Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has begun on one of the largest military installations in the world. Health care workers at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center received the shot on Tuesday. (Dec. 16)
Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine has begun on one of the largest military installations in the world. Health care workers at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center received the shot on Tuesday. (Dec. 16)
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Ice coverage on the Great Lakes hit record lows in January and is well below the seasonal average, prompting concerns from experts about the environmental impact caused by a lack of ice. As of Jan. 25, 7.7 per cent of the Great Lakes have frozen over, based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. science agency. Ice levels were as low as 1.8 per cent on Jan. 15, a record-low for the mid-January period. The abnormally low levels in 2021 reflect a longstanding trend of Great Lakes ice coverage declining by about 5 per cent per decade since the 1970s. “The downward trend is a trend by global warming,” said Jia Wang, an ice climatologist with U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But this year’s significant low is the result of local weather patterns, which have the biggest impact on ice formation on the lakes. “On the Great Lakes, our local climate, like surface air temperature, is the main determinant of if the ice is severe or mild,” Wang said. He projects the maximum ice coverage this year will be 30 per cent, sometime in February or early March. The long-term average is 53 per cent. Lake Huron is hovering around 15 per cent ice coverage. The late-January long-term average is about 35 per cent. Erie, one of the shallowest lakes, is sitting at 8.8 per cent ice coverage as of Jan. 25, and that figure had been less than 1 per cent as early as last week, a far cry from the almost 50 per cent average. Wang said low ice levels bring a “negative impact more than a positive impact.” Save for a potential boon for lake freight shipping, which would be less reliant on ice breakers, lack of ice can devastate the Great Lakes environment. “What’s worrisome is this higher frequency of lower ice,” said Michael McKay, executive director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor, adding years with abnormally low ice are becoming more common. Since 2000, 14 of the last 21 years have had ice coverage levels below the 53 per cent average. McKay said ice cover on the Great Lakes has dropped 70 to 75 per cent in the past 40 to 50 years. “It has really run parallel to what we’re seeing the arctic and Antarctic,” he said. The effects of low ice on the Great Lakes can be felt throughout Southwestern Ontario. “This is going to exacerbate other problems we find in the lakes,” McKay said. One major challenge is the increased risk of shoreline erosion without the protection of ice coverage. “Ice cover in the winter can help protect coastal communities from erosion,” McKay said. “In Southwestern Ontario, we’ve seen regions on the Lake Erie coast that have caved in … in part because it no longer has had that protection because of ice cover and waves just keep slamming.” The runoff effects extend to inland communities too, like London and Huron and Perth Counties, which often are hit by lake effect snowstorms. Without ice on the lakes, prevailing winds pick up more precipitation and dump it in communities downwind. “We’ll continue to get hit by large snowfall when lakes remain ice-free,” McKay said. Blooms of cyanobacteria which have plagued the Great Lakes in recent years, also can be made worse by a lack of ice. Ice cover calms lake water in the winter and allows some runoff nutrients and contaminants to settle in the sediment. Without ice cover, more resuspension events occur, reintroducing the contaminates into the water, which contributes to cyanobacteria blooms. Fish too are impacted, with some species, like white fish, spawning in winter months and needing still waters so their eggs are not disturbed. And beyond the environmental impacts, McKay said less ice on the Great Lakes means losing a “cultural identified” for Canadians. “It's part of our identity, certainly in Canada, to have outdoor skating and ice fishing,” he said. While McKay said it may be past the point where actions to slow climate change could yield visible results within our lifetime, he said attention should still be paid to mitigating the effects that are indirectly related to the declines in Great Lakes ice cover. The good news, he said, is the waters are resilient. “Time and again, we’ve seen the lakes assaulted by various pressures, usually human-induced, things ranging from containments to invasive species, the (cyanobacteria) blooms,” McKay said. “It may not be exactly the same as it was before, but there’s a lot of resiliency in the lakes and they seem to bounce back and still be intact and important ecosystems.” (AS OF JAN. 25, 2021) Superior: 4 per cent Michigan: 6.7 per cent Huron: 15.3 per cent Erie: 8.8 per cent Ontario: 1.1 per cent St. Clair*: 33.8 per cent Great Lakes average: 7.7 per cent *Lake St. Clair is not technically a Great Lake email@example.com Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he remains confident in Canada's vaccine supplies despite threats from Europe that it might impose export controls on vaccines produced on that continent. Speaking to reporters outside his Ottawa residence Tuesday morning, Trudeau said the situation in Europe is worrisome but he is "very confident" Canada is going to get all the COVID-19 vaccine doses promised by the end of March. And despite the sharp decline in deliveries of a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech this month, he said Canada will still vaccinate all Canadians who want shots by the end of September. "We will continue to work closely with Europe to ensure that we are sourcing, that we are receiving the vaccines that we have signed for, that we are due," Trudeau said. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video statement posted to Twitter Tuesday that Europe will set up a "vaccine export transparency mechanism" so Europe knows exactly how many doses are being produced in the world's largest trading bloc and where they are being shipped. "Europe invested billions to help develop the world‘s first COVID-19 vaccines to create a truly global common good," she said. "And now the companies must deliver." Europe is also getting smaller shipments from Pfizer than promised, because the company temporarily slowed production at its plant in Belgium so it can be expanded. AstraZeneca has also warned Europe its first shipments of vaccine will be smaller than expected because of production problems. But Europe, which invested more than C$4 billion in vaccine development, is demanding the companies fulfil their contracts on time. "Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business," said von der Leyen. International Trade Minister Mary Ng said she had spoken to her European counterpart, Valdis Dombrovskis, about the situation and will keep working with Europe to keep the supply chain open. "There is not a restriction on the export of vaccines to Canada," Ng said in question period. Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner accused Ng of playing games with her response, noting the issue isn't that there is an export ban now, but that Europe is threatening to impose one. With all of Canada's current vaccine doses coming from Europe, "that's a concern," Rempel Garner said. "If the Europeans ban exports of vaccines, what's Plan B for Canada?" she asked. Both Pfizer and Moderna are making doses of their vaccine in the U.S. and in Europe, but all U.S.-made doses are currently only shipped within the U.S. Former U.S. president Donald Trump invoked the Defence Production Act last year to prevent export of personal protection equipment. He then signed an executive order in December demanding U.S.-produced vaccines be prioritized for Americans only and threatened to use the act to halt vaccine exports as well. President Joe Biden has already invoked the act to push for faster production of PPE and vaccines. Though he has not specifically mentioned exports, Biden has promised 100 million Americans will be vaccinated within his first 100 days of office, making the prospects the U.S. shares any of its vaccine supply unlikely. Canada has contracts with five other vaccine makers, but only two are on the verge of approval here. AstraZeneca, which has guaranteed Canada 20 million doses, needs to finish a big U.S. trial before Health Canada decides whether to authorize it. Johnson and Johnson is to report results from its Phase 3 trial next week, one of the final things needed before Health Canada can make a decision about it. Canada is to get 10 million doses from Johnson and Johnson, but it is the one vaccine that so far is administered as only a single dose. Trudeau said AstraZeneca isn't supplying Canada from its European production lines. A spokeswoman for Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada will not say where the other vaccines are coming from because of the concerns about security of supplies. AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson have set up multiple production lines in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, India, Australia and Africa. Canada has no current ability to produce either those vaccines or the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It is entirely reliant on foreign production at the moment. More than 113,000 people in Canada have received two full doses of either the Moderna or BioNTech vaccine. Another 752,000 have received a single dose. But the reduction in Pfizer shipments to Canada forced most provinces to slow the pace of injections. Europe, Mexico, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia also have slowed their vaccination campaigns because of the supply limits. Trudeau said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla assured him the full shipments will resume in mid-February, and that Canada will get its contracted four million doses by the end of March. He said he spoke to Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel Tuesday morning and was promised Moderna's shipments of two million doses by March 31 are also on track. MPs were scheduled to have an emergency debate on Canada's vaccine program Tuesday night. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
