Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months in order to boost the number of Canadians being vaccinated. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that means going from a three week interval to a full four months. "NACI recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine up to four months after the first," the committee said in a statement. Prior to this new recommendation, NACI had said that the maximum interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for the Pfizer-BioNTech product should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. Since first doses of all three vaccines have been shown to dramatically increase immunity to the disease, or to significantly reduce the illness associated with contracting COVID-19, the committee said stretching the interval would help protect more Canadians sooner. NACI said that it reviewed evidence from two clinical trials that looked at how effective the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were after a single dose. Those studies, NACI said, showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines started providing some level of protection 12 to 14 days after the first dose. By the time the second dose was administered — 19 to 42 days after the first — the first shot was shown to be 92 per cent effective. Population studies find lower protection Outside of clinical trials, NACI looked at the effectiveness of a single shot of these two vaccines in the populations of Quebec, British Columbia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. NACI said that analysis showed the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine was between 70 per cent and 80 per cent among health care workers, long-term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. "While this is somewhat lower than the efficacy demonstrated after one dose in clinical trials, it is important to note that vaccine effectiveness in a general population setting is typically lower than efficacy from the controlled setting of a clinical trial, and this is expected to be the case after series completion as well," NACI said. The committee said that published data from an AstraZeneca clinical trial indicated that delaying the second dose 12 weeks or more provided better protections against symptomatic disease compared to shorter intervals between doses. Earlier this week, before NACI changed its interval advice, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and countries around the world showed a "miraculous" protection level of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The head of Moderna's Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, said Monday that the company's own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four-week interval. "That being said, we're in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made," Gauthier said. "This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments ... can make their own decisions." Gauthier said she was not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months. 'We have to do it safely and watch carefully' Dr. David Naylor, who has been named to a federal task force charged with planning a national campaign to see how far the virus has spread, said the data have been "very encouraging." "The evidence is there for the concept of further delay," Naylor told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "We [had] trial data from earlier showing that going out from 90 days, a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. So things are triangulating." He said health officials need to pay close attention to the data coming out of other countries to determine if the protection provided by the first dose remains strong four months after it was administered. "We do it because we can cover more people with a single dose of the vaccine, spread the protection, prevent more severe disease and prevent fatalities, and the evidence is clear that that's what you can do if you spread those doses out widely. But we have to do it safely and watch carefully," Naylor told host Vassy Kapelos. Watch: The evidence is there for the 'concept of further delay' of second doses: Dr. Naylor: Storage and transport recommendations also changed Health Canada also announced today that after reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech, it would authorize changes to the way the vaccine is handled in Canada. The new rules allow the vaccine to be stored and transported in a standard freezer with a temperature of between -25 C and -15 C for up to two weeks, instead of the previous requirement that it be stored in ultra-cold conditions of -80 C to -60 C. Vials of the vaccine stored or transported at this higher temperature for no longer than two weeks remain stable and safe and can then be returned to ultra-cold freezers once, said the department.
Facebook says it is lifting its ban on political and social-issue ads put in place after the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Political candidates, groups and others will be able to place ads on Facebook and Instagram beginning on Thursday. Restricting political advertisements following the November election was among the host of measures Facebook put in place last year in an attempt to ensure its platform is not used to sow chaos and spread misinformation. Facebook halted U.S. political ads when the polls closed on Nov. 3, an extension of an earlier restriction on new political ads in the week leading up to Election Day. It said at the time that the ban would be temporary but did not give a clear end date. “We’ve heard a lot of feedback about this and learned more about political and electoral ads during this election cycle,” the company said in a blog post Wednesday. “As a result, we plan to use the coming months to take a closer look at how these ads work on our service to see where further changes may be merited.” Twitter has banned political ads permanently. Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are feeling isolated than ever. But the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre is seeking to connect people and bring them together virtually. “I’m a firm believer that you have to be agile, you have to move quickly to get something out there to help people,” says Tammi Belfer, the president of the centre’s board of directors. After the pandemic forced most services to close last March, Belfer and the rest of the team immediately moved to virtual programming through Zoom. She says they’re now able to reach more people who would struggle to physically visit the office. The centre’s biggest fundraiser of the year coincides annually with International Women’s Day. This year, it’s taking place on Saturday and has been modified to fit a virtual setting. “This year is quite unique,” explains Megan Chambers, who’s currently a volunteer member of the centre’s governance committee and in the process of being appointed to the board. For the event’s 25th anniversary, some things will remain the same: Richmond video reporter Thor Diakow will act as the master of ceremonies, and attendees will listen to a keynote address from the founders of Boss Lady Collective, a Vancouver-based group that helps female entrepreneurs. But some elements will change to fit the new format, including door prizes and trivia to increase interactivity. The goal is to reach 120 attendees, which is about half the number who would attend the usual in-person event. An online silent auction is aiming to raise $10,000, with donated items ranging from $10 to $600 in value. “I’m hoping we can blow this out of the water for the centre this year,” says Chambers. “I’m really so blessed to be able to work with (the centre), and I want to see it succeed as much as possible. Longtime community supporter and former MLA Linda Reid—who Belfer notes has been a help to the centre for many years—will receive the first annual achievement award. Following a challenging year, the centre is hoping to continue to grow. It has three major pillars in its strategic plan: building community and partnerships; learning and training; and working to enhance the support groups it runs. “Our specific goal right now is to build awareness and build strategies on how to do that, and make sure we’re staying current and relevant,” says Belfer. The centre’s support group for moms often has kids in attendance, since people are tuning in from home. And the grandmothers support group meets via telephone. While most women who use the centre’s services are between the ages of 35 and 60, Belfer says she’s also noticed more young women starting to use the services offered by the centre, “and that’s the future.” The job ready program teaches skills like resumé writing and gives women a chance to interact in small groups. There’s also an English language program where people learn language skills and converse. Despite the lower traffic during the pandemic, thousands of women are still seeking support from the centre—more than 3,500 participated in its programs, and nearly 900 were drop-in visitors. Belfer hopes to be able to open the doors to more drop-in visitors soon, as the centre is currently closed to the public. “The level of need is growing more, and people are getting stressed. I feel a higher stress level happening,” she says. “I think we need to be there more than anything, and we need to do fun and educational things. “People are connecting, we just need to encourage them—we need to tell them about it. I think the women’s resource centre has been the best-kept secret in Richmond since 1976. We’re here, and we’re here for a long time.” The virtual International Women’s Day event is taking place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday (March 6), and people can register for free online. You can also support the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre through its online auction here, using the room code IWD2021. Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
OTTAWA — Two prominent Jewish advocacy groups are voicing anti-Semitism concerns ahead of a public conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.The heads of the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Board of Deputies of British Jews say Corbyn is "toxic" and that the planned livestream talk between him and Ashton risks pulling New Democrats in a direction "antithetical" to Canadian values.Corbyn was booted from the British Labour party in October amid accusations he had weakened efforts to stamp out anti-Semitism.The party has been grappling with allegations anti-Semitism was allowed to fester under Corbyn, a longtime supporter of Palestinians and a critic of Israel who led the party for almost five years from 2015. Ashton has been promoting the March 20 chat, which will be hosted by Progressive International, an organization launched in 2018 by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Canadian author Naomi Klein and other progressive politicians and activists.Ashton and the NDP did not respond immediately to requests for comment.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.—With a file from The Associated Press The Canadian Press
Training was hosted by Mastec Canada, which provided funding and expert instructors, alongside Enbridge. Students worked to qualify as pipeliners, receiving all required certifications. “It’s a fantastic training program, they’re picking up a lot in a very short period of time,” said Blueberry Elder Clarence Apsassin. “But with the amount of effort that’s being put into this, the students say they’ve learned a lot.” Mastec program instructor John Telford said he’s proud of the students. “It’s a dangerous industry if you’re not trained properly, not thinking about it,” Telford said. "I appreciate [them] getting in there, being attentive, and giving 100%." Deanne McLeod, executive director for the North East Native Advancing Society, is looking forward to future opportunities to work with industry stakeholders. “This was a perfect example of how our First Nations communities, NENAS, industry partners and employers can work together to provide relevant hands on training to prepare our students to actively participate in the current labour market,” said McLeod. firstname.lastname@example.org Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
