Kyle Brittain explains how spectacular frozen waterfalls form.
Kyle Brittain explains how spectacular frozen waterfalls form.
When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — A lawyer for a group of British Columbia churches that are challenging the province's COVID-19 rules prohibiting in-person religious services argued Monday the orders reflect a "value judgment." Paul Jaffe says the provincial health officer's orders allow secular gatherings such as in-class education and food distribution for people in need to continue, while discriminating against the churches and their congregants' right to freedom of religion. He told the court his clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open. Jaffe also argued the province has not provided medical justification showing that the virus is spreading through church services and posing a greater risk to the public than other activities that remain allowed, including outdoor assemblies over matters of public interest or controversy. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news conference last month that churches were operating with safety measures in place throughout the summer and fall, but as the pandemic worsened, so did transmission in faith settings. Henry and the province have said they are confident the health orders are in accordance with the law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Hearings over the churches' petition are set to continue Tuesday. Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for the alleged violations of the health orders by the churches. B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson dismissed an injunction request in February by Henry and B.C.'s attorney general, whose lawyers argued churchgoers who are breaking COVID-19 rules would be more likely to comply with a court order. Hinkson said he did not condone the churches' conduct and he was satisfied with the province's argument that the public could suffer from transmission of the virus where people are unsafely attending gatherings. But he said during a hearing that the province was putting the court in an "impossible position" before the churches' own petition is heard this week. Hinkson said he was also concerned that the administration of justice could be brought into disrepute if an injunction was granted but not enforced if the Crown found it would not be in the public interest to prosecute people who refused to adhere to it. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
COVID-19 is spreading faster than ever on Six Nations of the Grand River. Six Nations Health Services reported 114 active cases on Sunday, setting a record that promptly rose to 116 on Monday. Four COVID-19 patients are in hospital, and the disease has killed three band members since the pandemic began. After keeping COVID-19 under control throughout the spring and summer — helped by an early lockdown that limited outside access to the territory — cases began to climb in October and haven’t stopped. The recent spike has been especially worrisome, with 115 of the reserve’s 365 total positive cases identified in the past 10 days. Public health officials, elected councillors and members of the reserve’s emergency control group issued a joint statement on Monday again urging band members to stay at home. “There are to be absolutely no private gatherings with anyone outside of your immediate household. People should be staying home and only leaving their home for absolutely essential purposes,” the statement read. In recent days, public health identified “large gatherings” as a source of community spread, but did not provide further details. Mid-winter ceremonies in January were blamed for a spike in cases at that time, and public health also said a “steady stream” of cross-border travel was bringing the virus onto the reserve. Elected council is now asking band members to wear masks inside their own homes to protect high-risk family members, including seniors and those with underlying health conditions. “Each of us needs to be doing our part to protect these populations, ourselves, and others from COVID-19,” council said in the statement. Health officials said more contagious variants of COVID-19 that have been detected in surrounding communities have not yet been found on the reserve. “We have been fighting this virus for almost a year and the community is tired,” elected council said. “Our health-care workers are overwhelmed. We all need to come together to contain and defeat this virus so that we may gather once again.” J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
TORONTO — Some Ontario seniors braved frigid temperatures Monday to get a COVID-19 vaccine as several regions in the province moved ahead with their plans to vaccinate the general public. With the broad launch of a provincial booking portal still two weeks away, some local public health units used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. In York Region, where bookings opened Monday morning for shots that could be administered as early as the afternoon, dozens of seniors and their caregivers lined up outside a sports centre to get the vaccine. Some huddled together for warmth - a winter weather advisory was in effect for the region - as the line to enter the centre in Richmond Hill moved slowly. Hassan Abbas Kara was saving a place in line while his grandmother waited in a car. “I don't want her to wait in the cold, so it’s a little thing I can do right now to help her," he said. Atta Hussain, 82, said the process was "beautiful" and well organized, and expressed relief after receiving his shot. "We thank everybody who is participating," he said. York Region said its vaccination clinics were fully booked just two hours after they started taking appointments. A spokesman said approximately 20,000 appointments were made Monday across five locations in the region. Clinics were also offering shots to those 80 and older in Windsor-Essex County, and to those 85 and older at a hospital in Hamilton, where officials warned of long wait times amid high call volumes to its COVID-19 hotline. Hamilton's top doctor apologized for backlog on the phone line and asked people who don't live in the city to not call about appointments. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. "Some of them are already vaccinating the over-80-year-old people that are living within their regions," Elliott said Monday. "I think that's something that we should be celebrating not denigrating." Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he's happy some public health units are offering shots already, but argued it could cause issues later when health units that have already started making appointments on their own systems have to switch over to the provincial one. The province also said Monday that it has asked the federal government for guidance on possibly extending the intervals between the first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses to four months. It pointed to British Columbia's decision to do so and said there's growing evidence suggesting intervals between the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses can be safely extended. Monday also saw two Ontario regions - Thunder Bay and Simcoe Muskoka - return to lockdowns as a result of rising COVID-19 cases. Restrictions on businesses and gatherings were loosened in seven other health units: Niagara Region, Chatham-Kent; Middlesex-London; Southwestern; Haldimand-Norfolk; Huron Perth; and Grey Bruce. Municipal officials in Simcoe Muskoka raised concerns about pressure on small businesses and the effects of yet another lockdown on the public during a public meeting with the health unit on Monday. The region's top doctor said he's heard concerns about the strict measures from people in areas with fewer cases. Dr. Charles Gardner said he'll be in touch with the province's chief medical officer about whether a full lockdown is required for the region. In Thunder Bay, which entered a lockdown after reporting more COVID-19 cases in February than all of 2020, a local hospital reported it was expanding its COVID-19 and intensive care units to meet the needs of the community. Meanwhile, a spokesman for federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the Public Health Agency of Canada was reviewing a funding application for an isolation site in Thunder Bay after the city said it could no longer afford to keep it running. Ontario reported 1,023 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths from the virus on Monday. - With files from Cole Burston This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
A massive iceberg twice as big as the city of Toronto broke off Antarctica on Friday, according to a news release from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The BAS operates a base on the Brunt Ice Shelf, where the 1,270 square kilometre iceberg — nearly one-third the size of Prince Edward Island — broke off. The Halley Research Centre, which is closed for the Antarctic winter, is unlikely to be impacted by the event, the organization said in the release. "Our teams at BAS have been prepared for the calving of an iceberg from Brunt Ice Shelf for years," BAS director Jane Francis said in the statement. Calving is the scientific term used to describe ice breaking off from a glacier. "Over coming weeks or months, the iceberg may move away; or it could run aground and remain close to Brunt Ice Shelf," Francis said. "Halley Station is located inland of all the active chasms, on the part of the ice shelf that remains connected to the continent." In November, a new chasm in the Brunt Ice Shelf — which the organization named the North Rift — headed toward another large chasm, the BAS said in its statement. It was the third major crack to become active in the last decade and eventually cut through the 150-metre thick ice shelf and released, the organization said. BAS said changes in the ice at the research centre is a "natural process" and said there is "no evidence that climate change has played a significant role."
A local conservation group is aiming to get phragmites at Wye Marsh. The invasive species is spreading and crowding out native vegetation that is at the centre of the food web supporting the biodiversity at the marsh, said Kate Harries, president of MTM Conservation Association (MTM). The MTM is a volunteer board responsible under contract of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for managing crown land at Marl Lake, Tiny Marsh, and Matchedash Bay, she explained to Tiny council during a presentation at a recent council meeting. Harries was looking for in-kind and financial support in the amount of $6,000 over the next three years for a project aimed at tackling the issue. She said the group is looking for $3,000 from the township for year one, two-thirds of that in year two and one-third in the last year. The association, Harries said, is budgeting an expense of $32,666 for each of the three years. This funding, she explained, is made up of support from Tiny Township and other community partners, such as Ducks Unlimited Canada. She said she will be applying for a federal grant seeking $22,166 annually for the three-year program. "We've identified a federal fund we feel we have a good chance of getting a grant from to cover a three-year project," she said, talking about the EcoAction Community Funding Program. Step one of the project will be to map the spread in the Wye Marsh, Harries said. "At present, an educated guess is that we have approximately 140 hectares of invasive phrag and the marsh could be plugged within