A composition of underwater recordings from the Arctic to tropical oceans of fish, mammals, crustacea, insects, ice, water, and human-caused sounds.
A composition of underwater recordings from the Arctic to tropical oceans of fish, mammals, crustacea, insects, ice, water, and human-caused sounds.
The painstaking detective work of contact tracing usually starts with an infected person and works forward, asking who has that person seen since they became potentially contagious with COVID-19. But that mainstay of public health has a less high-profile cousin that's become instrumental in spotting superspreader events quickly — working in reverse. "Instead of asking who did that person potentially give the virus to, you're asking where did that person get the virus?" said Dr. Trevor Arnason, associate medical officer of health with Ottawa Public Health. "It makes you become better at finding people who have COVID-19 who you might not have known about." COVID-19 tends to spread explosively in situations where the virus can infect a bunch of people all at once, public health experts say, which is where what's known as backward tracing comes in handy. Ottawa Public Health cottoned on to the benefits of backward tracing when emerging evidence from Japan showed how focusing on where a person got COVID-19 and going back to that location helped to find many more who were infected. "We started more systematically asking everybody, 'Where do you think you got it? Or who do you think you got this from? And then we started working back from those places. You start to notice these patterns, which we've put together in infographics that we've shared with the public," Arnason said. Infographics tracing how many were affected from one indoor wedding allowed the public to see how seemingly disparate locations tied together, resulting in 22 people from eight households being affected in two weeks. "Backward contact tracing is used to find the superspreading events. That's the main goal." Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious diseases epidemiologist in Toronto, said most people who are infected don't pass it to others. But the instances where an individual goes on to transmit to many others likely reflect how coronavirus transmission clusters at a particular location or environment. An indoor gym where those working out are unmasked, breathing heavily in what may not be the best ventilated conditions is one example. "It's clear that telling people to wear masks when they move around a gym, but not when they're exercising, which I think has been the protocol in a lot of places, wasn't enough," Tuite said. WATCH | Day in the life of COVID-19 contact tracers [May 2020]: Suppressing variants Backward contact tracing is a lot of work for public-health staff facing down outbreaks, said Tuite, but also potentially high yield. It can be particularly helpful at the early stages an epidemic — which is long-gone for normal coronavirus, but the introduction of more-transmissible variants of concern is like a do-over, said Tuite, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's an effective way of suppressing the growth of the variants of concern amongst this larger epidemic that's happening," she said. "Overall, we have declining case counts and so if we can control sparks that are happening with the variants of concern, there is the potential to really keep it under control and at least keep case counts declining." This May 13, 2020, photo taken with a fisheye lens shows a list of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Salt Lake County. The white board remains in the office as a reminder of how quickly the coronavirus spread. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press) Declining case counts mean hospital and health-care capacity can accommodate more surgeries and preventative care and allow the economy underpinning society to recover, too. For now, Tuite said case counts will only decline if people restrict their interactions. For Dr. Susy Hota, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto's University Health Network, keeping the variants of concern at bay is another goal of vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible. "If we continue to allow transmission to occur, [the variants] will take over a larger and larger proportion of the market, so to speak," said Hota, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Stopping spread fast Regardless of variants, forward contact tracing to identify high-risk contacts and possible cases as aggressively as possible so they know to isolate quickly will always be a key public health tool. For instance, a Manitoba spokesperson said they routinely collect information on where a COVID-positive case may have been exposed. But the focus is on forward contact tracing to stop spread as quickly as possible. WATCH | Workplace physical distancing innovation: Hota cautioned there are even more recall challenges with backward contact tracing than forward, using herself as an example. "Do you think you were more than two metres away when you talked to that person? I think so. But I didn't have a yardstick with me. And how long do you think you were talking? Oh, I'm terrible at that. I'll tell you, like, five minutes. I have no idea." The recall problem gets amplified because to do backward contact tracing effectively means going back the full 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus. Hota does see a role for backward contact tracing in trying to pin down if there's a single source of multiple cases, say at a meat-packing plant. "The truth often doesn't emerge until the epidemic is over," Hota said. (Tim Kindrachuk/CBC)
India's foreign minister arrived in Bangladesh on Thursday ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid efforts to resolve the fate of 81 Rohingya refugees who are on a boat adrift in international waters. Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar will hold talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart on water sharing, trade and border issues, said two Indian officials in New Delhi. "Of course, the Rohingya refugee issue will come up during the Indian minister's day-long visit but the prime agenda will remain around Modi's upcoming visit," said a senior foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Hudson's Bay Co. hopes to transform its website into Canada’s next online shopping marketplace in a bid to position itself as a premium, home-grown alternative to e-commerce heavy hitters like Amazon. The company will open its website to third-party sellers starting later this month, adding hundreds of new brands and thousands of items to its online assortment of products at a time when pandemic restrictions have curtailed in-person shopping. The new site will include electronics and sporting goods, pushing the retailer beyond tried-and-true categories like clothing and home decor as it seeks to attract and retain customers who increasingly demand a strong online presence. The company has to find the right balance between maintaining its premium brand and expanding its inventory, executives said in an interview. "Although it will very much be a vast assortment, it will feel curated," said Adam Powell, senior vice-president of omni customer experience. "We're not going to approach it in the same way that Amazon our Walmart would, which is 'absolutely everything goes' … with little consideration other than having as many products as possible." Shoppers will have access to more products, some of which will be sold and shipped directly by Hudson’s Bay -- and can be returned in store -- while others will be sold and shipped by third-party sellers that also manage returns for those items. The Hudson’s Bay marketplace, hosted on the Mirakl software-as-a-service platform, comes a little over a year after the iconic company was taken private. Since then, many of its department stores have been closed for months on end amid COVID-19 restrictions, hundreds of workers have been laid off and competition online has soared as consumers take to internet shopping in record numbers. Although the company’s digital strategy was in place before the pandemic – the retailer relaunched its website last April using a new e-commerce platform from Salesforce – it has taken on more urgency amid lockdowns. "This was the most logical way to really expand our digital first strategy at a supercharged rate," Iain Nairn, said president and CEO of Hudson's Bay. "It opens up thebay.com for one-stop shopping." Even post-pandemic, retail watchers say consumers will continue to shop more online and look for “omni-channel” options such as picking up online purchases at stores, while in-store shopping will focus more on interacting with products. “It’s actually creating the store to be more exciting and have more experiences,” Nairn said. “There may not be as much absolute product but there will be more options for them to look at" before they purchase online. The idea is to use stores as more of a showroom for products, with a wider selection available online and shipped directly to customers, Powell said. “What we want to do is extend the aisle for in-store shoppers,” he said. “We want our in-store customers to know that when they're shopping in our stores, they have access to a much broader catalogue than what resides within those four walls.” Like the new HBC marketplace, some other online retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon also allow third-party sellers. Yet HBC is banking on the department store’s unique position as a Canadian retailer with a reputation for higher-end goods to attract customers. The company has about 225 million website visits a year and 5.6 million loyalty rewards members, numbers HBC expects will attract sellers interested in reaching Canadian shoppers. Hudson's Bay marketplace will feature large multinational third-party sellers of brand-name goods as well as smaller vendors, artisans and entrepreneurs, the company said. The retailer even issued a call out for "cool local and Canadian brands" with direct-to-consumer shipping capabilities and inventory on hand, providing a national platform for handmade products that might normally be sold on websites like Etsy, Facebook marketplace or Kijiji. “It will be a variety of different sellers that will run the gamut from big strategic partners that are larger well-known organizations to smaller or independent businesses,” Powell said. “It gives us a great opportunity to showcase local products and local retailers from the communities. The focus will be on merchandise customers are already searching for, including technology, sports equipment, pet products, food and drink and health and wellness, Powell said. “We can tell by our search results that these types of categories are products that our customers are already looking,” he said. “If Nintendo launches a new console, we see that coming up in our search results, so it won’t feel foreign to a customer to stumble upon these new categories that we're going to be introducing. "It'll be a real natural extension from our existing business, and it'll still be very much in keeping with the types of areas and quality that we want to portray with our customers." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
NEW YORK — When will children be able to get COVID-19 vaccines? It depends on the child's age, but some teenagers could be rolling up their sleeves before too long. The Pfizer vaccine already is cleared for use starting at age 16. That means some high schoolers could get in line for those shots whenever they become eligible in their area, either because of a medical condition or once availability opens up. Pfizer and Moderna both have completed enrolment for studies of children ages 12 and older, and expect to release the data over the summer. If regulators clear the results, younger teens likewise could start getting vaccinated once supply allows. The Moderna vaccine is currently cleared for people 18 and older. Researchers started with older children because they tend to respond to vaccines most similarly to adults. Testing even younger groups is more complex, because they may require a different dose or have differing responses. “Children are not just small adults,” said pediatrician Dr. James Campbell of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “The younger you get, the higher the odds are that things could be different.” Children develop serious illness or die from COVID-19 at much lower rates than adults, but can still spread the virus. “There’s no question: we do want to immunize children,” said Drexel University pediatrics professor Dr. Sarah Long. Pfizer and Moderna expect to start studies in children 11 and younger later this year. “It’s unlikely we could get community protection without immunizing children,” Long added. “This is the lynchpin to getting everything back to some kind of normalcy.” __ The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org. Read previous Viral Questions: How would COVID-19 vaccine makers adapt to variants? How do we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe? How are experts tracking variants of the coronavirus? Marion Renault, The Associated Press