A Saint Andrews landmark is set to get a facelift. The wharf in the centre of town will be the recipient of a multi-million dollar refurbishment. Close to $3.5 million will be used to replace the approach to the wharf, $588,000 to restore the intermediate structure, $674,000 to restore the pier head and $340,000 to rebuild the seawall. At a meeting Monday night, councillors decided to replace the aging wooden structure with one made of concrete. The other options were wood and armour stone, which are large blocks of stone cut from a quarry. Mayor Doug Naish said concrete turned out to be a compromise material for the wharf. "The option of going with armour stone completely changed the look of the waterfront so much that we got a tremendous amount of input from the public that they thought that would change the whole nature of the downtown," said Naish. "That wasn't the preferred option for many people, as well as many people on council." Naish said it was important the new wharf fit in with the historic downtown. And while concrete isn't a material used much in the old buildings that line Water Street, Naish said a concrete wharf won't take away from the historic community's ambience. "It's mostly concrete in the understructure, replacing the wooden pilings, it's really concrete piers," said Naish. "It'll look the same from underneath as small bridges do ... but it will be much more durable. It will last much longer and it will have less life-cycle costs than putting wood back in place." While concrete isn’t a material used much in the old buildings that line Water Street, Naish says a concrete wharf won’t take away from the historic community’s ambience. (Town of Saint Andrews) Naish said the town received funding for the new wharf last week and the next step is to do environmental assessments and an engineering study on the design. He hopes construction can start in the fall and said it will take two to three years to complete. The reason for the extended timetable is the town hopes to keep the wharf open during the tourist season, which is important for the Saint Andrews economy. "We will very religiously work around the summer tourism season because, of course, our wharf is a commercial wharf mainly," said Naish. "It has many recreational purposes, but we count on the commercial uses of the wharf to pay the overhead of running the wharf, which is not insignificant. "
VANCOUVER — A lawyer for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is accusing former U.S. president Donald Trump of co-opting her extradition proceedings in an effort to use her as leverage in trade negotiations with China. Richard Peck told the British Columbia Supreme Court that Trump's words to media after Meng's arrest amount to an abuse of process and a "stain" on proceedings in Canada. Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018, at the request of U.S. officials on charges of fraud that both she and Huawei deny. The argument hinges on remarks by Trump 10 days after the arrest when he was asked if the United States would intervene in Meng's case to get a better deal with China.Peck quotes Trump as saying he would "certainly intervene" if he thought it was necessary.Lawyers for the attorney general of Canada, who are representing the United States in the case, have said in legal documents that they will say the argument is irrelevant now that Trump is out of office. "With that utterance, Ms. Meng became a bargaining chip, a pawn in this economic contest between these two superpowers. Those words amount to the opening salvo in this trade war," Peck told the court. Today marks the beginning of arguments by Meng's legal team that she was subjected to an abuse of process and that the proceedings against her should be stayed.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Newer media outlets in Turkey are reaching a wider audience but the practices of big tech gate keepers such as Google and Facebook are slowing their efforts to catch up with mainstream, mostly pro-government media, a report said on Wednesday. Algorithms that direct news searches online and on social media sites and videos platforms such as YouTube tend to favour established media outlets, the report by the International Press Institute (IPI) found. Some 90% of major media in Turkey is now owned by the state or is close to the government after more than a decade of pressure by President Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party that has included fines, taxes and litigation.
“Klara and the Sun,” by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf) “Klara and the Sun,” by Nobel-winning writer Kazuo Ishiguro, takes readers on a journey through the mind of Klara, one of many artificial friends who have been built to keep lonely children company. Klara is a one-of-a-kind machine whose keen observational abilities are consistently praised by the human beings who meet her. She may be a machine, but her thoughts and emotions are deeply real. Klara is chosen at the store by a young girl named Josie who connects with her immediately. She comes home with her to learn that Josie has a serious illness. Ever devoted to the child who chose her, Klara takes it upon herself to ensure that Josie remains safe and healthy for as long as possible. Ishiguro creates a fascinating world through Klara’s eyes as she works to understand how humans operate, while at the same time working through a growing number of feelings of her own. Throughout the book, Klara is more or less treated as a person and sometimes, you may even forget that she isn’t one. Ishiguro’s prose are soft and quiet. It feels like the perfect book to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon. He allows the story to unfold slowly and organically, revealing enough on every page to continue piquing the reader’s curiosity. The novel is an intriguing take on how artificial intelligence might play a role in our futures. It is a poignant meditation on love and loneliness, and asks us to ponder whether someone like Klara can every truly embody the human spirit, or if the soul is something that can never be manufactured. —- Read more about Molly Sprayregen at https://www.mollyspray.com. Molly Sprayregen, The Associated Press
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne says the federal government is spending $518 million on efforts to boost Canada’s ability to produce vaccines, among more than 100 research projects receiving new money. He says the funding will help provide Canadian researchers with equipment and shared databases, among other things.
