N.S. 'closely monitoring' COVID situation in N.B., neighbouring provinces

WATCH: People in Amherst, N.S. have mixed feelings about the rising COVID-19 case counts in neighbouring New Brunswick, after that province lifted all restrictions. But the border town’s mayor says it’s just a reminder for people to get vaccinated. Callum Smith reports.

Amherst mayor and OBGYN David Kogon says he hasn’t “heard too many concerns” from locals about New Brunswick’s COVID-19 situation.

Only two new cases were reported in New Brunswick Wednesday, following 39 over the four days prior.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Health is keeping a close eye on the situation.

Read more:
New Brunswick parents, teachers hope for in-person school year

But Kogon says he’s “not really surprised” by the case count, pointing out that most cases have been in people who are not fully vaccinated.

He hopes cases remain stable and that there isn’t a large increase, especially to prevent restrictions from being reimplemented.

“If public safety is threatened by rising counts, then yes that would happen. We hope it won’t. We hope that people comport themselves appropriately. We hope that people continue to get vaccinated,” he says.

“Because probably more important than case counts now, are the number of sick, sick people and the number of deaths. And those numbers are very, very, very small.”

New Brunswick’s last death connected to COVID-19 was reported by Public Health one month ago, July 4.

According to the provincial dashboard, two new cases were reported Wednesday. There are now 41 active cases in the province.

Health officials say 68.2 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, while 82.4 per cent has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Some people in Amherst worry about New Brunswick lifting its mandatory order.

“I feel that the masks are being removed too quickly,” says local resident Kathryn Gauci. “I would like to see what’s going on with the Delta variant right now.”

“Hopefully, it’s a good thing,” says seasonal resident Brian Babineau, who was born in Amherst. “But I don’t think they should be rushing too much.”

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s top doctor, has said cases will climb when restrictions are removed and that hospitalizations are expected to remain low, but some say it was still too soon.

“I worry about that because of the children that aren’t ,” says Linda Treadwell. “I have two grandsons myself that aren’t of age to have the vaccine so I’m really scared about that. I have both vaccines but I worry about them.”

Read more:
More Canadians think COVID-19 will worsen as Delta variant spreads: poll

She is predicting the next premier of Nova Scotia, following the Aug. 17 provincial election, would reinstate border measures between the two Atlantic provinces.

Several people who didn’t want to appear on-camera say they aren’t bothered by the case count in New Brunswick. One person told Global News he expects COVID-19 cases will continue to rise, but just hopes deaths and hospitalizations remain low.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Health says it continues to “closely monitor the COVID-19 epidemiology of neighbouring provinces, including New Brunswick, and are aware of a recent cluster of cases in Moncton.”

“Nova Scotians who have recently been in Moncton should be aware of the latest exposure notification from New Brunswick Public Health and take recommended actions if they were at one of the locations listed here,” says Kristen Lipscombe, a media relations advisor for the department.

“The best way Nova Scotians can prevent COVID-19 infection is by having two doses of vaccine.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Customers are the focus of Lethbridge Airport terminal upgrades: city

The City of Lethbridge announced additional federal funding to go towards upgrades at the airport. As Quinn Campbell reports, the money will go towards improving the customer experience.

Some additional federal funding will go towards customer enhancements at the Lethbridge Airport.

Officials said $583,000 from the Regional Air Transportation Initiative will help make long-overdue improvements to the airport.

“The terminal is 40 years old, and it was originally designed before all the security measures were put in place after 9/11,” said Opportunity Lethbridge general manager Michael Kelly.

Read more:
Lethbridge Airport optimistic about future despite COVID-19 impacts

He said some of the upgrades include a self-check-in kiosk, powered wheelchairs for people with mobility challenges, a visual passenger paging system and baggage system improvements.

“We are really excited about the improvements included in this grant as they are very much focused on making the Lethbridge Airport more viable for airlines and their passengers,” said Kelly.

Read more:
Lethbridge Airport review suggests major changes

The building will also switch to a common-use terminal system, allowing multiple airlines access to existing airport infrastructures.

Lethbridge city council has already invested $2.6 million, which was leveraged to secure $23 million in provincial and federal funding for airport upgrades.

