American charities are working to gather and ultimately airlift medicine, personal protective equipment and supplies to Lebanon following a massive blast at Beirut’s port (Nov. 24)
American charities are working to gather and ultimately airlift medicine, personal protective equipment and supplies to Lebanon following a massive blast at Beirut’s port (Nov. 24)
The A-list is back. How A-list? Try Lady Gaga and J. Lo. Inauguration officials announced on Thursday that the glittery duo would appear in person on Jan. 20, with Gaga singing the national anthem as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, and Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance. Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event. Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating Biden’s inauguration. Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood. The question: How would the star wattage play across the country as Biden seeks to unite a bruised nation? Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines.” “I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Dezenhall said. “If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.” But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to.” Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — "for Democratic.” "When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said Troy, author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” “With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers." Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political. “Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said. Still, he said, Biden’s unity message won’t be derailed. “In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J. Lo is all that divisive,” he said. Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol. Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition's quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education. This year, the ball is entirely virtual. But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to attendees in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others. Robin Bronk, CEO of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she's been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way. The event typically brings in anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before. Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic. Given all that, did a celebration make sense? “I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Bronk said. “Do we celebrate? This is the most serious time of our lives.” But, she said, especially at a time when the arts community is suffering, it’s crucial to shine a spotlight and recognize that “the right to bear arts is not a red or blue issue. One of the reasons we have this ball is that we have to ensure the arts are not forgotten." The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced Thursday that the invocation will be given by the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware. On the same platform, Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyoncé as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. James Taylor sang “America the Beautiful,” and Kelly Clarkson sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” At Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho. A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she’d received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance. There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others. This year, signs are that Obama-era celebrities are returning. Dezenhall said that in the end, it's logical for organizers to go with the biggest talent. “Lady Gaga is as big as you can get, and she is very talented,” he said. “If I were being inaugurated and I could have Lady Gaga, I would take it.” Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
Les gens sont définitivement au rendez-vous depuis l’ouverture du Mont Lac-Vert le 28 décembre dernier. S’ils sont nombreux à dévaler les pistes, le centre n’a toutefois pas encore affiché complet. « On a passé plusieurs semaines avant l’ouverture à analyser nos chiffres des dernières années pour se préparer à la nouvelle saison. On a ainsi pu instaurer un quota de personnes dans la montagne par plage horaire. Jusqu’à maintenant, nous n’avons pas encore atteint le maximum de nos capacités, même si nous avons beaucoup de gens qui viennent dévaler les pentes », mentionne la responsable des communications, Claudia Carrière. Concernant les quotas, Claudia Carrière explique que sur semaine, de jour, c’est un maximum de 150 personnes qui est permis en au Mont Lac-Vert. La fin de semaine, le quota est divisé en trois plages horaires, soit un maximum de 150 personnes le matin, l’après-midi et le soir. « Ça fonctionne bien, on est heureux du résultat. Il n’y a pas de longue attente au télésiège et il n’y a pas d’encombrement dans le chalet non plus. Tout se passe super bien. » Les sentiers de fat bike et de raquettes sont aussi populaires en ce début de saison. Il n’y a cependant pas de quota pour ces deux activités. « C’est certain qu’on ne se retrouvera pas avec 150 à 200 fat bikes dans nos sentiers. Par jour, en moyenne, on en reçoit environ une vingtaine. » Billets de saison L’organisation du Mont Lac-Vert est très satisfaite également de la vente de billets de saison. Selon Claudia Carrière, les chiffres ressemblent beaucoup à ceux des dernières années. « Avec la situation actuelle, on pouvait croire que nous allions connaitre une baisse des ventes de billets de saison. Au final, on ne se retrouve pas perdant, mais pas gagnant non plus. Je dirais que c’est demeuré assez stable. » Ouverture progressive Dans les prochaines semaines, les cours de glisse débuteront. Les inscriptions sont déjà débutées et les résultats semblent encourageants, dit-on. Concernant les pentes de ski, au moment d’écrire ces lignes, cinq pistes sont ouvertes. « Les chaudes températures à Noël ont eu des impacts. Ça nous retarde aussi pour l’ouverture des glissades sur tube. Nos canons à neige fonctionnent pratiquement 24h sur 24 ! »Janick Emond, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Lac St-Jean
Tanya Bogatin's once pristine home is no longer quite so organized, and she's waiting a little longer between loads of laundry, but it's no skin off her back. Her priorities have shifted now that she'll be helping her two young kids attend classes from their home in Vaughan, Ont., for another month. "Things are gonna fall to the backburner," she said. "I tell my kids, don't stress about it ... relax, relax. We're happy, we're safe, we're healthy." With online learning extended until late January across southern Ontario, and for even longer in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham and Windsor-Essex, parents like Bogatin are finding a litany of strategies to manage all their responsibilities. She said she briefly panicked when she found out her kids would be learning remotely until at least Feb. 10, but then she came up with a game plan. Each morning, she and her kids get up at around 8:20 a.m., with half an hour to spare before classes begin. Once classes start, her son -- who is in Grade 4 -- stations himself in the dining room, and her daughter -- in Grade 2 -- sets up her laptop at the desk in the toy room. Bogatin sits on the stairs between them, listening in case they call for help. At recess, she said, she bundles them up in winter gear and sends them out to play in the backyard. Right after classes end, they get to work on homework. Bogatin works part-time, and as of this week she's able to do that from home. "I'm very, very lucky that I have a very flexible job," she said, noting that she's mostly able to set her own schedule, and will sometimes retreat into her bedroom for online meetings. Her days are busy, she said, but they're "good busy." Parents are making it work, said Rachel Huot with the Ontario Parent Action Network, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy. "It's extremely challenging to try and support children learning remotely," she said. "Your kids are not meant to learn sitting in front of a computer screen for six hours a day." Parents who have to juggle supervising kids and working -- either in or out of the home -- are stretched even thinner, she said. "Then there's the fact that we're watching the government fail us day after day. And there's no clear end in sight," she said. Huot echoed calls from teachers' unions that are requesting broader testing of asymptomatic students, smaller class sizes and better ventilation systems in schools so that kids can safely return to the classroom. A spokeswoman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said student safety is the government's top priority. "We know that parents want their children back in class and we firmly agree, and our commitment to deliver on that is to further enhance our safety protocols and provincewide targeted surveillance testing to ensure our students can safely go back to class," she said. The government has cited rising COVID-19 positivity rates amongst children as well as soaring daily infections for its decision to have students learn virtually for longer. