ontario news watch

WASHINGTON (AP) — California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis are meeting in a nationally televised event on Thursday night that will feature two young, high-profile leaders with presidential aspirations who may have to wait for future cycles to realize them.

Newsom, 56, has talked about eventually running for president but is backing President Joe Biden ‘s reelection in 2024. DeSantis, 45, entered the 2024 GOP presidential race six months ago as the perceived top challenger to Donald Trump, only to fail to dent the former president’s commanding early lead in the party’s primary.

DeSantis is betting big on Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses on Jan. 15 and could still turn things around. For now, though, he’s in a fight for second with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, with both well behind Trump.

The 90-minute event — billed by Fox News Channel as “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate” — will occur at a studio in Alpharetta, Georgia, north of Atlanta, a location chosen for its key swing-state implications. There won’t be an audience, but the moderator is Fox host Sean Hannity, who has sparred with Newsom during past television appearances.

DeSantis could use a strong showing before a national audience to build momentum before Iowa’s caucuses. For Newsom, it’s a chance to reach Fox’s conservative audience.

Hannity has suggested the event will highlight the participants’ differing visions for the future. Florida is a onetime battleground where fiercely conservative DeSantis easily won reelection last year, while California is the country’s largest Democratic state.

Last year, amid some unease among Democrats about Biden’s reelection prospects, Newsom’s name was floated as a potential replacement for 2024. Newsom shut those rumors down, but he’s continued to spend his campaign money on ads in Republican-led states, including Texas and DeSantis’ Florida, and has visited Republican areas on Biden’s behalf.

“Whether Newsom or Biden is the Democrat nominee in ’24, they both offer the same failed and dangerous ideology for America that helped get us in this mess,” DeSantis spokesperson Andrew Romeo posted on X, formerly Twitter. “We look forward to putting Ron DeSantis’ record of success up against it.”

Newsom also is serving on the president’s reelection campaign’s national advisory board. When the Republican presidential candidates gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, for their second presidential primary debate in September, Newsom served as a chief onsite spokesperson for Biden’s campaign.

“This was a nothingburger you will forget,” he said of that debate.

Presumably, he won’t have that opinion after facing off with DeSantis.

Will Weissert, The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley are increasingly outsourcing central parts of their campaigns, drawing on the growing urgency of Donald Trump opponents to find a single alternative to the former president.

Struggling to energize his campaign, DeSantis this week privately encouraged his donor network to support a newly formed super PAC that’s taking over advertising responsibilities. That’s after a leadership shakeup at the pro-DeSantis super PAC that for months has been handling the bulk of both his advertising and his get-out-the-vote operation.

At the same time, Haley’s self-described “scrappy” political campaign, which has never enjoyed the same level of funding or manpower as DeSantis’ operation, won the support of the the Koch network, the largest conservative grassroots organization in the nation. By week’s end, scores of Koch-backed activists are expected to begin advocating on Haley’s behalf at the doorsteps of tens of thousands of Republican primary voters.

The extraordinary reliance on independent groups for the two Republicans who increasingly appear to be Trump’s closest challengers is testing the practical and legal limits of modern-day presidential campaigns. And with less than two months before the Iowa caucuses, neither candidate has shown the ability to disrupt Trump as he appears on a glide path to another presidential nomination.

“Personally, I’d rather see that all of this is put together under a campaign so that the candidate has responsibility for everything. But this is just the way the game is played today,” said Bob Vander Plaats, a well-known Iowa evangelical leader who has endorsed DeSantis. “If that’s the way you get your big money in, that’s the way you get your big money in.”

DeSantis has relied on outside support perhaps more than any major candidate since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 paved the way for super PACs, which are committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money without having to disclose their donors. Federal law prohibits candidates and their formal campaigns from coordinating directly with super PACs.

DeSantis publicly committed to visiting all of Iowa’s 99 counties, a traditional measure of commitment to the first state in the GOP calendar.

Never Back Down, the original super PAC supporting him, followed suit. While DeSantis will visit Jasper County — his 99th — with a campaign event Saturday, Never Back Down has chauffeured him to 92 of the other counties, according to the super PAC’s schedule.

The super PAC has also paid for the bulk of his TV ads and almost all of his organizing. And as DeSantis has struggled to meet initial expectations and fallen in national polls, both the campaign and Never Back Down have overhauled their strategies without DeSantis being able to direct all of the resources supporting him.