eight years," she added. In some Southern Ontario wetlands, Harries said, the invasive plant grows in dense fields leaving nowhere for waterfowls to nest and trapping any turtles that wander into the stand. She said MTM started forming a plan of attack last year in collaboration with the Severn Sound Environmental Association and the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre. "The time to evaluate the problem is when the ice is in and you can walk out there and look at the phrag," said Harries. "Our first opportunity was in early February." For that visit, she said, the group invited Janice Gilbert, executive director, Invasive Phragmites Control Centre, to visit the location. "She's pioneered the use of truxors, amphibious vehicles in cutting the phrag out where it's growing in water," said Harries. "They can do in three days what it could take a crew of people a whole season." She said Gilbert is positive about the potential of an intensive three-day attack with herbicide and truxors this August. Volunteers can then work before and after to take out the less dense patches of phragmites. Harries explained to MidlandToday that the herbicide Gilbert is proposing is a form of glyphosate. "We didn't want any herbicide sprays," said Harries. "But Janice said there's no other way of dealing with the phragmites when it's growing along the dyke. We've tried digging it out of the dyke structure, but it's too tough. The roots are totally entangled." This, she said, is like having to choose between the evil of the phragmites and the evil of herbicide. "They do it very carefully with backpack sprayers and it's spot application, which looks at exactly the spot you're targeting," said Harries. "We would need to get a permit from the provincial government to use that. There's certainly a lot of concern among ourselves because we're very conscious of the need to be carefully of the amphibians in the area." After listening to the proposal, council was immediately on board with the idea, provided they could find some money, having recently approved their budget. Tim Leitch, director of public works, said there was money in his department for just such a project. "We do have money we just set aside for phrag control in the township and my recommendation would be to utilize that amount for this," he said. "I think this is a great opportunity for us to get involved with." Coun. Cindy Hastings asked if MTM would be able to cover the remaining 50% with another grant and what percentage of the 50% could be covered by in-kind contributions? "As far as I know, there's no limit," said Harries. "But when we get somebody like the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre in with the truxors, they are providing some in-kind services, but they need to be paid in cash." Since the grant application had to be submitted by March 3, council ratified its decision at its regular council meeting. The motion stated that Council would supports the phragmite removal project by providing a letter of support and $3,000 in cash for 2021 and offer additional support either through the Mayor's Charity Golf Tournament or through an in-kind donation. Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER, ONTARIO, CANADA — The Six Nations of the Grand River says that all students in the First Nations territory will finish this school year online. The Six Nations Council says it will reopen schools in September for in-person learning. Six Nations, a predominantly Haudenosaunee community, has the largest population of any First Nations reserve in Canada. It closed its territorial borders to non-band members in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kathleen Manderville, director of federal schools, said in a statement last month that the decision is not a reflection on the hard work done to prepare the schools for in-person learning this spring. Manderville says that school buildings will be accessed for essential work only. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The White House is making it abundantly clear it has no plans to share America's COVID-19 vaccines with Canada or Mexico. Press secretary Jen Psaki has been indicating for weeks that the Biden administration would not allow the export of doses manufactured in the U.S. any time soon. Today, with Mexico planning to explicitly ask for help, Psaki ruled the possibility out entirely. She says President Joe Biden is focused first on making sure the vaccine is available to every American. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was expected to ask Biden directly for doses when the two meet virtually later today. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly stopped short of making a similar request in his virtual meetings with Biden last week. "No," Psaki said today when asked whether the U.S. would be willing to share its supply of vaccine doses. "The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are available to every American. That is our focus." Psaki hinted last week that the White House position could change later this year once more Americans are vaccinated and the doses are no longer in such short supply.Johnson and Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine began shipping out today after it received emergency authorization over the weekend from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That now makes three vaccines that are available in the U.S., along with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health Canada has yet to approve the Johnson and Johnson shot, but gave the green light last week to a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
Donwood Park public school is temporarily shutting its doors because of a COVID-19 outbreak that include four cases of variants or concern. Erica Vella has details.
