Considerable waves along the shores in Oakville, ON.
Considerable waves along the shores in Oakville, ON.
That change in the air isn't just the coming of spring: there's a shift happening in the political dynamic surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. After weeks of the federal Liberal government taking heat for the slow arrival of vaccines in Canada, it's provincial premiers who must now answer to jittery, impatient voters hoping to be immunized as soon as possible. New Brunswick's Liberal opposition is now pushing Premier Blaine Higgs and his Progressive Conservative government for more details about the provincial vaccination plan — details they say other provinces have been providing to their citizens. "We're not trying to play politics with this, but there's certainly not a lot of information being given out to New Brunswickers, and New Brunswickers are asking questions to their MLAs," says Liberal Leader Roger Melanson. Opposition Liberal leader Roger Melanson (CBC News) In January, Higgs said many more New Brunswickers could be vaccinated each week, if only there were enough vaccine. Now those supplies are ramping up fast. New Brunswick received 11,760 doses last week and a similar number is expected this week. Melanson says those doses should be administered as quickly as they arrive. "We're seeing deliveries, much bigger deliveries than what we had been getting since January, so now the onus has shifted onto the provincial governments," says political scientist Stéphanie Chouinard of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. Deputy minister of Health Gérald Richard told the legislature's public accounts committee Feb. 24 that New Brunswick would be ready for what he called "a flood" of vaccines, including those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. "We are very confident that we have a good plan in New Brunswick," Richard said. "It was approved by the COVID cabinet and ratified by cabinet a few months ago." Department of Health deputy minister Gérald Richard, left(Jacques Poitras/CBC) But the only detail the province provided during Monday's vaccine update was that 2,400 more long-term care residents would be done this week, accounting for about a quarter of the doses expected to arrive. And officials have given varying estimates of how many people can be vaccinated per week. In January, when deliveries to the province were still a trickle, Premier Blaine Higgs said 45,000 could be done, if only the province had enough vaccine. On Thursday he told reporters the province could do 40,000, then added it might be possible to double that to 80,000. Last Saturday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC's The House that New Brunswick could vaccinate "up to 4,000 people a day," which works out to a maximum of 28,000 per week — below Higgs's estimate. Meanwhile, other provinces are moving faster, or at least providing more detail, on their rollouts. This week, Nova Scotia announced its plan for 13,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third to be approved in Canada. A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press) The doses arrive next week and Nova Scotia doctors and pharmacists will administer the doses to people aged 50-64 in 26 locations around the province starting March 15. New Brunswick has provided no such detail on what it will do with the approximately 10,000 doses it will receive. Higgs says that will be discussed by the all-party COVID cabinet committee next Tuesday and spokesperson Shawn Berry said the province will probably use it for some of the groups identified for early vaccination. Berry said 3,200 people were scheduled to be vaccinated this week but some clinics were delayed because of winter weather. He said doses listed as "available" by the province — more than 13,000 as of Thursday — are earmarked for clinics. "To prevent the risk of disruption of clinics, we don't plan to use them the same week they are scheduled to arrive in case there is a delay," he said. As an example, he said the province received more than 11,000 doses last week and a similar amount will be used at First Nations clinics that started this week. Berry also said Higgs's figure of 80,000 vaccinations per week being possible is correct. Higgs said last Friday one reason for the lack of detail is the uncertainty of supply that plagued the provinces for the first two months of the year. "When we schedule appointments, we will have a vaccine to put with it," he said during last week's CBC political panel on Information Morning Fredericton. "I would like to see a map out over the next two or three or four months of a fixed quantity so that we can plan well." Not when, but how Melanson said he's satisfied with the "who" and "when" so far but wants to know about the "how" — how people will contact, or hear from, the province to arrange their shots. At the Feb. 24 public accounts committee meeting, Liberal MLA Jean-Claude d'Amours also pointed to a Brunswick News report that the province was "urgently" calling for help in long-term care homes from anyone qualified to administer vaccines — another sign of lack of preparedness, he said. Whether New Brunswick's plan is really behind other provinces remains to be seen. The fluctuations in vaccine deliveries to Canada caused short-term alarm and a lot of political finger-pointing but in the end did not endanger the overall vaccine delivery target for the first three months of 2021. Still, Chouinard points out that even those temporary delays probably led to more illness and deaths. D'Amours noted at the public accounts committee that the percentage of COVID-19 doses the province was administering was slipping. Liberal health critic Jean-Claude d'Amours(CBC) The week before the hearing, 21 per cent of all doses received in New Brunswick hadn't been used. It rose to 25 per cent last week and 28 per cent this week. "Supply is not the issue right now," Melanson says. "The issue is capacity to roll it out." The province has been holding back a lot of vaccine for second doses. But with the recent announcement that second doses will be delayed to maximize first doses, those hold-back numbers should now diminish. On Thursday the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island governments said the delay to second doses will allow everyone in those provinces who wants to be vaccinated to get their first dose by June. Higgs told reporters that's his target as well. He said more details on how delayed second doses and new vaccine approvals will change the province's rollout plan should be coming next week. Berry said 7,503 of 11,000 long-term care residents have received at least one dose of vaccine and first-dose clinics for all long-term care facilities will be finished over the next two weeks.