During the first week of August, DeSantis traveled to more than a dozen Iowa counties on the bus chartered by Never Back Down with the super PAC’s top tactician, David Polyansky, on board. They traveled together for hours over the course of three days covering more than 200 miles.

On Aug. 8, the DeSantis campaign announced a staff shakeup, replacing its campaign manager and hiring Polyansky from the super PAC to serve as deputy campaign manager. Polyansky is an Iowa campaign veteran who has worked on several presidential campaigns in the state.

DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo said it was “totally false” to assert that DeSantis coordinated any campaign strategy with the super PAC.

In the memo to donors this week, DeSantis’ campaign manager James Uthmeier promoted both Never Back Down and a new pro-DeSantis super PAC, Fight Right, noting that 100% of Fight Right’s proceeds would be spent on television advertising.

“As Donald Trump and Nikki Haley work side-by-side spending tens of millions of dollars to attack Ron DeSantis, Fight Right’s emergence provides welcomed air support,” Uthmeier wrote in the memo obtained by The Associated Press. “In the final push for the Iowa Caucus victory, this campaign will proudly fight alongside NBD’s impressive ground game, and Fight Right’s television team, to show the people of Iowa that this is a time for choosing, and Ron DeSantis is the candidate that can WIN!”

Such language may not technically violate campaign finance laws that prevent direct coordination, but they may violate their common sense interpretation, said Shanna Ports, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan watchdog group.

“When we see this kind of activity, there are some alarm bells that go off,” Ports said. “This does blur the lines between the campaign and the super PACs, particularly when you see super PACs taking on traditional campaign functions.”

Haley, too, is leaning heavily on outside groups to run traditional campaign functions — particularly her door-to-door canvassing operation, which is critical in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Haley’s team privately acknowledges that they need help on the ground in early primary states, where DeSantis and Trump have much larger operations. It also remains unclear whether she has the funding to challenge Trump or DeSantis should the nomination fight go deep into the spring.

The Haley campaign announced last month that it was planning to invest $10 million in a massive advertising campaign across Iowa and New Hampshire. As of Wednesday night, the Haley campaign has reserved just $4.7 million in advertising, according to AdImpact, a media tracking firm.

When asked about the discrepancy, spokesperson Nachama Soloveichik said the full $10 million investment “will come.”

The Koch network’s support could fill in some of the campaign’s gaps.

Just days after their endorsement, the Kochs have already begun initial conversations with the pro-Haley super PAC known as the SFA Fund on how best to coordinate their efforts. While campaigns and outside groups cannot coordinate legally, outside groups can coordinate amongst each other.

In a conference call this week, the Koch network’s political lieutenant, Emily Seidel, outlined plans to boost Haley’s primary and general election prospects with strategic advertising investments, mailers and voter contacts through the group’s network of thousands of conservative activists. Meanwhile, the pro-Haley SFA Fund is focusing largely on television ads.

Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ political arm, has 10 full-time staffers in Iowa and a much larger network of volunteers, according to state director Drew Klein. He said he expects teams of roughly 100 activists to be knocking doors on Haley’s behalf by the end of the week.

Just six weeks before the first primary votes are cast, Trump’s foes acknowledge they are running out of time. For now, Haley appears to be winning new interest from donors and voters open to a Trump alternative.

She drew the largest crowd of her campaign Monday with about 2,500 people at a town hall in her native South Carolina. On Wednesday, more than 100 people packed into a small taproom to see her in New Hampshire, some straining around rustic wood posts and beams to catch a glimpse.

Haley, who spoke for roughly 40 minutes then took questions for less than 15, did not mention either her endorsement this week from Americans for Prosperity or her recent momentum in early-state polls.

When she opened by asking how many were seeing her for the first time, nearly every hand shot up.

“Where have y’all been?” she quipped.


Peoples reported from New York, Ramer from Meredith, New Hampshire.

Steve Peoples, Thomas Beaumont And Holly Ramer, The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A decade after the federal government began offering expanded Medicaid coverage in states that opted to accept it, hundreds of thousands of adults in North Carolina are set to receive benefits, a development that boosters say will aid hospitals and local economies in addition to the long-term uninsured.

