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Vaccine lottery: Manitobans eligible for cash, scholarships if they get a COVID shot

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WINNIPEG — Manitobans who get a COVID-19 vaccine could also get a six-figure cash injection in their wallets.

The provincial government is offering $100,000 prizes and $25,000 scholarships in an effort to persuade more people to get a shot.

Anyone who has had or will receive a shot will be automatically entered into two lottery draws this summer. Each draw will have seven cash winners — three in Winnipeg and one in each of the four other health regions — and 10 scholarship recipients. The scholarships will be reserved for youth between 12 and 17 years old.

“I’m not a big fan of gambling and that’s why I think this draw makes such good sense,” Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday. “Because you’re gambling with COVID if you’re not getting a vaccination.”

Vaccine uptake in Manitoba has been steady — two-thirds of people 12 and older have received at least one dose. But there are some spots where the rate is much lower, including the core area of Winnipeg and some rural regions south of the capital.

Health officials have said that while some people are hesitant about getting a vaccine, others may have barriers in terms of mobility or by being in marginalized groups.

Crown-owned Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries will be in charge of the draws slated for early August and September. The government is still figuring out how to ensure that Manitobans who were vaccinated outside the province will be included.

The government asked for public feedback on incentives last week. Most respondents who were hesitant about getting a vaccine said they would not be likely to be swayed by cash payments, free admission to sporting events or draws for prizes.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccination effort, said some prizes for getting doses could turn people off, but a lottery is different.

“We need to be very cautious when we use financial incentives because, for people who are already suspicious of the vaccine or of the government’s intent, these financial incentives — if done in the wrong way — can make people more suspicious,” Reimer said.

“The worst-case scenario is giving just straight up cash for doses. That’s really when people start to feel that there’s some sort of hidden message or reason that government wants them immunized other than their own benefit. But we didn’t see the same effect when it came to a lottery. Lotteries tend to bring about more of a sense of celebration and excitement with people.”

The government also said it will relax one of its major public health orders. A ban on almost all social gatherings that took effect May 22, with an exception for people living alone, is to be changed Saturday.

People will be allowed to meet with up to five friends or relatives in outdoor public areas or have up to five people over on their own property. The ban on indoor gatherings is to continue.

“We realize that Manitobans have been following the orders. They haven’t been able to really get together with anyone outside of their household, so we’ve allowed just this sort of release valve,” said chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

The province’s daily tally of new COVID-19 cases has dropped from a peak of more than 600 last month to 250 on Wednesday. But hospitals remain strained. Thirty intensive care patients were being treated in other provinces in an effort to free up beds.

Pallister, who is to receive his second vaccine dose Thursday, won’t be eligible for the lottery, which specifically exempts all provincial politicians.

The Opposition New Democrats questioned how the Progressive Conservative government found nearly $2 million for prizes at a time when hospitals are struggling to keep up with COVID-19 patients, some of whom have been sent to other provinces.

“Mr. Pallister has $2 million for this lottery, but where are the $2 million to help fix our (intensive care units) in our hospitals?” NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2021.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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Two charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance in Regina

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REGINA — Two people accused of killing a Mountie by hitting him with a truck in rural Saskatchewan made their first appearance in court Monday.

Alphonse Stanley Traverse, 41, and Marlene Velma Louise Pagee, 42, have been charged with manslaughter in the weekend death of Const. Shelby Patton.

RCMP have said the 26-year-old officer died Saturday after he stopped a suspected stolen truck in the small town of Wolseley, 95 kilometres east of Regina.

Patton was hit by the truck before it sped off. The officer died at the scene.

Pagee and Traverse were arrested two hours later in a field outside Francis, a town about 80 kilometres southwest of where the officer was killed.

They also face charges of failing to stop after an accident resulting in death as well as of theft of a motor vehicle. Pagee is also charged with possession of a controlled substance.

They appeared in a Regina court in person. Pagee is to be back in court Friday, while Traverse is scheduled for a video appearance on Monday.

