A multi-millionaire and his wife are coming under fire for disobeying COVID-19 rules and lying about who they were in order to get vaccinated in a remote Yukon community. Miranda Anthistle reports.
A multi-millionaire and his wife are coming under fire for disobeying COVID-19 rules and lying about who they were in order to get vaccinated in a remote Yukon community. Miranda Anthistle reports.
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine safety: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations to the tune of 84 per cent," Sharma said. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902 ) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. An analysis of results from 2,000 adults older than 60 years suggested the vaccine was similarly effective and well tolerated in this age group. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
(Dave Croft/CBC - image credit) Murray Lundberg spends an awful lot of time peering into the past, but this week he's pretty excited about the future — he's going to turn his passion project into a book. The Whitehorse-based amateur historian has just signed a contract with a publisher to translate his popular Yukon History & Abandoned Places Facebook group into print. "I am so pumped by this whole thing. Yeah, it's awesome," he said. Lundberg says he was called out of the blue earlier this week by small, Nova Scotia-based publisher MacIntyre Purcell. The company published 10 to 12 books per year, and many of them focus on photography and local histories — Old Winnipeg: A History in Pictures and Abandoned Alberta are among the titles in its catalogue. "They came to me. Yeah, this is — I didn't know that ever happened. I mean, like most writers, I have a substantial stack of rejection letters," Lundberg laughed. "So to have a publisher come to me was pretty amazing." Vernon Oickle, managing editor of MacIntyre Purcell, says he came across the Facebook group not long ago while surfing the internet, looking for new book ideas. He says he followed various online rabbit holes until he landed on Lundberg's group. "It's a fantastic page, lots of wonderful photos, and historic perspective of Whitehorse and the region," Oickle said. "The more I looked at the Facebook page, I thought, jeez, there's potential for a book there." Lundberg says he signed the contract on Wednesday, and the book will likely be out by the end of next year. A wealth of material Now the real hard part begins — sifting through hundreds and hundreds of photos and other posts to figure out what to include in the book, and how to organize it all. The Facebook group is a veritable trove of historic photos and stories about the Yukon of yesteryear. Some postings are things that Lundberg himself has found or had given to him, but many more have been shared by other group members. A typical post on the Yukon History & Abandoned Places Facebook group. It's become an online go-to for many people curious about something they've found or dug out of storage. Posts can generate plenty of discussion, and sometimes mysteries are solved when other group members recognize an unidentified person, place, or time. Lundberg started the page just seven years ago, "because there was really no place to talk about Yukon history in general," he said. "At that point, there was a Dawson history group and maybe that was it, actually. So I started a Yukon-wide one." He says it "staggered along" for a few years with a few hundred members. He recalls thinking how great it would be to one day reach 1,500 members. "And now we have 15,400 members. And yeah, it's just an amazing place for gathering photographs and stories. It's just a really vibrant community now." Lundberg will be sifting through hundreds and hundreds of fascinating photos and other posts to figure out what to include in the book, and how to organize it all. Lundberg says the enthusiasm of group members is part of what attracted publisher MacIntyre Purcell to the project. Many of the online group members are Yukoners, of course, but Lundberg says there are followers from all over the place. "A lot of that comes down to the fact that people say that you can leave the Yukon, but the Yukon never leaves you," he said. "And we get so many comments by people who have left the territory and are looking to grab at little memories from the Yukon. And those photographs trigger exactly that." Lundberg says many of the page's fans are Yukoners, while others have some nostalgic connection to the territory. 'You can leave the Yukon, but the Yukon never leaves you,' Lundberg says. One thing the book won't be, Lundberg says, is another celebration of the Klondike Gold Rush or the building of the Alaska Highway during the Second World War. Those events have been the twin pillars of so much Yukon popular history over the years, and Lundberg wants to shine a light on some lesser-known times, places and events in the territory's past. The Gold Rush "won't be getting a whole lot of attention," nor will the building of the highway. "I have 117 books about the Alaska Highway in my own collection. So, you know, I think that's been well-covered," he said.