Work on terminal enhancements is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Halifax restaurant owners seeing summer uptick, but say they're not out of the woods yet

WATCH: Halfway through Phase 4 of Nova Scotia’s reopening plan, some Halifax restaurant owners say they’re seeing an uptick in business, but customers aren’t flocking to dining rooms in the numbers they had hoped for. As Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, their short-term economic fears have not been quelled, and they’re hoping the provincial government will step in with aid.

Some Halifax restaurant owners say the fourth phase of Nova Scotia’s reopening plan has brought an increase in business, but guests still aren’t flocking to dining rooms in the numbers they had hoped for.

Despite the return of the Atlantic bubble, tourism is still not what it used to be, said Liz Ingram-Chambers, owner of Le Bistro by Liz, and physical distancing requirements continue to limit the number of tables she can sit in her South Park Street restaurant.

“We have been seeing some people from New Brunswick and Ontario, which has definitely upped our game as far as business levels are concerned, but it didn’t have a huge effect on us,” she told Global News. “I won’t say it hasn’t been a dismal summer —  I lost of a lot of good staff.”

READ MORE: What Justin Trudeau’s Liberals could learn from Nova Scotia’s election campaign 

Despite some of the challenges, Ingram-Chambers said Nova Scotians have done a good job of supporting local restaurants and her regulars have not forgotten her during the pandemic.

She said she’s also noticed some of her guests are spending more when they come in — an effect she chalks up to the isolation of COVID-19 lockdowns.

“We’ll have people ordering steaks and bottles of wine at two in the afternoon,” she said. “It’s more of a dining experience — they’re feeding their soul rather than just grabbing a bite to eat.”

Liz Ingram-Chambers, owner of Le Bistro by Liz on South Park Street in Halifax.

Liz Ingram-Chambers, owner of Le Bistro by Liz on South Park Street in Halifax.

Elizabeth McSheffrey/Global News

Ingram-Chambers and many other restaurant owners in the province are currently accessing the federal government’s wage and rent subsidy programs, which are set to expire in October.

When those elapse, she said she hopes the leader of the new provincial government steps up to support the food and drink sector.

“It would be nice if they took a little more interest even in little things, like tearing up streets around us.”

Blaring construction, she explained, doesn’t help businesses attract customers, particularly during a pandemic.

She said also hopes public health officials decrease distancing requirements soon, so she and other restaurant owners can squeeze in a few more tables safely.

READ MORE: The Nova Scotia election, the pandemic and the unreliable Internet many still face

Jimmy Zelios, owner of the Blue Olive Greek Taverna on Quinpool Road, said some of his customers have returned in Phase 4, but it’s still not close to pre-pandemic levels. He thinks some customers are being cautious, he said, but he too, pointed to decreased seating capacity in the restaurant.

“When you don’t have the revenue, you have to save in other areas, whether it’s saving on labour or cost-cutting measures in other areas of the business,” he said in an interview.

“Even though things are getting better from the previous lockdowns … it’s not where it should be. We still have a long way to go.”

Zelios said he’s “concerned” and “nervous” about the end of supports like the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, but he has no intentions of going anywhere and he’s taking it one day at a time.

According to Public Health officials, Nova Scotia is on track to begin Phase 5 at the end of August. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang has previously said that phase could come with some changes to restrictions such as masks and distancing.

Michael Lim, partner and operations manager at the Chain Yard Urban Cidery on Agricola Street said any such changes could help bring normalcy back to the tap room.

“We’re definitely not at full capacity of what we could be, but it’s been a good start,” he said of Phase 4. “Definitely a lot of excitement about being on the patio outside, and our nighttime dinner crowd is busy, but we’re not seeing the big uptick in tourists and daytime customers that we have in the past.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon family gets creative after mask sales come to a halt

He said he’d like to see the provincial government ramp up education on what it means to buy local and listen to the advice of local business associations.

“I think everybody in the small business community understands that the support has to be scaled back at some point, but if they’re listening to certain organizations and they know this organization is really suffering, it would be nice to see some support for that,” he explained.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

10 dead, 12 injured in Texas in crash involving migrant worker van

WATCH: 12 dead, 21 rescued as migrant boat sinks off Greek island

Ten people were killed and 12 injured on Wednesday when a van carrying 25 migrants crashed in southern Texas, about 150 kilometres from the United States-Mexico border, local media reported.