North Carolina elected officials agreed this year to expand Medicaid, which will provide the government-funded health insurance to adults ages 19 to 64 who make too much money to receive traditional Medicaid but generally not enough to benefit from public subsidies available for private health insurance. The federal government will pay 90% of the cost, as stipulated under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

More than 600,000 North Carolinians are ultimately expected to qualify, with roughly half to be automatically enrolled as of Friday. That means they’ll be able to get annual checkups, prescription drugs and other services with little or no out-of-pocket expenses.

Residents including Carrie McBane have been navigating the gap between earning too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford private insurance for years. She’s hopeful that expanded eligibility will revive the state’s working class, especially in rural communities like her small mountain town of Sylva, located 290 miles (467 kilometers) west of Raleigh.

The 50-year-old had paid out-of-pocket to see several doctors who couldn’t identify her debilitating illness, until one finally diagnosed her with Type 2 diabetes. By then, her organs were failing and she could barely work enough hours as a restaurant server to pay for insulin and her other new prescriptions. Her monthly income was still about $100 too high to qualify for Medicaid, she said.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world, when you don’t know what’s happening with your body but you know something’s terribly wrong and you’ve gotten zero help through the medical industry,” McBane said. “And as you get sicker, the bills pile up.”

North Carolina’s decision to opt into the expanded Medicaid program makes it the 40th state to do so. The District of Columbia also participates. Some states with Republican leaders have recently considered expansion after years of opposing it, primarily on the grounds that they worried federal policy would change and require states to pay a higher percentage of the expense. The 10 remaining states that don’t participate are mostly Republican-controlled and are concentrated in the South and Midwest.

Expansion should help reduce the percentage of North Carolina’s adults under age 65 who are considered uninsured. A 2022 report from the National Center for Health Statistics estimated North Carolina’s uninsured population at 17.6%, significantly above the national average of 12.6%. The state currently has 2.9 million enrollees covered by some form of traditional Medicaid.

“This is a phenomenal moment for North Carolina and for North Carolinians,” state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley said in an interview. “All that adds up to just the peace of mind, knowing that when they need health care, it’s not going to drive them into debt.”

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had pressed hard for expanding Medicaid since taking office in early 2017. But Republican legislative leaders weren’t sold, saying they were suspicious about more government insurance and the chance Congress might cut its financial contribution.

They warmed to the idea in 2022, when the federal government offered a $1.8 billion bonus over two years if North Carolina signed on.

By March, the Republican-dominated General Assembly passed the legislation, and Cooper signed it into law. It stipulates that North Carolina hospitals cover the state’s 10% share of expenses through increased assessments that began in November, DHHS said.

Participating in the Medicaid expansion and another federal program that North Carolina hospitals entered into under the new law should bring $8 billion in federal funds into the state annually, according to state officials. The money should help reimburse rural hospitals that treat high numbers of uninsured people. It may also generate economic benefits through the health care system.

To qualify for Medicaid under the new guidelines, a single person can make up to $20,120 annually in pretax income, while a household of four can make up to $41,400 for an adult to benefit.

McBane, who lives alone and has gone nearly 18 years without health insurance, is now searching for a job that will allow her to take care of her health while staying within the income range that will keep her in the program.

Many of her neighbors work fast food or construction jobs that don’t cover health care, and they face stress and stigma whenever they have to visit a doctor, she explained. Much of western North Carolina exists in the Medicaid coverage gap, “and its citizens are absolutely left behind,” McBane said. She expects expansion will not only ease the financial burden on her community, but make many low-income residents feel more welcome in exam rooms.

The state has added social workers and better technology to review Medicaid eligibility for all enrollees now that a COVID-19 policy barring states from kicking anyone off Medicaid has ended. DHHS is also working with religious organizations, civic groups and other trusted local voices to get the word out to people newly qualified for publicly funded care, Kinsley said.

“They’re working. They’re taking care of their kids,” he said. “And so we’re going to need to meet them where they are and use every tool we have to help them get connected to this important tool that they need for their health.”

Gary D. Robertson And Hannah Schoenbaum, The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Throughout his election campaign, Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry promised to prioritize fighting crime in Louisiana, a state that in recent years has had one of the highest homicide rates in the country.

On Wednesday, he took steps that he said would help fulfill that promise, appointing a new state police chief and other statewide safety and security leadership positions. Landry said he also plans to call the legislature into a special session to address crime once he’s in the governor’s office.

Currently the state’s attorney general, Landry said an integral part of his plan as Louisiana’s chief executive is to improve safety in New Orleans, which has often been in the national spotlight for violent crime.