A Crown lawyer urged the judge overseeing Meng Wanzhou's extradition proceedings to "leave the politics to the politicians" Thursday by rejecting the Huawei executive's bid to toss the case over comments by former U.S. President Donald Trump. Robert Frater told B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes the defence team's allegations of political interference were based on the "thinnest of evidence" and that there was no indication Trump's words had affected the fairness of the hearing. "Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it," Frater said. "Yesterday, my friends tried to bring the elephant into this room. With respect we urge you to focus on the facts and the law." Operating under an oppressive 'cloud' Frater was delivering the Crown's response to the defence's bid to stay extradition proceedings against Meng because of alleged abuse of process. Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer, is charged with fraud and conspiracy in New York in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC banker about her company's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. In this courtroom sketch, Crown lawyer Robert Frater urges Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes not to toss the extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou. Frater said the judge should leave politics to politicians. (Felicity Don) Prosecutors claim that by relying on Meng's reassurances, the bank risked loss and prosecution for breaching the same set of sanctions. This week's proceedings are part of a series of hearings spread over the next two-and-a-half months, culminating in arguments on the U.S. extradition request itself. On Wednesday, defence lawyer Richard Peck accused Trump of using Meng as a bargaining chip and reducing the 49-year-old from a human being to "chattel" in December 2018, when he told a reporter he would "certainly intervene" in the case to get a better trade deal with China. The defence team contends the former U.S. president's words amount to an individual threat to Meng and a general threat to the integrity of the Canadian justice system, as Meng tries to defend herself under an oppressive "cloud." Decision best left to minister of justice Frater said Trump's words were "anodyne" and "vague" and any power he had over the case has ended, along with his term in office. He also said any arguments the defence had to make about allegations of political interference should be made to Canada's minister of justice — if and when a decision to commit Meng for trial in the United States is made. Lawyers for Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou claim that former U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to use their client as a bargaining chip in the U.S. trade war with China.(Canadian Press photos) Both the Crown and the defence cited a 2001 decision in which the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a judge's decision not to extradite four men to the U.S. because of comments a U.S. prosecutor made to the CBC's Fifth Estate. An assistant U.S. attorney told a reporter one of the accused would "be the boyfriend of a very bad man" if he waited out his extradition hearing and ended up in jail after a trial. In that case, "the requesting state was reaching into the Canadian extradition hearing and threatening someone with harsh punishment if they availed themselves of their legal right to contest extradition," Frater said. "What you have to decide are whether [Trump's] comments either individually or cumulatively amount to a threat." 3-part test for stay Holmes' decision will come down to a three-part test established by Canada's highest court in a 2014 decision that emerged from a trial involving two Quebec men charged with firearms and other offences related to an investigation of drug trafficking involving the Hells Angels. The pair claimed they were victims of police misconduct and that prosecutors tried to force them to forego a trial by threatening additional charges if they didn't plead guilty. Vancouver police officers wait outside the downtown B.C. Supreme Court building where Meng Wanzhou's extradition proceedings are being held. (Ben Nelms/CBC) A lower court stayed the proceedings, but the Supreme Court of Canada overruled that decision, because societal interest in having a trial outweighed the Crown wrongdoing. The top court said judges ruling on applications like Meng's should determine: if the right to a fair trial or the integrity of the justice system is threatened, if an alternative remedy exists and if the interests of the accused outweigh the interests of society in having the case heard. It's a test Holmes will have to apply several more times in the coming weeks, as Meng's lawyers have scheduled three more hearings for alleged abuses of process. The defence team claims Meng's constitutional rights were violated on the day of her arrest, when CBSA officers interviewed her for three hours without a lawyer, before RCMP told her she was wanted for extradition. They also claim the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of the case against Meng. And they claim the charges themselves reach beyond U.S. jurisdiction. Towards the end of his arguments, Frater said he believed the choice facing Holmes is clear. "Having these charges heard on their merits would be a triumph for the rule of law," he said. "If she goes to trial and whether she's acquitted or convicted — justice is served." The extradition proceedings will continue on March 15.
MIAMI — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state health officials came under deeper scrutiny amid revelations that seniors in a wealthy enclave in Key Largo received hundreds of life-saving vaccinations as early as mid -January, giving ammunition to critics who say the Republican governor is favouring wealthy constituents over ordinary Floridians. The revelations were the latest example of wealthy Floridians getting earlier access to coronavirus vaccines, even as the state has lagged in efforts to get poorer residents vaccinated. DeSantis pushed back Thursday, saying a local hospital — not the state — was behind the vaccinations of more than 1,200 residents of the exclusive Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, and that the state “wasn't involved in it in any shape or form.” Despite the governor's denials of quid pro quos, the charges of favouritism were amplified by money pouring into the governor's campaign coffers from wealthy benefactors with ties to communities awarded vaccination sites — like the one in Key Largo. One resident of Ocean Reef, Republican former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, last week gave the Florida governor's campaign committee $250,000. Revelations about Ocean Reef residents getting vaccinated were first reported by the Miami Herald. The inequitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines is becoming a public relations challenge for the governor. As of Wednesday, nearly 3.3 million Floridians had received at least one shot of the two-step vaccination process, about three-quarters of them 65 or older. But less than 6% have been Black — about a third of their share of the state's population. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried joined Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in calling for federal officials to probe the DeSantis administration’s vaccine distribution programs. “If this isn’t public corruption, I don’t know what is,” Fried said Thursday at a press conference in the Florida Capitol, calling on the FBI's public corruption to launch an investigation. “Give campaign contributions big dollars, get special access to vaccines -- ahead of seniors, ahead of our teachers, ahead of our farmworkers and so many of our residents here in our state of Florida who are scared and who are wanting these vaccines.” Citing reporting from the Herald, Fried noted that DeSantis in February had his biggest fundraising haul since 2018, when he was running for governor. In asking the U.S. Department of Justice to look into matter, Crist, a former Florida governor, asserted last week that DeSantis were benefiting "political allies and donors, over the needs of higher-risk communities and existing county waitlists.” Both Crist and Fried are considering campaigns to oppose DeSantis in next year's gubernatorial election. Other Florida Democrats, including the top Democrat in the state Senate, Gary Farmer, joined in the call for a federal investigation. "The exchange of hard-to-get vaccines for political contributions is nothing short of criminal," Farmer said in a letter dashed off to acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson. During a Thursday news conference, DeSantis expressed no misgivings about the early vaccinations at the exclusive Key Largo community. “If you are 65 and up, I am not worried about your income bracket," he said. “I am worried about your age bracket because it’s the age, not the income, that shows the risk.” A spokesperson for the governor called the controversy “a manufactured narrative with political motivations.” “Leadership matters and because of Governor Ron DeSantis’ commitment to ensuring vaccine access to all seniors – regardless of background, income or zip code – millions of seniors have received the vaccine, resulting in over 50 per cent of our state’s senior population being vaccinated, the highest in the nation,” said the spokesperson, Meredith Beatrice. The Republican Party of Florida came to the governor’s defence, calling the controversy “another bogus conspiracy theory.” “It doesn’t matter what party you belong to, whether you are rich or poor, if you qualify for the vaccine, you can get a vaccine,” said Helen Aguirre Ferre, the state party’s executive director. The Ocean Reef Club, a senior community in Key Largo, had more than 1,200 homeowners vaccinated through their second dose by late January, according to a message to community members by the management obtained by the Miami Herald. Those vaccinations came at a time when “the majority of the state has not received an allocation of first doses,” the management noted. Officials from Monroe County, home to Key Largo, said the affluent club’s medical centre received the vaccines through the Baptist Health hospital as part of the governor’s program to vaccinate communities with a populations of people 65 and older. County spokeswoman Kristen Livengood said the allocations were co-ordinated through Baptist and the state of Florida. In recent weeks, other reports have surfaced of wealthy retirement communities getting exclusive access to vaccine doses through pop-up vaccine sites. Democrats have criticized him for choosing those places, but the governor’s office has noted that more than half of them have been in Democratic stronghold counties of Broward and Palm Beach. Supporters of DeSantis say he has also co-ordinated clinics with faith-based groups in underserved areas. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat and the state's director of the Division of Emergency Management, said the administration is working “diligently” to increase vaccine access in underserved communities. After Publix was made the sole distributor of vaccines in Palm Beach County in late January, the mayors of predominately Black farming communities in the area urged the governor to reconsider, and the state set up a vaccine station shortly after. While critics point to disparities in vaccine distributions as a call for more outreach into underserved areas of the state, including in communities of colour and impoverished neighbourhoods, DeSantis noted that "demand was relatively tepid in FEMA sites in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. The governor said the four sites had the capacity to administer 12,000 doses but only vaccinated 6,500 people. —- A previous version of the story erroneously reported the donation amount given by former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to the Florida governor's campaign committee. —— Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak. ____ Calvan reported from Tallahassee, Florida. Associated Press writer Anila Yoganathan contributed from Atlanta. Bobby Caina Calvan And Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press
HONOLULU — The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled a tsunami watch Thursday for Hawaii that was issued after a huge earthquake occurred in a remote area between New Zealand and Tonga. The agency previously cancelled a tsunami warning it had issued for American Samoa. The magnitude 8.1 quake struck the Kermadec Islands region. It forced thousands of people to evacuate in New Zealand but did not appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure. In American Samoa, officials rang village church bells and police in marked vehicles and fire trucks used loudspeakers to spread word of the threat because the territory's regular outdoor warning system has been out of commission since last year. Repairs have been on hold because flights to American Samoa were suspended amid the pandemic and technicians have been unable to make the trip. Residents weren't taking any chances after a tsunami in 2009 killed 34 people in American Samoa and caused major damage. The Kermadec Islands quake was the largest in a series of tremors that hit the region over several hours, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3. The Associated Press
VICTORIA — British Columbia's provincial health officer says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to first responders and essential workers, but it still needs to be determined which industries will be included. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the first shipments of the recently approved vaccine are expected in the province next week and the B.C. Immunization Committee is developing a detailed plan of who should be immunized and when. She says she expects the plan will be finalized around March 18, and in the meantime, the initial supply will be used to address ongoing outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing case numbers in some communities. Henry also apologized to long-term care residents and health-care workers whose second dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was suddenly postponed this week after B.C. decided to extend the gap between first and second shots to four months. She says the decision was not taken lightly, but it did need to be made quite rapidly because the province was approaching a time when tens of thousands of second doses were scheduled to be given. Henry reported 564 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 1,376, and she also says two of those who died had variants of concern. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
If you weren't born in 1941 or before you probably shouldn't be trying to book a spot for a COVID vaccine right now, but here's a guide for those who qualify or are helping a loved one. First, a disclaimer: This is perhaps the most complex period of the vaccine rollout, with health officials scrambling to get limited quantities of vaccine into the arms of those deemed at highest risk of getting seriously ill. This article is the best picture CBC Toronto can provide of vaccine distribution in the Greater Toronto Area as of Friday, with the caveat that the current landscape will almost certainly look different by this time next week (it's unclear, for example, how the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine will fit into the rollout). Here are the key takeaways everyone should know: You should only be vaccinated in the city you live in. Remember, the overarching goal is still to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, which means staying close to home as much as possible. One more note: this guide is intended for the general public, and doesn't capture those who will be vaccinated by specialized teams — for example, mobile teams distributing vaccines in homeless shelters or other congregate settings. Now that that's clear, here's where you should go to book a vaccination spot if you qualify. Toronto Toronto Public Health will eventually run mass vaccination sites across the city but isn't at this time due to a lack of vaccine, according to its website. You can try to pre-register at some Toronto hospitals, including North York General, Michael Garron and Sunnybrook, but expect a broader rollout of vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. Peel Peel Public Health is directing residents to vaccination clinics in Brampton and Mississauga. You can book at Brampton's William Osler Health System, or Mississauga's Trillium Health Partners. York York Region is running five appointment-only vaccination clinics and its website features a handy tool to help you find the closest one to you. Note: You must book online. Durham Durham's vaccine plan will launch on March 8 with two clinics set to operate at recreation centres in Clarington and Pickering. In addition to those aged 80-plus and health-care workers, the region will offer vaccines to all Indigenous adults and adults who rely on home care. Halton Halton is running appointment-only vaccination clinics in Oakville, Burlington, Georgetown and Milton. You can book online here. The public health unit is also offering free transportation to its clinics, though that travel must be booked 48 hours in advance.
A Calgary man has been found guilty of murdering two men, both of whom he shot "at point blank range" as they sat, unsuspecting, in the front seats of an SUV, a Calgary judge has ruled. Christopher Naidu was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the April 2018 deaths of fellow drug dealers Joshua Brendan Bamfo, 25, and Mahad Abdiraham Ainanshe, 23. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jim Eamon found Naidu planned the killing of the two victims and "shot them at point blank range to their heads and neck area." "There's no reasonable possibility that Mr. Naidu happened to have his loaded gun at a meet-up with his business partners and used it on impulse," said Eamon in delivering his decision. After Eamon convicted Naidu, the killer sat in the prisoner's box shaking his head. During the trial, the judge heard that the three men sold drugs together, sharing a cellphone containing a client list of about 100 names and numbers. Naidu was supposed to have the phone every Friday and Saturday but one of the victims had recently kept the phone on the killer's assigned days. The Crown said in its opening statement that Bamfo and Ainanshe "were killed for the list," said prosecutor Todd Buziak on Day 1 of the trial last month. Victims 'not expecting a threat of violence' On April 20, 2018, just after 3 p.m., police were called to the northwest neighbourhood of Evanston after neighbours reported hearing gunshots. The two victims were found dead in a Nissan SUV. Bamfo's legs were up, casually resting on the dashboard of the vehicle, suggesting he had no idea what Naidu was planning. "[They were] not expecting a threat of violence, rather it was a meet-up," said Eamon. Following a 14-month investigation, Naidu was arrested and charged. A date for sentencing will be set next week. Naidu faces a life sentence with no chance of parole for between 25 and 50 years. Prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will seek consecutive parole ineligibility periods.
