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Raptors lose first season opener in eight years in loss to Pelicans

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 24th, 2020

Brandon Ingram scored 24 points and JJ Redick added 23 as the New Orleans Pelicans beat Toronto 113-99 in the Raptors’ season opener Wednesday at Amalie Arena.

Pascal Siakam had 20 points in one of the bright spots of the loss, the Raptors’ first defeat in a season opener in eight seasons. Kyle Lowry added 18 points and 10 assists, Aron Baynes had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Norman Powell and Chris Boucher chipped in with 12 points apiece.

The Raptors led for most of the first half but went ice cold in the third quarter. They went 0-for-10 from three-point range and were outscored 38-22 in the frame, and trailed 88-79 to start the fourth.

The Pelicans kept their foot on the gas in the fourth, and when Redick knocked down a three-pointer with 5:15 to play, New Orleans led by 14 points.

The Raptors went a horrible 2-for-17 from distance in the second half.

Siakam had been enjoying a career year before the NBA shut down for COVID-19 last March, and was never quite himself when the league resumed in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World. Fans weren’t kind to the 26-year-old when the Raptors were eliminated by Boston in the second round of the playoffs.

Siakam said he’d lost his love of the game. It looked like it was back on Wednesday.

Siakam not only scored on an array of shots, but pitched some excellent passes out of crowds.

The night marked the beginning of the most bizarre season in Raptors history, a small crowd of about 3,000 fans dotting Amalie Arena. The venue will be Toronto’s temporary home for at least the first half of the season due to Canada’s travel restrictions around COVID-19.

In a sign of these strange times, the Raptor mascot waved the team flag before the game clad in a black protective face mask.

The Raptors tipped off a few hours after the league announced Houston’s game against Oklahoma City was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests plus James Harden’s violation of the league’s coronavirus protocols left the Rockets without the league-mandated eight available players.

It was a discouraging blow on Day 2 of a season that feels like the league is playing with its collective fingers crossed while the pandemic continues to rage in the U.S.

The Raptors had their own scare earlier in the day. Powell was listed as questionable after some inconclusive tests with someone in his “circle of people,” coach Nick Nurse said.

Nurse said despite the rocky start, he’s “fairly comfortable” about playing.

“I understand that there are some people – players and staff, et cetera – testing positive. I’d be much more concerned if there was a number of players going to the hospital, a number of staff going to the hospital, and I just don’t see that as the case with all these colleges and universities and all the athletes that test.”

Amalie Arena is one of just a few facilities around the league that is permitting a limited number of fans this season.

The Raptors trailed in the early minutes, but Siakam’s three capped a mini 7-0 run that put Toronto up by four. The Raptors led 26-23 to start the second quarter.

Siakam knocked down back-to-back three-pointers – both off passes from sharp-shooter Matt Thomas – to put the Raptors up by 11 with 1:46 left in the first half. Toronto took a 57-50 advantage into the halftime break.

The Raptors now depart on their first road trip of the regular season, playing against former teammate DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs in San Antonio on Boxing Day. They play at Philadelphia on Dec. 28.

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 24th, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday Dec. 24, 2020.

There are 528,354 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Canada: 528,354 confirmed cases (75,305 active, 438,452 resolved, 14,597 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 6,845 new cases Wednesday from 89,189 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 7.7 per cent. The rate of active cases is 200.34 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 46,724 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,675.

There were 172 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 798 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 114. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.3 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 38.83 per 100,000 people.

There have been 13,343,345 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 384 confirmed cases (26 active, 354 resolved, four deaths).

There was one new case Wednesday from 232 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.43 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 20 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 71,012 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 91 confirmed cases (seven active, 84 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Wednesday from 823 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 77,149 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,458 confirmed cases (35 active, 1,358 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were four new cases Wednesday from 992 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.40 per cent. The rate of active cases is 3.6 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 28 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 171,951 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 585 confirmed cases (47 active, 530 resolved, eight deaths).

There were five new cases Wednesday from 516 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.97 per cent. The rate of active cases is 6.05 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 18 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.03 per 100,000 people.

There have been 113,276 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 183,523 confirmed cases (19,381 active, 156,275 resolved, 7,867 deaths).