The Arctic Winter Games International Committee has postponed the 2022 Arctic Winter Games, that were set to take place in Wood Buffalo, Alta. In a news release Wednesday morning, the committee described the decision as a "proactive response to the global COVID-19 pandemic" after conversations with the Wood Buffalo host society, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the government of Alberta. "There were just no guarantees for us," John Flynn, the president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, told the CBC. "We do not want to say cancelled…. [but] right now, we don't really have a date." The Games were originally scheduled to take place from March 6-12. Flynn said organizers will be looking for alternate dates for the 2022 event. The high-profile circumpolar sporting competition normally runs every two years. About 2,000 athletes from around the world — including Russia, Greenland, Finland and Norway, as well as Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik, Northwest Territories, northern Alberta and Alaska — usually attend. This is the second Games in a row to be affected by the pandemic, following the cancellation of the 2020 games that were set to take place in Whitehorse. Those games were called off just a week before the event was scheduled to start — something Flynn said organizers wanted to avoid in 2022. "That was a big factor," he said. "We really don't want what happened in Whitehorse to take place in Wood Buffalo." Health and safety are 'paramount concern' Wednesday's release said the decision to postpone the games "was made to ensure the health and safety of all the participants, coaches, volunteers, staff, spectators and the host community." The committee also said the pandemic would likely prevent them from hosting a meaningful experience. "The health and safety of our circumpolar participants, coaches and volunteers is of paramount concern, and although it is a great disappointment that we must postpone the 2022 Arctic Winter Games, we are steadfast in our decision," Flynn is quoted as saying in the release. "We analyzed the relevant risks and considered our tolerance for those risks, and we learned from best practices employed by other major games leaders to come to this difficult decision," the quote continues. On CBC Yukon's Airplay Wednesday, Flynn said he feels "very sorry for the young athletes." "They say they have nowhere to put their energies," he said. "We understand how important the Arctic Winter Games is to them." Melissa Blake, co-chair of the 2022 Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games, said in the release that the host society supports the international committee's decision and understands the "significant considerations" involved. "We would like to thank the community and our volunteers for their continued support as we prepare to welcome the circumpolar North at a later date," Blake said. Aaron Wells, executive director of Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT, said that it's disappointing news to hear following the cancellation of last year's Games. "I feel bad for the athletes and the coaches and especially athletes that may never get to experience the games if they're postponed long enough," said Wells. "But I do understand that there's a lot of decisions and factors that are taken into place to kind of come up with these decisions." Wells said that the Aboriginal Sports Circle was also looking forward to archery being introduced to the games in 2022, after its premiere was cancelled along with the Games in 2020. "It definitely has a major effect on athlete development in helping prepare for other major games or other tournaments or national events." But despite the difficult news, Wells, who is also a long-time basketball coach, said that within five minutes of receiving it, a number of different coaches were reaching out to each other about different opportunities they can provide to athletes. "It's not like we sit around and pout about these games being postponed indefinitely. We move on to the next potential event or what we can do to make sure that these athletes are getting the opportunities they deserve."
The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a flagship election reform bill on Wednesday that would update voting procedures and require states to turn over the task of redrawing congressional districts to independent commissions. The legislation, numbered "H.R. 1" for the importance Democrats attach to it, "is designed to restore the voices of Americans who felt left out and locked out for too long," its original sponsor, Representative John Sarbanes, said in remarks outside the U.S. Capitol before the vote. The bill is one of many the House Democrats are voting on early in the Congress on a number of priorities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, policing and the environment.
