Victim identified in alleged hit-and-run which Toronto police are treating as a homicide

Toronto police say an alleged hit-and-run that left one man dead in the city’s east end is now being treated as a homicide.

They say officers were called to the area of Danforth and Cedarvale Avenues shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday for reports of a person injured in a collision.

Police say the person hit by a vehicle was at a bar and the suspect was speaking with a group of people outside.

They allege the suspect left the scene, got into the driver’s seat of a vehicle and hit the person as he was walking along the sidewalk.

Police say the suspect left the scene in a dark-coloured SUV after the collision and say the pedestrian was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

He was later pronounced dead and has been identified as Gabriel del Castillo Mullally, 25, of Toronto.

Police are asking anyone with information on the incident to come forward.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Masking alone wouldn't have eased Ontario's respiratory virus surge in the fall: PHO document

RELATED: Rising hospitalizations raise the question about whether or not mask mandates should return

TORONTO — Introducing a mask mandate when respiratory viruses surged in the fall may not have eased the crush on pediatric hospitals, a Public Health Ontario science brief obtained by The Canadian Press concludes.

The brief — which was not proactively made public, unlike the reports done by the now-defunct science table predecessor — provides a glimpse of the evidence on which Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore made his decision to go no further than a “strong” recommendation on masking in mid-November.

The effects of masking on the transmission of COVID-19 are strong, the brief from late November notes. Mandates may not have produced more of a benefit than recommendations, its research suggests.

But with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, circulating at the time as well as COVID-19, the benefits of mask mandates became less clear for the group of experts.

“Current evidence suggests that adherence to masking, in addition to other layered measures such as self-screening, staying home when ill, and vaccination, are likely to prevent transmission of influenza, RSV and COVID-19 in children and youth, especially in indoor community settings where transmission is high,” the PHO document concludes.

“Given the number of respiratory viruses currently in circulation, there is less certainty about the potential magnitude of the effect on transmission.

“It is also uncertain whether potential decreases in transmission are sufficient to reduce pediatric emergency department visits, hospitalization, and ICU admission to preserve capacity within the health-care system.”

That brief settled the debate for the province’s top doctor.

“The body of evidence for strictly implementing a mask mandate wasn’t there,” Dr. Moore told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

“In no jurisdiction has there been a mandatory masking recommendation, nor has our expert panel recommended that to us.”

Moore said he does not see a mask mandate now or in the future.

In mid-November, Moore wasn’t so sure.

Respiratory viruses led to a massive surge in young patients who needed hospitalization. Intensive care units and emergency departments at the major children’s hospitals across the province saw historic volumes from October to December.

The surge forced children’s hospitals in Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and London, Ont., to cancel surgeries in order to free up staff and beds to deal with the problem.

On Nov. 14, Moore held a news conference where he “strongly” recommended the public wear masks in indoor settings to protect children from circulating respiratory viruses. He said he was discussing and reviewing the possibility of mandating masks in schools again.

That same day, Moore’s office requested help from Public Health Ontario.

“The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health requested a summary of evidence on the effectiveness of mask-wearing, particularly among children and youth, in the context of circulating influenza, RSV and COVID-19,” the brief said.

“Information about public acceptability of mask mandates was also requested.”

Ten days later, Public Health Ontario responded with a 14-page brief.

There was little evidence in scientific literature on the sole effects of masking on the transmission of influenza and RSV, it notes.

“We were unable to identify data on the effectiveness of community-level masking in preventing transmission of influenza or RSV,” the document says.

“However, widespread mask use in general or targeted populations may be expected to reduce the rate of transmission of viral respiratory pathogens in the community.”

The effects of masking on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is much stronger, the document notes, including evidence by the province’s now-defunct science table.

“It reported that mask mandates were associated with a lower incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to schools without mask mandates,” the document says.