There were 2,247 new cases Wednesday from 10,758 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 21 per cent. The rate of active cases is 228.42 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14,350 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,050.

There were 73 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 254 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 36. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.43 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 92.72 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,436,763 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 162,663 confirmed cases (19,424 active, 139,010 resolved, 4,229 deaths).

There were 2,408 new cases Wednesday from 54,808 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 133.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16,128 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,304.

There were 41 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 194 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 28. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.19 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 29.03 per 100,000 people.

There have been 7,281,798 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 23,381 confirmed cases (4,427 active, 18,349 resolved, 605 deaths).

There were 201 new cases Wednesday from 2,139 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 9.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 323.26 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,555 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 222.

There were 15 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 82 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.86 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 44.18 per 100,000 people.

There have been 399,378 tests completed.

_ Saskatchewan: 14,101 confirmed cases (3,850 active, 10,121 resolved, 130 deaths).

There were 159 new cases Wednesday from 985 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 16 per cent. The rate of active cases is 327.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,507 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 215.

There were five new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 32 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 11.07 per 100,000 people.

There have been 295,964 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 93,781 confirmed cases (17,821 active, 75,070 resolved, 890 deaths).

There were 1,301 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 407.68 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,184 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,312.

There were 19 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 130 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 19. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 20.36 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,547,298 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 48,027 confirmed cases (10,279 active, 36,952 resolved, 796 deaths).

There were 517 new cases Wednesday from 17,821 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.9 per cent. The rate of active cases is 202.69 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,924 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 561.

There were 19 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 104 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 15. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.29 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 15.7 per 100,000 people.

There have been 929,744 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 59 confirmed cases (zero active, 58 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Wednesday from six completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,878 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 24 confirmed cases (one active, 23 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Wednesday from 38 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.23 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 7,725 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 264 confirmed cases (seven active, 255 resolved, two deaths).

There were two new cases Wednesday from 71 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.8 per cent. The rate of active cases is 18.05 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.74 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 5.16 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,333 tests completed.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 24, 2020.

The Canadian Press

‘Very hopeful:’ Planning underway for modified Calgary Stampede in 2021

BILL GRAVELAND, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Thursday, Dec 24th, 2020

CALGARY — A world-famous annual rodeo that survived the Great Depression, two world wars and a devastating flood seven years ago was felled by a microscopic virus this year and will have a different look if it’s allowed to go forward in 2021.

Calgary Stampede president Dana Peers says planning is underway, with fingers crossed, to stage the celebration of cowboy life, which brings in a million visitors each year and gives the local economy a $282-million boost.

“Who would have thought it would be a pandemic that would really take us to a whole new level of challenge?” Peers said in an interview.

The Stampede first started on an annual basis in 1923. It had been held every year since, including in 2013 when Calgary and other communities in southern Alberta were devastated by flooding. The grounds were under water, but frantic efforts enabled the 10-day rodeo, fair and midway to go ahead.

“Unlike the floods, where the waters receded and they allowed us to get in there and get the physical work done and move forward, here we are 10 months later and the pandemic hasn’t receded,” Peers said.

“For that reason, we haven’t been able to turn around like we did in 2013.”

Another challenge, Peers said, is there’s been little revenue, since most of the 1,200 events held at Stampede Park each year were also cancelled. A COVID-19 testing site was set up instead and the rodeo grandstand has been used as a courthouse to allow for physical distancing.

Peers said he remains “very hopeful” the Stampede will be held in some form next year. Stampede officials are working with Alberta Health Services and Calgary’s Emergency Management Agency to find a way to hold it safely. He said the arrival of vaccines is also a positive.

“We need to think about new ways to be able to have people (in the) park safely, to be able to social distance, to have those kind of events where people can feel safe,” Peers said.

“I see 2021 as a bridge year. We’re hopefully going to … still have a Stampede. And by the time we get to 2022, hopefully we’re back to a situation where it would be more normal.”

University of Calgary professor Aritha van Herk, who wrote “Stampede and the Westness of the West,” said event officials showed leadership by cancelling in 2020, but people are anxious for it to return.

“You’re not a Calgarian unless you’ve participated completely, drunk too much, danced your feet off. Every part of it is part of the city’s character.”