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his entire Cabinet resigned Friday to take political responsibility for a scandal involving investigations into child welfare payments that wrongly labeled thousands of parents as fraudsters. In a nationally televised speech, Rutte said he had informed King Willem-Alexander of his decision and pledged that his government would continue work to compensate affected parents as quickly as possible and to battle the coronavirus. “We are of one mind that if the whole system has failed, we all must take responsibility, and that has led to the conclusion that I have just offered the king, the resignation of the entire Cabinet,” Rutte said. The move was seen as largely symbolic; Rutte’s government will remain in office in a caretaker mode until a new coalition is formed after a March 17 election in the Netherlands. The resignation brings to an end a decade in office for Rutte, although his party is expected to win the election, putting him first in line to begin talks to form the next government. If he succeeds in forming a new coalition, Rutte would most likely again become prime minister. The Netherlands is the third European country thrown into political uncertainty this week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the government resigned over a corruption scandal, while Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition is at risk of collapse after a small partner party withdrew its support. Rutte said earlier this week that his government would be able to keep taking tough policy decisions in the battle against the coronavirus even if it were in caretaker mode. The Netherlands is in a tough lockdown until at least Feb. 9, and the government is considering imposing an overnight curfew amid fears about new, more contagious variants of the virus. “To the Netherlands I say: Our struggle against the coronavirus will continue,” Rutte said. On Thursday, the leader of the Dutch opposition Labor Party stepped down because he was minister of social affairs in a governing coalition led by Rutte when the country’s tax office implemented a tough policy of tracking down fraud with child welfare. Lodewijk Asscher’s decision put further pressure on Rutte ahead of Friday's Cabinet meeting. Ministers were to decide on their reaction to a scathing report issued last month, titled “Unprecedented Injustice,” that said the tax office policies violated “fundamental principles of the rule of law.” The report also criticized the government for the way it provided information to parliament about the scandal. Many wrongfully accused parents were plunged into debt when tax officials demanded repayment of payments. The government has in the past apologized for the tax office’s methods and in March earmarked 500 million euros ($607 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents. One of those parents waited near parliament as the Cabinet met and said she wanted it to resign. “It's important for me because it is the government acknowledging, ‘We have made a mistake and we are taking responsibility,’ because it's quite something what happened to us,” Janet Ramesar told The Associated Press. Rutte plans to lead his conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy into the March election, and polls suggest it will win the most seats. That would put Rutte, who has been in office for a decade at the head of three different coalitions, first in line to attempt to form the next ruling coalition. Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren, who serves as interior minister, said as she entered Friday's meeting that “it is very important to be accountable and also to show responsibility in the political sense, and we are going to talk about that in the Council of Ministers today.” Mike Corder, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales in December hit an all-time record for the month to end what was also a record year.It says December sales were up 47.2 per cent compared with December 2019, the largest year-over-year gain in monthly sales in 11 years. Sales for the month were also up 7.2 per cent compared with November.For 2020 as a whole, CREA says some 551,392 homes were sold, up 12.6 per cent from 2019, and a new annual record. The actual national average home price was a record $607,280 in December, up 17.1 per cent from the final month of 2019.CREA says excluding Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, two of the most active and expensive markets, lowers the national average price by almost $130,000.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped nine of her most trusted allies in the House to argue the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Democrats, all of whom are lawyers and many of whom have deep experience investigating the president, face the arduous task of convincing skeptical Senate Republicans to convict Trump. A single article of impeachment — for “incitement of insurrection” — was approved by the House on Wednesday, one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. At the time, lawmakers were counting the votes that cemented Trump’s election defeat. As members of the House who were in the Capitol when it was attacked — several hiding under seats as rioters beat on the doors of the chamber — the Democrats are also witnesses to what they charge is a crime. So are the Senate jurors. “This is a case where the jurors were also victims, and so whether it was those who voted in the House last night or those in the Senate who will have to weigh in on this, you don’t have to tell anyone who was in the building twice what it was like to be terrorized,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, one of the managers. It is unclear when the trial will start. Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she will send the article of impeachment to the Senate. It could be as soon as next week, on President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office. The managers plan to argue at trial that Trump incited the riot, delaying the congressional certification of the electoral vote count by inciting an angry mob to harm members of Congress. Some of the rioters were recorded saying they wanted to find Pelosi and Vice-President Mike Pence, who presided over the count. Others had zip ties that could be used as handcuffs hanging on their clothes. “The American people witnessed that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers. “That amounts to high crimes and misdemeanours.” None of the impeachment managers argued the case in Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, when the Senate acquitted the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The House impeached Trump in 2019 after he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s family while withholding military aid to the country. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, another manager, says the nine prosecutors plan to present a serious case and “finish the job” that the House started. A look at Pelosi’s prosecution team in Trump’s historic second impeachment: REP. JAMIE RASKIN, MARYLAND Pelosi appointed Raskin, a former constitutional law professor and prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee, as lead manager. In a week of dramatic events and stories, Raskin’s stands out: The day before the Capitol riots, Raskin buried his 25-year-old son, Tommy, after he killed himself on New Year’s Eve. “You would be hard pressed to find a more beloved figure in the Congress” than Raskin, says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who was the lead manager during Trump’s first trial. He worked closely with Raskin on that impeachment investigation. “I know that part of what gives him strength to take on this burden that he now carries is knowing that this is something that would be enormously meaningful to his son.” REP. DIANA DEGETTE, COLORADO DeGette, who is serving her 13th term representing Denver, is a former civil rights attorney and one of Pelosi’s go-to allies. The speaker picked her to preside over the House during the first impeachment vote in 2019. DeGette said Pelosi trusted her to do it because she is “able to to control the passions on the floor.” She says she was surprised when Pelosi called to offer her the prosecutorial position but quickly accepted. “The monstrosity of this offence is not lost on anybody,” she says. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, RHODE ISLAND Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence and public defender, is in his sixth term in Congress and is a senior member of the Judiciary panel. He was heavily involved in Trump’s first impeachment and was one of three original authors of the article that the House approved on Wednesday. He and California Rep. Ted Lieu began writing the article together, in hiding, as the rioters were still ransacking the Capitol. He tweeted out a draft the next morning, writing that “I have prepared to remove the President from office following yesterday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.” REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, TEXAS Castro is a member of the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, where he has been an outspoken critic of Trump's handling of Russia. He was a litigator in private practice before he was elected to the Texas legislature and came to Congress, where he is in his fifth term. Castro’s twin brother, Julian Castro, is the former mayor of San Antonio and served as former President Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. Julian Castro ran in the Democratic primary for president last year. REP. ERIC SWALWELL, CALIFORNIA Swalwell also serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels and was deeply involved in congressional probes of Trump’s Russian ties. A former prosecutor, he briefly ran for president in 2019. “The case that I think resonates the most with the American people and hopefully the Senate is that our American president incited our fellow citizens to attack our Capitol on a day where we were counting electoral votes, and that this was not a spontaneous call to action by the president at the rally,” Swalwell said. REP. TED LIEU, CALIFORNIA Lieu, who authored the article of impeachment with Cicilline and Raskin, is on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels. The Los Angeles-area lawmaker is a former active-duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and military prosecutor. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic,” he said. DEL. STACEY PLASKETT, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Because she represents a U.S. territory, not a state, Plaskett does not have voting rights and was not able to cast a vote for impeachment. But she will bring her legal experience as a former district attorney in New York and senior counsel at the Justice Department — and as one of Raskin's former law students. “As an African American, as a woman, seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things left not just those people of colour who were in the room traumatized, but so many people of colour around this country," she said Friday. REP. JOE NEGUSE, COLORADO Neguse, in his second term, is a rising star in the Democratic caucus who was elected to Pelosi’s leadership team his freshman year in Congress. A former litigator, he sits on the House Judiciary Committee and consulted with Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu as they drafted the article the day of the attack. At 36, he will be the youngest impeachment manager in history, according to his office. “This armed mob did not storm the Capitol on any given day, they did so during the most solemn of proceedings that the United States Congress is engaged in,” Neguse said Thursday. “Clearly the attack was done to stop us from finishing our work.” REP. MADELEINE DEAN, PENNSYLVANIA Like Neguse, Dean was first elected when Democrats recaptured the House in 2018. She is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and is a former lawyer and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She says she hopes the prosecutors can convince the Senate and the American people “to mark this moment" with a conviction. “I think I bring to it just the simple fact that I’m a citizen, that I’m a mom and I’m a grandma," Dean said. "And I want my children, my grandchildren, to remember what we did here.” Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press
SILVER SPRING, Md. — U.S. industrial production rose 1.6% in December, a third straight monthly gain, but remains below its pre-pandemic level. The December gain in industrial output followed a 0.5% increase in November and a 1% increase in October, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. Even with those gains, industrial output is still about 3.3% below its level in February before the pandemic hit. Manufacturing increased 0.9%, its eighth straight monthly gain, even as production of motor vehicles and parts declined 1.6%. That follows a string of gains for the auto sector, including last month's strong 5% increase. Without the drag in the auto sector last month, manufacturing posted gains of 1.1%. Mining production rose 1.6%, while utilities' output rose 6.2% as a rebound in December demand followed a 4.2% decline in November due to unseasonably warm weather. U.S. industry operated at 74.5% of capacity in December, still below the pre-pandemic rate of 76.9% in February. While December’s topline numbers were better than economists had expected, there is concern that rising coronavirus infections and a rocky vaccination campaign could further hamstring an already uneven recovery for the U.S. economy. On Thursday night, President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan that would speed up vaccines and deal financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout. Oren Klachkin, an economist with Oxford Economics, said a financial relief package would provide a much-needed immediate boost for the economy, but added that in the long-term, “vaccine roll outs will shift consumer spending more towards services, softening consumer goods demand and weighing on industrial activity.” The Institute for Supply Management reported Tuesday that American factories grew in December at the fastest pace in more than two years. The manufacturing sector has weathered the pandemic better than the battered services sector, but continues to face virus-related headwinds such as factory shutdowns needed to sanitize facilities and difficulties in hiring new workers as the virus surges again. Matt Ott, The Associated Press
The long-promised public inquiry into search and rescue operations in Newfoundland and Labrador was launched Thursday. Justice and Public Safety Minister Steve Crocker formally established the $1.5-million inquiry, which he said will look different than past commissions of inquiry, such as the recent one on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project. It will be more policy based as opposed to investigative, Crocker said, and will be smaller and more focused. “It will examine the organization, the operations of ground search and rescue in the province, with a final report making recommendations on how to improve that system,” he said at a news conference. The 2012 death of 14-year-old Burton Winters after he went snowmobiling near Makkovik spurred the inquiry, which is expected to last about six months. Winters' body was found three days after he was reported missing. Search and rescue helicopters were not called to look for him until two days after he was reported missing, which caused widespread concern. Crocker said it is impossible to deny how the case exposed gaps in the search and rescue system and spurred the inquiry. “None of us know when we will require the support of search and rescue teams,” he said. “But we hope that if we need them that service will be there and be adequate and prepared to respond in a timely manner.” The inquiry was a Liberal campaign promise in 2015 and was announced on Dec. 4, 2018. Retired provincial court judge James Igloliorte, originally from Hopedale, will lead the inquiry as commissioner, and said the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed things down a little, but they have been working behind the scenes doing consultation and research since last summer. The inquiry won’t focus on any specific cases, but a hearing will be held in Makkovik involving members of Winters' family and others who knew him. Igloliorte said they want to frame the examinations and the recommendations as being the Burton Winters Inquiry, and people were affected by the Inuk teen’s death, with a lot of questions arising about search and rescue. “We will be in Makkovik and allow the entire community to speak to us if they wish, and we will make sure that, insofar as we can, we will answer any questions they may have through the presentation of various witnesses to participate in the discussions,” he said. Igloliorte said they have already been consulting with the Indigenous groups of Labrador and expect them to be a part of the process. He said due to the relationship the Indigenous people of Labrador have with the land and outdoor activities, they are more at risk, and that will be recognized in this inquiry and report. They will work with a number of groups, Igloliorte said, including the public, various search and rescue organizations, and police forces. The inquiry will be largely comprised of informal hearings, but may also include research studies, interviews and surveys, and written submissions. Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
The deal will be largely paid through cash and Lazy Audio's management team will get post-acquisition equity-settled awards, Tencent said. The acquisition comes at a time when the music streaming site is looking to bolster its content library in order to put it behind a paywall and add more paid users.