The brief references a Public Health Ontario synthesis of research in March 2022, which noted “positive effects of mask mandates in the community setting and reductions in COVID-19 case growth, hospitalizations and deaths. However, there was limited evidence to suggest greater effectiveness of mask mandates when compared to mask recommendations for the outcome of COVID-19 case rate reduction.”

The scientists also looked to Google to find any polling done on the public acceptability of mask mandates.

They found a Forum Poll conducted on Nov. 8 that showed 53 per cent of respondents agreed that a mask mandate should be re-implemented in Ontario. They also found a Nanos Research poll conducted for CTV News from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 that found 69 per cent of respondents would support the return of mask mandates to some extent.

The brief was never released publicly until The Canadian Press asked for it.

Public Health Ontario took a week to decide whether to release it, and the agency said it ultimately did in the interest of transparency. Public Health Ontario declined interview requests and only responded to questions through email.

“This document was not shared publicly as it was in response to a request from (Moore’s office) and not intended as a stand-alone document,” the email from PHO Media Relations said.

Moore did not answer a question about why the document was never made public.

The former scientific director of the old voluntary science table reviewed the brief after it was shared by The Canadian Press.

Dr. Fahad Razak called it an “even-handed assessment of the evidence.”

“It found what I believe to be true, which is that, in totality, the evidence suggests that masking does reduce spread in a school setting,” said Razak, an internist at St. Michael’s Hospital and a University of Toronto professor.

But Razak said the brief should have been made public when it was given to Moore in late November as debates around mask mandates swirled.

The former science table, which Public Health Ontario dissolved in September, published all of its work online at the same time it gave its reports and recommendations to the government, public health officials and the clinical community.

“As scientists and policy experts, we never believed that the decision was ours to make,” Razak said. “We believed that what was really important was providing timely information in a way that allowed best decisions to be made by the public and by decision makers,” he said.

Misinformation often occupies the space left in an information vacuum, Razak said.

“If you read the social media posts and the blogs and the concerns of people who distrust vaccines, for example, a lot of it stems from this idea that critical information is being kept behind closed doors,” he said.

“So that’s part of the thought process, which is driving misinformation and I think that’s one of the critical reasons why you want to establish transparency and timely reporting of data and analysis as a scientific body.”

The province’s new science table was formed under Public Health Ontario at the end of last year and Moore said it has only met a few times.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Campaign sees Guelph-Kitchener eateries promote local beef producers and help local food banks

Some local restaurants are coming together to help fight hunger and promote Canadian beef.

More than 90 restaurants across Canada are taking part in a national campaign called Burger It Forward organized by Canada Beef during the month of February.

According to a news release, the goal is to ‘beef up’ the protein portion of food bank offerings and to support local food producers and businesses as well.

“Canada Beef is working with provincial beef cattle associations,” said Joyce Parslow, executive director of consumer marketing at Canada Beef. “We are also working with local restaurants to help them recover from the pandemic.”

The restaurants that are participating in Burger it Forward across Canada are either locally or regionally owned. Parslow says while there have been fundraisers involving restaurants selling meals, this one is rather unique.

“I think this the first one that is kind of a ‘kumbaya’ kind of moment where community restauranteurs come together for an effort to raise money for food banks.”

Of the 43 participating restaurants in Ontario, five are from Guelph and two are from each of Kitchener and Elora: the 100 Mile Grille, Borealis Grille and Bar (in both Guelph and Kitchener), Park Eatery, the Badley, the Evelyn, the Lab Street Eats, the Works and the Wooly Pub.

“As restaurants, one of our responsibilities is supporting local producers,” said Jenna Snyder, marketing director for the Neighbourhood Group, the Guelph company that operates the Wooly Pub, Park Eatery and Borealis, as well as Miijidaa. “Local producers, local farmers, our food economy and our food future is vital.”

Co-owner of the Lab, Mike Gatto, says for him, taking part in this initiative was a no-brainer.