The tattoo industry, like many others, have been hit hard during COVID. Obviously not being an essential service, the pandemic has shutdown thousands of tattooers’ livelihoods. Tattooing has grown to become a $3 billion industry worldwide, with 38% of Canadians having at least one tattoo. Revenue growth for the Tattoo Artists industry is expected to decline 9.5% as a result of the pandemic and overall economic downturn. All tattooers have been forced to close up shop during the lockdowns as their work requires close contact and sitting with people for prolonged periods. Sjeli Pearse, a local tattoo artist who is currently living and working in Toronto, shares her experience with SaultOnline as she is currently closing up her studio. “We recently made the hard decision to let go of our location,” Pearse shares that for more than half of her lease she has not been able to work in her rented space due to the pandemic, “it’s hit the community really hard in Toronto especially because the lockdowns have been so much longer.” “At this point we really can’t trust that we will open, or that we will be allowed to stay open, or that clients will even have money to get tattooed.” Although the tattoo industry usually weathers economic downturns well, COVID has stopped them from providing their services. They already have to maintain sterilized work spaces and be extremely aware of their shop environment. Adapting their practice to COVID safety measures will be a necessity in order for tattooers to reopen and return to business. Follow SaultOnline as we follow this industry going forward. Josie Fiegehen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SaultOnline.com
(Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit) Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner says Cape Breton Regional Municipality's estimated fee of nearly $43,000 to answer a freedom of information request in 2016 is likely the highest ever issued in the province and is "inflated and inaccurate." In a report issued this week, Tricia Ralph said CBRM's method for calculating the fee estimate was unfair and recommended the fee be waived entirely. Guy LaFosse, a Sydney lawyer whose anonymous client made the FOIPOP request, said the public has a right to know public information and shouldn't have to pay high fees to get it. "I wasn't overly surprised by the decision, but I was surprised with how strongly worded the decision was and how critical the commissioner was of CBRM," he said. "This is a very scathing report when one reads this, particularly when you realize that this is information that should have been disclosed way back in 2016." LaFosse said the ruling shows the province's freedom of information system needs teeth. 'Not acceptable' "The fact that you have to wait a little better than four years to get a report from the commissioner is not acceptable in my opinion and the kind of costs that in this instance the municipality was charging … raises various concerns about how business is conducted, particularly in CBRM." LaFosse said his client cannot afford the high fees CBRM says it needs to charge. His client, who LaFosse said remains unwilling to be identified, requested details four years ago on contracts and expenses related to former mayor Cecil Clarke and employees in his office and at the port. After LaFosse asked the information commissioner for a review, the provincial office worked with both sides to narrow the scope of the request. The commissioner's office also worked with CBRM to determine how it came to estimate the fee at $43,000. In her report, the commissioner said CBRM staff did not use a representative sample of all the document types to determine the estimate and it estimated the time required using higher rates than those that have been previously established. She said the provincial guide suggests it should take between 30 seconds and two minutes to review a single page, but CBRM estimated three minutes per page. In November, the commissioner said CBRM broke the law by withholding 900 pages of information on CBRM's port marketing contracts requested by Sydney journalist Mary Campbell. According to the report, after negotiations CBRM provided a second estimate that came in at just under $3,900, but the commissioner said that's still too high. Ralph said CBRM has not met its legal duty to assist the applicant in getting access to public information and it should waive the fee entirely. This is the second report from the commissioner critical of CBRM's handling of FOIPOP requests. In November, the commissioner said CBRM broke the law by withholding or failing to locate 900 pages of information on CBRM's port marketing contracts requested by Sydney journalist Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator. LaFosse, who was involved in the provincial PC Party's court case seeking details on the Yarmouth ferry management fee, says the FOIPOP system needs to be overhauled. That request was made five years ago and after the commissioner's critical report late last year, CBRM released most of the documents to Campbell. LaFosse said that may bode well for his client. "The new council and mayor have made indications that they are going to be very transparent and will be hopefully assessing as to how they will deal with FOIPOP applications in the future," he said. LaFosse, who was involved in the provincial Progressive Conservative Party's court case seeking details on the Yarmouth ferry management fee, said the FOIPOP system needs to be overhauled. "All of these cases really raise the issue about the way the legislation is worded and how government, whether it's the provincial government or municipal governments, can simply delay things and hope that people will forget that they've made an application, or make them so expensive and time-consuming that they will just fade away and that's not the way that government should be run." Clerk Deborah Campbell Ryan says CBRM has received 100 freedom-of-information requests in the last seven years and needs to hire a full-time FOIPOP administrator. In the meantime, CBRM council may be hiring a full-time FOIPOP administrator. During pre-budget discussions last week, clerk Deborah Campbell Ryan said the municipality has received 100 freedom-of-information requests in the last seven years and dealing with those is only one of her duties. "The applications are certainly growing in number and complexity," she said. "They're not just routine requests. There are a number of steps that have to be followed." During pre-budget discussions last week, CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said she sees the need for a full-time FOIPOP administrator. Deputy chief administrative officer John MacKinnon, who oversees CBRM's communications department, said the one full-time employee is already too busy. "She really doesn't have the ability to do FOIPOP as well as her current communications activities," he said. "We're struggling as it is to get information out to the public with one person." Mayor Amanda McDougall said she sees the need for a full-time FOIPOP administrator. "I think it's important to highlight how much work we might take from the corner of one desk and put to another in hopes that it is a fix that oftentimes it's just kind of prolonging the inevitable, that we do need to hire more people." MORE TOP STORIES
(Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit) The Alberta Teachers' Association says the devil will be in the details for education funding in the 2021-22 school year. ATA president Jason Schilling says documents usually released on budget day, including school funding manuals and school jurisdiction funding profiles, weren't made available Thursday and aren't expected to be released until next month. Overall funding for K-12 education in Alberta will go from $8.32 billion in 2020-21 to $8.24 billion for 2021-22, and stay that way for the following two years. "The exact impacts of this budget for the next school year are unclear, because the government is not releasing details of funding for school boards until the end of March," Schilling said. "We are concerned that the government may be obscuring the reality of school board funding by conflating government fiscal years with school board fiscal years, while delaying the release of the details by over a month." Calgary Catholic School District chair Mary Martin said school boards need those documents to understand how unique packets of money — like grants and specialized learning supports — are being divvied up. "The funding manual is like the recipe book for funding jurisdictions," she said. "We need to see the details that are forthcoming to understand what this budget's going to mean for Calgary Catholic." Martin said school boards have been told that Alberta Education is looking at adjusting some of those unique packets of money, but they haven't been given any further details. In an interview with CBC News on Friday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said that while those documents are forthcoming, she wants to ensure school divisions that none of them will see their funding go down compared with the current school year. "But they will receive their funding profiles by the end of March, and in the meantime we've shared data, you know, the formula so that they can look at their weighted moving average and that they can kind of use the current funding model to to project out while they are waiting for the new funding model," she said. LaGrange said the government has moved significant dollars in the education budget into the learning supports envelope, which covers the costs of things like the Program Unit Funding (PUF) grant and the school nutrition grant. "We really felt strongly because of the fact that we've been in a COVID environment, as well as what we've been hearing from school divisions, that we wanted to re-look at that whole envelope and as such there's an additional $40 million in that overall funding envelope," she said. "Which is quite significant, when you think that the overall funding in that envelope is going to be at $1.35 billion." Schilling said the ATA is also concerned that the budget shows $27 million less in spending on instruction, while private school funding sees an increase of $20 million. "When you see a decrease in the basic instructional grant, we need to know how that's reflected in the school board's funding manuals," he said. "When you don't have those funding manuals right away, it's difficult to see what that impact will be on schools and students and teachers." LaGrange said that because this is the first year utilizing this funding model, there were still a few things in the funding manual and funding profiles they needed to iron out. "We had committed all along that we would review it and ensure that we had all the right points. And we want to make sure that the new funding model reflects what we are hearing from school divisions," she said.
A senior Democratic lawmaker said there is a growing appetite for a new federal cybersecurity breach notification law in the wake of a sprawling series of digital intrusions blamed on the Russian government. The comment, made by Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House's Homeland Security Committee, comes as cybersecurity executives are facing their second round of congressional questions on Friday over their companies' roles in the breach centered on Texas software company SolarWinds. Introducing the witnesses, Thompson said that there was "growing interest in a cybersecurity reporting law" from his colleagues and that he hoped "we can enact cyber incident notification legislation in the short order."
BEIJING — The thrills and chills of the big screen are back big-time in the world’s largest film market. With the coronavirus well under control in China and cinemas running at half capacity, moviegoers are smashing China's box office records, with domestic productions far outpacing their Hollywood competitors. February marked China’s all-time biggest month for movie ticket sales, which have so far totalled 11.2 billion yuan ($1.7 billion). China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest market for movie ticket sales last year as the American box office took a massive hit from the closure of cinemas because of the pandemic. Chinese theatres were able to reopen by midyear and have seen steady audience growth since then. Local movies have also benefited from periodic unofficial “blackout" periods, when only domestic productions are allowed to be screened. A dearth of major Hollywood blockbusters over recent months appears to have also boosted the market for Chinese films. “People were encouraged to stay in Beijing for the Lunar New Year, and so watching movies in the cinema became the top choice of entertainment,” said Chu Donglei, marketing manager at Poly Cinema’s Tiananmen branch in central Beijing. Mask wearing is mandatory and moviegoers must register with a cellphone app so they can be traced in the event of an outbreak. Only every other seat is allowed to be occupied, making it even harder to obtain tickets for the most popular films. According to the China Movie Data Information Network, 95% of ticket sales came from the seven top-grossing films timed for release around the Lunar New Year festival, which began this year on Feb. 12. “Hi, Mom,” a time-travelling comedy written and directed by and starring Jia Ling, was the top earner with 4.36 billion yuan, followed by action comedy “Detective Chinatown 3,” with 4.13 billion yuan. Wang Xiaoyu, 32, who works in the film industry, was only able to procure a ticket for “Hi, Mom” on Thursday and called the viewing experience “deeply moving." “I know there are some movies that are released and streamed online. But I think the experience of watching movies online is not as good as that of watching in a cinema,” Wang said. A lack of entertainment