WASHINGTON — The line stretched nearly a block long. Nobody was grumbling about the wait. Those gathered at a senior wellness centre in Washington, D.C., viewed it as a matter of life or death. The nation's capital had just opened up coronavirus vaccines to people 65 and older because of their increased risk. I was among those who had a shot within reach. In the nation's capital, along with the rest of the country, coronavirus cases have surged since the holidays. More than 32,800 positive cases have been recorded overall in the city. Nearly 850 people have died. And now add fears that the mob insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month could turn into a superspreader event, adding to the totals. People were on edge. As I waited for my shot, I wondered if I should be there. The district had offered the vaccine first to health care workers, but were there others who should have come before me, people like teachers and workers in grocery stores and other businesses providing essential services during the pandemic? What about the older old — people over 75? Yes, journalists are considered essential, and I also am a teacher at the college level. But equally important to me, I haven't seen my grandson and his parents in California for more than a year — half his life — and l long to get on a plane to visit. And I do fit the new criteria for vaccines, people 65 and older. So I was all in. The city started offering appointments to the over-65 crowd Monday. I called up the website, filled in the questionnaire and looked for a location. The site closest to my home had no times available so I widened my search, finally choosing a senior centre about 3 miles away. Later, I checked my neighbourhood listserv. It was filled with complaints from residents who found the whole process unwieldy and were furious that all the available appointments had been booked. A D.C. council member acknowledged that “the rollout came with a significant number of frustrations and challenges" but said there would be other opportunities for seniors to get the vaccine. It's an issue of supply and demand. There are just under 85,000 D.C. residents 65 and older who qualify for shots, but only 6,700 appointments were available the first week. I was one of the lucky ones. It was cold, but the length of the line at the wellness centre didn't bother me. I was grateful that we were outside for much of the wait, and that people were voluntarily self-distancing. That was enforced once we moved inside. Everyone wore a mask. Some people who were visibly frail were moved to front of the line. No one complained. And while I waited, I worked. In a bit of irony, that meant consulting with a colleague on a story about the Trump administration's push to expand vaccination to more people, including those over 65. The District of Columbia, it turns out, was ahead of the curve. Ninety minutes after I arrived, I was given the Moderna vaccine, administered by a Safeway pharmacy manager brought in from Rehoboth, Delaware. After we talked about her hometown — a favourite beach vacation spot for my family — and other vaccinations I might need, she told me how to sign up for the second dose. Then I was sent to wait in another room to make sure I didn't have a serious allergic reaction to the shot. I didn't. I get my second dose Feb. 10. I've already started thinking about booking that flight to California. There's only one negative — now everyone knows my age. ___ Virus Diary, an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world. Follow Washington-based AP news editor Carole Feldman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CaroleFeldman Carole Feldman, The Associated Press
Chinese technology firm Huawei plans to establish a flagship store in Riyadh, the largest such store outside China, the Saudi government said on Friday. Huawei has signed a leasing contract with Saudi Arabia's Kaden Investment for the store that will allow the Chinese company to have direct access to consumers amid rising demand for digital products and services in the kingdom, the statement said, without giving a date for the opening. Saudi Arabia expects internet usage in the kingdom to increase from covering 82.6% of the population in 2022 from 73.2% in 2017, the Ministry of Investment statement said.
The week ahead will be a crucial one for the province as it teeters on the edge of the orange recovery phase. On Friday, after two weeks of climbing cases and two weeks since the holiday season ended, Premier Blaine Higgs was asked yet again about whether the province will be tipped back to the most restrictive "red" phase of recovery. Higgs said he really doesn't want to do that, because it "shuts everything down" and has a drastic impact on business. But he isn't ready to rule it out yet, either. Case numbers are "levelling off," Higgs told reporters in a scrum at the legislature, "but we need to see them going down." "If we see them starting to drop off to 20, to 15 to 10, then you get the kind of comfort level," he said. "But if they stay at 25 for the next seven days, you kind of say, 'OK, we should be at the other end of this by now.' And then you look across the province and say ... 'Are we in a situation where some areas have to go red and others don't?' " The week ahead will likely be a deciding factor, Higgs said, noting the "biggest problem we face" is whether the people who have been told to isolate are doing so. As of Thursday, there were 2,161 New Brunswickers self-isolating as they awaited test results. "And if they are isolating, we're good," Higgs said. "But if they're not, if they're basically saying 'I'm supposed to isolate, but I need to go to the store,' that's an issue ... That's why the next few days are so critical." 25 new cases, new record-high active case count Public Health is reporting 25 new cases of COVID-19, with new cases in six of seven zones and a new record-high number of active cases. The cases break down this way: Moncton region, Zone 1, four cases: three people 30 to 39 an individual 40 to 49 Saint John region, Zone 2, five cases: two people 19 or under two people 40 to 49 an individual 70 to 79 Fredericton region, Zone 3, five cases: two people 20 to 29 an individual 40 to 49 an individual 60 to 69 an individual 80 to 89 Edmundston region, Zone 4, six cases: an individual 20 to 29 an individual 50 to 59 three people 60 to 69 an individual 80 to 89. Campbellton region, Zone 5, four cases: an individual 19 or under an individual 20-29 an individual 40-49 an individual 60-69 Bathurst region, Zone 6, one case: an individual 30 to 39 All cases are self-isolating and under investigation. There are 256 active cases across the province. Four people are hospitalized, including one who is in intensive care. The number of confirmed cases in New Brunswick since the pandemic began in March is 884 and 615 have recovered. There have been 12 COVID-related deaths. As of Friday, 169,256 tests have been conducted, including 1,480 since Thursday's report. Edmundston rolls out the vaccine Health-care workers in Edmundston rolled up their sleeves Thursday evening as the first COVID-19 vaccine clinic got underway. Staff members from the Edmundston Regional Hospital, the extramural program, Ambulance New Brunswick and health-care workers from First Nations communities and nursing homes received vaccines. The clinic received a total of 488 doses to be administered. How the 7 zones stack up for case rates New Brunswick recorded a new record-high number of active cases on Friday, with 256 cases. The following chart shows the active case rates and total case rates for each of the province's seven zones, based on population numbers provided by the Department of Health and on current case counts. Region Active cases Active case rate* Cases to date Rate of cases to date* Moncton 58 26.0 220 98.8 Saint John 48 27.2 183 103.8 Fredericton 65 35.4 202 110.1 Edmundston 46 95.3 82 169.9 Campbellton 35 138.9 173 686.5 Bathurst 4 5.1 18 22.8 Miramichi 0 0 6 14.2 *per 100,000 population Minister apologizes for travel rebate delays Following a host of complaints from New Brunswickers who still haven't received their promised travel rebates, Tourism Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace is apologizing for a month of delays. More than 25,000 people applied for a 20 per cent rebate on their local travel through the Explore NB Travel Incentive program between July and October. The applications include 47,000 receipts worth more than $17.4 million. "It was an incredibly popular program and we really are proud of it, but we know there's been some hiccups along the way … and we apologize for that," the minister of the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture said. While the incentive designed to pay New Brunswickers to vacation at home was widely accepted, the province now faces backlash as just over 6,000 of the applications have been processed so far. Scott-Wallace said the province decided to implement the program just as New Brunswick was moving out of lockdown and announced the program before it was built to get people travelling over the summer months. "That did mean building a brand-new program, and that definitely has taken more time than we expected," she said. Scott-Wallace said New Brunswickers were initially told they would receive rebates 10 to 12 weeks after applying, but about 16 weeks have passed. "We apologize for that, but it has been developing that program that's taken a bit longer than expected," she said. Scott-Wallace said the applications will likely be processed by the end of January or February. Upwards of 15 Service New Brunswick staff are working to process them, she said. "We are not denying there has been disappointment from people who haven't heard" back yet on their claims, she said. "Many" claims have been denied because they did not include the required overnight stay with a hotel accommodation, the minister said. But there have also been cases where receipts were illegible because of scanner issues, or where applications included a hotel confirmation email instead of a receipt. "There are these things that we know are just human-error and unintentional," she said. Specific reasons for a denied claim will now be outlined, and applicants will have a couple of weeks to resubmit. Scott-Wallace said the department will look at whether it will reimplement the program this summer. Two Woodstock schools extend closures by one week The Anglophone West School District announced Thursday night that learning at Woodstock High School and Townsview School will continue online until Jan. 21 in order to allow students and staff to self-isolate for the recommended 14 days. Students will be allowed back in the schools beginning Jan. 22. The decision was made following discussions between the Anglophone West School District and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. "I have had very positive feedback on the commitment of students and their engagement with learning," superintendent David McTimoney said in a message to parents Thursday. "I am grateful to the teachers and staff who are working hard to make sure the learning continues in a meaningful way." Students and staff of both schools were asked to self-isolate last weekend, after three cases were confirmed at Woodstock High School and one case was reported at Townsview School Saturday. Edith Cavell School in Moncton reported its second COVID-19 case this week. In a tweet Thursday night, Anglophone East School District said Edith Cavell and T.E.S.S. (Therapeutic Education Support Site) students would have an "at home learning day" on Friday. Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis closed Thursday morning, and the Anglophone South School District later reported the school's first case of COVID-19 in an email to parents. Garderie Tic Tac Toe, a Dalhousie daycare centre, also reported one case. Exposure notifications Public Health identified a positive case in a traveller who may have been infectious while on the following flights: Jan. 3 – Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:23 a.m. Jan. 6– Air Canada Flight 8910 from Toronto to Moncton, arrived at 11:30 a.m. Public Health also identified potential public exposure at the following locations: Gusto Italian Grill & Bar, 130 Westmorland St., Moncton, on Jan, 3, 4 and 7, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Bo Diddley's Lounge,295 Collishaw St., on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. (285 Collishaw St., Moncton) Miss Cue pool hall,495 Mountain Rd., Moncton, Jan. 1 to 3 from 6:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Foggerz Five-O-Six, an e-cigarette store in Woodstock, has closed because of possible COVID-19 exposure. If you were at any of these locations, and you have no symptoms of COVID-19, self-monitor and follow all Public Health guidelines. If you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and do not need to talk to a nurse, complete the self-assessment and get tested. No exposure alert was issued after Saint-Quentin industrial company Groupe Savoie reported four cases this week. Public Health only issues exposure notifications when it believes members of the public are at risk. What to do if you have a symptom People concerned they might have COVID-19 symptoms can take a self-assessment test online. Public Health says symptoms shown by people with COVID-19 have included: A fever above 38 C. A new cough or worsening chronic cough. Sore throat. Runny nose. Headache. New onset of fatigue, muscle pain, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell. Difficulty breathing. In children, symptoms have also included purple markings on the fingers and toes. People with one of those symptoms should: Stay at home. Call Tele-Care 811 or their doctor. Describe symptoms and travel history. Follow instructions.
On Agenda Middle East we speak to political commentator and best-selling author, Fareed Zakaria about the takes from his new book: 'Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World'. We also delve into what the future holds for the Middle East.View on euronews
A 21-year-old woman who went missing Thursday after she went snowshoeing in B.C.'s North Shore Mountains has been found dead. CBC has identified her as Nikki Donnelly of Ontario based on information provided by rescue officials and social media accounts. Donnelly posted a short video Thursday afternoon on Instagram from atop St. Mark's Summit, a popular hiking spot north of Vancouver, that documented the picturesque ocean view. Shortly after, the young woman, who was visiting B.C. from Ontario, made her way back down the Howe Sound Crest Trail, according to officials with North Shore Rescue. She soon called her boyfriend in Toronto to tell him she was lost and in distress before the call dropped. The woman's disappearance set off an 18-hour search that ended with rescue crews discovering her body Friday morning, at about 10:40 a.m. PT, in a steep drainage area below the summit. The crew flew the woman by helicopter back to their rescue base, where she was pronounced dead. "Our thoughts are with the woman's family and friends, as well with all the responders and search teams to the St. Mark's area last night and today," Sgt. Sascha Banks with Squamish RCMP said in a statement. The police did not identify the woman, but rescue officials referred to her by her first name, Nikki, and noted she had posted a video from the summit. WATCH | Hiker posts video atop St. Mark's Summit before going missing: Called boyfriend several times Crews were called to look for Donnelly round 5 p.m. PT Thursday, but despite an all-night search with two helicopters and night-vision equipment, she was not found overnight. North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks said fresh search teams returned to the area at first light on Friday to look for any signs of the woman or possible tracks off the trail. The St. Mark's Summit hike is part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, a 28-kilometre trail that winds through the mountaintops north of Vancouver. The hike typically takes four to five hours round-trip and leads hikers to a peak with a view of the ocean and islands. Danks said the woman called her boyfriend when she reached St. Mark's Summit. She phoned him again on her way down, and shortly after made the final distress call that dropped. Snowshoer unlikely prepared to spend the night Rescue crews said Donnelly was likely out for a day trip and was probably unprepared to spend the night on the mountain. There was a "significant" amount of snow, and windy, rainy weather had wiped out searchers' tracks. Danks said the only indication that the woman was on the mountain was from the video she took and her registered rental car still parked in the Cypress Mountain parking lot. Her cellphone was most recently pinged at 3:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Based on the ping, Danks said, crews reasoned the woman was on the east side of the peak, where her body was later found. RCMP on Friday urged anyone who is in need of help while exploring remote areas to call 911. "As well, before you leave, please: research your area, take all the equipment you need, know your skill level, follow weather patterns, know snow conditions, and have a trip plan," Banks said. Squamish RCMP will work with the BC Coroners Service to investigate the woman's death.
