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Premier Kenney says education funding cuts ‘shouldn’t have been a surprise’

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CALGARY —
When all of Alberta’s K-12 schools shut down as a measure to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, hundreds of families whose children receive provincial funding for their education believed that money was lost.

However, Premier Jason Kenney confirmed Wednesday that the funding is still available and it’s up to the school boards to determine how to use it.

“We continued to offer educational support, teachers continued to be engaged, as well as staff including speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, mental health workers and physiotherapists, all of whom provide specialized supports and services for students,” Kenney said during the daily update from the province.

Furthermore, Kenney said program unit funding (PUF) is still being given to school boards to support those students that need it.

“We continue to provide educational services,” he added. “I understand that school boards and superintendents are still working through how best to do that.”

Education job cuts

Kenney says the job cuts announced last week only came after provincial school boards came to the province and said employees needed to be laid off.

“The minister of education was contacted by many school boards and superintendents across the province saying that there were large numbers of staff and employees who were no longer working and, in particular, they mentioned many school bus contractors, support services and educational assistants. Those school boards indicated to the minister of education that they intended to lay those individuals off as they were not working any longer,” Kenney said.

The province stepped in to administer the layoffs, Kenney says, to make sure the cuts were made across the board and to ensure the funding that would be saved would go to the right place.

“Our view was school expenditures are going down markedly right now but provincial expenditures are going up by billions and billions of dollars. We’ve committed over $9 billion in cash supports and deferrals to support Albertan during these trying times.”

While the Official Opposition’s education critic Sarah Hoffman called the job losses “pure cruelty,” Kenney said the cuts also shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone.

“We cannot take for granted the fiscal health of Alberta with the triple-whammy of the pandemic, the recession and the oil price crash. The concept of people not working is very difficult with the billions of dollars we are spending and the revenue floor falling out from underneath us,” he stated.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association estimates some 6,000 substitute teachers and 20,000 support workers could be affected.

Meanwhile, the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) says the ministry has cut its 2019-20 funding by more than $21 million and it will need to do what it can to save money between now and the end of the school year.

“Our support staff have been working hard to support students as we transition to this first week of online learning. Their contributions to our pandemic response are greatly valued. However, we do not expect to be able to realize the required savings without some reductions in staff,” the CBE wrote in a statement to CTV News Thursday.

CBE chair Marilyn Dennis says the board is still working out how to provide all education services to families, including those of students with special needs.

She added the CBE was not one of the school boards that brought up the subject of layoffs with the education minister but the funding change, which was a directive from the province, will have an impact.

“All school boards were given a target to reach,” she said. “A 14 per cent reduction will still have an impact.”

calgary, education, covid-19, coronavirus, funding

Nutrition funding still on the table too

The premier said in addition to that education funding, Alberta school boards are still being given funding for school lunch programs. The decision on how to spend it is also handed off to school boards, according to Kenney.

“They can either continue administering their own nutrition programs or provide their funding for local not-for-profit organizations to ensure kids don’t go hungry.”

Thursday, the province said nine non-profit organizations throughout the province will be receiving support from the existing $15.5 million allocated for the school nutrition program. Officials say an additional $3 million, announced on Nov. 28, 2019, will be added as well.

“Ensuring our students do not go hungry while in-person classes are cancelled is of the utmost importance,” said Alberta education minister Adriana LaGrange  in a release. “We are giving non-profits and school boards the funds and flexibility to find solutions to provide meals or food for students as they learn at home. I commend their efforts to meet students’ needs during this challenging time.”

The organizations receiving funding are:

  • e4c – Edmonton: $375,000
  • Hope Mission – Edmonton and area: $375,000
  • Calgary Meals on Wheels: $375,000
  • Brown Bagging for Calgary: $375,000
  • Breakfast Club of Canada – Fort McMurray and area: $300,000
  • Salvation Army – Grande Prairie and area: $300,000
  • Lethbridge Food Bank: $300,000
  • Medicine Hat and District Food Bank: $300,000
  • The Mustard Seed Red Deer – Central Alberta: $300,000

The CBE says while regular breakfast and lunch programs won’t be offered because of the schools being closed, they have sent information to families about services that can be accessed.

