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Number Crunching Continues At Red Deer City Hall

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By Sheldon Spackman

It’s day seven of Operating Budget deliberations over at Red Deer City Hall today. After a good portion of Tuesday’s meeting starting off in-camera, Council spent the last half of the afternoon combing through self-supported funding adjustment recommendations and possible cost savings and service level changes.

City Manager Craig Curtis says one highlight of note from Tuesday is the approval of hiring an additional lab technician at the Water Treatment Plant. A high priority area for safety, with current overtime needed to meet standards, which is not acceptable. Officials say this hiring will also be an opportunity to do some of their regulatory testing in-house.

The proposed Property Tax Rate increase now stands at 2.14 percent heading into Wednesdsy’s Budget discussions. However, Manager Curtis says there are still a number of larger items to be considered, which could alter that rate.

Operating Budget deliberations are still slated to continue at Red Deer City Hall from 1:00 – 5:00 pm January 18th through the 20th.

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Canada’s five big banks join anti-hate advertising boycott of Facebook

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TORONTO — All five of Canada’s biggest banks are joining an international boycott of Facebook over concerns that the platform is complicit in promoting racism, violence and misinformation.

Scotiabank, RBC, CIBC, BMO and TD have pledged to stop purchasing ads on the site for the month, aligning themselves with brands such as Lululemon Athletica and MEC in signing onto the #StopHateForProfit campaign.

The initiative, spearheaded by organizations like the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, began in response to growing anti-Semitic and anti-Black rhetoric found on the social media platform.

Participating brands will suspend all advertising on the platform for the month of July.

Scotiabank announced its intentions on Tuesday, while the four others confirmed on Wednesday that they would follow suit.

A spokesman for RBC said the company understands that systemic racism has disadvantaged Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and the bank intends to combat that.

“One way we can do that is by standing against misinformation and hate speech, which only make systemic racism more pervasive,” AJ Goodman said.

Facebook has come under fire in recent months for what critics say is an indifference when it comes to policing their platform for individuals and groups espousing hateful ideology.

They’ve also been criticized for a lack of action on disinformation.

For instance, last month, U.S. President Donald Trump posted a doctored video featuring fake CNN footage on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, in which a CNN logo appears over footage of a Black toddler running away from a white toddler.

The footage is then followed by another clip from a different angle — this time without the CNN watermark — in which it becomes clear the two toddlers are friends.

The parents of the two toddlers later told ABC News that they were “appalled” and “disgusted” by the video.

Initially, only Twitter flagged the video as misleading, with Facebook resisting public pressure to enforce their own labelling system.

However, after numerous brands began pulling advertising from the platform, the company reversed its decision at the end of June and began taking down some political posts deemed to be fake or misleading.

Criticism against Facebook has come from inside the company as well.

At the beginning of June — shortly after Trump threatened via social media to order the military to shoot anti-racism protestors — hundreds of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest the company’s refusal to label the post as hate speech.

A spokesman for Facebook noted that the company has suspended more than 250 white supremacist groups from the platform but did not specifically comment on the boycott.

More recently, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting called on the federal government to drop hosting its virtual celebration on Facebook.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s address to Canadians went ahead on the platform — along with YouTube, CBC, CPAC and Radio-Canada — on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 1, 2020.

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Facebook and The Canadian Press recently announced a reporting initiative called the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Facebook will have no influence over the stories created under the program, which is set to launch in the fall; The Canadian Press will maintain complete editorial independence.

Jake Kivanç, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Scotiabank made its announcement on Friday. In fact, it was Tuesday.

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COVID-19 reshapes Canada Day celebrations from big parties to online shows

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OTTAWA — Large celebrations were replaced in many parts of the nation with backyard gatherings and digital events as Canadians marked a Canada Day unlike any other in the country’s 153-year history.

It has been almost four months since governments ordered businesses closed and urged Canadians to stay home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus with restrictions only recently being eased.

Heading into Canada Day, the country had 104,204 reported cases of COVID-19, including 8,591 deaths and 67,954 recoveries, based on figures updated late Tuesday by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Millions have either lost their jobs or seen cuts to their earnings, while government spending has skyrocketed to provide emergency relief — planned federal spending alone now tops $174 billion. Demand has also jumped for social services, such as food banks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent part of his morning with his family harvesting broccoli at a farm operated by the Ottawa Food Bank.

The organization said demand has levelled out since an initial surge, but it now expects another large spike in need once recipients max out payments through the $80-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Speaking afterward, Trudeau noted the difficult circumstances many people found themselves in this year, such as families separated from loved ones, including front-line health workers.

He noted a Canada Day one year into the Second World War when there was a message of hope and opportunity for the country in the face of a crisis.

“That was the reality our parents and grandparents were called to face. That was the challenge to which they rose and this is the country they built,” Trudeau said, standing alongside his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

“On this Canada Day, it is our turn. We must now restart and rebuild a Canada for the 21st century.”

That included ongoing efforts at reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called on the country to work as one to close gaps that exist between Indigineous and non-Indigenous people.

“This is a collective challenge, one that I feel Canadians are embracing,” he said in recorded remarks. “I have faith that our best days as First Nations and as country are ahead of us.”

April’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia and the need to address systemic racism marked Gov. Gen. Julie Payette’s Canada Day message. She spoke about her confidence in Canadians to heed the lessons of 2020 and not remain indifferent to multiple challenges.

“That will build on our ability to act collectively, to act as one for the good of all,” Payette said.

Many of the statements would have been delivered in-person, instead of by video, but the pandemic forced the cancellation of high-profile events like the annual pomp and pageantry on Parliament Hill in favour of online offerings to keep crowds from gathering.

The Ottawa show was streamed live and virtual fireworks at night as part of a buffet of digital activities Canadian Heritage curated. The 53 bells of the Peace Tower still rang, with two special recitals streamed live.

Federal officials began reshaping the annual celebration months ago, knowing that construction on the iconic Centre Block would force a change from the schedule in recent years where artists performed on a large stage set up on Parliament Hill.

As some of that work was underway, COVID-19 forced what Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said was a radical rethink of how to host the musical shows.

“We’re hoping Canadians will enjoy it a lot because they’ve made a lot of sacrifices in the last few months,” Guilbeault said in a morning interview.

Some of the elements provided online could stay in place for future Canada Day festivities, particularly to help connect people who are far apart, he said.

The physical distancing measures recommended by public health officials, the lockdowns and orders to wear masks indoors from some jurisdictions have also sparked some backlash.

A group of demonstrators gathered on Parliament Hill to denounce those measures, which they called an infringement of their civil liberties. Many chanted anti-Trudeau slogans while not wearing masks. Similar demonstrations were planned in other locales.

In some parts of the country, crowds were allowed to gather for actual fireworks displays, including in Alberta where up to 200 people could gather for audience-type outdoor community events such as fireworks and festivals.

Meanwhile in Toronto, police said people had gathered at the city’s waterfront, apparently in anticipation of a fireworks show that had been cancelled due to the pandemic.

“Right now, it is our actions, and our actions only, that will reduce the spread,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement Wednesday.

“Let’s stay on course and win this marathon together — for Canada.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2020.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press



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