The COVID-19 situation may be improving in Manitoba, but an outbreak at an old federal prison is being blamed on unsafe conditions. Over one-third of the inmates at the Stony Mountain Institution are now infected and at least one has died.
The COVID-19 situation may be improving in Manitoba, but an outbreak at an old federal prison is being blamed on unsafe conditions. Over one-third of the inmates at the Stony Mountain Institution are now infected and at least one has died.
An envoy hired to defuse tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous commercial lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia has released a bleak interim report highlighting poor communication and a lack of trust between both sides. The report by Université Sainte-Anne president Allister Surette found perhaps the only thing the fishermen can agree on is blaming the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the situation. "The lack of trust and respect has been presented to me by many of the individuals I interviewed," Surette said in his interim report filed with Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan and Carolyn Bennett, minister for Indigenous-Crown relations. "Firstly, I have heard from Indigenous and non-Indigenous parties of the lack of trust in government," Surette wrote. "Added to this level of the lack of trust and respect, some interviewed also expressed the lack of trust and respect within parties involved in the fishery and I also heard of the lack of trust and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, stakeholder groups and organizations." Appointed by Ottawa Surette was named special federal representative by the Trudeau government after an outbreak of violence and protests at the launch of an Indigenous moderate livelihood lobster fishery by the Sipekne'katik band in St. Marys Bay last fall. The band cited the Mi'kmaq's right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 but never defined by Ottawa. The fishery was conducted outside of the regulated season for commercial lobster licence holders in Lobster Fishing Area 34, who objected saying the fishery was a blatant violation of fishery regulations. The reaction included alleged assaults, arson, blockades, volleys of wharfside profanity and online venom. It garnered international attention. The blowup capped years of tensions over an escalating Sipekne'katik food, social and ceremonial lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay that was, in some cases, used as a cloak for a commercial fishery. Lobster caught under food, social and ceremonial licences cannot be sold. In one case, a Crown prosecutor said the lobster caught under those licences from Sipekne'katik supplied an international "black market operation." Despite a number of federal initiatives to integrate the Mi'kmaq into the fishery since 1999 — including half a billion dollars for training and buying out and providing commercial licences — there has been a lack of progress defining moderate livelihood and implementing the fishery. Expectations of the First Nations were not met, leaving many of them to doubt the sincerity of DFO, Surette reported. Debate over enforcement Surette said the issue is complex and will not be easily solved. Non-Indigenous fishermen have argued there is not enough enforcement when it comes to Indigenous lobster fishing while the bands have complained of harassment. "However, the point to note on this matter, and more closely related to my mandate, seems to be the lack of clear direction from the government of Canada and the multiple facets and complexity of implementing the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood," he said in the report. Surette's mandate is not to negotiate but rather to "restore confidence, improve relations" and make recommendations to the politicians. His interim report calls for more dialogue to build trust, suggesting areas of declared common interest like conservation and marketing. A lack of information from DFO was a recurrent complaint from the commercial fishermen, said Surette. "There should be some type of formal process for the non-Indigenous to be kept up to speed, especially the harvesters, since this could affect their livelihood. Some process, even though they're not involved in negotiation, that they could have input or at least understand what's going on," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday. Improving communication He made three suggestions for improving communication: a clearinghouse for accurate information, a formal process for talks between the commercial industry and the government of Canada, and forums to create a "safe space" to talk on important issues without extreme emotions. Surette interviewed 85 people — 81 per cent were non-Indigenous. "In some cases, they were heavily focused on the fishery. Others said that they preferred dealing with the ministers at this present time," he told CBC News. Surette said he will be reaching out to gather more perspectives. MORE TOP STORIES
The federal government is mulling a mandatory quarantine in hotels for returning travellers as the country's top doctor warns that easing COVID-19 restrictions too quickly could cause case numbers to shoot up again. Monday will mark a year since the first recorded appearance of the novel coronavirus in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is understandable that Canadians are tired and fed up, but they must remain cautious. “We need to hang on and hold tight for the next few months,” he said Friday. “We must get through to the spring and mass vaccinations in the best shape possible.” The federal government is looking at options that would make it harder for people to return from foreign trips. But Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the tools already in place must also be fully utilized. That includes more police enforcement of two-week quarantine rules for arriving travellers. "Compliance with that order is critical for keeping Canadians safe," he said. Public Health Agency of Canada figures show 153 flights have arrived from outside Canada over the last two weeks on which at least one passenger later tested positive for COVID-19. Transport Canada now requires people flying into the country present a negative test result conducted within 72 hours of boarding a plane. Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday 50,000 tickets for international travel have been cancelled since the new rule was announced on Dec. 31. Trudeau said these requirements are starting to convince Canadians to stay put. Union leaders and the National Airlines Council of Canada, the country's largest airline industry association, have signed a letter urging Ottawa to collaborate with industry on any further changes to reduce travel. The prime minister added that the next few weeks will be challenging for vaccine supply as Pfizer-BioNTech slows deliveries to Canada and other countries while the company retools its plant in Belgium. Trudeau said Pfizer-BioNTech has committed to ensuring Canada will receive four million vaccine doses by the end of March. Provinces have reported a total of 738,864 vaccine doses used so far. That's about 80 per cent of the available supply. In British Columbia on Friday, plans were announced to allow the province's oldest residents to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccinations starting in March after the most vulnerable groups have been immunized. The province's mass immunization plan aims to administer vaccines to 4.3 million eligible residents by September. COVID-19 cases began to spike across the country in December and January, which put a strain on hospitals. Quebec and Ontario were particularly hard hit and officials responded with restrictions. Quebec instituted a curfew, while Ontario brought in an order for people to stay at home except for essential purposes such as work, food shopping or health care. Daily case numbers have slightly decreased in Ontario in the last week. There were 2,662 new cases Friday and 87 more deaths. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 2,703, down from a high of 3,555 on Jan. 11. There were 1,512 people in hospital on Friday, a decrease of 21 from the previous day. COVID-19 continued to pressure some local hospitals, so Ottawa said it would send two federal mobile health units to the Greater Toronto Area, adding an additional 200 hospital beds. Quebec has been under its provincewide curfew for nearly two weeks. Health officials reported 1,631 new cases and 88 deaths Friday. Hospitalizations decreased by 27 people to 1,426. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said bringing down the second wave of COVID-19 has been a "trickier path" than the first wave last spring. Daily case counts are higher than they were then and have increased demands on the health-care system. "If we ease up too soon or too quickly, resurgence will be swift," she said. She also expressed concern that 31 cases of the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant, and three of the South African variant have been found in Canada. It's believed that both are more contagious. The cases were identified through screening smaller batches of tests. Tam said more needs to be done to understand the level at which new variants are circulating in communities. Nova Scotia reported four new COVID-19 infections on Friday, two of which were variant cases. Health officials said both cases were related to international travel. The New Brunswick government announced a full lockdown in the Edmundston region beginning Saturday. The number of active cases in the northwestern area of the province ballooned from seven infections two weeks ago to 129 on Friday. There were 731,450 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada and 18,622 deaths as of Thursday. Over the past seven days, there were a total of 42,555 new cases. The seven-day rolling average was 6,079. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. — With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa and Camille Bains in Vancouver. Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
Canada’s response to COVID-19 shows what national unity over a common goal can accomplish, says Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Now he says the country needs to apply similar efforts to achieving racial equality. “Recognizing these systems of government control as inherently racist, and needing to then be anti-racist, be actively anti-racist, in the way that we engage, the way that we work together between Inuit and government, is really the only way we can chart our course to a better future,” said Obed, the head of the national organization that represents 65,000 Inuit in Canada. Obed made the remarks Friday during a panel discussion about mental health in diverse communities, co-hosted online by Queen’s University and Bell, featuring four experts on race and mental health, with former federal Indigenous services minister Dr. Jane Philpott as the moderator. Obed spoke of the impact racism has had on Inuit communities and their mental health. “You can’t help but link the imposition of government control over our communities … and complete control over our education and economic well-being as anything other than a mental health catastrophe,” he said. In a June 2019 Statistics Canada report, under the National Household Survey, researchers found that suicide rates of First Nations people were three times higher than those of non-Indigenous people. More specifically, Inuit were nine times as likely to take their own lives than non-Indigenous people. That same report cited post-traumatic stress disorder due to colonization as a key factor in Indigenous mental health. Also on the panel was Dr. Kenneth Fung, clinical director of the Asian Initiative in Mental Health Program at Toronto Western Hospital; Dr. Myrna Lashley, a psychiatry assistant professor at McGill University; and Asanta Haughton, a human rights activist. They agreed that for the betterment of Black, Indigenous and people-of-colour communities, recognizing oppressive systems are essential to dismantling them. The pandemic has only made these challenges more acute, panelists said. Numerous studies show marginalized communities are the most impacted by COVID-19. A Statistics Canada study on the self-reported economic hardships caused by the pandemic on Indigenous versus non-Indigenous people showed that Indigenous people had experienced more job loss or reduced work, and a larger negative financial impact. The report concluded that “employment disruptions likely had a larger financial impact on Indigenous participants because of greater pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as lower income levels and higher proportions living in poverty and experiencing food insecurity.” Obed offered the following advice for making strides against racism: “Keep putting one step in front of the other, on the path that you’re making for your own mental health, but then also the change that you want to see,” he said. Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News