Van Herk said she expects the event will go ahead next year on a limited basis.

“I bet they will try to do it in such a way that they really limit attendance and they’ll use this opportunity to rethink everything. We’ve been going for a 100 years. What can we make better?”

The City of Calgary had already been hit with a financial crisis linked to a drop in oil prices, which led to layoffs and extensive amounts of empty space before the pandemic began.

The president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development said the city has a perception problem, which hasn’t been helped by focusing on the Stampede and energy sector while ignoring the booming tech and financial sectors.

“People think of us as only an oil and gas town … and yet there’s so much more going on and has been for the last several years,” said Mary Moran.

“It doesn’t mean you abandon your heritage. We have to honour that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2020.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Liberals post call-out for candidates for next federal election

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 23rd, 2020

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are looking for candidates seeking to run for them in the next election, focusing on people who have been working to help their communities through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau makes the pitch in a video posted to the party website.

With his jacket off and tie loosened for the camera, Trudeau says holidays at the end of the year are a natural time to think about what comes next, and people who have been rolling up their sleeves to assist with the pandemic might want to think about jumping into politics.

Trudeau also says the party wants a candidate roster that represents all voices in shaping Canada’s post-pandemic future.

The Liberals say that in constituencies held by MPs from other parties, the local riding association will have to show that it’s looked hard for potential candidates from communities or backgrounds that are under-represented in Parliament.

Trudeau, who heads a minority government, does not say when he expects that election to come, other than it will be “at some point in the years ahead.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2020.

The Canadian Press

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 23rd, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday Dec. 23, 2020.

There are 521,509 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Canada: 521,509 confirmed cases (75,523 active, 431,561 resolved, 14,425 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 6,195 new cases Tuesday from 65,175 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 9.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 200.92 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 46,295 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,614.

There were 93 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 766 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 109. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.29 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 38.38 per 100,000 people.

There have been 13,254,156 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 383 confirmed cases (32 active, 347 resolved, four deaths).

There was one new case Tuesday from 359 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.28 per cent. The rate of active cases is 6.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 24 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 70,780 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 91 confirmed cases (seven active, 84 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 76,326 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,454 confirmed cases (40 active, 1,349 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were seven new cases Tuesday from 1,097 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.64 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.12 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 28 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 170,959 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 580 confirmed cases (47 active, 525 resolved, eight deaths).

There were two new cases Tuesday from 271 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.74 per cent. The rate of active cases is 6.05 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 21 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.03 per 100,000 people.

There have been 112,760 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 181,276 confirmed cases (18,809 active, 154,673 resolved, 7,794 deaths).

There were 2,183 new cases Tuesday from 9,879 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 22 per cent. The rate of active cases is 221.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 14,000 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,000.

There were 28 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 223 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 32. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 91.86 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,426,005 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 160,255 confirmed cases (19,300 active, 136,767 resolved, 4,188 deaths).

There were 2,202 new cases Tuesday from 43,784 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 5.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 132.5 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 15,859 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,266.

There were 21 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 196 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 28. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.19 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 28.75 per 100,000 people.

There have been 7,226,990 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 23,180 confirmed cases (4,382 active, 18,208 resolved, 590 deaths).

There were 155 new cases Tuesday from 1,477 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 10 per cent. The rate of active cases is 319.98 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,645 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 235.

There were 18 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 82 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.86 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.08 per 100,000 people.

There have been 397,239 tests completed.

_ Saskatchewan: 13,942 confirmed cases (3,945 active, 9,872 resolved, 125 deaths).

There were 181 new cases Tuesday from 1,070 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 17 per cent. The rate of active cases is 335.9 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,510 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 216.

There were three new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 27 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.33 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 10.64 per 100,000 people.

There have been 294,979 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 92,480 confirmed cases (18,311 active, 73,298 resolved, 871 deaths).

There were 1,021 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 418.89 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,153 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,308.

There were 11 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 127 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 19.93 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,547,298 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 47,510 confirmed cases (10,639 active, 36,094 resolved, 777 deaths).

There were 443 new cases Tuesday from 7,160 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 6.2 per cent. The rate of active cases is 209.79 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,047 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 578.