The governor-elect remarked during a news conference that he will bring “as much of a law enforcement presence” as necessary to keep New Orleans safe.

But when pressed for specifics on tackling crime in the state’s tourist-friendly and most-populous city, he was not forthcoming.

“We just announced the new adjutant general (leader of the Louisiana National Guard) and he’d tell you that you would never lay your plans out to the enemy,” he said. “And in the battle to fight crime, I would not come here and give you all specifics.”

Landry held the news conference on the field of the Caesars Superdome, site of the 2025 Super Bowl.

“The past statistics that have plagued the city cannot be in place when kickoff time comes, and so everything is on the table,” Landry said.

As in numerous other parts of the country, violence surged in Louisiana following the onset of COVID-19. And while data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that crime has steadily decreased in Louisiana over the past decade, New Orleans has continued to struggle with a surge of killings.

Landry, who was backed by former President Donald Trump in this year’s gubernatorial election, has employed a lot of tough-on-crime rhetoric, and has repeatedly slammed Louisiana’s 2017 criminal justice overhaul.

In a surprise collaboration on Wednesday, Landry was joined by Jason Williams, an Orleans Parish district attorney who is a progressive Democrat and has butted heads with the governor-elect. Standing side-by- side, Landry announced that GOP Attorney General-elect Liz Murrill will lead the prosecution of defendants arrested as a result of state police investigations in the parish.

“You look around the country, you don’t often see Republicans and Democrats sitting down to solve the toughest problems,” Williams said. “And that’s what we’ve been doing, focusing on crime in the city of New Orleans.”

Landry announced that Major Robert Hodges will be the head of Louisiana State Police. Hodges, a 28-year veteran of the agency, will oversee the beleaguered department, which has faced a slew of controversies — including the deadly arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene in 2019 and a federal probe by the U.S. Justice Department.

Landry named Gen. Thomas Friloux to lead the Louisiana National Guard and former state Rep. Bryan Adams to lead the state fire marshal’s office.

The appointees will assume their new roles when Landry is inaugurated on Jan. 8.

Sara Cline, The Associated Press

VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government has announced a workaround to help those who want to use medical assistance in dying while they are being treated St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. 

A statement from the Health Ministry says Vancouver Coastal Health will set up a clinical space adjacent to St. Paul’s, allowing it to continue to refuse to opt out of medical assistance in dying on religious grounds.  

The statement says it means patients will no longer need to transfer to another facility for end-of-life care. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix says in the statement that medical assistance in dying is a legal choice and the government is ensuring it’s accessible in a way that respects patients, their loved ones and health-care providers. 

It means patients who want to access medical assistance in dying at St. Paul’s will be discharged by Providence Health, a Catholic health system,  and transferred to the care of Vancouver Coastal Health in the new clinical space, which is expected to be completed by next August. 

In the meantime, the statement says Providence Health is expected to arrange for transport for those patients who want to use the service and make it as seamless and comfortable as possible. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2023.  

The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Texas man who was the first arrest by a Justice Department task force that investigates threats to election workers has been sentenced to two years in prison over posts made following the 2020 election, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Chad Christopher Stark, 55, was accused of posting threatening messages on Craigslist about killing government officials in Georgia. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of communicating interstate threats.

Prosecutors say Stark, who is from suburban Austin, urged Georgia residents on social media to “militia up” and called for shooting several unnamed officials and judges. The messages were posted on Jan. 5, 2021, the day before Congress was set to ratify the Electoral College’s votes.

“Christopher Stark threatened the lives of multiple election workers in an attempt to prevent them from doing their job,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s resolute commitment to securing American elections from any attempts to undermine their integrity.”

A federal public defender for Stark did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Stark’s arrest was the first by the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, which was launched in 2021 amid a rising tide of violent threats against people who count and secure the vote. The threats followed former President Donald Trump making repeated unproven claims that election fraud cost him the 2020 presidential election.

The Associated Press

The problem right now is that the federal and provincial hands are running around the deck promoting a blizzard of arbitrary measures.

WINNIPEG — The six candidates vying to be the next national chief of the organization that represents more than 600 First Nations in Canada explained how they would advocate for treaty rights, sovereignty and health issues during a forum a week before the election. 