Trees may add aesthetics and environmental benefits, but if they are planted too close to power lines they can cause power outages and fires, a SaskPower delegation told the Town of White City at its Jan. 11 council meeting. The Crown corporation is assessing whether trees are impacting power lines in White City, and SaskPower arborist Blake Neufeld said while cutting down trees is a last resort, it is sometimes a necessity when they get too close to overhead power lines. Sometimes pre-emptive pruning can prevent the total loss of a tree. “Trees and power lines don’t mix,” Neufeld said. “Tree contacts with power lines in storms cause 15 percent of our power outages province-wide. We are trying to do preventative maintenance on our easements. In the Town of White City, there are a lot of poplars and that requires a lot of cleanup.” The tree maintenance is part of a provincial program which looks after more than 115,000 kilometres of power line right-of-ways. Within White City itself, Sask Power has two circuits it monitors, serving 2,600 homes and businesses. Approximately 500 trees are slated for removal in White City — 400 of them are on private property while the other 100 are on municipal land — though not all of those trees will fully disappear. “These town removals are not all big trees,” Neufeld said. “We have 10 larger ones while the rest of them are smaller. The way we identify a removal is sometimes we have ... a multi-stem tree, and if we take three stems off, that counts as three trees and we leave the rest of the tree.” Overall in White City 24,000 square metres of removal will be done to ensure the SaskPower lines are kept to safety standards. Neufeld said land owners are notified by SaskPower if work has to be done to prune or remove trees on their property. The assessor has already told affected landowners of the issue, and about 48-hours before the tree work is done, the contractor doing the work will also contact the landowner or resident advising of what is to take place. The goal is to have all tree work in White City completed by the end of March, when restrictions affecting elm trees come into force. For those looking at planting trees or shrubs to define their properties, Neufeld said power lines should be considered as well as the type of tree used in the area. Trees need to be three to six metres away from a power line to prevent future problems, depending on how high a tree is projected to grow. Taller trees should be at least six metres away, with trees growing more than 12 metres in height being at least 15 metres away from the power line. Neufeld said by taking note of those guidelines, both trees and power lines can co-exist safely. Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum
MILAN — Italy’s data protection authority said Friday it was imposing an immediate block on TikTok’s access to data for any user whose age has not been verified. The authority said it was acting with “urgency” following the death of a 10-year-old girl in Sicily, who died while participating in a so-called “blackout” challenge while using the Chinese-owned video-sharing social network. Prosecutors in Sicily are investigating the case. The data protection authority noted it had advised TikTok in December of a series of violations, including scant attention to the protection of minors, the ease with which users under age 13 could sign up for the platform — against its own rules — the lack of transparency in information given to users and the use of automatic settings that did not respect privacy. “While waiting to receive a response, the authority decided to take action to ensure the immediate protection of minors in Italy registered on the network,’’ the authority said in a statement. The block will remain in place at least until Feb. 15, when further evaluations will be made. TikTok earlier this month rolled out some tightened privacy features for users under the age of 18, including a new default private setting for accounts with users aged 13 to 15. The new practices, affecting users around the world, followed a move by U.S. regulators to order TikTok and other social media services to disclose how their practices affect children and teenagers. The Associated Press
TORONTO — The federal government is sending two mobile health units to the Greater Toronto Area to help address the strain COVID-19 is placing on hospitals, as the facilities ramp up patients transfers to address a serious capacity crunch. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday the units will bring an additional 200 hospital beds to the area to help free up space for people who need intensive care and provide medical equipment and supplies. "The spike in COVID-19 cases this month has put a real strain on hospitals," Trudeau said. "For Ontario in particular, the situation is extremely serious." The federal government said the deployment comes in response to a request from the province earlier this week. The units will be "deployed as rapidly as possible" and will be available to Ontario until May 1. Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the mobile health units will also help with the transfer of non-critical care patients out of critical care units to free up resources. "This will help relieve pressure on Ontario's strained hospital capacity due to the prevalence of COVID-19," he said. The province will provide the staff for the units. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the units are another tool in the fight against COVID-19. "As Ontario continues to add more hospital beds and build capacity in our health-care system, these new mobile health units will further help us alleviate the strain on our hospitals and intensive care units," she said in a statement. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Ford government should have made the request for federal help weeks ago. "Everybody knew from the modeling projections that things were likely going to get pretty tight in hospitals and there was no preparation," she said. "What the heck took so long to get into gear and actually make this request?" Horwath said she's concerned the province may not have a plan to staff the units as soon as they arrive. "We know that a lot of frontline health-care workers are burnt out, they're exhausted," she said. "Some are actually sick and there's some that are in quarantine. So, I think it's pretty much an unknown as to, once we get the units here, how do we set them up?" The province's hospitals have been struggling with capacity challenges for weeks because of surging COVID-19 cases. The situation has become so dire that patients requiring treatment in intensive care units in hot-spot regions are being transferred to hospitals hours away to receive care. The province has said a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont., will be used to help relieve the capacity crunch once it opens on Feb. 7. The head of the Ontario Hospital Association said in a statement Friday that while it appears virus spread is slowing, the province's hospitals continue to struggle with capacity issues. CEO Anthony Dale said over the last few days the number of patients in Ontario hospital intensive care units have decreased slightly from an all-time high of 420 earlier this month. The province reported 383 patients were in its ICUs on Friday. But Dale warned that 193 patient transfers out the worst-hit regions were planned this week, more than double the rate of transfers between November and January "The rate of transmission appears to be decelerating, but we cannot declare victory," he said in a statement. "We must remain extremely cautious and keep up the fight against community spread to keep up our progress and prevent a third wave, especially when we see the new variant's impacts in the United Kingdom.” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province's associate medical officer of health, said Thursday that the provincial case rate has started to decline for the first time since November – sitting now at 145.4 cases per 100,000 people – although that figure is still high. “We’re seeing some improvement,” Yaffe said. “But we do need to see more data to determine if those decreasing rates are a real trend.” On Friday, Ontario reported 2,662 new cases of COVID-19 and 87 more deaths related to the virus. - with files from Mia Rabson. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — It's a proven political strategy: Underpromise and overdeliver. President Joe Biden, in his first three days in office, has painted a bleak picture of the country's immediate future, warning Americans that it will take months, not weeks, to reorient a nation facing a historic convergence of crises. The dire language is meant as a call to action, but it's also a deliberate effort to temper expectations. In addition, it is an explicit rejection of President Donald Trump’s tack of talking down the coronavirus pandemic and its economic toll. Chris Lu, a longtime Obama administration official, said the grim tone is aimed at “restoring trust in government” that eroded during the Trump administration. “If you’re trying to get people to believe in this whole system of vaccinations, and if you want people to take seriously mask mandates, your leaders have to level with the American people,” he said. Biden said Thursday that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better” and offered “the brutal truth” that it will take eight months before a majority of Americans will be vaccinated. On Friday, he declared outright: “There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.” It's all part of Biden's pledge that his administration will "always be honest and transparent with you, about both the good news and the bad.” That approach, aides say, explains Biden’s decision to set clear and achievable goals for his new administration. The measured approach is drawing praise in some corners for being realistic -— but criticism from others for its caution. Trump often dismissed the seriousness of the virus and even acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward that he deliberately played down the threat to the U.S. to prop up the economy. Even as death tolls and infection rates soared, Trump insisted the country was already “rounding the turn.” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said Biden’s pledge for 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office might fall short of what’s needed to turn the tide on the virus. “Maybe they’re picking a number that’s easier to achieve, rather than the number that we need to achieve. I would urge people to be bolder than that,” he said. Adalja argued that the goal they’ve set “should be the bare minimum that we accept.” But he also acknowledged that there’s a major political risk in overpromising. “You don’t want people to be discouraged or feel like the government is incompetent” if they fail to meet a goal, he said. “It’s a disappointingly low bar,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician. Biden on Friday acknowledged the criticism, saying he was hopeful for more vaccinations, but he avoided putting down a marker that could potentially fall out of reach. “I found it fascinating that yesterday the press asked the question, ‘Is 100 million enough?'" he said in the State Dining Room. "A week before, they were saying, ‘Biden, are you crazy? You can’t do 100 million in 100 days.’ Well, we’re — God willing — not only going to 100 million. We’re going to do more than that.” In fact, while there was some skepticism when Biden first announced the goal on Dec. 8, it was generally seen as optimistic but within reach. The Biden administration might be taking lessons from the earliest days of the Obama administration, when there was constant pressure to show real progress in turning around the economy during the financial crisis. One former Obama administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about internal conversations, said there was a fevered effort during the first few months of Obama's first term to play down the focus on evaluating the president’s success within his first 100 days because aides knew the financial recovery would take far longer than that. In one notable misstep, Obama’s National Economic Council chair, Christina Romer, predicted that unemployment wouldn’t top 8% if Congress passed the administration’s stimulus package to address the financial crisis. It was signed into law a month into Obama's first term, but by the end of that year, unemployment nevertheless hit 10%. The risk in setting too rosy expectations is that an administration might become defined by its failure to meet them. President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003 — at a time when the Iraq War was far from over — became a defining blunder of his presidency. Trump provided an overreach of his own in May 2020, when he said the nation had “prevailed” over the virus. At the time, the country had seen about 80,000 deaths from the virus. This week, the U.S. death toll topped 412,000. Trump’s lax approach and lack of credibility contributed to poor adherence to public safety rules among the American public. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Trump’s handling of the virus caused so much damage to public perceptions of its severity that it’s important for Biden to set a contrasting tone. “I think it is really important to start telling the American people the truth. And that has not happened in a year, since we found the first case of coronavirus, so he’s got a lot of damage to undo,” she said. “This is a very serious, very contagious, deadly disease, and anything other than that message — delivered over and over again — is, unfortunately, adding to the willingness of lots of people to pay no attention to how to stop the spread of the disease.” Alexandra Jaffe And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
