Ebene Magazine – Suárez to face old friend Messi with title in the balance en

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BARCELONA, Spain — Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi often spent time hanging out together at their neighbouring homes on the Mediterranean coast when taking a break from scoring goals for Barcelona.

It will be less relaxing on Saturday when Suárez returns to Camp Nou with Atlético Madrid, aiming to inflict a major blow on his former team’s title hopes in the Spanish league.

Facing mounting debts and desperate to reduce its payroll, Barcelona sold the 34-year-old Suárez to Atlético on the cheap at the start of the season.

The deal, which could reach 6 million euros ($7 million), proved to be a steal for Atlético. While not as mobile as he once was, Suárez’s world-class finishing touch gave Atlético coach Diego Simeone the scorer he had failed to find since Antoine Griezmann swapped clubs for Barcelona.

Suárez missed the first meeting of the teams in November due to the coronavirus. Yannick Carrasco’s goal — and its smothering defence — gave Atlético a 1-0 win that helped to build a lead that it is still clinging to with four rounds left.

Atlético plays third-place Barcelona a day before second-place Real Madrid hosts fourth-place Sevilla on a weekend that promises to shake up the closest title fight in years.

Atlético is two points ahead of both Madrid and Barcelona, while Sevilla is a further four points behind.

Suárez departed Barcelona as its third highest scorer with 198 goals, behind César Rodríguez (232) and Messi (670). He helped Barcelona win 13 titles after arriving in 2014 from Liverpool, including four Spanish league trophies and the Champions League in 2015.

Barcelona took a conciliatory approach on Friday toward Suárez, who scored 21 goals for Barcelona in the 2019-20 season.

“We were teammates. Today we are rivals. But we will always be friends, Luis Suárez,” Barcelona tweeted along with a photo of Suárez embracing Messi and other former teammates.

Since his move to Spain’s capital, the Uruguay striker has become Atlético’s top weapon. He leads the team with 19 goals in the league.

Simeone will have to choose from Carrasco, Marcos Llorente, Ángel Correa and João Félix to accompany Suárez in attack, giving Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman lots to worry about.

“It will be strange for (Suárez), but also for my players. But we are professionals and each one of them will give it their all,” said Koeman, who is suspended for the match. “We will have to focus on him, as well as the rest of his team that plays behind him. We must think about how we must pressure them to disrupt their attack.”

Atlético also has an opposition player on its mind as Messi looks to add to his league-leading 28 goals this season.

The call came in earlier this week, first thing in the morning. It was from Northwest Territories public health officials, and they said it was urgent. « So I call public health and they let me know that my eldest son tested positive for COVID, » said Ravan Bedingfield. « Then my heart just sunk. » Bedingfield is one of innumerable parents caught in the frightening web of the COVID-19 outbreak at N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife. Her 11-year-old son is a student there, ground zero for a cluster of cases reported at the start of the week that has since ballooned into the dozens. As of Thursday, there were 47 COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife. For Bedingfield, the situation has been « heartbreaking, » « frustrating » and « mentally exhausting. » Thankfully, she said, her two other children — eight and two — tested negative, as did she and her partner, who are vaccinated. But working from home while safely caring for an ill child, homeschooling, constantly disinfecting, and keeping a toddler entertained has been — well, you can imagine. « I don’t think I’ve ever been more furious in my life over this whole situation, » said Bedingfield. « But I think it’s amazing what you can do when you know you’re not alone, like there’s other families who are in the same boat. » ‘He is pretty anxious about the whole thing’ Right how, her son has mild symptoms, she said. « So he’s feeling kind of crummy, physically, but mentally, he is pretty anxious about the whole thing, and he feels responsible, » she said, for possibly passing the virus onto his friends. « It’s so hard to explain to a child, ‘It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong,’ but they can’t help but take it to heart because they’re hurting, and they see their friends hurting, and everybody is nervous and scared. » It’s also hard easing his worries from two metres away. « You want to be there to, like, even physically comfort your child, you know, but you have to maintain your distance, » said Bedingfield. Community spirit shines In this period of fear and uncertainty, though, Yellowknife’s community spirit has shone. A Facebook group has popped up offering the pickup and delivery of essential items to isolating residents. Bedingfield said people have been inundating her with messages of support. A friend is doing a huge grocery run that will help feed the family until they’re out of isolation. And public health, she said, has been « nothing but helpful. » One nurse offered her personal cell phone number so Bedingfield can call if her son’s symptoms worsen. « It’s incredible the amount of support everybody is giving each other. » But Bedingfield also said not everyone isolating right now has the support network — or the employment benefits — she does. « I’m a government employee, so I’m happy that I have those benefits, but my husband doesn’t, » she said. « I’m sure there are many, many other people who don’t have any kind of benefits, and they must be like — I can’t imagine how they’re feeling. » Though it’s been just a few days since her son’s diagnosis, Bedingfield said one thing she’s taken away so far is to take help if it’s offered. « I get it. I’m a proud person and I’m often way too proud to accept help, » she said. But in cases like this outbreak, she added, saying yes to support can help keep your family fed, and the bills paid. Bedingfield also implored residents to follow public health orders, for the safety and wellbeing of the whole community. « It’s all about people, » she said. « It’s people being responsible and taking care of each other. »

