ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Trump administration on Wednesday effectively killed a contentious proposed mine in Alaska, a gold and copper prospect once envisioned to be nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon and could produce enough waste to fill an NFL stadium nearly 3,900 times — all near the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.The Army Corps of Engineers “concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest” and denied a permit to build the Pebble Mine under both the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, the agency said in a statement.The rejection was a surprise. It's at odds with President Donald Trump’s efforts to encourage energy development in Alaska, including opening up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and other moves nationwide to roll back environmental protections that would benefit oil and gas and other industries.The Corps of Engineers also seemed to signal just a few months ago that after almost two decades of political wrangling, Pebble Mine was on a fast track to approval, a reversal from what many had expected under the Obama administration.But unlike drilling elsewhere in Alaska, the mine proposed for the southwestern Bristol Bay region could have negatively affected the state's billion-dollar fishing industry. Conservationists and even Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., sounded the alarm on the project before the administration changed course again.The CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine’s developers, said he was dismayed by the decision, especially after the corps had indicated in an environmental impact statement in July that the mine and fishery could coexist.“One of the real tragedies of this decision is the loss of economic opportunities for people living in the area,” CEO John Shively said in a statement. The environmental review “clearly describes those benefits, and now a politically driven decision has taken away the hope that many had for a better life. This is also a lost opportunity for the state’s future economy.”He said they are considering their next steps, which could include an appeal of the corps’ decision.“Today Bristol Bay’s residents and fishermen celebrate the news that Pebble’s permit has been denied; tomorrow we get back to work,” said Katherine Carscallen, executive director of the group Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.The group wants Congress to pass laws protecting the region. “We’ve learned the hard way over the last decade that Pebble is not truly dead until protections are finalized,” Carscallen said.In July, the Corps of Engineers released an environmental review that the mine developer saw as laying the groundwork for key federal approvals. The review said that under normal operations, Pebble Mine “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”However, in August, the corps said it had determined that discharges at the mine site would cause “unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources” and laid out required steps to reduce those effects.Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which owns Pebble Limited Partnership, said it had submitted a mitigation plan on Nov. 16.Even if the corps had approved the project, there was still no guarantee it would have been built. It would have needed state approval, and President-elect Joe Biden has expressed opposition to the project.Critics saw Pebble Mine as getting a lifeline under the Trump administration. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency withdrew restrictions on development that were proposed — but never finalized — under the Obama administration and said it planned to work with the corps to address concerns.However, Trump’s eldest son was among those who voiced opposition earlier this year. After senior Trump campaign adviser Nick Ayers tweeted in August that he hoped the president would direct the EPA to block Pebble Mine, Trump Jr. responded: “As a sportsman who has spent plenty of time in the area I agree 100%. The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fishery are too unique and fragile to take any chances with.”The president later said he would “listen to both sides.”“The credit for this victory belongs not to any politician but to Alaskans and Bristol Bay’s Indigenous peoples, as well as to hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts from all across the country who spoke out in opposition to this dangerous and ill-conceived project," said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.Alaska’s two Republican U.S. senators, who support oil and gas development and mining, hailed the rejection of the Pebble Mine permit. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the decision affirmed her position that it’s the wrong mine in the wrong place.“It will help ensure the continued protection of an irreplaceable resource — Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon fishery,” she said.Sen. Dan Sullivan said he would remain an advocate for good-paying jobs derived from resource development.“However, given the special nature of the Bristol Bay watershed and the fisheries and subsistence resources downstream, Pebble had to meet a high bar so that we do not trade one resource for another,” he said. “Pebble did not meet that bar.”___Associated Press journalist Becky Bohrer in Juneau contributed to this report.Mark Thiessen, The Associated Press
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer great who scored the “Hand of God” goal in 1986 and led his country to that year's World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, has died. He was 60.Maradona's spokesman, Sebastián Sanchi, said he died Wednesday of a heart attack, two weeks after being released from a hospital in Buenos Aires following brain surgery.The office of Argentina's president said it will decree three days of national mourning, and the Argentine soccer association expressed its sorrow on Twitter.One of the most famous moments in the history of the sport, the “Hand of God” goal, came when the diminutive Maradona punched the ball into England’s net during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals. England said the ball went in off of Maradona’s hand, not his head. Maradona himself gave conflicting accounts of what had happened over the years, at one point attributing the goal to divine intervention, to “the hand of God.”Ahead of his 60th birthday in October, Maradona told France Football magazine that it was his dream to “score another goal against the English, this time with the right hand.”Maradona also captivated fans around the world over a two-decade career with a bewitching style of play that was all his own.Although his reputation was tarnished by his addictions and an ill-fated spell in charge of the national team, he remained idolized in soccer-mad Argentina as the “Pibe de Oro” or “Golden Boy.”“You took us to the top of the world,” Argentine President Alfredo Fernández said on social media. “You made us incredibly happy. You were the greatest of all.”The No. 10 he wore on his jersey became synonymous with him, as it also had with Pelé, the Brazilian great with whom Maradona was regularly paired as the best of all time.The Brazilian said in a statement he had lost “a dear friend.”“There is much more to say, but for now may God give his family strength,” Pelé said. "One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky.”Bold, fast and utterly unpredictable, Maradona was a master of attack, juggling the ball easily from one foot to the other as he raced upfield. Dodging and weaving with his low centre of gravity, he shrugged off countless rivals and often scored with a devastating left foot, his most powerful weapon.“Everything he was thinking in his head, he made it happen with his feet,” said Salvatore Bagni, who played with Maradona at Italian club Napoli.A ballooning waistline slowed Maradona’s explosive speed later in his career and by 1991 he was snared in his first doping scandal when he admitted to a cocaine habit that haunted him until he retired in 1997, at 37.Hospitalized near death in 2000 and again in ’04 for heart problems blamed on cocaine, he later said he overcame the drug problem. Cocaine, he once said famously, had proven to be his “toughest rival.”But more health problems followed, despite a 2005 gastric bypass that greatly trimmed his weight. Maradona was hospitalized in early 2007 for acute hepatitis that his doctor blamed on excessive drinking and eating.He made an unlikely return to the national team in 2008 when he was appointed Argentina coach, but after a quarterfinal exit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he was ousted — ultimately picking up another coaching job with the United Arab Emirates club Al Wasl.Maradona was the fifth of eight children who grew up in a poor, gritty barrio on the Buenos Aires outskirts where he played a kind of dirt-patch soccer that launched many Argentines to international stardom.None of them approached Maradona’s fame. In 2001, FIFA named Maradona one of the two greatest in the sport’s history, alongside Pelé.