options helped pump up ticket sales during the pandemic, foretelling a bright future for the Chinese film industry, Wang said. Recent box office figures show the “great resiliency and powerful foundation of China’s film industry," said Fu Yalong, deputy general manager of the Solution Center at ENDATA, an analysis firm focusing on the entertainment industry. “During the Lunar New Year, there were films with a variety of genres and topics and the audiences were satisfied," Fu said. “Even with the impact of the pandemic and the increase in ticket prices, we were still able to score such achievements.” College student Zhang Jiazhi, 21, said the movie theatre experience was a welcome break from staying at home watching videos. Successful online film promotion also helped attract many viewers to brick-and-mortar cinemas, Zhang said. “I’m bored, and you can’t stay at home watching (streaming service) Douyin all the time, so I came to the cinema to watch a movie. There’s nothing to do,” said Zhang, who is on winter break and came to the cinema to see “A Writer’s Odyssey," a Chinese fantasy film which he said he didn’t quite understand. Last year, China sold an estimated $2.7 billion in tickets compared to $2.3 billion in the U.S., which saw an 80% drop in ticket sales. “The Eight Hundred," an action drama glorifying China's resistance to Japanese invaders in 1930s Shanghai, was the world's biggest hit, making $461.3 million at the box office, most of it within China. China's theatres also closed for a time during the height of COVID-19 in the country last spring, but gradually reopened over the summer. As of Friday, China has gone 11 days without reporting a single new case of local transmission of the virus. Since the outbreak was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019, China has reported a total of 89,877 cases, including 4,636 deaths. ___ Associated Press news assistant Caroline Chen contributed to this report. Andy Wong, The Associated Press
A typical winter in Bala can be isolating. Far away from the hustle and bustle of tourism season, Bala doesn't see visitors often in the winter unless they're attending a sporting event at the Bala Arena, now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across from the arena, there was one place where locals and visitors could gather and socialize, despite the chilly weather: the Bala legion, where people could grab a hot meal and a beer, whether it was an average Friday night or they were in town to catch their child's hockey game. Today, Robert Healey, the legion's sergeant-at-arms, said he’s disappointed to see it reduced to a large building sitting idle in the middle of town. “I’m very discouraged and I think a lot of people are,” he said. For Dennis Mills, the Bala legion's president, what they did went beyond providing a place to get a drink. “We were a place where people could mentally exercise,” he said. “Social interaction is the most important ingredient for a person’s mental health.” With the Bala Arena closed, the legion has taken a hard hit, closing entirely for the winter months. They're cut off from the revenue they'd get from selling food and drinks, and its membership has nowhere to congregate. “This year is our 75th anniversary,” Healey said. “We're trying to plan a big dinner, but we don't know whether we're going to be able to do anything.” However, there's hope the legion can weather this lockdown, at least until patios can reopen in the spring. “We feel the camaraderie during COVID,” Mills said. “The spirit for the Bala legion, it’s certainly been the strongest that I’ve experienced in my 16 years.” On an average evening before the pandemic, Healey said, 20 to 50 people might attend the legion and stay for around 3-4 hours for a meal while socializing. “I enjoyed it,” he said. “It gave me something to do, it gave my wife something to do. You'd have companionship and you'd meet new people ... it was just a good community thing.” During the pandemic, they only allowed 10 people inside the building at a time, and they weren’t serving anything. “We felt that was part of our mission and part of our mandate to serve the community,” Mills said. When the province reinstated the lockdown at the onset of the second wave, the legion was closed to the public entirely. Mills said he, legion member Jack Durante and membership chair Kibby Ham have been reaching out to legion members, four or five a day, to keep in touch and chat. Other legions in Muskoka Lakes have made some adjustments. The Port Carling legion is selling its food for curbside pickup. Legion treasurer Sherri Snider said in lieu of their normal winter patronage of people at the arena and curling club, they’ve seen an influx of contractors ordering food from them. “I wouldn’t say we’re doing tons of money with our expenses and labour, but we are certainly making a profit and the town is appreciative that we are here,” she said. According to Mills, the legion incurs $3,500 of fixed costs a month for heating, electricity, cleaning and paying a bookkeeper. Right now, they’re relying on donations from the supporters they’ve accumulated over the last four years. “We’re in a very tough situation with COVID … but we have a tremendous amount of goodwill,” he said. Mayor Phil Harding said he recognizes the legion's closure leaves a hole in the community. “With a full lockdown and winter, it really compounds the problem,” he said. “It's certainly on our radar as municipal council.” STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Legions are a cornerstone of connection in many of Muskoka's communities, for veterans and other locals. Our reporter wanted to see how the Bala legion was faring in a town hit hard by the decrease in winter tourism. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
“We’ve been subject to these gravel guerrillas now for at least 50 years, trying to build more highways, more urban sprawl.” Those were the words this week of Mississauga Ward 11 Councillor, George Carlson, who brought them down like a blunt hammer on the heads of builders determined to continue profiteering from the land. “I can almost hear the old scotch and soda tinkling as the decision was made to add another highway and let the developers build more stuff north of Toronto. They haven’t even finished doing infill in Toronto.” As the planet continues to reel from the catastrophic impacts of climate change, some Peel politicians have finally picked their heads from the sand, while others remain largely oblivious. On Wednesday, after more than a year of silence, the City of Mississauga finally threw its considerable weight behind calls to cancel the proposed GTA West Corridor, also known as Highway 413. Carlson’s comments underscored the frustration felt around the virtual council chamber. It was better late than never in the eyes of environmentalists. Meanwhile, many municipal leaders in Brampton and Caledon continue to claim support for environmentally friendly