Nineteen people have been charged after Ontario Provincial Police busted several large cannabis production facilities in southwestern Ontario. The OPP carried out five search warrants at three greenhouses and two residences Wednesday morning in the areas of County Roads 31 and 34 in Kingsville, and Seacliff Drive West in Leamington. Authorities said they seized more than 20,000 cannabis plants, more than 1,400 pounds of processed cannabis, some Canadian currency and equipment. They said the cannabis is likely worth more than $18 million. Eighteen people, with ages ranging between 19 and 72, have been charged with: Possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling. Cultivating, propagating or harvesting cannabis plants at a place that is « not their dwelling-house. » The same two charges have been laid against a 19th individual — a 34-year-old man from Mississauga — but he’s also charged with possessing « proceeds of property obtained by crime under $5,000. » Those accused will appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Leamington at a later date. OPP say their investigation is ongoing. « To those individuals or groups who continue to profit from these illegal grow operations, the OPP will relentlessly pursue your interests, seize your property and introduce you into the criminal justice system, » said OPP Insp. Glenn Miller.

Public health officials on Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 and three new possible exposure sites in a news release issued late Friday afternoon. The person is in their 30s and had recently travelled outside Atlantic Canada, the release said. The person tested positive through routine testing and is self-isolating. Contact tracing is underway. The release also listed three sites linked to the new case where Islanders may have been exposed to the virus. They are: Pilot House restaurant in Charlottetown on Monday, May 3, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. (seek a test on Saturday, May 8). Montana’s restaurant in Charlottetown on Thursday, May 6, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 pm (seek a test on Sunday, May 9). Home Hardware at 115 St. Peter’s Road in Charlottetown on Thursday, May 6 from 10:30 am to 11:30 a.m. Officials are asking anyone who was at Pilot House or Montana’s during those times to get tested on the date noted above and self-isolate until a negative result is received. The dates of testing are based on the time between when you are potentially exposed to a case of COVID-19 and when a test would detect any viral material in your body. Anyone who was at Home Hardware during the noted times on Thursday does not need to be tested, officials said, but should monitor closely for symptoms. If any develop, people should visit a drop in testing site and self-isolate until a negative result is received. In an email to CBC News on Friday, the Chief Public Health Office said warnings issued about sites in such cases « are based on a risk assessment conducted by CPHO in consideration of the type of exposure, length of exposure and other precautions in place in the exposure location. « If the risk of exposure is considered low, then individuals are asked to monitor for symptoms for the next 14 days and get tested if symptoms develop, » the email said. « If the risk of exposure is considered to be higher, individuals who were in the public place at specified times are asked to proactively seek testing. » Prince Edward Island currently has 10 active cases of COVID-19. The province has had 186 positive cases since the pandemic began. Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.

Friday’s Saskatchewan COVID-19 case numbers illustrate the unpredictability of the province’s pandemic curve. Just a day before, on Thursday, health officials reported 156 new cases of COVID-19 — the lowest daily bump in nearly a month and a half. But the numbers surged on Friday, with the Ministry of Health reporting 295 new cases based on 3,652 tests — the highest single-day increase since 294 new cases were reported on April 15. One new death was reported: a person their 70s from the southwest region. Saskatoon leads in new cases Saskatoon surpassed Regina as the region reporting the highest new daily crop of cases for the third time in the last week and a half. Saskatoon led all areas with 98 new cases Friday, with the Regina area coming in second with 68 new cases. The rest of the new cases were found in the following regions: far northwest (two), far northeast (five), northwest (33), north central (17), northeast (nine), central west (one), central east (10), southwest (nine), south central (seven) and southeast (32). Two regions, the central east and northeast, reported their first cases of the highly transmissible P1 variant. (Government of Saskatchewan) Saskatchewan’s seven-day average of daily new cases stands at 221, or 18.0 new cases per 100,000 people. There are 174 infected people in hospital provincewide, including 38 people under intensive care. Vaccine deliveries continue to happen at a strong pace, with 10,530 doses administered on Thursday. Saskachewan is getting closer to its first threshold for beginning to relax or lift COVID-19 public health measures. As of Friday, 69 per cent of residents aged 40 and above have received one dose of vaccine. That’s just one percentage shy of the province’s Step One reopening target of 70 per cent of people 40 and over receiving a single dose. However, three weeks need to elapse after that threshold is met and vaccine eligibility must be lowered to people aged 18 and over by that time for Step One to be initiated. (Government of Saskatchewan) Currently, only residents in the general population aged 35 and over can book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine. On Friday, the province announced that age requirement will be lowered to 32 starting on Saturday. In a scrum with reporters, Health Minister Paul Merriman was asked whether slower first-dose vaccine uptake among people in the 50-to-59 and 60-to-69 age brackets has him concerned about vaccine hesitancy. As of Thursday, 65 per cent and 79 per cent of people in those age groups, respectively, had been inoculated once. One week earlier, on April 29, the percentages stood at 59 per cent and 76 per cent. Meanwhile, despite being eligible for vaccination for a shorter period of time, 47 per cent of people aged 40 to 49 had received one dose by Thursday, up from 28 per cent the previous week. « No, I don’t think there’s that much vaccine hesitancy out there, » Merriman said. « I think some people were waiting and seeing and I respect that. But now that their neighbours or their family members have been vaccinated, we’re seeing people in that higher age range that are coming in for the first time. » (Government of Saskatchewan)

