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Kenney declares state of emergency in Alberta, many bars closed down

Restaurants, pubs that allow children, delis and cafes will be allowed to remain open but capacity is reduced to a maximum of 50 people.

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Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta is now in a state of emergency.

He said restaurants, pubs that allow children, delis and cafes will be allowed to remain open but capacity is reduced to a maximum of 50 people. Restaurants will be able to sell off-sales to get rid of inventory.

Until further notice, all Albertans are restricted from attending bars and nightclubs, where minors are prohibited by law.

Casinos will also be shuttered.

The Alberta government also announced changes to help workers affected by the crisis.

“Full and part-time employees can access 14 days of job-protected leave for the purpose of self-isolation related to COVID-19, retroactive to March 5. The leave does not apply to self-employed individuals or contractors,” the government said.

“The requirement to have worked for an employer for 90 days to access COVID-19 specific leave is no longer required. and employees self-isolating due to COVID-19 do not require a medical note to access leave.”

Arenas, entertainment facilities, conferences, family events such as weddings and funerals, church gatherings should be cancelled, Kenney said.

Gatherings of more than 50 people are now banned.

“To limit the amount of time Albertans are spending in large crowds and crowded spaces, all Albertans are prohibited from attending public recreational facilities and private entertainment facilities, including gyms, swimming pools, arenas, science centres, museums, art galleries, community centres, children’s play centres, casinos, racing entertainment centres, and bingo halls,” said the government in a release.

“This is an unprecedented moment in our history and decisive action is needed. We recognize that these measures will have a profound impact on the lives of Albertans, but they are necessary in the face of this growing pandemic.” said Kenney.

Non-profits, soup kitchens and homeless shelters are exempt from the emergency order.

Social distancing and self-isolation are still recommended.

Kenney said the government will send out $60 million before March 31 to cities, charities and non-profits to help them reach out to vulnerable people.

A second aspect of the support will go to civil society organizations. Funds will be dispersed through social services to organizations that are already running in communities.

Alberta’s Provincial Operations Centre has also been elevated from a level 3 to a level 4, the highest level.

Kenney said health authorities may have to look at calling retired doctors and nurses to help out.

Ski hills across the province are ordered shut and as of Wednesday and all passenger ropeways, like gondolas and chairlifts, will be closed. 

Upcoming expiry dates for Alberta drivers’ licences, vehicle registrations, other permits and certificates are being extended until May 15.

In Calgary, an emergency order was put in place ordering people coming back to self-isolate for 14 days.

Calgary Transit said they had noted a “significant drop” is ridership over the last several days.

It has canceled school routes and anyone getting on Transit at the airport will have to board through the rear entrance of the bus.

Meanwhile, the Alberta government announced it is cancelling one of its controversial changes to doctors’ pay.

“Changes to physicians’ payments for complex modifiers will not go ahead as planned on March 31,” the government said in a release.

“During these unprecedented times, we want to ensure physicians on the front lines can focus solely on providing patient care. We’ve heard concerns that this change would result in what has been called ‘10-minute medicine.’ While we respectfully disagree with that characterization, we are nevertheless halting this change so that doctors can concentrate on the critical tasks at hand,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro in a statement.

Complex modifiers are intended to provide incentives to doctors to spend more time with patients who have complex medical needs.

The first modifier that general practitioners bill for a visit will remain at the 15-minute mark at the current rate of $18.48. Other complex modifiers will remain available at current rates and current time requirements.

“We appreciate the removal of the complex (time) modifier from Alberta Health’s physician funding framework. This is a significant step in supporting patients and physicians. There is still work to be done. We will work in any venue to advance patient care and to reach a formal agreement between physicians and Alberta Health said,” said Dr. Christine Molnar, president of the Alberta Medical Association.

…with files from Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Barnes blasts own government over proposed EMS dispatch changes

This is just the latest run-in Drew Barnes has had with Premier Jason Kenney and his government.

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Rebel UCP MLA Drew Barnes is voicing concern with another of his government’s moves – to centralize EMS dispatch across the province.

“The best way to get the safest service is to keep it local, not to centralize,” said Barnes, a former Wildrose health critic and current UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

When Barnes was in Opposition, he also blasted NDP moves to centralize the service.

The move would see all calls for EMS handled by Alberta Health Services (AHS) dispatchers in Edmonton, Calgary and Peace River.

“In terms of cost effectiveness, centralization never saves money,” said Barnes in an interview with the Western Standard.

Alberta Health has said the move should save about $6 million.

“Another of the problems is that if you’re as small rural service, sometimes your ambulances get pulled in by the big cities when it’s busy,” said Barnes.

“Rural Albertans will suffer. A lot of local knowledge in terms of addresses and areas will be lost.”

Barnes said he has seen nothing from the health minister or members of the cabinet that shows any benefits of the move.

Barnes is the second in the UCP caucus to be skeptical of centralization.

Tany Yao, the UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, told the Fort McMurray Today he had a “mixed opinion” on the topic.

“In particular, our region is unique in that it’s so isolated and for that reason alone I think we can manage it,” said Yao, who is also a former firefighter and paramedic with the Fort McMurray Fire Department. 

