An Ontario community is in mourning following a horrific incident which has left 2-people dead and another 3-wounded. As Morganne Campbell reports, many questions remain as to how the tragedy unfolded.
An Ontario community is in mourning following a horrific incident which has left 2-people dead and another 3-wounded. As Morganne Campbell reports, many questions remain as to how the tragedy unfolded.
Canada's health officials spoke about the recent change in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on the time between two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and how that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy in Canada.
County council agreed to support a movement for improvements at long-term care (LTC) homes, though disagreed with local advocates’ desire to end for-profit homes. Council voted to write a letter of support for the Haliburton-CKL (City of Kawartha Lakes) Long-Term Care Coalition. The advocacy group is joining with others across the province to push for improvements, including amending the Canada Health Act to include LTC, guaranteeing four hours of direct care per day for residents, stronger enforcement and a culture change. Councillors spoke in favour of those ideas. But the coalition’s desire to end private LTC did not garner support and was specifically excluded in the resolution. “The first four points that you have, I think, are a bold initiative and a great start,” Coun. Brent Devolin said. “The supply going forward, will public initiatives alone be enough to look after all of us?” Coalition co-chair, Bonnie Roe, cited the Ontario Health Coalition, a province-wide organization also calling for the end to for-profit long-term care. Its May 2020 analysis found COVID-19 deaths in homes with outbreaks were higher in private (nine per cent) versus non-profit (5.25 per cent) or publicly-owned (3.62 per cent). The Canadian military also released a report about terrible conditions at homes it intervened in last May, which prompted the province to start an independent commission. Four of those homes were privately-owned. “There are some for-profits that are excellent, but generally speaking, they do not follow the standards,” Roe said. “People are asking, ‘why are there private profits attached to us as a society caring for our elders’?” co-chair, Mike Perry, said. “Why was that ever seen as a profit-making venture?” Warden Liz Danielsen said the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus has identified LTC as a priority. But she added the caucus is not yet in favour of ending private facilities. Coun. Carol Moffatt said she can attest to the challenges of eldercare and there is a drastic need for better support for health workers. “More people to do the job,” Moffatt said. “We also maybe need to be careful of what you wish for in terms of potential downloading. How do we all as a province push for the changes that are required, without it going off the cliff and then landing in the laps of municipalities for increased costs?” Perry thanked council for the support. “There’s so much common room and so much common ground for this moving forward,” he said. “That’s where we find hope in all this tragedy recently." Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Rails End Gallery and Arts Centre seeks to help bridge the gaps between people with its first-ever online exhibition launched Feb. 27. Titled “Connection,” the show presents submissions from its members, featuring a wide array of mediums. Besides a physical gallery still viewable at the centre under additional public protocols, it is also available on the centre’s website, with a guided virtual tour. Curator Laurie Jones said she learned about the format from the Ontario Society of Artists and it was a way to improve access. “Not everybody’s comfortable yet with being around, especially in public spaces,” Jones said. The exhibition is an annual salon show, drawing from local talent, Jones said. The pandemic prompted the move to an online addition – and the theme for the show itself. “It came up out of my own cravings for connections and missing people,” Jones said. “In many ways, we’re looking for alternate ways to connect.” Artist Rosanna Dewey’s exhibition piece depicts one of those ways. It is an oil painting entitled “Zoom Room” depicting a call on the online meeting platform. She said the show’s theme was poignant. “It’s so hard to be connected,” Dewey said. “It really made me think about what was going on and what my connections were.” She said she had some skepticism about the online concept but found it turned out appealing. “You want to be able to get up close to the artwork and you get more of a sense of the piece,” Dewey said. “But I found that people were still interested. People still needed to go and experience art, even if it was through a Zoom format.” Arts and Crafts Festival on pause But the community will miss one big way to connect with art in the summer. The Haliburton Art and Craft Festival – the gallery’s flagship event and fundraiser – is cancelled for the second straight year due to the pandemic, Jones said. She said it would be too logistically challenging to ensure safety amidst the pandemic. “We don’t want to introduce any risk to our volunteers or staff or vendors or patrons,” Jones said. “Maintaining sanitary conditions would be impossible.” Jones said the centre needs to decide early to inform artists and give them time to plan. She said there might be alternate programming, but that is being worked out. For now, the Rails End is still putting on exhibitions and bringing arts to the community. “We’re not trying to sell anything. We’re trying to provide an experience,” Jones said. “Hopefully, they feel the connection with the creative arts.” “Connection” runs until April 17 and is available at the centre itself or railsendgallery.com. Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