“Food hampers can be requested from the Calgary Food Bank by calling 403-253-2055,” the board says. “Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids is offering a $20 grocery gift card for any child who has recently received a free lunch at school through Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids.”

Calgary Co-Op is also offering care packages containing non-perishable food items, free of charge, to families in need. Anyone looking to request one can contact the store by email or call 403-219-6064.

Thirty-seven of Alberta’s 62 school boards that participate in the school nutrition program have been working with community partners since the COVID-19 outbreak.

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COVID-19 on P.E.I.: What’s happening Tuesday, Aug. 11

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Health PEI is hiring additional staff for multiple health-care service roles in preparation of a second wave of COVID-19. 

Harness racing fans on P.E.I. are being warned not to make plans to attend the annual Gold Cup and Saucer race this year in person, unless they have a reservation. 

MLAs on P.E.I.’s standing committee on education and economic growth want top education officials to answer some questions about the province’s back-to-school plan.

The Atlantic bubble has given tourism operators on P.E.I. a much-needed boost, Tourism Minister Matthew MacKay said in an interview with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin.

Post-secondary students from outside the Atlantic bubble have begun arriving on P.E.I., and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison has outlined some of the details for ensuring their safe arrival.

Health PEI chief of nursing Marion Dowling says P.E.I. is catching up on elective surgeries postponed in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Morrison and Dowling were speaking at the regular weekly provincial pandemic briefing.

P.E.I. rugby player Ellen Murphy says she is excited to get back to training with other players as part of the Charlottetown Rugby Football Club. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Initial COVID-19 tests on Canadian Premier League soccer participants in Charlottetown have all come back negative.

About 300 professional soccer players, coaches and staff are preparing for a season in a way they’ve never done before, but so far, they say it’s better than they imagined.

Rugby is returning to P.E.I. fields, but there are some rule changes.

There may be the odd mistake and some tough transitions as students and staff adjust to the back-to-school plan, but life at P.E.I. schools should be fine in time as rules become routine, according to some student council presidents.

The Island has no active cases of COVID-19. The province has reported a total of 36 cases, with no deaths or hospitalizations.

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Further resources

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

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Doctor killed in Red Deer attack was targeted by assailant, RCMP say

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A Red Deer doctor who died after he was attacked at his walk-in clinic on Monday was deliberately targeted, say RCMP, who have laid a first-degree murder charge in the case.

Dr. Walter Reynolds died in hospital after he was assaulted with a weapon at the Village Mall Walk-in Clinic where he practised.

Deng Mabiour, 54, has been charged with first-degree murder, assault with a weapon and assault. 

“This was not a random attack and was targeted,” Supt.Gerald Grobmeier, detachment commander of the Red Deer RCMP, said at a news conference on Tuesday. 

Grobmeier said police have learned the motive behind the attack but those details won’t be released until the case works it way through the courts.  ​​​

He said the victim and accused knew each other through the clinic but declined to reveal further details on their relationship citing doctor patient privilege.

“Through the charge of first-degree murder, it means it was premeditated,” he said.

“The individual went in a with a goal, and so it wasn’t a random attack. The individual went into the clinic for that purpose.”

A witness to the attack told CBC News that a man armed with a hammer and machete attacked the doctor inside an examination room.

Mabiour has been remanded in custody and is due back in Red Deer provincial court on Wednesday. He has no previous criminal record.

An officer suffered minor injuries in the attack, Grobmeier said. Many first responders who were at the scene on Monday are struggling with the emotional toll of the tragedy, he said. 

“I want to recognize the many individuals who demonstrated bravery yesterday,” he said. “Dr. Reynolds colleagues, as well as members of the public in the clinic acted quickly to come to the aid of the victim and to minimize harm to others.”

‘An unimaginable, horrific act of violence’ 

Reynolds, 45, is being remembered by friends and colleagues as a devoted husband and a loving father.

An online fundraiser established for the family described Reynolds as a loving husband and amazing father to two young daughters. 

“An unimaginable, horrific act of violence took him away from his loving family,” reads the GoFundMe page. 

“His friends, colleagues and community mourns an exceptional human being lost too soon. We all are devastated and heartbroken.”

Funds raised by the campaign will support his daughters’ education, the page said. 

Meanwhile, a candlelight vigil is being planned for Friday at Red Deer City Hall. It will take place in the flower gardens at 7 p.m. 