BANGKOK — A U.S. citizen charged with killing his pregnant Thai wife in Thailand was accused of attempting to kill what appears to be the same woman while living in Colorado in 2019. Jason Matthew Balzer, 32, was arrested Thursday in the northern city of Chiang Mai and confessed to killing Pitchaporn Kidchob, 32, Maj. Gen. Weerachon Boontawee, chief of Provincial Police Region 5’s Detective Department, said Friday. It is not clear whether he had a lawyer representing him. The name of the woman Balzer was accused of attempting to kill while living in Longmont, Colorado, was redacted from court records. However, a spokesperson for the 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Shannon Carbone, said the victim in the domestic violence case and the woman killed in Thailand have the same name and appear to be the same person based on photographs of her in the media. The office has not received any official information about the victim in Thailand, she said. According to court documents, the victim met Balzer around 2017 and later left Thailand to live with him in the United States. In 2019, after the victim rebuffed Balzer’s attempt to have sex, he allegedly grabbed her arms, hit her in the face and slammed her head repeatedly into a headboard in the bedroom of their apartment before pointing a gun at her and saying “I will kill you, » an arrest affidavit said. According to the document, the victim pushed the gun away, and it fired a shot next to her head. She escaped while Balzer tried to cover up bullet holes in the wall. She also told police that Balzer strangled her two weeks before during an argument in which he accused her of cheating on him. While Balzer was charged with attempted second-degree murder, he was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge of third-degree assault because the victim went back to Thailand and did not want to return to Colorado to testify, Carbone said. He was sentenced to probation, including domestic violence treatment, she said. “This murder highlights the danger of domestic violence as well as the potential for lethality that can often exist for victims. Our hearts go out to the victim’s loved ones; it is a very tragic case. We hope that he will be held fully responsible for the murder,” she said. Balzer was also arrested in Colorado in December after police allegedly found 73 guns in his van, a violation of his probation that prohibits him from having any firearms. An attorney listed as representing Balzer in that ongoing case as well as in the domestic violence case did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Police in Thailand said Balzer was interrogated Friday in the northern city of Nan, where he had lived with Kidchob, police Lt. Col. Somkiat Ruam-ngern said. The murder charge carries a maximum penalty of death. According to Weerachon, Balzer said Pitchaporn had “given him hope,” so he married her and bought her a house in Nan, her home province. Balzer said he became enraged when she tried to chase him out, so he stabbed her with a knife, the police officer said. He said Balzer put her body in a rubbish bin that he sealed and buried in the woods about 5 kilometres (3 miles) from their home. Balzer then drove on a motorbike to Chiang Mai, where he was arrested, Weerachon said. Police had been alerted to a possible crime when Pitchaporn’s mother, who was unable to reach her daughter by phone, went to the couple’s house and found blood stains. Balzer, a programmer, met Pitchaporn in Thailand and they were married in the U.S., after which Balzer quit his job, sold all his property and moved to Nan, the newspaper Thai Rath reported, citing Provincial Police Region 5 commander Prachuab Wongsuk. Balzer said he did not know his wife was three months’ pregnant, Prachuab said. ____ Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin contributed to this report from Denver. Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul And Grant Peck, The Associated Press

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s minister of mental health and addictions said a suspected overdose death of a 12-year-old girl from Vancouver Island is driving the government « to do more and do better. » But Sheila Malcolmson said she needs to learn more details about the case of Allayah Thomas, who went by Ally and died April 14, before commenting specifically on what the government can do. Malcolmson made the comment during a news conference to announce the new Foundry BC app, a free portal for people ages 12 to 24 to access counselling, primary care and peer support. « This is a terrible story that just re-strengthens our commitment as a government to build the kind of addictions and mental health-care system that anybody can access, » Malcolmson said. Ally’s mother, Adriana Londono, said her daughter had overdosed three times before her fourth fatal « cry for help. » The family tried to get her support but was only given a list of counsellors, an avenue Ally wasn’t willing to take, Londono said. She said the family was told by government staff that Ally was too young to qualify for rehab because she was under 14. « It was extremely frustrating, there was nothing we could do, » Londono said in an interview on Friday from Saanich, B.C. « Ally was frustrated, too. She was crying for help but she didn’t get the help she needed. » The Children’s Ministry said in a statement that it cannot comment publicly or confirm ministry involvement with any individual or family for legal reasons. However, it said there are a number of treatment options available, including 25 youth treatment beds on Vancouver Island, walk-in treatment at hospitals or urgent primary care centres and community-based services. The ministry said age requirements for support can be waived, a message echoed by Malcolmson. « If anybody needs access to life-saving support, age is not a barrier, » Malcolmson said. Londono said that wasn’t offered to the family. Ally is believed to be the youngest victim of British Columbia’s overdose crisis since it was declared a public health emergency in 2016. More than 7,000 people have died from toxic drugs since then. The death rate had begun to ebb in 2019 until officials said the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption of illicit drug supply chains made 2020 the deadliest year on record. Youth overdose deaths have tended to rise and fall in line with overall deaths. Since 2016, those under 19 have comprised a steady one or two per cent of total illicit overdose deaths in B.C. The BC Coroners Service said it’s still investigating the cause of Ally’s death. The youngest confirmed fatality in the crisis was a 13-year-old who died in 2017. Londono said she was told that preliminary evidence suggested a fentanyl overdose but that a full report would take months. Londono said she wants to encourage people not to be scared or embarrassed to talk openly about addiction. « It’s a disease and it’s not something we choose to do, it’s not something we should be ashamed to talk about as children or as parents, » she said. Trevor Halford, B.C. Liberal critic for mental health and addictions, called on the province’s NDP government to ensure youth have rapid access to comprehensive addictions services, including treatment. The government proposed amendments to the Mental Health Act last summer that could have forced youth under 19 into treatment for up to one week after an overdose. The bill was defeated after Indigenous and civil liberties groups raised alarms about a lack of consultation. Halford said the NDP used the failed bill as an example to justify an election call last fall, but the government has yet to reintroduce the bill or anything similar. « There is just no more time to wait, » Halford said in a statement. Malcolmson said the government is working « as hard as we can » to build a system of care that offers a variety of different supports. She said she sees a role for involuntary admission in treatment, but the government also heard « quite strongly » from advocates for a broader system of voluntary treatment that would ensure a recovery system is available to youth after they stabilize from an overdose. Those « complex conversations » will continue as the government expands mental health supports for youth, she said. Other efforts include doubling the number of youth treatment beds in the province, which she said will be open to all ages, and expanding the ways youth can access support. « There’s much for us to do, but we are continuing to build that system and will continue to be informed by the families and peers and young people for whom that system should be built, » Malcolmson said. — By Amy Smart in Vancouver. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021. The Canadian Press