There were 12 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 109 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 16. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.31 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 15.32 per 100,000 people.

There have been 911,923 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 59 confirmed cases (zero active, 58 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Tuesday from 17 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,872 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 24 confirmed cases (three active, 21 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Tuesday from 26 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 6.69 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 7,687 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 262 confirmed cases (eight active, 252 resolved, two deaths).

There were zero new cases Tuesday from 35 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 20.63 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of four new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There were zero new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.74 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 5.16 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,262 tests completed.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 23, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Couples do Christmas online, in person if ‘lucky’ during Canada-U.S. border closure

CAMILLE BAINS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Dec 23rd, 2020

VANCOUVER — Like many couples, Kaelynn Ball and Dave Hogsten will be enjoying a leisurely breakfast on Christmas Day before opening presents. In their case, they’ll be watching each other prepare their own meals on a screen as they spend hours together while she is at home in Canada and he is in the United States.

Ball, of Surrey, B.C., met Hogsten online on Dec. 26, 2018, before she travelled to his home in Baltimore, Md., six months later and then again last Christmas, when she presented his family with maple syrup from Canada.

Hogsten proposed during a visit to Ball’s home in February, around the time concerns about a new and deadly coronavirus were spreading around the globe, and forced the closure of the Canada-U.S. border to non-essential travel in mid-March.

Ball, 24, and Hogsten, 37, were among cross-border couples and families that met last summer in Surrey at Peace Arch Park, a no-quarantine-required international loophole where Canadians — under the watchful eye of RCMP officers — could meet with their loved ones in Washington state.

Now, Ball has created an online community of couples, including many from around the U.S. that she met at the park, so they can share their experiences of navigating a long-distance relationship during a pandemic.

“People have been able to share their stories and connect with each other and say, ‘What’s been hard about this year? What’s been good about this year?’”

Her suggestions for date nights via Zoom or Skype are a big hit.

“We do board game nights, video game nights. We’re doing a Mexican night. We’re making margaritas and we’re getting takeout,” she said. “We’re always mixing it up, and I’ve had a lot of people actually message me and say, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea.’”

Ball and Hogsten have even done a pretend pub-crawl to keep things interesting while spending so much time onscreen and not knowing when they’ll see each other in person.

She also supports an online group called Faces of Advocacy, which lobbied the federal government to ease border restrictions in October so family members and couples in a long-term relationship could see each other, as long as they quarantine for 14 days.

Ball and Hogsten are eager to make wedding plans but have a few hurdles to cross, including getting vaccinated and waiting for the border to reopen, she said, adding she’s learned a few things about patience while trying to spark romance during COVID-19.

“Sometimes things take time. You can’t have everything immediately when you want it.”

Shannon McMullin, 33, of St. Catharines, Ont., has learned about the importance of timing during her long-distance relationship with Erin Spicer of Buffalo, N.Y., after they met online a year and a half ago.

Spicer, 34, drove to St. Catharines hours before the Canada-U.S. border closed to non-essential travel on March 18.

“We were so lucky that she got here,” McMullin said.

After Spicer returned home at the end of June, the couple tried unsuccessfully to meet on the Rainbow Bridge connecting Niagara Falls, Ont., and Niagara Falls, N.Y.

That’s when they decided to drive seven hours each way to a border crossing between Quebec and Vermont every two weeks to meet at a dead-end road.

The setting wasn’t so romantic, but it’s where they got engaged in September.

“The border guards knew us and they were nice to us. So they actually let us put the ring on each other’s finger and give each other a hug and kiss across the border,” McMullin said.

Spicer applied for an exemption to the travel ban and returned to Canada in November.

“We actually get to spend Christmas together even though it’ll look different than other years. It’s going to be one to remember, that’s for sure,” McMullin said.

They’re planning to get married soon, likely with just McMullin’s two-and-a-half-year-old twins Harper and Hannah there, she said.

“But then we’ll probably still do a big celebration in a couple of years when the world’s back to normal.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2020.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Ontario premier demands increased COVID-19 testing at airports as new variant emerges

STEPHANIE LEVITZ, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 22nd, 2020

OTTAWA — Ontario Premier Doug Ford blasted the federal government today for not moving faster on COVID-19 testing for incoming international travellers as a new variant is prompting more border closures.