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is planning to extend its ban on smoking and vaping in indoor public places to First Nations communities, but it could face a court battle. The Progressive Conservative government introduced a bill in the legislature Thursday that would end an exemption for reserves and other areas of federal jurisdiction, including military bases, from the provincial smoking ban. Ceremonial tobacco use would still be allowed. "We want to ensure that our entire province, not just sections of it, provide that equitable access to smoke-free … and vapour-free work environments," Audrey Gordon, minister for mental health, wellness and recovery, said. "This issue is a public health issue." The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said the province does not have the right to impose a smoking ban and could end up in court if it proceeds. "First Nations will not stand idly by and allow the province to take liberties of this sort," Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said. Many First Nations communities have their own bylaws that govern smoking in public places. Some allow smoking in bingo halls and video lottery terminal lounges. Last year, after COVID-19 restrictions forced video lottery terminal lounges to close, Premier Brian Pallister said he might not let ones that allow smoking to reopen when the restrictions are lifted. The Opposition New Democrats said the government should back up. "Indigenous people have rights that the government has to respect," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said. "And I think for them to announce this bill without giving people in leadership positions in Indigenous communities the heads-up is the wrong approach." First Nations communities could also lose revenue if the plan goes ahead, Kinew said. Gordon said the government will consult with Indigenous leaders as early as next week. The bill is among dozens that could be passed by the legislature in June. Although it might not take effect immediately, Gordon said. "What I'm focused on is having that consultation … I'm really focused on that engagement and we'll save that decision (on when the law would take effect) for a later date." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021 Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Martinrea International Inc. capped a difficult year in which it faced automotive plant closures with its net profit falling 12 per cent to nearly $45 million in the final quarter of 2020. The autoparts manufacturer says it earned 56 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter, down from 63 cents per share or $51.2 million a year earlier. The adjusted profit surged 30.7 per cent to $44.2 million or 55 cents per share, up from $33.8 million or 42 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2019. Revenues for the three months ended Dec. 31 increased 16.7 per cent to $1.07 billion from $917.6 million in the prior year. Martinrea was expected to report an adjusted profit of 52 cents per share on $1 billion of revenues, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv. For the full-year, it lost $27.3 million or 34 cents per share, compared with a profit of $181.2 million or $2.19 per diluted share in 2019. Adjusted profits dropped to $46.9 million or 58 cents per share, down from $187.7 million or $2.27 per share a year earlier. Revenues decreased 12.6 per cent to $3.37 billion, from $3.86 billion in 2019. "Looking at 2020, after a challenging second quarter where we generated minimal sales and an operating loss, our results rebounded sharply in the back half of the year, which saw us generate record adjusted diluted net earnings per share in both the third and fourth quarters," stated CEO Pat D'Eramo. "Our fourth-quarter results were characterized by continued strong volumes and an adjusted operating income margin above year-ago levels — a strong result despite renewed lockdowns and other public health restrictions in November and December as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which impeded some integration and launch activities." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:MRE) The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern): 6:55 p.m. Alberta’s health minister says 437,000 people can soon begin booking appointments for the next round of COVID-19 vaccinations. Tyler Shandro says those aged 65 to 74, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis people aged 50-plus, can begin booking on March 15. The province has been able to accelerate vaccinations due to a third one being approved by Health Canada, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Shandro says the first 58,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will available starting March 10. --- 5:50 p.m. Alberta is reporting 331 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths due to the illness. The province says 33 more cases of variants have been detected, bringing that total in Alberta to 541. There are 245 people in hospital with COVID-19, and 47 of them are in intensive care. --- 5:35 p.m. British Columbia's provincial health officer says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be distributed to first responders and essential workers in the province. Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C.'s immunization committee should have the distribution plan in the next few weeks, and until then, the vaccine that arrives will be used in hot spots where COVID-19 infections have flared. The province has another 564 cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths, for a total of 1,376 people. Henry says another 46 cases of variants of concern have been uncovered, bringing the total cases of variants that originated either in the United Kingdom or South Africa to 246. --- 3:50 p.m. Prince Edward Island is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. Health officials say the case involves a man in his 60s who is a close contact of a previously reported infection. They say the man initially tested negative but was tested again after developing symptoms. P.E.I. has 23 active reported cases of COVID-19. --- 3:25 p.m. Health officials in Saskatchewan say there are another 169 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths. There are 146 people in hospital, with 20 people in intensive care. The province says its seven-day average of new daily cases sits at 148. National data shows Saskatchewan leads the country with the highest rate of active cases per capita. --- 3:15 p.m. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his province will be delaying the second dose of vaccines to speed up immunizations against COVID-19. He says people will get their second shot four months after the first, which falls in line with a recommendation from Canada's national immunization committee. Saskatchewan health officials are expected to speak at a COVID-19 briefing this afternoon. Earlier in the week, Moe said delaying the second doses for up to four months would mean every adult in the province could be immunized at least once by June. --- 2:35 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting five new cases of COVID-19 today. Health officials say three new cases are in the Edmundston region, and that the Moncton and Miramichi regions each have one new case. There are 36 active known infections in the province and three patients are hospitalized with the disease, including two in intensive care. A recently reported presumptive case of a variant in the Miramichi region has been confirmed by Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Laboratory as the B.1.1.7 mutation. --- 1:45 p.m. Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines will be distributed in some Ontario pharmacies starting next week. Health Minister Christine Elliott says most doses of that vaccine will go to pharmacies in a pilot project. The Ontario Pharmacists Association's CEO says the pilot will begin at 380 sites in Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex. Ontario has said it will prioritize people between the ages of 60 and 64 for the AstraZeneca doses. --- 1:35 p.m. Manitoba is reporting 51 news COVID-19 cases and two deaths. Northern regions continue to be hardest hit. High case numbers in Mathias Colomb Cree Nation have prompted the chief and council to ban public gatherings and require people to stay home except for shopping, medical care and work in essential services. --- 1:30 p.m. Alberta's Opposition NDP is calling for an immediate public inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak at the Olymel pork processing plant in Red Deer. It also wants today's planned reopening of the plant put on hold. The plant was shut down in mid-February, after an outbreak that has caused three deaths and infected more than 500 employees. The company says Alberta Health has given it a green light to start a gradual reopening with slaughter operations today. Cutting room operations can resume tomorrow. --- 1 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting five new COVID-19 cases today. Health officials say four new cases are in the eastern health region, which includes St. John’s, involving people between the ages of 40 and 69. Three involve close contacts of prior cases while the fourth is related to domestic travel. The fifth case is located in the western health region, involves a person between the ages of 20 and 39 and is related to international travel. Eight people are in hospital with the disease, including two in intensive care. --- 12:45 p.m. Nunavut is reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19 today. All the new cases are in Arviat, a community of about 2,800 and the only place in Nunavut with active cases. Arviat has been under a strict lockdown since November, with all schools and non-essential businesses closed. The community's hamlet council also ordered a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. to curb the spread. Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says contact tracing is ongoing in the community. There are 14 active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, all in Arviat. --- 12:30 p.m. Health Canada says a decision on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be announced in the "next few days." The word came today from Dr. Marc Berthiaume, director of the regulator's bureau of medical sciences. Once approved, the J&J product would become the fourth vaccine available for use in Canada. It was approved last weekend in the United States. --- 12:15 p.m. Canada's deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says nearly 400,000 people were vaccinated in Canada in the last seven days. He says that's the most in a single week since immunizations began on Dec. 14. Njoo says more than two million doses have been administered now, with about four per cent of Canadians getting one dose and almost 1.5 per cent now vaccinated with two doses. --- 12:05 p.m. Nova Scotia is lifting some of the restrictions in place in Halifax and surrounding communities as COVID-19 cases decline in the region. Officials say rules that came into effect on Feb. 27 limiting restaurant hours, prohibiting sports events and discouraging non-essential travel in and out of the area will end on Friday at 8 a.m. Rules for residents of long-term care homes remain unchanged, but those living in care facilities may only have visits from their two designated caregivers. Officials say the restrictions for long-term care residents will remain in place in the Halifax Regional Municipality and neighbouring areas until March 27. --- 11:15 a.m. Quebec is reporting 707 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including four in the past 24 hours. Health officials say hospitalizations rose by eight, to 626, and 115 people were in intensive care, a drop of five. The province says it administered 16,619 doses of vaccine yesterday, for a total of 490,504. Quebec has reported a total of 290,377 COVID-19 infections and 10,445 deaths linked to the virus. It has 7,379 active reported cases. --- 10:50 a.m. Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19. Health officials say all three cases were identified in the health region that includes Halifax. Two cases involve contacts of previously reported infections while the third is under investigation. Nova Scotia has 29 active reported cases of COVID-19. --- 10:40 a.m. Ontario is reporting 994 new cases of COVID-19. Health Minister Christine Elliott says that 298 of those new cases are in Toronto, 171 are in Peel and 64 are in York Region. There were 10 more deaths in Ontario since the last daily update and more than 30,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
Premier Blaine Higgs is being urged to stand down on making a decision on Cannabis NB until he has consulted with businesses, residents, Indigenous groups and others. A six-page letter, signed by Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Roger Augustine and nine New Brunswick-based cannabis businesses and dated March 4, presses Higgs and Finance Minister Ernie Steeves to "pause any further decision or negotiation regarding Cannabis NB." "As investors in this province, its people and its potential, we believe we deserve to be consulted fully on the future of Cannabis NB," the letter states. "To date that has not taken place." The letter comes as negotiations are already underway, according to a Higgs government spokesperson. Higgs had earlier said a final decision on whether to privatize the Crown agency would be made by the end of 2020. In late December, a Finance Department spokesperson said the process "would continue into the new year." On Thursday, the groups laid out a list of reasons the decision should be paused. Higgs is expected to announce a decision in the coming weeks on whether the government will privatize Cannabis NB retail operations.(Radio-Canada file photo) In addition to fears that privatization would lead to a loss of New Brunswick jobs, it argued the agency's fortunes have drastically changed since the possibility of privatization was raised in November 2019. "At the time, it was easy to understand why the province might consider a sale of this agency given the financial losses it was incurring at the time," the letter said. "However, those losses have been turned around and [earlier] issues … that allowed the regulated market to compete with the illicit market have been addressed." The agency has since posted four consecutive profitable quarters and expects to exceed $10 million in profit for the year, Cannabis NB and Alcool NB Liquor spokesperson Thomas Tremblay said in February. "This is momentum we feel will be imperilled by a move to a single private retailer," the letter to Higgs said, arguing it would "favour its own financial well-being" over the province's bottom line. No other province has given up control, group says In addition to Augustine, the letter is signed by the presidents of New Brunswick-based cannabis companies Zenabis Global, Organigram Holdings Inc., Stewart Farms, Lady Jane Cannabis Ltd., Golden Peak Cannabis Inc., Eco Canadian Organic Inc., New Brunswick Cannabis Co-ordinator, Flemming & Singh Cannabis and the director of the New Brunswick Craft Cannabis Association. The letter notes no other provincial government in Canada has given up control of retail operations of the cannabis industry, arguing that doing so would jeopardize their ability to harness the sector's "global potential." "British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec all have maintained full or partial control over their recreational cannabis industries and are seeing success ... in terms of financial returns to the province," the letter states. The group also said that selling Cannabis NB to a private monopoly would be a "missed opportunity" for reconciliation and economic growth, noting it will make it very difficult to fully include Indigenous entrepreneurs in the regulated retail cannabis space. CBC News has sought comment from the Higgs government.