HAMILTON — Captain Kyle Bekker, who led Forge FC to back-to-back Canadian Premier League titles, has re-signed with the Hamilton team. The Canadian international midfielder was named the CPL's most valuable player last year after leading the league in appearances (tied with 11) and minutes played by an attacking player (879). The 30-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., who had three goals and one assist in the league's truncated 2020 season, was also a finalist for MVP honours in 2019. “We are extremely happy to have our captain sign his new contract and commit to our club for the foreseeable future,” Costa Smyrniotis, Forge's director of football, said in a statement. “Kyle has been such a valuable leader for our club since day one, both on the field and in the community. We look forward to continued success together in Hamilton.” Bekker has made 49 appearances for Forge in all competitions, including 39 in league play. Bekker played in Major League Soccer from 2013-16 with Toronto FC, FC Dallas and Montreal. He then suited up for North Carolina FC in the United Soccer League and the San Francisco Deltas in the North American Soccer League. Bekker, who has won 18 caps for Canada, came up through the Sigma FC youth program in Mississauga, Ont., under current Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, Costa's brother. He played collegiate soccer at Boston College. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
Niagara Region big-box stores were pulled into the province’s enforcement blitz this past weekend. Announced earlier this month by labour minister, Monte McNaughton, the big-box store blitz focuses on proper masking, physical distancing and complying with health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Over 125 Niagara businesses were visited on the weekend by ministry inspectors, press secretary Harry Godfrey confirmed in an email on Tuesday. Of those stores, “only 54 per cent were in compliance,” McNaughton told Niagara This Week during a Monday (Jan. 25) phone call. The minister called the weekend result “extremely disappointing.” Coincidentally, inspections of 267 Niagara businesses by the province in a blitz this past December also found that only 54 per cent of the businesses visited were in compliance with COVID-19 safety measures. Walmart and Costco locations in Niagara were visited in the recent blitz, along with grocery store chains under the Loblaws banner. Godfrey confirmed that in Niagara, inspectors found 68 “total contraventions” with at least 22 tickets issued and five occupational health and safety orders. The three most common violations were inadequate pre-screening of workers and customers, exceeding capacity limits, and a lack of safety plans, according to McNaughton. Gone are the opportunities for education, said the minister. “We’re past that now. It’s about enforcing the laws that are in place; businesses at this point in the pandemic know what they need to do to keep COVID-19 from entering the workplace,” he said, adding that big corporations need to “take this seriously” and “step up.” Customers can also be ticketed by inspectors for refusing to wear a mask. “The ministry of labour has been given, as of a week ago, powers to actually ticket people if you’re not wearing masks properly and not physically distancing,” the minister said. On Monday, McNaughton was unsure exactly how many inspectors were involved locally, but said 107 were involved in simultaneous blitzes in Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham over the weekend. In total, over 640 businesses we revisited resulting in over 80 tickets and 100 orders being issued. Earlier this month, Niagara Region staff completed their own inspections over seven days, visiting a total of 62 businesses, issuing seven formal warnings and three fines of $750 each. — With files from The St. Catharines Standard Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
Over the past 10 years, the Yukon government has collected a mere 0.3 per cent of the value of placer and quartz resources on behalf of all Yukoners, the rightful owners of those minerals. An independent panel appointed by the government to review the territory’s mining legislation found that, during this period, miners extracted minerals worth an average of $335 million per year yet only paid an average of $100,000 per year in royalties. The two laws predominantly responsible for mining in the territory, the Placer Mining Act and the Quartz Mining Act, were established in the late 1800s during the Klondike Gold Rush era and are in serious need of modernization, according to the panel’s recent strategy report, which is based on years of public engagement and is intended to inform the Yukon government’s efforts to bring Yukon’s mineral development legislation into the 21st century. Yukon’s antiquated royalty rates for gold — set into law in 1906 — are famously low at just 37.5 cents per ounce of gold, based on a per-ounce price of $15. In today’s market, one ounce of gold is worth more than $2,300. “The royalty regime is very old, and it has not been updated in a significant period of time,” Math’ieya Alatini, a member of the independent panel, told The Narwhal. “We have to bring the royalty regime up to date and make it commensurate with the value of the minerals that are being removed.” Low royalties are something of a sore spot for many in Yukon, including members of the public, First Nations and miners themselves, who argue their industry provides the territory with a cascade of economic benefits not necessarily reflected by royalties. In order for mining to remain sustainable and profitable and continue to have social buy-in, the panel recommends the Yukon government make some key changes to ensure the benefits of mining are more equally distributed through changes to the royalty regime and, potentially, through new taxes. Over the past decade, Yukon has seen a resurgence of mining interest, especially for gold extracted through placer mining operations. According to the Yukon Geological Survey’s latest comprehensive report on placer mining, published in 2018, there are 25,219 placer claims in the territory, the highest number dating back to 1973. Placer mining involves removing rocks and gravel from streams and wetlands in search of gold and can cause disturbances in water quality that can impair the feeding and reproduction of fish. Over many years, placer mining can destroy irreplaceable wetlands, disrupt waterways and harm unique riparian ecosystems that connect land and water. And although placer mining occurs exclusively in streams and Yukon’s wetlands, there are no specific protections in place to protect these unique ecosystems from this kind of activity. Yukon’s modern gold rush, popularized in reality TV shows like Gold Rush and Yukon Gold, has been facilitated by new technologies, machinery and industrial techniques that are a far cry from the humble gold pan of the 1890s. And while the pace and scale of placer mining operations has evolved in recent years, the royalty scheme has not. “There are going to be detrimental effects [from mining],” Alatini said, noting the resources being harvested are fundamentally nonrenewable. “These minerals are not going to be returned to the ground. … How do we adequately compensate this generation and future generations for the loss of use?” The panel suggests the government act on recommendations first made by the Yukon Financial Advisory Panel in 2017 to carry out a comprehensive review of mining policies “with a particular emphasis on ensuring fair and efficient royalty rates.” Based on the findings of that review, the Yukon government should modernize mining legislation “to ensure all Yukoners receive fair and meaningful financial returns from mining activities while also ensuring competitiveness with other Canadian jurisdictions,” the panel said. One of the primary ways