Late yesterday, the federal government announced it was banning all incoming passenger flights from the U.K. for 72 hours due to a new manifestation of the novel coronavirus that is dominating cases in that country.

Early science suggests the new variant is more transmissible than other strains, but so far it has not been documented in Canada.

Still, the federal government said it was closing the border to arriving flights to give public health officials time to gather further evidence and conduct additional research.

Opposition critics welcomed the ban but questioned the 72-hour limit, saying they weren’t confident that evidence could be gathered in that time frame.

Global Affairs also published a notice today telling Canadians not to travel to the United Kingdom because of the new variant.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21 2020.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Estate of Nova Scotia mass killer Gabriel Wortman valued at $2.1 million

MICHAEL TUTTON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 22nd, 2020

HALIFAX — The estate belonging to Nova Scotia mass murderer Gabriel Wortman is valued at $2.1 million — about one-third of which is in cash seized by police, according to newly released court documents.

Wortman was shot dead by a police officer at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., on April 19, after the gunman had killed 22 people during a 13-hour rampage across the province.

The Dec. 14 appraisal prepared for the probate court says six properties listed under the killer’s name in Halifax and Portapique, N.S., — the small community where the killing began — are worth approximately $1.2 million.

Three corporations — including the 51-year-old’s denturist clinic — are valued at $128,711, while the appraiser estimated the killer had roughly $3,760 worth of household goods. The total amount of “cash on hand” is listed as $705,000, which the RCMP seized from the killer’s residence in Portapique.

The estate is facing several lawsuits, both from Wortman’s common law spouse, Lisa Banfield, and from the families of his victims. The victims’ families are trying to get a class action certified that seeks compensation for the deaths and for the damage Wortman caused.

Sandra McCulloch, a lawyer for the families, said what’s left of Wortman’s estate belongs to his many victims.

“Whether it’s a couple of dollars or a lot of dollars, our view is that the families are the people to whom those funds should go,” she said in an interview Monday. “The lawsuit would have carried on regardless of the size of the estate.”

Court documents have said the cash was stockpiled in the final weeks before Wortman drove through the province in a replica police vehicle, killing people he knew and didn’t know, and burning properties.

In applications for search warrants, police have stated that Wortman liquidated $475,000 of investments and requested the money in $100 bills, which he had picked up from a Brinks outlet in Halifax on March 30.

Witnesses quoted in the search warrant applications have said a “paranoid” Wortman was growing increasingly anxious about COVID-19 before he had liquidated the investments.

The newly released court document says a bank account in Wortman’s name had about $40,919 in it. It also lists a CPP death benefit worth $2,500 and a few small balances on credit cards.

The application for the class action against Wortman’s estate names three categories of plaintiffs. The first involves direct relatives of those killed, such as parents, children and spouses. The second involves all people who suffered personal injuries from the gunman, excluding Banfield. And the third category involves all people who suffered damage to property.

Banfield filed a notice of claim on the estate in probate court on Nov. 10. In the document, the lawyer for Wortman’s common law spouse said while Banfield isn’t a shareholder, “she and the deceased operated the (denturist) business as a joint venture,” adding that her work was critical to its success.

She also claimed the deceased and the estate would be “unjustly enriched if the applicant (Banfield) were not entitled “to a share of the assets in the name of the deceased (Wortman) at the time of his death.”

In addition, Banfield — who has renounced her right to be an executor of the estate, and has asked it be administered by the public trustee — launched her own legal action in August for damages against the estate.

At the time, she said she was the victim of assault and battery the night Wortman began his rampage and said she had suffered “intentional infliction of mental suffering.”

The RCMP has said Banfield was handcuffed but managed to escape and fled to nearby woods on the night of April 18. She emerged the next morning and told police at 6:30 a.m. that Wortman was driving a police replica vehicle.

On Dec. 4, the RCMP announced that three people, including Banfield, had been charged with supplying ammunition to the gunman. Police have said the alleged offences occurred between March 17 and April 18, but that those charged “had no prior knowledge of the gunman’s actions.”

The Halifax-based probate court provides for the protection of heirs, recipients of legacies and of estate creditors. It also provides a forum for adjudication and appoints executors, administrators, appraisers, and guardians in relation to all estate matters.