Police have teamed up with the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton to conduct reviews of sexual assault investigations that did not lead to charges. So far, the team has reviewed 251 files over two quarterly sessions that began last October. "Edmonton is only one of 20 cities in Canada that has taken on this advocate case file review," said Mary Jane James, CEO of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). "I can confidently say that most of those files were dealt with appropriately, with compassion and with respect for survivors." Last year, the police sexual assault section investigated 1,111 cases and laid 207 charges. "Some of those files that didn't go to charge, that was based solely on the complainant and on the survivor," said Staff Sgt. Terrie Affolder. "We give them complete control, which is what they need in this process." As a result of the reviews, SACE spotted "very few" cases they believe should have resulted in charges, but ultimately agreed with the decisions made by EPS not to lay charges after finding out all the details. "There's only been a couple of files where we looked at the entire file and we aren't contemplating charges," Affolder said. "None of the files are actually going to move forward with charges that didn't have charges before." James said her team's main goal is to make sure that sex assault survivors are treated with dignity and compassion. "I know for sure that lots of survivors have not been satisfied with what they experienced when they went to police for support," James said. "The reason that we wanted to as an organization get involved in this is to see if we could work with EPS to ensure that less and less survivors have that unfortunate and likely unacceptable outcome." As a result of the reviews, Affolder said, some of the investigators have been given suggestions on improving the ways they deal with complainants. "We're investigators and we're interviewers," Affolder said. "But sometimes we're not the greatest at being sympathetic and empathetic because we're trying to gather evidence, and that's what SACE is pointing out to us." Calgary police began conducting reviews with a partner two years ago.
JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska state senator sought an apology Thursday from Gov. Mike Dunleavy for a scathing letter in which he accused her of misrepresenting the state's COVID-19 response and said his administration would no longer participate in hearings she leads. Sen. Lora Reinbold during a news conference called the reaction by Dunleavy, a fellow Republican, “outlandish” and said the Feb. 18 letter was an “attempt to intimidate those who question him and his administration and to silence those with opposing views.” Jeff Turner, a Dunleavy spokesperson, listened to the news conference, held in a Capitol corridor. In an email later, he said Dunleavy “will not be retracting his letter” to Reinbold. Dunleavy has been working from home while recovering from COVID-19. Several bills that are key parts of Dunleavy's legislative agenda, including proposed constitutional amendments and a proposed change to the yearly oil-wealth check residents receive, are in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Reinbold chairs. The committee also has been designated to hold a confirmation hearing for Dunleavy's attorney general nominee, Treg Taylor. Reinbold did not say whether she might seek to compel testimony from the administration. But she said she will not meet with Dunleavy "until he withdraws the letter and issues a formal apology. That is my first step, and that is what I'm hoping for.” Senate President Peter Micciche, who leads a majority Republican caucus, said he hopes Reinbold and Dunleavy resolve the dispute. “We’re all grown-ups here and the public expects us to be professional and get our work done on time,” he said in a statement, adding later: "However this works out between those two individuals, the Senate’s business is going to get done in a legal and timely manner – including hearings on the governor’s appointees.” Micciche has said he expects Senate committees to take a balanced approach. Reinbold, who has held hearings highlighting views of those who question the usefulness of masks and criticize the effects of government emergency orders, said Thursday she has brought a “diversity of thought” to the committee that has gone against the Dunleavy administration's “fear-mongering” COVID-19 message. Reinbold and other lawmakers saw Dunleavy as overstepping in issuing pandemic-related disaster declarations when the Legislature was not in session. But she also has taken aim at health restrictions imposed by local governments and the Legislature, such as mask requirements, and raised concerns with COVID-19 vaccines. She was appointed in November, when Dunleavy used the state's emergency alert network to warn of rising case counts, ask Alaskans to consider celebrating the holidays differently and said he would require masks at state work sites. He also urged groups to meet remotely and encouraged people to use online ordering or curbside pickup. Dunleavy at the time said hospitalizations and sick health care workers were reaching “untenable levels.” In a social media post, Reinbold said Dunleavy “wants us to dramatically change our lives, in other words, basically to help frontline workers, that have supposedly been gearing up to take care of patients all year. Things aren’t adding up.” She said Thursday some of the information she had requested from the administration included data on hospital capacity. The state health department has long posted online data on available hospital beds and hospitalizations related to COVID-19. The department last fall, including around Thanksgiving, was reporting weekly highs in hospitalizations. “The bottom line is, we as Alaskans want to know why the disaster was extended over the Thanksgiving" holiday, she said, adding that seeing the data on hospital capacity that played a role in a disaster declaration around that time was important. “We need to be able to ask the tough questions.” Dunleavy, in his letter, said Reinbold had made “many superfluous inquiries" and that her “baseless, deleterious, and self-serving demands on government resources amounts to an abuse of public services and will no longer be endured.” The state's last disaster declaration expired in mid-February. Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press
To say this has been challenging year for hockey players, coaches, and league executives may be an understatement. With league play cancelled, travel for-bidden, and disruptions in ice time and availability, it has been a diffi cult season all around. For the past week, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association has been celebrating the people who have been on the front lines of hockey in the Province trying to keep the game going in some fashion during this current pandemic. With strict rules and regulations in place to keep everyone safe, it has been a season of uncertainty. The OMHA dedicated its third annual “Thank a Volunteer” week (February 22 – 28) to the coaches, parents, offi cials, and administrators who went above and beyond the call of duty this year to keep as many people as possible involved in the game in whatever way they could. The volunteers, who are so important to the sport, had their stories highlighted in a campaign running all week on the OMHA’s social media channels .“What’s incredible to me is that volunteers all over the province have found new and creative ways to offer some form of hockey in a safe way in the middle of the global pandemic,” said Ian Taylor, Executive Director of the OMHA. “It speaks to the love they have for our game and the benefi ts it provides our children.” Volunteers have been even more im-portant this year due to the challenging situation faced by not only hockey but all organized sports.“ "Hockey was a tool for these kids,” said Adam Syring, coach of the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs. “We kept the game going as long as we could because it was an outlet for their mental health, to be able to get out, be active, and get their minds off of COVID, the pandemic, and everything we were hearing in the news. When the kids did get the chance to be with their teammates, you could see hockey made a world of difference.” As part of Thank a Volunteer Week, the OMAH announced two award winners. Jane Kelko, from Essex, Ontario, is the winner of the Patricia Hartley Adminis-trator’s Award in recognition of her de-cades of exemplary service in the fi eld of hockey administration. Kelly Hastings, of Collingwood, is the winner of the Development Award. This award honours his years of outstanding contribution to hockey development, helping run minor hockey initiation pro-grams for thousands of children in the area. Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times
Canada's premiers are demanding that Ottawa immediately give them an extra $28 billion for health care this year, with a promise of at least a five-per-cent hike in the annual transfer payment each year thereafter.