“Maradona inspires us,” said then-Argentina striker Carlos Tevez, explaining his country’s everyman fascination with Maradona at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. “He’s our idol, and an idol for the people.”Maradona reaped titles at home and abroad, playing in the early 1980s for Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors before moving on to Spanish and Italian clubs. His crowning achievement came at the 1986 World Cup, captaining Argentina in its 3-2 win over West Germany in the final and decisive in a 2-1 victory against England in a feisty quarterfinal match.Over the protests of England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, the referee let stand a goal by Maradona in which, as he admitted years later, he intentionally hit the ball with his hand in “a bit of mischief.”But Maradona’s impact wouldn’t be confined to cheating. Four minutes later, he spectacularly weaved past four opponents from midfield to beat Shilton for what FIFA later declared the greatest goal in World Cup history.Many Argentines saw the match as revenge for their country’s loss to Britain in the 1982 war over the Falkland Islands, which Argentines still claim as “Las Malvinas.”“It was our way of recovering ‘Las Malvinas,’” Maradona wrote in his 2000 autobiography “I am Diego.”“It was more than trying to win a game. We said the game had nothing to do with the war. But we knew that Argentines had died there, that they had killed them like birds. And this was our revenge. It was something bigger than us: We were defending our flag.”It also was vindication for Maradona, who in what he later called “the greatest tragedy” of his career was cut from the squad of the 1978 World Cup — which Argentina won at home — because he was only 17.Maradona said he was given a soccer ball soon after he could run.“I was 3 years old and I slept hugging that ball all night,” he said.At 10, Maradona gained fame by performing at halftime of professional matches, wowing crowds by keeping the ball airborne for minutes with his feet, chest and head. He also made his playing debut with the Argentinos Juniors youth team, leading a squad of mostly 14-year-olds through 136 unbeaten matches.“To see him play was pure bliss, true stardom,” teammate Carlos Beltran said.Maradona played from 1976-81 for first division club Argentinos Juniors, then went to Boca Juniors for a year before heading to Barcelona for a world-record $8 million.In 1984, Barcelona sold him to Napoli, in Italy. He remade its fortunes almost single-handedly, taking it to the 1987 Italian league championship for its first title in 60 years.A year after losing the 1990 World Cup final to West Germany, Maradona moved to Spanish club Sevilla, but his career was on the decline. He played five matches at Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys in 1994 before returning to Boca from 1995-97 — his final club and closest to his heart.Drug problems overshadowed his final playing years.Maradona failed a doping test in 1991 and was banned for 15 months, acknowledging his longtime cocaine addiction. He failed another doping test for stimulants and was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup in the United States.In retirement, Maradona frequented Boca matches as a raucous one-man cheering section and took part in worldwide charity, sporting and exhibition events. But the already stocky forward quickly gained weight and was clearly short of breath as he huffed through friendly matches.In 2000, in what doctors said was a brush with death, he was hospitalized in the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este with a heart that doctors said was pumping at less than half its capacity. Blood and urine samples turned up traces of cocaine.After another emergency hospitalization in 2004, Maradona was counselled for drug abuse and in September of that year travelled to Cuba for treatment at Havana’s Center for Mental Health. There he was visited by his friend, Cuban President Fidel Castro.In Cuba, Maradona took to playing golf and smoking cigars. He frequently praised Castro and Argentine-born revolutionary “Che” Guevara, who fought with Castro in the Cuban revolution — even sporting a tattoo of Guevara on his right arm.Maradona said he got clean from drugs there and started a new chapter.In 2005, he underwent gastric bypass in Colombia, shedding nearly 50 kilograms (more than 100 pounds) before appearing as host of a wildly popular Argentine television talk show. On “10’s Night,” Maradona headed around a ball with Pelé, interviewed boxer Mike Tyson and Hollywood celebrities, and taped a lengthy conversation with Castro in Cuba.In retirement, Maradona also became more outspoken. He sniped frequently at former coaches, players — including Pelé — and the pope. He joined a left-wing protest train outside the Summit of the Americas in 2005, standing alongside Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to denounce the presence of then-President George W. Bush.His outsider status made it all the more surprising when he was chosen as Argentina coach following Alfio Basile’s resignation.He won his first three matches but his tactics, selection and attention to detail were all questioned after a 6-1 loss to Bolivia in World Cup qualifying equaled Argentina’s worst-ever margin of defeat.Victor Hugo Morales, Argentina’s most popular soccer broadcaster, said Maradona will ultimately be remembered for a thrilling style of play that has never been duplicated.“He has been one of the great artists of my time. Like great masters of music and painting, he has defied our intellect and enriched the human spirit,” Morales said. “Nobody has thrilled me more and left me in such awe as Diego."___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsDebora Rey, The Associated Press
A special report released by Ontario's auditor general blasts the provincial government when it comes to how it handled COVID-19 outbreaks among migrant farm workers.The report released Wednesday looked at preparedness for, and management of, the COVID-19 pandemic. In it, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk criticizes the province for not issuing a province-wide order to protect foreign farm workers instead of what it did issue, a memo "'strongly recommending' that local health units issue their own directives to decrease the risk of transmission of COVID‑19 on farms."The report also points out that this memo came on June 21, eight weeks after the first farm outbreak in April. "Without additional provincial directives, each of the 34 public health units had to make decisions independently, resulting in different responses and measures across the province," the report read.There have been 1,276 positive cases of COVID-19 among farm workers to date in Windsor-Essex County, according to the health unit, and two workers died in the region from the virus. In Chatham-Kent, there were 147 cases detected among farm workers, most of which were attributed to an outbreak at a single Greenhouse facility. Most of the farm workers infected in the two counties were migrant workers living in congregate settings.The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit issued its first order to owners and operators of agricultural farms on May 27, which stated Windsor-Essex agricultural farms are high-risk settings for the spread of COVID-19 and failure to adhere to various COVID-19 measures could result in a $5,000 fine. It also said that prior to the release of that order, the health unit was having regular communication with owners and operators of agricultural facilities.The report goes on to say that the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. David Williams, could have used his power to issue province-wide directives "especially on requirements to wear masks and precautions for temporary foreign workers." The report also compared the response of health officials in Ontario to the response by B.C. officials, who issued an order in April to employers telling them to provide accommodation