South River and Machar residents should have a better idea over the next few weeks what will happen to the ice at their arena in the wake of the province's 28-day stay-at-home order. South River council will discuss the issue at its Jan. 25 meeting. South River clerk-administrator Don McArthur says the municipality developed COVID-19 protocols for the arena's four user groups that were working prior to the latest lockdown. The arena was used by the Junior A Spartans, boys' minor hockey, girls' minor hockey and figure skating. The protocols were explained to the users last fall and McArthur says when the arena opened in October, everything “worked wonderfully. “We really felt comfortable with the protocols and with the cooperation of the groups where they took on a lot of the responsibilities,” McArthur says. “They looked after their own contact tracing and what we did was buy disinfectant and sanitized the equipment.” This approach worked well, he says, and the municipality didn't have to put any extra staff at the arena. It would have been a different story had council opened the arena to public skating. “If we allowed public skating, protocols like who's coming and going would have to have been done by us,” McArthur says. “So the staffing level would have gone up considerably in order to police and look after all that information flow.” That would have become too expensive for the municipality, he says. The protocols the municipality has in place are good and “everyone feels confident that we can operate safely. “But we don't have that option (to operate) under the lockdown,” McArthur says. The South River-Machar Community Centre and Arena has been closed since Dec. 21. Assuming there's a reopening in the near future, the user groups will operate under the same protocols in place prior to Dec. 21. McArthur says staff and council are looking at various scenarios depending on when the latest lockdown ends. In the best-case scenario, the lockdown could be lifted earlier in the North, in which case “if we're delayed only two to four weeks then maybe we can add that time and run the season a little later into March or to the end of March. “Council's challenge is we don't know if or when we'll get a green light,” McArthur says. “So at what point does it become too late or no longer economically feasible for us and the user groups?” This is now a waiting game and it's not easy as options are weighed. “The big cost, beyond wages, at the arena is maintaining the ice,” he says. “If there isn't going to be anyone using it and no revenue coming in, then how long do we maintain that ice for?” McArthur adds the arena isn't only used for winter activities. It's also used for a hockey opportunity camp during the summer. In fact, the arena is at its busiest during the eight to 10 weeks of the hockey camp. The facility is only without ice from mid April to mid June. When the lockdowns first started last March, McArthur says the hockey camp “was one of the first (activities) to take a direct hit.” With the arena in shutdown mode, staff were able to carry out considerable maintenance at the site that normally would not be achievable. But with the arena down for the entire summer, it meant no revenue to the municipality. McArthur says 2020 saw the arena lose about $40,000 over and above its normal expenses. McArthur says the province's safe restart agreement helped offset part of the arena loss and council is grateful for that. Council also was able to offset the remainder of the loss by reducing the number of capital projects it had scheduled for 2020. One of those projects involved a compressor rebuild at the arena. So, while the village will still have a balanced budget for 2020, it comes at a cost because it now has to delay some of the scheduled capital projects into the future, McArthur says. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
Regina– On Jan. 14, the Saskatchewan Health Authority provided an update on its COVID-19 immunization campaign and delivery plan, as part of the regular COVID-19 update delivered from the Legislature in Regina. Derrick Miller, Executive Director of Infrastructure Management with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said by phone, “Our immunization campaign goals include minimizing serious illness and death, protecting those that are most vulnerable, protecting our healthcare capacity, minimizing spread and also protecting our critical infrastructure. There really guide us in what we're trying to achieve with our overall campaign.” He noted, “Our supply limitations that are being experienced with the COVID-19 vaccine require us to take a very diligent approach to sequencing the vaccine rollout.” This requires establishing priority populations, which are based on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendations. In Phase 1, there are approximately 109,000 in that group. “And based on federal allocations that have been identified, so far, going to the end of March this year, that’ well have enough vaccines to vaccinate approximately 50 per cent of this group. That’s short about half, obviously, of immunizing all of the priority populations approved in this framework.” On Jan. 13, there were 1,393 doses of the vaccines delivered, the highest to date. The average per day, so far, as been just over 1,000 doses per day. He said they anticipate running out of doses before the next allocations, as the speed of delivery means they get it out as quickly as possible and wait for the arrival of the next delivery. Miller said there are “three key planks to our strategy as part of our vaccine campaign.” “The first one is faster. Speed really maters in this. Every day counts to save lives and reduced the overall impact of COVID-19.” They are establishing distribution hubs throughout for the different type of vaccines. “We're adopting an all-hands-on-deck approach to delivery, leveraging all of our appropriate health care providers that can deliver vaccines, as well as looking for and seeking support from external resources to really bring all resources to bear, as part of this strategy,” he said. This includes mobile immunization teams to go to places like long-term care and personal care homes. Locally, they are testing different delivery methods. He said, “Being able to forecast vaccine distribution, with more accuracy will help us be more prepared for rapid distribution. And we know a stable, predictable and large volume allocations will really enable us for rapid delivery.” Every corner of the province is ready, in a posture of readiness, to administer the vaccine as it is received. “The second plank of our strategy is ‘smarter,’ Miller said. “Learning matters. Using improvement is already resulting in more rapid delivery and we can see that just by the results over the last week. The health system is very experienced in delivering the influenza vaccine and other vaccinations. And we're going to leverage that as we go forward, because we know how to do this. “However, we also recognize that this is different. And there are pretty significant differences that are impacting this campaign. We do have limited variable and unpredictable allocations. They vary from week to week, and the timing varies as well. We need to sequence priority populations, based on that. We’re not able to offer a mass immunization right off the start.” This includes multiple vaccines with different logistical challenges across a geographically dispersed province. Transportation changes allow them to move vaccines in a more efficient manner. Being a single health authority makes it easier, he noted. Miller said we are learning from our partners, including Metis and First Nations partners. The third plank is safety. “Safety matters. High uptake requires strong communications to ensure the public knows the vaccine is safe. We know the COVID vaccine is safe. It is Health Canada-approved and has gone through the various regulatory reviews, and approval processes. We also know that it's effective, or 90 per cent effective, in reducing the risk of infection. And it's simple. It's just like getting a flu shot for Saskatchewan residents, our health care workers are highly experienced and have many years of successfully delivering flu vaccine to the residents of Saskatchewan, and ensuring that all safety requirements are achieved.” Challenges include delivery to high-risk populations in remote areas. The Pfizer vaccine has temperature constraints and special handling needs. The consent process can be time-intensive, especially in long-term care homes. Unpredictable allocations should hopefully be resolved in coming weeks. Adverse weather can be an issue. “At the same time, we are preparing for widespread immunization in Phase 2, or we will open up access to the general population and conduct Saskatchewan’s largest-ever immunization campaign. One of our key tasks is to ensure that our teams are ready to deliver the vaccine as soon as possible on arrival, and enhance speed of delivery. This is true in Phase 1, as we're focusing on those priority populations, and it will also be true when we go into Phase 2, and get to the point where we’re vaccinating the general public,” Miller said. He added that “Currently, our health system is at its most fragile point yet for their highest hospitalization rate, and a high case count.” Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingston added, “We want to make sure we're getting the vaccine out as quickly as we can to those vulnerable populations and get vaccine in arm as quickly as possible. So, it won't be in the freezer as long. As the vaccines come in, we will get them out and they will go and get administered as fast as we can in the arms of those who need it very most.” He pointed out that limited supplied are limiting their capabilities, but they are focussing on the most vulnerable. Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Slovenia's leftist opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against the centre-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa on Friday, and a secret parliamentary ballot is expected next week. Karl Erjavec, leader of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), said the opposition had gathered 42 signatures in favour of the motion from among deputies in the 90-seat parliament. Until recently DeSUS was part of the ruling coalition, but it quit saying it was unhappy with the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, its jeopardising of media freedom and siding with Hungary and Poland in disputes within the European Union over democratic standards in those countries.