The defendant in a first-degree murder trial in central Newfoundland has fired his legal aid lawyers — the day before jury selection was to get underway. Kirk Keeping’s move in Supreme Court on Friday morning means his murder trial is now delayed indefinitely. Keeping is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Chantel John, a 28-year-old woman from the Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River in January 2019. He is accused of killing John in her family home, and is also charged with the attempted murder of her biological mother. In a written statement, Chantel John’s adoptive mother, Jennifer John, said the delay has inflicted more pain on the family. « It’s really frustrating having to deal with this every day, » Jennifer John wrote. « We want justice for Chantel, we are reliving this nightmare over and over, our lives will never be the same again. » Until Friday morning, Keeping was represented by Derek Hogan and Derek Ford, experienced legal aid lawyers. But Keeping told Justice Glen Noel he did not have confidence in either of them just minutes before a jury pre-screening process was set to begin Friday. Keeping told the court he did not know what his lawyer’s strategy was, did not receive a list of witnesses and evidence, and could not meet with his lawyers enough while he was being held at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s. « I am charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder and facing life in jail, » he told Noel. « My lawyers have spent two or three hours with me in 28 months. » Hogan told Noel he disputed those comments and had only heard about Keeping’s desire to ditch his lawyers 15 minutes before the court hearing had begun. Noel accepted that Keeping’s lawyers could no longer represent him if Keeping had no confidence in them, but told Keeping he should have made his intentions clear well before the trial was set to start. He concluded that the trial could not continue while Keeping had no lawyer, something Crown attorney Karen O’Reilly agreed with. Noel said Keeping has put the court in an unfortunate and difficult condition, and warned him that a delay would not be granted again. Keeping is charged with the first-degree murder of Chantel John.(Facebook) Keeping, who will now return to Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, must report to the court next month to update the justice on his search for new lawyers. Similar delay in high-profile 2018 murder trial There was similar last-minute delay in a recent high-profile murder trial, also involving lawyer Derek Hogan, albeit in a different way. Trent Butt was accused of the first-degree murder of his five-year-old daughter, Quinn, and then setting his house on fire back in 2016. In 2018, one week before his trial was set to begin, Butt fired his lawyers. Hogan ultimately became Butt’s lawyer. . Butt’s trial was delayed a year. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2019. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

YELLOWKNIFE — A health official in the Northwest Territories says a recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife is mostly affecting children and youth. There are 47 active cases in the northern city and all are linked to an outbreak declared at N.J. Macpherson School last week. Dr. Kami Kandola, who is the territory’s chief public health officer, says 90 per cent of those cases are among children and youth while the rest are in adult household contacts. Kandola says there are also more than 1,000 contacts associated with the school outbreak. On Thursday, the territory started offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children ages 12 to 17 in Yellowknife. Kandola says there is no evidence of community transmission in Yellowknife. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021 The Canadian Press

There’s a « dirty little secret lurking under the ocean of Newfoundland and Labrador » and the documentary, « Hell or Clean Water, » tells the story of the one man who is trying to fix it, part of the 2021 Hot Docs festival.

