradition request itself. On Wednesday, defence lawyer Richard Peck accused Trump of using Meng as a bargaining chip and reducing the 49-year-old from a human being to "chattel" in December 2018, when he told a reporter he would "certainly intervene" in the case to get a better trade deal with China. The defence team contends the former U.S. president's words amount to an individual threat to Meng and a general threat to the integrity of the Canadian justice system, as Meng tries to defend herself under an oppressive "cloud." Decision best left to minister of justice Frater said Trump's words were "anodyne" and "vague" and any power he had over the case has ended, along with his term in office. He also said any arguments the defence had to make about allegations of political interference should be made to Canada's minister of justice — if and when a decision to commit Meng for trial in the United States is made. Lawyers for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou claim that former U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to use their client as a bargaining chip in the U.S. trade war with China.(Canadian Press photos) Both the Crown and the defence cited a 2001 decision in which the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a judge's decision not to extradite four men to the U.S. because of comments a U.S. prosecutor made to the CBC's Fifth Estate. An assistant U.S. attorney told a reporter one of the accused would "be the boyfriend of a very bad man" if he waited out his extradition hearing and ended up in jail after a trial. In that case, "the requesting state was reaching into the Canadian extradition hearing and threatening someone with harsh punishment if they availed themselves of their legal right to contest extradition," Frater said. "What you have to decide are whether [Trump's] comments either individually or cumulatively amount to a threat." 3-part test for stay Holmes' decision will come down to a three-part test established by Canada's highest court in a 2014 decision that emerged from a trial involving two Quebec men charged with firearms and other offences related to an investigation of drug trafficking involving the Hells Angels. The pair claimed they were victims of police misconduct and that prosecutors tried to force them to forego a trial by threatening additional charges if they didn't plead guilty. Vancouver police officers wait outside the downtown B.C. Supreme Court building where Meng Wanzhou's extradition proceedings are being held. (Ben Nelms/CBC) A lower court stayed the proceedings, but the Supreme Court of Canada overruled that decision, because societal interest in having a trial outweighed the Crown wrongdoing. The top court said judges ruling on applications like Meng's should determine: if the right to a fair trial or the integrity of the justice system is threatened, if an alternative remedy exists and if the interests of the accused outweigh the interests of society in having the case heard. It's a test Holmes will have to apply several more times in the coming weeks, as Meng's lawyers have scheduled three more hearings for alleged abuses of process. The defence team claims Meng's constitutional rights were violated on the day of her arrest, when CBSA officers interviewed her for three hours without a lawyer, before RCMP told her she was wanted for extradition. They also claim the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of the case against Meng. And they claim the charges themselves reach beyond U.S. jurisdiction. Towards the end of his arguments, Frater said he believed the choice facing Holmes is clear. "Having these charges heard on their merits would be a triumph for the rule of law," he said. "If she goes to trial and whether she's acquitted or convicted — justice is served." The extradition proceedings will continue on March 15.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 76,438 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,168,138 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,720.79 per 100,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,614,020 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 82.94 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,842 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 37,590 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.518 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 60.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 17,794 new vaccinations administered for a total of 490,504 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 57.324 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.83 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 30,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 784,828 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 53.429 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 86.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,408 new vaccinations administered for a total of 82,579 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.97 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 116,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.79 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,493 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,090 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 71.314 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 112.7 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 10,948 new vaccinations administered for a total of 266,231 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.479 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 96.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 9,042 new vaccinations administered for a total of 298,851 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.238 per 1,000. There were 2,340 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.61 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 18,158 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 435.12 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 96.07 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 360 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,753 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 355.136 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 57.54 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press