RESTAURATION. Québec solidaire dénonce tant les frais pouvant aller jusqu’à 30% imposés par des applications de livraison de repas que le refus du gouvernement Legault d'imposer une limite à Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash. Le député de Rosemont Vincent Marissal voudrait qu’on impose un plafond de 20% comme l'ont fait l'Ontario et la Colombie-Britannique. «Nos restos de quartier ferment à gauche, à droite, et tout ce que la CAQ trouve à faire, c'est de demander gentiment aux applications de réduire leurs frais abusifs. Quel aveu d'impuissance! Le gouvernement Legault a pris assez de retard. Aujourd'hui, il doit choisir entre les profits de Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash et la survie pure et simple de nos restaurants de quartier. Le milieu de la restauration est déjà accablé par des mois de fermeture et l'indifférence du ministre Fitzgibbon. Des frais de 30%, c'est la goutte de trop», plaide le responsable solidaire en matière de justice fiscale. Pour Québec solidaire, le gouvernement doit éviter de répéter les erreurs commises avec le projet de loi sur les taxis. «En donnant à Uber un beau projet de loi fait sur mesure, on a fait entrer le loup dans la bergerie. Bien maintenant, le loup a fait le tour de la bergerie et il est entré dans le resto du village! Tout le monde commande plus souvent depuis le début de la pandémie, c'est normal. Ce qui est moins normal, c'est qu'on laisse les applications de livraison fixer les règles du jeu. Alors que les restaurants et les clients paient des frais qui coûtent les yeux de la tête, les livreurs touchent des salaires dérisoires. S'il n'est pas encadré, le modèle économique de Uber Eats, Skip et DoorDash est ruineux pour le Québec», martèle Vincent Marissal. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
Max Meighen admits to being one of the more fortunate small business owners around. The Avling Kitchen and Brewery he opened in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood back in July 2019 has spent more of its young life in COVID-19 lockdown than out of it, but is still making decent income from takeout beer sales and some limited food options. The “whole animal” kitchen already had a butcher on-site to prepare its typical weekly order of a side of beef and a pig, who was quickly put to work selling cuts of meat and sausages out of the same retail store its customers already frequented to buy bottles and cans of Avling's beer before the lockdowns came. A bookkeeper has made it easier to navigate various government relief packages, including the federal wage subsidy that meant they could hire for two specific roles in September, one for a retail manager and another in communications, to respond to the changed circumstances. Apart from a brief opening in the summer, the pub has effectively been closed since March, but with nine months of interruptions, it still made around 60 per cent of the sales he’d expected in 2020, Meighen said. That's not to say the pandemic and the response to it has not brought pain and frustration to the young business owner. The restaurant has had to lay off around 35 mostly full-time kitchen and service staff, while two kitchen workers from the original team provide takeout service and donations to two local community groups. But Meighen has the latitude to hunker down and plan for better days ahead. “We want to represent a post-pandemic possibility,” he told Canada's National Observer. “Not playing catch-up, but trying our best to be leading the way.” After using marigolds planted in the rooftop garden to control pests, make oil infusions for the kitchen and adding them to an upcoming all-Ontario grain beer, Meighen is hoping to find funding for a project to add wastewater treatment or aquaculture to build out an even more circular urban agricultural ecosystem. He has also worked out a deal with his pig farmer to use barley and wheat planted in his fallow fields for another experimental brew, and wonders about whether his own spent grain could go back to the farm. “For my own sanity, maintaining my own optimism, looking forward to these projects and continuing to develop them is important,” Meighen said. “I’m trying to focus more on the possibilities of the future rather than the grim reality of the present.” Meighen says that while nothing could have prepared a restaurant owner for the last year, he has learned that governments can, when they want to, provide much more support for individuals and businesses, and he's hoping the country's political leaders are also looking ahead. “The real question for me is to what degree they take advantage of the months and year following the pandemic to initiate a rebound or a rebuild in a way that I hope looks towards greater equity, a more complete integration of green policy,” he said of the federal Liberal government that has bankrolled most emergency pandemic relief efforts. That could mean heavy funding and policy efforts to help Alberta’s oil and gas workers thrive in a less carbon-intensive world, for example, as the pandemic accelerates problematic trends “people could ignore at their own peril up until February of 2020, but now are completely here to stay,” Meighen said. Unlike many small businesses along the strip of Queen Street East from the railway bridge and Jimmy Simpson Park to Greenwood Avenue, Avling pays a mortgage rather than rent. Meighen said the bank had expected business-as-usual terms after an initial six-month deferral of payment (but not interest). “They were not as understanding as I would have liked nor expected,” he said, noting major lenders talk about being there to support small business. Meighen says Avling's beer sales bumped higher in the early days of the pandemic as customers prepared for some extended time at home, “but as things dragged on and it became apparent that it wasn't just an enforced vacation, a short temporary hiatus, but something much more long term, all of our sales pulled back.” The brief respite of the summer's looser rules and the city's CafeTO program, which made more sidewalk space available for dining, did help get weekly sales to around 85 per cent of typical, with Avling's 40-seat pavement patio replacing an inside space that used to regularly serve 100 people. About a third of Leslieville storefronts are either restaurants, cafés or bars, and the head of the area's BIA (business improvement area) Dominic Cobran credits CafeTO with keeping many of those hospitality businesses afloat through the summer. “It really was a lifeline for the participating restaurants,” he said of the program, which made extra pavement space available for al fresco dining and “helped them out to the point where it could take them through when they closed indoor dining” in October. “It took them through a very difficult period into an even more difficult period,” Cobran said, referring to the tighter restrictions introduced this winter.Alastair Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