Most of us are familiar with the three Rs associated with limiting our waste: reduce, reuse and recycle. As it turns out, there’s a fourth R: renew the recycling licence. During the Feb. 22 regular council meeting for the Town of Pincher Creek, Coun. Scott Korbett formally announced the town would not be renewing its recycling contract with KJ Cameron Service Industries. Come June 30, only empty beverage containers will be accepted at the bottle depot. “The Town of Pincher Creek intends to continue to offer a recycling program,” the town’s official statement reads. “We are currently working with our regional partners to have a smooth transition to a new program by the end of June.” While understanding the town is obligated to make economic decisions when it comes to contracts, Weston Whitfield, owner and manager of KJ Cameron, worries consolidating services on a regional basis might result in an inefficient service to taxpayers. The process of gathering, transporting, then re-sorting material, Mr. Whitfield adds, might decrease the price recycling facilities are willing to pay. “My concern is in the past, places that have done collaborations like that end up with a little bit of contamination and it can affect the resale of the product,” he says. Although no official details have been released, the plan for future recycling appears to involve the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill Association. Discussion recorded in the minutes of the Jan. 20, 2021, regular meeting of the landfill association includes “Recycling Update” as an agenda item. The minutes describe proposals being sent to each of the municipalities and note that, despite no reply being received, each of the municipal representatives — Coun. Dean Ward from Crowsnest Pass, Coun. Brian McGillivray from Pincher Creek and Reeve Brian Hammond from the MD of Pincher Creek — indicated their respective councils are still considering or interested in the landfill’s recycling proposal. Recycling was also a topic during last week’s council meetings for both the MD of Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass. During the MD of Pincher Creek’s Feb. 23 council meeting, chief administrative officer Troy MacCulloch updated council on plans to move collection bins from outside the MD office to a site off Bighorn Avenue and Highway 507, near the Co-op lumberyard. The site will cover recycling needs for residents from both the MD and town. “This will be a site that the MD will build,” said CAO MacCulloch. “We will cost-share it with the town, and then going forward it would be operated and manned by the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill.” Plans for the new recycling site are still tentative as the MD is working with the current landowner to develop a lease that would permit the property to be used as a transfer station for garbage and recyclables. The garbage bins by the MD office, he added, could also be removed. This will allow for further development and easier access of the standpipe, which will remain at the location. Meetings with Pincher Creek administration have discussed the possibility of the MD taking over the composting facility, which would be included on the site. Crowsnest Pass council also voted Feb. 23 to direct administration to find a location for their own recycling bin. Ease of access, along with being sheltered from the weather and from travellers’ field of vision, were identified as main priorities. Administration was asked to present a location at the March 16 council meeting with hopes that users could begin dropping off recycling by the end of the month. The goal is to eventually have three sites in the municipality to gather recycling. Beginning with one, said CAO Patrick Thomas, was a good place to “at least start and see what the challenges are,” especially to “see how [building] the fencing and screening goes.” The Town of Pincher Creek’s full official statement regarding the recycling licence can be found online at http://bit.ly/PC-Recycle. More information on Pincher Creek Bottle Depot and Recycling can be found at www.facebook.com/pcbottledepot. Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
The Peace River Regional District will be going ahead with plans for a new public library in Chetwynd, after board directors voted in favour of issuing requests for proposals for design and construction at their Feb. 25 meeting. The new library is a joint effort between Area E and Chetwynd. A lean-to style building is being floated as one possible option. Costs are capped at $5 million. “This has been going on for awhile, we’re trying to get costs down to something we can afford,” said Director Dan Rose. “We’ve got floor plans and ideas of what it might look like, so they’re not starting from scratch.” He added the library has extensive experience working remotely as a satellite office. "We’re certainly willing to accommodate as many communities as we can, with our services. I’m sure we could make agreements with everybody on how to do that,” said Rose. Fort St John Mayor Ackerman agreed a regional approach could be a good move for libraries in the Peace. “I’m totally open to having that conversation, even though the library in Fort St John is not a municipal library,” said Ackerman. “If you’re suggesting a regional library, I’m on that bandwagon.” Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead says the city will lend a hand if Chetwynd needs. “I appreciate how busy it is in Chetwynd right now. If they have any trouble at all in locating a site or land for this Chetwynd Public Library, we’d be happy to help facilitate that partnership with them, and construct it in Dawson Creek,” said Bumstead, jokingly. firstname.lastname@example.org Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has continued to send stunning images of the red planet back to Earth. In this moment, an incredible shot of the Sun from the Martian surface was captured. Credit to "NASA/JPL-Caltech".