policies, as they walk the fence on a project that will devastate local watersheds, ecosystems and wildlife, while adding hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon emissions into the air above Peel. Since the Progressive Conservatives, led by Premier Doug Ford, restarted the GTA West Highway’s Environmental Assessment (EA) in the first half of 2019, Mississauga has been largely silent. Presentations by the Province to Region of Peel councillors outlining the highway’s debatable benefits have been received unanimously. The City’s lobbying power at Queen’s Park has been used on other priorities but not to fight the planned 400-series transportation corridor. A recent swell of opposition to the highway forced the issue back to the top of the agenda. After a request by Environmental Defence and Ecojustice to have the federal government complete a study of the environmental impacts of the proposed route, and even wrestle control of the project from Queen’s Park, opposition groups have received a new round of support. Unlike their previous requests, which have fallen on deaf ears in Peel Region and only seen success in Halton and Orangeville, this recent campaign has bigger supporters with more clout at the provincial and federal level. At a special council meeting on Wednesday, called to pass Mississauga’s 2021 budget, the City adopted a new and aggressive stance. Councillors voted unanimously to approve a lengthy motion, brought forward by Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish and seconded by Ward 8’s Matt Mahoney, explicitly opposing any construction activity relating to the GTA West Corridor. “I find it interesting that the buzzword in today’s day and age is climate change action, environment and all of these things and then we kind of fly in the face of it,” Mahoney said, welcoming the strong position detailed in the lengthy motion. “With projects like this, [we] almost talk out of both sides. I am very pleased to second this motion.” The GTA West Highway was scrapped by the Liberal government in 2018. The decision came after an expert panel came to the conclusion it would do almost nothing to solve the GTA’s congestion problems. The report was completely ignored by the PC government, which quickly restarted the environmental assessment process and began touting benefits of the corridor, including unsupported claims it will reduce traffic congestion. Mississauga’s new stance — directly opposing the highway — is the clearest in the Region of Peel. To the north, Brampton and Caledon have both recently voiced concerns, but stopped well short of opposition. In Brampton, Mayor Patrick Brown and Wards 2 and 6 Councillor Michael Palleschi have been pushing for a boulevard in place of the highway through Brampton. The concept, brought to life by a consultant, has come with few technical details, with no one able to explain how a highway would morph into a walkable, urban corridor and back again. Brampton’s mayor has refused to condemn the highway, and, despite his claims to recognize a climate emergency, he’s bragged about being the one who put the GTA West Highway back on the table when he added it to the PC campaign platform ahead of the 2018 election, before his dramatic fall from provincial politics. In its requests to the Provincial government, Brampton has asked for its boulevard design to be considered for a portion of the route without stating opposition to the highway. On Wednesday, Brampton also backed calls for the federal government to take over the route’s EA. Bowing to growing pressure, the Town of Caledon has also backed the same calls. The move is a 180-degree turn from previous calls by Caledon council members who pushed for an expedited environmental assessment – currently being conducted by the provincial government – to get the project started even faster. A federal EA would have the power to override the provincial government and cancel the project should the environmental impact be deemed too great. On Thursday, Mississauga brought its motion to the Region of Peel. Parrish and Brampton Wards 3 and 4 Councillor Martin Medeiros put the proposal on the floor, offering Brampton and Caledon councillors a chance to make a clear statement against the highway and in support of their own climate emergency declarations. But they shied away. Spearheaded by Caledon Wards 3 and 4 Councillor Jennifer Innis and Mayor Allan Thompson, the issue was deferred to a later date. Stating concerns about rushing to a decision and the need to hear from more residents, a referral was proposed to revisit the idea of opposing the highway in a fortnight, once a staff report has been completed detailing the implications cancelling the highway would have on the Region’s long-term planning strategy. “I do believe that a referral to start to bring back a fulsome report, simply with the history and the impacts, what impact would a decision to oppose have on the planning process [would be prudent],” Peel CAO Janice Baker said. “There has been extensive work done, some of which may very well have to be looked at or re-examined as a consequence of this.” The vote resulted in a tie, with Chair Nando Iannicca voting in favour of the referral to break the deadlock. Iannicca said it may have been the first tie-breaking vote he has cast since being elected chair. The delay means official positions in Peel are divergent. Mississauga stands alone opposing the highway, while all three municipalities have recently passed motions expressing support for a federal EA. The Region itself does not have a current position, but the clerk noted Thursday that a 2012 motion “indicates a level of support for the GTA West Transportation Corridor.” Mississauga’s vote on Wednesday was far less complex and more emphatic. Where several regional councillors, including Brown, Thompson and Innis, raised concerns about rushing the process on Thursday, Wednesday simply saw Mississauga representatives congratulating one another on their newly adopted stance, in support of the environment. The wholehearted support for Mississauga’s new stance raises questions about timing. In October 2019, Mississauga’s 12 regional representatives unanimously accepted a presentation from the Province outlining the GTA West Corridor and its unfounded benefits, while there was no concerted outcry over the Province’s decision this summer to approve a route and speed up the environmental assessment. As recently as January, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told The Pointer she did not think she could convince the Province to change its course. “I think they’re committed to the GTA West Corridor,” she said. Asked this week what precipitated the change of heart and the unambiguous stance, Crombie admitted she and her councillors had been asleep at the wheel. “I think there’s been a groundswell of momentum opposing the building of the highway,” she said at a Wednesday press conference. “I have to say I think we as a council have been a bit complacent, I think we thought it was a done deal; a fait accompli. But now there are so many questions arising from the building of this highway... I think that we saw that there were other voices who opposed it and we agreed we would join them, at least to undertake the full federal environmental assessment.” Parrish shook her colleagues out of their slumber. Mississauga’s new stance sits in harmony with its internal policies and publicly declared goals. Just over a year-and-a-half after declaring a climate emergency, the move is tangible evidence of council’s resolve to make good on a popular promise to help stop the degradation of the planet. Parrish, who has made a career of taking on the establishment, led the way with her detailed motion. “You can just see the vultures waiting to build completely along that belt rather than compact developments, which is what we should be looking for — complete communities.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