The District of Taylor is taking the wheel on the North Peace Rural Roads Taskforce, drafting a memorandum of understanding for a new coalition. The taskforce was dissolved in January after the 2020 contract was completed. Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser the municipality is prepared to host a new contract during PRRD’s Feb. 11 board meeting. The MOU outlines a coalition between Taylor, Electoral Area B, and Hudson’s Hope, and has been renamed as such, replacing the taskforce. “Our council wanted to make sure there was a commitment by all of the potential participants, and so this MOU was drafted to pull together an agreement between us that would allow this to go forward,” said Fraser. “We’re hoping the regional board will endorse this MOU so we can proceed forward with this rural roads taskforce.” He added that securing funding for the taskforce has been a challenge for the PRRD. Together, the three will set new contracts and annual funding. The MOU draft estimates that each local government could contribute between $50,000 to $150,000 per year, but must reach consensus on what is being spent and how. “The North Peace Rural Roads has been doing fantastic work and has been returning to the region, as much or more as we’ve been putting into it,” said Fraser. “Our council wanted to see this proceed. Everybody was trying to figure out a way to continue this and make it work.” Hudson’s Hope Mayor Dave Heiberg says the group has always worked from the ground up, adding that its goal remains lobbying for needed road improvements. “One of the things I think that the board should realize is that this is a grassroots-driven organization,” said Heiberg. “It has gained traction, and we want to keep that momentum.” Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead says he sees the value of the trio continuing the taskforce, but is concerned with optics of the new coalition. “Shouldn’t it be the Peace River Regional District Rural Roads Taskforce? And shouldn’t it have a strategy aimed at that, on behalf of the whole region, not just one segment?” said Bumstead. “I use that as an observation, not as a criticism of the work.” Director Dan Rose pointed out that the PRRD as a whole could still be on the hook for funding, despite the MOU only including Area B. “If we agree to this as a regional district, we also agree to the funding portion of it. If for some reason it falls out of Area B, the rest of us are responsible for it,” said Rose. “Even at the width and breadth it’s at, it’s a function. And we haven’t asked anybody if they want to fund it yet.” He further added that it could be separated by a resolution through the rural budget committee. Electoral Area B Director Karen Goodings says invitations remain open. “We are certainly open to inviting other members of the board should be interested in joining us. I want to thank Taylor for stepping forward and putting together this MOU,” Goodings said. email@example.com Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
SOUTH DUNDAS – Two employees of the Municipality of South Dundas have left their positions in the last month, and a third person is retiring. Recreation program coordinator Jamie Scott resigned from his position, with his last day being on February 16th. Scott was with the municipality for nearly two years and hired in May 2019. Meagan Bingley, who was business retention and expansion coordinator for South Dundas’ economic development department, departed to return to the insurance industry. Bingley was hired in October 2020. Director of Corporate Services andClerk Brenda Brunt informed council last week of her upcoming retirement. Her nearly 31 year career with South Dundas and pre-amalgamation Williamsburg Township has seen Brunt serve as clerk, marriage commissioner and at one point acting-CAO. More information on Brunt’s retirement will be presented in a report to council, which is expected on March 22nd. Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader
A Red Deer meat-processing plant at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak linked to three worker deaths will reopen on Thursday for slaughter operations before resuming cutting room operations on Friday. "Reopening can occur because Olymel management and the regulators are satisfied that employees can return to the plant safely," said Olymel spokesperson Richard Vigneault in a statement. "The company will continue to work with AHS and OHS in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus." The news of the reopening came the same day the union that represents the plant's employees said a third worker's death was linked to the COVID-19 outbreak at the plant. That raised the total number of deaths linked to the outbreak to four, according to the union. The worker has not yet been publicly identified. In an emailed statement Wednesday afternoon, Vigneault confirmed that three plant employees have now died after testing positive. "It's a very sad situation for the family and friends and colleagues, and Olymel is offering its sincere condolences to the families," the statement read in part. "Olymel will remain available for assistance to support the families in this tragedy." Alberta Health has not yet confirmed the worker's death. On Wednesday, a spokesperson with Alberta Health said they had only linked two worker deaths to the outbreak at this time. Deaths linked to outbreak The Olymel outbreak, first declared on Nov. 17, 2020, has been linked to at least 500 cases, and led to the temporary