“One of the things we are passionate about is community,” said Gatto. “Being able to find ways to give not only local establishments some extra exposure, but anything to give back to the community is incredibly important to us.”

Each restaurant will designate one burger on its menu for the campaign. The Wooly Pub is serving up the Beef Smoky.

“It is the epitome of a local burger,” said Snyder. “Almost every component comes right from our backyard.”

The Lab is submitting the Just a Badass Cheeseburger.

“It’s one of those big, get-your-hands-messy, warm-your-belly, comfort food kind of burgers,” said Gatto.

To see the full list of the participating restaurants and their featured burgers, go to burgeritforward.ca/ontario.

Canada Beef will donate the equivalent of one meal to Food Banks Canada for every designated burger sold, up to a maximum of 20,000 meals (based on Food Banks Canada’s meal metric: $1 = two meals). Provincial beef cattle farmer and rancher associations in each participating region that have joined in the campaign will be making donations to regional food banks with a donation of either ground beef or cash.

In addition, Canada Beef is giving away a $500 pre-paid Visa gift card to one lucky winner who takes a photo of one the Burger It Forward burgers and posts it to their Instagram account using the hashtag #BurgerItForward and tagging @lovecdnbeef.

“Try one burger, try two burgers, try them all,” said Parslow. “It is an opportunity for people to get and celebrate the burger, and have a good time.”

The Burger It Forward campaign runs until Feb. 28.

 

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Majority of Canadians support private options for health care, poll shows

WATCH: As the country's health-care system continues to buckle, an increasing number of Canadians are saying they support private health care in addition to the public system, revealed a poll by Ipsos. As Katherine Ward reports, that number is around 60 per cent.

As some provinces turn to the private sector to address pressures in the health-care system, a new poll suggests more Canadians than ever are open to the idea of private delivery of health care.

The Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News between Jan. 19 and Jan. 23, 2023 found 59 per cent of the 1,001 adults surveyed expressed support for the private delivery of publicly-funded health services.

Sixty per cent of respondents were also in favour of private health care for those who can afford it.

Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, says in the 30 years he has studied public opinion in Canada, he has never seen such a shift in support toward privatization.

“This is the first time I can recall in which you actually got numbers like that, where you’d have a majority of Canadians saying they’re open to considering private methods of delivery,” he told Global News.

Until now, maintaining Canada’s public health-care system has been a “cornerstone” of Canadian politics and any mention of privatization has been met with strong resistance — even repulsion — and has elicited fears of moving toward an American-style system of access, he said.

But given that a vast majority of Canadians surveyed, 85 per cent, now say they believe “drastic changes” are needed in the health system to meet the needs of the community, attitudes toward privatization appear to be shifting, Bricker said.

“Where we are now is, people are feeling that the system is so challenged that they’re open to considering other types of options.”

But when it comes to how to pay for such a shift in health-care delivery, there does not appear to be a strong consensus.

Only 48 per cent of respondents believed the needed funds should come from the introduction of new user fees for private health services, according to the poll results.

Regionally, Quebec residents were most open to private health care options, the data showed, including strong support for private care for those who are able to pay. This idea had the support of 75 per cent of Quebecers surveyed, which is 15 points higher than the national average.

Quebec residents also showed more openness to increased user fees to fund additional health-care investments at 62 per cent.

The results come ahead of a meeting Tuesday between the premiers and prime minister over health funding. The premiers have been calling on the federal government to increase their share of health costs to 35 per cent from the current 22 per cent.

According to the polling, most Canadians believe the provinces can free up more money to allocate toward health care. Three-quarters (73 per cent) of respondents said the health-care system needs more money and it should come from provincial governments cutting spending elsewhere.

The results also showed six in 10 respondents (59 per cent) believe that provinces should show the federal government a plan on how they will deliver better care to get more federal dollars, whereas 41 per cent believe provinces should decide how to spend the needed health-care funds without any conditions.