La Convention des maires pour le climat et l’énergie du Canada (CMMC) a décerné à la Ville de Laval l’insigne de réussite pour avoir fait progresser ses objectifs en matière d’environnement. Cette reconnaissance n’est certainement pas étrangère à l’ambitieux plan de réduction des gaz à effet de serre adopté au conseil municipal de novembre dernier, qui vise à diminuer du tiers ses émissions de GES d’ici 2035 par rapport au niveau de 1990. L’administration Demer partage cet honneur avec 18 autres Municipalités canadiennes dont Candiac, Beaconsfield, Prévost et la MRC de Rivière-du-Loup au Québec. Rappelons qu’en 2019, Laval avait été sélectionnée pour faire partie de la première cohorte du projet Villes-vitrines dirigé par la CMMC au pays. Ce programme de 12 mois offrait aux Villes un accompagnement intensif pour les aider à réduire leur empreinte écologique et s'adapter aux changements climatiques. «[C’] est une belle récompense pour tous nos efforts déployés jusqu'à maintenant. Elle nous encourage à poursuivre notre travail et ainsi dépasser nos objectifs en matière d’environnement», s’est réjouie Virginie Dufour, responsable des dossiers en environnement au comité exécutif, le 25 février. Depuis son adhésion à la Convention mondiale des maires pour le climat et l’énergie en 2016, la Ville produit annuellement un inventaire des émissions lavalloises de GES, ce qui lui permet notamment de mesurer l’efficacité des mesures de réduction mises en place. Parmi les actions phares de la stratégie lavalloise à la lutte aux changements climatiques, notons le programme de compensation des GES. Il s’agit d’une initiative municipale novatrice en vertu de laquelle les promoteurs et développeurs immobiliers contribuent à un fonds vert qui permet de financer des initiatives de réduction des émissions, telle la collecte à domicile des appareils réfrigérants dont se débarrassent les Lavallois. L’automne prochain, la Ville lancera une campagne sur la lutte aux changements climatiques afin de sensibiliser ses citoyens, susciter leur engagement et les inciter à changer leurs habitudes quotidiennes. Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
India's National Stock Exchange on Friday defended its reopening the market after an unexpected shutdown this week, amid criticism about how it handled the situation. Brokers had criticised the NSE over the lack of information after the four-hour shutdown on Wednesday. India's largest stock exchange, NSE announced on Wednesday it shut at 11:40 a.m. local time because of a telecoms problem.
(Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit) Indoor rinks, pools and cinemas in the province's red zones are allowed to reopen as of Friday, as the province eases some restrictions in time for March break. Some cinema owners will keep their businesses closed, believing it makes no financial sense to reopen given the operating limits imposed by the Quebec government. Cinemas are not allowed to sell food and drinks — a decision that sparked major pushback from the industry, and prompted the premier to offer continued access to the province's emergency aid programs as compensation for their losses. The offer was far from satisfying for Vincenzo Guzzo, the CEO of Cinemas Guzzo, which operates 10 theatres in the Montreal area. "The government support program is insulting," Guzzo said. "You haven't even re-gifted a gift, you took the same gift you gave me last week, you took it back, you repackaged it, and now gave it to me for St. Valentine's Day.'' Business will also be limited by reduced capacity to ensure physical distancing as well as the province's curfews — 8 p.m. for most of Quebec, and 9:30 p.m. in the orange zones — but according to Guzzo, even if the province upped its offer, he would reject it based on principle. "There's no way I will be accused of taking public money to open my theatres," he said. "I don't want the money, I don't want popcorn money ... I want to sell popcorn.'' Mario Fortin, however, is relishing the opportunity to bring in customers, even if screening times will be limited by an overnight curfew that starts at 8 p.m. in red zones. "We've been ready for months," said Fortin, who owns Cinéma du Parc as well as Cinéma Beaubien in Montreal. "For months, we've been saying that cinemas are places that are relatively safe, so we want to prove it." Fortin says he's already sold 1,000 tickets for next week, which also includes reducing capacity to ensure physical distancing, reopening is well worth it. "We can manage," he said. "The break-even point is relatively easy to attain." Movie theatres will also need to reduce capacity to ensure physical distancing, and make sure their screening times don't overlap with the province's curfews. Respect the rules, health minister warns Concerns about the spread of the coronavirus variants and another surge of cases didn't stop the province from easing restrictions and allowing certain businesses to reopen. The government has said it wants to give families options to entertain their children while they're away from school. Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people, as opposed to four, are also now allowed in red zones. In addition to the province's curfews, the ban on private gatherings is still in place. With people in the province's general population already getting COVID-19 vaccines, the health minister is asking Quebecers to not get carried away during March break. "Let's make sure that we follow the rules because we are one month away from having a very high number of vaccines," Health Minister Christian Dubé said during Thursday's news conference. The government is expecting at least 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the next four weeks. There will not be any roadblocks preventing Quebecers from travelling to different regions, but the premier said he's asked police to keep an eye on hotels and cottages to make sure people aren't gathering illegally.
Court found government was entitled to use an emergency law to introduce the measures forcing residents indoors from 9 pm to 4:30 amView on euronews
(Nico Inocalla - image credit) A Filipino-Canadian family was left shaken after being shouted at and discriminated against by a fellow customer in a Regina Costco last week. Nico Inocalla, his brother and sister-in-law were finishing up their shopping last Thursday when the incident occurred. "This man in front of us, he kept on looking at us as if he doesn't want us to be there," said Inocalla. "But we ignore it. We just still choose to be there and stay in our own lane. But while we were waiting for a turn, he doesn't stop looking at us, and [then] he started yelling 'you need to social distance, you need to stay six feet away from us.'" Inocalla said he and his brother tried to explain that they were following the rules — they were standing on the appropriate social distancing marker on the floor, and if they backed up any further, they would be in the other lane. But the man wouldn't listen. "He keeps on stressing that we need to stay away … he wants us further away from him, as if we are sick, and he's murmuring different derogatory words which I'm not going to mention," said Inocalla. "I was about to cry, honestly, during that time … in my mind, I was just stunned. I was shocked. I still can't believe it, that it happened to us." Eventually, a manager intervened to tell the man that Inocalla and his family were following the physical distancing protocols appropriately, and encouraged him to leave them alone and go and check out. At first, Inocalla didn't want to believe the man was being racist, but as he continued yelling, Inocalla thought it was an unavoidable conclusion. "From the way he insisted that we obviously don't know what we are doing because of my race as an Asian, I felt like I was being discriminated against because of my skin tone," he said. Anti-Asian discrimination has been on the rise in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to David Arnot, chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, hundreds of incidents of hate targeting Asians within Canada have been reported in the last year alone. "Anxiety, fear and frustration over the coronavirus have fueled xenophobia, racism, hate and discrimination against Asian and Asian-descent communities - but it has also exposed a pre-existing xenophobia, which I think is important to understand," said Arnot. Arnot said there have been some notable and concerning incidents of anti-Asian discrimination in Saskatchewan due to the pandemic this year, including a 15-year-old being called slurs and physically assaulted, and employees at a restaurant in Saskatoon being subjected to a "barrage of racial slurs" earlier this month. "Right now, in the midst of this pandemic, there is no room for racism, hate or discrimination," said Arnot. "We all have to work together in this province to emerge from this pandemic much stronger and more unified. "In Saskatchewan, racism runs very deep in the fabric of our society. Racism is a social norm in this province. … and so this racism has to be called out." Inocalla said the other customers — strangers — behind his family in line did support them in the moment. "They kept on apologizing to us and telling the man he doesn't need to do that," he said. "If he wants to talk, just say it calmly. He doesn't need to react like that based on what we look like." But he worries about how that man — and others like him — see him, his family and the other Asian-Canadians in their lives. "I hope they don't see us like a kind of sickness," said Inocalla. "We're not the virus. We're humans, too. We don't want this. We're just hoping to be treated like normal people. Don't see us like a threat or a disease."
WASHINGTON — Bouncing back from months of retrenchment, America's consumers stepped up their spending by a solid 2.4% in January in a sign that the economy may be making a tentative recovery from the pandemic recession. Friday’s report from the Commerce Department also showed that personal incomes, which provide the fuel for spending, jumped 10% last month, boosted by cash payments most Americans received from the government. The January spending increase followed two straight monthly spending drops that had raised concerns that consumers, who power most of the economy, were hunkered down, too anxious to travel, shop and spend. Last month's sharp gain suggests that many people are growing more confident about spending, especially after receiving $600 checks that went to most adults last month in a federal economic aid package. The government also reported Friday that inflation by a measure preferred by the Federal Reserve rose a moderate 0.3% in December. That left prices up 1.5% over the past 12 months, well below the Fed’s 2% target. Besides receiving cash payments, many Americans who have managed to keep their jobs have also been saving money for several months. That could bode well for the economy later this year, once consumers feel more willing to spend, vaccinations are more widely distributed and some version of President Joe Biden’s new economic aid proposal is enacted. Concerns that a strengthening economy will accelerate inflation have sent bond yields surging. On Thursday, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note moved above 1.5% — a level not seen in more than a year and far above the 0.92% it was trading at only two months ago. The move raised alarms on Wall Street and ignited a deep selloff in the stock market. Some investors fear that rising interest rates and the threat of inflation might lead the Fed to raise its benchmark short-term rate too quickly and potentially derail the economy. The tame inflation figure in Friday's report from the government shows that so far, price increases are mostly mild. In testimony to Congress this week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell downplayed the inflation risk and instead underscored the economy’s struggles. Layoffs are still high. And 10 million jobs remain lost to the pandemic that erupted nearly a year ago. That’s a deeper job loss than was inflicted by the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Still, despite the weakened job market, key sectors of the economy are showing signs of picking up as vaccinations increase and government rescue aid works its way through the economy. The Fed’s ultra-low-rate policy is providing important support as well. Retail sales soared last month. Factory output also rose and has nearly regained its pre-pandemic levels. And sales of newly built homes jumped in January. Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