Toronto began vaccinating members of its police force against COVID-19 on Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. "It is approximately 2,250 frontline members who were moved in to the current phase by the province," said Connie Osborne. Toronto Mayor John Tory said some police officers are involved frequently in calls that require enforcing COVID-19 restrictions and performing CPR. "You have a certain number of them that are daily, in many respects, involved in that kind of a call, similar to the way firefighters are and similar to the way, obviously, the paramedics are," said Tory. "They're simply medical first-responders." A day earlier, the city said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The identification of both police officers and the homeless as priority groups came amid ongoing criticism of Ontario's vaccine rollout, which some have said has been too slow and lacking in details. The province did not immediately respond to request for comment on the identification of police officers as a priority group. Last week, the province said Ontarians aged 80 and older will start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the third week of March, although it noted that the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. The government also said essential workers will likely begin getting their shots in May if supply allows, but noted it was still deciding who will be in that group. Toronto's fire chief, who leads the city's COVID-19 response, said Monday that the city's plan to vaccinate those aged 80 and older depends on supply. "We are limited right now and controlled by the availability of vaccine," said Matthew Pegg. In neighbouring York Region, residents aged 80 and older started getting their COVID-19 vaccinations on Monday after the region opened up its own booking system. Toronto's top doctor said her city had a large number of people in the highest priority groups that it had to vaccinate before targeting those aged 80 and older in the general population. "Because we are such a large city, we have many health-care institutions," said Dr. Eileen De Villa. "We have a significant number of people to actually cover as part of the provincial prioritization framework." Ontario reported 1,023 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 280 of those in Toronto. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 1, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press
Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod says the NDP motion to create a pharmacare program — which had the support of the territory's premier and cabinet — needs to have more consultation with provincial and territorial jurisdictions. McLeod, along with most of the Liberal party, helped to shoot down the motion last week. On Monday, he told Loren McGinnis, host of CBC North's The Trailbreaker, that while he supports a universal pharmacare program, the bill brought forward by the NDP would be imposing. "Moving forward without consulting [the regions] would be the wrong way to go. You know, we're not going to get there by imposing criteria on provinces and territories without talking to them," he told CBC. "Im certainly not going to support a bill that requires provinces and territories to negotiate with a gun to their head." He says the bill, "without due consultation," can be seen as an "overreach without working with federal and provincial jurisdictions." Liberals moving toward pharmacare, McLeod says Last week, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told CBC the Liberal party voting down the NDP pharmacare bill signalled the government's unwillingness to move ahead with a plan for universally covered medication. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is seen during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 3. But McLeod says that's not the case. "There's many, many next steps that have to happen. But things are moving forward," he said. "Our government has stated very clearly that we're ready to go, we're ready to start talking with any jurisdiction that is ready to start those discussions and negotiations. I think it's going to be fairly easy for us to move forward in [the] Northwest Territories." He says a pharmacare plan could cost up to $15 billion or more. "We have to make sure it doesn't land on the taxpayers in Northwest Territories … we have to make sure that everybody's looked after," McLeod said. He said most of the territory is already covered for medication coverage — around 75 to 80 per cent. "The people that are not covered are the working poor, and some of the unemployed people … we need everybody to be on [the same] side to make it work. So we have our work cut out for us. But I think overall, Canadians want to see this happen," he said. "We all agree that it's time to take that patchwork of pharmacare programs that are all over the place and make it universal. But, how we get there ... we have differences of opinion."
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Rough estimates from Newfoundland and Labrador's elections authority indicate it could be April before a winner is declared in the province's chaotic pandemic vote — almost two months after the original election day. Elections NL spokeswoman Adrienne Luther said Monday she expected her office will begin counting votes later this week, and last election's experience indicates it could take a while. "There's no easy way to estimate a date of conclusion because it's entirely dependent on how many (mail-in ballots) we get back," Luther said in an email. The provincial election was derailed in February by an outbreak of COVID-19 in the St. John's metro region. Voting day was Feb. 13, but less than 12 hours before the polls opened, Elections NL cancelled all in-person voting after health authorities announced a provincewide lockdown. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by March 12 in order to count. Mail-in ballots take a lot of time, Luther said. Elections NL staff must verify the name and address of each ballot, she added. On average, her office opened and processed about 5,000 mail-in votes a day during the 2019 election, she said. "An estimate right now is that it will take approximately 20 straight days — we will be working full weekends — to do around 100,000 votes," Luther said. And that's on top of the 68,000 ballots that are already in the Elections NL office waiting to be counted, she said. Those ballots were cast before the outbreak upended the election and chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk has said there are at least 12,000 mail-in ballots among them. Luther's office anticipates about 120,000 people requested a mail-in ballot before the Feb. 19 deadline. Some of those may have requested ballots for several people in a household, and some may not be returned at all. "Historically, we have had a very high rate of return on (mail-in ballots) but this election has been anything but predictable," Luther said. If Elections NL maintains its rate of counting about 5,000 ballots a day, then it will take at least 24 days to count 120,000 ballots, not including the ballots received before the vote was delayed. That means residents of the province could have to wait until April to learn who won the election. In the meantime, Chaulk is finalizing the process and protocols for scrutineers to oversee the process, Luther said. "At this point," she said, "one scrutineer per party will be permitted in the building where counting will take place." Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey, who called the election on Jan. 15, has said in previous interviews his government will remain in "caretaker mode" until someone is declared the winner. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press
ASHFORD, Conn. — A police investigation into the fire that tore through the Hole in the Wall Gang camp for seriously ill children in Connecticut could not determine the cause but found no indication it was set intentionally, officials said Monday. The Feb. 12 fire at the Ashford camp, which was founded by the late actor Paul Newman, destroyed buildings including a large wood-frame structure that was made to look like the centre of an old western town. The investigation was closed with the cause of the blaze listed as undetermined. “Due to the catastrophic damage caused by the fire, the exact area of fire origin could not be identified,” Connecticut State Police said in a news release. “It is the opinion of investigators that the fire started in one area, however, and quickly spread through the buildings that comprised the camp’s Main Street area and housed the wood working shop, the arts and crafts area, the camp store and the cooking zone.” The camp plans to replace the lost structures with a larger, single-level complex. The camp was built in 1988 to accommodate about 300 children each summer. The charity now serves about 20,000 kids a year on site and through community and hospital-based programing. The Associated Press
MADRID — It was a tactical change that didn't last more than 15 minutes, but it was just long enough to cost Real Madrid a chance to fight for the Spanish league lead in the derby against Atlético Madrid next weekend. Coach Zinedine Zidane's attempt to push Madrid forward by switching formations midway through the game against Real Sociedad backfired on Monday, leading to a 1-1 home draw that kept the defending champions from getting within range of the city rival going into the derby at Atlético's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday. Madrid conceded after Zidane changed a 4-3-3 formation to 3-5-2 at halftime, leaving Madrid more exposed defensively. It needed an 89th-minute equalizer by Vinícius Júnior to salvage the draw. “We changed to three defenders because I didn't like how we were pressing forward, but then we changed it back quickly,” Zidane said. “Maybe it hurt us. I was trying to change the dynamic of the game.” The draw halted Madrid’s four-game winning streak in the league and left the club five points from its city rival, which has a game in hand. Madrid has the same points total as second-placed Barcelona but trails on goal difference. A win would have moved Madrid within three points of Atlético entering the derby. “We had our chances but couldn't capitalize on them and in the end we lost two points at home,” Zidane said. “We can't forget that we were up against a great rival and it played very well.” Sociedad, which had won three in a row in the league, stayed in fifth place, six points from fourth-placed Sevilla in the final Champions League place. “We leave with a bad taste in our mouth,” Sociedad forward Cristian Portu said. “We deserved more. Usually an away draw against Real Madrid is a good thing, but not with the way that the game developed.” Madrid, still without injured players such as Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos, struggled against Sociedad’s well-organized team at Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium. Portu opened the scoring for the visitors with a header into the top corner in the 55th minute, taking advantage of some soft defending by Madrid left back Ferland Mendy. “There was some disconnection after the change to three defenders,” Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said. “We were a bit lost and they had more space. In the end, Mendy couldn’t get to the cross in time and they scored a great goal.” Zidane said he made the tactical change because he wasn’t happy with how the team had been playing. “It was only for about 10 or 15 minutes and then I changed it back to a 4-3-3 formation and we played better,” he said. Vinícius Júnior, in his 100th match with Madrid, equalized with a shot from inside the area. Madrid forward Mariano Díaz came close by hitting the crossbar earlier in the game, and midfielder Casemiro also wasted a couple of good opportunities with second-half headers that flew wide. It was Madrid’s first draw at home in the league, adding to three losses. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas' top utilities regulator resigned Monday in the widening fallout from blackouts triggered by an unusually heavy and widespread winter storm that left millions in the state without power and water for days. DeAnn Walker, the chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission, is the highest-ranking official to step down in the aftermath of one of the largest power failures in U.S. history. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Walker to the commission in 2017, and she is one of two commissioners who used to work in his office. She is also a former attorney and executive at CenterPoint Energy, one of Texas’ largest electric retailers. Abbott, a Republican, blamed the power failures on the state’s grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, commonly known as ERCOT. But the three-member commission appointed by Abbott has oversight authority over ERCOT. Walker struggled in two lengthy appearances before legislative panels investigating the state's electric grid breakdowns, the commission's response and the lack of communication with the public over the approaching storm. She initially said her agency has little control over ERCOT, but later said it has total control. Lawmakers questioned her knowledge of her agency’s authority and the decision to reduce or reassign enforcement staff charged with policing the utility companies. She was also criticized for a lack of communication about the approaching catastrophic storm. Walker testified that she spoke with Abbott’s office, as well as staff for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and others several days before the storm hit to warn them about the weather and its potential impact on power distribution in the state. Texas was hit with historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures in an icy blast that cut across the Deep South for days starting Feb. 14. More than 40 deaths in Texas — and double that toll regionwide — have been blamed on the storm and the resulting blackouts. ERCOT officials have said the entire grid — which is uniquely isolated from the rest of the U.S. — was on the brink of collapse in the early hours of Feb. 15 as power plants froze in the cold and record demand for electricity to heat homes overwhelmed the system. At least six ERCOT board members have resigned in the wake of the power failures. Also Monday, Brazos Electric Power announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing the punishing storm. The state's largest and oldest power co-operative said it received excessively high invoices from ERCOT for collateral and purported cost of electric service during the storm, and that it was not prepared to pass those costs along to its members or customers. Jim Vertuno, The Associated Press
A man accused of holding a girl against her will at a remote northern Saskatchewan cabin wants to be tried in Court of Queen’s Bench by judge and jury. Defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle told the Meadow Lake Provincial Court on March 1 that he is in discussions with the Crown about the possibility of running an abbreviated preliminary hearing for Aaron Gardiner. Prosecutor Andrew Clements had indicated that the Crown may go by way of direct indictment. Pfefferle asked the court for a one-week adjournment to see if the defence and Crown can reach an agreement for an abbreviated preliminary hearing. Clements didn’t object. Judge Janet McIvor adjourned the matter until March 8. Canada’s Criminal Code allows for a case to be sent directly to trial without a preliminary hearing through a direct indictment. Direct Indictment is only used in serious crimes and when it’s in the public interest. Gardiner, 42, appeared in Meadow Lake Provincial Court by phone from the Regina Correctional Centre. He has been in custody since his arrest in April 2020. Gardiner allegedly held a girl captive for four days at a remote cabin across from Île-à-la-Crosse Lake. A specialized RCMP tactical unit was flown to the isolated cabin by two military CH-146 Griffon helicopters to rescue her and arrest Gardiner. He was charged with unlawful confinement, assault, overcoming resistance, uttering threats, resisting arrest, possessing a firearm for a dangerous purpose, use of a firearm in commission of an indictable offence, proceeds of crime, and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Three months after his arrest, police added more charges after more alleged victims came forward. There have been numerous adjournments and delays in the case against Gardiner because he has gone through about five lawyers. Gardiner has either fired the lawyers or they have withdrawn from representing him. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden looks to dismantle the last administration’s hardline immigration agenda, he worked Monday to build a partnership with someone who found an unexpected understanding with Donald Trump: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Biden and López Obrador met for a virtual bilateral meeting, with immigration, the coronavirus pandemic and climate issues on the agenda. Looming large was how the two leaders would get along in what has become an increasingly complicated relationship. “We haven’t been perfect neighbours to each other,” Biden acknowledged in brief remarks at the start of his video conference meeting with the Mexican president. López Obrador, for his part, told Biden that he was thankful that the new president was “willing to maintain good relations for the good of our people in North America.” The Mexican president also gave a wink to a rueful observation attributed to José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori, the Mexican general who served seven terms as the country’s president, about the two countries’ relationship: “Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the U.S.” “I can now say ‘It’s wonderful for Mexico to be close to God and not so far from the United States’” López Obrador said. Lopez Obrador came to the meeting with his own checklist of priorities, including pressing Biden to give pharmaceutical company Pfizer permission to sell his country vaccine produced in the United States, something that Canada has also requested from the White House. “We want to have an answer about a request we made,” Lopez Obrador told reporters at his daily news conference, hours before speaking with Biden. Ahead of the meeting, White House officials reiterated that Biden remained focused on first vaccinating U.S. citizens before