to temporary foreign workers including those working on farms "to mandate quarantine and other public health measures so as to more effectively and proactively address the risk of their congregate living arrangements," the report read. "No such formal order was made by Ontario," says Lysyk.Others weigh inLeamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald was pushing for higher levels of government to take charge when numbers of positive cases among migrant workers were peaking this summer. She said she doesn't disagree with what is written in the report."There was chaos, there was... a delayed reaction when it came to the agricultural industry, both from the province and from the health board," MacDonald said. MacDonald said while some allowances need to be given, as the play book was being written as things moved along, she said the fact is the reaction was slow."We reacted late and people got sick and some people died."Chris Ramsaroop of Justice for Migrant Workers said that the report reaffirms what his organization has been saying about the government's response since the beginning of the pandemic."The provincial government [and] the chief medical officer have failed to protect the interests of migrant workers," he said. "Migrant farm workers were put in a position where they had to fend for themselves through this pandemic and there was no leadership whatsoever from the provincial government, from the chief medical officer or for anybody who could have intervened to prevent the spread of this pandemic." Joseph Sbrocchi of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers said that the auditor general's comments showed that the situation growers were facing was an unprecedented one."Every situation is different and I really do believe that everybody was doing their best and to suggest that there wasn't confusion would not be correct, there was plenty of confusion," he said.Premier Doug Ford also responded to the report Wednesday saying there was 21 pages worth of inaccuracies in the report, and that it's not the auditor general's job to give health advice but should rather focus on financial matters.No Race-Based information collectedThe report was also critical of the provincial government's decision not to collect "race-based information" and therefore it was not factored into the decision-making when it came to preventing COVID-19 in "high risk" populations. "Immigrant populations have experienced disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19, including higher rates of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19," the report read.
OTTAWA — The head of a Canadian biotech industry association says Canada can and does make vaccines — just not the ones expected first to help stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created a firestorm Tuesday when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated for COVID-19 because the first doses off the production lines will be used in the countries where they are made. So while vaccinations might start next month in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, it will be January at the earliest before any doses are injected in this country. Canada, said Trudeau, "no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines" and it makes sense that the countries that do will prioritize their own citizens. Andrew Casey, the CEO of BioteCanada, told The Canadian Press Wednesday that Canada does produce vaccines but the technology for the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates is so new, the manufacturing capacity is being built alongside the vaccines themselves. "This is the first time the technology has actually been applied," he said. "So you have to then build the facility to manufacture at scale, which is a challenge." While pharmaceutical company Sanofi has a vaccine plant in Toronto and GlaxoSmithKline has one in Quebec, both make protein-based vaccines, such as the more familiar ones Canadians get every year for the flu. Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines, and only one being developed jointly by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline uses the protein technology. The first two vaccines expected on the market, from Pfizer and Moderna, each use genetic material known as messenger ribonucleic acid or mRNA. A third with promising trial results, from AstraZeneca, uses a modified common-cold virus that normally infects chimpanzees. Each type trains the human body to develop antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Casey said a protein-vaccine maker can't just start making the bioengineered vaccines. "One is like making wine, one's like making Coke," he said. "Yes, they both grow in bottles. Yes, you can drink both out of a glass. But the manufacturing processes used for the two is so completely different. You can't just say well, we'll shut down the protein one, and we'll switch over to the mRNA." Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner demanded in question period Wednesday that the government explain whether Canada had even tried to convince the companies to make their products here. Trudeau didn't answer, but if those negotiations happened, they have not been successful. Pfizer is expanding production facilities in Kalamazoo, Mich. and Puurs, Belgium to produce most of its vaccine. The company has said it is open to others manufacturing it, but that the technology is difficult to transfer. Moderna has a 10-year exclusive agreement with Swiss-based Lonza Group AC to make its vaccine, mainly in facilities in New Hampshire and Switzerland. Lonza chairman Albert Baehny said earlier this month the new technology meant Lonza had to remake its production lines "from scratch." AstraZeneca, which has promised three billion doses of its vaccine, has signed contract deals with at least two dozen manufacturers around the world to produce its vaccine but not in Canada. A spokesman for Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said the biomanufacturing sector has been declining in Canada since the mid-1980s. "When this pandemic began Canada had no flexible, large-scale, bio-manufacturing capacity suitable for a COVID-19 vaccine," said John Power. He said Canada has been working with experts to address the issue and has made investments, including $140 million in a new National Research Council plant in Montreal. The NRC said Wednesday the Biologics Manufacturing Centre will be finished next July. It doesn't have an agreement yet to produce a specific vaccine, but is being built so it can produce several biologic vaccines, including of the type being made by AstraZeneca. It will not be able to make mRNA vaccines like those from Moderna or Pfizer. It is supposed to be able to produce two million doses a month before the end of 2021. A spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline told The Canadian Press the company's Ste-Foy, Que., plant will be part of production of the GSK vaccine eventually but timelines and specifics aren't yet available. A Canadian-made vaccine from Quebec-based Medicago is also expected to be in production in Canada next year. Medicago CEO Bruce Clark said the company has been able to adapt a vaccine for influenza to target COVID-19 instead, noting such an adaptation is one of the advantages of biologic vaccines. But Clark said one of the disadvantages is that it's harder to transfer the technology of biologics to be made in other places. Medicago has facilities in Quebec and North Carolina and is building a new one in Quebec. The existing ones can make about 50 million doses by the end of next year, while the new plant will be able to do as many as a billion annually. The company has been talking to the federal government for years to get funding for a "full-scale manufacturing facility," he said. "We were not successful," said Clark. "It's really only been in the context of the pandemic that we've seen funds be freed up to commit to capacity in Canada." Last month Ottawa agreed to provide $173 million to Medicago for research on its vaccine and construction of an expanded facility. Clark said the 2023 completion date for the new plant could be bumped up with more money. None of the vaccines in question have finished clinical trials and all must also be approved by Health Canada before they can be used here. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — On a day Alberta hit a sobering 500 COVID-19 deaths, the Opposition accused Premier Jason Kenney of implementing short-sighted, half-baked health restrictions that will provoke the very economic collapse he seeks to avoid.