POLITIQUE. Le député de Nicolet-Bécancour accueille favorablement le passage du Centre-du-Québec au palier d’alerte orange annoncé par le premier ministre François Legault. Bien qu’heureux de la décision, Donald Martel a certaines inquiétudes. «Je suis content pour les restaurateurs et les gyms. J’ai un mélange de joie, ça va nous faire du bien, mais j’ai aussi des inquiétudes. J’ai peur que les gens voient dans ce changement-là un relâchement des mesures de base de prévention. Il faut rester très très vigilant. Dans le comté, on a été exemplaire au niveau de nos comportements et je souhaite que ça reste comme ça», souligne Donald Martel. Pour ce qui est du sport, le député de Nicolet-Bécancour comprend les jeunes athlètes qui veulent renouer avec leur passion. «J’ai fait du sport toute ma vie. J’ai de la difficulté à m’imaginer jeune avoir été privé de jouer au hockey ou au baseball. On n’a pas fait ça de gaieté de cœur. Ça nous brise le cœur, mais c’est essentiel. Mais le premier ministre a promis qu’il ferait une intervention avant le 15 mars. On peut être optimiste face à l’avenir», indique-t-il. À ce sujet, certaines activités parascolaires au préscolaire, au primaire et au secondaire pourront reprendre, dès le 15 mars, en groupe-classe uniquement, et ce, partout au Québec, tant en zone orange qu’en zone rouge. Ajoutons qu’à partir du 8 mars, au Centre-du-Québec, le couvre-feu demeurera en vigueur. Il sera cependant repoussé de 20 h à 21 h 30. Cela signifie également, pour ces régions, la réouverture des salles d’entrainement, des salles de spectacle et des restaurants (maximum de deux adultes par table, accompagnés, s’il y a lieu, de leurs enfants d’âge mineur). Aussi, la pratique en solo, à deux ou par les occupants d’une même résidence privée d’activités sportives et de loisirs dans les lieux publics intérieurs ouverts sera permise. Également, en zone orange, les lieux de culte pourront accueillir un maximum de 100 personnes, à compter du 8 mars prochain, à la condition de l’application stricte des mesures sanitaires. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
WASHINGTON — A key Senate committee on Thursday approved the nomination of New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland to be interior secretary, clearing the way for a Senate vote that is likely to make her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Haaland's nomination, 11-9, sending it to the Senate floor. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland, who won unanimous backing from committee Democrats. Murkowski, a former chair of the committee, said she had “some real misgivings” about Haaland, because of her support for policies that Murkowski said could impede Alaska's reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. But the senator said she would place her “trust” in Haaland's word that she would work with her and other Alaskans to support the state. Her vote comes with a warning, Murkowski added: She expects Haaland “will be true to her word” to help Alaska. Haaland was not in the committee room, but Murkowski addressed her directly, saying, "I will hold you to your commitments.'' “Quite honestly,'' Murkowski added, ”we need you to be a success.'' Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Maria Cantwell of Washington state both called the committee vote historic, and both said they were disappointed at the anti-Haaland rhetoric used by several Republicans. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the panel's top Republican, and other GOP senators have repeatedly called Haaland's views “radical” and extreme. Heinrich said two interior secretaries nominated by former President Donald Trump could be called “radical” for their support of expanded drilling and other resource extraction, but he never used that word to describe them. Under the leadership of Cantwell and Murkowski, the energy panel has been bipartisan and productive in recent years, Heinrich said, adding that he hopes that tradition continues. The committee vote follows an announcement Wednesday by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that she will support Haaland in the full Senate. Her vote, along with Murkowski's, makes Haaland’s confirmation by the Senate nearly certain. The panel's chairman, Sen. Joe Manchin, announced his support for Haaland last week. Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, said Thursday that he does not agree with Haaland on a variety of issues, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but was impressed by the strong endorsement by Alaska Rep. Don Young, a conservative Republican who is the longest-serving member of the House and has forged a strong working relationship with the liberal Haaland. As a former governor, Manchin also said he knows how important it is for a president to have his “team on board” in the Cabinet. “It is long past time to give a Native American woman a seat at the Cabinet table,'' he said. Interior oversees the nation’s public lands and waters and leads relations with nearly 600 federally recognized tribes. Barrasso, who has led opposition to Haaland, said her hostility to fracking, the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other issues made her unfit to serve in a position in which she will oversee energy development on vast swaths of federal lands, mostly in the West, as well as offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Barrasso said a moratorium imposed by Biden on oil and gas leases on federal lands “is taking a sledgehammer to Western states’ economies.? The moratorium, which Haaland supports, could cost thousands of jobs in West, Barrasso said. Matthew Daly, The Associated Press