the panel recommends altering the royalty system is by adjusting royalties based on the profitability of individual mining operations. A profit-based placer gold royalty would require higher royalties from more profitable operators, while “placer operations that are truly marginal in terms of profitability will continue to pay essentially no royalties.” The panel also suggests the Yukon government consider charging more royalties from non-Yukoners — miners who might simply show up to cash in on high market gold prices — than from local operators who are there for the long haul. Royalties don’t represent the only way Yukoners and Yukon First Nations might benefit from mines, however. The panel points to new forms of taxation that could improve mining standards, provide social benefits to local communities and generate greater rewards for local mine workers over itinerant workers at mines. Currently, Yukon does not charge mine operators anything for the use of water. An industrial water charge, similar to that introduced in British Columbia in 2016, could be used to generate revenue from mines and also create incentives for miners to keep water clean. The panel recommends the government introduce a rolling water tax that rewards operators for maintaining high water quality. Tyler Hooper, a spokesperson with the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, recently told The Narwhal that all licensed surface water and groundwater users are required to pay annual water rents. The rental rates are variable and can exclude small-scale placer mining operations. But according to a B.C. provincial government list of example rates, a mine that uses 1.2 million cubic metres of water per year would be charged $2,500 annually or $2.08 per 1,000 cubic metres. Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst for the Yukon Conservation Society, previously told The Narwhal the recommendation to roll out a water tax was welcome, but added he would need more detail to understand how such a fee would work in Yukon. “How will it be applied? Will it be different for quartz exploration to a quartz mine to placer mining?” The panel’s report does not go into any detail regarding these matters nor the particulars of how a water tax could be applied to various mining operations in Yukon. Water licences for mines are issued by the Yukon Water Board and there are more than 100 granted to placer miners in the Indian River watershed directly south of Dawson City, Yukon, alone. Rifkind expressed concern that a water tax could simply be added to the general cost of doing business rather than act as a true incentive to improve mining practices and keep water clean. The panel also recommends applying a payroll tax to people who work but don’t live in Yukon. Right now, personal income tax corresponds with the jurisdiction in which out-of-territory workers live. “It would allow a sort of prorated amount to be transferred back to the Yukon,” she said, adding that a large portion of Yukon’s workforce is made up of people from other jurisdictions. “We want to make sure some of that money stays in the Yukon to act as a multiplier for the economy.” The payroll tax would be deductible for Yukon residents, the strategy states. Taken together, the water and payroll taxes could help buoy a heritage fund — money that would be held in trust to benefit future generations. Alatini said the creation of a heritage fund would not only recognize the value of the resources extracted from Yukon, but also capture some of that value for Yukoners “that translates from the work that’s being done in their backyard to something that can benefit everyone that is here.” “A Yukon heritage fund would provide a visible link between mining activity, royalty revenues from mining and long-term prosperity in Yukon, thereby enhancing sustainability and the industry’s social licence to operate,” the strategy states. Through Yukon’s modern treaties, self-governing Yukon First Nations are able to receive royalties collected by the Yukon government. But because the territorial government receives such low royalties to begin with, only a “negligible amount” is actually making its way to First Nations, the panel found. Alatini said the creators of Yukon’s Umbrella Final Agreement — a political agreement struck between Yukon First Nations and the Yukon and federal governments — “had contemplated First Nations receiving a portion of the benefits of the resources that are being taken from their traditional territories — full stop,” Alatini said. The average royalty cheque received by First Nations during the past decade ranged between $6 and $24, Alatini added. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, on whose territory the vast amount of Yukon’s placer mining takes place along the Indian River, reported receiving a royalties cheque from the government for $65 in 2017. That same year, placer mining along the Indian River accounted for 50 per cent of total placer gold mined in Yukon, according to the Yukon Geological Survey, amounting to more than 350,000 crude ounces of gold. The panel recommends that “Yukon First Nations receive a fair financial and social return from mining and exploration within traditional territories by strengthening the connection between revenue flows and Indigenous interests in the land itself.” Recommendations from the panel also include allowing First Nations, under their final agreements, to charge companies directly for water use or land rental fees, instituting a statute-based template for benefit agreements with affected First Nations and requiring both impact and benefit agreements in advance of quartz mine development, construction, production and decommissioning. Carl Schulze, secretary treasurer for the Yukon Prospectors Association, told The Narwhal industry isn’t thrilled about the idea of paying more taxes, noting that Yukon’s economy is stimulated just by virtue of mines being located in the territory. “What you’ve got to think about is there’s still the supply chain, service chain, all the employees, all the distribution,” Schulze said. “If you took just payroll for Yukoners, and what you paid your contractors, you know, whoever trucks the ore, whoever supplies geological services, local legal services, anything like that, I mean, it’s an enormous amount of money.” The Klondike Placer Miners’ Association has also been a vocal opponent of increased royalty rates for years, with former association president Mike McDougall suggesting increased royalties would undercut the profitability of placer mining operations, which he likened to the “family farm.” But in addition to industry opposition, there are other potential challenges to introducing new and increased revenue generators from mines in Yukon, most notably the territory’s transfer payment from Ottawa. Under the territorial formula financing arrangement, Yukon receives federal funding every year to pay for public services. But in order to maintain this funding arrangement, the Yukon government can only collect and keep $6 million worth in resource revenues each year. “For every dollar above that $6 million amount, a dollar is deducted from Yukon’s [territorial formula financing] grant,” Eric Clement, director of communications with the Yukon government’s Department of Finance, told The Narwhal in an email. That $6 million ceiling may present challenges to Yukon moving forward with some of the most ambitious recommendations of the independent panel, including the creation of a heritage fund. Six million dollars in resource revenues is simply “too low to capitalize a Yukon heritage fund,” the panel noted in its report. Other arrangements could alleviate Yukon’s $6 million limit, however. The panel suggests Yukon look to the Northwest Territories’ arrangement with the federal government, which allows that territory to keep up to 50 per cent of its resource revenues without a specific cap. If implemented in Yukon, this arrangement would allow the territory to receive roughly $54 million in resource revenues without being forced to forego federal support, the panel found. Alatini said new arrangements might be necessary to re-envision how Yukon generates and holds onto resource wealth. A new agreement would require “that the Yukon government and Canada come to the table,” she said. “We need to have consistently producing mines in order for this to even be an option.” Julien Gignac, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Construction on Place des Arts began in earnest, then a pandemic set back. Work resumes once again, then a second lockdown — then the announcement of a sort-of third lockdown. The construction was supposed to continue, but then everything was shut down once again last week, with the building work ceasing on Friday. But then Monday it started again. There was an amendment to the legislation. It’s just another part of the journey, says Léo Therrien, executive director of the new Francophone arts and culture centre in downtown Sudbury. “The construction is expected to be done at the end of the summer, give or take, and again COVID willing,” said Therrien. “And then our hope is to open later in the fall. Even once the work is finished, everyone has to move