A review of the province’s rental housing market is ruling out a cap on rent increases in all but the most extreme cases. The report, drafted by civil servants and released, Friday says creating more incentives for the construction of new units is a more workable way to address the supply crunch in the white-hot housing market. It calls for « better protections against unreasonable rent increases » but Executive Council clerk Cheryl Hansen, the province’s top civil servant, told reporters that does not mean « across the board » rent controls. « We have discovered that a far more comprehensive approach is required, » she said, though in response to a reporter’s hypothetical question she said the province was open to restricting extreme increases in the 25 to 30 per cent range. « I would suggest that we do not need to have that across the board. » Officials say limiting rent increases to once a year, and requiring landlords to give tenants more notification of hikes, would help alleviate the phenomenon of soaring costs seen in recent months in the province. Earlier this year Statistics Canada reported that rent paid on accommodations in New Brunswick between March 2020 and March 2021 rose 4.8 per cent, the largest increase in the country. Nationally, rents inched up a fraction of that, an average of 0.5 per cent, over the same period. Hansen said Friday that the lowest-income New Brunswickers have seen rents increase by 34 per cent in the last decade while their incomes have risen only 18 per cent. But officials who briefed reporters said a cap on rent increases could have « negative consequences » for the housing market, creating a disincentive for landlords to build new units. They also said rent control tends to benefit higher-income renters the most. Higgs responded to the report within hours, telling reporters he has « sympathies » for tenants who experience « rate shocks. » Premier Blaine Higgs said he doesn’t believe his stated position on rent controls influenced the report prepared by public servants.(Ed Hunter/CBC ) « I believe there needs to be some protection there for tenants in relation to the frequency and the extent to which a rate could be changed in a span of time, » he said. He attributed part of the phenomenon to more people moving to New Brunswick for work and driving up demand for housing, which he suggested has given apartment owners an opening to raise rents. « Did we have some cases where landlords looked at the market and said ‘Now’s our chance?' » he said. « I don’t want people’s livelihoods and situations played with just because it’s the right time. » Sarah Lunney of Acorn New Brunswick, a group advocating for low-income people, said she was disappointed with the rejection of rent control and rejected the rationale. « Saying that rent control disincentivizes development, that’s just not a thing, » she said. « I don’t agree with that. Other provinces [with rent control laws] are still developing housing. » The report found there are gaps in access to affordable, adequate, quality and safe rental units.(David Zalubowski/Associated Press) She said restricting rent increases to once a year would not do anything to protect people from big increases. « You would still need some kind of rent control to ensure that when that one time a year comes around, tenants aren’t being forced out of their buildings at that time of year. » Abram Lutes of the Common Front for Social Justice said he was disappointed the report dismisses the role of non-profit housing. The document quotes a developer saying the non-profit sector lacks the « knowledge and experience » to build multi-unit apartments. « The information in the report is useful in terms of knowing how bad the situation is, but the recommendations are inexcusably inadequate given what’s been reported in the document, » he said. The report says large rent increases are being driven by a changing rental market: more people are working longer, the population is increasing and older people are downsizing into apartments. Abram Lutes, with the New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice, pictured earlier this year, was disappointed the report dismissed the role non-profit housing could play in helping alleviate the affordable housing shortage.(CBC) At the same time, a growing number of remote workers are looking for more space so they can have a home office, and the growth of short-term vacation rentals is removing some apartments from the monthly rental market. Meanwhile, shortages of construction workers can slow the building of new apartment stock. « We’re not necessarily in a crisis, but a crisis is pending, » Higgs said. « We’ve got a situation we can’t ignore. » The report says housing is seen as both a human right and as a business. « These truths do not always co-exist comfortably and can polarize conversations. » Premier rejects suggestion of influence Higgs said he didn’t think his comments earlier this year opposing rent control influenced the report, which despite being drafted by civil servants was described as an independent process similar to a third-party study. « I don’t think anyone would suspect that I would feel any differently about putting price controls on the free market. That’s a position I’ve had for a long time, » he said. The report does not comment on a proposal pushed by developers to cut property taxes on apartment buildings by removing the provincial portion of the tax. Hansen said that’s being looked as part of work on local government reform. Higgs announced a phase-out of the provincial portion of the tax in the March 2020 budget but cancelled it after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Frustration. That was the broad reaction to the revelation the BC Centre for Disease Control has been providing detailed information on COVID-19 case counts and vaccinations at a neighbourhood-based level in Metro Vancouver — but not releasing it to the public. « Experts have been asking for this data package for so long, and to find out that it was available but not being shared is really disappointing and really frustrating, » said Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau. The data, originally leaked to The Vancouver Sun, shows a number of different metrics that journalists and data scientists have long been asking for. The biggest immediate story was one some had suspected but the government had only hinted at through the partial data it revealed — positivity rates for the virus in the poorest and more diverse neighbourhoods of Surrey were the worst in Metro Vancouver last week, but the per cent of people vaccinated was lower than richer, whiter areas of the Fraser Valley. It also shows that positivity rates were above 20 per cent in Peace River North last week (the local health area surrounding Fort St. John), while the per cent of people who had been vaccinated was the lowest in the province. « To really understand geographically, especially in the high transmission areas, what the rates were is really important. It’s less about modelling and more about equity issues, » said Jens Von Bergmann, a data scientist and member of the BC COVID-19 Modelling Group. But the leak also shows a broader story of this pandemic: the public not having the same information as the government to help inform its own personal decision making. « It’s frustrating to constantly run into things like this, especially when you see what other provinces provide, » said Von Bergmann. Leaked data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control showed vaccination rates in northwest Surrey were less than many other areas of the Fraser Valley, despite the area having much higher case counts and positivity rates. (BCCDC) What do other provinces provide? B.C. is the only province other than PEI not to provide any data on weekends. It’s the only province with a major outbreak that doesn’t provide regular vaccine updates by age. On variants, on cases by neighbourhood or positive cases after vaccination: whatever metric you can think of, chances are B.C. provides less information than other large states and provinces. This isn’t a question of political debate or ideology, it’s the objective truth. Throughout the pandemic, officials at various health authorities and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control have told CBC News the lack of data is primarily a result of two issues: insufficient IT and the government prioritizing many other aspects of the pandemic much more than open and accessible data. In other words: the relative lack of daily data is rooted in B.C. being behind the curve on technology. But the lack of weekly data or any proactive effort to improve access to data through the pandemic is ultimately due to political interest. « I think government has to recognize its responsibility to continuously build and maintain trust, » said Furstenau. « Other provinces provide much more granular data than we have shown. That is a way to keep building trust and being able to explain clearly why we’re making the decisions we are and what’s informing our decisions. » ‘Transparent as any jurisdiction in North America’ At the same time, public data isn’t a silver bullet: while Alberta and Ontario provide much more data, they’re both struggling with a third wave with much higher per capita case counts and hospitalizations than B.C. « I think in a health emergency like this, what we should be striving for is continual improvement, always looking at how we can be better, » said Furstenau. The BCCDC has already said releasing community data « might now be changing » after this leak. Should that happen, it would follow a similar pattern of the province releasing information on municipal data and care-home data: originally saying it wasn’t necessary due to privacy concerns, only to reverse its decision after public criticism reached a fever pitch. In the end, it’s a reflection of a government led by a premier who said the following on Nov. 18 in response to a question about data. « We’re not hiding anything, » said John Horgan. « We have been as transparent as any jurisdiction in North America. » It wasn’t true then. And it’s not true now.