A mechanical whir fills the room as a sling slowly lifts a patient out of her hospital bed. "Wow, it's fun to see you like that," says nurse Caroline Brochu, as the woman is lowered into a chair. After spending nearly two weeks on a ventilator, severely sick with COVID-19, the patient had been extubated a few days earlier. She's slowly being weaned off the oxygen and has regained enough strength to start physiotherapy. In her early 70s, the woman was admitted to the intensive care unit at Cité-de-la-Santé hospital in Laval in early February. Like many of the patients the hospital has treated, she was generally healthy before she contracted the virus. "No comorbidities," said Dr. Joseph Dahine, an intensive care specialist. "Just high blood pressure and a little bit of asthma." Psychologists regularly check in with the ICU staff to see how they are coping with the exhaustion and emotional strain of COVID-19.(Dave St-Amant/CBC) The unknown road ahead In mid-February, CBC Montreal was granted exclusive access to the hospital's intensive care unit. A year into the pandemic, it's still difficult to predict who will only need a few days of oxygen to bounce back and who will be on a ventilator for weeks. But what is clear is the virus spares no one. The ICU has treated severely ill patients as young as 24. Back in January, about two-thirds of the patients were under 60. At the time of CBC's visit, there were five patients. Over the past 11 months, the ICU has treated a total of 175 patients. Twenty-five have died. During that time, the ICU has worked in uncharted territory, with personnel at times risking their own health to ensure those suffering the most severe COVID-19 complications get care. WATCH | Staff inside the ICU talk about the cases that still haunt them and the unknown road ahead: "Trying to keep the morale has been the hardest aspect of all of this," said Joanie Bolduc-Dionne, the ICU's head nurse. "Right now, we have some fantastic psychologists that come day, evening, night to support the team." The psychologists visit to get a sense of how staff are coping, and what they might be struggling with, she said. Family has to stay at a distance Life inside the ICU can be an emotional roller-coaster — for the staff, the patients and their families. The daughter of the woman who was recently extubated has arrived for a visit but she has to stay outside the room because her mother could still be contagious. The distance is painful for both of them. Exhausted from the effort of sitting and eating, the woman is back in her bed. Her eyes fill with tears as she looks at her daughter through the glass door. "It's harder to see her now, like this," said the daughter, turning to a nurse. "When she was intubated that was bad, but at least she didn't realize she was in that situation. Now, she knows what's going on. Dr. Joseph Dahine, pictured at right, consults with the ICU team at Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital in Laval. Treating COVID-19 patients requires constant re-calibration to pinpoint what may be causing a patient's deterioration.(Dave St-Amant/CBC) Startling deterioration Following CBC's visit, the woman had an unexpected setback overnight. During her sleep, her heart started to race. The ICU team managed to bring her heart rate back down, but the doctor on shift is concerned about her breathing, which is rapid and shallow. "If we can't give you enough oxygen and you are tired with the mask, and if we don't intubate you, well, it's death," Dr. Dahine tells the woman. With a resigned nod, she agrees to be re-intubated as a last resort. As she continues to deteriorate over the next few days, doctors have no choice but to put her back on a ventilator. It's a sobering reminder of just how unpredictable this virus can still be. At the beginning of March, the patient was brought out of the induced coma, but still needs a ventilator to breathe. She had to undergo a tracheotomy. She can only communicate with her family and the staff by blinking. "She still has a long way to go to recovery but at least she is no longer in a coma," said Bolduc-Dionne. At the height of the first wave, Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital had 22 COVID-19 patients in the ICU. The week CBC visited, there were five. Although the number of cases appears to be stabilizing, health officials are worried variants of the coronavirus could trigger a third wave.(Dave St-Amant/CBC) Although the number of COVID-19 cases may appear stable, the volume of cases linked to variants of the coronavirus is rising rapidly. 'The fight is not over' On Tuesday, Quebec's health minister continued to warn people to remain vigilant over the March break. This week, Laval's ICU accepted two new patients to the red zone, which is strictly for those who are severely ill with COVID-19. "The fight is not over," said Bolduc-Dionne. As the vaccination effort in Quebec gathers steam, staff here hope people don't forget there's a parallel battle being fought in the ICU, a battle the public doesn't see. "I hope they realize that [the virus] is really dangerous and that you can infect people you love," said nurse Caroline Brochu.