Despite high levels of concern over access to health services, only one-third of those surveyed said they would be willing to go to the United States for routine health care if they needed it, and a smaller number – 29 per cent – would travel to the U.S. for emergency care.

However, younger Canadians in the 18-34 age range were more likely to say they’d travel to and pay for care in America and those who identified as “Gen Z” and “Millennial” were more likely to support the idea of private health-care delivery options.

Bricker noted that while it’s clear younger Canadians appear to be more open to privatization, older respondents — especially those over 55 — were less supportive.

“Older people … the people who are most likely to vote, are the ones that are most firmly attached to the system that we have today,” he said.

Dr. Rita McCracken, a family physician and assistant professor in the department of family practice at the University of British Columbia, said she is not surprised to see so many Canadians wanting change in health care, given the nationwide shortages of nurses and family doctors that have led to significant wait times for care in virtually every part of the system.

But she says those who may believe privatization could address the current problems may not understand that Canada does not have an unlimited number of doctors and nurses to staff private hospitals and clinics.

Canada has a fixed number of health-care resources — a reality that is a big part of the problem in the public system, she said.

“If we go to a private model, well, those people who can afford to pay for the private access will get better access,” she said. “But we are not going to be able to manufacture more doctors, more hospitals, more health services, so the people who have trouble right now getting access to service are going to have an even bigger problem getting access to those services.”

Introducing more private delivery of health care could also present a moral dilemma for many doctors, who will have to decide which system to work in, McCracken added.

“Am I going to work in the private system, where work might be easier, I might get paid more, but I know that I’m seeing a very elite group of patients – or am I going to work in the public system where increasingly resources are going to become more difficult to access, which we’ve seen in other jurisdictions internationally where we have this public-private divide?”

After spending years researching health systems and health-care delivery, McCracken says there are “mountains of evidence” showing the most economical and fairest way to deliver health care is through a single-payer, public system.

“It shouldn’t matter who you are, how much money you have (when it comes to) the quality of health care that you’re going to get,” she said.

“That has become a value that Canadians have identified with for decades … It’s not the right way — to say if you’re richer, you can have better health.”

Meanwhile, as more than five million Canadians struggle to access primary care due to a lack of a family doctor, a majority of people support expanding virtual care.

Eight in 10 respondents said they would support more virtual care options for services provided by a family doctor.

— with files from Global News reporter Katherine Ward

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Jan. 19-23, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Woman dead, man seriously injured in Guildford apartment, IHIT called in

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) has been called in after a woman was found dead and a man was found seriously injured in a Surrey apartment Sunday evening.

The man was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Surrey Fire Service first discovered the scene at an apartment near 102A Avenue and 149th Street in Guildford just after 6 p.m. Sunday.

“Surrey Fire Service was on scene responding to a fire alarm and sprinkler activation in the building when they located the parties,” Surrey RCMP Cpl. Vanessa Munn said in a statement.

“Police are currently in the evidence gathering stage; however, do not believe that there is any ongoing risk to public safety,” Munn added.

Surrey Fire confirmed no fire was in the building but said due to the sprinklers going off, all residents were forced to evacuate for an undetermined amount of time.

Anyone with informationis asked to call the IHIT information line at 1-877-551-IHIT (4448) or email ihitinfo@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Penticton RCMP confirm body of missing senior, Doreen Abbott, has been discovered

Penticton RCMP confirms that the body of 89-year-old Doreen Abbott has been discovered.

The senior has been missing for the past 10 days.

Abbott left her home on the evening of Jan. 27 to visit a friend, but she did not arrive.

Her car was found a couple of days later on Greyback Mountain Road.

RCMP believes Abbott turned up the road by mistake, and her car got stuck in the snow.

Late Sunday afternoon, RCMP issued a news release stating that Abbott’s body had been located.