An RCMP officer stationed in Ottawa is facing three charges related to his time as a relief officer in Kimmirut, Nunavut, in the summer of 2020. Ira Tarleton has been charged with assault causing bodily harm, theft under $5,000 and mischief under $5,000.RCMP say the charges stem from an incident where Tarleton responded to a call for service in the community. A news release from the RCMP does not describe what happened and says no further information will be released at this time.Kimmirut is a community of about 400 people in the south on Baffin Island, which is about 120 kilometres from Iqaluit.Chief Supt. Amanda Jones, who leads the Nunavut RCMP, says the charges are serious and the allegations don’t represent the individual conduct of officers.“The conduct of police officers is paramount in maintaining the trust of the communities they serve … These allegations do not reflect the integrity of our individual members nor do they represent what we stand for as a police service, » Jones said in the news release.This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021 The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Canada Revenue Agency is being taken to task by a federal watchdog for not being as up front as it should be over how long it might take to process applications for pandemic aid. The $500-a-week Canada Recovery Benefit is paid out by the agency to qualifying workers who have earned at least $5,000 in the preceding 12 months. In most cases, the application process is quick, but in others, the agency has to do additional digging to verify eligibility. The taxpayers’ ombudsperson said his office has received complaints that CRA call-centre agents can’t offer a timeline for when verification work will be done, leaving thousands in financial hardship. Francois Boileau said taxpayers should be able to have more details on how long it will take the agency to verify documents so they can plan how to cover their bills like rent. He said complaints to his office have said the agency can take up to 10 weeks to finish the process before issuing a payment. The process differs from one that was used one year ago for the CRB’s forerunner, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Applications were quickly approved and payments issued with the government opting to do a review after-the-fact to recoup improper payments. With the CRB, the government pushed that verification to the front of the application process, including asking for pay slips or records of employment if the agency couldn’t easily confirm that someone met the earnings threshold. Once the documents came in, the agency started the clock. In March, there were complaints that it could take four to six weeks for the process to play out. More recently, it has risen to eight to 10 weeks. The agency had differing timelines referenced on different parts of its website, but updated them to in recent days after Boileau suggested the CRA do so. « The CRA understands that the longer processing times for these recovery benefit applications may place a financial burden on Canadians who depend on these benefits as income replacement, » the agency said in a statement. « In some cases, processing times may be extended for unforeseeable reasons. » The CRA says the process shouldn’t be nearly as long for anyone who filed their 2020 tax return, which would easily let the agency verify income eligibility when an application rolls in. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021. The Canadian Press

Ottawa is reporting 110 new COVID-19 cases and one more death. The load on the city’s intensive care units is lightening. Three more people from the area have died of COVID-19. Today’s Ottawa update Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 110 new COVID-19 cases and one more death on Friday. The city has now surpassed 25,000 confirmed cases. Many key indicators that rose to record levels during this third wave of the pandemic are now in decline, though still much higher than what health officials are comfortable with. A graph showing coronavirus levels in Ottawa’s wastewater, which peaked in early April, steadily declined for about a month and has recently plateaued. Data for much of March may have been affected by the spring melt.(613covid.ca) Numbers to watch 6.6%: The rate of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has dropped slightly. 0.78: The number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case, or R(t). The spread of the coronavirus is considered under control if that figure is kept below one. 91.1: The weekly incidence rate, a rolling seven-day total of new COVID-19 cases expressed per 100,000 residents. 20: The estimated incidence rate deemed safe to lift Ontario’s stay-at-home order, according to one expert. 129: The combined number of patients currently in intensive care in Ottawa, according to the latest updates from local hospitals. All hospital numbers in this section have dropped from the last update. 57: The number of those patients who have COVID-19. 25: The number of COVID-19 patients from Ottawa in an Ottawa ICU, according to OPH. 32: The number of COVID-19 patients from other regions in an Ottawa ICU. 368,616: The number of Ottawa residents who have received their first vaccine dose, an increase of about 15,000 since Monday. 35%: The percentage of Ottawa residents who have received at least one vaccine dose. 27,993: The number of Ottawa residents who have received their second vaccine dose, about three per cent of the city’s population. Across the region Public health officials in the Outaouais are reporting 33 new COVID-19 cases Friday and one death. The region is under Quebec’s strictest measures, which start to loosen on Monday. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit reports five more COVID-19 cases and one death. A total of 901 people have now died across the wider region of COVID-19. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit reports 25 more cases. Ontario is under a provincewide stay-at-home order until at least May 20.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a recent attack ad from Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives blaming the federal Liberals for COVID-19 variants crossing the border. Trudeau says political leaders are under a certain amount of stress and some may choose to point fingers, lay blame and engage in personal attacks.