MOSCOW — The European Medicines Agency said it has started a rolling review of Sputnik V, many months after the vaccine was first approved for use in Russia and after dozens of countries around the world have authorized it. In a statement Thursday, the European regulator said the review is based on results from lab studies and research in adults, which suggests the vaccine may help protect against coronavirus. Despite skepticism about Russia’s hasty introduction of the vaccine, which was rolled out before it had completed late-stage trials, the vaccine appears to be safe and effective. According to a study published in the journal Lancet, Sputnik V was about 91% effective in preventing people from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. The EMA has not set a date for when its expert group might meet to assess Sputnik V data to decide if it should be approved across the European Union, but the rolling review process is meant to expedite the authorization process, which can typically take several months. The Associated Press
Why do some long-term care residents who contract COVID-19 become seriously ill and die, while others show just mild symptoms, or none at all? That's a question one of Nova Scotia's top infectious disease experts is looking to answer with a study that's currently underway. "We know very little about immune systems in older adults — not just in Canada, but in the world," said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease researcher and clinician at Dalhousie University in Halifax. "They are a very under-studied population of people, and therefore this particular study allows us to really get in there and understand immune responses to a brand new pathogen, or virus, that these folks have never seen before." Four long-term care facilities in the province are taking part in the study, including Northwood's campuses in Halifax and Bedford. Barrett said 356 people have agreed to participate. "The participants and their families have been incredibly generous with their time, with consent, and, of course, with their blood, which is where we get the immune cells to study their immune systems," she said. "It is orders of magnitude bigger than most immune studies of this type, which makes it one of our most powerful tools we have right now to study older people — not just for COVID, but immunity and frailty in general." Northwood's long-term care facility in Halifax, where 53 residents died after contracting COVID-19, is taking part in the study.(Robert Short/CBC) Blood samples were taken from residents before they got vaccinated against COVID-19, and samples will continue to be taken after their first and second doses to study their immune response. Samples are also being taken from both residents who have contracted and recovered from COVID-19, and from people who have never had the disease. This will allow researchers to compare the immune response in those who were never infected, those who were highly exposed but never infected, those who had moderate symptoms of COVID-19, and those who had severe symptoms. Studying vaccine responses Of the 65 people who died of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, 53 of them were residents at Northwood's Halifax facility. After a provincial review into the Northwood outbreak last year, experts recommended a more robust response to the spread of infection, like fewer shared rooms, better ventilation and more staff. Josie Ryan, Northwood's executive director of long-term care, said those recommendations have been addressed. But the review didn't help them understand why some residents were getting sick and others weren't. "You could have a person that was 100 years old that would go through the virus with very little symptoms, but yet somebody that was 70 would be significantly affected," she said. "So it was a mystery sometimes because you didn't know." Ryan is the executive director of long-term care at Northwood. The province started vaccinating long-term care residents for COVID-19 in January.(CBC) Ryan said now, about 95 per cent of Northwood's residents are vaccinated against COVID-19 and researchers will continue to monitor their immunity. "That's the big piece for me, to know if the seniors are protected by the vaccine," said Ryan. Beyond COVID-19 The COVID-19 pandemic has been the source of unspeakable tragedy, but Barrett said it also presented an opportunity to research the immune response of a group of people who are typically left out of these kinds of studies. The $1.9-million study is being funded through the Government of Canada through its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. Barrett said this research will have "huge implications" beyond COVID-19. "We struggle to get funding to study immunity in older people, and one of the biggest killers of older people is infection, whether that's pneumonia, influenza or other infections," said Barrett. "So while this is about COVID, it's also about making more knowledge about immunity in older people, which is a huge part of keeping people healthy and living longer." Barrett acknowledged the study is a "silver lining that I know cannot make up for the heartbreak of people lost." "But certainly, it does help people to feel like we're making the best of a very bad situation, I think." MORE TOP STORIES
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch court ruled Thursday that a deeply religious father who kept some of his children isolated from the outside world for years in a remote farmhouse can't stand trial on charges including child sexual abuse because he has been incapacitated by a stroke. The decision came after prosecutors last month asked the court in the northern city of Assen to drop the case because the 68-year-old suspect wasn't fit to stand trial. It brings to an end a case that made headlines around the world after one of the man's sons raised the alarm and authorities discovered the father had been living for years with six of his children in the farmhouse in the eastern Netherlands. At a preliminary hearing in January last year, prosecutors portrayed the father, identified only as Gerrit Jan van D., as a deeply religious man who saw his family as “chosen by God” and did everything in his power — including physical beatings and other punishments — to keep them from succumbing to what he considered malign outside influences. The court ruled Thursday that a 2016 stroke had so badly affected the father's ability to communicate that continuing with the case would breach his fair trial rights. “He doesn't sufficiently understand what is happening in the courtroom,” court spokesman Marcel Wolters said in a video statement. The six children who were kept on the farm are now all young adults. Three older siblings had earlier left the family’s isolated life. Their mother died in 2004. The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Paramount+ debuts Thursday as the latest — and last — streaming option from a major media company, this time from ViacomCBS. It's betting that consumers are willing to add yet another paid streaming service in an increasingly crowded field. Its backers hope a smorgasbord of offerings — live sports and news, reboots of properties like “Frasier" and “Rugrats," original shows like “Star Trek: Discovery" and the ViacomCBS library — will entice viewers. But its relatively late entrance to a competitive landscape and a $4 price increase compared to its predecessor, CBS All Access, could make it a challenging sell. “Paramount+ has a mountain of challenges ahead of it," said Tim Hanlon, CEO of Vertere Group, playing off the Paramount+ tagline, “A mountain of entertainment." (The venerable Paramount logo features — you guessed it — a mountain, and the streamer's recent ad campaign featured a number of characters from its shows climbing a snowy peak.) Over the last year and a half more and more streaming services have debuted to challenge the reigning triumvirate of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Disney+ kicked things off in late 2019, followed by WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Discovery+. In a way, ViacomCBS is a pioneer; CBS, then a separate company, debuted CBS All Access in 2014. The new service effectively rebrands All Access and adds other Viacom Properties channels including Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon. But Paramount+ could have a brand awareness problem, Hanlon said. Most people associate the name Paramount with the mountainous title card that appears before movies. “Most consumers have very little understanding that Viacom, Paramount and CBS have the same parent, so the marketing team has a big job in front of it," he said. Second, the pricing may leave some scratching their heads. The ad-free tier launching Thursday is $10 a month. That's $4 more than CBS All Access, although the new service will offer a lot more material, including live news and sports. A $5 monthly ad-supported version will launch in June, but it won't include the live local CBS stations that CBS All Access offered. Showtime and BET+, both owned by ViacomCBS, will remain separate subscription services. Still, the service also has some potential advantages over others. CBS All Access, Showtime and BET+ now have nearly 30 million subscribers, some of who will shift to Paramount+. ViacomCBS projects that those services will reach 65 million subscribers by 2024, with most of the growth coming from Paramount+. ViacomCBS plans to increase its investment in streaming, from $1 billion a year to at least $5 billion annually by 2024. It will introduce 36 original shows in 2021, including a spinoff of “60 Minutes" called “60 Minutes+," a documentary series about the making of “The Godfather," a reboot of MTV's “The Real World" that reunites the original New York City cast from 30 years ago, and series based on movies including “Fatal Attraction" and “Flashdance." “Viacom really has all assets they need to have a thriving business,” said Brian Wieser, GroupM global president of business intelligence. “A meaningful investment in original programming attracts people to the platform. And a deep library causes people to stay. Put those two together and you could have a viable successful service.” But they may not be taking bold enough steps to stand out, said Colin Gillis, director of research at Chatham Road Partners. ViacomCBS said some of the studio’s films, including “Mission: Impossible 7” and “A Quiet Place Part II,” will go to its fledgling streaming service, Paramount+, after 45 days in theatres. But that's not as bold a step as HBO Max has done, releasing 17 of their films on HBO Max the same day they're released in theatres. “That type of strategy, plus being late to the market, looks a lot like a ‘me too’ move'," Gillis said. “If they want to act like a second tier streaming service, they're doing a fantastic job." Mae Anderson, The Associated Press
Jim Lowes had never thought about being an organ donor until he read a story about Logan Boulet nearly three years ago. Boulet was one of 16 people who died in April 2018 when a truck driver blew a stop sign and drove into the path of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team's bus in rural Saskatchewan. Thirteen players were injured. Boulet, 21, had signed up to be an organ donor on his birthday, five weeks before the crash. "He had already planned on giving his organs," said Lowes, who lives in Burlington, Ont. "That really struck me. "What a brilliant young man. Most kids at that age are not thinking about donating their organs." Six people across Canada benefited from Boulet's organs and the Logan Boulet Effect soon followed. Nearly 147,000 Canadians registered to be donors in the two months after learning the player had signed his donor card. It also led to Green Shirt Day every April 7, the anniversary of Boulet's death, to promote organ donor awareness and registration across Canada. Canadian Blood Services says more than a million people have registered a decision about organ donation in the years since Boulet's death. There are about 12 million Canadians on provincial registries. Lowes, 61, said he was inspired by Boulet to be a living donor. "I was too old to donate (part of) my liver ... but I checked into the kidney," he said. "I ended up donating one of my kidneys." Canadian Blood Services says the number of living donors increased in 2019 but dropped about 30 per cent to 427 in 2020. Deceased donors also dropped about 21 per cent to 654. Officials say the decline was due to COVID-19. "The impact we've seen has changed over the year," said Dr. Norman Kneteman, a transplant surgeon at University of Alberta Hospital and a member on an expert advisory committee with Canadian Blood Services. During the first wave of COVID-19 last spring, there was fear of the unknown, he said. "Donation really slowed down and very nearly stopped for awhile." Surgeries considered non-essential were delayed. There were fewer trauma patients who might become donors. And there was an early concern about transmission of the novel coronavirus between donor and patient, which he said is extremely rare and can be managed with careful testing. Kneteman, also a director for the division of transplantation at the U of A, said programs were almost back to normal by summer, and surgeons kept up with transplants during the pandemic's second wave. "We did see through the year — 2020 — that we had between 10 and 15 per cent reduction in activity in transplant for all organs," he said. "We have some catch-up to play there." Boulet's father said his family hopes an online campaign, which started this week, reminds people about organ donation. "We just want people to register their intent, what they want to do, whether they want to be an organ donor or don't want to be an organ donor," Toby Boulet said from Lethbridge, Alta. He said it's disappointing organs went unused in the early days of COVID-19. "We lost many, many chances in Canada to have transplants," he said. "There are chances to save lives. There are chances to