“The premier is continuing his discredited, libertarian approach of pitting the economy against the health of Albertans, and he’s going to sacrifice both as a result,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley told the house Wednesday in a fiery exchange with Kenney during question period.“Let me be perfectly clear to this premier,” she added. “Your negligence is far, far more dangerous to our economy and the people who rely on their jobs than sound public-health measures.”The exchange came a day after the United Conservative premier announced new restrictions to reverse rates of COVID-19 that are consistently over 1,000 a day and threaten to overwhelm intensive care beds and trigger a disastrous domino effect throughout the health system.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, announced 1,265 new cases Wednesday, with 355 people in hospital, including 71 in intensive care. There were eight more deaths, bringing that total to 500.“This is a tragic milestone,” Hinshaw said, adding that health officials are now working on moving and reassigning patients to free up more ICU beds for COVID-19 cases as needed.The new health rules include a provincewide ban on indoor extended gatherings, even in people’s homes. There are new restrictions on bars, restaurants and pubs, retailers, casinos, movie houses, hair salons, schools, places of worship and other businesses, backed up by fines of $1,000 to $100,000.The changes will be reviewed in three weeks.Kenney said the goal is to reverse COVID-19 case increases while keeping the economy afloat to prevent further harm to those who are relying on it to get by.Notley’s NDP, and hundreds of physicians and infectious disease specialists, have demanded Kenney institute a much sharper business lockdown, even for a short period, to give the beleaguered health system a chance to rest and reset. They say without it, cases will keep climbing and Alberta is headed for a devastating Christmas community lockdown.Kenney accused Notley of wanting to impose a blinkered, one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t mesh with COVID-transmission data and would ultimately do more harm than good.“They’re socialists. They’re addicted to command and control of people’s lives,” Kenney told the house.“What they want to do is put hundreds of thousands of people out of work.”The two leaders vehemently disagreed on the contact-tracing data, with Notley saying the government is flying blind and Kenney responding that it has nine months’ worth of numbers to draw on.In recent weeks, Alberta’s contact tracing system has failed to keep up with the surge of cases. Of the 13,719 active cases, the government says it doesn’t know where 83 per cent of them are coming from.Hinshaw said the lack of recent data has been a challenge but officials also rely on earlier numbers and data from comparable jurisdictions.As of Friday, restaurants can have no more than six diners per table and they must all be from the same household. Owners say they are grappling with how to enforce that."At this point, it's looking like it's an honour system," said Ernie Tsu, an owner of Trolley 5 Restaurant and Brewery in Calgary and founding board member of the Alberta Hospitality Association. The association is meeting with government officials to get "refined details" on how restaurants should enforce the rule.Tsu said he’s pleased restaurants have not been closed to sit-down customers, as has been the case in some other provinces. “We still have to make sure that everyone understands that these restaurants are still paying full rent while employing Albertans and trying to work with diminished capacities," Tsu said.— With files from Lauren Krugel in CalgaryThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Government and election officials frequently call on shredding companies to dispose of personal and sensitive documents that are no longer needed.But in a suburban county of Atlanta this week, those routine waste removal appointments were twisted into yet another election misinformation story when social media users falsely claimed shredding trucks were destroying ballots and “evidence of voter fraud.”The unfounded allegations continue to spread online as Georgia officials carry out a machine recount of ballots after certified results showed Joe Biden had a 12,670-vote lead over President Donald Trump. Trump requested the recount, which follows a statewide hand tally.L. Lin Wood Jr., a conservative attorney who had unsuccessfully sued in an attempt to block the certification of Georgia’s election results, on Tuesday shared a series of videos taken by a Georgia resident. They showed a shredding truck outside the West Park Government Center in Marietta.“Evidence of voter fraud is being destroyed in Cobb County, GA TODAY,” Wood captioned one of his tweets. “Many people, powerful & not so powerful, are going to PRISON.”The real explanation for the truck’s visit was far less scandalous: a routine shredding of county tax documents.The county tax commissioner’s office, which shares a building with the county’s main elections office, has documents shredded twice a month, according to Ross Cavitt, communications director for the county.“No items from Cobb Elections were involved,” Cavitt told The Associated Press in an email.The false claims built on similar rumours from last week, when the same Georgia resident captured photos and video of a truck destroying election-related waste outside the Jim R. Miller Event Center in Marietta and claimed it was evidence of “ballots being shredded.”After Wood amplified those photos and videos on Friday, Cobb County officials refuted the claim, explaining that the shredding company was summoned to destroy non-relevant election materials, as happens after all elections.“Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file,” Janine Eveler, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, said in a statement.Some of the photos shared on Friday appeared to show a trash can with a paper labeled “ABSENTEE BALLOT” inside. But Eveler said that was an inner privacy envelope used by voters to seal absentee ballots, and had “no evidentiary value.” County officials will hold on to the actual absentee ballots, as well as the outer envelopes signed by voters, for two years.Wood did not respond to a telephone call and email seeking comment.Despite the county’s responses, Wood’s tweets with the debunked claims continued to receive massive engagement on Wednesday, collectively amassing more than 200,000 retweets. And a separate Facebook user’s post falsely claiming a shredding company was “hired by Democrats” to destroy evidence was viewed nearly 150,000 times.County officials told the AP they have not seen any evidence of fraud or anomalies in vote tabulation in the 2020 election.“People nowadays, they post stuff immediately without asking any questions and without any proper context, and it spreads like wildfire,” Cavitt said of the false claims.Jude Joffe-Block And Ali Swenson, The Associated Press
It's a demonstrably difficult task to find a comic screen partner worthy of standing opposite Melissa McCarthy, so you have to appreciate “Superintelligence" for throwing in the towel. In it, McCarthy plays Carol Peters, a former Yahoo executive who's chosen, purely for her extreme averageness, by a newly liberated, megalomaniacal artificial intelligence that presents her with a three-day test to prove humanity isn't worth destroying. It's the kind of set-up that would have once presided over by the devil or some demigod, but now that role goes to Alexa. That means that for much of “Superintelligence," a new comedy streaming Thursday on HBO Max, McCarthy is walking around on her own, her only foil a disembodied voice (James Corden's) or an occasional talking screen. That's not as good as McCarthy with either of her best recent on-screen partners — Sandra Bullock ("The Heat"), Richard E. Grant ("Can You Forgive Me?") — but it's not bad. It means McCarthy has the movie if not completely to herself (Corden's cheery warmth still comes through, and Bobby Cannavale winningly plays her love interest) then nearly so. Even though the innocuous “Superintelligence” is on the bland side, it remains hard not to enjoy two hours with McCarthy. The more telling companion of McCarthy's in “Superintelligence” is her husband, the director Ben Falcone. This is their fourth film together with Falcone behind the camera, and it may be the best of the bunch. That, however, isn't saying much considering their run of “Life of the Party" (2018), “The Boss” (2016) and “Tammy” (2014). Those films have their moments, and they're always shot-through with affection for their leading lady. But they're easily the weaker, more forgettable side of McCarthy's filmography. “Superintelligence," written by Steve Mallory, is the most high-concept of their films together, and it's ultimately an excuse to bring apocalyptic stakes to a rom-com plot. Faced with the possible end of the world, Carol resolves to reconnect with an old flame (Cannavale). Their chemistry together is easy and relaxed, if not especially funny. The cast overall feels wasted, especially the supporting performances of Brian Tyree Henry (as a computer scientist), Jean Smart (the president) and Sam Richardson — the talented “Veep” performer who I sincerely hope soon gets his own movie. Like a lot of studio comedies of late, it feels like there's space here for jokes that mostly never quite got filled in. The real romance in “Superintelligence” might not be between any of the characters, but McCarthy and Falcone (who also makes his typical cameo). Their collaborations are uneven but warmhearted, and their movies together feel like an almost sweet sacrifice of quality for the sake of family. “Superintelligence,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some suggestive material, language and thematic elements. Running time: 105 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — Doctors and nurses are being asked to support British Columbia's safe supply drug program and other substance use measures, as an average of five people a day die from illicit drug overdoses, the B.C. Coroners Service says.There were 162 overdose deaths in B.C. last month, more than double the 75 recorded in October last year.The number of deaths in each health authority is at or near the highest monthly total ever recorded, the coroners service said Wednesday in a news release. Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the supply of street drugs and is disrupting access to harm-reduction services such as supervised injection sites."We encourage clinicians to support those at risk of overdose by prescribing safe supply and reducing the numbers of lives lost to toxic substances," she said in the statement. The coroners service continues to advocate for an accessible, evidence-based and accountable treatment and recovery system for drug users, Lapointe added.Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry authorized registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs in September.Before that, only doctors and nurse practitioners were able to prescribe drugs, including substitute medications for illicit-drug users.But advocates for drug users say there is still a lack of medical personnel prescribing safe, prescription alternatives to illicit drugs."They're not prescribing to the extent they should be," said Karen Ward, a drug rights advocate and a drug policy and poverty reduction consultant with the City of Vancouver."They need to be prescribing assertively and doing outreach," she said in an interview. Ward said drug users and advocates feel as if the relentless death toll is like an "ongoing tidal wave."She questioned why there is still a lack of prescribing guidelines related to Henry's September order."That was two months ago … why aren't they done? This should have been done that day," Ward said.Leslie McBain, the co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, said she's devastated by the latest numbers from the coroners service."I don't know if it can get much worse than this for people," she said in an interview. There needs to be more people willing and able to prescribe prescription alternatives to illicit drugs, McBain said, and the provincial government needs to listen to drug users about the type of alternative drugs they want."The drugs being offered to people were not the drugs they were used to or would keep them in a balanced, stable place," she said.October is the fifth month this year that more than 160 people have died and the eighth consecutive month with more than 100 deaths.The latest toxicology testing suggests an increase in the number of cases with extreme concentrations of the opioid fentanyl between April and October compared with previous months, Lapointe said in her statement.Henry echoed Lapointe's concerns, saying the pandemic is having a devastating effect on the overdose crisis."Now more than ever, we must remove the stigma of drug use and remove the shame people feel, which keeps them from seeking help or telling friends and family," she said in a statement on Wednesday.There have been 1,386 deaths from suspected overdoses since January, nearly 400 more deaths than when a public health emergency was declared by the provincial government in April 2016.— By Nick Wells in Vancouver.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.The Canadian Press
The Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) has cancelled its senior men’s ‘AA’ 2020/21 season, but league officials are keeping the door open to the possibility of exhibition games in the new year. The league includes the Terrace River Kings and teams in Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Smithers, Hazelton, Williams Lake and Quesnel. “We had a schedule to start December 4th but with recent restrictions feel that in in any circumstances less than a super miracle vaccination, we would probably not return to play with spectators in time to salvage a 20-21 season,” said Ron German, CIHL President, in a media release. German thanked the communities, fans, volunteers and sponsors for their support. He said that if conditions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic change in 2021, the league would explore the possibility of playing exhibition games if BC Hockey and local guidelines could be met.Ben Bogstie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Interior News
Immediate action needs to be taken to resolve the roadside parking problem by visitors to Mono Park. This was the general theme presented by all of Mono Council during a conversation with Ontario Parks staff on Tuesday, Nov. 24. “It’s absolutely imperative that we find a solution to this as quickly as possible,” said Coun. Sharon Martin. Nearly a month ago, council had submitted a letter to parks superintendent, Jillian Van Niekerk, asking for a solution to the chaos caused by visitors to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park this year. With a lack of available parking in the lots, this has led to vehicles parking up both sides of 3rd Line. This created a dangerous situation for drivers trying to pass through in vehicles and farming equipment, pedestrians walking to and from the park, and a total disregard of private residential properties. “Individual residents have had the experience of people putting garbage on their lawns, putting quite incredible things on their front lawns, and leaving human waste,” said Mayor Laura Ryan. Creating a no-parking zone on both sides of the road has been one possible solution, but it would bring with it a number of challenges. “All it’s going to do is push the problem further down the road,” said Ryan. “It’s going to take a lot of our OPP constable time in order to issue tickets if we put up a no parking zone.” As Ryan noted in previous meetings, the burden is falling on Mono taxpayers to resolve these issues, as it is taking the town’s resources. “Quite frankly, we’re not creating the problem,” said Ryan. Expanding the current parking lot was one idea raised by council to alleviate the overflow of parking. But Van Niekerk explained doing so wouldn’t be feasible. “It doesn’t make sense ecologically or financially,” she said, noting that the location of the current lot is part of that reasoning. “We are exploring the option to have an additional parking lot around the same size on the 2nd Line,” she added. This second lot could hold another 100-130 cars. If approved, it would not be completed until next fall, just in time for the crowds coming to see the leaves. The option would require some considerations by both the town and Ontario Parks. “The park is there to protect the area,” said Van Niekerk. “We have to think about how many people do we want in there, and what does that do to the land?” Parking, littering, and overcrowding challenges have not been limited to Mono Cliffs. Van Niekerk shared that Ontario Parks has also been working with the Town of Caledon regarding the same issues at Forks of the Credit. One thing that has helped them work through the challenges is a committee of parks staff and Town staff to work together. In some