Adrienne Bowers, the solicitor for the public trustee, said in the court document that the initial value of the estate was pegged at about $1.2 million. She said that if new assets are discovered, she would alert the probate court within 30 days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Monday, Dec. 22, 2020

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Dec 22nd, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday Dec. 22, 2020.

There are 515,314 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Canada: 515,314 confirmed cases (77,361 active, 423,621 resolved, 14,332 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 6,381 new cases Monday from 73,365 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 8.7 per cent. The rate of active cases is 205.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 46,452 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,636.

There were 68 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 779 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 111. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.3 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 38.13 per 100,000 people.

There have been 13,188,981 tests completed.

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 382 confirmed cases (31 active, 347 resolved, four deaths).

There were zero new cases Monday from 187 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 5.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 23 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 70,421 tests completed.

_ Prince Edward Island: 91 confirmed cases (seven active, 84 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Monday from 905 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 4.46 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of two new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 76,326 tests completed.

_ Nova Scotia: 1,447 confirmed cases (38 active, 1,344 resolved, 65 deaths).

There were two new cases Monday from 960 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.21 per cent. The rate of active cases is 3.91 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 27 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.69 per 100,000 people.

There have been 169,862 tests completed.

_ New Brunswick: 578 confirmed cases (49 active, 521 resolved, eight deaths).

There were four new cases Monday from 272 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 1.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 6.31 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.03 per 100,000 people.

There have been 112,489 tests completed.

_ Quebec: 179,093 confirmed cases (18,458 active, 152,869 resolved, 7,766 deaths).

There were 2,108 new cases Monday from 10,456 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 20 per cent. The rate of active cases is 217.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 13,558 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,937.

There were 30 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 233 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 33. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.39 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 91.53 per 100,000 people.

There have been 2,416,126 tests completed.

_ Ontario: 158,053 confirmed cases (19,019 active, 134,867 resolved, 4,167 deaths).

There were 2,123 new cases Monday from 52,723 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 130.57 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 15,932 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,276.

There were 17 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 195 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 28. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.19 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 28.61 per 100,000 people.

There have been 7,183,206 tests completed.

_ Manitoba: 23,025 confirmed cases (5,736 active, 16,717 resolved, 572 deaths).

There were 166 new cases Monday from 6,503 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 2.6 per cent. The rate of active cases is 418.85 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,761 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 252.

There were three new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 73 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 10. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.76 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 41.77 per 100,000 people.

There have been 395,762 tests completed.

_ Saskatchewan: 13,761 confirmed cases (3,990 active, 9,649 resolved, 122 deaths).

There were 206 new cases Monday from 1,232 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 17 per cent. The rate of active cases is 339.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,523 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 218.

There were four new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 31 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 10.39 per 100,000 people.

There have been 293,909 tests completed.

_ Alberta: 91,459 confirmed cases (19,165 active, 71,434 resolved, 860 deaths).

There were 1,240 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 438.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 9,473 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,353.

There were nine new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 127 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.42 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 19.67 per 100,000 people.

There have been 1,547,298 tests completed.

_ British Columbia: 47,067 confirmed cases (10,847 active, 35,455 resolved, 765 deaths).

There were 529 new cases Monday. The rate of active cases is 213.89 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,124 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 589.

There were five new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 118 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.33 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 15.08 per 100,000 people.

There have been 904,763 tests completed.

_ Yukon: 59 confirmed cases (one active, 57 resolved, one deaths).

There were zero new cases Monday from 33 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 2.45 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.45 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,855 tests completed.

_ Northwest Territories: 24 confirmed cases (three active, 21 resolved, zero deaths).

There were zero new cases Monday from 26 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 0.0 per cent. The rate of active cases is 6.69 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of three new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero.

There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people.

There have been 7,661 tests completed.

_ Nunavut: 262 confirmed cases (17 active, 243 resolved, two deaths).

There were three new cases Monday from 68 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 4.4 per cent. The rate of active cases is 43.84 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of six new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one.

There were zero new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.74 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 5.16 per 100,000 people.

There have been 5,227 tests completed.

This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Dec. 22, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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