A single voice could raise cash for health and art. The Raise Your Voice contest and virtual concert is a fundraiser focusing on both the Stevenson Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Gibson Centre. “We wanted to reach out to the community in this new safe world we’re living in and raise money for two very different causes,” said spokesperson Whitney Sallach. Sallach is urging amateur performers from Simcoe County to submit a song by March 14 before midnight for the June 3 virtual singing contest finale. Singers will be judged by Canadian musicians Marshall Dane Erin McCallum and Sophia Fracassi, who will also perform at the event. Contestants are asked to submit a sample of their singing, and assist the hospital and art centre by encouraging virtual concert ticket sales and the launch of the voting event. Three contestants will be chosen to sing at the virtual concert, and the grand prize winner will receive $1,000. Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
OTTAWA — Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, the third to be given the green light for national use. Details of the approval and when Canadians might see doses begin arriving are due at a technical briefing later this morning in Ottawa. Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June. Vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna had already been approved by Health Canada. Approximately 1.7 million doses of those formulas have been administered in Canada. Health Canada is also reviewing two other vaccines. Approval of Johnson and Johnson's vaccine will likely not come until early March and Novavax is not expected until April. The European Union has also approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca formulas. AstraZeneca's vaccine, like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's formulations, requires refrigeration and takes two doses for maximum efficacy. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
La production alimentaire locale tout au long de l’année est à notre portée et réduira l’impact de l’agriculture sur le climat – mais seulement si nous adoptons la technologie agricole.
(Brittany Spencer/CBC - image credit) P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison gave more details Friday morning about three places where people in Summerside may have been exposed to COVID-19. But in contrast to the circuit-break tightening measures imposed after a cluster of cases in Charlottetown in December, Morrison did not announce any new public health restrictions in relation to the five new cases and four public exposure sites this week. Morrison's office confirmed Thursday that there were three new cases in the Summerside area, all men in their 20s with no known recent history of travel outside Prince Edward Island. On Friday she said people who were at the Iron Haven Gym at the County Fair Mall in Summerside during the following times are considered close contacts of one of the cases. They must self-isolate immediately and get tested as soon as possible. 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20. 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23. People who were at the gym during these times are also being asked to contact public health. Morrison said it has been hard to contact some of the people who were using the gym on those two days because phone numbers attached to their names were inactive when tracers tried them. This Domino's Pizza location in Summerside is one of three sites where members of the public may have been exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in the past week. Two Summerside restaurants, the Breakfast Spot and Domino's Pizza, were also identified as places of potential exposure. In the case of the restaurants, diners are not being considered close contacts, but these people should get tested as soon as possible and be vigilant in watching for any symptoms. Breakfast Spot potential exposure time: Saturday, Feb. 20, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Domino's Pizza potential exposure times: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21, 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Anyone living in Summerside who is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 is being urged to get tested and self-isolate until results come back. Close contacts must stay in self-isolation regardless of any negative test results, Morrison stressed. She added that it is difficult for people to hear they have come in close contact with a COVID-19 case. If you know someone who is self-isolating please reach out, from a distance, to offer support. - Dr. Heather Morrison "It impacts businesses, it impacts families, people's income, and day-to-day life," she said. "If you know someone who is self-isolating please reach out, from a distance, to offer support." Morrison said that given what is happening in neighbouring Atlantic provinces, this new cluster is not unexpected, but its origin is a concern. "At this point, these cases have not been linked to travel," she said. "We know there must be a travel link in some way related to these cases, but we do not know the source." New testing sites, hours added As well as contact tracing, Morrison said another big focus is testing people in the Summerside area. The testing clinic in Slemon Park, just outside Summerside, opened at 8 a.m. Friday, and there was a long lineup of vehicles already at opening time. Dr. Heather Morrison says members of the public may have been exposed to COVID-19 at a Summerside gym and two Summerside restaurants. It will stay open until 8 p.m. and Morrison said hours for the weekend are still being finalized. An announcement on those hours will come later Friday. The testing centre in O'Leary is also open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday for people who have COVID-19 symptoms. At midday Friday, the province said two new testing sites were being added because of long lineups at Slemon Park. They are: Harbourside Health Centre at 243 Heather Moyse Drive in Summerside, open from 2 to 8 p.m. Borden Testing Site at 20 Dickie Road in Borden-Carleton, open from noon to 8 p.m. Two charges laid in separate case On another note, Morrison said one of two women diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in the week is being charged with two infractions of the Public Health Act in relation to a public exposure at Toys R Us in Charlottetown. Both women had travelled within Atlantic Canada, and those doing so are supposed to be self-isolating upon their return. Morrison said contact tracing has been completed in connection with the two women, and all tests conducted so far have been negative. Their close contacts will remain in self-isolation and will be retested in few days, she added. Five new cases of COVID-19 have been reported on P.E.I. this week, bringing the current total of active cases to six. In total, the province has seen 120 cases since the pandemic began, but no hospitalizations or deaths. Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
Protesters gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia over the arrest earlier in the week of opposition leader Nika Melia.View on euronews