Police are continuing to investigate, but criminality is not suspected.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

More than 1,300 killed after powerful earthquake rocks Turkey, Syria

Finland and Sweden remain committed to joining NATO at the same time despite Turkey's opposition to the Swedish candidacy, the two countries prime ministers told a joint news conference in Stockholm on Thursday. "I don't like this atmosphere, position where Sweden is presented as a sort of trouble child in the classroom. I don't think this is the case," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said.

A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 1,300 people. Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.

On both sides of the border, residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy night. Buildings were reduce to piles of pancaked floors, while major aftershocks, some nearly as strong as the first, continued.

Rescue workers and residents in multiple cities searched for survivors, working through tangles of metal and concrete. A hospital in Turkey collapsed, and patients, including newborns, were evacuated from facilities in Syria.

In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home were toppled. “I don’t have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble as rescue workers tried to reach him, said the resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavus.

“Because the debris removal efforts are continuing in many buildings in the earthquake zone, we do not know how high the number of dead and injured will rise,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “Our hope is that we recover from this disaster with the least loss of life possible.”

The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of Gaziantep, a Turkish provincial capital.

It struck a region that has been shaped on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the swath affected is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from that conflict.

The opposition-held regions in Syria are packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the fighting. Many of them live in buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments. Hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organization, called the White Helmets, said in a statement.

Strained health facilities and hospitals were quickly filled with wounded, rescue workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the SAMS medical organization.

The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in a similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999. The U.S. Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8. At least 20 aftershocks followed, authorities said, including one that measured 7.5.

Buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast. Nearly 3,000 buildings came down in Turkey, according to Erdogan. A hospital collapsed in the Mediterranean coastal city of Iskanderoun, but casualties were not immediately known, his vice president Fuat Oktay, said.

Offers of help _ from search-and-rescue teams to medical supplies and money _ poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and NATO.

In Turkey, people trying to leave the quake-stricken regions caused traffic jams, hampering efforts of emergency teams trying to reach the affected areas. Authorities urged residents not to take to the roads. Mosques around the region were opened to provide shelter for people unable to return to damaged homes amid temperatures that hovered around freezing.

People try to reach trapped residents inside collapsed buildings in Diyarbakir, southern Turkey, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.

People try to reach trapped residents inside collapsed buildings in Diyarbakir, southern Turkey, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.

Depo Photos via AP

The quake heavily damaged Gaziantep’s most famed landmark, its historic castle perched atop a hill in the center of the city. Parts of the fortresses’ walls and watch towers were leveled and other parts heavily damaged, images from the city showed.

In Diyarbakir, hundreds of rescue workers and civilians formed lines across a mountain of wreckage, passing down broken concrete pieces, household belongings and other debris as they searched for trapped survivors while excavators dug through the rubble below.

In northwest Syria, the quake added new woes to the opposition-held enclave centered on the province of Idlib, which has been under siege for years, with frequent Russian and government airstrikes. The territory depends on a flow of aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.

The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation there as “disastrous.”

In the small Syrian rebel-held town of Azmarin in the mountains by the Turkish border, the bodies of several dead children, wrapped in blankets, were brought to a hospital.

The Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums in Syira said the earthquake has caused some damage to the Crusader-built Marqab, or Watchtower Castle, on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. Part of a tower and parts of some walls collapsed.

The USGS said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Gaziantep. It was 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep.

More than 900 people were killed in 10 Turkish provinces, with more than 5,400 injured, according to Turkey’s president. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed over 330 people, with some 1,000 injured, according to the Health Ministry. In rebel-held areas, more than 200 people were killed, according to the White Helmets, though the SAMS medical organization put the toll at more than 135; both said hundreds were hurt.

In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear. The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings, terrorized by memories of the 2020 port explosion that wrecked a large portion of the city.

Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey’s Hatay province, said several of his family members were stuck under the rubble of their collapsed homes.

“There are so many other people who are also trapped,” he told HaberTurk television by telephone. “There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are on the streets. It’s raining, it’s winter.”

