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Alberta

Fans of Flames and Oilers go to familiar response: “Fire the Coach!”

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Officially, the National Hockey League season is over for the only two teams this province really cares about. While survivors prepare for action in Round Two of the Stanley Cup playoffs, both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames are setting up what should be fascinating games of chop and change.

The final on-ice breath for 2020 took place after the Dallas Stars humbled Calgary 7-3 to win their best-of-seven series in six games. Days earlier, the Edmonton Oilers were outworked and outscored in a five-game loss to the Chicago Black Hawks.

Promptly, supporters of both teams fell to the oldest response in the Dedicated Fan yearbook: fire the coach.

Dave Tippett was singled out because he juggled some lines. Truly, his Oilers were not good enough at forward, on defence or in goal. Interim Flames head coach Geoff Ward drew immediate criticism on Thursday for replacing Cam Talbot with an ice-cold David Rittich in the early stages of the Stars’ record-setting offensive burst following their early 3-0 deficit. Talbot gave up three goals on only eight shots, but Ritich’s immediate performance was even worse.

Before the sixth and decisive game, Ward expressed optimism about his team’s future. “This is more relentless, more prepared, a better team” than the group that faded badly as a playoff top seed a year ago, he said. Well, for the first 20 minutes, he was absolutely correct. Fan frustration will not force any changes behind the bench. On the ice is entirely different. Goaltending, for example, is a serious concern in both centres.

Edmonton’s pair, Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith are 32 and 38, respectively. At the very least, a reliable young netminder is required. Talbot, widely inconsistent before being traded to Calgary for Koskinen two years ago, shone through most of the playoffs for the Flames this season and drew solid support from teammates Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund after Thursday’s shoddy start.

Monahan’s generous view did not detract from the likelihood that the veteran winger, in common with linemate Johnny Gaudreau, is sure to be prominent in trade talks, starting almost immediately.

Captain and key defenceman Mark Giordano, 35, finally showed signs of age. Partner T.J. Brodie, 29, would attract serious offers if general manager Brad Treliving put him on the market.

Good news for Calgary is that on-ice leader Matt Tkachuk has shown no sign of abandoning his fiery style. He was sadly missed after suffering an apparent concussion in Game Two. The seasoned Backlund, and youngsters Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube and Sam Bennett are set for solid futures up front.

In Edmonton, the question about offence is simple: who will play with Connor McDavid on one line and Leon Draisaitl on another? Third- and fourth-liners on the 2020 roster will have plenty of company looking for jobs next year.

At this point, Edmonton lags behind its provincial rivals in at least one important area. It must be remembered that the Flames won their so-called elimination round by defeating a strong (but injured) group of Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers, who would mortgage the future of the entire Icer District for a brilliant young defender such as Miro Heiskanen of Dallas, Cale Makar of Colorado or Quinn Hughes of Vancouver (all still active in playoffs) have no such victory as a building block at this point.

CFL faces very difficult future

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Alberta

British Columbia won't take COVID-19 patients from Alberta: Dix

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VICTORIA — British Columbia’s health minister says the province won’t be taking COVID-19 patients from Alberta due to current demands on its own health-care system.

Adrian Dix says the B.C. Health Ministry told its Alberta counterpart Thursday that the province will help in other ways if it can and may be able to take patients in the future.

Alberta is facing a COVID-19 crisis that is threatening to collapse its health system, with 269 patients in an intensive care system set up for 173.

British Columbia reported 706 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday along with four new deaths linked to the illness, bringing the death toll to 1,877.

The ministry says in a statement there were 5,844 active infections across the province with 291 people in hospital, including 134 in intensive care.

It says close to 79 per cent of eligible B.C. residents aged 12 and up have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 86.3 per cent have received at least one shot.

“We are in a global pandemic, and our thoughts are with Albertans as they respond to COVID-19 in their province,” Dix says in a statement.

“We salute Alberta’s health-care workers, and all health-care workers who are working tirelessly to care for patients and protect people and communities in the face of great challenge.”

About 30 per cent of active cases in B.C. are located in the Fraser Health region, followed by nearly 26 per cent in Interior Health, 18 per cent in Vancouver Coastal Health, close to 15 per cent in the north and 11 per cent in Island Health.

There were 23 active outbreaks in health-care settings, including three hospitals.

The Health Ministry says people who have not received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made up 81.5 per cent of hospitalizations due to the illness in the first two weeks of September, while partially vaccinated people represented 4.9 per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta business groups want more clarity around new COVID-19 restrictions

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Alberta businessgroups say a new program the province has launched to fight COVID-19 has been short on details while giving business owners little notice to make dramatic changes to their operations.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Thursday that their members have uncovered plenty of confusion as they scramble to make sense of the restriction exemption program Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Wednesday.

“Yesterday’s announcement prompted more questions than answers for our business community,” said Deborah Yedlin, the chamber’s president and chief executive, in a statement.

“Answers and clarity are needed urgently.”

The program Yedlin was referring to is meant to force people in Alberta to show proof of vaccination to enter non-essential businesses, including select stores, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, concerts and libraries as of Sept. 20.

Businesses can opt out of the program but must operate at reduced capacity and with distancing rules or restrictions including no more than six people at a table in a restaurant.

Just after the program was announced, Annie Dormuth, the CFIB’s provincial affairs director for Alberta, was already hearing from owners confused about if they will have to apply to use the program or to opt out of it.

Others were concerned the government didn’t offer guidance or training to staff around how to check if vaccination proof is fraudulent or deal with unruly patrons who disagree with the measures. 

Some even lamented a lack of time to reorient their businesses and retrain staff for the new policies because the program has more exemptions than initiatives in other provinces and was announced roughly four days before it will go into effect.

“In the province of B.C., they were given a week and they were given support in the form of posters and guidance documents and here, we are three-and-a-half days away from this now and there’s not a whole lot of guidance being provided to business owners right now,” said Dormuth.

The lack of details is the latest challenge for small business owners who have spent much of the pandemic dealing with lower sales and fewer patrons.

CFIB estimates that small businesses in Canada now have debt totalling $139 billion due to COVID-19, a slight increase from the estimated $135 billion in February of this year. 

Three quarters of small businesses that took on debt believe it will take more than a year to repay. In the hospitality sector alone, 87 per cent believe it will take longer than two years to deal with their debts.

As business owners have struggled to deal with those debts, a wave of new COVID-19 cases has overwhelmed hospitals.

Seeing droves of unvaccinated patients, health-care workers intensified their calls for more stringent safety measures amid polls showing support for vaccination passports, but Kenney refused to heed their advice until this week.

“Jason Kenney has demonstrated himself to be a skilled contortionist, bending himself virtually into a pretzel in order to appease a small fringe but vocal group of individuals who are opposed to vaccination,” University of Alberta assistant professor of infectious diseases, Dr. Ilan Schwartz, said at a Wednesday press conference held by Protect Our Province.

The organization comprised of health-care workers has long urged the government to take the pandemic and the fourth wave more seriously by retaining basic measures like isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19.

Despite Kenney finally edging toward more measures, the group remains disappointed with his new program and its lack of clarity, and fears it will do little to quell the virus.

Dr. Schwatz said, “We’re left with a hodgepodge of measures that are confusing, and consequently, they’re likely ineffectual.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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