in, we have to test all the equipment, you have to do a few shows, too.” But he’s pleased this timeline should coincide with the vaccination process in Sudbury. “I think everyone will be ready to get back to shows,” he said. It is also this specific, pandemic-related journey that has revealed an interesting way for the seven organisations behind ROCS (Regroupement des organismes culturels de Sudbury) to offer planning and programming that is not only accessible in the pandemic world, but in the post-pandemic world as well: streaming. “Our hope is with streaming that we'll be able to stream internally to the various venues inside,” said Therrien. That includes the ability to watch a performance from anywhere in the building. “There's a performance in La Grande Salle (main theatre),” he said. “We can send it to the studio, we can send it to the Bistro, we can send it to other venues. We could split people in various places internally. “But we can also Zoom it, stream it externally, too, for conferences, for performances, and so on.” Whether you love a live show, or your life is more conducive to enjoying it in your pyjamas, there will be options for you. There will even be recordings, something in the works for La Nuit sur l'étang music festival. “Right now, they're planning the shows in March,” said Therrien, “But they might be able to get only 50 people right now because of COVID. So, their plan is to have various cameras and record the whole show and sell it later on at another date – present it as a recorded show.” And because of the occasional pause in the construction, there is the opportunity to consider these aspects: when you can’t build, you have the advantage of time while you work out the kinks of closed-circuit television. Silver Linings, as they say. “It's the right time for us to put the equipment in place because the walls aren't done yet. It would be too hard to do it if it was all finished,” said Therrien. “That's one of the only bonuses from COVID, is that we were able to adapt.” But also, they are not open. That means they are not bringing in revenue as of yet. Still, that may again be fortuitous (to be generous with the interpretation). Therrien said that while they wish the building was finished, it also prevented them from having to cancel or postpone. “We didn't have to stop any shows because we didn't have any shows planned,” he said. “So many of our partners had to cancel their season, then restart it and cancel it again. And it's been that nightmare for them.” He said that they hope the opening of the Place des arts will allow community arts and culture groups — both Anglophone and Francophone — to come together and pool resources, to use the knowledge and experience from every corner of the city to create programming to enrich Francophone culture and, by extension, Sudbury culture, as well as offer a home to Anglophone groups, like YES Theatre, which is currently in negotiations with the Place des arts team. There will not only be the headquarters of the seven founding Francophone organisations, as well as a gift shop, bookstore, bistro and multi-purpose studio space, but also a grand theatre and office space and rehearsal space. And there has never been a better time for art, said Therrien. Movies, television, books, puzzles, art galleries tours and musicals on Zoom — you name the medium, the world consumed content on it — and he’s hopeful this trend will continue. “Art and culture is healthy to our wellbeing, the health of ourselves,” said Therrien. “That’s why a place like this is essential to our community and to everyone in it.” Jenny Lamothe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com
Some Tiny council members want some serious action being taken against big corporations that threaten the township's water supply. "We need to stop playing by the rules," said Coun. Gibb Wishart, addressing the question to appeal or not to appeal in the case of the renewal of the permit to take water (PTTW) for the Teedon Pit. "The reason the dump (Site 41) got stopped is that an old couple got arrested; First Nations were there and set up camp, nobody played by the rules. "I think if we play the game the ministry...," he was saying, when Mayor George Cornell cut him off to remind him that even at that time the council played by the rules. Even though Cornell was cautious about siding an appeal process in the matter, Coun. Tony Mintoff spoke his mind clearly. "Anything I’ve heard is overwhelmingly against any kind of operation there," he said. "I encourage council to put their concerns ahead of the province’s unwillingness to allow municipalities to decide what’s best for them within their boundary. "As members of council, it’s our obligation to represent the interests of our residents," added Mintoff. "My suggestion would be we clearly appeal every step." Another member of council, however, was a bit cautious about going the appeal route. "Maybe," said Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma.said, "the right course of action would be to break out some of our concerns around the EBR (Environmental Bill of Rights) process reform and how we work with the MOECP (Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks) in future to make sure the municipality and adjacent landowners are notified of big decisions like this one. "Maybe this goes back to our flaws in the first appeal or commenting process with regards to monitoring water quality." Walma also suggested that if the council does plan on appealing the renewal, it should hold further discussions in-camera. "We have a community member that has made significant upgrades and worked with the township on our comments to date," he added. "There was no need for them to install that many wells. They could have gotten away with a lot less. I think that’s something we want to maintain. It’s a good working relationship so in the future we can share our concerns with them. I think going the legal route potentially cuts those options down." The discussion came forth after council had heard the united plea -- save our water --- from various residents of Tiny and beyond that made deputations to elected officials at Tuesday's special council meeting. Council had convened a special session after it became aware of the Jan. 14 decision by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks to renew a 10-year PTTW for CRH Canada Group Inc., which operates the aggregate quarry. "The approval of the water taking permit may compromise the quality of this water," said Tiny resident Bonnie Pauzé. "As elected officials, we, the taxpayers are putting it all on your shoulder to stop this potential disaster. Every single voter drinks water. Do we want to go down in history as heroes that protected and saved one of the world's purest aquifers? Please don't disappoint us. We need you to step up to the plate. Protect the water." Similar messages were presented by others as well. "Our water needs are being undermined for the sake of a global business," said Erik Schomann, another Tiny resident. "The cost business analysis as I have been able to tell is incomplete. There was no announcement regarding the permit, no civilian insight." Even residents of Guelph had joined in the fight. "Matters of groundwater protection are of extreme concern to people across the province," said Karen Rathwell. "The community is asking for a pause; time to study this phenomenon. Once the overburden is scraped away and the digging eats away through the layers of protection, the groundwater is exposed to pollution." According to the township's legal counsel, Sarah Hahn, if the township decides to appeal, it has to clear a two-part test to seek leave to appeal. "First, you look at whether granting of the permit or any conditions within are unreasonable," she said, explaining that this means, "No reasonable person having regard for law and policies have issued the permit. It’s a pretty high test to have to reach. Secondly, could it result to significant harm to the environment. "It’s not a will, it’s a could, so I think there’s some grounds there," added Hahn. "The test for reasonableness is quite high. Having some evidence that what the ministry did was unreasonable is certainly something we would want to put forward if an appeal was brought." The township said they were satisfied with the conclusion drawn by the professional hydrogeologist, who said the ministry had addressed the municipality's concerns laid out in a 2018 letter to the ministry. "Staff’s opinion is that we rely on our experts and in this case it’s Burnside," said Shawn Persaud, director of planning and development. "Based on their letter, we recommend the township not file an appeal relative to the permit to take water." In his Jan. 25 letter, Dave Hopkins, senior hydrogeologist with R. J. Burnside and Associates Ltd., states that ministry has met and addressed the requests laid out by the township in 2018. "The new PTTW has a much more robust monitoring program than the original PTTW and addresses the Township’s request for additional wells," reads his conclusion. "The monitoring program will be completed, and the annual report is to be prepared by a qualified person (P. Geo. or equivalent). "The Permit