The crash took place around 4 p.m. when the van went out of control on Highway 281 south of the town of Falfurrias in Brooks County, Texas, local KRIS-TV reported.

Read more:
Nearly half of COVID-19 deaths were immigrants at start of pandemic: StatCan

The van was top heavy and tipped over after it struck a curb, Brooks County Sheriff Urbino Martinez told MyRGVNews.com. The driver was among those killed.

A spokeswoman for Texas Department of Public Safety said she had no immediate information on the incident.

More to come.

© 2021 Reuters

Pee-yew: Vancouver's big, stinky corpse flower set to bloom again

The rare corpse flower at Vancouver’s Bloedel Conservatory is once again set to bloom. The tropical plant nicknamed Uncle Fester emits a powerful stench, similar to rotten meat, when fully open.

It’s big. It’s rare. It stinks like you wouldn’t believe.

And soon Vancouver’s corpse flower “Uncle Fester” will be drawing large crowds at the Queen Elizabeth Park’s Bloedel Conservatory as it blooms for the second time ever.

Read more:
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The plants, known scientifically as Amorphophallus titanum, grow to a massive size and bloom unpredictably — usually with years between flowers.

They’re best known for the distinctive stench they produce, described as similar to rotting meat or even diapers — an evolutionary trait that draws carrion eating insects that serve as pollinators.

Because of their massive size and energy requirements, the flowers can take up to a decade to produce their first bloom, though some can repeat the feat every two or three years, according to the conservatory.

Read more:
What’s six-feet tall and smells like rotting meat? Vancouver ‘corpse flower’ is no joke

Once in bloom, the flower will last just one day before wilting and going dormant again.

Uncle Fester first flowered in 2018 after a six year growing period, drawing a huge lineup of curious Vancouverites.

This year, due to COVID-19, the conservatory is only selling tickets online for pre-determined timeslots.

Officials say the exact date the flower will bloom remains unknown, and inviting people to make their own predictions on when Uncle Fester will burst forth.

In its current growth spurt, the conservatory says the plant has climbed more than half a metre in the period of a month. It’s expected to add another seven centimetres per day over the next two to three weeks.

They’re also predicting it could produce a flower larger than the nearly two-metre bloom produced in 2018.

Corpse flowers are native to Indonesia’s Sumatra rainforests and are classified as “vulnerable” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Mix of in-person, online learning gets mixed reaction from University of Alberta students

Students at the University of Alberta will head back to school in the fall, split between 80 per cent in-person learning and 20 per cent online.

Now, after selecting their classes, some students are surprised with where their learning will be based.

Brady Duiker will have two classes in person and one class — along with a lab — online.

“Lectures are better in person but that same information can be conveyed easier online,” Duiker said. “But the whole point of a lab is hands-on learning. That being online was confusing to me. They have the option to do it in person now.”

Duiker is entering his last year of a bachelor degree in science and kinesiology. He said he was surprised to learn he would still be doing a class online that he expected would be available in person.

“Online has been less than ideal, but I tried to focus on the positives. I’m definitely glad it’s mostly over now,” he said.  It feels like I missed out a little bit by having labs online. It is what it is I guess.”

The International Students’ Association said the hybrid model is creating the opposite problem for students unable to return to campus due to a COVID-19-induced travel ban.

The ISA’s Gurbani Baweja said many students outside of Canada need more online options.

“It’s most problematic for students in the upper levels of their degree. They don’t need preliminary courses — and those are the ones being offered online,” Baweja said. “We have been hearing from hundreds of students who, while enrolling in classes, have noticed that some are in person.”

READ MORE: NDP, University of Alberta students demand freeze on post-secondary tuition hikes 

Baweja said the ISA wants the U of A to communicate a plan for Fall 2021 to accommodate and support international students.

“The financial burden on international students is a lot. Tuition plus travel from their home country to Canada because they don’t have access to direct flights,” Baweja said. “We’re really optimistic. We also want them to provide a deadline extension for students, if they feel they can’t travel to Canada. They can defer their degree and do it when they can travel to Canada.”