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

Penticton community radio station marks four years on air

A local radio station recently celebrated its four-year on-air anniversary during the first-ever Community Radio Week in Penticton.

Peach City’s very own community radio society CFUZ 92.9 FM first broadcasted online only, before debuting on the FM dial.

“As soon as we were able to have a physical studio and be broadcasting on FM it sort of opened the floodgates. We had a lot more people listening, because they’re driving around listening in their cars, stereos,” said CFUZ Board of Directors president Claire Thompson.

“We had lots more people contacting us saying ‘hey, I love what you’re doing’, ‘how do I get involved as well?’ So going on FM really opened things up for us.”

The non-profit radio society is solely operated by volunteers and has grown to a team of around 25 people.

“It’s people who like myself, who are passionate about music, with people who are passionate about spoken word, news. It’s just a group of folks. Every single minute of the day, we operate 24/7. It’s all volunteers doing that,” said CFUZ music director and programmer Ian Mackinder.

“I have two shows – on Wednesdays with my friend Dave called left Off the Dial. We’ve been doing that show for 11 years, before Peach City Radio existed, as a podcast and then now it’s on the radio and then I do a show on Sundays called Sound Explorer.”

This weekend, Peach City Radio held its annual OnAir-versary event to raise money for operation costs and an expansion of the studio.

The event raised just over $14,000 of the station’s $20,000 goal.

“We don’t have any paid staff, we don’t run jingles, so our main way to get money is through this big fundraising drive,” said Thompson.

“The funding this year is paying for our rent, our licensing, utilities, but also we are doing a big expansion. So the footprint of the station is increasing, not quite doubling but a pretty substantial increase and we’re hoping to build two studios so that we can welcome more of the community and to make radio with us.”

However the fundraiser is more than just donations to the society.

“One thing that was really rewarding yesterday was the people who did come in in person, because this is the first time we’ve really been able to invite people into the station for a while,” said Thompson.

“We always find out about people who are listening and it’s always heartwarming to hear how long they have been listening for.”

CFUZ Board director Melissa McWilliams echoed that it was nice to welcome the community into the station.

“I love this day, it’s a big fundraiser but I also get to meet a lot of the community members that listen to the station,” said McWilliams.

“It’s a fun thing because the station you don’t have an idea really of how many people are listening or who’s listening so this is really great because we get to meet the community members that are a part of listening.”

Meanwhile, this weekend also marked the end of Penticton’s first ever Community Radio Week, following a recent declaration from the mayor of Penticton.

“The city of Penticton proclaimed the first week in February, February 1-7, as Community Radio Week and that was huge for us well to know that we have the support of our city,” added Thompson.

The OnAir-versary event officially wraps up on Saturday. More information on ways to donate or get involved can be found on Peach City Radio’s website.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Transportation workshop set for Kelowna City council on Monday

By the year 2040, nearly 50,000 new residents are projected to call Kelowna home. To keep up with the growth, Kelowna city council will be reviewing a transportation workshop on Monday, to go over ideas that could improve the way residents access the city. Jayden Wasney reports.

A transportation workshop is set for Kelowna city council on Monday, outlining the need for infrastructure improvements and additions, to keep up with the growing population.

“When you think about us being the fastest growing municipality in the whole country, how do we keep up with the demand,” said Kelowna city councilor, Mohini Singh.

“So yes, as a council we have a lot on our plate, and we have been working to ensure our citizens get the vest they can.”

The workshop includes ideas to reduce vehicle trips, add to pedestrian access, add improve cycling networks as well as the transit system.

It also highlights the fact that there is a demand for more roads. Currently 84 per cent of trips within the city are taken by car, so the province is aiming to reduce that by 25 per cent by the year 2030.

“Making it easier to move traffic, goods and services is absolutely one of the issues that’s top of our agenda.” said Singh.

“We heard that loud and clear during the election — people we’re talking about the gridlock in traffic and the need to move traffic faster.”