cases, it included giving special consideration to park wardens to allow them to enforce the no-parking and tow-away bylaw surrounding the park. This is one possible solution Mono could look into as well, according to Van Niekerk. “We would be designated under certain sections; we wouldn’t be coming into town and enforcing the bylaws, but we would be able to do so just outside of the park boundaries,” she explained. The Town of Mono will move forward with a group to work with Ontario Parks to address the long term issues, but made it clear that interim solutions need to be found immediately. “It’s time sensitive; we really need this done now,” reiterated Martin. In a normal year, she added, enforcement for the winter wouldn’t be an issue, but trends have demonstrated an increase in winter trail usage, especially during COVID-19. “Right now, you can’t buy skis, you can’t buy snowmobiles; you can’t buy anything for the winter, just like what we went through with bikes and canoes,” said Martin. “I’m thinking that this is far more urgent than saying ‘let’s just have a meeting’.” Van Niekerk assured council that the issue is serious to them as well, and parks staff are willing to work hard to help find solutions. “We really have come with listening ears to see how we can work together, what your thoughts are, and start from there,” said Van Niekerk.Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Banner
Montreal's archdiocese did little to address complaints against a pedophile priest and seemed more interested in protecting his reputation than his victims, according to an independent review released Wednesday.Former Quebec Superior Court justice Pepita G. Capriolo's report highlighted numerous deficiencies in the church's response to complaints against Brian Boucher. The priest was sentenced in March 2019 to eight years in prison for abusing two boys.“Secrecy is everywhere in this file," Capriolo wrote in her report. "Secret archives, secret hiding places for sensitive documents and documents so secret they have been eliminated completely."Capriolo told a news conference Wednesday the church improperly handled complaints against Boucher from the 1980s to the end of 2015. "Yet Boucher's inexcusable behaviour had been the subject of a slew complaints from the very start of his career in the church."Her 276-page report described complaints against Boucher for behaviour that was bullying, authoritarian, homophobic, racist, misogynistic as well as verbally and physically aggressive. "What struck me most was the passing of the buck," Capriolo told reporters. "The need to protect the reputation of Boucher seemed to be paramount."No minors had come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against Boucher until 2015. But that was no reason, she said, to exonerate church officials. She said in the report that church officials responsible for overseeing Bouchard's education, training and his work as a priest lacked accountability and didn't take complaints against him seriously.Two young men, 18 and 19 years old, had complained to the archdiocese in the late 1990s and early 2000s about situations involving Boucher that she said should have been more thoroughly investigated. Boucher was sent for psychological treatment in connection with one complaint, she said, adding that documents for the other disappeared altogether.Rumours had been circulating about Boucher's interest in young boys since the 1980s, she said, adding that concerns about the priest had been communicated to the Grand Seminary of Montreal and the archdiocese, but little was done.Boucher was sent for therapy instead of discipline, first in the 1990s and again in 2003, she said.His 2003 psychological assessment concluded Boucher had a desire to exercise emotional control and power over young people, but it suggested the “need has not been sexually based." Capriolo said nothing in the report backed up that conclusion. “This is important because (the report) was later used as further justification in dismissing Boucher’s potential as a sexual abuser," Capriolo noted. The 2003 assessment, along with Boucher's constant threats of legal action — including against fellow clergy — served to keep people quiet, she said. By 2003, the church had an advisory committee on sexual abuse of minors, but no one thought it was appropriate to refer Boucher to that group, Capriolo wrote in her report. “An overdue concern with Boucher’s reputation prevented any kind of investigation that might have given rise to better decisions regarding his ordination,” she wrote. Tracking down the documents related to Boucher also proved to be complicated, she said. Capriolo began her investigation a year ago, interviewing 60 witnesses and reviewing hundreds of documents.Her report noted that a culture of secrecy during this period meant important documents vanished and there was lack of a paper trail, sending Capriolo on her own fact-finding mission to outside sources or into the church's own secret archives.Archbishop Christian Lepine said the archdiocese will adopt each of the 31 recommendations put forth by Capriolo, who will help the church implement them by the fall of 2021."In the name of the Catholic Church of Montreal and speaking for myself, I wish to say how sorry we are that you have had to experience the effects of such terrible acts which should have never occurred," Lepine told a news conference.Capriolo's recommendations include better oversight, organizational changes, more transparency, strict protocols for dealing with abuse and sanctions for those who violate rules. She also recommended the installation of an external ombudsperson and the creation of an advisory committee to examine complaints.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Two men accused of human trafficking appeared in Saskatoon Provincial Court Nov. 24 and Nov. 25. There is now a court ordered ban on publication of the two men’s names. At their first appearance the court placed a publication ban on the identity of the woman who was allegedly being held captive by the two men. One man is a 23-year-old from Kindersley and the other is a 30-year-old from Saskatoon. The Kindersley man is charged with trafficking persons, material benefit from trafficking, two counts of uttering threats, theft under $5,000, breach of a release order, and breach of a conditional sentence order. He was denied bail. The Saskatoon man is charged with trafficking persons, uttering threats, and two counts of breach of a release order. He was granted bail during a show cause hearing in October. The Saskatoon Police Guns and Gang Unit arrested the two men in the 1500 block of Rayner Avenue on July 2. The Guns and Gang Unit became involved after the Saskatoon Police received a report June 29 that a 23-year-old woman was being held at a residence over a period of time. The Saskatoon VICE Human Trafficking Unit assisted police and warrants were issued for the two men. The Saskatoon man is scheduled to appear in Saskatoon Provincial court Dec. 10 to enter a plea and elect how he wants to be tried. The Kindersley man is scheduled to appear in Saskatoon Provincial Court Dec. 9 to enter a plea. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-OptimistLisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
The government of the Northwest Territories is extending the public health emergency until Dec. 8, it announced in a press release Wednesday.Julie Green, the minister of health and social services, made the decision on the advice of N.W.T. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola, according to a press release issued Wednesday.It is the 18th time the government has extended the public health emergency, which gives the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer the ability to create and enforce public health orders. It also allows the government to respond to needs for personal protective equipment, isolation space, enforcement and travel checkpoints during the COVID-19 pandemic."The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated considerably across Canada in recent weeks as the country's caseload surged to its highest point in the pandemic," the news release reads.According to the N.W.T. government's latest statistics, there have been 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory, all of which have recovered.As of Wednesday, the N.W.T. is currently the only province or territory in Canada without any active cases of COVID-19.Public health emergencies expire in two weeks unless they are extended by the minister of health of health and social services.