make people's lives better and, even though COVID has enveloped and consumed all of us ... we can't forget about organ donation and transplantation." Canadian Blood Services said there were some bright spots in 2020. Newfoundland and Labrador brought in a new way last April for residents to register as organ donors. An online registry started in Saskatchewan last September. Nova Scotia recorded higher donation rates as awareness increased before a presumed consent law that requires people to opt out of organ donation. "The law came into effect in January, but we had been working on changing the system in preparation for the law for the past 18 months," said Dr. Stephen Beed, medical adviser for the Nova Scotia organ and tissue donation program. "We've ended up having by far the most successful donation year." Beed, who was working in an intensive care unit in Saskatoon the week of the Broncos crash, has a special connection to the Boulet family. "I was involved in taking care of Logan," he said. "It's quite remarkable to think I am living in Nova Scotia and doing a lot of donation-related work here, and then happened to be involved with one of the most tragic and significant donation-related circumstances we've had." Beed said the crash was noticed around the world. "To be able to find something positive in the middle of such a tragic circumstance — with Logan's gift — is something that really resonated and continues to resonate." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press
The probe will consider if Apple has a dominant position in the distribution of apps on its devices in the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said. Payment policies related to Apple's App Store have for long drawn complaints from app developers as it requires them to use its payment system, which charges commissions of between 15% and 30%.
Chrystia Freeland seemed only too happy on Wednesday to mention some recent grumbling about the Liberal government's pandemic spending over last year. For most of 2020, the government was faced with questions about whether it was delivering financial supports fast enough and broadly enough. Now, some are wondering aloud whether the government spent too much. "I've been surprised to read some commentary suggesting that Canadians may be doing too well for their own good," the finance minister said. "Some have pointed to rising household disposable income in the first nine months of last year as evidence that our government acted too swiftly and too effectively to support Canadians." It will not surprise you to learn that Freeland disagrees with that take. And if Freeland is eager to note that criticism, surely it's because she and the government know how difficult it might be for any of their political opponents to campaign against any of the specific measures the Liberals took to support Canadian households over the past 12 months. But it remains to be seen how all that spending — and the historic deficit that resulted from it — will frame the political debate going forward. On Monday, Statistics Canada released estimates that suggest Canadian households ended up with more disposable income through the third quarter of 2020 because of the unprecedented sums the federal government transferred to individuals through various support programs. "Although households did experience notable declines both in wages and salaries and in self-employment income in the second quarter, the value of COVID-19 support measures provided by governments more than compensated for those losses," StatsCan said. The gains were highest in the second quarter and proportionally larger for those with the lowest amount of disposable income in 2019. Before April 2020 and June 2020, StatsCan estimates, the households that had less than $26,500 in disposable income for 2019 saw their disposable income increase by 33.6 per cent. For those households with more than $64,900 in disposable income in 2019, the increase in disposable income in the second quarter of 2020 is estimated at 7.1 per cent. A person walks through an almost deserted Yorkdale Shopping Centre as Toronto enters the first day of a renewed coronavirus lockdown on Nov. 23, 2020.(Carlos Osorio/Reuters) As of October 3, 2020, the federal government had paid out $81.6 billion through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provided $2,000 per month to those who lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. Beyond the CERB, the federal government also moved forward with a number of other supports, including a new student benefit (estimated to cost $3 billion) and a series of measures aimed at "vulnerable Canadians" (at an estimated cost of $14.9 billion). More analysis is needed to fully understand the distribution and impact of government spending last year, but the basic finding — that support exceeded income losses — has been put forward before. Tammy Schirle, a professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, notes that some of those in the bottom quintile would not have been making money before the pandemic began — and so wouldn't have lost any income — but they still would have benefited from increases in the Canada Child Benefit and the GST credit, which could have helped with extra expenses. An 'acceptable compromise' Research conducted by Schirle and three co-authors also estimated that nearly half of the job losses that occurred between February and April 2020 were suffered by those in the lowest quarter of earners. "Generally, there was criticism at the time that some workers with the lowest earnings would have received more income than was lost," Schirle said in an email this week, referring to the CERB. "However, in the context that Canadians needed something rolled out quickly, and our current infrastructure for [employment insurance] would not suffice, this was an acceptable compromise in my view." In a global emergency, too much help is likely better than too little. But the federal government may have faced a choice between moving fast and moving with precision — between making sure that people who would need money got it quickly and making sure that people only got as much money as they absolutely needed. Social policy in a hurry "CERB payments were flat amounts because the government did not have the capacity [in information and technology] to income-test the benefit," said Jennifer Robson, a professor of political management at Carleton who has been consulted by the government on EI reform (full disclosure: Robson is a friend). "The choice was 'automatic' or 'income-tested.' But until and unless we build serious back-of-house capacity in our social programs, you can't have both for a crisis of this scale." Robson also suggested that if the CERB did end up overcompensating people, the question could be flipped around to ask whether