closure of the plant on Feb. 15. The first death, on Jan. 28, was of Darwin Doloque, a 35-year-old permanent resident who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines and was found dead in his home. His death was followed on Feb. 24 by that of Henry De Leon, a 50-year-old who immigrated from the Dominican Republic and had worked at the plant for 15 years. He left behind a wife, two adult children and three grandchildren. The third death linked to the outbreak was a woman in her 60s who has not been publicly identified. It has not been disclosed how she was linked to the outbreak. The outbreak at the Olymel plant is now deadlier than the outbreak at the Cargill meat-processing plant near High River, Alta., the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Canada. The Cargill outbreak was linked to three fatalities and at least 1,500 cases. Company says it has worked with AHS In the statement, Olymel said it had used the temporary closure to "update and reinforce the many health and safety measures already in place at the plant." The company said teams from AHS, OHS and Environmental Public Health visited the facility on March 1 and 3. AHS made several recommendations at that time. "Alberta Health Services authorities have however specified that the coronavirus is still spreading and that everyone is at risk of contracting it, whether in the community or otherwise," Vigneault said in the statement. "Accordingly, they recommend the utmost vigilance." The company said it had added staff to monitor and enforce health and safety measures, and "further adjusted and enhanced" social distancing protocols, particularly when it came to adding physical space. Health and safety meetings between management and union representatives are scheduled on a daily basis, the company said. 'Action items' were suggested by union before reopening Earlier this week, Hesse called for the Red Deer plant's potential March 3 reopening to be delayed, saying in an open letter that employees do not feel safe after a deadly outbreak of COVID-19. It listed more than 20 "action items" it said should be fulfilled before reopening is considered, in order to regain the confidence of employees and ensure their safety. The letter came after plant manager Rob Ackerblade informed employees on Feb. 28 that if a March 1 inspection by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Occupational Health and Safety was successful, gradual reopening dates for the Olymel plant could be March 3 for the slaughterhouse and March 4 for the cutting room. The Alberta government confirmed to CBC News on Wednesday that Occupational Health and Safety had toured the facility on March 1, and again with AHS and the union on March 2. "OHS continues to monitor Olymel to ensure safety protocols and measures continue to be used to limit the spread of COVID-19," Joseph Dow said in an emailed statement. According to Dow, AHS made safety recommendations to be implemented before the plant's eventual reopening. The measures recommended by AHS included: Implement capacity limits in lockers rooms and washrooms. Remove reusable dishes in break rooms. Enhance cleaning/disinfecting schedules of washrooms, break rooms and locker rooms. Add more hand sanitizing stations throughout. Increase education plan for staff, including staff training sessions, posters and other visuals.
TORONTO — Veteran Canadian strawweight Randa (Quiet Storm) Markos will face Luana Pinheiro at UFC 260 on March 27. It will mark the 17th UFC fight for the 35-year-old from Windsor, Ont., who made her debut in the promotion in December 2014. Markos (10-10-1) has lost three straight and four of her last five, dropping her record in the UFC to 6-9-1. Markos lost a decision to Japan's Kanako Murata last time out in November. Pinheiro (8-1-0) is making her UFC debut after posting a first-round KO win in November over Stephanie Frausto in Dana White's Contender Series. The 27-year-old Brazilian has won her last six outings. The main event at the UFC's Apex production facility in Las Vegas sees Stipe Miocic (20-3-0) put his heavyweight title on the line against No. 1 contender Francis (The Predator) Ngannou (15-3-0). Miocic won by unanimous decision when they met at UFC 220 in January 2018, There are two other Canadians on the UFC 260 card. Flyweight Gillian (The Savage) Robertson, a native of Niagara Falls, Ont., who makes her home in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., faces Miranda (Fear The) Maverick and Quebec middleweight Marc-Andre (Power Bar) Barriault takes on Morocco's Abu (Gladiator) Azaitar. Robertson and Miranda were supposed to meet Feb. 13 at UFC 258 but the Canadian had to withdraw due to a non-COVID-related illness. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Nova Scotia will receive its first 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine next week, the province announced Wednesday. The vaccine is the third approved for use in Canada. The other two are the Pfizer-BioNtech and the Moderna vaccines. In a news release, the province said the launch of the new doses will be handled by Doctors Nova Scotia and the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia. "We are pleased that conversations with Doctors Nova Scotia and the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia have resulted in a commitment from them to develop a plan by next week to distribute this vaccine to Nova Scotians," said Premier Iain Rankin in the release. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is given on a two-dose schedule. Since the shipment must be used by April 2, the province said all 13,000 doses will be administered as first doses to Nova Scotians age 50 to 64 starting the week of March 15 on a first come, first served basis. That will happen at 26 locations across the province, but those locations have yet to be announced. When asked for further details, the province said more information will be available in the coming days. Does not require ultra-cold storage Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which require cold to ultra-cold storage, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine can be stored between 2 and 8 C, similar to a flu vaccine. While the other two vaccines are more than 90 per cent effective against COVID-19, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is 62 per cent effective, based on clinical trials. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the higher efficacy vaccines be offered first to those who are most at-risk for COVID-19. It recommends offering the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people between the ages 18 to 64. On Tuesday, the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said his team was still trying to figure out how Nova Scotia might use the vaccine, given its limitations. All provinces have to notify the federal government by Thursday whether they want to accept a shipment of AstraZeneca-Oxford, and Strang said at the time he had not yet decided how to advise the premier to respond. That prompted Opposition leader Tim Houston to issue a statement that day criticizing the government's hesitation, saying "the need is too great for a province with the slowest rate of vaccinations in the country." Following Wednesday's announcement, the Progressive Conservative leader issued another statement saying he was "glad to see that the new Premier has listened to concerned Nova Scotians and chosen to accept these 13,000 doses of vaccine." "I hope that by the time future vaccines are approved by Health Canada, Premier Rankin will have a plan in place to be flexible and vaccinate more Nova Scotians," Houston said in the statement. MORE TOP STORIES
MILAN — Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares on Wednesday said the new car company formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Peugeot would be a “disruptive” force in the industry, and that both sides would provide technologies to achieve the promised 5 billion euros ($6 billion) in cost savings each year. The Italian-American carmaker and the French mass-market automotive company completed their merger on Jan. 16, creating Stellantis, the world’s fourth-largest carmaker, despite a pandemic year that saw profits plunge. “Stellantis is not born from a crisis,’’ Tavares told a conference call after fourth-quarter earnings were released. “This is not only about implementing synergies, it will also be a disruptive plan. We do not accept to be cornered as a legacy carmaker.” Tavares cited the recent investment in the Archer aviation company to develop vertical flying devices for urban mobility as an example of how Stellantis intended to be a disruptive force. “We believe that this strategic investment is going to be highly convergent with the technology we need for the automobile world,’’ he said, citing energy management, lightweight batteries and quick-charging technologies. “We are not going to let ourselves be cornered as dinosaurs, that is clear,’’ Tavares said. Tavares also indicated that both FCA and PSA would contribute technologies that would help the company get rid of duplications and save money. He cited bigger engines from FCA, and smaller ones from Fiat, and said that PSA has been adept at achieving efficiencies through sharing components and platforms, while FCA has faster processes. “So if I combine both, I should go fast and I should be very efficient at the end of the day,” the CEO said. Offering its first financial guidance, Stellantis announced it was targeting an adjusted income margin of between 5.5% and 7% in its first year of operation as a new company. Tavares said one “strong caveat” to the guidance is that they cannot anticipate if there will be lockdowns or restrictions on business due to the pandemic. While strong North American performance is expected to help Stellantis meet the goal, Tavares said “three big gorillas’’ were providing headwinds: rising costs of raw materials, potential production losses due to a shortage of semiconductors and increased costs for electrification. Earlier Wednesday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Peugeot reported their last financial statements as independent companies, each contributing full-year profits of around 2 billion euros to the new company. Fiat Chrysler reported adjusted net profits in the pandemic year of 1.9 billion euros ($2.3 billion), down 57% from 2019. PSA reported earnings of 2.2 billion euros, a drop of 32%. Fiat Chrysler reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings before interest and taxes of 2.3 billion euros, a record 2.2 billion euros of those generated in North America, where the profit margin was 11.6%. As a result, about 43,000 employees represented by the United Auto Workers union will each get $8,010 profit-sharing checks on March 15, Stellantis said in a separate release. Last year the workers got $7,820, and the average hourly worker has received over $44,700 in profit sharing since 2009, Stellantis said. All regions and Maserati made a positive contribution to the results, for the first time since the first quarter of 2019, said Mike Manley, the former FCA CEO and current head of North American operations for Stellantis. The French mass carmaker said second-half operating margins hit 9.4% at record levels. “These figures demonstrate the financial soundness of Stellantis, bringing together two healthy companies,’’ Tavares said in a statement. ___ AP Business Writer Tom Krisher contributed from Detroit. Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