Nova Scotia lawyer Adam Rodgers has been given three additional months to practise law before he must begin serving a one-year suspension for professional misconduct. Rodgers was found guilty by a disciplinary committee of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society that looked into allegations surrounding the collapse of Rodgers’s old law firm, Boudrot Rodgers. The firm was shut down in October 2018 after it was learned one of the partners, Jason Boudrot, had been stealing from clients’ trust accounts. The disciplinary panel did not find that Rodgers had stolen any money or helped Boudrot to do so. However, it did find Rodgers was negligent for failing to keep tabs on what was happening in the firm. Suspension was due to begin July 1 Rodgers’s suspension was supposed to begin on July 1. However, he appealed for an extension to allow him to complete his work on the Desmond Fatality Inquiry, which is looking into the murder-suicide of Lionel Desmond, his wife, Shanna, his mother, Brenda, and his daughter, Aaliyah. Lionel Desmond, a former soldier, killed his family in their home in Big Tracadie, N.S., before turning the gun on himself. Rodgers is representing the Desmond family in the hearing. The family made a direct appeal to the disciplinary panel to grant Rodgers an extension. « Our public interest here is seeing the Desmond family gets the representation they want, » panel chair Doug Shatford said Friday. Desmond inquiry expected to conclude in September Shatford and the other two panel members agreed to delay the start of Rodgers’s suspension past the point when the Desmond hearings are supposed to conclude. That is expected to be mid-September. Shatford told Rodgers that he must wind down his law practice by the end of September, and hand off any cases he can’t complete by then to other lawyers. He remains under restrictions that were imposed by the barristers’ society, including that he not hold any clients’ trust accounts. MORE TOP STORIES

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced growing pressure Friday to impose a strict nationwide lockdown, despite the economic pain it will exact, as a startling surge in coronavirus cases that has pummeled the country’s health system shows no signs of abating. Many medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court judges are calling for national restrictions, arguing that a patchwork of state rules is insufficient to quell the rise in infections. Indian television stations broadcast images of patients lying on stretchers outside hospitals waiting to be admitted, with hospital beds and critical oxygen in short supply. People infected with COVID-19 in villages are being treated in makeshift outdoor clinics, with IV drips hanging from trees. As deaths soar, crematoriums and burial grounds have been swamped with bodies, and relatives often wait hours to perform the last rites for their loved ones. The situation is so dramatic that among those calling for a strict lockdown are merchants who know their businesses will be affected but see no other way out. “Only if our health is good, will we be able to earn,” said Aruna Ramjee, a florist in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. “The lockdown will help everyone, and coronavirus spread will also come down.” The alarming picture has gripped the world’s attention, just as many developed countries are seeing vaccinations drive down infections and are beginning to open up. India’s surge has served as a warning to other countries with fragile health systems — and also has weighed heavily on global efforts to end the pandemic since the country is a major vaccine producer but has been forced to delay exports of shots. Infections have swelled in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for religious festivals and political rallies. On Friday India reported a new daily record of 414,188 confirmed cases and 3,915 additional deaths. The official daily death count has stayed over 3,000 for the past 10 days. That brings the total to more than 21.4 million COVID-19 infections and over 234,000 deaths. Experts say even those dramatic tolls are undercounts. Over the past month, nearly a dozen of India’s 28 federal states have announced some restrictions, but they fall short of a nationwide lockdown imposed last year that experts credit with helping to contain the virus for a time. Those measures, which lasted two months, included stay-at-home orders, a ban on international and domestic flights and a suspension of passenger service on the nation’s extensive rail system. The government provided free wheat, rice and lentils to the poorest for nearly a year and also small cash payments, while Modi also vowed an economic relief package of more than $260 billion. But the lockdown, imposed on four hours’ notice, also stranded tens of millions of migrant workers who were left jobless and fled to villages, with many dying along the way. The national restrictions caused the economy to contract by a staggering 23% in the second quarter last year, though a strong recovery was under way before infections skyrocketed recently. Some who remember last year’s ordeal remain against a full lockdown. “If I had to choose between dying of the virus and dying of hunger, I would choose the virus,” said Shyam Mishra, a construction worker who was already forced to change jobs and start selling vegetables when a lockdown was imposed on the capital, New Delhi. Modi has so far left the responsibility for fighting the virus in this current surge to poorly equipped state governments and faced accusations of doing too little. His government has countered that it is doing everything it can, amid a « once-in-a-century crisis.” Amid a shortage of oxygen, the Supreme Court has stepped in. It ordered the federal government to increase the supply of medical oxygen to New Delhi after 12 COVID-19 patients died last week after a hospital ran out of supplies for 80 minutes. Three justices called on the government this week to impose a lockdown, including a ban on mass gatherings, in the “interest of public welfare. » Dr. Randeep Guleria, a government health expert, said he believes that a total lockdown is needed like last year, especially in areas where more than 10% of those tested have contracted COVID-19. Rahul Gandhi, an opposition Congress party leader, in a letter to Modi on Friday, also demanded a total lockdown and government support to feed the poor, warning “the human cost will result in many more tragic consequences for our people.” As the world watches India with alarm, some outside of its borders have joined the calls. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, suggested that a complete shutdown in India may be needed for two to four weeks. “As soon as the cases start coming down, you can vaccinate more people and get ahead of the trajectory of the outbreak of the pandemic,” Fauci said in an interview with the Indian news channel CNN News18 on Thursday. Still, Modi’s policy of selected lockdowns is supported by some experts, including Vineeta Bal, a scientist at the National Institute of Immunology. She said different states have different needs, and local particularities need to be taken into account for any policy to work. In most instances, in places where health infrastructure and expertise are good, localized restrictions at the level of a state, or even a district, are a better way to curb the spread of infections, said Bal. “A centrally mandated lockdown will just be inappropriate,” she said. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, a public-private consultancy, acknowledged that the intensity of the pandemic was different in each state, but said a “co-ordinated countrywide strategy” was still needed. According to Reddy, decisions need to be based on local conditions but should be closely co-ordinated, “like an orchestra which plays the same sheet music but with different instruments.” Neha Mehrotra And Ashok Sharma, The Associated Press