that proves too many people in this country were being paid unreasonably low wages in the first place. The Liberal government has since transitioned away from the CERB and StatsCan's estimates show that the disposable income increases dropped off significantly in the third quarter. John Lester, a fellow at the University of Calgary's school of public policy and a former analyst at the Department of Finance, argued in December that the government should have been quicker to deal with the issue of "overcompensation." The threat of inflation In her fall economic statement, Freeland suggested that increased disposable income and savings could act as "preloaded stimulus" to spur economic growth once the Canadian economy reopens. Mikal Skuterud, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo, said the risk is that excessive stimulus could trigger inflation, though he argues that the actual severity of that risk is a "million-dollar question that nobody knows the answer to." For now, the political criticism is muted. The Conservative Party has criticized the size of the deficit and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has noted that the Trudeau government spent more per capita than comparable countries. The Conservatives also have argued that the government should have moved faster to deliver a wage subsidy and have criticized the fact that some large, profitable companies were able to access the wage subsidy. But they do not seem eager to make the case that Canadians got more money than they deserved or truly needed — presumably because they know how well that would go over with those Canadians who received federal support. Ahead of a federal budget — and possibly a federal election — the larger question is how the spectre of a significant deficit will affect both fiscal policy and the political debate going forward. Canadians might be thankful for all the support that the federal government has provided, but will they come out of this pandemic with new worries about government debt? And if so, are Conservatives interested in trying to connect with that anxiety to build support for a much more fiscally restrained approach?
Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip has had a 'successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition.' Meanwhile, Prince Harry's wife, Meghan, has accused Buckingham Palace of 'perpetuating falsehoods' about the couple.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 4, 2021. There are 875,559 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 875,559 confirmed cases (29,930 active, 823,524 resolved, 22,105 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,812 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 78.75 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,365 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,909. There were 60 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 299 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 43. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.16 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,676,396 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 997 confirmed cases (153 active, 838 resolved, six deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 29.3 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 35 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 199,347 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 137 confirmed cases (22 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 13.78 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 20 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 107,377 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,646 confirmed cases (30 active, 1,551 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 3.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 343,260 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,438 confirmed cases (38 active, 1,372 resolved, 28 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 238,399 tests completed. _ Quebec: 289,670 confirmed cases (7,336 active, 271,908 resolved, 10,426 deaths). There were 729 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 85.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,198 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 743. There were 19 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 81 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 303,763 confirmed cases (10,397 active, 286,352 resolved, 7,014 deaths). There were 958 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 70.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,590 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,084. There were 17 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 121 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,964,481 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,000 confirmed cases (1,146 active, 29,953 resolved, 901 deaths). There were 50 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 83.09 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 413 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 59. There were three new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.15 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 535,163 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,059 confirmed cases (1,431 active, 27,239 resolved, 389 deaths). There were 121 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 121.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,079 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 154. There were two new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33 per 100,000 people. There have been 579,326 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,454 confirmed cases (4,649 active, 127,903 resolved, 1,902 deaths). There were 402 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 105.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,421 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 346. There were 12 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 36 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,414,903 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 81,909 confirmed cases (4,718 active, 75,819 resolved, 1,372 deaths). There were 542 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 91.65 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,559 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 508. There were seven new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 34 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,941,589 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Wednesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,183 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (two active, 40 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,664 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 359 confirmed cases (eight active, 350 resolved, one death). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 20.33 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of eight new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,718 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Twitter Inc. will be bulking up on Canadian talent this year with a hiring spree meant to add dozens of engineers in the country to its staff. The San Francisco, Calif.-based social media giant said Thursday that it plans to form its first Canadian engineering hub with at least 24 workers it will soon hire. "We have folks that are from Canadian schools or have Canadian backgrounds and they've just been really successful in growing their careers here," said Tristan Jung, a senior engineering manager involved with Twitter's hiring, in a video call from the Bay Area. "The thought process was why don't we just go to the source instead of having to pull them all into the Bay Area? Toronto was the best place to do so." Twitter's increased interest in the market comes as global competition for tech talent is intensifying. Encouraged by the COVID-19 pandemic's work-from-home measures, companies have begun hiring beyond their current borders, allowing them to source talent in new or unexpected places. In a 2019 visit to Toronto, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey preached the values of a "decentralized" company and said the "centre of gravity shouldn’t be San Francisco:" Last March, he doubled down on his beliefs when he announced Twitter workers will be allowed to work remotely permanently. "We serve global audiences and so we believe fundamentally that our talent mix should reflect the communities that we serve," said Paul Burns, managing director of Twitter's Canadian operations, on the same call as Jung. "You shouldn't have to move to Silicon Valley to have an impact and build a meaningful career." Twitter's Thursday announcement is zeroing in on the Canadian market because of the technical talent it has seen evolving in the country recently. Several of Twitter's senior hires in the U.S. and other markets have come from Canada and even junior workers have flocked from the country to the company's global offices. Since it opened in 2013, the office Burns runs in Toronto has been home to sales, partnerships, policy, marketing, research and curation workers. A few engineers on global teams have worked remotely in Canada, but the company has never attempted to cluster engineers in the market until now. Those hired will work within three teams. One will be responsible for engineering work linked to discovery and connection on the platform, another will build tools that enable users to easily create content and the last group will aim to maximize safety and minimize harms on Twitter. Filling these positions will come with plenty of competition. E-commerce giant Shopify Inc. announced in January that it will add 2,021 to its company this year to work in technical roles involving front-end and back-end development, data, mobile and infrastructure tasks. On Wednesday, social discovery platform Pinterest said its Toronto office will get 50 new hires this year in engineering, sales, insight and marketing roles — it's biggest expansion since the office opened in 2018. The engineers will include front-end, full-stack and machine-learning experts and the city was chosen because of the emphasis Canadian universities place on these skills, said Erin Elofson, Pinterest's head of Canada and Australia in an email. Burns and Jung don't worry about competing for talent because they said Twitter attracts workers who believe strongly in the company's ability to connect people and want to have a direct impact on making conversations across the platform more efficient and safe. They expect hiring to begin shortly and are excited to see what innovations the new hires come up with. Burns said, "We're just really excited about the investment in Canada, and I think it's the start of something that'll you'll see … grow over time." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
Veteran Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, who runs a website known for its tough scrutiny of President Rodrigo Duterte, took the witness stand for the first time on Thursday to counter tax evasion charges that she maintains were politically motivated. Ressa, a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for fighting media intimidation, is facing several government lawsuits that have stoked international concern about harassment of journalists in the Philippines, a country once seen as a standard bearer for press freedom in Asia. Speaking to reporters after testifying for two and a half hours in Manila, Ressa asked the government to allow journalists to work freely and independently.
NYON, Switzerland — Liverpool and Leipzig are going to Budapest for a second time in the Champions League round of 16 next week. UEFA confirmed on Thursday that Liverpool’s home second-leg game will also be at Puskas Arena in the Hungarian capital next Wednesday. The Puskas Arena — which is a European Championship venue at the end of this season — has become UEFA’s main neutral venue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leipzig’s home game in the first leg was also played in the empty stadium in Budapest on Feb. 16 because of travel restrictions between England and Germany. Liverpool won 2-0. It also hosted Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Manchester City in the Champions League, and Wolfsberger vs. Tottenham in the Europa League last month. It will stage Molde vs. Granada in the Europa League on March 18. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
Britain and the European Union are on course to agree a deal on regulatory cooperation in financial services this month, but the UK's actions in Northern Ireland makes it harder to build trust, the bloc's financial services chief said on Thursday. "We are on track," Mairead McGuinness told a Politico event. The British government unilaterally extended a grace period for checks on food imports to Northern Ireland, a move Brussels said violated terms of Britain's divorce deal.
The European Commission on Thursday announced goals for the 27-nation bloc to reduce poverty, inequality and boost training and jobs by 2030 as part of a post-pandemic economic overhaul financed by jointly borrowed funds. The goals, which will have to be endorsed by EU leaders, also include an increase in the number of adults getting training every year to adapt to the EU's transition to a greener and more digitalised economy to 60% from 40% now. Finally, over the next 10 years, the EU should reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 15 million from 91 million in 2019.