Grobmeier commended the first responders and urged witnesses to reach out for mental-health support if they need it.

“Our community is reeling from this tragic event,” he said. “We have some police officers who are struggling with the event yesterday. This is a difficult time … grieving is going to be important, whether you knew the victim or not.” 

Reynolds’s death has sent shock waves through the Alberta medical community, Red Deer physician Dr. Peter Bouch said in an interview Tuesday. 

“It’s utter shock and horror,” Bouch said. 

“Every emotion goes through you, that such a thing could happen to a physician in their clinic while seeing a patient.

“I think all of us today are in the same mindset. Why did this happen and what can we do to try and prevent this in the future?”

Bouch, who has practised in Red Deer for more than two decades, knew Reynolds as a friend and colleague. 

They often crossed paths in the central Alberta community’s tight-knit network of doctors. 

Reynolds was a young father with an active family. 

Both men originally hailed from South Africa. Both shared a passion for medicine.

“He was a family man and an all-around very friendly, great guy,” Bouch said. 

“He was an excellent doctor. You know, he really cared about his patients. He was a great doctor and a great family man.”

Doctors struggle to make sense of tragedy 

Bouch, who serves as a spokesperson for Red Deer Primary Care Network, said the tragedy has created fear in the medical community.

Doctors, already dealing with the pressures of the pandemic, are feeling anxious. 

He said he received dozens of calls Monday night from physicians struggling to make sense of the tragedy.

Bouch hopes counselling is made available to those who need it. 

“This just adds another layer of stress,” he said. “And all of this stress combines to affect every family physician in town here, especially those who were working closely with him. 

“I think it’s beyond words what they’re going through.” 

Bouch wonders if it will change the way many doctors in the community serve their patients in the future. 

All physicians are trained to deal with difficult patients, but when they come wielding a weapon, no one can prepare for that, he said. He expects to see clinics adopt more safety protocols.

“I really hope that it would not pull away from the doctor-patient relationship … but we’re going to have to be on guard and a lot more vigilant about the people coming into our clinic.

“It’s going to take a while to find the impact that this is going to have on the physician community … it’s yet to be seen exactly what that is.”

Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro both tweeted Monday that they were saddened to hear about the fatal attack on the doctor.

In a news conference Tuesday, Kenney commended the police who responded to the attack and offered condolences to the family. 

“I know hearts and minds go out to the family and the loved ones and the co-workers of that physician,” Kenney said.

“I want to commend the police for having responded quickly and alertly to that attack and preventing any other violence, any other victims of that person. By all accounts, the person appears to have been deranged.

“We will obviously wait for further reports from police in the region but it is a tragic expression of violent crime.” 

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COVID-19 in Quebec: What you need to know on Tuesday

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  • Quebec reported  98 new cases of COVID-19 and one death Monday. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 60,627 confirmed cases and 5,696 people have died. 
  • There are 157 people in hospital (an increase of one), including 21 in intensive care (a decrease of one). Here’s a guide to the numbers.
  • CBC Montreal is collecting stories from Quebecers who have recovered from COVID-19. If you would like to share your experience, please get in touch.
  • Having trouble keeping track of what has reopened? Consult our list.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said children across the province are still expected to be in class this fall, as he announced a number of adjustments to the province’s back-to-school plan on Monday.

Students in Grade 5 and above now must wear masks in common areas of the school, but not in the classroom.

As well, classrooms will no longer be divided into small groups of students, but will themselves be considered “bubbles.” Roberge said parents will be notified if there is a positive case identified in their child’s school.

Parents say they’re still worried about what might happen when the fall term begins.

Top COVID-19 stories today

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

  • Fever. 
  • New or worsening cough. 
  • Difficulty breathing. 
  • Sudden loss of smell without a stuffy nose. 

If you think you may have COVID-19, the government asks that you call 1‑877‑644‑4545 to schedule an appointment at a screening clinic. 

Quebec government reminders for preventing the spread of COVID-19: 

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Wear a mask or face covering when physical distancing is not possible. Wearing a mask is mandatory in enclosed public spaces across the province.
  • Stay at least two metres away from other people as much as possible. 
  • Self-isolate for 14 days after returning from a stay outside the country.

You can find information on COVID-19 in the province here and information on the situation in Montreal here

 

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