The dining room in Katie Rioux's Quebec City restaurant has been closed since the fall, and she expected her business would remain a takeout-only operation for weeks to come, if not longer. On Wednesday, though, the owner of Café Krieghoff received some unexpected good news. Premier François Legault announced he was scaling back health restrictions in several regions, allowing Rioux and countless other restaurant owners to serve customers sitting inside for the first time in five months. "Honestly, we could not have gotten better news than this," said Rioux, who also promised to do her part to ensure Quebec City does not go back to being a red zone. "As restaurant owners, we will do everything we can. I think the population is also on our side." Café Krieghoff owner Katie Rioux can't wait to serve sitting customers at her Quebec City restaurant for the first time in five months. (Radio-Canada) However, some public health experts say the Quebec government's decision to roll back restrictions to this extent is too hasty. Following March break, the Quebec City region will be joined by the Eastern Townships, Mauricie-et-Centre-du-Québec and Chaudières-Appalaches as the latest to be downgraded from red to orange zones. In these regions, gyms and show venues will be allowed to reopen, houses of worship will be able to take in as many as 100 people at a time. The government is also dropping the requirement that all primary school students must wear a medical grade mask. The nightly curfew remains, but will kick in at 9:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. "I would have preferred to wait until at least one week after the holiday week, because then we would be able to see the impact of the vacation on the increase of cases everywhere in Quebec," said Dr. Cécile Tremblay, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal. "We know that people from Montreal travel to other regions, and we won't know the result of that until two weeks from now." The race between variants and vaccines Legault's announcement came a day after Health Minister Christian Dubé and Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda held a news conference of their own, during which they warned Quebecers about the growing spread of coronavirus variants. "The ocean is calm at the moment ... but underneath there are sharks," Arruda said, "and I'll tell you what those sharks are: they're the variants." The decision to remove restrictions in places outside of the greater Montreal area seems to reflect data showing that variants are gaining more ground in Montreal than elsewhere in the province. On Wednesday, Legault said spikes in cases and hospitalizations were expected in and around Montreal, and those projections played a major role in the government's most recent announcement. But Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the province is squandering a golden opportunity to deal a crushing blow to the virus. Seniors arrive for their COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press) With more and more Quebecers set to get vaccinated, Baral says the government should focus on its inoculation campaign while limiting contacts as much as possible, in an effort to keep the spread of variants under control. "For us to be loosening restrictions now, is too premature. We don't want to be reactive, we want to be proactive for once," Baral said. "At this point, it's more of a virus versus vaccine race, and we really want to make sure that we're pushing the vaccine segment to win, as opposed the variant segment." The province's latest projections for the spread COVID-19 appear to reinforce the importance of winning that race. According to the mathematical modelling published by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) on Thursday, lowering the province's collective guard could provoke a rapid spike in new infections that could reach between 3,000 and 4,000 cases per day. It also seems possible, perhaps even likely given the presence of infectious variants, that Quebec will experience a third wave. Sticking with the low-socialization and low-contact measures that were in place from January and February might not entirely prevent another peak this spring in terms of daily infections, but it could keep hospitalization numbers and fatalities low. Marc Brisson, the director of the Université Laval mathematical modelling group that conducts the INSPQ's COVID-19 forecasts, said the model doesn't account for the government's latest announcement, but does include increased inter-regional travel and social contacts from March break. "If we can accelerate vaccination ... and follow public health guidelines, then at that point our model is saying we could stay at a number of cases that would be relatively stable. However, if vaccination slows down and there's more contact, then a third wave is predicted," he said. There is some good news in the projections, however. The model supports the government's contention that there are two distinct epidemiological realities in Quebec: greater Montreal, and the rest of the province. The fact there is lower community spread outside the province's largest urban agglomeration means it's less likely the variant strains will spread. "The race is how many vulnerable people we can protect with vaccination and ... can that variant infect the most vulnerable among us?" he said. The key, Brisson concluded, is continued adherence to public health measures, which "would buy time for the vaccine to take its effect."
LATCHFORD – Latchford Mayor George Lefebvre has let his frustration be known when it comes to the current situation surrounding insurance for municipalities. Municipal insurance rates have been on the rise and the matter has been a growing concern across the province. One specific area that Lefebvre says he has an issue with is the fact that the legal system allows municipalities to be sued for accidents that occur on major highways, which he feels shouldn’t have any bearing on the municipalities. Lefebvre says those frivolous lawsuits alone are enough to help drive up the rates when the insurance companies are forced to defend the municipalities. A highway accident is “something that has absolutely no bearing (on us) whatsoever,” he said at Latchford council’s regular meeting on February 18. “We all know, we’ve seen a number of these accidents recently. Two of them have occurred in Temagami on Highway 11 and they’re suing the Town of Latchford. It’s just absolutely ridiculous. Some people on an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), crossing