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Alberta Opposition calling for Olymel Outbreak Inquiry

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From the Alberta NDP

NDP DEMANDS PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO OLYMEL OUTBREAK,  CALLS FOR PROTECTION FOR WORKERS, NOT CORPORATIONS

Alberta’s NDP is demanding an immediate public inquiry into the mishandling by both the UCP government and Olymel of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at a meat-processing plant in Red Deer, and is seeking a commitment from the Minister of Justice that he will not intervene with legislation to protect potentially negligent corporations from lawsuits launched by victims’ families.

As of Wednesday, at least three Olymel employees had died as a result of the outbreak, which began in November and has seen more than 500 cases of COVID-19 confirmed to date. The NDP has also learned that three employees are currently fighting for their lives in intensive care. The Government of Alberta ignored calls for the plant to be closed, even as cases skyrocketed.

“We need to get to the bottom of who is responsible for these senseless, tragic deaths,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “People with no choice but to continue working in unsafe conditions have gotten sick and died. We need to hold those responsible accountable and develop new practices to prevent tragedies like this in the future.”

During a town hall meeting Tuesday night, UCP Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu was working on legislation to eliminate liability in relation to COVID-19 illness and death for corporations and businesses

“This Government should focus on preventing workers from further injury and death, not covering up the negligence that’s already occurred around these tragedies,” Notley said. “We call on the UCP Government to reverse these plans.”

The NDP is also demanding an inquiry into the Olymel outbreak and the overall history with respect to worker safety in the meat-processing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Olymel outbreak is now the deadliest linked to a meat-processing plant in Alberta during the pandemic. The outbreak at High River’s Cargill plant last year saw two workers die and more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 confirmed — it remains the largest since in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Overall, while meat-packing plants have occurred in several other provinces, only in Alberta have people died, with the number currently standing at six,” Notley said.

The NDP is also supporting the call from the United Food and Commercial Workers that the Olymel plant not reopen as planned Thursday and remain closed until worker representatives are satisfied that enhanced health and safety protocols have been put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

“We find ourselves in the same crisis as we were with Cargill,” said NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray. “Albertans should remember that the UCP’s own Agriculture Minister lied to those workers and told them the plant was safe just days before the operator shut it down,”

MLA Gray previously called for a formal inquiry into the Cargill outbreak and another at the JBS plant in Brooks that saw more than 650 workers infected and one die. To date, the call for an inquiry has been ignored by the UCP.

“Clearly Jason Kenney and the UCP don’t care about the workers in these plants,” Gray added. “We know that a survey of Olymel workers found three quarters feel nervous or scared to return to work and do not trust the employer to keep them safe. As well, over half of the workers surveyed said they didn’t trust the UCP Government to keep them safe.

“How does this Premier possibly justify allowing this plant to reopen when he hasn’t done a thing to reassure these workers that they won’t become sick or potentially die?”

The NDP will also be drafting a letter to Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu that demands he rule out legislative protection for Olymel, Cargill and JBS. A class-action lawsuit has already been launched against Cargill.

“The UCP wants to let these massive, profitable corporations wash their hands of these horrific incidents and, meanwhile, grieving families of lost loved ones will see nothing but more pain and suffering,” Notley said. “This government has a long track record of backing wealthy CEOs and screwing over workers. Enough is enough.”

In the U.S., 16 states have brought in legislation or immunity provisions to protect businesses and corporations from liability related to the pandemic.

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Alberta

Ontario, Alberta follow Manitoba, B.C. in giving AstraZeneca vaccine to 40 and up

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Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting today, those aged 40 and over in Ontario and Alberta can get the shot.

Previously, the minimum age to receive AstraZeneca was 55 because of a slightly elevated risk of an extremely rare blood clot disorder.

British Columbia and Manitoba also dropped the age requirement to 40, starting yesterday.

Quebec says it will be lowering the age for AstraZeneca, although it’s not clear what that age will be.

Quebec’s director of public health says a recommendation from the province’s immunization committee is expected soon and could be put into effect this week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

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CALGARY — The Ottawa Senators may dwell in the bottom of the NHL’s North Division, but the club continued to be a headache for the Flames with a 4-2 win Monday over Calgary.

Connor Brown scored a short-handed goal and also into an empty net for Ottawa (16-26-4), which won a second straight on the road.

Josh Norris had a goal and an assist and Brady Tkachuk also scored for the Sens. Ottawa goaltender Matt Murray made 26 save for the win.

“We’re not looking at the standings right now,” Norris said. “It’s just take it game by game.”

Ottawa leads the season series with the Flames 6-2-0 with a game remaining.

“I think we just match up well against them,” Norris said. “We have a lot of guys who can really fly up and down the ice.

“We’ve gotten really good goaltending against them this year. That obviously helps.”

Elias Lindholm and Michael Stone countered for the Flames (19-23-3), whose window for a playoff berth is closing. Jacob Markstrom stopped 16-of-19 shots in the loss.

The Montreal Canadiens hold down the fourth and final playoff berth in the North Division. Montreal lost 4-1 to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, but remained six points ahead of Calgary.

“Montreal lost I think I saw, so a little bit of hope,” Flames forward Milan Lucic said. “But we’ve got to stop hoping and start winning some games.”

The Flames have 11 games remaining in the regular season, but three games in four days against the visiting Habs starting Friday will likely determine if Calgary sees the post-season or plays out the string.

Calgary was careless with the puck Monday with 18 giveaways to Ottawa’s nine.

“There was three or four guys who were good players who turned the puck over several times tonight,” Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said.

“I think their defence was a lot quicker than ours, but our defence played a really slow game.”

Stone pulled the Flames within a goal at 10:47 of the third with a slapshot through traffic from the point.

Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk fell and lost the puck skating the puck out of Calgary’s zone for Brown to corral and produce the empty-net goal.

Norris converted an Ottawa man advantage wiring the puck over Markstrom’s glove at 7:52 for a 3-1 lead. 

Calgary didn’t score on a power play late in the second period, nor did it during consecutive Ottawa minors early in the third.

“The power play was too slow,” Sutter said. “Passed the puck too slow.”

The Flames gave up a short-handed goal to the visitors with 56 seconds remaining in the second period to trail 2-1.

Brown scored his third short-handed goal of the season backhanding in a rebound on a 2-on-1 with Nick Paul. Brown had intercepted a Noah Hanifin pass in the defensive zone to start the rush.

Lindholm pulled the hosts even at 11:23 of the first period for his fourth goal and eighth point in his last six games. 

Murray made the initial stop on the Swede, but the puck trickled between the goaltender’s pads for Lindholm to shovel in on a second effort.

A Flames turnover on the offensive blue-line and another along the boards in their own end led to Tkachuk’s goal at 9:50. 

The Senator caged an errant Juuso Valimaki pass and roofed a wrist shot over Markstrom.

Calgary’s Brett Ritchie and Ottawa’s Josh Brown fought at the end of the first period.

Notes: A pre-game ceremony at the Saddledome celebrated Lucic reaching a career 1,000 games April 13 while the Flames were on a road trip. The Flames all wore Lucic’s name and No. 17 in warmup . . . . . Ottawa’s Norris has three goals and five assists in his last five games.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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