EDMONTON — A judge has found an Edmonton woman guilty of manslaughter in the death of her five-year-old daughter. Court heard that the girl died of blunt-force trauma and prosecutors alleged her mother beat her with a belt and a spatula. The woman, who is in her 30s, had been charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life, assault with a weapon and second-degree murder. Justice Avril Inglis says there was not enough evidence to convict the woman beyond a reasonable doubt on those charges. But Inglis convicted the woman of manslaughter because evidence showed that the girl’s severe brain injuries were caused by an assault and the only person in the home capable of inflicting them was her mother. The woman is expected to be sentenced in the fall. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021. The Canadian Press

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Saturday condemned Israel’s plans to evict Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers, following a night of violence in Jerusalem. Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youth at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque late on Friday. The clashes at Islam’s third holiest site and around East Jerusalem, which injured 205 Palestinians and 17 police officers, came amid mounting anger over the planned evictions.

A Metro Vancouver real estate agent who’s been stripped of his licence for impersonating another agent during a deal says he was new to the industry and « blindly followed » the orders of his boss. Tian Yi Li, also known as Richard, has consented to the cancellation of his licence after admitting to professional misconduct, according to a recent notice from the Real Estate Council of B.C. (RECBC). Li used another agent’s business cards to cultivate a new client and allowed that other agent’s name to be used on official documents, including a contract of purchase and sale, a consent order says. The other agent was out of the country at the time. Li had only been licensed for a few weeks when this happened in 2016, and he says he was unfamiliar with the rules and misled by his boss, a man identified by the initials R.K. in RECBC documents. « As a team leader, he asked me to use another licensee’s business card in the transaction. I was in the industry at that time for less than two months and blindly followed his order, » Li wrote in an email to CBC News. « it makes no sense for me to use someone else’s card because it would mean that the commission would go to another person instead of me. I only did it because my team leader [R.K.] told me to. » Li said his advice for new real estate agents is to be cautious about joining a team and be sure to « follow an experienced and honest team leader. » The real estate agent Li identified as R.K. has not responded to requests for comment, but denied the allegations, when they were put to the council, according to RECBC documents. Spokespeople for the council have yet to respond to requests for comment on whether there are any disciplinary proceedings involving R.K. Li’s licence will be cancelled on June 21, and he will not be eligible to apply for a new one for the next three years. He’s also been ordered to pay $1,500 in enforcement costs. Impersonated agent was overseas The full background to what happened, including more of Li’s explanation for why it happened, is contained in a consent order proposal he submitted to the council in April, in which he agrees his licence should be terminated. It all happened in the fall of 2016, when Li was working for Metro Edge Realty in Richmond, according to the proposal. Li told the council that in September 2016, the brokerage informed its agents that anyone who did not give three months’ notice before leaving the agency would not receive any pending commission. Li was planning to find a new employer at the time. But another agent, referred to by the initials J.J., left the agency soon after, and Li alleges R.K. told his team they could work under J.J.’s name. Realtor Richard Li’s licence will be terminated for professional misconduct on June 21, 2021.(Realtor.ca) When J.J. left, he gave Li some of his new business cards and provided R.K. with some samples of contracts and other documents with his name and new brokerage. « J.J. says that he provided the documents to R.K. because he wanted to show R.K. that he would now be doing deals under his own name, rather than under R.K.’s name, as was the practice while he was part of R.K.’s team, » the proposal says. Li said R.K. introduced him to a buyer in October 2016, and before they met with a seller’s agent for a condo development in Delta, « R.K. instructed him to use J.J.’s name as the buyer’s agent and to provide J.J.’s business card to the development’s presentation centre, » the proposal says. Li helped the buyer make an offer using J.J.’s name, gave J.J.’s business card to the seller’s agent, signed a « Working with a Realtor » brochure below the name J.J., and did not correct the contract of purchase and sale when it listed J.J. as the buyer’s agent, according to the proposal. Li told the council he tried to reach J.J. while the deal was being negotiated but had no luck. J.J. only discovered what had happened when staff at the presentation centre emailed him to let him know he was owed a commission. He replied to tell them there must be some mistake. « Mr. Li advised that after J.J. returned from China, J.J. blocked his number and would not speak with Mr. Li, » the proposal says. The seller ended up releasing the buyer from her contract and returned her deposit.

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