President-elect Joe Biden appealed for unity Wednesday in a Thanksgiving-eve address to the nation asking Americans to "steel our spines" for a fight against the coronavirus that he predicted would continue for months. (Nov. 25)
The City of Toronto will ramp up winter maintenance so residents can spend more time outdoors.Mayor John Tory says the city wants people to stay active despite COVID-19, even in sub-zero temperatures. He says residents can spend time in parks alone or with members of their household during the lockdown.He says there are also 23 toboggan hills, eight new snow loops at golf courses and numerous outdoor ice rinks.The rinks will have a capacity of 25 people to follow provincial pandemic rules. The city will also maintain an extra 60 kilometres of paved trails and pathways."Much as the pandemic makes things different, we're committed to giving people more things to do outside safely," Tory said on Wednesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.The Canadian Press
From learning Inuktitut to appreciating jingle dresses, these videos are a must-watch.
VANCOUVER — The Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. says more than 11,000 condos were added to rental market in Metro Vancouver last year, spurred in part by taxes on empty homes. The CMHC report was released as Vancouver council voted Wednesday to increase its empty homes tax from 1.25 per cent to three per cent for next year. The study says of the 11,118 units, 2,294 were new condos and were rented out by investors, while 8,824 were being used by their owners for another purpose and are now being offered as long-term rentals. It says the B.C. government's speculation and vacancy tax, Vancouver's empty homes tax and new city requirements affecting short-term rentals also contributed to the increase in the number of condos for rent. However, the report says the added units didn't outweigh strong demand and the vacancy rate in Metro Vancouver remains at or below one per cent, where it's been for six consecutive years. It says the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the market and condo owners who rent out their units for short-term vacations may want the more stable income from long-term rentals. Mayor Kennedy Stewart proposed the increase in the tax on empty homes."This groundbreaking tool has helped move thousands of homes back onto the rental market ... but there are still too many homes that remain empty," Stewart said in a statement. "By tripling the tax from one to three per cent since the tax launched, we're sending an even stronger message that homes are for people, not speculation." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA, Ill. — Canada's watchdog for crime victims is calling on Parliament to overhaul their bill of rights, saying the five-year-old legislation has fallen "far short" of delivering on its promise. Rules meant to amplify victims' voices in the justice system have failed to make them heard following "sporadic" implementation of a regime that needs more teeth, clarity and public awareness, federal ombudsman Heidi Illingworth said in a report Wednesday. "The situation of victims of crime has not fundamentally changed since it was passed," she wrote. The previous Conservative government introduced what it called a victims' bill of rights in 2015 that allowed crime victims to get information about offenders in the corrections system and have their views considered when decisions are made about those perpetrators. Illingworth said the legislation should be amended to provide a legal remedy for violations, such as allowing victims to formally challenge authorities on whether their rights have been honoured. "There was no right to appeal, there was no right to seek damages," Illingworth said Wednesday in a phone interview. The 2015 statute was an important firs step but "really more of a statement of principles," she added. "It did not give people real rights, because in law you have to be able to have a remedy for rights to be real." The justice system demands heavy lifting from people subjected to a criminal act, including those involved in the 2.2 million crimes reported to police each year. "They are expected to report the crime, provide evidence, bear witness, be cross-examined on the stand and relive their traumas over and over again as they tell their truths — yet we provide them with little assistance to do so," Illingworth wrote. "Unsupported victims are less likely to come forward. When victims are not treated as full partners in the criminal justice system, the system is less effective." Victims should automatically receive information about their rights, rather than having to ask for it, she said. Up to two-thirds of crime victims do not go to the police, said Irvin Waller, professor emeritus in criminology at the University of Ottawa. Other reforms demanded in the report include a simplified complaint process filtered entirely through the ombudsman's office rather than a patchwork of agencies, more clearly defined obligations for criminal justice officials and more funding to train front-line workers in treating victims with "courtesy, compassion and respect." The ombudsman is also calling for better data collection by courts, prisons and law enforcement agencies to understand police interactions with targeted populations, including Indigenous women and LGBTQ individuals. "We know that there’s distrust, and this is especially concerning among communities of colour, racialized communities, Indigenous people. And how survivors of sexual violence are cheated by the justice system has been very, very problematic," Illingworth said. Waller pointed to England and France as models on training guidelines for officials and restitution for victims, respectively. He said up to half of French criminal cases result in restitution payments, access to which should be guaranteed, according to the ombudsman's report. In contrast to Canada, France also grants victims legal "standing" to appeal to courts for review when their rights are not upheld. "We are a long, long way behind these countries," Waller said. Illingworth's report further recommends amendments that commit to core funding for community-based restorative justice programs as well as a list of officials who have direct responsibilities to crime victims. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Two emergency room doctors say Alberta's increased public health restrictions don't go far enough to deal with rising COVID-19 cases that are already straining hospitals in the province. The government brought in tighter restrictions Tuesday that include a ban on gatherings in people's homes and changes for schools, churches, restaurants and retailers. Dr. Shazma Mithani, who works at two Edmonton hospitals, said she saw first-hand why more restrictions were necessary a day earlier when she arrived for her shift at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. "I saw the most COVID patients ever," Mithani said Wednesday in an interview with The Canadian Press. "I didn't even see that many patients that shift because we were so bed-blocked." Some patients, she explained, were taking up emergency department beds because there weren't enough staffed beds available in the ward they needed. Mithani said she saw about 10 or 11 patients that night. "Three of them were confirmed COVID and three were presumed COVID ... and one of them I actually had to put a breathing tube in and send to the ICU," she said. "It's here. It's just the beginning." Alberta Health reported 1,265 new cases on Wednesday — the seventh consecutive day with numbers above the 1,100 mark. There were 355 patients in hospital, 71 of them in intensive care. Eight more people died, bringing that total to 500. Mithani, who's also a spokeswoman for the emergency medicine section of the Alberta Medical Association, said the rising numbers have been hitting Edmonton particularly hard. There were 175 COVID-19 patients in Edmonton hospitals, with 40 in intensive care. In Calgary, there were 121 infected patients in hospitals and 20 were in intensive care. Dr. Joe Vipond, who works at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, said he hasn't worked an ER shift in about a week, but noted that he's had COVID-19 patients every day in the last month. "I've had two deaths in a month," said Vipond, who added he typically only sees a few deaths a year in the emergency department. Both Vipond and Mithani said they would have liked to see stronger restrictions. "We're now at the stage that nothing short of a strong lockdown is going to help," said Vipond. "These middle measures are not going to do it, unfortunately." Mithani said the restrictions simply turn earlier recommendations into rules. The only positive step, she said, was banning indoor gatherings, which she suggested should have happened long ago. Dr. Daniel Gregson, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Calgary, agreed it was good to see recommendations on gatherings turned into actual restrictions. "The other thing we've done is moved to mandatory masking from a suggestion to a requirement," he said. "That's a good thing as well." However, Gregson said some areas have been left open to interpretation. "They've said 10 (people) for weddings and 10 for funerals, which is good to have an absolute number because people focus on what they can do," he said. "But other settings such as faith-based activities, which can be fairly widely interpreted, are not limited to that 10. "That's a concern. A lot of our problems have been in group settings where people are not using appropriate precautions ... and that really translates into transmissions in households." Mithani added that the decisions don't appear to be based on data, since contact tracing has broken down and up to 80 per cent of cases have no information about where they were contracted. "I'm really disappointed with the half measures that were put in," she said. "I, 100 per cent, understand there needs to be a balance between the economy and managing this pandemic, but we are now at a point where our health-care system is about to break and that needs to be made the priority right now. "Our economy relies on the health of Albertans." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020. Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press
P.E.I.'s Department of Justice and Public Safety says it is dealing with a spike in people seeking approval to come to the Island.Officials say since the closure of the Atlantic bubble and the chief public health officer's recommendations to not travel during the holidays, the province has seen five-times the amount of inquiries.Justice and Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson says the province was bracing for a spike following the announcement P.E.I. was pulling out of the Atlantic bubble because of increased COVID-19 cases in neighbouring New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. He says people need to be patient, adding the province will get through the backlog within the next couple of days. "We've been doing this for almost eight months now and as every announcement comes there's an influx of inquiries, applications," said Thompson. "So to address this announcement Monday we've brought in six new staff to deal with some of the backlog."On Monday, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer announced P.E.I. was pulling out of the Atlantic bubble and said Islanders should only travel outside of P.E.I. for essential purposes or work. 'They haven't received an approval or denial'Anyone who needs to travel to the Island, including residents of Atlantic Canada, now has to apply for pre-travel approval.Island residents do not require pre-travel approval, but will be required to self-isolate 14 days once they return to the Island. Frustrations over the growing wait times spilled over onto the floor of the P.E.I. Legislature Wednesday. Cory Deagle, PC MLA for Montague-Kilmuir, said he had been contacted by a couple that had been waiting 168 hours for a response, much longer than the 72-hour response time the province tries to achieve.The couple is moving from B.C. to his district, and the couple's parents — who have also reached out to him — are his constituents.Deagle said they first sent their letter to the province on Nov. 18, long before P.E.I. pulled out of the Atlantic bubble. He said the couple was asked for more information on Nov. 21. "It's now Nov. 25 and they haven't received an approval or denial letter and they are travelling across Canada," said Deagle.'What they are going to do when they get here?'"They received approval to enter New Brunswick but they don't know about P.E.I. What they are going to do when they get here?"Thompson said he would get the name of the family and follow up immediately to ensure they have an answer before they get to the Confederation Bridge.Deagle said the family is growing increasingly frustrated."These two individuals are travelling across Canada, they said today they tried calling, no one's answering the phone, they tried leaving voicemail but the inbox is filled."Thompson did admit wait times have increased significantly because of the closure of the Atlantic bubble."We will be back to 72 hours very soon," Thompson said from the floor of the legislature. 'I hate making politics out of something so important'But Deagle fired back saying, "You shouldn't have to contact your MLA to find out if you can get approval to come to P.E.I."Thompson then took a shot at his PC colleague."This is a very important question and I hate making politics out of something so important," said Thompson. "I sat beside this member in caucus, I wish he had brought this to me then."In an interview after question period, Deagle said he makes no apologies for raising the concerns of his constituents."The premier has said that we can ask tough questions, even though it's our own party, we can ask tough questions that are important to our constituents and Islanders," Deagle told CBC News."We've never been told one way or another to not do something, if we feel it's important and we want to ask it, we can ask the questions."More from CBC P.E.I.