“It’s a difficult one, but it’s one that I prefer stay within our local community.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and other Alberta mayors have also voiced concerns about the move.

This is just the latest run-in Barnes has had with Premier Jason Kenney and his government.

One came on the heels of a dissenting report from Barnes, who was a member of the premier’s Fair Deal Panel. That dissenting report included calling for an independence vote if Alberta was unable to secure a fair deal within confederation, prompting the NDP to demand that Barnes be thrown out of the UCP Caucus.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Seattle’s police chief resigns after BLM rioting, cuts to the force

Seattle has been the scene of weeks of BLM rioting following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

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In a shocking move, Seattle’s police chief has resigned after the city slashed her salary and defunded other parts of the department.

Seattle has been the scene of weeks of Black Lives Matter rioting following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Anarchists also set up their own autonomous zone for several weeks before it was taken back by police.

Chief Carmen Best, Seattle’s first black, female chief, even had her home surrounded by BLM protestors.

“This was a difficult decision for me, but when it’s time, it’s time,” Best wrote in an email to her 1,400 officers, hours after the Seattle City Council voted to cut SPD’s budget by $3 million, including 100 sworn officers, the SWAT team, Navigation team, and her own salary.

“I am confident the department will make it through these difficult times. You truly are the best police department in the country, and please trust me when I say, the vast majority of people in Seattle support you and appreciate you.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan who wrote to SPD staff members in an email late Monday night said: “While I understand the Chief’s reasons, I accepted her decision with a very heavy heart.”

In her 28-year career, Best rose through the ranks from a patrol officer to sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and deputy chief.

Best said it was not her decision to have officers flee the East Precinct in rioting in June, when the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” took over several blocks surrounding the building for weeks.

After two people – including a 16-year-old boy – were shot and killed around the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone – police moved in on Canada Day and cleared up the area.

CHAZ was just 24 hours a day of protesting, music, dancing and communing without a cop in sight. They quickly run out of food, putting out a plea for “vegan meat alternatives” and other soy-based food donations.

At the heart of the CHAZ is a Seattle police precinct, abandoned by officers and now being used by gun-tooting warlords who have established themselves as the new keepers of law and order.

They had a list of demands, including the “abolition” of the Seattle Police Department and its attached court system, free college for all people in the state, as well as “the abolition of imprisonment, generally speaking, but especially the abolition of both youth prisons and privately-owned, for-profit prisons.”

The streets were apparently controlled by a hip hop artist-turned-warlord by the name of Raz Simone, who has established an armed private police force that does not hesitate to dole out beatings to communal scofflaws.

U.S President Donald Trump and Durkan engaged in a war of words over the Zone.

“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump warned Durkan and Washington state governor Jay Inslee – both Democrats – in a tweet, calling the protesters “domestic terrorists” who have taken over Seattle.

“This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped (sic) IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST,” he said in another tweet.

Durkan replied, telling Trump to “go back to his bunker” a reference to when Trump sheltered in the White House bunker after D.C protests and riots got too close.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Popular Calgary mural to be painted over by new BLM one

A mural called Giving Wings to the Dream, done in 1995, has graced the outside of the downtown CUPS building.

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One of the most popular pieces of public art in Calgary for the last 25 year is about to be covered up by a new Black Lives Matter mural.

A mural called Giving Wings to the Dream, done by Calgary artist Doug Driediger in 1995, has graced the outside of the downtown Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) building.

But after city council approved more than $120,000 for four BLM murals in Calgary, Driediger’s mural will be painted over.

Calgary Arts Development has set aside a budget of $20,000 for the first mural.

“(I have) an unease over the idea that something that’s valid and vital would be covered by another artist’s work,” Driediger told Global News.

“Surely there should be some professional respect for work that exists, so that just leaves me a little concerned.”

Driediger said he supports creating Black Lives Matter murals, but added there are plenty of other sites that could be used.

 “I cautioned the organizers, you know, you might get a bit of backlash by removing something that is so well-liked, even with an excellent alternative going up there,” he said.

The mural measuring nine metres feet in height by 41 metres in width is seen by an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Calgarians per day due to its location opposite the Centre Street LRT station.

But a Black community activist said the new mural would have widespread benefits.

“It’s a great effort by the city and a great step toward showing representation of the variety of Calgarians who live in the city,” activist Daudi Kawooya told Global.

“When you look at Calgary murals, not so many visible ethnic groups have a chance to identify with themselves, so once they start seeing themselves, the next question is going to be can they see themselves in leadership positions, can they see themselves in the local office, which is a great way to start conversations and it’s very important.”

The CDA wants the murals done by the end of October. Artists have until Aug. 17 to submit their proposals.

Their ad states: “Candidates must be representative of Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities. Two Spirit, Indigiqueer, and Black LGBTQQIP2SA+ artists will be given priority for the Phase I mural. No mural painting experience is necessary to apply—we will work with artists of any experience level to achieve their design.”

CDA has been contacting for comment but haven’t responded yet.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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