the railroad track and caught trespassing on the pipeline and trespassing on the tracks, flipped the ATV and sued the Town of Latchford. Now where the hell is the justice in that?” The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the province’s Attorney General have been looking into the matter of rising municipal insurance costs for the past couple of years, but actions were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One municipality reported seeing their premium increase from $120,000 to $225,000. Englehart was among the lowest, seeing their insurance rate go up eight to nine per cent this year while the Municipality of Charlton and Dack saw an increase of 36 per cent. Latchford clerk-treasurer Jaime Allen told The Speaker in an email message that the town’s rate increased by 13.5 per cent. “We had to change our provider several years ago to attempt to control the increases, so (we) fully appreciate and support the effort by the other municipalities,” said Lefebvre later in an email interview. Back at their regular meeting on January 21, Latchford council passed a resolution to support Charlton-Dack’s resolution that stands up against rising municipal insurance rates. Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
TRURO, N.S. — A Canadian undergarment company that quickly retooled its factory last spring to make personal protective equipment is laying off 150 workers after failing to win a new federal contract. Stanfield's Ltd. of Truro, N.S., famed for its long johns and boxer shorts, switched to making medical gowns for front-line health workers at the outset of the pandemic. The company's $27.9-million federal contract was a small piece of the $1.87 billion Ottawa has spent on hospital gowns as of Dec. 31. A new request for proposals for "disposable medical isolation gowns" closed Nov. 20. But in a Facebook post, Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann says the company was not successful in their bid on the new tender for medical gowns. She says she's "terribly concerned and disappointed" to hear about the layoffs at Stanfield's as a result. Local MLA Dave Ritcey calls the loss of 150 jobs in the largely rural area "devastating." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press
BEIJING — China's ceremonial legislature will deliberate changes to Hong Kong's electoral system during its annual session, a spokesperson said Thursday, adding to concerns that Beijing intends to shut opposition voices out of the city's political process entirely. National People's Congress spokesperson Zhang Yesui said the changes are aimed at ensuring that Hong Kong's political system will “keep abreast of the times” under the principle of “patriots" administering the city. Zhang gave no details about the changes, although speculation has focused on the possibility of reassigning votes in the 1,200-member committee that selects the city’s leader to deprive a small number of elected local district counsellors from taking part. Officials have also increasingly insisted that only those who prove themselves sufficiently loyal to Beijing and the ruling Communist Party may hold office. The NPC opens Friday morning with a lengthy address from Premier Li Keqiang reviewing the past year and spelling out priorities for the coming 12 months. The vast majority of the roughly 3,000-member body's legislative work is handled by a standing committee that meets throughout the year. The crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong has intensified since China imposed a sweeping national security law on the city last year, bypassing Hong Kong’s local Legislative Council, saying it was necessary to provide stability after widespread anti—government protests in 2019, as well as to inculcate love of country in the former British colony. Critics say the law and accompanying crackdown are stripping the city of many of its rights promised by Beijing at the time of its 1997 handover to Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” framework. In other comments at Thursday night's news conference, Zhang promoted China’s development of COVID-19 vaccines and its provisioning of doses to developing countries, including 10 million donated through the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative. In doing so, China is seeking to protect global health without attaching “political strings” or pursuing a larger geopolitical strategy, Zhang said, echoing other recent statements from government spokespeople. China has been criticized by the U.S. and others for being insufficiently transparent about its handling of the pandemic in its initial stages, when the first cases were discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Questioned on this year's defence budget, Zhang declined to give a figure but said the spending level was appropriate for China's security needs and to meet its international obligations. China has the world's largest standing military and its defence budget is second only to the U.S., which sees in China's assertions of territorial and maritime claims an attempt to supplant the U.S. as East Asia's leading military power. “We are committed to the path of peaceful development," Zhang said. China's military “doesn't target or threaten any country,” he said. Asked about relations with the new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, Zhang echoed the broadly positive comments coming from Chinese officials, listing important converging interests including battling climate change and the pandemic, aiding the global economic recovery and “maintaining regional peace and stability.” “It is in the fundamental interest of both countries and both peoples for the two sides to work together ... and steadily advance U.S.-China relations," Zhang said. “This is also the expectation of the broader international community." The NPC's advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, opened its annual session on Thursday, with chairman Wang Yang pledging support for calls that only “patriots” who show undivided loyalty to the ruling Communist Party should be allowed to hold elected office in Hong Kong,. “We will strengthen unity and friendship with our compatriots overseas and in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and conduct studies and consultations on fostering patriotism among young people in Hong Kong and Macao,” Wang told delegates in the hulking Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing. Taiwan is a self-governing democracy that China claims as its own territory. The CPPCC has no legislative powers of its own but is mandated to conduct research and offer proposals to the National People's Congress. With COVID-10 on the wane in the country, the leadership decided to hold the sessions on the usual dates in March, rather than delay them until May as they did last year. However, the meetings are shorter this year and media coverage is being conducted remotely. Ken Moritsugu, The Associated Press