turning his attention to assisting other nations. Biden, in a brief exchange with reporters at the start of the meeting, said the two leaders would be discussing vaccines. Relations with Biden will be much more complex and multi-faceted than they were with Trump. As a candidate, Trump referred to Mexicans as rapists. The Republican's signature campaign promise was building a “big, beautiful wall’ across the length of the southern border. And leaked conversations showed Trump hectoring López Obrador's predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, against publicly saying that Mexico would never pay for a southern border wall. But López Obrador appeared to reach a one-issue understanding with Trump: Mexico stopped the flow of Central American migrants trying to reach the U.S. border, and Trump often appeared to turn a blind eye to just about every other facet in the complicated relationship. There was no shortage of issues that Trump largely overlooked or played down in exchange for Mexico slowing the flow of undocumented immigrants from the border. López Obrador, who took office in 2018, accused U.S. officials of fabricating drug trafficking charges against the country’s former defence secretary, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, and demanded the general's return after he was arrested in Los Angeles in October. U.S. prosecutors eventually acquiesced. Under his watch, López Obrador has attempted to consolidate the position of Mexico’s national oil company and national electric utility, and prioritized fossil fuel companies amid a global push to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Early in his term, the Mexican president pursued a counter-narcotics strategy that largely ended the pursuit of high-profile arrests and focused more on poverty alleviation. Still, Trump heaped praise on López Obrador, calling him a “friend” and “great president” in one of his final presidential speeches, an address from the border to celebrate progress made on building the wall. The effort to reset the U.S.-Mexico relationship under Biden comes as a flood of migrants have rushed to the border since his victory in November. Biden has backed a bill to give legal status and a path to citizenship to the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally. Biden also broke with Trump by supporting efforts to allow hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. illegally as young children to remain in the country. Border Patrol agents are apprehending an average of more than 200 children crossing the border without a parent per day, but nearly all 7,100 beds for immigrant children maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services are full. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday sought to push back against the notion that the situation at the border was spinning out of control. “The men and women of the Department of Homeland Security are working around the clock seven days a week to ensure that we do not have a crisis at the border, that we manage the challenge as acute as the challenge is, and they are not doing that alone,” Mayorkas said. Ahead of the meeting, López Obrador also floated a proposal for a Bracero-style immigrant work visa program for 600,000 to 800,000 Mexican and Central American workers annually. Asked about the Mexican president’s proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that reinstituting the Bracero program would require action by Congress. The original Bracero program allowed Mexicans to work temporarily in the United States to fill labour shortages during World War II and for a couple of decades after the war. López Obrador said the U.S. economy needs Mexican workers because of “their strength, their youth.” On Monday, López Obrador added that his new proposal would be a program not only for agriculture workers but for other sectors and professionals. ___ Stevenson reported from Mexico City and Madhani from Chicago. Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat and Josh Boak contributed reporting. Mark Stevenson, Zeke Miller And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
LONDON — A Moroccan landscape painted by Winston Churchill and owned by Angelina Jolie sold at auction on Monday for more than $11.5 million, smashing the previous record for a work by Britain’s World War II leader. “Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” sold at Christie’s in London for 8,285,000 pounds ($11,590,715). The pre-sale estimate was 1.5 million pounds to 2.5 million pounds, and the previous record price for a Churchill painting was just under 1.8 million pounds. The image of the 12th-century mosque in Marrakech at sunset, with the Atlas Mountains in the background, is a piece of both political and Hollywood history. The only painting that Britain’s wartime prime minister completed during the 1939-45 conflict, it was completed after the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, where Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt planned the defeat of Nazi Germany. The two leaders visited Marrakech after the conference so that Churchill could show Roosevelt the city’s beauty. Churchill gave the painting to Roosevelt as a memento of the trip. The painting was sold by Roosevelt’s son after the president’s death in 1945, and had several owners before Jolie and partner Brad Pitt bought it in 2011. The couple separated in 2016 and have spent years enmeshed in divorce proceedings, amid speculation about the division of their extensive art collection. They were declared divorced in 2019 after their lawyers asked for a bifurcated judgment, meaning that two married people can be declared single while other issues, including finances and child custody, remain. The painting was sold by the Jolie Family Collection. The buyer wasn't immediately identified. The Associated Press
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said on Monday that Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka had gone back into lockdown due to rising COVID-19 cases and transmission of more infectious variants. Seven other public health units eased restrictions, as they moved down a level in the provincial framework.