requires that an annual report documenting the monitoring well results be submitted to the MECP (MOECP). This will allow the MECP to evaluate the impacts of pumping and make any necessary additions to the monitoring program/permitted rates as required. The PTTW also requires the monitoring of specific domestic wells, which is unusual. "Residents, who feel that their wells may have been impacted, may wish to contact CRH to have their well added to the monitoring program. It is Burnside’s opinion, that all of the Township comments have been addressed by the MECP and the conditions included in the new PTTW." Wishart, however, felt all concerns had not been addressed. "I think the major issue that the township is up against the wall with is that we’re talking about water quality, not the serviceability of a gravel pit," he said. "The province doesn’t seem to address that at all. They dance around saying that the various authorities, namely the gravel pit operators, operate within the guidelines that they’re given. "They’ve answered all the questions we had, but we’re talking about water quality and the potential," added Wishart. "We have no proof at all. All we have is the wish they not take away the filtering medium between the sky and the water." Based on that, he asked, does the province even want to hear us if we conclude that they’re not answering our questions? Mintoff didn't seem to think so. "The MOECP didn’t inform us," he said, "and gave us only 15 days to prepare with documented support, so clearly in their mind they didn’t want an appeal. I think they gave us scant time to prepare for these appeals because they’re not welcoming." Mintoff said he would like to see council adopt the two principles that it doesn’t support the taking of aggregate or washing it in an environmentally sensitive area. Further, he said, the municipality also asked that no further licences be issued until a water study by Dr. John Cherry, professor emeritus at University of Waterloo, has produced its findings. "One of the basic risk management principles is to weigh the risks and rewards," said Mintoff. "In my opinion, CRH gets all the rewards and the township and residents assume all the risks. If their experts are wrong, what are the consequences and who is going to live with them? I don’t think it’s going to be CRH." He said he was tired of hearing that ministries are understaffed or under-resourced and don’t have the wherewithal to operate effectively. "They cannot be, in my opinion, entrusted to protect our most valuable resource," said Mintoff. "We need to err on the side of caution. There’s nothing in it for us, only serious potential for impact on water quality and other environmental components." He also offered a somewhat long-term solution to the situation. "Perhaps it’s time for us to offer the purchase of these specific properties at fair market value and once rehabilitated by the current owners, we could create public-private partnerships to use this land to create more affordable housing," said Mintoff. "And if they choose to decline our offer, then we should look at the practicality of the legal feasibility of expropriating that property in order to do so." Unable to decide whether to appeal or not, council moved into an in-camera session around other matters, promising to reconvene at 1 p.m. Wednesday to further discuss the issue. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
TORONTO — Some of the most active companies traded Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange: Toronto Stock Exchange (17,779.41, down 126.61 points.) BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB). Technology. Up 86 cents, or 3.75 per cent, to $23.78 on 22 million shares. Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU). Energy. Down 52 cents, or 2.33 per cent, to $21.81 on 10.1 million shares. Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Industrials. Down three cents, or 4.17 per cent, to 69 cents on 9.8 million shares. Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB). Energy. Up 12 cents, or 0.27 per cent, to $44.26 on 8.2 million shares. Supreme Cannabis Company Inc. (TSX:FIRE). Health care. Down 2.5 cents, or 11.9 per cent, to 18.5 cents on 8.2 million shares. Score Media and Gaming Inc. (TSX:SCR). Telecommunications. Down 30 cents, or 9.62 per cent, to $2.82 on 8.1 million shares. Companies in the news: Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR). Down $1.32 to $136.27. CN says it will reinstate its guidance for 2021 and increase the company's dividend by seven per cent after seeing improved demand for freight in the last three months of 2020. The Montreal-based railway says after markets closed that its net income surged 17 per cent in the fourth quarter to $1.02 billion or $1.43 per share. That was up from $873 million or $1.22 per share in the prior year. Adjusted profits for the three months ended Dec. 31 were up 14 per cent to $1.02 billion or $1.43 per share, from $896 million or $1.25 per share in last year's quarter. Revenue increased two per cent, or $72 million, to $3.66 billion. Nutrien Ltd. (TSX:NTR). Down 58 cents to $66.90. Canadian fertilizer giant Nutrien Ltd. says it will expand its use of a proximity alarm and contact tracing technology to help protect 14,500 of its employees from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saskatoon-based company says it has rolled out its Proximity Trace equipment, made by U.S.-based Triax Technologies, to more than 8,000 employees to date and expects to introduce it to 6,500 more in coming months, representing 65 per cent of its global employee base. Proximity Trace tags are attached to workers’ clothing or hard hats and produce an audio and visual alert to those who come within two metres of one another. Nutrien says the sensors also automatically log data to allow contact tracing if a positive case is found, helping limit further spread and reassuring those not at risk. Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU). Down 74 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $56.20. Against headwinds from a labour conflict and a mild cold and flu season, grocery and pharmacy retailer Metro Inc. posted higher first-quarter sales and profit on Tuesday compared with a year ago. Although pandemic restrictions limited in-store foot traffic at the company's supermarkets, same-store food sales climbed 10 per cent as shoppers bought more groceries with each visit or online order, the company said. But pharmacy same-store sales edged up only slightly, dragged down by a 3.8 per cent drop in front-store sales as COVID-19 measures reduced in-store traffic as well as demand for cough and cold products. The quarter was also impacted by a labour conflict at a Jean Coutu distribution centre in Quebec, which the company said had a dampening effect on overall sales. Enerplus Corp. (TSX:ERF). Down 13 cents, or three per cent, to $4.15. Enerplus Corp. is increasing its bets on the Bakken light oil region in North Dakota with the purchase of a private rival for US$465 million, despite a legal fight that could shut down a major oil pipeline there. The Calgary-based company said Tuesday it has agreed to buy Bruin E&P HoldCo, LLC, which has current production of about 24,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a federal appeal court decision Tuesday to uphold the ruling of a district judge who last year ordered a full environmental impact review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Following a complaint by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the district judge ruled last spring that the review conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the 1,886-kilometre pipeline that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border was incomplete. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
DENVER — The Vatican has cleared a retired U.S. bishop of multiple allegations he sexually abused minors and teenagers, rejecting lay experts' determination that a half-dozen claims were credible and instead slapping him on the wrist for what it called “flagrant" imprudent behaviour. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith exonerated retired Cheyenne, Wyoming Bishop Joseph Hart of seven accusations of abuse and determined that five others couldn’t be proven “with moral certitude.” Two other cases involving boys who were 16 and 17 couldn’t be prosecuted because the Catholic Church didn’t consider them minors at the time of the alleged abuse, the diocese reported Monday. A 13th allegation wasn’t addressed in the decree. Hart, 89, had long maintained his innocence and denied all allegations of misconduct. His attorney, Thomas Jubin, said multiple allegations against Hart were “specious,” with some based on second- and third-hand information, and with some accusers emphasizing that Hart didn't physically touch them. “Despite this, Bishop Hart asks me to convey that he continues to pray for all involved in this case so that they may find peace and healing. He now asks, and I ask, too, that he may now be afforded peace in the twilight of this life as he prepares to meet his God in the next,” Jubin said in a statement. The Vatican decision clearly disappointed Hart’s successor, Bishop Steven Biegler, who stressed that the Vatican’s findings didn’t mean Hart was innocent, just that the Holy See determined that the high burden of proof hadn’t been met. “Today, I want the survivors to know that I support and believe you” Biegler said in a statement. “I understand that this announcement will not bring closure to the survivors, their family members, Bishop Hart and all those affected.” It also disappointed Darrel Hunter, who said he and his two brothers were abused by Hart after he was assigned to worked at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Kansas City near their home in the 1950s. Hunter, 73, of Prairie Village, Kan., said he did not expect the Vatican to punish Hart but he was concerned about how it treated those who came forward to say they had been abused. He said he did not understand how Vatican officials could discount their allegations, particularly because many alleged victims live hundreds of miles apart and did not have any connection besides Hart. He said he had not heard of any victims being interviewed as part of the Vatican’s investigation, which made the “moral certitude” conclusion like a slap in the face to victims. “It’s like they said ’We’re not going to talk to you but we’re pretty sure what you’re saying didn’t happen,” said Hunter. In Cheyenne, Biegler has previously stood by the findings of his review board, which determined a half-dozen claims were credible. And his diocesan statement noted the qualifications of its members: “law enforcement; school administration; a doctor of psychology; a pediatrician; a psychotherapist, who treats sexually abused children; and a judge, who was a criminal prosecutor for 13 years involving crimes against children, primarily child sexual abuse.” On the other hand, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, relies on the judgment of priests and bishop canon lawyers, and ultimately the pope. The Vatican for decades has been criticized by victims’ groups for giving bishops a pass when they have been accused of sexual abuse themselves or of covering it up. A few exceptions have been made in recent years, most famously in the case of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked after the CDF determined he had abused minors as well as adults, including during confession — essentially the same allegations against Hart. As a result, the sentence showed the arbitrary nature of Vatican’s canonical sex abuse deliberations and judgments, which aren't public. Hart’s previous diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached court settlements years ago with at least 10 victims. But Wyoming criminal prosecutors also decided last year not to proceed with charging Hart. Anne Barrett Doyle, of the online resource BishopAccountability.org, said the Vatican ruling was “heartbreaking and disgraceful" and showed that church law is biased in favour of priests and bishops. “Defenders of canon law might point to the punishment of ex-cardinal McCarrick as evidence that the system works. But for every McCarrick, there are five Harts: bishops who retain their titles and pensions in the face of multiple allegations," she said in an email, adding that the ruling calls into question Pope Francis' vow to hold bishops accountable. In its decree, the CDF rebuked Hart “for his flagrant lack of prudence as a priest and bishop for being alone with minors in his private residence and on various trips which could have been potential occasions endangering the ‘obligation to observe continence’ and that would ‘give rise to scandal among the faithful,'” the diocese said. Hart was also rebuked for failing to observe previous Vatican restrictions prohibiting him from having contact with minors and seminarians and from participating in public engagements, the diocese said, adding that those restrictions remain in place. Jubin, Hart's lawyer, criticized Biegler for what he said was “grandstanding” and trying to disregard due process by trying to convict Hart in the “court of public opinion.” The Associated Press has learned that the CDF had tasked the investigation into Hart to Indianapolis Bishop Charles Thompson, who made headlines in 2019 when he ordered two Catholic high schools to fire teachers in same-sex marriages. After one Jesuit school refused, the Vatican temporarily suspended Thompson's order rescinding the school's Catholic recognition. The CDF under its current leadership seems to follow recommendations from local bishops who investigate sex crimes, while it used to take a more proactive role in sanctioning and defrocking accused clerics. Hart was a priest in Kansas City, Missouri, for 21 years before moving to Wyoming, where he served as auxiliary and then full bishop from 1976 until his retirement in 2001. The first known allegations against Hart dated to the early 1960s and were made in the late 1980s. At least six men came forward in the past few years to say Hart abused them in Wyoming. ___ Winfield reported from Rome. Associated Press writer Margaret Stafford in Liberty, Mo. also contributed to this report. Nicole Winfield And Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press
Police in the Northwest Territories are warning people not to use illicit drugs after two noxious substances were found in drugs seized in Yellowknife. RCMP say they seized crack cocaine, powder cocaine and tablets on Nov. 27 at a residence in the city. A Health Canada analysis of the drugs found two toxic substances not found before in the territory. Those substances are: Adinazolam, a type of tranquillizer that is listed under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act; and, 5-MeO-DBT, a psychedelic drug that is not controlled. Yellowknife RCMP Insp. Dyson Smith says he's concerned those who already use illicit drugs in the territory could be harmed by the substances. The RCMP says it's working with the government to address the potential impacts. "RCMP always warn against illicit drug use, however, with the presence of two new substances in drugs seized in a Northwest Territories community, the danger of illicit drug use has increased," police said in a news release Tuesday. Dr. Andy Delli Pizzi, deputy chief public health officer, says there is concern the two substances could cause unexpected reactions or contain other contaminants like opioids. "People who use street or illicit drugs should always do so with others present and have a plan to respond to an overdose. The plan should include having naloxone present and calling 911 for help with any overdose," Pizzi said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
Out of 99 new positive cases discovered in the Simcoe Muskoka Region, health officials say 97 are linked to a long-term care home in Barrie and all of those people are likely affected by the fast-spreading U.K. variant. There are concerns the highly contagious strain of the virus is more widespread than initially thought. Miranda Anthistle has the details.
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are preparing to push ahead quickly on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package even if it means using procedural tools to pass the legislation on their own, leaving Republicans behind. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget reconciliation package that would lay the groundwork for swift passage. Coming so soon in Biden's administration, the action provides a first test of Republican opposition to the White House priorities as well as to the new president's promise of a “unity” agenda. “The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must," Schumer said after a private meeting of Democratic senators. "Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We're keeping all options open on the table.” Unwilling to wait for Republicans who argue Biden's price tag is too high and his priorities too wide-ranging, Democrats are flexing their newfound power as they take control of the Senate alongside the House and White House. It is the first time in a decade the party has held the full sweep of power in Washington, and Democrats say they have no time to waste trying to broker compromises with Republicans that may, or may not, happen. They have watched Republicans use similar procedural tools to advance their priorities, most recently the Trump administration’s GOP tax cuts. The fast-moving events days into the new majority on Capitol Hill come as the White House continued meeting privately with groups of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in hopes of striking a bipartisan agreement. Biden's COVID-19 aid package includes money for vaccine distribution, school reopenings and $1,400 direct payments to households and gradually boosts the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. The next steps remain highly fluid. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus of more than 50 House lawmakers met virtually Tuesday with top administration officials on the virus aid and economic recovery package. And the dozen senators emerging from a lengthy private meeting with the White House on Sunday evening are talking on their own to try to craft a more targeted bill. The bipartisan senators assembled privately again Monday evening. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Tuesday that Biden is still looking to negotiate on an aid package, while putting a priority on acting swiftly before aid lapses in March. “He laid out his big package, his big vision of what it should look like, and people are giving their feedback,” Psaki said. "He’s happy to have those discussions and fully expects it’s not going to look exactly the same on the other end.” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who led a bipartisan effort for the last $900 billion relief package, is working again with the senators on crafting an alternative package that she has said would be more focused on money for vaccine distribution and tailored economic assistance to the neediest Americans. Collins said Tuesday that the White House made good on its commitment to deliver a more detailed accounting of the proposed expenditure. But she said the group is still waiting for data on how much funding remains unallocated from past relief measures that, by her tally, totals a whopping $1.8 trillion still unspent. Congress has approved some $4 trillion in emergency aid since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a stunning outlay and the largest rescue package in the nation's history. Senators from both parties who joined the White House call over the weekend agreed the priority needs to be standing up the country's faltering vaccine distribution system. With the death toll climbing, and new strains of the virus threatening more trouble ahead, ensuring vaccinations appears to be crucial to stemming the COVID-19 crisis. Several senators from both parties also said they want the $1,400 direct checks to be more targeted to those in need. They also want an accounting of what remains from previously approved aid bills. But Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and the incoming Budget Committee chair, said he is already working on the budget package for next week and expanding it to include Biden's proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years. Raising the wage is a long-running Democratic priority that would essentially double the current $7.25 hourly wage set the last time the party was in control in the Obama administration. Advocates say the pay raise would boost millions of full-time workers from poverty. “There is a consensus,” Sanders told reporters at the Capitol. “If Republicans are not prepared to come on board, that’s fine. We’re not going to wait. We’re going forward soon and aggressively.” Lisa Mascaro And Josh Boak, The Associated Press
The consolidation of two airlines is set to take flight in remote fly-in communities in Saskatchewan. Transwest Air and West Wind Aviation will become Rise Air, changing the face of an air service that acts as one of the few links to southern resources. "If we had been two separate airlines going into COVID, I don't believe we would have survived," said West Wind CEO Stephen Smith. West Wind Aviation Group of Companies bought Transwest Air in 2016, but both airlines continued to use separate operating certificates, Smith said. Combining the airlines cuts it down to one and reduces redundancy. Rebranding will take place gradually, and Derek Nice will replace Smith as CEO on Feb. 1. Smith said the consolidation is unlikely to immediately reduce airfares — which are ongoing concerns for people in remote communities who say the costs of travelling south are too steep. "The prices are sky-rising," noted Black Lake First Nation Chief Archie Robillard. The best way to help his community would be a longer runway in Stony Rapids, but that's unlikely, he added. It's similarly costly to fly in and out of Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation, said Chief Bart Tsannie. He noted ticket costs are regularly several hundred dollars, which hasn't improved as COVID-19 reduced passenger loads. "That's very expensive. People don't have that kind of money in Hatchet Lake," he said. Smith said consolidating the airlines will make them more profitable, allowing Rise Air to invest in new aircraft and facilities. That could also mean a better position to pass profits on to its 22 per cent owner, Prince Albert Development Corporation, and its 65 per cent owner, Athabasca Basin Development, which represents seven communities including Hatchet Lake and Black Lake. Smith said those communities haven't received dividends in the last 10 years, which he hopes to change. The Rise Air rebranding also comes after a difficult year. A downturn in mining and the onset of COVID-19 forced a 50 per cent cut to operations, Smith said. He noted operations are now up to two-thirds of their levels prior to the pandemic. While the consolidation likely won't affect the costs of airfare, Smith added that the airline continues to push the federal government to declare paved runways at Fond du Lac and Wollaston Lake. If it does so, aircraft taking off there can carry more weight, lowering some of the prices for those communities, Smith said. "If we can reduce (fares), we will." Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
One of Orangeville’s premier recreation venue has changed locations recently. Far Shot Orangeville has downsized their arena but hopes the added exposure, on 400 Townline Rd., will bring in more clientele. “Our last location was at a warehouse area,” said Benn MacDonald, owner of Far Shot Orangeville. It wasn’t the best place. It was great for what we had at the time. We had an indoor archery range as well of 40 yards.” Groups of 10, once lockdown restrictions are lifted, will be available to participate. Small groups for one hour cost $25 per person and large groups for two hours cost $40 per person. They also plan to obtain their own liquor license. With COVID, nearly every booking is a private one. Just you, your family & friends and one coach. Strangers never share lanes no matter how small your group size is. They take a minimum of two people. “We’ll only do one group at a time,” said Macdonald. “Unfortunately, we can’t do walk-ins with all the restrictions going on. This has affected us quite a bit. We’re hoping once all of this opens up again, our walk-in hours can return.” Macdonald admits they did lose their archery ring because of the smaller location, but he believes it was a good trade-off for the exposure. They are also able to provide a mobile service, bringing all their axe, knife and archery equipment to your backyard. “The furthest we have gone was Niagara Falls,” said Macdonald. “We charge that travel. For anyone local, we don’t charge a fee for that.” An eight-week league is also available for $140. It begins on Monday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. Practice begins at 7 p.m. and the game starts at 8 p.m. A week 4 light dinner is on them and on week 8 is the championship with a potluck supper. “We compete with the World Axe Throwing League,” said MacDonald. “Our club actually won the championship in 2017 and I served as the head judge. I travelled all across North America officiating on major tournaments on ESPN.” Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner
Key Lake, Sask., is often recorded as the coldest place in Canada on specific days, despite it not being as far north as some other communities. Key Lake is about 570 kilometres north of Saskatoon. David Philips, senior climatologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said there are two major factors that contribute to Key Lake consistently registering as the coldest place in Canada when it comes to daily temperatures. "The first is topography," Phillips said in an interview with CBC Saskatchewan's The Afternoon Edition. "Wherever the thermometers are housed might be in a little bit of a dip." According to Phillips, because cold is air heavy and dense, it descends and remains in low spots. This means if the weather is being tracked in a low spot the temperatures might be a bit colder. He also mentioned that a soil difference could be responsible. "Key Lake has sandy soil and sandy soil is notorious for having wide ranges of temperature. During the day it can really warm up but at night it cools down." Phillips said that on average, more northern places like Colin's Bay and Uranium City are colder than Key Lake. "There are singular moments when Key Lake is the weather superlative of a cold pole in Canada, but on average it doesn't really come out that way." On the other end of the spectrum, Maple Creek, Sask., often records very warm winter temperatures compared to the towns around it. Maple Creek is about 350 kilometres southwest of Regina, close to the Alberta border. Phillips said Maple Creek is deserving of the title "Miami of the North" primarily because of Chinook winds. "Because Maple Creek is so close to the Saskatchewan-Albertan border, those Chinook winds can blow right across the prairies." These winds warm up the air in the area. The tables turn in the summer, however, with Maple Creek often having cooler summers than the rest of the province. "Sometimes the cold air will push in and dam up against the Cypress mountains and flow back into places like Maple Creek," Phillips said. "It has that oddity of being the warmest spot and at night be the coolest spot."