In the pedestrian network, there are several challenges including a shortage of sidewalks, high-traffic area crossings and seasonal maintenance.  Some ideas are to put an overpass on Highway 97 and Bertram Street, look at improving safety at crosswalks and install more sidewalks.

As for cyclists, the list of ideas includes connecting the city’s 5 urban centre’s with bike lanes, joining the Okanagan Rail Trail and Greenway, improving the lighting on the rail trail and adding neighbourhood bikeways.

Fast, reliable transit is part of the city’s long-term plan, but in order to make that happen, a new transit operations facility is needed. Another suggestion is making a dedicated bus corridor along Highway 97 from the William R. Bennett Bridge to UBCO.

Implementing every suggestion outlined in the workshop would cost the city an estimated $70 million.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Chinese spy balloon: U.S. military in search of remnants after shoot down

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday that all Senators from both parties could be briefed as early as Tuesday on China and the spy balloon that was shot down Saturday. Schumer said all Senators will be briefed by the Department of Defense on their Office of Net Assessment (ONA) involving where the U.S. stands with respect to China on everything from surveillance capabilities, to research and development to advanced weapon systems.

The U.S. military said on Sunday it is searching for remnants of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon it shot down the previous day, in a dramatic spy saga that has further strained American-Chinese relations.

The U.S. Navy is working to recover the balloon and its payload and the Coast Guard is providing security for the operation, said General Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.

A successful recovery could potentially give the United States insight into China’s spying capabilities, though U.S. officials have downplayed the balloon’s impact on national security.

A U.S. Air Force fighter jet on Saturday shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina, a week after it first entered U.S. airspace near Alaska. VanHerck said the incident took place over U.S. territorial waters.

China protested the response as an “obvious overreaction,” but analysts said that any counter-move by Beijing will likely be finely calibrated to keep from worsening ties.

Republican lawmakers on Sunday criticized President Joe Biden for waiting days to shoot down the balloon as it floated over the United States, accusing him of showing weakness toward China and initially trying to keep the breach of U.S. airspace undisclosed.

“I think part of it is the president’s reluctance to take any action that would be viewed as provocative or confrontational towards the Chinese communists,” said Republican Tom Cotton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Former President Donald Trump and his former national intelligence director, John Ratcliffe, denied Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s assessment that similar balloons had transited the United States during his presidency.

“China had too much respect for ‘TRUMP’ for this to have happened, and it NEVER did,” Trump wrote on social media site Truth Social.

But Republican Representative Michael Waltz backed up Austin, telling the Washington Post that the Pentagon had notified Congress that Chinese balloons were spotted near the United States several times during Trump’s tenure.

He said balloons had been spotted near Texas and twice near Florida, as well as previously known sightings near Hawaii and Guam.

Democrats said Biden’s decision to wait to shoot down the balloon until it had passed over the United States protected civilians from debris crashing to Earth.

“The president called for this to be dealt with in a way that balanced all of the different risks. That’s exactly what happened,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the Republican criticism as “premature and political.”

“The bottom line here is that shooting down the balloon over water wasn’t just the safest option, but it was the one that maximized our intel gain,” he said at a news conference.

The Pentagon will brief senators on the balloon and Chinese surveillance on Feb. 15, Schumer said.

Republican Mike Turner, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said he believed China was using the balloon to figure out how to counter U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defense systems.

“The president has allowed this to go across our most sensitive sites and wasn’t even going to tell the American public,” Turner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

Republican Marco Rubio, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the ABC News program “This Week” that China was trying to send a message that it could enter U.S. airspace. Rubio said he doubted that the balloon’s debris would be of much intelligence value.

 

(Reporting by David Lawder, Kanishka Singh, Gram Slattery and Andy Sullivan in Washington and Ryan Woo in Beijing; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham, Grant McCool and Diane Craft)

© 2023 Reuters

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