The NBC Sports Network, which is best known for its coverage of the NHL and English Premier League, will be going away at the end of the year. NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua announced the channel's shutdown on Friday in an internal memo to staff. “At the conclusion of 2021, we have decided that the best strategic next step for our Sports Group and the entire Company is to wind down NBCSN completely,” Bevacqua said in the memo. NBCSN is available in 80.1 million homes, according to Nielsen's latest estimate, which is less than ESPN (83.1 million) and FS1 (80.2 million). The channel was launched by Comcast in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network. It was best known for carrying the Tour de France until it acquired the NHL in 2005. It changed its name to Versus in 2006 and then to NBC Sports Network six years later after Comcast bought NBC Universal in 2011. Bevacqua said in the memo that Stanley Cup playoff games and NASCAR races would be moving to USA Network this year. USA Network, which is available in 85.6 million homes, had already been airing early-round playoff games since 2012. “This will make USA Network an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace, and gives our sports programming a significant audience boost,” Bevacqua said. “We believe that the power of this offering is the best long-term strategy for our Sports Group, our partners, and our Company.” The news of NBCSN shutting down also comes during a time when many of NBC Sports Group’s most valuable sports properties are coming up for renewal. This is the last season of a 10-year deal with the NHL and negotiations for the EPL rights, beginning with the 2022-23 season, are ongoing. Many have predicted that the next rights deal with the NHL will include multiple networks with former broadcast partners ESPN and Fox Sports expected to be in the mix. NBC's current deal averages $200 million per season. Premier League deals are usually for three years, but NBC secured a six-year package in 2015 by paying nearly $1 billion. NASCAR, which has its races from July through November on NBC and NBCSN, has a deal through 2024. IndyCar's contract, which includes the Indianapolis 500 on NBC, expires at the end of this year. The sanctioning body said in a statement that NBC “has always been a transparent partner, and we were aware of this upcoming strategy shift." Tag Garson, Wasserman’s senior vice-president of properties, said TNT and TBS have already proved it's possible to have a cable channel that does a good job of meshing entertainment programming with sports. “NBC has done a great job with hockey and soccer that it would be hard for anyone to walk away from that,” he said. “How many windows can your fit sports programming into at USA? That’s where the internal discussions are going to be and understanding the right balance to have between sports and entertainment.” NBC could also put additional events on its Peacock streaming service, which debuted last year. There are 175 Premier League games airing on Peacock this season. Joe Reedy, The Associated Press
The auditor general of Canada has a "clean" opinion of the Northwest Territories government's 2018-19 financial statements. "This means that the information in the statements is reliable," said auditor general Karen Hogan. Hogan appeared remotely before the territorial government's Standing Committee on Government Operations on Friday for a belated review of the government's 2018-19 public accounts. The review was supposed to take place in May 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hogan made two observations during her video presentation. The first had to do with public-private partnerships, also known as P3s. The new Stanton Territorial Hospital — which has had a significant impact on the government's finances — came into being through a public-private partnership. P3s are "usually large and complex," said Hogan. "It is therefore important to have accurate reporting of costs for informed decision making." She noted that auditors found public-private partnerships were recorded accurately, with one exception, and that correcting it resulted in a $30-million increase to both tangible capital assets and liabilities presented in the 2017-18 financial statements. Hogan's second observation had to do with the recording of certain revolving funds' revenues and expenses. Revolving funds can be continuously replenished to help ensure certain government operations. A recording correction resulted in a $34-million increase in both the revenues and expenses presented in 2017-18, said Hogan. "It wasn't an error in that revenues were forgotten or expenses were forgotten, it was just the way they were presented," she said. Gov't has 'limited flexibility' to raise money The public accounts are the annual financial statements of the government and include information on assets, liabilities, net debt and the accumulated surplus or deficit. Each year the auditor general of Canada audits the territory's consolidated financial statements and gives its opinion on whether the statements are a fair and accurate reflection of the government's financial position. The auditor general also looks at noteworthy transactions to ensure that they fall within the government's powers. The 2019 public accounts show that the N.W.T. government had revenues of about $2.4 billion and had expenses of about $2.03 billion, leaving an operating surplus of about $4 million, Julie Mujcin, N.W.T.'s comptroller general, told the committee. Although the government had an operating surplus, it has "limited flexibility" to raise money, as well as "vulnerabilities" related to its revenue sources, "which requires a need for careful fiscal management," said Mujcin. She said the government's finances in 2018-19 were affected in part by the opening of the new Stanton Territorial Hospital, as well as wage increases under government workers' collective agreement. The comptroller general also noted public agencies' challenges in completing audits and reports within the legislated timeframes. Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson noted that the public accounts under review were based on a budget approved by the previous legislative assembly. He also said that many revenue projections from that time were "inaccurate" because, among other factors, "COVID obviously messed up a lot of this."
Alberta reported 643 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 12 additional deaths. Provincial labs completed 13,019 tests on Thursday for a positivity rate around 4.9 per cent. Active cases continue to drop, falling below the 10,000 mark for the first time since mid-November — now at 9,987 as of the latest update. As of end of day Thursday, 97,785 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta, an increase of 1,279 from the previous day. Included in the total vaccine doses administered are 8,304 second doses, meaning that 89,481 Albertans have received at least one dose of vaccine to date. Currently, 691 are people being treated for the disease in Alberta hospitals, including 115 in intensive care. In total, 108,258 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in the province since the pandemic began is now 1,512. Of the 12 deaths reported Friday, five were in the Edmonton zone, three were in the Calgary zone, three were in the Central zone and one was in the North zone. Here's a regional breakdown of active cases: Calgary zone: 3,839 Edmonton zone: 3,511 North zone: 1,366 Central zone: 849 South zone: 411 Unknown: 11 Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, will provide a COVID-19 update on Monday.