Both are from Winnipeg and RCMP have said the truck was stolen in Manitoba. Winnipeg police said they could not provide any information about the investigation.

“The tragic, senseless death of Const. Shelby Patton is being investigated by Saskatchewan RCMP,” Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver wrote in an email.

Manitoba court records show Traverse and Pagee have been in and out of jail for multiple convictions, including theft and break and enter. In 2006, Pagee was found guilty for operating a motor vehicle while being pursued by police.

Both face outstanding charges in Manitoba for unrelated offences.

Meanwhile, a memorial of flowers continued to grow at the Indian Head detachment where Patton was posted.

He had been a Mountie for just over six years and worked at the detachment since 2015. Before that, he was briefly on assignment at Parliament Hill.

Saskatchewan RCMP Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore said officers have appreciated the outpouring of support and condolence messages.

“These messages help us through this difficult time. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to let us know they share our grief,” Blackmore said in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2021.

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press

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Putin likens Russian crackdown to arresting Capitol rioters

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is to meet President Joe Biden at a summit Wednesday, has suggested that the hundreds of people arrested for rioting at the U.S. Capitol are being subjected to “persecution for political opinions.”

Putin is likely to come under strong criticism from Biden at their meeting in Geneva for moves against his political opponents in Russia, particularly the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the detention of thousands of demonstrators protesting his arrest, and the outlawing of Navalny’s organizations as extremist.

“You are presenting it as dissent and intolerance toward dissent in Russia. We view it completely differently,” he said in an interview with NBC News broadcast Monday. He then pointed to the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington when protesters barged into the Capitol to try to halt the count of electoral votes to certify Biden’s election victory over Donald Trump.

“Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? … They came there with political demands,” he said.

Although the protests that erupted across Russia after Navalny’s arrest in January were unsanctioned, demonstrators were largely peaceful and did not enter government buildings or cause significant property damage, unlike the Capitol riot.

Putin also reiterated denials that the Kremlin was behind last year’s poisoning of Navalny with a nerve agent that nearly killed him.

“We don’t have this kind of habit, of assassinating anybody,” Putin said.

“Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?” Putin said, referring to Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to climb through a window that led to the House floor.

At a news conference after a NATO summit Monday in Brussels, Biden declined to assess how he’ll measure the success of his meeting with Putin because “the last thing anyone would do is negotiate in front of the world press.”

Biden described Putin as “bright,” “tough” and a “worthy adversary.” But he indicated he would remain wary of any commitments coming out of their meeting, saying he would “verify first and then trust” the Russian leader.

He also suggested he’d be looking for areas of agreement with the Russian president, while also warning him against continued aggression towards the U.S.

“I’m gonna make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses, and if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and other activities, then we will respond, we will respond in kind,” he said.

In his NBC interview, Putin sharply dismissed the cyberattack allegations against the U.S. as baseless.

“Where is the evidence? Where is proof? It’s becoming farcical,” Putin said. “We have been accused of all kinds of things — election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth — and not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof, just unfounded accusations.”

In April, the United States announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and new sanctions connected to the so-called SolarWinds cyberattack in which several U.S. government branches experienced data breaches. U.S. officials blamed the Russian foreign intelligence service.

In May, Microsoft officials said the foreign intelligence service appeared to be linked to an attack on a company providing services to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

At the summit, Biden also is expected to raise the case of two Americans imprisoned in Russia: Paul Whelan, who was convicted of espionage, and Trevor Reed, convicted of assaulting police while drunk. U.S. officials say both were convicted in biased trials on flimsy evidence.

Putin said of Reed, a 29-year-old former Marine: “He’s just a drunk and a troublemaker.”

Putin brushed off one possible source of tension in the upcoming summit: Biden’s claim that he once told Putin he considered the Russian leader soulless.

“I do not remember this particular part of our conversations,” Putin said.

—-

Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe in Washington contributed.

The Associated Press

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