Abner Monteiro with the University of Alberta Students’ Union said the university plans to move ahead with its June plan of offering the 80-20 split.

“That’s currently still the plan,” Monteiro said, “depending on the year of the course, the class sizes and the resources available to that faculty.”

Global News reached out to the University of Alberta for comment on Wednesday for more specifics on how in-person and online classes were chosen. This article will be updated when we receive a response.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Suspect in 2 Edmonton homicides arrested and charged

A 21-year-old man who was wanted in connection with two central Edmonton homicides was arrested, police said Wednesday.

Montana Houle was wanted on province-wide warrants for the homicides of Deng Malith Deng, 32, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, and Trevor Waskahat, 24, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

Read more:
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Deng was found suffering from a shotgun wound after police officers were called to a shooting at a multi-unit residence in the area of 109 Avenue and 97 Street at 9:35 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. He died of his injuries in hospital that night.

An autopsy later confirmed he died of a gunshot wound and the manner of death was homicide.

Read more:
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Waskahat was found injured at a home in the area of 98 Street and 108 Avenue on June 8, 2021. Police were called to the residence after someone reported an injured man there at about 7:20 p.m. Waskahat was taken to hospital where he later died of his injuries.

An autopsy later confirmed he died of a stab wound and that the manner of death was homicide.

Read more:
Edmonton police investigate suspicious death of 24-year-old man

Houle was arrested Tuesday afternoon in Edmonton and charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

AgriStability interim benefit increase announced for Sask. producers

It’s an announcement many in the agriculture sector in Saskatchewan have been hoping to hear in what has been a stressful year for farmers and ranchers.

On Wednesday, both the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments announced that the 2021 AgriStability interim benefit payment percentage will go up from 50 per cent to 75 per cent for producers in the province.

The interim benefit provides producers enrolled in the AgriStability program with access to a portion of their benefit early, which will help support losses and cover costs.

The increase means Saskatchewan producers can apply for an interim benefit to receive 75 per cent of their estimated final 2021 benefit, before completing their program year.

Read more:
APAS outlines steps needed by governments to respond to drought conditions

“My heart goes out to those farmers and ranchers feeling the impacts of the drought. We are working closely with provinces to get farm families the support they need as soon as possible. By unlocking more AgriStability funds through interim payments, we can get more cash in hand for farmers who are making tough decisions in a difficult situation and I urge other provinces to request the same if needed,” said Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau in a statement on Wednesday.

The government notes that the interim benefit is calculated based on the estimated margin decline or loss for the year compared to the farming operation’s reference margin. Ranchers and farmers must report a decline of at least 30 per cent below the reference margin in order to receive a payment.

If a producer receives an interim benefit payment, they must still file all final program year forms and meet program requirements by the assigned deadlines.

Read more:
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“We are closely monitoring and responding to the challenges facing Saskatchewan producers due to the extreme drought conditions this growing season. That is why we are taking another step today to provide our producers with additional support,” Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit stated.

“This increase allows producers to access a larger portion of their final AgriStability benefit early. The AgriStability interim benefit can help producers with cash flow needs and provide them with additional flexibility to deal with the dry conditions.”

Producers can apply for the interim benefit by contacting their local Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) office, calling the AgriStability call centre toll-free at 1-886-270-8450 or by email.

AgriStability is a business risk management program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which protects Canadian producers against large declines in farming income for reasons such as production loss, increased costs and market conditions.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

White Rock Lake wildfire showing aggressive behaviour, say emergency officials

The out-of-control White Rock Lake wildfire is showing aggressive behaviour, say emergency officials, and that could lead to sudden changes.

Burning south of Westwold, B.C., the three-week-old fire is estimated at 32,500 hectares and has spawned several evacuation orders and alerts affecting hundreds of residences, with most being in the Central Okanagan regional district.

The closest edge of the fire is burning around 40 kilometres northwest of downtown Kelowna, but is around 11 km from the community of Killiney Beach on Okanagan Lake.

Further, the BC Wildfire Service said the fire’s eastern-most perimeter was around 8.5 km east of Westside Road.

Read more:
Rain brings some relief to B.C. wildfires, but not enough for long-term impact

The Central Okanagan evacuation order, issued during the weekend, affects 544 properties in the Westshore Estates subdivision off Westside Road and rural areas to the west.