Debi Buell has always been a big fan of her father, artist Athol Buell, so naturally she wanted to share his work with others. In particular, she wanted to preserve the wartime sketches he did in the late '90s, before his death in 1999. Several years ago she approached staff at the Robertson Library at UPEI to see if they could archive his work and now that work is complete and his sketches are part of a digital archive. "He was so talented so it's very nice to be able to share with everybody what he was passionate about," she said. Passion for wartime art Athol Buell had a passion for the Second World War and enjoyed sketching everything from battlefields to planes and tanks, to the local P.E.I. soldiers who served. He also researched the personal stories to go along with his artwork. "He just kept drawing every day. He would try to make sure that he drew the people that were involved," said Debi. She said her father had the ability to capture "the essence" of people with his sketches. She said her father was well-known for his love of art, and it was a hobby he pursued whenever he had the time. "Even before he was a teenager he was always drawing, everywhere he went," she said. She said he had originally done a lot of acrylic painting but later in life when he developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease he could no longer work with paints as they bothered his lungs, so he switched to pencil art. Sketches now online Athol's sketches can now be seen by anyone with an internet connection — they are part of a digital archive called Island Lives found at Islandlives.ca. Keltie MacPhail, the digital initiatives librarian involved in the project, described his work as realistic and informative. "A lot of the drawings, especially the ones of the people he talks about, are quite lifelike," said MacPhail. "They're beautiful," she said. She said the Island Lives archive focuses on community history and artwork, like that done by Athol Buell, and it must have a substantial Prince Edward Island connection. She said the stories he wrote alongside his artwork are also valuable. "There are a number of P.E.I.-related stories sprinkled throughout some of the larger more international historic figures and events that he sketches about and it's a way of preserving some of those Island stories," she said. She said his stories and sketches tell a history that may not be available in many textbooks. Debi said her father would be thrilled that his sketch books are being preserved and shared with such a wide audience. "This is a way of protecting them and being able to share them. I guess it's going to be shared with the world." More from CBC P.E.I.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances. Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances. Shortly after his confirmation, Blinken took the oath of office at a private ceremony at the State Department. Blinken was sworn in by the director general of the U.S. Foreign Service in the Treaty Room on the department's 7th floor outside the corridor known as “Mahogany Row" where his new office will be. He is expected to start work Wednesday. “American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.” Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.” Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote. Opposition to Blinken centred on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement. Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is expanding its travel restrictions to require all domestic travellers to self-isolate for 14 days after entering the province. Since last June, only people arriving from areas east of Terrace Bay in northern Ontario have been subject to the requirement. But, starting Friday, all out-of-province arrivals will be covered by the public-health measure to help fight the spread of COVID-19. "This is being done out of an abundance of caution to protect Manitobans," Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday. The move is needed because of the growing spread of novel coronavirus variants and because of delays in vaccine supplies, he said. There will be ongoing exceptions for people travelling for essential work and medical care, and a new exemption for residents of border communities who cross into Saskatchewan or Ontario for necessities. Pallister also called on the federal government to tighten rules governing international travellers. He said a ban on non-essential trips, as suggested by Quebec Premier Francois Legault last week, should be on the table. "We believe that a total travel ban may be something the federal government needs to consider seriously," Pallister said. "I respect that the federal government has to make this call and that's why I'm not trying to be overly prescriptive with what Manitoba wants. ... I'm simply adding my voice to those of the premiers who have said, 'Make a decision on this and doing nothing is not an option.'" Pallister also revealed that he had disciplined James Teitsma, a Progressive Conservative caucus member, who travelled with his family to British Columbia in December. The vacation did not contravene any formal public-health orders, but went against advice to avoid non-essential travel. Pallister did not say what discipline Teitsma was subjected to, and Teitsma did not return requests for comment. He sits on cabinet and Legislature committees and receives extra pay as chairman of one. A recently updated list of members of the cabinet committee on economic growth no longer includes Teitsma's name. Manitoba's COVID-19 case count continued its downward trend Tuesday. Health officials reported 92 additional cases and five deaths. Numbers have been dropping since late fall, shortly after the province brought in tight restrictions on public gatherings and store openings. Some of the measures were eased on the weekend to allow small social gatherings in private homes and non-essential store openings with limited capacity. "It's trending the right way again, but we still have a number of people in hospital ... so it still is a burden on the acute-care system," said Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief public health officer. Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he supports the government's expanded travel restrictions, but said the province must build up intensive care units, which are running well above pre-pandemic capacity. "Let's use this time to make the investments in our health care system so that we can withstand what's coming, potentially, as the pandemic drags on," Kinew said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Marcus Brady understands the historical significance of being an offensive co-ordinator in the NFL. The Indianapolis Colts promoted Brady to the position Monday, just three years after the former CFL player/coach came aboard as an assistant quarterback coach. Brady becomes just the third current Black offensive co-ordinator in the NFL after Kansas City's Eric Bieniemy and Tampa Bay's Byron Leftwich. Kansas City and Tampa Bay meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. "I understand my position, I understand what's going on in the media because it's a topic of discussion," Brady told reporters on a videoconference Tuesday. "I understand I've got to go out there and do a great job. "It's my responsibility . . . to go out and produce so others get the same opportunities that I've been blessed with here." Indianapolis promoted Brady from quarterback coach to replace Nick Sirianni, who left to become the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach. The Colts are expected to name Scott Milanovich, who resigned Monday as head coach of the CFL's Edmonton Football Team, as their new quarterback coach although Brady wouldn't confirm that Tuesday. It's been a meteoric rise in Indianapolis for Brady, a 41-year-old San Diego native entering his 13th year as a pro coach. Brady began as a receivers coach in 2009 with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes under head coach Marc Trestman after seven seasons as a quarterback with Toronto (2002-03), the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2004-05) and Alouettes (2006-08). Milanovich was Montreal's offensive co-ordinator before becoming Toronto's head coach in 2012. Brady replaced Milanovich as the Alouettes' offensive co-ordinator, then reunited with Milanovich as the Argos offensive co-ordinator (2013-17) before joining the Colts. Brady and Milanovich won two Grey Cups together in Montreal under Trestman (2009-10). Milanovich added another with Toronto in 2012 while Brady secured a third CFL title with the Argos in 2017, again under Trestman after Milanovich left to become quarterback coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. "I started in coaching at a young age, I believe I was 28 at the time, and I felt like I could still play," Brady said. "I love the mental aspect of football and being a coach, you still get the rush of preparing and going out and competing. "Once I got into that aspect of coaching, I set my goals on what I wanted to accomplish and just continue to work on." Brady said his time in Canada helped shape him as a coach. "There are different rules, there's an extra guy on the field, there's three downs, different clock-management going on but it's an exciting game," Brady said. "The pace is a little bit faster, all the movements and the motions, there's a bit more variety there in that aspect so you can get very creative offensively. "Some of the RPO (run-pass option plays employed by several NFL teams) people say it came from college, which I'm sure a lot of it has, but we were doing a lot of that as well up in the CFL. I've learned a lot from the CFL and have been able to bring it here, just little nuances of the game there." Trestman enjoyed much success in Canada, compiling a 60-48 regular-season record while winning Grey Cups with Montreal and Toronto. A veteran NFL offensive co-ordinator, Trestman also served as a head coach with the Chicago Bears (2013-14). "He (Trestman) is a great culture setter . . . just the foundation he set," Brady said. "He comes more from a West Coast (offence) background so that was my initial start as far as an offensive system, which I love and we had a ton of success. "A lot of it was just the detail in the assignments and making sure everybody's on the same page working together. I learned quite a bit from (Trestman) there." Brady called plays during his time as a CFL offensive co-ordinator but Colts head coach Frank Reich — a former NFL quarterback — already handles those duties. However, Brady will still be very busy each Sunday. "Just being another voice and help him (Reich) out between series," Brady said. "Give him ideas of what we're seeing, communicate with the other staff whether it's run plays, other pass plays. "It's a collective group effort there and then relaying that back to Frank because he's got to pay attention to what's going on while the defence is going. We kind of brainstorm together and then communicate with Frank so he's ready to go the next series." Indianapolis (11-5) finished second in the AFC South this season before suffering a 27-24 road playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. But the Colts will have two huge holes to fill offensively with the retirements of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Rivers signed a one-year deal with Indianapolis after mutually agreeing with the L.A. Chargers to part ways. The Colts could again be a landing spot for a veteran quarterback amid reports Matthew Stafford — who has reached a similar agreement with Detroit to part ways — has a preference to play in Indiana next season. "Obviously quarterback is a very important position, left tackle is a very important position and so we've got to address those issues,' Brady said. "We'll put our heads together as an entire group and staff and put the best roster out there. "You could go young (at quarterback), you could go with a veteran. We've got to put our minds together and figure out who's out there, who can we get to put into this situation. Until we know who we can get you can't really make that decision yet." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021 Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press