LONDON — Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday strongly denied being part of a plot against her predecessor, as she testified under oath in a political saga that is threatening both her leadership and her push for an independent Scotland. Sturgeon defended the way her government handled sexual assault claims against former First Minister Alex Salmond, saying the #MeToo movement had made it clear that abuse allegations about powerful people must not be “ignored or swept under the carpet.” Sturgeon testified for more than seven hours to a committee of lawmakers probing a political and personal feud that is wracking Scotland’s pro-independence movement and the governing Scottish National Party. Its antagonists are Salmond and Sturgeon, two former allies and friends who have dominated Scottish politics for decades. Salmond was tried and acquitted last year on sexual assault charges, and claims the allegations made by several women were part of a conspiracy to wreck his political career. He accuses Sturgeon of lying about when she learned of the allegations and breaking the code of conduct for government ministers. He alleges her administration undermined democratic principles and the rule of law by allowing the distinctions between government, party and civil service to become blurred. Scotland’s highest civil court ruled in 2019 that the way the Scottish government had handled the misconduct allegations was unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias,” and awarded Salmond 500,000 pounds ($695,000) in expenses. Sturgeon told a Scottish Parliament inquiry into the handling of the complaints that no one had “acted with malice or as part of a plot against Alex Salmond.” “A number of women made serious complaints about Alex Salmond’s behaviour,” she said. “The government, despite the mistakes it undoubtedly made, tried to do the right thing. As first minister I refused to follow the age-old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants.” The opposition Scottish Conservatives have demanded Sturgeon resign, but she insisted she acted properly. Sturgeon defended not reporting to civil servants a meeting and a call with Salmond in 2018 about the complaints, saying it was because she did not want to influence the investigation. She denied leaking the complainants’ names, and said she refused Salmond's request to intervene on his behalf because that would have been “a heinous, egregious breach of my position.” Salmond, who led the SNP for two decades, built the separatist party into a major political force and took Scotland to the brink of independence by holding a 2014 referendum. He stepped down as first minister after the “remain” side won, and Sturgeon, his friend and deputy, replaced him. In 2019, Salmond was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape after allegations by nine women who had worked with him as first minister or for the party. Salmond called the charges “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose,” and was acquitted after a trial in March 2020. Salmond has called the last few years a “nightmare.” Sturgeon expressed sympathy for her former friend, but said she had searched in vain for “any sign at all that he recognized how difficult this has been for others, too.” “That he was acquitted by a jury of criminal conduct is beyond question,” she said. “But I know just from what he told me, that his behaviour was not always appropriate." Yet she said Salmond had not spoken “a single word of regret.” Sturgeon said she had “revered” Salmond as a mentor for decades. "I’ve learned things about Alex Salmond over the past few years that have made me rethink," she said. “Many of us, including me, feel deeply let down by him. And that’s a matter of deep personal pain and regret for me.” The political drama in Edinburgh could have major implications for the future of Scotland and the U.K. Scotland's 2014 independence referendum was billed at the time as a once-in-a-generation decision. But the SNP says Brexit has fundamentally changed the situation by dragging Scotland out of the European Union against its will. A majority of Scottish voters backed “remain” in the U.K.’s 2016 EU membership referendum. The U.K. as a whole voted narrowly to leave the bloc. A Scottish Parliament election is due in May, and the SNP leads in opinion polls. Sturgeon says if she wins a majority, she will push for a new independence referendum and challenge British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the courts if his government refuses to agree. John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the damaging saga could hurt the SNP’s electoral prospects. “(The possibility) is that sufficient people, as they see the drama on the accusations played out between Mr. Salmond and Ms. Sturgeon, that some say ‘Well hang on, is this really a country that can govern itself, or at least is this a party that I want us to take us on the road to independence?’” he said. Jill Lawless, The Associated Press