Emergency Operations says another 2,400 properties along Westside Road are under evacuation alert — south of Westshore Estates to the Bear Lake Main Forest Service Road intersection just north of Traders Cove.

The alert area also includes all public lands located north of Bear and Esperon Forest Service Road, and the area is restricted to local traffic only.

“Residents in alert areas should be prepared to leave on short notice if conditions in the area change,” Central Okanagan Emergency Operations said Wednesday afternoon. “Residents are reminded that it is unsafe to be in evacuated areas and their presence can put emergency operations personnel in harm’s way.

“RCMP are patrolling within the evacuation area and will be requesting residents leave immediately. Structural fire crews are also in the area conducting assessments.

“Should fire conditions change, all people on alert must be prepared to leave their home or campsite on short notice.”

Below are the evacuation orders and evacuation alerts

Thompson-Nicola Regional District

  • Evacuation order for 85 properties
  • Evacuation alert for 651 properties

Columbia-Shuswap Regional District

  • Evacuation order for 10 properties
  • Evacuation alert for 608 properties

Regional District of North Okanagan

  • Evacuation order for 32 properties
  • Evacuation alert for 14 properties

Regional District of Central Okanagan

  • Evacuation order for 544 properties
  • Evacuation alert for 2,400 properties

Okanagan Indian Band

  • Evacuation order: Information not available
  • Evacuation alert: Information not available

Emergency Operations says if you have to leave your residence because of a wildfire, take the following actions:

  • Close all windows and doors in the house.
  • Cover vents, windows, and other openings of the house with duct tape and/or precut pieces of plywood.
  • Park your vehicle, positioned forward out of the driveway.
  • Keep your vehicle windows closed and have valuables already packed.
  • Turn off propane or natural gas.
  • Move any propane barbeques into the open, away from structures.
  • Turn on the lights in the house, porch, garage and yard.
  • Inside the house, move combustible materials such as light curtains and furniture away from the windows.
  • Move all combustibles away from the house, including firewood and lawn furniture.
  • Evacuate your family and pets to a safe location.

For more information, visit the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations website.

One hundred and 36 firefighters, including 99 from Quebec, are battling the blaze, as are 11 helicopters and 43 pieces of heavy equipment.

There are also more than 100 structure protection crews in place from 25 different fire departments.

“Structure protection personnel are prepared to defend Westwold, Falkland, Cedar Hills, Pennask Lake and communities along Westside Road, including Okanagan Indian Band IR No. 1,” said BC Wildfire information officer Hannah Swift.

“That being said, defending structures from wildland fires is not possible in every situation. Several factors, including risks to firefighters, fire behaviour and the availability of resources, will dictate our ability to successfully defend threatened structures.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

City of Regina moving along with preliminary process for relocating train tracks on Ring Road

Queen City residents might be happy to learn that city council is moving along with plans to relocate the rail line crossing on the ring road. Taz Dhaliwal has more on next steps council will be taking.

It’s been an inconvenience for many commuters in Regina for decades, but the city’s plan to relocate the rail tracks on Ring Road is a step closer to being materialized as city council looks into jumpstarting the preliminary process for it.

“So, in terms of how the city works through the process, we develop preliminary design, that according to..frankly federal law, and that’s worked out with a rail consultant, we take that to the respective rail companies to determine if that’s feasible and acceptable,” said Regina Mayor Sandra Masters on Wednesday.

Read more:
Regina mayor says Ring Road rail line relocation discussions advancing

Masters adds that the preliminary process will come with a hefty price tag and take at least a year to complete.

“Preliminary design funding needs to be approved, preliminary design over probably the next 12 months will be worked through and that can be delayed depending upon what other organizations have for emergent issues, everyone’s busy,” Masters said.

Read more:
City of Regina seeks approval from CN, CP to relocate train tracks on Ring Road

At the same time — the city is also ordering a safety report on the Ring Road.

“In terms of understanding future needs and capacity for the Ring Road, but also we’ve had growth, we’ve got more vehicles on the road and we need to understand how that’s impacting public safety,” she said.

When it comes to where the city will actually be relocating the rail line, Masters says the plan is to move it north and out of the city, away from residential areas as well.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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