County of Haliburton council decided not to up its 15 per cent corporate emissions reduction target despite staff presenting options for higher goals. It targets a 15 per cent reduction in emissions from 2018 levels by 2030. But McKay presented other options such as increasing that figure to 30 per cent to align with federal and provincial targets, or 45 per cent to follow the best science and help further limit global warming. McKay provided examples of similar municipalities aiming for different goals, from Sault Ste. Marie at 10 per cent to the District of Muskoka targeting a 50 per cent reduction by 2030. “We are seeing unprecedented levels of action by all levels of government, shifting from incremental action toward transformative action,” McKay said. “Experts are warning us this is the critical decade to maintain a livable climate … A 45 per cent reduction is one that is based in science. "Cutting our emissions essentially in half would require bold leadership but we would not be alone in this endeavour.” Councillors expressed concerns about upping the target. Deputy warden Patrick Kennedy said the County faces pressure with more people moving to the area permanently. “Fifteen (per cent) is still an admirable goal to achieve with what’s coming,” Kennedy said. Coun. Carol Moffatt said the municipalities passed budgets and she would want more information on financial implications before approving a higher target. “I would like a multi-year rough projection of what it’s going to do to our budget so we can plan and prepare for it adequately, as opposed to taking a leap of faith for the good of the world,” Moffatt said. “We need to do both.” Environment Haliburton! vice-president Terry Moore said he was upset by how the conversation played out. “The financial budget, they’re not going to matter much when we don’t have a climate that’s conducive to civilization,” Moore said. He said there is not enough of a community movement on the issue versus a place like Muskoka. He lamented the County’s approach to finish a corporate plan before beginning consultations for a separate community plan. “There is nowhere near enough pressure. Council’s not going to lead on this,” Moore said. Warden Liz Danielsen said council will look for more information from McKay as she continues her work. “We’re all recognizing it is a moving landscape,” Danielsen said. “Just because we’re not making a change today, does not mean we won’t do that down the road, and even not too long from now.” Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander
OTTAWA — The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern): 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
Last December, Afghan media worker Shahnaz Mohmand rushed to comfort her female colleagues as they reeled in shock after fellow employee Malala Maiwand was shot dead in the eastern city of Jalalabad. "Don't lose yourself, you have to be strong," she said as she hugged Nadia Momand, the 21-year-old producer recalled. Now the same newsroom is mourning Shahnaz.
JUNEAU, Alaska — Juneau city leaders have approved changes to local COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers, including waiving a $250 testing fee for non-resident travellers who are tested at the airport and exempting “fully vaccinated” individuals from strict social distancing after testing. The changes approved by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on Monday are meant to be encouraging for COVID-conscious travellers, KTOO Public Media reported. The rules define fully vaccinated as people who have gone more than two weeks since receiving a second dose of a two-dose vaccine or more than two weeks after receiving of one-dose vaccine. People considered fully vaccinated must still adhere to testing protocols, according to a statement from the city. But they do not have to practice strict social distancing for five days after arrival. The city describes strict social distancing, in part, as not socializing with anyone outside the person's household and not going indoors anywhere, except for one's home or the place they are staying. Non-vaccinated travellers must arrive with proof of a negative coronavirus test result, or they can get tested at the airport when they arrive and observe strict social distancing while awaiting results. The rules expire at 12:01 a.m. on May 1, unless other action is taken first. City Manager Rorie Watt said at the assembly meeting that officials “won’t be shy” about notifying the community if plans need to change. The Associated Press
To anyone looking into Kim Switzer’s backyard last week, they might have seen what looked to be Switzer playing with her son, Memphis. But despite the singing, the dancing, the laughter, and the pure joy on their faces, the pair were actually working; tromping around in snowshoes in a very particular way to create a 12-foot-wide flat circle in the snow that would serve as the starting point for a backyard igloo. The joy was much needed for Switzer, who thrives when she is outside but has found it difficult to do so this winter in the way she needs for optimum mental health. “For me, it’s pure joy,” she said. “I love nature, it’s rejuvenating for me. It’s uplifting.” Being a single mom of three, homeschooling her kids, experiencing the death of a parent and the loss of a business, all while living through the pandemic and experiencing a lack of winter camping left Switzer feeling discouraged. “My whole winter has been [hard], I haven’t been out, I haven’t been out anywhere,” she said. Then, the kindness of a stranger and the connection made available through social media turned Switzer’s winter around. An avid outdoorsperson herself, she follows like-minded people on social media for ideas, inspiration and friendship. When she saw Martin Pine, who is from Huntsville, share about igloos he was making, she quickly sent him a message asking if he might come to her house and build one in her yard. “The next thing I know, I get a message in my inbox that says, ‘you’re like the third person who’s asked me about building an igloo in their yard, and you’re the only one that’s actually close enough that could actually