Four of the major groups representing First Nations in Manitoba hosted the event in Winnipeg on Wednesday to hear from those running to lead the Assembly of First Nations. Chiefs or proxies attended and were given the opportunity to ask questions. 

The election follows the dramatic ouster of former national chief RoseAnne Archibald, who was voted out after colleagues accused her of creating a toxic work environment — an allegation she has denied. 

The candidates running to replace her are Reginald Bellerose, Craig Makinaw, Sheila North, David Pratt, Dean Sayers and Cindy Woodhouse. 

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, with the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, said leaders are looking forward to a change at the national level. 

“We want to see a focus on the issues … (The chiefs) want to see support towards what the priorities are in every one of our communities,” he told the candidates. 

“The more you’re able to keep that focus and put the pressure on governments, both federal and provincial, because we need help, too, within the regions, we’re going to see the changes.”

Woodhouse, who is the assembly’s regional chief for Manitoba, said it is the job of the assembly and the national chief to amplify the voices of First Nations and keep community issues front and centre.   

“I’d like to … work with all of you to make sure that we have a stronger voice federally,” she said.

Woodhouse was the recent Assembly of First Nations lead negotiator for a landmark $23-billion child-welfare settlement that was approved in Federal Court in October. 

North is the former grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and a former journalist. She is running on a platform that includes protecting and enhancing the identities of First Nations people and protecting the inherent treaty rights of First Nations. 

“I’m here because I am answering the call from our nations across the country who are seeking unity, who are seeking clarity from their organization,” said North. 

“You shouldn’t feel like you have to work for the Assembly of First Nations. The (assembly) should work for you.”

North also recognized the backlash the organization has faced in recent years from community members who have expressed concerns about whom the assembly is representing. 

“We need to make (the assembly) relevant again, not just for us, but for our people,” she said. 

Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Chief Angela Levasseur questioned the candidates on how they would make sure LGBTQ and two-spirit people are properly represented at meetings and within the organization. 

Pratt, who is the vice-chief for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan, said if elected, he would make it a priority to regularly meet with the assembly’s LGBTQ and two-spirit council, as well as the women’s and youth council, which are both connected directly to the grassroots. 

“Give them a greater voice in terms of the direction and priorities of the national chief’s office,” he said. 

Sayers, a former longtime Batchewana First Nation chief, said the national chief should make sure community members are accepted and reflected in systems and policies. 

“We have to embrace and celebrate everybody that comes to our community.”

Bellerose, chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority and the Saskatchewan Indian Training Assessment Group, is running again after losing out in the assembly’s last national chief election. 

He told leaders one of his priorities is to ensure northern and remote First Nations receive adequate funding that reflects their unique needs. 

“When it comes to housing, mental health, training and access to primary health care, that’s all different from the southern perspective.”

The candidates were also questioned on how they would address concerns around First Nation membership requirements under the federal government’s Indian Act, which outlines who can and cannot be registered. 

Makinaw said communities need to be proactive about protecting membership rights. 

“We hear from some of our elders that once the last status Indian (has) passed away, (so do) our treaty rights,” said the former chief of Ermineskin Cree Nation in central Alberta. 

The election is set to occur on Dec. 6 during a special chiefs assembly in Ottawa. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2023. 

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Three childhood friends say they were forced to relive the anguish and fear of losing Kristen French when Correctional Service Canada decided to transfer her killer to a medium-security prison. 

The women testified at a parliamentary committee today about how it felt to learn that Paul Bernardo was being moved out of his maximum-security prison in late May. 

Bernardo is serving an indeterminate life-sentence for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 15-year-old French and 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy in the early 1990s near St. Catharines, Ont.

Benjamin Roebuck, the federal ombudsman for victims of crime, says the legislation that governs the prison system “is failing victims of crime” as it places too many limits on what can be shared with victims. 

He told the committee that his office has been raising concerns about prison transfers since 2010, and he hopes that the Bernardo decision becomes a “turning point.”

The correctional service concluded in a review that it followed proper policies with the transfer, but its commissioner said it could’ve done a better job informing the victims’ families, who said they only learned about the transfer as it was happening. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

FILE - People are silhouetted against a logo for the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Nov. 29, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)

Canada anticipates the COP28 summit could see a breakthrough in efforts to set up a fund to help countries suffering from the impacts of climate change. During a background briefing with reporters, senior government officials outlined Ottawa’s priorities going into the United Nations climate summit in Dubai, which begins Thursday.