Paul Harrington has been a leading figure with the Lower Churchill Project since he began working as an embedded contractor with Nalcor Energy in 2007. He is one of seven senior project managers fighting against the release of their pay information from 2019.(Terry Roberts/CBC) Seven senior contractors working on the Muskrat Falls hydro and transmission project — including longtime project leader Paul Harrington — are fighting a request to Nalcor Energy to have their 2019 compensation information made public. That's despite the fact Nalcor believes the information should be released. As well, legislative changes made nearly three years ago lifted the veil of secrecy over compensation to embedded contractors, and previous court rulings have also come down on the side of full disclosure. What's more, Nalcor released a comprehensive breakdown of Harrington's compensation in September 2019, in response to a CBC News access to information request. It revealed the project leader was billing up to $75,000 per month, including HST, for services performed a few years earlier. As of March 31, 2017, Harrington's daily rate of compensation was almost $2,000. CBC News filed a follow-up access to information request three months ago with the provincial energy corporation, seeking a list of the nearly two dozen most senior members of the Lower Churchill Project management team, and the amount of money the companies they represent were paid for their services in 2019. With the exception of Gilbert Bennett, who is executive vice-president for power development and a top official at Nalcor Energy, the senior project team is comprised primarily of contractors, or consultants, many of whom incorporate their own companies and hire themselves out to Nalcor. On Feb. 8, Nalcor released the names and pay of 13 members of the project team, with the annual fees for 2019 ranging from a low of just over $210,000, to a high of more than $395,000. But Nalcor initially withheld the identity and compensation details for eight members of the management team. That's because those eight members, including Harrington, filed a complaint with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, in a bid to have the information shielded from public release. But one of those eight, Ray Butler, later withdrew his complaint to the privacy commissioner and Nalcor released his financial information on March 2. Butler is the construction manager at the Soldiers Pond converter station, switchyard and synchronous condenser facility. Butler's company is called RB Consulting Services Inc., and was paid more than $406,000 by Nalcor in 2019. This is a list of 14 senior contractors working on the Lower Churchill Project, and their compensation for 2019.(Nalcor Energy) A Nalcor official said the corporation is withholding information relating to the seven other senior contractors until it receives direction from the information and privacy commissioner, which is now reviewing the matter. Information and privacy commissioner Michael Harvey confirmed in an email Tuesday that his office received "several" complaints after Nalcor issued notices to those involved that it would be disclosing the information to CBC News. Harvey could not provide specifics of the complaints, but confirmed his office will investigate whether disclosure of the information should be withheld under sections 39 or 40 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Michael Harvey was appointed Newfoundland and Labrador's information and privacy commissioner in July 2019.(Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner) Those sections allow for the withholding of information if it would be harmful to the business interest of a third party, or if the disclosure would be harmful to personal privacy. Harvey said the investigations commenced in early February, and the legislation requires the investigations to be concluded within 65 business days. However, Harvey said his office is working with Nalcor and the complainants to reach an informal resolution. Otherwise, Harvey noted that it's possible the issue may not be resolved until mid-May. The senior managers are also entitled to appeal any recommendations from Harvey's office to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Paul Harrington among the holdouts Meanwhile, CBC News was unable to confirm the identities of all seven, but has confirmed through sources that Harrington, who joined the project team in 2007, five years before the troubled project was sanctioned, and Ron Power, who is deputy project manager responsible for Muskrat Falls power generation, are among the holdouts. Harrington is a key architect on a project that is billions over budget and years behind schedule, and is not expected to achieve full commercial power until the end of 2021, at a final forecast cost of more than $13 billion. The project was sanctioned in late 2012 with a projected in-service cost of $7.4 billion, with first power scheduled for July 2017. For nearly a decade, Harrington was the overall project director for the Lower Churchill Project, but is currently project director for electricity generation at Muskrat Falls. Harrington vigorously — though unsuccessfully — fought a similar battle to shield his compensation in 2017 and 2018, and launched a court challenge against a CBC request for his pay information. He also applied to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador for an order prohibiting questions about his compensation when he appeared before Justice Richard LeBlanc at the Muskrat Falls commission of inquiry in late 2018. Harrington's lawyers said in court documents that releasing these details "would not serve the public interest, but would cause undue financial harm to him and his consulting company." But those legal challenges lost steam after LeBlanc ruled "there will be no restrictions," and it was revealed at the inquiry that Harrington was being paid a day rate of nearly $1,700 up to March 31, 2011. A subsequent access request two years ago revealed Harrington's day rate had increased to $1,945 as of March 30, 2017. The documents also revealed that Harrington billed Nalcor $74,800 including HST for his services in November 2016, though at least one month that year was below $40,000. Lifting the veil of secrecy Five years ago, the provincial government passed legislation requiring an annual listing of all public employees who receive a total compensation of more than $100,000 in a calendar year. Nalcor employees are included, and the list for 2019 revealed that CEO Stan Marshall received a $315,000 bonus on top of an almost $460,000 salary, while executive vice-president for power development Gilbert Bennett received an almost $70,000 bonus along with a $334,000 salary. Temporary workers on the Muskrat Falls project are not included on the so-called "Sunshine List," even though the project is publicly funded. So nearly three years ago, following months of intense media scrutiny of the issue, the provincial government made changes to the Energy Corporation Act, allowing for the identities and amount of money paid to contractors hired directly by Nalcor to work on Muskrat to be subject to disclosure under the province's access to information laws. At the time, then-Natural Resources Minister Sioban Coady said such secrecy was "not reasonable or necessary." In 2017, prior to a change in the legislation, Marshall said that "If it was up to me, I'd release it." The Muskrat Falls hydro and transmission project is scheduled to achieve full commercial power later this year, four years later than originally planned when the project was sanctioned in late 2012.(Nalcor Energy) Insiders say secrecy is preferred by the contractors because they compete with each other for work. But the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled in 2017 there was "no evidence" that releasing the information would unfairly expose contractors to "risk of financial or other harm." In a similar case, the province's teachers' association launched a legal challenge against the Sunshine List, calling it an unnecessary invasion of privacy. The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador agreed. But that ruling was overturned in 2018 by the Court of Appeal, which rejected privacy arguments like those made by the Nalcor contractors, and concluded that pay details for people on the public payroll is public information. The NLTA unsuccessfully took its case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Emergency crews successfully pulled off a daring rescue of all 31 crew onboard a fishing boat off the coast of Nova Scotia that had caught on fire and was sinking.