After 11 years in the trades – from scaffolding and metal work, to her current role in concrete forming – Mulisius Joe has also become skilled at navigating the male-dominated construction industry. “I've worked with a few men who didn’t think I should be there,” she said, citing times when empty reasons were given to exclude her from contributing to a job. “It’s never said out loud but you could feel it…where you don't know if it’s racist or it’s sexist, but you know it's something.” Calls for equity among construction labourers in the GTA were made decades ago, with African-Canadian carpenters and their allies protesting the exclusion of Black workers from trades unions and construction companies in the early ‘70s. Trade union programs are now slowly helping to change that. Joe said she has seen a shift in how journeypersons, or mentors for trade apprentices, are increasingly focused on the treatment of women and visible minorities on site, and are better prepared to foster an equitable environment. These changes make her hopeful the industry will develop a similar awareness around issues of discrimination and equity, especially after the racist incidents this past summer, when five nooses were found tied onto scaffolding or hanging in view at GTA construction sites. Despite police and union investigations – and the firing of at least one worker – another two nooses were found at Michael Garron Hospital in East York in late September. “It didn't just go away because we said how we feel,” said Brampton resident Chris Campbell, of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. In November, Campbell became the union’s first Equity and Diversity Representative. He will work to include racism in the scope of “toolbox talk” – trades-speak for frank discussions about safety issues – in an attempt to change the culture of silence around workplace discrimination in the construction industry. The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario represents more than 30,000 workers across 16 affiliated trades unions. Campbell completed his apprenticeship in the early ‘90s, and became a project supervisor at various sites across the GTA before teaching at the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades, based in Woodbridge. An active member in the Jamaican Canadian Association and other Black community organizations, Campbell went on to become a Local 27 Toronto Carpenters’ Union rep prior to his current appointment. Following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring, Black Lives Matter demonstrations underscored the urgent need to confront anti-Black racism in the workplace. Campbell said he and other union representatives marched in the downtown Toronto protests in June, sporting the union flag. Mulisius joined the marches, and commended the union for making their presence visible. “It feels good, because as a woman on site, and also as a Black person, I’m always the minority. To see our union jump behind this, it makes me feel so much prouder to be a Local 27 member,” she said. But later that month, the first noose was found at the Eglinton Crosstown LRT job site. Campbell said one of the union’s members admitted to tying it and was fired, had his union membership revoked and was banned from working on projects operated by Crosslinx Transit Solutions. “It’s not just a noose for some people. It’s a health issue, because they’re traumatized, they can’t mentally handle it,” Johnson said, adding that there were Black workers at the site. “Some people, they become emotional and they cannot go back to work because to them, it symbolizes an extreme aggression. To them, it symbolizes what their grandparents went through a few decades ago.” According to 2016 Census data, close to one-fifth of Brampton’s workforce was in the trades, transport and equipment operations industry, compared to about 12 percent in Mississauga. Peel Region also has the highest proportion of immigrants compared to its bordering regions – at about 52 percent of the population – and the highest proportion of visible minorities, at 62 percent, compared to 51 percent in Toronto, and the GTA average of 48 percent. The booming construction industry holds the potential to dramatically improve the employment prospects of Peel’s large visible minority communities. Many of these residents have not been well represented in the trades, traditionally. The BOLT (Building Opportunities for Life Today) program was launched by construction giant Tridel in 2009, and in 2013 it was established as a charitable foundation aimed at introducing career opportunities to marginalized and other “under-resourced” youth across the GTA. It has provided more than 400 post-secondary scholarships for construction-related programs, in an effort to help young people from all backgrounds pursue a career in the trades. Opening up one of Ontario’s largest industries to reflect the province’s population, is a challenge the unions are now taking up as well. Whether it’s because of cultural issues, for example the view among some South Asian-Canadian communities that trades jobs are not traditionally socially acceptable, or because of discriminatory dynamics within the industry, the lack of representation means many Peel residents are being cut off from highly lucrative careers. In 2018, the average wage of workers in the construction industry across the country was almost $32 an hour, according to Statistics Canada. The average minimum wage in the country (which is what many newcomers earn) at the time sat at about $12 an hour. A 2016 Peel-Halton Workforce Characteristics Report notes that women, racialized minorities and newcomers face disadvantages when holding precarious positions in Peel, with the largest proportions of people earning lower incomes located in Brampton and Mississauga compared to Halton municipalities. In the construction and industrial sectors, about 97 percent of Peel and Halton journeypersons and apprentices are male, though there is no race-based data provided or notes on discrimination trends in the workplace. The recent rash of racist incidents raises questions about what the industry is doing to confront discrimination. At the large LRT construction site where the Fairbank Station in Toronto, near Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue will open in 2022, Campbell said the union interviewed people on site and had a “toolbox talk” after a noose was tied there. The union has partnered with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council to create a charter document and establish standards for an inclusive workplace that rejects racism, xenophobia and discrimination. The document is now posted at some construction sites, Campbell said, adding that the union is planning to address racism in the workplace through new educational initiatives and training for members and senior leadership. In his new role, Campbell will be notified and involved in the complaints resolution process related to racism in the workplace, and encourages workers to report these incidents. “It’s a health and safety issue,” he said. With the work of craft and trade unions based in skill development, at the forefront of efforts to address racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination is the question of whose skills are being recognized, said Tania Das Gupta, a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at York University. As part of her research into racism in the labour movement, Das Gupta interviewed visible minority workers in leadership roles within larger unions, who expressed feeling obstructed in their work. “In other words, you could have diversity, but sometimes it becomes tokenism and the [union] structures are not conducive to inclusion,” she said. Education is integral to making anti-racism programs a success, she added. “If the workers are prepared, and they’re educated on why these changes are happening, then they're likely not to feel threatened.” Professional associations and developers such as Tridel and Ellis Don have launched anti-racism campaigns in response to the incidents this past summer, including quarterly roundtable discussions with 21 industry partners, spearheaded by the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). The group is meeting for the second time this month. “These incidents didn’t happen in isolation, and it wasn’t just one incident…so we realized that this is an issue that we need to dive deeper into combatting,” said Amina Dibe, manager of government and stakeholder relations at RESCON. The collective launched the Construction Against Racism Everyone (CARE) Campaign, distributing more than 2,000 hardhat stickers for workers to show their solidarity, while launching educational webinars and subcommittees to tackle education, communication and training within the industry. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer