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It starts this week! Plenty planned for summer season on the Ross Street Patio

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Plans are quickly taking shape for an exciting and entertainment-filled summer season on Red Deer’s Ross Street Patio. Starting this Thursday, April 7, and every Thursday for the rest of the month, the Downtown Business Association is bringing live music to the Ross Street Patio between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m., explained Amanda Gould, the DBA’s executive director.

Jeremy Doody and Dom Benzer are slated to hit the stage April 7, followed by Stephen Scott and Guests on April 14. Kayla Williams brings her engaging musical stylings to the Patio on April 21 and Jay Bowcott and Syd Zadravec round
out the month on April 28.

Gould also noted the next few weeks are still considered to be ‘spring’ programming – not quite the official launch of the patio’s summer programming.

But it certainly promises to be an engaging taste of what is just around the corner.

“It will be great to see people, as the weather warms up, come downtown to explore everything that we have to offer, and then to relax at one of the restaurants on the Patio and enjoy the music,” she said.

Another annual favourite, the Downtown Market, kicks off on Wednesday, May 25. An accredited farmers’ market, folks are invited to come down and purchase all their fresh fruits and veggies between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday.

“We are also looking forward to more vendors and visitors this year now that the pandemic restrictions have lifted,” she added. Live music on the Ross Street Patio is also a key feature on Wednesdays as well.

“Wednesdays are a very popular day on the Patio because people come downtown, do a bit of shopping, go to the market, and then head to the Patio to have dinner and watch some live music! So, it’s absolutely jumping on Wednesdays – and we are really looking forward to that coming back.

“And based on how busy it was last year during the pandemic, we expect it to be crazy this year,” she said, adding that the Market runs through to the first week of October.

Gould added that Friday, May 27, is the official kick-off to summer on the Ross Street Patio.

“To celebrate, we have partnered with Sawback Brewing to introduce a limited-edition Ross Street Patio beer which is super exciting,” she explained.

“Free samples will be available at 5 p.m. that day (May 27), and there will also be music and other activities, too. The special beer will be available through the summer and will also be featured at several downtown restaurants.

“It just continues to solidify the Ross Street Patio as an entertainment location.”

Looking into June, performances on the Patio will run Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Meanwhile, the DBA’s mission is to build an engaged downtown community, develop a downtown brand and to enhance the downtown experience.

And that is indeed a year-long mission.

Over this past winter, programing was featured on the Patio, and it proved to be quite the draw as well – weather permitting of course. “We had ice sculptures which people loved – they were an absolute treat. We also offered a lot of free hot chocolate which also really did attract a lot of people.”

Folks were certainly pleased to have outdoor things to do on the milder days, so the awareness about the year-long appeal of the Patio is building.

“I’m really excited about all this activity on the Ross Street Patio because we are making it a proper entertainment location now, and I think that is really becoming solidified more in people’s minds,” Gould explained, adding that she’s very confident more locals will discover over the coming months all that downtown Red Deer really does have to offer.

“Because of the pandemic, people are feeling desperate to get out and enjoy what is being offered. We are also continuing to work on a brand for the downtown. That should be happening later this year, or the beginning of next year,” she said, adding that is a project happening in partnership with the City.

“I think it will help to promote downtown as a destination, too.”

For more information about all things downtown, visit www.downtownreddeer.com.

Born and raised in Red Deer, Mark Weber is an award-winning freelance writer who is committed to the community. He worked as a reporter for the Red Deer Express for 18 years including six years as co-editor. During that time, he mainly covered arts and entertainment plus a spectrum of areas from city news and health stories to business profiles and human interest features. Mark also spent a year working for the regional publication Town and Country in northern Alberta, along with stints at the Ponoka News and the Stettler Independent. He’s thrilled to be a Todayville contributor, as it allows him many more opportunities to continue to focus on the city and community he not only has a passion for, but calls home as well.

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Federal departments failed to spend $38B on promised programs, services last year

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By Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

The federal government failed to spend tens of billions of dollars in the last fiscal year on promised programs and services, including new military equipment, affordable housing and support for veterans.

Federal departments are blaming a variety of factors for letting a record total of $38 billion in funding lapse in 2021-22, including delays and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They also say much of the money remains available for future years.

The unspent funds also played a big part in the Liberal government posting a smaller-than-expected deficit in the year ending March 31, 2022.

Canada rang up a $90.2 billion deficit — $23.6 billion less than had been projected in the budget.

The unprecedented amount of lapsed funding, much of which has been returned to the federal treasury, has one observer suggesting it is a sign of long-standing challenges delivering on big federal projects for the country.

The amount of lapsed funds across government is spelled out in the most recent iteration of the public accounts, a report on federal revenues and spending by every department and agency tabled in the House of Commons every year.

The $38.2 billion that was reported as lapsed in the last fiscal year marks a new record over the previous year, which was $32.2 billion. That was a dramatic increase over the previous record of $14 billion in 2019-20.

That compares to around $10 billion about a decade ago, when Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was accused by political opponents and experts alike of using large lapses to make cuts by stealth.

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada reported the largest lapses of all departments and agencies, with nearly $11.2 billion of their combined $28.2 billion budgets going unspent.

Much of that had been set aside for COVID-19 initiatives that were not needed, said Health Canada spokeswoman Tammy Jarbeau. Those include vaccines, personal protective equipment and rapid tests.

“Both Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have rigorous internal financial management controls designed to prevent, detect and minimize errors and financial losses, and ensure the funding is spent in the best interests of Canadians,” she wrote in an email.

The pandemic figured in the responses and explanations from many other departments and agencies, with many blaming COVID-19 for delays.

One of them was the Defence Department, which reported a lapse of $2.5 billion in the last fiscal year. Much of the money wasn’t spent due to delays in the delivery of new military equipment such as Arctic patrol vessels and upgrades to the Army’s armoured vehicles.

There were also delays on major infrastructure projects for the military, according to Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande. Those include upgrading and rebuilding two jetties for the Navy in Esquimalt, B.C., and a new armoury in New Brunswick.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many of our business lines,” Lamirande said.

“The impacts of the pandemic on supply chain and industry capacity are causing manufacturing backlogs and delays.”

Lamirande added most of the unspent funds are expected to be available in future years through a process called reprofiling, in which schedules are revised to reflect planned spending in future years due to those delays.

Former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said the government’s handling of lapsed funding now is “a little more relaxed” than in previous years, when unspent funds were not reprofiled and even used to justify budget cuts in Ottawa.

But defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said the Defence Department’s lapse, which has been steadily growing in recent years, is a symptom of Ottawa’s continued difficulties purchasing new military equipment.

“If we’re not getting those procurement projects through, we’re not getting new equipment into the inventory, so we don’t actually have the gear for our troops,” he said, noting many of the delayed projects were launched under the Harper government.

Perry also noted the current rate of inflation, which is already naturally higher for military equipment and the defence sector than most other parts of the economy. Not spending money now means Canada will have to pay more for the same gear and services later, he said.

The Infrastructure Department, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. and the Fisheries Department, which includes the Canadian Coast Guard, also reported delays with different capital projects, including on affordable housing and broadband internet.

“Due to the unprecedented circumstances over the last few years such as the COVID-19 pandemic, disbursing funds to proponents for many projects are expected to and will take longer,” CMHC spokeswoman Claudie Chabot said in an email.

Perry suggested a bigger problem.

“The government of Canada’s ability to actually deliver services to the public, especially when it comes to large projects, large capital projects, be it for equipment or infrastructure or IT projects, is struggling across the board,” he said.

Other federal entities with large lapses included Indigenous Services Canada, which failed to spend $3.4 billion, and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, which reported a lapse of $2.2 billion.

Spokesman Vincent Gauthier attributed much of the latter lapse to “the timing and progress of negotiations for specific claims and childhood litigations,” adding that funds will available “in some instances” in future years.

Gauthier did not say why Indigenous Services, which is responsible for delivering federal services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis, failed to spend billions of dollars. He did say most of the money had been reprofiled “so that it will be available when recipients need it.”

Veterans Affairs Canada also reported a nearly $1 billion lapse last year, which the department blamed on fewer ill and injured ex-soldiers applying for assistance than expected.

However, critics have described earlier lapsed funding as evidence of the challenges many veterans face in accessing benefits and services. In 2014, the Royal Canadian Legion demanded the Harper government explain why $1.1 billion went unspent over seven years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

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FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried, DOJ tussle over his communications

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By Michael Liedtke

Federal prosecutors are trying to prohibit FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried from privately contacting current and former employees of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange to prevent potential witness tampering in a criminal case accusing him of bilking investors and customers.

The request, made in a letter filed late Friday by U.S. Justice Department lawyers, prompted an indignant response from Bankman-Fried’s lawyer, who accused prosecutors of twisting the facts to cast the FTX founder in a sinister light ahead of his trial scheduled later this year.

The testy exchange prompted U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York to issue a Saturday order that included admonishment for the opposing lawyers in the case to refrain from “pejorative characterizations” of each other’s actions and motives.

Bankman-Fried, 30, has been under confinement at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California, since pleading not guilty earlier this month to charges against him. He is accused of diverting massive sums of FTX customer funds to buy property, donate to politicians and finance risky trades at Alameda Research, his cryptocurrency hedge fund trading firm.

Federal prosecutors raised their concerns about Bankman-Fried’s attempts to connect with potential witnesses in the case after discovering he sent an encrypted message over the Signal texting app on Jan. 15 to the general counsel of FTX US, according to their letter to Kaplan.

“I would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other,” Bankman-Fried wrote to the FTX general counsel, dubbed “Witness 1,” in the prosecutors’ letter.

Federal prosecutors told Kaplan that Bankman-Fried’s communications are a sign that he may be trying in influence a witness with incriminating evidence against him. As a safeguard, the prosecutors want Kaplan to revise the conditions of Bankman-Fried’s bail so he can’t communicate with current or former employees of FTX and Alameda Research outside the presence of a lawyer without a waiver from the Justice Department.

But Bankman-Fried’s attorney, Mark Cohen, painted a much different picture in his fiery retort to the prosecutors. Cohen described Bankman-Fried’s effort to reach the FTX general counsel as “an innocuous attempt to offer assistance in FTX’s bankruptcy process.”

In his Saturday order, Kaplan demanded complete copies of Bankman-Fried’s electronic communications to be provided by Monday.

Federal prosecutors also want Kaplan to change the conditions of Bankman-Fried’s bail to prevent him from communicating through Signal, which has an auto-delete option to make messages quickly disappear in addition encryption technology to help shield the contents from outsiders.

“Using Signal to contact potential witnesses increases the likelihood that detection of any attempt to obstruct justice by influencing a witness will itself be obstructed,” the prosecutors told Kaplan.

But Cohen wrote that the message sent to the FTX general counsel didn’t have an auto-delete feature. Cohen also assured the judge that Bankman-Fried has turned off the disappearing messages option in his Signal account.

“The government cannot justify a bail condition based on an unfounded concern about what Mr. Bankman-Fried might do, when there is no evidence that he is, in fact, doing it,” Cohen said.

Before prosecutors asked the judge to impose broad restrictions that would prevent Bankman-Fried from privately communicating with any current or former FTX employees, Cohen said the two sides had already been in negotiations to reach a “reasonable” compromise before prosecutors “sandbagged” the talks with their late Friday letter to Kaplan.

By Cohen’s estimate, FTX and Alameda Research have about 350 current and former employees who would be blocked off from Bankman-Fried by a blanket ban, including some that might have crucial information for his defense during a trial tentatively scheduled to begin in October.

Bankman-Fried was willing to voluntarily agree to a prohibition against him communicating with several top FTX executives in exchange for being allowed to remain in contact with others such as his father, his therapist still employed by the cryptocurrency exchange and a range of other unidentified workers who directly reach out to him.

Kaplan told federal prosecutors to respond to Cohen’s claims in his seven-page letter by Monday.

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