TORONTO — Canadian scientists say blood thinners appear to prevent some COVID-19 patients with moderate illness from deteriorating further, offering a "massive" advance in treatment they expect will ease suffering and lesson strain on hospital ICUs. University Health Network scientist Ewan Goligher said Friday that blood thinners could soon be part of standard care after the interim results of global trials showed Heparin reduced the probability of requiring life support by about a third. The news comes on the heels of promising early data for another COVID-19 drug targeting seniors, as health systems across the country wrestle with the impact of a recent surge in cases and long-term care homes battle devastating outbreaks. Considering how many people around the world end up in intensive care because of COVID-19, Goligher said this finding is "massive." "They're very, very ill, they're often in the ICU for a long time. It's a devastating life event," Goligher, a critical care physician at Toronto General Hospital, said of the patients he sees. "Even if they do survive, it means immense suffering, and to prevent people from becoming critically ill is huge." Interim results of clinical trials spanning five continents in more than 300 hospitals suggest full-dose blood thinners could significantly reduce the number of severe cases that are now straining health-care systems. The study involved more than 1,300 moderately ill patients admitted to hospital, including hundreds of people admitted to hospitals across Canada. Researchers found the full dose was more effective than the lower dose typically administered to prevent blood clots in hospitalized patients. Goligher, co-chair of the therapeutic anticoagulation domain of the trial, said he expected patients at his downtown hospital would be on routine blood thinners "imminently," and "fully expected" hospitals around the world would, too. "Before people change their practice they're going to want to see the full paper published so we're working very hard now to write up the results and get them published in a high impact journal," he said. "One of the exciting things about this treatment is that Heparin is already cheap, widely available, and available in low and middle-income countries, as well as countries like Canada and the United States. So this is a cheap therapy that can make a significant impact on outcomes for patients." Goligher said researchers still needs to look into other questions surrounding blood thinners, such as whether to continue treatment if a moderately ill patient develops severe COVID-19, and whether adding an antiplatelet agent would help. Doctors noticed early in the pandemic that COVID-19 patients suffered an increased rate of blood clots and inflammation. This led to complications including lung failure, heart attack and stroke. Back in December, investigators found that giving full-dose blood thinners to critically ill ICU patients did not help, and was actually harmful. However, Goligher noted there have been other drugs that appear to ease mortality in severe cases, expecting more trials to release promising data soon. Goligher was heartened by the news that blood thinners could soon ease a devastating winter surge of infections. "I personally find the thought that this treatment will prevent (patients) from getting to this state incredibly gratifying. It's even better than if it was an effective treatment for severe COVID-19, to be able to prevent people from becoming severe is huge." The trials are supported by international funding organizations including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the NIH National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute in the United States, the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom, and the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. Meanwhile, U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly said this week that early trial data reveals its antibody drug bamlanivimab – developed in partnership with Vancouver’s AbCellera Biologics – can prevent some COVID-19 illness in nursing home residents and staff. Early data from a Phase 3 trial found that in addition to offering therapeutic value, bamlanivimab "significantly" reduced the risk of contracting symptomatic COVID-19 among 965 residents and staff of long-term care facilities in the U.S. Health Canada has approved its use as a therapy for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, but not to prevent infection. A spokesman for Eli Lilly Canada said the company expected to present the new data to Health Canada, but noted their findings were still early. In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada had purchased 26,000 doses of the drug, with shipments to arrive between December 2020 and February 2021. But Lauren Fischer, VP of corporate affairs for Eli Lilly Canada, says the drug is not being used on patients here yet. Fischer said the provinces have raised "some implementation concerns" about bamlanivimab, which involves an hour-long intravenous infusion. "The provinces are still considering their approach to making it available but we haven't seen a lot of progress on that," Fischer said. "The provinces have really moved with commendable speed on vaccinations, they've shown that they can overcome implementation difficulties to make needed solutions available.... We stand ready to partner with provincial governments as they try to make those solutions happen." The drug is meant for patients over the age of 65 with underlying conditions. Dr. Doron Sagman, Eli Lilly's VP of research and development and medical affairs, said the early data suggests some level of protection for older Canadians waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine, or if their immune response to a vaccine is not as robust as others. "The intent again is to provide a therapeutic bridge to those vaccines and fill a gap in those individuals who have been affected by the illness and have not yet been vaccinated," said Sagman. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that Health Canada relies on clinical experts "on the ground" treating patients "to decide what's best for them." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his piece with U.S. President Joe Biden. The two leaders spoke by phone for about 30 minutes late Friday — Biden's first conversation with a foreign leader since Wednesday's inauguration. It was also Trudeau's first chance to express Canada's official dismay at the decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, and Biden's first to explain it. One of Biden's first actions in the White House was to rescind predecessor Donald Trump's approval for the US$8-billion cross-border expansion project. Trudeau, however, is urging Canadians to look past the decision and focus instead on all the areas of mutual agreement the two countries can look forward to. In particular, Trudeau says Biden and Canada share a vision of tackling climate change while fuelling economic growth at the same time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Saturday: SPAIN Real Madrid will visit Alavés without isolating coach Zinedine Zidane after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Assistant coach David Bettoni, who said Zidane was “feeling fine,” will be on the touchline at Mendizorroza Stadium. Madrid is winless in three games across all competitions. It drew 0-0 at Osasuna in the Spanish league, followed by a 2-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals and a shock 2-1 loss at third-tier Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey. Madrid will be without captain Sergio Ramos and other players due to injury. Madrid can ill afford another setback as it is already seven points behind league leaders Atlético Madrid. Also Saturday, Villarreal visits last-place Huesca seeking a win that would lift it ahead of Barcelona and into third place. Fifth-place Sevilla can also overtake Barcelona with a home victory over Cádiz, while sixth-place Real Sociedad hosts Real Betis. ENGLAND Manchester City, which is second in the Premier League, plays away in the fourth round of the FA Cup against a Cheltenham side sitting sixth in the fourth division. Sheffield United has won as many games in the FA Cup as the last-place team has in the Premier League this season — one. Chris Wilder’s struggling side faces third-tier opposition when Plymouth visits Bramall Lane. The FA Cup holders are also in action on Saturday with Arsenal taking on Southampton. Arsenal could hand a debut to Mat Ryan after the goalkeeper joined on loan from Brighton. Danny Ings is back in contention for Southampton. The striker, who recently recovered from a hamstring injury, has been in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus and missed the last two matches. ITALY Roma is in turmoil entering its game against Spezia in Serie A. The Giallorossi were beaten 3-0 by Lazio in last week’s league derby and then lost 4-2 to Spezia in the Italian Cup on Tuesday. On Friday, the Cup defeat result was changed to a 3-0 loss by the league judge due to an impermissible sixth substitution that Roma used. Also Friday, embattled Roma coach Paulo Fonseca announced that captain Edin Dzeko was being left out for the Spezia rematch — apparently due to tension with Fonseca. Newly signed Mario Mandzukic could make his AC Milan debut when the Serie A leader hosts Atalanta. Second-place Inter Milan visits relegation-threatened Udinese and Fiorentina hosts Crotone. FRANCE Arkadiusz Milik could make his Marseille debut away to Monaco in the French league after joining on loan from Italian club Napoli. The Poland striker signed on an 18-month deal late Thursday night. He scored 48 goals in four seasons for Napoli but did not play for the Italian club during this campaign. Marseille needs his goals since it has slipped down to sixth place following consecutive home defeats. But fourth-place Monaco is in fine form having won four of its last five matches. In the other game, seventh-place Lens looks to follow up its midweek win at Marseille when it hosts struggling Nice. GERMANY Hertha Berlin fans fed up with their team’s Bundesliga form are holding a protest against the club’s management before the game against fellow struggler Werder Bremen. Hertha had been expected to challenge for European qualification thanks to investment of around $450 million from Lars Windhorst since June 2019. But Bruno Labbadia’s side has only one win in its last seven games and Hertha is just two points above the relegation zone after its worst first half to the season since it was relegated in the 2009-10 campaign. Labbadia steered the team away from relegation after his appointment as Hertha’s fourth coach of last season. Bremen is just a point above Hertha. Leipzig expects to pressure league leader Bayern Munich with a win at lowly Mainz. Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg meet in a duel between two of the league’s best defences. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
The Grand River Conservation Authority is sharing its technical expertise with the public in a live webinar series covering topics of interest for landowners in the watershed. The four-part series includes sessions on the conservation authority’s popular cost-sharing tree planting program, invasive tree diseases and pests like the gypsy moth and oak wilt, aquatic species at risk in the Grand River watershed, and the water quality program where conservation staff work with landowners to customize a cost-sharing plan to reduce pollutants entering the river. Each webinar will consist of a presentation given by a conservation expert followed by a dedicated time for participants to ask questions. “We all have a role to play as landowners in improving watershed health,” said Louise Heyming, supervisor of conservation outreach at the Grand River Conservation Authority. “This series of webinars focuses on supporting rural landowners with information on programs that they can access to help make further improvements to benefit the watershed, and their properties and water quality.” The program was announced earlier this week and 40 participants have registered. The series is designed for rural landowners with more than two-and-a-half acres of land but is open to anyone. The sessions are free of charge but require registration. Recordings of the webinars will also be posted to the conservation authority website and will be free to access. Typically, the conservation authority hosts in-person workshops or attends outreach events to interact with landowners. An online format is being piloted this year because of COVID-19. If all goes well and there is enough interest, Heyming said more sessions will be added. Two of the webinars will focus on the Grand River Conservation Authority’s private land tree planting and rural water quality programs — programs the conservation has been running on behalf of the watershed’s municipalities for decades. “I love working with the individual landowners and those relationships that we have,” said Heyming. “We have a team of staff that has been delivering the program, some of us, for 20 years.” “When we drive through the watershed now, we see the individual projects on the landscape, and know that they’re still there and we get to play a role in supporting those landowners.” The private land tree planting program has been running for more than 60 years, said Heyming. The conservation authority works with an average of 70 landowners to plant about 100,000 trees in the watershed each year. Trees provide multiple benefits for a watershed, including preventing erosion and providing habitat for species at risk. The rural water quality program is a cost-sharing program between the Grand River Conservation Authority on behalf of municipalities and landowners to complete projects designed to improve the watershed’s water quality. Since the program began in 1998, nearly 7,000 projects have been completed with more than $56-million invested in water quality. In Waterloo Region, nearly $500,000 was invested into 65 water quality improvement projects for the 2020 year. More information and registration details can be found at grandriver.ca Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record