make it possible,’” she said. Switzer was exuberant with excitement, in the manner, she said, of “a little kid in a candy shop.” “And I still am,” she said, the week after the igloo was built. After she and Memphis had created the starting point in the yard for the igloo, Pine visited the backyard and helped to teach Switzer the technique he has perfected using a contraption called, fittingly, an Icebox Igloo Tool. “He pops open this little itty, bitty, tiny, square box that I would say is definitely less than six inches thick, and maybe a foot wide by 18 inches long,” she said. “It folds all up and it’s meant to strap on your back so you can take it anywhere.” With the Icebox Igloo Tool, Switzer said Pine can generally build an igloo in about four or five hours but she said it took them more time as she was asking questions and learning the process of packing the snow, following the angle guide and creating an igloo that can hold the weight of a person leaning against it. “There were plenty of times where he was like, ‘you’re so concentrated,’” she said. “I was just soaking it all in. I learned so much about snow, and even going around the circle I learned how snow changes state ever so slightly. In the shade, it packs this way, but as you come around and you’re in the sun, it becomes a little more wet, and a little bit more sticky … How different snow packs and moves and blends, it’s pretty wild, actually.” When it was finished, Switzer said she was able to get her much-needed outdoor time, sleeping overnight in the igloo, spending time in it with her ukulele, even eating a take-out meal from the Mill Pond restaurant in the shelter. Pine’s unmonetized YouTube channel has almost 10,000 subscribers and his instructional videos of canoe camping, winter camping, bushcraft, meal preparation and igloo construction have accumulated thousands of views. “I love backcountry camping and I have always lamented that so few people avail themselves of the opportunities we have here in Ontario for getting out into nature and camping in the backcountry,” he told the Times. “I determined many years ago that what keeps people from camping in the backcountry – as opposed to say, car camping in a serviced site in a park – is a simple lack of practical knowledge about how to go about [it].” He shares his knowledge online and was happy to help Switzer learn how to make her own igloo in her backyard – for the price of a cup of coffee or two. “As a boy, growing up in rural Quebec, I loved making and camping in snow shelters called quinzhees, which is essentially a large pile of shovelled snow which one then hollows out to resemble a crude igloo-like shelter,” said Pine. Pine said he knew that igloos were sturdier shelters that could remain standing longer and would not result in the builder getting soaked in their creation. “But the Inuit built their igloos out of a type of snow that is not found in this part of the country, namely hard-sintered, wind-packed snow, which can then be shaped during the building process.” Pine purchased the Icebox Igloo Tool, an invention created by an American mountaineer in Colorado, “Igloo Ed,” that allows him to make snow bricks regardless of the snow conditions. While Switzer’s igloo has suffered in recent weather conditions, she sees the resulting hole in the top of the igloo as an opportunity – one to provide a chance to look up at the stars, and also, to learn about how to fix the problem in her own backyard igloo as experience for if she builds one at another time in backcountry. “I’ve got to learn, and you learn from trial and error, mistakes, whatever it might be,” she said. “It’s been four or five days of just an abundance of information.” The igloo in the backyard of her Carnarvon home has lifted her spirits tremendously. “This is the highlight of my winter,” said Switzer. “That right there made my entire winter.” For more information, visit Pine’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/PineMartyn. Sue Tiffin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Minden Times
SAN FRANCISCO — Financial technology company Square, Inc. said Thursday that it has reached an agreement to acquire majority ownership of Tidal, the music streaming service partly owned by Jay-Z. Under the deal, Square will pay $297 million in cash and stock for Tidal, Jay-Z will be named to Square's board of directors, and he and other artists who currently own shares in Tidal will remain stakeholders. Tidal will operate as a distinct entity alongside the point-of-sale hardware and software offerings of San Francisco-based Square, the payments company founded by CEO Jack Dorsey, who is also co-founder and chief executive of Twitter. Tidal has presented itself as the artist-friendly alternative to other music streamers, and Square says it will take that phenomenon further for musicians just as it has for businesses with its financial systems. “It comes down to one simple idea: finding new ways for artists to support their work,” Dorsey said in the statement announcing the deal. . Jay-Z said in the statement that the “partnership will be a game-changer for many.” I look forward to all this new chapter has to offer!" The Associated Press
HALIFAX — Premier Iain Rankin says Nova Scotia should have enough COVID-19 vaccine to give all residents at least one shot by the end of June. Rankin told reporters today following his first cabinet meeting as premier that his estimate is based on new federal government guidelines about increasing the interval between first and second doses of vaccine. He says he will likely have more details about the province's plan at Friday's COVID-19 briefing. The province is to get 13,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine next week, which will complement Nova Scotia's vaccine supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Health officials are also announcing that restrictions on restaurant operating hours and sporting events will be lifted in Halifax and its surrounding regions on Friday morning. Nova Scotia is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today, all in the Halifax area. Two involve contacts of previously reported cases and the third is under investigation. The province has 29 active reported cases of the disease. Residents of long-term care homes in the Halifax area are still limited to receiving visits from two designated caregivers. Officials say the restrictions for long-term care residents will remain in place in the region until March 27. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021. The Canadian Press