A Liberal MLA wants more details about what the government plans to do to support the Island's tourism industry during the upcoming season. Heath MacDonald raised the issue during question period in the legislature Thursday. He said many Island tourism operators are currently trying to make plans for the upcoming season and are waiting for guidance from the province. "Predictability is an important part of the process of whether they're going to open their business or not and you know, they're very, very worried," MacDonald said. Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald says other regions are ahead of P.E.I. when it comes to planning for the tourism season.(John Robertson/CBC) He asked Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay when those working in the industry would have some answers. "So where is the plan? Maybe there's a plan we're not aware of for this industry. Where is the road map for this anxious industry?" Plan to be released March 18 Responding to MacDonald's question, MacKay said he knows the tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and government is gearing up to release its tourism strategy at a conference later this month. "We've been working round the clock for the last eight months, with industry as a whole," MacKay said. "Obviously I wish I had a crystal ball … the road map of the future, we still don't know what it looks like but we're prepared to the best of our ability and industry has been at the table front and centre with this and it's going to be rolled out March 18," MacKay said. MacDonald countered that other regions are ahead of P.E.I. when it comes to laying out their intentions for this season. MacKay told CBC News the recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases on P.E.I. and the modified red phase were a setback in rolling out the plans. He said the tourism strategy for 2021 is being developed in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. and includes details about the province's marketing campaign and new programs to help support operators. Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay says government will roll out its plans for the upcoming tourism season at a conference on March 18.(Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. ) MacKay didn't provide specific details of what this year's plan will include, but did say it will build upon last year's strategy that encouraged Islanders to explore P.E.I. and welcomed visitors from within the Atlantic bubble. "Islanders really stepped up last year to support the tourism industry and tour the Island. The Atlantic bubble was a success and we feel like we can improve on that. Until vaccines roll out I just can't see us having much more than that," MacKay said. "But depending on how quick we can roll vaccines out and how quick the rest of the provinces can roll vaccines out, will be the tell tale." More P.E.I. news
VICTORIA — The B.C. government has eased the eligibility requirements for small and medium-sized businesses applying for funds under its $345-million pandemic recovery grant program. The province has also extended the deadline for businesses to apply from the end of this month to Aug. 31, or until all the money has been spent. Businesses with up to 149 employees must now show a 30 per cent drop in revenue in any one month between March 2020 and the time of application compared with the same time period during the year before. The grant program previously required businesses to show a 70 per cent drop at some point during March or April last year, plus additional revenue losses of 30 to 50 per cent from May 2020 until their application. Ravi Rahlon, the minister of jobs and economic recovery, says the province has been "nimble" with the program and the changes directly follow feedback from the business community. He says about $55 million has been distributed through the program so far and influx of applications hasn't slowed down, though he couldn't say how many more businesses may now apply given the latest changes. "Certainly we have some businesses that have applied that weren't able to get the funding because they didn't meet (requirements), and now we'll be able to call them and tell them that in fact they do have funding available." This is the second time the government has eased the program's eligibility requirements. Businesses may apply for grants ranging from $10,000 to $30,000, with additional funds available to tourism-related businesses, which Kahlon says represent just over half of applicants to the program so far. The province says businesses don't need to resubmit existing applications and those received previously will be reviewed under the new criteria. In a statement, Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone urged the NDP government to eliminate the requirement that businesses must be at least 18 months old. Kahlon says the rule stands and businesses that apply by the new deadline must have been operating since last March, "so essentially anyone that had a business when the pandemic started can apply for this grant." B.C. is also offering up to $2,000 to be paid directly to professional service providers for businesses that need help creating a required recovery plan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The federal government won't let Michigan shut down the Line 5 pipeline, Canada's natural resources minister said Thursday as he dismissed opposition comparisons to the thwarted Keystone XL project. Seamus O'Regan sounded almost combative as he vowed to defend the 1,000-kilometre line, which bridges an environmentally sensitive part of the Great Lakes to link Wisconsin with refineries in Sarnia, Ont. "We are fighting for Line 5 on every front and we are confident in that fight," O'Regan told a special House of Commons committee on the relationship between Canada and the United States. The Enbridge Inc. pipeline carries an estimated 540,000 daily barrels worth of oil and natural gas liquids, and is vital to the energy and employment needs of Ontario, Alberta and Quebec, as well as northern U.S. states, he added. "We are fighting on a diplomatic front, and we are preparing to invoke whatever measures we need to in order to make sure that Line 5 remains operational. The operation of Line 5 is non-negotiable." In November, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Line 5 to be shut down by May, accusing Calgary-based Enbridge of violating the terms of the deal that allows the line to traverse the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The straits, which link Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, boast powerful, rapidly changing currents that experts have said make the area the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes. Pipeline opponents in the U.S. — many of the same voices who helped make TC Energy's proposed Keystone XL expansion an environmental rallying point over the last decade — have vowed to see it shut down. Enbridge, which has plans to fortify the underwater segment of the line by routing it through a tunnel under the lake bed, is fighting Whitmer's order in court. O'Regan was unequivocal Thursday when asked if he believes the governor's concerns have any merit. "No I do not," he replied. "This is a safe pipeline, it has always been a safe pipeline, (and) the owner is taking further measures to make sure it has continued safe operation." O'Regan also took pains to insist he remains "confident" that Enbridge and Michigan will reach an agreement to allow the line to continue to operate before Whitmer's drop-dead date in May. Conservative MP Mark Strahl noted that the federal government had failed to prevent U.S. President Joe Biden from cancelling Keystone XL, and pressed O'Regan on how the plan for Line 5 was different. "It sounds an awful lot like the plan to advocate for Line 5 is a carbon copy of the plan to advocate for Keystone XL," Strahl said. "Why are you expecting a different result?" "These are very different," O'Regan said as he defended the federal Liberal efforts on Keystone XL, which Biden cancelled on his first day in the White House. He also said he expressed Canada's defence of both pipelines to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm when the two spoke for the first time on Wednesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Latest on a possible threat against the Capitol (all times local): 5:50 p.m. The acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says its oversight board is suggesting the razorwire-topped fencing that has surrounded the Capitol since the insurrection in January should come down next week. But Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman says in a letter to congressional leaders Thursday that she isn’t clear if it is a recommendation or an order from the Capitol Police Board. The letter to the leaders of the House and Senate was obtained by The Associated Press. Pittman says the board suggested some temporary fencing would be removed starting Friday, and the fencing around the outer perimeter of the Capitol complex would be removed starting March 12. Some fencing is likely to remain as law enforcement officials continue to track an increased number of threats against lawmakers and the Capitol. The letter exemplifies the ongoing confusion and communication issues between top law enforcement officials who are charged with ensuring the security of the Capitol complex. The failures that allowed thousands of pro-Trump rioters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 have shined a spotlight on the opaque police force and the complicated oversight process that governs it. The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the House and Senate sergeant at arms and the Architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force. __ HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT A POSSIBLE THREAT AGAINST THE CAPITOL: Law enforcement is on high alert around the U.S. Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again, two months after a mob of Donald Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Read more: — Takeaways: What hearings have revealed about Jan. 6 failures ___ HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 12:10 p.m. Security is high outside the U.S. Capitol, with National Guard troops and Capitol Police officers on alert inside a massive black fence that surrounds the Capitol grounds and several neighbouring buildings. On one of the warmest days in weeks, the National Mall was almost totally deserted Thursday, save for joggers, journalists and a handful of tourists trying to take photos of the Capitol dome through the fence. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Guard troops protecting the Capitol should stay as long as they are needed amid a new threat of another mob attack. Law enforcement is on high alert after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the Capitol again, just two months after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. ___ 11:40 am. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the National Guard troops protecting the Capitol should stay as long as they are needed amid a new threat of another mob attack. The House wrapped up its work early amid reports of a threat on the Capitol on Thursday. Pelosi says a draft security review from the deadly Jan. 6 mob siege is making various recommendations to beef up Capitol security and is expected to be made public next week. Law enforcement is on high alert around the Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again. This comes two months after Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York says, “Domestic terrorism will not prevail. Democracy will prevail.” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas says lawmakers are braced for the threat against the Capitol. ___ 10:30 a.m. A top House Democrat says the threat of mob violence at the Capitol won’t stop Congress from doing its work. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York says, “Mob rule will not prevail. Domestic terrorism will not prevail. Democracy will prevail.” Jeffries says he thinks “there’s a reason for all of us to continue to be concerned about the heightened security environment.” Jeffries blames “a ‘big lie’ that Donald Trump perpetrated in respect to the election that has radicalized millions of folks across the country.” Law enforcement is on high alert around the U.S. Capitol after intelligence uncovered a “possible plot” by a militia group to storm the iconic building again. This comes two months after a mob of Trump supporters smashed through windows and doors to try to stop Congress from certifying now-President Joe Biden’s victory. Five people died. The new threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that Trump will rise again to power on Thursday. Jeffries says lawmakers “will not allow those anti-democratic forces across the country who want to undermine our ability to get things done for the American people to prevail.” ___ 9:50 a.m. A former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee who was among those briefed about a possible new threat against the Capitol says lawmakers are braced for it. Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas says he thinks “we’ll see some violence.” The threat appears to be connected to a far-right conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon supporters that former President Donald Trump will rise again to power on Thursday, which is March 4, the original presidential inauguration day. But unlike on Jan. 6, the Capitol is now fortified against intrusions. McCaul says there’s razor wire and a National Guard presence that weren’t at the Capitol on Jan. 6 so he feels “very confident in the security.” McCaul warns there could be another diversionary tactic — much like the pipe bombs discovered at the political campaign offices on Jan. 6 appeared to be an attempt to lure law enforcement away from the Capitol ahead of the insurrection. The Associated Press
MONTREAL — A novel coronavirus variant could cause cases in the Montreal area to explode by the end of April if residents don't strictly adhere to health orders, according to new modelling by the province's public health institute. The modelling released Thursday by the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec and Universite Laval suggested the B.1.1.7 mutation — first identified in the United Kingdom — is likely to become the predominant strain in the province by the middle of next month. People's behaviour, however, will determine the speed of the variant's rise, the institute said. "The extent of the increase in variant cases would depend on adherence to measures during and after the spring break and superspreader events," read the institute's report. "Vaccination coverage for people over 70 and health workers should not be sufficient to control the rise in cases linked to a new variant by May, since they represent less than 20 per cent of the population." The modelling suggested that a "strong" adherence to public health measures both during and after this week's spring break could allow the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths to remain stable until the end of April. A "medium" respect of measures — defined as a 50-to-100 per cent reduction in home visits and increased contacts in workplaces and during sports and leisure activities — could cause cases to rise sharply. Hospitalizations and deaths are expected to follow more slowly because many of the most vulnerable are protected by vaccination, the projections found. The variant is not expected to spread as rapidly outside the greater Montreal area because of the lower level of community transmission. Health Minister Christian Dube described the projections in a Twitter message as "stable, but very concerning," especially in Montreal. "A medium adherence to the measures would have as an impact to bring hospitalizations back to the level we were at in the worst month of January," he wrote. COVID-19-related hospitalizations surpassed 1,500 in January. "That's exactly why we're asking Quebecers not to relax their efforts," he added. Another report released Thursday by the Quebec government health and social services institute found that hospitalizations have stabilized after a sustained drop earlier in 2021. The report by the Institut national d’excellence en sante et en services sociaux indicated hospitalizations will likely remain stable for the next three to four weeks. "Beyond this period, the evolution of this trend could be different with an increasing presence of more contagious or more virulent variants," the report said. The report, which was written Feb. 28 but released Thursday, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic in the province is largely concentrated in Montreal and the surrounding regions, where 85 per cent or more of Quebec's new cases and hospitalizations originate. On Wednesday, Premier Francois Legault announced that restrictions would be eased in much of the province but maintained in Montreal and the surrounding areas, including Laval and the South Shore. While Montrealers will continue to be forbidden to leave their homes after 8 p.m., residents of four other regions including Quebec City will be able to eat at restaurants, work out at the gym and stay out until 9:30 p.m. starting Monday. Despite the risk posed by variants, the report on hospitals suggested that the province's health-care institutions remain in relatively good shape for the coming weeks. It noted that about a third of the regular beds and half the intensive care beds in the Montreal region designated for COVID-19 patients are occupied, and that hospital capacity is not expected to be surpassed in the next three weeks. The report found that while the institute's past projections have generally been accurate, they become less precise when predicting more than three weeks ahead. While the number of confirmed variant cases across the province remained stable at 137 on Thursday, the number of presumptive cases rose to 1,353, an increase of 133. The Quebec government reported 707 new cases of COVID-19 and 20 more deaths attributed to the virus. Hospitalizations have gone up slightly in the province for four of the past five days. On Thursday, they rose by eight, to 626, while the number of people in intensive care dropped by five, to 115. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press