VICTORIA — British Columbia's health minister says the province will release a report assessing its COVID-19 response in the province's long-term care homes. Adrian Dix says the Health Ministry commissioned the report by Ernst & Young to learn lessons from the first wave of the pandemic. Dix says the report will be released on Monday and it is "overwhelmingly favourable" of the government's actions. He says the goal was to determine how the province could do a better job of delivering services and all the recommendations in the report have been implemented. Dix says more than 40 groups representing care homes were consulted last summer and fall. Canada's first COVID-19 infection occurred a year ago at a long-term care home in North Vancouver, and Dix says more than 650 residents at facilities around the province have died since then. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
A Komoka resident and lifelong environmentalist is building Middlesex Centre’s first net-zero energy house, hoping to spark a trend in the region. A net-zero home minimizes energy use for heating and cooling, while producing its own energy through solar panels. “It’s been a personal mission and passion of mine to try to educate, not to preach, and to live by example,” said Terry Keep. “Even a guy who is not a builder can do this with the right people around them.” Keep has been building his new carbon-neutral family home amid the pandemic and expects to be finished by April. He spent years researching the process before breaking ground last fall. The 2,300-square-foot (214-square-metre) home will feature solar panels on its steel roof, along with thicker walls for better insulation and triple-pane windows to reduce energy use. The lumber used is all Forest Stewardship Council certified. The driveway will use permeable pavers so stormwater can drain through into the ground. “It’s a nicer, quieter, dryer, tighter home,” Keep said. It’s also one of few homes to feature an electric furnace — the home uses no natural gas — and a heat pump. The house is divided into three zones, each heated only when necessary. Though net-zero homes are available in the London region — Sifton’s West Five development, for example, is geared toward sustainable living — Keep said building one independently in other neighbourhoods isn’t common. He’s documenting the building process — he calls it a “labour of love” — on YouTube, aiming to show carbon-neutral homes can be accessible and affordable for everyday consumers, not just environmentalists. He also wanted to prove you don’t have to move to a new neighbourhood to get a carbon-neutral house. “It’s the desire to show people it’s a regular neighbourhood, my home will stand beside a regular, code-built home,” Keep said. “I want people to see it can be done.” Walk through Keep’s house in progress, and it looks like any other mid-century modern home — with hints of Frank Lloyd Wright — not something out of The Jetsons. About 20 per cent of the average home's carbon footprint comes from household energy consumption. It takes about seven years for a solar-powered house to recoup the investment costs. But Keep has faced many hurdles getting his environmentally sustainable house off the ground, even without pandemic hiccups, such as labour and supply shortages. Finding architects, builders and tradespeople with knowledge and experience in developing net-zero houses was a challenge, Keep said, and getting them to commit to a single house even harder. “It’s been a really interesting ride,” said the home's builder, Frank Oosterhoff, who owns Great Lakes Construction. Keep said Middlesex Centre is a progressive area in terms of sustainability, citing the newly built net-zero firehall, and the community centre’s solar panels. Once his own house is finished, Keep plans to pursue building a row of affordable, net-zero townhouses. “The next generation is starting to realize there's value in that,” he said. “If everyone can afford one, they’ll buy it — if they can’t afford one, they won’t.” Keep drives a plug-in hybrid vehicle and is also a vegetarian. He was a founding member of EnviroWestern, a group at Western University that promotes sustainability. “We make small steps to get to a big impact over our life,” Keep said. “It doesn’t happen over a short period.” email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
Yukon will be sharing its doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with neighbours in Atlin, B.C. The community is unusual in that it can only be reached by road from Yukon. It's about a two-hour drive away from Whitehorse. B.C.'s Northern Health, the B.C. First Nations Health Authority and the government of Yukon announced in a news release on Friday that immunization clinics will be held in Atlin on Jan. 27 and 28. The news release says handling requirements for the vaccine, along with Atlin's remote location, make logisitics a challenge. "[Atlin] is part of our northern health authority's jurisdiction and our region, but that said, it is in a location that lends itself, I think, to some affiliation with the Yukon," said Eryn Collins of Northern Health. Two hundred doses of the Moderna vaccine will be shipped from Whitehorse to Atlin ahead of next week's clinics. Those clinics will focus on priority groups such as elders, seniors, health care workers and the medically vulnerable. Atlin residents who are eligible for the first round of inoculations will be contacted directly and offered an appointment. People are also encouraged to contact the Atlin Health Centre or the Taku River Tlingit First Nation health team directly beginning on Monday, Jan. 25, if they have questions or live without telephone access. Yukon began its own community vaccination clinics last week, with two mobile vaccine teams travelling across the territory over the coming weeks. The territory has so far received 14,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine, with more expected to arrive in February.